*Tap Tap* Anyone Still Out There?

Cough, cough…*clears throat and cracks knuckles* Did dust just fly up from the keyboard? I know I’ve been away forever. I’ve wanted to come back here and share a bit of our crazy life on the prairie with you folks, and I know a few of you who I know and love in real life have shared that you have been missing the blog. Here I am to give it another shot. I am not making any promises on frequency, length, or general direction the blog is going to take. Mostly, I just need an outlet. Ha!

Let me just give you a brief run down of what’s happening in our world. I went back to work in September 2015, part time in a multi-practice doctor’s office (the doctor’s are all brothers, and the main office is based out of a tiny rural hospital their father founded in the 1950’s.) In the spring of last year, I was asked to come on full time, which I accepted. I was the “floating” receptionist – meaning I traveled to any one of the 5 offices (soon to have a sixth!) for my shift that day. In December of this year, I was asked to if I would be interested in becoming the sole receptionist at our second busiest office. After some discussion with the Hubs, I made the move. I now have a 62 mile round trip commute every day, but at least I don’t always feel like I’m in someone else’s personal space.

Bug & Pally have been involved in 8 billion different things with and through school, including two musicals – Once Upon a Mattress, and Nice Work if You Can Get It – their regular extracurricular activities, such as band for Pally, Scholastic Bowl for both, and various other clubs and groups. Bug even joined track this year. Both girls have had the privilege of attending RYLA (Rotary Youth Leaders Award retreat), Bug was awarded a spot at Teens Experiencing Nursing Camp last year, and both kiddos are on the yearbook committee. And both girls are permitted drivers. Brace yourselves for a shock: Bug graduates in a few short weeks!!!!!!! How is that even possible? She was accepted to her school of choice, a community college near the Grands that will allow her to live with them while going to school, they have a spectacular nursing program (my girl wants to be a trauma nurse), and for her to graduate college with no debt! That was one of her main goals. So mature, for someone so young. Pally still has two years of school left. Crap, are we getting old, or what?

The Hubs is still OTR, which we all hate, but it pays the bills….most of the time. This year has been rough, fiscally. The semi has been in the shop more than it has been on the road this first quarter. Hubs told me the other day that he had only driven about 25,000 miles since the first of the year. That’s a pretty low number for what he does. However, we were able to pay off another truck lease, so officially the Big Gray is ours. So, that is a plus in the long term.

In other family news:

Grampy has officially retired. He is planning on on spending most of the girls spring break with us next week. It will be nice to have him here. We are blessed that my parents only live a few short hours and a couple hundred miles away. They come down as often as they can. Mumsie (my MIL) on the other hand lives a bit further away, and it isn’t quite as easy for her….I know she misses out on a lot with the kids with our crazy, hectic schedules.

We were also able to go home for Christmas this year, which is a feat in and of itself, with the Hub’s job schedule. It was wonderful. We even got to see all the nieces & nephews at Christmas, and almost all of the in-laws. As you may know, I have no siblings, but the Hubs is the middle of 5, so I have brothers & sisters now, and 8 nieces and nephews! (My newest niece made her arrival yesterday morning around 10 am, about 11 weeks too early, at 2.5 pounds, so if you want to throw out prayers, good thoughts, or good vibes to your chosen deity, universe, what have you, they would be appreciated.) I actually spent a good deal of this morning looking for itty-bitty knit hat patterns I could whip up to send for our little spit fire. I can’t imagine what my BIL & SIL are going through, as I can’t stop thinking about itty-bitty baby E. Or her big brother O-man. ❤ ❤

Okay, I have to think about something else for a few minutes….Did we have Hans Monroe Whitman when I faded out from blogging? He’s our Belgian Malinois-German Shepherd mix, who we adopted from the BIL & SIL mentioned above. He’s a horse! They brought him to us at 9 weeks old. So we have two male dogs and two male cats (my special girl, Mommy Kitty disappeared last summer) and a intermittent outside foster kitty from the barn down the lane. We have a regular old fur-menagerie. Oh, and 3 fish! Spencer the carnival prize is still alive after almost 3 years. I think he’s immortal.

As far as my craft hobbies go…there are a TON of UFO’s laying around. I’ve taught myself to crochet, and started a temperature afghan on January 1st, I’ve knitted a couple of hats, and finished not much of anything else. I did help one of my “big kids,” that’s what I call Bug’s & Pally’s older friends from school, sew her prom dress last year. Well, she bought the top, created her own pattern for the skirt, cut & pinned and then I just sewed it for her. So nothing really exciting to show you. Hopefully, in the next few weeks I’ll have some fun fiber projects to share.

That’s a rundown of the last two years of life on the prairie. What’s up with y’all?

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Well, it looks like Autumn is finally settling in here. I picked the very last of the grape tomatoes out of my garden yesterday, yes, October 29. I put them in a salad and gobbled them up. I think next year, if we space our garden rows farther apart, I won’t have “jungle” tomato plants! In the next week or two, I’ll put the garden to bed. My neighbor lady, Mrs. Farmer (they are farmers, hence Mr. and Mrs. Farmer – not their real names) pulled up the big plants then mowed the whole garden plot. I think that is what I’ll do. I’m hoping for some decent weather in the next few days so I can get the lawn mowed one last time for the season. I will need to get the carrots harvested in the next few days, or mound up some straw over the greens. It actually isn’t supposed to hurt them to stay in the ground, even after it starts to frost regularly. We’ll see.

My folks were here this last weekend. Bug’s musical was this last weekend, as well, hence the big reason Grammy & Grampy came to visit. Those high school kids did a wonderful job on Guys and Dolls. It was so much fun. I can’t wait to get our dvd copy. Yes, they had the thing professionally recorded. Such a nice touch. I barely took any photos, I was enjoying the show too much. We have a talented bunch of kiddos out here in the sticks.

I have less than a week before Women’s Writing starts. I’m very excited, and very nervous. I want there to be a great turn out, I want everyone to get what they need from the group, I don’t want to turn on my “professor” voice, and drive them all away. We are going to use a book called Fruitflesh as a resource. It is an amazing resource for finding a jumping off place for writing. Some of the suggestions are a little risqué, but overall, just about ever segment I’ve read has me thinking about what to write for it, already. Maybe I’m just on fire to write something. Other than this. Not that I’m not enjoying blogging, don’t get me wrong, but it is two different creatures. I don’t write fiction here. I might share something of mine as the group progresses….who knows.

On the home front, I’m in the middle of a much bigger project than I ever expected. I am altering my couch. I have a Broyhill couch, that we love, but it has those huge, attached cushions on the back, and they were coming off, misshapen, and becoming uncomfortable. So, I removed them completely, added a panel to the back of the cushion, so they will be “unattached,” refluffing the stuffing (and wishing I could just go buy 20 pounds of the stuff, because fluffing polyfill is for the BIRDS), and I am going to have to sew new baffles – the fabric that they use to contain the stuffing is horrible! It is like the sides of a mattress cover, and it shreds, pills, runs and tears. So, I took one of the inserts apart today, and will cut two new ones out of flannel tomorrow. Flannel, it is just what I had the most of lying around in my stash. I have been promising folks a tutorial if it even half way turns out, so stay tuned!

On the health front…I had to tie drawstring in my exercise pants yesterday in yoga to keep them from falling off my fanny during a stretch! Woo hoo! I am also happy to report I have officially lost 27 lbs. I am hoping to be able to tell you some time next week that it is officially 30…or 35, but I’m trying to be realistic! Ha! I can tell you I haven’t been at this weight since we moved to Illinois. The very last weight I remember while working at the doctor’s office is only one pound away! Yes, I’m excited. And it certainly helps keep me moving in the right direction. I am also happy to report that my left knee, which is the one I injured falling down the basement stairs two years ago, and that has given me so much pain & trouble in the last 3 months, has been behaving rather well this week. There are still some things I can’t do in yoga – I’m not pushing the knee, I don’t want to get sidelined.

So, anyway, dinner (Boca burgers & spicy collard greens) is almost ready, and we have Stitch, Please tonight, so I’m gonna get this posted. Hope you all are having a great Thursday.

Every Which Way But Loose

Whew! I’ve got a minute to catch my breath! That title says it all, my brain is on overload, and I feel like I’m going in 1000 different directions. I think I mentioned everything that is going on lately, which in turn makes me a very, very busy Mom. Between running kids here, there, and everywhere, I pitched in with the costumes for the musical Bug is involved in. I had to cut, make, then sew on bias tape at the hem & neckline on 16 tear-away dresses. (Did I tell you the musical is Guys and Dolls? The dresses are for the “Take Back Your Mink” act.) I can’t believe I’m contributing to the “delinquency” of a bunch of minors…stripping high schoolers. Okay, so they don’t get naked. They have costumes under their costumes. Between trying to find everything Bug needed, and buying two sets of character shoes, because the USPS messed up my priority shipping and instead of the shoes coming in 2-3 business days, it took 5 business (and two weekend) days. We were able to find a pair of shoes, with much higher heels the night of the first dress rehearsal at Payless. What a life saver. She did switch to her professional dance shoes, because the heels are a lot lower, but the Payless shoes are SO cute, and I think both girls can wear them, so they’ll be put to good use.

Add to Bug’s rehearsal schedule, Pally has here Pep Band performances, I’ve started attending a yoga class in our tiny town (and am loving it), plus I all the things I’m doing at the art gallery. I’m co-leading/facilitating our fiber arts group, I’ll begin facilitating Women’s Writing next month (so there have been some meetings with the gallery owner), and I’ve accepted a titled position at the gallery – Art Enrichment Director. I’m exhausted just thinking about everything, but oh, so excited! I hope I’m not repeating myself, and boring you guys.

I know we’ve talked about my health previously, meaning my weight…I’m happy to report, that even with some minor setbacks, I am still having pretty surprising success. I am very happy to report an average of a 3.4 pound loss for the last 7 weeks. That’s 24 pounds, people! I know that may not sound like a lot,  if you know me, and know how much I actually have to lose, but holy moly, relatively consistent losses has been amazing. I can see some changes, the Hubs can see some changes, I’m going to see my parents this weekend, and am kind of hoping they will notice some changes, although my dear, sweet Mom reads my blog, so she’ll know what kind of numbers I’ve lost. Yes, I’m craving any kind of positive reinforcement I can get. The Hubs is doing a bang up job pointing out things he’s noticing, and not making fun of me for doing something I’ve never done before…not even as a teen. Ladies, where do you lose weight first? Yep, you guessed it…TMI warning – if any guys are reading my blog, you may want to go read something else now, and come back another day…my boobs are shrinking! I have had zero luck finding a bra that fits right, band/cup ratio is a strange thing when you are quite empty on top, and all your fullness is on the lower portion. I know that demi cup and balconette bras would fit best, but I just can’t find one with the right size combination. *sigh* I even ordered bras online, that I mistakenly thought were demi cup, and I ordered 2 sizes – a C and a B. Imagine my horror when neither fit! I cried. Yes, blubbered like a baby, So, I’ve been doing something I never thought I’d do, something I never did as a teen – I’ve been stuffing my bra! I discovered that a folded over-the-calf sock of the Hubby’s in the bottom of each cup allows me to wear my nice bras, and not have the gaps show. So, there’s your laugh for the day! I’m 38 1/2 and am having to stuff my bra. I think if I’d had the time to go spend the day in our nearest “big” town, I can stop the bra-drama, I just haven’t had the time. I keep joking that I need to go invest in some of those “chicken cutlets” from WalMart.

If you guys are interested in following my journey to better health, let me know, and I’ll consider posting about the program I’m using, and progress photos….

The Benefits of Homemaking

I read the best article this morning. One that I really, really needed to read. I struggle, now that the kids are older, in school all day, and don’t need supervision 24/7, with feeling like I need to justify the fact that I am still a SAHM. I may not get as much done during the week as I would like, as my Homemaker/Mom guilt tells me I need to do, but it allows Big Daddy to not have to worry about the home front, the kids, or the critters. If you remember, my hubby travels for work. Even when he was home every day, my being home allowed him to focus on work, and not worry about the running of our household. I had never looked at it like that, before today. I knew that my kids behavior, and school work benefited when I first started staying home (once they were in school.) Had I known the difference it would make, I would have never gone back to work….I worked on and off until the girls were in the 3rd and 5th grade (I think that’s right, anyway). I went back to work after Bug was born, after using up my maternity leave and all my vacation time, left work when I found out I was expecting Pally, mostly because I knew how horribly sick I would be for the first 3-5 months. Then, when Pally was 2-3, I reentered the workforce, and remained in the workforce until she was 8(?). In the years we lived in MI, the girls mostly stayed with family for daycare, in the South Carolina years, I worked second shift, and they stayed with Bug’s kindergarten teacher – I watched her daughter during the day. Then, in the Illinois years, they had to go to daycare, which they both HATED with a passion. We were almost always late, they dragged their feet every morning, there were often tears at drop off. It was horrible. I worked, mostly days at a local hospital, and all four of us were miserable. I was a mean, hateful heifer by Sunday night, and NOTHING ever got done. When I finally had enough, and told my Horrible Boss to take my job and shove it, the improvement in our family was amazing. We were all more relaxed, the girls grades started an immediate upswing, our weekends and family time became much more relaxed and enjoyable. I still don’t feel like I get enough done, it never feels like enough, but my kids are happy, healthy, our household runs pretty smoothly, and weekends are for family. We are closer, we do more fun things.. Most weekends aren’t just for errands & chores, anymore! I wouldn’t change the way things are now, for the world, with the exception of having Big Daddy home every night. So, if you are blessed to be a SAHP(arent), know that it’s good for your spouse/partner, too, not just you and the kids. (Yes, I purposefully, didn’t discuss the sacrifices that are made with a one income household, although, the financial benefits often off-set the sacrifices: the savings in wear and tear on a vehicle, savings on work wardrobe, the inevitable savings by having the time to prepare from-scratch meals instead of convenience foods due to work & extracurricular schedules.)

So, in conclusion, I am in no way passing judgement on those who choose to work, or must work, I’m just telling you about my perspective on our choice for my staying home, and being Susie Homemaker.

Neglected, but Resurrected

Are you all sick of hearing excuses and apologies for my not being faithful to this blog? I’m tired of giving them to you. So…here we go again. I figure if I’m going to be leading out in a Women’s Writing group, I’d better be writing. I’ll talk about life, my crazy life, as the SAHM of two teen girls, two dogs, more cats than I need (we are fostering a litter of 8), a hubby who travels for work (which sucks), my continued journey of seeking a healthier/smaller me, and our ups & downs. I’ll share my crafty – Susie Homemaker type projects, both successes and failures. I’ll share my guilt and perceived failures on things domestic. On that last note, I’ll share that this summer’s garden fits into that category! I am ashamed to say the weeds are taller than all the plants, except the corn, because I’m not good with keeping up with things like that without a strict schedule. We got a lot of cukes and tomatoes (grape, mostly) from the garden, so it wasn’t an absolute failure.  Our carrots were also a big WIN. We managed to get some huge, flavorful carrots…the whole row seems to have done very well.

Life in general is busy, as usual. I’m leading out in our local fiber group, called “Stitch, Please.” Hopefully, soon, the women’s writing group will start. Bug is in Driver’s Ed, participating in Scholastic Bowl again this year, joined Chorus at school, and is in the musical Guys and Dolls, so we have lots of practices and rehearsals to go to. Pally has started her 8th grade year, so there is a lot going on, but band seems to be the thing that keeps her & I the most busy…and Pep Band starts next week – so we have to have Pally at numerous middle school basketball games in the next few months. We’ve already done two parades this year, marching band, ya’ll…but she gets better, and better every year.

We are settling in nicely to the new house. It’s been almost a year here, and we couldn’t be happier. We are still trying to get ourselves organized – a never-ending project, it seems. We keep rearranging things, and some of the rooms. Currently, I’m on the hunt for a cheap Chinoiserie screen or plans for one, to separate my desk/office area from the rest of our dining room. I’m also working on a couple of knitting projects – always having more than one project cast on at a time! Even though I feel like half of my projects get abandoned, and never finished. It’s something I’m working on this year, just one of my personality quirks.

So, thanks for coming back. Hopefully this time I can stick it out with you! If I seem to falter, or fade, give me the what-for.

Fat and Flexible – Oxymoron or Truth

Okay, I promise this isn’t going to turn into a full on fitness blog, however, I’ve issued myself a couple of fitness challenges for this year, and accepted on that was issued to me. So, I’ll occasionally discuss my progress. To recap, we already talked about my 90’s Music Challenge (I just love the way that sounds) to walk 500 miles, then walk 500 hundred more. I’ve had a hard time getting started with the walking challenge, I’ve been letting the weather get the best of me. Today, I said the H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks with it, and did a Leslie Sanson 2 mile walk. I’m counting it. It may not have actually been mileage, but I figure it’s comparable.  This is my first official step to achieve my 1000 miles, so I’ve got some ground to make-up, but it’s still easily achievable. Just this weekend I have decided to attempt a 6-Week to the Splits challenge. I can report that on day one, my estimated split measurements (I had to measure myself while doing the splits, so it’s an estimation using a “hand” measurement like you’d measure a horse. Although, not entirely…I measured using heel of the hand to tip of the middle finger, not across the palm as you would measure a horse. Heaven help me, how do I even know this kind of information? I estimate my height of the front splits is already 9 inches, and the side splits to be about 12, hence the possible oxymoron of being fat AND flexible. I really enjoyed the stretches that are employed in the challenge, and wonder why I haven’t been stretching every day. (You can find the link to the video I used for the stretches here .)  I’ve always been rather flexible, and for that I am thankful. For Pete’s sake, even while I was pregnant I could touch my ear with my foot. I think there are pictures of me proving this at one of my baby showers. Ha! So I would say that for me, and I’m sure plenty others that being fat and flexible is possible, achievable, and possible already something that you are! So don’t shy away from giving it a try. Go on! Try it. I’d like to hear how flexible you all are. Whether you’ve been working on your flexibility or if you are naturally flexible, and whether you consider yourself already fit or needing to get fit. I’m interested AND nosy! 🙂

Cabin Fever Busters

So, quick question. What are your favorite go-to cabin fever busters? I’m going batty here! I did find out that our community center’s gym (yes, in my itty-bitty town of 1600 people) opens at 5 a.m. for walkers during the winter. I have got to get out of this house!!! I love it, and I have a thousand things to do, but I’m going bat-crap-crazy being cooped up. I’ve finished two books in the last 7 days, finished a t.v. series (Bomb Girls, so sad they left us hanging), spent about a billion hours on the internet, and have napped more than I should. I was a good little Susie Homemaker today, and got my knitting out. Finally. I’ve been ignoring all my crafty projects lately. I don’t know why. Maybe because I don’t feel like I’m finishing things fast enough, so I just set them aside for a while. Who knows.

We have had another couple of frigid days with ridiculous wind chills, and another one on the way tomorrow, with dangerous temperatures forecast without the windchill. I wonder if my kids will have school tomorrow, with the temps being so dangerous? If they don’t, we’ll have to figure out something to keep ourselves entertained.

While we are talking about winter, I have another question for you all….What do you do to help keep your winter heating costs low? We heat with propane, at $1.80 a gallon, in our larger and older house we are trying some rather “extreme” measures. I know that over the summer, I’m going to be making thermal window covers. The house is oriented directly north and south so the very cold prairie winter winds (that blow predominately from the north) make for a pretty chilly front side of the house (or a very large propane bill). One of the more “drastic” things we are trying is the overnight temperatures…we set the programmable thermostat for 55 overnight. (I know that to many that may sound extreme, but it’s not bad. Also it occurs to me that if I went back to work during the day, we could turn the furnace down in the daytime too and save a bundle, but I’m sure that it is not worth it.) We also set the night-time temp to start at 9 p.m. on weeknights, and to start coming up 15 minutes before we wake up in the morning. So far the kids aren’t complaining, but more importantly the Hubby (who is always cold) isn’t complaining. We do have an electric “fireplace” to help the front of the house on blustery days. It’s rated to heat a 400 sq. foot space, so it helps quite a bit. So, what do you do? Or do you just take a second job or a second mortgage to heat your house in winter? (Ha!)