Thursday, January 31, 2013

When Time Comes

It is quiet in the house this afternoon.  My Man and the boys cut wood for the return of freezing temperatures.  Baby Man has been bundled up like a little Eskimo baby to indulge him in his insistence to go outside and play with the two five year olds who at my prompting took their feralness out to where it belongs.  They can run rather than walk, jump, bounce and yell all they want out there.  I just hope that they don't decide to trim any evergreens while they are doing it.  Sassy lays sick and on the bottom bunk while Cleo reads on the top.  The Rose is off quietly entertaining herself as only a six year old girl who loves slow and soft girly things can.

In this quietness I take stock.  Literally and figuratively.  Of myself, this life and our goals.  I put a pork roast in the oven and start a load of dirty clothes.  I think of our immediate future and how best to proceed.  What to prioritize and what to mark off of the list of things that we need or want to do.  My thoughts swirl like a tornado that make a beautiful yet messy spiral.  I can see them all as they spin round and round making a collage of us and ours and I get dizzy trying to decide which one to grab hold of first.  I ponder reaching into the eye, hand open, and just blindly grabbing which ever one fate lands my grip on.  I'm not that random though, and so I know that this approach won't satisfy me.

Letting these thoughts remain unattended and to run their own course would be self destructive.  They would leave a bare path through us with a wake of broken trees and upturned roots.  The time is now to wrangle and tame them.  The place is here to conquer them.  Both of those things are fact, and they are both inevitable and worthwhile.  In this moment, like so many others in the last few years, I feel stronger and more lucid than ever.  High above mother natures acts the sky looms, without hesitation, and is crystal clear and blue, the sun shines brightly.  Our hands rest inside of each others and our hearts beat in unison.  Our strength is in each other, as it always has been, and we know it now like we did back then.

This is just one more challenge.  One more opportunity to learn and grow.  Understand.  Make better than before....ourselves, our family, our life.  I would resent it if I didn't believe that it was always there on the sidelines of our life just waiting to make its entrance.  We knew it was coming, just not when.  I don't resent it or fear it.  It is just a nudge to where we were going anyway. 

The sun is starting to set and My Man and the boys will be done soon.  They will filter back into the house cold and hungry to the smell of dinner cooking.  Eager to be warm and full.  Two five year olds who worked out some of their feralness sit a little less full of energy and quietly watch a movie on the couch.  Our couch.  In our living room.  The girls lay, read and play on while Baby Man makes his rounds from one interesting thing or person to another.  I time when to put the potatoes in the oven with the roast and think how much I love them all.  How I couldn't imagine doing any of this with anyone else, and that I hope they are all feeling as complete as I do right now.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

HA! Take That, JoJo

My Man read my post last night and the next thing I knew he was on ebay looking at first aid boxes, and he bought me this one! 

I just happen to think that it's about ten times cooler than the one JoJo charmed me out of, so in the end it all worked out well.  And I don't care how much that little fellow works his five year old vodou magic on me - he's not getting it.  It's just an empty box, there are no first aid supplies in it, but I needed to update our supplies anyway.  It measures about 10x11x7, is made in the USA, and it's water and air tight.  It's a silly thing, but I'm always impressed by water and air tight.

And I called my doctor today for my white blood cell count.  It was down by 11,000, which is really, really good.  It's still not down below normal, but it shows that I am getting better and all the trash she was talking yesterday was just exactly that - trash talk.  I feel so much better knowing that.  I was trying not to worry, but doctors are the grownup version of the boogieman when it comes to some things, so she did get to me just a little.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

It was Mine....for About an Hour

I went back to the doctor today to get my white blood count checked again.  I didn't plan on seeing my doctor, but nevertheless I ended up sitting in front of her while she rattled on about elevated white blood cell counts and possible reasons for them other than pneumonia.  Really, I don't think she had enough information to be using some of the words she used.  But she used them anyway, and so I left anxious and not sure if I should be worrying or not. 

I thought about skipping Goodwill.  I wasn't sure if I was in the mood to shop or if I should expend the energy, but the car was on autopilot and I ended up in their parking lot anyway.  I turned off the engine and sat in the quiet for a minute, still not ready to commit to venturing into the store.  Finally, I decided that maybe a little retail therapy was my best bet, so I hoisted myself up and out and made way through the parking lot.

On my second isle I found this little gem of a first aid box for $1.99.

Delighted with my find and with visions of neatly stacked band aids in the little compartments on top I joyfully tossed it into my cart.  My current first aid box, which is really a picnic basket that I use as a first aid box, is pillaged on an every other day basis for band aids and most often left in a bigger mess than it was found in.  This one, I thought, would be mine.  All mine.  I would keep it up high and hidden from the sight of any person under the height of four feet tall.  I imagined gauze and tape in unopened packages and without smears of dirty little fingerprints.  Scissors that stayed put and had never ventured into the craft drawer or been used on construction paper.  Yes, I was going to make my new little first aid box everything a first aid box should be, and even more importantly - it was going to stay that way.

I drove all the way home knowing that it was safely tucked away in the back of the car and that it would soon have a special spot someplace in our little mobile to call home and be at the ready for any emergency - large or small.  And then I reached home and kids started carrying in groceries and in came bouncing this little fellow with my new first aid box clutched to his chest squealing THANK YOU for the doctor box!!!!! as he zoomed past to his room to load it up.
My loss is his gain - he looks remorseful, doesn't he?

And just like that - it wasn't my new little first aid box anymore.
Now it holds JoJo's doctor things and his jar of brains that he is so very mesmerized by and proud of.

JoJo and his brains. 
It's not a real brain - just one of those
add water and watch it grow thingies.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Lazy Weekend

It was both an eventful and uneventful weekend.  We took a rare family day and went to town yesterday to see a movie.  It's been a good one and a half years since we last saw to a movie, so it was a big treat for the kids.  With me being sick for the last few weeks they hadn't been out much, so My Man and I decided they needed some fun.  I always end up in a quandary when we go to the movies.  I can't decide between actually watching the movie or watching the kids sit there, wide eyed and mesmerized, while mindlessly shoveling popcorn into their mouths.  There's just something about sitting there and seeing them so immersed in the moment and enjoying themselves that it's hard for me to take my eyes off of them. 

Speaking of popcorn - the price of that sure has gone up.  $18.99 for a large bag of it and two large!!  I was shocked.  But then again I'm always shocked at how much things cost.  The only reason I even considered paying it was because it came with free refills and I knew my crew would get most of our money back hitting them up over and over. 

I don't know what it is with prices, but it seems like everything is $20.00 like twenty-bucks is no big deal.  We haven't been to a mall in over a year, but the last time we went it seemed like half of everything had a sign saying "only $20.00" like it was nothing.  It didn't matter if it was a sweater on sale or a scarf - it was all priced $20.00.  When I look at a price on something I can't help but try to figure out how many hours it took My Man to earn that much money, and then I ask myself if I would have him work X number of hours in trade for whatever it is I'm looking at.  Usually the answer is no, so I don't buy it.  I wonder if other people do that - think of their money in the form of the amount of time it took them to earn it? 

Since we were in town we made our usual stop by Goodwill.  I don't know why, but it seems like holes in the knees of jeans comes in cycles and when a cycle hits - suddenly half of the jeans we own have holes in the knees.  It's like it is a contagious disease and all the jeans get it.  So, we stocked up on some jeans for the people that needed them.  Cleo even found a pair of flannel lined L.L. Bean jeans.  My Man got a pair of shoes and I found some rain gutter guards.  Columbus even got a boxing bag and he's been wanting one of those for a while now.  Einstein found some engraving pens and a dremel.  He wants to try his hand at making some hobo nickels.  And Sugar King found a football kickoff-T - he can never have enough of those.  There's never a shortage of junk for the little kids to dig through - they always find something they want, so nothing noteworthy there. 

We were gone most of the day and I think I over did it because today I was still all wore out.  I slept in without even realizing it - I was just that tired.  I took things easy today and finished getting our yearly tax stuff together for our accountant, did the business quarterly taxes and reported grades for the first semester of school.  That pretty much took up my whole day.  Oddly enough, reporting the grades took the longest.  I had to sit and wait for the page to reload for each and every subject for all nine kids in school.  If my computer was as fast as my head I would have been done in no time, but that's not the case.

And I know that this is a super boring post, but it's all I got right now.  We're all getting more and more ready for spring to come.  Tonight it is softly raining and making my mystic mud as slick as pig snot.  I don't know why slick as pig snot is a saying?  But I think of it every time I navigate my way to the wood stove.  I hope all of you had a great weekend:)

Friday, January 25, 2013

Not My Grandmother's Garden

Actually, neither one of my grandmother's really gardened much.  One of them hated the outdoors.  A good day gardening to her was probably sitting in a chair while she watched her housekeeper dust a silk plant.

My other grandmother lived in a trailer park in San Diego for most of her life.  She had a five foot strip of grass that ran along the side of her old mobile home and a small patch of earth in the back.  She did have a lemon tree that she loved, and she usually kept a few tomato and bean plants.

I imagine that if she could have, she would have had a farm like this one. 
I can see her and I in the little farmhouse kitchen.  She would be force feeding me homemade lemon cookies and cabbage rolls while she stood at the stove cussing like a sailor and telling me stories some forty years old that I'd already heard a million times.  And between chewing and trying to change the conversation to more current topics; I'd think how much I love her.

But onto today......

This year I am finally getting to start our garden with open pollinated, GMO free seeds.  I am beyond excited, as this has been a dream of mine for a couple of years now.

We have the survival seed vault that includes twenty varieties of heirloom seeds, the culinary herb garden and the medicinal herb garden.

And to help manage our garden this year I got Mother Earth News garden planner.  This program will allow me to plan out my garden, plus it tells me when to sow my seeds indoors or out, frost dates, harvest dates, and even keeps track of it all for five years to help me with rotation planting.

Several months ago I scored a seed saving book at Goodwill that had been on my wish list for a couple of years.  I snatched it up for $2.99 and hoped that one day I would have the seeds to go with it.

It's going to be a busy spring with lots of learning to do, but it's all so fun and exciting.  I'm definitely going for a quality over quantity garden this year.  I really want to know what I am doing and do it well before I worry about going big.  Now, I'm just sitting here waiting for warmer weather to hurry up and get here:)

Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen

It was one of those moments when you stand there, slack jawed and with a stupid look on your face, when My Man returned from under the mobile and informed us that there was an entire section of pipes that had not been insulated.  How'd that happen, I asked to a silent response, as though it was a rhetorical question.

And then I started remembering back to when we put in the new insulation.  First, it was the kids and I.  Next, My Man and the boys worked on the pipes.  And lastly, Columbus finished up.  Aw, I said, too many cooks in the kitchen.

Such a silly mistake to cause two days of trouble and inconvenience.  These things happen.  I'm just glad that the pipes are now insulated and that despite freezing temperatures we woke up to hot running water this morning. 

I don't normally respond to comments in my blog posts, but so many of you asked questions and offered advice that I wanted to address some of them.

The difference between our neighbors and us is that they are actually just lucky enough to have a plentiful amount of water, or springs even, right on their property.  We don't.  We paid a professional well digger to come out and even he was iffy about us getting any water at all.  We took our chances and got what we got - and we're very grateful for what we do have.   

We are not losing water to the neighbors - they are too far away.  Our well is only a little over a year old and works as it has since we started using it - it is simply a slow producing well.  I don't really believe that there is some magic answer that we are missing, though at times it feels like it.  Comparing ourselves to our neighbors is the last thing I should be doing.  Really, I have no idea what their water system is, just that they get plenty of water.  I imagine if I spent a day or two over at their house I would see first hand how imperfect their system is and watch them trouble shoot it, and at times frustratingly so, just as we do ours.  And if while I was there they didn't have problems with their water system, I'd be watching them deal with living their life without any power.  Either way, I'd leave with a new found appreciation for what we do have and a little more respect towards them for having a pioneering spirit, because that's what this mountaintop life is all about.

The thing is, we started living on raw land.  Now, stop and think about that for a minute.  Raw....there was nothing here.  Nothing.  And we started over from pretty much just that - nothing.  It takes time, money, and a whole lot of trial and error to make it all work.  Our current water system is what my father calls a band aid.  We got moved into our new mobile right before winter set in and we had several other projects going on.  It was up to us to prioritize all of those projects and we decided that this water system would be good enough to get us through until spring when we could hook up a much larger holding tank directly to the well with a bigger pump. 

There was no way for us to foresee clogging issues, that are for the most part now fixed, and I only say for the most part because we haven't actually had the strainer on long enough to know that all of the clogs have stopped for sure, but so far they have.  Or three power supply failures.  Or the mistake of not getting all of the pipes insulated.  Like I said; these things happen

This whole mountaintop life is an adventure.  It's about trial and error and learning along the way.  Some lessons are easier than others.  Some days, there are just small things day after day and then they catch up and feel like one big thing.  Other days are simply euphoric and everything feels just right.  Any life is like that, that I know of, anyway.  I make no apologies for sharing any of those days, or the days between them, here on my blog.  As far as I'm concerned ~ that's what it's here for.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Keep Calm and Carry On

We woke up to our insulated water pipes frozen by the overnight temperatures in the teens.  This little discovery was especially frustrating because we thought we had the pipes weatherized well enough that we wouldn't be dealing with this issue.  At first we thought it was only a water hose from the 55 gallon storage barrels to the mobile that had frozen, but as the hours wore on we realized that the pipes in the house were also frozen. 

My Man stayed home from work to help trouble shoot and attempt to thaw the hose while Columbus grumbled that he was just sick of our water system.  In the last couple of weeks we did get a third power supply for our pump and that one died within 24 hours just like the other two did, so we are back to powering our water pump with a battery charger and we have no idea why they keep dying. 

In the mean time the barrels must be filled twice a day to get our whooping 200 or so gallons of water for the day and each time the hose from the well must be attached, then unattached and coiled back up and put in with the wood stove so that it doesn't freeze.  And then there are the clogs that must be unclogged, though we did get a new strainer that appears to be helping keep the clogs down.  And all of that is after living through months of hauling water from town, then the upgrade to the hose through the window with the garden sprayer on it for months more, until we finally got running water and then hot running water.

And you want to know what....a neighbor stopped by today to see if we wanted a 50 pound bag of rice that he didn't need (which was very nice of him) and while chatting he mentioned that he finally had running water and then started talking about his and another neighbors water systems and they are both getting water from hand dug wells.  The other neighbor is getting 25 freaking gallons an hour from digging a hole on their property....and here we are, the ones with a $3000.00 well and we can't get anywhere close to that many gallons in a day.  My Man and I both just stood there feeling like idiots as the neighbor went on to tell us that he had a 300 gallon water storage tank that is full of water and the other neighbor has two of them. 

Both My Man and I are feeling pretty stupid right about now.  Like there is some magic trick to this whole water thing that everyone but us gets.  We've paid the money, and our dues, for water and we're still struggling our way through, and then they just come along with a shovel and bam have more water than they know what to do with? 

I know that we shouldn't compare ourselves to them, but it's hard not to.  It's hard to watch them get something so important with what appears to be relative ease while we are sitting here with frozen pipes for the limited water that we do get.   It just makes us feel like we are doing everything all wrong and the hard way. 

After the neighbor left my doctors office called to tell me that my white blood cell count is actually higher than it was last week and so that they are putting me on a new prescription of antibiotics.  That was just another slap in the face because I am tired of being sick and I really thought I was better enough that I was on the road to recovery and in a few days would be back to normal. 

And so today we are feeling stuck in the land of winter with frozen pipes and limited water, and I am feeling trapped inside of a sick body.  It is 4:00 and 26 degrees outside, so I doubt we will be seeing any hot water today.  I can't do laundry and every time I turn on the space heater it trips the breaker. 

My Man took all of the kids to town with him to pickup my prescription and after they left I took a minute to think of all of the things that I am thankful for.  It was hard at first, because in the moment it feels like we are all standing on a suspension bridge and our combined weight exceeds the bridges limitations and so there is really nothing to do but hang on for dear life and then brace yourself.  And then I thought of yesterday as My Man and I walked into Walmart.  He took my hand into the warmth of his own, his grip tight, and I knew that he had me.  Not just in that moment, but inside of himself so deeply that right then, on the blacktop of a box store, I wasn't sure where he ended and I began.  And that's when I told myself to keep calm and carry on.

Monday, January 21, 2013

How Do I Spell Relief?


I love a good adjustment.  A perfectly aligned spine is a beautiful thing, and my spine has been anything but perfectly aligned for some time now.  I'd go to the chiropractor every week if I could afford it, but since I can't I usually wait until I am in enough pain that I'm willing to crack open the wallet and pay for some relief.  Phenomia was my breaking point.  Or maybe it was the bouncing feral five year olds.  Or that for the last week every time the washing machine hits the spin cycle the mobile shakes and vibrates like we are in a train car about to be derailed. But I could feel the sickness and tension right in the middle of my back as though the infection from my lungs had crossed over.  It was dragging me down and making me....cranky. 

My Man drove me into town today so that I could get my blood drawn to recheck my white blood cell count.  Based on how I'm feeling I'm betting that it is better than it was last week but still not down to what it should be.  While we were in town I went and saw a chiropractor.  I don't call her my chiropractor because this is only the second time I've been to her and she's not my old chiropractor.  Dr. John was my old chiropractor and he was the man.  A short, peppy, forty-something year old who was gray beyond his years and could put a glowing smile on my face and make me feel twenty years old again without me even having to take my pants off.  Truly, he was gifted.  I always left his office feeling a little bit like Sally from When Harry Met Sally in the famous restaurant scene....and if you saw me after I left his office you'd think....I want one of what she's having.

He kind of ruined things for me, because I know there will never be another of him.  Anyone else will always be second.  They will never be the man, and I will never consider them mine.  They'll just be another bone crusher who could have been as good as Dr. John but never will be.  That's this chick that I went to today.  She's not even second, really.  More like third, or fourth.  It doesn't help matters that on her website, which is really a wordpress blog, that she has a picture of herself that she took.  I don't know.  It's probably not fair to hold that against her, but every time I see it I think of a single dating service profile.  Like she's just lonely and looking for love and doesn't have a good enough friend to take a picture of her for her business website/blog.  And then I always wonder if maybe it is her single profile picture and she's dual purposing it?  Not fair, I know, but these are the thoughts that I have.

So, I laid on her table, despite her cheesy self portrait, and she did her thing and I felt better.  Much better, really.  Right away I could feel a release and then the return of circulation.  It even made me a little light headed, but it didn't leave me all tingly and glowy or feeling twenty something and so I just missed Dr. John all the more as I picked myself up off the table and gathered my things. 

I stood at her counter while she slid my debit card through the reader and I looked out the window waiting for the sky to turn a deeper shade of blue and instead all I got was a sign here, please.  It made me wonder if Dr. John misses me as much as I miss him.  I'm pretty sure he does, because last October I got a post card from him for my birthday with a coupon for a free visit.  Surely that must mean something, doesn't it?  I don't think that he's sending preprinted birthday cards to all the girls.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Aspire with Intent

As I've stumbled my way through the New Year, sick and exhausted for the better part of it, I've been thinking.  My days have been, for the most part, compromised by my complete lack of energy, and in that stupor I have far too much time on my hands to sit idle.  My mind wanders and my thoughts run loose and undisciplined, not unlike two feral five year olds who also occupy this mountaintop. 

When I called my doctor last week for my blood test results she said I was right on the line to being admitted to the hospital.  Secretly, I hoped that she would admit me.  Even though I hate the hospital and all that it entails, by mid-week I would have considered puss faced nurses a welcomed relief to the ADHD antics of the feral duo.  In my mind I imagined laying in a bed with clean white sheets and complete silence.  Maybe then I thought, I would complete a single thought.  Or just sleep.  I imagined that I would choke down the bad food with a smile on my face and pretend I was in a country club for paid members only.  I imagined that I would forget all about the mountaintop, for just a day or two, and then come back feeling like my peppy self.

Instead, my doctor told me to come in next week for another blood test and to keep taking my medicine in the mean time.  Without saying so, she told me to  ride it out on the mountaintop with foggy thoughts and too much idle time on my hands while balancing feral five year olds.

Idle time........Time to think.  Time to do nothing.  Time to look out the window at all of the wonderfulness and beauty that surrounds us, even if the view is hazy right now, it is still so clear how happy we are.  I think about last year and its struggles and this coming year and our plans for it.  And it feels a little bit like the New Year is a new moon and the night sky has reset itself.  It feels like we made it over the hump and there is a new and exciting horizon. 

We've come to this place, our mountaintop, and we've overcome the most difficult parts of it.  We survived hauling water and living on top of each other.  Shared beds and no time alone.  No hot showers for months on end made public creek bathing a treat, even if we still do prefer to do it in private.  We've cut out a place up here that is ours and ours alone.  A place not intruded on by the outside world or the past.  Now ~ it's just us.  Just this time.  Just these moments.  Just our future.  Even if mountaintop lessons are hard, she faithfully and lovingly provides a soft place to fall. 

I think about our future and then I think about our dreams.  Gardens, canning, chicken coop, fencing, gravel, finishing My Mans office, a cord wood trial building, wood for next winter cut and split before the cold returns, and hot summer afternoons at the creek laughing and playing....a homesteader is never short on dreams.  I wonder if when spring comes it if will all still be so clear?  I wonder if the view will still be so beautiful and my drive so high?

I think about a blank wall in our bedroom that is impossible to do anything with because there is so much traffic by it.  And then I think about making it a cork board of everything we want to do this year.  A collage of ideas and plans.  A daily reminder of what our vision is.  A tangible manifestation of our goals and the source of inspiration to achieve them.  And then I think I should make it, and I should name it.......

Aspire with Intent.  And then I know that those three words are my words for this year.  And I think that we can make it happen.  I think that I can hold this beautiful view forever and that we can keep moving forward and making progress.  The mountaintop is a transforming place.  Its busy days lull into a clear night sky filled with sounds of distant animals, and late at night, after the house is asleep, I can sit outside and look upwards and see a million bright stars that all shine down and remind me that these are the best days of my life.  And if all of that isn't perfect enough - now I get to do it while listening to Into the Mystic, by Van Morrison, on our new iPod about five times in a row and on full volume while dreaming about my beautiful man and our love. 

And so this is the year of aspiring with intent, and just as soon as I'm feeling better I'm going to get out the paint and make that blank wall in our bedroom the source of our inspiration.

Kids Playing Prepper

It's a bright and sunny day up here on the mountaintop.  After weeks of rain and/or freezing cold temperatures, and being stuck inside the house, the kids were finally able to go outside and play.  Sassy asked if she could practice making a fire with her fire starter and that was all it took for all of the kids to breakout into a full on prepper skills practice day.

Alice packs filled with gear and MRE's were dug out from under beds, fires built, and then they raided the kitchen for food to cook.
And forts hidden in the woods were worked on.
Life on a remote mountaintop filled with lots of brothers and sisters is a beautiful thing......
The future site of the little peoples play area.  They received a swing set and playhouse for Christmas.  We still need to concrete in the swing set and the frame you see is for the playhouse to sit on.  The six and under crowd have dreams of a mini-village built just for them and their escape on warm summer days.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Well, Hello There, New BFF

There's not much to do while sick, except attempt to buffer out as much of the visual and auditory over-stimulation that two feral five year olds create while I sit on the couch and supposedly rest.  Or, first thing after waking, try to formulate coherent and fair resolutions for older kids who approach me with problems developed while I slept in and they navigated their morning parentless.  Other than those mental olympics, I've mainly sat around, or sat around and played online.  I posted more on facebook today alone than I have in the last three months combined. 

We were gifted an iPod touch and I've spent a considerable amount of time figuring it and all of its new wonderfulness out.  It seems that there is an entire world that we’ve been missing out on, and suddenly the doors to that world have swung wide and open. I’ve fought modern technology for years now, seeing it as a limited and brain killing device that does little more than waste time and close human beings off from one another. And now, and with embarrassment for my past scorn, I realize how very, very wrong I was.

Suddenly, there is a community of people, ideas, music, and educational material right at our fingertips. It feels like we just discovered the internet for the first time, and maybe everything that is on this little iPod is on the internet already, but I never knew it before. I’ve struggled my way through the internet for years, barely able to navigate my way through the most basic of tasks and so very impressed when I am actually capable of accomplishing one of them.
Maybe it’s because I’ve been sick and so I’ve had nothing else to do but sit and play with this little gadget, and so for once I spent some time learning what all is out in this new world that I have avoided for so long, but whatever it is....I'm kind of like a school girl in love for the first time.

Interactive and engaging sight words for the kids…check.  Math flashcards….check.  Foreign language practice…check. Coin collecting....check.  Astronomy charts...check.  Instagram….just discovered it and I am so in love.  Micro photo blogging…..oh, my! 

A simple search of “off-grid” and there are gritty pictures of real people’s ideas, and trials and errors, come to life in the palm of my hand. I feel like I've not only connected - I've found my own people.  This isn't the high gloss world of expensive urban homesteading based on buying new products.  These are regular Joe's who made the faithful and blind jump into an alternative existence and are sharing their journey. 

With the touch of a button our world is now limitless and filled with inspiring newness.  This little gadget is like a time machine that has transported me back over the last year of real life and re-awakened all of the newbie passions that I had before we moved up here to our mountaintopIt has made me so entirely aware that the mountaintop is my playground and it's time to start playing.  I can now hardly wait for spring to come and the starting of new projects.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Just Some Random Life Pics

Making sure the Rose doesn't cheat during a breath holding contest.
Brand spanking NEW shoes just a few days old....sigh.
Learning the hard way that you can't take a frozen can of Fix-a-flat from the frozen mobile and put it in the warm mobile to let it thaw....unless of course you want exploding fix-a-flat in your yuck!!  It smelled awful for days!
The view OF the couch.
Baby Man hears the chainsaw and can't help but to investigate and watch.
Columbus officiating over our last giveaway.
Feral five year olds stopped long enough in their antics for a photo.
Plumbing  And that is a virgin plunger....Baby Man just HAD to have it one day at Walmart...he LOVES plungers, so it's never been used, not that a person would ever plunge a humanure bucket!!

Blogger pictures is still not working, which obviously I found a way around...kind of...I'm not used to this way so it's kind of a mess, but there are pictures and that makes me happy.

It was freezing cold last night.  It has been raining and then the rain froze so our mountaintop looked like it was covered in a clear coat of ice....pretty amazing.  My Man went down the mountain today to get space heaters out of storage so that we don't freeze at night when the fire gets low.  Last night was terrible for me breathing in all of that cold air in...not good for getting better.  I hate to use them because they are not affordable, but when it gets this cold there just isn't much choice.  Temp at 4:30 p.m.?....35 with a windchill of 29....yikes...I hate the cold. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

My View From the Couch

Life as a sick person can be an eye opening experience.  I'm not used to being down and out for days at a time, but honestly, it gives a person a new view of the same old world.  At times it is a hazy world, but over all it's pretty euphoric, too.  I should add here that I did not fill the prescription for cough syrup with codeine in it...the pharmacy wanted $28.54 for that one, so I told them they could keep their overpriced cough syrup figuring it was only for my comfort and not for any actual curing function and therefore not necessary.  My only point to that is that my current meds are all of the non-narcotic family, so I know my euphoria is genuine and not drug induced.

So, I've spent the better part of three days sitting on our couch, and in that time I've watched five year olds that have been cooped up in the house for way too long bounce off the walls and older kids pull together to fill in where I've left off.  Dinners, they've been made in a team effort by all the kids.  Homemade pizza, chicken burritos, fried chicken and mashed potato's, cheeseburgers.  Even The Rose helps.  She is our official can opener.  Lord help the person in this house that opens a can of corn or tomato paste without giving that girl an opportunity at it first.  She diligently twists and turns the rusty crank on the can opener with everything she's got until she finally gets the darn can opened, and then she gets a pot and dumps the can, all smiles and satisfied.  And then I listen to her tell me yet again that I need to buy her a newer and better can opener.  It's funny to me, to listen to my six year old complain about kitchen appliances that need replacing.  She gets so serious, because to her - opening cans is serious business.  It's her (self appointed) job and she wants a job so that she can feel as much a contributor as anyone else.  She feels needed when we call for her......Rose!  Where is Rose? And then she comes running wanting to know what is going on.  I need you to open two cans of corn, one of us will say, and then she smiles and runs to the drawer with the can opener in it, goes to the cabinet with the corn, gets it all set up at the table and gets to work on the important and serious business of opening cans.  It's just too cute to watch, and to watch it from the couch instead of from in front of the stove is pretty sweet. 

From the couch I watch the better part of ten kids fall into place and take on the roles that are their known and familiar strengths.....they already know who does what....they know who will grate the cheese, make the sauce, roll the dough.  They already know who peels potatoes and who mashes them.  They know from helping and doing on all the days that I'm not sick.  We didn't teach them these things so that we could sit and watch.  We taught them these things so that they would know how to provide for themselves, and because little kids want to help, like The Rose, and if you let them they grow up feeling good about doing and helping and then they grow into bigger and bigger roles of helpfulness. 

Today, when My Man took me back to the doctor Columbus volunteered that when they were done with their school work he would get the other boys together and they would go cut wood for the fire because our supply was running low and it is getting cold again.  We didn't even have to ask him - he just knew.  He knew what needed to be done and he did it.  And the other boys didn't groan or argue about it because they know too. 

The girls watch Baby Man even though they would rather be something else.  They even took him to their room one night for a sleepover so that I could have a decent nights sleep.

This view from my couch, it is an amazing thing.  For three days I've sat and watched these children of ours pull together and do what needs to be done without grumbling or feeling sorry for themselves.  I've watched them show the kind of care and selflessness that is love, and in watching that I yet again see how very blessed we are.  So maybe there are moments that my view is obstructed by a half naked five year old bouncing from the couch to the ottoman, but I have hope for those two feral five year olds.  If we managed to tamed eight of our other kids, surly we should be able to tame those two.  Today, when I told one of them to stop bouncing for the millionth time he replied that I needed to get him a trampoline to bounce on.  I didn't say it, but I thought maybe I just shouldn't feed him so much so that he might have less energy! 

This whole post might be entirely random, even if I am not on narcotics I am feeling rather foggy and am typing this out against my better judgement.  It seems that connecting thoughts takes way more energy that I have right now, but its been a few days and so I wanted to post something.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

A Coincidence? I Think Not

So, several months ago my old doctor just up and left town with no forwarding contact information.  It came as a surprise to me that doctors could or would do something like that, but apparently they can and do.  I finally found a new doctor a couple of months ago. 

I've been sick with what I thought was a standard cold all week, but by Wednesday and Thursday I was feeling pretty run down.  Today when I woke up I knew right away that something wasn't right.  Before I even got out of bed I told My Man that I was going to call the doctor; and just that alone is unusual for me.  I'd rather suffer and let nature take its course than make the phone call, drive to town, sit and wait in the waiting room, then sit and wait in the exam room, then haul my butt to the pharmacy for drugs I don't want to take and where I have to sit and wait some more before I make the long voyage back up to our mountaintop.  It's like a day out of my life that I don't want to give up to go see the doctor.  Even more amazing than making that comment was that I actually did call my doctor.

The receptionist put me on hold several times and then finally gave me a time to come in.  I got cleaned up and headed for town and when I got to the office the door was locked.  I assumed that in my mental fog of not feeling well I must have got the time wrong, so I went to go back to the car to wait.  Before I got to the car the doctor popped her head out the front door and invited me in.  Her office is an old stone house - it's quaint and homey with its well worn dark hardwood floors and painted walls, and she was all smiles and acted like she has known me for years.  She didn't even have me sign in at the empty front desk in the waiting room with no lights on.  We just went right back to an exam room where I told her of my fatigue and tow curling cough that was showing no signs of getting better, but was in fact getting worse. 

She noticed that my shirt was from southern Oregon and asked me where I had got it from, and when I told her that I had got it in southern Oregon, that we were from there - she smiled big and said that she was from there, too.

We talked about the towns and the things to do in them, the mountains (real mountains, not the foothills that Tennesseans mistake as mountains), and the people we had left back home.  She mentioned her favorite park and I told her that is where My Man and I got married.  She wanted to know the exact spot in the park that we had our ceremony, and when I told her she said that it was one of her most favorite spots and she bet I had beautiful wedding pictures because it was so pretty there. 

We talked and talked and she made me feel just a little bit closer to home.  I reached out and touched her on the leg several times even, and I never touch people like that.  There was comfort in our shared and familiar memories, and honestly, I could have sat there with her all day reminiscing about southern Oregon.  Tennessee is so different than Oregon, and most notably is the difference in people.  Six years into our new state and we still feel a little like strangers in a strange land.  At this point I just think that we will always suffer from a bit of culture shock.  But today, there were a few brief moments that I felt normal and like I was with my own kind.

We could have, sat there and talked all day, because the office was closed.  She told me that she was just there updating her charts and she knew that if I called I must be really sick and need to be seen.  She even argued with her receptionist who told her that I could wait till Monday.  Aside from our mutual love of Oregon, I was in a state of disbelief that she actually cared enough to see me even when her office was officially closed.  Doctors, in my experience, just don't do things like that anymore. 

This doctor was a bit of a pain to get into and I had to jump through a few hoops, and so I almost didn't do it.  I almost thought she was just a little too big for her britches and just walked away and went to a different doctor, but now I'm so glad that I stuck it out.  When I was going through the process of being accepted as a patient I told My Man that she was either going to be the best doctor ever or just a complete Queen that I couldn't stand, and honestly, I was really afraid that it was going to be the latter of the two.  I'm happy to admit that I was so wrong, and now I'm not so sure that it is a complete coincidence that she is my doctor - sometimes, most times, I think that when things like this happen that they were meant to happen for a reason.

So, she decided that I have pheumonia.  She had me drop my drawers for a super shot of drugs to get me on the road to recovery, gave me an inhaler, and then she got out her handy dandy prescription pad and wrote me out a few pages of little chicken scratches to take to the pharmacy.  Normally, I'd fight the drugs because I hate to take them, but I felt so bad that if she had told me to drink monkey piss on ice with a dash of donkey turds to feel better - I would have.  My weekend is now all mapped out with me sitting and steering our ship from a semi reclined position, which isn't always the best position to be in when it comes to wrangling wild five year olds, but I don't have laryngitis, so I should manage just fine. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

From Scratch

A new e-zine that looks worth checking can find them on facebook here, or check out their magazine site here.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Pictureless Wednesday

It's a slow grey and rainy day up here on the mountaintop.  Reminds me of Oregon.  Rain and grey that lasted for weeks on end are one of the things about Oregon that I don't miss.  At least there was no mud there.  We had blacktop roads and cement sidewalks.  The ground here is barely dried from our last rain and so it is especially muddy today.  Slick and dangerous, but warm enough that at least I don't have to risk falling in it to go fill the wood stove. 

Off in the kitchen I can hear a stampede of the six and under crowd playing a made up game that involves tossing fresh oranges and corrupting the one and a half year old in the wicked ways of naked five year olds.  He watches them and I can see the wheels spinning in his head as though he is taking notes on what works and what doesn't.  How far something can be taken before its gone too far. 

I should stop them, from tossing the oranges, but there are only minutes left until lunch is over and science and history start.  Besides, the oranges will be juiced, or eaten by them, anyway.  Maybe naked five year olds prefer bruised fruit? 

The house smells of baked chicken and turkey breast made for lunches, and a mammoth lasagna that awaits its turn in the oven for dinner.  The lasagna is our traditional Halloween lasagna that never got made back in October, but that I've heard about for the last three months.  They forget that October was busy and I never knew they cared about the lasagna so much at all.  I should have got some pumpkins for them to carve tonight after dinner so that they got the whole tradition...I would have if I would have thought of it.  That would have made them laugh if nothing else.

I laughed at myself the other night when we were in Tractor Supply and I saw that they had started displaying seeds and Burpee starting sets.  Instead of scoffing at the early push for a new season like I do with the push for the next holiday - I went looking for more signs of spring.  Just seeing seeds made me smell fresh dirt and feel the warmth of the sun on my bare arms. 

Blogger wouldn't let me post pictures yesterday and so I thought that for sure they would have the problem fixed today, but nope.  I had another post in mind, but without pictures it wouldn't work, so this is my pictureless Wednesday ramblings post:)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

What the Rest of Life Looks Like.....

So, I'm on day two of the rest of my life and you may, or may not, have wondered what changes I have made?

For starters, I switched from my long held once a month grocery shopping schedule to a once a week plan.  Once a month grocery shopping is supposed to save you money.  On paper it means less trips to the store, which is less gas money, less time, and less buying opportunity.  That all makes sense IF you can plan a months worth of meals at a time.  I can plan a months worth of meals at a time, but I never do.  Instead, I go to the store and buy a case of this and a case of that and figure I'm covered for a month. 

We never ran out of food, but since food costs keep rising I could see where my approach was no longer working and it was getting harder and harder to make my food budget last a whole month.  I tried to make myself plan a whole months worth of meals for the last two months and neither month worked.  Planning that far in advance was daunting and left me feeling like there was no culinary spontaneity in our life.  Once I admitted that was my problem it was easy to see that switching to once a week planning and shopping was far more manageable, and I hope frugal.  Last night was my first night for my new meal planning strategy, so we'll see how it goes, and most importantly - how much I can save.

While Columbus, Einstein and I were out hunting and gathering for food last night we stopped by Tractor Supply and picked up some more laundry line and hooks so that I can start hanging clothes to dry in the wood shed where we keep our wood stove.  I fell out of the habit of hanging clothes when winter came, and now even when we have nice enough days I still don't hang dry our clothes.  It's a mindset thing, and a self-discipline thing, and since we have a dryer it's easy to use it, but that wasn't the entire point of moving to the mountaintop - the point of moving up here was to become self-sufficient.  I'm not going to give up all of my modern day conveniences, but I want to rely on the grid and system as little as (comfortably) possible. 

We also picked up vitamins and plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables to juice.  Now, I'm not a juicer.  I've in fact never juiced before in my life, but My Man and a few of the kids have.  I wasn't interested in juicing because it sounded a little too healthy to me, like if I drank the juice my body might go into shock from all the fresh goodness.  It wasn't that I didn't want to be more healthy - it was that I didn't want to change my habits or drink some nasty concoction. 

I juiced for the first time ever today - I didn't go into shock, but it was kind of nasty tasting, just like I thought it would be.  Maybe I'll find a better juicing recipe (honestly, I didn't even make the juice today, Columbus did), so maybe I'll get him to find a better recipe (lol).  Still, I'm committed.  I want to feel better and I want to have more energy - who can ever have enough of that?

Next up - schedules.  We are officially off of holiday break and so we set the alarm and started our school schedule again.  I tightened down on the kitchen and there are three meal times and a designated afternoon snack time, but other than that the parade of people grazing their way through the day has come to an end.  Hopefully that means better nutrition for them and less mess for the kitchen cleaning crew.

There's more, but I want to take things slow and give new changes time to become habit.  I want to find just the right spot for all twelve of us to feel balanced - that's a tall order, but it's here on our mountaintop....I jut know it.

Larger Family Life Guest Post

I wrote a guest post about large families living in small houses for Larger Family Life - you can go check it out here.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Well, Hello There, First Monday Morning of 2013

I know that I said in this post that I don't normally make New Years resolutions, but this year is an exception for me.  It's not so much about a new year as it is about a fresh start.  I feel like our lives have gotten a bit out of control.  It seems that we've been so busy adjusting to mountaintop life, making our second tin turd into a home, and juggling all the other demands of a large family, and life in general, that we've lost our focus.  Most days it seems like we go from putting one fire out, to recovering from our firefighting efforts, to the next fire, and that leaves me feeling like life is living us instead of us living it. 

I'm ready to take my responsibility in that and do my best to get things under control.  At some point I've got to accept that the best I can hope for is controlled chaos, but that doesn't mean that I have to settle for utter chaos.  It's so easy to let life take over and make excuses for why I'm not being and living who I want to be.  Survival mode has become comfortable and known, and a crutch that lets me hobble along making enough forward steps to look busy, but not enough to get to where I want to go.

I always struggle with my dreams because they don't just include me.  I've got eleven other people coming along for the ride, and it's not always easy to provide enough motivation for myself and them.  Most days I feel just managing the kids and keeping them on task is a job in and of itself.  Don't get me wrong - I'm not complaining about them.  They are not a burden and I don't feel underappreciated.  Exactly the opposite - my family is my bliss and it is a rare, rare day that I ever feel unappreciated.  But that doesn't mean that I don't feel like I get lost in their care. 

I've spent most of my adult life popping out a baby every other year, sometimes two at a time, wiping noses and butts, cleaning up one mess or another, teaching them how to do simple things like wash their hands and brush their teeth, or how to co-exist with each other, and I've done most of it lactating and sleep deprived.  In between the logistics of parenting I've eked out a few rare and brief periods of time for myself, and I've had the joy of watching all of their firsts.  I've seen the world over and over again, for the first time, through their eyes.  A first step, or word, or smile.  The first time they said I love you, and the first time they said it and understood what it really meant.  I was there the first time they read, spelled, and figured out what two plus two equaled. 

Those years have whizzed by, and now here we are, after a couple of rough years, up on our mountaintop....and it just finally feels like the time is now to reclaim the order and structure that we lost along the way.  A dear friend of mine told me, in not these exact words, that 40 was mine and that I owned it - this time in my life, this season of getting older and accepting who I am and not caring what other people thought so much, and I'm feeling what she said.  I'm feeling like this is going to be a great year for us and that we can have the life that we want if we make our best effort to create it, and this Monday morning - it is the first day of the rest of my life and I'm going to start now.......

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Restructured Meat Technology

McDonald's McRib Back for Christmas (ABC News)
So, I'm sick with a cold.  Yesterday I spent pretty much all day in bed sleeping off the fever, which is really saying something, because normally I couldn't spend most of a day in bed even if I wanted to.  Today I am up and about, but I figure between taking a shower and making dinner my limited energy is accounted for.  None of that is post inspiring, but I was thinking about something the kids and I stumbled onto the other day while surfing the net together, don't ask me how we ended up where we did, because I could begin to tell you.

Enter the McRib and "restructured meat."  If you are one of the many people who apparently enjoy the McRib and its special limited appearances at McDonald's - you may or may not want to read what follows.  It just depends on if you have a problem with eating "restructured meat" or not. 

The McRib was introduced to McDonald's menu between 1981 and 1982, depending on the McDonald's.  It was developed by McDonald's first executive chef (not a term I would pick for a McDonald's menu item developer, but I wasn't consulted for the article), Rene Arend, to fill the void that the popularity of Chicken McNuggets had left.  It appears that the Chicken McNuggets, also developed by Arend, were such a hit that they depleted our chicken supply.  Not wanting to leave customers hungry and unhappy, Arend was given the task to develop a new hot selling menu item. 

Enter the McRib.  The McRib isn't actually made of out ribs, but out of restructured meat products:  "restructured meat product" contains a mixture of tripe, heart, and scalded stomach, which is then mixed with salt and water to extract proteins from the muscle. The proteins bind all the pork trimmings together so that it can be re-molded into any specific shape — in this case, a fake slab of ribs."

"The McRib is made in large processing plants—lots of stainless steel, a number of production lines, and these long cryogenic freezers. The pork meat is chopped up, then seasoned, then formed into that shape that looks like a rib back. Then we flash-freeze it. The whole process from fresh pork to frozen McRib takes about 45 minutes."

Even though the McRib is made by McDonald's and we don't think very highly of their food, we were still surprised to discover that the McRib is just another concoction of meats, or meat by-products rather, that I generally think they scraped up off the slaughter house floor and found a disgusting, albeit creative, use for.  I guess that even I was gullible in believing that since they looked like ribs - they actually were, or at the very least had some rib meat in them.

I find stories like this disturbing, and I wonder how many people realize what they are actually eating.  I knew about "pink slime" for years before public school parents across the country started complaining about it as though it was all new news to them, and I'm generally the last to know anything.  But I will admit that we have an odd fascination with food up here on the mountaintop, so maybe we pay more attention to these kinds of stories than the average Joe. 

If you would like to read the full article on the McRib, which I would recommend because it goes into far more and interesting depth than I did, it can be found here.  And if you're bored on this Sunday afternoon and haven't seen it - I would also recommend a viewing of Food, Inc..  Food, Inc. is a documentary, but it is fast paced and riveting, and it will leave you wanting to watch it again and again - at least it does me.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Mountaintop Water

I don't know what has changed with our water system, but it has become very problematic that last month or so.  We've had the same system in place for months, but since we've moved to the new mobile and have the plumbing hooked up it seems to be having fits.

Aside from the fact that we just burnt up two power supplies to our pump, the hose filters, in everything, keep getting clogged.  I imagine that it is those very clogs that started our problems with the power supplies.  We had reached a point that we were having to unclog the hoses to the water pump multiple times a day.  Our water pressure would drop to nothing and once the filters were cleaned water would once again flow. 

We thought that a simple enough solution to this problem would be a whole house water filter.  We bought one, attached it the water system between the 55 gallon barrels and the water pump, so that the water entering the pump would be clean.  In theory this idea was great and solved everything, in practice it diminished our water pressure so much it wasn't practical to keep the filter on.  It was at that point, in frustration, that we removed the filter in the hose going into the water pump. 

In practice that solution was good, for a time.  We had great water pressure and no longer had to clean the filter multiple times a day, but I think that overtime all of the debris that the filter would have caught entered our pump and damaged it causing it to not function properly and then burn up the power supplies. 

Since we bought a new pump we obviously left the filter on to avoid repeating this expensive problem.  So far we are not having to clean the filters to the pump multiple times a day, but the washing machine is not functioning properly.  It doesn't finish its cycle without having to be restarted several times, or if it does finish its cycle it doesn't get all of the water out of the clothes, so the drain and spin cycle has to be manually restarted, and even then the clothes don't come out as dry as they used to.  The machine keeps stopping mid cycle and we have to remove a hose, clean the filter and then re-start it. 

It appears that our water is dirty, and that over time that dirt builds up in the filters and causes problems.  Even if our water pump filters are fine now, I have no doubt that it is only a matter of time before they start giving us problems again.  There is a strainer that we can get to help filter the water, but we have yet to get one and try it out - that is next on our list of trouble shooting the water issue.  I also think that it is time to break down and start adding a little bleach to the 55 gallon barrels to see if that helps eliminate some of these problems.

Its been an interesting process to go through these different phases of water and deal with the results.  We have a 500 gallon tank, a pump that we think will work, and most of what we need to get it all working, but we opted to wait till spring/summer to install it, simply because there are always a million things to do, and spend money on around here, setting in all up wouldn't be much fun in winter, and there will no doubt be unforeseen issues that will come up, and since we had running water our needs were met and so we decided to focus on other projects. 

In hindsight I wonder if it was the right choice to wait, but I know that we made the best choice possible with the information we had at the time.  We had no way of knowing that overtime new problems would develop.  In the meantime it is rather frustrating to deal with, but I hope that if we keep trying new solutions we can find one to work.  I was reading something online about water the other day, and something I had stumbled upon said that the average person uses 150 gallons of water a day!  If I knew that little piece of trivia I had forgot it, so it really amazed me to see it knowing that we, as a family of 12, use just under 220 gallons a day!

I have an idea for an old fashioned top loading washing machine and rain water caught off of our mobile, but now that we are having all of these issues with dirty water I'm not so sure if it will work not, but I would like to figure out a way to do more laundry.  As it is right now I can only wash about 2 loads a day, some days I might be able to do 3 loads, depending on our other water needs, but in reality I need to do 4 to 5 loads a day, everyday, to actually be washing everything - like towels and bedding.

Speaking of water - we went to a hotel yesterday.  We went more for the boys to be able to watch the Ducks play in the Rose Bowl, but you know that if hot showers were involved we would have been enticed with or without football being involved.  I'm pretty sure that any water conserving I had credit for - I no longer have.  I think I was in the shower for a good 30 minutes, or however long it takes to turn pink and red and feel like you are going to pass 

So, there's the water update, for those of you interested, and for our own personal notes :)

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Random Pictures From Christmas & Life

The Rose awaiting a Christmas surprise.

Coins, coins, coins....Einstein inventorying his collection
into new computer software.

My talented Columbus made me a goat milk stand for Christmas - and he did it
without me knowing!

The "one-eyed goat" she is recovering well so far, other than she walks
with her head tilted to the side a little.

Since My Man took the blower off the furnace to fix the wood stove I figured we no longer needed the furnace.  Columbus removed the furnace for me.

Look at all of that space!

New shelves where the furnace used to be.  Columbus did the shelves and My Man put in an outlet so that we have a safe (from little people) place to charge electronics.

A five year old working his blue-eyed magic on me.

The road in front of our house is getting really bad.  My Man has been calling the owner for months now trying to get them to come fix it.

I finally took pictures to send certified mail to try and motivate them, but I didn't even have to send them - they called the next day to say they are going to fix lets just hope that they do it quickly!

Boys taking a day off from work.

A Goodwill find - $1.99 for the set, but what is wonderful is that they are huge so we won't have to refill them every week, not to mention that they remind me of my favorite Aunt.

I'm so in love with my new measuring cup that My Man got me for our anniversary.  The measurements are nice and big - so I can read them, and it measures cups, ounces, tea & tablespoons, ML/CCM, and pints!!!

Baby Man helping his daddy after they traded