Saturday, 6 July 2013

Time Goes By

I cannot believe how time is flying by. I looked at the calendar last night while we were having dinner and actually asked, "Why is the calendar on July?" I got some very strange looks from the rest of the family. So here we are, July 6. The girls finished the school year last Thursday and started day camp this past Monday. We've roasted hot dogs and marshmallows over the fire and we went to see fireworks this week.

Roasting Hot Dogs


He refused to roast it, but insisted on eating it off the stick.

More marshmallows

The majority of my garden is in, but I still have some pepper plants and some ground cherries to get into the ground.
(Left to right) Beets, carrots, lettuce & kale, peas & cucumber, tomatoes.

You can see where I am working on making space for the remaining plants. I was hoping to leave that row of the garden empty because the close line runs overhead there, but I need the space for plants. The weeds are well rooted and difficult to get up so it's taking me awhile to get it cleared so I can put the plants in. I also have a zucchini and a yellow squash plant to the left of the garden. I didn't have enough space, so I dug a whole in the grass, put a piece of cardboard on top to hopefully kill the grass and planted the squash there. The garden has a whole needs to be weeded, but it's a time thing, especially since Little Guy is often reluctant to stay in the back yard. It'll get done eventually.

(Left to right) Sweet peppers, cauliflower, broccoli and weeds.

I tried a new bread recipe last week from my friend over at This Self Sufficient Life. This is by far the best everyday slicing bread I've ever made. The family all loves it, it doesn't crumble when I slice it and after sitting on the shelf for 4 days was only a bit stale around the crust. Even Husband, who specifically asks for store bought bread for his lunches, is now using this bread for his sandwiches. This makes me happy.

What else is going on? Husband has been working locally pretty much all year. As nice as it is to have him home, the overtime he typically gets April-November isn't happening. The overtime pay is what we put aside to prepare for the winter, it funds our summer activities and also was supposed to pay for a dumpster so we could empty the basement and set up shelving so I have a place for more preserved food. Doesn't it figure that the year we actually had a financial plan on paper (as opposed to making it up as we go) is the year that Husband works winter hours through the summer.

I'll leave you with a few pictures from the fireworks. Strong-Willed-One had tried to blow on her sparklers after it went out to make the end glow, but instead burned just under her lip. It's healing nicely considering that she keeps picking at it.

Waiting for the fireworks to start.

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Monday, 10 June 2013

Is there enough time in your day?

You know that frustration you feel when there just aren't enough hours in the day? That's where I reside.

I make as much of our food from scratch as I can. This is partly because it's healthier and partly because it's cheaper. This means a lot of time in the kitchen, not just for cooking but clean up too. You can go through a lot of dishes cooking from scratch!

This year I'm expanding the garden I started last year in order to provide us with healthy, tasty, inexpensive food. Planting, weeding, harvesting. Time.

I make a point of being available to the girls after school for at least an hour, whether it's for homework help, talking or even just a snuggle.

I spend much of the day interacting with Little Guy. He has no playmate other than me while the girls are in school. He is able to entertain himself much of the time, but if I leave him to do that for too long he inevitably ends up doing something he shouldn't.

There's the banking and bill paying, menus and grocery shopping.

Then there is the housework. I readily admit that I am not a good housekeeper. I struggle with keeping the clutter under control and usually lose. Cleaning around clutter is time consuming and a pain in the you-know-what. When I feel like I'm winning the battle against clutter and dust, I begin to notice the things it never occurs to me to clean like the door jams, picture frames, and ceiling fan blades.

Do you have any idea how quickly kids grow? I swear that as soon as I finish going through their clothes and pulling out the items that are too small, it needs to be done again.

Which leads me to laundry. For the most part, I manage to stay on top of the laundry. Yet it still takes time. Time to sort and stain treat, time to hang it out to dry, time to fold and time to put it away.

And sleep! I seem to be one of those people who require at least 7-8 hours of sleep a day. Want to guess how often that happens? Come visit me sometime in the land of perpetual fog.

So how do I do it all? Most of the time I don't. The first thing to fall by the wayside is the housework. We have to eat which means I have to cook and clean up the kitchen. The kids need focused time; they are too important to push aside. And we need clean clothes to wear. The housework is left to accumulate and sleep is cut short.

A couple of years ago I finally came to place where I'm okay with this most of the time. I'm an imperfect person doing the best I can. My family is well fed and know that they are a priority. If people come over to visit and the housework isn't done I've stopped making excuses; people who come into my house have come to see me (or the family), not judge the state of my house.

So when you have those days where there just isn't enough time, know you aren't alone. There are others who will admit to being imperfect people and that they too are doing the best they can.

Friday, 31 May 2013

The Start of Gardening Season

Husband and I spent the other weekend working outside.  Saturday morning found me in the front of the house actually putting flowers in the raised bed instead of pretending the weeds look pretty.

Front flower bed before flowers.

Front flower bed after flowers.

Husband was out back running the rototiller. He was turning over last year's garden and breaking ground on a new section for this year. The afternoon found us pulling clumps of sod out of the newly turned over garden.

This year's garden, freshly tilled.

I find it funny that when we started last year's garden I thought it was so big. The whole thing was a learning experience for me. I learned things like:
  • Don't plant your peppers between your tomatoes and broccoli, especially if your rows are only 8 inches apart. My poor pepper plants only got to about 8 inches tall and the three peppers that I got were only about 2 inches big.
  • I now know that when growing cauliflower you cover the flower head with the leaves in order to keep it white. 
  • I know what cauliflower and broccoli look like just before and after they flower. 
  • The rabbits in our area like the beets I grow but not the carrots. However, they like my neighbor's carrots but not her beets.
  • It is nearly impossible to kill swiss chard and the leaves can get huge.
  • Slugs like lettuce and swiss chard.
  • A single zucchini plant will cover nearly 1/4 of last year's garden.

Last year's garden.

This year I'm going bigger. The pictures aren't really a fair comparison. Last year's garden was about 10'x10'. This year it's 24'x18'. I wanted it bigger but I'll make do. I'm also going to set up two pallet gardens for the lettuce, chard and kale, so that should help. I'll be growing sweet peppers, cauliflower, broccoli, beets, carrots, peas, cucumber, yellow summer squash, zuchinni, tomatoes, swiss chard, 2 types of lettuce and kale. I also have planters containing oregano, thyme and cilantro.
Strong-Willed One watering flowers.

While I was clearing the sod from the garden, Strong-Willed One watered the new flowers and Kiddlet kept Little Guy entertained.

Kiddlet and Little Guy.
This all happened about 2 weeks ago. Our internet connection has been spotty due to the weather we've been having. I'm hoping to post some more recent pictures of the gardens soon.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Sneaking in Healthy Food and Money Saving Tips

We all have little tricks we use to make things go further in order to save money (or because we're going to run out of an item) or slip healthy food to our kids.

While I was making and canning applesauce this fall, I saved and canned the water the apples were cooked in and called it apple juice. It does taste like apple juice and I figured why not. The thing is, not everyone likes it. So here I am now with my jars of homemade "apple juice" that not everyone will drink and I need juice. I have found that if I mix one can of store bought juice and one jar of my "apple juice" no one know the difference. This stretches my store bought juice and ensures that my homemade stuff is used and not wasted.

I also made banana muffins today. Except that I only pulled two bananas out of the freezer and they did not make 1 cup of mashed banana. Out comes the jar of peach sauce (like applesauce) that no one likes. I added that to the mashed banana to equal one cup. The result? Yummy. The peach sauce cut the sweetness of the overripe bananas a bit and made the muffins feel more silky in my mouth. How does silky feel in your mouth? I have no idea how to explain it, but it's a good thing. Even better, the kids have no idea.

Want to know how to make healthy chocolate muffins that taste sinfully rich? Add pureed carrots and pureed avocado. Not only do the carrots and avocado add nutrition, but the avocado provides the richness. See my Healthy Eating post for the recipe. Plan ahead by cooking and pureeing your carrots ahead of time and freeze them in 1/2 cup portions; same thing for the avocado except you don't cook it.

As far as money saving goes, there are a myriad of things that can be done. I'll do a more extensive post on this later, but for now here are just a few ideas.
  • Pour half a bottle of fabric softener into another container; add water to both. You'll never notice the difference.
  • Make your own laundry detergent. (More on that next time.)
  • Hang your laundry out to line dry. The fresh smell is amazing.
  • Make your own baby wipes/handy wipes using a good roll of paper towels, water, baby shampoo and oil.
  • Find out how many of the tv shows you watch can be streamed on-line; you may be able to cancel your satellite/cable and not miss it. 
Most everyone I know has dipped into their creative side when in a pinch. I would love to hear your little tricks!

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Fresh Start in a New Month

Have you ever been really glad to see a month end and a new one begin? This year May felt like a new start. The month of April and the end of March were not the most pleasant of times for us this year. April brought layoffs at the company Husband works for. For the first time in 8 years, he was laid off.

Sleeping while the nurses got things sorted out.
March ended with Kiddlet in the hospital; April began the same way. She's okay now, but boy did she give us a scare. Kiddlet had been complaining about a stomach ache for 3 days; on day 4 she had a slight fever and was really tired. Day 6 she started vomiting every 3 hours; more often if she tried to drink something. Most frightening was the small blood clots in her vomit the first time. I hauled her to the emergency room where they collected blood and urine samples and did chest and abdominal x-rays. We were told everything looked normal, prescribed an antacid and sent home. The vomiting continued right on schedule and by the evening of day 7 it was clear that she was becoming dehydrated.

Strong-Willed One wanted to see Kiddlet's iv.

The next morning (day 8) I took her to the pediatrician. Now, I like our kids' doctor, I really do, but that particular morning she wasn't really hearing me. She gave me directions on what to feed Kiddlet and how often and said to come back in a few days if things didn't get better. I looked at her and explained again that Kiddlet could not keep water down, that it had been 2 days since she could keep water down for more than a few minutes. The doctor looked at me and said, almost as if testing to see how serious I was, "than I'll have to admit her." My response? "Thank you," with a sigh of relief.

She would fall asleep in the oddest positions.

I honestly believed that once Kiddlet was rehydrated she would perk right up and come home. Nope. A few hours after the iv was started, the diarreah began. A few hours after that it turned bloody. Kiddlet was lethargic and slept most of the time. They gave her Gravol for the nausea and she threw up anyway. Day 8 an ultrasound was done; I was told it looked normal.

Waiting for the ultrasound.

Day 8 was also the day Husband was able to come up to the hospital. We happen to be a one vehicle family and I had our van. A former co-worker that Husband is still in touch with heard what was going on and offered to make the one hour drive and bring Husband to see us and retrieve the van. (Huge thank you to Husband's friend and my friend who took Strong-Willed One and Little Guy so this could happen!) The day Kiddlet was admitted to the hospital, a belated birthday package came in the mail. This timely arrival meant a surprise gift for Kiddlet.

Opening presents.
Coloring with Dad.

Day 9 she finally seemed to be doing better. Fluids were staying down, she was allowed soft foods and she was sitting up and talking. That lasted until the middle of the afternoon. I was so disappointed. We really thought she'd be going home the next day.

Day 10, the day before Easter, was a roller coaster kind of day. Very Dear Friend came out to the hospital to stay with Kiddlet while I took her car, went to my in-laws to shower and then to my sister-in-law's for the family Easter gathering and to see Strong-Willed One and Little Guy. Just before Very Dear Friend arrived, the new on-call doctor came to see us. She was really concerned by Kiddlet's condition and some questionable spots on the ultrasound. This doctor ordered a CT scan. Very Dear Friend arrived, helped Kiddlet drink down the very vile fluid for the scan and pretty much held our hands through the insertion of a second iv line for the x-ray dye. After the scan, the nurse said it will be at least an hour before the doctor would be in with the results and I should go ahead and leave. I was able to have my shower, then, while walking to my sister-in-law's house, I got a call from the doctor explaining the CT showed a thickening of the bowel and possibly a need for her to be scoped. This meant Kiddlet was being transported to a Children's Hospital and I should get back as soon as I could. I phoned my mom and asked her to come be with us, said a quick hello to my kids and the family and left Husband to make overnight arrangements for Strong-Willed One and Little Guy so he could join us. (Huge thank you to our family who stepped up and cared for the kids!) While all of this was going on, Very Dear Friend had packed up all our stuff so I didn't have to worry about missing anything. We made arrangements for her to meet Husband with the bags (couldn't take them with me) and got Kiddlet strapped in to the transport stretcher. As we were leaving, Husband called to say he would be late; he had a flat tire.

Transported to Children's Hospital.

We arrived at the Children's Hospital around 8:30pm the same day the CT was done. Shortly after,  Husband, my mom and my step-dad arrived; we settled in for the night.

The next morning (day 11,) was Easter Sunday. We had three different groups show up with Easter gifts; we were blown away.

Dad opening her first Easter gift.

This was also the day the gastroenterologist came to see Kiddlet. He listened to the story from the beginning, did an exam and asked Kiddlet if he could take off her socks and look at her feet. No one had done this before; she'd had her feet covered from the day she was admitted to the hospital. On her feet was the beginning of a rash called purpura.

The small red dots are the beginning of purpura.
Other foot.

The doctor diagnosed Henoch-Schonlein Purpura (HSP). That the doctor was able to make this diagnosis so quickly is very impressive. Kiddlet did not have the majority of the symptoms and to this day we have no idea why she got the HSP. Anyway, the treatment for HSP is Prednisone steroids. Within hours of the first dose, Kiddlet perked right up. She was sitting up and telling me all about the things she'd noticed during transport, how much she wanted to eat noodles and macaroni and cheese and more noodles and a strawberry jam sandwich.

Making use of one of the Easter gifts.

 The next day they stopped administering the anti-nausea medication and Kiddlet was able to go to a craft session where she got to paint a t-shirt and bring another painting craft back to her room. By day 13, Kiddlet's iv was turned off and she was given permission to go to the playroom. That evening she took her medication orally which meant the iv was no longer necessary. Day 14 she was released to come home.
Snuggling with her new bunny from the Ronald McDonald room.

The Children's Hospital had a Ronald McDonald Family Room.

This place was such a huge blessing. The volunteers were amazing, there was always coffee on, a kitchenette stocked with donated food we were able to help ourselves to, stuffed animals for patients who needed a friend, a washing machine and drier (no cost) and lounging areas.

Kiddlet came home on a Wednesday. That Friday she was feeling well enough that we let her do a half day at school. She came home and fell asleep less than 10 minutes later.

Sleeping after her first half day back at school.

Kiddlet has been home for 5 weeks now and is doing fantastically. She has had her first follow up appointments with both the gastroenterologist and the nephrologist (for her kidneys, a common complication of HSP.) Both doctors are pleased with her progress and have no concerns. She sees the gastroenterologist again at the end May and the nephrologist at the end of June.

We are blessed with amazing friends and family. We had a number of people willing to take Strong-Willed One and Little Guy the week following Easter so that Husband could return to work; thank you. I also want to thank Mom and Step-Dad for coming to be with us and everyone who sent up prayers.

After tumultuous April, May is off to a good start. Kiddlet is doing well, Husband has been called back to work and gardening season is upon us.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

The Payoff

There were moments, many moments, while in the midst of canning this summer when I thought I must be crazy. Canning peaches is a lot of work. Tomato sauce entirely by hand - unbelievably time consuming.

My reasons for canning last summer were two-fold.
  1. It was simply something I wanted to try. 
  2. In the long run, it will save us money. 
I was careful not to go overboard. I have a tendency to jump into things with both feet. I buy all the tools, supplies and set up as if I'll continue on for the long run. Then I realize how much work it is, or it's not as fun as I thought, and I bail. So, I was careful not to go overboard. I borrowed a canner, I bought jars as I needed them. I only did a bushel of peaches, 1/2 a bushel of nectarines and a bushel of tomatoes. Apples, well, 1 1/2 bushels made a lot more applesauce then I expected.

I say all of this because I am now wishing I had done more. And I'm so thankful I did what I did.

The reality of working in new home construction is that work slows in the winter. This results in less hours working, less money coming in. The months of January, February and March are our leanest months of the year, financially speaking. And it doesn't help that the government resumes deductions from paychecks either. (By fall half of those deductions stop because we're basically paid up for the year.)

I have these conflicting thoughts about having, or not having, money. When I think of the times we've had an abundance, when I can buy the more expensive cuts of meat or a frozen lasagna (instead of making one) and then compare those times with paycheck to paycheck living - having to count every penny - I realize that despite the stress that comes from the 'have not' times, I am more content and at peace than I am during the 'have' times. Is it because I know I'm literally doing all I can to serve my family and be responsible with our family's resources? Is it because I'm reminded to look to the Lord in all things - and actually do it? I think it's a combination of the two. Of course I'm more at peace when I'm looking to the Lord. In this season of my life, my job is to serve my family. When we 'have', I don't do that to the best of my ability; I get lazy. When I get lazy, I get restless and depressed. When I get restless and depressed, I tend to comfort shop, squandering our family's resources.

So, here we are in the middle of February. I've already used up over half of what I canned this summer. I've gone back to making absolutely every thing I can from scratch rather than buying it. I often feel like there just isn't enough time in the day for everything that needs to be done. And I'm more content and at peace than I've been in a long time.