Sunday, September 27, 2009

Bigger-ing

Friday was move-in day for my parents. It was a HUGE day for them: they finished emptying, cleaning and packing their house in the morning, had the closing on their house sale just before lunch, and after stopping at the Retirement Center/Nursing Home to say their farewells to my grandparents (Dad's folks), they made their way to Greene Co. to stay.

The girls have been SO excited about their grandparents coming to "stay forever". L has gotten a bit morbid the past week, and added "until they die" onto the "forever" statement. We tell her that won't happen for a VERY LONG TIME. The girls designed a "Welcome Home!" poster to hang up on the front door for them.

On Friday morning JP commented that he felt like he did the days I was scheduled for induction for both of my babies: anxious anticipation...knowing our family would change, and not knowing exactly what to expect! That seems to be a very apt way of putting it.

This weekend has been the beginning of the adjustment for all of us of living in a multi-generational family home. We worked on bigger-ing everything...the dinner table, the meals, the hooks in the breezeway for coats. (Also bigger-ing were the dirty dishes, darn it!) We have tried to condense things in all of our storage spaces so that there will be room for Mom and Dad's things, and they have tried to condense the last 40 years of their lives into our extra space and the PODS unit, due to arrive next week.

Mom helped this afternoon to make my secret ingredient applesauce. We ended up with 23 containers to freeze and some extra for dinner tomorrow.


Dad just mentioned that tomorrow is the first day of the rest of his life, and wants to talk about our expectations of things, so I will need to sign off for now. Soon, however, with his help, we should have another bathroom, and the breezeway to show case, and (drum roll please) the cars in the garage!!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Greene Acres (or Living Green in Greene Co.)

I'm still buried. I've been meaning to blog for several days, but haven't eked out a half hour in which to do so. Consequently my thoughts are many and a bit jumbled.

We really wanted to build a GREEN house up here on the hill. Once we discovered the expense, the geothermal system, the Russian Furnace, and the solar panels went out the window. We were able to retain a few things though. The house envelope, being poured concrete surrounded by 5 inches of Styrofoam is incredibly efficient. So far, our cooling bills have been less than our last, somewhat smaller house, although to be fair, this summer has been some what cool. We have deep eaves (2 feet on the North and East, and 10 feet on the South and West), which provides plenty of shade to keep the house cool in the summer, but still allows enough light. We used low VOC paint and stain for most of the house (the crew found that the low VOC stain did not stick to the pine used on our ceilings). We have all Energy Star appliances, exterior doors and windows. And we took the plunge to try out a propane powered on-demand water heater.

Most of the time I am willing to sacrifice a bit in order to lower my carbon footprint. I carry reusable bags around in my van, and I use them 95% of the time. I am willing to sort trash in order to compost, recycle and to burn paper (we only take out 1 kitchen sized trash bag a week on trash day lately). But, I have found the above mentioned water heater intolerable! It has been taking 3-5 minutes to get hot water in the kitchen, which is never super hot. If I turn it off for even a second or two, the water will be cold again, and take 3-5 minutes to re-heat. This makes washing dishes painful, not to mention the extraordinary amount of water that is just running down the drain. We finally turned the thing off and went back to the electric water heater.

Our builder was back today, with an expert in tow. It seems that the water heater is not getting enough fuel to light the main burner, so the hot water we are getting is from the accessory burner. So, he is preparing to replace the incoming gas line to one with a larger diameter. I'm hoping this will make the water heater more environmentally friendly AND nicer to use!

Thinking about preserving our environment (and reading National Geographic) has made me think about my own mortality lately. I am rapidly approaching 40, which doesn't seem possible. L asked me my age recently, and I told her that I would soon be 40. She said (in quite a matter of fact manner) "So soon you will die." I tried to assure her that I'm not planning on expiring any time soon, and that many people she knows are older than I am and still living. She seemed unconvinced.

In the meantime, I have managed to can a half bushel of tomatoes, and (with JP's help) freeze 6 dozen ears of corn. Now if I could only get those apples made into sauce...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Buried in Fall


Whew! I've finally managed to resurface from under the piles of little things that have taken over since school started. I vaguely remember it being this way last year - my first year of "coaching" cyber school. Although last year it had to have been worse, we also had a terminally ill dog, the start of our house building project, and I was working madly to get the other house ready to put on the market.

It isn't just the school that is bogging me down. We have also had extra things like a Field Trip last Friday (which was wonderful...more on that later), face-to-face testing in Washington for J yesterday, 3 out of 4 of us fighting a doozy of a cold, and the water issues. On top of it all, L has suddenly morphed into monster-child, who throws screaming tantrums on a daily basis, several times necessitating the rest of us leaving a location. Yikes...I'm hoping it was just the virus talking...remains to be seen.

I've had 2 bushels of apples in the garage waiting to be made into our favorite "Mommy Sauce", along with about 2 dozen cucumbers to pickle. I had planned to do it Friday or Saturday before Labor Day with my Mom, not knowing that I was going to be on an anniversary overnight with my sweetie. I came home sick from that, and then the well went dry. It seems to be flowing normally again. I guess the 4 straight days of rain last week probably helped a bit. JP is still bringing a 5 gallon jug of water home from work a couple of days a week to drink, since it was still smelling hyper-chlorinated as of Sunday. I pulled the cukes out of the refrigerator this afternoon, and pickled the third of them that were still ok.

I plan to look for a bushel of tomatoes at the Farmer's Market tomorrow to either make into JP's special pasta sauce or can whole and do the sauce thing later. Tomatoes, oddly enough, seemed to be in short supply last week at the Farmer's Market. Our 5 gallon bucket tomatoes are finally producing, but the fruit is very small.

We joined the local Homeschool Group for a field trip to the zoo last Friday. It was a cool day, and the zoo was the emptiest I've ever seen it. The animals were more active since it wasn't hot, and we had good views of them without battling crowds. I took a bunch of zoo pictures, but since they can get old fast, I'll just post a few of my favorites:

Check out the eyelashes on this girl!


I especially like the guy at the top, lying on his back with his feet in the air!



The giraffes were necking.


video

Here are J and some friends popping up through a Meerkat tunnel.


Closer to home, J found this little guy in my herb pot.


This afternoon is soccer practice. Some of us have been bringing food for a potluck at a nearby playground afterwards, so it is something to look forward to.

Monday, September 7, 2009

...moan...monday...

Eh. That's all I can muster at the moment...and I should be in bed, but I was just able to get a photo off JP's phone that I wanted to include in my blog, so here goes:

Friday morning, JP told me that I needed to be ready to leave by 2:00 that day, and to pack a bag. Apparently one of the reasons that my parents came out this weekend, was so JP and I could finally celebrate our anniversary (August 10th) without kiddos. (Another reason was to bring some more of their things!) In spite of the fact that J had school, and my Aunt arrived that morning with my 92 year old grandmother to visit, I managed to get my bag packed by 2:00.

This is not the first time that JP has surprised me by whisking me away some where nice for a night or a weekend. He is much better at managing surprises than I am, and is a very thoughtful and romantic man, so I knew this would be lovely.

We drove to Pittsburgh, where we stayed at a nice hotel with views of the river, and PNC park. That evening, we walked a few blocks to a posh restaurant, where they were expecting us, and ate a completely amazing meal sans bibs, wipeys and whining. They brought us this lovely platter of dessert with coffee after the meal: triple chocolate mousse and creme brulee with fresh berries (sorry...cell phone picture).


After another stroll, we retired to our room to watch "The Proposal"...very funny, I recommend it. We had to return to reality and our kids on Saturday, but it was a much appreciated and fantastic break...thank you honey for planning it, and Mom/Dad for keeping the kids.

Mom says that after breakfast on Saturday morning, J said "It's kind of a mess around here! We need to clean things up for Mommy!" And then she proceeded to put things away, vacuum, sweep and water the plants! I've got such sweet little girls!

Sunday was to be J's first soccer game, but we had been planning to go to a concert in Wheeling for a while. JP, L, and I have this icky cold and didn't feel up to travelling...didn't feel up to sitting in the sun during J's game either, so we laid around here.

Labor Day didn't pan out to be a good one for outside recreation...too cool and moist. The good news is that the dead thing in my laundry closet wall didn't stink as much in the cool weather! The other good news is that Big Lots is open on this holiday, and we had fun finding interesting things there!

Today we had planned to shock our well again...water test didn't come back the greatest...but after emptying the 2000 gallon cistern this morning, we ended up without water all day. Apparently our well is low! So...no showers, limited toilet flushing, and tooth brushing with bottled water only happened today, and here's hoping for a shower tomorrow to start off the 2nd week of school!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

First Day of School

click on picture to enlarge


Indeed, I still am not ready for school, even after this first day has come and gone. It went fairly well considering the site for our On Line School was down for several hours (this happened on the first day last year too). I also had problems with the old lap top that has been re-configured for J's use. We managed to work through the hang ups, complete our course work for today, and still have time for allergy shots, grocery shopping and a walk through the woods.

Maybe my biggest issue is that I am so resistant to change. I am saddened that J has a different teacher this year. I feel lost each time I realize that her good home schooled buddy is now at the public school, making the opportunities to have "field trips" fewer. And then of course, at some point I have to face the fact that my little girl is now in 1st grade. She is no longer the soft, sweet baby with big eyes that I showed the world to. Instead she has become a determined and imaginative young lady, who shows me different ways to look at the world.

I am thankful every day for little L, who is so affectionate and loud. She continues to be cuddly so that I still have a soft little girl to snuggle with, though she fights hard to be as accomplished as her big sister. L always warns us before we head out for a walk: "Don't go in the woods, it's dangerous!" Despite my continued reassurance, she remains sceptical each time. For good reason too, she always seems to come home with scratches on her legs from the berry bushes and wild rose bushes. I always forget that she is so much closer to all those vining and pricking things on the ground!

I've over-drawn my energy bank, it's time to call it a day. JP spent several hours re-re-configuring the computer tonight. Here's hoping for a smoother tomorrow!