Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Two Loads a Day Keeps the Laundry Pile Away

I start my day each morning with a load of laundry. The earlier I get it in the washer, the earlier I can get it hung, hopefully allowing enough time for me to wash and hang the second load before the (usually) daily afternoon summer shower.

That’s right, I hang our laundry out to dry. I am trying to decrease our electricity usage and save the Earth one load at a time. I’m not sure exactly how much money I’m saving by hanging a load of laundry rather than drying it in my electric dryer…I should look that up. But to me it’s more than just saving a few cents. I want to do my best to help decrease my family's carbon footprint, and if hanging my laundry is one small way in which I can do that, then I'm all about it.

I also like getting back to the way things used to be…the “good ‘ole days” if you’d like…and feeling that connection with those who have come before me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to grab a washboard and run down to the river with a bar of soap to wash the laundry. I do, however, think about my great-grandmothers every time I’m hanging a load, and wonder what their lives were like when they were down by the river, or next to the washtub scrubbing the dirt out of their kids’ clothes, rather than reading a book while the washing machine was going. Makes me thankful for the small conveniences in life.

We currently have an “umbrella” type laundry line. I’m not a big fan of this one, but it was here when we bought the house, so I’ll use it until hopefully Santa can bring me a newer one. Our current umbrella line has rusted so that it has trouble staying open and is concreted into a poor location in our yard (touching some young trees), so I’m thinking of getting a newer model, probably still an umbrella line, but one that can be removed from the ground should we need to move it, or take it with us when we move. We also have a wooden clothes rack that I can use indoors or outdoors. I usually use it outside for our unmentionables. or clothes that are too small or delicate to hang on the line, or if the umbrella line is full.

Two-a-day seems to be the magic number for our family to keep the laundry pile from becoming too overwhelming. We have a three-bag sorter in the laundry room that holds our “waiting” laundry. One of the kids’ chores on M/W/F is to bring and sort their laundry into the three bags (whites, colors, and jeans/towels/sheets) from the hamper in their bathroom…I bring mine on those days too. Then, whichever bag is the fullest, that type of laundry gets to be the first load of the day. That is unless someone is in need of a particular article, or it is Tuesday…Tuesday is change the sheets day, and unfortunately the boys only have one set of “summer” sheets (I know, how can I be such a negligent parent and only have one set of sheets for my children), so their sheets are obviously one of the two loads done on Tuesday.

Now, I say two loads a day, but that is two loads a day, Monday thru Friday. I used to do all the laundry in one day, which was very tedious. Since I’m using my clothesline, I don’t have the ability to do all the laundry on the same day, nor do I want to. It used to take a full day to do all the laundry, and it would always happen that someone would have something they needed washed in the middle of the week, thus throwing off the whole “one-day of laundry” thing.

I think we are all benefiting from our laundry routine. I get a little time in the sun each day hanging laundry, our clothes last a little longer, we save a bit of money and the Earth one load at a time.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Married to a Winner

We spent Saturday morning and early afternoon on base, watching Justin play volleyball in the base's Captain's Cup Beach Volleyball Tournament. Volleyball comes naturally to him. He spent his entire childhood living in Florida, surfing, skim boarding, and playing beach volleyball. We lucked out and got here in time for him to participate in this year’s tournament.

The team played well…a bunch of Chiefs (many of which grew up in Florida playing beach volleyball)…playing against a variety of different teams (Marines, Army, Navy).

They won!

This is the third year in a row that “Khaki” team won the Cup. Some of the members will be moving on, so hopefully the rest of the guys will be able to pull off another win next year.

We had a blast…all except the heat and humidity.

I enjoyed meeting some of the people Justin works with and a few spouses. There are some Command events coming up, so hopefully I’ll be able to meet some more spouses.

It’s always nice to know a few other military spouses in your current location. Other military spouses just seem to understand what military life is all about, and can be very supportive. We don’t have any active-duty neighbors…one who is retired and one who is prior military, but no one else is active-duty. We just left military housing at our previous duty station, so not having an immediate support system is a bit different.

I have a few special military friends from each of our previous duty stations who I keep in close contact with. I’m sure I’ll meet some other military spouses here that I will hit it off with…it will just take some time.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Right Kind of Protection

Okay, get your head out of the gutter (although I do need some of those too). I’m talking about hurricane protection.

Since we purchased a home in a hurricane prone area we figured we should have adequate hurricane protection for when (not if) a hurricane comes our way. There are lots of different types of hurricane shutters on the market, ranging from the generic plyboard self-application to automatic rolling hurricane shutters that drop at the push of a button.

After doing our research, we decided on the Fabric-Shield, created by Wayne Dalton. The Fabric-Shield is made of PVC coated woven fabric. The demonstration video on their website is fabulous, and basically sells the product for the company (we were impressed).

We had several contractors come out and speak with us about our storm shutter options, but they all recommended the Fabric-Shield, especially for our brick house. The Fabric-Shield is a great preventative measure for wind blown debris, rain and wind. Since our windows are set back in the brick, should a window break during a hurricane, the Fabric-Shield will form a sort of seal over the window, preventing the roof from lifting off due to air pressure changes.

The storm panels are hung onto fasteners that were drilled into the framing of the house, through the brick, and then attached via wing nuts. We now have small fasteners (with white plastic covers in case someone decides to run in to one) around each window, ready just in case we have to put up the panels for an approaching hurricane.

Our contractor is also replacing our skylight with a more hurricane resistant variety, installing a pull down shutter for the front door, and adding reinforcements for the garage door. All of these improvements should increase our wind mitigation rating, thus lowering the hurricane portion of our homeowner’s insurance premium.

The windows are completed and the rest of the project should be done in the next few weeks (hopefully before any hurricanes come our way). We are happy with our decision. It’s nice to know that we have the panels should we ever need them. I just hope we don’t ever need them.

Monday, July 21, 2008

A Stingingly Good Time

Today’s adventure to the beach was a learning experience.

We were late for various reasons…
Sunscreen always takes longer to apply than one expects
• Some children don’t appreciate the application of sunscreen
• Lessons were needed as to why we don’t wear underwear under our swimwear
• The sandwiches didn’t make themselves for some reason
• Rash guards sometimes take legs and walk away

Once we were there, the kids had fun meeting up with some of the other homeschoolers we’ve met over the past few weeks. They built sandcastles, played in the water, and one even got stung by a jellyfish!

Jensen was getting out of the water while I was assisting a hermit crab into a bucket for the other kids to see (as Jolie was screaming bloody-murder that it was going to get her) when he started crying and grabbing for his ankle. As I walked over, I saw the darn thing, announced its presence, and started the examining process.

I’ve never had to really deal with jellyfish stings. I don’t remember being stung as a child, nor do I remember my sisters being stung, so this was a first. So I racked my brain for possible remedies and came up with nothing, so I improvised.

Not seeing any tentacles attached to his leg, I poured fresh water (mistake - I guess using fresh water will cause the stingers to continue to release their toxin) on his ankle, making him cry even more. Realizing that that wasn’t working, I took him up to the picnic area and looked at it again. The other moms were trying to help, one suggesting that I pee on his foot (old wive's tale)and another handed me an anti-septic from her bag. Well, I wasn’t going to pee on his foot and he wouldn’t let me apply the anti-septic. After about ten minutes he was doing fine and wanted to play on the playground with the other kids. He has a bit of a red mark still on his leg, but he insists that he is fine and is enjoying playing Legos with his brother and sister.

When we got home, I did some research and I believe that he was stung by a Stinging Nettle. According to the Gulf Specimen Marine Lab, located in Panacea, FL, Stinging Nettles are “one of the most common jellyfish of the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. The umbrella is pale white with red lines resembling the spokes of a wheel. Fine reddish tentacles trailing from the bell are covered with stinging cells and are instant death to small fish and other creatures that pass by them. Swimmers who come in contact with them experience a painful burning and stinging sensation and inflammation which soon disappears.”

Sources differ in their recommendations for the treatment of jellyfish stings. It looks like vinegar, baking soda and meat tenderizer are all somewhat acceptable options, although there are various methods out there.

I’ll be more prepared next time we head to the beach. A small container of vinegar will probably be one of our new beach staples. I need to work on our get-out-the-door time, the number of bags we bring, and a better way to prevent sand from getting in the van. Any advice would be grately appreciated.

With my kids the ages they are, a 3:1 ratio is not recommended when heading to the beach, especially with not-yet-able-to-fully-swim children. I think I’ll be bringing the other parental unit with me next time…3:2 is a much better ratio.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Can Your Husband Do That?

Look what my husband can do...

Our family's version of pyramids. No need for weights in our house!

At the Beach

Tonight was our first adventure to the beach since we've moved here. We went just before dusk, not realizing that the beach was closing, so we really only got to spend about 20 minutes playing.

(Most of) the kids had fun.

Jake loves the water. He would have been out splashing around had it not been so late.

Jolie isn't a big fan of the sand. She hates the sand when we get to the beach, and then slowly warms up, falling in love with it just as we are getting ready to leave.

Jensen wants to be a fish! He jumped right in and would have swum away (had he known how to swim).

We're heading to another beach tomorrow with a local homeschooling group. We'll see how well I do with the kids at the beach by myself. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

No More Diapers

I believe I can officially declare that we are done with diapers!

Jensen has been accident free for two full weeks, both during the day and at night. He decided about three weeks ago that he wasn’t going to wear a diaper to bed. I was nervous, but thought, “And so it begins.” The next day he had a bazillion accidents and I thought we were in for a long haul. But the following day he had two accidents, and then the day after he had one. I was surprised at the lack of effort I had to put into potty training this child. He didn’t even use a toddler potty. He wanted nothing to do with that thing. I had one of those that turn into a stool, so you guessed it, it is now a stool.

Each of my kids has been so different to potty train…

Jake showed some interest in potty training when he was about 18 months old. I knew we were getting ready to move, and didn’t want to have to be potty training as we were driving the entire length of the country, so I didn’t push the issue and he quickly moved on…seemingly never to have that desire again. I say never because he never really showed much interest in potty training after that. He had a diaper and that was fine with him. When he was two and a half, I started the “Let’s use the potty now” request with little luck. He just wasn’t interested. “Aren’t all children potty trained by now? Isn’t my child too old to be in diapers?” I would ask myself. I battled with him for several months until he was completely #1 potty trained, but #2 was another story. As much as I hate reward systems, stickers worked for getting him #1 potty trained. I hate to say it, but I had to use bribery to achieve #2. We promised Jake that if he would go #2 on the potty, then we would buy him a light saber…you know, Star Wars. He was just about to turn three, Justin was getting ready to go on deployment, and I was pregnant. We had to try something. Guess what…it worked! Unfortunately he had to do his big deed on a Sunday evening, at just about closing time. We ran all over town looking for a store that was open and had light sabers. Finally, Justin ran into a K. B. Toy Store (not the cheapest place, I know) just as they were locking up and asked if he could just get a light saber for his son. They agreed and he grabbed the first one he saw. Which one did he grab, you ask? None other than Count Douku’s saber…the cool red one with the bent handle. How much was it, you ask? A whopping $30!! He loved that light saber (which just recently died) and he was potty trained from then on.

I wasn’t pleased with the potty training method I used with Jake and vowed not to force potty train again.

Jolie’s story is a bit better and a bit shorter. She woke up one day when she was 26 months old and said that she wasn’t going to wear diapers again…and she didn’t. The end. She grabbed a sticker when she wanted to, but didn’t NEED the stickers like Jake did. She just wanted to go on the potty and she did. I don’t remember any real accidents, day or night. She had her mind made up, and there you go.

Jensen showed some interest before we moved (at about 26 months) and I thought, “Woo hoo, another easy one.” Well…after a few days the novelty wore off, and there was absolutely no interest. I ran to the stickers (believe it or not, they were the same ones I used with the other two). I started to tell him that he’d get a sticker if he went potty, but stopped myself. My mom always says that the kids won’t go to college in diapers, and she’s right. I put the stickers away, and waited for him to make the first move. He asked to go several times before we moved, but nothing much came of it. Three weeks ago, something happened and he decided he was ready…and so was I.

So, I won’t have to buy any more diapers (have you seen how much they cost!). I have stopped carrying around a diaper bag (I still keep a change of clothes for all of us in the van just in case). I will still feel bad that we didn’t use cloth, but hopefully I can persuade my kids to use them (maybe I’ll even front the bill if I can).

If potty training has taught me anything, it reinforced that…
All children are different.
They each work on their own timetable.
Forcing children to do something will not help them to learn how to do it; forcing them may actually discourage them from doing it.
Relax and let nature take its course.

Guess what, they won’t go to college in diapers.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Our First Sleepover

Tonight is Jake’s first official sleepover at our house. He has slept over at other people’s homes on several occasions. His first sleepovers occurred when I was put on bed rest while I was pregnant with Jolie and Justin was deployed. I was very lucky that some church friends came to my rescue before and after my parents flew out to help. He has stayed a few times with my parents (either at our house or theirs); once while Justin and I took a trip for our fifth anniversary, and again when we were house hunting for this house a few months ago.

For those of you who know Jake, you know he’s never had any trouble with shyness. He is definitely my outgoing, extraverted child. We were nervous when he was a toddler that he might strike up a conversation with someone, find out that they had a cooler car than we had (he could seriate cars at 19 months old), and decide to leave with them. Luckily enough for us, our (at the time) Ford Ranger and Ford Escort were “cool” enough that he decided to hang around.

When we moved in last month, Jake immediately asked when the local kids got out of school for the day. I had to explain to him that they were already out of school for the summer, but that because we now live in a somewhat hotter climate, the kids probably wouldn’t be out to play during the hotter hours of the day. We left a cul-de-sac that had enough children to fill one school bus with elementary school kids. It's a bit different here.

Luckily Jake has really hit it off with a nice neighbor-boy who lives across the street. I think they spend at least eight hours a day together. Jake slept over at his house two weeks ago, being Jake’s first official sleepover of his choosing. This is the other boy’s first sleepover away from his house (which I didn’t know until he came over tonight). Because they live across the street, I’m not too worried about there being any problems.

All seems to be going well thus far. Friday is “pizza and a movie” night for us, so we had pizza and a double feature show, watching “Hook” and “Surf’s Up.” I also made cookies (of course a new recipe…I know I shouldn’t try out new recipes when I have guests, but I just can’t help it) that the kids loved. Everyone brushed their teeth, got on their jammies, and I can say all (except Jensen) were asleep before 10:30pm, the boys on the floor in sleeping bags in Jake's room, Jolie in her bed, and Jensen in ours.

Not too bad for a first sleepover. In the morning, I’ll make our traditional Saturday morning breakfast, pancakes, scrambled eggs, and bacon or sausage (veggie kind for Jake).

This hasn’t been nearly as stressful as I was expecting. Maybe boy sleepovers are different than girl sleepovers. I remember the elaborate sleepovers that I went to as a child (multiple children, up all night, pizza, popcorn, pop, sweets, etc.) Maybe my kids are not into all that hubbub. Maybe it's because of their lack of exposure to some of it. I’m okay with that. I can serve my homemade pizza, granola cookies and milk, watch a nice wholesome movie and maybe play a game or two and we’ll call it a sleepover. Then again, I haven’t yet experienced a Jolie sleepover. We’ll have to see what her expectations are in a few years when we make the leap into girly sleepovers.

What The Heck is "A Scant Cup"

I was making pita bread the other day (which didn’t turn out…arrrr, I hate when that happens…I need to find a different recipe) and the recipe called for a “scant 2/3 cup” of water. I’ve seen “scant” used in other recipes and honesty I just ignored it.

I had a few minutes, so I decided to look it up. According to Baking911, “any time you see a ‘scant’ measurement, for example ‘1 scant tablespoon’, you just fill the measuring tablespoon barely full instead of filling and leveling off the top.”

Good to know. I’m sure that knowledge will come in very handy, and maybe my "scant-full" recipes will turn out even better.

Monday, July 7, 2008

For Those Who Wait

For Those Who Wait
by Karen Ferrell, 1995

It's up before dawn and coffee to go.
"Will you be home tonight?" "Well, I don't really know."
It's holding back dinner because he'll be late,
Then he comes home and tells you he already ate.

It's gear laid out everywhere, upstairs and down,
And "I'm not really sure when I'll be back in town."
It's missions and ops and "I can't really say."
And, "I think I can call, but I don't know which day."

It's time on the road when you miss him a lot,
And it seems like he's gone a lot more than he's not.
It's phone calls at three and it's love and it's hate,
And there's times when it seems you do nothing but wait.

You forget what he looks like - - you try to recall,
And you stare at his photograph up on the wall.
It's cruises when months seem to turn into years,
And it's living with hope and it's living with fear.

But it's also the women whose lives are the same;
The ones that you call when you're sick of the game.
You lean on each other when nights seem too long,
And you're there for each other, and that makes you strong.

And it's trips ending early by two days or three,
When he's home and you didn't expect him to be.
And it's letters and postcards from far distant shores,
And it's hearing the sound of his keys in the door.

And it's making it through when the going gets tough,
And the time that you do have is somehow enough.
And it's pride in a life that's not easy to live
That can ask of a man more than many can give.

And the pride and the love seem to outweigh the doubts,
And you'd rather live with him than ever without.
For no matter the miles, or the time you're apart,
He is never too far, for he's there in your heart.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The FURminator

I saw an advertisement for the FURminator while at a pet store in Virginia and thought it would be a great brush for our domestic, medium-haired cat, DC. I’ve hadn’t yet found a pet brush that would really help with her shedding, especially prevalent during the summer months.

We got DC when we were stationed in Washington, on a night before Justin left for a work-up on the ship. I couldn’t come up with a name for her, so Justin came up with DC, short for Dog Chow, which went nicely with our then 120 lb. Great Pyrenees. Can you tell that he isn’t a cat person? Yet, when he came back six weeks later, he was her new best friend. Silly cat. She is now nearly seven years old and 17 ½ lbs! She's a big girl, and has a lot of fur.

The FURminator isn't cheap, but it has worked wonders for her and for us. She doesn’t like to be brushed, so I have to brush her in small spurts, but WOW does it do a great job. The FURminator works by helping to remove the pet’s loose undercoat, using a sort of razor-toothed comb to remove the hair. The brush has helped to keep her cool and has helped to decrease (not eliminate) her shedding on the furniture. I got mine at the Navy Exchange (NEX), but several large pet stores carry the wonder-brush.

Reenlisting on the 4th of July

Friday was a special day for our family. Not only was it a national holiday, but also it was the day we officially decided to devote another six years of our lives to the Navy. Being the patriotic people we are, we decided that what better day to reenlist in the Navy than the day our country declared its independence from England, the day we consider our Nation’s birthday.

Justin enlisted in the Navy while we were still in high school. We actually decided to get married and join the Navy all in the same week in October 1997. He enrolled in the Delayed Enlistment Program (DEP), with an enlistment date in September 1998. We were intent on getting married on the 23rd of a month, and the only months with a 23rd on a Saturday that coming year were August 1998 and January 1999. Several family members felt that August was too soon after high school to be getting married, so we went with January and adjusted Justin’s enlistment date to July 7, 1998.

Today, we have officially completed ten years of Naval service. We are eligible for retirement after 20 years of service in the military. Friday’s reenlistment was a big decision for our family. Reenlisting for six years puts us within reach of retirement, in essence sealing our fate for the additional four years.

Many military members will tell you that the ten-year mark is a time for major decisions. You are halfway to do you stay in and work towards retirement, or do you go your separate way.

We have decided to stay.