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What I Did With My Maternity Leave

Just like that, my new baby is 11 weeks old and I am back to work.  What?!?  Where does the time go?

So instead of ‘what I did on summer vacation’, here’s my essay on  my 11-week break from working.

First, I attempted to grow the largest baby on the earth.  Although I didn’t exactly achieve Guinness Book-level baby, I came close enough.  We have a seriously large child over here.  I mean, they all grow up too fast but one Sir Davis has grown VERY quickly.  It hurts a mama’s heart a bit to be constantly putting whole groups of onesies back into storage.  We have blown tall the way to the 9-month stuff.  9-month old baby clothes!  Sniff.  17 lbs.  Also, #backache.

   IMG_3185And this picture is several weeks old.

Second, we have also pretty successfully grown the largest tomato plants on earth.  They are threatening to take over the entire garden.  Well, the cherry tomato is trying to take over all the other tomatoes at least.  I can’t really claim this as a maternity leave activity because we have done exactly nothing to make them so huge.  I do sneak out there when I can to tend things when I can.  Up next: canning tomatoes?  What are we gonna do with all these?

IMG_3186Fun times in the garden.

IMG_3183Large tomato.  Our secret is… nothing.  Luck.

Third, we have all taken luxuriously long naps, day in and day out.  Yes that is a LIE.  Ransom’s daily nap has gone from a solid 2.5 hours to more like 45 minutes some days.  I can’t complain, many kids his age don’t nap at all.  Meanwhile Davis has become the champion of cat-napping.  No, its not good for his little 11-week-old brain development, but I mean honestly, what am I gonna do.  There’s no arguing with babies sometimes.  They wake up when they feel like it.

IMG_3182No one is actually sleeping in this picture.

Fourth, we have played with the LEGOs. Pirate ships, tree forts, castles, race tracks, all manner of wheeled vehicles.  Ransom is a die-hard Lego lover, and he has entirely too many of them even at the tender age of 3.5.  (They are hand-me-downs.  #daddyisapackrat.)  While playing Legos with Ransom, I have been cogitating on the most efficient Lego organizational system.  I’m still tweaking it, but once we get done, I promise to share with the internet.  When I do, a light will shine down from the heavens (with a chorus of angel voices) I’m sure because this has got to be one of the most enduring problems of the modern era.  I mean, what do you do with ALL THESE TINY PIECES?  His room is a serious construction zone/disaster area ALL THE TIME.  Really though, what’s clutter in the grand scheme of things.  Although stepped-on legos do hurt a lot.

IMG_3184Ransom has entered the ‘weird picture face’ phase.

Fifth, I dabbled in Paleo cooking & eating again.  I wanted to try to recapture that “energized” feeling I felt during that Whole30 (okay whole25) I did last year.  This year we made it just under two weeks (Whole11?), and then we had some travel plans and it wasn’t worth sticking to the diet while staying with family.  Plus I really wanted to eat some gluten.  ha.  But, now that the garden veggies are coming in, I am determined to up the health-factor in my cooking.  So get ready for some OKRA recipes because we are going to have a lot of that to eat.

That’s most of it!  There was also: replacing the cabinet pulls in the kitchen, two weeks of swimming lessons, a stomach virus, a couple of trips to Columbus, a couple of power outages, a partridge, and two pear trees.  Oh, wait, make that a couple of paw paw trees.  yes, seriously.  More on that later.  Now we are three days into the next ‘new normal’, and struggling to adjust to another new routine.  I’m now working half-days for the rest of the summer, and looking forward to it, but also missing our totally carefree do-whatever-slash-survival days.

 

 

 

Newborn Survival Guide

I’m feeling like a total rebel right now because its actually “nap time” and the babes are asleep, which means I should be napping too, in order to properly stave off the sleep deprivation.  That’s like Rule #1 of Newborn Survival.

But ya know what???? I don’t feel like napping!!!  Mama free time!!! Wooo!

Crazy town, I know.

Sorry.

Today I wanted to jot down my thoughts on surviving the onslaught of the second child.  Its a bit different that having that first child – but in a good way.  Actually, its much better than I imagined.  Actually, we are pretty much having a blast over here with Mr. Davis.  Here are some ways that Baby #2 is different from Baby #1.

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Those long sleepless nights aren’t quite so long.

Having that first child is a bit of a shock to the adult system.  Parents instantly go from having total control over your own life to basically none.  The newborn takes charge of your sleep schedule, shower schedule, eating schedule, social life, work life, and so on.  Eventually, little by little, you regain some of that control, but not all of it.  As parents of a 3.5 year old, we still can’t stay up all night watching 6 consecutive episodes of _____ on Netflix without serious consequences.  The preschooler won’t sleep in.  In fact, he’ll probably wake up earlier than normal because kids have a sixth sense about these sorts of situations.  That doesn’t always mean we make the right decision about the number of shows to watch.

I remember thinking at those 3am feedings with Kid #1 that I literally might die from sleep deprivation.  Who even knew it was possible to survive on 2 hour naps for weeks (months) on end?  Hey, I survived.

The sleepless nights were what I most dreaded about having another baby.  Thankfully, its not nearly as bad this time, not as painful as I remembered.  Knowing what to expect and knowing its doable makes all the difference.  Its just one more feeding, and the house is peaceful and quiet.  Life goes on. 🙂

IMG_2974Ransom’s last day at preschool was ‘Wacky Tacky’ day. He was a natural at it.

That panicky inner voice in your head isn’t nearly so loud.

With the first baby, even I, the most laid back person of all people everywhere, could hear that voice in my head telling me that Child #1 was probably dying every time we couldn’t get him to stop crying. Or at least starving? Some being emotionally damaged?  Something else terrible.  Baby #2? We’re more able to hang on to our sanity and just enjoy the little guy, even when he’s crying.

He doesn’t really cry that much after all.

IMG_2904I think they are performing a freestyle rap duet here.

Enjoy it, none of this will last very long.

Again, with the first, we were more worried that he was… not sleeping long enough… not developing healthy napping skills.. depending on being rocked to sleep… not getting enough to eat… getting too much to eat…  Baby #2?  If you want me to rock your sweet little noggin to sleep, sure, I’d love to.  There will be plenty of time for self-soothing later.

IMG_2912Davis has already outgrown this onesie. 😦

Cut out everything.

To get the most out of this oh-so-short newborn phase, really, cut out all the stuff.  Forget it.  It’ll wait.  I knew this the first time, but I really really get it this time.  I’m doing a much better job at doing nothing.

I cut out cooking.  Its my favorite hobby (truly eating is, if we’re being honest) and it takes up a big chunk of my time.  I get a lot of satisfaction out of running our household on mostly-from-scratch, healthier-than-average meals.  (Cheaper too, icing on the cake!)

This month we are eating meals I froze in the last few months, take-out, and preprocessed foods like pop-tarts, cheetos, frozen pizza, canned soup, PB&J, cereal.  No one has died yet.  I’ll ease back into cooking in a few more weeks, but for now, bring on the high fructose corn syrup.  In fact, we’re having ‘breakfast for dinner’ tonight which will involve scrambling eggs.  Baby steps!

We also used exclusively disposable plates, cups, and plasticware right at first.  Sorry earth, I’ll make it up to you later.  There’s just no time to wash dishes right in the beginning.  I stopped worrying about the recycling (its not easy here in the boonies but I do my best), but I just don’t need a counter full of drying tin cans these days.

So in summary, to make this easiest, I recommend you take all the shortcuts and don’t feel bad about it.  Its certainly working for us.

IMG_2939Regression… its real.

Make lists and set timers.

New mamas do have a little free time.  It just comes in unexpected bursts, at ever varying times of day, for unknown lengths.  What works best for me is to keep a list of things that I’d like to accomplish.  Keep it simple.. e.g. paint toenails.  That sleep deprivation will keep you from being able to remember anything ever, unless its written down.

And then, if I’m doing anything that is time sensitive, do set a timer.  Again, you’ll totally forget you started that rice boiling, and 30 minutes later be wondering what that weird smell is.  (did it)  I prefer the oven timer because it keeps beeping until someone addresses it.  You can set reminders in your phone too, for calls that need to be made, bills to pay, etc.  These things come floating across your brain at that 3am feeding, but then they are nowhere to be found in the light of day.

 

IMG_2976Selfie.

Download some e-books.

Okay last tip.  Babies take up an enormous amount of time with their round-the-clock feeding habits.  You will be chair-bound like, 4+ hours per day.  I downloaded some books to read on my phone with the kindle app.  Even though this isn’t my preferred way to read, I can easily manage my phone with just one hand.  And having something intelligent to do keeps your brain from rotting out.  4+ hours is too much time to spend on facebook!!

Next time, I look forward to talking about something besides babies!  Although I do love babies. 🙂

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Packing on the lbs.

 

Wins and Losses

You win some, you lose some. Here is an update from the Johnson household the last few days.

First, obviously bringing home baby Davis is a big one in the ‘Win’ Category. We did successfully name the child before leaving the hospital – Davis Charles Dale Johnson. (I’ll have to explain the name sometime soon!) Davis is a good sleeper, although he’s better at it in the day than during the night lately. He’s a cuddly little chunk, and I am perfectly content to sit with him sleeping on my shoulder all day long. He has one dimple and he flashes his sweet smile a lot. Sure, I know they aren’t “real” smiles but who cares?? 🙂

 
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On the other hand, I forgot that baby delivery actually does require some recuperation time. So although Davis is sleeping a lot and I theoretically have a lot of free time, I’m pretty much couch-bound. That’s maddening, because there is plenty to do. On the other hand, I guess my condition is pretty conducive to typing out long rambly blog posts.

Here’s a fun tale. Friday morning I went to fill up my giant thermos (must stay hydrated) at the fridge and the found the dispenser wasn’t working. Opening the freezer, it was noticeably too warm in there, and some items had already begun to thaw out. PANIC! Ransom had just returned from his grandparents, I was a little low on sleep and high on hormones, and now, the freezer full of food that I’d managed to put aside for post-baby meals was THAWING. This fridge was our one Mississippi craigslist purchase, a standard-grade 7-year-old Kenmore. So began deliberation about whether to try to fix it ourselves, call a repair man, or just buy a new one. My newborn-addled brain was no use. Meanwhile the food was THAWING. We found basically the exact same refrigerator for $800 at the nearest Lowe’s so we opted for replacement. My parents headed off to Lowe’s to pick it up for us. August and Ransom carted the whole contents of the old refrigerator over to his mom’s house. Then a couple of hours later, while everyone was still out of the house except for me and the babe, the darn thing cut right back on.

Clearly something was frozen up and now it had thawed out. I heard the compressor fire back up and the water dispenser started flowing again. Agh.. Now that fridge resides in our garage, colder than ever, while we figure out what to do with it. Sell it ‘as is’ on craigslist? So all this is a big ‘LOSE’. I mean, I’m glad the old fridge is gone. It had a squirrely ice maker and always made weird noises. Surely it was only a matter of time till it really broke down for good. But I could’ve done without the random $800 expenditure this week.

After all, this is the week taxes are due, speaking of losing.

Enough negativity. Here’s another one for the ‘win’ column. The day I went into labor, my parents and husband spent the whole day working in our garden – weeding, tilling, planting. It all looks fabulous, about 50 times better than what I was planning for our 2014 gardening effort. So far we have tomatoes, a variety of pepper plants, strawberries, several herbs, and at least three plants that came back from last year: leeks, asparagus, and cilantro. Who has ever eaten a leek? Not me, but I intend to get on that soon. There are also two more beds that need to be planted. I think my excitement over all the progress in the garden was what finally sent me into labor, and the rest is history. I’d love to be out there weeding right now, instead of gazing longingly from the couch.

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And yet, guess what the forecasted low temperature is for tonight? 29 measly degrees. The supposed frost date for our area is April 10th. So I guess we’ll try our hand at frost protection tonight. The actual time below freezing is just a few hours, and the garden can be fairly easily protected. But was about all the buds on our poor fruit trees? I can’t think of a way to protect them, so I guess we’ll just see what happens. I

 

**Update: the forecast is now 34! Fingers crossed!! We may just make it through with minimal damage. August is out covering stuff now.

Special Delivery

Greetings! I just wanted to pop in with a quick update. We are in the middle of a two-day retreat to a fabulous all-inclusive destination… Its not Jamaica or Costa Rica, but it does include several different flavors of jello, the largest underwear you’ve ever seen, and a self-serve “Sonic”-style ice machine.

(You know, basically the most perfect form of ice on the planet.)

Introducing our new baby boy:

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8lbs 9oz, 22 inches long, quick delivery, good health, happy as long as he’s tightly swaddled.

We’re all in love of course, especially the big brother.

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39 1/2 Weeks

Here we are on the way to preschool this morning – 39 and a half weeks pregnant.

39wks

In case you don’t know or remember this, pregnancy due dates are at 40 weeks.  So basically, we are ALMOST THERE.  I really can’t complain.  This pregnancy has passed at the speed of light.  I feel great: not tired, no back ache, feet are still basically normal sized, I can even paint my toenails.  I do heartily recommend April babies over September ones, like Ransom.  It was 90 degrees inside our {un-air-conditioned} house at this stage of my last pregnancy, and that was not so fun.

On the other hand, I am basically down to one uniform to wear (see photo) and even it requires constant adjustment.  Things try to ride up or down constantly, as the case may be.  And, my general presence seems to make people nervous.  Either because they are nervous about me causing an embarrassing medical scene (i.e. baby delivery in the fellowship hall at church) or maybe because that’s just what you say to really pregnant women.  You know, as in “Oh my goodness I can’t believe you’re still up and about!” etc.

Meanwhile, the house is moderately clean.  The baby things are sort of in order, although not entirely.  I have stocked the freezer with several frozen meals.  We have a few baby names picked out.  So, there’s nothing left to do but wait.  And drink more water.

January Goals and Eating Weird Vegetables

So, January 2014 is over and done with obviously.  I set three not-so-lofty goals for the month and here’s were we ended up.

  • Goal #1.  Don’t freeze.

Is this like the coldest winter on record or what?  Our huge propane tank is running low and we’re going to have to buy more in the next week or two.  {Sad face}.  Propane is not really a cheap heating fuel.  However, you know what is?  Fire wood.  We kept our home quite a bit toastier than usual during the January’s polar blasts by FINALLY firing up the wood burning stove.  I had been giving that thing the side eye ever since we moved in here because it takes up A LOT of floor space, and its just kinda ugly.  But you know what?  It works very very well.  Its easy to start and it can warm almost the entire house.

So I guess we have to keep it.  And purchase chain saw to replenish the wood pile.

photo 2(1)

  • Goal #3.  Visit a foreign country.  Did that.  Disclaimer: obviously the trip was plan well in advance of the goal setting effort.
  • Goal #2.  Cook four new vegetables or vegetable recipes.

This needs to be a perma-goal for the Johnsons.  We’re forever stuck in a rut called ‘canned green beans’ and I’m determined to broaden our vegetable horizons.  So the four recipes I tried in January were:

Kenyan Collard Greens and Ground Beef This was really good and super easy. Will definitely make again.

Georgian Lobio This recipe is from Georgia the country (not the state).  I had it in Russia and it was wonderful.  Something in the vein of refried red beans with an interesting spice mix, and pomegranate seeds on top. However, my version did not turn out so well.  On the upside, I did get to use the morter and pestle my grandma gave me for Christmas.

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  • Sauteed Swiss Chard with Parmesan I definitely felt like a mad culinary scientist cooking this weird red-stemmed plant.  And shocker – it was really good.  Approved by husband and even somewhat approved by preschooler.

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  • Baked Kale Chips I majorly oversalted these, but there is hope here. I’ll have to give this one another go.

So all in all, 3 of the 4 were “greens”.  I guess I should switch to root vegetables or squashes for February.  You guys got any suggestions?  What’s the weirdest vegetable you cook these days?

Reviewing December Too

Yesterday (New Years Day) at breakfast, I was looking at the tree and wondering if I should take it down or let it sit for a couple more days when I literally saw half a strand of lights go out.  I took it as a sign.  Christmas decoration must come down.  So I de-merrying everything, a bittersweet task for sure, but great quiet time for reflecting on the holiday season.  As Bethany mentioned, we both decided to take a bit of a blog hiatus in December.  I think that’s kind of key to surviving the holidays – pick a few things to ‘not do’.  We also didn’t watch any Christmas movies, or go ice skating, or go see any Christmas lights – all things that would’ve been fun but there’s always next year and we had no shortage of fun around here anyways. So here is what we Johnsons DID do. (And here’s Bethany’s December review if you missed it.)

First, there was an epic holiday costume creation event and accompanying trip to the tiny sad local mall’s Santa.  I told you all about Ransom’s costume.  Mine is made from a spare wig of my grandmothers and two Goodwill purchases (a jacket and a red bridesmaids dress).  I hand crafted August’s from red and green felt.  The money shot.

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People you may not recognize are my two brothers, their wives, and kiddos.  Santa is not, repeat NOT, a relation.  Some facebook folks seemed to think that was my dad.  We are a festive crew, are we not?

We did manage to take a real Johnson Christmas card photo, continuing our running tradition of hastily running out into the yard and using the self-timer. I ordered the prints on ‘metallic’ paper, which was very festive indeed.

christmascard

The Advent Nativity activity was a HUGE hit.  And, it absolutely accomplished its intended purposes – teaching Ransom the Christmas story and giving us something to focus on beside Santa.  Ransom opened one piece of the scene each night after dark.  I just reused the same little red box every night, super easy.  He was sure to remind me once the sun went down.  Several nights consisted of ‘two benches’ or ‘a bale of hay’ but Ransom loved them all.

manger

How cute is the little barn that August constructed?  Ransom of course added quite a bit of colorful commentary to the scene throughout the month.  There was lots of debate about who should ride what animal, who could cook the dinner, etc.  Prior to Jesus’s arrival on Christmas Eve, I often found this photographer visiting the stable… for a maternity session, no doubt.

maternity

Maybe he’s just a tourist passing through… And now that Jesus is born, he and Joseph have primarily been taking safaris over in the African veld (gift to Ransom from my parents).

safari

Yes, the safari leader’s hair is already missing.  That reminds me, its high time to put the whole Nativity up before we lose any pieces.  Definitely will be doing it again next December.

Also notable: a new nephew arrived 2 weeks early – guess he didn’t want to miss Christmas this year.

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And of course, there was a lot of shopping, and crafting, and cooking, and eating.  I think I actually went through an entire bag of sugar, just in December.  There were several batched of cookies, a gingerbread cake, a pie or two.  Several rounds of peppermint hot cocoa.  Stews.  Breakfast casseroles.  Homemade waffles (Ransom’s fav).  We painted wrapping paper. We decorated the tree.  Things were bought and sold on Ebay.  Approximately a gagillion renditions of Jingle Bells.  Seven different family Christmas celebrations.  And then August and I both took the last week of December off work.  Hooray!  We wrapping things up by having a few new friends over for dinner on New Years eve, and then shooting $10 worth of fireworks off our little dock. It was a very Merry Christmas.

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Old Friends

Greetings from deep inside the Atlanta airport! Don’t be confused, this is Mary-Hall. Presumably Bethany has made it to Brazil because there hasn’t been another peep out of her since that last blog post. Spending an evening in an airport is as rare for me as it is common for her, and I’m being careful to enjoy the novelty of my situation (almost 12 hrs in, delay after delay after delay). I’m not even on business travel. I’m all alone and this was a personal trip.

I spent the last couple of days with three of my dearest friends. We all started boarding school in the 11th grade, and we’ve been close ever since. Surviving a nerdy boarding school is the quintessential bonding experience I guess, because the bonds have stuck.

Here we are partying like its 1999… ‘Cuz it was.

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These ladies have been with me through thick and thin, up and down and back around. Breakups, bachelorette parties, cross country moves, countless camping trips and tubes of raw cookie dough.

Now we’re all 30 years old {and fabulous duh}. Two live outside the US, with foreign husbands and visa issues and jobs and kids in the mix. So suffice it to say that getting all four together in one spot was basically a minor miracle and the improbability wasn’t lost on anyone.

So what do you do when you’re thrown back together with your closest friends that you never ever see? Talk, eat, talk, get pedicures, talk, take a local boat tour, eat junk food, look at old photos, stay up too late, and then hug and drop each other off at airports, and pretend like we could do it all again in two weeks… when it could easily be two years before we see the foreign-based ones again.

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We spent some time making predictions about where we’d each be I 5 years. For the first time in my life, my answer is already fairly defined. Not too much fortune telling required. We plan to be right in the same spot unless something unexpected happens. How strange and novel to be “settling down”.

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Old friends are so uniquely qualified to remind you who you are, where you’ve come from, how you’ve changed, and how you haven’t. That is priceless feedback to get.

And with that, at long last, I am boarding my final flight to Mississippi.
ETA 12:15am.

Buying Rural Real Estate

This morning, August and I signed ~100 pages of legal mumbo jumbo and became homeowners again. YaHOO! Not just homeowners but also landowners. The property we bought includes 28 acres – that’s a whole lot in the eyes of some and just a few in the eyes of others (i.e. my husband). Having some room to hunt, fish, grow trees, etc, was my husband’s #1 real estate priority since we started this journey last summer. Turns out, buying a little land with a house is harder than you might think, even here in Mississippi, where you are never more than a few miles from “the boonies“. Along the way, we’ve learned some (truly fascinating) stuff that’s clearly not common knowledge, as only a slim sector of the population is after this sort of land/house combo. I’d thought I’d record some of what we learned here in case others find themselves in a similar situation.

1. Land Lending

In the beginning stages of the search, we sat down to determine how much property we could afford to buy, given our down payment savings and the crazy low mortgage rates available these days. Well, as it turns out, land isn’t actually “mortgage-able”, not even land with a house on it. We were surprised by this at first.

All-important lending guidelines in the mortgage industry require that there be no more than 5-7 acres attached to a house. So your typical bank loan office doesn’t want to see you under contract for a house and 28 acres. That’s too far out of the box. Their appraisal systems aren’t set up to handle that. Etc Etc.

For raw land, you can actually borrow money to buy it from specialty lending institutions called “land banks”. We have several in our area. These guys are set up to make loans on raw land, but its a little bit of a different ballgame from mortgage lending at a bank. We didn’t go down this road so I don’t know the whole story. But, I did learn that their interest rates are a little higher than mortgage rates. We were quoted about 5%, meanwhile mortgage rates were less than 3%. The terms of the loans offered also are a bit different from conventional mortgages. In our case, the 5% rate also was fixed for the first few years, and then adjustable each year after that. AND conversely to the bank mortgage, the land bank isn’t set up to lend on homes. So, unless the value of the land far eclipses the value of the house, a home/land combo is outside of THEIR box as well. That’s not the case in our situation.

To buy the property we found, we actually separated our purchase into two different contracts: one for the house and 5 acres, and one for 23 bare acres.

2. Surveys & Legal Descriptions

If you want to buy even small acreage in a rural area, you really need a recent survey. A survey is where a qualified surveyor reviews the legal description of the property and physically walks around checking that the corners of the property are appropriately marked. They check the fences and put out little flags on the property line. They make a map showing where all the structures are, and whether any neighbors’ shed is hanging over the property line, etc. This is not a cheap service either, ours cost $2000.

Our sellers had no recent survey, and they were kinda ticked at us for making a big deal about it in the beginning. But eventually they agreed to split the cost. And boy are we glad we pressed it because as it turned out, the legal description {the words on file at the courthouse that describe where your property lines are} had a major error in it. In this picture, the black lines are the property lines, whereas the red lines are the property lines as described at the courthouse.

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So the moral of this story is: Get a survey. Unless you’re buying a home in a subdivision or an established neighborhood, its really really important.

3. Home Insurance & Fire Zones

As it turns out, not all home insurance companies like to write policies for rural properties. I had no idea. Our insurance company that we’ve had for years, including our previous home owner’s policy, quoted us what we thought was a pretty high rate for such a small house. Then they quoted an even HIGHER rate if the walls of the home turned out to be wood frame construction rather than brick. (Its brick thank goodness.) We saved a bunch of money by shopping around, which is a huge hassle, but apparently some companies even specialize in rural properties, while others look at you like you’ve grown a third eye.

To generate a quote, the insurance guys have to figure out what fire zone you are in. This is a scale from 1 to 10 where 10 equals $$$ premiums. What determines your fire zone is how far you are from a fire station, whether its a volunteer fire station, and whether there are fire hydrants near your property.

Moral here: If you buy a house made out of wood, more than 5 miles from a fire station, expect to have high insurance rates. If you’re building a house, you probably want to look at have a couple of brick walls. Our house has 3 thankfully.

4. Utilities and Services

This one falls a little bit into the ‘duh’ category but I’ll list anyway. Rural properties don’t have access to the same level of services that are available in the city.

We have a septic tank at the new house to handle what a sewer normally would. We requested a septic inspection and everything checked out. However, we did learn that when it breaks, we’ll have to upgrade to a treatment plant. Septics are no longer cool with the health department.

Besides that we don’t have good cell coverage. Cable Internet isn’t available. But DSL is. And we have propane in place of natural gas.

We’re okay with all that but it’s definitely something to think about!

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A Local Adventure

Some people around this blog are bebopping to India and Brazil, while some other people, ahem, will be keeping things a little more local. And that doesn’t mean there aren’t adventures to be had. No sir!

Three weeks ago my husband said, “Want to do the Bluz Cruz with me next weekend?” What? He does that race like almost every year with a friend, in our old beat-up blue canoe. Its a 22 mile paddle race down the largest river in the US – the mighty Mississippi. And last mile is against the current. Yaay.

Then he said, “We have to do it, my picture’s on the t-shirt.” Game changer!

bluzcruz12013 T-shirt & the originals in 2011, husband in rear

And you know what, why not? Boy scouts and old ladies do it every year too. I felt confident that we wouldn’t have to be towed in by the safety boat.  So that is how I ended up in a casino parking lot in Vicksburg, MS at 6AM on a Saturday morning.

By 8AM we had been bussed north to a boat ramp where we prepared ourselves for the upcoming adventure.  This year’s race had a great turnout, 90 total boats, but only 7 were canoes.  The rest of the people are smarter and bring kayaks.  Kayaks cut through the water with grace and ease.  Heavy aluminum canoes kind of plod along.

bluzcruz2Where’s Waldo? Upper left, yellow life jacket, arms crossed, looking useful.

At some point we put our boats in the water and then they honk a car horn at you, which means GO!!!  So off we went.  The first 6 miles or so were wild and windy.  We were facing two-foot swells at least.  I felt like just like Gilligan on that fateful trip.  The skipper in the rear did a great job of not getting too frustrated with me, though I was always paddling on the wrong side and threatening to flip us.

bluzcruz3Perfect Facebook header photo.  We’re farthest left in the middle of the frame.

The river actually had a current of ~5mph that day, and our measly little paddling just added a couple extra mph on top.  NOT for lack of trying though.  We really wanted to beat this one other canoe, but we quickly realized that was not in the cards for 2013.  Still, we gave it all we had – for 3 HOURS.

I distracted myself from the muscle pain by singing “Just around the Riverbend” in my head and attempting to channel Pocahontas herself.  Never been one for “arm strength” per se.

bluzcruz4Great wind-in-the-bangs shot. ‘Cuz we’re moving so fast.

A big part of the race is actually knowing how to ride the river most efficiently.  Its faster in some spots than others, shielding from the wind, yak yak yak.  Ask August about it.  Good thing this was his 4th (6th?) race.  All I know is, I was basically only allowed to paddle on the left side for the entire trip.  The river is so stinkin’ large that once all the kayaks pass out of site, I basically felt like we were going zero mph and would likely be towed in after all.

But, the sun did come out, the waves chilled out, and we made it.  Once the big bridge is in sight, you’re almost there!  All that’s left is a 1-mile upriver stretch on a tributary called the Yazoo.  FUN!

bluzcruz5We have sections of FunNoodle on the sides as bump guards.  Classy!

As I mentioned, one canoe was WAY past us by now.  But right as we were heading up the Yazoo, a second canoe that had been behind us the whole way was edging around in some kind of superfast miracle current.  They passed us. Then we got back in the lead.  Then them.  Then us.  Then RIGHT at the FINISH LINE, it was like a fullspeed ahead duel to the death.  OMG my arms were about to fall off and I don’t know if August was paddling that hard but I was sure as heck going to give it my best shot.  We won by 1 second!

results

Here’s the sad/bad/silly/nutty part.  That other boat was a man…. and his kid!  Yes, I gave it my all and beat a kid by 1 second.  August says he was thinking about letting them win.  I wasn’t because I figured they were in a different class.  The race offers Male, Female, and Mixed classes, and obviously we were in mixed.  Apparently a man and a boy are mixed as well.  Because at the award ceremony, they did in fact get 3rd place behind us.  Then I felt a little bad.

Here’s a shot of the kid looking cute and a little concerned about the crazy lady in the other canoe.

bluzcruz6Better luck next year kiddo.

Oh well.  Its a hard-knocks life, is it not?  I do feel kinda bad.  On the other hand, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place all get the same thing – awesome handmade trophies.

bluzcruz7All pics for this post except this one are from the official Bluzcruz photographer.

And later that day, I couldn’t even lift my arms over my head to wash my own hair.

Nerdery addendum: Through the miracle of technology, my skipper husband collected the following GPS track of our progress. Although it looks like we paddled right across a sandbar, the river level was actually WAY up on race day.  We did keep her in the water.

bluzcruz_map

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