Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Powerless

We've spent the last 24 hours powerless. Like, without power. Literally. Our house did not have electricity.

Right at the intersection of our and our neighbors powerlines, 2 massive trees stood looming, just waiting for the perfect storm to knock them over and create mayhem. Our neighbor, being proactive an responsible, set about having them removed this last week, as they are on his property. Yesterday, as two guys went to work on the trees around lunchtime, an unexpected rotten portion of tree broke away and fell into the powerlines, affecting a transformer and ripping the line clear off the side of our house. The tree guys were great about calling the power company and having an electrician over quickly. The whole issue was repaired and resolved by 6pm. Unfortunately, due to STUPID FRICKIN IDIOTIC BUREAUCRACY NONSENSE, the electricity could not be turned back on until this afternoon, a full 20 hours later. The electrician who completed the repair was required to file a request  for an inspection with the city code and permits department and they in turn had to dispatch an inspector to examine the electricians work and report to the power company that was acceptably safe. To further complicate matters, the electrician's secretary had issues because they had recorded that the repair had been done at our neighbors' address (since they were the ones who called them out and paid for the repair) and they couldn't just take our word for it that the truck had been parked in our driveway and the electrician had been working on our house because "they could lose their license". Gah, what morons. I can't wait to see how many centuries it takes to restore power after a hurricane!

This whole event DID make me think more about our emergency preparedness. My main concerns now in the event of a hurricane- surviving without air conditioning and not going crazy from boredom. Aside from doing zumba in the morning, I was at home all day Monday until we went out to dinner and then headed over to a friends house to sleep and when I woke up today, I felt like I needed to go ANYWHERE and do ANYTHING to not be cooped up the hot house! We went to the beach and then walked around the mall until Micah texted me that the power was restored.

The problems we faced outside of hotness and boredom would not be so devastating in a hurricane because hurricanes don't come suddenly, you have time to get things in order. You can put a last big load of dishes through the dishwasher.You can eat down the contents of your fridge so that you don't end up with wasted, spoiled food. You can shop for pantry-stable snacks that you and your family like. 


One thing we might consider investing in: a manual can opener. I know a good trick to open cans without one, but I was too embarrassed to go out and do this on the front porch with the tree guys, 2 guys from the power company and an electrician all right there in my yard.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Two for Four

We have most likely lost another one of our chickens. Blondie, the surprise-green-egg-layer, disappeared from our backyard yesterday in the late afternoon. There was no sign of any predators- a hawk would have left behind a messy scene, as would a fox or bobcat. She would have been pretty big prey for a hawk and I don't know how any larger predators would have scaled the 6' fence anyway. The greatest probability is that she ducked through a small gap under the fence to explore the neighbors' lawn and got attacked or lost. I searched as best I could in the adjacent yards, and kept checking late into the night for her return- even if she'd gone away, she should instinctively return to our coop after dark. This morning I search through all of the trees on and around our property in case she roosted up high up and couldn't get down. I keep glancing out back, hoping she may have returned and is pecking to get back into the run to drink some water, but by now there is almost no chance she's still around. Only a vague fantasy that she has decided to go join the neighbor's flock. I am sad, not as sad as if I had lost a pet- the chickens are definitely more of a livestock animal to us- but still sad that I won't see her pecking around the yard anymore. Natalie and Angela really liked her because she was friendly and very sweet and liked to squat down and let us pet her. Also, her eggs were just beginning to approach full size!

I couldn't sleep all night. I was filled with anxiety over the hopeless cause of man versus nature, of civilization conquering the jungle, of survival facing the wild. I kept worrying about Natalie or Angela getting attacked by an alligator or drowned from wandering off and falling into a pond. By morning, I was more myself, the anxiety present though weak.

I am now both annoyed and optimistic about getting a few more chicks. Chicks are needy and smelly and won't lay eggs for months... but, it's interesting/fun/challenging to consider which breeds we will get now that we have some experience. Perhaps the elegant and docile australop would best withstand the long, hot summer here. Then again, a white leghorn would stand out so nicely while foraging in the yard. Or there' the classic Orpington with its golden plumage. How will the flocks merge? Will the pecking order be smoothly established or will fights break out? Can we get them to last, to keep our flock at 4 chickens? What more can I do to keep them safe while allowing for plenty of free ranging for improved quality of life/economy/egg quality?

All I know for certain is this: For the closest living relatives to the T-Rex, chickens sure are vulnerable little stinkers.
Blondie on the right

EDIT: Blondie miraculously returned! She found her way back Saturday morning. It is truly amazing that she survived two nights outside. We're so happy!

In other news, summer storm season is HERE. Heavy rains pop up suddenly and frequently.
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Last Saturday we had an especially strong storm, with tons of lightning, extremely heavy rain sustained for over an hour and winds up to 50mph.

Silly girls not knowing they ought to run for cover

 I recently read a book called "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up". It was pretty interesting. Her basic premise: Only keep items that spark joy within you. Throw away everything else. I think her method was a little impractical for me. I hang on to many, many things because they could be useful. That's just good thrift in my mind. Also, if I kept only clothing that brought me joy, I might end up throwing away every single item and become a nudist. That won't really work. I felt discouraged that I couldn't come up with more than a couple bags worth of stuff to get rid of. Part of it may be that we just moved so I've already weeded out a lot of the junk I owned. Also, our house is quite a bit bigger than we need right now, so closet space isn't exactly in high demand, so I don't feel much pressure to discard things. A few areas were very helpful to examine. I was able to sort through this tote of random computer-related items (which I was previously proud to have even gathered together into one box) and condense it into a box 1/3 the size.

Another thing I threw away- tons and tons of empty boxes!!! I was used to hanging onto boxes- moving boxes, diaper boxes, boxes that delicate objects came packaged in. It's part of the "I'm-gonna-move-soon" mindset that I've had for the last 9 years and I have finally decided to quit. I'm done looking forward to the next move and ready to just experience living in my home. I saved a few small ones, like shoe boxes, for organizing closets and such.

Another great victory: Our garage is officially 100% unpacked and de-junked. We moved all of our storables into the backyard sheds or into upstairs closets. We have now joined the 1% of Floridians without a garage full of storage. Yay! I should take a photo, I'm so proud. We have a 2-car garage that could actually fit 2 cars! Time to get another car, I guess :/

The most beautiful scene on earth: Small children cleaning up their mess without threats, raised voices or promise of a reward

For fathers' day we got Micah a chainsaw/pole saw tool to help him him get his yard work done much faster. We also got him an emergency radio/flashlight/hand-cranked or solar-powered cell phone charger. He went out and got himself a grill and cooked up some T-bone steaks on Sunday evening. He commented that he felt that his man score had increased significantly on this holiday, with the first power tool and grill additions to our household. The picture above is what Natalie brought home from primary. Glad to know she understands her dad's job about as well as I did mine at the age of 12.

Fruit and lemonade popsicles for FHE treat- another dessert inspired by Nerdy Nummies

At the latest free summer movie series- peanuts the movie! We ran into some friends and it was fun all sitting together at the theater. We have been to the movie theater more in the last 2 months than the previous 2 years!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Recent Events+ Interview With Natalie

The attack in Orlando this weekend was pretty crazy and has everyone down here in a panic. Lots of folks knew someone who worked with someone whose sister's neighbor's poodle's hairdresser was involved with the shooting. I'm not trying to make light of it; it's a very sad, sad thing. Every one of those killed or injured was an individual with people who loved them and lives that mattered. But it didn't make me feel personally frightened like a shooting in a school or a shopping mall or a movie theater because I don't expect that I'll ever personally find myself at a downtown club at 2 a.m. since that's not a very safe environment even without crazed gunmen about. 

I'm significantly more worried about the alligator that snatched a 2-year-old out of a lake at Disney World last night because that could quite possibly happen to my children if they ever approached a natural body of water around here. It seems like a more likely danger. Sorry if that seems insensitive!

Last weekend I finally got to see the new star wars movie. Was NOT disappointed, though I wanted more back story and for Han Solo's son to not be such a cotton-headed ninny-muggins. This air mattress was perfect for family movie night.

Natalie loves crafts. She wanted me to help her make a mask the other day. This is what she created. Terrifying.

Art is always fun when it's a bajillion degrees but the humidity makes it feel like a bajillion and ten degrees outside (seriously, the "feels like" temps have been like 10* hotter than the actual temperature. Anytime I go outside, no matter how briefly, I return inside drenched in sweat). Here are the kids doing play doh. I have a lot of trouble getting good pictures of Angela because she's always moving too fast or looking down.


Eating play doh. Yum!

My tomatoes have been killin it. They really liked the rain from TS Colin and I've gotten around 2-3 quarts of them in the last week. I've gifted some, used them in our dinners for the last 4 nights, and plan to freeze some. I want to can salsa and tomato sauce some day, but grape tomatoes aren't that useful for canning since they have relatively little flesh once you've removed skins and seeds. 

And finally, here's an interview I did with Natalie today during naptime:


What is your name? Natalie
How old are you? 4
What is your favorite color? Red
Who is your best friend? Everybody
What is your favorite place to go? Aldi and Publix and the gym
What is your favorite movie? Jungle Book
What is your favorite toy? Everything
What is your favorite animal? Dogs and cats
What do you want to be when you grow up? A zoo helper. Only zoo helpers can help giraffes and Zebras. You can only do that in Florida.
What is your favorite story from the scriptures? The first one, where Nephi tries to figure out which church to go to.
How old is Mommy? 12
What is Mommy's favorite thing to do? Play with me
How old is Daddy? 9
What is Daddy's favorite thing to do? Eat candy



Monday, June 6, 2016

Welcome, Summer!

Angela painting the paint bottles. I tell ya, you turn around for ONE MINUTE...

Memorial Day weekend was great for us. Micah had an off Friday that I spent having fun in Orlando while he stayed with the kids. I drove up Thursday night and went to the temple, stayed in a hotel and then returned to do some more temple work Friday morning. It was the first time I'd been to the Orlando temple and the first time I'd participated in temple work in about 8 months. It's tough to figure out a way to go more regularly. With the 90 minute drive each way, we would need someone to babysit the kids for almost 6 hours if Micah and I tried to go together. Anyhow, glad I got to go. My hotel was awesome and had the greatest included breakfast I've ever had. Unfortunately, I woke up at 4 am and couldn't fall back asleep with the strange absence of a 4-year-old foot/knee/elbow in the butt/back/face.

After the temple, I did a little shopping and then checked out Epcot at Disneyworld. I didn't think it was that great, but I hardly went on any rides because the lines were so long. Epcot seems to be mostly about spending a ton of money on foods from various countries, but I am anti-buying-overpriced-food-at-Disney, so I didn't enjoy that. I did happen to hit the tail end of the International Flower and Garden Festival, so that was neat- tons of topiaries sculpted like various disney characters and displays on various types of butterflies and flowers. Then I tried out the coaster at Animal Kingdom- Everest- and it was pretty crazy and did me on for the day, so instead of staying for the nighttime show, I drove home before the kids went to bed Friday. Disney is officially not that fun alone. Maybe I should have gone to Ikea instead!



 On memorial day, we met up in Orlando with some friends who were in FL for memorial day weekend. We knew them from Atlanta-we had been swapping babysitting from the time Natalie was 9 months old. Unfortunately, Natalie was a little odd that day and didn't play with the other kids that much.

We spent the day hanging out at the pool together. It was really nice to catch up and revel together in the joy of having husbands no longer in grad school.

That evening we popped into Magic Kingdom before heading home. We had planned to just do a couple of rides, but lines were surprisingly short so we spent a few hours doing the kids' favorites, since we can't go back until August with our passes black-out dates.


This is Natalie washing dishes and it is literally the best thing ever.


In spite of our challenges, out garden is mildly productive. The melons didn't make it, but the tomato worms are gone now- whether it's too hot for them, or the wasps and other bugs that have come out for the hot season have eaten them all, I'm not sure. Just grateful to enjoy a bunch like this every few days! I've made salsa and pasta with them, but mostly I eat a lot of em just like this.


School is out now, which means that there are lots of fun cheap or free activities for us to do with the kids, like going to the beach, programs at the library, free kids movies at the local theater, even a program for kids to bowl free at the local bowling alley. The only downside is that we have to compete with lots of older kids and everywhere we go seems busy with families trying to stay busy.

I'm beginning a Zumba group at church. My first class went well, but was sparsely attended because of girls' camp. Hopefully I can get more ladies out to join me so I can be in practice next time I have an opportunity to audition for an open position at the gym! 



Monday, May 23, 2016

Tidbits

Sharing a drink. Ah, how sweet


Love me some help in the kitchen. 


Natalie graduated from Joy school last week. On to pre-k in the fall!

Sunday afternoon


Natalie randomly put out the yoga mat and tried getting Angela into the happy baby pose

In other news, our garden has been under attack from....


raccoon/squirrels


Tomato worms

And some kind of stinkbug/beetle thing.

I've sprayed and sprayed to no avail. I even set the chickens loose in the garden so that they would eat some of the bugs and instead they ate all the pepper and bean plants, the only ones NOT yet affected by bugs. Thanks a lot.

Hang in there, little guy! Our one and only canteloupe.

I mowed and trimmed the yard and did a bit of pruning Saturday. The vines are growing back where we decimated the jungle at the back of our property, so we'd better get a handle on that before the evil vines take over this tree that the girls like to climb.


Our chickens have been doing great. The surprise easter egger that lays green eggs (we thought he was a rhode island red) has been more productive than anticipated. They are supposed to lay 3-4 eggs a week, but we have had one every single day for the last 6 days. Hopefully she can keep up that momentum- if we can get 6 a week from each, that will definitely keep our egg carton full!



Friday, May 13, 2016

A Full Week!

We enjoyed our trip up to Raleigh for Paco's graduation last weekend. I was happy and proud of Paco, glad for the opportunity to meet his fiance, and of course thrilled that the kids got some cousin time in.

video


The trip was not without its frustrations, including a near-death experience when a truck almost ran into us and being chewed out by a lady for our kids' disruptive behavior during the convocation ceremony, but hey- we're alive and that grouchy lady can go %($&@%@ *$%@#&U~ Q#$(%&!

That is one heck of a drive to tackle in one day, though. Mothers day was spent listening to this for 10.5 hours...
video

The stinky girls, as I affectionately call our hens, were glad for our return. They have had lots of free time to forage around the yard and have laid 2 eggs a day every day since we got back.


Tuesday, Natalie's joy school group got to go to the fire station to check out the trucks and meet the firemen. It seemed pretty cool- I would definitely recommend it as a career path to someone not interested in the traditional 4-year-college plan but wanting more stability and family life than an entry-level military career.
Wednesday, we had a tough day at the dentist. Natalie has several cavities (I blame the heinous quantity of jelly beans consumed for potty training) and she was NOT happy about getting x-rays. They took her back without me and I could hear her screaming and crying from the waiting room. When I came back, she was huddled in a ball on the floor bawling with her whole face bright red and her eyes bloodshot. She's gonna have to have a conscious sedation and it's just gonna be a big ordeal. Not looking forward to it. 

Thursday, I took the girls out to a state park at an inlet by the beach. It was a 40 minute drive, so not somewhere I'll take them too often, but we loved it. Spent 4 1/2 hours and still had to drag them away. It was really nice because the water on the lagoon side of the island had shallow, still water where the girls could play without much risk of getting scared (Natalie) or swept out into the ocean (Angela). It was cloudy and we wore sunscreen and I still got burned and the girls got a beautiful tan. Urgh.


This is Angela refusing to leave.
They both got lots of compliments on their elmo suits. I'm in the market for a new swimsuit, I guess I'd better get one that matches theirs!

Micah pressure washed the house today and it looks magnificent. The white parts were all green and yucky with pollen, mold and dust. Now, they pretty much glow. 

What a man


He cleaned one of the paver stones in the area behind our porch and.... dang it. Now we have to clean all of them. I knew they were a bit dirty and moldy. I did NOT realize that, underneath it all, our brown paver stones are actually cream colored.


Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Blake's Wedding, Angela's Birthday and Garden Produce!

First, some shots from my brother's wedding in Denver last weekend...

First experiencing the snow while waiting at airport pickup while Daddy was struggling to figure out our rental car. It was smart. Waaaaaay too smart for us. It kept making beeping sounds and doing things we didn't understand.  

Natalie enjoyed making snowmen at the reception Friday night....




....at the sealing Saturday morning....




....and at the luncheon Saturday afternoon!

We got to enjoy the mall and our relatives, scored some dairy queen and Angela even got a few gifts for her birthday!

That night, Angela got sick, throwing up every hour between 10pm and 4am. When we left for the airport at 5, we hoped she was over it, but alas, she puked again on the airplane. It was horrible, but the ride was super bumpy so most just shrugged it off to motion sickness and weren's too (visibly) irritated. One guy even saw us afterwards at baggage claim and asked Angela if she was feeling better, "poor, little girl".

Since then, she has been fine, gradually has gotten her appetite back. I'm thinking she might have gotten a bit if food poisoning from our hotel breakfast Saturday, because she hadn't eaten much else all day and it came on and was over so quickly.

We got home Sunday by early afternoon and happily discovered that a second one of our chickens had started laying. Yay! Also, our first few tomatoes were ripe, as well as a couple of blueberries and a handful of beans.


Natalie helped me wrap Angela's birthday presents and decorate her cake


 Angela's birthday dinner was brought to us by the letter "M" and the color orange- Mac and cheese and mango

 She blew out her candles by herself and only wanted to taste the frosting, not the cake!


Presents!












And, her birthday wish came true almost immediately after she wished it :)
video

Finally....I've started canning Surinam Cherry Jam! And I processed a jar with the last of our pink grapefruit until next season. Lego fireman approves.