Saturday, July 31, 2010

Bath Day

...for the Barbies!

(Aren't you glad you're not a Barbie?)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Tiger Lilies

I never really knew my Grandmother. She lived in Minnesota and we lived in Illinois, Louisiana, and finally, Virginia when she died. The relationship between my Grandmother and my Mom was strained to say the least, so I think we only saw her once a year, if at all.

She lived in a 4-room house. Water had to be pumped from the well and then heated on the stove. Bare light bulbs dangled from wires that were strapped to the ceiling, along the wall and out to the power box. Clothes were washed in an old wringer-style washer and then hung on the line out back. An outhouse had 3 sizes of holes to go potty in-- small ass, medium ass, large ass. I tried to sit on the medium size hole when I was little and quickly found out I needed to keep my ass on the small size. Dirt cellar under the house; I only went down there once and still remember that dank, earthy scent. Attic had a few things in there, but had that distinctive bat smell. No matter how hard my Grandmother tried, she never could completely eradicate the bats. Her bedroom was pink. There were horses in the field behind the house and I fed them crab apples. She used to make crab apple jelly with those apples.

Grandmother's favorite flower was the Tiger Lily. She had them all around the house and I remember them, thinking they were strange looking flowers. When she died, my Mom tucked some tiger lilies in her hands. My Aunt transplanted some of the tiger lilies from around my Grandmother's house and planted them in her back yard. A couple of years ago, she asked me if I wanted some seeds from the tiger lilies. I only had a few that sprouted last year, and a few more sprouted this year than last. It's kind of cool knowing I have descendants of tiger lilies that are over 60 years old.

The flowers hang down. I wish they bloomed upright, but maybe they are shy flowers. Or maybe they bloom this way so that the rain doesn't fill them if they were upright, like a cup. Strange flowers, bold orange and spotted, bumpy black, but then maybe they are ashamed to have such bright colors, so they try and hide their blooms, to fit in with the other flowers. Maybe that's why my Grandmother liked tiger lilies.
My Grandmother told me once, not too long before she died, that I ought to be ashamed of myself. We were sleeping overnight and she came down the stairs, restless in the middle of the night, and turned on the hall light, it woke me from my cot in the dining room, the light shining in my eyes and she looked at me and told me, "You ought to be ashamed of yourself." Then she turned off the light and went back up the stairs.
For the longest time after that, I wondered what I did to make her say that. I was 12 or so at the time and it stunned me. When she died, I wasn't sad. I never really knew her. She was old school-- children should be seen and not heard. She had a hairy, scratchy lip when she kissed me and she had that old-people smell. I don't remember much more than that about her.
At the memorial service, I was more interested in the dead baby in the other room than I was in my Grandmother. I remember watching my Mom put the tiger lilies in her hands. They were stiff and curled, and when she picked up her hand, the whole arm lifted. I touched her face and it was cold and hard, and surprisingly, soft and smooth. I didn't know what to think. She was dead, what was it to me?
As an adult, looking back, I know now that when she told me those words, late at night, in the dim light, with her spotty medicine-fogged mind, I might have looked like someone else. With all I know about her now, she had a hard life and she tried to do what she could to single-handedly raise 2 daughters on a very small income. She was deaf herself and had to deal with an over-bearing mother who mooched on her and put her down and wrote to potential employers not to hire her daughter, which made it harder for her to find work. Days back then were not easy for rural women, especially widowed, rural, deaf women with 2 young deaf children. I forgive her for those words now.
Her last years were not easy ones, with open heart surgeries and medications that left her ill and stole her mind and robbed her of her memories. I think if she had heart surgery now, her recovery would have been better, but 20 years ago, things were not as advanced as they are now. But it was not her health that did her in, she took her own life. A decision that has devastated my Mom and I think, still has her searching for answers. As someone looking in from the outside, I believe I know why she did it, but nothing I can say would soothe or ease her pain.
So, my Grandmother's tiger lilies live on. And I hope they know they have nothing to be ashamed of.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Sun is Shining!

Things are good here again. The regretful decision we made last week was undone yesterday morning and all is well. Without giving away too much, in a nutshell, we made a decision too quickly without thinking things through. Like being backed into a corner and not seeing any other exits. After time went on, many talks later, we realized there were other options and if we had taken the time to really discuss our options, we would have seen the little Alice-in-Wonderland doors along the bottom of the wall in the corner we were backed into.

If anything, this has taught us to take the time to really explore our options before making any decision that affects our family. No one was hurt, nothing was permanently damaged, but there was a big hole in our hearts after it happened and now it is filled again. Thanks for all your supportive comments on my previous post. Life can move on for me again, and I expect my blogging to return to normal.


In other news...

*The tomatoes are starting to trickle in! I expect next week to be canning tomatoes in some form-- whole, sauce or salsa. Lots and lots of green ones on the verge of turning red and I am excited at the prospect of being busy with canning them. I feel like I have not done much canning this year, and I need to get my fix in. The whole procedure of getting fruit or vegetable into jars is a therapeutic process for me, and I always feel good to see the results of our hard work on the pantry shelves.

*July has been a horrible month of keeping appointments. I had 2 scheduled and missed both. Not like me at all. The first was on Peter's birthday and before the 4th of July; that seems obvious why I missed it and I should have known better than to agree to that day. The second was last week and I had known about it for 3 months. I also missed the deadline to use my WIC coupons. I guess the summer months are just busier than usual and last week was the week of our regretful decision and our chi was just messed up. I cannot recall a busier summer!

*Only 4 more days until August. Really?!?

*I was watching a period movie last night, renaissance era. It makes me want to go to the Maryland Renaissance Faire. Usually happens August through October and there is always a weekend for the Deaf, where shows are interpreted. First time I went, I was 12 or 13, I fell in love with the whole place. I think I've gone back 2 or 3 times since and the last time I was there, I was pregnant with Evelyn. I think we are long overdue for another visit and I'm sure the kids would love it! I even think that maybe this time, we could dress up! I'm getting excited just thinking about it!

*The pears are just about ripe. Now is the time to can them. I don't care for fresh pears, but I love them canned. Go figure.

*Yard sales have been slim pickings this year. I think partly because I am trying to cut down on the clutter in the house, so I am being a little more discriminate in what I bring home. Partly also because when Andrew comes with us, he's the driver, and he purposely passes yard sales and comments, "didn't look like much" as he zooms by. It used to be fun yard sale-ing, but this year has been more than a little frustrating.

*The young roosters are starting to crow. I caught one mounting a young hen the other day. Time to butcher the young roosters. They'll be 18 weeks this weekend. They're not as big as the older roosters, but they are already getting rambunctious. Out of the 9 young ones, 4 are roosters. So glad there were more hens than I originally thought!

*My fridge is starting to overflow with eggs again! Hooray! I'll never complain about having 7 dozen eggs in the fridge ever again! With the young ones, I have 11 hens now.

*I lost 10 pounds fretting over last week's regret. I'm going to try and keep the momentum going and hope to lose 20 more. I know I'll never be a skinny minnie, and I'm ok with that. I have a husband that loves me and thinks I'm sexy the way I am. I just want to be at a more healthy weight so I can keep up with the kids and be healthy for them.

*Peter cannot be allowed to nap in the afternoons anymore. Whenever he naps, he does not go to bed until after 11 at night. We tried to shorten his naps, have him nap earlier, but the results are the same. It's either we put him back into his crib multiple times or give up and let him stay up, or cut out the naps and he goes to bed when his sisters do and stays there. I'd rather deal with a little crankiness in the afternoons than have him awake wayyyyy past bedtime.

*Evelyn has been hard at work making...Christmas ornaments! When asked why she is making them now, she says it's because she won't have time when it's Christmas. She also has her letter to Santa written out and I am secretly glad for that so I can have this time to look for a good deal on the things she is asking for: sewing kit and fabrics, princess paper dolls and pj's. Her sisters asked her to write one for them too, and they are all basically asking for the same thing.

*I made a new jam last week-- Blue Rhubarb. A blend of blueberries and rhubarb. Yum! I have a recipe for blueberry-rhubarb pie that is absolutely delicious, but when I looked for a jam recipe with those ingredients, I couldn't find one. So I made it up. Very tasty! Made 12 half-pints and I'll probably make one more batch for gifting this Christmas.

I think I'm all caught up now. Until next time..


Tuesday, July 20, 2010


I try to live my life the way *I* think it should be lived. I don't follow what others tell me to do, because in the past, when I did, I paid the price. I don't want to have regrets in my life, though I do have a few. From those few, I look at them as a lesson dearly learned. And then there are some I stupidly repeat a few times until I get a good knock on the head and wake up.

I feel so lucky to have Andrew in my life-- definitely no regrets in marrying him! We think alike in many ways, yet we are different enough to look at things differently. I think that comes from us being 10 years apart. 10 years doesn't seem like much, but the 60's and 70's were so drastically different-- the TV shows, the music, the culture, the fashions, even the politics. The stuff he grew up on was gone by the time I came along, and then the stuff I grew up on, he was off in the military, too busy to keep up with what was current.

When we met, the timing was right. He was fresh out of the Navy and ready to settle down and I was ready to find my Mr. Right, getting tired of the same old dating scene. When we decided to get engaged, we may have raised some eyebrows-- we got engaged after only a month of dating, but it felt right and there was no hesitation on my part when he proposed to me.

The decision for us to buy our first house in the country was not something many of our friends and family would have chosen, but we were happy and that was what mattered. We have never regretted moving to where we did, though we have, on several occasions, kicked ourselves for getting that particular house. It was definitely a learning experience, but living there prepared us for living in our current house, so I can look back on the old place with no regrets.

When I quit the post office, many of our friends and family were concerned about that. It was good pay and benefits and who would leave such a job?? But I hated my job, I dreaded going to work and we wanted to start a family with one parent at home with the kids. I happily volunteered to be the one to stay home. Have I regretted that choice? No. We missed the extra income initially, but we managed. Did we stop spending? No. Stupid credit cards made us feel as if we still had money to spend. Going into debt was stupid, but we learned from our mistakes and after we paid it off, it taught us not to live beyond what's in our bank account. So I can look back on that stupid moment without regrets.

Then we moved farther away from family and friends much to their dismay, and for a little while there, we wondered if we did the right thing. We were a little homesick for our family and friends; no one ever made the 2-hour drive out here except for Andrew's parents; a friend said, and I quote, "you live in the middle of nowhere!" 5 years later, we have grown to love living where we do. When we leave, we cannot wait to get back. Living at the old place prepared us to live simply and to stock up on pantry items and supplies in case we get snowed in or we don't get out to the store right away. No regrets there.

When Andrew quit the post office because the commute was getting to be too much and he wasn't able to be with us because he was on the road too much and spent a couple nights per week at his parent's house, leaving me home alone with the kids and I was pregnant with #3 at the time. We talked and talked about that decision, and he had another job lined up, though it was lower pay, but closer to home. We felt good about that. Had we known that 9 days into the new job that they were going to let him go, Andrew would have never left the post office. For a long, long, long time after that, we regretted that decision. We would not have had the money troubles we have now if he had stayed. But we didn't know. I don't regret that decision anymore. We did what we thought was right at the time and circumstances out of our control happened to skewer our neatly made plans. It taught us that not everything goes according to plan and sometimes, shit happens. It's what you do with what you have that counts.

In 4 years, since Andrew quit, we have managed to keep our heads above water. We had some rough times, we have had to go without and then learned we didn't need what we thought we so badly needed, and discovered that we could live on even less than we thought we could. Every action causes a reaction. Not always good, not always bad. Sometimes there are more bad reactions and I wonder when the tide will turn. But I have really learned that if you keep your head up, work hard, love each other, communicate to each other and support each other, eventually, things will be good again. And those moments of regrets turn into lessons learned.

I am having a moment of regret right now that we are trying to correct. Hopefully, it'll turn into a lesson I'll learn from, though it is hard to see at this time. I can think of nothing else and I'll be taking a little break. Be back next week.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Garden spiders are welcome here. As long as they stay outdoors and don't try to venture in the house!*

Not sure what kind of bug it's eating, but it's one less bug in the garden!

I love how I can see the details of it's face! Green "teeth"!
Would you believe the camera I used is a point and click?
*Funny story-- When we lived at the old house, there were these huge wolf spiders in the house. They freaked me out. I hated that they grew so big and were jumpers and it didn't help that they were mostly in the scary basement that gave me the chills to go down at night. Our basement was the kind of place where when you were at the bottom step, you ran as fast as you could to the top before something grabbed your ankles and pulled you down. Seriously, the basement was scary. When the light got turned off while I was still down there, I'd scream. Anyway, at night when Andrew was at work, I'd go down to do laundry and a wolf spider would be down there at the bottom of the steps, I don't like to kill spiders, especially freaky large ones that make a popping feel when you smoosh them, I might not be able to hear the squish but I can feel it-- *shiver*! So I'd grab whatever was handy, a cup, a jar, a vase and catch it inside. Then when Andrew came home from work, he had to go around and dispose of all the spiders inside the overturned cups. I'd catch camel crickets too and those are just gross. There were a few times when there was nothing under there, and I'd imagine the spider lifting the jar to make his escape.
Living here at this house, the basement isn't scary at all. It's unfinished, and spiders everywhere, but I'm cool with it. The old house always felt like there was someone watching you and I never liked being alone at night there. Might even have been haunted, there were plenty of unexplained happenings at the old house: lights coming on, stove turning on, noises, smells in the house. Andrew even woke up one night with a heavy weight on his chest and he couldn't get up no matter how hard he tried. After a few minutes, he was able to get up. Scary! The house was built on land where the Civil War was fought, and on the property next to us was a falling-down house and a cemetery that was supposed to be for the slaves. The lovely old house in back of us was taken over and used as a military hospital for both sides. Might explain the weird happenings at our house. Beautiful area, but creepy just the same. Can't tell you how many times the hair on the back of my neck stood up when we lived there.
I don't miss the old house one bit! The spiders there can keep it!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

We went to Ikea last week. When we lived closer to the store, we were there pretty much every month. We decorated and furnished our apartment with Ikea things. When we moved to our first house, we bought more Ikea things. I like their clean lines and designs. I like the store itself. I like how they have "rooms" to draw inspiration from and how things are arranged. I could spend a whole day in there without once giving thought to the time.

Since moving here, it's a major drive to visit Ikea now. I think the last time we were there was when Peter was a baby.. over a year ago, maybe. Something like that. I had been talking about going for some time now, and when Mom was talking about getting a headboard/footboard for her bed, I pulled up the Ikea website and she found a bed she liked. Hooray! An excuse to go to Ikea!!

We were there for 4 hours and our time was up when the kids' fuses were just about spent. If it weren't for the kids, I could have stayed longer, waited until after rush hour was over, but as it was, we got out of there just before rush hour started.

The kids had fun looking at everything. Thank goodness Ikea is kid-friendly and there are lots of things for the kids to look at and touch. The plopped on couches and bounced on chairs, fiddled with drawers and opened cabinets. Played with toys and tried every kitchen utensil they had available.

They tried out beds and were especially smitten with these little ones all in a row. They begged for us to get these beds for them, and I was really tempted to. I still need to get 2 more beds for the kids. Peter will be outgrowing the crib soon, so maybe we'll be back in the Fall. See how it goes.
The visit to Ikea was not the best this time. I think they were understaffed and the store was not as spotless as it usually is. We made it to the cafe just ahead of the crowd and when we sat down with our food, the line snaked out of the roped-in section and into the store. The server ladies were not happy and looked like they wanted to be elsewhere and the utensils and cups were gone, so the kids had to eat their yogurt with extra large spoons and both Andrew and I nearly slipped on a puddle of water by the soda dispensers. Some of the items we wanted to buy were sold out, so that was a disappointment and there were too few cashiers to deal with the large amount of people ready to check out. We waited over 30 minutes in line to pay and with 4 kids, especially Peter who wants to get down and run, that was 30 minutes too long.
When we finally paid, I found out they no longer provide bags! You could buy one of those Ikea bags, but I have no use for one of those big bags.. they are really big! Would have been nice to have a heads up on their new no-bag policy and I would have brought my own bags. Good thing you're allowed to bring the cart to the parking lot because that would have been irritating having to tote the many little items we bought in our arms. I can appreciate them wanting to eliminate plastic bags, but they should post a sign on the entrances stating they do not use plastic bags and to either bring your own or purchase an Ikea re-usable bag.
Despite the long lines and the bag issue, I still look forward to the next trip there. If I could, I'd try to visit every 3 months, with lots of money to shop and the kids would be with the grandparents so I could be free to look about and bounce on chairs and couches and beds, finger the lovely fabrics and turn on and off every lamp. Did I mention that Andrew turned on all the timers in the display bin and walked away?? I wonder what people thought when all of a sudden, a bunch of timers went off!

Monday, July 12, 2010


Peter turned 2 last week. Everyone says this, but it's true, I can't believe how quickly time has flown since I gave birth to Peter. We had a double birthday party for both Peter and Evelyn, so on his actual birthday, we just had cake and ice cream for him.

Blowing out the candles!

A close up of the butterfly cake I made. It was supposed to be for Evelyn on the double birthday party, and the caterpillar cake for Peter, but as I said, the butterfly cake was not co-operating with me, so I shoved it in the freezer. I made my own frosting this time and frosted it while it was still frozen-- ah, much easier to frost! Good cake! The kids liked it!
Peter is such a wild thing compared to the girls. He definitely knows what he wants and he's going to get it no matter what he has to do! He's a fun little guy and always putting something on his head, whether it be this lampshade or dirt from the garden.
I love when he hugs and kisses me, he gives good hugs! He likes to snuggle on my lap and every now and then, he climbs into bed with me in the mornings and curls into me.
He hasn't mastered the spoken word yet, but he knows how to make himself understood! He'll sign, or pull me over and point, or even in his gibberish he can make himself clear. Evelyn once asked me if I could talk 'baby' since I seemed to understand everything Peter was gibbering about. I think I just know my children well.
He seems much older than 2 in this shot, but it's one of my favorites.
He's such a cutie pie!
Happy Birthday Peter!!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Splishin' and Splashin'

In spite of the rocky start we had with the pool, I am glad we have it. We have been in the pool nearly everyday and when the temps were in the 100's the past few days, we could be found having fun in the pool.

Evelyn was the only kid that knew how to swim, and since we got the pool, she has improved mightily! Gretchen is quickly catching up! She went from barely dipping her face in the water, to holding her breath and swimming underwater!

We are so proud of her in her determination to learn to swim. Sylvia is content to play with her barbies in the water, letting them do the swimming. We are not pushing her, she'll let us know when she is ready to swim underwater. Peter is doing great in the pool, when he stands, the water comes up to his neck, so he can splash around and bounce. He likes being dunked underwater and comes up smiles.

We love all the happy smiles whenever we break out the camera around the pool.

The pool is easier to maintain than we initially thought. We started out using bleach, about 1/3 of a bottle every couple of days. Worked fine, then the sides of the pool felt a little bit slimy, so we got the proper pool chemicals-- a starter kit that gave us the basics. It included those water test strips and surprisingly, the water was pretty close to perfect when I first tested it. After adding 2 ounces of water treatment to kill the slime, the pool water has been great! We add a little here and there and if we keep doing what we're doing, the starter kit should last the whole summer.

We are diligent in telling the kids not to pee in the pool. They tell us when they gotta go, and we lift them out and they run into the far reaches of the garden and pee. They have to step in a bin of water to rinse their legs and feet before coming back into the water.

I think if we had used the well water, we might have had to use more chemicals to keep the water from turning green. I remember when we had the little kiddie pools, it only took a couple of days before the water turned yucky. Using treated city water was probably a good idea, though most of us got a little sick at first. The kids and I all had the runs for a couple of days after we started using the pool, I suspect from the germs in the water that we were not used to. Andrew seemed ok, but that's probably because he has more contact with outside water than me and the kids do. We are home mostly with our well water to drink and bathe in.

Bottom line, the pool is worth it. It keeps the kids busy, gives them exercise (boy! do they sleep good on the days we hit the pool!), and cools us all down on hot days. We'll probably go to the lake one of these days for something different, to build castles in the sand and so Andrew and I can actually swim instead of sitting in the pool with the kids. Our summer is turning our pretty good-- how about yours?


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

One More Thing...

We all know that coupons are a wonderful way to save money. But there are so many forms of coupons out there now, everything ranging from the paper ones in the Sunday papers; store-issued ones printed off the internet; coupon websites; e-coupons you can download onto your cell phone; e-coupons that get transferred to your store savings card.... It can get over-whelming and often time-consuming. It can use up all your printer ink and paper (which you then use a coupon to go and get more), and many times, they expire before you get a chance to use them (grr!).

There is also the way you organize your coupons. I know some use baseball card pages to alphabetize their coupons; others group them by dairy/meat/paper/etc; others don't cut them out until needed. I tried several different ways to organize my coupons and I use a 3-ring binder and sort them in alphabetical order, ie: all 'A' items, all 'B' items, etc. I tried not cutting them out until I needed them, but that aggravated me and used up more of my time, having to go back through them several times just to find that one coupon I know I have. I cut out all coupons that I need and some that I might not usually buy, but if it's the right price, I'll try it. Like I might be partial to brand A, but if brand B is on sale and with a coupon I can get it for free, I'll get it.

Sometimes, I spend an hour a day looking for internet coupons and clicking links that will take me here, there, everywhere, just for that one coupon, only to find it's been maxed out. Some manufacturers release coupons with a limited run, so only the first 50,000 can get one. Other websites release a coupon you need to fill out a form for, and their site has crashed because of the huge amount of online traffic rushing to get a free bottle of shampoo. You can even get coupons for liking a brand on FaceBook.

I'm not trying to discourage anyone, but it does take time and it takes up a large space in your brain. I try to limit my online coupon "hunts" to morning and evenings, so as not to interfere with family activities. I'm a little bit addicted to couponing and I am always working scenarios in my head related to the latest sales paper and getting the best deal possible. My husband met a man who called himself the 'Coupon King' because he recently bought over $180 worth of groceries and only paid $1.83. Wow! I'm not that good yet!! I find that challenging and would like to try to beat my personal best of $84 worth for only $6.

There are some who take couponing beyond what they really need, just because they can get it for free. They don't use it, don't need it, don't plan to donate it, but they get it because they can. It sort of irritates me when I see people do this. I know of one woman that happened to acquire 30 coupons for a free razor and then cleared out the store of all it's stock, which meant that someone who had only one coupon can't get it and either gets a rain check or passes on it. I try not to be greedy and leave some for others. Who needs 30 razors?? Maybe she has really hairy legs and armpits.

One of the coupon websites I read, she suggests using coupons for things you might not use, but can get it for free and donate them to animal shelters, homeless shelters or food drives. I really like that idea. It didn't cost you anything, except maybe a little bit of your time, and if you didn't use that coupon, it would get tossed, so use it to help someone else out. Every once in a while, there is a coupon for a free blood tester for diabetics. Those things cost upwards of $20, so get one and donate it to a senior citizens home, a homeless shelter or a shelter for battered women. They need help and can't always acquire medical things they need. What a great way to help someone and it only cost you a bit of your time or just pennies!

With my family of 6 and my mom living with us, we can go through food pretty fast, so coupons really help keep my pantry stocked. I don't buy more than we can use before the expiration date, and practice FIFO-- First In, First Out. In other words, new purchases go in the back and older purchases get pushed to the front, so we always use the older stuff first. The same applies to shampoo, soap, toothpaste and medicines-- I don't buy more than we can use. My recent purchases have us quite stocked with soap and shampoo, so I can focus my coupon hunts onto other areas that need re-stocking. I see a sale on hearing aid batteries and there are coupons in the Sunday paper, so I'm off to snag me a deal!

What I am really trying to say is that you don't get anything without doing anything. If you want to save money with coupons, you need to put a little effort into getting coupons and doing your homework to find the best deals. I also tell people that you can save even more money by not buying it at all. Don't use coupons as an excuse to go out and shop-- Get things you need and maybe a few wants, but don't drown yourself in items you can't possibly use before they expire-- then you've really wasted your money, no matter how little of it you spent to get it.

For me, this week is a slow week at the grocery stores. The excitement of the recent holiday is gone and stores have gone back to their regular offerings. My pantry and fridge is nicely stocked, so I don't need to go anywhere until something else pops up. Instead, I'll be spending my time in the pool with the kids this week!