Monday, April 30, 2012

Busy, Busy, Busy...Crash

We had a fun  weekend.  Fun, but oh, so very busy.  Once I had dinner done yesterday, I totally crashed.  I didn't sleep, but totally diddled my whole day away.  Guilt-free!  I loved it.

Friday Morning Walk

Friday started out very pleasurably engaged with my morning walk.  Lana and I were the only ones walking that day, and I think we must have kept the pace up a little more than usual.  The wind was brisk and we probably subconsciously reacted to that by moving quickly.  I know I was more tired usual when I was done, and I had a few muscles here and there that I noticed more than usual all the rest of that day.


The pleasure and relaxation continued throughout the day, because I had a friend from years back here to visit for the day.  Becky G, is the sister of one of my classmates; the wife of an ELS pastor who I met during Joe's first year at sem and who Joe knew before that; and her husband also worked at Bethany during the time Joe did.  We have lots of little connections, and I've enjoyed her friendship very much throughout the years.  

Joe made dinner for us at noon.  He braised lamb pieces and broiled his famous potato steaks.  Since Joe is not a vegetable person, and so does not think to prepare a vegetable when he cooks, I made a salad to accompany his delicacies.  It was a wonderful dinner.  Thank you, Joe.

Friday Evening  Errands

We visited all day Friday, and almost as soon as Becky left, the rush began.  I had to run over to Red Lake Falls to pick up milk.  Yes, it's a strange direction to go for milk, but I get it fresh from the farm, from a friend of mine over that way.  Mmmm, delicious.  I had planned to get milk on Tuesday, when Louisa and I went to get her passport paperwork done at the courthouse in Red Lake Falls, but much to our chagrin, we ended up going into Thief River for the passport photo.  I must have read the information incorrectly, becasue I thought the photo could be done at the courthouse, too.  Which is not the case.  At any rate, I chose to skip the milk, rather than take the it along with into TRF, since the weather was kind of warm that day.

So off to get milk on Friday evening.

"But wait, Mom," said Louisa.  "Remember I need a few more things in Thief River for prom tomorrow.  Can I go with, and we can run into TRF, afterwards."

So I let Louisa and her friend, Brooke, hop into the car with me.  Louisa drove, since she needs the practice.  Although it was cooler that night than it had been on Tuesday, I still didn't want to risk the extra trip with into TRF with milk, so we went to TRF first, then down to RLF after our errands were done.  We made Louisa's stops, filled the car with gas, and picked up some supper to eat in the car at Wal-mart.  I got plain Greek style yogurt, and some dried cranberries and sugar glazed pecans to put in it, and a bottle of water.  Brooke and Louisa decided they needed Subway, which is in the corner of Wal-Mart, so with the anticipation of my "diet food" in my mind, I had to watch Brooke and Louisa pick out all the toppings for their subs.   Ooooh!

Eating Crow

We got home Friday night just as Joe was getting the kids to bed.  Oh, shoot, I have to be more accurate than that.  I have to make the BIG CONFESSION!

When the bigger girls and I got home from town, the littlest kids were in bed.  I had not seen Matt's car out front so I assumed he was not home.  I couldn't find Joe anywhere.  There had been no lights on in the church office.  Where was he?  Why would he leave the little ones unattended.  I reached for the doorknob of Clara and Sophie's room, to ask them where Dad was, and then it hit me!  Oh, dear!  The girls were not home.  I was an hour late to pick them up.  That must be where Joe is.  But would he leave the little ones unattended?  Oh, wait, the van is here, so Joe must have used Matt's car.  Which means Matt is home after all.  Ugh, what a mix-up.

Sophie went to the Shrine Circus Friday afternoon and evening with the third and fourth graders from school.  Since they were not due to get back until 8:00, which meant I already had to plan an extra trip into Oklee, Clara went over to friend's house after school.  Julia is in Clara's class.  Her sister, DJ, is in Sophie's class.  So DJ was at the circus, too.  The plan was that I would meet the bus at 8:00 at the school in Oklee to pick up Sophie and DJ, and then drive the few blocks to the other girls' house.  I'd drop off DJ and pick up Clara.  Everything would work slick, right?

Except that I forgot about picking up the girls.  Totally forgot!  Can you believe it?  I just blew off both my daughter and the daughter of a friend.  Left two third graders standing alone in the cold, at night, in the big city of Oklee.  OK, you are right, Oklee is not a big city.  And it was not terribly cold, either.  And DJ's house is only about six or eight blocks from the school.  So everything worked out fine in the end.  After Sophie and DJ realized I was not showing up, they walked to DJ's house.  Her parents eventually got tired of wondering what happened to me and called our house.  Poor Joe, who had no idea of any of the arrangements, was left covering for his dingy wife.  And he suddenly had to make an unplanned trip to Oklee to pick the girls up on a Friday night when he was supposed to be finishing off work for his church service the next day. 

Joe also ended up picking up Elsie, since Matt had agreed to run back into town to get her after a track meet.  Since we never know what time the kids will get back from such things, they don't get to attend very often, unless they are participating.  This was a high school meet, but the coach had suggested the Jr High kids attend if possible, to see how things work.  Since Elsie called Matt just a few minutes before Joe got THE CALL, the times coincided nicely with his trip to town for my forgotten girls. I suppose saving that gas is a teeny silver lining in the cloud of my irresponsibility.

Oh, and did I mention that DJ and Julia's dad is the sheriff?  Oh, yeah, that's a good one Mary.  Leave the sheriff's daughter stranded.

It's a good thing I live in a small town community.  It's a good thing it was not deep winter.  It's a good thing DJ's home was close to school.  Oh, my, the things I thank God for this case, preserving my child and her friend when they are the unsuspecting victims of my often times addle-pated behavior.

And the girls' mom, Krista, was so kind when I realized what had happened, and immediately called to check on the girls and to apologize.   Really, Krista, you are too nice.  I could imagine a mom being very upset and never wanting to have anything to do with me or my children, out of her maternal protective instincts.  I could imagine someone warning all the other moms never to trust me.  But instead she refreshed and built me up with her kindness and understanding.  A big thank you to Krista.

Mary as Hairdresser, Part I

I got the car unloaded, all the milk brought in and  carried to the basement fridge, and the various grocery items we had picked up in town put away.  Louisa and Brooke showered quickly in anticipation of the beginnings of their prom preparations.  I was commissioned to put their hair in sponge rollers.  Just in case anyone wants to know, when doing sponge rollers for two teenaged girls with long hair, allow about an hour for each head of hair.  I did Brooke's first, and then Louisa's.  They each had over 30 rollers in.  I should have done more in Louisa's, but I wouldn't find that out until the next day.  I finished rolling Louisa's at almost exactly midnight.  Poor Louisa.  Brooke had gone to bed long before, and Louisa was just about sleeping while I was rolling the last of her locks.

Mary as Hairdresser, Part II

On Saturday morning, I slept in a little bit.  The girls had asked to sleep in, too, since they knew they would have little sleep on Saturday night.  After I got up, I lazed around and did a few chores.  Eventually I got breakfast on for those who were up and about.  And then the fun really started.

I hadn't planned on helping the girls with the rest of the prom preparations, but it turned out they were planning on me unrolling their tresses.  Louisa would take if from there.  They got up at about 10:00, ate breakfast, and then started their coiffure.  They got dressed and worked on their make-up first.

Then, just as I was done lollygagging and about to start my morning chores, I was called upon to  take Brooke's rollers out.  She got to go first, since her ride was coming to get her first.  But her hair was not quite dry all through, so we had to blow it dry.  Uffda!  Took forever.  Blowing each roller individually, spreading the hair with my fingertips, as I worked the hot air through the layers of hair. 

Brooke's turned out very nice.  After we had all the curls out, Louisa pulled it back around Brooke's face in some pretty clips.  Her curling locks were then firmly sprayed into play with something called Got 2b Glued Blasting Freeze Spray.  Just imagine that!  These curls weren't going anywhere. She also got a coating of sparkly hairspray when all was done.

Louisa as Hairdresser

Rachel arrived just after we finished Brooke's hair.  Louisa did Rachel's hair with a curling iron.  Rachel's mom is partially disabled from a stroke, so she can't do fine work that takes both hands.  Nor can she drive.  But she can accompany Rachel who has her permit, so the two of them, plus Rachel's brother, Jonathan, who is our John's age, came for a couple of hours.  The girls had set up camp in our living room, so we grown-ups sat around, and visited and teased, as they worked at everything.  They had nail polish, make-up, pins, scissors, curling irons, blow-dryers, various hairsprays, etc.  And we adults sat by and gave commentary.  I wish I had taken some pictures at this stage.

Mary as Hairdresser, Part III

After Rachel and Brooke left, it was time for Louisa's hair.  Both Louisa and Brooke have nice thick hair, but Louisa's is longer.  So I ought to have done hers in smaller hair sections.  Because I had to roll it around more times, the hair on the rollers ended up being thicker, and therefore, even less dry than Brooke's had been..  But I didn't think of that when I was rolling them up the night before.  When I unrolled the first few tresses, Louisa's hair was quite damp inside.  I rolled them back up and grabbed the blowdryer.  Because of the thickness of each roll, it was hard to get the heat from the blowdryer into the middle layers.  So we ended up unrolling each one about half way, and then blowing those inside layers, then re-rolling it to blow the outer layers.   Again, uffda!  It really took forever.

And poor Louisa.  She is "blessed" with her mom's hair.  When I was young, my hair was straight.  Not just straight, but as my hairdresser friend described it, boingy straight.  It boinged with straightness, so that it was very resilient to curl. And once it was curled, it couldn't wait to get back straight again. 

And Louisa's hair is much the same.  At last year's prom, hers fell right away, and she was so sad, and even embarrassed about it, all evening.  I can imagine feeling that same way.  She so wanted hers to turn out better this year.  And it did turn out better.  But there were a handful of tendrils that we could not get to hold a curl.  She was in the bathroom at the last minute, frantically trying to use a curling iron on them.  Hairspray.  Curl.  More hairspray.  Pull here.  Tug there.  And finally the layer of sparkles over all.

She looked very lovely.  I hope, my dear, you were not too unhappy with how it turned out.  You really were very beautiful.

Ready to Go

Finally, but not soon enough for Matt, who was nervous about picking up his date on time, the young people hit the road.  We made them slow down enough to snap this picture before they left.  I had to laugh at Matt.  Louisa instinctively reached out to put her arm around her brother and Matt stepped back.

"I don't want all the sparkly stuff on my tux."

What a guy!

A few more pictures from the evening

Louisa and Brooke, looking lovely

Louisa with her date, Josh

Louisa and Rachel, looking lovely

Matt and his date, Kayla

Matt and Kayla

Josh (this one, Matt's buddy, not Louisa's date), Matt, and Zach, cutting up a little bit

Matt and Kayla during the Grand March

Josh and Louisa during the Grand March

A Relaxing Evening After the Whirlwind--Oh, shoot, maybe not

We quickly threw the three youngest ones into the tub for Saturday baths before running into Oklee for the Grand March.  (I just this morning realized John never got his, whoops!) 

After all the excitement, it would have been good to be able to crawl into bed.  I could feel my brain starting to shut down.  But it was not to be.

Louisa had forgotten some things she needed for the post prom party, so I had to run back into Oklee after I got the little ones to bed.

I also had to get Elsie and Clara started on the four dozen muffins we had to make for the LYS (youth group) to serve at church the next morning.  Yes, I could have done it earlier in the week, but I didn't.  Part of that was on purpose.  I just don't know how Gluten Free muffins freeze.  Would they still taste fine?  I just wasn't sure.  Plus I really wanted the kids to help with them, since the LYS and its fund raising efforts benefit the kids.  They ought to do the work for it.

But on such a busy weekend, I didn't have enough brain capacity to split my concentration between the morning's primping in the living room and a second project in the kitchen.

So after we got home, we quickly had bedtime prayers, and sent the little ones to bed.  I got Clara busy mixing up a batch of the gluten free flour mix I use.  Then I transcribed a regular recipe into a Gluten Free version for Elsie to mix up while I ran into Oklee.

When I got back, Clara was done with her flour mix and was ready to head to bed.  Elsie had her first dozen muffins ready to put in the oven and I helped her get the next one ready, too.  But, shoot, the coffee cake recipe I had used as a base only made 1 1/2 dozen muffins.  I really thought it would do two.  So Elsie put her first pan in the oven, and I quickly whipped up a second batch of the same so that we'd end up with three dozen of that variety. 

After Elsie got her first pan out, I sent her to bed, and told her I'd finish up.  By then I had the next batch mixed up, and so could finish filling Elsie's second pan and fill a third, too.  We ended up with three dozen mincemeat muffins.  They were a layer of coffee cake batter, a dollop of the green tomato mincemeat I made last fall, then a second layer of batter, and topped off with a sprinkling of streusel crumb topping.  Elsie's first pan turned out great, so I was optimistic about the next pans.

While they were in, I mixed up a batch of pumpkin, raisin, flax muffins.  I took the first batch out of the pan after it cooled.  I scrubbed out the muffin pan in preparation of putting in my next batch.  But there was something wrong with those muffins that were in the oven.  They had spread out all over the the muffin pan, running together across the top.  The fat from the streusel topping was dripping off onto the bottom of the oven and stinking up my house.  But the muffins themselves were not getting done.  Grrr.  Why can't anything be easy?!?
Finally I noticed that, between two cooks, and turning on and off timers, oven lights, etc, the oven had somehow gotten turned off.  So my muffins had been sitting in a hot, but gradually cooling oven for twenty-some minutes.  Aaaargh!  And these were for serving in public!  Shoot!  Now I'll have to come up with yet another batch to replace those that obviously will not turn out right.

I finally got them done and out of the oven.  They were pretty dark on top.  I popped the pumpkin ones in the oven, carefully checked all the settings, and sat down to play some  spider solitaire while I waited.  My brain was too far gone to trust myself with measuring out another batch, but I got the recipe ready for morning, and steeled myself to get up early.

Just before the timer was going to go off for the pumpkin muffins, I removed the failed ones from their tins.  I had to cut the tops into squares, since as I said, they had cooked all together across the top of the pan.  And then I had to attempt to gently run the knife under that lop of muffin, work it down the side of the cups, to loosen the muffin, and then pop it out.  But you know what I found.  They really were quite nice inside.  Two of them fell apart, so I set them aside for Joe.  And I made the executive decision to serve the muffins in church in spite of the flat square slightly dark tops that were otherwise fine inside. 

Oh, my goodness, what a relief that was.  They might not have been pretty, but none of them came home after church!

Almost done

Sunday morning.  I remembered Matt coming in to tell us he was home.  That is our rule when the kids are out late.  We don't wait up, but they are supposed to wake us, to let us know when they get in. 

I had a little naggling worry, on two counts.

1) Louisa had not checked in, and I was not sure whether she had planned to come home with Matt.  Officially they are supposed to both check in when they get home.  But they are not out late enough, often enough, for us to have really made all the rules clear.  I will have to remember to remind Louisa of that.

2) Matt's date, Kayla, is a homeschooled girl he knows from work at Pizza Hut in Thief River Falls.  I know how homeschool parents think.  They had asked Matt if he could bring Kayla home at 2:00, rather than staying for the entire post prom party.  I can respect that.  I totally understand.  But, although I didn't check the clock when Matt got home, it didn't feel like 3:00, which is about when he would have gotten home if he drove her into town after 2:00 and then returned home.  It felt more like 4:30, which is about what time he'd get home if they stayed for the whole thing, but come straight home.  My clock was set for 5:30, and I was pretty sure he would not have had time to get all the way into TRF and back soon enough to let me know he was home, and still allow me to fall back asleep well before my alarm rang.  I just couldn't work it out.

On both counts, everything was fine.  After the kids found out the schedule of activities for the post prom party, Kayla had called home and gotten permission until stay until the end,   They'd have missed the hypnotist and all the drawings and prizes if they left early. 

(The prizes are a big deal.  I don't know how other schools do things, but all kinds of businesses donate prizes and the kids all come home with quite a haul.  Last year, among other things, Louisa got a really nice set of towels and very big, soft fleece blanket.  This year she got another nice set of towels and a Cenex gift card (the Oklee Cenex is kitty corner from the school).  Matt got a gun cleaning kit and a $25 dollar gift card to JC Penney.  I know they both got other things, too, but I can't remember what.  I think Kayla got some nice things, too, but I'm just not remembering right now what she got.)

Matt had gone to church with Joe on Saturday, so he could sleep in until it was time to come down and serve the muffins afterwards.  Louisa decided that since she had to get up to serve, anyway, and since she had rollers on Saturday morning, she'd attend church on Sunday, too.  It was tough, but we got her up.  She came storming up the stairs a little irritated with about 5 minutes to spare.

"Mom, couldn't someone have gotten me up a little bit sooner."

"We've been trying to wake you up for an hour.  And at least one of the times, you said you would be right up."

I taught Sunday School for  Louisa.  Matt made it down to church in time to help clean up afterwards.  I had noticed he was not there, and threatened to come up to the house and drag him down to church, but the ladies helping the kids in the kitchen said to let him sleep.  I was still kind of debating, when he showed up, all freshly showered and ready to roll.

Ready for the crash?

I had a nice dinner planned for after church, chicken in cream sauce over noodles. The chicken in cream sauce I had managed to get into the oven before church.  Since I didn't know for sure what time I'd get back to the house, I put it in at only 300.  I didn't want any burned dinner.  I had left over macaroni in a baking dish that I asked Jeremy to pop in when he came up from church.  

But much to my dismay, when I got back up to the house, the kitchen had a kind of scorched smell in the air.  I immediately took the chicken out of the oven and peeked under the lid.

One more Mary disaster!  The cream sauce had totally cooked to a crispy layer at the bottom of the pan.

So we had macaroni with butter.  With crispy chicken on the side.  The chicken ended up not being too much of a problem.  Not as bad as I anticipated.  The meat was still somewhat moist and the outer layer had a kind of crispy deep fried layer from having cooked in the cream.  There was no sauce, but there was crumbs of the crispy cream cooked with the onions, celery and carrots I had put in for flavoring.  It was not what I had planned, but really quite edible.


I didn't even do my lunch dishes.  Elsie had to eat ahead of time and leave for babysitting just as the rest of us were sitting down.  Louisa went to bed right after dinner.  Matt had to run into Oklee to help his class clean up.  Joe went to bed for his usual Sunday afternoon nap.  Sophie was at a friend's house. Jeremy was here for the day, and until Monday afternoon.

I had Clara stack the dishes in the sink, in preparation of my doing them at some point.  Then everyone was given the privilege of computer time.  They had a few tiffs, but mostly they enjoyed their treat of having a whole afternoon to share the computer time among all of them.

I sat around all day and dinked on my laptop.  I figured out how to upload pictures to facebook.  I played spider solitaire.  I exchanged  e-mails with friends.  And etc.

A nice, slow, well-needed day of rest.

28 Day Challenge: Half Way Done

Today marks the beginning of the second half of my 28 Day Challenge.  I am happy to report that I have lost two pounds!  Hurray! 

I have yet to get going on the ambition part of my goal, but I think I made progress last week. 

If I think of this challenge as moving a big rock, I had hoped to get the rock rolling the first week, and accomplish big things.  That did not happen. 

If  I keep the rock analogy in my head, though, and remember that sometimes a rock is so immovable that even just getting it rolling takes time and work, it makes more sense and helps me to be patient with myself. 

That's the kind of rock I am right now.  Big and firmly impacted.  The first week I had to loosen the rock.  This rock was really stuck and I had to push, and let it roll back; them push and let it roll back again, several times.  Looking back at the second week, I think I can say that the ball is finally moving.  Slowly, but moving forward.  I will try to increase the rate of roll a bit this week again.  I have many plans.  I must still try to be reasonable in my goals, though, and remember that the rock is still very heavy and still moving slowly.  

Keeping the rock moving is the important thing at this point, not the speed with which it rolls.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Baby Step to the Garden

I took a few baby steps toward getting things done today.  Really it is so sad that such small things have to excite me, but such is the state of things around here.  I washed my breakfast dishes before lunch and my lunch dishes right away after we ate.  That in and of itself is an accomplishment.

Then I went outside and did a bunch of yard work.  I cut back the winter kill from my climbing rose.  I cut the dead branches and tops off three baby trees, and tied up the remaining branches as needed.  

I cut down the three jostaberry bushes from the south end of the garden, and replanted eight of the suckers into the north end of what will eventually be a windbreak on the east edge of the property.  (Right now it is intermittent.  Each  year, as we plant a few more bushes, it gets a little bit longer.)  The jostaberry bushes had originally been planted in a triangle, but had grown together into a big mess.  When I headed out today, I planned to move one whole bush and replant it so that all three were in a row.  But when I started cutting them back to see what was what, I discovered suckers all over the place, and a thick gnarled mess of branches where the original bushes had been planted.  I decided I really didn't want anything that suckers so much in my garden after all.  And I knew I didn't want to try to dig up the original plants, either.  So I gathered about a dozen suckers and replanted them, two to a hole, in four holes.  By then I was tired out and threw the last four into the burn pile.  If they come, they come.   We have many more suckers; we can plant more later if we decide to.

Anyone want some jostaberry starts?  They are a cross between an black currant and a gooseberry.  No thorns.  I'm not really convinced of the benefits of growing them for the alleged fruit.  The bushes were overgrown so much we could only find a handful of berries each year.  We see lots of blooms, but just can't get to the berries. Or maybe the birds get to them before we do.  I don't know.  That's one reason I decided on the windbreak location.  At least there, even if we never get enough berries to use, the bushes will be good for something.  Let me know if you want some.

Now we need to pull what's left of the tangled mess of stump of the older bushes from the end of the garden.  It will take a four wheeler, garden tractor, or skid stir to do that.  We could probably do it with our van, or one of the cars, but I'm not sure about maneuvering any of them in the space over there.  Many little things planted in the vicinity.

Now I'm inside and just sitting.  I really had to force myself to keep going when I was outside.  I can't tell you how many times I looked at the house and thought longingly of my spider solitaire.  But I kept at my task and got something done.  I even carried all the scraps to the burn pile and put my tools away where they belong.  Alison B., you'd be pleased.

Tomorrow's another day. 

Oh, speaking of tomorrow, I have a friend coming tomorrow, so that's exciting.  I think I will haul a bunch of laundry up from the basement to fold while we visit.  You wouldn't mind would you, Becky, if I fold laundry in front of you?  I might actually get more done than when nobody is here, because I might feel guilty just sitting doing nothing when there is somebody here to see.  Isn't it weird how the brain and heart work?

If you haven't been outside yet, get out there for a little while.  It's wonderful, glorious, terrific, splendiferous, and all good things.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Fun blogger interchange

I received a comment the other day related to the yeast bread recipe I posted recently.  It was from Marge, who wrote,


Just wanted to let you know that I have been making and enjoying the GF bread recipe you posted a couple of weeks ago. Love the simplicity of it. Thanks.

God bless.....
I love getting comments on my blog; they let me know that somebody out there is reading it.  But I also like to hear that others can make use of something I've written.

I wasn't sure who Marge was.  I know a few Marges, but I didn't know whether any of them read my blog; nor did I know that any of them would be likely to use a gluten free bread recipe.

So I did a little bit of creeping, as my teenaged kids call it.  I clicked the username and traced Marge back to the Road Sage blog.  Marge keeps a very pretty blog with lots of photos, which makes me kind of jealous, since I am inept with any kind of photography.  It's just a friendly sort of blog with little items of daily interest.  It makes me happy to read it.  What a nice addition to my blog list!

But even more fun than the discovery of Road Sage, is the discovery that I kind of know Marge a little bit.  There are many connections, all the way back to my high school days when I had schoolmates who I believe to be nieces and nephews of Marge's husband, Ernie; on to Joe seminary and working at BLC years when Marge and her husband were both employed at Bethany.  (We used to walk past their house sometimes; they had the nicest Linden in their front yard.)  And on to our location here which is kind of home country for Ernie. 

So now Marge and I have exchanged e-mails. I hope to know you better, Marge, through reading Road Sage.  I am glad the bread is working out for you.  (Since I posted that, I've even made up a few pre-mixes, just throwing all the dry ingredients into a container; and saving the liquid to mix in at the end.  Turned out just fine, too.) 

And I thank you for the encouragement your comment gave.

Rocking the Headache

This stupid headache just will not leave me!  I've heard of others who have chronic headache, so I oughtn't complain. I mean, there are some people who get even migraine level headaches and they don't leave for years.  So really, I have no business complaining.

But this is starting to tick me off.  We're on the forth day now with this stupid thing.  I even went to the chiropractor yesterday afternoon, he got everything to move well, I felt relief for a few hours and then it was right back again.  I can feel the tightness up in the back right side of my neck.  Right at thte very top.  And the headache pain is in the right side of my face and head.  When I push on the back of my neck, I can feel it in my face.  Depending upon where and how I push, it tingles, just plain hurts, or feels like it's going to explode.  We're on day four of nearly constant acetaminophen and ibuprofen. 

But I had a nice walk in the glorious sunshine and now I feel like moving.  So, I'm going to load up on the pain killers and try to ignore the nagging part of it that never quite goes away.

And I know this is a horribly boring thing to do, but...I have to. 

Today's list:
power nap
teeth and hair
collect jars for basement
wash load
plan lunch
plan supper
azure standard order
lunch in
wash load
start sorting basement mess
wash load
basement mess

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

28 day challenge check-in

Ugh, I did my little weigh in this morning and lost absolutely no weight.  None!  How crazy is that?  It makes me so mad I don't really want to think about it...

As far as the getting up and moving thing this week, I've been moving alright.  Hardly home at all.

And still with this stupid headache that started Sunday afternoon.  I stopped at the chiropractor today, so hopefully it goes away soon.  Went to bed early last night and I think I will tonight, too.

Tomorrow, I'll be up and rolling early.  Ready to face my day. 

A Morning at Cafe le Maria

I'm outside on my little front porch for my morning coffee for the first time this season.  It's all of 41 F, so I suppose I'm jumping the gun a little bit.  But I really wanted the little happy pill feeling it gives me.  I'm wrapped in two couch throws and truthfully, I could use a third.  I have to get the kids up in a few minutes anyway, so I won't be out here long.

Our yard and surrounds are much different this year.  Last fall, the parish board decided, in order to deal with some wetness seeping into our basement, that they needed to remove all shrubbery from around the foundation of the house.  When we moved here, the place was only three years old, and had a couple of rows of baby trees surrounding it.  But it was pretty bare looking.  In the years since, those first trees have grown up and I've planted many more trees and bushes.   It was starting to look so nice.  It was a very hard day for me when the men came to do that.

Another change is in the CRP land that surrounds the house on two sides.  Ever since we moved here, one of the members of our church owned that land.  It was mostly grass, but with a mix here and there of the beginnings of woodland and wetland reclamation growth, such as poplars, birch, willows, and various other brushy things.  But this land's time in CPR is almost up, so the owner, a retired and widowed neighbor, has sold the land to another neighbor.  He's decided to take it out of the CRP program when its current term expires this fall.  So next spring will be even more different, but for now, it means that all the wild look to it, the brush and small young woods areas that had grown up were dozed down last fall.  So we are surrounded by just grassland on those two sides for the summer.  I will miss all the grassland birds such as bobolinks and harriers.

Across the road from us, to the west, in the middle of a field of crops, has always been a small woods.  I don't know if it was ever a farm site, or just a woods area that was never developed in to farmland.  I've been told that long ago, the higher ground was called oak knolls becasue that's where the oaks would grow best.  I always chuckle at the term knoll, since I can't really discern any difference in elevation, except when the fields are wet and the water is trying to find a way to run off.

This spring the neighbor who farms the land across the street has decided to take down his oak knoll and work it into farmland.  I am not a farmer.  But I do realized a farmer has to consider his bottom line just as does any other business person.  My brain knows this.  But my heart does not like to see the trees taken out, especially the old oak groves that take so long to develop.  When I look across the street this morning, I see a truck with a machinery trailer and a bulldozer sitting along side a long row of trees  that are lying flat.  The root balls of many are facing me, so along with the bristly looking gray of the branches, are big muddy clumps of dirt.  Not nearly as scenic as a woods whose edges are just beginning to get a hint of green on them.  But here I exaggerate, becasue our trees here are not yet getting that hint of green.  I was projecting a few weeks further on in the year.

One pleasant change this year is the hayfield that is to the south of us.  That is new a couple of  years ago.  Before that it was in a yearly crop rotation, so this time of year was always just a muddy field.  Now I see the soft and green pillowy look of a few inches of spring alfalfa growth. 

The birds are twittering in the trees and the roosters have by this time stopped their morning crowing.  I hear the chainsaw going already in the downed trees across the road.  There are no cats this spring trying to climb all over me and sip at my coffee.  We will get some later in the year, but for now I enjoy the lack of them.

Better go start the morning rush.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Beautiful Monday

I feel like I'm back in the saddle again today.  My brain is clear, my emotions are (arguably) more stable, and I have a fresh outlook on life.  I had an extraordinarily busy Sunday and will have a busy Monday, too, but I wanted to check in. 

Re eating, it's been sketchy. I'll explain more later when I have time to write, but it has to do with the busyness of the last few days and two of my three meals yesterday being church dinners.  But I've been trying to load up on the lettuce salads.  But I still take the desserts, too.  And oh, the garlic bread at Immanuel in Audubon last night was just too tempting and I really had too many slices.  But cut me some slack, OK, I never get bread.

I currently have three bags of dinner rolls form the various church related dinners sitting on my counter and half of a cake form Saturday's baptism, too.  But those don't tempt me terribly.  I think I'll be OK with them.  Probably, what looks like a Snickers salad Joe brought home from the baptism Saturday will be a sore temptation.  I think there is also potato salad and pasta salad which will only be a problem if my kids get finicky and won't eat them.  Then I will feel as though I have to, out of gratitude to those who so generously share with us. 

I am planning on spending the day with all the circuit pastors and their families.  The pastors have a monthly meeting they call Winkel.  They will meet for business, learning and moral support.  We ladies will meet for fun.  There will be a church service.  One of the other circuit families homeschools, so I always feel a little bit sad on Winkel days, since our older girls used to always get to come along and see their buddies that one day a month.  But now our girls are in school and so there is not the same camaraderie.

I don't have time to proofread this again, so I sincerely hope it is legible and understandable.  I really am a horrible typist.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

I See the Mailbox and Ricky's Mom Blew Up, and other trying times

Many years ago, I read a little anecdote in Reader's Digest.  For lack of the original article right here in my hands, I'm going to call this story, "I See the Mailbox," and that may very well have been the original title.  Or it may have been something along the lines of, "Every Couple Needs a Mailbox."  Let me explain.  The author tells of a little tiff of sorts that she and her husband had. For the sake of brevity, we'll very creatively call the author, Wife; and her husband, we'll call simply, (yes, you guessed it, good job and give yourself a pat on the back), Husband.  In the anecdote, Husband was driving; more specifically, he was backing out of the driveway and appeared to Wife to be about to back into the mailbox.
Wife: The mailbox, Honey.
Husband: Yeah, I see it.
Wife, as they get closer to the mailbox: Watch out, you're going to hit the mailbox:
Husband: Yeah, I see the mailbox.

CRASH, no more mailbox.
We can all imagine those times.  Everyone experiences embarrassing situations like that.  We've all done stupid things, even after being warned by those around us. 

As the original article continued, the author explained that this incident, because it was so ridiculous, came to hold an iconic significance in their marriage.  Any time things were stressful, and one or another of them needed a bit of comic relief, one of them could say, "I see the mailbox," or some other turn of phrase related to the above incident.  It would bring a note of lightheartedness, or at least levity, into their current stressful situation or conversation. 

The author then tied up the article by explaining that every couple needs a Mailbox, as in some brief phrase or even a single word that will lend stressful times a touch of humor.

Do any of you remember the mid-eighties movie, Better Off Dead?  There are many one-liners from that movie that Joe and I enjoy.  One has become somewhat iconic for us in the same way a Mailbox did in the above story.  Remember when Ricky's mom drinks the concoction Lane was planning to use in one of his failed suicide attempts, and she blows herself up lighting a cigarette?  Lane says to Ricky, "Gee, I'm real sorry your Mom blew up, Ricky."

In Mary and Joe world, where Mary-the-mother-of-ten is occasionally slightly crazy, the blowing up is of course, merely metaphoric.  Any time theMom has an emotional outburst of whatever kind, ... anger, frustration, sadness, etc ... Joe or I can simply say, "Sorry your mom blew up, Ricky," and suddenly, the perspective changes.  The tension in the situation is removed and the original trigger can be more reasonably dealt with.

The last several days have been a struggle for me.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you are probably aware that the last several months have been emotionally trying for me.  I recently decided to give myself a challenge in an attempt to hoist myself out of my slump.  The first week of my 28-Day Challenge did not go very well.  The diet part went mostly fine.  But my hopes of being freshly invigorated, and motivated with new zeal to get off my hinder and actually accomplish any of my scheduled goals and ever growing mountain of housework scored a big fat zero.

I have no desire to do anything.  My interest is gone.  My concentration is minimal.  My sense of responsibility has flown out the window.  So pretty much I spent yesterday feeling like a great big pile of garbage.  Plus (and perhaps this is too much information, but in the hopes that others reading this, who may attempt anything like my 28-day plan might benefit from my experience), I planned the whole 28-day thing poorly.  Really.  The first week, which is supposed to be this big get everything rolling, kind of rushing into inertia kind of week....well, let's just say I chose the wrong week to start.  Next week would a have been a much more emotionally steady, higher energy week for me.  Remember that ladies.  Consult your calendars before challenging yourself emotionally.

Last night, the metaphorical doodoo hit the metaphorical fan.  Joe came home from his office, probably tired out from his days' work, and I was a bit weepy.  I had been a bit weepy all afternoon.  (Remember, I was feeling like a big pile of garbage, right?  What pile of garbage wouldn't be weepy, I ask?)  So Joe came in and noticed that I was out of spirits.  But I'm going to tell you, he didn't know the half of it.  He kept making jokes and sharing little facebook funnies with me in the hopes I would perk up.  His efforts were so endearing.  You female readers will totally get this.  He was being so sweet and kind and loving, trying to cheer me up, that I just lost it.  I started sobbing and carrying on.  Blubbering.  Tears cascading down my face.

Well, poor Joe, He didn't know what he had done.  And of course, he hadn't really done anything.  I finally made him understand that it was just me, and all my baggage.  He wrapped his strong arms around me and just let me cry, which is probably what I've needed for a long time, but as happens in this life, I didn't know that's what I needed.  My kids came in one by one through this whole thing, probably traumatized for life becasue of the frightening experience of having to see their mom in such a wreck.

Eventually yesterday got done.  Isn't it a bit sad when we have to think of a day that way.  It got done.  I went to bed early.  Joe handled all the bedtimes stuff.  Thank you, Joe.

This morning I got up feeling fresh and new, ready to face the day.  Not in any big sort of way, but another new day and another new try.

Joe came in and visited a little bit after he got home from his Saturday church service.  We talked about yesterday's eruption, and how frustrated I am with this, ...  this, ...  this ... thing ... I have going on...this lack of energy, motivation, responsibility, even caring.  I apologized for letting things go like I have and he forgave me.  Forgiveness is a beautiful thing, isn't it.

By the time we were all talked out, all I could think to say was, "Sorry your mom blew up, Ricky."


I found this post in my blogger dashboard that I thought I had posted on Thursday.  It's old news.  But since I planned to keep my readers abreast of my 28-day challenge failures and successes, I'm goingn to post it anyway, as is.
So, I really need to get up and get to my chores.  I did a little blogging ( didn't finish anything, though, yet) and a little writing on some other writing projects I have going.  I got my kids breakfast and the school kids off for the day.  I corresponded with some school people about a variety of things.  Fielded phone calls from three of the kids who needed to check in with me for a variety of reasons.  I have to attend a school program for the youngest two this afternoon, rush home to get supper and then rush off again to Louisa's play in Oklee, and again miss Ladies' Aid because of school related stuff.  But it's my own fault really.  I knew there was Ladies' Aid this week and yet when I had to choose between the three nights the play was scheduled, I chose Thursday, forgetting until it was too late that I had a conflict.  So I have this guilt hanging over me that I am choosing school stuff over church stuff.  And it's casting a cloud upon my day.

In the interest of motivating me to get up and rolling on all these home things I have every hope and intention of doing and are so far batting a big zero today...I am confessing to you, my readers, my struggle de jour.  If it's public, than I have to fix it, right?
And by the way, I am not going to spend my usual twenty minutes to half hour proof reading this over and over.  So, if there are typos, I apologize in advance.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Mary's Modified Grapefruit Meal Plan, and Other Metabolic Musings

I am starting the dieting...STOP...and hold everything right there.  I know you've heard me say this before, or at least read it here...that I hate the word diet.  People get all emotionally distraught about their weight and try all these quick fix diets and they screw up their metabolisms and develop eating disorders.  All in the pursuit of thinness.

Let me say right now that I am not that kind of dieter, nor am I in favor of pursuing a certain weight or body shape.  But many of us Americans, myself included, can improve overall health with a healthier diet.

So what is a person to do and where is a person to go to discover that "healthier diet."  Right now the big thing is avoiding carbs and more specifically, avoiding wheat, and even more specifically avoiding gluten containing grains.  Many reasons are given for this.  They are as varied as the people who avoid such things.  

But throughout the years of my life, I've seen many, many switches and swings on what is considered healthful and what is considered unhealthful.  I try to prepare most of my things from scratch, rather than processed foods or ingredients.  I avoid lowfat alternatives, which are often less natural, and therefore less easily metabolized, than the natural fat versions of things.  I intentionally leave much of the fat on my meats.  I don't keep sweets around the house, or do much baking, unless it's something that can be used as part of a main meal.  For instance, I will make coffee cakes, or breakfast bread, as long as the sugar content is low enough so that it's not like we are eating dessert for breakfast. 

I do break my own rules when I need to.

I try in a probably very limited way to follow the traditional foods precepts espoused by Sally Fallon in her book, Nourishing Traditions.  I buy raw milk when we can.  We use cultured milk products like kefir, yogurt, and when I have enough milk homemade curdled milk and whey.  Since I don't bake much, and I use strange grains already, I haven't mastered the soaked grains part of baking.  But I do soak our cereal grains overnight.  And we dabble in countertop pickling methods, especially for saurkraut and kimchi, but other fresh vegetables, too, when we have them on hand.

But besides that, I don't do anything special to watch my weight.  I've never had to.  I've never been thin, but nor have I ever had any great concern about my weight.  I hold to the idea that if I'm eating reasonable portions of healthful foods, and maintaining a moderately active lifestyle, my body will find its own best weight and stick there.  Which, for the most part it has.  Until recently.   My body is all out of whack in the last several years. 

My youngest child is over three years old, and I weigh exactly what I did when I came home from the hospital.  Really.  Of course I've changed shape a little bit.  I've not changed sizes.  In fact, not counting my pregnancy hiatuses, I've worn roughly the same sized clothes since before I started having kids.  I've fluctuated between the same size and a half, or two sizes.  During probably the first ten years of my childbearing years, mostly staying on the smaller of the two, and during the last ten, closer to the larger of the two.  So, really, considering I've borne ten children, I don't think that's too terrible.  It's probably within the normal fluctuations of most women.'s the big but...(or should I say, big butt?)...I've gained, I'm sad to way, 40 lbs in those same twenty years.  I don't know how it works that I can wear the same clothes with all that extra weight hanging around.  Really I cannot begin to imagine. It's one of my life's little mysteries that I find simply astounding.

But so it is.  And it's got to change.  Is it inconsistent to say, as I did earlier on, that as long as I'm eating healthfully and moderately, I ought not to care about my weight, and then suddenly, simply becasue it's going up, get freaked out over it?  Maybe a little bit.  But here's the thing...when woman reaches a certain age, many women gain body fat.  And I fear I"m reaching that age.   So perhaps I've not yet changed sizes, but if I don't try to adjust my portion sizes to compensate for a slower metabolism, my weight will cross the line to unhealthy.  I think perhaps I'm at the age where the definition of moderate eating needs to be redefined downward.

And I'm going to add just a little aside here.  As I said earlier, I've always been kind of big, I mean, not thin, or put another way, I have never been a lithe person.  So I had incorrectly assumed I had a slowish metabolism.  But I've come to see it in a different light in the last ten years or so.  And here's why.  I eat like a horse.  Really.  I have always had a huge appetite.  I can remember my mom telling me on numerous occasions when I was young, that if I kept it up I would be as big as a barn.  But I'm not.  Thankfully.  I know women who, when we get into a conversation regarding eating habits, describe much smaller food intake than min is, and have to constantly watch their weights.  But I never have had to.  So really, I think I must have a very fast metabolism, or I would, as Mom said, be as big as a barn.

But now things are slowing down.  I can no longer eat like a horse and maintain my regular not especially thin, but not too heavy, kind of right in the middle size.  It's catching up on me.  And I do think it's still within the idea of reasonable to accustom myself to smaller portions.

So getting back to the first sentence of this post...remember, the one in which I hollered out...STOP...I'm getting back to that point now. 

The other day I described a particular set of weight and household project goals, I called Mary's 28 Day Challenge, that I hope will help me get my life in order. And really, household and weight goals are related.  Did I write that the other day?  (Nope, I just checked back.)  When I am less active, it stands to reason that I will gain weight.  The more I weigh, the harder it is to be active, so I sit more.  Then while sitting more, I begin to feel bad about myself for sitting, and I get a tad bit bored, so I succumb to the munchies.  And that leads, see where this is going...and going, and going.

So stage one on the meal plan, since we're not going to use the word "diet" is four days of Mary's Modified Grapefruit Diet...oops, there it is again.  I meant to say, Mary's Modified Grapefruit Meal plan.  See, since I'm modifying the plan, I can modify the name, too, right?  I wrote about this last year when I did the same Meal plan.  Basically, it's the grapefruit diet with a few servings of carbs added in, and for a much shorter time then the original.  But this year I've not added many carbs.  I've not felt the need. 

Monday, Day 1, was pretty much normal.  Nothing interesting to report.

Yesterday, Joe made most of the supper.  He baked fish and I steamed some rice.  Joe also made up a very thick chowder featuring shrimp and bacon and scrambled eggs, with a few potatoes and assorted vegetables.  He thickened it with cornstarch, with the idea that those who wanted to could put rice in their bowls or plates and pour the chowder over.  I avoided the rice, and just ate soup and fish.  I did get a few little chunks of potatoes in my soup, and the potato starch in probably a very small amount.  Then I filled up on fish.

This morning, instead of the prescribed two pieces of bacon, I had sausage, since that's what I was making the kids.  I baked the sausage in the oven, patted evenly into a cake pan.  I had some gluten free bread in the freezer, so I let it sit out long enough to slice, then toasted it.  When the sausage was done, I cut it into bread sized chunks.  Joe put a little slather of mayo on each toast slice, and I added the sausage and either a fried egg or a portion of scrambled egg, according to each person's preference.  We also sprinkled a little grated cheese on the sausage before adding the egg.  The cheese felt a little bit indulgent, since the only cheese I happened to have was Fontina.  It seems silly to use it for an everyday breakfast.  It feels like a fancy cheese should be saved for something special.  We also always keep a chunk of Parmesan and another of Asiago on hand for grating, so we put a little of those in the mix, too.  I suppose the Italian cheeses ended up working especially well, since in my bleary-eyed first-thing-in-the-morning fog, I had grabbed the Italian sausage rather than the breakfast sausage from the fridge.

Besides describing the somewhat complicated breakfast I served the kids this morning, there was a point to the description.  I felt as though I needed to explain my excuse for using sausage instead of bacon.  With all the busyness of such a breakfast happening, I didn't feel as though I could handle a totally separate breakfast for myself.  So I planned to just have sausage and eggs.  Somehow, though, I had miscounted, or forgotten not to count myself, or something, when I sliced the bread.  After we had all the bread toasted and the other items layered on, there was one extra.  So I ended up having a thin slice of bread along with my sausage and eggs.  That will be my carbs for the first part of the day.  As part of my modifications to the Grapefruit Diet, I allow myself a little bit of carbs either at morning or noon, and then again at supper, if I feel the need. 

Lunch today will be a salad with vinegar and oil dressing and meat of some sort.  I had a little bit of cheese left from this morning's meal, so I will probably put that on my salad.

All in all, being on day three of the four for the grapefruit meal plan, it's going well.  I feel satisfied after my meals, with maybe just a little hint of emptiness throughout the day.  That's good.  I think it's good to feel a little bit of emptiness.  Then I will more readily appreciate the controlled portions when I shift to stage two of my 28 day challenge.  And if I feel a little bit empty, it gives me that little sense of accomplishment.  I can feel as though I'm getting somewhere.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A New Take on Date Night: We Had a Blast

I woke up this morning with an amazingly, astoundingly pounding headache.  I took Tylenol for it after the kids left for school, and lay down for awhile.  But although the pain subsided, the headache left me feeling a little disoriented all morning.  My eyes felt puffy and heavy, and my thinking was a bit clouded.  So mostly I got nothing done all morning, and instead rested on my bed while playing spider solitaire and checking my facebook.  I really did try to sleep, but sleep would not come for me.  I looked over at the book sitting on my "nightstand" (aka pile of bins and other detritus of trying to keep up with a household this busy).  I looked at that book and contemplated picking it up to read it.  But I just didn't feel like I had concentration enough for it.  Ugh.  I hate mornings spent like that.

Shortly before lunchtime, Joe came in to see how I was doing.  On a whim, I asked him whether he would have time in the afternoon to do a little shooting.  We have many handguns and I am allegedly supposed to be learning to use them and become comfortable with them.  But here's the rub.  I don't like paying for the ammo.  It feels very indulgent and wasteful even to spend our very limited money that way.  So Joe shoots more often than I do.  He has the carry permit and I have decided to just let my husband protect us if the need should ever arise. 

But I do like to shoot now and then.

We got a new gun over the winter.  A Ruger SR22.

Some might wonder what we are doing spending so much money on guns when we live on such a fixed income. And I think that's a valid question. But my husband has developed a little system. His system started, I think, when he was given a gun in lieu of an honorarium for performing a wedding. That got him to thinking...He is frequently given honorariums for performing weddings, funerals, or various other unexpected pastoral duties. These are unexpected moneys that area not budgeted. They are a bonus. So Joe has decided that these extra, unplanned dollars will go toward the purchase of any guns we hope to add to our collection.

Ruger SR22
Our new Ruger was a bit of an impulse purchase. But a very well-liked one. I had gotten an e-mail from Impact Guns announcing a promotional price on the new Rugers. So of course I had to find out what all the hoopla was about. I did a google search on them and followed a few links and eventually got to the Jeff Quinn video I posted above. He made this gun sound awfully fun. And when one is worried about the cost of ammo, a weapon that uses .22LR is a good choice because it is cheap, cheap, cheap compared to the other, larger loads. I have had a Ruger Mark III on my wish list for quite some time, for that very reason, but when I saw the SR22, I thought that it would certainly do just as well if not better for our plinking needs.

I posted about it on facebook, just kind of off-handedly. A few days later, Joe was feeling a bit antsy and couldn't concentrate on any of the many things he had to do now that Lent was upon him.  So he made a few phone calls, and headed to Bemidji's Gander Mountain to buy me the Ruger.   Isn't that sweet?  Who would have thought that all I had to do was post about a gun I like and he would run off to get it for me?  I bet it wouldn't work every time, though.

Bersa Thunder .
Now, Joe calls this gun mine, but I call it ours.  So far, of the guns we have that we call mine, this is the third.

I have a Bersa Thunder .380, which I really love.  I also have a Smith and Wesson Airweight, a snubnosed revolver in a lightweight metal, which I don't like at all.  Because of its light weight and short barrel, the recoil really hurts my hand.  And the trigger pull is very stiff, so after a few rounds, it hurts to both pull the trigger and afterwards. But now I also have the Ruger.

S&W Airweight
But until today, I had yet to shoot the Ruger.  I hoped that looking forward to getting out in the springtime air and doing something that I don't generally allow myself to do would help to clear my brain of the last vestiges of this morning's headache.  

So I got some lengthier youtube videos loading for the girls for a treat for quiet time, in the hopes that would keep them occupied for awhile.   (Did you know that many episodes of the PBS show, Zoom are on youtube in two parts each?  They take awhile to load, but they are about 15 minutes each so they keep the kids busy for awhile, if you need an occasional electronic babysitter.  And if you have a fast enough connection and computer, one video can be loading while the kids are watching the other.)

Joe was ready to go out first, so he did a little bit of setting up targets, and gathering the ear protection and the various guns and ammo.   I got the kids settled and did a quick pick-up of our lunch mess.  Eventually we both got outside to enjoy out date.  We went through maybe 150-200 rounds of the various calibers.  I think I loaded the two magazines of the Ruger four or five times, and for my Bersa about the same.  I only fired one magazine of Joe's 9mm Springfield XD. 

Joe did several magazines of the Ruger, too, and then also did a few of the Bersa.  He also shot his .17 HMR; and several revolvers.  He has a Taurus 64 and a Cimarron cowboy action that shoots .357.  And he also shot an S&W .44 that is on loan from Forrest M., an older member of one of Joe's churches who is a fellow gun hobbyist.  Forrest had at one time sent over his Desert Eagle for us to try out.  He also has a .50 BMG which we have not happened to use.  We've been told it costs about $5.00 a round.  When seen in that light, I don't think I ought to complain about the cost of my .380 rounds.

All in all we had a successful afternoon, with time spent together doing something we both enjoy.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Here I Come, Again

I'm starting a new plan.  The spring into action plan.  The back in the saddle plan.  I need a boost.  I need something. 

I listen to the commercials on the radio for all the various weight loss plans.  I see various facebook friends post about Advo-Care's 24 day Challenge.  "Might that work for me?" I ask myself.

But I am not the kind of person to spend money on something that I fear would turn out to be a gimmick.  I also instinctively don't think such "programs" are healthful.  And I tend to be of a somewhat anti-diet mentality. 

But something has to change.  I have reached that age at which, as many of my older friends have warned, my weight seems to creep upward no matter how much I exercise or how I try to adjust downward my portion sizes.  It's very frustrating to me.

I also have been struggling all winter with a kind of, somewhat, borderline depression.  I hesitate to write about this, or to use the "D" word.  Such things are all relative.  Different personalities can put up with differing amounts of such lethargy and lack of an kind of motivation or responsible behavior.

I have at various time in my adult life struggled with the blues, or a funk, or whatever.  The worst time, strangely, was the first six months or so after I got married.  Here I was, at what I had thought would be one of the happiest times of my life.  And I was totally out of it.  Wacked out.  Out of my groove.  I went for days without leaving our apartment.  I called in sick to work.  It was difficult for me to find motivation to even shower or brush out my hair (which hair at the time was very long; the large rat's nest was quite frightening some days).  I am sure Joe wondered what he had gotten himself into.  But he never complained.  At least I don't remember him complaining.  Probably he complained inwardly.  I know I would have if the roles had been reversed.

Eventually, I snapped out of it.  Spring came.  I got a new haircut.  I talked to my supervisors at work.  I got myself back on track.  And I began to learn that I don't do transition well. 

Later I struggled quite a bit during and following my eighth pregnancy.  I suffered from extreme fatigue during the pregnancy, and it stuck with me until I was pregnant again.  I felt like I was in a pit, just barely clinging to the edge.  It was altogether strange.  With everything I had going on at the time, I simply attributed the situation to our busy life.  I was homeschooling five kids and had three pre-schoolers.  I was busy with my pastor wife stuff and Sunday School obligations, and whatever else happened along.   My brother-in-law had also died suddenly only two years before, so my husband and his parents were immersed in their own grief, and the busyness of settling his estate.  Although not immediately effected in the same way they were, I was doing what I could to help them get through that time.  Who wouldn't be tired?

But suddenly, after I became pregnant with my ninth child, I felt better.  Just when I thought I would start to feel worse, and was wondering how I and my family could survive when I did, I suddenly felt great.  Even the nurse at the clinic noticed and commented.  She said I had been lacking my usual sparkle for quite some time and that it was good to see it back.  Hmmm.

And again this year I've struggled.  I don't know what the catalyst was. I could think of any number of things, most of which you have read about, if you are a regular reader.  Probably it is just regular life, a few big sadnesses, and age related hormone changes. 

It doesn't really matter, though, what brought it on.  What matters is getting over it.  Getting on with my life.  Finding a way to put one foot in front of the other.  Figuring out something that will give me enough of a boost to get the momentum going.  I am in great need of momentum.  My inertia is very much inclined toward accomplishing nothing, and I need to change that.

I am not sad.  I am, however, somewhat emotional.  I feel lonely, and somewhat obsessive about communicating with friends, virtual or otherwise.  (And your guess is as good as mine how I can feel lonely in a household this busy.)  I lack energy in an extreme way.  I have a hard time seeing any reason to get up and do all the little things I ought to be doing.  I can't concentrate.  When I do start jobs, I don't finish them.  I am tired of the mess.  My kids are tired of it, too.  The younger ones don't notice.  They are still flexible.  But the older ones want their "real mom" back.

It's time to take the bull by the horns and get 'er done.

But how?

Introducing theMom's 28-day challenge:

For 28 days, I am going to control my eating habits.  I have scheduled a couple of times of more formal "dieting" and specific portion sizes for the rest of the time.  I have a certain number of treats or rewards planned and allowed.  Except for the two episodes of brief dieting, these goals are modest.  Reasonable.

I'm also setting a goal of keeping up with a certain short list of basic daily chores such as getting the little ones dressed and teeth brushed; doing dishes, etc.  These are really just the basics, but exactly the things I haven't been able to see the need or find the desire to keep up with.  Sad isn't it?

And I am also going to set weekly goals, one big goal or a grouping of smaller goals, for each week.   Hopefully this will allow me to a few of my bigger things done.

Again, my aim was to set achievable goals.  Baby steps.  It is easy to be too strict, or plan too much.  But I have learned over the years, with my busy home and low energy level, to plan small.  If I plan too much, I set myself up for failure.

This is also where the 28 days comes in.  If things seem hard, or I don't feel like I am getting anywhere, instead of throwing in the towel, I can say, "It's only a few short weeks, Mary.  You can do it."

I'd like your support, too.  I will need all the help I can get.  I am going to be reporting on my progress periodically.  You may get tired of it, but, well, if you do, stop reading.  It's my blog.  But if you can stand to read about the mundanities (is that a word?  It ought to be) of my struggles and successes, please leave me a comment now and then to cheer me on.

And more fun yet, if any of you is interested, please join me.  Come up with your own 28-day challenge, or whatever length of time works for you.  Feel free to leave a comment so we can cheer each other on.

You will also notice I've posted a couple of new tickers.   One is a 10 lb weight loss ticker.  It will actually be for 11 lbs, since I like the idea of a nice and even final number.  I was 1 lb off an even ten this morning, so I'm going with the strange and seemingly arbitrary goal of 11 lbs.   I think I can do that.  But I'm only weighing in on Mondays.  So don't expect that one to change daily.

My other ticker is for my 28 days.  I decided it would be fun to mark off each day of the challenge and watch how the days are counting down.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

My Funny Daughter and her Genetically Aquired Penchant for Strange Happenstance

My daughter, Louisa, is funny.  Really, funny.  She has a great sense of humor.  And she is a good story teller.  I told her I'd like to do a blog post featuring one of her stories.  She gave me permission to write about her funny Mary-ism, but said if I did, I had to also include a link to her blog.  Check it out!

My friend, Lisa, claims that I have more strange things happen to me than anyone else she knows.  I assert that I can just take regular things and make them funny.  Like this one, for instance, from my misspent youth.

One day, during my college years, I was walking along Gammon Road, just south of West Towne Mall, in Madison, WI.  Just walking along.  Gammon Road at that time, in that area, was at least two lanes in each direction.  Maybe three.  Busy.  Loud traffic.  Cars everywhere.  A few pedestrians.

I felt something brush against my side, near where my purse was hanging.  My first reaction was that perhaps some "bad-guy" was trying to steal my purse, and that in the noise of traffic I hadn't heard him approach.

So I turned suddenly to see who (or what) was back there.  You know, that kind of frightened reflexive action a person might make if they feel like someone is following.  I turned suddenly to see what it was.  But then, just as suddenly, I felt something brush my other side!  So I around I went the other way.   But there! Again on the first side!  Around I went again.  This cycle repeated itself several times, until I was spinning crazily back and forth along the sidewalk.

Now remember that this is along a multi-laned city street during a busy time of day.  Can you say, Tourette's syndrome?  I'm sure that's what some passersby thought seeing my strange behavior.

After several of these startled spins, back and forth, around and around, each in response to some perceived threat on one side or another, I realized there was nothing dangerous or threatening present.  It had been nothing but my purse, bumping and banging into me.  As I swung around, so too would my purse.  It would knock against one side and then another, depending upon the direction of my frightened spinning.

I was pretty embarrassed.  Yeah.

But it makes a great story, doesn't it?

So, whether strange things really do happen to me, as Lisa would assert, or whether I just tell about mostly normal things in an entertaining way, I can't say.  You will have to judge.  But here's something I've discovered.  My Louisa has this same penchant for strange stories.

Here's one she told me today.

Louisa was in her room, loading a video on her laptop.  She had clicked to pause it, so that it could load while she did other things.  She then proceeded to a different tab to play Lingo. 

Play, play, play.  Nothing unusual there.

Then suddenly, out of the blue, her computer spoke to her.  In a slow and creepy, whispery sort of voice, "Come on."

Louisa started.  "Whoa!"  She quickly closed her Lingo tab, "Perhaps something goofy loaded with it."

So next Louisa, still waiting for her video to load, checked her e-mail on a Yahoo tab.  Her freaked out Lingo tab was closed, ... so, ... no worries, right?

Until, once more, in that same spooky, raspy voice, she heard her computer speak to her again, "I got you now."

"Yikes! what's going on?  I'm really freaked out here.  Is someone creeping me somehow through my computer?  How is he talking to me?"  All these and more such thoughts raced through her anxious mind in that first moment of fear.

Louisa scanned her other tabs quickly. "What is this?  What page is doing this?  Is someone, somehow, stalking me?"

"Oh, my goodness, what a relief!"

There was an ad attached to the video Louisa was trying to load.  So although the video was paused, the ad didn't pause.  And the ad which was loading slowly, and in fits and starts, used a creepy, frightening stalker voice to speak raspy, spooky stalker words.

In the end, all was good.  Louisa was safe.  Her computer was in no way compromised.  And she took away from the frightening adventure a great story to share with theMom.  And from theMom, so on to all the world.

Buying Well Used Cars, aka Driving the Trusty (and sometimes not so trusty) Rusty

The following was written about two weeks ago, but never posted.  Any references to time need to be converted appropriately. 

Imagine my surprise when I was pulling out of the church parking lot this morning for my walk at Connie's and my car door swung open.  Yep.  I was driving the vehicle that is usually Matt's, the door of which doesn't shut well for reasons I'll get to later.  I wasn't terribly surprised about the door's behavior, since I am aware it has these "door issues."  But it was unusual when I gave the door a slam, and then another, and it still didn't close.  All the while I was trying to shift the manual transmission to accommodate my increasing speed; yet each time I slammed the door, it stubbornly remained open a couple of inches. 

I decided to hold it closed for the duration of my short drive to Connie's.  It wasn't so bad, except the shifting thing was a little bit more challenging with only one hand free.  I would make sure I was driving straight, then quickly let go to shift.  If I needed to, I'd let go of the door for a minute to adjust the wheel.  And then I'd need to time it just right to quickly switch hands in order to hold the door shut once again.  But by then it would be time to shift up again, so the process would start over. 

The real challenge, however, came when I turned onto Connie's road, and the road grader had been past in one direction only, and had left that ridge in the middle of the road which is never really in the middle.  Then, not only was I driving east into the blinding morning sun, holding my door shut while the momentum of my turn was pulling it open, and shifting one handedly after having slowed down for the corner, but I also had to avoid the ridge of gravel that wasn't really in the middle but quite a bit closer to my side of the road.  Ah, the joys!  But I made it to Connie's just fine.  Only after I got to Connie's did I realize that instead of the usual not shutting right problem, the little door closure device gizmo had flipped down so the door clasp couldn't engage. 

We always buy used cars.  Well used cars.

Well, maybe not that used.  But almost.

Part of that is our financial situation.  It's not financially easy to raise a family this large. 

Part of it is our little way of taking a stand against the consumerist lifestyle, one facet of which is having new things constantly.

But probably the biggest part of it is because, even though we get a periodic lemon, when we average our costs, including repair and maintenance, we come out far ahead.  We made a commitment long ago to never have a car loan.  People tell us that the peace of mind that accompanies owning a new vehicle in good repair is well worth the its cost.  But Joe and I are not programmed that way.

At least I'm not.  I think my husband is probably programed more like that than am I, but he humors me.  He really, really hates anything having to do with vehicles.  He has used words like lame, deadbeat, and inept to refer to this part of his personality, but I wouldn't say that.  Not exactly.  He has the most of the skills, but not a very well-stocked shop.  And he just hates the stress of car repairs and car shopping.  Now that I think about it, I'm going to revise my former statement.  I think he would be very comfortable if we had a nice new vehicle with a good warranty. But he would also be very uncomfortable with a car loan.

Whatever the reason, the reality of our life is that we drive used. 

Now there is all kinds of used. 

Some people buy new every couple of years.  They trade those vehicles in for another new one.  Others then buy those trade-ins from the dealers.  That's one kind of used.

Then there are those people, who use the above used cars for a few years and trade them in, but they are a little bit too old for the dealers to sell themselves, so they send the cars to auction and the cars then end up at a used car lot.  That's a second kind of used.

When the people who buy at those used car lots drive their cars for a handful of years get done with their cars, they might sell them through an ad in the paper.  And that's yet another kind of used.

But by now that car is about ten or twelve years old.  So when these shoppers are ready to sell their cars, well, there is not much left of them.  They may not even get much money selling it through an ad in the paper.  They might sell it to a college student, or for parts.  They might haul it to the junkyard.  They might park it in their grove or woods and strip parts off as needed.

Or they might sell it to us. 

That's the kind of used we buy.  Some people find this terribly irresponsible.  Crazy.   How can they be comfortable risking all those little ones driving such junkers?

This winter we've had a higher than normal number of car's call them...well.. adventures.  Part of that is because with teens driving now, we have extra vehicles to maintain.  We almost need to keep a third car running to help with all the various transportation needs around here.  And three junkers understandably break down more often than two, right?

These adventures actually started last summer when Matt's Buick Century couldn't make it up the hills in Mankato.  He had taken a carload of teens down there for the ELS national Youth Convention.  Then on the way home from Mankato, just north of Itasca State Park, late at night, along that hilly, tree lined road with not much of anything but wildlife and forest along it, the car died.  But God took care of the kids by graciously rolling the car to a stop at the end of the driveway of a very kind man.  This man helped them push the car directly into his shop to see what the problem was.  He got them on their way with a little coolant and he topped off the motor oil.  Then home they came.

But Matt continued to have problems with the Century, and finally it was diagnosed with a leaky head gasket, which we decided we didn't want to deal with.  And so we took this car to the junk yard where they were going to either sell it as is, or strip it down for parts.  We got a quote from them on the phone, and took it in.  Once they saw it, they gave us more for it than the amount upon which they had agreed.  Cool.  But it was still sad to see this car go to the junkyard, when it "only" needed a new head gasket and was otherwise in great shape.  I hope they were able to sell it still intact.

Soon after that, one of our members dropped a Pontiac Sunfire in our lap.  It has many issues, none of which is life-threatening.  We got it for a steal.  At least we feel like it was a steal.  The inner door is splitting from the outer door (so it's a little tricky sometimes to shut the driver's door; the inside part of the door closes,but getting the outside layer to come with doesn't always happen on the first try), the trunk is jammed closed (but we can access it from the backseat), the clutch is temperamental, and every once in awhile the car simply quits for some unknown reason.  We've never had it quit in this manner.  But it had happened on occasion to the previous owners, so they sold it cheap.  We love it.

But Matt has always had periodic trouble with that clutch.  Every time he has trouble, Joe drives it, and it's fine.  We've been unable to figure out what the trouble is.  Matt also had a habit of leaning the seat way back, so we thought that perhaps he wasn't applying proper pressure when he depressed the clutch. 

Our primary family vehicle is an early 90s Dodge Ram 1-ton passenger van.  The kids call it the creeper van, becasue they think it ought to be driven by someone who, well, offers candy to children he doesn't know.  But we don't do that.  We don't even offer candy very often to children we do know.  But we like to be able to pile a bunch of kids in our van to get form point A to point B.  And the creeper van has done that for many, many miles. 

A few years ago we noticed the floor was getting rusty in some spots, so Joe reinforced it with Great Stuff expanding foam. 

Two years ago, the heating system exploded suddenly.  Not actually exploded.  But it was quite shocking when we looked over at the car which was sitting in the driveway and had not been driven for several days, and there was a cloud of greenish steam and spray pouring from beneath, where the rear heating/AC unit was located.

The van always had a cold weather stalling thing that we have just learned to deal with.  It used to be more inconvenient when I had to take the kids to piano lessons each week all winter long in Red Lake Falls.  It would start fine, and get out the driveway fine, but when it was really cold (which remember is sometimes for about two months of our winter) it would die at the corner four miles south of us where I slowed down to turn west, and then die again four miles later at the stop sign at the intersection with the Oklee road.  After that it was fine.  So annoying, but nothing serious.  It always started up again.  It was a little disconcerting, however, imagining a time when it might not start again, and I'd be stranded with all my kids in the freezing temps.

And again last fall, we noticed more thinning and even non-existant spots in the flooring beneath the vinyl rug. More Great Stuff to the rescue.

This winter it pulled a totally new stunt, however.  We were on our way to a groom's dinner at the beginning of February and it died in the driveway.  Just died.  And wouldn't start.  We feared it was the transmission, since that's been a little bit funky ever since we had it rebuilt several years ago.

Between our other two vehicles we made it through the winter just fine.  But soon we will have a second teen driver, and so we really need to have all three cars in working order.  With Matt working part time, and Louisa in plays, the Lenten season with Joe having three evening church services a week, it's been a bit hairy.  But we made it.  Lent is nearly done, but now track practice will be starting.  And as Louisa reminds me frequently, she needs a car with an automatic transmission to take her driver's test.  "If I can't back around a corner well in a car, Mom, how am I supposed to do it in the van?" (That skill was one she got marked down on during her first try.)

Joe had been periodically trying to start the van all winter.  He and Matt tried to push it off the driveway, but it wouldn't go into neutral.  Another sign that it might be the transmission. 

Eventually, when we were expecting one of our few of this winter's snowstorms, we had Todd C. come and tow the creeper van off the driveway.  It towed without grinding, which Joe said was a good thing.  This apparently made the chance of the problem being the tranny slightly less likely.

So there the van sat all winter.

Until one frantic morning a few weeks ago.  Matt was having trouble with his clutch again, so asked if he could take Joe's car to school the next day.  He was going in early for weigh-lifting, so I took the liberty of telling him to go ahead.  I'd let Joe know.  Joe could drive Matt's car, since the clutch didn't generally cause Joe any trouble.

But I forgot to let Joe know.  So when he got up a little bit later to take the girls in to school, because they had something they needed to be early for, too, but not as early as Matt's weight-lifting, he was a little bit aggravated to find his car gone.  But he and the girls got into Matt's car and took off.  And got as far as the church parking lot at the end of our driveway.  This time the clutch issue was not a quirk of Matt's driving.  It just plain wouldn't work.  The girls had to be at school in 20 minutes and they still had to pick up a friend!  What to do, what to do?

Joe told the girls to get into the van and they'd see what happened.  Lo and behold, the thing started on the first try!  What in the world?  But we are not going to complain.  Not one bit.  It's been fine ever since then.  It is a little bit more expensive to drive than the Sunfire.  Truthfully, it's MUCH more expensive to drive.  But that's what we have, so that's what we've been using.  Once the Lenten busyness is done, Joe will have time to look at the Sunfire.  And until then, we'll put (shudder) $120 worth of gas into it every ten days or so.  Yikes!

Yesterday, however, changed all that.

Joe had a hospital call to do in Grand Forks, so I had asked if the little girls and I could go along.  I needed some shelving from Menard's.  "No problem, sure."  After the kids got on the school bus, I sat down for my coffee, and Joe kind of said, "I don't want to get going late, so make it a quick cup."  Meanwhile we had to decide before Matt and Louisa left for school, which vehicle we wanted them to take, and which we'd take to Grand Forks.  If we took the car, an Olds Eighty-eight (again, mid 90s) we'd have to find someone else to haul our shelving home.  As it turned out, one of our neighbors who has a construction business had a load from Menard's being delivered one day this week, so that would work slick.  We could drive the car and save the gas.  Except that when we finally got the car seats strapped in, and everything together to hit the road, (remember, Joe didn't want to get too late a start?), there was a strange rattling from the back wheels.  And yes, I know.  There are many strange rattlings from that car. But this was a new and different strange rattle.

When we bought this car (that was also dropped from heaven in the form of one our members) the family we bought it from said, "Well, I don't want you to pay too much for a car that maybe only has a few months of life left in it."  We responded that at the price he was asking, even if we did only get a couple of months out of it, it was a good deal.  Joe's been driving it for almost three years. It's gone many, many miles.

But this winter, it's really getting old.  It needs many things, any one of which we'd not hesitate to fix. But taken all together on a car with 270,000 miles on the odometer, well, we've just not been sure how much to fix.  The muffler is getting very loud, the tires are thin, something in the front end (tie rods, maybe?) has been really vibrating lately, ...the list goes on.

But yesterday, when Joe got out to see what was making the new strange noise, guess what?  I'm embarrassed to even say...the tires had gone from merely thin, to wires poking out and scraping against the inside of the rim.  Oy veh!  (Sorry, I meant Uffda!  I'm from northern Minnesota now, after all.)

So we piled out. 

Joe was quite worked up by this time, since he really needed to get to the hospital.  The shelving at Menard's was not important.  But the hospital, yes, that was pretty important. 

We have many neighbors who have extra cars sitting in their buildings or woods, so Joe called Connie and asked if they had anything we could drive.  Good old Connie and Kelly.  They have rescued us numerous times with vehicular emergencies.  But this time, Connie went over the top.  She brought over her nearly brand new Kia Sorento for us to drive.  Talk about sitting in the lap of luxury.  I think I could get used to that.  We are very blessed to have such friends. 

Joe mentioned on the way home that one of the family members he was visiting with in the hospital suggested checking the fluid for the clutch.  Well, as we had explained to Matt when he asked, checking fluids for a manual transmission was a complicated thing needing a lift and special know-how.  And we knew that it didn't really need as frequent regular maintenance as other fluids.  But what we didn't know is that the clutch itself uses a fluid that is very simple to check and fill.  Hmm.  Joe would have to check that when we get home.  He figured he could handle that simple task, even during Lent.

We got home and got Connie's car back to her.  We picked her up on the way home, and she then drove herself and her car home after we unloaded.  Until Matt got home from his track meet, we were without a vehicle.  Which normally would not be a problem.  Except that in a pastor's line of work, one never knows. 

After we had been home a few minutes, Joe got another call, and needed to leave again after supper.  That gave us a little bit of time to figure out how he would transport himself. 

Joe took a look at the clutch fluid reservoir as it had been described to him.  And yes, it was bone dry.  It told us on the lid what kind of brake fluid it needed.  Alas, we didn't happen to have any sitting around.  But we do have many neighbors who farm, and if there is one things farmers seem to always have around it's a variety of fluids for the variety of vehicles they have to keep operational.  They just may not always know which of the buildings it's in at the time you call.

Joe called Connie again, but talked to her husband instead this time.  Kelly called his dad who rummaged around the shop and came up with what we needed.  Which they then had to bring over here, since we had no way to come get it.  Thank you, Darrow and Shirley.  Second rescue of the day.  (I had a girlfriend tell me once during my college years that one of my personality problems was that I always needed rescuing. That I was prone to constant little emergencies, because I was never properly prepared for anything.  Oops, on days like this I can really see her point.) 

After Darrow and Joe got the car working, Joe took off in the new and improved Sunfire.

Now we still have only two vehicles that are in working order.  But I can hardly keep up, since which ones happen to be working at any given time seem to be varying from week to week. 

Matt scans Craig's list constantly, and regularly asks whether we can go to Fargo, or Bemidji, or wherever to check out a car.  So far we've not had time to shop. We've had a couple offers, from local people, but the cars they have to offer have not been quite down to our caliber of junker. 

Taxes are done now, thought, and that redistribution of wealth our federal government is so good at will be coming our way soon.  I have a pretty good idea what that money will be going toward this year.