Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Recharging and Appreciating My Family

My mom had knee surgery a week ago Monday.  She lives about 45 minutes away, so I don't get to see her every week, but I do see her frequently.  We had a pediatrician appointment halfway between our houses yesterday, so we went to visit.  She was out, so we beat her there by about half an hour.

Before my mom got home, I was on my last nerve.  Miss F had a very pooey diaper, so I was trying to change her.  But no amount of bargaining was making this diaper go well.  Miss F was arching her back, stomping her feet, trying to roll over, and driving me nuts.  I threatened her (we'll leave before Grammy gets here), begged her (PLEASE just stop moving), and generally griped at her.  I got her diaper on, then had to go wash it out.  My mom's water pressure is atrocious, so it took me ten minutes to wash it out.

Meanwhile, Miss C is screaming.  I kept asking Miss F to give her a pacifier, but she was busy getting into things.  When I came out of the bathroom, she was trying to use pliers on my mom's dog.  Thankfully, she was just opening and closing the pliers near the dog and did no harm.  One kid screaming, one kid getting into trouble, and I was fried.  I hated all the yelling and pleading and threatening, and I knew it wasn't working.  When my mom came home, everything had *just* calmed down.  I was about to lose it.  So Grammy, eight days post surgery, and Nana (my grandmother) decided to have Miss F stay the night with them.

Last night, Mr. B and I used the time to get some canning done and it was past Miss F's bedtime by the time I got off of work anyway, so we didn't really notice the difference.  This morning, though, was a totally different story.  I've had time to think about how our family's been living the last five weeks or so.  I know I've been really snarky with Mr. B, even though I know it's not right.  To some extent, I feel like he's been too sensitive, and in some ways, I know that my "jokes" are cheap shots for no reason.  I have no idea why I've been behaving the way I have, except maybe hormones and stress.

So I've taken this morning with Miss C to really appreciate her this morning and to think about how life has been since her birth.   She was wide awake and pretty darn happy.  Usually when she's like this, I don't notice because I'm too busy dealing with Miss F or working on housework.  This has to change.

So I'm going to try a project.  I love projects if you haven't noticed.  I need to appreciate my family more and communicate what I need and want more often.  Every day, I'm going to make it a point to tell Mr. B that I appreciate something he's doing.  He does SO MUCH for us.  I'm so lucky to have him.  He never complains about being asked to do something - changing a baby, washing dishes or diapers, cleaning, he does it all.  We believe that if we both try to give 100%, then we'll end up somewhere 50/50. 

I'm also going to spend some one-on-one time with Miss F while working on being present.  I need to stop worrying about things I need to do, I won't put her off for the baby (if I can help it), and I'll let her direct the time.  I'm sick of nagging her when it doesn't really work anyway.

And I've got to spend some one-on-one time with Miss C aside from midnight nursing sessions.  She deserves the time and attention that Miss F got as a baby.  Right now, I've been handing her off to Mr. B or putting her in a cradle as soon as she's done eating or being changed.  She's waking up and growing now that she's a month old, and I haven't noticed at all until today.

Every day I shape my family, and I don't want to wake up one day with a henpecked husband, a tantrum-throwing and attention seeking toddler, and an ignored baby.

Miss C looking happy to see me this morning 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Frugal Accomplishments - September 8th through 14th

This week flew by.  I know we did things this week, but I'm not sure if I could tell you what it was.  This'll be a relatively short list.

-Organized the pantry and the freezer so that we can tell what food we have and use it more effectively.

-Hosted a game night for five friends and made homemade pizza to feed the group.

-Picked up a half bushel of very nice seconds peaches for $7.50.  We canned them and got 9 quarts and 9 pints (not including two more pints that shattered while processing-we need new jars.)

-Bought more apples for applesauce.  Since we had a nice family day and picked more than 20 lbs of apples, the price dropped by $0.10 per pound.  I'll have to can the apples either during the day or on Wednesday, because I ran out of jars and we have a showing today.  I'm buying more quart jars this afternoon.

-Made it through a whole day of antiquing and walking a street festival without spending any money.

-Mr. B and Miss F made a batch of beer from a kit Mr. B got for Christmas while I slept in (until 8) on Friday morning.  This will give us about 50 bottles of beer in 6 weeks or so.

-Took all of the air conditioners out.  Since there's no gap in the window now, we'll be saving more energy.  Our biggest heating/cooling expense is our baseboard heat, so I'm hoping to put off turning them on until December.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Letter B

Our letter of the week "lessons" have settled into a flow where every day has at least a reference of the letter, and it's very laid back. On Monday, we read Ben, Billy, and the Birdhouse by Cecilia Mendin and Joanne Meier.  We've actually read it probably 30 times already since getting it from the library last week, but it was our official activity yesterday.  On her own, Miss F sang the "buh" sound to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.  I think I'm going to count it, even though - or especially since - I didn't come up with the idea.


Miss F has been asking for pancakes lately, so today, for the letter B, I made blueberry pancakes.


For good measure, I also made a lowercase b out of batter.


Apparently, I took too long, because Miss F filled up on pears while I was making pancakes and wouldn't touch them when they were ready. But we still talked about B making the "buh" sound, blueberries, and other things that started with B. I think I'll freeze the letter I made and break it out for the letter d :o)

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Frugal Accomplishments - September 1st through 7th

I've been reading the blog The Prudent Homemaker for a couple of years now.  She posts, among other things, a weekly list of her frugal accomplishments.  Since I'm the type of person who needs to have a record of accomplishments in order to stay motivated, I'm going to try to keep a record of the little things that we do to keep our expenses down.

-Cooked up bacon and saved the grease for future cooking.  One pound of bacon yielded one cup of grease, which will keep us at least a month.  The bacon was local and nitrate free bacon that we picked up at the farmer's market.

-Cut herbs from our front yard: oregano, chives, sage, thyme, winter savory.  Chives and some thyme were put in vinegar.  Everything else is hanging to dry.

-Cleaned and re-seasoned a new-to-me cast iron chicken fryer.  It needed to be done, but it also served as practice before I re-season a rare waffle maker that my dad found for me at a flea market.  I've started re-seasoning the collar of the waffle maker as well.

-Made cloth diaper detergent for the first time.  With two in cloth, Rockin' Green (at $15 a bag) got to be too expensive.  I wish I would have looked for a recipe sooner! It seems to be working really well.  It's just 1 cup of borax, 1 cup of washing soda, and 1/2 cup of OxiClean Free.  That small amount of ingredients that I happened to have on hand will wash 20-40 loads of diapers.  Woo hoo for not leaving the house AND not spending any extra money!

-Gleaned 25 pounds of apples from my grandfather's yard.

-Gleaned 18 Bartlett pears and 5 Asian pears from my dad's yard.

-Received one honeydew melon from my mom's yard.

-Used a rotisserie chicken carcass and garlic papers to make chicken stock.

-Stored 1/3 of a loaf of bread that accidentally got left out and went stale to use later as bread crumbs.

-Foraged a handful of grapes from a local park. We missed the season this year :-(

-Changed our cell phone plans so that we save approximately $30 per month.

-Harvested five jalapenos, two pumpkins, and three figs.  There is one more mostly ripe fig and a few unripe ones on the tree.  This is our first year with this tree - not a bad haul.

-Found a 2 year old boneless chuck roast in the freezer (oops) and cooked enough pot roast for dinner, 2 lunches for Mr. B, and 2 pints of meat for other meals.

-Cooked down 1 bushel of Roma tomatoes for spaghetti/pizza sauce.  The herbs and some of the garlic used in the sauce were collected from our front yard.  We canned 11 pints so far with more on the stove right now.

-Inventoried the pantry.  I need to find a system that works for us that allows me to see how much we actually eat.  There are some things (creamed corn) that have been there forever, and some things (jam) that we ration because I'm afraid of running out.  If I know how much of things we eat, I can buy more or less when it's on sale, and we'll end up saving money.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

You Win Some, You Lose Some

When we were in the hospital with Miss C, Mr. B's mom drove his car back to our house and left his lights on with the keys locked in the car.  The battery was dead by the time we got home, so he jumped his car from mine.  As it turns out, my alternator was on its way out, and jumping the car fried it.  We didn't learn this until all of the battery-dependent systems (including lights and windshield wipers) died...while driving on a highway...in the pouring rain...with two kids in the car.

We researched how to replace an alternator ourselves, but we really couldn't do it without a good possibility of ruining something else in the process because of how my engine compartment is set up.  So I found a reputable car repair shop, and it cost us over $500 to replace the alternator.  It had to be replaced, but it was rather a painful expense.  It always seems to go that we make a little headway with our finances, but get knocked back on our rear ends.

Thankfully, Mr. B had just volunteered to change his schedule so that he made time-and-a-half on one of his work days, and I'm starting to tutor again.  I'm trying to tell myself we'll be back to where we were in three months or so, but it's difficult not to be discouraged.

BUT, some things have gone our way. Right after picking my car up at the shop, we ran to meet a member of a natural living group from Facebook that I had been talking to. My water kefir grains have been prolific, so I've been giving them away to strangers and friends alike. I met this woman at a local farm with a CSA program. She was so grateful for the grains that she gave us some much needed eggs from her CSA share. I hadn't mentioned that we needed them, but we really did need them.

I realized the farm was really close to my grandfather's house, so we called him on our way out. He had us come over to pick apples from the tree in his yard. The apples were just spoiling on the lawn and attracting deer and bees. He has an old picker that he made himself. It's three metal bars wire tied to a garden stake with an old onion bag on a circular wire.


He can't find an onion bag to fit it anymore, so he's been taping it back together over the years.  I mentioned that our local farm store had a picker for sale, but he just said his father's picker was homemade as well.  I think he liked to carry on that tradition.  We got over 25 pounds of apples for just an hour worth of work on Mr. B's part and an hour's worth of visiting on mine. A lot of the apples have large bad spots, but they're free, and they'll be great applesauce.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Day Two Success

Today was a good day for the letter A!


Grammy came over to spend some time with the girls, and she reread It's A! with Miss F. When she left, Miss F and I took some homemade play-doh outside and made letters. I was pleasantly surprised when Miss F identified A without any prompting! Of course, I prompted her a couple more times just to make sure she could do it :o)


I made her an apple out of the play-doh, and we talked about things that started with the letter A.  Then, I gave her free play time with the play-doh while I made some lunch.

I'm not going to post every homeschooling activity we do, but I was rather pleased with the goings-on today.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Our First Day!

Our first day of homeschooling started out with a whimper on a casual note.  Our letter of the week is A (obviously).  A lady for whom I tutor gave us some animal crackers for Miss F yesterday, so I took advantage of the opportunity.  Miss F found the baggie today, and we counted out crackers for her snack.  We talked about "A is for animal crackers" and tried to identify the animals as she ate them.  As a kid, I remember the animals being much more distinct, but we gave them all names anyway.

We got several books from the library, and read the first one:  It's A! by Mary Elizabeth Salzmann.  It's a nice little book about the sounds A makes and the words that start with and include those sounds.

While at the library, I also picked up Let them Play by Jeff A. Johnson and Denita Dinger.  It's funny, since I'm trying to institute a somewhat vaguely structured learning experience, and at the same time, I am interested in and am actively pursuing learning through play.  I can't wait until we move, because poor Miss F has been stifled in the play arena due to the nature of our yard.  Since almost everything in our yard is edible, she tries to rip up and eat everything she can find.  That means that I have to watch her constantly - not because I'm afraid that she'll hurt herself, but because I'm afraid we will have no plants left when she's done.  Everything that's not gardened is on a steep slope.  So she can either play on the hill, or on the very splintery deck.  Poor kiddo.

Tomorrow is Mr. B's first day back to work since Miss C's birth, so I'll get my first full day experiencing life as a SAHM of two.