Friday, November 30, 2007

Another Week Down

Where does our time go? Every morning we are up with good intentions of getting so much done, and then suddenly it is dinnertime. But we made it through another week, surviving the week of zero balance in our bank account with no major troubles.

Monday it was cloudy, foggy, cold and rainy. A great day to stay inside and read a lot. We finished the first book in The Spiderwick Chronicle series. Mary has become so interested in this series that she insisted we make a trip to the library on Tuesday.

Thankfully, Tuesday was beautiful and warmish so we walked, Mary and Katie rode their scooters. We stopped and looked at the leaves, picking out several prime candidates to add to our leaf collection. At the library we joined several other families in just picking a big stack of picture books and finding a quiet corner to read in. I love our library. It isn't just some place to stop in and pick up books. You can stay and put your feet up, explore, engage and just enjoy. Alas, Emily went off to her own corner for, as she puts it "some privacy please", it was time to grab our load of books and go home before someone started following us around with a can of air freshener.

On the way home we came across some discarded branches from someone's Christmas tree. Deciding that we could make a great display on our mantle with them, we picked them up and brought home. So far, they are still sitting on our front porch. I got the mantle mostly cleared off, but need to dust -- and just have not gotten there yet.

Wednesday was Mary's piano lesson. This week they got two sheets of Christmas music to practice. She has almost nailed Jolly Old St. Nicholas, and is working on We Wish You a Merry Christmas and Jingle Bells - which both require two-hands simultaneously. But, she is practicing without any pushing by me - so it is good!!

After piano my MIL came by and picked up Mary and Katie to take them shopping for new Sunday dresses. I wished her luck, as I have looked and there isn't much out there for girls. She did find something for Katie, but Mary is difficult. Her size is really popular and the dresses are, well, yucky. It required a second trip on Thursday with just Mary to find something that was okay.

The timing was good, though. Mary had been invited to a special Manners Class taught be a friend of ours. It was a holiday party/manners class for her two daughters and we didn't have to pay the full fee, only having to chip in for the room rental and dinner. Last night Mary went downtown to one of the 'nicer' restaurants, which happened to be on the 28th floor of the building (apparently that was a big deal). Where they had a four-course meal and got tips on nice table manners. This was one of those dress-up occasions and Mary had just the right dress.

The best part was when she got home and we snuggled and she shared what they had to eat, talked about the bathroom and how it had all these perfumes and warm finger towels. She explained how one talks with mouth in their mouth and when your elbows can rest on the table.

Today is errand day. Our bank account has been refreshed and we are heading to Aldis to pick up supplies for the month. I received my new book The Last Child in the Woods yesterday so I am going to curl up with that as much as I am allowed. I already know that I will be writing about this book and encouraging anybody to find a copy of it.



Monday, November 26, 2007

A room to cook in

DH and I are actually stunned by how well the kitchen remodel went over the weekend. We knew doing anything would be an improvement. But, we didn't realize the we could actually do it as well as we did.

The old kitchen, looking its best a couple of years ago...
Old stove, cracked and peeling formica countertop, crappy too-small faucet and paneling. The kitchen is small. And, we cannot do much about that without a major remodeling job. But, when we bought the house nine-and-a-half years ago it was with the intention of doing something with the kitchen. Two years ago we did do the floors, but stopped there for awhile.

Well, we finally did the rest. Receiving the free new-old stove was the push we needed. This is the kitchen, almost done. After Christmas we will tackle re-painting the cabinets (I hate the cream color as it shows every bit of dirt, grime and fingerprints).

As you can see we are still cleaning up the grout residue. That will take a couple of days to clear up as it cures. As a celebration last night we got in there and made chocolate chip cookies. They tasted so good coming out of this kitchen.



Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thanksgiving Projects

We've had a wonderful Thanksgiving and I hope everyone else has also. The weather could not have been anymore perfect on Thursday. The girls got a lot of playing outside time with their older cousins, I had plenty of help chasing Robbie around and keeping him out of things. My MIL, as also, put on a gut-busting spread of food. And FIL and I bonded over a discussion of how children are raised and educated today, and the disservice that we are doing to them and our society. If nothing else I am actually starting to sense that we have a homeschool supporter in that house.

Friday was project day for us. I am not a shopper, at all, and avoid stores on black Friday like the plague. I did have to make a trip to the Home Improvement Store, but even there it wasn't as bad as it could have been. By 9pm when I made the last trip there for the day, it was almost empty.

We were tackling the kitchen countertops this weekend.
Step one was to remove everything from the countertops, including the sink. We even removed the counters to get to the ugly, space consuming backsplash. While most of the kitchen is built with real, and nice, wood. The counters are thick particle board.

While the sink was out I remembered the new faucet I had bought four years ago on a super discount. So we are going to replace that also while the sink is out.
We measured and tried to figure out the best way to lay the tiles in our non-square house.

The big girls headed over to their sleepover party around 4:30, so I decided to round up the little ones and go back to the in-laws for round two. This would give DH some time to work uninterrupted. After we ate, I called to see how it was going, "Slowly". So, DH's brother decided to come over and help. Boy did they get a lot done in short time.

I brought the kids back for their bedtime and was sent out to pick up the last box of tile that they needed.

Today, we just need to grout. Put the sink back together. And, even more amazing DH and his brother talked and decided that this afternoon BIL will come back over to do the backsplash with DH. I didn't think I would get the backsplash done this year. This will leave me with just having to sand and paint the cabinets this winter.

Then it is time to begin thinking about our next project????
- chimney liner needs replacing
- kids bathroom needs a overhaul, including the subflooring (this needs everything - new counter, new sinks - etc.)
- The office/playroom needs to be repainted and new flooring.
- Convert the garage into some type of room (we are going to need a new bedroom at sometime)
- Screen in part of the back deck

At least this will be next year's project.


Monday, November 19, 2007

Feeling Unmotivated

We have hit a period of major non-motivation in this house. Excitement, thrilling lessons all of it has hit a "blah". It is no good when even the mommy can't get motivated. We were going to go for a walk today to look at the wonderful fall color we still have, but amazements of amazements we awoke to cold and wet weather. It didn't help the mood.

The fact that we made it to the arts & crafts store to pick up our display board for the Geography Fair was the big accomplishment of the day. The rest of the day, I feel as though I have spent referring and getting Robbie out of places he shouldn't be.

I even went to lay down on the sofa this afternoon and had three girls land on top of me. Wonderful, yes - until the fussing and personal space invasion that was bound to happen. Honestly 4pm and the public school kids home didn't come soon enough for me.

Tomorrow we stay home all day... I'm going to pull out the paints, some manipulatives and turn on the classic music - see where that takes us. We need a change from the status quo.


Friday, November 16, 2007

American Indian Heritage Education Day

The presentation and exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of History today was excellent! I ended up being able to take only Mary and Katie. When Emily woke up this morning she was spouting forth great gobs of nasal stuff, and I figured that no one would appreciate having her around. But, it was important to me that we didn't miss this, as this week we had already postponed a nature walk and missed Mary's piano class and soccer practice. So, Grandma saved us by coming over and watching the two little ones.

We started with a "Dance and Drum Exhibition". Who knew that NC has the largest population of Native Peoples east of the Mississippi?

The pictures are slightly blurry as my batteries were going dead and I didn't want to use the flash too much.

Everyone came out for the opening.

This is a grass stomping dance. This dance was done my teenage boys to flatten the grasses for meetings or gatherings.

This little boy was just awesome.

This woman was dancing a 'healing' dance. The emcee commented that historically the dress was made from buckskin and deer hooves, but now they make it with cloth and metal. The metal on the skirt are tin from the tops of chewing tobacco - flattened and then rolled up and individually sewn onto the skirt. The skirt, alone, weighs more than 25 pounds.

After the presentation we walked around and looked at some of the exhibits and talked with several of the artists. Mary was very interested in all the different styles of clay pot making. She learned that it can take 5-6 weeks to see a pot completed. The Cherokees use wooden paddles to imprint the clay pots, with different stylings representing different meanings.

The intricate bead work was so precise. Hundreds and thousands of hours in individual pieces of clothing. One artist quipped that I should just think about the time it would take if they still had to make their beads or use shells and quills.

We were also able to see the Lost Colony Exhibit as part of the day. I had already planned to take the girls as a follow-up to our trip this past September, so this was bonus that we could do it all at once.
The entrance to this exhibit was made to look like the wharfs of London, where the colonists would have picked up some last minute food for travel.
Mmmm, fresh lobster...

The next part of the exhibit did not allow photos. This area was set aside for prints and maps that John Smith made of his travels. Not only in the Americas, but also the Caribbean. I never realized how many pictures he did of animals, fish, birds and vegetation. These pictures introduced people of England to bananas, Frigate Birds, Grouper, Loggerhead Turtles...and the list goes on and on. I've already called my mom to tell her that we have to go back to this exhibit when I can enjoy it without being hurried.

Next was a model of a native village, or representation of what one around Roanoke Island would have looked.

Dinner anyone?

We missed the corn grinding, boo. But did enjoy the peace and quiet of it being later in the day and most of the school groups had already left.

The next room covered information about the Elizabethan Era and the Lost Colony Theater.

A chance to play dress-up.
Aren't those costumes exquisite? These pieces are now even more treasured. These are the costumes that are worn in the outdoor drama - The Lost Colony. On September 11 (yes, apparently a very bad day) of this year part of the theater on Roanoke Island burned - including the costume shop. With it costumes that were designed and made as far back as the 1930s. These costumes had just been loaned to the museum for this exhibit and were saved because of that.
What???? Stop trying to take my picture.

On the way out we also stopped to watch a man work on the dugout canoe. Well, he was putting out the embers for the day. But, did take some time to explain the process to Mary. We are thinking that we have some good logs in the backyard to try to make a miniature.

It was a really good afternoon.



Robbie Follow-up

We've stuck close to home since Wednesday. Robbie is doing much better, although still sleeping a bit more than normal. I think that is more a result of the cold. His fever broke during the day on Wednesday and has been nothing but normal since then.

I did take him to the doctor Wednesday as a follow-up. He showed no residual affects from the seizure and was happy as a clam. Still no visible signs of an illness other than a clear, runny nose. Unfortunately the doctor did mention that his high fever could have been an affect from the immunizations he received just the week before. Which makes me worry even more about what the vaccinations could be doing to him. Is he going to be the one I always worry about medically??

The good news is that it is unlikely, not improbable, but unlikely that he will have another seizure.

The weather has changed. It has gotten cold. Good cuddling weather. We have been devouring "Where the Sidewalk Ends", by Shel Silverstein. The girls are enjoying the fun poetry. Katie is all about writing and copying this week. She found an old phonics sticker book that has the different word-families with picture definitions and has been copying a page per day after we read them. I printed off a hundreds chart for Katie who is still struggling with getting her 'teen numbers' in the right order. She and Mary laid down on the floor and went over the chart together. It is so wonderful to watch them work together.

Mary and I are reading about Alexander the Great for history this week. She has also been spending a lot of time playing with manipulatives and the multiplication tables. She is back on her 'Sims' kick, this time with Sim Safari.

We need to get cracking on our presentation for the Geography Fair. It is only a couple of weeks away. This weekend I've got to go pick up the board - maybe that will help motivate us.

Today we are going to the NC Museum of History for a hands-on Native American exhibit and to see the new Lost Colony Exhibit. This should be fun and I am so glad Robbie is feeling better so we can make it.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Scare of my life

Robbie has had a cold since Sunday. Nothing to bad, just under the weather.

At 1:00 this morning he woke me up. I don't even remember what sound it was that he was making that woke me up. As I got closer to his room it dawned on me that he was making a really odd sound. I enter the room and could feel the heat coming off of him. And, this was with a dose of Ibueprofen before he went to bed. He was having a seizure! I have never had to deal with one of these before.

I woke DH up and he held him until it was over while I got a washcloth and we started trying to cool him off. The seizure stopped but it took Robbie so long to cry and respond to us in any sort of way we decided to make a trip to the ER. I called a neighbor mom, someone who would understand why i was calling at nearly 1:30 am to come over and sit with the other three.

Robbie's fever was 105 at the ER. They gave him several meds to bring the fever down and checked him out for pneumonia or any other type of infection. Thankfully they got it all under control and he has no infections, so just a viral cold. We came home two hours later, with Robbie and directions to double the fever reducer dose I was giving him.

This episode had to take several months off my life. I'm going to try to stay close to home today.



Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Kitchen Renovations

About six months ago we had a friend give us the old stove from her own kitchen renovation. In our house old is relative. Our stove/oven was original to the house, 40 years old. Her stove/oven, a much newer 12 years old. If we stay here long enough we will buy a new stove sometime, but the price was right on this one.

It has been sitting in the garage since last spring waiting on a free weekend. Well, last week the element in the old oven blew in spectacular fashion, and so it was finally this weekend that we could install the new one.

Our existing stove was a drop-in, hard-wired and about three-inches narrower than the new slide-in model.

Old stove removed, then we had to wire the new outlet to plug the stove into.

The nasty hole that was left. Yes we have paneling in the kitchen. Who put dark paneling in a kitchen???

DH trimming away the countertop. Not to worried about aesthetics here as the countertop will be addressed in phase 2 over the Thanksgiving holidays.

Almost done...

New stove in. I was so excited over the added storage area - giggling and all about someplace to actually store the pizza pan and cookie sheets. It is the little things for me. The kids were excited that there is an oven light and that they can actually watch the food bake.

The added cooking space is great. Yesterday we baked muffins and could fit both muffin tins in at the same time. I have two large burners so no more cooking dinner in shifts, or trying to cook something on too small of a burner.

We have been cleaning sawdust off of everything. It is amazing where that stuff will settle.

In a week-and-a-half we will be tiling the countertop and backsplash. Good-bye 30 yr old laminate and paneling. After the Christmas holidays I will be attacking the cabinets with paint. No more white kitchen cabinets!!!



Friday, November 09, 2007

What great idea

Someone linked this page on using Bubble Wrap to insulate windows on the Frugal Village board I visit often.

These sounds like such a great frugal idea to help with the heat loss we experience. Our bedrooms are all on the North-East corner of the house, and they will get cold in the winter. During the day I can keep the heat down at 62/64 degrees since we only use two rooms, but some nights last winter it seemed as if the heater ran all night just to keep the house at 67 degrees. I already use heavy winter curtains and shades, but feel like I need more.

With our limited budget this is something we can afford to do. If I hadn't been giving the kids the bubble wrap we have gotten recently to play with I could probably do this for free. Oh well, I'm shopping today and will pick up a roll.



Train Ride

DH heard about an organization in a nearby small town that does train rides on weekends. Just a little mile or two-mile loop. But, enough for the kids to really enjoy a TRAIN RIDE. My goodness, you would have thought that Santa had come early this year when DH mentioned he wanted to take the kids on this.

Saturday, after the soccer game, I headed out to do a little shopping for Christmas (each paycheck I'm picking up one or two items to spread out the pain). On my way back from dropping the gifts at my in-laws house, DH calls to let me know that there is a 4:00 ride. I am so not excited about this. I am worn out from stores and shopping and calculating prices in my head. So, he tells me that if I can just bring the van home he will take ALL of them. Yes, 4 children on the train ride. A completely empty house for me!! Hear the angels sing.

Everyone was a little chilled by the time they came home - but had a great time. I got a nap, and some reading and fixed dinner. It was great for everyone.



Thursday, November 08, 2007

More Thoughts

I re-read my last post and to me it really felt like I was so stressed and anxious about the future. And, I am in some ways...but, in others I am not. There is a part of me that actually feels that a recession that makes the majority of consumers in our culture re-examine the important things in life is a good thing. What makes me the most angry about the whole thing are the economist who are so unattached to 'normal' life that they can go on and on about how things are not that bad.

I pulled back out my copy of Crunchy Cons, by Rod Dreher, for a little bedtime reading last night. And, again I came across a passage I had underlined in an earlier reading that just makes so much sense:

"The tragic flaw of Western economics is that it is based on exploiting and encouraging greed and envy. Schumacher gave the devil his due, though, admitting that these "are not accidental features, but the very cause of its expansionist success." Why a tragic flaw? Because an economy grown from these poisonous seeds is bound to destroy the community of which it is a part.
Our liberty and prosperity have made us feeble, because the things we've forgotten to conserve in the rush to riches were the very virtues necessary to build a stable society. Does anyone really believe that we can grow our way out of our problem? Is another tax cut, gimmicky educational scheme, or entitlement reform - or whatever glorious program the Republican Party promises will call down the New Jerusalem - going to save marriages, restore children to their parents, heal the land, renew the commonweal? Come on."

If people could really see beyond the media and government cover-up of what is going on in our economy. If people (and I am using a very broad sense of people here as I do know there are those who get it) could accept that our culture is sitting at a crossroads and we need to decide which path we are going to tread. Then I believe that our culture and economy and people (worldwide) could come through with so much more. In the late '70s, during the last energy crisis, President Jimmy Carter stood up and basically told the nation that WE needed to take responsibility and change our ways. Unfortunately, that wasn't what the nation wanted to hear then and I am guessing that there are people who don't want to acknowledge that it is up to us. Not the Government, not the United Nations and really not even big business.

Other people in the world march and demand changes on so much less. They are willing to stand up against the threat of death for what they believe. And, by and large, our countrymen and women won't even vote with their wallet. Instead, we shrug our shoulders and believe we can't do anything about it.

I chose not to work. I could probably walk out the door today and find a full-time job doubling our income. But with that comes a lot of other expenses and a loss of our family unity. So instead I work at finding how I can affect changes and save money within our household. The gas prices have gone up obscenely. Since I can't make the oil producers and refineries change their prices I have to look in other ways to save. I only drive three days a week if I can help it and combine errands while I am already out for activities, this is hard because we live in suburbia with non-existent public transportation and limited sidewalks. We've started getting exercise walking to the grocery store, dollar store, and library (each about a mile each way). I've scouted out a new dentist I want to try that is also in walking distance. These walks have been wonderfully refreshing and a great joy with the children. It stops being about the errand we are running, but more about the journey to get there.

I could go hog wild with Christmas and birthdays. But, I like the challenge of only giving the children a few things. Instead I am looking for tradition/activity ideas to give them instead. Memories to hang on to. And, I am not a 'holiday' person so this is hard for me. But I feel that it is more important than any sort of singing Elmo I could buy.

Not working, limited driving and avoiding consumerism are financial considerations, but the results of doing them really take us back to the center of life. Imagine if only 50% of our population jumped off the hamster wheel of 'life' to explore other options.


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Sometimes I wish I was an Ostrich

Lately I've been watching the oil prices climb and the stock market recede. It pulls me and sucks me in like having to rubberneck when you pass those highway accidents. I tell myself that really we are talking about Wall Street not Main Street and try to move on with my day. Then I hit the grocery store and my jaw drops at the rising prices on the food - and there is the link. It is quite spectacular watching gas prices climb at a rate of 10c to 15c per gallon each and every day.

In the '90s I was particularly outspoken about the economic crisis we, as a culture were setting ourselves up for. Yet, most found me to be on the level with the Brickyard Preacher (the dude that would hang out at my college yelling for us to repent or burn in hell). But the dot com crash came and went, then the 9/11 fallout - and the world didn't stop spinning. Spend more money, buy more stuff. A philosophy I really detest, by the way.

Today, there is something else happening. And, I have to scream about it - yell about it. Because I'm tired of thinking about it. They tell us there is "no recession, no chance for depression." And those that speak these words do so from a yearly income of 6-figures. I challenge one of them to come live on less then $60K a year.

These last two years, especially 2007, have been horrifically pinching for the working middle class. Some seem to float through it with almost no effects - until you look at their credit card bills. Others, and I want to put myself here, are really trying to make it on our yearly income. We've decided that we don't want credit card debt, so we are not using them. Everything runs through our checking account. And, there just never seems to be enough. I'm working at finding the holes that money is slipping through now so I can fill them. But, I don't have high hopes for 2008. I'm just wondering what it is going to be to break our financial backs.

Not all our changes are for financial reasons. I've been convicted over the last couple of years to become more and more anti-consumer. We are burning the world at our feet over our wants and desires. This week at the doctor's when I was asked the standard question over whether or not I think Robbie has been exposed to lead, for the first time I had to stop and think about my answer. We have city water, our house doesn't have lead paint - but we have a pile of toys made in who-knows-where. And, I just don't know anymore.

Christmas is knocking at our door, and with it two birthdays just a couple weeks before - we have a small budget this year. The kids are getting three presents each, period. I've asked the family to pool their money for the kids into one large outdoor present. I refuse to go bankrupt for a holiday.

To pay for Christmas and DH's gas to and from work I've decided it is time to eat from our stockpile. This is my comfort place. Money in the bank for me against a disaster, but it is time to pull our resources in and cut way, way back on our outgoing money. We have enough food to eat well for a month, and nutritiously for three or four.

If you think I'm coming from left field think about the recent big news stories over this year:
~ rising gas prices (DH alone is spending $300/month to just go to work)
~ tainted, well everything, coming from China (and probably a lot of other emerging countries in which our corporations are pinching more and more for the bigger profits)
~ major drought here in the southeast (my garden was a dismal failure and I struggled to get good quality from the local farmer's markets all season)
~ Staple foods rising in prices in the range of 20%-30% over periods of a couple of months (convenience foods have remained relatively stable in pricing because they have so little 'real' food in them - this isn't a good omen for where our diet is heading)
~ National deficit rising by billions of dollars so that we can send that same money all over the world in forms of aid (or in my thinking bribery)
~ Foreclosures and bankruptcies all over the place because people were convinced that they deserved and could afford more, more , more and bigger, bigger, bigger

So, like I said I wish I was an ostrich and could stick my head in the sand and let this all kind of roll over. But, there is another part of me that thinks that what our culture needs is more interaction with our neighbors, more local living, more dependency on each other and more grace given. I don't know what the future holds but I'm going to try my best.


Friday, November 02, 2007

Latest Creation

No not him...although he is the latest model.

The hat! I crocheted that over the last couple of nights. I followed the directions to make it Mary-size, but it was still too small. Looks pretty good on him, though.

He fell asleep after finishing his lunch, so the girls figured they better cover him up to keep warm.



Must blog...Something

I've been taking a semi-voluntary sabbatical from the computer this week. A lot has been going on, but not much I can share here...and not too much school-wise. We've managed to do the basics this week, or at least Tuesday through Thursday. Monday, the big girls were at my friend's house until 3 and got home just in time to change and go back out with my SIL to a Halloween party. As far as today, I will be happy to finish off the week with the basics. We can get back to everything else next week.

I have gotten the video camera working!!! Which means the girls have been in hog heaven outside filming themselves. I've been giving them pointers like to make sure they don't move the camera around really fast, to keep it pointed at what they are filming and to make sure they stop recording between shots. We have about 15 minutes of ground shots right now and a few minutes of what I am calling 'scootercam' (Mary riding her scooter with the camera taping.) I am excited about adding this tool to our homeschool. It will give both the girls an outlet to share their passions.

Our Halloween was great. A friend came over with her children and we all went around the neighborhood about 6pm. Emily tried so hard to keep up with everyone. When we came back Mary decided that she wanted to be the one to hand out candy, so she and daddy set up chairs and pumpkins at the end of the driveway. I think she had more fun visiting with everyone than actually trick-or-treating.

With Halloween over, now our eyes turn to the Christmas holiday. DH stopped by our local grocery store on the way home last night and they already have their Christmas tree, decorations and are playing seasonal music. Katie started asking yesterday when she could go see Santa. I am not ready for it yet this year...

The kids want eggs...must go.

A family of six living and learning. You might catch us outside in the mud or working on crafts. We always seem to be on the go, come on and join us.