Thursday, December 31, 2009

happy new year, South Georgia Islands!

Several years ago Pook's grandparents gave him a globe as a Christmas gift.  It had the unique feature of showing the time in any time zone as it spun around.  That New Year's Eve afternoon, he began to watch the globe to see who was already in the new year, ahead of us.  For a five or six year old, which he was at the time, I was impressed with his grasp of time zones.  "Happy New Year, Aunt J in the UAE!"  "Happy New Year, Great Britain!"

We had a family of friends over for dinner and for New Year's Eve, although we'd been impromptu and hadn't really decided what we'd do at bedtime for the kids.  Turns out, it took care of itself.

After dinner and much play upstairs, the four boys came rushing in and informed us it was Almost Time!  "Look!" they shouted, pointing at the globe, "It's almost New Year's!"  We looked where they were pointing and saw the South Georgia Islands and the clock showing 11:46pm.  They boys were frantic.  We needed party hats, noisemakers and bubbly drinks All Now!  And, as wise parents, we obliged.  CD pulled up a countdown of Times Square from YouTube and when we were all assembled, he clicked play and we began to count in the New Year.  We hugged, clinked glasses and blew our horns. "I didn't have a horn!" came a wail.  "Well, we can't do it again" replied his dad.  "Um, actually we can," CD pointed out.  And so we got the party horns better distributed and... we did it again.  The children were so excited to be part of the celebration that it was contagious.  It did feel like midnight.

They wandered back upstairs to play for a bit, but at (Eastern Time Zone) 9pm, they dragged themselves down and asked to go [home] to bed. In their heads it was well after midnight and none of them had ever been up that late before.  The party began to break up and our friends left.  We put Pook and Bug to bed and cleaned up the kitchen.  It was no where near midnight, but we felt like we'd had our celebration, so we went to bed ourselves by 10:30.  It was truly (and has now been repeated for three years) the perfect New Year's Eve!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

holiday wrap and miswrap

There is Legoing happening here.  I believe to lego is a verb in our house.  (To happy became a verb when Pook climbed into Bug's crib to happy the crying infant.  Successfully.)  There are many Lego kits from many relatives given to two very happy boys.  And one still to come.

My mom and I shopped together, so I knew what kit she'd gotten each.  At the same time I bought a mid-sized kit for my nephew and the small kit requested of Santa by Bug (confusing a 'b' and 'd' spelled as "asingroebshudl" -- spelled 'Assassin Droid Shuttle' by Lego).  I'd had trouble deciding what to get for Pook.  The mid-priced kit he'd just bought for himself would have been perfect.  As it was, I would have had to go up in price significantly to get something he wanted in Lego Castle or Lego Pirates.  If I did that I'd probably buy a Bionicle for Bug to balance it all.  Instead, I moved on to the Bionicles, chose one for Pook and we went home.

When I wrapped up the gifts, I made a pile that needed tags and did several at once.  I remember thinking repeatedly that the box for my nephew was for Pook, but I labeled it correctly-- and Christmas morning WB opened it and liked it.  The small kit Bug wanted, I labeled for Bug-- and he opened it and liked it.  Both boys opened a very large kit together from Sister MD.  Each opened their kit from Nana.  But I'm not sure what happened with the Bionicle kit from me. Later in the afternoon, when the chaos of eleven people opening gifts was long past, the boys were talking about their Lego I realized that Bug had two kits from me and CD while Pook had none.  It seems that Christmas morning Bug had opened it- quite happily.  I will never know if I mis-labeled or he mis-opened.  But I am being held to the promise that Pook can still get a Bionicle kit.

Similarly, my mom has informed me that one of the shirts and one of the pairs of earrings I was given were actually intended to be held for my birthday next month.  Maybe I won't wear them until then.  But I was given some wonderful things, including a heavy plaster bunny for the garden by Pook and a hand blown glass flower pendant by my niece BK.

The best part for me might have been Bug's face when anyone opened one of his gifts. He'd struggled with his gift to Pook.  He wanted to buy him baseball cards, but reached first for the tiny pack.  I pointed out that he could get 100 for only twice the price.  The problem was that if his brother had 100 new cards then he, Bug, would have many many fewer in his own collection.  In the end he splurged and put almost every penny, nickle and dime he had towards the gift for his brother.  He wrapped it in disguise and carefully marked the tag 'too Pook frum Bug'.  And when his brother opened it, he beamed.  That I will remember.  (And the card I have kept.)

And now, I have promised to help upstairs.  I must go Lego.

Monday, December 28, 2009

plus or minus 50

On our way home from the cold northish midwest today, I realized that it was twenty years ago when I decided I would live in the south forevermore.

I had driven up to Indianapolis, from Athens, GA where I was in grad school.  The weather had made driving the already awful trip worse than normal and the forecast only made it worse, as there were warnings to not go outdoors, even to the mailbox.  The wind chill was minus fifty.  I planted myself on the sofa with a warm mug and a book and was obedient to the weatherman.


Several days later, after the presents were opened, I headed in my car back south.  The next day I went downtown to buy my textbooks for the upcoming semester. There were crowds preventing me from entering, so I waited outdoors in line.  Across the street was a bank sign flashing the time and temperature.  It was fifty.

I knew at that moment that I would never live up north again.

Merry Christmas y'all!

Monday, December 21, 2009

be right with ya

"I ca-an't do all that.  It's too much wo-ork.  Will you help me?"

"Sure.
After I shower.
And finish washing and folding the four loads of laundry I need to do.
And packing your clothes into a suitcase.
And your brother's clothes.
And choosing my clothes and packing them into a suitcase.
And getting items to entertain you in the car.
And getting things for your brother to have in the car.
And getting things for me and Daddy for the car.
And getting snacks for all of us in the car.
And wrapping the last couple of Christmas gifts.
And packing the gifts to take with us.
And the stockings!
Sure, then I'll help you.  Wait for me right here."

Thursday, December 17, 2009

next year's misunderstanding

Me:  Bug, tomorrow is your last day of school!  Then, it will be 2010 when you go back.

Bug:   Really?!  Wow!  I get to be in First Grade!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

cookie planning

Last year, staying at home for the holidays, I had an ambitious baking schedule.  I baked a lot, but I don't remember making Faith's Grandma's cookies OR the Cookie Store Cat cookies.  And I don't think I'll get there this year either.  (Perhaps they will be a New Year's Resolution.)  The problem with my plan is that I make it.  I then make the mistake of asking everyone in the family what they want.  Pook: gingerbread house (check).   Bug:  Swedish Shortbread (check).  CD: Fruitcake Cookies- I've chopped and mixed all the dried fruit for them (partial check).  Obligation:  Pretzels for teachers and friends (check x 6 bags of Hershey's kisses, various flavors, Mint Truffle winning hands down).  And for me, we'll make Nutmeg Christmas Cutout cookies at my mom's on Dec. 23, (check?).  I'm just not insane (enough) to take on any others. 

I have a small kitchen.  (Have I whined about that before?)  I have kids. (Yeah, I know I've already whined about that.)  While I can make time to bake cookies (no whining) it gets hard to let the kids help.  I mixed up the shortbread dough while they were at school yesterday, and I mixed the dried fruits together today, but I'm trying to save the actual hands-on, lick-your-fingers, sample-a-few portions of the tasks for late afternoon after the boys get home from school and after homework is done.

Today I picked Bug up at 2:20 for a piano lesson.  We picked Pook up at 3:20 from Chess Club.  He had very little homework, but I wanted him to work without the distraction of cookie baking going on next to him.  I gave up at 4:00 and started slicing shortbread cookies (and his homework was quickly finished!).  Pook and Bug took turns sprinkling powdered sugar "snow" on them when they came out hot from the oven.  In my tiny oven (have I whined about that?) I can only bake one cookie sheet at a time, so we had four batches to bake, at 8-10 minutes a batch.  (And many discussions about how much dough and cookies they could eat.)  Suddenly, I realized that I needed to get dinner started if I wanted to have the potato leek soup I'd planned.  With powdered sugar flying right next to me, I started washing leeks.

CD and I ate a wonderful Valentine's Dinner once (Before Children) at a Moroccan restaurant.  Between sets of belly dancing, we nibbled foods with our fingers.  One of them was meat and veggies sprinkled with powdered sugar.  It was actually good, but I'm not interested in repeating the concept tonight.  Must keep leeks and powdered sugar separate!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

regression

I've heard that kids' brains restructure themselves at various stages of development, and that they show regression of cognitive development just as they're having a physical growth spurt.  If this isn't true, I'm not sure I want to be corrected.  Right now it is the only thing keeping me, and CD, sane and patient with our eight-and-a-half year old.

"Huh?"  I repeat the direction.  Pook stares at me blankly.  I repeat the direction slower.  I repeat it in different words.  I repeat it louder.  SERIOUSLY LOUDER.  I consider beating one of us on the head.

He was so independent last year.  I started the year by sitting with him while he did homework.  Soon, it was clear that he neither wanted me there nor needed me there.  Of course, his brother was upstairs having either a nap or quiet time listening to a cd, but still I was optimistic that when the kindergarten started assigning homework, that I'd be able to focus on only one child without any problems. I know-- I should assume nothing about children.  This year Pook is distracted and unfocused.  He can spend upwards of two hours on homework, and when I look to see what comprised this work, all I see are some simple worksheets to be completed.

I am trying a new idea. (Yes, I come up with New Shiny Ideas to Make Life Easier on a regular basis.  Every once in a while one works.  There is a paper chain earned link by link for Doing Nice Things to Your Brother languishing behind me right now.)   Nevertheless, the new idea this time is aiming to help him notice time usage.  He comes home with homework written by subject area in his agenda planner (which I am thankful the school has been teaching them to use).  At the bottom of each square, he will decide how much time to devote to the assignment.  For each assignment, a timer will be set to ring to remind him of his plan.  If he's dawdled, at least he'll realize what he didn't accomplish.  Meanwhile, I've sent Bug upstairs to have quiet time with a cd again.  He's happy listening to them and having him out of the room will help Pook concentrate.

***
btw, the New Idea of letting Bug sleep in sweats as his school clothes for Monday worked!  We had an ordinary, calm school morning for the first time on a Monday!

Monday, December 14, 2009

lay down your burdens... in my gut

Bug came home from his first day of kindergarten and had Made a New Friend.  How had he chosen this friend?  Well, they were running and Q was the fastest kid.  Of course.  From that I assumed this friendship would continue based on speed alone.

It became clear that Q is quite the leader.  Apparently Q assigns the children into teams and chooses the games they will play.  Bug has been frustrated that the kids always play Q's choice.  And then he began to mention that Q always picks W to be on his team, but not always him.  As I've been in and around his class at school, I've noticed that it is W who is inseparable from Q and that Bug has become the third wheel.

Twice recently he has said he doesn't want to go to school.  Last night I managed to get him to expand on that a bit.  He never named names, but They don't like him.  They make Everyone Else not want to be his friend.  And, They make him feel stupid. Within minutes of unburdening himself, he fell asleep.  I'm now the one dwelling on this.

I used to assume that Bug would be very popular in school.  He's very verbal and bright which keeps the teachers happy, funny as all get out which entertains the boys, and, well I hardly have to mention the eyes.  They'll come into play more as he reaches his teens, but I've already noticed little girls noticing him. All in all, he's been quite the charmer.  But I never factored in one other trait which I now see is part of the formula.  He's very sensitive and cares very much about What Other People Think.  This may be a deal breaker.  I don't think popular people have to be insensitive, but there must be a certain "I don't care what others think" quality or they'd be as full of self doubt as the rest of us.

If Pook cares about What Other People Think, he doesn't show it or talk about it.  He seems to float.  He'll play with whatever children are there playing.  There is a core group of boys who he likes, but I've never noticed any other alliances within it. He's never been upset about being left out or getting his feelings hurt.  He tells me less anyway, but he also seems to notice others less.  He is oblivious to the giggling groups of girls who already whisper about the boys.

But I no longer think I'll be spared all the friendship dramas in school by having had boys instead of girls. I hope I can help Bug navigate through it a bit.  I told him last night that other people can give him anger, but it is his choice if he wants to keep it around.  He can take their mean words and put them in a trash can and have them gone, if he wants.  I don't know if this will help him.  I'll see if he's willing to talk about it again today.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

manger scene?

This is under our Christmas tree:

Friday, December 11, 2009

light-bulb-moments

It's the Christmas music that gets me ready for the holidays, (despite the fact that CD somehow embedded the Muppet's Movin' Right Along song into my head today).  I made my "big arse" Amazon order, we have our tree bought and decorated, stockings are hung and other decorations are out. But last night was a Christmas concert at our church-- a Moravian Love Feast. (No serious loving, only a sweet roll and mocha for the "feast".)  The choir, a quartet, soloist, bell choir and brass quintet all took their parts with and without the congregation's participation for an hour and a half of wonderful music. For the first time, we took the kids along.  They even got to hold their own candles at the end.

I knew it was starting at bedtime (7:30 for Bug) so we tried to plan ahead. (We'll see this evening how it worked.) Bug took a bath in the afternoon, which thrilled him because he could stay in as long as he wanted. Then I had him pick out the clothes he planned to wear to school Friday. He chose sweats-- and I had a light-bulb-moment: "Do you want to sleep in those tonight?" Oh, yeah! So, when we came home from the concert he was quickly helped into sweats and a t-shirt and tucked into bed with music still in his head.

This morning he got an extra ten minutes of sleep and bounced out all excited to be dressed already, before anyone else.  "Why doesn't he do this on Mondays?" asked Pook. ... Silence...  Wow.  What a great idea.  I've been trying to improve our Mondays all fall.  Some Mondays Bug has gotten out the door on time, some not, but all have been painful experiences for the whole family. We've been talking and experimenting with ways to help him with the process.  Sleeping in his clothes (I think I'd prefer that they always be sweats) may be the ticket.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

marching to the holidays

People keep asking me if I'm done with my Christmas shopping. Considering I seldom give it much thought until after Thanksgiving, I'm not doing too badly. However, I'm still organizing and the actual shopping has barely begun.

We don't give Stuff to very many people anymore. We've tried to switch over to consumable goods, with great success. There are magazine subscriptions, concert tickets, and drinkable/edible items all of which have been given before and proved to be appreciated. The year I was pregnant with Bug when Pook was a toddler, (have I ever mentioned that I was not good at being pregnant?) CD and I realized we had no need to go to a mall. The mall and all the other stores were at our fingertips. The serving piece to match SIL's china? Not a problem. Shipped directly to her? Not a problem. Getting up off the sofa, that was a problem solved. So, I think there'll be very little physical shopping taking place. Hopefully one big-arse Amazon order. Probably a bunch of affiliates with shipping charges.

I emailed CD (yes, my husband and I sometimes communicate best online when we aren't distracted and have a copy of the note to refer to later) with a short To Do list. He's made it clear to the kids that too much holiday madness too soon would cause his head to explode, but now it is time to deal with it. (The piano teacher gave Bug his holiday music in October. Quite common and necessary, but in risk of causing Daddy's head to explode.) He has already responded that it seems quite manageable.

I am debating, and this is a big decision for me, whether to send out a Christmas card this year. Time, money (dang those stamps add up!) and lack of a good family photo... all excuses really. But I'm trying to talk myself into this. I'll be sad if I do; I've always sent Christmas letters. In college I wrote each person a long letter. I'd fill the card and pull out stationery. I sometimes added a note at the bottom (Happy Groundhog Day or even Happy Easter) but eventually everyone got a letter.  This continued for years.  And then I had kids.  We struggled with the decision, but decided that a group letter was better than no letter.  A photo of the baby Pook was included and a two page long letter was composed.  It saved a little time.  The letter length has decreased, the number of children in the photo increased, but it still takes a lot of time.  Now that I'm writing here, a letter feels redundant.  So,we'll see.


But one thing I'm not cutting out this year is the gingerbread house.  I'll put the recipe below, but I'm not sure how best to share the pattern.  If you want it I may need to snail mail it to you.  The dough is easy to make and it tastes great.  I use store bought icing in a tube because it sets up so fast.  The pick-a-mix candies vary, and the items made in the "yard" vary depending on what candies we have.  (Tootsie rolls make good woodpiles.)  Here is our masterpiece:

1c. butter
1c. sugar
1/2c. molasses
2 eggs
1/4t nutmeg
1/2t salt
1/2t baking soda
1/2t cloves
2t ginger
2t cinnamon
5c. flour
Cream butter and sugar, add egg and molasses, mix in dry ingredients.  I chill it overnight but I'm not convinced it is necessary.  I roll it thin 1/8"? onto parchment paper, cut the shapes and remove the excess so I don't have to lift the house pieces.  It makes one house plus 24 large gingerbread cookies.  I lowered the oven temp to 300 this year and baked them about 10  minutes.  Keep a close eye on them b/c you don't want them to get dark but if the pieces are still soft they'll be more fragile. We use two tubes of white frosting to assemble and decorate.

****
The recipe (in text) and patterns (PDF) are at www.merlab.com/gingerbread thanks Alpha!

Monday, December 7, 2009

refunds

I'm saving so much money these days I'm not sure what to do with it all! (Well, I don't actually have problems like that, but it sounds good.)

It started in mid November with a trip to the Lego store for two kids with begging piggy banks.  I couldn't convince them to wait until after Christmas, and since it was their own money, I drove them to the outlet.  Remembering that the Stride Rite outlet is next to it, I decided that Bug deserved new shoes.  The ones we'd bought for back to school had stretched out so that he kept kicking them off accidentally. When his teacher mentioned it to me I decided to replace them instead of just telling him to grow.  Amazingly I located the receipt and took it along, with little hope that an August purchase would help in November.  It not only helped, but since he was in the same size still, they gave me a refund for the whole price of the original shoes.  Whoo hoo! (#1)

During the same trip, I stopped in the Carter's outlet and Bug chose two more pairs of school pants.  He tried on four and chose two, which I handed to the cashier.  Upon returning home, we realized she'd given us the wrong two pairs.  Several days later, and after much pleading to wear them anyway, I took the receipt to the local (and much closer) Carter's store to see if they'd accept them.  They did, but had only one of the correct pairs available in his size, so I kept the second.  I spent three more weeks trying to get the kid to wear what seemed to me to be a perfectly normal pair of pants- with no luck.  Then, while my mom was in town this weekend, she and I made a holiday trek to the same mall, again to the Lego store.  This time I returned the second pair of pants while I was there.  Not finding the same khakis he'd liked, I located a pair of cords in his size.  Unfortunately, they said $26 which is significantly more than I'm willing to pay for pants for a child who is growing so fast.  There were discount signs all over the store, so I took them to the register to check on the price.  Upon showing her the receipt, her only comment was, "What would you like me to do with the $8 refund?".  Whoo hoo! (#2)
 
We received a reminder from GE last week that our one year warranty on our new fridge was about to run out and it was suggested that we buy the extended warranty.  No thanks. But, the broken seals on both of the produce drawers, and the chipped edge of one drawer, those I might like to replace.  And, sure enough, with a quick phone call, the replacement parts were on their way.  I'm skeptical that the seals/gaskets will last any longer this time, but free is good.   Whoo hoo! (#3)

On a roll at this point, and convinced that I should keep receipts in a more organized fashion than in a shoe box, I decided to see if Lowe's would take back the dead camellia I'd purchased last spring.  I'd noticed its pathetic sticks while raking leaves and had looked at the tag still on it.  "Guaranteed one year".  Good words.  I located yet another receipt and dug the poor stick out of the ground.  A trip to Lowe's later, no money spent, I have a beautiful, huge, blooming and in bud "Yuletide Camellia".  Whoo hoo! (#4)

Passing some of my good luck onto CD, when a letter came from VW about a recall on my car, he decided to call them.  We'd had a repair of a similar nature while in TN last year.  He and the dealership did some sleuthing and sure enough, the repair was covered by the recall.  Whoo hoo! (#5)

I'm looking around my house now for things to return.  What else will give me money back?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

sorting woes

I tried putting an orange dot on the tag of clothes that Pook handed down to Bug.  When I recognize the clothes in the laundry as familiar and associated with Pook, I'd see the orange and know they've changed home drawers. Perfect system!  So organized!  So clever!  Except sometimes there's no tag and the orange sharpie would show through the fabric.  Then I need to look at the tags.  Bug, age five, wears a size six in most clothes.  Pook, age eight, wears an eight.  Simple enough.  Except Bug also wears a small and that tiny little s and the tiny little 8 look a whole lot alike unless I go get my glasses.  While Pook usually wears a medium, sometimes Bug does too, some of which are identical other than one being clean and in a dresser and one dirty.  Am I supposed to remember who has worn what recently?  Ha!  And then Lands' End has made it even worse, as Bug now wears a Little Boy large and Pook wears a Big Boy small.  Other brands are less consistent about sizes, so sometimes a size (by the time we've received it as a hand-me-down) isn't accurate anyway.  I'm sure both boys have size sevens around here.  Looking around the hamper of clean laundry, belonging to I-don't-know-who, I find sizes marked L (6x-7), some M (7-8) and S (6-7).  I can no longer sort laundry.  I surrender.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

thnaksgivng by my litl turke

I luve my famly
I am thnaingkfl for my famlee.
and frens and my pets
and I rile like my famly
and my haos, my room and my legos

luv yur litl turke,
Bug


*****
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


Monday, November 23, 2009

fair, with men in overalls

Dear Mr. S.,

I have wanted to get in touch with you for many years. Before Google, I asked about you a bit and found no leads. On and off  I'd look for your name, but it was too common to identify you. I'd heard that you'd gone to law school, but that never turned up any searches either. So, now I have to thank Facebook for helping me locate you. (I'm glad it's done some good!) I'm also pleased to have found Jenny B., who saw my query about you on the Elementary School page and contacted me.

I can hardly expect you to recall the faces or names of all the students you taught, but I'll go for it anyway and see if I can prompt your memory.  I tend to think that I was a nondescript kid who wanted the focus diverted away from me most of the time. I wanted special attention but would not have asked for it. My guess, in hindsight, is that you made us all feel as if we were getting special attention.

I had very few teachers who had interest in challenging me. I was happy performing with the majority and was a pretty lazy student. Your 6th grade class was the exception. I believe there were a handful of us who completed several math books that year in order to add stars to a chart.  And to make you proud. You have remained in my memory as one of the only teachers who ever pushed me out of that complacency. I hope you have pride in those teaching years.

I'll never forget your explanation of "fair", (as in "Life is not fair.") "Fair is where men in overalls throw cowchips for distance." That must have been you. My kids look at me like I'm crazy when I say it, as I remember us looking at you. You can be happy to know that it stuck, eventually.  I get it now.

I became a teacher of special needs preschoolers after college and grad school, and realized that you had been part of my motivation to teach. Challenging the bright ones is fun, and I enjoy working with all kids, but the brains of those who aren't learning are the ones who intrigue me the most.  I like figuring out why they aren't learning and putting the material in a new format which they can finally use. Right now (for the past eight years) I've been home with my two boys.  What comes next is still undecided, but I do hope to teach in some format again.

I have bumped into a parent of a former student a few times since I taught her daughter, my first year teaching.  I have not had an opportunity to have any contact with any former students.  But it makes me wonder what I'd like to hear.  I hope that, whether they remember me or not, (I never taught anyone older than six), they were given a good foundation for future years of school.  I hope that their parents were left prepared for the hurdles of bureaucracy they were aimed to meet.  I hope that I made a difference.

I can say, without a doubt, that you made a difference in my life.

With much appreciation,
Me.

I'm including a recent family photo as well as a link to the blog I write.   I have shared this letter on my blog, without names.  I strongly considered including the 6th grade class photo, but you were spared because my scanner isn't working!

Monday, November 16, 2009

still blooming after all this time

We've had the warm, wonderful fall weather of October during November this year.  Many plants, including the blooming cherry tree next door, are confused.  I'm enjoying it however.  Here are the bloomers at this mid-November date.


Sedum is expected to be a fall bloomer.  Not exciting blooms ever, but a nice consistent garden member.  This plant still has new, unopened buds.


Dry summers are better for lantana so it was a moderate bloomer this year. We used to have a dozen of these bushes across the front of the house but have shared all but the two we keep here.  They are smothered with butterflies during the hot weather. It will hang on until the first freeze and get cut back in the early spring.


Purple Heart:  This will continue to show us it's dainty blooms until our first frost at which time it will "melt".  They are petite, but appreciated all summer and fall.  I have been rooting more all summer and hope to have it spread solid next year.


The camelia in our yard is always an early bloomer. Yesterday I noticed about a dozen white buds.  They only look pretty for a day; the white turns brown so quickly that I don't bring them in to display.


My Knockout Rose has underperformed this first summer.  It is getting more shade than I had hoped.  I may give it another year to establish itself (and see if we get any major trees pruned) before I decide to relocate it.  Nevertheless, it has had several flowers in the past few weeks.  This one made it through our last heavy rain.


Of the four old fashioned roses by my front door, only this one is still producing blooms.  A peek inside shows some darker streaks of color.  These roses are consistent Mother's Day bloomers.  I've never seen them with blossoms this late in the season.


Several surprises in our lower woodlands caught my eye.  This is Flowering Quince, one of our first spring flowers to bloom.  February is the usual time of year for the lovely coral blossoms.  I'll take them anytime.


 The last surprise was a view of a blooming azalea.  There is a cluster of a dozen bushes in our woodlands and one of them has gotten confused and shared pink petals in November.  It is the pinkest fall we've ever had in our yard.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

feed the animals

Today we had the sort of weather in Atlanta that we claim to have all year.  This is why we live here.  To everyone in town it was Go Outdoors Day.  So, outdoors we went.

We have a wonderful place in Atlanta called the Yellow River Game Ranch.  I consider it an inside-out zoo of sorts.  The people must stay on the paths, but many of the animals roam freely.  They encourage people to feed and even pet the animals and they sell apples, carrots, peanuts, dried corn, graham crackers and other foods intended for them.  We visited last fall and when I went to look up the directions I saw that they were requesting bags of leaves and acorns.  I sent the kids to collect acorns from the yard before we left and I gathered a few items from the house to take along.


We saw chickens and heard roosters everywhere we went.  Deer wandered over to see if we had snacks, as did ducks, pheasants, peacocks, turkeys and even rabbits.  We discovered who liked which snack (everyone liked the slightly mushy grapes I'd brought along) and who was picky.  It was full of people in the nice weather we had today, so some animals were full and uninterested.  The animals who were kept in cages (local animals with injuries) were sometimes allowed to be fed too. (They have coyote, a cougar, red fox, black bears....)  We ended our visit at the "farm" area where we fed the acorns to happy and fat pigs.  Then the kids discovered a "salad bar" of sorts.  It looked like grocery produce was donated to the Ranch and was dumped in a large cart.  Soon my kids were raiding it to get additional items for the farm animals.  Apples and even a sweet potato to the donkeys, carrots for goats and sheep.


They come close and allow people to pet them, and they search their food areas when they see items tossed in.  The black bear knew to check for new snacks when a new visitor came by. I wondered aloud to CD that it seemed that the wild animals were more likely to walk away when full and the domesticated ones kept eating regardless of how much was handed their way.  I know pets will overeat, but I wasn't sure about farm animals.  In any case, we fed them until we were sticky from the chunks of fruit and had been slobbered upon enough for one day.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

a day late and a mark short

All the talk about the Berlin Wall has me treading down memory lane, only it isn't well paved anymore!  I've contacted some of the friends who I travelled with, and hopefully this story is somewhat correct.

I spent my junior year of college in Luxembourg.  We had lots of opportunity to travel independently with friends as well as with class field trips.  My experience with Berlin was in 1988 after a field trip from Luxembourg to Vienna. A group of six of us decided to continue on to see a whiplash tour of some of the eastern bloc countries.  In Budapest we went to a bathhouse that had separate sections for women and men.  In Prague, as naive college kids, we exchanged money on the black market and bought crystal - some in our group left clothes behind so they could fit the crystal in their bags! Then we went to Krakow, Poland and had a seven course meal for about $5 dollars.  Still feeling like we were All Powerful Americans, we crammed into a hotel room for two.  The office staff had seen but ignored that we were six when we paid for the room, but now in the wee hours of the morning, they tried to kick us out.  The police were called.  Somehow, with bits of English, French and German we were able to work it out and, barricading the door, we attempted some sleep.  The next morning we took a sobering day trip from Krakow to Auschwitz.  Then we hopped on an overnight train to Berlin.

We woke to a stopped train and disembarked along with a group of Canadian students.  It took a few minutes of coming to before we realized where we were.  When you start from Krakow, you don't end in West Berlin. You end in East Berlin. With no documents and no money and no permission to be there.

It had been dreary and rainy for most of our trip, and we'd been arguing more and more as the week had continued.  The stress from the hotel event hadn't helped.  The day in the East was awful.  We'd jumped a metro entrance (couldn't pay) to sneak into West Berlin so we could officially enter East Berlin with money and permission.  (Naive college kids, remember?)  We did the tourist things we felt obligated to do and took the requisite photos.  I bought a book about American propaganda. We had trouble finding things to buy to use up our money. We spent less than a day in East Berlin.

When we returned to spend time in the West, suddenly the sky was full of sun and neon signs which flashed bright colors at us.  Our moods changed too and we realized how the atmosphere had caused so much infighting and all the bad moods of the past week.  In my photo album/scrapbook, I refer to the trip as the "Trip to Hell".

I remember this old feeling of doom and gloom when I think of East Berlin.  I have looked at lots of the photos that have been published this week and feel optimistic for our world.  I still have this photo of the Berlin wall, enlarged to poster size and framed, hanging on the wall in my den.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

for sale: Indy home, memories not included

I'm excited, but sad.  My parents are moving from my childhood home to be near me in Atlanta.  I've been encouraging them to do this for years, especially since I got pregnant with Pook.  They'd visit GA at the worst times.  They helped me move in to a third floor apartment, in August, before the power (A/C) was turned on.  They'd get stuck on I-285 at rush hour on a Friday of a holiday weekend (think parking lot with eight lanes). I'd push for a February visit to see a spring sneak peek and we'd have an ice storm.  It just didn't persuade my dad.  But the stars have aligned and now they're doing it.   As my friend L puts it: "a mathematician with an impulsive streak...I like it!"

I got a call from my mom that they'd like to see what their money would buy in Atlanta, first.  I spoke to a realtor friend and she gave us a website of houses.  They came to visit that weekend and we took the opportunity to drive around to see a few.  Then we arranged to visit a couple.  Then they decided to make an offer.  Then the offer was accepted.  One long weekend.  And now, a week later, their house is on the market in Indianapolis.  Anyone need a 5BR house?  Video tour link available upon request!

We're going to go up for Christmas this year.  I figure this is probably our last Santa Christmas, and celebrating it in my childhood home feels right.  I'll make my own video tour of it while we're there and there are toys and gifts strewn around.  And I'll get all sappy.  Because it has so much in it that can't be packed.

See the upstairs window closest to the front door?  That was my bedroom.  I could watch the street while doing my homework.  My dad used to start tomato seedlings on my desk there in the sun.  They smelled.  Sister MD had the corner bedroom.  The lower (center) window of the basement?  We had a ping pong table (used mostly as a mere table) where my father challenged me and Sister MD to games.  He played left handed until he got so good he could beat us with either hand. Pook and Bug consider it to be the "game room" and dig out the Lego and stuffed animals when we visit.  My dolls, Jennifer and Susie, are asleep in an old trunk in that room.  I suspect they'll be packed up to come here. The kitchen and family room (far right window) were where we spent most of our time playing and coloring, but the living room with the picture window in the front has strong memories too.  We'd move the tv in there in the winter, since the room was warmer.  We'd sometimes sit in front of the fireplace, drying our just-washed hair while All in the Family or Wild World of Animals played on screen.  Only the left half of my head would be warm and dry as I faced the tv. Behind the photographer is a drainage creek which runs across the front and side of the yard.  There were a lot of leaf boats raced there.  In the backyard, near the kitchen window, I had a tire swing.  I spent a lot of time daydreaming on it, but the swing has been gone for years now.  Pook and Bug never saw it.


We all will make new memories in the new house.  Pook and Bug will bike to see Nana and Papa, bake cookies, build birdhouses and have a second home.  I will see less of my parents more often (hours at a time instead of days) and enjoy sharing my city and my kids.  Two and a half miles away beats 500 miles anytime.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

pumpkin

And now the picture story of our volunteer pumpkin from the garden:


















And the story is not over, because I plan to make soup with it in a few days!

Monday, November 2, 2009

by Bug, age five

This gakulanrn yos to be a pumpkin but I krvd it ann lit it.
(The word 'pumpkin' was the Word of the Week at school.)
















Wen evr I go chricorchedeing I sa chricorche!
(Here are Snoopy and Robin Hood, ready to go Trick or Treating.)















Friday, October 30, 2009

google harvest

I remain an optimist when gardening. Of course, why would anyone put a seed/plant in the ground if they were not?

I planted all my winter crops before The Flood of 2009.  I'm sure my seeds are sprouting...somewhere downstream.  It took me many weeks (of more rain, primarily) to get around to replacing them. But I did, finally.  And now I am seeing notices on my Google calendar to check for the first spinach harvest.  And next week to check for broccoli.  Then carrots and lettuce.  And now I am feeling the pessimistic gardener.  There is certainly nothing to harvest now.  The lettuce that did sprout and didn't wash away is still less than two inches tall.  It has had plenty of rain, but no sun. I saw purple stems of swiss chard as it came up, but I assume it has all rotted because I see none now. I found three carrot tops after the first floods, but after all the additional rain, I think they're gone now too. I'm afraid to pull up the green sprouts anywhere in case some of them are veggies which washed into the area.  I'm not sure those reminders are worth moving to later dates.  If it does quit raining, it will probably revert back to drought conditions.  A balance?  Not here.

But!  I've picked The Pumpkin.  And it will be here for you to see it soon.  Volunteer plants in my compost pile which I have neither planted nor tended?-- those I can grow.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

serious decision making

I stand in the aisle, stocked floor to ceiling with colorful bags of Halloween candy.  I can't move.  I need to buy some candy for Saturday.  But what?  I love the chocolate and caramel stuff, but I reject the miniature Milky Ways because don't want to get something I like or I'll eat all the leftovers. We always have leftovers.  I see a bag of Laffy Taffy.  The kids like those ok.  I pick up a bag.  Too small.  What if I run out?  I'll need two.  Maybe something different.  But if I get something different I'll be tempted to give kids some of each.  And then I'll still run out.  Two Laffy Taffy bags?  Boring.  I see some bigger combo bags. 175 pieces?  Way too much.  M&M fun size packs?  I don't eat peanuts, but that doesn't necessarily mean I can't give it out. Twix and Peanut Butter Twix? None of the combinations are just right.  I don't want to give out candy I don't even like myself.  Seems wrong.  Oooh, Sugar Babies!  What am I thinking?  I'd eat them all in one afternoon and feel sick the rest of the day.  Tootsie roll mixtures.  Blech, they've got all the flavored ones in there.  Don't they just carry Tootsie Pops alone?  Nope.  But they've got some new chewy Starburst gummy thing I'd like.  Except it isn't for me and I think kids think gummies are babyish.  I see a traditional pack of small Hershey's candy bars.  No, I don't like the peanut ones, but they'd be popular.  And pricey!  Back to the fruity stuff.  How many kids do I expect?  We live on a lousy street for Trick or Treating.  There are steep driveways and no homes on the other side of the street, so not too many venture our way.  But still, one must be prepared.  I grab a small Laffy Taffy bag back up and pair it with some Starburst.  I head out of the aisle, satisfied and relieved to see canned vegetables in front of me.  Another cart passes mine and has Milk Duds in it.  I drop off the Laffy Taffy and turn back to grab a bag of Milk Duds.  Next to them are Whoppers.  I dump the Starbursts and grab them too.

Monday, October 26, 2009

recycling

Every day in kindergarten the children mark their behavior charts.  At the start of day, they all keep a clothespin on a chart, all on green, which means good.  Yellow is a warning, red involves discipline and blue means that neither the warning nor the discipline were effective.  There is always a chance to improve one's day and move back to green, but the color at the end of the day is colored onto a chart and brought home for daily initialing.  On Friday, those with green for four or more days are invited to visit The Treasure Chest.  (ooh, gasp, wow!)

I am pleased with the behavior charting method.  I am not a fan of The Treasure Chest.  Nor am I excited by The Treasure Chest at the dentist and the Birthday Gift Bag and (I anticipate) the trinkets given as Trick or Treat gifts. Oh, the stuff, the stuff!  No more trinkets! Erasers that don't really erase.  Super balls that can't be bounced in the house, nor outdoors. Pencils to join the other 100 pencils.  Tiny dinosaurs.  A pair of sunglasses that double as a drinking straw.  (really!)  Stop already!

It is all in the getting, not the having.  They are excited to Get.  They don't care that they Have.  The Stuff accumulates until it drives me batty.  I collect it from  the bottom of the drawers, the bottom of the toy bins, the top of dressers, from under booster seats in the car.  I put it in an opaque bag.  And I give it to the kindergarten teacher.

And my kid comes home with it again on Friday.

Monday, October 19, 2009

sixteen apples up on top









Tuesday, October 13, 2009

see food

We did more at the beach than dig and surf.  We ate!  I do not cook dinner on vacation, as a policy.  We go to the grocery, buy simple lunch and relatively easy breakfast items, but we eat local seafood at restaurants for dinner.  The number of locals selling their own fresh catch tempts me to change my mind and do a simple dinner myself sometime. But not this time.

We went to the local, trendy beach spot the first night.  The price reflected the view, not the quality.  CD and I had grilled grouper sandwiches and the kids had fried shrimp and fried grouper "fingers".  Bug peeled the breading off his shrimp before eating them so he could taste the fish better. Pook liked our grouper better than his. We know better than to order off a kid's menu, but we often forget.

To celebrate our anniversary, Saturday, (#11) we drove in to Apalachicola to find a restaurant which had been suggested to us.  It was preparing for a wedding party and, without reservations, it turned us away even at 6pm.  We walked around, checking out options until Bug's tired feet took us to a small cafe.  The results were superb.  The kids shared a large order of seafood linguini, CD ordered shrimp and grits (not as good as Rick's) and I had an amazing, although not quite traditional, paella prepared with mussels, shrimp, scallops, chicken, summer sausage and chorizo. I started to order a couple slices of key lime pie to share, but Bug's sunburned head was resting on the table and it was time for bed.





Sunday, following more beach and more ice cream and a climb up the lighthouse, we returned to Apalachicola.  While walking alongside the fishing boats, we struck up a conversation with a fisherman, cleaning up his boat for the day.  When asked what he caught, he replied, "These days I trade diesel fuel for shrimp."  He must love being on the water; that's a tough life.

We aimed for the same suggested restaurant, but it was closed, so we went to another mentioned spot at an old inn.  Pook and I had good crab cakes, although unconventionally prepared with corn in them.  CD had a fried platter and Bug chose pizza.  I thought of the fisherman we'd met and whether it would be practical to drive home with a cooler full of shrimp.  We did not.



salty splashes

I do so love the beach.  It must be in my blood, left from my formative years in southern California.  The smell of the Gulf coast isn't as good, but the sand and water are better than those of the Pacific.

"Try to keep your clothes... dry.  Oh well, we can go change before dinner."  That was the first visit to the beach immediately after unloading the car at the condo.  Keep a kid dry?  What was I thinking?


After a great vacation breakfast of sausage and biscuits we headed back to the waves.  The boys ran with glee into the surf.  Bug loved letting the waves crash into his chest and to dive or jump into them.  The water was so shallow for such a distance that even beyond the waves I could still stand (except for the unexpected drop offs which occurred just as a large wave approached).  It was perfect for little kids and boogie boards.  They split their time between the salty splashes and the sand, which they used for a few sand castles but primarily for digging holes.  Pook came running to me, yelling, "I dug to China!  Or at least to water!"  Bug found a shell which I tucked into my swim suit to save for him. I later realized that someone still lived in the shell.  Bug named him George, the Bivalve.

Within minutes of admiring the clouds in the distance which were obviously dumping rain, it began to rain on us.  I don't remember being on a beach in the rain, and we could have stayed, but we packed up.  We'd barely rinsed our sandy feet at the condo when the sun reappeared.


We took the dry opportunity to go see the Oyster Spat Festival (spat, n. An oyster or similar bivalve mollusk in the larval stage, especially when it settles to the bottom and begins to develop a shell.*)  We'd read that Saturday's festivities would begin with a parade at 11:00am.  It was 10:40 so I suggested we head out to see it.  But this was an island on Island Time.  It took five hot minutes to walk to the main road where we waited in the hot sun for the parade. There is a different climate mere yards from the water at the beach. From 'Beach Lovely' it quickly becomes 'Just Plain Hot', no, make that 'Hot and Muggy'.  "If you look up 'muggy' in the dictionary, you'll get this," commented CD.  Finally we heard the marching band (all ten or twelve teens).  A firetruck, the sheriff, about six cars displaying only advertising and the parade was over.  At least someone had thrown candy and a Frisbee to the kids.  We escaped the heat and went into an ice cream shop.  Candy! and ice cream! before lunch!  It must be vacation!

*dictionary.com

Thursday, October 8, 2009

goin' to the beach!

Seems like if you're going to be sick you should be sick enough to gain sympathy and get out of your normal job chores.

But I'm glad I'm not because tomorrow we head to the beach!  The kids have a Friday/Monday vacation- possibly to celebrate Columbus- but more likely because the timing was right after having nine weeks of school.  Teachers work Friday getting report cards ready I think.  We will be driving south.

From Atlanta, there are several popular beach options, but they're all the same approximate distance.  We chose Gulf over Atlantic after some debate.  The water will be significantly warmer and the plans we had for the Atlantic trip need more time.  We've always wanted to explore Georgia's Cumberland Island.(wild horses!)  The kids are interested in the Okefenokee Swamp. (alligators!)  I think the two would make a great vacation combo pack, but probably would be too rushed in this short trip.  Plus, the mosquitoes are still swarming in the swamp, so maybe a winter trip would be best.  The alligators are calm and easily found in the colder weather too.

Instead, we will laze on the beach on the Gulf coast.  We have some serious sand castle building to do, a few books to read, and some seafood to enjoy.  CD and I celebrate our 11th anniversary on Saturday.  (I still love him!)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

in a former life

At 8:30 pm, I am finally losing the effects of today's caffeine.  I have had a headache and stomach ache all day.  Before laying down for an hour's nap-ish thing-- I did still have kids here-- I phoned CD and told him I was too nauseous to cook, and that even though he'd biked to work today, I needed him to deal with dinner.  Although I wasn't thinking clearly enough to remember, he knew what that meant: egg drop soup.  Perhaps I was Chinese in a former life; egg drop soup got me through the months and months of prenatal nausea and has come to the rescue many times since.  Chicken noodle won't do, chicken and matzo balls isn't the same.  There are probably other versions too, but for me it seems to have to be egg drop soup.  I've made it for myself, but that isn't the same either; cheap take out seems to go over the best.

So, eleven hours after the mug of coffee (simply a latte made with 2% milk), I'm only somewhat feeling the belly churning and the headache is gone.
****
Wednesday morning:  I can only blame so much on coffee.  I'm sick.

let's meet for coffee

Shaky hands, pounding heart, nauseous, almost dizzy fuzzy headedness.  I just met a friend for coffee (2 hours worth of catching up!) and was distracted by the coffee-making-guy who offered me skim, 2%, whole or soy milk, sizes of indeterminate quantity, and paper or ceramic cups, and I seem to have forgotten to say "decaf".  When a friend offers to meet for coffee, I tend to ignore the "coffee" part of the statement and consider it a chance to catch up, which it is.  Then I'm unprepared for the actual ordering of the coffee-type beverage and I get flustered and mess up.  With this result.

I end up consuming caffeine once or twice a year, accidentally, and I then remember why I don't drink it regularly.  I pulled an all-nighter in college once (bad idea for a 10 hr sleeper anyway) and then topped off the study session with a Diet Coke liquid breakfast.  I sat down at the blue-book exam, picked up my pen, dropped my pen, picked up my pen, dropped my pen... and finally had to tell the prof that I couldn't take the exam until later.  I went home to sleep it off and gave up caffeine completely right then.  Benadryl leaves me wide-eyed and sleepless; clearly I'm that 1% who reacts oddly to medications.

Hopefully the laundry portion of today will be completed despite my impaired condition.

Monday, October 5, 2009

acorns are plunking on my head

An old birdhouse the kids made has been taken over:

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

time for quotes

Kindergarten is a good source for quotes.  From Bug:

"I learned how to spell APPLE at school today!"
(me)"How do you spell it?"
"I don't know."

"Did you know that the word TREE is not spelled with a CH?  You should really say, chree, not chree."

"Is there a low school, like there's a high school?"

"If I'm really doing all this work I really might as well get an M&M. I'm doing so much work it's like I'm the servant."

"My concern is this: If we do that first, will we still be able to play?"

Monday, September 28, 2009

still learning

Did you know that a female Komodo Dragon can have all male offspring without having ever had a mate?  CD and I were determined to do some research after learning this.  Sure enough, there is more to life than XY chromosomes. "Komodo dragons have the ZW chromosomal sex-determination system, as opposed to the mammalian XY system" and through Parthenogenesis they can reproduce on an uninhabited island and continue the species.  Thanks Wikipedia and PBS.

Today I went to Pook and Bug's elementary school and did not make copies, did not check books out to kids, did not organize the school pictures, and did not clean the fishtank (although it needs it).  I have been asking the administration for years if they had a need for someone to tutor.  I may be a SAHM, but I'm also an MEd, thankyouverymuch.  No, they didn't need anyone to tutor, but maybe I could check in the library; they always need help in there.  However, this year I was in the right place at the right time.  Our school is busting out the seams and needed to add two new kindergarten teachers, but were only allocated funds for one.  Some shifting had to be done, and what lost out was the at risk kids.  The teacher who had helped them was given a self contained class of kindergarteners, (also at risk).  The fifth grade classes are huge and the teachers now have the added responsibility of providing extra help to this struggling handful of kids.  Immediately after hearing this at the PTA board meeting, I approached the principal.  (Ooh, ooh, call on me!!)  She all but begged me if I could start immediately.


Now, mind you, I may have taught for ten years, but this isn't what I taught.  I had preschool special needs children in my classroom.  They were often unpotty-trained, non-verbal, or violent.  I know how to put on afo's, I can detect speech issues, I recognize poor pencil grips.  I never had a text book of any type to teach with, and I never saw any formal curriculum.  I made most of my materials and sat on the floor a lot.  My favorite learning activity was Playdoh Time.  For reinforcements, I offered tickles.


This morning four boys followed me to the library.  (I am not legally to be trusted without a certified teacher in the room.)  We found an out of the way table and started our lesson.   These boys had visible chips on their shoulders.  But, the opportunity to be with me was presented as a privilege and it was clear that they could lose the chance for future weeks.  They didn't read as poorly as I expected; one of them seems to be doing fine, although the teacher says his comprehension lacks.  We read and discussed a two paragraph story about learning in different environments: a tent, a mud and straw hut, at home in front of a computer and camera, and in a school.  They were given vocabulary words (challenge, misunderstand, examination....) and we used the pictures, the prefixes and suffixes and tried to figure out their meanings and put them in sentences.


One hour.  The other four days the teacher will probably give up her lunchtime to work extra with them.  She has several more who need help, who speak primary languages other than English, but they didn't have time to come work with me.  I will do what I can; I'm looking forward to getting to know them. 

Thursday, September 24, 2009

writing for money

I cannot get enough of early writing.  It's just like that awesome first year of talking, but you get to keep samples of it written.  Pook and Bug's school is holding a Fun Run fundraiser.  Usually I keep family and friends out of school fundraising, but since my parents will be visiting the weekend of the race, I figured they were fair game to hit up for donations.  Plus, trying to write a coherent letter on the computer is great practice for both kids.  This is Bug's request for a donation:

DER NANA AND PAPA WEL U HEP US PAY FOR THE FUN RUN. THE FUN RUN WIL BE WIL U R VISIDEN.  U CEN CUM WOCH. FOR $10 I CEN RAS AND FOR $20 I GET A TESHRT.
LUV (BUG)


Now, what grandparent could resist that?  (Now I have to tell them that it starts at 8am....  You reading, Mom?)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

off kilter

I'm sure it all started with the school cancellation yesterday. Monday afternoon I put notes with each backpack "Child X will be tardy to school Wednesday.  He has a morning dentist appointment."  This morning, I remembered the appointment, reminded the kids they needed to brush extra carefully and all that.  Then, just twenty minutes before we needed to leave, I realized that I was sitting, relaxed, at the kitchen table in boxers and an XL t-shirt.  Only.  I hadn't showered, let alone brushed my hair or teeth or even looked in the direction of makeup.  Yikes!  I dashed upstairs to dress and clean up as much as I could.  I even remembered my glasses and a magazine before hurrying the boys out the door.  (Recently I've been remembering a book/magazine when I have an appointment and forgetting the glasses.  This is mattering more and more.)  We walked into the office on-the-dot on time and both boys were quickly escorted to the back.  I sat down, dug out the glasses and found my magazine. The receptionist had paperwork for me to review and by the time I was done, one of the two hygienists had come for me already.  Bug's teeth were shiny and clean with no problems.  Pook got the same clean bill of health a few minutes later.  It all moved so quickly I felt rushed.  I was still holding my glasses and hadn't put them back in the case. Nevertheless, they missed less than an hour of school.

Since I was already at the school, I stayed to count out the reminders about School Pictures to go in each teacher's mailbox to send home.  I was one class short and had to make copies of the colored postcard.  And then copies for administrators.  And then went back to the copier to make extra copies to leave in the office. 

Finally I emerged.  My usual Wednesday is a strict routine.  I head to the Farmer's Market and then the grocery.  After leaving the school, I headed up to the Farmer's Market.  There were many booths, but only one with a tiny bit of produce today.  Most crops were destroyed by our recent flooding.  I bought mustard greens to support the guy who came.  I've never cooked them before, but we'll check them out.  The sausage guy had some great new samples, so I bought some breakfast sausage too.  Gotta support the independent producers!  Problem was, it needed to be refrigerated or frozen.  So, I headed home instead of to the grocery. 

That is never a good idea.  Break the routine and everything intrudes.  I started a load of laundry (the white sheets and the red blanket from last night's wet bed won't mind being washed together, right?) and answered some urgent email.  Suddenly an hour had passed.  I went back to the car and drove to the grocery.  Couldn't find the list.  Sat in the car trying to recreate it.  Found it in my pocket after two aisles of shopping.  As I was checking out and realizing that I'd hardly bought anything and would probably be back in a few days, a dad rushed into the store with two young, pigtailed girls, both wearing masks over their faces. Two bottles of Gatorade later, he rushed them back out.  I reminded myself, it could be worse.  Just before arriving home, the gas light came on in the car.  I came home anyway.  I have to go back out to buy some combs to have available during tomorrow's picture day.

The rest of the day leaves small gaps of time between school pick up, post chess club pick up, homework, piano practice, dinner at our church and a class at the church.  At some point I hope to shower. 

Monday, September 21, 2009

ark building time

It is time to build the ark.  I don't usually blog about the weather, snow being the exception but this rain is something else.  I planted the garden between showers, and it has rained ever since.  (The good news is that the chard sprouted and no critters are venturing out to eat it.)  The forecast is for rain the next nine days!  I knew they were giving driving warnings this morning, but when I heard school systems getting canceled I was still surprised.  Then I started to hear of friends trapped at home because of deep water on roads.  A bad traffic jam yesterday, on a Sunday afternoon, turned out to have been a fatal accident due to a car sliding on wet pavement.


The kids' school is canceled for tomorrow now too.  I'm fortunate that we already had a playdate scheduled, so it has been expanded- three hours there, three hours here.  I hope the kids can enjoy each other that long!



The picture here was taken by a friend.  It is looking down the spillway which heads down through the ball fields.  Sometimes it's almost dry, but this is how it looked today.  I hope no children get curious and play in it.  It looks dangerous.


Our house is on a hill, and the continuing hill in our backyard is bleeding red clay from where we dug out ivy to put in our azaleas this summer.  The hill will keep us from getting any water in the house (we have no basement anyway).  There are creeks all around, feeding into the lake, which has a spillway and even drain which feed into another larger creek.  I'm sure they're all at capacity.  I haven't heard of any major house issues of neighbors yet.  I do know of three trees down (cable outages #1 and #2) two of which smashed cars, one of which was being driven by the photographer who took this picture I stole (with permission).

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

fall gardening

There are perks to living in the south. Getting mosquito bites during breakfast, in my own kitchen, in September, is not one of them. Planting in the fall is. I've already got the asters and chrysanthemums in and happy. I'll wait on pansies for another month probably; I'm not much for annuals, but they do offer nice color in the winter and especially look good when the bulbs pop through them in the spring.

Today I took the advice of my farmer friends and planted a cool season garden. The leaves will soon fall and sun will be able to get to the plants. Most of the time I don't have much sun here and the summer plants suffered. The tomatoes got blight, the cucumbers were not meant to be, and even the watermelon was tossed even though it had finally produced fruit:



The peppers are still doing ok; the bell peppers were disappointing but I'm getting years' worth of hot chili peppers to dry. My pumpkin is still doing great; turning a bit orange already. (It will get it's own post someday I suspect.)

After applying bug spray, I turned the soil and made tidy little rows using a handy stick. The rows were also marked with sticks; there is never any need to search far for them. Two rows were planted with carrots (germination 8-12 days, harvest in 70) four were given over to spinach (germination 8-10, harvest in 45) two for broccoli (germination 10-20, harvest in 55) and four to lettuce (germination 7-10, harvest in 75- should have planted two weeks ago and again every two weeks) and swiss chard (germination 7-10, harvest in 50-60). I have the chard in my front yard, along with some extra spinach and lettuce, but the rest is in the back yard raised bed garden, next to the compost pile. We shall see. I marked my calendar to keep track of the dates. I'll be excited if this works. And, if it does, there will be a late January, early February crop following these.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

ducks in a row

I finally found an opportunity to search for a header photo for the blog. In the free images online, a shot of crayons lined up in a row caught my eye. Immediately I thought of this photo, taken when Bug was born. We used a similar shot that Christmas, with Pook in a Santa hat. I remember being so impressed when we used Photoshop to whiten the grout in the tub. It was the cleanest the tub had/has ever been. In this original, Pook, age 2 1/2 is in the tub, with the amount of clothing one usually wears in the tub. So, some quick work and poor Pook was edited out. (CD and I once turned a woman into an ivy covered wall when she, as a stranger, looked right into the camera behind a group shot. I love that type of challenging edit. This was simply a crop.) Then, my tech savvy husband spent another half hour trying to get the photo to fit and to work with the Blogger requirements and my template. It can be great having his knowledge around, but sometimes the shoemakers children get no shoes, at least when they need them. However, thank you CD. I hope the site looks good because it won't be changing again for a while.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

school supplies

A note came home with Pook, from his gifted teacher. It listed a few more school supplies the kids will need for the 3rd grade gifted group. Two more folders, two more notebooks, a highlighter... a flash drive. Wah?

I've seen CD's flash drive; I'm not completely clueless. I even know what it does and could probably figure out how to... well, I'm mostly clueless. But my eight year old needs one of these things? I thought I'd let CD buy it, and avoid having to ask for help. No, that wouldn't work, so I needed to get one for him. I asked. "Where?" "Oh, anywhere." "Anywhere? Like... (with that leading, go-ahead-and-finish-that-idea sound)" So, with the basic information that I needed only 1GB (that is pronounced gigabyte, for those even more clueless (love you!)) I stopped at Office Depot.

I asked. I went "over there" and then searched until I found them, all encased in large plastic packages with key locks. They were all 2GB, but one was on sale for $12. Seemed like the one. But the teacher had suggested getting one on a wrist or neck strap and since trusting an eight year old with this small item without one seemed unwise, I asked. I went "over there" and found packages of 100 lanyards. Finally got a two pack. We'll use the second one for something.

So, my kid had his own flashdrive. Little turquoise thing (had to go for a cute one) on a black lanyard. For a school supply. At the register, the guy says, "Just two gig?" I explained that it was for a 3rd grader. "Wow, when I was a kid we just had to bring a floppy disk! I'm old!"

Him, old? I most definitely did not need a flash drive, or a floppy disk when I was in 3rd grade. We used pencils and paper Back Then. Crayons, not even markers. Slates maybe.

To make myself feel better/younger, I told all this to CD. "I think I got through my undergrad years without any computers. In mechanical engineering too." Me, well, I had a computer, sort of, but telling about it makes me seem old again. I got a Tandy laptop-ish computer for high school graduation. It had an 8K memory with a cassette tape which could hold the equivalent of a six page term paper. I never learned how to use the cassette tapes to extend the memory (assuming that I could have) and remember one night I had to start over when a paper was lost. I began using university computers, strictly for word processing still, and then had no need for any type of computers after graduating. In 1996, CD's friend Marvin was tossing out a PC and it ended up on my desk at home. I was introduced to Windows, and to email. Ironically, when the school where I taught got PCs for teachers, I became one of the people to go to for help. Still, when Pook was born and I left my job, the schools had not yet networked rooms or schools and I did not yet have any way to print in another room without a 3" disk.

My kids haven't had much experience with technology at home. They have an 8yo laptop to use, but it is so slow they don't bother using it much. They've played wii at the homes of friends, and other games I know nothing about, but in general I have stayed ahead of my children in knowledge of technology. Unfortunately, my progress has been slow and I have a feeling my days are numbered.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

secret stash

Do all moms have a secret stash hidden in the kitchen? David Lebovitz' blog has a picture of "Anti-stress" chocolate bars and a commenter mentioned the stash of chocolate chips all moms have. My mom kept cinnamon Red Hots under the dishtowels. Sister MD and I ate them regularly. I know we've discussed our thieving tendencies with her, as adults, but I don't think she knew about it until she was told. There was a code among us thieves. We never finished a bag (one must leave a reasonable number so the Mom doesn't notice any missing) and we never opened a new bag.

Around here, it is Dove chocolates. I love chocolate, especially the good stuff (and can ignore milk chocolate completely) but I don't crave it. I keep chocolates behind the tea bags and most days at about 1pm, I eat two. I can stop after those two which is what I like about them; with some treats I can't stop. Sometimes I forget to eat them, some times of the month I need more than two. I don't drink caffeine, so it may be the combination of the sugar and the caffeine that help me at that dragging time of day. Or, it may be that they remind me to take a deep breath and enjoy my time alone for a bit. Either way, they're there for good, and if you visit and need a dose, you know where they are. Just don't tell the kids.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

fall in

Fall arrived to tease us, promptly on September 1st. I know it'll get hot again, we've even had an 80° Halloween before, but for now I'm going to pretend it won't be back. I went to the Big Box Garden Store to look around for Fall Color. It was more scientific than that actually. I had a list. I didn't expect to find anything from the list, but I had one. I've been writing down plants that I'd like, plants that would show off in my yard when it needs a pop of help, and plants that might survive in my yard. But few, if any, of them are available at the Big Box Garden Store. I should gather catalogs for winter dreaming-- and some real ordering. But meanwhile one gallon chrysanthemums were on sale two for $5. I picked up six in yellow, gold and purple, then saw purple asters (on the list!) and gathered two more of them.

Each year at Halloween I decide my yard is dull and I buy some chrysanthemums to brighten it up. I plant them after they're done blooming, but don't come back to check on them or baby them through the winter. And yet, some come back the next season anyway. This year I'm filling in the gaps early and promising to water and love them all fall. We will see if they return the love.

The area between my driveway and my neighbor's driveway has too many specimen plants which the previous owner planted tiny and didn't plan to ever see this big. We pulled out the fountain grass, even though I like it, because it just didn't fit. Unfortunately, something else is going to have to go. We've got a dwarf arborvitae, then two lovely cypress trees flanking a Chinese maple, in front of and all too close to a huge Southern Magnolia. The maple is beautiful spring through fall, but I hate to lose the evergreens who provide the deep green all winter when most else is brown. The arborvitae is the first I'd choose to give up, but it's at the end by her mailbox and the least crowded. They're all too big and too tight together to hope for transplanting anything. I will study this situation another year. At least.

In front and under these plants, closer to the driveway, I have tried many options. Hostas should do well. They don't. They're out this spring. Well... at least moving. Some monkey grass is covering right near the magnolia and then I have odds and ends of feverfew, purple coneflower volunteers, purple verbena, wild geranium (yes, Mom, I found four leaves from the start I got in June!) and lily of the valley. Some chrysanthemum leaves have remained nice all summer and I'm waiting to see if they get buds. It is here that the eight new flowers have been carefully added. Here is a photo of the area, in today's dull morning rain. I can hold a camera and an umbrella and wave to passing neighbors who think I'm crazy, all at the same time.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

play time

I'm messing around with the look of the blog. Bear with me. It may change several times today as I'm not wise enough to sample it, make changes, make decisions and THEN post it after it is all ready. Why must I learn HTML to blog? I'd like some sort of image at the top, but I don't really want a photo, so there may be nothing for a time while I search for Just The Right Thing. Meanwhile, any comments on it now?

Monday, August 31, 2009

the witching hour

I can tell time by Bug these days. When he's somewhere like school, he runs on High Power and uses up all of his Good, leaving only remnants of our usual child to return to us in the afternoon. We knew it would be like this, starting kindergarten. I had prepared, somewhat. We'd gotten him used to going to bed at a different time from Pook-- a mighty feat I may add, considering they share a room. I'd also prepared him for the return of regular naps once summer ended; it looked like there'd be time for naps on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, and that seemed like it would do. Unfortunately, it takes him longer to settle down after school than it did Pook and where Pook had a baby brother taking a nap when he came home and soon joined his brother in napping, Bug isn't settled enough to sleep until about 3:30 (home by 2:30). In my house, no one has ever been allowed to nap past 4pm, so I had to make the decision to scrap naps this fall. That, I knew, was a recipe for disaster.

So here we were, both boys practicing magic tricks I helped them learn today-- Bug while Pook did homework, and Pook while Bug... annoyed Pook. I was doing some PTA project on the computer and suddenly Bug fell to the floor, melted. If you know the book Knuffle Bunny, I'll call it "boneless", if you just want to picture a puddle of crying five year old, that'll do too. "I can't do it." It's all your fault!" "I'm never doing this trick!" I looked at the clock here at the bottom left of my screen... 4:58.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

don't forget

My baby lost his first tooth yesterday! After only giving me two weeks to adjust to kindergarten, he has to prove he's grown up by doing this. Sigh.

It is sitting on the backsplash in my bathroom, where CD last night's Toothfairy put it, thinking it would be hard to see, but where I could find it to save if I want it. Do I want it? To be honest, they're pretty gross. I thought I'd kept Pook's first tooth, but when he lost the second one I couldn't find the first one so I threw the second one away. Yesterday when I got out the little tooth basket we have, I found some random tooth of Pook's in it, but I threw it out the window* and placed Bug's in it instead.

* I threw it out the window because I was indoors and it was hard to throw it on the roof. Follow the link to a good book which will explain my actions.

I suspect that Bug is a more sentimental person and I might get by with saving his tooth/teeth without saving Pook's. But you never know if it might be one of those "you love him more than you love me" issues. I'd hate to have it come up in therapy some day that I only saved the teeth of one child. The problem I remember having with Pook's first tooth was: Where To Put It? I ought to have at least one private place in my own bedroom, but I'm not optimistic. And the Safe Place where I probably put Pook's tooth? I have no idea where it is- that's why it's so safe. (There are lots of things there, including, at the moment a sign-up sheet for our PTA that I need.)

So, in comes the usefulness of this blog! I am taping the tiny tooth to an index card and putting it in the upper right desk drawer. Don't forget. I might need to find it someday.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

measurement

To be fair to the photo, I should have put a ruler next to the snake. Straightened out he might have been ten to twelve inches long, about as thick as my thumb. He was very dead and I will convince myself that his family has mourned and moved on long ago. Far away. The holes behind the dishwasher are filled with insulation and expanding foam, so visitation hours are over.

Monday, August 24, 2009

simple but deadly

"How does she write a post about her new dishwasher and use both the words 'simple' and 'deadly'?"

I'm up to the challenge. First of all, whoo hoo for us! We're getting/we've got (depends on the time I post this) a new dishwasher! The old one gave up on everything but running (meaning, spraying water and soap around and sort of cleaning) a long time ago. Plus it smelled. And had rusted. And the front panel was off, revealing the cardboard "insulation". But once we decided to get a new one, we ended up buying a new refrigerator. Then we recovered from that purchase and bought a new garage door. And here it is, August.

We did our appliance shopping online, found the model we wanted and the store who "carried" it. Then we went to the second store which actually did carry it (less than simple, but still ok). It fit into our car (simple) and our favorite handyman said he could come over Monday at 9:30. All wonderfully simple.

He came over at 10:30, which by handyman standards is "on time". Unfortunately, wrong dishwasher. I returned and swapped them out, relatively painlessly, but did waste Handyman's time. (Fortunately he charges by the project, not the time.) And, insulation that CD wanted to put behind the new dishwasher won't fit. And Handyman had to cut a new hole into our sink area and run a new drain line. He's only had one extra trip to the store, but it is 1:15 as I type. (I knew it was ill fated when he asked about my afternoon plans and when I said I had to get the kids at 2pm he responded with "Oh, if I'm still here at 2, we have bigger problems!)

So, nothing is simple when it comes to home ownership. But still, you ask, what is the 'deadly' part of this dishwasher replacement?

This: the dead baby copperhead he found when he removed the old dishwasher. It is now resting on top of the compost pile. Maybe it will scare away any critters who want to eat from our garden.

So, no, there ended up being nothing much "simple" about the installation of this lovely new dishwasher. Handyman finished at 3pm. But, we have a new dishwasher, and it works.