Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Only in Kansas

I've determined that only in Kansas can you have snow, followed by almost 70 degree temps, followed by a tornado, followed by snow again, all within about four days - in December.

Doesn't that just make you yearn for the normal unpredictability of June weather? (Not the reason I have the lovely picture of June's green grass over on the left. But you can enjoy it anyways.)

Last Friday (the day after Christmas), we had unbelievably gorgeous weather with sunshine and temperatures that soared up to 68. (The night before Christmas Eve it had snowed.) The snow melted, and even though it was muddy, it gave me a chance to go outside with Nathan and relieve some of the cabin fever he's had.

I knew it was supposed to cool off over night from Friday to Saturday, but when I stepped outside to feed the dog right before I went to bed (at 3 AM - Paul was working nights, so I couldn't sleep), it was still 65 degrees.

On a whim, I decided to get online and look at the weather. I was startled to see an angry red line of thunderstorms stretching from Nebraska, clear across Kansas and into Oklahoma. I thought it would be wise to put my car in the shed since on the 6 o'clock news they'd mentioned a chance for hail.

When I came back in, I read what they were saying on the live blog for that station. They said that even though we were in a tornado watch, things had settled down and they were going to quit live coverage. So I went to bed, thinking we might get some rain, but it was nothing to worry about.

I was awakened just over an hour later to the sound of a freight train - the house was shaking and popping. I knew the storm had hit, so I laid there and waited for it to die down - usually after a few seconds of the initial blast, it will start raining and the wind dies down. But after several minutes, the train-like sound was still going on, and Nathan woke up. As I headed upstairs, I noticed all the windows on the east side of the house were moaning and whistling (the storm hit from the west).... If that tells you how strongly the wind was blowing. I let a startled dog inside and peeked out the kitchen window...... To see that our well house was gone. (That's the reason for the picture above - it's the only one I could find for a "before".) The bench swing that I've been nagging Paul to take inside for the winter was blowing almost straight out from the branch it swings from.

As I rocked Nathan back to sleep, the noise died down. I peeked back outside, and decided there was nothing I could do about it, so I went back to bed.

In the morning I went out to survey the damage.

Let me just point out that that well cover was no small thing - it was probably six feet across, and close to four feet tall (not counting the frame that went up to almost 7 feet where I hung a flower basket). It was made out of 2x4s and 4x4s, so it was heavy. (As I learned when trying to drag the pieces out of the driveway.)
But it did give me the chance to look down in the well - something I'd never done before because it would require sticking my head into the spider web-y well house.

This is the only damage I saw to our actual house. (Our the shed in the dog's pen had some damage.) But I decided to call insurance anyways, and they're going to send someone out to look at our roof..... This is the second 80-mph wind storm we've had from the west in the last 6 months (and several neighbors had to have their roofs replaced after the first one). So I figured it wouldn't hurt to get things checked out.

But that piece of flashing landed several hundred yards away - across two fences and in the pasture.
Then by Saturday afternoon it was snowing again.
But by Monday, it was up to 60 again. And yesterday was warm, but then the temperature plunged during the afternoon, and today it's only in the 20s.
Only in Kansas!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas in Pictures

There's so much I want to write about, but I lack the initiative. So I'll just let the pictures do most of the talking.
And I just decided that rather than having to decide which pictures to use (because if I use all of them that I like, this post will be fourteen miles long), I'm just going to make a slideshow over at my other blog.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Everything in the Refrigerator Stew

We had this little dish quite often growing up. It was delicious, and never the same twice.
I don't know where my mom got the idea, but she started keeping a rubbermaid container in the freezer, and whenever there was a little of something leftover from a meal (or after rewarming the leftovers), she's throw it in there. When the container got full, she'd add a little water and simmer the frozen chunk down.
I keep saying I'm going to do that, and make Paul experience this memory, but honestly, with only the 3 of us, leftovers usually disappear pretty well. (There were at least 5 of us home for most meals when we were growing up, with us being homeschooled - so one serving of leftovers wouldn't go too far.)
I made a semi-kinda-like-this recipe yesterday.... Here you go:
Potato Soup Version
a couple of potatoes
a chicken breast
minced garlic (the dried kind)
dried onions
sour cream
bacon bits (the "real" kind, not Bacos)

Cut up and boil the potatoes and chicken. Add the garlic and onion while cooking. When potatoes are tender, drain off some of the water. Add a couple dollops of sour cream and some bacon bits (since salad weather is long gone). Salt and pepper to taste.
Today, for leftovers, I added a little milk, a little more sour cream, and threw in the tater tots from last night's meal.

So it's not quite as unique as Mom's stew, but it was definitely comfort food for a cold, cold day.

The 2008 Rhodes Report

(For those of you that didn't get it in the mail, I thought you might like to read our Christmas letter.)

Greetings and Merry Christmas! We hope this finds you all well as you prepare for special times with friends and family during this wonderful time of year. I just love Christmas - not because of the cold weather or the presents, but because of the warm times with those we love.
This year has gone by especially fast, it seems. I wonder why? We have loved every minute of being parents to our incredible little boy. (Okay, so there were a few screaming fits we would have rather done without. But still….) Where to begin? We’ll start with things Nathan likes: being outside, books, milk, pretzels, being naked, Brutus (our cat), any “KEEee” (kitty), wheels, the dishwasher, the fridge, Hercules (our dog), and ice cream. Things he doesn’t like: …………(had to think) vegetables and being told “no.” That’s about it.
Nathan got his first teeth in February, took his first step in July, said his first words in September, and got his first molars in October. He’s a handful, always getting into things and trying to figure out how they work. He babbles incessantly, talking and pointing, like we should know what he’s talking about, but does have several words he says now you can actually understand (at least we can) - Daddy (his first word), tractor (his second word), hot, light, out, kitty, Herc (“Esh”), down, truck, hi, bye, dog, cow (actually, that one is usually just “MOOOooo” and applies to anything with hooves), thanks, ball, car - but has yet to say “Mommy” definitely. Go figure. We found out in October that Nathan has an eye condition called “Duane’s syndrome” which is when the nerve that controls one of the muscles to turn one of his eyes never developed properly. Basically, his left eye can’t look left, but there is no problem with the actual vision. He just compensates for the lack of eye movement by turning his head further to the left when he’s looking at something to that side. We thought it was a lazy eye, but we were so glad to find out otherwise, because we did not want the constant fight of trying to keep glasses on a toddler.
Probably the grossest thing we’ve had to deal with in regards to Nathan was what he puts in his mouth. (Not diapers, which is what most would say.) Things I’ve dug out of his mouth include: a dirt clod, a beetle, a wad of dog fur, and the winner: a chunk of dead mouse…. That the cat had eaten, then thrown up behind the couch where I didn’t see it. And why our son thought it looked like something that should go into his mouth is beyond me! I tell everyone that story so that they have to be grossed out as much as we were. (We still gag at the thought.)
Paul will begin his 10th year at the glass plant here soon. He actually got a promotion over the summer. He had applied for other departments within his shift, but after doing lots of fill-in work for his department supervisor, he was asked by the plant manager if he would be interested in being an actual supervisor. When we first talked about it, he said he didn’t want it, because there was too many hassles and not enough compensation. But a few months later when there was an opening on another shift, so we talked about it again. He decided he was ready for a new challenge, so he applied. After over a month of waiting, we finally got word that they had chosen Paul for the job! His actual title is Cold End Supervisor, and the easiest way to describe what he does is that he oversees everything in regards to the glass once it comes out of the furnace. He says he enjoys the challenges of figuring out the best way to do things or solve problems, but hates the days where he feels like he’s babysitting a bunch of grown men. The recent quest for “alternative energy” has actually helped the company; they are producing huge orders of TCO, which is the glass that is used in solar panels. Their plant has one of the most efficient means of production for this product.
I actually did start a babysitting job myself. It’s a pretty nice set-up, because they bring the boys out here when I watch them (two mornings a week), so it doesn’t take much effort other than making sure they don’t kill each other. J Dallas turned 3 in July and Andrew turned 1 in November, so having them plus Nathan tumbling all around the house makes it kind of interesting some days; it feels like all morning I‘m saying “share“ or “don‘t throw“ or “let‘s go potty!” I clean house for the same family once a week, also. Three partial days a week is just enough work it keeps me busy (and not wanting to clean my own house), but it gives us some “fun money” to go on dates and things like that. (And when gas was $4 a gallon for a while, it helped pay for a $70 tank of gas on occasion - we are SO glad it’s back down!!) I thought once I was a stay-at-home mommy, I’d have time to do all sorts of stuff: that my house would be immaculate, I’d have gorgeous flower beds and a vibrant vegetable garden, and with all my leftover time, I’d have time for reading, sewing, and other artsy stuff I enjoy. HA!
Paul and I are both still on the praise team at church. We love the ministry. I use Paul to give me feedback as to how the congregation seems to receive new songs - where I sit at the piano, I actually face away from the congregation, which helps with nerves, but makes it hard to tell how people are responding. Nathan loves the music, but hates being separated from us, so we’re working on teaching him he can sit in the pew with one of the grandparents. Nathan loves watching Paul play the violin, and has recently started showing interest in the piano - probably just because he can bang on it, but sometimes he sits on my lap while I play at home and grooves to the music.
In March, Paul and I will celebrate 5 years of marriage. It definitely does not seem like it has been that long. Our 15-year friendship prior to marriage was a wonderful foundation. And now we have a beautiful son (I can get by with calling him beautiful for while longer, can’t I?), and a great house in the country. We feel so blessed.
We had another bad year for the garden. It was a combination of several things - an unusually cool spring, a hail storm in June with 80 mph winds that pretty much destroyed the garden, and then the dog…. Always the dog….. I’m guessing he probably ate half of our corn. (How his digestive system survived, I have no idea.) After we found the first chewed-up watermelon in the yard, we threw up a fence around that end of the garden to save those at least, and ended up having a fairly good crop. Next year we’ll have to put a fence around the corn as well. Stupid dog. I did manage to put up some green beans, corn, pickles, spaghetti sauce, pears, and plum sauce and jelly - all from what we grew here.
I love working outside, but it was fall before Nathan would let me do anything outside without having to hold him with one arm while trying to weed or water with the other. Once he could walk around on his own, THEN he was happy to let me weed while he went to investigate that stick, leaf, or rock. That’s part of why the garden suffered, I’m sure - the only time I could weed was once a week (if that) when my friend Carrie came over to help me. We’d leave her older kids in the house with the babies and go work out in the garden and have some mommy gab time. Maybe next summer I’ll be able to get everything I want to done…..
We were able to take several vacations this year: In June, we took a weekend trip to southern Oklahoma to see our friends the Esbenshade’s and DeLong’s at the Golden Harvest Day - a wheat harvest, baling, and plowing done completely with antique farm machinery. On the way home we stopped by for a couple days with Paul’s family that lives west of Wichita. In July we went to Springfield, MO, for our long-time friend Caleb’s wedding. Then in October, we went to Colorado for a family reunion of Paul’s Rhodes grandparents - their children, grand-children, and three great-grandchildren - 14 of us in all. It was a really good time of relaxing and getting to know each other better. On the way home we spent a night in Colorado Springs to see the sights and visit Paul’s best friend Seth, and then spent the next night in Ness City, KS, to see my sister Carlsie, where she is the English teacher at the county high school.
Well, I look at this letter, and apparently I’m rambling - on and on, just like I talk. Now you have an idea of what’s going on with us. We hope you have had as abundant of a year as we have, and we wish you all the best for the coming year.
All blessings and peace to you!
Love - Paul, Rachel, and Nathan

What Do You Do When Your Pipes Freeze?

I've had several people ask me this question, so I thought it might deserve it's own post.
I'm not sure if there is a way you are SUPPOSED to do things, but I'll tell you how we deal with it when our pipes freeze.
Well, I do know one universal thing you're SUPPOSED to do: do all you can to prevent it from happening.
Well, we tried it. In the weeks after Nathan was born, Paul and his dad and my dad did lots of plumbing work, rerouting some pipes and in general fixing the (half-ass) job that the people before had done.
(And just so you know, if it's in parenthesis, it doesn't count as saying it.)
And all last winter, we never had any trouble with the pipes. I counted part of that from me being home all the time, so the house was warmer and the water was being used all day.
So what we do is this: wait.
We put Nathan's room heater in the bathroom and opened up the cabinet doors so the warm air could get to those pipes. We turn the taps on so they're open, giving the water the chance to flow (if you can get a trickle, a lot of time, that will flush the frozen-ness out). But it didn't seem to do anything this time.
The tub opened up just before we went to bed Sunday night. The bathroom sink was working when Paul got up for work Monday morning. Sometime mid-morning the toilet started working again; about the same time, the tub's cold water came back on. But we didn't have hot water in the kitchen until this morning. (Which provided a lovely excuse for me not cleaning the kitchen!)
The other thing you do is this: pray!
When after about 5 hours of running the heater and having the taps open and nothing was happening, we discussed running in to Orscheln to get a milk barn heater to put in the cellar, but we decided that that would probably warm things up too quickly, causing pipes to break. Which would not be cool.
But we are fully operational now, just in time for the freezing rain that has started.
Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

"Oh NICE."

(Said in the tone of Lurenda, who is mimicked by Lena.... And apparently I say it more than I realize.)

It is absolutely frigid outside.
And I'm not just griping because I hate winter.
I'm saying that because today's high was 11. With a 20 mph wind. Do you want to know what that feels like outside?
Like -10.
That's 40 degrees below freezing.
When we woke up this morning, all was peachy. It was cold, we knew, but we brought Nathan's little heater down and ran it in the bathroom while we got ready for church. As long as you kept your slippers on, it wasn't bad.
I was putting makeup on (for once!) and all the sudden I got an odd feeling........
Let's just say "major digestive issues."
But since it was too late to back out of my responsibilities, I manned up and we went ahead and went to church. Luckily, it wasn't the kind where it's constant churning and discomfort, but rather the kind where you feel fine one minute, then the next you're sitting in the pew wondering if there would be any graceful way to make a hasty exit.
I made it through church. It was a great service with five special musics. We did worship last, and I thought it went very well.
We came home. I got Nathan put in bed for his nap, took off my stockings, and then it struck.
And afterwards, I went to flush the toilet, and.....
No flush.
No water.
The pipes had frozen.
Luckily, not all of the pipes, though.
The toilet is frozen.
The bathroom sink is frozen.
The cold water to the tub is frozen.
The hot water to the kitchen sink is frozen.
But the washing machine is fine. Which baffles me, because it's pipes are right in the same wall area as the bathroom sink.
But at least we can "flush" the toilet using a bucket of water from the tub.
But I'm still cold.
My feet have felt like ice cubes ever since we got home.
We've got the wood stove going, and the thermostat set on 74 (an obvious sign I don't feel good), but the house is so drafty, it just doesn't feel warm - the drafts push all the warm air to the south end of the house.
Which is where I am right now. Right next to the wood stove.
And I'd just stay here a while longer and get warm, but looking at the screen is giving me a headache.
Really, the whole point of this post is just to complain.
So humor me. Show me some pity.
Or at least pretend to.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Family Christmas Pictures

Taking pictures is always an adventure when it involves more than one person. Because trying to get everyone to smile at once is nigh to impossible. Especially when one of the people is only 1 and is teething. And someone else needs a nap. (That would be me.)
Here's the process.

Set the camera up. Start the timer and run for your seat. Then you realize one of us took up too much of the allotted frame.
Try it again. But someone forgets to smile.Change scenery, because in front of the wood stove was getting too dang hot. But then the cat knocks over the camera. So we set it back up and hold him so that he doesn't do it again. But end up cutting the top of our heads off.Then we figure, if the cat's going to be in it, we might as well bring the dog in.
Chaos. And missing top of heads again.
But a good smile from Paul!
So in the end, I do what any sensible mother would: pick out the picture that I look the best in, and use it for our Christmas letter.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas Card Photography

Paul really likes messing around with the new camera. I showed him what macro was, and it turns out he has an awesome eye for it. Just call him Macro-Man.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Yeah, I Know....

It's been over a week.
I had a post about Bethlehem I was working on, but then Nathan pushed a button and published it before it was finished. And then had a screaming fit when I took him away from the computer. And when I tried to edit it I deleted it. And Nathan was still screaming.
So I gave up.
I've been busy! I made over 8 dozen cinnamon rolls yesterday for Paul to take to work this morning. Four different kinds, with four different frostings. Apple with caramel frosting, chocolate chip with powdered sugar frosting, pecan with maple pecan frosting, and regular with cream cheese frosting.
Paul called at 10:30 and said the plain ones were all gone before they even went out on the floor at 7 AM. I told him it's all in how you market them. Because I could have just put "Plain" on the label and they would have had some leftover like last time. But plain sounds boring. So you mention "Cream Cheese", and they're all over them.
But he'd better not bring any home, because my ability to resist junk food is at an all-time low. I'm just munchy all the time.
Paul has worked every day since last Sunday. He worked Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights - got home at 8 Thursday (his "day off" which he slept the first half, and left for my cleaning job just as he got up, so we only got like 4 hours in the evening together), and then he had to leave for work again at 5:30 Friday morning, and works all weekend plus Monday. So working 8 out of 9 days, 12 hour shifts each day (but he's gone 14 hours or more with driving and getting there early/staying late to wrap things up)....... I'm ready to have him around again - looking forward to next weekend! The paycheck should be good.... He really wants a new TV, so I think that's why he's so willing. I told him we'd get it with a tax return, but this overtime will probably be as much as our tax return would be!
We still have to go Christmas shopping. The plan is to go Tuesday.... I hope.... Every other time we've talked about going, something has come up. We need to get on it, though - only a week and a half before the big day, and we've still got to buy presents for...... Oh, everyone.
So much for a quick post to tell you I'd post soon. Back to cleaning the living room then on to my walking video, wrapping the few presents we HAVE bought, and folding laundry, and trying to find the house under the mess!

Friday, December 5, 2008

New Camera!

Paul and I decided that this year, rather than get presents for each other, we'd buy a big present together for both of us.
I've been hacked at our digital camera for a while.... It takes forever from switching it on to being able to actually take the picture (very bad when trying to photo a little boy!), and goes through batteries like crazy. Plus there's no zoom.
So we decided to get us (and we all know it was really for me) a new camera.
It came yesterday, and I love it! We love it!!
I was helping decorate for a wedding reception last night, so Paul came and picked up Nathan on his way home from work while I finished up, and I sent the camera home with him. When I got home, the TV wasn't on. The computer wasn't on. Paul was sitting on the floor messing with the camera - still. He'd messed with it for a while at the church.
I think I'm going to love it.

Chowing down!

Blue color accent setting.

Messing around with the macro setting. I love macro photography!