Thursday, July 18, 2013

Etsy Shop

I will spare you a long oration detailing all of the reasons I have been bad at posting lately and cut to current events!

After over a year of "meaning to do that" I have FINALLY opened an etsy shop. I had planned on doing it shortly before we moved into our house last year, but wanted to wait until we knew where we would be, then got everything settled and then I was just too tired enduring late pregnancy nausea and all, and it's hard to do much when you have a newborn. By then I had procrastinated so long that it was hard to get up the motivation to get it going. A little over a month ago, my husband got demoted due to a coworkers dishonesty. This not only meant a big drop in pay, but also a loss of insurance benefits. It's hard to not bemoan the misfortune that has befallen us, so we started coming up with ideas to make things work financially.

About this time, I had been thinking about how to make a reusable produce bag that you could see the stickers through and I came up with the idea that maybe I could crochet something. So I searched the internet for patterns, there are quite a few out there I might add. I found two that I liked best, combined them, and modified a few things and came up with my own produce bag.

On one of the websites I found a pattern for crocheted beaded bracelets with crochet thread instead of yarn. I had seen crocheted jewelry before with yarn, and was never very big on it, but this was awesome, so I got to making some!

I am having lots of fun, and I used part of the gift card I got for my birthday to get shipping supplies and some more jewelry making supplies. I also have plans for a lot more fun stuff to add! I just opened my shop this past Saturday, so hopefully sales will start coming in very soon!

Check out and "Like" my shop!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Life with four

My new baby is four months old now and I am slowly getting used to having four kids. The little baby stage is always hard, but I defiantly am feeling the pull for my attention. I am very grateful that my kids have come one at a time so I have older kids to be my helpers. My two oldest are getting pretty good and clearing and wiping down the table after dinner, then sweeping the kitchen and dining area, they are also getting better at loading and unloading the dishwasher and taking out the garbage. My two year old is getting better about clearing his plate after a meal and attempting to clean up whatever mess he made, plus he is getting better at putting his toys and shoes away. All of the older kids love to play with their new baby brother so sometimes that's their assignment, play with baby while mom finishes dinner, or changes a toddler diaper, or cleans up vomit or whatever!

I have two in diapers and they're in cloth pretty much all the time. The little baby wears disposables at night. I have found that I still really like the best bottom diapers, but I'm really not a fan of the bumgenius pocket diapers. They leak easily and don't hold much. I have also found that I really like the econobum brand, even though it's made by the same people who make bumgenius. It's very affordable and easy. I think I will get a few more to make sure I'm not constantly running out. Plus, I cut ups receiving blanket and sewed the edges so it doesn't come undone

Overall I feel so luckily to have the baby home and I'm getting into the swing of things!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Natural Childbirth

Although I have several half written posts about pregnancy, I thought I'd skip ahead and update those of you who don't already know: Our new little boy was born a little over two weeks ago! He was 9 pounds, 12 ounces, 21 and a half inches long, and as the title of this post implies, I didn't have any pain medication. My husband says I have a ridiculously high tolerance for pain, but I don't think that's entirely true! I know there are many women out there who would like to get some tips on natural childbirth, so here are the few that I have:

First and foremost: Find a good doctor. I have heard a lot of good things about midwives too, but I don't have any experience with that one. Our doctor came recommended to us for her know how and concern for the patient. Going along with this, make sure your doctor delivers at a good hospital. I had heard several people say good things about the hospital where I delivered my baby, but the hospital often will only allow what your doctor approves.

Second: counter-pressure. It's something I've seen in childbirth classes that I thought didn't make any sense. Basically, if your having back pressure, your husband (or whoever) puts pressure on that part of your back. It seems like this would make it worse, but it actually helps decrease the pain, at least in your back. There where times when things had progressed that my husband had to put so much pressure on my back to relieve the pain that it was hard for me to stand(I was leaning over the bed)!

Third: Try different possessions. I found anything that represented reclining caused major back pain for me. I also have a history of posterior babies (they come out facing away from my tailbone, when they're supposed to face my tailbone. When I had my second, he almost came out posterior, but they caught it soon enough so instead of pushing, I got on my knees and elbows and rocked back and forth for quite a while, then I pushed on my side for a while and he finally turned! This time, to solve the problem before the pushing stage, I had the bed raised up really high and I just leaned over it with my chest on the bed, my belly hanging down, and when I had a contraction, my husband would put pressure on my lower back while I rocked side to side.

Fourth: If you can, get in the tub! This is where having a good doctor helps out, at least it did for me. I have been induced every time I have had a baby, each in a different hospital with a different doctor. The first three times, if there was a tub, you couldn't get in if you were being induced, or if you had an IV, or if your water had broken. Well this time I had all those things going on and the doctor said it was fine for me to get in the tub if I wanted. Eventually, I wanted! Getting in the tub took the pressure off my back, and it gave me a bit more of a break between contractions (that's the problem with pitocin, sometimes the contractions don't go away completely!) but I still very much felt it in the front. The downside o the tub was that I only got to have a few contractions in there before active labor was over and so was transition so I had to get out to push! My husband stood on straddling the tub put his hands under my arms and hoisted me up to a standing position. It's nice to have a strong hubby!

Fifth: Olive oil. As you might imagine, having a large baby can be kind of rough in certain areas. With my first three kids I had an episiotomy, and with my first and third it tore pretty badly. This time, my doctor massaged olive oil into that area, and had me take a few breaks to avoid tearing. My little boy's shoulders did cause a bit of tearing, but nothing like I've experienced in other deliveries!

Now, you may be wondering why I would care to have a natural delivery. There are several reasons, but here's just an overview:
I don't like feeling numb to anything. Not being able to feel is scarier to me than being in pain. I also enjoy being able to get up and move around shortly after delivery. With two of my other babies I have had medication to take to edge off of the contractions, or help the contractions even out because I have always had pitocin going, but on my third baby they gave me stadol (sp?) when I was at a 5 and said that I couldn't have it after an 8 because they didn't want me having it within the last two hours before the baby was born because it would make him sleepy and difficult for him to nurse. Not only did it make my head spin like nothing else, but it did even out the contractions and he was born within 45 minutes of me getting the medication, so he was blue and not crying. They didn't put him on my tummy or let me cuddle and I didn't care, I just wanted him to be okay. He was after a few minutes, but it took a while to get him to nurse. After that I strengthened my resolve to not have any medication so I wouldn't have to worry about the effect it would have on the baby, and this one came out healthy and ready to eat!
I also don't respond well to pain medication, I get very dizzy and light headed and sometimes get a slight headache (how much sense does that make?) so I try to steer clear of it as much as possible!

I'm so happy to have my little boy here!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

How does your garden grow?

Since we now have a house, complete with a yard, I have started a garden! Around here you can start a garden around mid March, some years sooner, and not have to worry about frost killing anything, so many people around here are already harvesting quite a bit. Since we didn't even move in until mid May, and our lives were chaotic for the first week living here, we got a very late start on our garden, but we're still trying. I figure the worst thing that could happen is this year could be a complete fail and I'll try again next year. I found some old lengths of metal sitting on the side of the house, so I used it as a garden border on the long ends, and put large rocks and broken brick that were lying in random places around the yard for the mall ends. In future years, I hope to have more garden beds, but you have to start somewhere! My worm compost got left open in the moving process, and I hadn't checked it for several days, so the worms got dried out and died. Sad day. This also left me in want of some garden amendments. So I have kind of been doing trench composting. Or maybe it's more like hole composting. Either way, when I have some food scraps to add to the garden, I dig a little hole with me 99 cent trowel and bury it in the more barren parts of the garden. The things I have planted, I have dug a hole deeper than I needed, put some kind of quickly decomposing organic matter, usually a banana peel, put some dirt over that, planted the seed(s), put dirt over that, and watered. I have planted watermelon, pumpkin, tomatoes, cucumber, and cantaloupe. Most of these won't be ready until around the time the baby is born, which works out great because I will be wanting fresh produce to feel good and help everything go back to where it's supposed to, and I won't want to go all the way to the store with a newborn and three little ones. Next year I hope to plant a lot more, but I will also have a lot more time to amend the soil beforehand to make that easier. I would like to grow most of the produce we eat (and we try to eat a lot) but I realize that gardens take a while to fix the soil how you like it, especially if you're not out at the store buying tons of amendments (which can get really pricey!)

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Frugal House Buying

I'm sorry I've been such a slacker about this blog.  Although the reason for my slacking is a good one:  we finally got a house!  *happy dance* 
Now you may have read the title of this post and thought I much be crazy. there is nothing frugal about buying a house.  Well I agree, but there are places to cut costs and ways to compensate. 
Here are a few things we have done to save money in our house buying process:

1.  If one of you is a veteran, apply for a VA loan.  They are by far the least expensive I have seen or heard of.  However, make sure you talk to the VA themselves about eligibility.  Banks can do VA loans without the banker you are talking to knowing every finite detail of the eligibility requirements.  We had been pre-approved for a VA loan because I'm a veteran, but it turns out that I didn't have enough time in the service to be eligible, so check on that.

2.  If you can't get a VA loan, get an FHA loan.  This is what we ended up doing, and we got the same interest rate, but had to pay a 3.5% down payment (you don't have any with VA loans) and since we payed less than 20% down payment, we have to pay mortgage insurance (another thing that would have been nice about the VA loan).

**DISCLAMER:  It makes more sense financially to save at least 20% for a down payment, we did not have time to do this because we were in a two bedroom apartment and they have rules against having 6 people live in a residence with only two bedrooms (so we had to get out befoer the baby comes), plus when our lease expired, rent shot way up, so we needed to act before our money was all gone!  Also, I am just a person with an experince, not a financial advisor, take my advice at your own risk (hmm, I guess taking my advise at your awn risk applies to more than just financial things).**

3.  Time the house purchase for when you have some money, if you can.  For us, this time is always right after we file our taxes.  Yes, having three (soon to be four!) small children can get pricey, but the nice thing is that even when our income went up, we still got a healthy tax return.  This not only helps with the down payment and closing costs, but it also helps when the bank looks at your account to decide if you're worthy to owe them money for the next few decades, and pays for a home inspection, earnest money, options fee, not to mention gas to drive around a look at all those houses, and lunch because your brain hurts from looking at houses and making offers and getting your hopes up and all.  Then you of course need money to move, pay the fees to change your address on your car registration and drivers license, fees to have your utilities switched over, buy a lawn mower and a fridge, the list is endless!

4.  Have a conversation with your utility companies.  I talked to ours about our options and found out that we could get our electricity rate lowered from 12.4 cents per kilowatt hour, to 8.8 cents per kilowatt hour, if we agreed to stay with their company for 24 months.  We're not going anywhere, so we made that switcheroo (very important since it's getting hotter and I know we want to run that AC!).  I also found out that we could get phone for the same price, but add caller i.d. and call waiting!  Bundling our internet with our phone made the internet bill go down by about $20 a month too!  We also got a discount on our car insurance for having home owners insurance with the same company! 

5.  Ask friends to help.  We put the word out in church that we needed help moving and we needed trucks.  Several people with pickups or suburbans came and loaded our big stuff up!  It was a very short distance move, so that might not go over a well in a cross country move!  We also had people at church who volunteered to watch our kids for free while we moved, which was an enormous help.  A good friend of ours came and made the repairs we needed in the apartment as long as we payed for materials.  Since I can't do any heavy lifting due to my motherly way, I was to gofer to get materials, pack and tape up last minute boxes, and direct movers what to do next.  My husband was also directing movers, but he was one of the heavy lifters so he wasn't in the apartment half the time.  

6. Go second hand.  When we moved in we needed a fridge.  Unfortunately we didn't have much money to spend.  We tried unsuccessfully to get a scratch and dent at the major home improvement stores (by the way, if you need customer assistance in the appliance section and no one you ask has the time to help you, start measuring the $1700 and up fridges.  Someone will be at your side in a jiffy!)  We tried second hand appliance places, they didn't have anything in our budget and they had horrible customer service!  So we finally found some on Craigslist.  I emailed everyone that had a fridge within our price range, except one, because I just got a strange feeling about it.  My husband said the ad gave him the same strange feeling (he told me this before I expressed mine) and in our experience, that is a sure sign to stay away.  We had to wait until payday to get the fridge, so we used a cooler filled with ice in the meantime.  Which is another thing to ask around about, it's amazing how many people have coolers, and bags of ice they're not using in the their freezer!  A friend from church helped my husband move the fridge, in a truck borrowed from another church friend, using a dolly borrowed from another church friend!  It's nice to have so many people around who are willing to help!  By the way, once you get settled, it's nice to have these friends over, which we are working on right now.

7.  Borrow 'till you can buy (may not apply to a fridge).  A lawn mower had stayed out of our budget, but my husband is a very friendly and talkative person, and has already talked to several of the neighbors, one of which let us use his lawn mower.  I have been checking out garage sales, Craigslist, and second hand stores (long shot, but I had to try) but no success yet.  A friend just told my about a place that fixes and sells used lawn mowers, so that is my next stop!

8.  Start the decorating with what you have.  I badly want to get lots of new nice things for our house, but that's just not practical right now.  We're using what we have and making the most of it.  It also helps that we get a better feel of living here and know exactly what we want to do or not do with it!

I will update you more as we do more with our new house!  Yay for being homeowners!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Worm compost

One thing I'm really looking forward to in owning a house is having a garden.  We have been renting our entire marriage and haven't very much success in the little gardening we have tried.  When we lived in a duplex we got a good sprout in our little veggie patch that grew and grew, but then was completely trampled by the neighbor kids (and dogs) before anything was ready to be harvested.  If you haven't guessed, it wasn't fenced off.  The only garden success we've enjoying in our marriage has been when we were living with my parents, and my mom had already done the parts of soil prep and planting, so we "helped" harvest, consume and make freezer jam (which we later helped consume).  If everything works out with the house we're in the process of buying now, then we'll be moving in in early May.  Kind of later in the spring than I'd like for garden starting, but you're supposed to start small anyway, right? Since I am a tightwad and sometimes a big of a tree-hugger, I am a big compost advocate.  It's wonderful for soil, prevents things from going in landfills, and it's FREE!  The drawback here is that it does take a little while for compost to form, so it'd be nice to have some already ready when we move in to get the garden going. As I was mulling over this in my mind, I was also thinking about what we should cover next for homeschool.  After a little research, pondering, and a few internet searches, I decided to go ahead and give worm composting a try.  I checked the bait shop at Walmart, and they only had Canadian night crawlers, which I had read a lot about and they're not a very good composting worm. So I ordered some online, from  This was the least expensive I could find.  And the kind to look for is red wigglers, sometimes just called composting worms.  In the mean time, I went to the library and picked up some non-fiction children's books about worms. 
While we were waiting for the worms to arrive, I looked up home made worm composters  (since the store bought ones are insanely expensive!) and got a small storage bin with a lid (opaque), and a dishpan to go under it and catch the "worm tea" that it wonderful for gardens).  To make holes for air and drainage, I took a nail, and held it with a rag (so as not to burn myself) then heated the tip of the nail with a match (a candle would work better, but ours are all wickless so I improvised!) then I poked the headed tip in the big to make small holes.  I did this in the lid, around the top of the sides, and a few in the bottom.  I had to re-heat the nail a few times, which is why a candle works better, but I got it done. Then we added shredded newspaper and cardboard and eggshells and produce scraps.

The kids were so excited when the worms arrived in the mail!  WE added them to our bin right away and gave them lots of water (they get kind of died out during shipping).  The bigger kids thought the worms were cute, my youngest kept growling at them!

 The worms come packed in peat moss to keep them from getting banged up in the shipping process.  You can see them starting to move around right after we added them to our bin.
 The worms were in this bag, tied shut, in a box labeled "live worms"
Here is a shot of our bin from a little farther away, before we put the lid on of course.

I am surprised by how fast the worms have been eating our regular household compost, and I'm very excited that we'll at least have one really good thing to improve our soil when we move in to a house! 

Friday, March 16, 2012

The House that Red Green Built (Or At Least Remodled)

**Note: "Red Green" is a character on the "Red Green Show."  In the show he is constantly Jerry-rigging things and using duct tape as much as possible.**

As some of you know, we are trying to buy a house.  It's been a frustrating process. Most houses are snatched up right before we get an offer in, or another offer is accepted that was put in at about the same time.  We finally had an offer accepted, and today was the home inspection.  We always knew to have a home inspection, and the true value of it, but today's experience illustrated why.

Let's start with a game of "What's wrong with this picture?"

I'll give you a hint, that's the outlet for the dryer.

Where to start?  Hopefully the most obvious problem here was the fraying around the wire.  Tip:  That's bad.   Especially since this is a dryer connection, which means that it carries twice the voltage of a normal outlet (much bigger shock if you stick a fork into it!).  Another problem is that electrical wirres that are not in the wall mush be covered by some sort of conduit (tube-like thingy) to further keep everyone safe from electrocuting themselves.

The washer and dryer connections were in a room that was obviously an add on, which is fine, it's just that were done my someone who was not a professional, and didn't ask the people at Home depot for advice.  So next we have...

Do you know what that is?  Here's a straight on view:
I don't think it's really tilting that much, I think I was just tilting my head in confusion.
Here's a close up of my favorite aspect:
Yay for duct tape!

Do you know what that is?  It's the washer connections.  Since this is part of the addition (you can see the original siding was never removed from the wall) the other side of this wall has the kitchen sink.  The white thing that sticks up is the vent for the drain (it's supposed to vent outside the house, not into another room)  the thing behind the vent is where you may venture to drain your washer.  Though I wonder if it would be safe to drain the washer at the same time you're doing dishes, because I'm guessing the pipes under the house weren't replaced with something to hold more water at the same time.  The thing with the red handle is your supply for your washer.  Don't let the red fool you, it only dispenses cold water.  I'm not entirely sure the purpose of the duct tape.

In my husbands and my defense, this room was locked and the realtor didn't have the key when we veiwed the house, so we were completely unaware of the cookiness (it's a word in my book).

Where to next?  How about the hot water heater.  When we saw it, it looked newish, complete, no duct tape, seemed like it should be fine.  This is why it's important to have an inspector.  He opened the closet with the hot water heater and I heard him mumble a few cuss words under his breath.  So I asked "What's wrong with it?"  First this:
This didn't seem odd to me, but the inspector explained that since this is a gas powered hot water heater, and this is the natural gas intake, it was a BIG problem.  Natural gas is acidic and corrosive, so copper piping is a BIG no no.  Copper piping is fine for hot water, but not gas.
Next problem:
 This copper pipe is not the problem, since it carries water, but that little knob on the top is the T&P valve, or the temperature and pressure valve.  For those of you who don't watch Mythbusters, this releases steam and water if the temperature and pressure builds up too high so the water heater doesn't explode.  Well, it's completely non-operational.  And in case you're wondering...
The valve on the side is capped off too.  I personally am not a fan of any part of my home exploding, but the problems don't stop there.  Inside is rusted and leaking too, and there's no pan or drain for the water from a working T&P valve, which leads to water dripping onto the unfinished floor and all the problems that stem from that.

None of the pictures we have show it, but the very top pipe that goes into the ceiling (and likely connects to the heater)  changes into some kind of white material.  The inspector told us that he's not qualified to diagnose this, but it looked a lot like asbestos.  AAAHHHH!!!

The next big worry was here:
This is the electrical breaker box.  You can't see in the picture, but it's in a closet.  When the house was built this was fine, but codes have changed since 1957 and now it has to be in an area that's not so easily blocked so that it's easily accessible in an emergency.  Next, the fact that there are two boxes shows the Jerry-rigging involved.  Some of the switches are painted, which can cause them to get really hot (that's bad), and I couldn't see it, but it's not grounded at all.  The wires to ground the switches don't connect to anything!  Which means every outlet in the house is a shock hazard under normal use!  This is something that would need to be taken care of by a licensed electrician, and it would not be a quick fix.  Translation: $$$$$$!!

I didn't get a picture of it, but the bathroom sink was also cracked and leaking fom the crack and the drain.

About this time we were ready to leave.  We talked it over and told the inspector, while he was checking on the air conditioner.  He gave us a huge discount and said there was a few more things he wanted to look at his dime to satisfy his curiosity. 

The outside air conditioner was making a lot of noise, so it probably had dirt and debris in it, then we took a peek in the attic.  The temperature difference between air going in and coming out was only 7 degre, where it should be 14 to 20 degrees.  The indoor part of the air conditioner was up there and it's supposed to have a tray under the entire thing to catch condensation, and a secondary tray under that in case the first one overflows. There was only a little plastic tray showed under the side that had been dripping (we could tell from the water marks on the wood.
Additionally, there was only about 4 inches of insulation up there, one of the roof supports looked rotted, and another had a little bit of termite damage!

The gas lines in the attic were copper and had flexible corner connections, which are now against code because they've caused a good number of fires from failing.

So what have we learned today boys and girls?  Let's see, a good home inspector is worth his weight in gold, and maybe more than that, always get an inspector, get the house inspected during the 10 day (or whatever) waiting period so you can walk away with no questions asked and still get your earnest money back, expect some minor repairs and quirks, but know the things that will be safety issues and big time money pits.  There were several other things wrong with the house, but they were all minor (faulty outlets can be replaced, and over that extinguishes the pilot light when you turn it off can be replaced, cracks in the chimney can be repaired)  but when it comes to things that require a professional, HVAC, electrical, plumbing (plumbers do gas lines too), it's best not to do it yourself.

It's a let down that this house wasn't what we'd hoped, but I'm very happy we found out about all this now, rather than after getting into the house and dealing with the money pit. 

Just for fun, here's the back door from the utility room.  There was a doorknob there when we first viewed the house, but I guess they took it off to get it open.  Don't worry though, they tied it shut with a small wire, so everything's okay!
All the sunlight that comes in when the door is closed is very reassuring.

And here's a picture inside one of the bedrooms
A 220 volt outlet in a bedroom.  You know, in case you want an electric oven in your bedroom, so you can bake first thing in the morning without having to walk on the cold tile in the kitchen!  The inspector said it migh have been from a window AC unit before they installed central AC, but I like my theory better.