Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Winter Sets In ~ Ready or Not

This post might be better suited for my homestead journal (which I did an update on today, so go check it out), but I'm going to post it here because it also has to do with where we are at in the process of adjusting to our move to raw land and starting from nothing.

It started snowing this morning.  Just light little flakes, but nonetheless - snow.  It's cold and windy out, and honestly - I feel caught off guard.  It's not like I didn't know that the frigid temperatures were coming....I just thought that we would have a little more time before they got here.

So, the nitty-gritty of where we are at follows:

Housing - the new mobile brought with it the added space that we so desperately needed and wanted, but it also added more to take care of and fix.  Most all of the insulation in the floor was removed to either fix the floors or put in the plumbing, so the floors are uninsulated and ice cold right now.  I can see light through the cracks in the painted floor, and we all feel the drafts.  These old mobile homes weren't very energy efficient when they were built anyway, but add on years of use and settling and their efficiency is even lower.

Wood - not more than enough for a few days at a time is being cut right now.  We had hoped to have several cords of wood seasoned for this winter, but with Columbus gone for part of the summer and then focusing our time on fixing up the new mobile that never happened.  Unseasoned wood is a pain to burn and it doesn't burn as hot, so it's just one more battle to keep the fire going effectively. 

Heat - The wood stove is still not covered or enclosed, which means that the blower is sucking in freezing cold air and mixing with the hot air.  This is mostly a problem at night when we snuff down the fire in attempt to get a single load to make it through the night so that we don't have to wake up in the middle of the night to load it, or if we all leave for longer than a load will last.  We also still need to get the heat ducted over to the boys mobile.

Water - we are still using the 55 gallon holding tanks with the 12 volt RV pump.  We didn't have this system in place last winter (we were still hauling water in containers from the artesian well in town back then) and neither of us is confident it won't freeze-up on us.  As it stands now, the water that we do get is ice cold.  At this point it doesn't look like we will be getting our 500 gallon holding tank set up anytime soon, so our backup plan is to move the 55 gallon barrels in with the wood stove once we have the enclosure finished to keep them from freezing, but even then we have the exposed plumbing that we just put in to worry about, which brings us back to insulation.  In a perfect world there would be skirting too, but I'm not sure that we will make it that far this year.

Raw land is a process - it's never done.  You just get done enough on one project to get done enough on another project before you move onto the next project, and round and round you go.  And done enough doesn't actually mean that your project is done, it literally means just done enough to move on and put out the next fire.  I've struggled with finding beauty in this process, but I think I've finally found it.  These things listed are a problem, they need to be taken care of, all of them and more, but I've come to accept that what gets done gets done and what doesn't - we still manage to survive. 

My Man always said that there is great beauty in imperfection, and honestly I always kinda thought he was just full of shit, but I'm coming around.  I'm seeing that these imperfections are ours and even if they are frustrating and even uncomfortable, I can' think of where else I'd rather be. 

Someone recently said to me that up until a few weeks ago you guys were practically homeless.  That really made me think about things, and it made me wonder what other people see - how they see us and how we are living.   The twelve of us living is 600 sq ft was interesting, and no running water was a lot of work and a pain, and not having hot water is just terrible (I'll probably never shut up about that), and then there is the pooping in a bucket, which oddly is the least of our worries, but still I didn't see it as that bad, like homeless bad.  For all of my complaining that I do I still feel like this is one big adventure, and we've looked homelessness in the eye for real, and this mountaintop feels nothing like I imagined homelessness would.  The struggles and frustrations here pale in comparison to the struggles we would have if we didn't have this mountaintop.

Wood, heat and water aside, winter is coming, or here already, I suppose.  We nestle into our new mobile and find solace.  She isn't perfect or even finished, but she's about the most beautiful thing I've even seen.  She houses our family through meal after meal, she protects us from the elements, and she laughs and cries with us.  She holds her own and she holds us.  There isn't much more than that to be asked for right now.  We've traveled a distance to get here and there are still miles to go, but it's not about that.  It's about finding beauty in the moment, imperfections and all.

Pumpkin Carving Pics

As promised, we carved pumpkins on Sunday night. 

Columbus and JoJo

Sugar King

Dawsy, The Rose & G-Man




Baby Man

He is at that age that when he sees the camera he throws on a
big huge smile and says cheeeeese!

Little People all tucked into bed.

One of Sugar King's chores is to help clear the table after dinner, but every night when it's time to clean up Baby Man wants Sugar Kind to play with him - this is how Sugar King manages to do both.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Culling the Insanity

If I talked about my health on this blog you would already know that this year I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism.  And you would know that when I first starting taking medication for it I felt awesome - like a whole new woman.  Like I was twenty-something again, okay, maybe early thirties, but still - better.... much, much better. 

It was one of those things that I didn't even know how bad I felt until I started to feel better.  I thought I was just getting old and that it really sucked to get old.  You can imagine my relief when a simple little pill solved all of my aliments and made me feel young again.  Until....I went to a new doctor, an aggressive doctor who bumped up my meds faster than my old doctor did.  I crashed.  I felt worse than I did when I wasn't medicated. 

I have to wait five weeks between blood draws to give the medication a chance to work its way through my body and show my new levels.  It can be a long wait.  I waited out the five weeks, went in for my blood draw and my numbers had swung from being too high to too low, so they lowered my meds and sent me home to wait another five weeks.  I felt better at first, but not great.  Then I started to feel really bad again.  I'm talking fatigue, headaches, foggy mind, no short term memory, loss of train of thought, shaky, fatigue (did I already mention that?  well it was bad enough that I get to mention it twice.)  Never mind the unexplained weight gain, I felt like crap.  I went in again last week for another blood draw.  My number was low/normal this time, so the doctor wanted to leave me on the same dose.

I've told this woman that I really don't feel good, and all she cares about are my numbers.  I should mention that I've been trying to get into a new doctor, but these things take time, and with My Mans medical stuff I put mine on the back burner.  Anyway, she wouldn't lower my dose - at least that's the way I took her not returning my phone call to request a lower dose, so....I took matters into my own hands.  I called in an old prescription refill for a lower dose, got it filled, skipped my meds for two days and then started over - and I feel flipping fantastic! 

Maybe self-doctoring is a big no-no to some people, but the thing is.....I was getting to the point I could barely function and I felt like I had no quality of life - so what good is it to have decent numbers and no life quality?  I'd rather my numbers be a little on the high side and feel good than to continue going through what I've been feeling for the last three months.

But, I don't talk about my health on this blog, so of course you didn't know all of that.  The only reason I'm saying anything now is because I'm on day four of feeling like a living member of society again and suddenly I see all of the stuff that I haven't been doing.  I was too tired to do it, or care if it was done or not, and now that I'm feeling better I want to get it all done!  Not possible, I know, but still I feel like I have ADHD zooming through the house attempting to tackle all of my to-do's.

Yesterday I took things easy.  The kids are coming down with colds so I made big pots of clam chowder and chicken noodle soup.  I baked french bread and pumpkin bars.  We hung out and started work on Cleo's Halloween costume.  And the kids begged and begged to carve pumpkins.  I put them off, sighting illness and that not everyone felt up to it.  And then today I used pumpkin carving as motivation to get them doing all the things I had been too tired to make them do for the last few months.

They're kids, and even if they are good kids they let as much slide as I let them.  I dislike clutter and we don't have the space for it anyway, so today was the day that we did a massive declutter.  I call it culling the insanity.  Crap everywhere makes us all tense.  It's a waste of our time to have to hunt for things because they were not put away in their proper place.  And then there are the accusations - we fight over who used it last, accuse each other of not putting it away where it belongs, and in desperation offer a finders fee to whoever can locate the missing item.  It can get ugly.  People get hurt feelings, and often a door ends up being slammed. 

So, we did our normal Sunday chores, which includes some housecleaning, which we don't do much of during the week.  Weekdays we mainly just maintain and pick-up.  And then I got out the big guns, a mommy of many's best friends.......the roll of big black trash bags.....dum-dum-dum.

I have a philosophy about kids and stuff.....if you have more than you can or will keep picked up that means that you have too much, and I, along with my gang of big black trash bag's can help with that problem.  Now, you would think that since we just moved in here about a month and a half ago we'd be all set, but the things is - there are twelve of us, and even at minimum stuff per person it's still a lot of stuff.  That, and I hadn't finished going through it all and getting it organized before I just gave in to feeling like crap on my meds. 

We all cleaned, and I set out to going through and organizing, and then I headed for the little people's room.  I culled there the most.  I don't even feel guilty for it anymore.  When the bigger kids were little and I went through their rooms we did it together, and I asked them if it was okay to get rid of this or that, or I tried to steer them into thinking it was their idea to get rid of it.

Now?  I prefer that the little people just stay out of my way.  I'm not really asking because I know that they will want to keep it all.  Each and every little thing will become a special treasure when they see me touch it.  They will watch to see if I go anywhere near the big black trash bag with puppy dog eyes on the verge of tears.  Then I'll be stuck wondering if I should make them happy or crush all of their hopes and dreams as I thrust my hand into the big black bag and drop their little trinket in.  The same little trinket, that if I let them keep it, I will find laying on the living room floor, or out in the yard in a day, or an hour.  They're little kids, which around here means they're little hoarders.

I was aggressive today.  It doesn't help that when you send two five year olds to clean up their room that they spend more time coming to tattle tale that the other one isn't helping to pick up, or that the other one pinched/poked/punched/kicked them, and if they're not doing one of those two things that most likely means that they've decided to happily play together and not pick up.

A few weeks ago I was standing at the stove cooking when these two five year olds went walking by.  One said to the other shh, there she is, don't tell her.  That's a red flag if ever I've heard one.  I stopped stirring my pot and asked them what they were doing.  Playing, one five year old responded.  Playing what? I asked wondering what the big secret was.  We're just going to play in your room, the talker of the two told me.  I let them pass and gave them enough time to do whatever it was that they were up to, then I went and checked on them, in my room, and there they sat playing like two good little five year olds.  I went to walk away but then came back and asked: hey, why aren't you playing in your room?  It's a mess, the talker told me.

This only proves my point.  A brand new room, already too messy to play in, and rather than clean it - they just go find someplace already clean to play in, and mess up.  They needed my help, in a big way, and today I gave it to them in the form of four big black trash bags.  They actually thanked me for it when I was all done.  Them came into their room and they could see the floor and open the door - all the way, imagine that!  And the toys weren't spilling out of here and there with no rhyme or reason - there was order, and kids like order, even if they don't like the process of getting there.

JoJo, one of the five year olds was teasing me afterwards.  I was, again, standing at the stove, and he came up and asked me if I had seen how clean his room was?  Yes, I said.  Who did that?, he asked me, all wide eyes and smiles.  I did, I told him.  Oh, he said, I thought a magic fairy came and did it......giggle:giggle. 

Yes, JoJo, if magic fairies wear jeans and hoodies with their unwashed hair pulled back into a bun with no makeup and carry a roll of big black trash bags that they thrust broken and uncared for toys into without regard to their owners, all the while feeling liberated from clutter and cheap plastic crap, then a magic fairy cleaned up your room today.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Goat Takes on the Dog

When Walter (the white goat in the pictures) was born I imagine that his mother saw a mischievous glint in his eye and thought - this one is going to be trouble.  I know that's what I think when I look at Walter.
 He's kind of a crazy goat.  We constantly have to push him out of the way, because he is always right by your side - wanting to see what you are doing, and he always wants his head scratched right between his horns - he gets pretty pushy about that.  I'm sure he thinks that he is helpful and cute, but in reality he is in the way.  I guess he's cute, in a goat sort of way. 
 Walter loves to play - he plays with the other goats and the kids, yesterday he and our German Shepard, Elsinore, got to wrestling.  I was cooking My Man's Birthday dinner, which was Chinese, which means that I spent hours in the kitchen, and at one point I looked out the window to see Walter and Elsinore going at it.  I did a double take, not sure what to think.  Elsinore is very protective of her family, but not aggressive towards the other animals, so I didn't think that she was attacking Walter, but then again she did have her large jaws wrapped around his neck, so I had to look twice at what was going on.
 They were playing together like they were two puppies - it was pretty interesting to watch.  Though, I did keep imagining Walter when he is full grown and two hundred pounds and wondering if letting them get in the habit of playing together now is such a good idea. 
We've never had goats before, so I don't know if it's normal for them to play with dogs, but these two sure did seem to be having a good time with each other!!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Leaves & Mud, Mystic Mud

The trees are half bare and I can't help but to keep thinking back to this time last year.  Every direction I look I see what we came to.  I see the first morning we woke up and I walked outside to fallen leaves and bare trees - and mud.  My mystic mud.  It only mystified me because I couldn't fathom where it had all come from.  And I was further mystified about how I was going to deal with ten kids and so much mud without water - running or not, there was none back on that first day.

I think back to before, too.  Before we got here and the indecision we went through to finally commit to our mountaintop.  I think I was bare, like the trees, back then.  Like I had been left naked and without shelter from a storm.  That made it hard to commit, to anything, because how can a person trust them self to make the right decision when all they want is immediate relief?  Such turmoil it took to get here.  Not just the decision, but the events that lead up to even having to make those sorts of choices in life.

I stood striped from most of the securities I had ever known, and unbalanced from the disorientating shock of it all.  When life demands that you step into a place that you never even fathomed possible, it leaves you unsure of the rest.  It makes impossible seem possible.  It cuts out the static that we worry ourselves with and forces the eye downwards, to the very foundation of what matters.  I couldn't imagine one year later, or even six months later.  My mind was so focused on seeking the closest and most direct route out, that future concerns were so diluted they might well not have existed.  It's called desperation, I believe. 

Maybe most of us have been there, or will go there, at some point in life.  I'm not sure; maybe some people never go there.  I can tell you that once you've been there - you know it without doubt.  Like when a teenager asks how they will know when they are really in love and you reply - you just know it when it happens.  Both can leave you confused and grasping for breath.  Both make you cross you heart and hope to die.

I feel like I should say that's all in the past now, because it is, and then move on.  But something like doesn't really stay in the past.  It penetrates the core of you and becomes part of you.  It changes who you are and how you see things.  It resets the course you were on and sends you in an unanticipated direction. 

It's funny that something as simple as fallen leaves could conjure up such vivid memories.  I contemplate wanting what I have.  I can't help but to wonder what to do when what you have isn't enough.  What to do when what you have shades your life in the red at the end of each month.  What then? I wonder.  Do I still just want what I have?

I remember back to when we were faced with having nothing.  Nothing for real.  No raw land.  No 600 sq ft tin can.  Nothing.  And doesn't that make all that I have now more than enough?  And then I think that we are spoiled people who are never happy with what we have no matter how much it is.  When you've looked nothing in the eye and measured everything against it needs become clear, but later, afterwards, wants become distorted.

This aftermath, of finding my way on a new and unanticipated course, it leaves me with questions and wonderings.  I want to put stock in cliques, but in reality they only go so far.  Having each other doesn't put food on the table or keep a roof over our head.  It doesn't keep at bay the demands of life.  It shares the burden and lightens the load, and I can take it with me wherever I go, but it builds monuments in the sky, not here on earth. 

Once all of the leaves have fallen we will rake them up and put them on the garden to compost.  Winter will set in and I suppose that the frozen ground or the chilling winds will remind me of something else from last year.  But there is something new this year, something that I know fallen leaves will remind me of next year; serenity.  This mountaintop has a trail of it that travels up and around hills, along the many creeks, and past old trees.  Trees that have been cycling through Autumn for hundreds of years.  Trees that used to share this land with people that only wanted a solid roof and a hot meal, as a society.  I imagine it was clear back then to know what you wanted, and what you were entitled to.

We buy bales of straw and spread it along the areas that we walk to keep as much of the mud contained as a bale of straw will.  The mud will still come.  The straw will be broken down with twelve footsteps and start to decompose and then become saturated with it, and when the slick spots start to show through we will spread a new bale of straw on top of the old.   It's a never ending cycle with mud.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Showers, The Bachelor Pad & Wanting What You Have

Yesterday we fired up the shower.  I went first.  We had to move a bookcase to be able to get to the pipes in the wall.  Once I was all ready to jump in, I yelled okay, turn it on to Columbus on the other side.  He diligently sat and waited there until I yelled through the wall again, okay, I'm done, and then he turned the water off.  It was a quick shower.  The water pressure was okay.  It probably would have been better if the shower head wasn't broken and leaking half the water out the side.  And the temperature control was nonexistent.  Your choice was cold or on the verge of warm/hot.

Nonetheless, it was water pouring out of the wall in our very own home on the mountaintop.  Afterwards I was walking around outside with a towel wrapped around my wet, and clean, hair, and honestly, I think I may have been strutting just a little.  I imagined that the birds and the squirrels in the trees were watching me and impressed that we actually had running water now.  We had managed, after all of this time, to separate ourselves from the uncivilized to the civilized.

I even made funnel cakes to celebrate.
 Maybe that sounds cheesy, to celebrate, but honestly, this was a momentous event for us.  The kids were all clamoring to go next, but only two more people got showers before we ran out of hot water.  I consoled the ones that didn't make it with the assurance that I would make a shower schedule and we would all be getting to take showers now.

The next morning - there was no hot water.  The hot water should have recovered by then, but life is busy and we had things to do, so we moved on through our day.  Later in the evening I checked for hot water again.  Nope.  No hot water.  So, it seems that I was one of the lucky three who got a shower before it stopped working.  My Man hasn't looked at it yet.  Hopefully it will be easy and cheap to fix, but in the mean time we are again without a shower.

I got the second coat of floor paint on the old mobile.  The boys started moving in this afternoon.  They are beside themselves to finally be getting some space for them and their things.  There is still plenty of work to be done over there, but at least we can start cleaning it up and organizing it.  I took pictures of the single bedroom over there.  Columbus came into the room as I was finishing up.  We looked into the screen of the camera to see the pictures and I commented that they reminded of those pictures that you see for foreclosure listings where it looks like the previous occupants thrashed the place after they packed a bag and just walked out the door.  Needless to say, I won't be posting those pictures here.  Life is messy.  Life with ten kids is real messy, and too many people crammed into one small space is tragic. 

The bachelor pad.

 It's hodge-podged together.  We are a long way from where we once were, monetarily speaking, but even Columbus commented on the new level of appreciation that we all have now.
I was reading a blog the other day.  The writer has eight children.  She wrote about their misfortune, because her husband changed jobs, so they had to move, and sell their house at a loss.  That job didn't work out, so he looked for a new one, he found one, but before it was finalized they sold their new house in anticipation of relocating.  He ended up not taking that job, and they decided to rent for a while until he found a different new job.  Because it wasn't a job related move they had to pay for their own move (she was overwhelmed and in a puddle of tears over this) - three large U-Haul trucks worth of stuff, plus they brought in a professional mover for the heavy stuff.  She went on and on about how hard it all was on them, but she really went on about how hard it was to downsize from 7000 sq ft to 4000.   

Normally, I wouldn't talk about other people, but I don't run in her circle, so I doubt my post will ever cross her path.  Besides, I understand her feelings, even if I don't understand what caused them.  I feel bad for her and that she felt so burdened by life.  My point is that it is all about perspective.  Her life at its worse day is something we will never achieve here on the mountaintop, or any other place for that matter.  If I was in her situation with her life history; I would probably blog about feeling the exact feelings she did.  But I don't have her situation or history, and from my side of the fence her designer kitchen with granite counter tops, fresh faced kids wearing clothes that aren't hand me downs, and showroom furniture, look pretty carefree and easy.  From my side of the fence, I can't for the life of me, understand what she is complaining about.

Years ago, I used to want that granite counter top life.  I wanted the two car garage that wasn't so packed full of junk that you could park your cars in it.  And I wanted the nice cars to park in it, too.  I wanted my kids to look like those other kids, who don't look like their skin has ever been stained by dirt.  Those kids look like they are always clean; like they come with a self cleaning feature - like an oven.  They look their their fingernails never get overgrown and need to be cut.  Their hair, too, for that matter - it's always just right.  The granite counter top life always looked to me like the lighting was just right and that all the imperfections were filtered out of it.

I don't know if I really stopped wanting that life as much as I just accepted it was never going to happen.  Now, it's too late.  We would never fit into that world.  Many years and kids ago maybe we could have slid into it unnoticed, but now, now even we would notice that we didn't belong there.  Can you imagine what the neighbors would think when we started to relax and let some of our natural habits show?  The two naked four year olds would have got us kicked out of that kind of neighborhood, among other things. 

Now, I accept that our life is dirty and grainy.  Rough around the edges.  I imagine that it builds character, because that's the kind of thing a person imagines to make those rough edges feel worthwhile.  I imagine that struggling for lost water is more memorable, and noble, than struggling to regain a lost 3000 sq ft.  But honestly, I know that there is some other person out there with even less than us, and they wonder why I complain.  And I would be willing to bet that that other mom and I feel pretty much the same at the end of some days, despite her showroom life.  I guess it all comes down to that saying: learn to want what you have instead of wanting what you don't have.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Swimming With the Current

With the new mobile done enough for now, and the start of school, we have found a welcome pattern of routine.  If school was never popular before, it is now.  It brought with it a release from the grind of labor and seemingly endless work.  We settle into a rhythm of shuffling papers and books, rather than paintbrushes and lumber. 

As we settle deep into the womb of our new home, we relax.  We breathe.  Life, in its less encumbered form starts to talk hold, and it feels strange at first.  I notice the kids arguing, about small and petty things, which they've always done, but something about these arguments seems different.  It takes a week or so for me to realize that what they are doing is adapting to free time and relaxation.  With some of the stress and tension lifted they feel a little more free, and safe.  Safe to squabble. 

It was sad to me to realize that - that they had been holding their breath, afraid to be kids.  Afraid to rock the boat.  I gave them a little leeway with their antics.  I reminded myself that this is all new to me too.  This....normalcy.  This existing as a family without feeling like the weight of the world is on our shoulders.  I reminded myself to keep breathing, to relearn what it is to just be.

They went too far the other day.  It was the boys.  The older ones, that is.  You know that if the two five years olds are being better behaved than you, that you've got to be doing something wrong.....wrong enough to get picked up on mommy radar.  Maybe it was the frustration of the washing machine not working because Baby Man keeps resetting it for me mid-cycle, or maybe it was the constant noise of what we call jackassing around from the living room, but either way, when I walked into the room and saw a pile of various sized boys on my couch wrestling and one standing on the couch with a pillow slung high over his head right by the shelf with precious things from all the way from my great-great-great grandmother - I stopped breathing.  I stopped reminding myself to let them breath, and I sent them packing to cleanup the yard and split wood.  I told them not to think of it as punishment, but more as me redirecting their surplus of energy.  They didn't find my creativity as amusing as I did.

We move in and out of our days with a clear sense of what tomorrow will hold.  None of it is exciting, and that's the most beautiful part of it all.  Another breakfast.  Chores.  School.  Lunch.  More school.  Free time and projects.  Dinner.  Cleanup.  T.V.. Bed.  I've read more books to little people in the last two weeks than I have in the last three months.  We actually did a craft last week.  Dinner isn't just about not going to bed hungry, but actually creating a meal for enjoyment again.  I make bread.  Kids bake cookies and cakes.  We sit at the table together - we talk, we laugh, we look each other in the eye. 

Cleo told me that she was glad that school had started.  She was getting bored.  Sugar King told me that he likes the new curriculum and that I'm more involved this year, that it makes learning easier and more fun.  I watch them find satisfaction in meeting clear expectations.  Hours of a day scheduled on a 3x5 index card and divided by subjects, such a simple thing, yet it gives them the chance to feel accomplished in their day. 

They craved this time as much as I did.  I can see it in their faces.  I can feel it in the house.  I want to apologize for the wait.  I want to thank them for their patience.  I want to cry the tears of a mother who feels like something that never should have happened did.  I want to wrap myself around them and whisper in their ears that we made itWe are wholeIt is better.  We pulled and stretched, and tested the limits of us, and we now have the security of knowing our units strength. 

There is a herbal medicine class in town that I consider taking.  My mind wanders around with contemplation.  The time.  The gas money.  The selfishness.  I vacillate between the idea of being poor and undeserving, and just doing it, because that seems to be the only way things ever get done.  Weeks I do this, and then one day my mind wanders back and I think just do it.  There is time.  Schedule your errands for the week on the day of the class and gas money won't be such a extravagance.  And then I struggle to justify me being a person that isn't connected to them.  I look for the thought that will relieve me of guilt.  For leaving them.  For taking a class when I am sure there are classes they would like to take.  For putting myself first.

And then I have a thought; I'm actually thinking about something other than surviving.  My mind is distracted by an issue that doesn't involve basic necessities, but an actual luxury.  And then it occurs to me that maybe I should just try it.  Maybe if I take a few hours and dollars out of the month they won't all be destined to grow up and hate me and/or become serial killers.  Maybe, if we are at a time and place that I have the mental space to worry about it - I can actually do it

These days of living without the constant pressure of creating something from nothing, and focusing more on maintenance, are foreign.  The very idea of waking up with little more than doing school and planning dinner on most days agenda ~ delight me.  For the first time in years - I finally feel like we are swimming with the current.  Life isn't perfect, there is still so much to do, but it feels like there is more to it than just treading water these days.

Friday, October 19, 2012

And the Winner is...........

Today we did the drawing for the wool throw, and Jenn was the lucky winner!

Jenn, this was your entry:  Football friday nights are big where I live, so a stadium blanket would be lovely. WooHoo!

I also decided to gift a throw to Linda from Practical Parsimony, because she wanted one so bad that she wrote a blog post about the giveaway on her blog for a second entry, and I also happen to really like her and all the thoughtful comments that she leaves me.

Ladies, congratulations, and you can email me your address at room4more@twlakes.net and I will get those off to you next week.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Water Woes

Where to start? 

The whole water affair has become such a mess I'm not even entirely sure how to explain it, in part because of how I feel about it.  WAIT ~ don't hit the back button just yet, this isn't a complaining post, believe it or not. 

Here's the deal, I've made the uncharacteristic move of relinquishing all things water to My Man.  I'm not butting in.  I'm not asking a ton of questions, which isn't to say I haven't asked any questions.  If you knew me you would know that I was lying if I claimed I hadn't asked any questions, because it is impossible for me to NOT ask some questions.  I'm not trying to help.  I'm not adding my two cents worth.  I'm just letting My Man deal with it. 

Why?  Because I know nothing about water or pipes, and I guess I don't want to know anything about them either.  And......frankly.......I care, but I don't.  I care, because I want a freaking shower.  And by that I mean that I want a shower in my house that is at my disposal day-in and day-out ~ that's not new news.  I don't care, because I am tired of getting all worked up over every little thing.  I'm tired of fighting the natural order of the mountaintop.  I'm tired of attempting to force my will into all the little cracks and crevices of our life.  I've resolved myself to accepting what comes and dealing with it without letting it get to me.  I've lowered my expectations and standards to safeguard against the disappointment that seems to come so easily up here on the mountaintop.

None of that means I've given up.  No, I've just given in.  I haven't compromised - I've submitted.  I've realized that our four acres of raw land isn't going to quit anytime soon.  My utopia isn't right around the corner.  There is no magic stopping place where I stand back and look at all that we have accomplished, pour myself a glass of fresh squeezed lemonade and then sit in a comfy lawn chair in the shade of a tree for the rest of my life.  No, that day does not come - ever.  I don't think.  Maybe I still believe in it a little, but for the most part I think that this kind of life never stops.  It doesn't sleep.  You never arrive at the finish line.  You go from project to project.  You toil to meet your needs, you get sidetracked into new interests, and you try to stay afloat on all that you have most likely over committed to. 

I always say that a weakness isn't a weakness unless you fail to recognize it and adapt to it.  Make provisions for it.  Embrace it and make it yours, and then take care of it.  I failed to recognize my weaknesses up here and they left me feeling like I had been hog tied by life, and I struggled against them until I felt suffocated. 

I see myself standing on the highest point of my mountaintop.  Heels together, back slighted arched.  I stand on the edge.  Arms stretched wide, eyes closed.   The wind blows through the trees that are a brilliant display of gold, orange, red and browns.  My face tilts upwards towards a sky of multi-shades of blue.  It took a million steps, and missteps, to navigate my way here.  There is no other place to go.  There is no other life to live.  For the first time in maybe forever; I stay present.  I stay focused.  I stay here.  I stay now.  I submit.

All of that just to get to the water part.  I could apologize, but you should know by now that this where I come to sort myself out. 

So, My Man and the boys spent all of their free time this week putting in the pipe.  They didn't get it all done because we ran out of hot water pipe, but most of where we need water is all on one side of the mobile.  That cluster area was all finished yesterday.  My Man was impatient about waiting for the glue to dry enough for him to test the pipes.  I finally called my brother, a pipe fitter (not to be confused with a plumber, because he hates to be called a plumber) to ask him exactly how long we had to wait for the glue to dry.  He said that we were good to go, so My Man fired up the water. 

The pipe did well.  We only had a couple of small and easy to fix leaks.  But, because there always has to be a but, the bathtub faucet didn't work.  It won't turn off, but it's not the part of the faucet that you see on the outside that is causing the problem, but all of the pipe work behind the shower wall that is causing - if I understand all of this right.  Like I said, I've been pretty hands off on the water matter. 

The hot water heater wasn't heating up the water, either.  My Man tested to make sure it was getting power, water, and that the temperature was turned up.  We waited and still no hot water.   We went to bed a little disappointed about the whole thing - especially me, because I had a doctors appointment this morning and I had waited all day in hopes of a shower to get cleaned up for that.  My Man got up extra early this morning to get the fire going and put water on the stove for me so that I could wash my hair and take a bucket bath. 

We are still using the 55 gallon barrel as a holding tank and running water from it with a 12 volt RV pump.  We had two hoses connected to get from the barrel to the new mobile - this was a problem because the water was leaking between the two hoses, and when you only have 55 gallons to start out with you can't afford any leaks.  They moved the barrels to the new mobile today to solve that problem, and while I was in town I picked up new hoses - $50.00 worth to be exact.  We've found that hoses don't actually hold up very well to be using as plumbing.  They are just another hidden expense to "simple living." 

After I left this morning, My Man called to tell me that we had hot water.  Neither of us had bothered to check it this morning.  I don't know why it took so long to heat up, but hopefully it will work now.

When I got home from the doctor they hooked up the new hoses and retried the water.  We had good pressure last night, but this morning it was low, super low.  The kitchen sink was still low and not getting hot water, but the other faucets had more pressure and hot water.  My Man took the sink out and tried blowing out the faucet and whatever else he did, and it still wasn't any better.  I guess the faucet needs to be replaced.  For a second I wanted to hate on my $5.00 yard sale sink, but honestly, just the sink is worth $5.00, so I stopped myself. 

At this point My Man is just pretty disgusted with the whole water situation.  They worked so hard all week, and that doesn't even count our first attempt at getting water running, and now here we are - without water for all intents and purposes.  They moved the washing machine over to the new mobile today, but I haven't tried it out yet.  I really just don't feel like having to report another problem with the water to My Man.  I will have to try it out tomorrow, but if it doesn't work I don't know what we will be able to do about it anyway - move everything back over to the old mobile? 

And you know what else - all of this isn't even for hooking up the 500 gallon holding tank that we have.  This is the temporary water until we can get to the real water.

Do you see now why I am resolved and submitting?  There is no fighting this without making myself, and the rest of the family, miserable.  It's a mess, this whole water business.  I wish we didn't need it, or want it, so bad, because right now both My Man and I would be tempted to say just screw it and walk away if it weren't for that.  So, there's the water report.  Two steps forward - three steps back.   Again.  And I know that we will get there someday.  I know water, hot water even, will flow through the pipes in here, but in the meantime - it really is a frustrating process.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Thank You, Randomness & Pictures

First, I wanted to say thank you so much for all of the warm birthday wishes!  You guys really made my day.  I went from not really looking forward to turning forty, to accepting it, and then when I read all of your comments I actually started to embrace it.  After I read your comments I figured why not love forty?  Why can't it be the best yet?  One special friend even said that I'd start to feel cocky in my forties.  I laughed at that one and thought; now slow down there, sister, I'm not sure if My Man and the kids can handle me feeling anymore cocky than they think I already do.....lol.  They would tell you that I already rule our mountaintop roost with more gusto than needed.  There might be a little bit of truth to that, but I always like to keep myself very aware of the fact that I am out numbered ten to one and if I even blink a thought of hesitation our herd might seize the moment and organize a mutiny, so I'd rather error on the side of caution and make them think I'm meaner than I really am. 

I think that I'm going to have this next picture framed - in all of the years that we have been together I'm not sure if I've ever really seen My Man standing at the stove cooking.  Generally, we don't allow him to cook, not that he wants to, but his speciality is Top Ramen mixed with tuna from a can - need I say more about why we don't let him cook?

Columbus was head birthday chef.  Among all of his skills he is also a damn good cook.  I was undecided on what I wanted for my birthday dinner, so he made the choice of enchiladas for me.
The final dinner - it was some of the best Mexican we've had in a long time.
 On Saturday we went to Lowe's and bought all of the pipe and connectors for plumbing water into the new mobile.  My Man was all excited about getting me a shower for my birthday, which would have been sweet, but if I've learned anything on this mountaintop it's that none of our projects go as planned.  Honestly, I would have loved a hot shower for my birthday, or any other day for that matter, but I didn't want to let myself get all hopeful only to have to suffer disappointment. 

My Man and Columbus started on the plumbing first thing Sunday morning, but it soon became apparent that they didn't get all of the parts that we needed.  Since we live an hour from town it wasn't really possible to just run and go get the missing part, so they worked on what they could until it was time to cook dinner. 

Monday morning My Man had a doctors appointment, which took forever.  He is seeing a new doctor and this guy really like to talk.  My Man had to wait two hours while he listened to the doctor chatting up a patient in the next room, then when the doctor finally came in to see My Man he spent a half hour talking to him about public verses homeschool.  Needless to say - My Man needs to find a new doctor, because the doctor is an hour each way too, and who has four hours to go see their doctor for a blood pressure check?  Anyway, after the doctor My Man went and got the plumbing parts that he needed.  He and Columbus worked on the water until it got dark out, and then again today after school.

I'm not sure how long it's going to take to get running water, but for right now I think they are just going to plumb half of the mobile to save on time and make sure it all works.  We have no idea if the hot water heater even works because we've never used it.  But we have all the pipe and parts to do the whole mobile. 

There is just so much to get done.  It starts it does feel like all we do is put out fires - enough pipe to just get by, enough wood split to just get through a few days, heat to one mobile with boys sleeping on the couch, enough water to wash two loads of clothes.  Don't even get me going on the washing machine and this water system - it really is not working.  The washer keeps stopping because it doesn't have enough pressure, which can be from a number of different reasons and it's this whole big pain in the butt process of figuring out which one for each.and.every.single.load of clothes I try to wash.  And I say try because I start a load and go back thinking it is done, but it has stopped and still has an hour left, so I restart it and come back later, but its stopped again and still has 54 minutes.  Round and round I go and it takes hours to get a single load washed.

Anyway, I'm not complaining - I'm just saying.  These are some of the current, or on going, trials of mountaintop life.  The other morning My Man and I were sitting outside.  The sun was shinning and the wind was blowing through the trees that are all shades of Autumn.  I've never seen color in leaves like we have here - it really is beautiful.  Off in the yard two five year olds were attempting to fly homemade kites, and the yard was peppered with goats, dogs, cats, chickens and ducks.  I could hear kids from inside the house talking.  When the wind would blow and rustle the leaves Baby Man would look up to see where the noise was coming from - and I was about as content as a single person could ever be.  In that moment I would gladly give up hot showers for a year to feel that kind of peace and love. 

And a few random pictures......

Baby Man - because I never grow tired of his smiling face.
Two five year olds halfway through a haircut - I gave them both mohawks just for fun.  JoJo said it looked silly and G-Man just screamed when he saw himself in the mirror.
A new pencil sharpener for school and a basket of unsharpened pencils can keep a five year old busy for an hour.

The crazy goats - we all love the goats.  They are fun to watch and as friendly as a dog.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Turning Forty

Today, I turn forty.  I've been thinking about turning forty all year.  I've been thinking about writing this post for the last couple of months.  Forty has been on my mind. 

I kept looking back, over the last twenty plus years, and remembering who I was when I first started my adult life and where that Michele thought she would be at forty.  She thought planned knew that she would finish college.  She was going to put off getting married and having kids until after she started her career.  At some point she would meet Mr. Wonderful, her counterpart in life planning and success, and they would fall deeply in love and get married.  They wouldn't have kids right away.  No, there would be traveling and kidless life to enjoy for the first few years.  When she finally settled down and had kids she would have two, three or maybe four, get them to school age and then go back to work.  There would be money.  Money to pay the bills.  Money leftover.  Money for the things that all suburban lives require.  Cars.  Clothes.  Dinners out.  Entertainment.  Vacations.  Savings.  They would all be standard items in her two income college educated budget.

I reconciled that Michele many years ago.  But for some reason she came back and for the last few months I've been trying to figure out where she would be at forty.  I wanted to measure my life against hers.  It was hard, hard to imagine where she would be, because this life that I do live has strayed so very far from hers. 

That Michele, she left her three half grown children at home for a week and went on a sun filled tropical vacation.  She and Mr. Wonderful lay on beach chairs at a resort and drink fruity drinks that waiters serve them as they watch ocean waves slowly come and go.  They eat at fancy restaurants in new clothes.  They snorkel.  Maybe they going swimming with the dolphins, because that's what I imagine you do when you're on that kind of vacation. They relax.  They don't have a care in the world. 

The thing is this: all of that thinking and thought process changed because something happened this last week.  It actually happened twice, because I am no doubt too dense to have got it the first time, and so the powers that be were kind enough to send me the same message twice. 

I got an email from a friend.  It was sad, it actually made me cry, and I don't cry.  And then a few days later I got another sad email from another friend.  As I read these emails I first felt overwhelming sympathy.  I personally know the cruel betrayal that they both wrote of.  I know their pain, suffering and fear, in a deep way.  And then I felt relief.  Relief that their problems were not mine.  Honestly, it felt odd, to feel sorry for someone else.  I feel sorry for other people all the time, but this time, and for the first time in a long time; I felt more sorry for someone else than I did for myself.  Their blatant honesty in its raw and vulnerable form gave me new depth and perspective in my own life.

I turned my thoughts away from measuring that Michele and her life; to measuring my own life, our life.  And I saw beauty.  When I stopped feeling sorry for myself for even a brief moment and focused on looking for the good, well, I was overwhelmed with how much of it there is.  At first, I thought of the good in the here and now, and then I went back further - and there is years and years of it to be found.  Big good.  Little good. And lots of in between good.  I felt like I had been slapped.  Why had I swept all of that goodness under the rug and allowed one single ugly time in our life, as painful and overwhelming as it had been, take over and reroute me on a pity party?  I wondered when I had lost sight, and I realized that it was a slow beat down over the course a few hard years.  The kind that chips away at a daily rate, so that at first you don't even realize it, but in the end - there is a huge and gaping hole.  A hole big enough to climb in and be sheltered from the bright truth that goodness abounds me.

And then I felt grace.  Grace in its truest form.  And I realized that grace just is.  I don't have to fight, scream or beg for it.  I don't have to barter or make deals for it.  Grace simply is.  It is always there, whether I can feel it or not.  I don't have to do a single thing to receive it - other than allow it to be.  I realized that I had lost nothing.  Nothing had been taken from me.  I had given it away by failing to keep its existence alive.  I had given away my faith in it.  There is no need to go hunting for something that already rests all around you.  Those thoughts, that realization - they were so tangible that I could wrap them around me like a blanket on a cold winter day. 

The thing is about that other Michele is that she didn't have a contingency plan for the reality of life.  She painted her world in the beautiful pastel colors of a Monet painting.  She made sure to leave out any sharp edges.   She left no blank areas on the canvas for the shades of grey that all lives have.  The places in the path where we willingly and unwillingly stray from who and what we think we're going to be and do.  The places where it doesn't all go as planned, which as it turns out - is most of the places on the path of life.

She was young and she didn't know any better.  In her mind she tried to do everything possible to ensure two simple things; she wanted to avoid making the same mistakes that her own parents made, and she desperately wanted to finally feel loved.  If I strip life down beyond plans, careers and money.  If I measure all the intangibles and find the bottom line - this Michele's life trumps that Michele's life - by a long shot.  I got everything I ever really wanted.  The path here wasn't a planned route, but they say getting there is half the battle.  So forty, here I am.  I'm not going to bother trying to plan out the next twenty years.  I am going to be more protective of my faith, and I am going to keep my eyes open to the grace and goodness that surrounds me.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Switching Gears & Progress

I don't write about homeschooling very much because for the most part it's a boring topic.  The hours I spend researching and then agonizing over picking curriculum, and then planning a year and a daily schedule, don't make for interesting reading.  Honestly, it even kinda bores me. 

School has been on the back burner for the last few months while we worked on the new mobile.  But enough time has passed that we finally started our new school year.  At some point I realized that we could put off school forever.  There are just that many projects and things to do around here.  But that's not really an option, and so we took the plunge and moved school to the top of our list. 

All this means, other than my days are now filled with juggling seven different grade levels and a one year old, is that work is reserved for after school and weekends.  Which means that things will slow down around here progress wise.  I'm okay with that, but I really want to see the heat get finished and some water running through some faucets.  It's hard to wait, because the wait is frustrating. I keep thinking that both of those things are right around the corner, but they're not.  There is this problem or that problem to get in the way of anything going smoothly.  That's life, I suppose, but I'd rather be waiting for something less necessary than heat and water. 

In the mean time, here is where we stand now:

We got the floor to the old mobile primed.  It's got so cold, and there is no heat to the old mobile, so the paint is taking much longer to dry than it did when we painted the floor in the new mobile and had the heat of summer to help the dry time.

The wood stove is moved and installed into the new mobile.....kinda.  My Man needs to do some work to the chimney, and enclose it.  Last year we used the wood stove without enclosing it and that caused problems.  If the fire goes down, or out, the blower just sucks in freezing cold air and blows it into the house, so this year we want to enclose it so that it has its own warm air to suck in.

The start to enclosing the wood stove.
The shelves that Columbus made me from more of that free barn wood we are using for so many of our projects around here.  He planed the wood and even made the brackets to hang the shelves:)


They Turned Five Today

The two four year olds turned five today.  I like five.  Five is usually when I consider children to start behaving human, though I have my doubts about these two, regardless of their age.  I say that with love - don't think I'm a bad mom because of it.  It's just that they feed off of each other like an infinity symbol of energy.  And when I say infinity - I mean 24/7.  I mean these two never stop.  They never get tired.  They are always together, often up to something, prone to WWF style play that turns serious and leaves one, if not both, of them in tears.  The last thing they needed for their birthday were superhero costumes that would most likely only make their little boy bodies produce more testosterone, but that's what they asked for, and so that's what they got.
Ready and waiting first thing this morning - they have been counting down the days till their birthday for weeks now - present opening was at the top of their to-do list today.

They both want to open the big one first.  Never mind the plain white paper.  I rarely buy birthday paper - it would cut into the birthday budget of gifts and how much does a kid really care about paper anyway?  Usually, I stock up on Christmas wrapping paper after Christmas and that is what they get their birthday gifts wrapped in, but due to storage limitations (like 12 people in 600 sq ft) after last Christmas I didn't stock up. 

Finally, they get the long awaited for Iron Man and Hulk costumes!  It has been killing them wanting and waiting for these.

I had reservations about the Hulk hands, I still do.  I never would have bought these had he not wanted them sooooo bad.  To me, the mom, all I see are hands meant to hit, so what's he going to do - hit with them, and it's only a matter of time before he hits the wrong person and he finds out he doesn't really have superpowers.  Now that I think about it, maybe I should consider them an educational toy??....lol

It takes a brother and a sister to attempt the Iron Man costume, but they are taking too long, so in disgust JoJo snaps - alright!!  Just have mommy do it!!

G-Man's cake

JoJo's cake

After we had the cake the boys came and sat with me.  I put my arms around both of them and said happy birthday, my baby boys.  JoJo smiled the biggest smile and said I like that.  I like that you said baby boys.  But he is the same small son who just told me: I lub you.  I really, really lub you.  He said like meant it.  He said it like he understood what it meant, and that impressed me.


Five years ago today I woke up 37 weeks pregnant with our second set of twins.  Shortly after I woke up I started having contractions.  Because I never go into labor early and my birthday is in four days My Man started on my birthday gift, which was to tile our downstairs bathroom.  As he pulled out the sink, toilet, and flooring my contractions continued.  I tried to stop him from continuing with the bathroom project, but he just poo-pooed me and reminded me that I still had time - he said I wasn't really in labor. 

He was right, but only to point.  My contractions did start and stop, leaving him to further believe, and continue tearing apart the bathroom, that we would not be welcoming two newborns into the family later that night.  I wandered around the house as only a pregnant woman can and double checked my hospital bag.  Even I wasn't convinced I was really in labor, but then again, I never am. 

Busy boys
By evening, and after hours of contractions, My Man saw that certain look in my eye that makes him nervous.  He knows that when I stop pacing and start hanging onto the nearest solid object to brace myself for the pain that things are getting serious.  He also knows that my body can go from slow poke labor to time to push in the span of twenty minutes and three good strong contractions, and so he said it was time to go to the hospital.  I argued with him, like I always do.  I told him I was fine and that I still had time.  He insisted that I was not fine and did not have time, as he always does.

Back and forth we went with me grabbing onto the kitchen counter to ride out the pain at closer and closer intervals.  Finally, he suggested I call my doctor to ask him what I should do.  This I agreed to, fulling expecting my doctor to tell me to wait a little longer.  Nope, the doctor told me to go to the hospital right away.  It's normal for me to go into denial while in labor.  I always think I'm fine and have plenty of time.  I don't know if I'm just trying to get out of it, or if I really believe that I do have more time, but I wait until the very last minute to go to the hospital, and that drives My Man nuts.  He is always afraid he is going to end up delivering the baby in the car on the side of the road. 

All worn out from fighting crime.
I fully expected the hospital to send me back home.  Even if I was cringing in pain over every crack in the 45 mile road it took to get there.  No, they admitted me, and then in less than an hour it was time to deliver.  They tried to take me into the operating room, because that is where they like to deliver twins, but I had an arrangement with my doctor to deliver in the birthing suit.  I had also arranged for all of our kids to be there, to video tape the birth, and to deliver without pain medication - none of which was standard for that hospital.  Back in Oregon all of those things are standard (well, except for the no pain medication birth), and so that is what we came to expect.  But here in Tennessee it is very different and I had to go to several doctors and hospitals to find one that would allow us the birth experience we wanted. 

Helping in the kitchen
Our little men were born - perfect and sweet in every way.  A few days later we brought them home and began finding our new normal with nine children.  It was busy, but much easier than the first set of twins.  Knowing what to expect, or maybe what not to expect, made the second time around a whole lot easier.  And it only took about six months before My Man got back into that bathroom and got it tiled.

**I started this post last night and then the internet went out, so when I say today - I really mean yesterday