Thursday, July 28, 2016

Where the Wild Things Are


It has been quite the week for wild animals.

The first was a mouse.  Kevin and I were sitting in the basement, watching a video, when suddenly a mouse ran out from Kevin's (dark) workshop, into our brightly lit TV room.

I behaved as any sensible 46 year old, mature woman would do.

I screamed like a little girl.  For like, a minute.  Or 30 seconds?  A fair amount of time. And I pulled my feet onto the couch. And then I screamed. Oh right, I already mentioned that.

Kevin was laughing at me and trying to find the mouse, and the mouse (sensibly enough) headed for the dark parts of the basement to get away from the screaming big thing that was me.

Where there is one mouse, there are almost certainly more mice, so Kevin put out poison in out of the way places.

We don't have indoor cats and Rose doesn't wander down there alone, so it should be fine.

So yeah, a mouse.

Then, the next night, Kevin saw a raccoon attacking our trash can. Attacking.  I mean, not in the "I want to kill you" sort of way but in the "I know you are full of delightful food" kind of way.

So the NEXT night, Kevin put out tasty cat food on our front porch (we usually bring it in at night) and stalked the porch until like 10:30 p.m., when not one, not two, but three raccoons showed up to eat our cat food.


So that's why we've been finding trash out of our trash cans!

He tried to shoot them but missed killing any of them, sigh.

Last night they were back. Like, the next night. After some big person with a gun shot at them 7 times.  No one said raccoons were smart. But they are hungry.

Last night, it was another attack on the trash cans. They are now shut with bungee cords and I can't even get them open, so the raccoons, however clever they might be with inflitrating trash cans, are out of luck.

They are now officially nuisance animals.  Kevin is going to shoot them.  Soon.

He is careful with our guns, very careful.  But we're glad to have guns when creatures are eating our cat food (I mean, non cat creatures) and eating our chickens (that was in the past) and emptying our trash cans.

Stay tuned.

Fun in the Pool

We are so blessed to have our pool.  The weather has been scorching (for Ohio) and the older kids have spent a great deal of time swimming.

Last night, Kevin took Rose in for the first time.  I helped watch Sarah and Daniel, who are in floaties but still need careful supervision.

Rose LOVED the pool.  She isn't quite the Toddler With No Fear (because she is afraid of being in elevators, for example) but she surely wasn't afraid of the water. She would have fallen in a couple of times if Kevin and I weren't watching.

In past years, we've had problems with algae taking over the pool at irregular intervals. This year, we've been more diligent about putting chlorine in regularly, and the water has remained clear and blue.  Nice.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Our Garden

So I haven't mentioned our garden this year, I think.

Here it is, the vegetable one, that is:

Almost lost in the head high weeds are 3 healthy tomato plants.

That is it. Seriously.  That's all we have for a garden this year.

We usually have cucumbers and zucchinis and lots and lots of sweet potatoes. We've had corn and squash and watermelon.  We've been gardeners.  

Well, Kevin has been a gardener.  I'm not.

But this year we're tired and busy and worn out, and Kevin decided to take a break.

So 3 tomato plants. Nothing else.

It has actually been nice. Yes, we are spending more on groceries and we don't have fresh produce from the garden, but it has been relaxing to not worry about harvesting beans and working on weeds. And actually, there are farm stands and decent produce in the grocery stores, though of course we have to pay for it.

In the Old Testament of the Bible, the Lord told the people of Israel to not plant every 7th year. That was supposed to be a year of rest.  I know all the reasons for that directive are not clear to me, a spindly, wimpy human, but it ties into the idea of the Sabbath rest.

We're not doing this for religious reasons, but it does feel right to sometimes just rest when we're feeling very stretched.  Maybe next year, we'll go back to having a significant garden.

Now let's talk about flower gardens.

The flower beds were awful.  

But then, there was the Attack of the Lydia!

That girl is a weed removing machine!

She's been working for our neighbors with their outdoor work all summer.

One hour later and our flower beds were much better.

There is still a big section that is bad but this week maybe she can do some more weeding.

(Yes, I'm paying her.)

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Decluttering Frenzy Continues

  I thought I was done.  2 or 3 times a year, I get hit with a desire to declutter.  When I get that decluttering feeling, I run with it.

  Last week, the feeling faded.  I decided I was probably done after going through our kitchen cupboards and 3 of 4 bathrooms, plus the laundry room.

 But then I went to a friend's house to help HER declutter, and also got a decluttering book on sale, and I'm inspired again. So today I decluttered the last bathroom and also worked on our family room.

 The book is Unstuffed: Decluttering your Home, Mind & Soul by Ruth Soukup.

  As is often true when I read decluttering books, I realize I'm in pretty good shape compared to some people. When Ruth married her husband, she joined her entire house of stuff with his entire house of stuff. Then 2 relatives died and they took in a lot of their stuff.  She also loved to shop, and her husband hated to throw things away. So yeah.  They decided at some point that they needed to get rid of 75% of their stuff. Seriously. Wow.

  But I did read something that was very helpful to me.  She said something on the lines of -- figure out what you want from your living spaces.

  That seems obvious, right?  But...well, let me give an example.  There is this fun Netflix show called Fixer Upper.  It is a home remodeling show, hosted by a really sweet couple in Waco, Texas.  They are obviously totally in love (so sweet to see) and love their 4 kids.  Joanna Gaines is quite the decorator, and her husband Chip is the knock the house apart and put it back together guy (along with a group of other great workers.)

 So when they are done with a house they've fixed up, it is really awesome.  Joanna is into something called shabby chic.  So there are cute doodads all over and yeah, it looks great. It really does.

 But it is not me.  If I were living alone, I seriously think I'd want nothing on the walls at all -- no art, no pictures. My ideal is completely clean surfaces on computer desks, mantles, and bookshelves.  Completely clear floors.  I don't want cute, I want clear.

  I'm not sure quite why I'm like this, but it probably has to do with 16+ years of small children spreading stuff everywhere.

  Plus I'm an engineer. I'm not a decorator.

 So when I look at our living spaces, I realize that 11 people live here.  So there is a lot of stuff. And I'm not the one in charge so I can't just shove my preferences on other people.

  BUT, I am in charge of certain things.  And I can change things and not bother anyone else, and yet make myself happy.

 So today I pondered our family room. I am in this room a lot.  A LOT.

  And it collects stuff on the mantle, and on the fireplace step.  It is distracting and stresses me out.

 So I'm making some changes.  I'm moving items out of our entry room (adjacent to the family room) so I can store some basic items there (like homeschool items) and reduce how much STUFF is in our family room.

 I always feel better when this room can be tidied well by the end of the day. I don't mind puzzles and toys on the floor during the day, but in the evening I want the floors tidy, the bookcases in reasonable shape, the mantle clear of all but decorative items, and so on.

  I'm also clearing off my dresser in my room. I can control that, right?  There have been a bunch of things on it, like paperwork, and that doesn't need to be there.

 This is funny, though. Almost every day I move everything off our bed's headboard onto my dresser because Rose likes to climb on my bed and mess with Kleenex and my water glass and my Blistex. That's my girl. That's why it is SO hard to keep things organized around here.

  But really, a key thing is to just get rid of stuff. Organizing is good and I'm good at it, but a lot of simplifying life is getting rid of possessions, or at least that is true for me.

  So today, for example, I threw away 15 or 20 or 25 or 30 little floss things we've been acquiring from dentists for a decade. We use individual Glyde flossers and never use the floss from the dentists so out it went!

 I also consolidated all our toothpaste and toothbrushes and mouthwash in the boys' bathroom. I came to the stunning conclusion that our toothbrushes have been breeding. We have...we have so many.  I couldn't possibly have bought them all.  Could I?  Seems way more likely we have sentient toothbrushes that are reproducing like rabbits.

So we'll see how the next few days go. If I'm tired, I'll probably stop toiling away on the house.  If I get my 3rd wind, more stuff will be thrown out/donated/etc.

Stay tuned...

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Busy Week

It is Thursday evening but it should be Friday. I'm tired.

We had 3 medical appointments this week.  Tuesday I took Lydia to her well teen checkup. All was well, which is great!  She is a smidgen over 5 ft. 6 inches tall and probably about done growing.  I think 5'6" is a great height, though she'd like to be taller still :-).  Isaac, age 13, is growing like a weed and is taller than his older sisters now, and I think will pass us parents up in the next year.

Wednesday I trundled Daniel off to a cardiologist at the local Children's Hospital.  A pediatrician heard a heart murmur at his 4 year checkup and while she was almost sure it was nothing, doctors have to cover themselves and parents like me need to be sure we're not missing anything, so yeah, we checked it. And the cardiologist confirmed it is an "innocent" heart murmur.  The trip was very calm, in startling contrast to our last trip to this hospital which was when Rose cut her head open.  Rose was not cooperative at all, Daniel was completely cooperative.  Of course, Daniel wasn't injured.  More importantly, he is 2 years older.  I am trying to delight myself in Rose's antics and of course she is fabulous, but she is so TWO.  So very 2.

Rose. Displeased.

I went through one of my periodic cleaning frenzies and cleaned out the bathroom closets in 3 of our bathrooms.  I threw away some things and organized other things.  They look good and I can find stuff now.

I tried cleaning out the candy cabinet and that was an abysmal failure.  Usually Rose is calm about me cleaning but the sight of candy was too much for her. I had to pile the candy on top of the cabinet and leave it there.  I need to deal with it soon. But haven't found the time/energy.  Oh, we have a candy cabinet with a child lock on it so...the baby can't get to the candy.  Kids can't just candy whenever, we dole it out for treats at night.

I turned on the sprinkler yesterday and oh, how the kids had fun.  Sprinklers are fun.  The older 6 have also been doing a lot of swimming.

I took the kids to a local Splashpark on Tuesday (yes, as I said, it has been a busy week).  It was great fun.  I forgot my camera but did take pictures on my phone. But I don't know how to download those pictures. So instead of Splashpark pics, I'll show a picture of our family room after we got back.

The funny thing about this picture is that the night before, this room was tidy. In 4 hours of wakefulness, we managed to turn this room into a disaster.  After I snapped the picture, I spent parts of half an hour cleaning it up. It looked fine, so I checked on Rose, who was playing in the adjacent sun room.  I discovered she had found a washable brown marker and had written all over the walls and floor. So while I was cleaning up the family room, she was destroying the sun room.  That's called irony.

Tomorrow I have a chiropractor appointment and a friend and her daughter are coming over. That will be fun!

So yeah, busy busy week.  I feel like my decluttering frenzy is ending, which is probably a fine thing.  I am working hard on pulling together homeschooling plans for the year.  Naomi is taking an English class at our local community college starting in late August.  Naomi and Lydia are taking a Spanish class offered by a local teacher (a homeschool class) in late August as well. So life is going to get busier in some ways in 5 short weeks.

Friday, July 8, 2016

I Have a Smartphone!

             Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I have finally moved into 2016 and I have myself a Smartphone.  So exciting!!  (Isaac is excited, obviously!)

             I am definitely a cheap person (or frugal, that sounds better) and I've been holding off on getting a Smartphone. Mostly, I've done fine with a flip phone from Trakphone that cost about $7 a month. I just couldn't wrap my head around paying $40 or $50 or $60 a month for a Smartphone when I am home most of the time and therefore have access to internet there.

               But...we realized we needed another cell phone because Naomi is now taking a college class and working outside the home, so SHE needs a phone.  Lydia is also out and about some, so she needs a phone.  And sometimes I am out when they both are.  So we looked into getting a new cell phone for me.

               Trakphone has Smartphones!  Instead of unlimited text, unlimited data, or large numbers of text and large amounts of data, we were able to buy a relatively cheap Smartphone with 1500 texts for a year and...I can't remember, a relatively small amount of data for the year. If I use those up, I can buy more as needed.

              Total amount this year (including the phone) will be about $15 a month so long as I don't need to buy more texts or data.  I can handle that (emotionally).

             I really don't plan to use my phone to surf the web or check emails.  Being away from home is kind of a nice break from being connected.

            What I AM very excited about is that I can now TEXT.  I have several friends and relatives who use texting as a primary mode of communication, and I was previously cut off from it.  Now I can text.  That is good news for keeping in touch with people.

          So yeah, I'm mostly happy.  The only issue is I have to figure out the Smartphone and I don't enjoy doing that. I just want to know how to do everything. I do have a tablet with a similar interface so learning is going fairly smoothly so far.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Chore Shuffle

  We just had another chore shuffle, when chores shuffle down to the younger kids.  It is always a lot of work, so I need to be in the "right mood" to take it on.  It is work because we have kids trained to do certain things, and then we mix up the system and new kids need to be trained on everything. We just gave Daniel his first room clean up (for night) and he is also helping to set the table now. Sarah is cleaning up another room and is starting to feed the cats.  Angela is moving on to the cleaning the basement in the evening.  Miriam is starting the glorious job of washing little bowls.  (We run our dishwasher only once a day, and bowls don't fit well, so we have someone wash the bowls by hand.)  Joseph is washing big bowls (mixing bowls and glass bowls) and Isaac is washing pots and pans!

We're also moving laundry responsibilities around.

It is all good.  I really believe that part of being a good parent is teaching our children how to manage a household. They won't grow up and do household chores exactly the way we do, but we're giving the kids the tools they need to keep a house/apartment/houseboat/floating dirigible/whatever manageably tidy.