Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Crushing on the Washing Machine

Last week I had our small-appliance repair guy--a high school classmate of the MiL's, because this is Small Town America--come to clean out our seriously underperforming dryer.

While he was here, I mentioned that we were going to be getting a new washing machine soon, since our current washing machine was purchased very used for $90 about ten years ago. And it wasn't really getting the clothes very clean anymore. And it didn't spin them particularly dry, either.

Basically, a clear loser.

Bob the repair guy (yes, that is his real name) said that he always recommends a brand called Speed Queen, available at the locally owned appliance store we always go to in the Small City.

Bob has been fixing washing machines longer than I've been alive. If he recommends a particular brand, I'm gonna buy it.

So A. went to the appliance store on his lunch break and took a look at the Speed Queen. The display for it featured a look at the inside gears and things of the Speed Queen versus the more common brands. The Speed Queen is all steel. The other ones are all plastic. Also, the Speed Queen has no electronic button pad; it's all sturdy knobs. That don't break.

Hello, my pretty. Nice knobs.

Oh, and it's still made in the U.S.

In addition, Speed Queen makes the machines that are used in laundromats. And by the Army. And, according to the salesman at the appliance store, the local dairy farms buy Speed Queens.

Well, I think that kind of machine could handle the level of filth generated by the inhabitants of Blackrock. I mean, we might not be at dairy-farm level grossness, but it can get pretty bad around here.

And finally, most machines for home use have an average life of eight years. The Speed Queen will hold up for 15 even with commercial use (so they say), and 25 years with home use.


A. bought it. It cost a few hundred dollars more than a cheap machine at Home Depot or wherever, but I have to think it will be worth it.

It was delivered yesterday. I haven't used it much yet, obviously, so I can't say if it will live up to the hype, but I must say I'm quite excited about the idea of it. It will be nice to have really clean clothes. That's all I really ask from a washing machine. And I think the Speed Queen will deliver.

And no, I have no affiliation with this brand and had never heard of it until Bob the repair guy tipped me off, so this is not sponsored. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Time To Sing!

Yes! That great day has arrived once again! The day when we all celebrate A.'s birthday with yet another rendition of "The Woodchuck Man Can." Every year, my lovelies. Every year.

Who can take two small boys camping overnight?
Who can sway the court by day and shoot varmints in the night?

The woodchuck man
The woodchuck man can
The woodchuck man can
'Cause he uses what he has and makes it work for him.

Who can make a cane pole cut from our own land?
Who can dig the biggest ditch ever dug by hand?

The woodchuck man 
The woodchuck man can
The woodchuck man can 
'Cause he uses what he has and makes it work for him.

Who can clear the cistern of a dozen rotting rats?
Who can shoot a doe and make it into chili just like that?

The woodchuck man
The woodchuck man can
The woodchuck man can
'Cause he uses what he has and makes it work for him.

Happy birthday to A., the reigning woodchuck king of Blackrock.

P.S. As always, feel free to add your own verse should you be inspired. Or you could just say "Happy Birthday." That's always good, too.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Labor Saving

I have had another thrilling domestic epiphany, similar to that "ohhhhh" moment when I learned about nuking a dishcloth so it wouldn't smell in the morning.

Bear with me. I find these things exciting.

This particular epiphany had to do with the tile on the wall surrounding the shower downstairs. It's very nice tile--handmade Italian tile with raised designs and fancy ridged grouting.

It is also a complete bitch to clean.

The fancy grouting and the raised designs are prime areas for mildew and mold to grow. And we have just about the most mildew-prone bathroom you'll ever encounter anyway, so this is a real problem. The only way I could get the grout and tiles clean was with a toothbrush. Attacking all the tile with a toothbrush took about an hour and left my hands in a claw-like state for an hour afterwards (even before I was dealing with pregnancy-related carpal tunnel).

Needless to say, I was never eager to get right on it. Which is why the wall was usually in really deplorable condition before I would reluctantly break out the toothbrush.

This is the condition it has been in for the past, oh, two weeks or so. But now I REALLY didn't feel up to the toothbrushing, thanks to the aforementioned carpal tunnel and being, um, nine months pregnant.

But I ALSO knew that if I didn't do it now, I was not going to be doing it anytime in the near future and I just could not deal with facing that horrifying wall of tile for the next two months.

And this is when I had my revelation: I needed a bigger brush.

I know. Sometimes I am not the brightest light on the Christmas tree.

The MiL had actually bought me a bigger brush some time ago, thinking it would work for that tile. But it had a long handle that made it really awkward to scrub a wall with. What I needed, I thought, was a big, long and flat scrub brush of the sort that I associate with maids in the Victorian era scrubbing floors on their hands and knees. Like this.

Or like a similar brush the MiL bought awhile ago for cleaning her horse blankets (I think), but that has actually been in more or less constant use in our house as a scrub brush for a lot of other things.

So I used it. And all hail the brush, I scrubbed that tile clean in ten minutes flat.

There were some areas near the corners where the toothbrush will still be useful, but overall, I have found my mildew salvation. Alleluia.

Friday, December 12, 2014

A Profound Realization

When Charlie was born, I distinctly remember feeling frustrated and sad about the fact that my time and attention was now split between two children. I didn't like feeling that either child was getting less than all of me.

I was thinking about this tonight as I was putting Cubby and Charlie to bed, and assuming it would be even worse with three children among whom I must divide my attention.

But then I had a thought that stopped me in my mental tracks: My kids might get fractionally less of me, but they get a whole, entire other person.

I realized that while a mother (or father, or whoever the primary caregiver is) is paramount when the children are small, there is going to be a lot of their lives after they're . . . well, not small. And for the rest of their lives, they'll have not just me and their father, but their two brothers to support them. Adding a family member is never a diminishment.

Of course, explaining this concept to a child under the age of five is not really possible when every one of the three children is vying for space on Mommy's lap. At such moments of less than brotherly love, I'll just have to remember this profound breakthrough.

And then maybe hide in the bathroom. Because profundity can only help so much.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Christmas Newsletter: The e-Version

I love getting those long, detailed family newsletters at Christmas with all the pictures and updates on every single family member plus pets. I'm not being sarcastic. We always got a lot when I was younger, because they're particularly useful in military circles for keeping up with all those people you know for three years before moving to the next assignment. I would read every one we got, even if I didn't really remember the people who sent them.

A. said we should send one out. I would, but in truth, I am far, far too lazy for all the printing and the addressing and the mailing and all. But the writing? That, I can do. 

And so! Presenting: The Family Blackrock's Christmas Newsletter to the Internet.

Hello to all! It's been another eventful year at Blackrock, full of children and animals--wild and domestic--and general country hijinks.

Kristin is currently expecting the third Blackrock baby, which is--no one is surprised--a boy and due in nine days. She is remarkably unconcerned about adding yet another male to the household, figuring we might as well just throw another one into the feral pack we already have. Although she is considering building a bunkhouse out back in a few years for the boys.

A. decided this year to end the solo law practice he's been running for the past five years, instead taking a full-time, standard-hours job at a law firm in the Small City. We all miss having him home at odd times of day--especially when we run out of water and Kristin has to get the beach pump going by herself--but it seems to be working out so far.

The combination of new baby and new job resulted in the decision to sell the sheep flock. They all went to nice people, the last group of sheep--including the ram--actually going to a family in Pennsylvania with five boys, ages four months to 10 years. How appropriate. The boys decided to name the ram "Mr. T." You know Kristin approves of that.

Cubby will be five in February and continues to attend the local preschool, where he has displayed a natural aptitude for policing the other children. His favorite activities continue to be anything involving the forest, especially camping, but also accompanying A. on hunting and trapping expeditions. He can sit for an incredibly long time in the forest without talking. This is the only time he doesn't talk, as he is otherwise a frighteningly verbal child.

Charlie is now two-and-a-half and also working on his verbal skills, though he still has trouble with "r." And "c". And, uh, everything else. He has no trouble following his older brother around, however, and is generally good about taking direction from Cubby. Charlie is the forward scout in any adventure that might involve danger, real or otherwise; Cubby instructs Charlie to go ahead and scout the area and off Charlie goes. When he gives the all clear, Captain Cubby will join him. We all need a good sidekick.

Our dog Mia continues to be the perfect child-friendly dog, following Cubby and Charlie all around on their outdoor adventures and courteously standing still to act as a pull-up bar for any child that falls and needs a stationary object to haul himself up on.

We're all hale and hearty as always and very much hoping that you are the same. Happy Winter Solstice, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and all things bright and beautiful to all of you.

The Family Blackrock

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Merry Christmas to Me

Our annual village Christmas festival was this past Saturday. I had to go so I could fulfill my obligation of sitting at the preschool fundraising table, selling various crafts. Right next to the table I was (wo)manning was the church bake sale. They had the usual assortment of banana breads, cookies, pies, and . . . what's that on the end? OH MY GOD, THOSE ARE FRESH TOMATOES.

Apparently, one of their church members grows patio tomatoes on her enclosed and heated porch into the winter. They were selling pint boxes for four dollars. I got the last one.

You can keep your cookies and pies. If I can get fresh, homegrown tomatoes in December, my Christmas is going to be merry.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Continuing Comedy

So who among you wasn't convinced that our friend the flying squirrel had politely gone out the door and vacated the house for good?

Yeah, me neither.

At 8:15 last night, I was sitting on the couch talking to A. and trying to summon the energy to go to bed when I caught a flashing glimpse of a scurrying animal in the adjoining library. And then there was our little buddy, staring up at me from under a chair only about five feet away.

"Dammit," I said. "There's that squirrel again. It's looking at me."

A. got up to herd it into the dining room and hopefully out the door--again--but instead it ran into the downstairs bedroom.

At this point, the MiL reminded A. that he had a live trap for squirrels up in the attic that might be useful. So A. baited the trap with peanut butter, put it in the bedroom, and shut the door. He also carefully placed a small bowl of water in the room, thinking the squirrel would surely be thirsty after its adventures.

A. apparently harbors a soft spot for flying squirrels. He informed me that some people keep them as pets, getting them as babies and wearing them in special little bonding pouches to establish a relationship. I just had to look that up, and was reassured to see that flying squirrels are indeed considered a most gentle rodent and very good pets if properly cared for early on.

Still, when I came down this morning and found this in the trap, I was not tempted to try to carry it around in a pouch next to my heart in hopes of establishing a relationship.

Sorry, little dude; I am not the rodent bonding sort.

But my new knowledge of the cuddliness of flying squirrels enabled me to carry the trap outside and open it to let the squirrel out without fear that it would fly out and attach itself to my face, which, you may remember, is a persistent fear I have about most wild animals.

Yes, I'm aware this is an unlikely scenario with any animal, but we all have our things.

Anyway, the squirrel has been definitely released back into the great outdoors and thus ends our time as a flying squirrel haven.

Except for the ones in the attic. Those I guess will be staying.