Category Archives: Family!

Me, the man, and the prince and princess!

New Dream: Slum Lording.

I had never spent much time wishing to be a slum lord. Actually, no time would be more accurate. That is until 4 days ago. I saw an apartment building on “the strip” of my town listed for $75K. 3 units- each 3 bedrooms, about 1000 square feet with off street parking and walk out basements. Two units are currently rented for $750 a month and one unit was just sitting there empty, waiting for my family to move in! I am going to be a building manager, people!!! The best land lord this side of some river. I’m picking out paint colors and planning to refinish hardwood floors. THEN, the Quicken man just shot me down. That was harsh (and very short lived…)! Just as I was firming up my (mental) plans, they ground to halt. Apparently, 3 bedroom apartment buildings are classified as “investment properties” and do not therefore qualify for the first time home buyer program. I erroneously assumed that if I was going to live in one of the units for the minimum required length of time (one year), that it would qualify. I actually had let myself slip down the rabbit hole far enough to plan to change the building rules to exclude the use of the backyard. That way, at the end of the 12 months, I could build my tiny home in the backyard and rent out all three units. Solid plan. Shot down. Bumming. People seem able to take my ideas away from me as soon as I generate then. This could get me down, yes it could. I could actually sink into a deep depression and need medication. Thankfully, I am like the unsinkable Molly Brown. I’m like cream, always rise to the top. One chapter ends, I write another. Novel ends, I turn it into a series. Yes, with in moments I came up with plan 1,658. By a camper of course! Duh!!! Just buy a camper! I swear I heard the angels sing (more likely the lazy drone of fall insects, but whatever). I think, lets buy a gutted camper (read- super cheap) and rebuild it like those ones in the blogs I read. So I haul the husband and children an hour away to look at one. No go. The hubs cannot see my vision. Undaunted, I find another craigslist ad and put my kids back in the car and head an hour in the opposite direction. This time, I can generate no vision for this terribly overpriced and rotted out caravan. My three year old told the owner that his camper was not pretty. It was that bad, even a three year old could tell. Again, I could allow myself to succumb to the crushing disappointment. But, undaunted I press on!!! One more ad. This time only 20 minutes away. Buckle in my kids, who no longer ever want to see a camper let alone live in one. They refuse to even go in this one. On the other hand, my husband and I just looked in the door and we just know. We just know that this is the one. I don’t even need to go inside, I don’t need to ask any questions. It was love at first sight. I love it like I loved my Mallard. My husband loves it more that the Mallard. We bought it. That was step one. Step two: Figure out how in the world to transport this 36′ long hunk of awesome. Step 3: Find a place to transport it to. Step 4: Build bunk beds in it for the kids and install a wood stove. If you want to ask me what my plan is, I say, “Slow down! One step at a time! Sheesh, everyone is always in such a hurry!”
PS. I assure you that the irony is not lost on me. In the span of 4 days, I was going to be a slum lord and went to look at a 3000 square foot “investment property”. I then planned to renovate a gutted camper into an awesome off grid, rain collecting, eco trailer. After discarding that vision, I went an bought an enormous, beautiful, gorgeous, amazing 288 square foot pent house! Again, I say, just be patient. If you aren’t living one of your dream lives today, just go to sleep. Dream something different. If that doesn’t pan out, take a nap. If you generate dreams relentlessly, you are bound to end up living your dreams over and over again. Don’t get hung up on one dream. That could be foolish and result in the need for medication. Keep dreaming people. Keep dreaming.

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The Price of Education

Don’t worry, I have no intentions of spouting forth ill-informed pro’s and con’s of higher education!  No, I do not! However, I AM going to tackle a chronic situation many of us have created in our own homes and family circles by the sharing of truths and ideals with our young children.  Picture this true scenario that played out at my local grocery store:

“We need olive oil, let’s go grab some oil and then we can head to the pet shop.  Come on kids, lets go!” says mom.  With many happy hops and jumps and carts driven without valid licenses we make our way to the impressive array of olive oil choices.  I have an agenda as usual.  To save money for a family vacation in this lifetime!  I turn to the big value cans of oil from my early 20’s, this is going to save me so much money!!!  I reach for one labelled as extra virgin with an Italian flag printed on the can.  Its on sale for $10.99, that includes the entire can, a vat you could say, full of evoo!!! My husband shifts his feet uncomfortably, my kids are dreamily examining bags of mini marshmallows.  I hesitate as I reached for the cart, noticing the look on his face.  “What?” I ask impatiently.  “It’s extra virgin, and it’s on sale!” A long pause….. “Is it cold-pressed?” the husband inquires.  “I don’t know, it’s extra virgin 100% pure olive oil.  That is what it says on the can.” I reply.  He takes the can from me.  I know I have lost so my gaze switches to the glass bottle selection, scanning for sale flags.  “This is actually refined oil and olive oil.  That’s what the ingredient list says.  That means it is chemically refined and produced.  They use…” he begins.  I cut him off, “I know what that means. How about that one?”  Jadon has now noticed the conversation and he walks over and picks up the exact bottle of olive oil that we buy every time.  He says, “Can we just get the regular olive oil, mom?”  Cynthia trots over and looks around at the oil and grabs another of the same.  She says, “Can we get the regular kind, mom?”  I sigh, “I was just hoping to save some money.  How do we all feel about organic versus non-organic?”  Jadon looks uncomfortable for a minute, “I prefer organic, but I don’t want to tell you to spend every dollar you have….. Let’s just get the cheaper one.”  Cynthia says, “Let’s get the regular oil, mom.  This one.”  We bought the regular.  

Why you ask, why blog about this?  Well, this was our last stop in the grocery store.  We had to go through the same frustrating dilemma at each step of the way.  From apples to pasta to canned tomatoes to oil.  Did we save any money, absolutely! But not today.  In health care for sure, but what does this have to do with the cost of education???  We have spent countless hours educating ourselves on the production of food. We have debated, vacillated, and yes, even anguished over food.  We have explained our choices to ourselves and to our children.  Why?  Because our kids want a burger at McDonald’s just like other kids.  They want soda and ice cream and cupcakes with sprinkles on them, individual pudding cups…  I have not found anyway to explain to them why we say no other than to teach them.  I educated myself about GMO’s and transfats and feedlot meats and pesticides and herbicides, and yup, you guessed it. They were there. They hear me think out loud, they watch the documentaries. They now have opinions. If you choose to educate yourself and your family, prepare to get called out when you are short on grocery money and trying to take a shortcut.

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Night Light Philosophy.

Every night, when the lights go out (and sometimes before) I begin to hear little noises…. And see shadows darting by. Yes. I have mice. Not the pet kind that strange people PAY for at the pet store. Wild ones. They come from unknown lands. And they scamper about, resisting the urge to investigate dabs of peanut butter I casually leave out. Gift offerings we will call them. Thank you gifts perhaps. “Thank you for romping around my 200 year old house, carrying on a timeless tradition.” What is the solution??? Snap traps, don’t work. Live traps, empty. Boxer on standby, I think they have an arrangement of some sort. Dryer sheets under the stove, I think they use them to do their own laundry. Get a cat? Ummm, another dirty critter romping about my house? Pooping in a box and creating fur babies and hair balls??? No. That was a loud NO!!! I have been contemplating ordering that survival sling shot I’ve been wanting for a long time. Fear that I will bean myself as the pellet ricochets off the front of my oven stops me everytime, seems risky to life and limb. It is time to get downright creative. They just might be livestock. We eat mostly organic foods, our dog eats overpriced wild bison and sweet potatoes, and they also enjoy a selection of seeds and grains in our pigeon food. Although my family thinks my talking about wood chucks and raccoons with a culinary slant is strange, according to my research they are traditional table toppers, not to mention hats, scarves, coats, and decorations. I like meat. Mice are made of meat. Seems logical to suppose I am doing a great job as a mouse rancher. And baby, its round up time!!! I have been doing some preliminary research, looking up recipes and the like, and I am not the only person who looks at them as a food source. Check out this well written piece: http://www.seriouseats.com/2008/03/eating-mice-can-be-rather-nice.html On the other hand, with a 9 year old boy who eats eggs by the half dozen only to start looking for more, how many mice would it take to make a meal??? This conversation has come full circle for me now. I can see no practical value at this time in mouse ranching, or would it be mice ranching…. Hmmmm, sounds weird. It is time for a bit of night light philosophizing. My favorite time of night. Have you ever read the book Feldman Fieldmouse by Nathaniel Benchley and Hilary Knight? It is unfortunately out of print but you can pick up a copy on amazon for pennies. It is an awesome story. Feldman is a mouse of dreams, he dreams of organizing a huge mass of mice to join together in the light of the full moon to dance with wild abandon. He and his nephew Fendell pull it off. Feldman unfortunately is eaten during his dancing delirium, but you may get swept up in the moment like my kids and I did and find it terribly romantic and exciting. You may never look at mice the same again, especially in the light of the full moon, or during a bit of night light philosophizing! Really, when you boil it all down, kids are messy, dogs are messy, and the mice are by nature obsessive cleaners (think Cinderella, duh!). They are doing me a favor. Thank you mice.

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Life Recapped.

DSCF2177In the flurry of recent changes, I haven’t taken much time for tea with The Earl of late. Change is good, but change is overwhelming too. In the matter of a few months, we have turned our schedules and priorities on their heads. Turned them upside down. Made a one eighty. Tossed convention out the door. Made some bold moves. Ok!!! You get the point, right? Over the summer, we decided to work harder to get out of debt faster than the minimum payments will allow. As a homeschooling family on a single income, we just don’t have that much wiggle room in the ole budget to pay down much of anything. So, my husband picked up some side work to add to the 6 days he already works regularly. He works 6:30 to 3:00 at his day job Monday to Friday and then 6 or 7 hours on Sunday afternoon. Add to that washing the windows at our local hospital and all their associated buildings, filling in for a friend cleaning a school at night, and stripping and rewaxing a floor. We sold some things too. All told, many weeks he worked about 80 hours. We saw him for maybe half an hour or an hour a day. I did not choose to meet The Earl to chat during all these shenanigans. I chose to aim for survival and we did just that. During this time of upheaval and stress, I participated in an E-course on downsizing. We did greatly reduce our possessions, although we have more layers to peel back and clean up. Throughout this time of horror, my children and I thought we would die without our guy around. It was truly horrible. With the big window job finally done, sitting at the table staring at our finances with that big fat paycheck in hand, all I could think of was how can I buy my husbands time back for myself and our children??? In the end, we did reduce our debt, but we stashed part of that money. And we bought him back. Yes, you read that right. We bought him back. This is our first week having him back, and while it is an adjustment, it is an awesome one. I began the downsizing course desperate for a tiny house of my own and ended it buying my husbands time and energy back instead. He is still working 6 days a week. But now he leaves at 5pm and gets home around 11pm most days. He brought me coffee in bed this morning. He helped our son with his reading today. He helped him begin building a wooden box to hold his treasures. He made our daughter breakfast and showed her how to plane wood. And debt? Whatever. It will get paid in time. Some extra work now and then will be ok. Not sure that the extra money will go right to the debt though. Maybe it will buy a piece of land. Maybe it will take us on an adventure. Who knows. I do know for certain that time is the most precious thing we have right now. Time with our children while they are here in our care. We can never buy that back. In the end, I am learning to downsize future regrets and to supersize life where ever we end up. Stay tuned. I’m just getting started.

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Jadon

My son, he is my heart and soul. We may bicker, we may not get along, but we certainly belong to, with, and for each other. We have struggled and battled back and forth these past six and a half years, it has at times felt incredibly painful. And yet, he is my love child, he is my healer, my firstborn. He has often felt a bit like a science experiment! I remember vividly the first time I laid my eyes on him. I was smitten by this veritable ball of speed and energy. He didn’t say much but you could see him light up brilliantly every time you gave him your focus. He came with me, no questions asked. No answers required. He just took it as it came. And he never looked back. He was mine from that day although it took many months for me to be ready to own it. We flew home with this boy we didn’t know and he never cried, not even once. He held me, slept in my arms for hours, giggled and played and entertained people sitting around us. Then we got home and had to face the fact that we had no earthly idea what to do with this bright beam of light. And it feels like we are still flying by the seat of our pants. What do fifteen month old babies need? What do they eat? What toys should they have? What games should they play? Music? Types of beverages? Hotdogs ended up being his go to food group! This tiny man was such a mystery, a puzzle to be figured. He never cried, but he screamed. He had no boundaries, but needed them. He didn’t do “baby talk”, but he didn’t speak. He never climbed out of his crib. He never climbed over a baby gate. He was always in my arms but never really affectionate. So, we took parenting classes, complete with videos shot in the eighties! We answered every question he asked, never stifle curiosity you know. He was really an easy baby. He slept most of the day and night, was rarely sick, ate like a champ, and never cried. What more could a person ask for? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Now at almost eight, he is a force to be reckoned with. He is hilarious, I have no idea where he gets his material but he is a riot. He is brilliant, very energetic, and still wants to sit on my lap! And he is still so entangled within my soul that I stay up for hours trying to figure out where he begins and I end. I have a sneaky suspicion that I may be very old and grey before I solve that one!

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Living My Dream Life… For Real!

After a few moments of solitude, I have concluded that I am living one of my dream lives.  I have had several different dream lives, I am not sure which I would have “picked” if given 3 wishes.  It probably would have depended on the year combined with the month!  Dreams can be a bit vague, a bit short on details, and they don’t always show you what circumstances will get you into the dream reality.  8 years ago, I was on a path toward world travel and missionary service.  My husband and I were busy all the time, working hard and saving money to go to India for two months.  One day, seemingly out of the blue, we got a call from my then teenage sister in law telling us that she was pregnant.  I said to my husband these exact words (I have no idea why), “That baby should be mine.”  Then we we continued working and saving and we went on that trip to India.  We came back stoked on travelling more, once I recovered from dysentery of course.  We were once again working and saving, this time for a 6 month trip with friends to India and Egypt.  And right before I headed off to work one afternoon I answered the phone.  That phone call asked us to quickly jump a plane to CA to pick up our 15 month old nephew and “baby sit” him while his parents cleaned up their lives.  Without a second thought I said of course we would, and bam! That baby that should have been mine, became mine!  Within days we were arriving back in Boston with our bundle of joy strapped into a borrowed car seat.  And the rest is a dream come true.  I think I completely lost track of where I was going with this.  I did have a dream years ago about having kids and being an amazing mom, my kids would be incredibly awesome (as all hypothetical kids are!).  It wasn’t the dream we settled on or pursued but it was there none the less.  I have always dreamed of being a farmer.  That is one dream that has never changed for me.  I am sitting here, listening to the birds in my back yard singing their babies to sleep, watching a woodchuck fill up on my hosta’s, and pondering on how I got to this place.  I have my ever faithful pot of earl grey steeping quietly at my side, and my kids are spending the evening away with Daddy while I have a date with solitude, earl grey, and cabbage leaves.  If you read my last post you will know why I’m sitting here with cabbage leaves and ice packs pondering the mysteries of life.  My life isn’t easy, my life is messy and complicated just like yours is.  But I am in fact living my dreams.  I did dream of having kids, I did plan to homeschool my hypothetical kids in the country, and I did dream of farming.  I don’t think I have ever dreamed of woodchucks before though!  Kids: check.  I’ve got 2!  Homeschool: check.  This is the end of my third year of homeschooling my miracle boy!  Farm: check.  I have 2 pigeons, 3 ducks, 9 raised beds, 2 strawberry plants, and 5 blueberry bushes!  In my raised beds right at this very moment I have little plants growing!  Radishes, beets, red and yellow onions, peas, beans, kohlrabi, fennel, broccoli raab, golden ball turnips, rutabaga’s, purple top turnips, baby greens, spinach, carrots, parsnips, swiss chard, tomatoes, kale, and hot pepper’s!  Inside I have little cucumber, okra, and squash plants waiting to go outside to play.  I had a delicious duck egg for dinner, laid by my very own Appleyard duck.  It may be small, but it feels like a farm to me.  Each morning as soon as I open my door, my ducks start clamoring for breakfast.  My kids and I don our rubber boots and head out to take care of the farm chores.  How many people get 3 of their dreams to come true by their mid – 30’s?  I’m going to have to assume that I am leading a charmed life!  I imagine that more of my dreams will come true as well, like dairy goats, stately geese, meat chickens, heritage hogs, adorable tiny quail…….  The skies the limit! 

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You Are Who You Are!

We all know we are what we eat, so what is this you are who you are???  My daughter, Princess Piper, has shown me without any doubt that we are born the person we are going to be.  Since she first began to toddle about she has had a keen sense of fashion, going through her rack of pretty frocks with delight.  The first time I took her shopping, I was pushing her in the cart between clothing racks and she reached her tiny hands out with absolute glee to touch the passing clothes!  The look on her face was so foreign to me, that I pushed her back and forth a few times just to watch her blissful expression.  I should say, her response to the clothing was so foreign to me, I do not think I can ever look at clothes the same way again!  The first time I ventured into baby Gap with her, she was in heaven.  She picked blueberry colored skinny jeans and a matching blueberry sweater.  She slapped a pink Gap baseball cap on her head, backwards of course, and crammed her feet into some pink sandals.  She was a vision in blueberry.  I tried to sway her choice, even a sales lady brought her some other colors to try to break up the blueberry.  It was all to no avail, she would not even consider anything else.  She had made her choice.  She refused to relinquish any of the items even long enough to pay.  She walked out of the store in that outfit.  She wore her blueberry skinny pants (as she calls them) today and cried profusely when forced to take them off at bedtime.  The tears slowly stopped when she was promised she could put them back on in the morning.  This was a very different reaction to an outfit from the outburst of this morning.  I pulled a cute little green corduroy jumper over her head and she immediately started shrieking at me.  “It not pretty mama!  I don’t yike it, take it off!  It not pretty!!!”  This was repeated over and over until I got it back off of her and asked her to select her own outfit.  A purple top and purple leggings of course.  I find Princess Piper so fascinating, she has such a mind of her own, such bull headed determination. But her obsession with pretty clothes is beyond me.  I am an ongoing episode of what not to wear, I hate shopping for clothes.  I have a strange affinity for old wool sweaters and Gap jeans, and I love green.  I just wear what ever is closest to the top of my drawer.  And I wear them till they die.  And that can take years.  I was flipping through Prince Piper’s baby book and noticed that I was wearing the same shirt that I wore 5 years ago to our adoption proceeding!  So where did my daughters passion for fashion come from???  Pretty sure it didn’t come from me, and I am pretty sure she is going to cost a lot to clothe as she grows up!  Back to you are who you are, I was born with a passion for paper.  My mom has a picture of me surrounded by acres of unrolled adding machine paper and the look on my face pretty much guaranteed that I would end up surrounded by reams of paper.  And I am, I love it.  All kinds, fancy paper, tissue paper, card stock, scrap booking paper, construction paper, printer paper, graph paper, sketch books, pastel paper, water color paper, different weights of drawing paper, scrap paper, cardboard, paper bags, origami paper, kite paper, so much paper.  I am unapologetic, I am a paper lover.  I have hundreds of books, not only do I love to read, but books are made of PAPER!!!  I have tried to fight my paper collecting for years, tried to control it, organize it, even burn it.  But it just comes back.  I am going to just accept it, just like I have had to accept my daughters love for frills.  You are who you are, that’s all there is to it.

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