Monday, November 29, 2010

Fibromyalgia and Me

After months and months of testing, we have a diagnosis.  I have fibromyalgia. 

I'm so torn about this.  I'm glad to finally have a name for the pain and fatigue I've experienced for the last year.  I'm so very sad that it is something that I will be living with for the rest of my life.  I've only known for 5 days, I've started taking medicine 2 days ago.  I'm in shock and denial.  I'll discuss it more later, but for now, I have things to do.  Thanksgiving was wonderful.  The moment we got back in town, we hit the ground running to get ready for the Christmas party we host every year the weekend after Thanksgiving.  I'm off to do laundry and decorate some more!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Vacations from the Farm

Our family loves to vacation.  We don't care where, we don't care for how long.  We just love to go.
Buying a hobby farm was a threat to that love of ours.   We can't put chickens and pigs in a kennel like we would the dogs.  It became quite a problem.
The first time we went on a trip, we hired our dentist's son to come down once a day to feed and water everyone.  He did it once, then something came up.  When we got back, we found out that our dentist actually took care of everyone.  Not exactly what we were going for, nor was it his dream for a second job.

That is when God intervened.  The family with whom we carpooled mentioned their neighbor who watches dogs left at home to make extra money.  I called her and found out that she used to live on a farm.  Not only does she know how to take care of chickens and pigs, but she could milk a cow for us if we ever decided to go that route. 

The set-up has been perfect.  She and her husband will come over with their grandchildren and stay for hours, playing with the dogs, collecting mail, feeding and watering everyone, and taking any veggies that ripen in the garden while we're gone.  They are thrilled to take the eggs the chickens lay and just spend time on the property.

We don't have to worry one bit about how everything is doing.  To be truthful, they are better at taking care of the animals than we are.  She talked about holding the chickens that first trip of ours, and I about passed out.  How exactly did she catch them?

Another blessing is that she is always available on the holidays, which is when we travel every year.  I don't know what we would do without this family.  Which reminds me, I need to call her to let her know when we're leaving.

Have a wonderful, fun-filled, great-tasting, safe Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Viking, shmiking

I tried milk jugs.  I bought buckets.  I looked at paper mache, paper folding, and paper crumbling.  Duct tape had looked promising.  In the end, plain old boring cardstock was chosen.

A month and a half ago, I offered to help my eight year old's teacher to come up with an activity to go with the book How to Train Your Dragon that they read in class.  Silly me.  I thought it would be easy.  Let me just say that finding a cheap, easy way to make Viking helmets does not exist.  Oh, and they aren't cheap to purchase, either.  There are plenty of ways to make them, but none of them are good for a room full of 8 year olds to do in 15 minutes.  So, I went the simple, boring route and cut out the helmet and horns from cardstock for the kids to decorate and glue together before I stapled them to bands around their heads.

I then went through something similar to make dragons for them.  Stuffed paper dragons, foam cut-outs, or even purchasing cheap ones.  Decorate with feathers, crepe paper?  In the end, I went with photocopies of coloring pages.

It doesn't matter what I chose.  The kids will have fun as long as I sell it.  I planned to have everyone give himself a Viking name, put their individual touches on the helmets, then go on a dragon hunt.  I'd take them on a hike through and around school to the dragon den.  Each child would find his own dragon, and we'd head back.  The dragons would of course then wake up, and we'd have to run for our lives, just like the book.  We'd end up back in the classroom, where the kids would then decorate the dragons and name them.  To wrap up, any child that chose could intro himself and his dragon to the class.

Great plan.  I am excited to do it.  Then, at 5:00 am, 9 year old vomits in his bed.  Plans are shaken.  Maybe if I let him sleep, he'll feel better.  He can just stay with the younger boys with my friend who was going to watch them.  Great idea, until said friend called to say he had a child vomit in the car in the drop-off lane at school.

So, after almost two months of preparations, I had to send the supplies into school with the eight year old.  His teacher was going to carry on without me.  So much for my Viking name.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Eating on the Go

Two or three times each season, we have a night like we will tonight.  This is what we will be doing today:
2:45 pick kids up at school
3:00-4:00 8yo and 10yo piano
4:30-6:00 12yo basketball practice
6:00-7:30 9yo basketball practice
6:45-7:45 8yo basketball practice
7:30-9:00 12yo Boy Scout meeting

You might wonder, when and where will the children eat, change clothes, and do homework?  It's going to have to be the van, as it is supposed to rain this afternoon and evening. 
I made the choice years ago, when my oldest became a toddler, to avoid fast food like the plague.  It was just a matter of how.  I went to a Tupperware party and saw a lunch box that would be perfect.

 I bought three (and a fourth when the fourth child was born).  For 9 years we have used these boxes.  We've taken them on every picnic we've been on.  We've used them in the car when on road trips, so we didn't have to stop for dinner.  Every single day for an entire school year, my kids ate breakfast out of them on the way to school.  (eggs, french toast, cereal, and all)  These boxes have lived through it all.  I love them.  They are the best things I have ever purchased to help my family eat well and cheaply on the go.  Some reasons I like them so much:

1.  I can clean them in the dishwasher.
2.  I save money by not buying sandwich bags.
3.  A juice box, sandwich, cheese stick, and two sides fit in it.
4.  I don't have to worry about dirty picnic tables.  The kids eat right out of them.
5.  They save space.  All four can easily fit in our cooler, with room for my lunch and ice packs.

If you would like some, they are called Lunch-n-Things Containers.  I have no affiliation with Tupperware, and I never have.  I just want to help you out.

I'm on my way to fill them now.  So much to do, so little time.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Time with my mom

I had such a lovely weekend with my mom on our annual shopping trip.  It's my one time each year to actually buy for the family and some Christmas gifts without my little distractions.  But the best part is getting to just spend time with my mom.  She has had a rough year.  At this trip last year, my sister and I finally convinced her that the pains in her chest were not heartburn.  Three weeks later she was having surgery to fix the complete blockage in her heart.  Then, a few days before her birthday in March, she found out that she had cervical cancer.  Over the next few months she went through chemo and an awful haul of radiation.  Complications have plagued her the whole way through.  Praise God, she has made it through, is feeling well, and is cancer free.  So this weekend was extra special.  So much in such a short time, we hardly had time to breathe for 365 days.  We both enjoyed relaxing, talking, laughing, and buying a sweater or two. 

Make sure you hug everyone you love every chance you get.  Things change so fast.

Friday, November 12, 2010

I'm looking at it's head!

While I unloaded the groceries this morning, I let the toddlers stay outside and play. (We're having a streak of gorgeous weather around here!)  On one trip outside, two year old wasn't where I left him.  I called his name, and he replied, "I'm looking at it's head!"  Around the corner I go, and see my son sitting in the grass, looking at the head of a dead opossum.  Yes, just a head.  No opossum body anywhere around.
Now, most moms in this situation would flip out.  The first time this happened, I most certainly did.  Part of me wishes I still did.  The fact that I don't means I have seen this same scenario too many times.

We have two outside dogs.  They are so very good to the kids and any other human that comes to visit.  They do, however, take pride in ridding our yard of unwanted critters.  Sure, I would rather they simply scare the offenders away, but this will have to do.  We frequently find carcasses of moles, mice, raccoons, opossums, birds, and sadly, sometimes our own chickens.  Once we even found a weasel. We have learned to simply toss the remains out into the field and move on.  Our children aren't even phased by finding a dead animal.  They actually get excited when the body finally decomposes and they find the leftover bones.   
I think the only animals that have alluded them thus far are a skunk and a squirrel.  By the smell of the dogs, I know they have tussled with skunks.  And we have laughed ourselves silly watching the dogs tree squirrels, then try to jump up and grab them.  (One enterprising squirrel actually jumped from the tree to the garage roof, which you can see in the above photo.  There was nothing for the squirrel to grab onto, so it slid down the roof and went flying.  As soon as it landed, the race was on again.)  Apparently, only the truly great dogs can capture skunks and squirrels.   

Roy, the "I was this close!" Wonder Dog
I'm off to dispose of the opossum head.  Perhaps I'll find the rest of the poor thing on my way to the field.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Attack of the Stinky Ladybugs!

I walked outside to enjoy the beautiful, sunny day.  Within seconds, I was completely covered with ladybugs.  I looked around and saw that ladybugs were on every surface and swarming in midair.  What is it about this house and creepy, crawly bug overpopulation??
This first happened our first year in the house, and has occurred again and again over the years.  To be fair, they aren't actually the cute, wouldn't-bother-a-soul ladybugs.  They are some sort of beetle that look exactly like ladybugs.  My kids say that they smell, but I haven't experienced that. (Side note:  I actually discussed olfactory decline with friends of mine, all of whom have five or more children.  We all assumed that with so many babies, we'd be able to smell a bad odor a mile away.  Not true.  Every single one of us have gotten worse at it as we have more babies.  Bad enough that I can't jump without peeing, but not being able to smell things?  Where does that come from?)  Back to the bugs.

When the bugs do swarm, it's only for a few hours.  The number diminishes, but plenty stick around to irritate me to no end.  They are all over every surface in the house, including the ceiling!  I vacuum constantly, with the two year old behind me yelling, "There's one!  It's a bug!"  every five seconds.  I spent an hour sweeping the house this morning, and as I sit here writing, I can see bugs on the floor and three of the windows.  UGH!

What is the life span of a beetle?  It can't be long.  I am convinced that these bugs simply come here to die.  They just want a nice place to spend their last 15 minutes of life. 

I just heard another bug land next to me.  Pardon me while I go get my vacuum.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Winter on our farm

We've realized that winter on a farm can be far from fun.  When you have animals, you don't get to stay cuddled on the couch under a blanket.  We don't have electricity to the coop, so the chickens' water freezes.  And eggs need collected.  Regardless of the force of the wind, the drop in temperature, or the amount of snow on the ground, we need to brave the elements and change the water several times a day.  If only that were the biggest challenge.  For the last few years, we've had another element of dread.  Wild birds.  When the weather stinks, wild birds claim the coop as their own.  Of course they do.  It's warmer, there's fresh food and water, and there's plently of room for everyone. 
The first time this happened, we had a foot of snow on the ground thanks to one major storm, and Husband was out of town.  I trudged out to the coop, opened the door, and about lost my head.  At least fifty birds went crazy.  They flew into the walls and windows, they dive-bombed my head, trying to get past me, and they sent the chickens into a tailspin.  I was living yet another horror flick. (Anyone seen The Birds, by Alfred Hitchcock?) 
Eventually they cleared out, so I could get back to work.  They do come back, though, all throughout the winter months.  Because of this, the kids are scared to death to go out and do their chores alone.  I can't blame them.
However, it won't happen this year.  We had a bad coyote problem at the farm this summer, and our entire flock of chickens is gone.  We very much miss our fresh eggs, but it has been a nice break.  I'm surely painting a target on our farm by saying this, but it should be an easy winter this year.  We still have to get the garden ready for winter, and we are taking advantage of the empty coop to get some maintenance done, but we won't be doing that with a foot of snow or minus 10 degree weather! 
I'm looking forward to some cuddling on the couch with the kids.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Leaves, leaves, go away!

I love living in the country for so many reasons.  At this time of year, I especially love it when I see all those suburbanites wrestling their leaves.  Here on the farm, leaves are free to blow where the wind takes them.   We will rake up a few big piles to simply jump in for some fun, but that's as far as it goes.  That's the way I like it.  I am not a fan of bagging leaves.
Finding volunteer opportunities for our family can be rough.  We want to help others, but finding time and place that fits with our schedule and ages of our kids isn't easy.  This year, we found an activity we can do.  An announcement in the bulletin at church was calling for families and groups to sign up to help elderly folks in the parish clean up their yards.  You'd think we would learn our lesson to always ask questions and do research before jumping in to anything.   But no.  We signed up, figuring we could easily take care of someone's yard. 
We were assigned to help a lovely widow.  We took one look at lovely widow's yard, and I almost cried.  She has a double lot with more trees than I've ever seen squished into one place.  We didn't need rakes.  We simply stood in the middle of the yard in leaves up to our knees and started bagging.  An hour and a half and 25 bags later, you couldn't tell we had even been there.  Lovely widow said that her son was going to help, so I felt better.  Found out lovely widow's son is in his sixties.  We're going back today to work some more. 
Hopefully we'll get everything cleaned up before the mowing needs done in the spring.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Change of Plans

The two little boys had just fallen asleep. I was in the middle of writing today's post when I got a call from school.  The eight year old had a collision at recess, and a trip to the hospital was now in my immediate future.  Of course, only half an hour before this phone call, I talked with Husband at work.  I told him that it was a beautiful afternoon, and he should run outside today.  Guess where he was when I called to tell him to meet me at the hospital.  Wake babies up, frantically call friends to find someone to watch sleepy babies, leave several messages at Husband's office.  I finally got Eight year old, and he had a large gash through his eyebrow.  No butterflying this one. We head to the hospital.  And as should have been expected, we had rushed, rushed, rushed so we could wait, wait, wait.  Two hours in, I finally talk to Husband to tell him he needs to leave work, pick up the van at the hospital, pick up our kids and our friends' kids from school, drop off the friends' kids at the same house he will pick up the little boys, and head home.  Three and a half hours in I talk to Husband again to tell him he's going to have to start dinner, too.  We weren't going anywhere soon. 
My baby boy did a great job throughout his first emergency room visit.  Just enough toughness, but enough little boy that he let me hold him in my lap a bit.  Four and a half hours after we arrived, we finally left with five stitches and two headaches.
I had just enough time to gobble up dinner that Husband had made before I jumped in the car to take nin year old to basketball practice. 
Each day Husband and I discuss our plans for the day.  By the time the kids go to bed, those plans have changed several times.  That's how it is with kids.  Things change in the blink of an eye, and in emergencies, I am so grateful to have such a loving Church family to carry us through.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Mommy, I peed!

Of all parenting duties thus far, my least favorite by far is potty training.  You'd think that this fifth time around I'd be ok with it.  I knew it was coming.  But no.  I am more relaxed about it, not getting worked up over accidents.  Still can't stand it, though.
Here is an example of why:
Our house is in the middle of our seven acre plot of land, which is surrounded by 200 acres of corn.  We can't see our closest neighbor's house.  I have a lot of boys, so when they are outside playing, I encourage them to "make water" behind any barn.  This includes the two year old. 
The other day, we were getting ready to leave for several hours, so I put a Pull-up on the two year old.  Once he had his shoes on, he was outside, playing on the porch.  I stayed in to get the one year old and all of our stuff ready.  From the kitchen, I hear the two year old yelling, "Mommy, I peed!"  I assume that he has peed in his Pull-up, since history has shown that he won't pull his pants down on his own.  I yell, "It's ok.  I'll be right there to help."   He continues to yell, but it's starting to sound like he is proud of himself.  I look out the front door, and there is his little bare tush.  He has a smile on his face, and once again tells me that he has peed.  Sure enough, he has peed all over the front porch steps.  I of course have to tell him that I am proud of him for taking the initiative.  I am mostly proud of him, until I see the rest of the picture.  Before he pulled his pants down, he had actually pooped in the Pull-up.  There was poo all over his legs, his pants, and his socks.
That's how it goes with potty training.  Even when the child does what he's supposed to do, you're up to your elbows in poo.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Plague of our Own

It is the time of year again that always puts our family on edge.  Our first autumn in the country house brought the most unbelievable, creepy experience we have ever had.  It started when I was working in the flower beds.  I found several large, hairy spiders crawling around in the dirt.  I figured it was because the chickens were no longer roaming all over the yard, eating everything that creeped and crawled, and wrote them off.  A few evenings later, Husband took the trash out.  I heard an odd noise, like he was hosing something down.  When he came back in, he explained that there were a bunch of large, hairy spiders on the side of the house.  He actually did hose them down.  The next day, they were gone, but were back that night, plus more of their friends.  Each night the spiders got worse.  I called around, but the earliest an exterminator could get here was a week and a half away.  By the time a week went by, we had thousands upon thousands of these things crawling all over the outside walls of our house.  It looked like the walls were actually moving.  A Cub Scout meeting was held at our house during this time, and children had nightmares.  Friends came from far and wide to see if we were embellishing the story.  We weren't. 
The worst part of the whole thing was leaving for school in the morning.  School starts at 7:30, when it is still dark.  Before we opened the door to leave each morning, I made sure everyone had shoes on and was completely ready for battle.  Spiders completely covered the door and the door jam.  When I disturbed the spiders by opening the door, they didn't simply run away.  They jumped off and then ran.  My children were 3,5,6, and 7 at the time, and they were troopers.  As soon as the spiders hit the ground, the kids were stomping away, trying to get as many as they could.  "Spider juice" as they called it, was all over my floor every morning. 
Finally, the day of the exterminator was upon us.  We purposely did not clean up the spiders that morning.  I needed him to see exactly what we were dealing with.  He took one look at the carnage, and plainly told me that he had never seen them that bad, nor that type of spider that big.  He sprayed the outside of our house, and for the first time I didn't care in the least what it was doing to the environment.  Later, we learned that we were being visited by wolf spiders.  These creatures do not build webs, but hunt for their food during the day.  When the fields were harvested all around our house, the spiders came to our house to stay warm. 
Every once in a while we see a wolf spider.  We get the shivers every time.  We have not had another onslaught of them since that first year, but every year we worry that it could happen again.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Busy, busy, busy

Busy weekends can be so much fun, but man are they exhausting.  It was our home soccer tournament this weekend, and we have three children playing in the league.  We had six soccer games on Saturday, back to back to back..., from 8:20 am until the last game at 5:40 pm.  Plus, we had one shift to work it during two of the games.  Sunday there were 5 games, but there was some overlap.   First games at 8:20, last game at 1:40.  Plus, we had to work 2 two-hour shifts.  Two of our teams did great!  Our daughter's team won the championship for her bracket in double overtime.  So exciting!  Our 8 year old's team won all four games, with the last goal of the season being scored by the only child to not score all year.  The crown went wild!  Our 12 yr old's team, not so much.  They just couldn't get the ball in the goal, only scoring one goal in 3 games.  Luckily, they won their league standings last week, so the season wasn't all bad.

I have no pictures, since watching soccer games while taking care of two toddlers is a full-time occupation. 

Oh, and at the end of it all, we still had trick-or-treating!  The whole family fell down exhausted by 8:30 last night. 

I'm going to try to take a nap.