Sunday, December 30, 2012

I'll Admit It ~ We're Wimps Now

We woke up Friday morning to the reality of no running water and My Man and I just sat and looked at each other, a little lost on what to do.  We knew what our option was, filling five gallon containers at the well and bringing them in, but we didn't like that option.  And then there was the laundry issue.  Since I hadn't washed clothes in days we were all running out of clean clothes, expect for the five year olds - they were already out of them.  You wouldn't think that would be a big deal since they run wild and naked on the mountaintop most days, but even they appreciate modern things like pants when the temperatures get to freezing, which is where they've been the last few days.

Aside from the inconvenience of the whole issue, in the end it was the laundry that got us.  I figured that by the time I drove to town and went to a laundry mat that it would cost us close to half of what a new pump would cost.  My Man started looking online and calling around in an effort to find a power supply and find out what one would cost, or if he could find a used one. After a couple hours with no real luck he went to work.  It seems that no problem is easy to solve from the mountaintop.  Services here are limited, and even the towns around us are limited....and the holidays don't help matters at times like this.

He worked for a few hours and I got some things done around the house, and then we joined forces again in the early afternoon.  I found the receipt from the last pump that we bought and called to see if they had another one in stock.  He did, but they had, of course, gone up in price.  He said we could run the pump off of a deep cycle battery, and he just happened to have batteries for sale too, but they were pretty expensive.  My Man called around then on battery prices, and he did eventually find a power supply for sale - they both cost about the same, so there was no savings to be had by picking one option over the other.

My brother had sent an out of state check for Christmas, and I  had deposited it, but it was going to take a few days to clear.  I jumped online to check our account and it showed that part of the check was already available, so we headed off to town to get what we needed to have running water.  We stopped at the ATM and I slid my card, punched in my PIN and the amount I wanted....and then got a nice message that said I didn't have sufficient funds.

Well, that sucked,  I went back to the car and told My Man, and for the second time that day we just sat and looked at each other in a lost state.  It was Friday afternoon on a holiday weekend and the pump/battery guy was going to close in a matter of minutes - we were out of time and had no access to any money to fix our problem. 

These moments are many on the mountaintop.  Moments where there is no clear and easy path through.  Moments that at times make us sick to our stomach, or sometimes just sit and laugh in crazed hysteria because all we can think is; here we sit again, screwed with no way out.  Sometimes, we wonder aloud where we went wrong?  Was it all the kids?  Should we have stopped at 3, or 5, or even at just 7?  Would that have made the difference?  Was it the last 3 that did it, that weighted us down to the point that we can only tread life's gravitational pull so long, but never long enough?  I sight statistics on the unemployment rate, the rise in food stamp usage, the foreclosures and the bankruptcies, and I remind the two of us that very few of those people breed themselves to the point of kids in the double digits, and follow up with an - it can happen to anyone.  The data consoles us a little, but we sill sit uneasy and wonder how much of this we've done to ourselves.

Years ago, when we were in the middle of making our family, My Man used to worry about the money, and I would always tell him that just one more wouldn't cost that much more.  I'd tell him that I was cleaver and organized, and that the new kids always had hand-me-downs, so it wasn't like we had to buy all new clothes.  I'd tell him that it wasn't about how many kids we had, but about lifestyle choices.  I did my damnest to convince him that it would be okay - that it would always work out, and overtime I brought him around to my side of the fence where making babies was always a good thing and we'd worry about and deal with the rest later. 

He recently reminded me of those conversations - not to be mean, but for the humor value, for the irony of those words combined with the life that we now live.  The only defense I could think of was that when I said those words we had running water and flushing toilets, and I never, never, never in my wildest dreams imagined a life, no matter how many kids we had, or how poor we got, that did not have those things!  None of that really matters anyway, because once you have them you can't imagine your life without them, and flushing toilets become a little, or even a lot, overrated in comparison to their lives.

So, there we sat in the parking lot of a gas station, dumbfounded and pumpless.  I finally did the only thing I could if we wanted running water....I called my dad and asked him if we could borrow the money until the check cleared in a few days.  I'd never ask to borrow money I didn't know how we were going to pay back, and even then it kills me just a little to have to ask and therefore  admit we are that broke.  My dad said that he would Paypal the money to us, but then he wanted to talk to My Man about the set up with the pump and the battery.  He said he would send us a power supply, so we didn't need to buy a battery, but that didn't help us much in the moment if we didn't have a way to power the pump and it would be days before the power supply came.  At some point it was decided that a battery charger could be used to power the pump temporarily.

My Man and I headed off to go get our pump, but we were five minutes late, and even though the pump guy knew we were coming he had closed his shop and left.  I had tried to call him to let him know we were still coming before he closed, but I just got an answering machine, but he did leave a cell number, so I tried that.  He and his wife were at dinner, but he agreed to sell us the pump when they got done eating. 

My Man and I went to Lowe's for a few things, got some gas, and then got the pump and headed for home.  We had taken Baby Man with us and he had a great time being an only child for a few hours.  My Man even took him over to the tool department at Lowe's so that he could check out all the tools.  Baby Man is in love with tools, and since he sees his daddy and Columbus using them all of the time he wants to use them too. 

And so, water flows through the pipes on the mountaintop again.  We just couldn't bring ourselves to take that big of a step backwards.  I guess if we really had no choice, we would, but the months that we have already gone without running or hot water were enough to last us a lifetime.  For the time being, the battery charger is keeping the pump working, oh - and the new pump is an upgrade from 2.2 gallon per minute to 3 gallons per minute - and I am here to tell you that .8 GPM more makes a BIG difference!!  When I took my shower today water actually came out from ALL of the little holes in the shower head and not just half of them...woo-hoo!  And thanks to a donation from our Saint, we have already paid my dad back!

See, My Man.....it always works out...I was right all of those years ago!!!....lol

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Come, Sit and Have a Glass of Lemonade With Me...

Some days I feel like the luckiest person alive, like, seriously lucky.  I don't just mean My Man and the kids, I mean like a person who truly has good luck.  And then other days I just feel cursed.   

So, we've gone from the one eyed goat on Christmas Eve, to an awesome Christmas Day, to the day after Christmas, which just happened to be our 18th wedding anniversary - to no water.  Yep, that's right - we are back to no running water.

My Man and I went out last night for our anniversary.  We wandered around Goodwill for a good long while and then we went to dinner.  We had a nice evening and then the cell phone rang - it was Columbus calling to tell us that the power supply to the water pump had fried.  We were standing in Sears when Columbus called.  We had just left the appliance department where I drooled over sparkling new washing machines and stoves with double ovens.  I don't even remember why we went into Sears...oh yeah...I was trying to be a good wife and give My Man a turn to look at man things, like tools.  I'm sure that the tool department had filled him with as much want as the appliance department did me.  In hindsight it was sadistic of us to even venture into a store meant for people with more money than we have, or at the very least a credit card. 

We called the evening done at that point and left Sears to head for home so that My Man could go hunting for a spare power supply and restore our water system.  On our way home we discussed the Ebay buyer who had filed a claim against something I had sold and drained our Paypal account until the matter was decided upon by Ebay.  We talked about the last eighteen years, and the last year, and all the years in between.  We marveled at how much we have gone through and the family that we have created.  We silently wondered what we would do if he didn't find a power supply.

Once home My Man set off down our dark mountaintop road to his office in hopes of finding the power supply.  He did find it, and he did get it hooked up to the pump, and water once again flowed through our mobile.  Later that night, after the kids were in bed, he and I sat out by the wood stove talking, and while we talked the water pump churned and sounded sick in the background until we finally turned the power to it off.  We agreed that we needed a backup power supply and pump, because as sure as the sun rises and sets each day - the pump will also go out one day.  Never did we imagine that that day would be the very next day.

This morning I turned the power to the pump back on so that we could go about doing our daily things, like washing dishes, brushing teeth, and doing laundry.  We had water for most of the day, but late this afternoon the second power supply also fried, so we are thinking that something is wrong with the pump and it is frying the power supply - leaving us to believe we now need both a new pump and power supply.  Seriously??  It seems like we've only had actual running water for a few short months and now we are already having major problems and back to no running water....how can that be? 

In the meantime a sentimental gift on its way to us in the postal system was stolen, and I've just got to throw in here that I didn't do laundry on Christmas Eve, or Christmas day, or even on our anniversary, and so now there is a huge pile of dirty laundry and no water to wash it in.  We are out of dish towels, wash cloths and the naked five year olds will just have to stay naked because they are out of clean pants.  We are back to five gallon containers of water sitting on counter tops until we get this mess fixed.  We are back to bucket baths and heating water on the stove.  We are almost all the way back to where we started from.

I sit on the couch and a dressed five year comes and lays on top of me - eye to eye he tells me that he loves me and that I am the best mommy ever.  Later, he pours over the human body book full of color pictures that I got him at Goodwill last night and asks a million questions about the pictures, and brains, and man meat

Cleo watches Baby Man so that I can blog while Columbus puts together a Christmas gift for her.  I walk by My Man and he grabs me, pulling me close and whispering that he wants me.  Medium sized boys pour over coins, and organize, and label to their hearts content at the dining room table.  The roof doesn't leak, the wood stove pumps warmth into our gifted paradise, and there is plenty of food. 

A million beautiful moments in a single day that lay spread before me like a buffet of love.  It is my job to stop and take notice of them, to deposit them into their proper place inside of my heart and forget about the water, or lack of it.  It is my job to see into the core of our family and hold close the knowledge that love does in fact trump all and everything else will sort itself out.  At times, it is gut wrenching to stay the course.  I imagine that we are on this mountaintop to learn these things, and to learn them so completely that they become second nature.  I imagine that there is a day that I won't have to tell myself to stay the course - I just will.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Some Christmas Chaos

Yesterday was my day to get our Christmas cooking done - I had done nothing on that front.  I just didn't see the point.  Food just doesn't last long in our house, so I would have ended up making everything twice, hence my waiting.  I got an early start while the kids started doing there chores, and then slowly as they got done they came and helped with the cooking.  It was all very Walton Family like and we had a good time.

Mid afternoon My Man headed to town to do his Christmas shopping.  A few of the kids went with him, and most importantly - he took Baby Man, which meant that I would be able to power house some cooking, and I even imagined some cleaning so that we would have a sparkly clean house for Christmas day.


Einstein and Sassy
A view from the table into our tiny, yet busy and gratefully full kitchen.


More bakers in the making, though JoJo is more of a taste tester.

In the middle of making Christmas magic.
 After My Man left I went and got online to sit and relax a minute, and then JoJo came in and begged and begged for some PBS printables that he had been asking for all week......and so to be a good mom have an excuse to sit a while longer - I started printing......
 He and The Rose had a grand time doing dot-to-dots, mazes, and cutting and pasting......and then I curled into a ball on a free part of the bed and feel asleep for bit.
The preschool aftermath.
 When I woke up I rallied the troops and we set to work finishing our cooking - there was no time for cleaning now.  We were just getting our mess cleaned up when My Man and the kids came home.  They were impressed that we got everything on the menu done and so Columbus asked what I was going to do on Christmas Eve? 

Sit and do nothing, I replied.

He just kind of looked at me like I was crazy.

Well, I still have the Christmas Hoagies to make, but other than that I thought it would be nice to kind of relax and enjoy it.  I got everything done today so that I wouldn't have to stress about it all tomorrow.

And those were probably the fatal words that jinxed me........

Today, Christmas Eve, started out exactly as planned.....when I woke up there was a slew of excited kids who reminded me that it was Christmas Eve and only one day left till Christmas!!!!!!!  I putzed around and wondered what to make for dinner.  My Man came up from his office to say Good morning and we were chatting and then it happened.......Dawsy came in hysterical that the baby goat's eye was hurt.  As I walked towards to the door to go check on the goat I told him to calm down a little and he said No!  It's eye is hanging out!!  Needless to say we all hurried out the door at that point.

We found the baby goat and sure enough - there it's red and bloody eye hung.  The baby goat was walking around and acted fine - it just didn't look so hot with her eye hanging there.  We were all a little perplexed on what exactly to do.  I went back inside and went to the computer, not sure if I should (don't laugh) look up a home remedy (but only because it is Christmas Eve and I wasn't entirely hopeful that we would even we find a vet that was open, not to mention one that we could afford), or to start Googling a vet.

So, I did the next best thing - I Googled a home remedy while I got out the phone book.  The home remedy wasn't all that helpful because what I found didn't really deal with a hanging eyeball, but rather a protruding eyeball.  The phone book mostly had vet office's that were in towns far away, so I googled for one closer and started calling.......

Most were closed, some didn't see goats, and one even referred me to some vet hospital in freaking KNOXVILLE!  Knoxville is over two hours away, and as much as I wanted to save the baby goat it didn't really seem reasonable to drive the goat (on Christmas Eve, of all days), to freaking KNOXVILLE!  Seriously - it's Christmas time and we have ten kids....we can't even afford gas money to Knoxville and back home and a vet hospital, and even if we could I'm not sure that we would do it.

Hopeless, we got out the first aid kit, put on some latex gloves and went to try putting the eyeball back in ourselves.  Now, this really isn't funny, but it is - it's like the chicken butchering fiasco all over again.  You think you're a real live homesteader and you'll deal with the shit storms as they come, and you do, but while in the middle of those storms you feel like a total and complete incompetent idiot who just isn't qualified to do anything that ever needs doing - not to mention that task at hand.

So, it's My Man, Columbus and I.  My Man hangs back because he doesn't do bloody nasty things and so it's usually Columbus and I that take on those tasks, but Columbus is backing away from the entire situation while I'm standing there holding the goat looking at him like come on - jump in here!  He can't do it, he says, he's not up for replacing the eyeball, or even holding down the goat - he wants no part of any of it, so he takes off the gloves and gives them to My Man, who holds the goat and I try to put the eyeball back in.  Now, the goat is screaming and throwing a fit, and me being me I'm afraid I'm hurting the goat so I ask My Man if he and I can change jobs - and he says YES, to my surprise.  My Man got right in there and did his best at putting that bloody eyeball back in, he even tried a couple of times, but there really was no getting the damn thing back in.

A million things have raced through my mind during all of this - what if we can't find a vet?  Even if we find a vet how will we afford it?  What if we just need to put the goat down - who will do it?  Which gun?  Who has the best aim?  I see crying kids and one of us with a shovel digging a baby goat grave on Christmas Eve and I wonder how many years it will take before they forget about it and stop bring it up.  I think of the mama goat wandering around on the mountaintop calling out for her baby goat and the heartbreak - both hers and ours.  I start to cry then, and then I hear footsteps behind me and suck it up so that I'm not adding more emotion to the situation.

I felt powerless, again.  This is one of those times as a parent when your kids sit with tears in their eyes and wait for you to fix it all, no matter how impossible it is, they want you to rally and make it all better, and the more this situation played out - the less likely the outcome seemed.

My Man was on the computer, and I don't know what he Googled, but it was a conversation about a vet who helped someones animal on a holiday, or after hours, or something else above and beyond, and he asks if I tried this mans office?  I look in the phone book - and there it is, the vet that just might help.  I call and tell his receptionist what has happened, she puts me on hold, and then she comes back and tells me to come now.

I imagine that he googled something like: compassionate vet that helps animals even when it isn't convenient, or vet who understands that animals get hurt during hours other than 9-5, M-F, or maybe he just Googled vet who gives a shit.

Einstein and I loaded up and raced down the mountaintop to the vets office.  The vet took the goat and told us to go home, but on the way home he called to say the goat was ready.  He basically cut the eye out and has left the socket to heal, along with the gash between it's eyes.  I have to give it antibiotics every three days, but other than that he said the goat should be fine.  And you want to know what else?  He only charged me for an office visit, supplies, and the medicine - NO added emergency charges!! 

We brought our baby goat home and put in her in the goat house with her mama, who she immediately went to nurse on, and it made me feel good to know that the two of them are still together.  Now we just pray that baby goat heals well and is healthy.

When I walked into the mobile I found the two five year olds entertaining themselves on our bed with a roll of toilet paper..........

I give them both extra points for actually being DRESSED!!!
 They both stopped when they saw me and G-Man said: it's JoJo who's doing it! 

And the JoJo said: Yeah, BUT it was your idea!!!!!

Bone-Man...whoever that is.

Merry Christmas Eve........I'm still hoping for the sit and do nothing part to come.....lol!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

I Know I'm on Santa's Naughty List

A five year old, who just happened to be dressed for this story, told me that he already knew that he was on Santa's naughty list and that he wouldn't be getting any presents from Santa, but that he didn't care.

A little shocked, I asked him to repeat himself, and again he told me the exact same thing.

Why are you on the naughty list, I asked?

For being wild, he said.

I told him that I thought you had to do more than be a wild little boy to be on Santa's naughty list.

No, no, he told me with an almost proud and rebellious voice; I am on Santa's naughty list, but I don't care.  I don't care about Santa's gifts.

Even more shocked I asked him why he didn't care about Santa's gifts?

Because all I care about are Mommy gifts from you.

Really, I asked him, I rate higher than even Santa!?

Yep, he said as his blue eyes twinkled and he smiled a smile of sweetness. 

I'm going to be keeping a close eye on this one - he's far too smart for an average five year old!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Getting the Tree, Halloween Candy From the Cracks of the Couch and Turkey Bones.....

A few days ago we went and got our Christmas three - which means that we put on our shoes, Columbus grabbed his chainsaw and we headed out on foot into the vastness of our mountaintop.
Heading out to get a tree
 It had been a busy day. so we got a late start.
The path into the woods, and then down what the kids call "the valley of sudden death" because it is so steep.

Shew......safely at the bottom of "the valley of sudden death"
                            
 JoJo brought along his Batman lunchbox and about halfway through our adventure he informed me that if I was hungry he had candy.  We had been trekking up and down hills and through thorny vines for a while, so I figured a break and some five year old nourishment might be nice.  JoJo cracked open his lunch box and sure enough he had brought enough candy for everyone.  We all ate a piece, even me, but I kind of cringed because I had no idea where he got the candy from, but if I had to guess I would guess it was leftover Halloween candy that he dug out from the cracks of the couch....he's a resourceful kind of five year old, I'll give him credit for that.
JoJo with his bag of tricks
 He even had a turkey bone in his Batman lunch box.  I'm not sure why, other than we have been studying the human body for science and he is now obsessed with bones and what he calls human meat, which really means muscles. 
and his turkey bone
 We finally spied a small tree off the path and sent Columbus to check it out.  He gave it a thumbs up and started cutting it down while the Rose and Elsinore closely watched to make sure he was doing it right.
watching over the tree cutting
 I personally thought that the chainsaw was a bit of overkill for this tree....lol
 Everyone wanted their picture taken with the tree....




We ended up finding another tree that we liked better, but the little kids still loved the little tree and wanted that one, too.

 Heading for home Baby Man snuggled up to Sugar King.  Baby Man loves Sugar King and always hangs onto him like a baby monkey, something that he does with no one else - it's just a special thing between the two of them.
 When we finally hiked our way out of the woods and onto the road this was our view.....
 If it wasn't so dark you could see our two mobiles off in the distance on the other side of the pond.

We had seen a special delivery truck on another road and we knew it was heading to our house, so we started running for home so that we didn't miss our delivery.  The Rose still insisted on carrying the tree, which later turned to dragging the tree....lol.
 We got back home in time to sign for our delivery, had dinner, got the tree in the stand and then started making some ornaments and decorating.


 I scored some big points by surprising the kids with some Oregon Ducks ornament making supplies.
 Our end product....it kinda looks like one big evergreen mess, but the kids are happy. 
                                    
 And then, as though all of that wasn't enough Christmas for one evening - they started decorating Gingerbread Men......

 Finally, we got the stockings hung and little people to bed......
So, we're mostly ready for Christmas - there is still all of the cooking, some wrapping, and even some shopping left to do, but we got the tree, which is one of the most important things.

Friday, December 21, 2012

JC Saves the Christmas Picture!

A reader, known to me as only "JC" was kind enough to take our family picture and work whatever magic he worked on it and make it printable for us!  How sweet is that!?

I woke up this morning to his email with a copy of our picture in it.  I immediately went to WalMart.com and downloaded the picture to see if it really would fit - and it did!  Then I ordered my prints.  Now, If I'm really lucky I will get them out in the mail with Christmas cards by Christmas Eve.

I have to admit that when I first opened the email all I saw was the top of the picture and Happy Hanukkah and I thought that was all that was on the card.   I assumed that JC must be Jewish and so he put his holiday of choice on the card as an example.  For a split second I wondered what to do because we are not Jewish.  I quickly decided that I didn't really care that it said Happy Hanukkah, I was just that happy to have a printable picture, that I would send it out anyway.  Then I scrolled down and saw the Merry Christmas and Feliz Navidad and it made more sense to me.  So there's my LOL on that!!

JC, thank you so much!!  I really, really appreciate you taking the time and making the effort to fix our picture for us - that's about one of the sweetest things a guy could do!!  Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas & Feliz Navidad to you and yours this holiday season!!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Christmas Picture Snafu

I haven't sent Christmas cards out in a few years now, but this year I decided that I really, really wanted to - and what's a Christmas card without a family picture?  Professional portraits were out of the question, so I decided to figure out how to use the timer feature on my camera.  We settled on an indoor picture because it is late enough in the year that outside is pretty bare looking.

I told the kids to clean themselves up and put on something red or green - I didn't even add the criteria that it had to be clean because I figured a little dirt or ketchup stains wouldn't even show up in the dog pile that our family pictures become...lol.  I did specifically tell JoJo to go put on his red Christmas sweatshirt that matches G-Mans, but he showed up in his Santa suit - no problem I figured...it's Christmasy, so it will do.

I got everyone sitting on the couch with a little spot for me to dive into after I hit the button on the camera to take our picture....it went surprisingly well. 
 After each picture we would check to see how it looked on the little screen on my camera - they all seemed to come out okay, but still we took six pictures just to be safe.  Next, we loaded them up on the computer...we picked this one as our all around best......

Then we went about our day, with me satisfied that we would have a Christmas picture that I could send out with cards.  A few days later I went to send our picture in to be printed, and this is where the snafu comes in......our picture was too long to be printed in full.  The picture place would only print the middle of the picture cutting out three of us.

My Man was determined that he could get it to work, so he took to the computer and forcing it, sometimes My Man is a forcer...you just can't tell him it won't work, and this was one of those times.  I just walked away in disgust that my plan was spoiled.  Later, My Man told me that he thought he had fixed it - here is his picture.......

He said that he didn't think it looked that badYeah, I said, if you're going for a fun house mirror look!  Look at how our heads are all tall and skinny!! 

So, we have a Christmas picture but it is only fit to been seen on a computer screen:(  Maybe we will try again, but time is running short and my bubble is burst.  In the meantime - Merry Christmas from our family to yours!!!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Taming Two Naked Five Year Olds

Life has taken over - again.  My head is filled with thoughts of immediate needs and the noise of ten kids, most notably the two naked five year olds.  I consider five to be the age where children become human, or at least more human like, but these two are causing me to reevaluate that idea.  If we lived in a metro area I just might think that they had a source for crack the way they are bouncing off the walls, and neither of them have any clue what an indoor voice would sound like.  I think it is because there are two of them and when their energy is combined they create tornado force five year olds that only stop when they sleep. 

I snapped last night and decided that waiting for them to outgrow their naked five year old ways was no longer the answer.....they need the help of Super Mommy, which is really me if you didn't know, and that it is time to teach them that life is full of boundaries....like they don't really have super hero powers and that it really is possible to walk (not run every.single.place they go), and the couch really does have only one single intended use - sitting - not bouncing, climbing, jumping, or a lift-off pad for attempting to fly.  And furthermore, there is a volume between sleeping and yelling....it's called talking, and that doesn't mean whining.

A couple of months ago My Man told me I had gone soft

This was right after I had informed him that the two of them had keyed the van.  They didn't use keys of course, but rocks.  They each had one, or two (it's hard to tell and I never did get a straight answer out of them), in each of their little five year old hands and walked in circles around the van.  ALL around the entire van...more than once, or with more than one rock - I'll never know.

He wanted to know what I had done about it?

I told them not to, I replied in a defeated tone.

And then he made the soft comment.

Those two wear me out, I told him, and short of beating them, which I don't want to do, I'm at a loss.  Besides, you used to tell me I was scary - this is the new laid back not scary mom.

(and just to be clear here - scary mom doesn't mean that I did beat them - it means that I was stricter and on top of them 24/7)

What are you going to do, he wanted to know, just let them run wild?

The thing is - a couple of months ago I didn't want to do much other than tell them not to, and even if I knew it wasn't the best answer long term, I thought maybe it might kind of work and I was willing to see what happened.  Well, they haven't keyed the van again, but they've gone feral on me nonetheless. 

I know where I'm at  - I've been here before, but not exactly with two of them.  Sugar King and Sassafras were different - they are boy/girl twins and by the time they were five they had gone their separate ways and were just like regular old siblings.  These two naked five year old twins....they are always together and they are always feeding off of each other.  Even if one of them wanted to settle down and act human - the other wouldn't let him.  That is where the get me, with their combined force of naked five year old rebellion.

I haven't gone soft - I've been busy and distracted.  I've been tired.  I've been fighting other fights.  And The Rose Spoiled me, because all I ever had to do with her was tell her not to and she would look down and choke out an okay while fighting back tears and then not do it again.  I feel like my Hay Day of raising kids is over - I've done the bulk of the work with the other seven of them, and now here I sit with these two - staring me down like we are playing a game of chicken.  I guess I blinked, or looked away, or somehow gave them the impression that conquering me was all wrapped up and they could just go about their naked five year old ways.

We have a saying around here: you're on the radar.  The kids know that this means they've pushed it.  They've gone so far with all the little things, or one too many big things, that its caught up with them and now they're being watched.  They know it's a heads-up that letting it slid is no longer going to be an option for them.  I could tell the two naked five year olds that they are now on the radar, but I don't think they would understand all that it implies.  Not yet anyway.  I've got to dust off my Super Mommy cape first, and then I've got to stay on top of them until they believe I am stronger than them, and even their combined force.  I have to remind myself, for the millionth time, that parenting isn't a spectator sport and can't be done from the couch.

****************************************************************

So, the heater fan....... We managed to stay toasty warm the night the wood stove fan went out with My Man's kerosene heater.  It did an amazing job and it's good to know that if the power ever went out that we have a viable source of backup heat.  The next morning My Man decided to take off the furnace fan that came with the mobile and try connecting that to the wood stove.  It took a little bit of work, but he got the two working together and so far that fan has done a fine job of pushing the heat through the vents. 

Our weather keeps changing from freezing cold for a day or two, to being in the high 50's, or even low 60's, during the day, which means the nights are cold, but not freezing cold.  It's too cold for no fire, but when we make a fire it gets too hot in the mobile and we end up opening windows to try and find a livable temperature.  We're due for colder weather in the next few days and there is even another chance of snow, so the true test of this fan will be then, but in the mean time it is getting the job done.

Thank you for all of the thoughtful comments - I do plan to go answer them...asap:)



Thursday, December 13, 2012

Screw This Mountaintop. And the Winners are Announced

This is a two part post - part rant - part giveaway winners announced.  I'll go ahead an announce the winners first, so that if you want to skip my rant it will be easy for you to hit the back button, next button or whatever button. 

The winners are:

Sweet Suzie

Marian

Diana R. Smith

Hunny1970

When I drew the last slip another slip got stuck on my hand and I had to shake it off.  It stuck so much that I kind of wondered if it should be the winner, but I already had a slip of paper firmly between my fingers.  After I opened the slip of paper I decided to pick the other one up to see who had been so persistent.  It was........Jacked Up Glock Mom.  So, JUGM, since your little slip of paper appeared to be so determined I'm going to send you a bracelet too.

You can email me your mailing address at:  room4more@twlakes.net  congratulations to all of you :)

And now some me time - and I'm gonna rant here.  I feel like you all want to hear about the romantic side of homesteading, like all we do up here on our mountaintop is carve out this peaceful existence.  Like we joyously chop wood for our free heat.  It's not free.  Nothing in life is free.    There are chains to buy and have sharpened, gas, chain oil, and chainsaw repairs - that is after you come up with the money for the damn chainsaw.  And then there is the time it takes to cut, haul and split the wood.  Time is money - this isn't new news to any of us.  The time it takes to cut wood takes away from the time My Man has to earn money, something there is never enough of.  Water?  Just today I  stood wet, cold and naked in a waterless shower while I waited for a child of mine to go outside and clear the clogged 12 volt pump.  The water pressure, which is usually more like a heavy drip, keeps dropping down to nothing.  This is a pain in the butt to deal with on any given day, multiple times a day, but when it happens while you are in the middle of a shower it's a colossal bitch.  Sorry, there's just no pretty way to say it. 

I had a good day today despite my crappy shower.  My Man went with me to my doctor appointment and then we ran errands together.  We stopped by the bank to make a deposit so that I can pay a bill that's due tomorrow, we bought food for the next week, and we got toilet paper and dish soap.  We bought a weeks worth of kerosene for the heater in his office and while at the gas station I bought two scratch off lottery tickets with change I had taken from my piggy bank before we left the house - this was the highlight of our night - sitting in the parking lot of a gas station and scratching off a couple of lottery tickets (we won $9.00 bucks, by the way.  We cashed them in and then ran for it feeling all the richer.)

On the way home Columbus called to say that the fan for the wood stove had stopped working.  My Man told me that fans last forever and that hardly anything ever goes wrong with them and so I didn't worry to much,  Besides, I wanted to enjoy the last fifteen minutes of our time together.  We had fallen into cadence in conversation and life's worries had been pushed to the side.  Money.  Time.  Jobs.  Needs.  None of it had a place in tonight.  We had escaped to just us - why ruin it with reality?

We came home and My Man set to work on fixing the fan.  From inside the mobile I could hear the fan attempt to start, and then even start.  It sounded sick, but it ran, and I hoped that meant that it would at the very least make it through the night.  And then it would stop.  On and off.  On and off.  Finally, My Man came it and the fan was on, and I breathed a sigh of relief.  And then it went off again, and never came back on, no matter what My Man tried.

I sat hunched over with my head between my hands, and I wished that I could stay that way forever.  It's always something.  It's never easy.  It never ends.

I walked outside and I looked to the sky.  A shooting star fell.  Health I thought.  I wish for good health for my family.  And then another shooting star fell.  Health, again.  And then hot tears flowed down my face in the freezing night.  Even now, in this moment I can't bring myself to wish to win the lottery, or even for a working fan.  I fear that if I wish for something material that I will learn what it means to miss something so dear, like good health or a loved one.  I flash back to when I was fourteen and I asked my father what he thought happened after you die.  He said: I think that you lay there and you rot.  And that was the end of our conversation about life and death.

For twenty some odd years I've fought that very thought.  I've fought believing that there is nothing more to the end of life other than to lay there and rot, and then tonight I thought maybe he has been right all along.  Maybe I am naive and romantic and child-like.  Maybe I've read more into life than there really is.

Tonight, if I could, I would run from this mountain.  I would run to town and I would find an apartment where water, both hot and cold, flow freely.  Heat comes on with the flip of a switch.  Concrete paves my way and there is no fear of falling.  I would put the kids in public school and get a job and we would live like normal people.  They could play video games while they waited for me to come home and pop some frozen meal into the oven.  We would sit and watch cable tv while we ate diner on the couch.

I stand in the dark cold air and I think of how badly I want to quit.  I think that I am tired of a lifetime of spinning ugly into pretty.  I am tired of attempting to weave positive from negative.  I feel the fool.  I feel it's all a lie and I'm the liar.  I wonder if good, right and noble are not just figments of my imagination.  I wonder how strong I really am if a broken fan can challenge every positive thought that has seen me through the last forty years. 

A third star falls.  Health.  I still wished for health.  I laugh at myself, at my inability to quit even when everything inside of me says to.  Even when quiting is what I think I want to do - I can't. 

The oven is on at 350 and I had My Man get the kerosene heater from his office, which oddly enough I had forgotten all about.  I'm thankful that we bought some kerosene tonight, because we were completely out.  My Man tells me that he loves me, but he says it as though it is a secret language that means more than those three words.  It does.  It means that we are alive, and together, and in good health, and we will get through this.  His words comfort me even though everything inside of me wants to rebel against them.  Faith can be blinding at times like this.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

ROTFL @ Columbus

Today Columbus built a nice wood box out of our free barn wood to make a cover for the well head.  When I came outside to check on his progress Einstein said it looked like one of those fancy kitchen trashcans.  Columbus corrected him and said it was a new big boy potty and proceeded to climb on top of it and explain that he was going to make a humanure toilet big enough to hold a............55 gallon plastic drum!!
Can you imagine 55 gallons of humanure?  I'd like to know who is going to get the chore of taking out that bucket?

Finally, The (Best Ever) French Bread Recipe

I had never made homemade bread in my life until about five years ago when we moved from Oregon to Tennessee.  When we lived in Oregon we lived right by a day old bread store - they had a huge selection of good breads that were very reasonably priced.  Here in Tennessee it seems the bread of choice is what I call cheap white bread.  Cheap white bread is nasty stuff, in my opinion.  It has no taste and doesn't hold any real sandwich contents.  I've seen nicer breads in stores here, but for far more than I would ever pay for a loaf, so I set out on a mission to learn to make my own bread.

I started with this French Bread recipe because I wanted something cheap and easy, and from a prepping standpoint I wanted to know how to make a bread that didn't require milk and eggs.  I've used this same recipe to make sandwich bread (I just use a loaf pan, and I've also used it to make cinnamon rolls.)  I need to admit here that I make my dough in a KitchenAid mixer.  One time, when we were considering living off grid on our mountaintop, I tried making bread completely by hand - and it was an epic failure.  The bread was hard and heavy - it probably needed to be kneaded more.  I'm sure I could master it if I had to, but for now I have my mixer and power - and I'm sticking with my beloved KitchenAid.

The Recipe:

2 1/2 Cups warm/hot water

4 1/2 teaspoons yeast

1Tablespoon salt (I use Kosher salt)

1Tablespoon butter
(I use real butter that I melt a little in the microwave first, and I probably use closer to two tablespoons)

7 Cups of flour

If you have never made bread before, or want my personal tips - keep reading:)

I use tap water that is pretty warm - you want it almost hot so that it will activate the yeast.  This is my yeast after about ten minutes - it could be a little poof-ier, but this will do.  Next I added the salt, butter and flour.
 This is my dough when it is done mixing.  I like it to be a little on the soft/wet side - in the end it makes for a more authentic French Bread.  You can see that the dough is just barely solid, and still a little wet by the way that it is pulling from the mixer.
 Next I oil it with a small amount of Olive Oil, then it gets covered to rise in a warm and draft free place for about two hours.
 After the rise.
 This recipe is divided in half to make two loaves.
 You roll out each half - I left the rolling pin in the picture so that you could get some idea of size.
 Next, you roll up your dough.
 Place it on a cookie sheet, cover it, and let it rise again - about 20-30 minutes
 After the second rise.  I like to cut little slits into the loaves - just because I like the way it looks, though I swear it makes it taste better too...lol
 Bake at 450.  I usually bake it until it looks right, but I timed this loaf at 23 minutes - don't rush it if you want a nice crusty outside to your French Bread.  Keep it baking until you get it nice and golden!!
Eat and enjoy:)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Going to the Dentist

All of the kids had a dental appoint this morning - they were do overdue for their six month checkups.  Thankfully, for once, we left early rather than doing the mad-dash-last-second-scurry for the van, because part way down the mountain we encountered this mess.... 
 We had to turn around and go down the other side of mountain, which is the long way to the dentist.

Before we left the house I had to snap a quick picture of The Rose - she is old enough to get herself dressed, and normally her outfits make sense to me, but today she picked a velvet dress with cowboy boots and a flannel shirt.  I guess she was going for classy redneck?  And then there's JoJo in his monkey coat.  The monkey coat isn't bad, really, but he likes to act like a monkey and make monkey sounds when he has on his monkey coat.  He took it off before we got to the dentist, thankfully - the hygienist doesn't know it, but she almost had to clean the teeth of a monkey boy today.
So, nine cavities later, which really irks me because at our last THREE checkups we were 100% cavity free!  I blame it on the mountaintop and lack of proper hygiene for the better part of a year.  And then there are the four extractions of baby teeth and a root canal with a crown (Einstein tripped a few months ago and broke off the cap on his front tooth, which was originally broken riding a bike down a steep hill) that we are scheduled for, oh, and they want to take out Columbus' wisdom teeth.  I guess we'll be spending some quality time with our new dentist over the next few months.


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Maybe it is "oversharing," but it's Still Funny

Sometimes it's a hard call to decide what qualifies as "oversharing" and what doesn't.  Some thing are obvious from the start and don't get posted, while others only become obvious after the publish button has been hit, and then others I just think about posting but never decide on.  This is one I've been thinking about for a few weeks now. 

Really, my big hesitation is that is has to do with Baby Man and breastfeeding.  Personally, I don't think that breastfeeding is a big deal, but that may be because out of the last seventeen years I've spent about nine of them breastfeeding.  WOW - I never figured that out before today...nine years is pretty impressive!  Anyway, I know that some people have a problem with it.  I've heard stories about mothers getting nasty looks or hearing horrible comments while nursing out in public.  I've never had any of those things happen to me, and trust me, I've fed all of my babies out in public so there has been ample opportunity.  I have personally known women so uncomfortable with the very idea of it that they won't even try it with their own babies, and since I try to stay away from controversial topics on my blog I've not told this story.

But the thing is.....Baby Man keeps doing it, and I keep thinking that it is hysterical and that some people would laugh with me and enjoy it as much as we do. 

And then I took this picture the other day - because I thought it was sweet, and beautiful, and honestly, it warmed my heart to see it happening on my very own mountaintop.......

Baby goat getting some mama's milk.

And then I thought, aw, to hell with it.  I'm gonna tell my story - because I want to remember it, and if other people can blog about some of the things they blog about, or pepper their posts with pictures of half naked women that have nothing to do with their post, I can certainly tell my breastfeeding story.  So here goes......

Obviously, Baby Man is still nursing, and at 16 months old he is getting quite the personality.  He likes his boobies, and I think he thinks he is pretty special for getting them and has put together the fact that only he gets them, because a few weeks ago he started teasing other people.  He will be laying there all comfortable, nursing away, and then all of a sudden he pulls back, gets a devilish glint in his eyes and then makes eye contact with however he wants to tease.  Then he makes a big fake slurping sound, like he is drinking something, next he takes a dramatic pause before he says AHHHH, like he just chugged a nice big glass of ice cold lemonade on a hot summer day.  Then he rolls back over and goes back to nursing while watching the person he just teased out of the corner of his eye, content with himself that he has made another person envious of his position within the family.  And he smiles and laughs throughout this whole staging of his....he really does think that he is super special because he gets to nurse while the others don't and he can't help but to rub it in a little.  Ten kids and he is the first to ever tease the rest of the family with his special baby privileges.

So, there it is......maybe it's oversharing, maybe it isn't.  Whatever is decided you have to admit it's a pretty funny story.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Rain & Snow, and Mud & Kids & Animals, and Life on the Mountaintop

Its rained a little on and off all week, and we have more rain in our forecast, and some snow, which means more freezing temperatures. 
 Today My Man and the boys headed into the woods to cut some firewood.
 And while they did that I started cleaning up around the woodhouse so that they would have room to split and stack all of the firewood they are getting. 
 This is all redneck, but it is an attempt to solve several problems, the biggest of which is the mud, I made a pathway.  I know we live in the woods and that mud is to be expected, but this mud is slick.  I've fallen more times in the last year than I have in the last forty years.  The last time it rained I fell twice.  I didn't suddenlyy get too stupid or clumsy to walk, it's just that slick.  When it rains I reach a point I don't even want to go outside because I fear it will be the next time I end up on the ground and in the mud again, but with the wood stove outside there really isn't much choice.  We spread straw to help provide some traction, but the chickens come along behind us and pick through it and spread it all over.

Soooo, I went and found some old rugs that we used when we came camping out here and laid those down.  Honestly, I'm kind of afraid of the rugs too - I see myself falling on one of these and then just sliding down the hill with the rug acting as a sled....lol. 
 Then I got some old cinder blocks and put some small tree's through the bottom holes in hopes that when the chickens come along to scratch through the straw they won't spread it all down the hill.


The straw from the last time we spread it....all halfway down the hill by the back door.....this is the work of bad chickens and gravity.
Here are those bad chickens caught in the act...... 
 They must be thirsty from all that scratching around....
 Our lone goat, Picky, has been so lonely since I sold our other Boer.  Einstein has been fretting over his little goat and how sad he is.  Picky doesn't want to go in his house at night and cries to get out, and then Einstein is a mess with worry.  I've been looking for a dairy goat, because what I really wanted to start out with was a dairy goat, but since I had never had goats I took the free Boers just to see if we even liked having goats at all.  We went to look at goats three times, and none of them were right.  The goats were skittish, even with their owners, and that didn't make me think that milking them someday would be very easy.  This probably isn't the best time of year to be looking for a goat.  It seemed like there just wasn't much to pick from.  We went the other day (our fourth time to look at goats) to look at some Nigerian Dwarf's and ended up getting a mother and daughter.  One of them is my Christmas present from the kids.  Picky is so very happy to have some company and Einstein can stop fretting over his unhappy goat now.  

The mother and daughter.

Checking out the goat house.


Sleeping on the job


A half-naked five year old (it's cold enough outside to put on pants, but not so cold as to get ALL the way dressed...lol) looking sweet while he asks if he can have popcorn. 

Gangster Baby who feel asleep with his piece.
We have homemade pizza every Friday night here on the mountaintop.  Einstein and Sugar King are in charge of grating up the cheese - this week Baby Man decided he wanted to help.  Sugar King is a great big brother and is always sweet with Baby Man, so he let him help.....not that Baby Man gave him much choice in the matter.
 Since the cold is coming I decided to get some curtains put up.  I don't really want curtains up because they block the light and our view, but when it is freezing and windy they will be good to help keep out the cold.  I found some quilted curtains at Goodwill that weren't super ugly and kinda matched the colors in the living room.  Unfortunately, the metal rings that the curtain rod goes through to hold them up were too small for the wood dowel hangers....sigh - it's always something.  I could have made a new pocket for the dowel with the sewing machine, but the cord got ripped off the machine when we moved, so I decided it would be easier to just safety pin them.....it's kind of cheesy, but they are up and will help keep it warmer in here for now.
 Columbus made these really awesome hangers for the wood dowels.  We need something strong for our curtains, because you know I'm raising a houseful of house apes that swing from anything possible.
 Columbus bought himself a circular saw.  He had a summer job mowing a lawn and he used some of the money from that to make his first big tool purchase...I think he is pretty proud of himself.