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?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Dude, Where've You Been?


I know, I've been gone for a while. Or maybe it just seems like a while ... internet withdrawls are seriously a bitch. This will be a short post, because I really detest (and I think you do too) these types of posts. Deep down. Like asking some stranger how they are and they actually say something other than "fine" or "can't complain" ~ but I digress ... as usual ~ some things never do change.

This has been a rough Summer. The house is in a state of hell. I can't blog about it (um ... Freedom of Speech anyone??) because it's now gone the legal, court-based route. But there is some light at the end of the tunnel ... maybe it's just a skylight or a break between tunnels ... maybe you're now wondering how much I've had to drink at this point ("and that was without a single drop of rum") .. but the light is there.

We once again took Tristan to the West Virginia State Fair for his birthday and that was fun. We try to do trips from us rather than gifts, so far it's a cool thing. He showed less interest in the animals than last year and more interest in the rides. He even mustered up the courage to ride the roller coaster 'The Wild Mouse.'

However, after standing in line with Justin & Shannon (can you see them in that pic?) for 10+ minutes, he was denied because he was, quite literally an INCH too short. He cried and had to walk off the platform. I wanted to punch the carny working the ride. I resisted the urge.

So, this was his make-up ride .. which Shannon didn't get to ride .. only him. The tears dried up quickly.

Then we all rode the ferris wheel. The boys' first time ever on one, and the first time I think we've ever ridden a carnival ride as a family. I took this shot from the top, looking back on everything.
Other than that trip and our trip to the beach, we've been homebodies this Summer. I've been trying to learn to crochet. So far, I've made an unimpressively snazzy Hokie colored garland (I plan to gussy it up to proper standards). After that I was feeling full of myself and attempted a circle. First attempt produced a nice Hokie-colored knot. Second attempt .. well .. ok, so I ended up making a Hokie-colored Willy Warmer. I got the circling part down, just not the keeping it flat and making it a larger circle. Life hands ya lemons ... whaddya gonna do? And are you really shocked that I ended up making a cock sock? -- And yea, I just called it that. Admit it, you might have spit out your drink, but you're still not that shocked.
So, I'm still working on the LEARNING to crochet part. Hopefully no more projects that I can't (or at least shouldn't) take pictures of being worn. I've also been ripping up old clothing so I can make a rag rug. This is what really got me started on the whole crochet kick.
With cooler weather approaching I'm also taking stock of what is needed to help keep my family healthy and well. Keep an eye on my kitchen blog, for more info on how that is going.
For those keeping any sort of count, or general passing interest, our English Mastiff, Foster, is 7 days away from being 5 months old and weighing in at 85 lbs. I'll re-weigh him on the 11th though and let you know.
The chickens are still laying, but not a lot. They're back out in the yard and happy about that, but they're also molting and it tends to look like a chicken exploded out there. August's Egg Tally was 31 eggs (up from July's Tally) and our Year To Date Egg Tally is 356. Not too bad.
There's more to say, but I'll end it here. Football Season is starting, and so we're consumed by that. And Halloween is around the corner .. and I am plotting and planning the decorations already. Cooler weather brings me back to life.