Friday, November 30, 2012

Little History Buff

James is very interested in history. His primary interests revolve around anything 'Wild West,' pioneers, covered wagons, stagecoaches, farming and cowboys. He is also very interested in the lives of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. I recently found a series called Liberty Kids at the library. Apparently it is/was a PBS series. Lucky for him (me?) there must be at least 25 episodes to watch. That kid is a sponge! He is telling me all about these various battles, and about Indians and the rebels and Hessians. The cool part is that a great deal of that history has occurred in our area. We are within close distance of Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, Betsy Ross' house, Washington's Crossing and the list goes on. We drive through Trenton often, the place where George W. and his men defeated the Hessians on Christmas day. He has been playing George Washington with Tyler, who has no idea what is going on. Today, Katie was mad because the boys were chasing her. When I talked to James he told me, 'well, she is a rebel! We have to go after her!' I had to explain to him that you can't just volunteer someone to play with you. They have to WANT to play! :) When James' teacher emailed us the class Halloween picture a few weeks ago, we had to laugh. There were about 10 superheroes which all looked the same to us, your garden variety witches, princesses and lady bugs, and then James, dressed as Davy Crockett!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Another Installment

Here are a few pictures of the kids working on shoe boxes. Katie was very particular about stacking them just so.

James' official job is to load them into the truck. Katie and Tyler help carry them out.

He is an expert by now.

P.S. Beyonce the Monster Truck has now been used to transport not only our family, but these shoe boxes, and on Saturday, our ill-fated chickens. 

It's official! Tyler has a bike of his own. He...OK, I...dug into his coffers and used his cash to make the purchase. When I went to buy it, all the bikes were $80 and plastered with various licenced, trademarked, commercialized characters. I had a hunch that if I found a plain bike it would be cheaper. They had one, and it was $40! I am pretty sure I could buy a whole lot of Lightning McQueen stickers with that extra $40, but he doesn't know the difference anyhow. He just loves having his own wheels. Now if only his mother will get him a respectable bike helmet, so he can stop wearing his sister's purple princess helmet! 

And here is the generator box turned pirate ship I made for the boys last week. Did you know how beautiful a generator can look when it is coming up your driveway on a FedEx dolly? While it didn't help us during the hurricane, now we have backup next time the power goes off. We have finally joined the growing number in our neighborhood who are investing in generators due to fairly frequent power outages. But back to the boat, I saw the idea somewhere and have been looking for a good box ever since. This one worked out nice, and I used a broom handle and some PVC pipe to rig up the sail, which gets rolled up and down, depending on their navigational preferences. Argh, matey! Shiver me timbers!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Real, Live Pictures!

I just uploaded pictures from my camera. Yikes! I am usually pretty good about that but there was a month's worth on there. Today I will post the pictures from the hurricane. This was our first hot dog roast, complete with fire wood provided by Sandy, and collected by our kids. 

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Random picture of a chicken. Who is now in my freezer. Incidentally, this one had so much fat it was amazing. Mom said she had never seen so much fat in a chicken. And she had no eggs in the shoot. I know you are dying to know, so I will tell you. Laying hens have eggs of various stages of formation in the hopper at any given time. The other chicken we butchered had a soft shelled egg (her signature), a yolk, and several smaller eggs brewing. She also had some weird tumor-like mass, which might have been why she had difficulty laying? Hmm, its just like high school anatomy, only I am not shooting sheep eye lenses across the room at a boy named Dennis. He's probably still in therapy for that one, but I couldn't resist. He was rather obnoxious, but when it came to dissecting stuff, he was incredibly squeamish. I am sure he loved having a part of an eyeball flying at him at rapid speed.

This was the power line above our yard. See the three wires twisted together?

This is what caused the problems: our neighbor's tree. It snapped the pole in half. 

The siding Jeff secured in the storm. Glad it didn't fly off!

I am totally done with hot dogs for a long time. Maybe forever.

And an awesome picture I forgot I took. This is me, smelling of Slim Jims, days without a shower, and starting to go stir crazy apparently. Scary!

My 'kitchen' during the storm (note our dining area to the right)

Katie was also going stir crazy, and resorted to donning multiple pairs of undies as accessories

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving, Chickens, Mmmm

My poor blog. I have neglected it so. And really, I have stuff I should be doing at this very moment but I'm choosing to act like those things don't exist. With Thanksgiving upon us, I am looking forward to eating lots of delicious home-cooked food and engaging in marshmallow fights. However, I will not be repeating last year's pooptastrophe, thank you very much. Each year, we invite 'strays' to our Thanksgiving feast, and I kind think we should start selling tickets or at the very least, a waiting list. Several people have said they want to behold the marshmallow fights, and I keep hearing of people who are un-scheduled on Thanksgiving. See, Mom and Dad, I have been on my best behavior only inviting one family! In other news, and in keeping with the Thanksgiving food theme, a few of our chickens will be landing on the table this week and not on their own accord. The older three chickens are slowing down their laying. One has stopped all together, one lays about two soft eggs a week, half of which break in the nest box. The other one is doing a little better than her counterparts. In the interest of not becoming a retirement home for disenfranchised chickens, two of them are going to become dinner. I know if I kept them over the winter the one would start laying again, but at a lower rate. The other one just can't seem to make an egg shell to save her life, poor girl. Anyway, its time to go. My sister wants to serve as a witness to the 'restructuring' of the chickens. We both have a weird fascination with those types of things, plus it still strikes major awe watching your little mama dispatch a chicken like a boss.  Rachel and I have determined that the most honorable application for a noble stewing hen will be a chicken pot pie. Sounds like a fitting way to make your exit, no?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Farm Hands And Shoe Boxes

Saturday James and I went to Farm Hands again. We missed a week because of the hurricane. This week, we made apple cider using old-fashioned equipment. There was an 'old timer' there who had what seemed to be every apple peeling device known to man. Surprisingly, today's apple peeler is much less efficient than those of the past. I am guessing this has something to do with safety. I'll tell you what, I want one of the old ones! They work so much better! He also had an old mechanical apple peeler that peeled 80-90 apples per minute. My favorite was an old apple peeler that he rigged up with the treadle of an old Singer, so you could use the foot peddle to turn the peeler. The kids got to make shriveled apple head dolls. Then we were on to farm chores, including feeding the chickens and collecting 5 dozen eggs. The kids also got to play in the hay loft again (I think one of their very favorite things!) and get bedding down for the lambs. At the end of the program, we all make a human fence and let the sheep go from the pasture to their pens for the evening. I think I have been designated the 'helping parent' since there is a large group, which I don't mind. I like being able to watch them having fun, and seeing the perma-grin on James' face. Other parents help around the farm as needed.

In other news, we spent the morning volunteering at our church. They are a Collection Center for Operation Christmas Child. Today, about 1500 boxes came in. We helped unload them, count and band them, and pack them into cartons. The kids LOVED helping! Katie and James just jumped right in and helped where needed, even going up to complete strangers to help them. Even Tyler was fairly helpful, helping me push the filled cartons across the room. The district rep came in and spoke briefly and showed pictures. It was both happy and heart breaking. Happy to see the smiles on those children's faces, big incredibly joy-filled smiles. Heart breaking, because she said that many of the children who received shoe boxes last year in a particular orphanage will probably not live til next Christmas because they have AIDS. I am so glad that they can have an opportunity to hear of God's great love for them. She also showed a picture of a child's flip flops in one village they visited. The flip flops had been so greatly worn down that the entire heel was completely gone, and the strap was tied on with some sort of twine. These are the kinds of things we just assume everyone has, but they don't. A 50 cent pair of flip flops may just be their most appreciated gift.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Hurricane, Part Two

The hurricane pretty much shut everything down around here for several days. With no power, stores were closed or couldn't sell anything perishable. You know it is bad when Wawa, Dunkin' Donuts and H-Mart are closed for 4 days. After all, H-Marts sign proudly proclaims that they are open 365 days, 9am to 9pm. I talked to someone who worked at a Wawa that didn't lose power, and she said that on an average day, they sold 1000 cups of coffee. The day after the storm, they sold over 4000 cups and people were waiting in line for a hour just to get one. Crazy! If I was that desperate for coffee I would figure out how to make one at home. And worst of all, the library was closed til Friday. Oh, the horrors! We go a few times a week, and it was a sad state of affairs. :) In general, stores were sold out of the following: milk, bread, bottled water, generators, chain saws, chain saw oil, hot chocolate, ice, and all things perishable. Gas stations were closed because they had no power to run the pumps. And while all of this was an inconvenience, it was just that, an inconvenience. Lots of people had it much, much worse. The pictures of the Jersey shore are horrendous. I heard that the boardwalk we went to this summer was destroyed. A roller coaster from another beach town is sitting precariously out at sea. We were very fortunate. If we had had the rain they had forecasted (8-10 inches) the storm would have been disastrous for our area. As it was, there were trees down everywhere and there was a lot of wind damage. There was a church about 1/2 mile from us that had a large section of its stucco siding fly off. The forest on the farm where James and I go to work lost 60 percent of their trees. The forest looks like pick up sticks. Everywhere we drive, we see more trees down. It amazes me, however, how many trees fell and missed houses. After the storm, the power company called and said that this was the largest storm in their long history and that they had nearly 900,000 customers out of power. Outside companies ended up volunteering to travel to our area and help. The team that finally fixed our power was from New Orleans, LA. We were thanking them profusely and they said that we had helped them in Katrina and they wanted to return the favor. There were convoys of out of state power workers from all over. In fact, I still see them around and I think they are still trying to get things back in order. While our power was out, we tried to make the best of it. We bundled up and watched a DVD in Beyonce the Monster Truck. I knew that DVD player would come in handy! We built a fire in the backyard several nights, and cooked over it. Oddly enough, a month or two ago, our neighbor had stopped by and given us a box of 82 hot dogs and the buns to go with them. I never buy hot dogs, and I knew we would never eat that many. When I was trying to save the freezer, I decided those had to go. Jeff told me to put them in the fridge as 'ice' to keep it cool in there. Turns out, we ended up eating a lot of hot dogs before they thawed out and we had to throw them. That may or may not have contributed to the overall stench emanating from my clothes by day 3. Through an unfortunate series of events, I was down to one pair of pants. Here is the break down: 

Day One: Tyler the Iron Bladder had an accident during his nap. I don't think he realized it and he climbed into my lap. I realized it when I felt a nice big wet spot on my pants. 

Day Two: Repeat day one. Seriously!? Twice in a row? This is the kid that can hold it in forever. 

Day Three: Fresh pair of pants, no pee. Pants begin to smell like campfire, but no big deal.

Day Four: Campfire pants begin to smell fire-y. Starting to smell like truck stop Slim Jims. James asks what Slim Jims are. I told him it would be like if a hot dog and beef jerky had a kid. I got a blank stare. I should mention at this point that I haven't taken a shower in a while. 

Day Five: Would I rather smell like my kid's urine, or Slim Jims? That is the question. I decided Slim Jims are preferable. In a turn of good fortune, my parents' power comes back on. I begged the use of their washer, and was able to have clean clothes which smelled of neither urine or processed meat sticks. It's a Christmas miracle! Also, at some point in this timeline I was able to take a hot shower, thanks to the generator Jeff's coworker loaned us. 

Day Six: The power company shows up. Another miracle in and of itself! It took them a good part of the day and then the power came back on. Hallelujah! 

A few days later, they came to string up our phone line. What a crazy week and a half! We feel so fortunate to have such minor damage. Several people have told us since then that if anyone could survive no power, we could! One couple said they would take us with them if they had to survive on a desert island! :) I will say, we didn't have to eat out even once. I did briefly eye up the chickens, thinking they would make a pretty decent dinner should things get really ugly! 

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

The Hurricane

Things are regaining a sense of normalcy around here. The hurricane sort of disrupted things around here just a wee bit. To be honest, weathermen are always hyping up storms around here and we didn't really think it would be as bad as they had warned. In addition, people in this area are prone to run to the store at the mere mention of a snow flake and clear the shelves of bread, eggs and milk. I didn't even know there was a storm coming til my neighbor told me on the Friday before. Note to self: pay attention to the news occasionally. Although we were not too worried about the storm, we did take our window air conditioner units out. On Sunday, I spent a few extra hours in the kitchen making some food, figuring we might be out of power for a day or two. I got caught up on my laundry, which only happens once every 4 years, or when my friend Erin visits. Monday rolled around and it was basically like a regular rainstorm, minus the heavy rain. It just drizzled most of the day with a little wind here and there. I think we all started to think that it had, indeed, been hyped up. However, evening rolled around and the winds were whipping like crazy. The power flickered for a while before going out. We put Katie downstairs in the boys' room. The neighbor has two enormous trees that were swaying in the wind, which of course was blowing in our direction. James was scared to go to sleep, but it didn't take him long. Tyler was oblivious and conked out right away. Katie couldn't sleep because she was scared. It took her a long time to go to sleep. Jeff and I couldn't really sleep, sitting there listening to the wind howl against the house and knowing that it was strong enough to cause damage. We just sat there on the couch in front of our huge front window and watched. The sky kept lighting up green and pink for hours. It was power flashes from power lines coming down. After a while we kept hearing sounds on our house, and Jeff thought shingles were flying off. Then he figured out that it was our siding. There was a long swath of it coming loose upstairs. He was afraid it was going to fly off and so climbed out the upstairs window to try and secure it. Let's just say that was one of the more tense moments for me watching him scoot his way down the roof with cordless drill in hand to try and fix it. He described it as 'intense' which is strong wording for Jeff. He did keep the siding from coming off but we will have to fix it soon. There are a ton of trees in our town and we sat for a while longer and watched them sway. Finally my nerves had enough and I went to bed, and Jeff followed not long after. When we woke up, there were lots of branches and leaves everywhere. So many trees in our area where knocked over. Part of our neighbor's tree fell on the power pole and snapped it off. The top of the pole spun around, twisting up the wires over our yard. The neighbor across the street lost at least three big trees on his property. On of them fell on his shed, causing little damage, before it rolled off and fell on his truck, causing a lot of damage. Another neighbor has a huge oak tree in their backyard, and the tree split right down the middle and is now hanging dangerously over the power lines. The crack has been growing since the storm, and he finally got the power company to come out and take it down. The tree is so unstable, they have a HUGE cherry picker-type thing and they are up there taking down one small section of branch at a this snowy, icy slush we are getting. I bet they love their job right now. The good news with that is hopefully we will avoid another power outage had that tree fallen on the lines. We ended up being out of power for 6 days, and the phone/internet was restored yesterday after 8 days. The old phone cable is still hanging in our yard, just waiting for Tyler to pull a Tarzan on. More tomorrow...

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Quick Check In

Just a quick check-in...we are OK, just got the power back on this afternoon. Still no phone or internet. I'll post when we get our internet back.