Thursday, December 31, 2009

The End of a Decade

I'm reading all these 2009 wrap up posts on blogs, so why not, let's review 2009!

We played in the sprinklers in January
I ranted from my soapbox about HENRYs in February
We acquired and then processed and stored a small flock of meat birds in March
Sedona got a UTI (and a 105 fever) in April
We had a delicious meal made entirely with our own food in May
We had a big long drought in June
Sedona stopped all activity at the local Chick-Fil-A and got rushed to the ER in July
We took a FABULOUS 3 week family road trip in August
Sierra started Kindergarten in September (okay, it was really August 31, but I blogged about it in September)
Both girls had an unusually rough time with the flu, while Josh was on the other side of the country for a job interview, in October
We made the tough decisions to accept a job offer in Montana and get a puppy in November
And, we continued the tradition of decorating homemade gingerbread houses in December

It's been a busy year! Between graduations and moving and getting started with homeschooling, 2010 promises to be an exciting year as well!

Friday, December 25, 2009

And so this is Christmas

Christmas has come and gone (mostly) for the Hill household! On Wednesday, we had a high of 73, by Thursday afternoon the wind chill was 22 and there were snow flurries. Even if you only look at actual temperature, we had a 40 degree shift in temperatures over a 36 hour period. Craziness.

We ended up celebrating here at home with my family. We're "presents on Christmas Eve" people because we're just too impatient to wait. So after a Texas dinner of brisket, beans, potato salad and cornbread, we all watched the kids dig into their presents and then opened our own. Lots of great gifts this year! The girls were worn out and anxious about Santa, so they started asking to go to bed early. They slept in a little this morning (got up just after 7---late for them) and after stockings from Santa, another short visit with the grandparents and playing with their new toys, they both crashed at naptime. It's hard work visiting with all those people!!

I think it's safe to say Sierra's favorite present was her scooter (which she's been riding all around the house) and Sedona's was the plasma car I won from Mommy23Monkeys, which surprised me, I didn't think she'd quite understand it, but she loves it!



(She's been riding by herself, but she was letting daddy have some fun too)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Carly's latest adventure



Last night we were all ready to go to bed when Josh discovered Carly had chewed up a pair of his underwear (yum, right?). I just laughed and said I was glad it wasn't mine, so of course karma had to come back and get me. We walk back to our room to find she had also dug one of my bras out of the dirty laundry and eaten it. I'm not exaggerating. An entire strap gone. Most of the back (including the hooks) gone. And it can't be a cheapie, right? No, it's gotta be the expensive one I wear with nice shirts, because, you know, a pup's gotta have taste.

I worked as a vet tech for several years and I admit my knowledge is fairly outdated, but I was pretty sure what she had eaten was too big to pass without a problem. I also have vivid memories of the surgery required to fix such a situation (an a specific little dachshund and all the random stuff we surgically removed from his stomach). It was already midnight, so we decided to take her out in the yard and make her give back what she had eaten. The best at home option for that is plain ol' hydrogen peroxide by mouth (stay away from ipecac, if they don't throw up, you then have to pump their stomach to get it out because it's toxic). In the vet clinic, we always gave fluids also so they wouldn't be dehydrated, but we weren't dealing with a toxicity problem or anything, just needed one good heave to mostly clear her stomach, so I figured she'd be fine. Sure enough, she vomited it all up and turns out (as I suspected) she didn't even have the decency to chew it into smaller pieces, everything was pretty much whole. She looked at us like, "why'd you go and do that?!?", drank some water and is a-okay today. Adventures in puppy hood! I must say, in the 6 weeks we've had her, that's the only thing she's destroyed aside from a few pair of underwear, so I think she's doing pretty good!

The good news is I made cinnamon rolls (it's a fabulous America's Test Kitchen recipe that pretty closely mimics cinnabon rolls) and I'm pretty sure we're just going to eat them for dinner

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Nightmares, nightmares

I've always had lots of nightmares. My mom (well, my great-granny, really) will say that's because I eat too many sweets before bed. I seriously don't remember ever having a happy dream until I was at least a teenager. One nightmare in particular even ended up being not scary because I kept having the exact same nightmare, only each time, more was added on to the end. It got to the point where I was excited at the beginning to see what was going to happen next and understood in the dream that it was a dream. The other big reoccurring theme is I cannot scream in a dream. I try and try and it's like a whisper, then I wake myself up because in real life I'm being pretty loud. Unfortunately, Sierra seems to be the same way--she recounts horrible, horrible dreams about all sorts of awful things. Sedona has recently started waking up crying as well.

This week's been particularly not fun (perhaps Granny was on to something...lots of Christmas sweets around). Sunday night I dreamed I was being held captive by Osama bin Laden. Just at the point where I was going to try escaping, Josh shook my shoulder to wake me up for the morning. In my dream, I thought Osama had me and I literally felt like I was going to have a heart attack. Had palpitations and everything. Last night was enough to make me less than eager to ever sleep again though. I dreamed Sierra, Sedona and I were on a set of stairs and Sedona managed to climb through the railing. I had ahold of one of her arms, then all of a sudden, it was like she split in two---one Sedona next to me and the other holding on to the rail, dangling in mid-air and screaming that high pitched, "I'm terrified" scream. Of course she's too little to hold her body weight and she immediately fell--two stories to a tile floor. I heard the thud, I saw her down there, the second Sedona that had been next to me was gone. I was so so so thankful when I tried to scream and no sound came out. I knew then that it was only a dream. Of course I was then wide awake and had to make sure my babies were okay. They were both snoozing peacefully. Sedona's diaper had leaked and her side of the bed and her pillow were soaked--she had scooted over and was snuggled up with her big sister. Unfortunately, momma's having a bit of a panic attack at the thought of sleeping again at all, much less sleeping an overwhelming 20 feet away from her.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Gingerbread Houses

Today was gingerbread house day in our house! Momma spent the morning baking and building while the kiddos spent the day asking, "can we decorate NOW?!?". Word to the wise--don't eat any of the candy off Sedona's house. She licked almost every single piece before sticking it on.




Monday, December 14, 2009

School Days

As my mom pointed out yesterday, Angel and I are the only ones not in school now. Carly started puppy class and will spend the next 7 Sundays learning a little about being a good dog.

We're taking her to the classes at our local Petsmart. When you google online, there are pretty mixed reviews of the Petsmart classes, but honestly, it all depends on the trainer, right? At our local store, there is only one trainer, and I've kind of watched her with her dogs when we've been in there and I'm impressed with how she handles them. Plus, it's an affordable class and we're talking puppy class, not agility training anyway, so I figured we'd give it a go. Since we want Sierra taking ownership, she is attending the class and Josh is going with her. He says it sounds like the class is going to be well worth our time and money. It sounds like there was plenty of information covered, but the main skill this week was "watch me". They are working with clickers and treats and the goal is to be able to walk into class next week and give the "watch me" command and have the dog focus only on you for 10 seconds. Sierra's been working with Carly and she's already doing quite good at it.

And last night, we created a video message from Santa for Sierra at this site. Check it out, it's really neat!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Crafty Kids

My girls LOVE to do crafts. I don't love it. I hate cleaning and doing crafts with kids is the surest way to create more housework. I'm convinced a five year old, armed with nothing more than a pair of scissors, can break the law of conservation of matter and turn one measly piece of construction paper into roughly two tons of itty bitty construction paper scraps.

I exaggerate. Slightly.

But, the kids joyously draw and cut and glue and sprinkle glitter and in the midst of their mess they see only a masterpiece. So, I grit my teeth, pick up another errant scrap of paper, vacuum up the glitter, and buy more glue. But even a mom has her limits and I have no intention of starting craft projects 30 minutes before bedtime. So when I caught Sedona picking through the craft drawer


I rolled my eyes and prepared myself for the "no! no crafts right now!" battle. Then she turned around with a glue stick and gleefully asked me, "glue?!" and while I said, "no glue", I did lighten up a little. She earnestly turned back to her drawer and turned back around with small dispenser in her hand, "tape?!". Then she had me chuckling, but I still said, "no tape". Undeterred, she finally settled on "color?!"


And who could turn down a child's request to color?

Monday, December 7, 2009

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

We spend yesterday at our town's Holiday Parade. It was a little cold and a little rainy, but Sierra's been asking about it for months, so there was no way we were gonna miss it. The parade was shorter than last year and there weren't nearly as many spectators, but the kids had a blast anyway. This morning on the way to school, we drove part of the parade route and Sierra said, "Hey Momma! Remember that parade was here yesterday? That was SOOO much fun!"



Sierra dancing, 'cause that what Sierra does:

Everyone catching the first glimpse of Santa Claus:


And I do believe Angel has taken on the role of "momma dog" with Carly, which is good...they're not fighting, but Angel is putting her in her place and teaching her manners with regards to biting/jumping and since Angel obviously "speaks dog" better than us humans do, I think she's doing a better job of it than we can at this age.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Friends



Angel and Carly have decided to be friends. Mostly this involves Carly trying her darndest to sneak up and attack Angel and Angel looking down at her like, "that's all you've got, runt?" while sending her rolling across the room with one paw. But tails wag the entire time, so I'll take it as a good thing.

Off to convince my hubby to lose play a few rounds of Mille Bornes.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Boo Hoo

I'm lamenting the end of the long weekend. I think. On the one hand, the kids go back to school tomorrow (I've got 6 more months until they're both homeschooled full-time, I'm soaking up the "me time" while I can!). On the other hand, that means I need to get back to doing that little thing called "cleaning". I hate cleaning. I have friends who love to clean and I wish they could share their secret. I never feel like I've accomplished anything because it just gets all messy again. And when you're not starting with a clean slate, how do you even get started? Because if you spend a day deep cleaning one room, then move through each room of the house, everything else is trashed by the time you get done. Laundry and dishes--the bane of my existence. Repetitive work that is never ever done.

Friday, November 27, 2009

"The Holidays" are here!

It's that time of year!! My brother and sister-in-law graciously hosted Thanksgiving dinner yesterday. It's fun to be at my own house, but it sure was a nice change of pace to have a lazy morning with no cooking or planning!!!! We had fun...good food, good company!

This morning I truly participated in black Friday for the first time. A couple of years ago I hit some of the stores well after opening time, but I've never gotten up early and waited in line and all that. The big draw this year was a king-sized down comforter for $30 (regularly $160, and even with cheaper brands, I don't think I've seen less than $60). So, I actually got up at 3am and waited outside in the dark for a 4am opening and got my comforter. We felt like we needed to buy the girls one before we move to Montana anyway, so I had to have the sale. Then I headed on over to Target for the 5am opening to pick up some other gifts. I felt a little out of place since I wasn't going for a TV, GPS, ipod or computer, but I got things we needed to get for good prices. The only flaw in my planning--I was done at 5:30 and realized I couldn't come home because I'd wake everyone up! So I went ahead and walked the mall, but didn't really get anything there.

Wanting to get the tree up this weekend and what few decorations we have. Maybe I'll have the girls make handprint wreaths to put up since we never got around to handprint turkeys.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Holiday Taste of Sam's Club

Remember when I won the plasma car? Well, the same great lady is a sharing the savings blogger and has been doings LOTS of great Sam's Club gift card giveaways. Most recently, she put up this post to let us all know about the Holiday Taste of Sam's Club going on this weekend. She is giving away more Sam's Club gift cards and if any bloggers attend the event and blog about it, they get 10 extra entries. Free food and a chance to win gift cards? Of course, I was there!

So here's the deal: Head on over to Sam's 11am-6pm Friday through Sunday and taste all the great food in the Holiday Taste Of Sam's Guide. If you aren't a Sam's club member, there is a guest membership in the guide. I had grand intentions of taking a lot of pictures, but outside it was raining and inside there was a bit of "traffic" near each sampling station, so I abandoned that plan and only have this picture of Sierra in the car (if you look close, you can see the Sam's sign. You can also see the line around her lips where she's been scraping her teeth and completely chapped the skin--any idea on how to make her stop that??) YES, she was buckled in her carseat, in the back, for the entire drive. The car was parked and off when I took this picture!


Inside, we were treated to all sorts of goodies....one station had plates of ham, mashed potatoes with gravy and green bean casserole. Another had absolutely WONDERFUL spiced apple pork loin. Further down we got to Sierra's favorite station--cinnamon rolls with orange frosting. I was skeptical, but they were very very yummy. We also picked up a plate with a sampling of cheeses---I'm not sure what all there was because Sedona scarfed down the whole plate, but I did get to taste a little brie. Another station had a different kind of cracker and cracker barrel cheese. I'm sad to report the cheesecake station was set up, but no one (and more importantly no cheesecake) was there :-( Last, we swung by and picked up a sample of Martinelli's sparkling apple cider. It's one of Josh's favorites and he'll be happy to know his girls love it too! I might just have to go back Sunday--I can pick up a Sunday paper (only $0.95 at my Sam's!) and that's when they're holding the Chocolate Dipping Event.

When you're out shopping this weekend, swing by and check it out!!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Street smarts and book learnin'

When I was 15, I (along with all my friends) took driver's ed. It wasn't offered at our school, you had to go through a private company. In my course (in the suburbs of Houston), there was a lecture series and a driving series you had to complete. For the driving series, there were 7 one-hour practice drives. They were standardized, you went certain places and did certain things on each lesson. When lesson 7 came around, it was pretty much up to the student what they wanted to do. Parallel parking was NOT a requirement (and is not tested in your driving test in Texas, at least for me it wasn't) and it seemed scary and not too useful at the time, so I opted to skip it and take an extra hour of practice on the construction clogged Houston freeways. Reasonable choice at the time.

Fast forward 6 years...I moved to Salt Lake City, Utah and rented a basement apartment very near downtown. There was a small parking lot, but with 5 apartments (it was a house converted into apartments), it wasn't uncommon to have to park on the street. Not to mention going to visit anyone involved parking on the street, and quite a bit of shopping required parking on the street. So I learned to parallel park the hard way, the way that ingrains it into you....by doing it, in traffic, with people waiting. I'd like to think I got pretty good at it.

Today the library parking lot was full. I parallel parked the minivan (which I've never done before). On the first try. My spacing from the curb and the other cars was as perfect as it gets. I will always credit Utah for my parallel parking skills (and an awesome street numbering/address system). Real world learning rocks.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Carly

Having a new puppy is like a mini-dose of having a new baby. A doctor once told my mom that if she wanted to have a baby, she should try a puppy first. Good advice, I say! I only have two caveats: start with a young pup and do it right. That means you take the time to use positive reinforcement, you "puppy proof" the house, and you make the effort to get up in the night for potty breaks. Well, okay, Josh is making the effort to get up in the night for potty breaks, but I did nurse through the night for over 2 years total, so I've put in a fair amount of time already.

After two human babies, canine baby isn't such a difficult job. I've found out a set of cloth diapers will last through two babies and one puppy (she's doing great on house breaking, but there are still plenty of puddles to soak up throughout the day). It gets a bit crazy when both girls are home and Josh is gone. That's a little worse than just having a human baby. A 7 week old human baby doesn't run laps through the house grabbing kids by their pant legs and occasionally catching skin with a needle-like tooth. So the canine baby requires either constant supervision or kenneling at this point, which is doable, just a bit busy.

Carly wants so badly to play with Angel (my 11 year old labrador), but Angel wants nothing to do with her. She's not mean, just indifferent. Carly pounces on Angel's tail and tries to gnaw on it, Angel just flicks it away. Carly jumps up and paws at Angel's shoulder, Angel just looks down like, "why is this runt jumping on me?" For now, they're mostly leading separate lives. I think Angel is a bit jealous of the attention Carly gets from the kids, but then she is definitely gloating about the fact that she is always free to roam the house while Carly is kenneled whenever we're gone or sleeping.




Saturday, November 14, 2009

Applesauce

Apples got down to $0.77/pound, so we bought 24 pounds and made applesauce.

First step, if you're going to be processing apples on a regular basis, a peeler/corer/slicer is a worthy investment. We found ours at the grocery store for about $12 one year.

Prepare your jars. For every 12 pounds of apples you will get about 4 quarts or 8 pints of applesauce.

Next, wash, peel and core the apples. Since our handy gadget slices them also, we quarter the apple and are left with smallish chunks.




Treat the apples to prevent discoloring. I mix 1/2 cup of lemon juice with 8 cups of water to do this. Josh and Sierra do the peeling/coring and I quarter the apples and cut out any little pieces of core that might have been left behind and dump the pieces in the lemon juice/water.

Drain the apples and put in a large pot with enough water to prevent sticking. I find using my hands to scoop the apples out of the lemon water and just giving them a quick shake leaves enough water to not have to worry about adding any.


Cook apples over medium to medium-high heat until soft, stirring frequently to prevent sticking.

Working in batches, scoop the apples into a food processor and process to desired smoothness.



Add 4 tablespoons lemon juice (per 12 pounds of apples) and reheat the applesauce to boiling (be careful, it'll sputter and splatter). If you want, you can add some sugar and/or spices at this stage. We used gala apples, so we didn't add sugar. We did make some of it spiced though--just mix up to 4tsp of ground spices per 12 pounds of apples (cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice). Your spices are less likely to clump if you mix them in with a little bit of sugar before adding to the applesauce(1/4 cup should do it).


Ladle the hot applesauce into hot jars leaving 1/2 inch head space, put on your lids and bands (see link above about preparing jars).

Process by boiling water bath for 20 minutes (for pints and quarts)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

We Puppied

We took the plunge, we got the puppy. We picked her up last night and Sierra is very very excited. Her name is Carly, she had her first trip to the vet this morning and she's just under 7 pounds. I still can't believe my human babies were this size at one point in time!

Given the lifespan of a dog, this is pretty much a one time shot at a childhood dog for the girls and we want to do it right, so we had a big talk with Sierra about what's involved with taking care of a dog. She will be spending some of the money she's saved up to contribute towards the cost of the vet, food, collar, leash, toys and puppy classes. She will be attending puppy training classes too(as much for her as the puppy). There wasn't much time last night to do much, but starting today, she will be putting food out and taking her outside and poop scooping. I know she's just a kid and at the end of the day, I'm the one who has to make sure the puppy's taken care of, but I've learned kids are largely capable of meeting your expectations, so I'm setting them slightly high. Obviously, we'll do the middle of the night potty breaks and things like that and she will handle (with guidance and supervision) all the daytime stuff she's physically capable of.

So, without further ado....Carly!



Wednesday, November 11, 2009

To Puppy or Not to Puppy?

It's the great puppy debate of 2009 over here!! Some neighbors down the street accidentally ended up with a big litter of puppies (that problem has since been "fixed" heh...). Sierra saw them last weekend and wants a puppy. Josh and I are on the fence.

The facts:
  • We already have one dog. She's a lab/red heeler mix and just turned 11 years old. She's not super friendly to other grown dogs, but has good maternal instincts and I think she would take on a puppy as her own (we would introduce her and see how it went before making a final decision)
  • Sierra isn't very interested in the dog we have, though she was mine before I even met Josh, so in all fairness to Sierra, it's not really HER dog. Angel doesn't obey commands from Sierra and while she guards the girl's room at night, she stays away from them during the day.
  • The puppies are 1/2 britney spaniel, 1/4 border collie and 1/4 aussie and were born Sept. 25, so they're just about 7 weeks old.
  • We have priced out all of the puppy shots, spaying and "puppy education" classes and can handle the expense, though if it's going to be the girl's dog, they will have to contribute to the costs from their savings.
  • We will be moving next year, which is hard enough with ONE dog.
  • Maybe having her own dog to take along will ease the transition for Sierra (she's not thrilled to move, to put it mildly).
  • My biggest hesitation is not the daily house breaking, poop cleaning, letting the dog out in the night stuff, it's the difficulty of traveling when you have dogs---expensive (and depending on the time, mean) to leave them, very hard to take them with you.
  • The one we would take is a little girl with a freckly nose and calm disposition. The other pups would nip at my fingers and all that. This one played just fine with her litter-mates, but when I picked her up and held her, she sat there (not shaking-scared, just sat there) and snuggled down and let Sierra pet her. Even when I tried to get her to, she wouldn't bite me. Like every puppy, she's very very cute ;-)
But the question remains....to puppy or not to puppy?? One Acre Homestead---maybe you can weigh in!!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Montana, eh?

Yeah, 'cause Montana's close enough to Canada that I can throw around "eh", right? FYI, right now it's 68 here and 39 in Montana. Forecast to get down to 29 tonight up there and they'll be having snow later this week. We enjoyed a snowy Christmas when we were in Utah and that was cool and all, but a snowy Thanksgiving is pushing it. There's a silver lining to everything, right? And there are two very specific silver linings to this whole weather scenario: First, the girls can build real snowmen Second, I get to buy them entire winter wardrobes. Too bad I also have to pay for those wardrobes, but I'm hoping to find some good sales next spring on clothes and a down comforter for them. Josh also pointed out that I could finally have a use for flannel lined jeans, which I have ALWAYS wanted....they just seem so comfy. In all fairness, I did get a pair one year, but they didn't quite fit and had to be returned, now that I've had kids and therefore have hips, maybe they'll fit (see? silver lining...pretty good, eh?)

So how's this for trust and faith in your spouse? Josh is going to head up to Montana at the end of March and get settled and started on the job. Then he'll come back mid-May sometime and the rest of us will go up. That's right, I've never even set foot in Montana and will be moving there based solely on his opinion of the town and whatever living arrangements he comes up with. That's love.

At the end of the day, it's all just a grand adventure--new place, new people, new things to see and learn. If we could just do something about all that cold weather...

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A Day in the Life...

Yes, just ONE day with Sierra...

Sierra (after finding out some neighbors have a litter of puppies): Can I get a puppy?!?!
Me: You don't take care of the dog we have now
Sierra: But she's not a puppy
Me: Puppies turn into dogs
Sierra: But she's like a kid dog and then a momma dog and....can I have a puppy??

Josh: Sierra, what vegetable do you want with dinner?
Sierra: ummm.......sausage!
Me: Sausage is not a vegetable
Sierra: Yes it is!!! It tastes like a vegetable to me!!

(After Josh and I explaining that she needs to quit waking Sedona up in the morning and let her sleep longer)
Sierra: But then she'll miss cartoons!
Me: She can watch cartoons when she does get up
Sierra: But she'll miss Curious George, she LOVES Curious George! (for the record, SIERRA loves Curious George, Sedona very very rarely watches anything on TV)

And a Sedona funny from a few days ago...

We were reading a "colors" book. For the orange page, there is a pumpkin:
Me: Orange
Sedona: No! Pumpkin!
Me: Orange pumpkin
Sedona: Momma, no! Pumpkin!
Me: Yes, it's a pumpkin, but it's an orange pump--
Sedona: STOP! (pointing emphatically at the page) pumpkin!

At least the girl's got the confidence to know when she's right!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Hey, I have a blog!

Wow, been a few days. Let's see, everyone's healthy and we're moving.

Huh, what? Moving?

Yup, Josh was offered a post-doc position at Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Hamilton, Montana. Let me repeat that---this Texas girl (born and raised, y'all) is expected to move to Montana. It was 22 degrees in Hamilton this morning, we hit 79 here at home this afternoon. Largely because of the weather and partly because of the shortage of major airports and 28 hour drive time to get back home, I'm floatin' down a big ol' river in Egypt (you may know it as "de nile"). I've got several months to adjust to the idea and we're toying with the idea of the girls and I doing some extensive road trips since this means they will both be homeschooled starting next fall and we will be free to set our own schedule of events. A post-doc is, by definition, a temporary thing (kind of like a continuation of your schooling, with MUCH better pay), so the plan is to come back here when he's done. In the meantime, I gotta survive 2 or 3 Montana winters...brrrrrrrr

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Could it be???

Yes, I think it could! Sedona is set to go back to school tomorrow!!!! Her temp fluctuated a little, but stayed under 100 and at the end of the day it was 99.2! The doctor, the CDC and the teacher all agree that's good enough (especially considering her symptoms started NINE days ago and the original CDC recommendation was to "exclude" for 7 days after symptoms start). She was running like crazy all day too, she looks really good finally!

This might really be the end of flu road for us. Well, for this strain anyway....let's hope we don't catch the others! I could stand to never watch a 2 year old ask for a breathing treatment again, whenever she got wheezy, the poor kid would point at the nebulizer and say, "space mask! space mask!" and then hold the mask up to her face herself.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Road Goes on Forever and the Flu Never Ends

From the CDC website:
Epidemiologic data collected during spring 2009 found that most people with the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus who were not hospitalized had a fever that lasted 2 to 4 days
Uh huh, whatever. Sierra's lasted 5 days (5 days of serious fever). Sedona, is on day EIGHT. Yes, EIGHT. And I'm bitter, and I'm tired, and she walks around with her backpack on saying, "school? school?" Granted, it's a very low grade fever at this point and she had 2 full days last week with no fever at all, but it is over the CDC's guideline of 100.0. I'm gonna call the nurse in the morning just to say, "dude, what gives?"

And I could get started on a whole 'nother flu rant here, but I'll zip my lip and just send a *wink, wink *nudge, nudge out to Brandy and leave it at that.

I've worked with newborn babies for several years now and around the Holidays is always the hardest time to keep them well. The whole family wants (and has the time to) come visit, and I understand that, I really do. But PLEASE, if you are around any babies (especially newborns, but anyone under 2), be extra careful about hygiene. Wash your hands when you enter the house. Don't put the mother in the awkward position of asking you to do it, many are too shy to. Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer frequently while you are there. If you have had so much as a sniffle or a cough recently, stay away. I can vouch that adults or older children with minimal symptoms can pass the flu (or something else that's just as serious for a newborn) onto a baby and they are the ones who will end up with the full list of symptoms. It isn't pretty. I see too many babies back in the hospital around November/December because they spike fevers. It really isn't a good time of year to congregate around a new baby. This goes double for babies you don't know---don't get in their face and don't touch them. I remember all too well the horror I felt that people thought it was okay to be up in my baby's face (a preemie, at that!) during cold and flu season. Yes, they're cute, and they're not yours--it's not okay to get up close and personal. Admire from afar, the mother will appreciate it.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Are we there yet?

I don't know if my kids are just immune deficient, or we got the freaky, already mutated version of the flu, but this SUCKS. I had heard so many stories of people getting tamiflu, being sick a day or two and being all better. I'm hear to tell you, not everyone is so lucky!!!!!!! In fact, poor Sierra was so sick, the doctor even did blood work at one point "just to make sure nothing else is going on" (there wasn't, her immune system was mounting a response).

Now my issue is Sedona. She was completely fever free for 2 days. I was compulsively checking and she was staying at 98.4, 98.6. Then she started creeping up, I was getting a lot of 99.1, 99.5, a few 100.0. Still not technically a fever, but she was cuddlier than normal. Well, this afternoon, she finally started acting like she felt good again. WooHoo!! Maybe I can send them both to school tomorrow and take a well needed, no kids in the house, nap. I took her temp just to be sure. She was in shorts and short-sleeves. It was 100.5. Now it's technically a fever. Which means she has to stay home from school, and more importantly, what the heck is going on?!? I have a stethoscope, I know what pneumonia sounds like (well, full blown pneumonia, anyway)...her lungs are crystal clear. Surely any sort of bacterial infection would cause more fever than that? Why is she acting BETTER if her temp is getting WORSE? I so, so, SOOOOOO hope this is just the last hurrah and tomorrow is fine and she goes back to school Tuesday.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Wow, is it only Friday?

Has it really only been one week? Are we sure it hasn't been a month??

Sierra continued to get worse through Monday and Tuesday. She finally perked up some Tuesday evening and broke her fever Wednesday. Sedona started retracting Tuesday evening. Retracting doesn't really do it justice, her entire chest would sink in with each breath. She got a trip to urgent care, an RSV test (negative--doc agreed it's flu), a chest xray (which requires this bizzare and scary for kids setup), and a breathing treatment. She went home and had more breathing treatments through the night (thank you grandma for setting an alarm and calling to make sure my very sleep deprived self got out of bed through out the night). Wednesday morning, she was still mildly retracting and wheezing really loudly, so we went back to the doctor where I found out (thankfully) that she was now actually getting plenty of air into her lungs, just having to work way to hard at it. She was given a prescription for a one time dose of dexamethasone to take care of edema around her throat. worked wonderfully. But she needed 7mg of it, which required taking almost 1.5 tsp of a solution that was 30% alcohol. Blech! Poor sweet baby took some, cried and said no, then still took the rest voluntarily before crying some more. Now she's getting by with MUCH fewer breathing treatments. She also seems to have kicked the fever, but she still sounds bad.

Late Wednesday night, Josh finally made it home. Just in time for the first night in a week that didn't require multiple wake up calls for meds. I feel like every day in the last week has had about 60 hours in it. We ended up with 6 doctor visits in 6 days and all were on an "emergency" basis, none were planned follow ups.

And now........Josh has been offered a post-doc position. The lab is amazing. The research he'd be able to do is fabulous. The pay is really good. The health insurance is phenomenal. The cost of living is about the same it is here. There is ample opportunity to hunt for meat. There is a lady who works in the lab with her own apple orchard that could supply us with all the apples we want for canning. It'd most likely be a 2-3 year appointment. It's very far away, in a cold climate, and travel to/from there is expensive (especially times 4). Logically, we should take it---everything about the job is great. Emotionally, I just can't get on board with moving there. We have until the end of November to decide. If there aren't any other hard offers on the table by then, we'll take it, but we have a lot to think about and it's great and it royally sucks all at the same time.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Whirlwind Weekend!

I last posted October 15. There's a good reason for that. October 16, things started to get dicey. We started out with a fever for Sierra. That progressed to a sore throat. By Saturday night she was screaming out every 30 minutes or so in pain. That was fun. Sunday morning Josh left at some un-holy, the sun wasn't even up, hour for an out of state interview (we carried the sleeping girls to the van and I dropped him at the airport....the girls did not go back to sleep when we got home). We had been to the doctor twice, called in to the nurse twice and still had no real idea what was wrong with Sierra. Sunday night was horrible. More screaming, lots of crying, I seriously considered taking her to the hospital at 2am. Few things in this world make you feel more helpless than having your 5 year old screaming and crying and saying, "I just can't take this! I just want it to stop!". Then today Sedona woke up with a fever. She was still happy, but the fever shot up pretty quick, so we made our third trip to the doc (to see a new one). She pretty much took one look at the two of them and said, "I'm very sure this is flu". Sedona got tamiflu. Poor Sierra is out of luck b/c she's already on day 4 (nevermind the fact that I took her in on day 1). Believe me, there are a lot more symptoms, medicines, drama, and sleeplessness involved in this story, but I'm just too dang tired to tell it. Sierra has gotten worse each day and I think she's finally slightly better tonight, so that's good. I have rocked this illness single parent style, which is kind of a confidence booster (but I will be SOOO glad when Josh gets home and I can take an uninterrupted nap!). I am very very very grateful to a few guardian angels that have done various things to make this easier on us.

So, oink, oink, baby! I no longer have to debate whether to get the vaccines or not, we can consider ourselves covered!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Food Storage

While we're on this low grocery bill kick, I thought I'd post a link to 2 blogs I've been finding interesting. The most useful is Everyday Food Storage If you peruse the site, there is a lot of really helpful information, like what you can do with powdered milk. The other is Food Storage Made Easy, which is a great primer on food storage for those who have never thought about it before. They give you baby steps to follow and build up your supply as well as tips on how to use it.

I instinctively store food. I'm not sure why, but I've always been a penny-pincher, my whole life. When you insist on using coupons and only paying sale price, you naturally build up food storage. My storage is far from perfect and the meal planning may not be too pretty, but I'm confident that if it became necessary, I could feed my family for at least several weeks just from what we have on hand. If you think food storage is just for "survivalist nuts", think again. Know anyone who unexpectedly lost a job? I know a couple of families that were living on one income and got laid off with no notice. Food storage is just as much about financial preparation as it is about disaster preparation. Economic Crisis is one of the "Reasons for Food Storage" given on the Food Storage Made Easy site and it's just as good a reason as any to make sure you're "saving for a rainy day" (that doesn't apply to just money, ya know)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Financial Dilemma

I have a dilemma on my hands. First a quick note about my budgeting system....in "real life" we have one checking account and one savings account that are used to pay all the bills. In "financial planning life" we follow a system very similar to the one outlined in America's Cheapest Family, which means I have a 3 ring binder with a piece of paper for each category. There are about 30 categories---groceries, doctor, dentist, school tuition, clothes, prescriptions, etc.....

So, after paying that $1600 dentist bill for Sierra, we had a big fat negative number on the "dentist" sheet that we've been whittling away at. To help that along a little bit, I moved $75 of October's grocery money into the dentist category. I've done a little grocery shopping and I currently have $16 left for the month (we only spend $150/month anyway). Here's where the dilemma comes in--there are some really fabulous deals this week and I can't decide whether to take advantage of them or uphold the budget. If I go shopping, this is what I'd get:

From Kroger:
5 pounds of cheese $10 (requires $10 add'l purchase)
5 pounds of ground beef $6.45
yogurt (usually about $2, so two packs would get my min. purchase, but I have several $1 off coupons)
TOTAL: $18.45

From HEB:
25 pounds of flour $5 (requires $10 add'l purchase, but I'm not sure I've ever seen it this cheap)
5 bags of single serving raisins $5 (we send these to school, one bag lasts 2 weeks and this is also as cheap as I've seen them)
Sun Crystals sugar $1.99 (to go towards min. purchase, I have a $2 off coupon)
Tuna Salad pouch $1 (have a $0.75 off coupon)
5# bag of apples $1.99
Bounty paper towels $1 (to go towards min. purchase, I have $0.25 off coupon)
TOTAL: $13.99

Which would give me a negative $16.44 on my budget sheet. I can't decide what to do. I really really don't want a negative number there, but we're not talking ice cream--these are staples at really good prices. Thoughts?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Busy Weekend

Sierra's birthday was this weekend. We had a couple of options....a small just family party, an "invite the whole class" McDonald's type party, or a party with just a couple of her friends. We opted for the just a couple of friends party. Since I am good friends with the mothers of her two best friends, we decided to try out a slumber party. I really lucked out on the budget front---The biggest expenditure was buying all the girls princess nightgowns, but then I found princess party supplies at Michael's for 70% off! That means each girl got a really great set of party gifts without me spending too much money. We spent about $15 on dinner--cheese pizza from Little Ceasar's (because they're 5 and they don't exactly have discriminating taste yet), and another $5 on breakfast (a dozen donuts). I made a small cake for each girl and sets of "princess sprinkles" were on that sale rack at Michael's, so they each got to decorate their own cake. They all had a blast, actually stayed all night (which shocked me, I figured someone would want to go home since this was a first for everyone) and I didn't break the bank. Yay!

Just a few pictures to share:
Sierra's last night as a 4 year old


Decorating cakes

Princess nightgowns all around!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Month of Meals

To help along this whole grocery challenge thing, we sat down and came up with what we will be eating for most of the month. Everything that is for dinner we already have on hand, and listing out lunches and breakfasts allowed me to calculate what I will need to buy for the rest of the month and get a better handle on how much is leftover for "extras" (like apples when they go on sale so we can can up applesauce). Here's what's on the menu:

4: Hamburgers
5: Baked Ziti (I already had this made up in the freezer, I made the ricotta myself when a gallon of milk was nearing its expiration)
6: Rice and Bean Casserole (also in the freezer...my own invention using the filling from these wraps, corn tortillas, cheese and homemade enchilada sauce)
7: Slow Cooker Thai Chicken and Rice (trying this one for the first time, I'm skeptical of the lack of coconut milk---I've never made thai without coconut milk)
8: Spaghetti and Meatballs with Garlic Bread (meatballs and garlic bread dough already in the freezer)
9: Little Caesar's Pizza because it's Sierra's birthday and she's having a slumber party
10: Grilled Cheese because I'm assuming Sierra will be tired and in a bad mood after all the birthday festivities and I'd rather avoid a dinner time battle
11: Meatloaf, mashed potatoes and corn
12: Chicken Pot Pie with biscuit topping instead of pie crust
13: Pancakes or Waffles and scrambled eggs
14: Southwest Chicken with Rice
15: Spaghetti and Meatballs with Garlic Bread
16: Cheese Pizza (already in the freezer, recipe from Cook's Country, built for freezing)
17: Country Ribs, Corn and biscuits (didn't know we still had ribs left, they're vacuum packed in the bottom of the deep freeze)
(This upcoming week is very busy and needs to sacrifice nutrition for the sake of not-complaining kids--my oldest still will not eat a single vegetable without complaining bitterly, we keep trying, but sometimes it's just not worth the battle)
18: corndogs
19: cheese pizza
20: pancakes and eggs
21: Grilled cheese
22: Spaghetti and Meatballs with Garlic Bread
23: Chicken Pot Pie
24: Bean and Rice Casserole
25: Breakfast foods of some sort
26: Curried Honey Mustard Chicken, Naan and Rice

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Popcorn

I'm still battling the strep throat (the meds knocked out the fever, headache and swollen glands, but left the sore throat and a foul mood), and Josh is doing a soccer game tonight, so I need to keep the kids calm and out of my hair for the evening. My solution? A Movie and Popcorn! And then it occurred to me that I've never posted about popcorn.

We were gifted a gallon of popcorn kernels a little while back, but we have no popcorn popper. A quick internet search turned up the best stove top popping recipe I've ever seen. Check it out. The premise is that by heating the oil, adding kernels, then turning off the heat for a short period of time, you bring all the kernels up to a similar temperature. When you return the pot to heat, you get all of the kernels popped at the same time, without burning any. It's just as easy (and better than) microwave popcorn, healthier than theater popcorn and a cheap, filling snack all in one!

My kids are currently parked in front of the TV watching one of our movies, with the lights off, their own paper bag of popcorn and their own box of apple juice. They think they're in the movie theater, this sick momma gets more time to rest and it cost about 75 cents total.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Perfect post

TennZenn wrote the perfect post today (well, perfect for me anyway). I can't explain it any better and I already commented over there, so I'll just leave a simple link.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Gone missing...

I guess I've been missing for a while! Life's been life around here!

I've been pretty down about our medical bills lately. Sierra has HORRIBLE teeth (and I "pinky promise"--as she would say--we have done everything the dentist has asked us to do to take care of her teeth). She had 5 fillings done earlier in her life and we found out in August that she has 9 more cavities. Two of those required caps being put on her teeth. We don't have dental insurance--it costs too much and covers too little to be worth it (even in this situation), so we gulped and paid a $1600 dental bill. I know, I know, it's kinda rude to talk money, but that is a gargantuan number in our family and I have to have it out there so it doesn't eat away my insides. Then we got all the bills from when Sedona cut her eye. I just love that the insurance company charges as if it's an unnecessary ER visit just because you weren't admitted---nevermind the fact that you truly needed emergency care after all the doctor's offices were closed. That was another several hundred dollars (which they called harassing us for when we just got the bill one week ago! HELLO PEOPLE! Give the postal service time to get the check there--sheesh!). Then Sierra got strep throat a little while back--another doctor visit, another copay, but thankfully good ol' $4 amoxicillin. Then I got the strep throat...another copay and since I'm allergic to the amoxicillin, I got to pay full price for azithromycin. Apparently our plan changed this year (which just started) and you have to pay the full deductible up front (they used to spread it out over the year, so they still paid a percentage of each prescription you filled. Also new toothbrushes for the entire family to keep from spreading the strep further (thank you to my doctor for that tip and a big fat sarcastic "thanks for nothing!!!" to the doc who saw Sierra for NOT telling me that!). It has also come to my attention that the flu has officially "blossomed" around here, so I'm waiting for that to pop up in our household. Though, I've also learned that the only one of us who would be prescribed tamiflu is Sedona, so I guess I can save the copay on any of the rest of us. Had a friend that was actually told they would not prescribe her 4 year old tamiflu because she was too old. Poor kiddo sounded horrible, so she took her to urgent care, where they DID give it to her, but still...

So yes........I feel like I'm drowning in medical debt even though it's all paid off (I gave the money to the people, but there is a big negative balance in this part of my budget book that I'm slowly whittling away at rather than putting money into a more fun category). So if we're gonna talk about frugal living and budgeting, let's be honest---my completely irrational instinct when I'm having trouble making ends meet is to just say "aww........what the h-e-double hockey sticks" and just start spending like crazy. Especially when it's a lot of doctor visits/medications that are the culprit, I really don't feel like focusing on anything but convenience, no matter the cost.

Gotta be realistic though. So, we've done a very small amount of eating out, mostly when I've scrounged 65 cents for a donut out of the car floor board, or we pick up a $6 ready to eat pizza and pull the money from the grocery budget. Josh has done a LOT of extra soccer games, which means he's been gone a lot the past few weekends, but it needs to be done for now. I did a session of freezer cooking with a friend this week---it worked out that I was able to contribute things I had on hand and get $15 from her and I have 6 dinners, 2 pounds of meatballs, bread sticks, biscuits, 10 big burritos, and two kinds of breakfast bars stored away in the freezer. Getting ready for the cooking session also required me to thoroughly inventory my freezer and there is some stuff in there I totally forgot I had. Plenty of veggies, chicken and I even found vacuum packed ribs. I'm seriously contemplating a little grocery challenge---I usually spend about $150/month, I want to cut that down to $50 for October. We have two deep freezers and the pantry's reasonably well stocked (plenty of flour, sugar, yeast...), we could eat for two months just on what we have if I was really motivated.

I should be clear about my little pity party....it IS a pity party. We aren't broke, we don't have credit card debt, we do own a house with considerable equity built up. We aren't those people that are having to rob peter to pay paul. If something really horrendous came up, we would have all sorts of options--both girls are in (a pretty expensive) school, when they don't really have to be, and selling the house (the market's still good here) would net us a nice chunk of cash pretty quickly. However, my extreme aversion to debt is the reason we are in a pretty good financial situation despite living on one graduate student stipend, and my mental health will be MUCH better off if I manage to come up with the moola to balance out the "medical and dental expenses" sheet in my budget book without draining our "rainy day" savings or pulling the kids out of school. So grocery challenge it is, since that's the only real wiggle room I have these days.

In honor of cheap food...updated garden pics!
The tomatoes are staked up now and still happy. We seem to be making up for our lack of rain over the summer, we haven't had to water in about 3 weeks.

The beans are going crazy. I never did thin them and I'm still wondering if I should or just leave them alone


The broccoli is leafing out a bit and waiting for cooler weather

As is the cabbage


And my little peas are poking up to say hello!

Apples are getting cheaper...hoping to see at least $0.67/pound so we can make applesauce for the next year.

And a few happy pics. Grandma was kind enough to pay for Sierra to be in music class this year. Unlike a lot of homeschooling parents I've talked to, I'm completely confident about teaching things like calculus, chemistry and biology, but I totally freak out about teaching things like music and art. I wanted her to have a solid music background and we have a good Kindermusik here in town. Sierra is at the age where she can enter their Young Child program. I've been very impressed so far, she and I have both learned new things. Her homework this week was to bring in something that has a beat or that she can play a steady beat on. My (science minded) idea won't quite work for class, but I wanted to show her anyway......a HEARTbeat, of course! ;-)

And here's Sierra making meatballs for me. The cold hurts my hands really badly, so she mixes them and forms the meatballs and I do the cooking--we make a good team :-)


And a few lyrics from a good ol' country song...

"The kids screaming, phone ringing
Dog barking at the mailman bringing
That stack of bills - overdue
Good morning baby, how are you?
{snip}
Well, it's ok. It's so nice
It's just another day in paradise
Well, there's no place that
I'd rather be
{snip}
But somebody had a bad dream
Mama and daddy
Can me and my teddy
Come in to sleep in between?
Well, it's ok. It's so nice
It's just another day in paradise
Well, there's no place that
I'd rather be"
(excerpts from Just Another Day in Paradise by Craig Wiseman and Phil Vassar)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

I WON, I WON, I WON!!!!

A few weeks ago, I entered to win a plasma car. My family can tell you just how crazy I've been driving them waiting to find out who won. There was the opportunity to get extra entries, but there were over 300 entries, so it was still a bit of a long shot. This morning, I found out I WON!!!!. So it's not quite the $1,000 shopping spree TennZen lucked out with, but I think I might actually be more excited than if I won something like that! A very cool, very valuable, and very FREE gift for my kiddos for Christmas....WOOHOO!!!!!!!!!! Thank you so much Mommy23Monkeys!

Friday, September 25, 2009

A Semi-Review

A while back I asked about The Grocery Game and TennZen told me she didn't think it was worth it. Well, they have a free trial and I thought it might let me know about un-advertised sales, so I signed up for the trial. BIG. FAT. DISAPPOINTMENT. I signed up for the Kroger and HEB lists because those are the stores I go to. I have several complaints. The first is that the lists are color-coded....black means only buy if you need it, blue means stock up because it's a great price and green means it's free. This is a great idea in theory except that some of the blue items on the list were NOT stock up prices. They would seem like great deals to someone who was just starting out couponing, but in reality, you could get a better deal (and THAT'S when you should stock up). The other problem with the color coding is that there is zero cross referencing on the list, so things would be marked in blue at Kroger, but actually be cheaper at HEB. I suppose this is meant to entice you to buy more than one list, and then you have to take the time to go through and find the actual best price (isn't that why I signed up for the service though? To save time??). And my biggest complaint I could see right off the bat. The top of the HEB list said HEB sales are standardized throughout the state, but check with your local store to be sure of the sales. Well that's just a big fat piece of bologna! We have three HEB stores in our town and they ALL run different circulars every week. I'm not talking about one item different, an entirely different set of sales. So if it's that different in one town, I highly doubt there's enough consensus across the state to make one list reasonable for everyone. My suspicion was confirmed when I did head to the store to check out a few good deals that weren't advertised---yeah, not on sale. Finally, the big deal here is matching coupons to sales, right? So on one of my lists it let me know bacon was on sale and it was color coded black. They didn't list that a coupon for the same bacon came out just last week that definitely made this an item that should have been in the blue category. Come on! That's the whole point of having the list, not having to keep track of that myself!!!

In short.........you can coupon for the same amount of time and save more money if you just do it on your own. A very quick run down of coupon "rules". Cut out every coupon you might feasibly use--not just the items you commonly buy, anything your family WOULD eat if it was really cheap (because you can get quite a few things free or for less than 50 cents). When the sales papers come, look for the good deals and match up your coupons. Remember to factor in doubling and tripling of coupons if that is done at your store. If you aren't yet aware of typical pricing on items you buy, keep a price book for a few weeks that lists the item, size, and UNIT PRICE until you get a handle of what a really good deal is. When I first started I made one trip to Kroger, HEB and Sam's Club to do this (yes, it took time---it was a one time thing, after a few weeks with the price book, I gained a good handle on pricing and now I don't need it). Each week I make a list of what I would buy on sale, how much it would cost and what my total bill would be. Then I look at my grocery budget for the month. I might "bust the budget" to stock up on something we really need---pasta, butter, cheese, canned veggies---but if I'm not in a good position budget-wise, the ice cream is getting taken off the list even if it is $1.50 for a half gallon of name-brand (as much as that pains me, and yes that happened just this week!!!). Don't bother with the grocery game.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Happy Fall Y'all!

Today is the Autumnal Equinox. To be more specific, it will be occurring at 5:18pm EDT (in the Northern Hemisphere). Contrary to popular belief, day and night are not split evenly on the equinox. That is slightly different depending on where you are, but will be September 27th for us, then we will get into longer nights and shorter days. If I lived further north, I might be able to share nice pictures of changing leaves, but the little of that that we see won't be happening for a while longer, we're still having 90 degree days most of the time. We were greeted with a cold front over night though, so today is rainy (which is great, we're still trying to catch up) with a high of only 80! Hopefully this is the start of the cooler weather trend.

Most people talk about spring cleaning, and I admit I do feel like opening all the windows and doing a little sprucing up when the weather turns nice after winter, but I feel more of a need to clean in fall. Just like it spring, it's possible to open the windows again (this time to let in the cool air after a stifling summer), and it's nice to think of getting everything organized and in good shape before we spend winter indoors. I have accepted that I am just not a good housekeeper. It's depressing to me to do all those mundane cleaning tasks--they just need to be redone again tomorrow and there's no time to appreciate a job well done. So, I have to take advantage of the times I DO feel like cleaning and go crazy. I'm sure this is also the time my husband (who normally picks up the slack and helps with folding laundry and dishes) thinks I've completely lost my mind as I insist on scrubbing baseboards and window edges with a toothbrush. Ah well.......happy fall!

Monday, September 21, 2009

How to Save Money

You know the easiest way to save money? Start young, so it's second nature. I know a lot of families don't discuss finances with children, and it's a real shame--where else will they learn? My kids are still young, so we haven't gotten into anything real detailed, but I have presented choices. I let them know there is a certain amount of money available, which is enough to either do "a" or "b". Judging by the amount of credit card debt a lot of people have, I think this lesson is sadly missing from our society. I figure it's a good idea to teach them right from the get-go that they can't just buy every toy they want or take every lesson they want, they need to make choices based on the funds available. And if the funds aren't available, they need to save up until they have enough. Since they are kids and have no financial responsibilities, we make them save 50% of any money they get. They put half their money in their piggy bank (which they are allowed to spend when and how they choose) and they put half in our safe (which they are not allowed to spend, but they think is REALLY cool to count and see just how rich they are...).


P.S. yes, Sedona has a bigger piggy bank. It was the only one I could find when it was time to get her one. Sierra got one just like it, only she'll be getting it as a birthday present, so it's still put away at the moment

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Sleep, wonderful sleep

I have a sick kid, which will necessitate me getting up at 2:30am and probably again at 5:30am, then starting the day at 7am. As I have recovered from those newborn sleepless nights, this will, in short, suck. I should be asleep right now. BUT I'M NOT! No, instead I made a map of all the states I've visited because if I didn't, I would just lay awake in bed visualizing it anyway. So here you go loyal visitors:

HMRPH. Why is it cutting off the right side??? Oh well, all that's marked up there is SC, NC, PA, and MA

I have actually stayed at least one night in all of those states except Oklahoma, Nevada and Wyoming. Those states were just drive-throughs...me thinks I need to plan one trip to visit One Acre Homestead and one trip to visit Sin City. Wyoming can have its windy plains to itself---I had the vinyl top to my car literally peel half-way off as I was driving through that state, everything I owned was packed into that Buick Park Avenue and I am so glad I threw in the roll of duct tape even though there really wasn't space. But I digress....I have technically stayed in Alabama, I think....but it was 6 years ago, and it was in a WalMart parking lot after I nearly killed myself and my new hubby with my bad night driving skills, I've tried to block the details. The rest, I have definitely spent at least one night and most I have actually, for real, visited. As you can see, I am not a fan of cold weather. I will make it to the rest of the states. I WILL dang it!! I wanted to do a giant, road-tripping "Tour of America" when I was 18. The idea has not left me, sounds like a FABULOUS homeschooling unit, don't ya think??

A small rant...

There's probably more to this story, but I'm a mother and I really don't care. Can someone please let me know ahead of time what day they're planning to take confessed murderers, legally insane or not, to the county fair?!?! I'd like to keep my children home that day. That is all.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Constitution

The Constitution of The United States of America was signed September 17, 1787. That makes today (well, unless you're up late and reading this Wednesday night when I posted it) the 222nd anniversary of the signing of the Constitution. We might all do well to take a little refresher course and read this important document as well as consider the differences between the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution and why those changes were made.

I subscribe to a website that offers a "homeschool freebie" every weekday and in honor of this day, they provided an audio recording of the Constitution as well as a few links:
The Bill of Rights Institute
Constitution Facts

I should say that these resources are available specifically because there is a federal mandate that schools receiving federal funding hold an educational program pertaining to the Constitution on September 17 every year. At first glance, that's the sort of mandate that would rankle my feathers. I have to admit though, those students that live in this country, under this set of guidelines, government and laws really ought to have a basic understanding of how it works and why. I could probably take great issue with the specific implementation of such a program in some schools, but then, that's why I'm planning to exercise my right to educate my children myself.

I will also admit that I took the Do You Know Your Constitution? quiz and only scored an 80%, which just isn't good enough for my perfectionist personality, so I'll be doing a little studying too.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Pear Juice--The Update

TennZen was kind enough to supply me with the instructions for canning pear juice. As a happy coincidence, her instructions were for 24 pounds of pears and we had 24.5 pounds.

We started out by washing all the pears:


Then, the stem and blossom end was cut off and they were chopped (I didn't core them...was I supposed to??):


We added 2 quarts of water and cooked until the pears were soft:


At that point I stopped taking pictures, but we strained the juice through flour sack cloth and hung up the cloth with the pears in it (like a bag) so the juice would drip out. No squeezing the bag, it just gets your more sediment. The juice was refrigerated overnight and then heated up and canned the next day. I had two small problems. The first is--I never get as much juice as I "should". We got 4 quarts and the instructions said 6 quarts. This happened when we made apple juice last year too. I don't know what I'm doing to lessen my yield. The second problem was the juice was slightly bitter. Now, I know the ideal when making apple juice is to use more than one variety of apple. I assume pear juice is the same way, but we're working with totally free pears off the neighbor's tree, so we stuck with what we had. I'm not sure if the taste was due to the pears or because I didn't core them (ideas??). No worries, I added a little sugar (1 cup for 4 quarts of juice) and it's just fine. Perhaps not quite as healthy, but oh well. Of course, we took some over to the neighbors and they said we are welcome to more pears when they're ripe. It is a LARGE tree (taller than the house) and there are a lot of pears left, plus we have our little tree with several pounds of pears on it, so I need to figure out how to best make good use of them.

I also have a garden update. We finally got a good, long, soaking rain. For days, it rained a little, stopped for a while, rained a little, stopped for a while.... It was perfect. We didn't have any flooding, and the ground got completely saturated. Our plants look very happy with it and I'm hoping the extra moisture won't give us blight and powdery mildew problems (even if it does, I'm not complaining though...). It has been two weeks since we planted and here's what we have so far:

The cabbage and broccoli:


Two tomato beds (going to have to put in supports for these this week):



The beans (I really didn't expect such a high germination rate, still debating whether to thin them our or leave them as is):

The corn (again, wasn't really expecting anything, the seed was just thrown in there):


It's time to plant a fall crop of english peas, so I think we will be trying those. Last spring was our first time trying them, but they were very tolerant of our winter weather, so I think they'll work fine. I'm only a little concerned because our planting guide only gives a small window to get them out (9/15-9/30), so I'm guessing any weird weather will throw them off. It's also time to put out carrot and onion seed for harvest next year.

While we're on the topic of food preservation, I've come across an interesting site about food storage and disaster preparedness. They are doing an interesting challenge this week where they are giving a scenario for each day and you are to attempt to live out the scenario. At the very least, it's worth checking out and thinking about how you'd get through each situation. I think especially with hurricanes around here, it's easy to get in the mindset of always having a little advance warning to prepare for an emergency situation, and it doesn't always work that way. Are you prepared to take care of you and yours without any outside help, electricity or water for a few days or even a few weeks if need be? What if fuel wasn't available and leaving wasn't an option? Worth considering.
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