Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Winter Morning Ritual

I am up earlier than usual this morning, pushed out of bed by a desire to get bread started so that it might be ready for lunch. Sourdough bread made with flour from the local mill, kefir grains, raw milk and flax seed. It is in the oven, rising, right now.

Winter mornings are a true delight for me. The chickens have made this so. Without them I might have missed something that now is truly a highlight of my day.
The chickens' water freezes in the cold weather and therefore must be changed daily (sometimes twice a day). This is why I must go outside in the mornings. Not going isn't an option, they have to have fresh water.

And so I step out onto my deck in temperatures that are below freezing. I am wearing my pajamas. Flannel pants and an old, old sweatshirt that I snagged years ago from my father. Now that I have dreads I sleep with them in a bun high on top of my head, and so there they are as I step outside, my neck exposed to the wind and cold. I wear whatever shoes I can slip on and are "weather appropriate" ~ which pretty much means will they let snow immediately through or will they keep my feet & ankles dry? My hands are bare.

The metal watering can is cold to the touch. We have two of these. One is in the chicken coop and one is in the laundry room, thawing out. We swap them every morning. This morning it needed filling, so I performed this act on the deck, hauling water out from the bathroom inside.

The sun is rising and the shades of blue in the sky get progressively lighter, accentuated with streaks of blazing pinks and oranges.
The cold air surrounds me. I feel like I've taken a dip in a pool, but I can breathe this coolness in and it fills me. I feel my cheeks turning rosy, my skin tightening. I feel refreshed and alive.

I walk down to the chickens' Winter Chalet and swap out the watering cans. They are grateful. They are impatient for more food, which I oblige them with. They crowd around it and I am reminded of the pecking order in life as the Queen chickens refuse to allow the other ones to eat immediately.
I check the coop, topping the nest boxes with a little bit of fresh straw. I retrieve a green egg from one of the nest boxes. The chickens have begun laying again after their Fall molt. The egg is already cold. I will go back outside several more times before noon, checking for eggs. There is simply nothing quite like the experience of being able to collect a freshly laid egg out of a nest box. It is warm, nearly hot. If the hen has just laid it, it will sometimes still be damp from the process. Even if it has already dried, it will be warm. And that warmth pulses with energy. As a woman I feel so incredibly connected with this.

Sometimes I will stand on the deck for a while. Neighbors are rarely out, though I might wave to my next door neighbor as they begin their morning.
I listen to the dogs around the neighborhood bark. Watch the sky as it changes color. Watch Foster as he watches me. Watch birds that fly in swarms and make Winter trees beat with life.
I breathe deeply. All this cool air filling my lungs and awakening my body. I talk with the Universe.

When I go back inside I take my shower and then make myself a mug of warm ginger tea with honey. As the tea cools I get dressed. I come back to the mug and feel the warmth of the tea spread through me like the light of the sun spreading across the sky. Those fiery pinks and oranges.

This is my morning ritual in Winter.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Totem Pole

In the animal world, or at least the canine & chicken world, there is a definite pecking order, a totem pole of how the animals view the alpha order of the pack. This is a record of Foster's view of our pack.

Top of the Totem: Mommy

~ I am pretty certain this is similar to how I look to the dog.~

Mommy has secured her place at the top of the totem pole. She is MOMMY and she is to be obeyed, at least most of the time. That would be a similar view point the kids hold as well.
However, since I am still a puppy I still want Mommy's undivided attention. No-one else may love on Mommy because Mommy loves only me. If someone else tries to love on Mommy then I must throw a fit and try to get Mommy's attention by biting at her. I am a Mommy's boy.
Mommy also gives me more treats than Daddy, including knowing that I like extra goodies in with my meals.

Next on the Totem Pole: Daddy

Daddy ranks #2 on the Totem Pole. See how serious and mean he looks?? He doesn't let me on the bed. He doesn't give me treats on my food. I don't bring him toys. I still love him though.
I've even been practicing how to sit on the couch like Daddy. He used to not let me do this, but now that I'm learning to get my butt fully on there (with my front paws on the floor) he seems to like it.
Daddy sometimes likes to think he is head of the totem pole but we all know that Mommy rules the roost.


There are three puppies in our house. Here is the order in which I see them.

Head Puppy: ME!

Of course I am HEAD PUPPY. The other puppies don't know how to be head puppy. I have to tell them what to do. I don't think it is fair that the other puppies get to be on the bed and I don't though. That is just wrong.

Middle Puppy: Shannon

Shannon sometimes thinks he is head puppy and sometimes he thinks he is the baby. This makes him Middle Puppy. I think Shannon needs to be taught how to behave properly and, as head puppy, it is my job to teach him. Shannon doesn't like this. Neither does Mommy. Or Daddy. They just don't know that, as Head Puppy, I HAVE to do this. See how silly he acts?? He is not acting like a proper Mastiff.
He does help Mommy out though. Today he even held our pet rabbit Logan after he finished giving her food. Of course I had to make sure he held her properly so I stayed nearby, nosing at Logan to make sure she was held securely.
I like Shannon though. He has cool toys. He has legos and cars and trains and trucks. I like playing with them. But Shannon acts like a baby and cries when I try to. I just don't get it, but I do know this is another reason why he can't be head puppy.

And Finally, the Baby Puppy: Tristan

Tristan is the baby puppy. See how he has stuff in his mouth?? I do that too but I get scolded for it. Tristan gets scolded too, but he still does it.
Since Tristan is the baby puppy it is my upmost responsibility, as Head Puppy of course, to make sure he is ok. When he walks through the house I have to make sure he doesn't fall over, so I have to constantly wrap myself around him and lean against him, securing him with my strength. I do such a good job of this that he usually stops in his tracks and yells for Mommy or Daddy to come help him walk. Babies don't know how to walk on their own.
When Tristan climbs onto Mommy and Daddy's bed I really worry about him. I have to nose at him to make sure he gets up there, sometimes even guide his feet with my mouth. He doesn't appreciate this. Babies rarely appreciate all the things you do to keep them safe. Mommy doesn't always appreciate it either and sometimes yells at me for it. She yells at Shannon when he tries to help out sometimes too. Mommy is a little crazy.
I also have to make sure he is tucked in securely when he goes to bed for naps and at night. I nose him all over. He sure must be fussy at bed time because he tends to cry about this. I guess he is just tired. Babies get tired easily and they cry when they're tired. It's ok, as Head Puppy I understand these things.
Tristan has lots of neat toys too. He has stuffed animals that I really like, including a little stuffed dog. He has cars and trains and toys like Shannon's too. And, like Shannon, he acts like a baby when I try to play with them. They don't like sharing their toys with me, this is why I am Head Puppy and they're the babies.

This is my family. I love them a lot.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Magical Yule Beginning

Unless you live under a rock you are aware of the total Lunar Eclipse that occurred in the wee hours of the morning, which is also the Winter Solstice. This hasn't happened in 372 years (1638) and won't happen again until 2094. Since you are reading this, you obviously don't live under a rock (and if you do, I am very impressed by your wireless server!).

The boys and I spent yesterday learning a little bit about lunar eclipses. Basically they learned that it is caused by the Earth casting a shadow on the Moon because the Earth is between the Sun & Moon. Shannon will be 7 in January & Tristan is 4 1/2. I don't expect them to grasp much more of this, especially since I had to look up the info to be certain of what I was telling them.
We also talked about how long it has been since the last total Lunar Eclipse occurred on the Winter Solstice and how long it will be until the next one. I told them that, if they're lucky, they might be alive to view the next one. I tried to explain why Justin & I wouldn't and how nobody on our planet now was alive for the last one. Those were more difficult concepts for them to grasp.

Shannon found a scrap piece of paper yesterday and created this for me, without me being near/over him or knowing what he was creating. This is what I love about homeschooling & unschooling.

We went outside last night, and like so many people saw only clouds. Although we would've love to seen the actually Moon & eclipse, we weren't saddened. We still woke up the boys and, with them in our arms, wandered out onto our deck to gaze at the reddish sky for a while. It was beautiful. Magical. Dark. Softly glowing red. The air filled our lungs and bodies. We knew so many other people were outside, gazing up with us, and we felt connected to them all. A sense of awe spread through us. We felt loved and whole.

I am saddened to read comments on Facebook this morning of disgruntled people who also saw the clouds but didn't see the beauty. There is a saying 'you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink' and I suppose this holds true now. You can look upwards and still not see the beauty.

The Winter Solstice also marks the beginning of Yule. Different people celebrate this in different ways. It is an ancient celebration that has, like so many other ancient ways, been melded into modern celebrations. From now until the 1st of January will be the 12 days of the Yule celebration, more commonly now known as the 12 days of Christmas.

Holiday songs fill my head right now. Particularly I have James Taylor singing 'Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas' playing in my head. I will share it with you.

Whatever you choose to celebrate, if you choose to celebrate, know that we are all connected. As we stood outside and breathed in the night air, we felt our breathes in sync with all of you.

Happy Yule Y'all.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Foster the 8 month old Mastiff

~Hello, I'm only 8 months old. I am still growing & will get a lot bigger!!~

Foster is our first English Mastiff. I grew up with St. Bernards but, let's be honest, my mother was the one really raising them, I just lived in the house with them. Raising a giant breed dog, no matter how much we love him, comes with it's unique "challenges."

Let's start with the basic stats:
*At 7 weeks old (when we got him) he weighed 17lbs.
*At 8 months old he weighs 114lbs
. -- Yea, he's put on almost 100lbs in 6 months.
*Height from the floor to his shoulder ~ roughly 29". It's a little hard to measure accurately when he keeps turning around and trying to chew on the measuring tape.

Your puppy plays with tennis balls, ours like to drag pumpkins around the yard. The sizes range from a nice cantaloupe size to as big as a basketball. Oh yea, he also likes basketballs and soccer balls. Actually, he prefers soccer balls. It must be the English in him.

Foster likes chasing his tail. He LOVES it. That would be a fine thing usually. It would be a fine, self-sustaining activity. And, to some degree it is. Except Foster likes to be close to you. And when that mouth comes around, regardless of it chasing the tail & nothing else, and it grazes your knee instead ... well, needless to say you might just think JAWS swam by. Luckily his adult teeth have pretty much grown in, so your knee doesn't actually look like JAWS has been there. But still, cuss words tend to quickly fly.

He also doesn't seem to realize how big his body is in proportion the the room that he is in. He spins around and whacks his head on the edge of the kitchen island (you can see a corner in the photo above), and repeatedly knocks his noggin on the underside of tables.
Having survived almost 7 years of Shannon I am ready to respond to the WHAMS!! with 911 or at least a quick call to the emergency vet. Surely, his head must be split open. It hasn't been. He seems unfazed. I am amazed. I look at him in awe. He looks at me with those big brown eyes, unfazed and curious as to why my jaw is dropped.

We have a rule about no dogs on the bed. Ironically enough, I'm allergic to dogs (and cats, and so on). However, the allergies don't normally bother me. It is when they're allowed on the bed and near my pillow that I begin to not be able to breathe. So .. no dogs allowed on the bed.
There is a minor exception, we've always allowed them to put their front paws on the bed and say "hello." In fact, after Jomo passed that was what I missed so much - being able to wake up to a friendly face, waiting to be petted. So, Foster is allowed to put his two front paws on the bed.
Of course, this isn't a little dog. This is a dog who can stand on the floor at the right hand side of the bed and reach me ... with his paws .. and his head .. far .. far away .. on the left side of the bed. On the left EDGE of the bed.
If I've rolled over to nuzzle on Justin's side I'd better watch out. I've nearly woken up to black eyes a couple of times, paws whapping me in the face. He also has figured out about blankets ~ you know .. there may be people under them. That's ok, just start nosing around till you get your cold, wet nose & slobbery jaws under there.

Typical of Mastiffs, he sleeps a lot. Which is wonderful. We can sit around the living room in the evening, with him snoozing away soundly. And loudly. Mastiffs snore. And .... well, with a lot of aroma. Foster is a gas-bag. We actually bought some digestive enzymes to help decrease the nuclear attacks of farts (it worked some). Of course, he also likes to sleep under feet. And, if you've decided to raise your feet in the recliner, that's ok. He'll just sleep under that. Of course, if you want to get up ... you better be a yogi or gymnast.

And, when he isn't asleep, he is always on guard, also typical of Mastiffs. Apparently there is a reason we should all be on edge. There is this other Mastiff that, from time to time, goes and stands outside our living room window. It's amazing .. it looks just like Foster. And it only seems to appear in the window when Foster is looking out!! IT MUST NOT BE TRUSTED!!! We must growl at it to let it know it better not try to enter. And .. sometimes, these things appear above this other Mastiff's head. Weird floating hands. I mean, how can you possibly not go nuts over this!?!?! RED ALERT FOLKS, RED ALERT!!!!
Luckily, he hasn't gone through the window yet after this dastardly other Mastiff.

The rest of it all is standard stuff. You know, a 114 (and growing) pound dog that is timid about going out into the yard ... in the rain .. in the snow .. at night. Any of that.
And he likes to cuddle. In fact I think he thinks he might be a lap dog. A large, slobbery lap dog.
Speaking of slobber, our island was sporting a rather nice, several inch long, slobber-cicle last night.

Just part of another day with a Mastiff pup.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Why are you shocked?

A local incident has gathered nationwide media attention when a young girl went missing recently. She was safely found on the opposite coast. When she went missing Amber Alerts went out and her photo went up. She is 12 and looks much older. A lot of people have started talking for that reason. They are shocked.

I am NOT writing about just this girl in general here. I am deliberately not using her name for that very reason. This is by no means commentary on this personal girl. It is just something that many people are aware of and talking about & so it brings up the issue of young girls looking much older than they are.

And, in talking about it recently, someone asked me "Why would a 12 year old girl want to look 18?" ~ Obviously, a guy asked me this. If you're a female you've already responded "Why WOULDN'T they?!?"

Generations of women will attest to attempts to look older. The desire to actually be older. I'm sure generations of men will as well, but it is the females I'm talking about here.
I know I did. However, since my mother is known to read this, I will spare details to cover my own, now-grown hide.

What makes it all so shocking though is how very "grown-up" girls today now look. And by that I mean that they are oozing sexuality. And not in the good, wholesome kinda way. In the "how much for an hour" kinda way. I'm sure to some extent adults have always said this about younger generations, but it seems more prevalent now. Why??

Hmm .. good question. Let's think on that. What could POSSIBLY be giving these girls the idea that looking like whores is good? Hmm ....

This is 'Red Riding Hood Barbie.' I don't know about you, but this isn't what I remember Red Riding Hood looking like!! YIKES!!! I'm pretty certain that wolf there has money in his hand.

Don't get me wrong though, I'm not laying the blame completely at Barbie's 4" ho heels.

What I am saying is that if you give your children toys to play with and those toys look like street-walkers, then don't be shocked if your children grow up looking like street-walkers too. If you let them play video games full of violence, trampy looking female characters, and so on .. don't be surprised when the kids grow up desensitized to violence and without healthy perspectives of how adults should look .. much less act. If you buy them clothes that don't cover their bodies properly ~ and I'm not talking about anything too prudish here when I say properly, I'm saying more along the lines of 'ass not hanging out' kind of properly ... well, duh .. you're kids are gonna look like whores. Or at least people are going to likely think so.
If you raise your kids thinking you have a great relationship with them and you're judging that based on the fact that y'all are "best buds" .. well, then you're very misguided and don't be so shocked when your child tries to act like an adult rather than a child.

The responsibility lies with the parents. Sure, kids will still do things that we tell them not to, often simply because we tell them not to. But, you still have to do your job as a parent. Especially while they're still young enough that you can control most the things they do & see.

So .. why are you so shocked?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Ho ho fucking ho.

Tis the Season.

After my annual holiday freak-out the other day (no, I haven't blogged about that one) I decided I needed to make up for it. I was going to decorate out front some. Justin would come home and be amazed at how beautiful the house (or at least the outside of it) was. The neighbors would be in awe. Cars would drive slowly by just to gaze at the merriment of decor. Martha Stewart would soon be calling for tips and I'd be featured in Better Homes & Gardens.

I begin hanging large, colorful decorations from the tree out front. As is customary whenever we are outside for more than five minutes and our evil neighbor is home, she comes outside, picks up a stray stick or two, and then leaves. She drives the opposite direction from our house. ~ I take this as a sign that the beauty of my Christmas decorating must be working as the Grinch has felt the need to flee it's cave.

Then the kids get up. First Shannon and I foolishly think that I can finish the last of my decorating (for now) while he stays inside. HA!! Then, because I don't ever seem to learn, I foolishly think that maybe Shannon and I can sneak outside while I finish the rest of this decorating while Tristan sleeps. Even bigger HA!!!! -- actually, I think I peed a little laughing at that last one.

Shannon willingly & eagerly gets on socks, shoes, & a coat, though we argue about which coat. Tristan begins whining when he can't find the socks that he took off during nap. Apparently they've become invisible. He's walking around, jacket over his shoulder, barefoot. I tell him to get everything on and come outside when he's done. = Mistake #1. This will never happen, we all know it won't, it will take several interruptions & back and forths before he is actually capable of joining us outside.

Mistake #2 & this is the doozy one: I clip a leash to a bouncy Foster and hand the other end to Shannon. I expect this to go well. After all, they're only supposed to be coming out on the front porch, sitting down, and watching me finish this last little bit of wrapping the columns. What could go wrong?? I mean, how could handing responsibility of a 125lb puppy to an almost 7 year old kid, who can't sit still either and weighs 60lbs, possibly go wrong?!?
On one of my trips back inside to help Tristan get fully dressed, Foster decides to follow me. There goes the little tree near the front door. Luckily no damage done.
Then Foster finds a pumpkin to play with. Yes, a pumpkin. Big dogs play with big toys. Anyway, I think this might be ok because he'll lay there and play with it while I quickly finish. I've already told Shannon to not try and take him into the front yard.

....... I have my back turned.

The pumpkin Foster is playing with goes rolling into the mulch. He goes after it. Shannon decides he doesn't like standing on the porch anymore, and since Foster has gone into the mulch he decides to go stand in the yard.

So - have you ever seen a puppy/dog get real wound up?? I mean REALLY wound up? You know, where they start running around in near circles like their butt is on fire?? And they're kinda bouncing in the middle of all of it?

Well, this is what I turn around to see, as I hear Shannon let out a cry. Foster has gotten all excited and wound up. He is running around in circles, circles that overlap Shannon who is still holding the leash but is now on the ground. I tell Shannon to let go of the leash & get up. I get Foster's leash but he's now in the insane gremlin mode. I have to tackle him and pin him down into some form of submission. I now lose my cool.

I growl at Shannon that I told him not to go in the yard, that I've warned him about trying to play with big dogs, & to go inside. I give Foster a bad dog whap and drag him inside & into his crate. I come outside and then growl at Tristan to go inside as well. I say things I regret. I contemplate burning down the house, or at least the column that I am trying to finish wrapping. I hear Martha Stewart putting me on the "do not call" list and Better Homes and Gardens finding someone else. I hear the neighbor's gossiping "those poor kids!" I hear someone saying "then why did she get a big dog?" - I think it is Shannon's voice in my head on that one. I am sad and beaten.

I finish the final column and drag all my decorating supplies inside and put them away. I hear the kids in on the computer, listening to Mister Rogers. I don't know why, but it induces a child-like cry from me. A "yes, everything is bad and wrong, please say something soothing and make it all better" type of cry. That doesn't happen though. I go change pants and toss my jeans, now covered in grass and dirt from tackling the dog, into the wash. I curse myself for losing my cool. For not seeing it all coming. For blaming it on anyone other than myself.

And that is how you know the holidays have officially begun. Tis the Season.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Glimpse of Insanity

I did a google search for 'insanity photos' and found this. I don't know what it is, but it is insane and it captures about how this morning is going. (PS - here is the link to it: - it is random enough for me to now have to spend an afternoon or an hour or so looking through later)

My point is, this has been a really odd morning. My last post was about the randomness of Tristan. Well, I gotta tell y'all .. the kid comes by it naturally. Here is my morning.

I wake up and just can't quite get going. Dragging, not focusing, feeling like I am in a dense fog. Coffee is calling me, though coffee does not like me. I think coffee has hidden agendas and secretly plots against me. Coffee is a double agent lurking in the pantry. The coffee has won this round as I brew up a pot.

As the caffeine begins to kick in my mind begins to really fly. I announce how windy it is and hope that a house doesn't fall on me. A friend replies that she hopes I am wearing red glitter shoes (my friend is not made up ... at least I'm pretty certain she isn't). I reply that I need red glitter mukluks, red glitter shoes, and a pair of shoes that curl up at the toe and have a little bell on them. And some luxurious Moroccan slippers. I imagine myself walking around the house in them. Actually, I might have hallucinated it. I feel like a Johnny Depp character on crack.

Now it is lunch time and I fix the boys their lunch. Because that is what you do at lunch, it would be silly to fix them anything else then. Both boys are dressed, and Tristan is wearing a shoe on one foot & a slipper on the other.
They are rattling on and on and on and on as kids are prone to do. Obviously I am prone to do this as well. It is half understandable and half not. Sometimes I think they're just speaking in grunts. Or that William Shatner has suddenly inhabited the body of my child and .... they ... start ... talking ... like ... this.

This conversation occurs:
Tristan ~ Mommy, do you actually cold snow?
Me ~ Do I actually cold snow?
Tristan ~ Yea. Do you actually cold snow?
Me ~ I really don't know...

Shannon then goes into a several minute long talk about what he does when he sees cold snow. I wonder if I've really had too much coffee &/or what was in my coffee. Is it possible to slip yourself something unknowingly?

Foster is now weaving around the table, pushing the chair around, licking the floor, and fitting BETWEEN the table and wall. This is impressive since all laws of physics and sciences would dictate that it is impossible for him to do so. I think I see the table try to walk out of the kitchen on his back.

Lunch is a mixture of random sentences, grunts, and feeling like everyone is speaking some weird language. The kids have gone goofy. Laughing at insanely random silliness (and this is a statement given the general insanity and randomness of the morning). I am now screaming at the kids to quit it & eat, because after several calmer attempts to get them to calm down and eat they are now saying nothing but just pointing at each other and I am still screaming for them to quit it and wondering what the hell am I on.
We have a bell on the back door that Foster is supposed to ring to let us know he needs to go out. He rings it far more often than that. He goes over to it and begins ringing it now. I think he just wanted to add to the general insane conversation.

So, I am still trying to get them to eat. Getting my kids to eat can be an amazingly long process, especially with Tristan. Out of nowhere, Tristan punches table then, in shock, looks at me crying because he hurt his fist. He wraps it up in his shirt and frowns.

Shannon is now done eating and wandering about. He lost his first tooth recently and has four more loose teeth. He asks me if I want to feel his loose teeth. I am reminded of last night's trip to Lowe's where we run into a friend (who also happens to be on City Council - so please kids act appropriate) and he asks her if she would like to wiggle his teeth.
Lesson repeated to Shannon: If people aren't related to you, don't ask them to stick their hands in your mouth.

I'm still trying to get Tristan to finish his food. He is chewing the same bite for five minutes. I swear I see the glint in his eye that says "this is on purpose you over controlling bitch!" All the while Shannon is now skipping through the house and humming some random tune, not a song, just a tune/noise. This, of course, happens after he says he is going to wait in the room for Tristan.

I have finally gotten the kids down for naps (or quiet time as the case may be for Shannon) and I think some bit of normality and sanity might be achievable. Then this conversation occurs:

Tristan, calling to me from his nap room ~ Mommy, I need you.
Me, heading in there ~ What?
Tristan ~ Bear's Bob Marley blanket has a big hole in it.
*said blanket is in on the floor in the middle of the room, I pick it up & examine the hole*
Me ~ How did it get a hole in it?
Tristan ~ Because I stuck my hands in there and then I put my head through it.
Me ~ *actually, I don't respond. I give him that 'you gotta be kidding me' look*
Tristan ~ That's why I need you to fix Bear's Bob Marley blanket. And I need Bear's smaller blanket with the little holes in it.

I don't let him have another blanket with more holes in it. I kiss him goodnight on his forehead. Somehow I get the feeling that I've also kissed all hopes of sanity for the day goodbye.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Wonderfully Random Tristan

It really is amazing to see what distinct personalities your children have. Shannon came into this world like a ball of fire. Tristan has always been more mellow. Very mellow.

*When we would go through grocery stores Tristan, riding shot-gun in the cart, would throw his head back and look at the lights. He'd stare and say "whoa......." really drawn out. ~ It was funny. We never turn a lot of lights on at the house so we figured he was just impressed.

*When he was still learning to talk, Tristan's first full sentence was "I want a cracker." This eventually got shortened down to "I want crack." That's really funny until you have to go through a grocery store, trying to hold your head up and not die, with a toddler sobbing and screaming "I WANT CRACK!!"

*Sitting around the kitchen table one evening, I hear someone kicking the table. I look at Shannon and tell him to quit it. Shannon looks at Justin who then looks at Tristan. We're all now looking at Tristan, who is off in his own world yet all the while still kicking the table. I snap "TRISTAN!!" and he jumps and with a shock replies "What, I didn't pee!!"

*Both boys are musical but it is Tristan who remembers songs. Of course he doesn't always remember the correct lyrics. First it was Tom Waits. They love his song 'Big in Japan' & they call him/it the 'Silly Man Music.' I didn't think anything of it until, again in a grocery store, Tristan starts singing it, mimicking Tom Waits' voice quite well, and singing "Hey but I'm big in your pants, I'm big in your pants..."Then it was them walking in while I was listening to the Beastie Boys. Tristan walks of singing "NO .. SLEEP .. TILL BROCCOLI!!!" ~ I am seriously going to put that on a shirt!

*The other evening, a weekend evening, Justin ran an errand really quickly. It had been a holiday weekend so Justin had been home from work for several days before said weekend. Justin comes home from running the errand, walks through the door and is greeted by Tristan asking "Daddy, are you home from work now?"

*We used to get milk delivered, and the milkman still comes by every Monday morning to bring us cheese and other items of our choosing. He usually is here around 10:30am. That evening, around 5:30PM Justin's father stopped by to drop something off. He was only here a minute but he did make sure to say hi to the boys. Several minutes pass. Tristan walks to the front door and starts asking "Is the milkman here now??" Although he stated it clearly enough from the beginning, I am in disbelief and have to get him to repeat it. I reply "no" and Tristan just blankly says "oh" and walks off.

Nourishment & Trying Times

It's tough out there. These are tough times. - These are phrases we hear a lot and that we say a lot. And they are true and accurate, but they are also over-used. The truth is that it's always been tough out there and that times have always been tough. Historically speaking, we've probably never really had it easier. I'm reminded of this clip of Louis CK on Conan: - Everything's amazing and nobody is happy. But still, even though everything is amazing, that doesn't mean that at some given moment of time life isn't tough, that times aren't tough. It's a balancing act.

So we seek out what we think will make it better. What will make these tough times ok? We desperately seek out the solution that will kiss the wound of difficulty and make it all better.

This all causes me to get really stressed out, depressed, and down right angry. Not because we're seeking out what will make it better, that of course is a good thing, but because there are so many snake oil salesmen out there and they are craftier than ever.
Every where you turn there is a magazine full of solutions that will make your life better. It will make your kitchen look pristine, it will make a pile of throw rugs on the floor look like a decorating statement and not like you're a sloth, it will make your kids so deliriously happy that they won't ever bicker or back talk again, it will make you lose _x_ many pounds, it will make your spouse fall literally heads over heels in orgasmic awe of you. And if you buy now (or through the next three days) you can get it for 20% off and with $5 shipping! It's an even better deal!!! If you delay dinner with your gathered family to stand in the freezing cold & avoid being trampled or attacked in the ensuing stampede, the store will offer you magical discounts on the perfect products to make your holiday season absolutely perfect. You don't even have to think about your shopping list, the store has made it for you with their special deals! It's amazing!!

But it isn't, is it? No. It's soul depleting. It leaves us empty, because as soon as you've bought that wonderful deal a better deal, a newer model, comes out and then .. well, you're deal just sucks. And your life sucks. And that great gift makes your ass look fat. It's not only depleting it is insulting.

I would like this to be a general, any-time-of-year kinda post but the fact is that I am writing it as the holiday season is officially under full-swing. It is what it is. And as I look around I see the increasing amount of soul-depleting, life-draining false promises. Viruses don't spread this fast. Evil-do'ers dream of viruses that spread as fast as these shiny promises of happiness.

We need nourishment y'all. We desperately need it. We need a hug that isn't just an empty embrace by someone thinking of what else they would rather be doing, but a hug that is there.
We need loved ones who are there not to demand more but to offer help and support, and who will get it in return in spades.
We need friends, acquaintances and neighbors who aren't there to try and one up you. We don't need these same people who would say nice things to your face but roast you in hell behind your back. We need the ones who notice you left your front door open when you went out of town and not only call you but double check that all is well by asking the police to do a quick run through. Ones who lend several tablespoons of baking soda when you need a pinch, just to make sure you have enough .. just in case. Ones who bring by chicken noodle soup when they know you have a cold. Ones who realize that dogs bark, children leave out toys, and sometimes taking down holiday decorations can take all damn year.
We need family that doesn't make you feel bad for losing your temper with your kids when they've been pushing your buttons for too long, but instead offers, if nothing else, just the simple encouragement and reassurance that you're still a good parent. That your kids won't hate you forever. Family members who can help you through those times in a marriage (or any relationship) where you just don't know if it's going to work out, if you haven't grown apart. Family who can reassure you without assuming divorce is immanent.

We need love. And we need to be able to give that love back. Return it ten-fold. Not just to strangers we've never met, or that we only know online. Not just to those who are in poverty around the world. Even though everything is amazing, it seems like we're dying from the inside-out. We need the love to nourish ourselves whole again. True nourishment. Not sold to us by a book of how-to's, but what is already deep inside us, to give and to get. It hasn't been that long, our bodies still know what true nourishment is.

I hope you all can give and get the nourishment you need. I wish you all so much happiness, true happiness. I want you to know that I do believe in you, and that I do have faith in you. These are tough times but you will get through them, and you will do it wonderfully, even if you stagger at times, you will do it wonderfully. You are a good parent, you are a good person, you are a good partner and spouse. You are beautiful as you are and I hope you know that in your soul.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Unschooling Life

Unschooling takes you places. Wonderful places. This place happens to be Lane Stadium, located in Blacksburg, VA. We are die-hard Hokie fans and Lane Stadium is the Hokie's home field. This was the boys' first trip there. They didn't get to go inside, but wandering around outside a bit was just fine.

I had always intended to write a lot more about homecshooling and our journey on that path on this blog. After all, it is a big part of our lives, so how could I rightly leave it off? But a couple things happened.

First - when you tell people, or when they find out that you're homeschooling your kids
it's like you've just walked into a giant mine field. Things can quickly turn into a nearly literal war zone. You're bombarded with questions wanting (sometimes demanding) to know every detail of every aspect of their education. Whether it pertains to them in the current measure of time is irrelevant. What are you going to do about trigonometry??? What about this? What about that? HOW are you teaching them? What makes you think you're qualified to teach them?

I realize that often these are asked out of simple curiosity. If you tell someone you just managed to fly from tree-top to tree-top you're likely going to get asked why. But, as too many homeschoolers can & will attest to, too often these questions are asked too snidely. Condescending, judging, like vultures trying to pick you apart.

What makes it a war-zone is the attempt to stand one's ground and not put the other person's choices regarding their child's education down. It is very difficult to say why you think school is a bad idea for your child but perfectly ok for another child. MINE FIELD!! Add that you unschool and you get a double or triple mine field because even homeschoolers have been known to turn on each other.

Now you know why I've been silent. I just haven't wanted to deal with it, with the drama. But this is my blog and damnit, I'm going to talk about the things that are going on in my life, in OUR lives. And unschooling is a big part of that. So, here it goes. (And, fair warning, I usually don't delete comments but if you bring drama that I don't care for here .. I will delete your comment.)

Overall Unschool Lesson #1: It all begins with Sit/Stay

We happened to have gotten a new puppy this Summer (yes this relates, just hang in there) and so he went to puppy obedience class at the end of Summer/beginning of Fall. There is something we learned there that I haven't been able to shake out of my head, and I think this is a good thing. The instructor told us repeatedly "It all begins with the sit/stay command. If you can't get 'em to do the sit/stay you can't move on to anything else." And so, this has become a mantra for now. For schooling, for growing. For moving our lives into the child-centric model to the model where they orbit around us (parent-centric?).

Tristan & Pre-School:

This year Tristan has started pre-school. Unschooled pre-school, only measured with any sort of formal significance (that anyone from the "outside world" -- ha ha, that's a joke people) coming from the fact that he goes to Storytime at the library once a week. We're blessed in Salem to have such a wonderful public library.

One of the biggest goals of pre-school for Tristan though is learning to dress himself. He takes longer than most grown women who are trying to put on their faces and do their hair. He usually leaves his room, where he is supposed to be getting dressed, to come find me and talk to me at every .. single .. possible .. conceivable stage of undressing and dressing. This is usually followed by a scream/whine when Foster is "near him" and then the derailing to where he wants me to dress him. I've told in no uncertain terms that if he wants to go to kindergarten then he simply must learn to dress himself. Those are the rules. The Sit/Stay.

Shannon & 1st Grade:
Shannon is now in 1st grade. He goes to homeschool gym class at the YMCA and loves it, though I don't care for the instructors. I haven't taken him out yet though. I'm there while he's in class, so I'm .. well, there. And he loves it.
His reading is amazing, almost too good. Math hasn't clicked yet. We're still working on it, very gently showing him how things can add up. He can get it a little bit, but it hasn't clicked. We're not worried. I'd like to work with him on learning money, if only I can get myself organized and ahead of the game enough to get there.
What I've really been impressed with him about this year is his empathy and caring for others. When my uncle died in August we took the boys to the burial. Shannon was upset, but I think it was more because he saw everyone else upset and that bothered him. At Halloween he wanted to color pictures to pass out to all the trick-or-treaters (we wound up making special goodie bags for friends). Thanksgiving comes around and there he is with a stack of paper and a tote of crayons, drawing & coloring hand-turkeys for everyone .. writing their names on them and then folding them up just so, so that they had to be opened just the way he wanted them to be, and giving them away.

Then there are the rules and things they learn together. For instance, while Justin was putting in my dreadlocks Saturday evening we put the movie Elf in the dvd player. The boys saw the dinner scene where Buddy puts maple syrup on spaghetti and drinks an entire 2-liter of soda & then they saw the breakfast scene where he eats plain spaghetti noodles topped with marshmallows, m&m's, various syrups, pop-tarts, and likely more sugary stuff. Both boys commented (without our prompting!) that he wasn't eating very healthy!! I was proud.

They know where their food comes from because they go with me/us to pick it up from the farm. They see the baby piglets, then the larger pigs, then the pork. Shannon infamously welcomed Thanksgiving guests into our house a couple years back with the very enthusiastic greeting of "Come in! Would you like to see our dead turkey??" He then proceeded, during dinner no less, to explain how the turkey came to be dinner. How they killed it, how they processed it. Even though he hadn't actually been there he knew the steps.

Not all the things they learn together are related to food though. They've recently been allowed to start riding their bikes/scooters/tricycles down to the playground when we go. We live on a VERY, VERY busy street so this is a bigger deal than it may sound otherwise. They started having to ride near me, stay close to me. When they do that successfully I start to let them ride ahead a bit. Never out of sight, but a bit of freedom none the less.

And there are more things. Shannon has become rather responsible for pooper-scooping the backyard. No small task considering Foster is an English Mastiff. He wanted the responsibility, we have it to him.

We hung a coat rack on the back of one of the closet doors in the room. They're now responsible for hanging up their coats properly. There is also now a shoe rack with a shelf for each of them where their shoes are supposed to go. That one isn't going as smoothly as the coat rack, but they'll get the hang of it. And there are more things, so many more things, things I just can't think of right now.

And I know some of you will read this and think that it has absolutely nothing to do with their education and schooling. This is where I will, politely, disagree with you. Tristan is 4 years old and Shannon is almost 7. We're still in the Sit/Stay commands. From the number of grown "adults" (that word is used very loosely) who still live at home or who can't support themselves properly, I'd say that a lot of kids could've benefited from some more Sit/Stay lessons.

But this is our life. I am proud of it. I am proud of my boys. So far, this unschooling journey is a good one.

The Dreadie Experience

Eight years ago I got the idea to dreadlock my hair. I had really wanted dreads for a while, and I loved dreads on other people. I had just met Justin that Summer and we were quickly becoming very close buds. He had dreads, gorgeous long dreads, and that only made me want dreads even more.
So I trusted a friend who assured me that she had put in dreads for several people to put in my dreads. Unfortunately, they .. to say it nicely .. weren't done quite as nicely as I would've hoped. They were kinda hideous. But I loved having dreads. After the mess was done I began doing research and finding sites about dreadlocks. ~ Lesson Learned - ALWAYS do your research FIRST!!! That, and if you're interested in dreadlocks do yourself a favor and head over to - they've got lots of info & products to help you out!

Anyway, eight years later and the bug bites again. Actually make that 6 or 7 years later as I did a friend's dreads a year or so ago and that put the seed of desire in. My brother in law was growing out his hair with the intention of putting in dreads and so we agreed to do each other's dreadlocks when our hair was long enough.
A year or two later, he's cut his hair off and I decide I simply can't wait until my hair is long "enough". ~ For those not familiar with dreads, your hair can & will shrink up .. a lot!~
So I talked it over with Justin. I talked it over with a good friend. I had made up my mind and just needed a little reassurance (don't want a bangs crisis on my hands, ya know?). Since we had court on November 23rd (blog on that coming soon), we agreed it would be wise to wait until after that.
I made an appointment to have my hair sectioned into roughly 1" squares by my hair stylist. This could've easily been done at home but I thought I'd spare Justin the hassle and reassure myself that we were starting with a good base. I also ordered the following from DreadHeadHQ: locking accelerator, dreadlock shampoo, lock peppa (the best stuff EVER!!!), a loose tool (for wrangling in loose hairs), a dreadlock comb, and tiny rubber bands for the initial sectioning. Justin and I each had our wax leftover from our previous dreadie days so I was all set there.
I also ordered a crocheted headband off of an awesome gal at etsy. Since I don't have a photo of me in the headband yet, I'll just give you this link to it on her page: (Thank you Grace!! I LOVE my headband!)
So .. here is a photo journey of my dreadie adventure so far:

This is me, pre-dreads. Obviously this photo was taken over the Summer. I'm not exactly wearing tank tops in this chilly weather!! Anyway, this is pretty much what my hair was looking like before the dreads.
I didn't get a photo of my hair sectioned off before we began dreading it. I should've, it looked pretty silly. ~ Dreadie Lesson ~ Be prepared to look downright goofy at times. ~

Here I am, partially dreaded. In this photo I look more dreaded than I am, but if you look closely you'll see a lot of it is just sectioned off hair. This photo was taken on Black Friday.

The back of my head on Black Friday. You can really see that most of it is just sectioned off hair.
Saturday morning. Remember the stated Dreadie Lesson above?? You're gonna look goofy at times. Just try to own it and you'll get through it.

My dreads are skinny and little, which looks better (at least on me) than trying to start out with big, phatty dreads. It also means that dreadlocking takes a LOT of time. Admittedly we did take a long time-out for the Tech/UVA game on Saturday, but we didn't finish until late Saturday night. Justin put in most all of my dreads, and at final count/estimate I have between 70 & 75 dreadlocks on my head now.

Finally done, November 27th.

From the back they're looking real good. We were both proud & impressed.

And here I am, a dreadie Mama Taney. I can not begin to adequately express my gratitude to Justin for spending the hours it took to put these babies in. I am eternally grateful, even if my head was sore as hell afterwards. I'm especially grateful because I know he'll be there to help me maintain them along the way. Dreads are a journey. I'm officially on day 2 of that journey.

PS ~ My ultra-cool and supportive mother (who not-so-secretly hates dreads) gave me a dreadie bead for my recent birthday. I put it in this morning. I love it. I love her for her support.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Tooth Came Out

The tooth came out last Tuesday night. He had fiddled with it and fiddled with it, and after he was already down for bed is when it came completely loose. I gave it the tiniest of yanks and out it popped. We put it in the Tooth Fairy pillow (picture still not here, I know).
Wednesday morning he woke up to find that the Tooth Fairy had left him 3 quarters, 2 dimes, and 1 nickel .. which equals "a WHOLE dollar!!"
The front tooth beside the missing one is very loose as well. And now so are the top two front teeth. In a couple months he should look real cute for photos!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The First Tooth

Our world is changing. Shannon has his first loose tooth.

Most of his friends have already lost several. Apparently girls loose teeth earlier than boys and most of the kids he knows who are his age are girls. I have been informed just this afternoon that the little girl who lives next door has already lost FIVE teeth. ~ much emphasis on that five.

So when we were at the dentist back in September and it was announced that he had a tooth starting to loosen, Shannon's world exploded. His eyes were as wide as saucers and his open-mouth smile took over his entire face. Since then it has been non-stop checking of the tooth. How loose is it? See how it can be wiggled? It's LOOSE!!

Apparently he is going to quite gummy soon, as he is now claiming that he has, at the very minimum, four loose teeth. They seem to magically loosen overnight. It has been confirmed that the two front bottom teeth are indeed loose, but he swears there are more.

Today he showed me just how loose that first tooth was. And it is. In fact, it was just the slightest bit bloody around the gum line on one side. Swished with warm salt water, and we're good to go. Apparently we're good to go straight to the mirror ....

One must check the status of one's loose teeth at every possible moment. These photos were taken before he even was out of his pajamas this morning.

Can you tell he's pretty happy about it??

Everyone has asked him if he wants them to tie a string around it and yank it out. Justin suggested to him this morning that we tie one end to the tooth and one to Foster. I think this has overwhelmed him a little (not just that last one!). He announced to me at lunch that it will come out on it's own when it's ready to.

In the meantime I've gotten out a pillow that my mother made for me when I was his age and starting to loose teeth. Hand embroidered with a Tooth Fairy rhyme and my name. It is green with little flowers (this was the very early 80's), a ruffly green edge along with a lace like trim. I asked Shannon if he would like me to change the fabric. I thought I might add Shannon & Tristan's names to the pillow under my own as well. He thought about it for a second and said that he would like me to change the fabric. I asked him what type he would like. He replied "Something more green." ....... "Um, Shannon, the pillow IS green." .... "Oh, ok, I like it then." -- boys.

And, of course, since I am MOM and this is my oldest, I am weepy over the first loose tooth. All who know me are not shocked as I am weepy over everything. I am weepy as I type this and I think about holding that tooth when it comes out. How long it took for him to get that tooth. How he looked before he had teeth. How my baby isn't a baby anymore. --- Ok, I must stop and wipe away these tears.

I will let you all know when the big moment happens. With photos for me to cry over.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The boys & Foster

Foster, our English Mastiff, turned 6 months old today. He's 28" tall (up 2" from less than a week ago) at the shoulder and now weighs roughly 100lbs. That's more than both our boys put together! Needless to say, the kids and the pup don't always see eye to eye .... though as big as he is, they almost literally do.

For those who are unaware, English Mastiffs slobber. They have big floppy jowls (I actually, accidentally, stepped on Foster's today!) that hold food, water, and drool long after they've left the dish behind.

This isn't Foster, it is his father Samson. Look close at the mouth. In all fairness, Samson had just finished off a pig's ear and was extra slobbery. They usually aren't that bad. But they DO drool & slobber.

Shannon HATES the slobbering and drool!! I really can't emphasize enough how much he hates it. If he gets any slobber on him he throws a fit about needing to change his clothing. So, this evening we're sitting in the kitchen and Shannon spots a wet spot on the floor. ~ Cue the ominous music ~

The truth of the matter is that it was from where Foster had been chewing on a piece of ice, dropped it, and then went back to trying to get it.

Shannon begins screaming about their being a puddle of pee on the floor. I tell him it isn't pee, but just .. well, what I said above. He then starts screaming about it being slobber and on & on about how much he hates slobber. So I ask him "Well which do you hate more, slobber or pee?"
he replies. "Well then, that's pee on the floor" I say.

With that, the kid hops down and announces with great significance "I have to clean up that pee!" He then continued on saying "I am ALWAYS prepared to take care of pee!" And he got out the vinegar & water, a clean cloth, and cleaned up the alleged pee. All the while he starts muttering and complaining "THIS DOG is making me mad!" because every time he would clean up one spot, there'd be another spot since Foster was following him around with great curiousity and nosing the floor behind him. Absolutely hysterical to Justin & I, absolutely maddening to poor Shannon, and absolutely interesting to Foster.

And then, there is this. Foster tends to think the kids are puppies and his litter-mates. If the kids hop up on the bed you can guarantee that Foster will soon appear at the bed as well, expecting to be let up. If the kids play trains, Foster follows them around, nosing at the trains and sitting on the tracks. Every time Foster sits on the tracks Shannon has begun saying "Foster, get your tush off the tracks!" ~~ It's rather cute.

Tristan on the other hand doesn't so often find Foster cute. Foster is still 6 months old, which means he plays like a puppy. And Tristan is only 4, which means he can get knocked around by Foster's leaning against him or his tail knocking into him. Tristan is NOT happy about this.

But he does love him. He hugs on him and pets him. Foster walks with me when I get the boys down for their naps, often trying to stay in there with them. They both give him a hug and kiss goodnight.

And, with one being 6 months old, one being 4 years old, and the final one being 6 1/2 years old, this is how our household runs. At least between the three of them.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Trying Times

Yes, we're still working our way through a hell-ish renovation. Suing a contractor who is sleazy but, since he's been sued by everyone and their sister, knows the legal system. A true snake. This Summer has been hell, and just when I thought I couldn't take anymore ... I had to.

My uncle died on August 30th. I wasn't terribly close to my uncle, though he reminds me too much of my grandfather, whom I am utterly dedicated to. My uncle died of Alzheimer's. So did my grandmother. Same side of the family. Losing him was like losing her all over again. Torture and pain and unbearable. Knowing that my grandfather has now buried two wives AND his first born son was even worse. I've seen what happens to a parent who loses a child. I've watched them age before my eyes.

Less than 3 weeks later I would learn that my own mother has cancer. My mother and I talk everyday. I often call her before I even get the boys' their breakfast, or while they're eating they're breakfast. As cheesy as it may sound, she is my best friend, aside from my husband.

You're "supposed to" have a colonoscopy when you turn 50. Mom put that off. I don't blame her. I'm not one to believe in these "supposed to"s either. Though I doubt that was her logic and reasoning. She finally had one. The results weren't good. A 2" polyp. Later acknowledged as a tumor.

I wasn't sure how to handle this. Be positive. Remain optimistic. One of my brothers is very sensitive. Have to be strong for him. Be there for my mother. And my kids. My kids who don't know, and we weren't telling. How old would they need to be before they remembered someone who loved them so much and someone they absolutely adored? I have heard stories of relatives that I apparently loved, but that I have no memory of.

Mom had a CT Scan this past Wednesday. Results wouldn't be available till meeting with the doc on Thursday. I took the kids to the Y on Wednesday with all intentions of working out while Shannon was in his homeschool gym class and Tristan was enjoying the child care. Instead of working out I spent the hour knitting, listening to music, and crying. Luckily, I had knit myself a nice cotton tissue. It came in handy.

The good news. Mom's CT Scan showed that the tumor hadn't spread. That is REALLY good news. REALLY good. She'll start radiation and chemo, at the same time, and there is a 90% chance they'll get it all.

I don't want to think of the other side of things. Trying to focus on the positive. Which is better than anything else.

We're members of our local brewer's guild. Last month's meeting was 2 days before my uncle died. We knew it would be any day. I walked into the meeting, people said "hi" to me, and I turned around and walked out. Luckily, the meeting took place on the lake and I was able to excuse my absence. I told them I was "Zen-ing with the lake" and surroundings while listening to music. Then I wore sunglasses for the rest of the meeting so my eyes wouldn't give me away.
Tomorrow we have our next monthly meeting of the brewer's guild. I've been dreading a repeat of last month. Though, since CT Scans have come back positive I am hoping that I won't break down into tears.

I'm the kind of chick who would rather punch you than admit to breaking down into tears. But here I am, bearing my soul and worries to an online journal. Why? I don't know. I just need it out. I need to get it out. But I'll wear my sunglasses and bring my music with me .. just in cases.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Remodeling Saga Continues

We're once again underway with the remodeling. We've hired two guys who, so far anyway, are doing a really good job & who we feel really good about. We've also had to get estimates from and hire some other people for various jobs.
The most recent, and the reason for this blog, was an electrician. We used to have an elderly gentleman who was retired from the Navy as our electrician. Honest guy, FANTASTIC rates. One bill from him was $12 ~ and that was for installing a new fan we had bought!! But, we haven't been able to contact him, and we've heard he's moved to be closer to the grandkids. So .. we've been searching for a new electrician.

Our current guys recommended someone. They called him up and he came out the same day, on a Friday evening. Well .. he was supposed to be here at 4pm on Friday. He didn't show up until 5:30. This did throw a hink in my schedule, as it had caused me to rush and be harried with the kids to be home by 4, but hey, the guy was willing to come out on a Friday afternoon!! He couldn't fix the problem that night but said that his guys would be here first thing Monday morning. Between 9am and 9:30. The rate was $95.50 for 2 guys for 1hr.

I'm the type of person who believes in your word & the power of a good handshake. You know .. honest. On time. Apologetic if I happen to not be on time. But, I'm learning that although I detest punching a clock, if you're going to have your house worked on, you practically need a time clock for people to punch in & out on!

Here's how it went down:
*Monday morning, they're supposed to be here between 9am & 9:30am.
* ..... The wait begins .... You do know being up and ready for something on a Monday morning is torture, right?
*10am ~ I call the head boss honcho. They're on their way, they just called him for directions & the address. ---- mmhmm & OK --- At this point I'm wise enough to know that when they get here I will keep a written time chart of who arrives when & who leaves when & everything else in between.
*10:30 ~ still no electricians. I've now decided that if they're not here by 11am, they're fired.
*A couple minutes before 11am ~ I call the head honcho boss to tell him to not bother sending his guys. He doesn't let me get that far and asks if he can call me right back. I agree and he does. He says they're at my front door, knocking to get in. .... Um .. no they aren't. Apparently they've gotten lost. -- Dude, we live in a BLUE house!! It's nearly impossible to NOT find this place!! That is unless you can't read street signs properly, ignore house numbers, and are on the wrong road. Which is apparently what happened.
*11am ~ Knock on the door. ONE guy is here. But he's a cutie pie with long, wavy hair, so I don't fire him. I ask about the second guy (remember above mentioned rate), and am told he should be along shortly.
*11:20 ~ Second guy arrives.
*11:40 ~ They announce they're going to leave for lunch
*12:30 ~ They get back from lunch
*1pm ~ They're done and one they're way. The bill will be mailed to me.

Work done by the way? Fix the doorbell and replace outlets in the kitchen, bringing them up to code.

I got the bill today. $62.79 for materials. Ok, not thrilled, but this is how things go, so ok. $334.25 for 3.5 hours of labor. Ummm .. EXCUSE ME!??!

Let's look above again. First guy was here working for a total of 70 minutes. Second guy was here for a total of 50 minutes. EVEN IF I was willing to pay for the time that they took to go to lunch, they were only "here" for 2 hours. By the way, I'm NOT willing to pay them to go to lunch. Not at $95.50 an hour. Not when they haven't even been here an hour. No, I don't think so.
I called Head Honcho Boss immediately. He handed me off to Billing Guy. Billing Guy asked how long I thought they had been here. I began reading time list for them to him. He began backing off. Excuses began tumbling out of his mouth like pearls of nutcaseness. "They'll sometimes clock it from the time they leave here until the time they get back." And "they sometimes count running out for materials." -- Again, did you see the work we had done?? Not a lot of materials that needed to be run out for there!
So ... I recount my times I had their guys here for. Billing Guy says "Ok, so 2 hours then?" I reply "Uh, No. ONE hour." He agrees, kissing some customer butt in the process and stating that he hopes we'll them back for future needs.

Ok, they were nice enough to go ahead and correct it. Told me to just send in the amount that was correct. Which is good, because they would've had to take me to court before I paid that bill.

Will I be hiring them again? Are you kidding me?? NO!!!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Supporting Your Local Miller

Big Spring Mill
Obviously, I didn't take this photo today. This is a shot from Big Spring Mill located in Elliston, VA. Not too far from home, no more than Justin's daily commute to work.
Why is Big Spring Mill so special? One, it is a family-run, truly local business. They get their grains from as many local (or close-by) farms as possible. They are good, honest people.

My grandfather is the one who told me about them. Well .. he told my mom, she eventually passed it along to me. Now the whole family is addicted to Big Spring Mill.
But again, I'm sure you're asking ... why??

During today's visit I bought a 50lb. bag of dog food and a 25lb. bag of rabbit food. And, all together, tax included .. I spent $25.20. They even load it into my car for me.

Sure though, anyone can find a source for cheap crap, right? But that's the thing, this isn't cheap crap. The dog food is GOOD dog food. It isn't a label I had heard of before (Sportmix), but I read the ingredients & it's naturally preserved. They have several different varieties they carry, and we get the most expensive. I have pure-bred dogs, Mom has show-dogs .. not that mutts are loved less around here, this is just what we happen to have. We showed the label to our vet (the vet consistently voted best in our area) and they gave it thumbs-up AND guessed that it was likely fresher than some of the stuff bought in stores!

So .. I could pay $50 for 35lbs of the dog food we were buying at the mega-pet store OR I could pay $18.25 for 50lbs of something that is just as good. And the money here goes to a local company. $50 for 35lbs or $18.25 for 50lbs???? You tell me which is a better deal.

And for our rabbit?? Well, from the same mega-pet store I could get a 25lb bag of rabbit food for $39.99. At my local mill I picked up a 25lb bag for $5.75. Which would you rather pay -- $39.99 or $5.75 for 25lbs of rabbit feed?

But what else have they got? How about bird seed? Same mega-pet store, I can get 40lbs of black oil sunflower seed for $19.99. At the mill, 50lbs of black oil sunflower seed runs me $16 and some odd cents (sorry, I don't have a recent receipt).

Got chickens? You know I do! I also pick up my chicken feed at the mill (the original reason I started venturing out there). I get 100lbs of laying crumble for a little under $20. The price varies, but it is always right around there. Not too bad.
They also have feed for other farm animals, but I don't have those, so I don't know the prices. From the number of times I've seen pick-up truck beds being filled with sack upon sack, I'm gonna guess the prices are good. Of course, this goes against my whole pasture-raised thing ... but, what can I do there?

Are you a baker? If you're a baker, you should REALLY know your local miller. Again, I don't have a local receipt to quote you detailed prices. But here's what I can tell you, it costs me several dollars, per bag, less to buy my flour there than it would cost me to buy it at the store. Enough of a difference that I now choke when I see store prices and say "you've got to be kidding me!"

So .. check around. Do you have a local mill? See what they have, it might surprise you. It might save you some money. It might help keep money in your local economy and keep small, local businesses alive all at the same time. Not only that, noting the fact that a very old mill in Roanoke was recently torn down to pave the way for snazzier, more modern businesses .. you may just help keep a profession alive.

For those of you who live in my neck of the woods and want to check out Big Spring Mill yourselves, here is their info:

Big Spring Mill, Inc.
PO Box 305
Elliston, VA 24087
Phone: 540-268-2267
Fax: 540-268-9837
(Cash or Checks Only)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

It's SNAZZY!!!

While at the gym today I happened to spot a commercial on tv that caused me to not only laugh out loud, but nearly fall off the machine I happened to be sitting on. - Side Note - laughing out loud while seeming to randomly look off into space (the tvs were across the room) & while wearing headphones will get you some very strange looks from the old lady on the next machine. But I digress.

So .. what could've been so funny? Was it the orange-tinted reporter on Fox News? No, though he made me giggle too. What about the reporter whose forehead refused to move no matter how many facial expressions he tried to make? Nope.

It was .... get ready for it .. the SNAZZY NAPPER!!

This really isn't a joke either. Their ad-line is this: "IT'S THE SNAZZY WAY TO SLEEP WHILE YOU TRAVEL!" In case you still don't believe me (because I had a hard time believing it too), here is their website: AND here is the You Tube video commercial:

Just when I thought those stupid Snuggies were as bad as you could get, along comes the Snazzy Napper.

But then I realized something. Fox News, as well as most news sources .. Fox News just happens to be on at the Y, has begun gearing up for the 9/11 anniversary. And amidst all the remembrances of how G-Dub was in a school-room reading to kids and how Condie yelled at him not to come back to DC, something dawned on me. --- The Snazzy Napper isn't so new.

In fact ... it's almost identical to something very familiar yet something that makes most Americans very ill-at-ease. Can you guess it??

Yes, I did find it funny that for all their terrorism freak-outs, and also that the 9th anniversary of 9/11 is coming up, that there was a commercial for a product that looks remarkably like conserative Islamic dress for women.
It's even more interesting given that, according to the blog where I found this image ( bans against burqas and niqabs are spreading across European countries.

So .. I am really left wondering which advertising or marketing genius came up with a way to take an item of conservative religious attire, that most non-Islamic people view as oppressive to women, and turn it into the newest Snuggie sensation? What did they do .. happen to pass a women wearing a burqa and go "hey, I bet you could easily take a nap while wearing one of those!"

Just in case the irony isn't funny to you. Just in case you still haven't laughed hard enough at the general idea of 'the Snazzy Napper', here is another line from their website -- "It's like privacy in a bag!" .... um, yea ... those are normally called 'body bags'.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Back to Unschool

Today everywhere I turn I see cute little images of children standing out on front walks and sidewalks, waiting for the bus. While some kids have already been back to school for a week or more, school starts today in Salem.

But, of course, not here.

Our morning started off quite usual and ordinary. The kids got up before I did and were allowed to play quietly in the front room. By the time I have stumbled groggily in here this morning, I see a floor covered in cars, trains, roads, and train tracks. As I sip my warm mug of tea and type this, Shannon is busy picking most of it up, loading it all into a re-purposed box, and taking them all into their bedroom.
Ah .. their bedroom. Bunk beds with tie-dye sheets in their colors of choice. This is now a tent, with blankets hung from one level to the next. Apparently the stuffed animals are having a to-do with the cars and trains and tracks and roads. I'm not quite sure what he meant by all that, but he meant something and their world is alive right now.
Their animals all have names, though Shannon's mostly have descriptive names. For example: Shannon's stuffed brown bear is named "Brown Bear"; the stuffed black lab we got him from Chateau Morrisette is called "Puppy"; there is a lion called .. you guessed it "Lion". Tristan's animals have more familial names. His favorite stuffed animal, a bear wearing a rabbit suit, is called "Beer" ~ not because beer is such a big part of our world, but out of simply mispronunciation. His larger brown bear is called "Beer's Mommy", and the soft bear's head that rattles in the center of a little blanket (handkerchief size) is "Beer's Baby" or "Baby".

Yesterday I downloaded Google Earth onto the computer. We looked at our house (and put a pin on it, like marking it as a favorite), we looked at all the grandparent's houses. We looked at where Shannon's penpal lives. Since she lives in Jerusalem we couldn't zoom in and actually see her house, but we could see what the area looks like. Then we went and looked at the deserts and pyramids in Egypt. It was fascinating to watch the Earth spin around and begin zooming into a location. I can remember spinning around globes, pinpointing an area and trying to imagine what that area looked like close up ... so to see it now is simply amazing. It is magic.

And now the boys are setting up a bowling set in the Sunroom. Surrounded by plants, sunlight, books on their new bookcase, cleaning up toys off the floor to make way for their bowling pins. Learning to share .. ok, that's my positive way of saying they're now fighting ... figuring out how to take turns, and that you have to "share" your bowling pins so that the whole set can be set up.

Other unschooly activities?? Playing in the sandbox outside, building mountains out of sand and covering them with morning glory blooms. "Paper Cutting" (as Shannon calls it), which he is surprisingly good at. He cuts spirals out .. I am very impressed. Learning letters with Tristan (who tries to convince me that he doesn't already know them). Each of them building their own wooden toolbox with Daddy's help. Picking out a book to read from the ever-growing stack (thanks Sarah!) on their bookcase. Playing some learning games on the computer ( & are current favorites).

Welcome Fall. As school buses go rumbling by our house in the morning, we mill about in our pjs, starting the day as we please or as the day calls for it. And we couldn't be happier.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

No-Poo Follow-up

Ok .. I broke down and washed my hair. We had court the other week and I couldn't bear it. I know the last time I blogged about this challenge ( I was digging how my hair looked. So what happened?

Pro: I could let my hair air-dry and have these really awesome waves. Justin compared it to coming out of the ocean and letting my hair dry. Kinda bed-heady, but cool.

Con: I couldn't brush my hair. At least not with my beloved Mason Pearson paddle brush. But then I couldn't brush it with a regular ole brush either. If I did I would have an insane pouf-fro thing going on.

Pro: Thanks to having one kid with curly hair, I've had to learn how to brush curly hair, so the above issue could slightly be taken care of. Mist down hair very well, then brush. The key is to the wetness of it all.

Pro: I had VOLUME!! My hair is fine and straight usually. And limp. During the No-Poo Challenge I had VOLUME and it was AWESOME!!!!

Con ... and this was the breaking point: My hair had an odd oily texture at the roots. It reminded me of when I dyed my hair with Manic Panic. It would lift up more in sections than strands, if that makes any sense. When I was washing my hair in the shower I felt like I had to wash my hands afterwards, and I really hated that.

So, I broke down and washed my hair. I even used some conditioner that I still had from when I box-dyed my hair blonde last. I was headed into court and wanted my hair looking nice, it was one thing I just didn't want to have to worry about.
Now it's almost a week later. I'm back to using the shampoo we had here at the house already (Nature's Gate shampoo which, it turns out, is just as toxic as most store bought shampoos and costs a couple dollars more per bottle!!) & my usual "conditioner" rinse: a mixture of beer, chamomile tea, and lemon juice or apple cider vinegar. So, how's that going?

Pro: Hello my dear hairbrush. I have missed you.

Con: Back to HAVING to wash my hair daily. I could probably make it till the end of the day, but my roots would be looking super nasty by then. So .. back to washing it every friggin' morning.

Pro: Hello silky hair. Silky strands of hair.

Con: Hello FLAT hair. REALLY FLAT! You couldn't iron hair and get it any flatter.

Con: Bye bye pretty waves. Also, bye bye air dried sexy hair. I need a haircut and it seems more and more obvious everyday now.

Con: Bye bye being able to style my hair and have it hold. Now it's too silky and just falls.

Obviously I'm not really liking shampoo anymore. The kids are still holding true to the no-poo thing because it hasn't had any negative "effect" on their hair. Their heads look great.
So, I'm back to researching options and alternatives to shampoo. Today I washed my hair with some Dr. Bronner's and the usual rinse. Much nicer.
I also found this blog: - some very good suggestions there. I might have to try this out.
Also high on the list of priorities .. get a friggin' haircut!

I'll keep you up to date on how things go and what I try next. For anyone who may read this -- thoughts? Have you tried ditching store-bought shampoo?? What did you use? Remember, store-bought shampoo didn't even exist until 1930's and, from what I've seen, all the really impressively gorgeous (female) hairstyles existed before 1930 as well. I can't help but see the correlation. What do you think?