Monday, September 30, 2013


Tonight I am completely exhausted - physically and emotionally...didn't see this one coming, and it hit me hard!

J got her upper palate expander put in this afternoon.  Our 20 min. Orthodontist appointment lasted almost an hour, putting us behind for everything else that came after.  She is not adjusting to it very quickly or very well.  I'm sure the thing is a pain in the tushy, and she is not my daughter that adapts well to change...just like her Mama.  She complains that she cannot chew or swallow.

Both girls went off the deep end in the van, causing goldfish cracker crumbs all down one seat, and 2 broken eggs in the dozen I was to deliver.

I put dinner in the oven before we left for appointments and piano lessons this afternoon.  It was not done when we returned.

JP was LATE coming home this evening.

I've just finished spending another hour (already spent 2 hours last week with the Lime-Away, rubber gloves and a toothbrush) attempting to scrub the hard water deposits off the tile and grout in our shower so that our contractor can fix a couple of places and seal everything.  It's hopeless - still looks awful.

On top of all this, I'm really stressing about my job, as it may be part of the overall downsizing going on right now.

Thankfully I had the foresight to excuse myself from this evening's Trustee duty at the Library ahead of time.  I am also cancelling soccer practice after work tomorrow evening.

After dropping off the girls at school tomorrow, I will go shopping for a variety of soups to feed J for the next 2 weeks, along with applesauce, yogurt, and pudding.

I have my fingers crossed, hoping for a peaceful evening tomorrow.  Maybe we can even re-institute Girls' Night and paint our toenails.  But I don't want to count on it.  If we can just eat our soup in relative calm, with no yelling or drama, I'll be pleased.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Landscaping, Alpacas, and the Minions

I was not especially pleased with the state that the pool installers left our yard.  Not only did they leave the extension cord and hose that they borrowed laying (uncoiled) out there, but they left piles of dirt along on the grass beside the pool.  Since we have an overabundance of clay in our soil, and it rained last weekend, all those piles hardened into the consistency of concrete.  In addition, the back wall of soil behind the pool was not graded smoothly, and there were chunks of sod and rocks lying all over the place.

I would really like to have grass growing around the pool before snow flies, and since I'm the resident landscaper around here, I decided to get started!  I figured this would be a 1-2 hour job max.  I underestimated - I spent 4 or 5 hours out there yesterday!

I hauled 9 wheelbarrow loads of soil out that I had dug out, just to smooth and grade the back wall.  After that, I broke up and raked all the clods of clay, bits of sod and rocks out, and smoothed out the area that will be planted with grass.  I seeded everywhere with grass seed (including the holes elsewhere in the yard where I dumped the above mentioned soil,) and hauled 4 loads of old hay up from the garden to scatter on top.

That huge pile of dirt will be dealt with later!

The final step was to plant ground cover in that back wall to prevent erosion.  I thought vinca might fit the bill - grows voraciously, does not need full sun, and the deer leave it alone.  I had such a hard time digging holes to plant into, that I finally ended up carving out receptacles of sorts into the back wall. 

These I stuffed with the little plants, along with a bunch of compost and topped it off with clay to hold it all in.  Hope it works!

So...that was my big project for the weekend.  I'm hoping things look green back there in a couple of weeks!

Today both of the girls had a soccer game at 1:00, so JP and I switched fields at half time so that we could each see half of each girl's game.  Afterwards, we took a lovely drive through the back roads to the local alpaca farm, where they had an Open House today.  We arrived just in time to see a little fawn colored cria being sheared.

The stinkbugs are back in droves, swarming all over our windows, the veranda posts, and the laundry on the clothes line.  I have taken to calling them "The Minions."  JP has been fighting them with a vengeance all weekend, and the veranda out back is scattered with their tiny carcasses.  Where did these things come from anyway?

J has another orthodontist appointment tomorrow to have more hardware installed - an expander this time.  L has piano lessons tomorrow evening.  I am scheduled for a Library Board meeting, but I have already emailed my regrets that I cannot make it.  Mom has an appointment with her neurosurgeon as well.  Although it has been lovely to stop and pat the Alpacas, our life continues to tear on in this manic way.  I think I'll take the remainder of my weekend to relax with a good book.  So long.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Fall has Fallen

Autumn seemingly arrived overnight last weekend.  It rained, no it POURED, all day Saturday.  We stayed in the whole day and watched a movie with the girls.  When I looked out of the window Sunday morning, the leaves on the trees had started to change colors.  The nights are remaining chilly - dropping into the high 30's, but the days are sunny and blue.

I made spaghetti sauce again today, with tomatoes from the garden, a couple of plants in Mom's flower bed, and some from an acquaintance of JP's.  We now have enough frozen to make a dozen quick meals this winter. 

I brought in the Butternut squashes yesterday - about a dozen of those in varying sizes are tucked away in our cellar and in Mom & Dad's, along with a few Acorn squashes.

My Fall peas are producing!  They survived the late planting and the mauling by deer, and we are having a second helping of sweet, green sugar snap peas in October for the first time ever - I love it!  The Fall lettuce is nearly ready to harvest also, but the deer ate all my Fall radishes.  A few of the horticulture beans have come back from being mowed down by deer, so we may get another handful of beans.  I'm glad that I didn't can those yet, instead, I just chucked 2 gallon bag fulls into the deep freeze.

It's almost time to start on my secret recipe applesauce.  I've been putting it off since it's such a huge messy job.  We love it though, and the 2 measly remaining pints in the freezer will not be enough to last until next year!

Fall = school + soccer + canning.  It's enough to make a person weary.   Thank goodness for winter so that we can put our feet up for a month or two!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Brace Face

Here are before and after pictures of Miss J-Bird, who got her braces put on this morning. 

She looked at herself in the rear-view mirror as we drove away from the Orthodontist's office, and stated, "They are ugly!"

"They aren't ugly," I told her, "they look like braces."

"UGLY braces."  she muttered almost under her breath.

"You'll get used to them," I said, "and remember, you're not the only one in the world with them on!"

Big sigh from the back seat...

I came home and stopped next door to help out my Mom.  She is still having a significant amount of pain, but then again, it's only been a week since they did major surgery on her spine.  She is frustrated that she can't do much of anything, including get comfortable, in the hard cervical collar that she wears.  I didn't realize until last night that she hadn't been able to shower since her surgery.  She can't reach up to wash her hair, or to wash her back.  I helped her with all that today.

I'm not sure how to encourage her.  It does seem like a VERY long road to her recovery.  I've reminded her a couple of times that she has to take baby steps.  Maybe if we compare how long it took her to get to the point of surgery (several years), the 3-6 months recovery won't seem so bad!  I feel bad that I haven't been available more to help...this soccer schedule is sucking every last ounce of sanity out of me most evenings.  (Luckily, it has leaked back in during the night!)  So, I'll do what I can...that is why my parents are our neighbors after all, for me to help out in these kinds of ways.

In the meantime, I'll keep reminding my two braced and bruised steps...this isn't can do it.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Come on in, the water's fine! (Take 2)

Our plan is to go ahead and winterize the pool - it won't be warm enough to actually use it this Fall, and the filter/pump are not even hooked up.  The girls were disappointed, as they REALLY wanted to swim in it now.  This morning JP grabbed J, while I picked up L, then we ran outside and threw them in!

The water was a bit chilly, but it woke the girls up, and we started our day with smiles and laughter.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Come on in, the water's fine!

It might be a tad chilly, but it's crystal clear, and in a quiet, private, for one day only - NO screaming children!

So...we honored our promise made to the girls 2 years ago:  when you are good swimmers, we will get a pool at our house.  Initially we wanted something that we could swim laps in, but we finally narrowed it down by the following criteria:

1.  Rectangular inground pools - too expensive
2.  Oval above ground pools - take up too much space and too expensive
3.  Pools > 24 feet in diameter - overkill and too expensive
4.  Pools located in the neighboring township in which our barn "lives" - requires building permit + certified electrician to check wiring - too expensive
5.  Pools on clearance after Labor Day, located behind the garage in the correct township, measuring 24 feet in diameter, and which we can pick up the supplies in order to save the $200 delivery fee - just right

After some finagling to arrange a start date, the guys arrived this morning with 2 trucks and a Bobcat to begin excavation and installation of the pool.  I am currently awaiting the truck with the final 5000 gallons of water before we call it a day.

Here's how it all went down:

Beginning the excavation...don't those look like a lot of bones on the ground?

He's just about done digging at this point.

They thoroughly tamped down the earth, then placed concrete pavers at intervals for the posts.  That's sand in the middle that they spread out under the liner.

Here they are putting the walls up around the outside.

All put together!

One of the guys had to get in and finish smoothing out the bottom of the liner while they began filling it.

And finally a word of caution: 

In other words - don't lose your head!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Happy Hour

My posts are few and far between this Fall.  That is partly because I am not spending hours and hours every day at the computer doing Cyber School, and partly because we are so goldurn busy!  We are supposed to be at soccer practice 5 days a week, music lessons 2 days a week, and games on Sundays.  There aren't enough days each week to fit it all in!  We are doing the best we can, and while it isn't optimal (we are eating a lot of Wendy's salads for dinner lately,) it's working pretty well.  I have my weekly calendar color coded with every place we are supposed to be and at what times.  So far, we have not been more than a couple of minutes late for anything.

By the end of the week, I am ready for my own little Happy sit back and relax and sip a glass of wine.  So far we have lucked out enough to have the Saturday AM soccer practice cancelled.  Thankfully, Sundays are fairly mild...sit and watch a soccer game for a couple of hours...and we try to keep it low key at home. Since I have some time off during most days, I am not feeling so stressed about being gone in the evenings.

This weekend, I tried to make a point of helping my Mom get some of her outside projects finished up.  Unfortunately, I didn't have as much time to give her as I'd hoped, but we made some progress on her flower beds.  Yesterday at dark was our deadline, since we left in the wee hours of the morning today for the Hospital in the next town. 

Mom was scheduled today for a laminectomy and fusion of 3 vertebrae in her neck.  She has been having worsening symptoms of unsteady gait, poor balance, and numbness and decreased grip in her hands for more than a year.  Early this summer, she was finally diagnosed with pretty significant narrowing of the spine in her neck, causing compression of her spinal cord.  In the process of her pre-operative blood work, she was found to have a mild form of a genetic clotting disorder (at age 70...go figure!)

In any case, I spent 7 or 8 hours in various waiting rooms at the Hospital today.  I ate breakfast and lunch in their very nice cafeteria.  I almost finished a book.  I did some continuing education tests.  I made a few phone calls.

After Mom was admitted to her room, I went up and got her settled.  Since she was still so groggy that she could hardly stay awake, I left her in the capable hands of the nursing staff and buzzed off to Target before heading home.

I arrived at my friend's house just a few minutes before the girls were due to arrive on the bus, then I whisked them off to the Orthodontist for J to get her spacers in.  Once home, we got snacks, homework, dog and poultry tending taken care of, then drove in to town for piano.

Tonight, I am exhausted...mostly because I slept poorly and rose too early.  It was actually quite a treat to sit for hours and read a book, and to stroll through Target without whining or begging going on...a different sort of Happy Hour.  Yes, today was full.  Yes, for a few moments there I felt like I was running in circles and getting no where.  But we managed to accomplish all of the important things today, including sitting together to read a chapter of "Going Solo" by Roald Dahl.

Knowing that Mom is doing well, and that we've successfully navigated another busy day is enough to allow me to sleep some happy hours tonight.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


When J was quite young, maybe 3 or 4, our good friends invited us over for a homemade Asian meal featuring tofu.  (It was delicious!)  Having never been served tofu before in her short life, J was impressed.  "I like this tofood!" she said, "May I have some more?"

I do not generally cook with tofu, and although I have enjoyed it in many dishes that others have prepared, I generally order something with chicken or seafood if given a chance.

At the beginning of summer, JP wanted our family to change our eating habits and eat more healthy food choices, including less red meat.  I bought a 25 lb bag of brown basmati rice in early June, and we have eaten through about half of it now.  The girls even admitted yesterday (as they took seconds of it) that they have grown to like it.  We eat chicken, fish, turkey, eggs, and very little beef.  JP has asked if we could try more tofu.

I'm usually game to try new things, and I generally view myself as a pretty good cook. Not being familiar with many tofu recipes, I enlisted the help of our friend, who is a vegetarian.  I copied a number of recipes from a book he loaned me that sounded tasty.  I thought it was alright when JP lightly fried it and we slurped bits of it out of the salty broth with ramen noodles or miso.  Over the winter, he made a salad featuring fried and baked chunks of tofu (think croutons) which was also pretty good. 

The 2 dishes that I made (General Tso's Tofu, and Saag with Tofu - instead of paneer,) however, not only took an extremely long time to prepare, but also made a terrible mess of the stove and several dirty pots and pans, and ultimately were not that great.  Maybe it's true that one's tried and true recipes taste all the better for the love that was added by the preparer.  Perhaps I don't love my tofu enough.

In any case, I'm still not a fan of tofu.  Someone send me some delicious and easy recipes for tofu that I can try!  I have one more tub of tofu in the fridge...

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Z is For Moose

All Summer long, the girls have worked with Mom to put together a play to put on for us.  They began, on the last day of school, by finding a book at the Library that they wanted to adapt, and created all the dialogue, sets, and costumes together.  They acted it out for us right before the first day of school.  Their play was a great success!

First Week of School - Check

The girls had a fabulous first week of school, although L reports that she had a substitute teacher for 3 out of the first 5 days.  Getting out of bed earlier than ever before is still a stumbling block for L. Hopefully we can overcome that in the next few weeks.  The transition has gone a lot smoother than I imagined, even when factoring in soccer practice Tuesday through Friday afternoons.  That's the way I roll though...a lot of anxiety in anticipating something, then I feel mild surprise once it has gone the way everyone else thought it would. 

Meanwhile, I am starting to see what it will be like to have the girls away at school all day.  I miss them, no doubt.  At the same time,  I am kind of enjoying the opportunity to work on projects during the day which used to begin after the girls went to bed at 9 PM and frequently lasted into the wee hours of the morning.

One of the projects that I worked on last week was canning peaches.  With just over a bushel to start with, I ended up with 19 quarts canned, and 2 containers in the freezer.  I used the the last few peaches yesterday to bake a pie...possibly the prettiest pie I've ever baked!

We had the opportunity to finish up our first week at school with a long weekend for Labor Day...hooray!

The girls spent Saturday with a friend, and had a sleep-over.  JP did his normal 3 hours of mowing, then got out the tractor and brush hog for another hour or two mowing the fields.  I painted most of the exposed wood on the roofs of the barn and garage lean-tos.

We took a break on Sunday to visit Meadowcroft with friends.  The kids threw the Atlatl and a Tomahawk, went to school, and overall wore themselves out.  We finished the day with ice cream at the Spring House.  We returned home filthy and exhausted...not a bad way to end a fun day!

Yesterday we grilled chicken and ate with my parents.  JP and I did some organizing and cleaning, while the girls watched "The Magic Flute" (excellently done for film in English by Kenneth Branagh.)  We ended the day with a thunder storm.  The storm passed, the sky cleared, and the sun came out for a gorgeous double rainbow, just in time to set in a spectacular show of color.

This morning, the JP took the girls to school, and then went to his office to begin packing for his big move.  He is moving to another location, where he will actually have a window in his office!  I intend to join him shortly to help out before I head to work myself.  That means I actually need to get moving...