Friday, June 12, 2009

After you, Miss Grace

Have I ever mentioned that the Lord forgot to give me gracefulness? I mean, for some reason I can stand at the top of a ladder and be fine, but I can't walk across the floor without bruising myself. Oh, do let me share some highlights. Well, and I'll share with you some stories of just bad luck, too. How's that sound?

In the presence of critters:
- I slid off the side of a horse that my cousin and I were trying to ride bare back. When I slid off, I smacked my head on a rusty hay trailer and earned 8 lovely stitches across the back of my head.
- My neighbor's Great Dane bit me twice while we were attending the Little League parade. It bit me once in the chest (thank goodness for the coat I had on) and in the hand. Though the hand wasn't stitchable, it did require medical attention. Because of that, I was required (by law, I was told) to file a police report. Since it had been the second time that someone had been bit by the dog (and they required medical attention like me), unfortunately the dog needed to be destroyed. At least it bit me and not one of the children that had been climbing all over it a half hour before.
- The same neighbor's Doberman bit me in the thigh when I went to drop something off at their house.
- The same neighbor's goat decided to ram me in the back of the knee while I was getting things out of my car.
- The same neighbors had a rooster that chased everyone and tried to peck us to death.
(Don't worry. After the Great Dane incident, they put the house up for sale and moved.)
- A German Shepherd on-the-loose bit me when I was a kid. I didn't tell mom, but I was afraid that I was going to die of rabies, so I didn't sleep all night long.

In the studio:
- I was helping someone make a piece in glassblowing, they flashed the piece into the glory hole farther than they usually would, failed to tell me and when I grabbed the pipe (middle and back are standard, unless told otherwise by your partner), my skin sizzled and I let loose of the middle of the pipe. (A glory hole is 2200 degrees F.) My partner yelled, as she had worked on the piece for an hour and didn't want to lose it, I grabbed the pipe and proceeded to help her until she was done. I didn't know that the prof was watching. She insisted that I get medical help and initially I declined. The intense pain encouraged me to change my decision and in the end, I was wrapped in a burn mitt that needed to be changed at the Student Health Center everyday for a week. Don't worry. My hand healed beautifully. You can't really tell.
- I had come back from a week-long buyer's trip at the Philadelphia Buyer's Market and Baltimore ACC show, got back earlier than I thought and went ahead and went to my stained glass class. I was tired, snapped glass up and into my thumb, rather than down and away from me. I ended up cutting half way through a tendon in my thumb, had to have it repaired and had hitch-hiker thumb (either in a soft cast or a splint) for two months.

While attempting to be a good "sport:"
- The first time I skied, I hit a patch of ice, flew through the air and when I landed, I did so on top of my ski. The binder clip things jammed into the back of my leg, leaving a fantastically huge bruise.
- The second time I skied (both at Peek N Peak in New York), I hit an unpacked section of snow towards the end of Friar Tuck, over-corrected and ended up skiing down the hill backwards with my skis crossed. I leaned completely over, my knee let loose, then the binding let loose. I blew my ACL and broke the side of my knee.
- I got a fish hook jammed into my foot.
- I got smacked in the back really hard with a fishing pole that a friend was fishing with. He thought he cleared me and by the feel of the pole, he was trying to cast to the other side of Lake Erie. It literally hurt for a month.
- I walked in front of my sister while she was swinging and ended up with two big black eyes.
- I threw a baton up in the air, missed catching it with my hands and ended up catching it right between the eyes instead. I think I broke my nose.
- I swam right into the swimming pool ladder. Again, I think I broke my nose.
- My cousin and I were riding a three wheeler while we were at the annual 4th of July party, she told me to put my legs out and just as I did, my foot caught up in a bush, yanked me off and she ran over me. I was fine, though. A little bruised, but I was fine.

While just trying to function normally:
- I broke a toe when I jumped over a laundry basket.
- I was wearing my first pair of heels, lost control while going down the church sidewalk, wiped out flowers, killed a pair of hose and botched up my knee.
- I broke a toe while climbing the step stool to put my "major award" up that I won from the Foster Parent dinner.
- I locked my right middle finger into my car door. I had to dig into my right pocket with my left hand and unlock the door so that I could get my hand back out.
- Two weeks later, I slammed the same finger into the garbage chute of our apartment building. I went to the Student Health Center (I had catastrophic university insurance at the time) and though I didn't break the finger, the doctor informed me that I was "going to lose that nail." Um, you think?
- I ripped a muscle in my thumb while trying to put K- into her carseat.
- A month before Hubs and I were to be married, I fell on black ice at the university and broke my left thumb. Well, I know that I broke it even though I didn't have it x-rayed. I wouldn't have it checked because I was certain that they would put me in a cast and my wedding dress wouldn't fit with a cast on.
- While trying to iron clothes on the mini ironing board we had at our first apartment, I burned my knee. I burned it really bad. It's still scarred.
- I was on the house phone during a thunderstorm when the line was struck by lightning. It threw me across the room and into the stove. I will never talk on a corded phone during a storm ever again.

While attempting to roll down the road:
- My vehicle was rear ended on my 21st birthday. It was totaled. I had a fantastic case of whip lash.
- My old RAV was rear ended and totaled. I ended up with whip lash to my shoulder, much preferred to the whip lash of the neck.
- I was distracted by a rather lovely looking gentleman and lightly rear ended an older gentleman. (I was in college and not dating Hubs.) I didn't get a ticket.

Hubs is thankful that we have a ranch home. He insists that I will be in a mobility scooter by the time I'm 50.

Edited to add:
While trying to be handy:
- While painting the house, the ladder shifted, the foot of the ladder caught into some weird hole, it went down with me on it. Funny thing was that I was on a "ladder buddy" so that I could stand on the ladder backwards. When I was going down, I knew it and figured that my behind would be the safest surface for me to fall on. In the end, I smacked my head against the house and left a skid mark all the way down with my head. I fell hard on a huge rock that we had holding down cardboard to protect the foundation from paint. I had an enormous bruise on my upper left cheek, a ladder buddy scrape all the way up my back, my arm was bruised, my head was bruised, but I wasn't broken. A half hour later, sore, I got up and kept going.
- While trying to help hubs with the soffits, he lost control of a chunk of channel and it came down and smacked me in the face. Instant bruise. I was done helping, too.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

No Media Spotlight, Just a Happy Family

From As a follow-up to my post on Jon, Kate and their 8. Enjoy! I know that I did.

No media spotlight, just a happy family
Forgoing own TV show might be bad for wallet, but it's blessing for kids
Published on Sunday, Jun 07, 2009

When my husband, Keith, and I said our wedding vows 13 years ago today, we certainly never dreamed of all the crazy twists our life would take. We had plans for two kids, but ended up with a set of sextuplets and their big brother. We had no plans to be in the national media spotlight (until I became a bestselling author, of course!), and certainly not for having a half-dozen kids in one minute.

Luckily, our brush with national fame was very brief, and we've settled into a comfortable life where a few people in the grocery store give us second glances or even say, ''Hey, aren't you the ones that had all those kids a few years back?''We certainly have never had to deal with the kind of media firestorm that fellow sextuplet parents Jon and Kate Gosselin are currently engulfed in.

Especially in the last few weeks, I have often been asked, ''So what do you think of Jon and Kate?'' And my answer is usually: ''What a mess! I feel so sorry for those kids!'' But behind that short answer hides an overwhelming feeling of relief, a small, guilty ''Better them than us!'' feeling. Because the truth is that Keith and I feel incredibly lucky to be nothing like the Gosselins, aside from the number of kids we each conceived all at once.

Over the years, we have been approached several times to do a television show about our family, and each time we have politely declined. We decided pretty early on that we would share updates on our miracle kids as a way of thanking everyone who had prayed for us and gave donations to support our family.

We had no problem with a few local television crews doing brief pieces, or with print reporters visiting for a few hours. The kids thought it was great fun to see themselves on TV or find their pictures in the newspaper. However, we knew we definitely did not want anything to do with a regularly filmed show that would totally disrupt our kids' routine, since that routine is the only way we keep chaos from overwhelming us.

Each time we've received an offer, we always laugh and say, ''Oh, no, we're too boring for a TV show!'' And that's the truth, because we have tried to give our kids as normal a life as possible. Our kids don't realize that they're unique in Ohio for being the only set of sextuplets, and that lots of people have read about them in my books and columns.

We do all the same things many other families do — sports, church, movie nights and outings when the budget allows. As far as they know, every kid grows up with a ton of siblings, has to share whether they like it or not, wears hand-me-down everything and has parents who inquire about group discounts anywhere possible.

In the early days of Jon & Kate Plus 8, Keith and I watched bits and pieces of it just to see how another sextuplet family got through their days. It quickly became apparent to us that we had made the right decision about not living in such a fishbowl, especially as the seasons went on, their paychecks went up and the problems multiplied quickly.

At the end of each of these viewings, we would shake our heads and say, ''There's not enough money in the world to make that drama worthwhile!''

And now, as it appears that Jon and Kate's marriage is in serious trouble and their kids are feeling the strain of life in front of the cameras, Keith and I feel even more blessed with the life we have made together for the past 13 years. Our marriage is certainly not perfect, and we have each made our share of mistakes, but together we have created a happy, stable home for our 5-year-old sextuplets, Isabella, Sophia, Kyle, Logan, Alex and Lucy, and their 7-year-old big brother, Connor.

Our daily lives are filled with all the craziness that seven kids can produce. We never have enough money, enough energy for each other, or enough time to give each child the attention they deserve. And yet, at the end of each long, exhausting day, we are happy, we are together, and we are making plans for the future.

Of course, we don't look too far into the future, or we'll drive ourselves nuts worrying about paying for braces and glasses and driving lessons (ugh!), not to mention dealing with dating and teenage angst.

Together, Keith and I have weathered many storms in the past 13 years, including a painful struggle with infertility, the shock of a high-risk sextuplet pregnancy, an entire year of sleep deprivation when the six-pack was small, an autism diagnosis for Kyle and many other daily challenges that test our strength and patience.

Neither of us can imagine doing this job alone, or with someone whose heart wasn't totally committed to this incredible journey we are on. Sure, there are days when each of us would like to run away to a deserted island, but since there is no money for plane fare, we stick it out, trying to make each other laugh through the bad days.

I'm no Dr. Phil, but I have learned a few things about marriage in the last 13 years:
• A sense of humor is critical for any marriage's survival. It's even more important after you have kids!
• It doesn't matter if you eat macaroni and cheese three nights a week, as long as you eat it together as a family.
• End every day and every phone call with ''I love you.''
• It's OK to go to bed mad, as long as one of you admits you were an idiot in the morning. (Keith will say he's usually the morning idiot!)
• Even on the toughest days, have an attitude of gratitude and count the good things you have been blessed with.
• Make time to do things together, just the two of you. We try to have an in-house date night once a week where we feed the kids dinner and put them to bed a little early, then I cook some ''grown-up food'' that the kids don't like and we watch a free movie from the library. It's not fancy, but it still makes us happy and holds us over until we can have a real date night out of the house.
• Take time to do things apart, too. We take turns doing dinner and movies with friends once a month, which is a much-needed sanity break from the busy routine at home.
• Do fun things with your kids as often as possible. Even if it's just a picnic on the deck, watching our kids laugh and enjoy themselves makes us feel that we're doing a good job as parents and makes the hard work seem more worthwhile.

So in the end, Jon and Kate can keep their free tummy tucks and hair plugs, their fancy trips and endorsement deals, which come at the expense of their privacy and the family's sanity. What matters most to Keith and me is that we have a life we're happy with, and especially one that our kids are happy with. And so as we look forward to the next year of our journey together, we know that we're in it together, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer.

Oh, who are we kidding? We have seven kids, so it's going to be ''for poorer'' for many years to come!

The Hanselman sextuplets — Alex, Kyle, Isabella, Lucy, Logan and Sophia — were born Feb. 26, 2004, to proud parents Jennifer and Keith Hanselman and big brother Connor. Periodically, she shares her tales of life with ''Party of Nine.''

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Works for Me Wednesday: Suckering Tomato Plants

I was always taught to sucker my tomato plants. What are suckers, you ask? Well just look at my little tomato here. The sucker is the shoot in the elbow of the plant, where the branch and the main stalk come together. How do you sucker? You just pinch that little shoot off. That's it. Now, there are pro's and con's to suckering. I generally sucker once, then let the plant go. Inevitably, my plants will have some suckers that progress, but when the plant is beginning to develop, I like to sucker so that it can give more energy to nice development rather than being just a big plant. What do I mean? Well, my mother-in-law hasn't always been a sucker remover. She grows gorgeous tomato plants. Unfortunately, in years past, the huge plant that she grew yielded very few tomatoes. It was an enormous plant.

Suckering seems to have helped some tomato yield whoas that I've had. I've also suffered from overwatered tomatoes (in a planter box) that developed blossom end rot. I've had an underwatered tomato plant that, when the blooms developed, an elbow formed and the plant dropped the bloom along with about a 1" "arm" of plant. Give the tomato enough water and it doesn't do that. After the underwatering was corrected, that same plant (an heirloom non-GMO Brandywine) had to be supported by 5 tomato cages and gave me 66 tomatoes from one plant. No, I'm not kidding.

Suckering tomatoes? Works for me. Others will argue against it. It's all good. Whatever makes your green thumb happy.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Tales from the Trenches: Get back in the box!

Sadly, the conversation that my boss had with me a few months ago was re-visited with me. It appears that there is hub-bub going around from three co-workers about my having an anti-Chinese made product sentiment. Now, we discussed this at length two months ago. In fact, I asked L-, "Didn't we already deal with this?" I told her that we've done much research in our portion of the gallery on commercially crafted items so that we can discuss things with the customer like if it is a fair trade item, cottage industry thing, made from recycled products and so forth.

Then she brings up my quality control issue. I am a main display person at the store that I'm at. If I run across sub-par items, I reject them and either return them to the receiver or the receiving manager. Seems fair enough. Well, by doing this I've created more work for a few people, thus making some folks unhappy. I tried to explain to the receiver that to keep damaged or incorrectly manufactured items is to basically pay full wholesale for something that I'm going to need to dispense of at sale later on. This was brought to the attention to the owner as I wasn't putting the product out at all. I told her, "Of course not. I put out the first quality items first." She seemed to understand and nod her head at that.

Another issue she brought up with me is my having come in the day after Memorial Day, having seen the place a mess and essentially nothing touched from when I worked last (I work M-W, we had Monday off and I had returned on Tuesday) and I exclaimed "What did -- do last week?!" Well, that went over like a lead balloon. It appears as though the one female that I work with is a bit two-faced. Oh, she seems fine and dandy as you work with her but she'll stab you in the back quicker than you can turn around. You see, our store doesn't have a floor manager on staff in the building. My other co-worker and I essentially manage the store, jot odd jobs down on a sheet of paper and stick it to the counter for all of us to tackle. I explained to L- that yes, I had said exactly that. I said that when I came back in from Memorial Day weekend, several lights were left on, the public bathroom fan was left running all weekend long (which I stated that I fear is a fire hazard since the building is older than dirt), the front end was trashed and a display was left sitting in the same spot on the floor as where I left it the previous week. (I forgot about it, but heaven forbid that someone else picks it up.) I told L- that J- and I work together and neither one of us stand on formality. We make a list, divide and conquer and that is that. I told her that the part timers don't appreciate the lists that are made and look at them as slave labor. I told her that one of them told me that she was "so bored," but when I suggested "there is always cleaning and dusting or polishing jewelry" I was told that, "Well, I polished jewelry for 3 hours the other day."

We met for probably 45 minutes or more discussing all of these things. I think that L- was able to walk away with a clearer understanding that though, yes, I can be a pain in the butt and I know it, I'm not out to damage the company. (A few previous co-workers read my blog and know that I can be a pain in the can.) She told me that yes, she realized that I was opinionated and sometimes that is good and sometimes bad. I agree. Occasionally my honesty is misconstrued as opinionated (I've always thought of honesty being with the heart whereas opinionated can be just flat out bull headed), but truly I'm just trying to do good things.

I know that L- doesn't question that I'm a hard worker. When discussing the lack of motivation of co-workers, I told her that I know that she and her husband know that they aren't going to get 100% out of 100% of the people 100% of the time. I told her that I know that I don't always give 100%. We're human. They know that and accept that.

What did I learn today? Get back in the box. Having an opinion or sharing honesty with co-workers is biting me in the butt. Watch who you speak anything other than "hi" and "bye" to. I know that there are 3 that I must keep only on fluffy speaking terms on. No in depth conversations on anything, particularly the craft country of origin.

Why do people have to be mean and back stabby? I mean really. Can't we all just be glad that we have jobs, bosses who let us be ourselves and don't fire us for stupid things that people say about us?

Don't think that I end this post thinking that my halo is glowing and shining like the top of the Chrysler building (only now it would be the Fiat building, yes? Well, it was an Annie reference anyhow.) At any rate, I don't live in some illusion to think that I'm a saint. However, I wished that if someone had a problem with me, they would just tell me. Going around to everyone but me isn't going to fix the issue.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to take my own advice. I've taken it in, I've processed it and now I need to let it go.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The wild weekend that was.

Hubs ended up off this weekend (a rarity), had a cold (nothing severe but enough to encourage him to sit back and relax), so I've been a wife on the move. I was glad to see him sit back and relax, take the time he needed to recuperate. He never gets to do that, so it was luck that he had the weekend off to sit and just be.

I, on the other hand, had much to accomplish. Saturday we decided to sleep in a little (until 8 AM). K- and I had her very first reading class at the university, so we got ourselves all set to go for that. Initially, she was a little afraid. She told me that she was. I told her that we didn't expect her to sit down and read books, but that it was to help her and me learn skills to eventually put together to read. That made her feel better. She's not normally shy, but it did take about 10 minutes for her to warm up. I'm glad to report that her class is smallish (12 or so kids each with a mandatory parent in attendance) and the teacher seems lovely.

We came home with the intention of washing the car, but the neighbor had a friend over and he was cleaning her car. It doesn't sound like that big of a deal, but when Mike cleans a car he really cleans a car. From the first moment that I met Mike, he was cleaning his car (as I was looking at the house when it was for sale-- Hubs was working and I was pre-looking for us.) Mike sweeps the inside spotless, as he did on the car that he worked on today. I swear that he swept that car for at least an hour. Then he washed it. Every. nook. and. cranny. Then he waxed it. All of it. (Not that you'd want a partial wax job.) Oh sweet heavens. But you see, our yards are small. My child is also probably the nosiest neighbor child, besides E- next door. Oh bless these two only children. If you are out, they are going to talk to you and tell you their entire life story. So, in the interest of not interrupting Mike and his company, I found other things to do until Mike was finished doing a deep clean on the friend's car.

I weeded the garden. It's not a big garden, but I have the poor man's rototiller (the Garden Claw) and fluffed that through all the rows. Then I took the long handled three tined tool I have and fluffed between the plants. This ended up killing all the little weed sproutlings, which worked well enough for me.

I then moved on to the back flower gardens. I fluffed through those, pulled weeds, checked for anything else coming up. The usual.

My aunt decided cruise over on her mobility scooter to drop off some food offerings from her cupboard. My aunt is legally blind, so she doesn't realize that what she tripped on over was expired by at least a year or two. (Cake mixes and canned cream cheese frosting.) Very sweet, but as I'm sure that the cake mix would fail at this point and have no idea what state the icing would be in, I appreciated the effort, but deposited them in the garbage after she had gone. I made K- swear that she wouldn't tell on me.Then finally, oh finally!, Mike decided to do something else. This gave me the opportunity to clean the exterior of my vehicle and for the first time ever in my entire life, wax the vehicle (but truly I've never waxed any vehicle ever). Can I tell you something? It sucked almost as bad as what I thought it would. Though I used Turtle Wax Liquid Paste that goes on as a liquid and has the haze and polish of a paste, I'm really not good at it. I admit that the RAV's exterior was not entirely bug free, but my true hope was to fill in the scratches in the hand indentations for the handles and to cover up the 3" scratch (from someone's purse hardware is my guess) on my back quarter panel. I'm pleased to say that was successful. I'm also pleased to say that as I'm 5' 3/4" tall, I was still able to wax the roof-- the entire roof. (The moonroof got it, too, as I couldn't avoid it.) Am I the only one to miss sections of wax and have to go back over the job? Maybe it is just inexperience. That's okay. It really needed done and a few times a year is fine with me. Mike, car waxer extraordinaire, told me that the particular red that I have is prone to oxidation--which looks way yucky and appears pink-- so waxing is not an option. And wax on, wax off? Nah. I was getting sore so there was no on with the right and off with the left. Whatever arm was capable of buffing it back off did the job. Sheesh.

On Sunday, I did consult Mike, the great man o' car wax, and he said that he noticed that I did something more than wash my car. He was so proud of me for waxing it. He wanted me to wax it with this super duper cable insulator wax, but you can't have a speck of anything on the car, as the wax will make it permanently yours forever. He asked what I used and I told him he would yell at me. What I used was the Liquid Paste Turtle Wax-- half the bottle. He laughed and told me that's why it was so hard to rub off! He said I over-waxed, but apparently thought I did a great job. I think that he was all excited that I listened to him, even though I clearly handled the job a little differently than he would have. At the end of Saturday, I was too tired to clean the interior of the car, so I thought I would pass that on to Sunday.

K- took more trips up and down the sidewalk on her bike on Saturday than I can humanly count. I really do need to hike those training wheels up a bit more. I'm thinking that in a month or so we can probably ditch them.

I washed laundry that we had and hung it out on the line. I ran a cheater week on the sheets this week and pulled the pillow cases only. I wash the sheets every other week, but try to pull the cases every week. Of course, Hubs went to lay down and found the pillows bare. Right now he is riding with flannel cases. Oh well.

My Saturday night finished out with folding the balance of the laundry on the lines and putting the weeks worth of laundry away. I had gotten it done and folded, but hadn't managed to put it away during the week. That was my goal for the end of the day. I wanted every speck of laundry washed, folded and put away. I'm glad to report that I got that completed.

Sunday brought us to just the regular church service. I finked out on Sunday school, knowing full well I had 2 hours of church to attend at night. We came home, had lunch and I tackled the dishes from Saturday and Sunday since I had been preoccupied elsewhere.

K- and I went outside, hooked up with E- and her mommy and the girls played on E-'s porch as I tackled the interior of my RAV and all of it's windows inside and out. I traded watching E- so she could weed, gave the girls a snack and finished working on VBS set decoration plans. The girls seemed interested and each started launching into conversations with me about Jesus, who He is, what He does and all that. At one point, E-'s mommy came back to check on the girls. She hadn't heard them and since they were being big bellyachers on the porch at her house, she had wondered where they had gone. She was impressed that they weren't fighting and seemed to be having a good time. After my plans were complete, I pulled the hammock out for them. They love to hang out in there.

Then was the time for our play date to end. K- was going to go to evening church with me, she needed fed and washed up. As I was preparing dinner, K-'s refusal to do chores properly reared its ugly head again. You see, as I was cleaning the interior of the car, the backseat (AKA the toy box) was cleared out of all the things K- brings into the car and never takes back out. I had a round laundry basket full of doll babies, parts to Little People sets, Crayola Color Explosion and Color Wonder Books, play food, pad of construction paper, a variety of crayons, sippy cups and McDonald's Happy Meal toys. Her task was to put these items into their "proper creature homes" while I prepared dinner. She kept running up telling me that she found either new homes, just put the basket on the shelf or put the basket on the toy box. Great, but that is mommy's laundry basket and you need to do your chore properly. Oh, this ended up in the privilege of her going to fun evening kids church being taken away. I hated to leave her with Hubs, who is still nursing his cold, but I couldn't take her to church falling apart. No way, no how. Later I checked to see how she had done, and she put everything away, even putting the laundry basket next to the washer as I told her. Hooray for listening ears!

I got home, we cruised outside, took an evening stroll down the street and watered our plants and flowers. She got a bath, without too much grief, then didn't want to do her reading class homework. Turns out that at 8:30 PM, she was nearly begging to go to sleep because she was so tired. There's always tomorrow for our homework.

Have a great day!