Monday, January 31, 2011

Twiddling Our Thumbs

A handsome fellow came by for a visit not too long ago-- he's a distant cousin of Thumbelina and Tom Thumb. Meet...

...Handsome Harry Thumb.
He's a funny fellow, keeping the kids roaring with laughter and entertaining us all during these dreary winter days. We were sad to see him go, but something about soap and water makes him skedaddle!

Don't they look like twins??

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Hen Output

The hens have been doing a fantastic job of laying eggs lately. They have been laying between 8 to 11 daily!! That's a lot of eggs, even for this family of 7! I have been giving away eggs by the dozen to family and friends because we just don't eat that many eggs, and certainly not on a daily basis. I'd like to sell some, but have yet to take that step to advertise. In the meantime, I don't mind sharing the bounty.

Eggs will be on the menu for breakfast tomorrow. I still have to eat soft foods while my mouth heals from a pulled tooth, and eggs will be perfect! Happy Weekend!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Year of the Tooth:: Extended

You know how sometimes you think things aren't so bad and then boom! along comes something to make you change your mind? Yeah, you've jinxed things by thinking that.

A few days ago, after that snowfall we had, the one where we sledded and had lots of fun with, then conveniently melted away the next day. That was easy. I thought that we had gotten away with Winter's wrath, compared to last year when we got pounded with snowstorm after snowstorm. So far, all we had gotten was little bits here and there that quickly disappeared almost as fast as it came.

I should have kept my mouth shut.

We got pounded yesterday and ended up with over 10 inches of wet, heavy snow. The kind that sticks in clumps to the branches, bending them over nearly double. The kind that you better shovel as it falls or else it's too heavy when it's all said and done.

And I had an appointment for the dentist this morning to get a tooth pulled.

Lucky us, I didn't jinx us too bad. Our super swell neighbor came by with his tractor last night and plowed our driveway for us. My Mom got the 4x4 fixed so we had a way to get out of our steep, slippery slope and to the dentist's office. The dentist's office was open, despite the whole county shutting down. Yes, lucky me!

And good-bye terrible tooth that had been bothering me for quite some time, waking up to shoot my nerves with every bite of something sweet, or something hot, or even worse, something cold. I'd do the head shaking dance trying to get my tooth to settle down and after awhile, using sensitive toothpaste, gargling with warm salt water and popping pain pills just wouldn't do the trick anymore.

The dentist let me keep my terrible tooth and I'm using it as a lesson for the kids-- to brush their teeth often and well so they don't need to visit the dentist with terrible teeth, too. In all my years of going to the dentist, I've never been sent away with a clean bill of health. I've always had a cavity or two, a crack or chip. Once, I had 6 cavities to be filled when I was little!

I need to take care of the teeth I have left-- I'm afraid I'll end up with false teeth one day, and I'll play jokes on the grandchildren and leave my falsies in the water glass or give them gummy kisses and they'll remember me on my deathbed as the granny with no teeth.

Maybe I'll hang the terrible tooth in the bathroom as a reminder to the kids to brush brush brush! Or maybe not-- ew.

Take it from me and my terrible tooth: Brush your teeth! And don't forget to floss!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Gretchen's 6th Tooth

We had another visit from the Tooth Fairy-- Gretchen lost tooth number 6! But, oh! The drama that surrounds losing a tooth for Gretchen... phew! She makes pulling a tooth like, well, pulling teeth! It takes me a good 10 minutes to get her loosened up enough to even let me get my fingers on that tooth, and that's if I don't give up in exasperation! It's a lot of coaxing and pleading and bribing and yes, shamefully, begging her to let me pull it. Her tooth got bumped a couple times before and bled, and the new adult tooth was already poking through behind it, so it really needed to come out.

The second it's out, she's all smiles and proud and dashes to the mirror to see her new grin. She's happy to gargle with warm salt water and dutifully uses the whole cup, though it has long since stopped bleeding. Then she poses for the camera before running through the house, showing everyone her new tooth!

Daddy makes the phone call to the Tooth Fairy, putting in the request for a visit. The kids love when he makes the call, and Daddy certainly enjoys making the call. One day, I'll have to write down everything he says when he calls the Tooth Fairy, it cracks me up! She got two dollars for her tooth.

Incidentally, many of Gretchen's pictures look like this. I have to take multiple shots to make sure I get one with her eyes opened. When I asked why she keeps closing her eyes, she says it's because of the flash. She doesn't close her eyes as it flashes, she closes them in anticipation of the flash! Silly girl!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Birthday Girls

2011 is the year of odd-numbered ages for our kids. Through no planning, all the children were born on even-numbered years. This month, Sylvia turned 5, and Gretchen, 7. I like to make the day special for each birthday by asking them to plan the menu and pick what kind of cake they want.

Sylvia requested cherry cake with chocolate frosting, so I made a yellow cake and folded chopped cherries into the batter before baking and between layers I put in cherry jam, then topped it with homemade chocolate glaze poured over the top. It was rich and yummy.

Gretchen wanted strawberry cake and strawberry frosting and I confess, I bought the cake mix and frosting at the store for this one. She was with me on our 'mama/one kid' day out and we went through the baking aisle and she spotted the cakes and frosting section. So I let her pick out what she wanted. It was good cake, but man, that frosting was sweet-- it made my teeth hurt!
On Saturday, my Aunt and Uncle stopped by to give the girls birthday gifts, so I made yet another cake-- this time carrot cake with raisins added, yum! Next Saturday, Andrew's folks are coming over for birthday gifts, so I'll make another cake-- not sure what yet. Four cakes in a month, that's some kind of record for me!
Happy Birthday girlies-- We love you both so very, very much!
Mama and Daddy

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Snow Day!

We had a great day on Tuesday-- we woke up to snow! I like it when it snows during the night and seeing the excitement on the kids faces when they look out the window in the morning. Of course we were going to go out to play in the snow-- who could resist that?! Lucky for us, Andrew was off that day, so he got to play with us, too!

The snow started out light and fluffy, definitely not snowman snow, but it warmed up a little and the snow got wetter, and through sheer determination, Evelyn built herself a snowman. She got Gretchen and Sylvia to help roll the head and torso snowballs, but they lost interest shortly after. Daddy came out to help stack the snowballs. She was so proud! Temps got into the high 40s today, and Mr. Snowman felt apart, but at least we got a picture of him!

This is the kind of behavior I like to see-- hugging and smiling! :o)

Our house is on a slant so we have a great sledding hill on the driveway. If you can manuver the turns really well, it's possible to go from the pole barn all the way down to the end, stopping just before hitting the main road. The girls haven't really figured out how to steer the sleds, so most of the time they end up going into the trees that line the driveway, but Andrew and I joined in the sledding fun and they rode with us all the way to the bottom! Fun fun!

You can bet that Peter was ready for bed at the end of the day!

Sylvia and I going for the gold!

Andrew taking a turn.
Even Maisie the dog was having a blast. She really likes to chase us down the hills, and I got frustrated with her more than once when she would grab my coat sleeve and tug, screwing up my steering and crashing in the snow.

I have to admit, though, it was great to see her running and having fun in the snow! That dog has some speed! Good times!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Losing Steam

I might be losing my blogging mojo. After over 600 posts, what else is there to write about? I feel like I'm always talking about my children, or chickens, or couponing, or me, me, me. I have moments when I want to write something, but end up staring at a blank screen, the cursor blink-blink-blinking at me. I have too many unfinished posts to mention-- stuff I started to write, then losing my train of thought and it didn't make sense anymore.

I blame my new camera, partly, for the lag in blogging. I don't like the way the pictures come out compared to my old camera and so the new camera just sits, collecting dust. I prefer to post with pictures, so when there are no recent pictures taken, the ideas for posts seem to evaporate. That's what I get for ordering a cheap camera online without testing it out and getting to hold it in my own hands before purchasing. Maybe if I can set aside enough money for a better camera, I can give the camera I don't like to the kids. Evelyn has been asking for a camera, and she'll be 9 this summer.. wait and see.

I haven't gotten comments from readers much lately, and that kind of gets to me, too, just a little bit. I know I am writing for me and someday for my kids to read, but I still enjoy hearing from people who read what I write. I wrote a few posts that I thought for sure would garner some interesting comments and I would check back eagerly expecting lots of response and getting nothing instead. Not even a spammer comment.

Is there something I can interest you with? What would you like for me to talk about? Anything I've wrote about before that you want to hear more of? Any burning questions you want to ask? I'm game to answer most questions if you have any. Feel free to ask and maybe I can have a Q&A post in the near future.

Being in the dead of winter now, there isn't too much for me to write about. We're mostly indoors, sometimes fighting cabin fever, and there isn't a whole lot going on right now. With the excitement of the Holidays past, it feels like a waiting game now: waiting for warmer weather to get here so we can head outdoors again; waiting for garden season to begin; waiting for certain days to get here for various appointments or events; waiting for the next paycheck so we can get this or that.

I'm thinking of doing a photo series, forcing myself to use my camera and get used to it. Winter seems so drab and bare and I know there is beauty to be found if one takes the time to look for it. Just this morning on my way out, I spotted two bright blue birds (blue jays maybe? they flew so fast I couldn't tell) chase each other in flight and the color was such a jolt to a dreary gray day. Maybe playing around with the camera will be just the thing I need to break the feeling of dread I get when I pick it up.

It may be quiet here for a little bit, unless I get some fresh inspiration or maybe I get some enthusiastic response telling me you like what I have to say. I have some birthday photos I need to post, and another lost tooth post to write, but other than that...

Friday, January 14, 2011

Shopping Smart in 2011

I didn't really make any set in stone resolutions for this new year, just a few desires expressed to improve upon. Like learning to shoot a .22 and shoot it well. As always, improving the garden and harvesting. Nothing extreme like wanting to visit 50 countries or losing 100 pounds or some such goal.

I do want to do better on our financial situation, though. We have some home improvement projects we'd like to see accomplished, but we never have the money for it. Our Hall Bath is in desperate need of being redone and I think the most costly part of it will be the plumbing-- hiring a plumber to reroute the septic line and water line so we can relocate the toilet and shift the sink over. I like to imagine that we can do most of the work ourselves, but in reality, both of us are not carpenters and other than helping my dad, we don't know much about framing. So that's another job we'll need to hire out. I hope we can keep the budget for redoing the bathroom to under $1,000-- preferably in the $700 range.

Anyway, I'm going to step up on using coupons while I shop. I've made a good start this year and keeping track of receipt totals and actual out-of-pocket costs in a notebook. We sort of lived paycheck to paycheck last year, and more than a few times, we've had to go to the Bank of Mom and borrow a little bit to make it to the next paycheck. We've always paid her back, but I'd like to put an end to that this year. We want to start putting aside a little nest money for emergencies, and though Andrew still works part-time, I can see it happening if we tighten up our belts a bit more.

As of today, my total purchases from the beginning of the year is $545.73. That's a lot for only the first 2 weeks, but with coupons, I've managed to pay out-of-pocket only $150.41! That's over $395 saved! I told Andrew that my goal was to spend only $75 per week on groceries, including diapers. Peter should be out of diapers soon, so once that happens, our weekly total should come down a little bit.

In case you're wondering what I am buying with coupons, here's sampling of items I bought in the first 2 weeks: Diapers, wipes, toothpaste, toothbrushes, 20 boxes of macaroni and cheese, 24 cans (case) tomato soup, Christmas clearance chocolate candy (used for baking and ok, snacking!), cereal, oatmeal, laundry soap, and cough medicine. This is just a fraction of my purchases, but I am very pleased with what I have gotten for the prices I've paid.

The pantry is full; the bathroom closet is stocked; Peter has diapers to use; the cats and dogs are eating well; we're eating well. It's not easy to save and use coupons like this--it is work. I have to sit down at least an hour every day and search for deals and coupons to match, check internet postings from coupon sites and get multiple Sunday papers for coupons, not to mention cutting out coupons and sorting through them. In order to reduce my grocery bill from $57.20 to paying only $1.99 out-of-pocket, I have to do my homework.

Another thing I want to do this year is not buying clothing for any of us. I have gone through all our drawers and closets and we all have plenty of both warm and cold weather clothing; the kids all got new underwear and socks for Christmas; and so we should not need any more clothing at least until next year. They even have enough shoes, barring any growth spurts. We already shop thrift stores and yard sales, so it's not like we pay a lot for clothes, but still, we have more than enough clothes to wear. I have boxes set aside for the next size up for each child, plus we practice the hand-me-down ritual and thankfully, the girls don't mind.

A friend of mine gave me a stack of coupons yesterday that she doesn't want, so I cut and sorted through them last night. I found a few coupons that are money makers for me if I can get to the store tomorrow before the sale ends. Did you know that there are also several stores that give you a sneak peek at the next week's sales? So you can even decide not to buy this week when you know next week will be cheaper! I know one store is having a sale on mouthwash, which after coupons would cost me $1, but if I wait until next week, I can get the same mouthwash for free after coupons! I think I'll wait.

Any of you set up financial goals this year? Any money saving tricks or tips up your sleeves? I'd love to hear them! :o)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Jury Duty!

I've had the most interesting day yesterday! I was called in for jury duty! Not once did I fret about it, I was quite looking forward to it. I had never been called before. I did express concern over the need for an interpreter, but living in a town that the State Deaf school resides in, I was pretty sure they were used to having Deaf people around.

We were required to be there at 8:45 am, and court would promptly start at 9. My interpreter was there-- a school counselor at the Deaf school who also happens to be a certified sign language interpreter. 20 of us showed up (not counting the interpreter) and 4 were chosen to be alternates and asked to leave after explaining what was expected of us as jury members. I admit, I hoped I was one of the 16 that get to stay.

After being sworn in, the judge explained a little bit about law terms and basic knowledge of the charges: breaking and entering; assault or battery; sexual assault 1st, 2nd or 3rd degree; burglary; to name a few. We were members of the Grand Jury reviewing cases for indictment. In other words, we weren't putting anyone in jail-- we were deciding whether or not to let the State pursue the case against the accused. If we passed the bill, then the next morning, the accused would be in court to set the date for their trial.

We heard 16 cases, which ranged from sexual assault, IE: sex with a minor under 16; breaking and entering and burglary; a severe case of battery in which we were shown pictures of the victim (ouch!); and other more sensitive cases that we are not allowed to share. The lawyer would come in with the court clerk and the officer who was witness to the report or investigation, tell us the facts and evidence and then leave for us to discuss and decide if there was indeed a crime. It was not up to us to decide if the person was innocent or guilty, that is for the trial and for their lawyer to prove. We had to decide if the State had a case to go forward on. Most were open-and-shut: the evidence was glaringly overwhelming. But there were a couple we had to talk about and then asked the Lawyer, the court clerk and the witness to come back in for more questioning.

I truly enjoyed the chance to serve on the Grand Jury. It was a long day, and we were there until 5 pm. It was like being on the inside scoop of what happened to people in the county. There were some we had heard of in the papers, but now we had details on exactly who, what, when and where. It reminded me of being on Judicial Board in school, hearing student cases and then deciding punishments.

I wouldn't want to be a Lawyer, but I think it would be interesting working in the courtroom somehow. Maybe someday... but then again, after hearing several cases of sexual assault on minors, mostly teen girls, it makes me worry for my own daughters. I was relatively naive about crime that goes on in our county until yesterday. Hopefully I can do my job as a parent right, teach my kids to use their judgement and get out of situations that "don't feel right in the gut". But most of the sexual assault cases were under aged girls that consented to sex with older boys, not instances where the sex was forced. As a young girl once myself, having an older boyfriend had appeal, rather than dating the "silly boys" from school. As a parent, I wish those older boys would leave the high schooler girls alone and date from their own age bracket.

At the end of the day, before falling asleep, I felt good about doing my part in the justice system. I hope the cases we heard get fair trials and if they were found guilty, get the punishments they deserve.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


All this week, after finding an opossum in the chicken coop on the 31st, I have been diligent in going out at dusk and counting chickens before closing up the coop for the night. Wednesday evening was no different, the sun was still shining through the trees, though the light was thin and darkness was quickly closing in. My count always goes like this: 4 buffs, 2 speckled, 1 rooster, 5 reds, 7 babies. This night, though, I came up with 6 babies. I counted again. I physically moved the chickens because sometimes they huddle close and can easily be overlooked, but I still came up one short. I walked around the coop, maybe the last one was just caught late and huddled outside the coop-- the babies do that sometimes, but no chicken.


I flashed the beam of my light further around the coop and saw nothing. I closed up the coop and walked around the house, checking the usual chicken hangouts. The babies don't tend to stray far from the house like the older chickens do, but I saw no chicken. It was cold, my fingers and my toes in my flip-flops were freezing. I went in to make dinner, then I'd go back out later to check again.

One more search before bedtime around midnight. I walked by the rhubarb patch by the side of the house and then I planned to walk into the woods and see if maybe I would flush out the chicken, but as I walked, something told me to stop and look down. I did, and there was my chicken, dead, partly eaten, feathers scattered all around.


I looked over the body, it was a young roo. It had the same marks as the one that the opossum was eating last week, so I am thinking the opossum got smart this time and took the chicken out of the coop instead of staying in there. It was freezing, late and nights in the country are very, very dark. I didn't want to carry the chicken all the way across the yard and into the garden to put it in the compost. I left it, planning to get to it in the morning.

I woke early in the morning and looked out my window, checking to see if the dead chicken was still there and what did I see? A Cooper's Hawk! What a surprise that was to see! I had no idea they would scavenge, but a freshly-killed chicken must be too good to pass up for a hungry juvenile hawk.

I tried to take pictures that were clear, but it was very hard to take decent pictures through the screen. I was so tempted to cut a hole just to get a better picture, but I knew that was just plain silly. The kids came to see what I was looking at and we all spent the next hour watching the hawk make a meal out of the chicken.
Archie and Lucy the cats came and chased the hawk away, but he just hung out in the tree until Lucy and then Archie got bored and went away.

He was a beautiful bird to look at. I've always admired hawks and it was a treat to see one right outside my bedroom window. After the cats left, he flew back down and ate some more. It was fascinating to watch it pull feathers out with it's beak then rip into the chicken and eat some more.

The kids and I all watched for over an hour until the hawk seemed to have it's fill and flew away. What a sight to see it's wingspan and watch it fly away. Afterwards, we talked about what we saw, looked up our animal encyclopedia and bird books for identification, but finally came up with a positive ID on the internet.
I felt bad last night for losing another chicken, but on the bright side, at least it was a rooster and not a hen, and we got such a great nature show out of it. One less rooster to butcher in the Spring, but also one less rooster in the freezer. Counted chickens tonight: 4 buffs, 2 speckled, 1 rooster, 5 reds, 6 babies. All safe.