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#1 of 36 Old 06-30-2005, 10:49 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I really should have entitled it "Why could Santa not come in Little House on the Prairie (books, not tv) and many other puzzles". I was going to post on the Caroline Ingalls thread, but it's a bit off the subject. However, since I just discovered this Little House fan club here, I thought I'd give my *very* long standing questions a shot.

You already know my first question, which has to do with that chapter in Little House on the Prairie where Ma and Pa are all heartbroken and gloomy because Santa cannot make it across the river; the water is too high and there's no snow. I don't get this! Since when have Ma and Pa needed to go to a store to have a christmas? Why hadn't Ma gotten her act together and made the girls some beautiful pincushions (or whatever) out of scrap cloth? Pa could have carved them some little animals out of wood. I can think of about 25 things right now they could have done to make sure the girls' stockings had two or three items in them on Christmas morning, river or no river. Why did she write it that way? It can't have been to not ruin the Santa myth for kids, because of course Laura I. Wilder knew that about an hour later any young reader would have picked up On the Banks of Plum Creek and read about how there really isn't any Santa, as Ma explains to them when Pa really needs horses.

So I don't get it. It's totally inconsistent with the Christmases in all the other books where they all make things for each other.

Here's another thing that perhaps someone who lives on a farm can tell me. Why do Pa's haystacks stay stacked outdoors all winter during The Long Winter? At times the wind blew so hard it scoured through 15 feet of snow right down to the ground. How do haystacks stay stacked there? It does not speak of hay *bales*, mind you. That would make sense.

#3. In These Happy Golden Years, Laura gives her first $40 for teaching to Ma and Pa so Mary can come home from college, and stay in college the next year. She hates teaching, but will do it for Mary's college education. So then why does Laura turn around and give Pa her entire $75 for her 2nd term in order to buy an organ for Mary, with Pa putting up the other 25$? It doesn't sound to me like Laura needed to teach at all. An organ in a huge luxury, and they still are having to pay Mary's tuition; so Pa must have had money in the bank to pay for college. What was the big deal about Laura having to keep teaching? And with her third term, she keeps most of the money and is only able to convince Pa to take $15 of it. Doesn't sound to me like Laura need have bothered.

What other puzzlers have puzzled me for years........well, there are several, but they're not coming to me now. I just leave what I've got so far.

I have always wished someone would write a series like the Little House books, but for adults, complete with all the horrible illnesses, crude details about the flies and maggots and difficulties getting to the "convenience" in winter and the dresses that make you feel you're being cooked alive in summer and the problems getting things done having a baby around would cause. Laura never even wrote about her baby brother dying; she writes the book as though there had been no family tradegy other than Mary's blindness. Little Charles Fredrick (sp?) isn't even mentioned.

Oh, and that reminds me of another question. Who took care of baby Carrie when they all had malaria in LHOTP? Ma was too weak to get out of bed, and so was pa. They all were. Did poor baby Carrie just rot in her own feces and urine in her cradle or trundle bed for several days before the family was discovered by Mrs. Scott and the doctor?

Ok, enough for now. I suppose it sounds like I hate these books; I actually love them and have read them all countless times, despite my 42 years. I guess I could go for some more realism, though! Anybody know of a good book or series about life on the frontier that isn't sugar coated?

Kathleen E.
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#2 of 36 Old 06-30-2005, 10:54 PM
 
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#3 of 36 Old 06-30-2005, 10:58 PM
 
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Hey, here's another one: how, exactly, did Laura's and Almanzo's house burn down in The First Four Years?

L. was suffering, quite clearly, from major PPD after the baby died. They were stretched to the max on their finances; it was clear their farm was failing. She had tried before (and failed) to get Almanzo to give up the farm anyway and he wouldn't.

So then their house burns down...theoretically because baby Rose, then 2, put some straw or whatever into the stove and things caught on fire?

Okay, I'm not a frontier expert, but I don't let my 4.5 year-old dd anywhere NEAR my stove when it's on. I can't imagine it would be okay for a 2-year-old to feed the fire in the kitchen or go anywhere near it.

Interestingly, that fire was the last straw: they sold the place and moved to Missouri and lived (apparently) happily ever after.

Did she do it on purpose?
Always wondered.

Quote:
Originally Posted by kathleenE
I really should have entitled it "Why could Santa not come in Little House on the Prairie (books, not tv) and many other puzzles". I was going to post on the Caroline Ingalls thread, but it's a bit off the subject. However, since I just discovered this Little House fan club here, I thought I'd give my *very* long standing questions a shot.

You already know my first question, which has to do with that chapter in Little House on the Prairie where Ma and Pa are all heartbroken and gloomy because Santa cannot make it across the river; the water is too high and there's no snow. I don't get this! Since when have Ma and Pa needed to go to a store to have a christmas? Why hadn't Ma gotten her act together and made the girls some beautiful pincushions (or whatever) out of scrap cloth? Pa could have carved them some little animals out of wood. I can think of about 25 things right now they could have done to make sure the girls' stockings had two or three items in them on Christmas morning, river or no river. Why did she write it that way? It can't have been to not ruin the Santa myth for kids, because of course Laura I. Wilder knew that about an hour later any young reader would have picked up On the Banks of Plum Creek and read about how there really isn't any Santa, as Ma explains to them when Pa really needs horses.

So I don't get it. It's totally inconsistent with the Christmases in all the other books where they all make things for each other.

Here's another thing that perhaps someone who lives on a farm can tell me. Why do Pa's haystacks stay stacked outdoors all winter during The Long Winter? At times the wind blew so hard it scoured through 15 feet of snow right down to the ground. How to haystacks stay stacked there? It does not speak of hay *bales*, mind you. That would make sense.

#3. In These Happy Golden Years, Laura gives her first $40 for teaching to Ma and Pa so Mary can come home from college, and stay in college the next year. She hates teaching, but will do it for Mary's college education. So then why does Laura turn around and give Pa her entire $75 for her 2nd term in order to buy and organ for Mary, with Pa putting up the other 25$? It doesn't sound to me like Laura needed to teach at all. An organ in a huge luxury, and they still are having to pay Mary's tuition; so Pa must have had money in the bank to pay for college. What was the big deal about Laura having to keep teaching? And with her third term, she keeps most of the money and is only able to convince Pa to take $15 of it. Doesn't sound to me like Laura need have bothered.

What other puzzlers have puzzled me for years........well, there are several, but they're not coming to me now. I just leave what I've got so far.

I have always wished someone would write a series like the Little House books, but for adults, complete with all the horrible illnesses, crude details about the flies and maggots and difficulties getting to the "convenience" in winter and the dresses that make you feel you're being cooked alive in summer and the problems getting things done having a baby around would cause.

Oh, and that reminds me of another question. Who took care of baby Carrie when they all had malaria in LHOTP? Ma was too weak to get out of bed, and so was pa. They all were. Did poor baby Carrie just rot in her own feces and urine in her cradle or trundle bed?

Ok, enough for now. I suppose it sounds like I hate these books; I actually love them and have read them all countless times, despite my 42 years. I guess I could go for some more realism, though! Anybody know of a good book about life on the frontier that isn't sugar coated?

Kathleen E.
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#4 of 36 Old 07-01-2005, 08:46 AM
 
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: Great questions, but I have no answers.
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#5 of 36 Old 07-01-2005, 12:02 PM
 
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I share some of these questions. I have others, too, but alas, they won't come to me.

I hope to hear of some books with more realistic stories, as well. That would be interesting to compare.

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#6 of 36 Old 07-05-2005, 04:40 PM
 
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I have another question. Not such a mystery, but just something that occurred to me--where did they go to the bathroom during the long winter, during the blizzards? Just used a chamber pot and dumped it afterwards?

Also, who attended Carrie's birth? Were there midwives or other women around in Kansas?

I think I can comment on question #3. I think in real life, Mary's blindness was absolutely devastating to the family. She was their first-born and also had been the one who had planned to teach. So I think it was probably a guilt thing. Think about what being blind would have meant back then--no marriage, no family, very limited means to fulfill her culturally- appointed role as a woman and etc. The least Laura could do was teach a few semesters to make her mother happy (she'd always wanted a daughter to be a teacher) and get her blind sister an organ (since Laura will be able to go on and lead the life that Mary won't).

I was an English major in college and the title of my senior thesis was "Little Women in Little Houses: The Socialization of Girls in the Writing of Louisa May Alcott and Laura Ingalls Wilder." Quite a mouthful. But I got to spend a lot of time rereading my favorite books!
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#7 of 36 Old 07-05-2005, 04:48 PM
 
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Interestingly, that fire was the last straw: they sold the place and moved to Missouri and lived (apparently) happily ever after.
I might be getting Laura and Almonzo's story mixed up with Ma and Pa's story, but my understanding is that they were incredibly poor their entire married life and nothing Almonzo did was particularly successful.

Rose Wilder Lane wrote an autobiography (or somebody wrote a biography, can't remember which) that is positively heretical to LHOP fans like us, because supposedly she doesn't have entirely positive things to say about her mother. Rose was suicidal at one point, and while you can't necessarily blame Laura for that, it's still pretty shocking to think of it the context of the whole LHOP series.

Someone moved my effing cheese.
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#8 of 36 Old 07-06-2005, 11:12 AM - Thread Starter
 
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About the chamber pot; I know they used them, but what I wonder is how they emptied it when the contents would obviously have been frozen solid no matter where they kept it. (At night, usually near or under the bed; during the day, I don't know). The only not-frozen part of the house was right near the stove. Did they have to put the chamber pot on the stove in order to thaw it to dump it?

I didn't know that, about Rose being suicidal. I do know she went off to Kansas City (?) to train as a telegraph operator, lived in a sleazy room in a sleazy house, and learned little from her drunk instructor. Her parents would have been horrified had they known.

I don't know how Laura kept from getting clinically depressed. Good genes, I guess. Many prairie women ended up in insane asylums.

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#9 of 36 Old 07-06-2005, 11:56 AM
 
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On the Christmas question, I assumed they had about zilch time to make those things, particularly after the kiddos were out of the way (asleep or what have you). They were struggling to survive. Also, maybe the culture didn't put such a HUGE emphasis on Christmas as we do, thinking they had to have stacks of gifts. In Plum Creek the kids didn't even realize it was Christmas Eve when Pa showed up from the blizzard, so it sounds like Christmas wasn't the focus of their wintertime existence.

We just finished Plum Creek, and I can guarantee that my 5yo is still secure in the knowledge that Santa is real (the 9yo may suspect something is up, but that was going on even before we read the book).

ETA: Have you ever read These Is My Words? I forget the author. Fictionalized account of a woman whose family was on the Arizona frontier, should be in the adult fiction section of your local public library. I think there's a sequel, but I haven't read it.
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#10 of 36 Old 07-06-2005, 12:29 PM
 
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Baudelaire,

My 5 y/o has been cooking at the stove, with supervision for over a year, since prior to being 4. She watched and helped long before that. At my in-laws, they have space heaters. Prior to walking, the girls knew not to touch them, they were hot. I never considered they'd put stuff in them. Then this last winter, we were over there working with some friends. The friend's daughter started putting strips of newspaper in one. My youngest followed suit. Luckily, they did not burn anything. But, they both know now. Turns out the friend had been having trouble with her daughter putting newspaper in the fireplace when unwatched. Wish someone had informed me. We sit them in front of the heater (at a safe distance) on newspaper to crack pecans to eat while we do some work. Duh!
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#11 of 36 Old 07-06-2005, 02:28 PM
 
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About kids near open flames: I read Mary on Horseback last year (it's a kids' book about Mary Breckinridge, a nurse in Appalachia after WW1). She comments, "I've seen a dozen little girls burned because their dresses catch fire from the cooking stoves. Little boys are safer. They wear overalls." Anyway, the point is that obviously the little kids *were* right there near the flames. It may not strike us a safe or sane, but it was accepted. I'm sure there are parenting practices today that future generations will be horrified to read about. Shoot, I'm bummed out about how my neighbor parents, come to think of it.

BTW, Mary Breckinridge tried to get the little girls in Appalachia to wear overalls. She managed to get 100 pairs donated by a manufacturer, and the nurses handed them out when they visited homes.

I looked up These Is My Words at Amazon.com -- the author is Nancy Turner. It's about her great-grandmother. Great book.
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#12 of 36 Old 07-06-2005, 02:42 PM
 
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: Any other books about prairie life that you mamas would suggest?

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No Time on My Hands by Grace Snyder
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#14 of 36 Old 07-06-2005, 03:53 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Queen Gwen
Also, maybe the culture didn't put such a HUGE emphasis on Christmas as we do, thinking they had to have stacks of gifts. In Plum Creek the kids didn't even realize it was Christmas Eve when Pa showed up from the blizzard, so it sounds like Christmas wasn't the focus of their wintertime existence.
I thought of this, too, but I just couldn't put it into words! The development of our Christmas traditions here in the US is an interesting study. It wasn't nearly as important a holiday as it is now.

Does anyone know what denomination of Christianity the Ingalls were? Maybe Ma and Pa figured the girls could learn a lesson in humility and humbleness if they didn't get gifts one year. Not saying they did it to punish them, just that since the train didn't get through, Ma and Pa didn't go out of their way to scramble to provide gifts.

Someone moved my effing cheese.
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#15 of 36 Old 07-06-2005, 07:09 PM - Thread Starter
 
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There was no train nearby at the time the Ingallses were living in Kansas. I don't buy the theory that they were teaching their kids a lesson--their whole lives were a lesson in non-materialism. They ate cornbread, beans and game every day of the week, every day of the year until they grew a garden. They owned one or two dresses apiece. Any kid was lucky to get one item in his/her stocking. But I know Ma or Pa could have made one item--they do in all the other books. And there was no farm work to be done in December--no crop to bring in.

I have long wanted to scale our Christmas down to nearer what it was back in the day..... I'm working on it! With this third child, I'm definitely not going to start a tradition of dozens of gifts. It's going to be "your birthday present" and maybe 5 or 6 Christmas presents, plus the stocking.

But back to Little House....I'm still just stumped!
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#16 of 36 Old 07-07-2005, 12:17 PM
 
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Didn't alot of parents buy (or santa bring) their children and apple and or an orange for their Christmas stocking?

An orange was such a treat as they were not grown near the midwest and would have had to be shipped in from else where. Did Pa not get out that year to get them due to the blizzard?

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#17 of 36 Old 07-07-2005, 01:06 PM
 
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The blizzard year (on Plum Creek) Pa went to town to get horehound candy, canned oysters and oyster crackers. I think he might've gotten some stuff like tobacco, too, but don't recall and have already returned the book to the library. Maybe the stores in town didn't have any oranges -- there had been several blizzards already that year. Heck, maybe he didn't intend to get the oysters and all, but that's simply what the store happened to have...it wasn't like bopping on down to the Piggly Wiggly with a list in hand. Heaven knows sometimes our local grocery is out of bananas and other "staples", but we can return the next day and they've restocked.

He ate the candy and the crackers when he was stranded in the blizzard. He made it home with the oysters on Christmas Eve (Mary and Laura didn't even realize it was Christmas Eve). The oysters became either their Christmas Eve or Christmas dinner.

ETA: I think the blizzard year was different from the Pa-needs-horses-so-you're-not-to-wish-for-presents year. Both were on Plum Creek. Maybe I've garbled your question, though, and there WAS a blizzard during the horse year. We had some significant family events while reading this book, and I'm sort of hazy on some of the opening chapters.
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: I like this thread

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#19 of 36 Old 07-11-2005, 01:03 AM
 
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I think they usually had some store bought items in their stockings that they just weren't able to get that year because the creek was too high to cross (candy, fruit, etc) so maybe that is why they just said that Santa couldn't make it, because they were not able to get those things.

The year the train could not get through they were not in Kansas, but I can't remember where they were. It was somewhere North in a developing settlement (was that in Little Town on the Prairie?).

I never thought about the chamber pots freezing or having to thaw them... eww...

Quote:
Oh, and that reminds me of another question. Who took care of baby Carrie when they all had malaria in LHOTP? Ma was too weak to get out of bed, and so was pa. They all were. Did poor baby Carrie just rot in her own feces and urine in her cradle or trundle bed for several days before the family was discovered by Mrs. Scott and the doctor?
She probably did. I don't see what else she could have done unless she was able to change herself.

If they only did washing one day a week, you know that they had to reuse diapers, unless they somehow had enough diapers to make it through the entire week. Do you think they had enough diapers to make it through, or just let the wet ones dry to be reused?

The Little House books also made me decide to keep Christmas as simple as possible. DD already has way more toys than she needs.

And it helps me to declutter. As hard as their lives were I have to say I'm envious of their lack of clutter

I need more prairie books to read.
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#20 of 36 Old 07-11-2005, 01:40 AM
 
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Oh I've loved this thread! Such great questions!

As for toning down the giftyness of Christmas...we do three gifts per child. It has worked out really nicely! It took me a few years to figure out how to manage Christmas but I'm quite happy with it now!
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#21 of 36 Old 07-11-2005, 12:00 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by juliasmum

If they only did washing one day a week, you know that they had to reuse diapers, unless they somehow had enough diapers to make it through the entire week. Do you think they had enough diapers to make it through, or just let the wet ones dry to be reused?

.
Per this page Frontier Women I have the impression that if they had access to enough water they'd boil the diapers as needed. If no water, then dry out and scrape.

I remember reading something by a missionary a few years back, talking about having to boil diapers (hauling water first), then hang them to dry, and if it was the rainy season they had to be hung to dry inside the hut. She thought women here were in a totally luxurious lifestyle since we have washers and dryers, and she couldn't fathom using disposables, it just seemed so...decadent.

Edited to fix link, since I forgot to check it first (duh).
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#22 of 36 Old 07-11-2005, 08:36 PM - Thread Starter
 
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[QUOTE=Queen Gwen]Per this page Frontier Women I have the impression that if they had access to enough water they'd boil the diapers as needed. If no water, then dry out and scrape.

Thanks for the link! It's funny, I read the book it was condensed from a while back, and forgotten about it; I'm going to go check it out of the library and read it again! Somebody earlier had mentioned No Time on My Hands; there's also a sort of teen version that's shorter called Pioneer Girl: Growing up on the Prairie, by Andrea Warren.

I love this thread and still want to talk about the Little House books, which I've read so many times. Probably I need to talk about it with you all because I ended up with three sons, no dd's! And I tried to get them interested in the books when they were littler, but they shunned them as "girl's stuff". Well, I still have my third ds to work on--he's only two
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#23 of 36 Old 07-12-2005, 03:33 AM
 
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Any other books about prairie life that you mamas would suggest?
We Sagebrush Folk by Annie Pike Greenwood.

It's a true story about pioneers in the dry desert of southern Idaho. It's very good.
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#24 of 36 Old 07-12-2005, 07:42 AM
 
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I this thread! It has been at least 22 years since I read the Little House books and reading the questions makes me want to read them all over again to see what i think now.

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#25 of 36 Old 07-12-2005, 03:40 PM
 
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My great-grandpa gave me the series in a box set when I was a child. I loved reading them and long to live a similar lifestyle. They must have greatly impacted me b/c I really long to follow the homesteading example.

Dh and I have a TV (for movies; it doesn't get any chanels) so we watch the DVDs of the show from the 1970s. He wants the babe to call him "pa" now!

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#26 of 36 Old 07-12-2005, 11:15 PM
 
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Lovin this thread. Great book rec's too :
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#27 of 36 Old 07-13-2005, 10:22 AM
 
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Don't forget, that in Little House on the Prarie, not only was the creek to high, but it was also a two day trip to get to Independence.
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#28 of 36 Old 07-13-2005, 04:49 PM
 
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Queen Gwen, that's a great web site. I think it's notable how much work kids did.

Regarding diapers, somebody here long ago pointed out that before disposables and before washers and dryers children were out of diapers much sooner than they are now. It wasn't a point of contention or a difference in parenting philosophies like it is now, it was a necessity.

Ugh! Can you imagine, though, line drying all those barely-clean diapers inside your tiny log house on a dreary, rainy day?

Someone moved my effing cheese.
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#29 of 36 Old 07-13-2005, 06:53 PM
 
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Originally Posted by journeymom

Ugh! Can you imagine, though, line drying all those barely-clean diapers inside your tiny log house on a dreary, rainy day?
It's enough to make you want to switch to 'sposies.
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Someone moved my effing cheese.
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