Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! Going over to the in-laws for a dinner and some games with John's long time family friends (NYE tradition) but probably sneaking out after Jaxon falls asleep and driving into Bend to go to an actual party (which we don't get to do much anymore) with our generation. And since Jaxon will be staying at Grammie's, we will get to sleep in in the morning!

And what have I been doing today? Well it was another slow day at work so I spent a bit of time reading Pioneer Woman's blog. Just stumbled on it today. Fun reading.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Crow and Kitten are Friends

Found this link on Nengaku's blog.

Check this out - pretty amazing story.

So Tired of Reactionaries

I posted part of this as a response on another blog but thought I would post it on my own as well.

I feel weary of all the controversy we are creating in our lives today. I am tired of trying so hard to find "good" foods, organic, etc. I have stopped worrying about whether or not a toy is plastic or wooden. Here is a thought for those concerned about lead. Many of the recalled toys were WOOD. The only things we had on the recall lists were a couple of Thomas the Tank Engine pieces. Wood is painted; with plastics the colors are often a part of the plastic itself. I just don't think there is any magic answer. So I try not to worry about it too much. I have enough things to worry about as a parent. Sure, I will be a bit more worried about what I let a baby play with (since they put stuff in their mouths more often) but my 3 year old? Haven't seen him sucking on a toy for awhile. If he happens to get a toy with lead paint, I hope I will be told so I can return it, but I somehow doubt it would be the end of the world. But hell, I wonder how many of the toys we grew up with had lead paint in them? And our parents? Houses back then had lead in the paint. Whole rooms. And lead pipes?

Don't get me wrong. Lead has no business being in anything I can think of today. Xrays are done digitally now so we don't even need to wear the lead aprons at the dentist, but I think everone has just gone over the top with this.

You know what really burns me when I shop? All the packaging. And what to do with items that have outlived their usefulness or no longer work. I have 3 huge old monitors, 3 old TVs, old VCRs, old bicycles not worth fixing, old cell phones, far more yogurt containers than I will EVER be able to reuse taking up space in my cupboards. I am thankful many of our Christmas gifts came in cardboard packaging but my LAND we have a lot of recycling that needs to go to the transfer station now! (Although we have garbage pick up, we have to haul our recycling separately to the transfer station ourselves.) And our transfer station doesn't take a lot of stuff that other recycling programs do. Like plastic that is not a bottle with a NECK. Plastic toys? We have bought a lot of toys from Craig's list and ebay and we have and will continue to relist them. But some get faded and broken and then where do they go? They are plastic. They SHOULD be recycleable!

My great hope is that this time around we elect a REAL president and that we finally start regulating this stuff. Let's create some incentives for manufacturers and retailers to reduce packaging. Let's start penalizing those who don't. Let's start making retailers accept merchandise back and be responsible for recycling it. And I am not just talking about electronics here. EVERYTHING.

Until then? I am not going to be overly worried about whether a toy Jaxon gets is plastic or wood, or whether or not it comes from China. Ok, I will worry some, but I am not going to let it take front and center. When I am presented with a choice at the store? Yes, 9 times out of 10 packaging and recyclability will factor into my choice. The "made in" label? Notsomuch. "Made in" means "assembled in". Doesn't mean that the paint used on the product, or the fabric used to make the shirt was not made in an entirely different place.

And food? We are hoping to get more and more of our food fresh and local. THAT I buy into whole heartedly!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Counter to the Feminist Movement

So as the mother of an almost 4 year old boy, I was thinking the other day about why it is that there hasn't been a counter movement for boys to the feminist movement. My mother's generation, and even generations before hers fought hard for equality for women. So now-a-days, it is quite common that girls can wear the same clothes that boys do, play with the same toys, and do the same activities without a second thought. Hell, I rarely wear dresses.

So what about boys? You still never see a little boy dressed in pink or purple. Boys get funny looks if they want to push a stroller around the neighborhood. And all that princess stuff for girls? Nope. At least they can play with the Cars character stuff. Hey, my guy likes the Disney princesses too! But you won't catch us having a Disney princess theme for his 4th birthday (luckily I don't think it will be an issue.) And as open minded as his Dad is, he still raised his eyebrows at the "lipstick" (chapstick) Jaxon got in his stocking from Santa. Hey, at least one of the three varieties was green (kiwi) even if the other two were pink and purple. Jaxon loves all three and was excited to have his own "lipstick."

For the most part, it's not a big deal. Jaxon and his cousin Maddy are just a few months apart and although my sister and I have never directed their play, it always amazes us how naturally they gravitate toward traditionally gender based play. They both love to "cook" in their "kitchens" and vacuum, and they equally like painting and play-doh and puzzels and games, and Thomas wooden trains but where Maddy loves playing with her dolls, Jaxon could care less about dressing a doll or putting it to bed. And Maddy has little interest in digging, or playing with cars or scooper trucks where Jaxon could play with his trucks in the dirt all day.

But I continue to wonder at the fact that little girls can do anything, play with anything, where for little boys, many things are still discouraged. So what do you think? With there ever be a counter feminist movement for boys? And if so, what would we call it?

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Camp Out on the Coffee Table

video

Why can't I post video? Am I doing something wrong?

Merry Christmas!

Hope you all enjoy your Holiday! May they be merry and bright and full of relaxing fun with your families and friends.

We will be heading to church at 4:00 followed by dinner at the in-laws and presents with them. We will do our presents and Santa presents just the three of us in the morning, and the in-laws will be coming over later in the day for Christmas dinner. We spent the weekend cleaning the house. I almost broke down in tears yesterday after about the FIFTH present I found from the dogs. Seemed like every surface I went to dust had a puddle of dried dog pee. WHY must our dogs mark all over the house? It is SOOO GROSSSS. They even got Jaxon's overnight bag. Had to send his clothes to Grammie's in a shopping bag so I could throw his bag in the washer. So, since I have talked a bit about our menagerie of pets, I thought I would post some pictures of the rascals.

Didn't notice until after posting this just how hang dog the dogs look in these pictures. Not sure why they look so glum. Guess they just don't like getting their pictures taken. Especially Tipper. Look at his body language. You'd think I was trying to give him a bath or something...



Tucker 9 years old



Telly 10? years old



Tipper (the one who makes my life hell)

Didn't catch a picture of Auskar my Aussie



Sweet baby girl (2 years) Chai



Buster 12 years old - eldest of the pack and the accepted alpha male of the household. Really, the dogs will sit and whine if he is blocking their path rather than mess with Buster.

Didn't catch the fat cat Astro either. Astro is named after the gas station we found her at. Someone had abandoned her there so we took her in. She is about 8 years old.

I tried to upload a video clip of them that included Auskar and Astro but it doesn't seem to want to work.

Friday, December 21, 2007

And God Bless the Man

So the other night I was driving Jaxon to his swimming lesson after work. We were sitting in the car at a stop light and a homeless man was walking along the sidewalk with his sign. Jaxon was watching him out the window and asked me, "Mommy, what is that man doing?" So I told him that he was cold and hungry because he didn't have a home (his sign said - I wasn't making assumptions here). He pondered this as we pulled off (we were a lane over and were only there a few seconds or I would have given him some money). Then he asked "Why doesn't he have a home?" So I told him that he didn't have any money for a home because he didn't have a job. I explained that that was why Mommy and Daddy go to work so we have money to pay for our home and cars and clothes and food, and that that was why we prayed each night for Mommy to keep her job and Daddy to find a new (daytime) job. So we said a prayer for the man "God Bless the man and help him find a home and a job.

I thought that Jaxon had forgotten about this as 3 year olds are apt to do. But apparently it had made a significant impression on him since tonight at bedtime he piped up all on his own at the end "God Bless the man and help him find a job and a home." Melted my heart and almost made me cry that at 3 he is already learning to feel compassion and concern, even for strangers he has never met. I just hope he doesn't worry now about our jobs or that we might become homeless like the man we saw. We are pretty financially secure and have families that would help if we ever needed it. I just never thought I would begin to teach him these lessons until he was older but he seemed to grasp it ok. I guess we will need to start involving him soon in some volunteer work, even if it is just taking some food to the food bank or clothes to a shelter. When he gets a little older I would like to start taking him to volunteer at a shelter once a month or so too.

Anybody else do any charitable or volunteer work with their kids? Ideas? Comments?

Moose is back

Finally got the radio in my car replaced. It gave out on the drive back from Seattle Thanksgiving weekend. It just was stuck on. Couldn't turn it off, change the channel, play cd's or change the volume. At least it was stuck on NPR. Only problem was that I couldn't turn up the volume and some of their broadcasts are harder to hear than others.

Jaxon was especially glad to have it working again and immediately began demanding to hear "Moose" again. That is all he ever wants to listen too. At least the songs are tolerable. He even started singing along with them which he has never done before. SOOOOO cute. He is shy about singing usually so that was a special treat to hear on the ride in to work today.

Deer

So I have been reading through Nengaku's blog the last few days. A fun read since we also live a fairly rural life. He got me to thinking about our experiences with deer and I thought I would share some of our stories with you.

We see alot of deer around Central Oregon. You definitely have to keep watch for them on the road. There are lots of accidents each year involving deer. After living here a while though you get a feel for where they tend to be and you get to know their migration paths and crossing points, times of day most likely to be on the move, etc. We have been lucky so far, but have had many a close call with a suicidal deer. And you CANNOT predict what they are going to do. They freeze, then bolt. But sometimes they move forward, continuing the direction they were going, sometimes they turn and run back where they came from, and occassionally they will even run toward your vehicle!

Anyway - so we have 10 acres that butt up against the road. Our property is completely fenced with sheep fencing (the picture in my header is from our field)which keeps our dogs from getting off the property. The fence also tends to keep out some of the wildlife, particularly the coyotes. We are only separated from BLM land by one property and there are several packs that come out to hunt at night. As we learned recently though, if they really want on our property they can find a way. We had a coyote use a rock outside the fence as a jumping platform and he came and got himself a Gertie snack when the chickens were out free ranging one morning. Since we have 4 dogs though, most wildlife isn't very interested in getting onto our property. Mostly they just go around. We do occassionally get deer though, especially since the dogs are usually in the house at night. We have to be careful when letting them out in the morning because if there are deer in the field they will chase them, usually down to the road. Luckily the traffic volume on the road is fairly light, although speeds are usually around 60 mph so it always scares me when they do this because the deer then jump the fence and cross the road at a run. If the timing was wrong this could make for a fatal accident. And I don't just mean the deer.

So anyway, I remember waking up one night and hearing crunching in the gravel right outside our bedroom window. Sounded like very slow, creeping footsteps. Like someone sneaking around outside the house. FREAKED me out! So I cautiously peer out the bedroom window and about jumped out of my skin to see a big deer right outside the window in the moonlight. Had a good laugh at myself. Another night I got up to go to the bathroom and saw something move in the moonlight outside the window (another deer) and found myself wide awake for awhile after that waiting for my heart to stop racing. You would think living where we do it wouldn't startle me to see deer outside in the middle of the night, but it always does!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Tagged

Got this set from Busymom. Hadn't done one yet so figured it was a bout time to tell you a little more about me.

1. Wrapping or gift bags? Christmas I wrap exclusively. The rest of the year it is pretty much gift bags. Mostly recycled.

2. Real or artificial tree? Always real. We even go out in the woods to cut it. $5 for a Christmas Tree permit around here.

3. When do you put up the tree? Weekend following Thanksgiving if we can. The next weekend after that at the latest. Never later than the first weekend in December.

4. When do you take the tree down? Weekend following New Years.

5. Do you like eggnog? No - I am a hot buttered rum gal.

Hot Butter Rum

1 pound Brown sugar (about 2 cups, packed firm)
1 pound Superfine granulated sugar (about 2 cups) (I put regular
sugar in a food processor and run it until if feels really fine)
1 quart cheap vanilla ice cream
1 pound real butter not marjarine

Put ice cream in a bowl and set on the counter at room temperature to melt while cooking sauce. Using a double boiler over boiling water, melt butter and then add sugar and let cook with water in bottom of boiler just barely boiling for about one hour. Do not cover sauce as it cooks but stir occasionally. Pour over ice cream and beat well with electric mixer. Chill one hour before using.

Makes 2 quarts.

6. Favorite gift received as a child? My first bike. If it didn't say "as a child" I would have said my wedding proposal and engagement ring on Christmas Eve 1997.

7. Do you have a nativity scene? Yes - it was a wedding gift. Really pretty set. And Jaxon has the Fisher Price nativity set.

8. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? I am not picky. Can't think of any.

9. Mail or email Christmas cards? Mail - but often not until the week after Christmas. Might make it this year though if the pictures I ordered from Costco ever arrive.

10. Favorite Christmas Movie? A Christmas Story. It's a Wonderful Life.

11. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Sometimes as early as September or October. I am usually pretty much done by Thanksgiving weekend.

12. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? All the cookies and candy that are at every turn around City Hall.

13. Clear lights or colored on the tree? Clear.

14. Favorite Christmas song? Silver Bells.

15. Travel at Christmas or stay home? We alternate. This year we traveled for Thanksgiving. Next year it will be Christmas again.

16. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer.Yes.

Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder (yeah the original version is Donder) and Blitzen. And Rudolph.

Ok - I wikied it (how do you spell that anyway?) and apparently the names go back even further than I thought.

"Two of the reindeer names, Donner/Donder and Blitzen, are often the source of confusion, misspelling, and misinformation. The short facts are these: Donner/Donder and Blitzen were named ''Dunder'' and ''Blixem'' (the Dutch words for ''thunder'' and ''lightning'') in the original printing of "A Visit From St. Nicholas." In reprints of the poem, the names became ''Donder'' and ''Blixen,'' then ''Donder'' and ''Blitzen'' (the latter being German for ''lightning''). By the time Johnny Marks wrote "Rudolph," it was ''Donner'' and ''Blitzen'' (possibly because ''Donder'' was musically awkward). See Snopes.com for a thorough discussion."

17. Angel on the tree top or a star? Angel.

18. Open the presents Christmas Eve or Christmas Morning? One on Christmas Eve, rest in the morning.

19. Most annoying thing about this time of year? Traffic and irritated people. RELAX EVERYONE! Getting pissed off just makes it all worse!

20. Do you decorate your tree in any specific theme or color? Red and gold accents. But not really.

21. What do you leave for Santa? Probably a beer. Cookies and milk as a kid and carrots for the reindeer.

22. Least favorite holiday song? It's a tie between Santa Baby and Two Front Teeth.

23. Favorite ornament? The San Francisco cable car that I had to go to Chinatown to get after searching all over our first year we lived in the Bay Area.

So there you have it. A little bit about Amy.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Dogs!

We have 4 dogs. Yeah 4. We had 2 when we moved to our house on 10 acres (fully fenced) 6 1/2 years ago. A lab and a shepherd mix. I had wanted and Australian Shepherd for awhile and a week after moving in we went to the Sisters Rodeo and there was a gal there selling 2 month old Aussie puppies. I couldn't resist. After all, what was another dog when you have 10 acres? He was a bundle of energy though, and still is at 6 1/2.

All was well except that our older dogs got tired of his antics and we could see a younger companion for him might not be a bad idea. And we had 10 acres after all. So when we saw the box of lab puppies at the grocery store a year later, we took one home.

All was well for about a year and a half. Then the troubles began. It started with growling from the Aussie at the lab pup when eating and escalated from there. One day they got in a full out fight. Soon we were not able to let them near each other. So began the juggling of the dogs. We had to make sure they were not loose outside at the same time. One had to be in the fenced garden area (which is a huge area as well, roughly 50'+ x 50"+) or in the house at all times. We got used to this routine. We just deal with it. Other than the two youngest, they all get along just fine. Of course this totally defeated the purpose of having the 4th dog, but oh well. And to further complicate matters, I love the Aussie and John loves the lab and we both hate the other dog. So neither of us would agree to finding a home for either one.

So why do I hate the younger lab? Not only is he HUGE and annoying (he is really socially inept - constantly in the way and always sticking his nose in people crotches or up their butts) and HE PEES. IN. THE. HOUSE. Not accidents mind you, but intentional marking. Jaxon's toys, random stuff, and THE CHRISTMAS TREE.

Just recently he freaked out and broke the gate we put between the living room and kitchen (from Jaxon's toddler days) which we used on occassion to keep him in the kitchen (tile floor) and our bedroom door is currently off (not quite finished with the work restoring our bedroom after the water incident) so we have not been able to keep him out of the living room (which really is the only room he marks in). And we can't leave him outside in the winter with the temperature in the low teens. The Aussie goes in our walkin closet at night (he is too much of a spaz to run loose in the house) and Tipper (the lab)is usually in our bedroom. I have taken to stashing him in Jaxon's room but until Jaxon goes to bed that doesn't always work.

So I was fixing the train around the tree for Jaxon last night and could smell that the damn dog had marked on the tree. So I washed the tree skirt and sprayed the branch with "Kids and Pets" (enzyme cleaner). Then I hung the skirt to dry which it did quickly and put it back. After Jaxon went to bed, Tipper was in his room and I let Auskar (the Aussie) in. Before putting him in his closet (which is big enough to be more of a room than a closet) I went to put some wood on the fire. I hear the tinkling of ornaments and turn to see Auskar suspiciously close to the tree. YUP. He too marked where Tipper had marked earlier. DAMN DOGS! Auskar never does this in the house, he only did it cause Tipper had done it first.

So I washed the tree skirt again.

And the seriously wrong thing about all this? We will of course continue to put up with it. Probably for the next 6-8 years the dogs will probably live. I AM going to replace the carpet in the living room with hardwood soon though. At least it is easier to clean up.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Brighter Side

So enough with my downer posts. This one is about the brighter side of life lately.

1. Our Oregon State Income Tax kicker refund came in the mail yesterday for $820 which pretty much covers our insurance deductible.

2. We have been trying for the past several months to sell some of our irrigation rights to our good neighbors but one of our other neighbors has been reluctant to agree to the transfer (we are on a mini- co-operative with a shared pump for the system). He final (verbally at least) agreed to sign the papers. This means we should soon be getting an additional $9,000 once the paperwork is finalized.

3. We found some vinyl flooring that we like for the bathroom and Carpet One is coming on Friday to measure for it and see if we can just replace the carpet pad in the bedroom and the carpet restretched. We couldn't find a similar carpet, and none that we really liked. Since the carpet is in relatively good condition, we like it, and it matches the other bedrooms, we are hopefull to just keep it. And Carpet One thinks they can get the work done sometime next week so we might be back to mostly normal by Christmas. Just hope we can get ProServ back quickly as well once the flooring is down to put the bathroom fixtures back in (cabinet is in the shower and toilet is in the tub right now!)

4. The insulation is back in under the floor in our bedroom as of today YAY! Especially since our room was COLD last night. It got down around 12 degrees (or less?) last night.

5. My beloved in-laws, MIL in particular, expressed to me last night that if I do get laid off, or for other reasons we need financial help, we are not to hesistate to ask - that they really want to be there to help us if we need it as her father was for her when he was alive. She even got teary confiding how much of an additional loss to her that security net was when he passed away 20 years ago, since her mother was much more frugal in saving money should she need it and not so comfortable loaning money, even to her kids. She wants us to feel that security and not have to be overly stressed and worried about where the money will come from if either of us is laid off. This offer was so heartfelt and touching it really did lift a burden of worry from John and I.

So despite some minorly unfortunate incidents lately, we know that truly our lives are soooo blessed!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Layoffs

So we just heard last week that 5 people from the Planning Department here in Bend are being laid off as of the end of March. At least they gave as much notice as possible as well as 10 days within that time to do job searching. But the scary thing is it may not end there. We will hear more in January as to whether or not additional layoffs will be necessary with the coming fiscal year. There are still 3 other planners with less seniority than me but who knows how deep the cuts will go? I am thankful to still have my job for now but the uncertainty of the housing market makes for stressful unknowns. And by that time if layoffs continue the likelihood of finding another job in the area will be slim to none.

Sure hope the market starts to turn again soon.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Karma?

Man we are getting our share of bad luck lately.

We are on a shared well (well is on a neighboring property) and when it gets really cold the pipes sometimes start to freeze a bit. The water runs slowly out of the faucet. This happened Sunday morning when we were getting ready to leave for the day for a family gathering. One of us thought we turned off the bathroom faucet but apparently we only turned it far enough that the water stopped running but the faucet wasn't closed tight. Combined with the fact that that particular sink has been draining a bit slowly lately (we tried cleaning out the pipe but couldn't figure out how to get the sink stopper out) we came home approximately 8 hours later to a minor disaster. The water pressure had increased back to normal and the tap was running. The sink was not draining fast enough so the water had overflowed all over the bathroom and seeped way out into our bedroom. The carpet was soaked. Luckily Jaxon had stayed at his grandparents for the night (as he usually does on Sunday nights) so we didn't have to deal with him while we spent the next 5 hours cleaning up. We had to move all the furniture out of our bedroom into the guest room (you can't even walk into that room for now) and every towel in the house was used to sop up the bathroom floor. Then I spent 3+ hours with our carpet cleaner vacuuming up as much of the water as I could out of the carpet (must have emptied the tank 30-40 times).

The good news - our homeowners insurance is going to cover all the clean up and repairs and replacement
-some drywall repair
-repainting walls
-replacement of carpet and linoleum
-replacement of damaged appliances (hairdryer, electric razor, etc)
-replacement of insulation from under the rooms
-replacement of heating duct under the rooms
-electric bill from running 9 fans and a dehumidifier 24/7 for 5 days

The bad news - $1000 deductible and a 30% premium increase for 2 years and 25% increase the 3rd year (~$1750 out of pocket over 3 years!)

And, it will probably be the end of the month before we can move back into our bedroom IF we're lucky. Right now we are sleeping in Jaxon's room on a full size bed and he is in his old toddler bed. John has been cleaning out our studio which is behind our detached garage so we can move the furniture out of the spare bedroom and move into that temporarily.

The other upside is that we have been meaning to deep clean and clear out the clutter on these rooms anyway and now we HAVE to. We have been wanting to clean out the studio and set it up as a guest quarters and convert our guest room in the house into a playroom for Jaxon as well so that is some good that will come out of this. Also we will have new carpet and linoleum in the master bedroom/bath which will be nice, although they were in pretty good shape and didn't really need replacing. Now our living room? THAT carpet needs to be replaced. Oh well.