Wednesday, November 27, 2013


I can't post pictures because my laptop crashes when I try to open photo software.  So I will just update what's been going on.

In the past week, I have had 2 different men out to fix the central unit.  It's dead until I can come up with the money to fix it or replace it.  In a nutshell, the power went out a couple of weeks ago and when it came back on, the inside unit blew 24-7.  We had to turn it off at the breaker to stop it.  First guy came out, rewired the relay switch and it ran fine for 2 days.  Next guy came out, rewired the rewire and tested everything.  The blower fan is about to go out (not pulling the correct amps, slow to kick in) and the control panel is SHOT. So while it runs now, the control panel won't fire up the heating coils (which tested fine, so I know they have not gone out), so it blows ice cold attic air.  Or not-sometimes the coils do run.  The emergency heat (heat strips) work, but the wiring to it will not actually turn them on any longer.  The control panel is no longer made-the system is 19 years old-so he will have to take it out and rebuild it by hand using other boards and I guess replace the fan motor at the same time.  That's going to cost-but not as much as a new system.  But, since we just paid out some $800 in various unbudgeted repairs and teeth in the past 2 weeks alone, we just shut it off and hauled out the space heaters and got the wood stove going again with what wood we had left from the bonfire party.  We have enough for a couple more days of wood heat and it keeps the front part of the house warm enough, even today when it was down to 22 with 25 MPH winds overnight. The kitchen and back porch may as well be on another planet though.

Chan and I put heavy plastic on the inside of the kitchen and back porch windows.  I put a layer outside on the north end as well.  That will help some, I also put all the throw rugs from around the house in the floor in the kitchen and that has helped some, too.  I have been trying to find someone to deliver more wood for us, but none of my calls are being returned from local numbers and anyone who has to drive ALL the way out here wants another $50 at least per load.  Maybe after the holiday I will have better luck.  We have talked about getting a chainsaw and cutting our own wood from what we could clear out around the house, but I worry it will break and I KNOW Matt has no patience for things that don't work perfectly and chainsaws seem to always have something screwy going on.  I can just see it being a huge dramatic expense and having to call to have wood delivered anyway.  Plus, it won't be dry enough if we try to cut and burn immediately-which is what we will have to do.

Anyway, there's more crap going on but it's just too depressing to start listing it all.  I don't even want to think about it.  I just needed to purge this major whine before tomorrow when I HOPE to make a list of things I am thankful for.  And I am thankful for so much, I want to focus on that a while.  And in the meantime, don't watch R.I.P.D. which is a movie about ghost cops, which you would think would be great (in the 'mindless entertainment' arena that Jake and I enjoy at times) but it was HORRIBLE.  However, The End of the World is pretty good.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Under $20 Part Three

This is for pet owners who abandon their animals to the elements.  Like me.

Okay, basic common sense is to keep your animals healthy and vet-checked and on flea and tick stuff.  It will cost you around five thousand dollars to have a dog for its full life, keeping them healthy and flea-free is going to save you a ton more.  Also, getting a mutt is a money saver, they don't usually have the issues a pure-bred animal will with joints coming loose, eyeballs falling out (I am serious) and various other things running from gooey eyes and ear infections to a propensity to not be able to digest certain foods.

In the winter, for Pete's sake, have a place for your animals to be out of the cold and let them in your house when it's going to be very cold or especially if it will be snowing or sleeting.  You will need a couple of things for them to come inside if they do not have an area year round.  Get a cheap plastic table cloth or shower curtain liner, even from Dollar Tree would work.  That's your base layer to protect your flooring.  Then go through and pull out a couple of old blankets or go to the thrift store and buy a couple-old sleeping bags are a good choice.  Then make them a pallet and they will be fine inside!

Outside, use the same system-get a tarp if you can spring for it to keep them more insulated.  Then go to your local co-op and buy either a $5 bundle of cedar shavings or a couple small bales of hay and put that on top of the base layer, then cover with the blanket or even an old sheet.  They have got to have that dead air space to get them off the ground or they will freeze.  Needless to say, this needs to be assembled in a covered area and if you don't have a porch, carport or shed they can get in, make a low tent out of tarps that is closed off on 3 sides, only open to the south and up on high ground-not where water might collect or even run through when it rains.  They must stay as dry as possible.  On sunny days, go out and hang the blankets to be sure they are dry and not getting moldy.  This allows the filler layer to get some air and dry out, too. Replenish the filler at least once during the winter and in the spring, add it to your compost.

This is the cheapest route to take when trying to winter your pets in a fairly mild climate, like the southeast US.  Look around your house and ask friends for bedding and towels that they are going to get rid of so that you can have a small stash of extra bedding on hand.  For cats, a box with a hole in the top set out of the wind and rain with a few towels lining the bottom and sides is a great option.  Put a little cedar in there under the towel and that will help with fleas, too.  You don't have to have a Dogloo with heated floors, but your pets will need a little extra help dealing with the colder weather.

Under $20 Part Two

I wrote this earlier in the month, just forgot to publish it.

Next up, hot water heater blanket.  They are $12-15 each and help not only in the winter-when they keep the heat snuggled up to the heater and not leaking through the house, but also in the summer, when they...keep the heat snuggled up to the heater and not leaking through the house.  It uses much less electricity to keep the tank full of warm water.

My other tip is free and will save money.  When you wash your hands, don't turn on the hot water.  By the time the warm water gets to your faucet, you have had enough time to wash them already-so either you are using cold water anyway or are just standing there staring at the water going down the drain until it heats up. Just suck it up and leave the hot off.  When you use any hot water, even 1/4 gallon to wash hands, the system kicks on and heats the tank again.  Think of it as good exercise for your metabolism.

That's it for this week!


I have not been posting much because I have been internalizing most of what I am thinking and there's been little left to share.

We have been on the go this week, Huntsville twice for dental things and seeing friends, getting food and books.  Birmingham for dance class, a couple of play dates.  I think they are called something else when everyone involved is over 10.  Hangouts maybe.

Anyway, here are a few shots from dance.  This week was warm enough that the moms sat at the little toddler play area outside the activity building where the dance class is held, so I could see the kids through the window.  I know I hold them in high esteem, but gosh-they are getting pretty good already!

I blurred 5E and 1E because their mama is not keen on them being online, but how adorable is it that baby boy lined right up, and with Ben?  eeeep, he's so cute!  He knows everyone's name and calls out to them, EXCEPT when he sees me.  He beams so sweetly and then looks over my shoulder and calls, "Matt!?"  Matt calls him 'mini matt'.
So, that's the week.  Matt is working from home today, I have stuffed shells in the oven that will be done in 10 more minutes.  I am off to make a salad and salvage what we can of the morning, he has to head out to practice this afternoon.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Birthday and Beyond

For Jake's birthday, we had a bonfire and I made potatoes and chili and there were marshmallows and hot dogs with all the trimmings, veggie platter, cheese and crackers, chips and dip and cupcakes and brownies all in various stages of gluten free and vegan options.  Well, other than the brownies, which I made in a tiny cupcake pan thinking they would be '2 bite' size, but they stuck and I ended up with 48 little balls of brownies, so I called them fudge wads.  hahaha.  They all were eaten, so not a total fail.

We had 30 folks and one dog over to celebrate and as they have for the past 5 years at least, Emily and Britney stayed overnight.  They spent the next day playing and that afternoon I pulled out The Harvey Girls, a musical starring Judy Garland and Angela Lansbury.  It was filmed in 1946 and the plot line was how the girls fought corruption in a wild west town via showstopping song and dance numbers.  It was great, we laughed like crazy!  Afterward, we watched the special features and saw the theatrical trailer, which touted it as a 'gay and lusty' film.  The kids have ragged me about making them watch gay and lusty films ever since. There WAS unmarried kissing and a brawl...I got the girls dropped off Friday evening.

On Saturday morning, there was a big reunion at the theater where the kids tried out for the new winter play.  I feel like they all did a great job and there were a couple surprise auditions from unknown homeschoolers who sang VERY well.  I am thrilled, it will be great to have a really GOOD musical, with the pool of talent to draw from just from Saturday's audition, it should be the best one yet.  The cast list does not go out for 2 weeks, I do not envy the casting panel, it will be a hard decision.

Anyway, here are my very few photos from the gathering:

The Boggan, Bothwell, Lackey, Amos, Spradlin and MacDonald families all came to celebrate!
I let Jake set the guest list, he wanted Austin and Granddad to come as well, but neither could make it.  Still, it was a great turn out for him-though I imagine he would have been thrilled if it was just Rho...*sigh*

Looka that purple house, I LOVE it.  :)

If you wanna horse man this is what you do...

The fire was blurry yet well tended all evening!  Despite it being a week night, most folks stayed until 10 or so and we made big plans for a communal colony so that every week we could have bonfire and group meal night.  I REALLY would love to do something like that.

It started off chilly, but the wind died down and it seemed warmer the later it got.

After everyone else left, the 5 teens managed to put away as many marshmallows in 10 minutes as were consumed over the course of the whole evening.  ACK

I used 2 different cameras so below are shots before and during the gathering:
Got the house all decked out in lights and set up a cozy chatting area.
Yes, that IS a door in Chan's room, in fact there are 3 doors up now!  Her door, Ben's door and the door to the hall from his room.  I can't find the door to the hall from Chan's room, Matt thinks it was used in a chicken house at some point.

The birthday song!!

Chan wanted a photo of her cheese house, and here it is!

We had a wonderful time hanging out with everyone, lots of laughing and chatting and plans to get back together ASAP. 

This week involves dental visits and at some point we have a guy coming to fix the heat pump.  The power was out for several hours a few days ago and when it came back on, the inside unit fan never shut back off-even when we turn the whole unit totally off.  The only way to get it to stop was to flip the breaker.  It's a bad relay switch, I am hoping it won't be another $300 fix, though while he's here, we are going to go ahead and have the unit serviced and the heating coils cleaned.  We usually do that every other March and it's due this next spring, so might as well save the second house call fee and do it now. Plus, it kind of makes sense to me to clean the heating coils in the winter when they are being used.  Luckily it will be mild the next few days so if we have to leave it off a little while, we won't freeze.

That's the news from the castle!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


the 45 seconds he slept as a baby

Tomorrow is my oldest child's 18th birthday.  I have celebrated every milestone, seen every first, witnessed many 'lasts', thankfully without being fully aware every time.  The last time he held my hand to cross the road or the last time I had to help tie his shoes, the last time he came running in my room in tears over the death of  a character in a book.  At 2 in the morning.  

He still has so many firsts ahead, big ones.  First love, first job, first home and at some point maybe a first child of his own.  I see him, he is so full of potential and possible adventure that his eyes shine and dance. He has a heart that is huge and soft, he has patience to rival any saint, his capacity for life is boundless, he is kind and forgiving, he is helpful and fair.

I have seen him nearly every day of his life and what a gift that has been to me.  I have seen him play trickster on his siblings and dad, I have seen him mutter endearments to the dog while wrapping her like a baby and toting her around.  I have seen his temper flare like an inferno and then cool nearly as quickly.  I have seen him struggle over things that came so easily to me that I was no help when he needed a lifeline.  Reading was ever an issue until we discovered he was chasing the words around the page.  Learning writing was accomplished a single letter at a time over and over and over.  Numbers still show up backward in his work and his spelling is often questionable, but his capacity and love of learning are boundless.

 My beautiful, sweet boy.  What a wonderful thing it has been to share your life, to see you grow up into a strong and kind young man.  You and your siblings are the best thing I have ever done.

I hope you never lose your belief in magical things, that you will always be so certain you can best the bad guy, that you never get tired of cheesy monster movies and that you never back away from trying something new.  I hope life gives you many challenges and friends to see you through and I hope on your last day on earth, you will still know in the very core of your being that your mama loves you.  You are amazing.

Friday, November 8, 2013

An Afternoon

Matt's car needed some shop time this week and the van needed new brake pads, so he ended up taking Wednesday off to get that taken care of.  I say took off, but he got up at 5 and worked from home and ran all his reports and made calls and all of the usual job stuff, but instead of the usual running out for an early lunch then back for a few of hours of damage control, we had a late breakfast in town and after the vehicles were back in running order, we headed back home and took the dogs for a long walk.

The pasture has not been mowed since late summer of last year and he left everything laying where it fell, so over the year privet and blackberry have crept all the way across it in places, there's a blackberry thicket the size of the house in the middle.  And everywhere-every few feet-there are sweet gum trees anywhere from waist to shoulder height.  A few escaped the slash mowing and are well over our heads already.  5 more years and it will be a forest instead of a pasture.  A small tractor with a bush hog costs the same as a new roof, so keeping it cleared has not reached single digit priority on our list yet.

In the meantime, the dogs are really enjoying the cover to play wolveses, their very favorite game.

Matt shook a goldenrod to make the seeds fly.  There were zillions of tiny winged seeds flying around.

The view from the above spot used to look like the shot below.  We trimmed back the crabapple tree last winter, it had some kind of fungus and had stopped blooming at all.

I  miss the long rolling hill of the pasture...

These are perfect wolf dens for the dogs to hide in, they are like 5 year olds on a field trip when we take them out to walk!

The pasture this year is PACKED with sorrel.  We picked 5 pounds of it and dried it for tea.
I like it better fresh, it tastes like lemon and looks like arrowhead or goldfish crackers.

It takes a lot out of Jess to walk any distance.  I bully her into going to the far curve in the road and back a couple times a day, but that's about her limit now.  Last winter was so mild, she did not have any real trouble moving around.  I worry for her this winter.  The vet has already mentioned a couple options to try prolonging her life, I am not sure that's fair to her.  She's done her work and she hurts much of the time despite medication and supplements and diet change and trying to get her to exercise more.  When does love of a pet drop in priority to need for dignity and the chance for a peaceful end?

Kuma is the best dog ever.  Before him, I never understood why people would clone an animal.  Now, I am thinking I'd like 2 more of him before he goes.  Look how grey his muzzle is getting, my sweet boy.  I love that dog, I feel so safe with him out on the porch.  Ever since he got me home during that heavy snow a few years ago, he circles back to give me a golden-eyed glance now and then-no matter how far ahead he roams.  All I have to say is, "I am tired!" and he gets RIGHT in front of me and pushes down the grass or pushes my legs until I move to an easier path.  I'd like to think he feels the need to get me home because he loves me, too.  But I know it's because I am livestock that has proven I am not very bright at getting back to the barn.  He's all business, our Kuma.

Back home, I climbed a ladder to take a photo of the kids in the fallen leaves.

They said the sun was hurting their eyes...

So after a 1-2-3-click in which they were supposed to keep their eyes shut and then open them at 3 and shut them again...

And after I made Ben do a re-do...

I swapped places with them and put them on the ladder.  It was still too bright.  And Ben failed to open his eyeballs again.  hahaha

I sent my darkness-loving children back inside to skulk around in the darkness again.
I am sticking with the animals from now on...

Nia is a year old!  According to the best guess of the people at the pound.

Matt SAID he was going to flip off the ladder.  I was very disappointed that he merely jumped.  He was very disappointed that his 40 year old knees did not enjoy the impact.

And, as usual, Kat watches over everything her 'kittens' do while in the yard.  

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Under $20 Part One

Winter is approaching and I hate it, everything about the winter-other than the valid excuse to lay under a pile of blankets and read-stinks.  Short days, rain, gray skies, germs, the holidays-all just a pile of stress and blah.  So, instead of focusing on that, I am focusing on ways to be better prepared for winter for under $20, because with a broken retainer, 2 bad tires, 2 bad brake pads, 2 cavities and 2 birthdays distributed among the family to pay for in the next 3 weeks-I don't have a lot of flash cash.

I am starting with the house, because I am housecentric all season, I only go out if it's over 50 and sunny.

The best way to spend $20 and have a MUCH more cozy house is to buy 3 $5 tubes of 100% silicone caulk and attack your windows and doors from the outside.  Latex is cheaper and it will also fail when it's wet.  Get right next to the frame all the way around, fill in any soft spots and make a note of those to be repaired in the spring.  Fill in carpenter bee holes, tiny gaps-those tiny gaps let in COLD air and let your heat leak out.  If you have ladybugs (or other bugs/mice) IN your house, you have a gap that needs attention.  Spend the last $5 on that gap foam that expands and fill in every single one of those vent holes in the foundation, you know the ones if you have an older house.  The foundation is cement blocks and every so often one is flipped to expose the holes.  Fill those in.  Then open your kitchen sink cabinet and see if you can see daylight anywhere around the pipes.  Fill that gap up.  That's a mousey gateway and cold air.  UGH. We are avoiding that.  If you have any sealant of either type left, go in your bathrooms and lift up that little metal ring around the water line where it goes into the floor and fill that up, too.  Then put the ring back in place.

This will save you more than you spent, silicone lasts and last-but you can't paint over it.  So choose clear or white and when you use it, use it neatly.  Any smears will show up when you repaint.

One year, I am sure I have told this one before, but when I was 15 I moved in with my father.  We were completely unprepared for life as bachelors and winged practically everything via best-guess scenario.  I never had a house key, so I came and went through the kitchen window.  When my bedroom window frame rotted, Daddy had it replaced with sheet glass (MUCH cheaper!) and hung a hammer next to it in case of fire.

With no adult females around to hassle us, we managed with a single working stove eye and a microwave, I did laundry twice a month and mowed twice a month-not on the same weekend because that would be insane amounts of work.  ha!

The first winter in the house, a possum chewed open the area around the pipes and climbed in to live under the sink.  Daddy simply tied the knobs together with a rope and when the temps would drop, he angled a space heater at the doors so it would not freeze.  I occasionally cracked the doors and sprayed inside the crack with Lysol, eliciting a horrible hissing that to this day I can still hear when I spray the toilet, imagining the horrific death of so many germs.   It sounds like a gaspy 'heeeeeeeeeeeeee'.  You can sometimes make your cat make the same noise if you annoy it.

Sunday, November 3, 2013


Chan has been scarce, it's Nanowrimo month and I doubt I will see her until early December unless there's need for transport or feeding.  She's at rehearsals now, the play is in 5 weeks. I keep waiting for Suzette to go insane like every other director we have had.  But she's hanging in there and doing a good job all around.

The kids go in 2 weeks to audition for the next play they have decided they want to be in.  Thankfully, of course I mean unfortunately, the whole year has gone by without them being really interested in being in another play.  I know they really enjoy performing, but it's not their life's blood.  I think they just like being part of something and hanging out with other kids.  The behind the scenes dramatics and other kids being nice and then not nice-or flat ignoring them upsets all three of them.  Playing favorites and typecasting and letting certain kids get away with crap attitudes, it's like a zoo sometimes-or like public school.  If you are not an alpha, you are nothing and the unfairness of it eats at them.  Plus, the germs flying around and the silly crushes and the 'he said she said' makes the couple of minutes on stage not really worth it.  But they have had a long break away from the drama of the theater and are ready to at least try out.  Nothing saying they will even be cast.

I have been super busy with the house, getting things done, making my lists, hiding from ladybugs.  The Lackeys came to spend the night Halloween-it rained all night.  We stayed up watching scary movies (Gina brought us a little TV/DVD combo they were getting rid of!) and they headed out the next morning.  That night Chan went to a carnival with them and we have not seen her since.

I worked in the house most of the weekend, now both bathrooms have fresh caulk, repaired grout and are sealed with the 5-year stuff.  I have it marked to do again in 3.  All we need now is the new trim and a fresh coat of paint. I bought a bright blue and turquoise shower curtain for the hall, I think I am going to ignore the gray floor and go super bright.  That's what rugs are for, anyway.

Today I was ready to get out and stretch my legs, so we went for a quick hike at Hurricane Creek.  The fall colors are just amazing, I am surprised because it is REALLY dry.  Usually that means loads of dull yellow leaves that quickly go dull brown and fall off.  The climb out, I swear, nearly KILLED me.  I am not fully over this bout of pneumonia and it felt like someone was pressing my chest the whole walk and that rib I cracked a couple months back is still aching like I have been kicked.  If I had not just SAILED through a stress test, I would worry about my heart!  I can do 45 minutes on a treadmill with the incline going up and down and barely break a 100 heart rate.  I am not out of shape, I am out of breath capacity.  I SO want to be all well.

This cracked me up. 

He does this in the kitchen doorway.  Grabs it flips up and touches his feet on the ceiling.  I panic EVERY time.

One legged GeoSquatch
The week ahead is looking happily hassle free.  Painting and cleaning, I have a list.  I will probably be back on here by Tuesday afternoon bitching about how boring painting and cleaning are.  hahaha.  I wish I had some magic way to get the cabinet fronts all clean without scrubbing.   I need some kind of laser thingie.  Just zap it.  I tried using the new mop on them when I was scrubbing the floor last week, but it did not really help, I am going to have to actually apply some effort.  *sigh*