Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Malina is Five

Malina turned 5yrs. old on June 7th. Just for the record the above picture is of Malina when she was 2 1/2 yrs. old but that's still her: big smile, big doe eyes, and food on her face. No really, you should see the kid eat! She gets food all over the place! Happy Birthday Malina!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Garbage + Rocks= Pigs

***Alternate Title for this Post: How To Overuse "Quotations"***

When we first seen our house back in February, I was already starting to plan the vegetables, herbs, fruits, flowers, etc. that I would be growing in our garden. Never mind that my "green thumb" is less "green" and more "black"; like the "bubonic-plague-I-kill-everything-I-touch, black". But I was undaunted and bought seeds of a whopping 43 different varieties of plants. Two reasons: 1) I'm indefatigably optimistic and 2) that way I could see what would do well in our soil and what would not.

After we moved in, the first thing we did was begin to pick up some of the bits of junk that was left in the yard by the previous owner. Our yard is extremely overgrown, we're talking at least 5 years, and in some places longer, with little to no yard maintenance. The problem with that is, we would clean out all the visible garbage, turn over some dirt, and then find more garbage. And it seems to be that way through most of the yard: a layer of garbage, a layer of earth, a layer of garbage, a layer of earth, etc.

You may not know this about me but two things give me the
heebie--jeebies: garbage and poop. I refuse to clean up or pick up those two things. Dogs got into the trash and spread it all over? Too bad I'm not cleaning it up. Dog crap all over the yard? Not cleaning that up either. That could be why we don't have a dog.....hmmm........ But I digress. I'm also ridiculously stubborn and I want a garden so I WILL BE cleaning up the garbage out of the front yard (as I find it at least. Just when you think you got the last of it.....) We decided we needed some heavy machinery to dig up our yard, so we can get a better idea of what we're working with.

Then Dave got laid off. Exactly 3 days after we moved into our house. And while he is working now, it is only temporary. That means we don't have the cash to rent some heavy duty man toy with which to dig around our yard.

So we went to plan "B", what we commonly refer to in our house as the "contingency plan". The contingency plan consisted of us finding at least some part of our yard that wasn't riddled with garbage and debris, taking a shovel and turning the dirt, a.k.a: tilling the dirt, for our garden ourselves. Sounds complicated, I know, but that's just the kind of people we are.
The first shovel-full into the remarkably garbage-free area, came back with a
TING!- "must have hit a rock", I say to Dave.

We try again. TING! And again. TING! And again. TING!

Finally I dig a few of the big rocks out with my hands (and I mean BIG, 9-10 in. in diameter) and we're thinking this is a fluke. Surely, all of our soil CAN'T be THIS ROCKY. But it turns out it can be and it is! And not just rocky, the dirt that surrounds the rocks, is almost entirely clay.

Now I'm no
Ciscoe Morris but I'm pretty sure that rocky clay does not make the ideal soil in which to plant a garden. The next step would be to plant a garden using raised beds and purchased soil to go into said raised beds. Again for two reasons, this is not an option: 1) like I said before, finances are tight 2) we just purchased 7.93 forested acres, we shouldn't need to buy dirt.

So we're scratching the garden this year, although I do have some potted herbs that are doing quite well. (I'm as surprised as you). Instead we are just going to try and "fix" the soil we have, so that it can be plant-worthy by next spring.

Contingency Plan
#2: we bought two baby pigs last month. Using a movable fence (they're called "pig panels") we set up a temporary pen for them to live in. They "process" the area by eating the existing grasses, digging up the roots and rocks, turning the dirt over and all the while leaving manure to further help the soil. I periodically go in with a wheel barrow and gather the rocks they have rooted up. We're using them as "gravel" for our semi-muddy driveway.

When all the greenery is exhausted in one area we move them to another to start the whole process again. Plus, in the newly turned dirt I'm planting a summer ground cover of common vetch and rye cereal. They're used to keep weeds from growing in your fresh dirt and as "green manure". Meaning that, instead of harvesting the plants, you just till them into your garden dirt and they improve your soil.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Buying A House: A Timeline

Dec 09'--we made the decision to buy a house in 2010
Jan 10'--start saving money for down payment
Feb 13 2010
--took 1st time home buyer's class

Feb 14 2010
--found the house we wanted to buy (pending inside inspection)
Feb 17 2010--got our real estate agent
Feb 20 2010
--viewed the inside of our house

Feb 22 2010
--made an offer

Feb 26 2010
--agreed upon a closing date of Mar 31st

Mar 1- Mar 15
--house inspected, house appraised, signed paperwork, got: bank statements, pay stubs, old tax returns, a hand written note saying I currently had no income what so ever, from any source

Mar 15- Mar 31--more paper work, older bank statements, older pay stubs, older tax returns, a compilation and explanation of Dave's work history for the past 4 years
Mar 31--move out of our apartment and into my parents' house until loan is approved (9 or so days we were told : ))
April 1--submit our loan application
April 20
--our loan is approved

April 21
--the loan documents go to "recording" and come back same day, we get the keys to our house!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Dave's Great Grandparents, The Hughes

Say "Hello" to Harold's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Hughes. No, I don't know their first names, and as it turns out Dave is not a valuable resource for this kind of information. (ease up on him, I mean, it's only HIS family). ; D This is a nice picture of them, and the best one we could find. It's also nice to know what Dave will look like when he's 60 yrs. old or so!

This is a picture of Harold's wife Mary (Dave's Grandma) standing next to her mother-in-law Mrs. Hughes. This picture was probably taken when Harold and Mary first got married. What a bunch of pretty ladies--and I'm not just saying that because my daughter's look like them. Ok, maybe a little.

**Update: I asked Dave to call his mom and find out the names of his great-grandparents. They are Mr. Grady Hughes and Mrs. Evan Hughes. Yes, Grandma Hughes' first name was Evan. (pretty awesome).

Here is a picture of Grady and Evan Hughes, with their 3 youngest kids, ya know the ones still livnig at home. At this point their youngest child is only a few years younger than their oldest grand-child. (Dave's Uncle Danny).

Dave's Great-Great-Great-Great grandparents, we think

So this is what Dave and I have managed to piece together from the pictures and the notes other family members have left.We don't know their first names but the couple above are Mama and Papa Adcock. Remember the picture of Dave's grandpa? Harold Hughes? Well, Mama and Papa Adcock are Harold's grandparents on his mother's side. (we think, possibly great-grandparents).

This picture is of Papa and Mama Adcock and their five children. So one of the children are Harold's mom (possibly grandpa or grandma).
But again we are not sure. These pictures look pretty old. We figure Harold was born c. 1935 and all the girls look grown up (which back then meant they would be having children) and it doesn't look like anywhere close to 1935. More than likely, Mama & Papa Adcock are Harold's great-grandparents, and one of their children is Harold's grandma or grandpa.

Confused yet? Well just disregard everything I just said and know that these are Dave's relatives from the 1800's- turn of the century.

And no we don't know who wrote the names at the top of the picture (that would certainly help figure things out though).

The boy on the very far right, holding the gun, looks a whole lot like Dave! Especially the nose. As we go threw more pictures (yes, there's more) you're gonna see that nose a lot! This family's got some strong noses......err I mean genes!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Family Resemblence

See this man? This is Harold Hughes. Does he look familiar? He should, he is Dave's grandpa on his mother's side and Dave looks almost exactly like him! And so do my children and my nieces and my nephews, to some degree.

So if you want to see a picture of Jackson, here ya go! It's just been time lapsed about 18yrs.!

Ps. The Hughes side of Dave's family is having a reunion this summer so everyone is sharing pictures. We have NO pictures of Dave when he was little, or I should say, his mother has no pictures of Dave when he was little. So as the other family member share them, I will post them so you can see how adorable Dave was (ahem....IS). ; )

The Teeth are coming!

Jackson has had a breakthrough--literally. One of his bottom teeth has FINALLY broken through! Which means he's that much closer to eating table foods/ solid foods. You see, he doesn't like baby food. I don't know if it's because of the taste or because of the texture- it's practically a liquid. He does like those melt-in-your-mouth baby foods Gerber (I think) makes. I get the impression he would just like to skip the whole soupy-baby-food stage and go right to table food eating. But you can't do that with gums! : D

So what's with the picture above? It's certainly NOT Jackson. (That's a girl) You would think a post about Jackson would include a picture of him, right? Wrong. My current camera, that I just recently bought, does not upload to my computer so, I cannot post pictures. I just thought that baby with the fake buck teeth was the most hilarious thing I've ever seen!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

There's good busy and there's bad busy

Our lives' here at the Howard house are naturally busy. Sometimes we are busy in a good way: like last weekend when we babysit CK's (cousin Kari's) baby Brody so she could get some rest. She was sick with a nasty flu.

He is a sweet little baby with the most gorgeous blue eyes. It's really fun to watch him and Jackson interact. The girls' can't get enough of him, or the fact they have another baby to play with! Unfortunately though, sometimes we are busy in a bad way: like the next 6 days we spent dealing with the aforementioned nasty flu that CK had. Each one of us has gotten it in succession starting with me, Jack-Jack, Ella, Malina and now finally Dave. It lasts about 3-4 days and it involves alot of indescribable body functions. Lucky for you, I won't go into details.

Speaking of lucky, I do forgive my cousin for getting us sick but only because she's family. And because she let's me call her "CK".

Last Sunday, right before all the sickness started, was a day of celebration:
Jackson turned 7mo old!
I have been successfully breast feeding for 7mo!
We have used cloth diapers for 7mo!

Why is the feeding and defecating of my child exciting? Simple. Because we weren't sure we could handle it.

Breast feeding had been a problem with each of the girls'; my milk dried up when they were about 4mo. This time with Jackson, I was determined to make it work. What has helped the most is that I haven't lost any of the baby weight so I have a nice fat reserve to draw from. Just imagine me as a fat mama black bear, just not as cute. Every now and then I could feel my milk supply starting to dwindle, I would drink Mother's Milk Tea. When I bought the tea I had my doubts of it actually working but I was determined to try anything to keep my milk production up, no matter how ridiculous it seemed but, to their credit it does work.

When I told my friends, family, and husband that I wanted to cloth diaper our baby I was met with alot of raised eyebrows. You know that ones that say "ok......do what you want but you're crazy for doing it". My reason was very simple: we were going from a 2- person income, to a 1-person income and we needed to cut bills dramatically! I figured we could save about $2000 if we cloth diapered Jackson until he was 3yr. old. (Which is about how old the girls' were when they were potty trained).

Many people have varying opinions about cloth diapering, whether they do it or not. Some people find the act of folding cloth diapers relaxing, others tote the benefits for mother earth, and still others find it's not for them.

For me, I can't say I find folding diapers relaxing; it's just more laundry for me to do. And I can't just conveniently throw the diaper away when it gets soiled in public. I have to carry it around in my diaper bag until I get home. The truth is, I would rather not use cloth diapers but, there are also alot of things I would rather not do, like: clean the bathroom, wash my dishes, take out the garbage, etc. So really, that's not a good excuse. What I do like is that with just a little bit more work and slight inconvenience I save a good deal of money, which means I can afford to stay home with my kids--who help me fold cloth diapers.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Money and a House

Yeah! Tomorrow is March, which means were that much closer to Spring! Wait, I thought it was Spring already? At least it sure feels like it anyway. Any-who.......

Ending the month of February we now have 20% of our financial goal; money for our down payment for a house. But wait, I have some other news too.

Last weekend we took a 5hr. new home buyer class, that was 5hr. Did I mention it was 5 hr.? Anyway, it was a LONG time. This specific class was necessary for us to qualify for some of the new home buyer programs that the FHA offers. Specifically the one that helps people with a down payment on their first home. Which completely negates the purpose of us saving up for a down payment but, extra money never hurts!

The next day after the class we started looking for some houses/ properties that would fit our criteria: under $200,000, 2+ acres, 2+ bedroom house. We came up with 6 listings all located a few miles away from each other in Graham. Apparently we are going to be living in Graham! : D One of the listings we COULD NOT find, four of them comprised of land surrounded entirely by water, and one seemed a suitable fit.

It was a 2 bedroom house on 7.93 flat acres, that had very little, to no water on the property, going for a cool $185,000. Curiously enough the house itself, not the property, was surrounded by a 5 ft. chain linked fence topped with barbwire and there were bars on the windows of the house. (Also later we found out there was a security system).

Now by no means is Graham considered the "Compton" of Pierce county (Tacoma is a better equivalent) so we couldn't figure out why there was all the security, except maybe that the previous owner was a bit paranoid.

Later that week when we met with our real estate agent, we again put our criteria into his computer to see what else might pop up. Literally the ONLY property that came up was the very "secure" house we had seen out in Graham.

So yesterday we walked the property and looked inside the house with our real estate agent and decided we would put in an offer. Now we are simply waiting to hear back from the owner to see if it's a go! Wish us luck..........

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Food and why it costs so much

In our house we get our idea about food and the importance it holds in our life from three sources (and of course, our own taste buds): the Feingold diet, the 100 mile diet, and the movie "Food Inc." Food that is free from pesticides, genetic alterations, growth hormones, antibiotics, and e-coli is not only DIFFICULT to find, it is expensive. Why? I dunno. But we are committed to good food for many different reasons. The most important one, as well as the simplest, is that it just tastes better.

  • If organic farming is the natural way, shouldn't organic produce just be called "produce" and make the pesticide-laden stuff take the burden of an adjective? ~Ymber Delecto

  • The belly rules the mind. ~Spanish Proverb

  • How do pesticides know when to stop killing?--Author unknown

  • You don't have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces- just good food from fresh ingredients.--Julia Child

  • You aren't what you eat, you're what your food eats--Author unknown

Monday, February 1, 2010

Money Check up-Feburary

We are now in the second month of the year and it is time for our check up to see how we are doing financially. We did manage to increase our savings for a down payment from 4% to 11% . While it's nice to show some progress it doesn't really seem like very much. There were a few medical bills that held us back, as well as our ever expanding food budget; feeding your family fresh fruits and vegetables in the winter is expensive.

One area we did improve on was our energy bill. Since it has been a warmer winter we haven't really needed to use our heat and we have been dutifully turning off lights when we leave the room, unplugging appliances when not in use etc. You know, all the things your "supposed" to do to reduce your energy consumption. Which, for monetary as well as, "I love the Earth" reasons, makes sense to me. Although when we got our bill, we seen that our energy consumption had gone down but the bill was the same amount because the electricity rates had gone up! *sigh* What ya gonna do? : )

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Current subjects at our house:

Teething baby.
Buying a house.
Pop-up books.
Superbowl XLIII.
Karate (kid) & Kung Fu (panda)
Un/home schooling.
Pressed leaf books.
Swim classes?
2 yr. wedding anniversary.
How to play a recorder/ harmonica.
Malina's feet--size 11 1/2 shoe!
Sleeping through the night.
Saving money.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Plan

Happy 2010!

As of the start of this year we are going to begin the steps in order to buy our first house. There are many "ifs", "buts", and "whens" but we are willing to begin the process and to be patient. Even though Dave just got a raise we are hoping that we still qualify for some the first time buyer programs. If that happens then we can get a real estate agent and start looking for a house. We would like to stay near the Puyallup area but, due to our price range we will most likely be living a little farther out of town. ; ) We are looking for a property with at least 1 acre and some sort of dwelling on the property in semi-decent condition. After we have found our place, we will start saving in order to build our house with cash. We will still have a mortgage but at least we wont have a building loan on top of that!

This is a grand undertaking for us and so we are doing our best to break it down into smaller, more manageable goals. Our first, is to save money to put down for a house. Right now we have 4% of the money we need. (We also plan on getting most of our down payment from our tax return.) But we will keep posting our progress to keep everyone updated and to motivate us even more. (as if living in a tiny 2 bedroom apartment isn't enough motivation!) ; )