Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Product Pre-Review

My last post about Andrew in the diaper pail reminded me that I am starting to run low on soap for my cloth diapers.  To make a long story short, we have hard well-water, so I have to be very choosy about detergent for my diapers if I want to avoid build-up problems that can cause leakage, or worse, ruin my diapers.  You pretty much can't use any detergent that contains scents, dyes, bleaches, or other additives that can ruin the absorbency of the diapers.  So, after MUCH research, trial, and error, I've found a detergent that works well enough.  I currently use Allen's Naturally, which is free from any kind of agent that may destroy my investment in cloth diapering.  And, while I'm happy with the level of cleanliness, and the fact that my diapers don't leak, I have never been excited about the fact that it is scentless.  I like my laundry to come out smelling fresh and nice, but my diapers just don't.  They don't stink, but they don't have a nice scent, either.  So, a friend of mine on Facebook, who also cloth diapers, posted about this new detergent specifically for cloth diapers, and they are scented!!  And, get this, they have a special formula for hard-water!!  I can't wait to try this stuff out.  It's called Rockin' Green Soap.  I ordered some samples today (just in case it doesn't work as well as advertised), in 4 (oh yes!  FOUR) different scents:  watermelon, lavender mint, clean, and green tea.  They actually have a few more than that, but those were the only ones I was interested in.  I also got a bottle of the pail freshener to try out in the lavender mint scent.  So, for fellow cloth users, I'll follow up this post with a review of how well the stuff works.  Also, if you are a cloth user, what kind of detergent do you use, or have you ever tried the Rockin' Green Soap?  I'm always on the lookout for tips on keeping my diapers clean and in good condition...I need these to last through several rounds of diapering! 

Just so I don't forget this story years down the road...

We are a cloth diapering family.  Well, I am into cloth diapering...my husband has already told me that if I die, he's throwing them away.  Not that he doesn't appreciate the money it saves us, and he doesn't mind me using them, but I am pretty sure he has no interest whatsoever in cleaning the things.  I mean, let's face it, it's not exactly roses and lovely fragrances we're dealing with here.  I can't really blame him, but for some reason, I actually really enjoy using them, and, for the most part, I don't mind the maintenance.  And, all those different colored FuzziBunz on a baby are just so darn cute!  Anyway, I use one of those plastic garbage cans with the step on it that opens the lid as a diaper pail.  So, last night I put all the diapers and the diaper pail liner to wash, and I just left the diaper pail in the pantry, instead of putting it outside to rinse and air out (it's not exactly the best smelling item when you empty it).  Well, Andrew was playing with a bouncy ball, and naturally it landed *in* the empty diaper pail.  (I'm sure you can see where this is going now...).  I didn't realize what happened, until I walked to the laundry room to get something, and I see Andrew....he is headfirst inside the diaper pail!  I said "Andrew!  what are you doing?!"  Actually, first I said "Phil, will you look at your son?"  Andrew said, "just getting my bouncy ball", as he climbed out, wiped himself off, and ran off to play with his ball...he had just had a bath, too.  Little boys are so gross!  I hope we have a bunch more of them ;)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Little Thoughts

Natalie asked me a question today, and I gave her an answer.  After that, she proceeded to argue, so I told her:

Me:  "Natalie, I gave you my answer...I didn't ask you to argue about it."
Natalie:  "Next time, if you ask me to, then can I argue about it?"
Me (with a wry smile):  "Yes, of course."
Natalie: "Okay!" (and then she runs off)

As if I'll ever ask her to argue with a decision I make...hahahahaha!

~~~~~

A couple of days ago, Andrew asked if he and Natalie could play with play-dough.  I told him sure, but he had to pick up whatever was laying on the floor first.  He got all excited, and said "Thanks, Mom!  You're the best!"  I was feeling pretty happy at this point, until Natalie chimed in "No, she's not!"  Who knows what that grudge was about!!

~~~~~

I guess now that Rachel is starting to say words (not necessarily coherent to others, but I totally know what she is trying to say, as only a mother can =), I should start including her in my "Little Thoughts" posts.  Yesterday, I was cooking dinner while the older ones napped, and Rachel was playing with pots, pans, and an array of spoons on the floor by my feet.  I picked up a spatula that she had next to her, so I could use it, and she got mad at me and said "Mine!".  Feisty little thing!  She can also be very sweet, though...a couple of weeks ago, she said "I love you" for the first time!  It was so cute =)  It kind of all blended into one syllable, but I know that's what she was saying, because she repeated it after I said it to her first.  I love hearing them figure out how to say things.  




Summer Harvest and the Homefront

In my last garden post, I didn't have any pictures of our vegetables, and I promised to come back and put some, so here are just a few pics of what we've been getting from the garden:

 



This was my first real, serious garden, and so far I'm very pleased with the results.  Not everything came out perfectly, and that's ok.  Like the corn...I did something really wrong with the corn!  That stuff just didn't produce worth a darn.  Once full grown, the kernels were all different sizes, some of them were bare in spots, and the ones that were uniform were chewy.  Phil said that maybe my seeds were too old.  I'm going to put my money on that, because I'd hate to think that I can't grow corn!  I love fresh corn on the cob and maque choux (that's a very tasty Cajun dish consisting of smothered corn and tomatoes in butter for those who have never heard of it - so good!).  I'm going to be very sad if I have to give up on the corn thing.  I'll try again with some fresh seeds that I bought this spring.  Why didn't I plant those, you ask?  Well, I had some left over from a few years ago, and I didn't want to waste it (I read online that seeds keep for a few years if you keep them in the fridge)...so much for that plan...I wasted way more than just a few kernels of corn.  That stuff takes forever to grow!  Oh well, so it goes.  Live and learn.  The pigs will eat well this week.  All I know is that we have been enjoying the heck out of some fresh cucumber and tomato salads every night, and I'll be sad when they are done producing.  The okra plants have also been producing very well....slow, but steady.  I've almost filled a gallon-sized freezer bag that I'll use in the winter for gumbo and smothered okra.  I usually get about a hand full of okra pods every few days.  Sometimes we just fry them, and that's really good, too!  I'm also really looking forward to the watermelon and cantaloupe we planted, assuming those produce.  I've got a ton of decent sized cantaloupes on the vine, so hopefully they'll ripen nicely.  Phil actually told me today that he found a wild watermelon vine out in the pasture!  And, I'm almost ready for my next round of planting.  I'll probably do another round of cucumbers and tomatoes (because we are addicted!), maybe some more bell peppers, and later in July I'll be able to start stuff for the fall garden, like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage.  I may also do another variety of squash and zucchini if I can make it to the seed store...I'm not sure what variety I planted, but they are kind of funky looking.  Some of them came out half orange and half green, and they were kind of tough...what is that??  Maybe those seeds are bad, too, because they weren't new, either.

On the animal side of life, I think we've finally got our fencing set up the way we want it!  So, Phil has the cows on this rotational grazing schedule (please don't ask me to explain it...I just go out there and dump feed in a bucket when Phil asks me to), so we finally have cows grazing around our pasture!  It's pretty cool.  They are close to the house now, so when we go outside, we can actually see them by the fence, and they stand there and moo at us as if we are supposed to feed them or something.  I thought that's what all the grass was for???  All we need now are a handful more cows to keep up with the grass...they can't eat enough right now to keep it down, which is not a bad problem to have, I suppose.  Little by little we are easing into this more self-sufficient kind of life.  It may not be how I imagined my life to be, but I'm finding that it is better than anything I could have imagined.  I'm glad Phil talked me into it =)  On Monday, we will bring our first grass fed steer to the butcher! (And by "we", I mean someone other than myself).  Which means we'll add steaks, ground beef, roasts, and briskets to our current freezer selection =)  All those trips out there to feed ole T'bone is finally going to pay off!  

Here they are, munching on some grass:

you can see how far down they mow the grass from one section to the next, where we have them partitioned off:



On a totally side note, it seems lately we've been hearing so many stories of hardships and sufferings; people's jobs on the line, family illnesses, the problems in the gulf that hit close to home, and here we are, just so blessed to have a beautiful family and a little piece of heaven on earth where we live.  Sometimes it just doesn't seem fair, but I know God knows what He's doing, so for now, I'll do my best to foster gratitude for our blessings, and to pray and sacrifice for those who are struggling.  I'm not sure if that's enough, but that's all I know how to do.




Thursday, June 24, 2010

New Baby

Well, we finally got to see the new baby!  My husband met me at the doctor's office yesterday morning, and we all got to see little Baby #4 kicking around on the ultrasound machine.  Technology can be scary at times, but so amazing nonetheless.  Anyway, everything checked out great, and Natalie was beyond giddy with excitement.  I'm not sure if Andrew really gets what is going on, but I think he'll catch on when we come home with another sibling for him to play pirates with =)  After we left the ultrasound room he said "Mom, what do you have in your tummy?"  I told him a baby and then he asked if he could see it O_o  Rachel was not keen on the ultrasound at all...she was not happy about the nurse messing with me, or with the fact that she had to stay with Dad instead of Mom.  She'll be in for a rude awakening when the new baby takes its place as youngest of the family!  On the plus side, she is finally starting to make progress with the walking!!  The girl is a few weeks shy of 18 months old...it's time!  Anyway, here are a few pics of the new baby and my pregnant self; I am trying to keep up a pregnancy photo journal (we'll see if it lasts), and my goal is to take a picture every time I have a doctor's appointment....I've actually not done this for any previous pregnancies, but seeing as I am the youngest of 4 kids, and I completely got the shaft when it came to photo albums, I refuse to do that to kids that show up later in our family.  My oldest brother and my two older sisters all have these big, thick photo albums bursting to the seams with pictures...mine is easily a quarter of the size of theirs, and it is only half full.  Feel the love!  Anyway...not the point of this post...
this was on the day of my first doctor's appointment, about a week ago:
this is the afternoon of my ultrasound, yesterday (a week after the first visit)
(and, I'm going to have to make sure I stand the same direction for future pictures!  I have this weird symmetry thing...it bothers me that I'm not facing the same direction in both pictures!!!....):
The Baby!!



This one is just for good measure...I take the kids to weekly story time at our small town library.  If you've never been to a small town library, go now!  They are the best!  The librarians are the sweetest ladies you'll ever meet, and they are always taking pictures of my kids, and then printing them out for me...how sweet is that?!  The sad part is that it is a library rule that they can't accept gifts from library patrons...what is that about???  How am I suppose to show my gratitude.  Anyway, they gave me this one a few days ago, and I just LOVE it...I sent it with Phil to work, so I had to get a copy of it before I parted with it.  Unfortunately my scanner is not working (because my color ink cartridge is out...did I ask the thing to print?!  no, I don't think so!), so I just took a picture of it with my camera =) 


And, finally, here is a video of little Miss Rachel learning to walk!  She's only been doing this for the last couple of days (note:  I don't have videos of the other kids walking...see??  no shafting the younger kids on memories like my family did to me - no bitterness, though ;):



Oh, and please excuse all the tangents...you can blame it on the pregnancy brain =)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Let it be Said of Us

There's this Christian song by John Waller & Mark Hall, called 'The Blessing', that I really love.  The song is about choosing to be a blessing in life, and that the way we choose to live our life is how we will influence people and how we will be remembered - especially as Christians.  I heard it in the car the other day, and it reminded me of a homily I heard in Holy Mass several weeks ago.  For some reason, this particular homily has been popping up in my mind ever since I heard it.  This may sound horrible, but usually I have trouble remembering what the homilies are about, so when they do stick, I believe that God is trying to tell me something...maybe even beat me over the head with some aspect of Catholic living that I need to work on!  Now, in my defense, I've either been pregnant, nursing, or both for the majority of the last 5 1/2 + years, so remembering things is definitely NOT my strong point at this stage of the game.  However, that doesn't mean that I'll be excused of my accountability to live my Faith in the best way possible.  Anyway, the homily on this particular Sunday (please don't ask me what the Gospel it related to was, because I have no idea) had to do with God's love for us.  Now, this is a pretty common topic for homilies, but Father's particular view on God's love was nothing that I had ever heard before.  He went on to explain that while God's love for us is more immense and greater than anything we can give Him in return, it is not unconditional.  Pretty much all we hear these days is how God's love for us in unconditional.  But, Father explained that no where in the Bible does it say, nor imply, that God's love for us is unconditional.  And, he pointed out, that no papal documents hold this belief, either.  I actually looked up 'God's love' in the Catechism, and it mentions nothing about God's love being unconditional, as well....everlasting, yes, but not unconditional.  So, God's love will always be there for us, but we have to do something to get it (thus the conditional part).  Now, I'll be the first to admit that this made me squirm in my seat at first.  I was not exactly excited by what I was hearing...repulsed, maybe, but not excited.  But, as he went on to explain how God's love actually worked, it opened my eyes more than a little bit.  What he made me realize is that God's love is not, in fact, unconditional, but totally conditional upon the choices that I make in life.  It's not that God doesn't want to give us His love in complete abundance.  I mean, God IS love, so how can He withhold it from those that He created?  He withholds it from us because we don't allow Him to pour His love into our hearts, and God will never violate our free will.  The conditional part of God's love stems not from HIS choice to hold back His love, but from OUR choice to reject it.  Now, obviously I don't think that God will hate us if we completely reject Him (and some people do reject Him completely).  I think that God will always have love for His creation, but I think that what Father was trying to tell us is that the amount of love that God puts in our hearts directly relates to the amount that we open our hearts to receive that love.  At one point in his homily, Father pointed out that in the Gospel of St. John, Christ tells us that in order to abide in His love, we must keep His commands (see John 15:10), which implies that we are capable of not abiding in His love, if we choose to disobey His commands.  He also pointed out that, though God's love for us is conditional upon our choice to accept or reject it, our love for Him can and should be unconditional.  For one thing, we've done nothing to deserve God's love, where as He has done everything to deserve ours - including dying a horrible death for our salvation!  So, we should be loving God in every circumstance and under every condition, so that God will be able to pour out the love He wants to give us.  Because I believe He wants to give us love in complete and total abundance, if we would just let Him.  But, that's the hard part - letting Him.  It's so much easier to sit in a little bubble, believing that God will love me, no matter what I do.  But, if I rely on that belief, then I have no reason to change my life and work harder to be a good Catholic.  It makes perfect sense...the more I strive to love God, the more love He will bestow upon me, but the lazier I am and the less willing I am to give love to Him, then the less He will be able to give love to me.  Who am I to think that God owes me something for nothing???  Society is always trying to tempt us into thinking that we can do whatever we want and get away with it, because God's love is 'unconditional', but where's the merit in that?  Why would I want to change, or work hard at being Catholic, if I don't have to?  Now, this is not to say that God will not forgive us for anything we do wrong, because He will forgive us for anything.  But, even that is conditional...conditional upon us having true contrition, and conditional upon us actually approaching the Sacrament of Confession to ask God for His forgiveness.  And, I think we have to be careful to not judge God's love for us by the amount of suffering He sends to us...contrary to popular belief, suffering does not equal punishment.  God gives to those what He knows they need to obtain eternal salvation, suffering included, so it's not about how we feel, but about choosing God, using what He sends us for His Glory, and doing what is right in His eyes, despite the difficulties (also something I need to work on!).  Anyway...I know this is probably not the kind of thing people really want to hear, but this is what I feel that God is telling me right now.  That I need to focus on my choices in life.  I need to ensure that I choose God everyday of my earthly life, so that I can spend eternity with Him in Heaven.  So, in the words of John Waller:
 
"let it be said of us
that our hearts belonged to Jesus
let it be said of us
that we spoke the words of life
let it be said of us
that our heritage is blessing for life"


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Little Something New

Ok, I just can't keep it a secret any longer!  We are having another baby!!!  This will be number four for us, and I had my first check up today.  And, first check up means that I got to hear the baby's heart beat!  I don't know what it is about hearing your child's heart beat for the first time, but it's an experience and a sound that stays in a mother's heart forever!  It's almost surreal...any fears or concerns or anxieties about being pregnant (because those come with all the happy emotions, too) just kind of disappear when you realize you have a little, tiny life inside you!  It's one of my favorite sounds in the world =)  Our official due date is Christmas Day, which just adds another level of excitement on top of everything.  I'm also VERY nervous about having 4 children.  Their ages will be 6, 4, 2, and newest, so it's a bit intimidating.  But, many families have done this tons of time, so I'm sure all will be well once the fear of the unknown subsides.  The doctor said I'm about 12 weeks and 5 days, which means I'm actually 2 1/2 months along.  I'm not sure why, but doctors like to make you go until you are 40 weeks, which is actually 10 months, instead of 9.  They actually count weeks that you aren't even pregnant!  What the heck is that about?  I've never understood that conundrum!  Nine months is long enough, why do doctors insist on torturing women by adding extra weeks?!?!  Whatever the case may be, I've got a long way to go!  

The fun part, though, was telling the kids that we would be having a new baby.  All Andrew said was "I want a boy baby."  And, he hasn't mentioned anything about the baby since...this was almost a month ago.  I don't think he even remembers.  Natalie didn't believe me at first.  She thought I was joking.  When I finally convinced her that I was, in fact, pregnant, she demanded to know how I knew.  "How can you tell?"  "When I'm married, how will I know when I'm pregnant?"  After a mild heart-attack at the idea of my little girl being married and having babies of her own, I told her not to worry about that until she was old enough to be married!  Then she did a lot of giggling.  Then she got worried that the baby would get cold in my belly.  And worried about how it would get food, and what if it drowned, or got blood all over it, because "don't we have blood in our bodies..what if it gets on the baby?"  The conversation quickly got out of hand, so I switched to names, and if we wanted a boy or a girl!  Oh my gosh!  How did my five-year-old get so curious about these things?!  It was cute, and funny, but I had no idea what to tell her.  I think I mumbled something about telling her when she was older, and right now all we had to think about was how much fun it would be to hold the baby and take care of it.  
I wish I had a cute little ultrasound picture to share, but I'm not scheduled to have my first one until next week, so it will have to wait.  In fact, Natalie was devastated because I had told her that we were going to get to see a picture of the baby today, and when the nurse told us the doctor wasn't doing an ultrasound, I think it just about broke her heart!  I should have known better than telling her something like that without being 100% positive!  Oh well...good things come to those who wait.  Next week I should have new baby pics!!!  

Yay for new life!

Little Thoughts

My husband does this thing with the kids where he pretends to be mad at them, even though he really isn't.  He says it has something to do with building character, but as they walk away, dejected and sulking, and he's cracking up laughing, I just don't get it.  Maybe it's oldest child syndrome, and he just feels the need to pick on someone smaller than he is.  I still don't get it...I'm the youngest in my family.  Anyway, he did that tonight with Natalie, and there were lots of "yes, sirs" and "no, sirs" on her part, complete with a sad, but confused look on her face.  He was giving her a hard time about going swimming without asking him for permission, when she had, in fact, asked my permission, and I had told her yes.  After she left the kitchen, and Phil was laughing, I fussed at him and told him not to do that, or she wouldn't like him anymore.  He replied "whatever, she loves me...everyday when I come home, she runs up and hugs me."  Point well taken.  But, I really hate to be wrong, so I tried to prove him wrong, anyway.

Me:  "Natalie?"
Natalie:  "yes, sir"
Phil:  "see??  She likes me better"
Me (giving the evil eye to Phil):  "Do you love your Daddy?"
Natalie:  "yes, ma'am"
Me:  "Do you love your Mommy?"
Natalie:  "yes, ma'am"
Me:  "Who do you love better?"
Natalie:  "Uh...Jesus."

Smart kid...it must be all that 'character building' she receives around here ;)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Harvest Time and Lazy Summer Days

Wow...it's been forever since I've posted on my blog, it seems.  I miss it!  But, we've just been so busy lately.  Summer is here, and we've spent a very nice week at the beach - including a week long internet fast - a week at my Mom's, and then we've been getting ready for Vacation Bible School, Natalie's end of the year Little Flower's Party, and a Catholic Girls' Summer Camp that I help coordinate.  And, we participate in our local library's summer reading activities.  So, despite the fact that school is out, life has just been crazy busy!  But, that's ok...that's what life is for.  On the plus side, I've been really lax with our schedule, so we've been able to enjoy some laziness and "sleep in" (anything past 7 a.m. is late here, but I guess it's all relative).  In fact, it's 11:15, and I'm still in my pajamas!  (Don't judge me...you know you're jealous...just kidding ;).  My favorite thing is that every morning, the kids all come climb in bed with me and we just lounge around and talk, or cuddle, or sometimes fight, depending on our moods ;).  We've also been enjoying a fairly decent sized blow up pool that I got at Target.  That pool does wonders to cool you off on these hot summer days!    

On the home front, we've been enjoying lots of summer vegetables from our garden!  I'm so excited about this.  We've been eating snow peas (those finished producing around the end of April), cucumbers, tomatoes, strawberries, bell peppers, and green beans.  I was actually really surprised at how many strawberries we've been getting.  The plants were brand new, and we've been picking a handful every couple of days.  Rachel has been in hog heaven over here =)  She LOVES those things.  Actually, she'll eat just about anything we pick from the garden, which is awesome!  Her favorites are the strawberries and cucumbers, though.  I wish the older two were that way.  Andrew turns green just looking at them, and Natalie will eat a very limited amount, and then only if there is an ice cream cone waiting at the end of a clean plate.  Oh well...we'll keep trying, and hopefully they'll grow into loving fresh vegetables eventually.  And, soon, we'll be harvesting the corn, squash, zucchini, cantaloupe, and watermelon.  Well, hopefully...I've never actually planted cantaloupe or watermelon before, so I don't know if they'll actually make anything.  But, the plants look really healthy, and they have baby fruits on them!  All my harvest pictures are on my camera...in my diaper bag...in my van...which my husband took to work today, so I'll have to come back later and add them, but I do have some pictures of us making pickles!  I planted some of the pickling cucumbers as well as the slicing ones, so I gave canning a try.  It was pretty fun!  Addicting, you might say.  And, the pickles were so good...I'm ready to make some more.  I used this recipe for Dill Pickles...I'm not much of a bread and butter type gal.  I followed it pretty closely, except I used dried dill, because I couldn't find fresh.  I think I put almost 2 t. of dried dill, which makes for a VERY strong dill flavor, but that's how we like them.  I also added some thin sliced onion, and about 6 small cloves of garlic per jar.  I let Phil take 3 jars and make them spicy, so he did some doctoring up to those (I think he put Chipotle Hot Sauce in one, and sliced jalapenos in the other two).  We really like them, and I recommend the recipe, but I don't think the recipe actually follows proper canning methods, so you may want to be careful there.  I'm probably going to adjust the procedure for the next batch of pickles this week. 

Our first cucumber:

Slicing up the pickles:

Filling the jars:

The equipment:

All ready for the brine solution:

Lids:

My improper canning method (they're *supposed* to be totally submerged...oh well):

All done and cooling!!:

I Also found this beauty:
Farm raised pork chops!  Talk about good!!!  I made pork chops with rice and gravy (we're from south Louisiana....rice and gravy goes with anything!).  We cashed in on the larger of our pigs, and brought him to the butcher.  We ended up with 23 lbs. of smoked sausage (which makes a fantastic rice dressing!), 33 lbs. of breakfast sausage, 27 lbs of pork roast (7 roasts all together), 26 lbs of 1" thick pork chops (there were 36 pork chops in all - I wish we had cut them a tad thinner, and gotten more chops out of it, though), 5 lbs. of spare ribs, and 8.5 lbs. of thick cut bacon).  If you've never had farm raised pork, you are missing out.  I almost can't bring myself to buy it in the store anymore.  And, now, I don't need to!  

Well, that is what we've been up to so far this summer.  I love summer!  It's my favorite =) 
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