Monday, April 30, 2007

The Great Black Hunter...

This is Stevie, aka the Great Black Hunter. The GBH. She doesn't look too dangerous eh?

What you don't know is that lounging in this picture on my cozy fluffy blankets, with her half-asleep and contented eyes, is a wild animal. The GBH is no pet. She's assimilated well into our daily routine, doing the things cats tend to do. She sleeps. She eats. She poops. You know, all those cat things. But make no mistake. She's only a tenant in this house.

Back about eight years ago by my guess, a friend brought me a box of kittens she'd found in a barn while checking on her horse. Several adult female cats had been killed around the farm by some wild animal or tomcat and my friend was pretty sure these kittens were orphaned. She was on her way out of town and asked if I could hold onto them until the morning when they could be dropped off at the shelter. The lady at the shelter told me they weren't "taking any more kittens," and couldn't I just keep them? This particular shelter is famous for trying to convince you to keep the animal(s) you found rather than take it to them.

The kittens were only 3 or 4 weeks old, their eyes barely open, at the time. Cat food was not an option. So I bottle fed them. Stevie was the runt, she was sickly and scrawny and refused to take the bottle. I literally force-fed that cat with a syringe. I guess sometimes small kittens cannot urinate until their mother washes them with her tongue, and while the other kittens were doing ok, Stevie couldn't "go" without my help. I washed her with a warm washcloth every hour for the first week until she caught up with her littermates. All in all, I forced her to live, despite her intentions.

We gave the other kittens to relatives or friends, but Stevie stayed with us. It soon became apparent that she was no housecat. Her first few trips outside brought numerous dead rodents to our doorstep. She wouldn't come when you called her. She would bolt away from you if you approached. If you were sitting down, she might find her way into your lap and rub all over you and lick your hands and face, but try to pick her up and you might lose an eye. She had a litter of kittens of her own before we even knew she was in heat (we later had her spayed), and she actually taught her kittens to hunt. She'd bring a mouse or shrew she caught in the yard, still alive, and drop it in front of the kittens. Craziest thing I ever saw from a housecat. But then, she's no housecat. Now she's an expert hunter. When a bird found itself stuck in our fireplace and then our house, the GBH was after it, bouncing off the back of the couch and then the wall before grabbing the bird right out of the air. Le Matrix a la Feline. If there is ever a mouse brave enough to enter my home, all you have to say is, "Stevie, it's a mouse!" and she's after it in a flash. The word "mouse" is the only word she readily responds to.

Last spring, we were alerted when the mother rabbits left their babies to fend for themselves, because the GBH killed and dismembered several on my carpet. Once again, it's Baby Rabbit Season. I rescued a baby from the GBH this afternoon. This time I took it across the road and down the hill before letting it go, since last time she just kept catching them again. Boy I hope that baby rabbit finds a better home over there, because if it comes back here, it's done for.

"Come closer, sweet and furry little bunny rabbit. You can trust me. Oh yes. You can trust me."

Tadopole update...

Our tadpoles, measured every two days, have grown from 3/16 of an inch at hatching on April 22 to 5/8 inch today. No sign of appendages but their bodies behind the eyes are becoming fat and rounded. They're happily eating algae and the remains of some worms leftover from the full-grown frog we released last week. I'm thinking of dumping the rest of the mealworms we bought to feed the frog into the tank for the tadpoles. Here they are basking on the basking platform that I probably didn't need to buy, in the glow of the UVA/UVB lamp I probably didn't need to buy:

An interesting twist in our little experiment came almost a week after hatching. As far as we can tell this little guy hatched on Friday, five days after the others:

He must have come from a different clutch of eggs and gotten attached to our clutch somehow. There are no others that hatched with him. The visibile difference between his size and the size of the others is a great help in seeing how quickly they've grown. In the future, I think I'll add a coin or something to the tank for our report pictures.

Death and the facts-centered child...

My son is a deep thinker. He's famous for asking questions that are difficult to answer, or worse, questions that HAVE no answer. He's not satisfied with no answer, and conversations with him can become very frustrating very quickly. Most of the time I'm not smart enough to answer his questions and we have to look it up on the internet. He's become so used to this that he's been known to ask things like, "Can we get on the internet and look up how many kids in China have kites?" Umm.. I don't think we'll find that on the internet babe, but we can try if it will make you happy. It's at least teaching him deductive reasoning, what with kite sales in China and assuming at least 80 or so percent of them were bought for kids, and a small percentage probably have more than one kite, and all that.

He's also a worrier. He worries constantly about so many things that seem silly to me. Often he'll ask if some little twinge or tweak or pain is "okay," as if he might have some terrible disease because he has a "weird feeling" in his arm, or foot, or whatever. It's difficult for me not to just blow off his concerns with, "You don't need to worry about that." (I had an obstetrician that did that and I hated it.) I've told him that the human body is weird, and can do all sorts of weird things, and as long as it doesn't happen all the time or hurt, it's probably alright. What he really wants to know is what is causing this strange feeling? Why do nerves work in such strange ways, when there's no real problem? Stuff there aren't real answers for. The boy is going to give himself an ulcer. So, in order to help reduce the worry, we discuss every single one of his (ridiculous, petty, silly) concerns as thoroughly as possible. He often worries as he lays there in bed trying (not) to sleep, until he's so worked up he couldn't possibly sleep at all. Tonight he came out of his room crying and worrying about death.

Chad has never liked funerals. He becomes very upset just being in a funeral parlor, regardless of whether he knew the deceased. When we visit the cemetery, he doesn't get out of the car. He's not afraid of bodies, but is bothered by the idea of death altogether. Tonight he was upset because there was NO ANSWER about what happens when you die. I offered as many things as I could think of as possible solutions, but none of them comforted him. "You know when you first saw the roller coasters and how scary they looked?" I asked him. "But then when you rode on it, it was really really fun? Maybe death is like that. It seems scary because you don't know what it will be like. But maybe when you die, you'll find out it's fantastic." We talked about Heaven, and how one of the good things about believing in God and Heaven is so you don't have to be afraid of what you don't have answers for. It was a very nice discussion about religion, but it wasn't helpful in making him feel any better. We talked about ghosts and people who claim to speak to spirits. We talked about reincarnation. None of it helped though, because nobody can prove that stuff either. I very firmly believe that even if I raised my son in strict religion, he would grow up to be an atheist. Chad is not comfortable with faith of any kind. He needs good, solid answers.

Being a Just The Facts Ma'am person is great if you're a scientist or mathematician or something. But for now, he's a child. Not knowing is scary. I told him how my grandmother said she was visited by my grandfather after he died, in all seriousness and with a completely straight "I'm not bullshitting" face. Strangely, that calmed him enough to go to sleep. The thing is, I actually believe that story about my grandfather, but I always keep a Nobody Knows For Sure attitude with my kids about stuff like that. I'm starting to wonder if I've done the wrong thing by approaching the unknown this way. I'm not avoiding discussing my beliefs, I just am not too sure what I believe or don't believe myself. And I want my kids to choose for themselves. The problem is Chad can't make a choice unless he has the facts. And there just aren't any facts here.

Cripes. Where's the owner's manual for this kid?

Friday, April 27, 2007

Garage Sales and Homeschool Stuff...

I went to garage sales with my cousin today. Garage Sale-ing we call it. "Would you like to go garage sale-ing?" "Sure! I haven't been garage sale-ing for a while." Silly, isn't it?

By some freak stroke of luck, we ended up in a neighborhood crawling with homeschoolers. One place we stopped had 5 or 6 big cardboard boxes full of homeschool texts and teaching materials. Unfortunately, almost every book in the boxes was Abeka. Bummer. We could have gotten by with some of the language books, but it's a pain to have to skip over "Read Psalm 48" every other page. There was no way in hell I was interested in the science books. Wow. The next place had a children's encyclopedia set and gozillions of early reader books. I spent my entire "garage sale-ing" allowance today.

I really need a new (another, actually) bookshelf to keep all this stuff I'm collecting. Too bad I didn't see one at any of those garage sales. I'm always on the lookout for anything useful to our homeschool. This doesn't have to specifically be textbooks or teaching materials. Most of the time if I do find something, I went to the sale because "boys clothes" and "kids furniture" were listed on your ad. Otherwise I may not have shown up at all. If you're a homeschooler selling some of your stuff, make sure you say so in your sale ad. People like me would probably clean you out in half an hour. If you're not a homeschooler having a garage sale and are selling encyclopedias, educational videos, kids craft books, etc. , say so in your ad. You might be surprised how quickly it would sell.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

I'm a Winner!...

All these years of being called a loser are over. I'm a winner of the fantastic Giant Frog Heads blog award. After carefully planting a plug for the blog award at Like I Have Time For This?, I've pestered my way into this awesome logo:

All that froggy posting has paid off. Thanks, RegularMom for so patiently humoring me long past the Enough Already point. Ahh, it was fun while it lasted though, huh?

Monday, April 23, 2007

We have tadpoles!...

After leaving his bag of pond water behind last week, we made a second trip to my friend's pond to collect frog eggs. Turns out, Chad only collected some slime last time, so it was a good thing we waited. This time, the eggs all had black specks in the center and were easier to see. We collected a bunch, along with one little Spring Peeper frog, and brought them home. Two days later, they have all hatched into teeny little tadpoles.
It's pretty hard to see with the crappy glass reflection and they are sooo tiny. See those little black lines near the bottom? That's them. They just kind of hang there most of the time and aren't very interesting, but it's still exciting to think of frogs growing from little aquatic swimmers right here in my aquarium. That grody rust colored blob in the corner is the rock the eggs were attached to in the pond. We just snagged the whole thing and added the bucket of pond water we brought it home in to the tank.

We're feeding them algae tablets from the pet store until they're bigger. The frog was not posing for pictures today, but he's in there somewhere. He's getting a steady diet of crickets and ants from the yard, but we'll be sending him off to freedom very soon, against the wishes of my children. We're watching tadpoles grow, but we do not keep wild creatures as pets.

Today I blew 40 bucks at the pet store on a UVA/UVB light the guy insisted reptiles and amphibians need to properly digest nutrients, and a basking platform for them to crawl up on when they get their legs. I probably got boned on that one since the people at the pet store were giving me this whole line about tree frogs needing a super-humid environment and tried to get me to purchase heat lamps and spray bottles and stuff. I told them they're not tropical tree frogs, we found them in a pond. You know, here in Iowa, a.k.a. temperate. The lady gave me a weird look and handed me a pamphlet about tree frogs, saying everything in there applied to my frogs, but the pamphlet was for Red Bellied Somethings from the Amazon, Habitat: tropical. Idiots. We've probably got at least 15 tadpoles in our ten gallon tank. MamaB, do you still want a few?

If you order tadpoles, they come with instructions. I got some great info on this website about how to raise tadpoles, in case anyone else is doing it the old fashioned way and frognapping them from a pond.

I'm trying to figure out how to get decent pictures of these things for our reports. Any ideas?
P.S. RegularMom, is this froggy enough for an honorable mention or a brownie or something? I mean they're not anywhere close to Giant, but they are pretty much just Frog Heads with a little waggly neck at this point.

Hey, I'm Earthy. Really...

Is it okay that I forgot it was Earth Day yesterday if I was out enjoying nature? I mean, I was appreciating the earth and stuff. We went fishing. I was careful not to litter. I got a sunburn because I'm an idiot and always forget sunscreen during the first month or so of decent weather. You get used to huddling in the house like some 21st century cave man, and when the sun finally shines again you feel like singing "Here Comes the Sun" and dancing through your yard in your underpants and wallowing in the fresh green grass and you completely forget you have to actually protect yourself from the wonderful and long-awaited Sun God. Well, maybe not all of that applies to you, but you get my drift.
We all caught at least two catfish, but none of them were keepers. And look! There was nature on our fishing trip:

See? Doesn't the sight of a pretty flower peeking through a bunch of dead leaves and sticks just make you want to don your favorite Underoos and skip around? It does for me, baby.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Adventures in inefficiency...

The local DOT has never been an efficient place. This is not news to anyone. I've been known to fall into a fit of giggles in a goverment office just thinking of The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy, because that's exactly how these offices work. The last time I renewed my license, it was the same old routine. Check in at the desk, show your old non-valid ID to prove you're an American citizen, take a number and wait, go through the b.s. paperwork and eye test, then wait in line for your new photograph - guaranteed to be just as awful as the last one. Freshly laminated licenses were passed out as they came out of the computer, and they called your name or just brought it to you if you looked anything like your picture. Not exactly the most efficient system, especially when there is only one, just ONE DOT in the whole of Polk County, heaviest populated in the state.

The folks at the DOT decided that the old system just wasn't working, so they closed an extra day (they're already closed on Mondays) to rearrange the waiting area and counters for their new "time-saving" plan. Now when you need a new license, things will go a bit differently. You still check in at the desk and verify you are who you say you are. You still take a number. Only now your number is for the photo, which they take right away in case you need it later. You take another number, this time to wait for a window to fill out your paperwork. After that, you move on to the eye test area. If you make it through the gauntlet, you sit and wait for your license to be printed. This may take a while since they have to match the paperwork you just filled out to the photo you posed so beautifully for (hours) earlier. If you fail your eye test, or if there are other reasons keeping you from getting your license that day, the photo you didn't even need will remain in the computerized license-laminator thingy until someone deletes it.

The waiting area is about 100 x 30 and there are seats for as many as 75 people (I'm thinking closer to 50). Babies are crying. Old ladies are standing against the wall, leaning on their walkers. Enormous women wearing housedresses and slippers are yelling, "J.D. you get your ass down from that chair or I'll knock your damn head off!" People in wheelchairs are blocking the walkway and can't do anything about it. And everyone is angry. The people working there are even more grumpy than normal. You may hear the word "bullshit" a thousand times before you get out of there. I would like to think the folks at the DOT would quickly realize their mistake and remedy it, but knowing how things work they'll probably file some paperwork and wait for the next scheduled system update, somewhere around 3 years from now.

If you live in Polk County and need to renew your license, you have been warned. If you have kids, get a sitter. If you work, just take the whole day off. Waiting through an asinine mess like that is much easier to handle when you're not also worrying about being fired.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

What life is like when you're married to a redneck...

My husband is a redneck. Actually we're rednecks, it's just that he's better at it. I'd pass up a cocktail party for a bonfire and beer any old day, but my husband is more than that. He's thickly cloaked in redneck. Ever seen Red Green? That's him. Only he's younger of course, and I must say quite a bit better looking. In fact, I've often looked over his latest project and said, "Well, honey, if the women don't find you handsome, at least they'll find you handy."

Being married to a redneck is a challenge. I have to have a very good sense of humor and the ability to think outside the box. Rednecks come up with solutions sane people others might not have thought of, and usually it works. Looks like crap, but does the job, and doing the job is what's really important, right? Arguing with this logic is futile at best. Once the idea has begun to bloom, a true redneck won't be satisfied until they know if it will work. When you're married to a redneck, you have to be prepared to fight tooth and nail for a somewhat civilized lifestyle. "No," is simply not a strong enough word.

The second year in this house, Vic decided to build a basement under the house. This normally involves some company coming out, jacking up your house, digging underneath it, pouring your basement and then securing your house to it. It's a long-ish process and can be pretty expensive. This would have been even more complicated for us because half our house is built on a slab. But we don't need no stinking house-jacks. Vic dragged a jack-hammer into my laundry room, one part of our house with a slab floor, and jack-hammered a 4 x 6 hole in the floor. He told me it was possible to dig our basement from the inside out, and began hauling wheelbarrow loads of dirt from under my house right out the front door. The neighbors probably thought we were insane people preparing to bury a body or something. After about a week, he began construction on a belt system that would carry the dirt directly from the hole out the back of the house, powered with an old lawn mower engine. Thankfully, the mower engine wasn't working well and Vic decided it was a lot of work hauling bucketloads of dirt out of a 6 foot deep hole. We ended up filling in the hole with dirt again and covering it with leftover bags of mortar. (If the neighbors wondered about hauling dirt out, I wonder what they thought about hauling it in.) I never will know if that would have worked or if my house would have fallen down on my head (thank goodness).

We found a power tiller on the side of the road a few summers ago that needed a little work but was otherwise in good condition. Ever the tinkerer, Vic picked it up and soon was tilling my garden for me. When the tiller broke in the next week, he started making plans to convert the go-cart currently in progress into a tiller. The blades, he explained to me, could easily be fashioned to fit on the underbody of the go-cart. "Then you could just drive around and till the yard!" he told me. Luckily the go-cart was nowhere near running order yet, so I was spared the horror of a drive-able tiller. I think he's forgotten about that one. I hope.

I could to on forever. The time he cut a hole in the back of the house for a large window air conditioner, then ran duct to it so we could have "central air conditioning." How he built a woodburning heater for his tool shed. The hundreds of things fixed with duct tape and the thousands of suggestions I've had to flat-out refuse (you really, really don't want to know).

Beyond the ridiculous, though, lies an intelligent man with remarkable ingenuity. He built me a solid and sturdy bookshelf out of some old wooden doors he picked up on a job. When we took out the chimney, he constructed an entire entertainment center in the old fireplace (in a 950 sq ft house, the space that saves is phenomenal). If something breaks, I need only ask, "Can you make something to fit this?" and he'll wander around his shed full of parts and either find something, or make it for me. And we never would have made it home from North Carolina in the summer of '96 if he hadn't plugged a hole in the radiator with a bolt from the side of the road. His unbelievable redneck ability to adapt has shown our kids how to find a way to make it work, which is a pretty great thing.

I've learned to stop asking, "What will the neighbors think?" I've learned that if I'm patient enough to sit through the process, the outcome is usually worth it. I've learned to only object when the invention in his head is completely out of the question, and then to do so as firmly as possible. ("Hell no! Are you crazy?!") This, young grasshoppers, can be the path to insanity or the path to clarity. I'm hoping I come through on the end of clarity, but we still have several years ahead of us.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A walk in the park...

Today we took advantage of the fabulous weather with a walk in the park near our house.
Walk in the park 001

It's a state park, which means a lot of trees and no playground equipment. My kids never miss the slides and swings because there's a gob of way more interesting stuff down there. Thick woods around a creek. What more could a kid ask for?
Walk in the park 014

While wandering the woods, we found a tree awesomely chewed to pieces by a beaver:
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And the beaver's equally awesome home:
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We passed a dead and mostly eaten up dog on the way to the creek, but I'll spare you the pictures of that thing. It wasn't pretty. The people-beaten path leads to a sand bar under this very cool old train bridge:Walk in the park 018

Chad got busy building a dam, one of his favorite things to do with water:
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Cadence hunted for frogs:

Riley played in the mud:
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After we got good and dirty, we trudge up this treacherous incline to the top of the train bridge:
..and went across.

I was having flashbacks of Stand By Me and made the kids hurry across for no reason. We've lived here 7 years and I know perfectly well the only trains that run on this track come through at about 2am. That's paranoia for you. On the other side of the creek, Cadence caught her much-coveted frog and I got some great pictures of the water..
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..along with some other pretty silly things to take pictures of. Grass? What kind of weirdo takes pictures of grass? Uhh, that would be me.
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It was a great way to spend the afternoon. We're all waiting for slightly warmer weather that will enable us to wade the creek. The bottoms is covered with mussel shells, sparkly rocks, and all kinds of other treasures.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

"Fishing" for frogs...

Last night, Chad stayed over with a friend of mine so he could attend a farm equipment auction early this morning. This friend has several acres of a really great yard with lots of trees and a little pond out back. When we picked him up this afternoon, Chad was in the back lot scanning the pond.

I asked what he was doing. "Fishing for frog eggs," he said. I make a joke about frogging instead of fishing, but he was too absorbed and didn't even hear me. I tell ya, nobody appreciates a good smart ass anymore. I guess there's supposed to be some eggs in there. Eggs from some frog my country friend calls Spring Peepers. Looks like a bunch of slime and muck to me. Chad was determined to take some home. He carefully inspected the slime.

After deciding the good stuff was out of his reach, he hunted up an old jug to stand on.

After all that hard work, Chad had a baggie full of pond water and slime, and possibly some frog eggs. As soon as we got home again, he realized he'd left the baggie on the counter at my friend's place. Figures. Tomorrow we're going back with all the kids to fish for some more.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Confessions of a skinny woman...

I'm a thin person. I'm currently at the heaviest non-pregnant weight I've been in my life, at 126 lbs. I'm five foot nine. My pregnancy with Chad was the biggest weight-gainer, and the day he was born I was 24 pounds heavier than my 4 week OB appointment. You can count all my ribs and my collarbone is clearly visible from shoulder to shoulder. I'm sayin I'm thin.

When I was a teenager, my doctor said I was underweight. I was the same weight I was the last time I'd visited, and no thinner than I had been the rest of my life up to this point, but he insisted I go on a high calorie diet. So I counted calories. I drank Carnation Instant Breakfast with my breakfast. I ate until I was overfull and snacked between meals on high calorie things like cookies and candy bars (I was a teenager, that's about all I could think of). Calorie counting, as anyone doing so to lose weight will tell you, is just plain exhausting. All I did for two straight months was think about food. Overeating had made the very idea of my next meal nauseating. For the first time in my life, I was aware of how thin I was compared to everyone else. Before, I knew I was thin, but now the doctor had confirmed that something was wrong with me. I was embarrassed by my bony shape. I started wearing loose-fitting clothing, sometimes in layers, to reduce my skinny appearance.

After two months of this kind of eating, I'd gained a whopping 2 pounds, and the doctor frustratedly mumbled it could be water weight since I was having my period. We spent a really long time discussing what I ate, how often, and what kind of exercise I got. He accused me of not sticking to the diet and insisted that my being underweight was unhealthy and that I needed to take it seriously. I cried and insisted that I really had tried. I left his office with a scribbled list of suggested meals and the name of a weight gain product made for bodybuilders.

After a week or so of self-hating, I threw that doctor's list in the garbage. I'd spent my entire first 15 years not worrying about my body, and the last two months had brought me lots of misery and worry with no results. I'm doing nothing wrong - eating properly, getting the right amount of exercise, getting enough sleep. No amount of prodding or force can change my weight much. I'm just thin.

People often speculate on why I'm so thin. Maybe it's because I don't eat much sugar? Maybe I'm under a lot of stress? Maybe I get more exercise than most? Everyone assumes there must be some sort of secret to my thin figure. My grandmother would call me "bony," since she's a believer in food curing all that ails you. Bony. Skinny. Underweight. Skin and bones. A lot of women, often "overweight" according to the charts and maybe only a few pounds in that direction, call me "skinny," and always in that snotty way that says they hate me for it. Actually, I've been told more than a couple of times, "You're so skinny. I just hate you." This pisses me off. Think about that. You're _____. I hate you. Would it be okay for me to say, "Gee you're fat. I just hate you." Of course not. You don't hate someone because they're thin. You hate them because you're not, and you hate yourself for that. You hate yourself because you don't fit into that little imaginary box called Perfect.

I'm done hating myself. Beauty should not be measured in pounds. My body wants to be this weight. And I'm okay with that.

When Dad is home...

It amazes me how our home routine is so delicate. It's not much of a routine really: get up, eat, get dressed, do some schoolwork, throw in some laundry and vacuuming here and there. My husband has been home this week because of our crappy cold weather. He was supposed to be doing some excavation work, but the ground has either been wet or (gasp) snowy all week. So he has sat around here, stir crazy with his claim of nothing to do. I have plenty of suggestions, but they're not received well. In the meantime, our simple little routine is all out of whack.

The kids are demons, taking advantage of Dad's lack of knowledge about household rules. Ignoring the box full of legos and other suitable building materials, they made huge castles out of videos and dvds. I walked into the room just in time to stop a bombing of the castles, and when I reminded them we don't play with videos, Cadence said, "Daddy helped us build them."

Vic tries to help around the house, but I'm so crazy about how I do things that I don't really want help. I've already doled out all the things I'm not so particular about to the kids. There's nothing left for Vic. Not to mention the fact that he can't find anything. "I'm changing the cat litter. Where do you keep the new bag?" Ugh.

I'm going insane. Please for the love of Bob, somebody send some warm sunny weather.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Giddy book geek...

Look what was waiting for me at the post office this afternoon!

Saxon 7/6 homeschool set for Chad next year. Usborne Internet-Linked Encyclopedia of World History, Kingfisher History Encyclopedia and The Story of Mankind to go with the History Odyssey I just ordered. Spirit Walker by Michelle Paver, part of the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series that Chad started reading and really enjoys. Packages! And it's not even my birthday yet.

When Vic got home I excitedly showed off my booty (and the books too *wink*). "Look at how awesome this Usborne book is," I said. "Check out all the great pictures! The kids are gonna love these! And look! A whole math package for 6th grade, can you believe it? Oh I can't wait to start using these!"

He scanned the books. He listened to me ramble and carry on. Then he said, "I love you, honey. You're a geek." He went outside to do some manly thing and left me alone with my books.

A while ago, I mentioned my pan cupboard and how disorganized it is. The pans seem to follow a general theme of disarray flowing through the whole house. This is why:

Riley decided to organize everything for me. Nice of her, eh? She is just small enough to examine every corner of the cupboard closely and make the most of the space, which I could never do.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

My dirty little cooking secret...

My dirtiest cooking secret is this: I can't. Cook, that is. Not well anyway. The day I got married I had never cooked any kind of meat except ground beef, tuna, or hot dogs. My ground beef experience was limited to Hamburger Helper. I'd never made cookies or any other treat food, not even instant pudding. I cooked plenty of meals growing up, it's just that all of them came in a box. Imagine my dismay when our grocery budget left me with no choice but to buy things I had to actually cook. That first year I called friends and family members at least twice a week with some sort of crisis. I'd forgotten the tomatoes for the chili, could I still make it? What the hell is buttermilk? Baking soda is the same as baking powder, right?

This may not have been so bad, except I always waited until the last minute. I've never had any trouble doing anything I really tried to do, so I assumed cooking would be the same way. I assumed I'd have everything I needed, not really knowing what I needed in the first place. I was unprepared 99% of the time. Most of our meals for the first couple of years had ingredients varying from the recipe and were eaten at 10:00 because I didn't realize how long stuff took to cook. It may have been easier just to let Vic cook, but he was raised on meat, potatoes and starch, all of them fried in about 3 inches of oil. I refused to eat like that.

So I learned. I burned stuff. I returned meat to the pan over and over because it was underdone. I scorched stuff. I curdled stuff (who knew you couldn't add lemon juice to cream sauce?). Slowly I learned which flavors complimented each other. I learned recipes are important when you haven't made something before. I'm proud to announce that after almost 11 years of barely passable cooking, I can finally cook a steak that resembles neither a leather sole or fire log. I've learned to make things I never thought I could. And while I'm still not ready to try souffle, I'm confident I can produce a meal with great flavor that everyone will love.

I still can't bake a cake without having it stick to the pan. I still can't time all the parts of dinner so they'll be ready at the same time. But I'm learning. Tonight I'm typing this while waiting on baked potatoes in the oven. Not sure how long they take to bake since I've never made "baked potatoes" in anything but the microwave. It's 8:00 and I'm hoping we'll have time to eat dinner without the kids being up past their bedtime. Again.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


I just got myself a new Canon PowerShot A560. That name might mean a lot or a little to you. To me it means I can now take pictures of our daily life, our learning and who knows what else. I can print pictures of projects right on the pages of detail for our portfolios. I can email pictures to family members. Most importantly, I can know exactly what my picture looks like the second I take it. How cool is that? And I can add some awesome pictures to my boring blog to make it slightly less boring. I'm so excited!

I went a bit overboard today, so the pictures I have to share are silly and unrelated, but hey - I needed to test out the camera right?

This is Cadence happily plugging away at her math workbook. I don't understand it; I've always found workbooks dry and boring. She loves them.

This is the painting in my bedroom. (Yes, that gosh-awful pinkish paint is my bedroom wall.) I'm taking offers if anyone's interested. It's a Christian-symbolic painting by Somebody Jensen (I think). I hate it, but keep it because it fills that empty wall. And it's ... you know.. interesting.

This is the shower wall in my bathroom. Vic tiled it with some leftovers from tile jobs he did a few years ago. The floor is pretty cool too, but it was way too dirty for pictures today.

Hopefully I can find way more interesting things to take pictures of. But I had to test the camera right? Yeah, that's it. This is a test. I had a lot of fun playing with it. I'm really looking forward to all the great stuff I can do now that I've moved into the world of technology.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Is there an echo in here?...

You know you've said something a million times when you hear it coming from the mouths of your children. This is usually funny, like yesterday when Riley asked Cadence to leave her alone in the bedroom because she needed "a piece of quiet." Not so funny when I hear myself saying things my mother said, but I catch those phrases and weed them out as often as possible.

Today I accidentally deleted the recycle bin from my computer desktop. Not a completely uncommon thing, and I'm wondering why an operating system that's supposed to be so dummy-proof even allows you to do something like delete your recycle bin. I'm not a computer idiot, but I've screwed up my computer more than a couple of times with an accident. One click and your computer no longer works properly. Nice programming.

Anyway, I deleted the recycle bin and realizing what I'd done and that I wasn't sure how to fix it without looking it up, I said under my breath, "Well that was good, you dumbass." I thought I was quiet enough, but Cadence heard me and began the lecture. "You're not dumb, Mama. We don't say bad things like that about anyone, even ourselves." I don't know how many times I've said that exact thing to my kids. It was funny, but it also made me proud that my little lessons about life aren't falling on deaf ears.