Sunday, December 31, 2006

Waiting for the new year

Waiting, at this moment we watch the preparations for the battle of Helm's Deep.

Our original plan for New Year's Eve was to spend time with friends at one or two kid-friendly parties, one early and the other later, probably heading home late in the evening but before midnight. That's not how it worked out! One party was cancelled due to illness, one of us is fighting a cold, and two are tuckered out from their four-day, three-night campout with Scouts.

So, plans were adapted. We enjoyed attending our usual early evening church service-and-dinner. LOVED the chicken pot pie; our offering was homemade biscuits and they went well together, yay. Once we were back at home, the boys opened their season-of-Christmas gift of new fleece pajamas and promptly put them on, heehee. Then we settled in to watch The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, from the trilogy super-duper extra-special ultra-extended-version set we received at Christmas (we watched the first movie Christmas afternoon, I think?).

The elves have arrived at Helm's Deep, and the Ents are deep in conference. I'm going to sign off and enjoy the rest of the movie and the last minutes of the old year.

Farewell and Godspeed, 2006. You were a good year.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Busy but it's good

The boys are out walking around the block, to help Son1 break in his new light hiking boots. What a great idea, dear husband! The full dishwasher is running, a load of laundry is in the washer, most Christmas gifts are on their way, I have a thorough list of household To-Dos, AND I have a nice list of fun Christmas To-Dos for the kids to pick from.

Now, while the kids are gone, I'm going to quickly put away a bunch of cluttery things around the house and get ready for an errands run when the kids return. If we can accomplish that, keep the laundry moving along, and prep for dinner, then by late afternoon the kids can choose from the Christmas To-Dos. Ornament making, pie making, game playing with me, cookie dough making, or finishing the Christmas decorating; I wonder what they'll pick?

Eek, they're back!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

A shopping day

We don't shop often. Oh, groceries, sure, sort of. But clothes? gifts? objects to fill household needs? Well, we pretty much do our utmost to avoid shopping, but sometimes it just needs to be done. And turns out to be rather fine, and even fun. Thus it was today.

Our plan: when dear husband returned from a prior commitment in the early afternoon, we would head out to Nearby City and shop our way homeward for the rest of the day. Yikes, you might say, but our itinerary was clothing surplus store, possibly Scout Shop, military surplus store, Big Box Store in our town, and finally our favorite Christmas tree lot. And that's exactly what we did!

Our main goal: to acquire at least some of the most necessary gear for dear husband and Son1 to survive and perhaps even be vaguely comfortable for the upcoming Dead of Winter Scout campout of four days and three nights. Our other goals: to, if possible, pick up a few leadership resources at the Scout Shop. To give dear husband his first look at the new Big Box Store in our town. To bring a Christmas tree into our home. Again, that's what we did -- whew!

We had a very enjoyable time over about five hours, all told. We saw a lot of Nearby City. We thoroughly explored every overstuffed aisle of the clothing surplus store and acquired warm socks, sock liners, glove liners, and long underwear for both guys, as well as a great hat for Son1... with earflaps! We also discovered Son1 really wants a neck gaiter in soft microfleece, hmmm.

Next, dear husband and I tracked down the Scout Shop, to which we had previously traveled separately and from different directions. We found it! and it was closed, oh well. Onward to the military surplus store, passing on the way an upscale mall and its vast parking lot that was very very very crowded. The military surplus store was oh so thematic, with lots of memorabilia along the walls, and mostly clothing. I could've picked up a copy of the book The Happy Handgunner, though, I think that was the title! The kids enjoyed exploring the store while dear husband and I looked for some wool pants Son1 might be able to wear. We found a candidate pair, and they could be cinched to fit somewhat, but in the end we decided to put that purchase off. We left with a new wool watch cap for dear husband.

Next, we bowed to kid needs and ate dinner at a fast food place, a somewhat restorative task. Time to drive back to our town for the visit to Big Box Store. Amazingly, the only thing we bought from that fine establishment was a pack of 4-Watt nightlight bulbs! Er, and I picked up a decaf peppermint mocha and a pound of whole-bean Starbucks decaf Christmas Blend coffee.

The final stop was our favorite Christmas tree lot. The boys, again, explored while dear husband and I told the tree lot guy our preferred price and that we were looking for kinda tall and skinny, looked at the two Michigan firs he showed us amid a brief lament that the rest in that price range had sold, chose one 'cause we liked them both fine, and bought it and a premade Noble fir wreath (a splurge this year!). The boys didn't seem to mind missing most of the process! We drove home with a bundled tree and a nice wreath, as well as our other purchases, and hauled everything into the house.

Now the kids are asleep in a bedroom lit by the very gentle glow of a yellow rice-paper star lamp I got for that purpose nearly four years ago when we moved into this house; they love it.

We have a pile of clothing that will go a long way toward keeping my guys comfortable even if they have somewhat challenging weather on their campout after Christmas. We also have made some decisions about what else to get for that. I'm going to dig into the long-forgotten box of my old outdoor and skiing gear. I know I have good long underwear Son1 can wear; possibly more socks and liners; and a monster pair of felted, super dense wool mittens. We're working our way with some success down the list of recommended gear.

A card table and various objects and piles that tend to come to rest on it have been moved or put away. The Michigan fir drinks water as it stands between the piano and the entryway, with two paper chains perched in its now-relaxing branches. The scent of fir drifts through the house along with songs such as "Coventry Carol."

It has been a very good day.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Friday Five: Yuletide Favorites

From the RevGalBlogPals (see blogroll and go check them out!)...

For this mid-December Friday Five, let's explore some Yuletide favorites.

1) It's a Wonderful Life -- Is it? Do you remember seeing it for the first time? Definitely a major, major favorite, from time immemorial.

2) Miracle on 34th Street -- old version or new? Old, I think. We just watched it this evening, colorized. Now we need to record and watch the black and white version (the kids don't expect to like it!), and the Richard Attenborough version. I remember enjoying them all, actually.

3) Do you have a favorite incarnation of Mr. Scrooge? Love Patrick Stewart. And the, er, 1940s? 1937? movie. And Bill Murray in, I think, Scrooged. I think the story can take quite a lot of the adaptations done to it and still shine, but those three come to mind right away!

4) Why should it be a problem for an elf to be a dentist? I've been watching Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer for years now, and I still don't get it. I have no idea. I think it's really odd. Don't like the coach-like reindeer who is obnoxious to Rudolph in an adult-to-kid way, either. And yet, the story as a whole is great.

5) Who's the scariest character in Christmas specials/movies?
* The Bumble
* The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, Muppet Version
* That Mean Magician Who Tries to Melt Frosty
* Your Nomination

I nominate Whoopi Goldberg as a female Scrooge; she just didn't have the Scroogeish magic for me.

In this household we LOVE the Christmas shows, and the vaguely Christmas shows, and the shows that have a Christmas scene in them, and so on! From Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer to The Polar Express, from Harry Potter movies (great Christmas decor in the great hall, you know) to The Santa Clause I, II, III, and of course the classic Grinch cartoon and A Christmas Story, we love them.

We do, though, have a Must-Not list: the Jim Carrey Grinch movie, and many of the made-for-TV movies and shows. There can be gems, but some years we don't try to find them and other years we have fun seeing what's on the airwaves. Mr. St. Nick: not bad. Nestor the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey: have it recorded to watch for the first time since I was a kid.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

So how's it going?

I'm in a blogging mood again lately, but haven't had much time to write up posts. Be warned, there may be a flurry of blog posts soon! is being glitchy after their update, so I might at long last set up a Moveable Type or WordPress blog. In the meantime, I feel a desire to spell out what our homeschooling looks like nowadays, two weeks before Christmas.

So... I wrote a bunch here, then moved it over to A Bit of Bubbly, my homeschooling blog. I found a good Mac browser (Firefox!) for, so perhaps I'll be blogging over there more regularly now that my posts are less likely disappear in the midst of being written. Oh, and blogging a bit more here is a possibility, too!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Second snow day: sun and fun

Today was pretty fun, as snow days go. The beginning of the day was quite crisp, 19F at 8:30 am when Son1 ventured outside for the newspaper (these kids are all about the comic strips, and are no longer satisfied with the Sunday color comics). It was gorgeous -- little drifts of wind-blown snow providing terrain and texture in the simple whiteness covering the ground everywhere, all dazzling in the bright sunlight. And the blessed stillness! No wind! By 9:30 am the boys were champing at the bit, so I let them bundle up and head outside.

They stayed outside for nearly three hours!!!

They made a beeline for the park behind our house. The temps steadily climbed, maxing around 47F after noon. With the moderate temps, no wind, and the sunshine I noticed they had unzipped their coats and, eventually, removed their hats. It turns out what finally brought the boys in was a combination of cold, wet feet (no snow boots) and unfamiliar kids showing up who were happy to throw snowballs at faces, grrr.

While they were out, though, they explored snowdrifts and broad expanses of snow in the park behind our house at great length. After a while the next-door-neighbor kiddos showed up, and they all played for a long time. There seemed to be snow fort construction, snowball throwing, falling prone into snowdrifts, and on, and on. In yesterday's stormy, windy snowfall the kids were only able to throw snow flurries -- the snow was too cold to pack well -- but today the now-packable snow was pretty decent for snowballs and snowpeople and snowforts.

The boys went out again in the late afternoon to attempt to build a snowman. They got about two-thirds of the way done and were just too cold to stay out longer (still-wet shoes, hard to get around that). They warmed up with a change of clothes and another round of hot cocoa and settled in to play indoors. Our boys were so tired and ready for bed at the end of the day!

We still have snow on the ground, but a lot melted during the day in areas exposed to the south. The snowman attempt was in the front yard, on the north side of the house, shaded by our two-story abode. It's already 25F at not quite midnight, and supposed to be cloudy tomorrow and not much above freezing, so maybe the boys will get to play again in the snow remaining from today.

Oh, arrggh! I just realized I forgot to get out our Calvin and Hobbes books after the snowman attempt. I want to introduce the boys to Calvin's idea of snowpeople ("I'm melting!", or snowmen at war, or, well, gee, I don't remember the rest). That'll be fun to do tomorrow!

Advent Friday Five

From the RevGalBlogPals, as Advent begins this Sunday.

1) Do you observe Advent in your church? Definitely. Advent wreathmaking workshop with volunteer-created booklet of prayers and readings; Advent-oriented readings and prayers and hymns in the services, and I'm sure some small changes to the liturgy that I don't think about; Advent wreath lighting at the beginning of each service on Sunday; Advent liturgical color used in hangings and such in the church; Advent quiet day mini-retreat some years; Advent family activities on Wednesday evenings some years.

2) How about at home? Again, definitely. We have worked to develop traditions for Advent as preparation, Christmas (12 days) as celebration, Epiphany as a good ending to this time of year -- and it's really helped relax this time of year for us. Better than the cultural, sustained, intense anticipation-celebration-preparation mix that starts in November and ends abruptly sometime on Christmas Day. Off soapbox!

Our home traditions for Advent include lighting the Advent wreath every evening before dinner, and saying the prayers and readings on Sunday evenings; decluttering the house and kids' things and giving away excess toys, etc.; having simple, easy dinners; decorating the house but no Christmas tree until nearly Christmas.

Edited to add: There are a bunch of tips and ideas for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany over at my Web site Faith at Home, should you be interested.

3) Do you have a favorite Advent text or hymn? O Come, O Come, Emmanuel -- 'cause I love that minor-key stuff, and the connection with first-millenium Christians through the Great O antiphons on which it is based.

4) Why is one of the candles in the Advent wreath pink? (You may tell the truth, but I'll like your answer better if it's funny.) Joy, celebration, or is it... pink for us girls!

5) What's the funniest/kitschiest Advent calendar you've ever seen? I dunno; I think Sara over at Going Jesus has a lot of examples of truly awful such stuff, though.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Baked cranberry-orange preserves

From Helen Witty's wonderful Fancy Pantry (1986, Workman Publishing Co.), her "Baked Cranberry Preserves with Orange and Cardamom", with my simplification of the orange prep.

To make about 3 cups of preserves...

Preheat the oven to 350F. Gather:

4 cups cranberries
1 medium-size seedless orange
3 cups sugar
1/8 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 cup water

Spread the cranberries in an 8-inch square glass baking pan.

Zest the entire orange; remove the peel and discard; finely chop the pulp.

Mix together the chopped orange and zest, sugar, and ground cardamom. Add this mixture to the cranberries and mix thoroughly -- but if the pan is too shallow to do this, leave the mixing until the second baking stage. Sprinkle with the water. Cover tightly with aluminum foil.

Bake in a 350F oven for 30 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 325F, uncover the dish, stir the fruit into the liquid that has formed (a large slotted spoon or pancake turner works well), and continue baking the preserves uncovered, stirring gently every 15 minutes or so, until the berries are translucent, about 45 minutes more. Don't worry that the liquid is not particularly thick; it's not important.

You may can the preserves or just spoon them into hot, clean containers, let them cool, label, and refrigerate for up to several months.

= My Notes =

It's EASY enough to zest (the hardest part) two oranges rather than one, so why not double the recipe once you know you like it. I double the batch, baking it in a 9x13-inch glass pan; Ms. Witty recommends a shallow roasting pan. The time for each baking stage is the same. I used three bags of cranberries, about 9 cups, for the 8 cups called for.

DELICIOUS as an accompaniment to turkey; spread on hot toast or muffins or pumpkin bread (toasted or room temperature); or spooned over yogurt. I have enough, thanks to doubling the recipe, that I'm going to try it over pancakes, waffles, French toast... whatever strikes my fancy. The recipe says it makes 3 cups, hmmm. With a double recipe I filled 3 half-pint jars, two miscellaneous jars (12 oz and 16 oz, I think), and half of a quart jar. Seems like more than 6 cups? I was never good at these nonmetric measures, but still.

Random food notes

From the last week or so, here are some random food notes.

Lard-based pie crust: W-O-W. Just, wow. Crispy, flaky, a great counterpoint to our standard (Libby label recipe) pumpkin custard filling made with whole milk and cream. Which, by the way, was also quite delicious. To top that pumpkin pie with fresh-whipped cream was gilding the lily, in my opinion. And it's very nice to not worry about trans fats, hydrogenated everything, and preservatives. Got my lard from the farmer through our statewide food co-op.

Friend's sweet potato casserole -- yum!! Her combination of spices, plus the star anise scattered across the top, made it extra delicious. I want the recipe.

Sugared and savory crispy nuts: Love the sugar-and-spice crispy pecans! The almonds done the same way are much too crunchy, feh. Dear husband likes the savory crispy nuts, but they're too over the top for me. I'd rather tone down the spices a little for a better balance with the nut itself.

Cornbread baked in a skillet greased with lard: oh yeah. So crispy.

Baked cranberry-orange preserves: a seasonal favorite of mine, delicious as always. Great on toasted or room-temp pumpkin bread, or spooned over plain yogurt. Mmmmm. Shall post how to make it, shortly.

Pan-grilled Cheddar sandwiches with slices of Cuban bread: looked rustic and delicious (if you liked cheese, which I do not). This is my homemade Cuban bread, a dense bread I made tonight to go with our tomato soup dinner. Dear husband said it was a completely different sandwich from grilled Cheddar on store-bought bread, and sharp Cheddar would be better. Okay, and I'm just saying -- that plate of crusty grilled sandwiches looked as though it'd be really yummy, if one were an eater of cheese.

Let it snow, snow, snow!

We started battening down the hatches yesterday morning, with firmly worded forecasts ringing in our ears -- of freezing rain, bitter cold and high wind, followed by snow. When we got up it was about 60F; by midmorning the arctic air was already pushing in and the temps had started dropping. The kids and I did some errands. Next time I'll remember bread and cereal, arrgh. At noon it was 38F (forecast for 5 pm); at 5 pm it was freezing, 32F. Did I mention the rain, all afternoon? By nightfall it was continuing... as freezing rain, at first.

Dear husband came home after work and we all snuggled in. I made enchiladas and cornbread for dinner to the sound of sleet, lots of sleet, throwing itself against all of our north-facing windows. I made lots of cranberry bread after dinner. Dear husband went to his bowling league. The boys and I went outside briefly to pick up and see what sleet really was (raindrops frozen en route to the ground, as they fell through colder air to the ground). The boys went to bed ready to dream of playing in snow.

Dear husband came home from bowling league reporting that the windward doors of the cars had been iced over, and streets were very slick. Our thoughts became how to keep the house buttoned up tight against the wind and cold, and how much snow the forecasters were expecting during the day following. Dear Husband's employer, Big University, actually decided to close due to the weather (wow!). The schools will be closed, meetings and other activities are cancelled. Due to the icy roads if nothing else, Thursday will be a stay at home day.

I woke to the sound of... sleet hitting the windows. Sigh. Neighborhood lightly covered in white stuff, probably sleet rather than snow. Son2 in tears that, with the 0F wind chill and no actual snow to play in, I was not allowing the boys outside. We amused ourselves for the morning; Dear Husband and I drank good coffee and looked at radar and generally relaxed at home while the boys played.

At lunchtime I looked outside and realized... it was snowing! Tiny little flakes, and later moderately big flakes. Steady whirling snow with wind pushing it this way and that. Hurrah! And all I can say, as a mom, is...

Yay snow! In a few moments my kids were drawn outside by the next-door neighbor kids, whose mom (as it turned out) was pulling them in a plastic sled on the slick, icy street! They thought my morning "stay inside" was for all day, oops. So the boys bundled up and there was much sled pulling, snow throwing, and general running around and fun. Then they came in and I got scarves on them (covering nose, mouth, neck), and they all headed to the park behind our house. The kids made snow angels, messed around with the snow and sleet on the playground structures, played football in the snow, etc., etc.

Last winter I shopped successfully at a discount/seconds store and got great gloves and mittens for the boys that still fit!, and a knit hat and really good coat for Son1. That means that we are actually something like prepared, wowza. No snow boots, and certainly no snow pants, but oh well. And the boys have long-john type pajamas, so they wear the long-john bottoms under their jeans.

Son2 came inside to warm up; Son1 came in about half an hour later. The snow has stopped, but I am hoping that the next hunk of snow on the radar stays active and gets to us. About 50 miles north of us there is a blizzard underway, but that's not the piece of the storm that we're getting. Neither is the ice storm to our southeast. Whew. I am thankful, and they are in my prayers. Oh! It's snowing again.

We've been eating cranberry bread and drinking hot cocoa all day, it seems. Time to plan dinner and either a yeast bread or pumpkin bread and coffeecake to help with tomorrow's breakfast. My family is a little off balance because we're out of bread and cold cereal. I'm off balance because I want more eggs. That's okay. When the roads clear -- tomorrow? Saturday? -- we'll get what we need.

Bottom line: after last winter's disappointing lack of frozen anything, I was crossing my fingers for a decently frozen interval or two, and this is great. Er, as long as we have power, haha. Yay snow!

P.S. I found a couple of coffee to-go cup sleeves that I knit last fall, and am trying them out as wrist warmers. Very nice! I think they will help tremendously in the evening when the outside temp starts to drop and the house doesn't quite feel as warm (and we don't keep it toasty in winter anyway). They're simply sock cuffs without the sock part, slipped past my hands onto my wrists.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Readying for Thanksgiving

I'm just wondering. For Thanksgiving Day or weekend, do you have plans to feast, travel, attend a church service, get together with family or with friends (or both), watch the big-city parades or football on TV, do something completely different?

We do not travel to our distant families for holidays, so we'll be at home. This is the third year we've gathered for Thanksgiving with two other families with young children who are far from their extended families, and we'll host this year; we invited a fourth family as well.

We could go to our church's Thanksgiving Eve service tonight (readings both Biblical and historical -- colonists, native Americans, historical USA, historical Oklahoma -- and Eucharist), with a pie social afterward. BUT after a couple of busy days cleaning house and cooking up a little storm, I want to hang out at home and look through the Thanksgiving reading and picture books we borrowed from the library, instead!

Our menu for tomorrow is a simple blend of my husband's and my traditions and our preferences, and a good helping of the other families' dishes:

Roast turkey, herbed bread dressing, mashed potatoes, turkey gravy (all by me)
Sweet potato casserole, green beans
Cranberry sauce, olives, various pickles
Herb bread, dinner rolls, local butter
Red wine, apple cider
Dessert: pumpkin pie with cranberry-pecan topping (by me), deep-dish apple pie, whipped cream, some sort of layered meringue dessert, good coffee with local cream, mulled cider

I think our menu says we're both Northerners, as there is no cornbread or sausage, and no grits. But we're not from the Atlantic coast -- no oysters or other seafood. No chestnuts in our dressing either. I made my favorite baked cranberry preserves today. I'll make pie crusts tonight, trying lard for the first time, make gravy using yesterday's homemade turkey stock, and gently bake to crispness my soaked pecans and almonds. Tomorrow morning I'll use my slow cooker to turn those crispy nuts into sugared almonds and spicy pecans -- mmmmm, bake the pumpkin pies (one for Thanksgiving, one for Friday breakfast!), and make the mashed potatoes and the dressing. Oh, and roast a bird! Later this weekend we'll make pumpkin bread and cranberry bread, especially because those cranberry preserves are SO GOOD on toasted pumpkin bread. Oh yeah.

Generally we go for basic, homemade, yummy, inexpensive (well, okay, except that my husband is dropping a penny or two on good beer and decent wine right now, LOL, and I already bought the good coffee and the local butter and cream). We save some pennies and luxuries for Thanksgiving and Christmas, making them truly times of feasting and food celebration.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Stop, breathe, think -- and food comments

I just wrote this to a friend, and it bears posting here.
Time is flying by for me -- every Saturday I stop, breathe, and think, "It's Saturday again already?!?" That's okay. I'm memorizing Latin and poetry along with the boys, and flexing my little-used math mental muscles, and encouraging Son1 through his writing exercises, and learning to write Italic along with the boys as well, and encouraging the boys in their Cub Scout projects and tasks. And we're starting to get more household chores done during the week than we did at first. Yay laundry and homecooked food!

The house needs a good paper-filing and general decluttering session, but we are on-pace with the homeschooling by the end of each week and we still kinda love the whole thing (not the work but the tackling and mastering of things and the aha! from time to time, of course).

Dear husband was more shocked by the appearance of whole milk in our fridge than anything I could say about trying a new approach to what we eat. As I read and think more about this traditional-foods, Nourishing Traditions, no-prepared/little-processed foods approach, I think it's really worth trying. Certainly the low-fat kick I've been on for 15 years has not prevented us from slowly adding fat to our bodies, nor had all of my "healthy" food choices and preparations lowered dear husband's blood pressure or my cholesterol numbers. We're pretty sedentary, but still! It also fits in very, very well with my increasing interest in eating locally produced foods and food that has as little manufactured stuff as possible (pesticides, hormones, herbicides, trans fats, hydrogenated oils, etc.).

So, I'm trying the easy stuff for this family. That is, aiming for a different balance "on the plate" -- protein and a bit of good fat for staying power, and veggie or whole grains to fill the tummy, rather than sweet things (oh my sweet tooth must be tamed!) and leaning heavily on carbohydrates. For me, working toward better portion sizes. Switching to better fats -- little-processed milk products and olive oil, for now. Soaking the whole wheat flour portion for my homemade breads, quick breads, pancakes, etc., to make more digestible the carb-y stuff we like. (Biscuits with half whole wheat, soaked, became the best, lightest, crispest WW biscuits I've ever made -- wow!) One son and I love the crispy almonds (soaked overnight to start the sprouting process, then dried in a slow oven). I am going to try soaking for black beans, rice, and lentils as well. Buying more (most? all?) grass-fed/pastured, organic meat from producers through our co-op, as well as free-range eggs. Working to spend less on packaged foods and fast food, and cook more frugally, as I once did, so we can buy this good stuff.

For more, I wait somewhat impatiently for my interlibrary loan of Nourishing Traditions to show up. My library's copy of the complementary The Maker's Diet is en route. I've found some similarly oriented Web sites for recipes and tips. And I'm keeping a critical eye out for good and bad changes in our bodies, our health, that stuff. Who knows if this will work out well, but I think it won't hurt us, really won't hurt us, to try it.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

42nd Carnival of Homeschooling

For some interesting browsing, check out the links at the Carnival of Homeschooling No. 42: The Answer to Everything. I'm now going to take my own advice; I shall go forth and browse.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Fall Fruit Salad, yummy yummy

Two weeks ago I needed to bring some sort of side dish to a gathering, and had a bright idea that worked out great.

Fall Fruit Salad

Two crisp apples or firm pears or one of each, cored and diced
A big handful of pecans, halved, plus bits
A generous drizzle of Vidalia onion dressing from Tastefully Simple

Et voila! A lightly sweet yet almost -- but not quite -- savory fall fruit salad. It's very pretty and delicious with a combination of reddish Gala apples and green Bartlett pears, and pleases the senses even with one fruit alone. It's also a nice balance of protein and not-too-carb-laden fruit, so not bad for the sugar balance or whatever. It doubles or triples very nicely, and is very fast to put together. Finally I have an easy, not-too-sweet fruit salad!

I'm taking it to a post-church dinner today. Yum yum.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Sock knitting update

Though slowly, I have indeed been making progress on my in-progress socks. In fact, I've turned the heel on two different socks and picked up the rest of the stitches to start knitting in the round for the foot.

As it turns out, I did one in the wrong direction and now I have to frog it back to the point just before I picked up all of those parked stitches, sigh. The bright side is that it's the second sock of the neverending Harry Potter/Gryffindor socks, and that means that all I have left to knit is the foot!

With the sock I did correctly, the next thing is to continue the lace pattern from the leg down the top of the foot. I can do that.

Since I'm making sock progress, however slow it might be, I may actually pick up the hoses-and-ladders, ruffle-topped, pink sock for a niece and get back to those little cables (they don't cross, so they're wiggly hoses, too funny).

There you have it. Tell me to knit more, and more often, so I don't forget which direction I'm supposed to knit next time I pick it up!

Enjoy it! Great meat, butter, whole grains, veggies

I've been reading various things about food over the last several months. Slow food, seasonal foods, traditional local food, eating local foods, eating within 100 miles, organic foods, grass-fed pasture-raised meat, organic butter and milk and cheese, pesticide- and hormone-free fatty foods (butter, milk, cheese, meat), whole grains. This fall I've been reading about hunter-gatherer eating, "neander thin" and "paleo diet", all of which avoid grains and beans, which is too much of a sticking point for my family and me.

Now I seem to be landing at the book (and idea), Nourishing Traditions. Great meat and eggs (grass-/pasture-fed, organic). Moderate amounts of whole-fat dairy (organic and not ultra-pasteurized). Yummy nuts, beans, and whole grains, prepared so they're easier to digest and their nutrients are more available (and, I think, so they're more familiar to my bread-loving family). Olive and coconut oils; butter and homemade cream cheese. Full-fat cheeses in general. A big variety of veggies except root veggies. Small portions of fruits other than berries. Switch from processed grains and flours to prepared whole grains and flours, and eat somewhat less carbs. Total avoidance of most prepared foods, with their high-fructose and other corn syrups, trans fatty acids, and super-processed sugars and flours.

I'm entering my high-energy, happy in the kitchen time -- early fall. I think I'm going to try to change our way of eating toward this and see how it goes. I'll start with changing our dairy, grains, and fats/oils, and add nuts and more veggies. Tia has posted so many wonderful meal plans on her blog Living Deliberately that this seems do-able. She is adapting lots of recipes, and it helps a lot to know that I can adapt what we know and like already, as well as add new dishes. Check out her breakfasts!

Er, have I mentioned that my husband may go into shock when I bring home full-fat cheese and dairy???

Scouting: the pace picks up

Both boys have now earned their intro Cub Scout badge (Bobcat), and Son1 is well on his way to his Webelos badge, a couple of other badges, and stuff that will contribute to the Arrow of Light (his big challenge for the year). Son2 enjoys being a Tiger Cub, and the two boys love to practice their den yells and the hilarious one of a Boy Scout patrol (learned on their campout).

A newer development: I get to sew a bunch more patches. Yes, dear husband is almost certainly going to be the den leader for Son2's Tiger Cubs den. Time to buy his shirt and another set of patches, plus whatever den leader specifics are required. Got my thimble and needles; I might break down and buy the set of spools of thread that match the various Cub Scout uniform/patch colors!

The rest of this weekend will, apparently, be devoted to lots of sanding and painting. The boys' Raingutter Regatta race of balsawood boats takes place on Tuesday, and they need to shape their boats and paint them, and then decorate the sails. So... my plan is to do my own thing -- Web site updates, write articles, background reading for homeschooling and for me, and catching up on laundry and meal planning -- while the guys do their thing.

We have a few more calls to make to finish our attempt at selling popcorn for our first Cub Scout fundraiser. Between dear husband and me, this is our "getting our feet wet" fundraiser; we expect to spend more time on the mulch sale in the spring. The boys' share of the funds raised will help them go to day camp in the summer and on campouts here and there; apparently we can also tap into the funds to help them get needed gear from approved scouting-supply stores in our area.

At some point dear husband will probably attend the two-weekend outdoor skills training for adults, which means two Saturday overnights for him and tons of learning so he can teach Webelos. How cool is that?!?

A few days after Christmas, Son1 and dear husband are going to participate in the four-day, three-night Dead of Winter (brrr!) campout for Webelos with the Boy Scout troop they'll probably bridge into. Apparently it's a test of what the Webelos have learned. They are dropped off at a prepared site with the gear/supplies that were hidden around the area for them. As teams they must find the needed gear/supplies and set up camp (shelter, fire, water, etc.). Wow!

Dear husband and I are talking about camping and hiking/outdoor gear as potential family gifts for Christmas, and both gear and uniform parts (pants, long-sleeved shirts, hats) as potential birthday/Christmas gifts for the boys. I'm pretty sure long underwear for outdoor activity will be on that list as well, with the Dead of Winter thing around the corner! Hmm. I think this Cub Scouting thing has struck a really good chord with all of us. Dear husband and I are a bit bemused by how well Cub Scouts fits right now, when a year ago we weren't interested.

Game Day

Today is a Game Day here in our town. Specifically, big-time college football that is a highlight for our entire state. Yes, plenty root for the land-grant/ag school up north a bit, but a whole lot stream into this town in the days and hours before each football game to fill the parking lots, side streets, and any open spaces within a 15-minutes walk of the stadium. They have tailgate parties within sight of the stadium, or gather around a TV at a friend's house, or actually enter the stadium and help make the roars of excitement or frustration that roll into the TV microphones and up and over the top of the stadium for everyone else to hear. The population of our town doubles on Game Days, just like another college town we once lived in (Go Penn State!).

I had some errands this morning and realized that, even though it was only an hour before game time, my best route meant I'd be able to stay at the edge of the intense stadium-bound traffic and travel the opposite direction, so I ventured out. Waiting at the traffic light at the nearby state highway that skirts our town, it was kind of fun to see the stream of traffic coming in, car flag team colors showing that so many people are arriving in our town from all parts of the state for the game this morning. It's a beautiful fall day, partly sunny, not too hot or cold, no rain expected until this evening. Nice.

After my stop at the credit union and several browsing-with-purpose sessions at area bookstores, I headed home in that oddly quiet time when almost all of the unseen doubled population is in the stadium or watching the game at their tailgate or at home. From previous experience I know that the grocery stores are piping the game coverage through their sound system for those poor souls who are not at the game (my guess has always been -- it's really for the store employees, and for the shoppers who want to know when to head home to beat traffic). My path took me about half a mile from the stadium, and it was amazing to see how FULL of vehicles every front yard was, and every side street, and any open space around retail properties. Wow. A lot of money changed hands for that parking!

I never went to a single football game at my alma mater, and I had no idea what I was missing until my beloved took me to football games while we were in grad school at Penn State. What fun! We went to a football game where we were hot and went home sunburned (early September), and to another where we watched the falling snow draw near to us along the valley and snow fell as we headed home (late November). The experience of a college football game is pretty exciting and very fun... as long as you're not losing feeling in your extremities due to wind chill. I think we left that game early, actually.

Our sons would love to attend a football game inside the huge stadium we pass nearly every day. At normal ticket prices it's highly unlikely. We've taken a university walking tour and glimpsed the inside of the stadium, and we've attended a meeting held in a gorgeous room on an upper floor of the stadium with an incredible view of the field, but they have no idea what it's like to attend a football game in this football-crazy town or any other. Someday we'll stumble across an opportunity for a few tickets being given away at the very last minute by someone who knows someone (incredibly unlikely), or we'll be able to buy some game tickets at face value (more likely). Or -- we'll go to a high school game, or attend the spring scrimmage or the fall meet-the-team event in the stadium, or they'll just have to wait until they're in college and can get low-priced tickets themselves. I keep meaning to plan a family outing one game day to enjoy the pre-game festivities near the stadium. There are kids activities and we could see the HUGE TV screen in action, and we'd catch a bit of the excitement.

But then we might end up with not just one, but two local-big-university sports fans in the family, and dear husband and I would not be among them! Ah, the little fears of parents! Dear husband has unbent enough to give them local-big-university T-shirts as gifts, O fatherly love.

Living Math Through History

Living Math Through History -- this is so cool! Yet another great thing over at The first set of topics fits great with our ancient history focus, so I'm going to have fun with this stuff while we wait for our next set of math curriculum books.

Introduction and Lesson 1: Math is Everywhere!
Ancient Roots of Mathematics in...
- Lesson 2: Africa and Asia
- Lesson 3 The Americas
- Lesson 4 China and India
- Lesson 5: Thales and the Egyptians
- Lesson 6: Pythagoras and the Early Greeks
- Lessons 7 and 8: Archimedes, Geometry and Pi; Archimedes' Myriads and Eratosthenes, The Librarian Who Measured the Earth

I discovered that our library has a copy of two books highly recommended at, The Joy of Mathematics and A History of Counting so I checked them out a few days ago -- again, very, very cool. Browsing through the very browsable The Joy of Mathematics, I'm remembering all sorts of fun math things that were part of why I enjoyed math. The book on the history of counting is fascinating: body counting, keeping count with symbolic objects, tallies, and then the development of numbers. An intriguing approach to mathematical concepts as well as how they developed, stories of math, and mathematicians.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Very Late Friday Five: Civic Duties

Friday Five: Civic Duties, from RevGalBlogPals.

It's that season of the year when lawn signs are sprouting as surely as flowers in the spring; elections are just around the corner. And so today we bring you a Civic Duty Friday Five.

1) How old were you when you voted for the first time? I think I was 22. Thing is, often that first-Tuesday-in-November Election Day falls on my birthday, and when I was 18 and rarin' to vote for Jimmy Carter I read some get-ready-to-vote language that seemed to make it clear that I would not be eligible to vote that time (Election Day = my 18th birthday). I still wish I'd checked that out, 'cause I suspect I could have voted just fine.

2) What was the contest at the top of the ballot? When I was 18, Carter vs. Reagan, 1980 presidential election. When I was 22, another presidential election, and Reagan stayed in office.

3) Can you walk to your polling place? I could, but I really wouldn't want to; although it's not far as the crow flies, it's about a mile-long walk that includes the shoulder of a busy divided highway, bleagh.

4) Have you ever run for public office? Nope.

5) Have you run for office in a club or school or on a board? Yes. Various officer positions, from the honors student group in college to my MOMS Club chapter here, and also I picked up enough votes at last winter's annual parish meeting to be a delegate for my church at the annual statewide meeting. It's one way to help things happen. I tend to get involved as an officer/board member of something that really interests me and not a whole lot of others. Niche Woman, that's me!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

I'm extremely logical (when I want to be!)

I saw this quiz on Jessica's Trivium Academy blog and proceeded to take the quiz very carefully. I think one of the questions had no correct answers so I faked it. Hee!

You Are Incredibly Logical

Move over Spock - you're the new master of logic

You think rationally, clearly, and quickly.

A seasoned problem solver, your mind is like a computer!

Take the quiz: How Logical Are You?

Friday, September 29, 2006

Friday Five: Groups

The RevGalBlogPal Friday Five, about groups!

1. Tell us about any group(s) you currently belong to. (e.g. book club, knitting circle, walking buddies, etc.)

I belong to my local chapter of MOMS Club, a nonsectarian organization for at-home moms that offers activities during the day at which our kids are always welcome. My MOMS Club chapter has been a great bonus in my life these last seven years here in Oklahoma. Though now my kids are too old for playgroups and most of the outings, I'm a faithful participant in the monthly frugal group and garden group to see friends and talk about those topics. We sometimes make it to an outing or the after-school playgroup or the moms night out (just for moms) as well.

I also participate in a nonfiction book club with a wonderful set of women, some of whom I already counted among my very good friends locally. We started a year ago and meet monthly, reading some pretty interesting books. I love being able to discuss and argue and discuss further the various topics brought up by the books and that emerge in our conversation. We eat great food, too!

Here's another group, I think: my Daughters of the King chapter at my church. We meet monthly throughout the program year (Sept-May), and this is the most age-diverse of my groups. I'm the youngest member, I think, at 43, and a bunch of our members are in their 70s and 80s. It has been an amazing experience to be part of this group of praying women. At each meeting we go over our ongoing ministries in the parish and other things, we discuss part of a book we're reading all year (on some aspect of spiritual life related to prayer), and we pray through our prayer list. It is also a microcosm of the church and the Church, with personalities, histories, expectations, and lots of love, sometimes not obvious but it's there anyway. This group is totally different from anything else I do and it focuses on things that are important to me but that I tend to neglect; that's pretty much exactly why I joined the Daughters of the King.

2. Do you feel energized or drained by being in a group situation? If the answer is "it depends," on what does it depend?

It depends! If I know everyone fairly well, I can be sparkly or chatty and have a great time. If I know some people well and others are new, I can be the welcomer and orientation person (!). If I don't know anyone but my husband, I try to make conversation with folks and I do okay. If I don't know a soul but have a reason for being there, I manage to converse and keep busy for a couple of hours and then suddenly get really tired, abandon hope, and drag myself home (e.g., my 25th high school reunion a year ago, sigh).

3. Is there a role you naturally find yourself playing in group situations? That is, do you naturally fall into the leader role, or the one who always makes sure the new person feels welcome, or the quiet one who sits back and lets others shine, or the host?

See my answer to No. 2...

4. Handshakes vs. hugs: discuss.

Hugs with people who are good friends. Otherwise, here's my friendly handshake and grin.

5. Ice breakers: a playful way to build community in a lighthearted manner, or a complete and utter hell of forced fun and awkwardness? Bonus : If you answered "playful and lighthearted," share your favorite ice breaker.

It ALL depends on the situation. Really. And the leader(s), but the situation makes or breaks it.

The best MOMS Club icebreaker ever was when we had a lot of new members and someone on the sly prepared a bingo-style grid for us to try to fill out. Mom who drives a compact car. A van. Who has worked construction. Who has worked as a teacher. Who has lived here 2 months. 2 years. 10 years. Born here. Lived in 4 states. Never left this state. Who has twins. Five kids. Is a pharmacist. Sells Tupperware. Etc. (There was a person for every option, due to the sly preparation.) Very fun!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

What curriculum are you using?

This is, so far, the most frequently asked question that I was not expecting from folks who don't themselves homeschool. I feel at a loss to answer, because I'm not sure that what we use will mean much.

On the other hand, it's what they're asking, so I say, "We're using a variety of resources: Singapore math, a mental math approach; Classical Composition, an imitative writing program; Explode the Code for phonics; for grammar and a language, we're doing Latin; and in history we're studying the ancient world, tying in art history, music as best we can, writing projects, and other projects for fun. We're learning about weather, geography, and astronomy. We're also doing some art lessons and beginning piano." I usually forget the weather, geography, astronomy part, and Italic handwriting.

Is that enough of an answer? Should I be answering differently? What does a non-homeschooler really want to hear?

For instance, we're actually using a Classical approach along with a four-year cycle through history. This simplifies things tremendously while covering what we need and want to do. I chose Classical Composition to teach the tools for writing, because Son1 has no problem with creative writing but needs a solid grasp of the tools. He imitates and expands on a chosen text (currently Aesop's fables) by way of the writing exercises used from the Greeks to the 19th century. Grammar, logical thinking, and the experience of a different language are all wrapped up in learning Latin, just as the classical languages were used in education for centuries. For history, I started our four-year cycle at the beginning, with prehistory and the ancient world; it fits great this year with Aesop's fables and starting Latin.

This is streamlined and focused, and we have plenty of time to do fun stuff and play and delve into whatever interests us. This week I'm continuing our focus on writing, art, and construction in the ancient world (ie, around the Mediterranean, and in India, China, Meso-America, Africa, Australia).

To keep on track, I take a look at the state's grade-by-grade goals a couple of times a year, and I'm very happy to have recently acquired a copy of Home Learning Year by Year: How to design a homeschool curriculum from preschool through high school, by Rebecca Rupp (Ph.D., microbiology, and homeschooling mom).

Or should I just say we are following "an old-fashioned model," doing Singapore math, composition and phonics, Latin, history, and projects?

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Nickel and Dimed, Fast Food Nation, oh my

I was ignoring my reading for a week or so, but on Thursday I started reading Nickel and Dimed: On (not) getting by in America, by Barbara Ehrenreich, for my book club meeting tonight (that I may or may not attend as it turns out, but anyway). I am nearly at the end, and it was both less and more than I expected. Also different than I expected. It's going to be a great discussion starter for our (nonfiction) book club.

Several thoughts that I continue to mull over (hmmmmm):
1. Working folks being incredibly beaten down by the daily difficulties of life.
2. Corporations, big business, making money on the backs of the workers. No "trickle-down" prosperity at all, at all.
3. How entirely invisible this part of our social and economic world is to me, a white-collar, highly educated, stay-at-home mom with lots and lots of options.
4. I think I shall never again seriously entertain the idea of hiring a housecleaner. Unless maybe it's to clean the windows; certainly not for kitchen or bathroom "cleaning" as she described it. Eww.

Now back to reading Fast Food Nation -- which is also different than I expected; the first part is about the rise of the fast food corporations / industry, and intersects with Ehrenreich's experiences being employed at a lower rung of the economic "ladder" in a variety of situations. Hmmm.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

We have Scouts in the house

Both boys were interested in finding out what Cub Scouts was about, so in late August we went to the first pack meeting of the year. This was a pack that had a lot of boys in it we knew, and we'd heard good things about it. I signed them up before we left! Son1 is a new Webelos II, and Son2 is a Tiger Cub.

Now each boy has a weekly den meeting with dear husband and the other boy is at home with me. We all attend the monthly pack meeting. They are excited and having a ball, and dear husband and I love it, yay! A friend suggested we try 4-H, but Cub Scouts has just clicked in a very big way with us. I love how well the adults treat the boys in small and large groups; the fact that the leadership is mostly men (but not 100 percent); the good organization of this pack (I gather that's not always the case); the variety of things the boys will be able to do throughout the year and in coming years; and how the boyness of the boys is treated -- as perfectly normal! The fundraisers are even reasonably reasonable, and 90 percent of the money raised goes to the individual Cub Scout's pack account to pay for summer day camp and other opportunities; I really like that approach.

Son1 is very excited about the family campout at the end of the month. It's two nights and a full day camping with family, other scouts, and leaders. For our family it's been complicated trying to figure out how to do it, because we have NO camping gear, dear husband has an obligation Friday evening, and I have an obligation on Sunday morning. Wonderfully, dear husband has worked this out. Son1 will go for the entire time, under the wing of his assistant den leader, leaving Friday early evening. Dear husband and Son2 will go for the day on Saturday and come back that evening. Then Son1 will return Sunday late morning. It works! And I noticed that in the midst of that is the very big gift of a Saturday to myself. Wow. We need to get Son1 a ground pad, but otherwise we have pretty much everything he'll need. The dens take turns being responsible for a meal, apparently, organized by the den leaders -- this time.

There was a previous, more complicated plan that brought me along for the first night, too, which I was up for--except for the fact that we have NO camping gear and honestly I have no proper outdoor clothing. I don't think dresses and flipflops or Birkenstocks are quite the typical gear. I'd be fine if nothing unusual came up, but that's not good preparedness!

As of yesterday afternoon and a trip to the far side of Nearby City, the boys each have a uniform shirt. Son1 has his first earned badge and his handmade den patch, and I have a lot of patch and badge sewing to get his shirt ready to wear! Then I'll get started on Son2's; we got him a Tiger Cub T-shirt to start, and will get a regular Cub Scout shirt for him shortly, now that I know what patches to buy. I'm pretty curious about the Raingutter Regatta coming up, and the winter campout for Webelos that is on the calendar in the week following Christmas.

My guys and I love Scouting so far. I hope the months and years to come bear out this early promise of good things in Scouting.

Lemonade extras

Er, I forgot (no, I'm sure I blocked it out of my mind) a couple of additional lemonade moments.

1. Late on the second day the boys came inside, flushed with excitement, talking about how cool it was to... shoot lemonade out of their water gun (super blaster or some such thing). Mom goes slightly ballistic (hahaha I'm so punny), makes them put away all of the lemonade stand stuff (what is my pitcher doing in the yard?? put everything away right now!! you are done for the day!) and wash out the lemonade gun (arrrgh!) and strip off their lemonade-wet clothes and take showers. I guess that's what happens after a couple of hours of kids with a lemonade stand but no sales. Funny now, but not at the time!

2. I think this was a couple of days later. We had a pitcher of blue Kool-aid leftover, and Son1 was pouring some for himself and Son2 at the kitchen counter. He wasn't thrilled to be helping his brother, and he put Son2's straw in his cup with a little extra force. Hmmm, what happened next? BLUE DRINK EVERYWHERE.

Son1 tipped the cup by accident, and blue drink went all down Son2's front, onto his socks, the floor, the cupboard in front of him, the counter (under the toaster, under the coffeemaker, across the sink), and so on. Mom was especially unhappy about this. Son2 was upset to get wet and to lose all of that blue drink. Son1 was upset to have knocked over the cup AND to be cleaning it up to the accompaniment of Mom discovering More More More places the blue drink had gotten to. Another shower for blue-drinked Son2, and clothes to be washed immediately (very bright blue formerly white socks ended up speckly dark gray and thrown out--only later did I realize they would've been fine chalkboard cleaners). A clean floor area and cupboard front after Son1's work, and super cleaned-up kitchen counters (etc.) after my work. Ay-iy-iy. It's still not funny now, sigh. I'm enjoying the cleaned and cleared counters, but we haven't made any more Kool-aid... And so it goes.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Lemonade-stand entrepreneurs

My sons have run a lemonade stand in our driveway for the last three afternoons. I've been amazed at how this has evolved. Day One: pay dispute. Day Two: pay to owner only. Day Three: competition arises.

On Tuesday Son2 had the lightbulb idea ("aha!") of having a lemonade stand. I said, well, er, that's a great idea for when the weather gets hot again, maybe in a couple of days... but I was no match for my six-year-old son with a hot idea.

Son2 got out our stash of Kool-aid and lemonade packets and chose some. Then he started scavenging for good cardboard boxes (I, the Tupperware lady, have a decent supply of cardboard, LOL) and I started to bend a little.

We found a flat box (about 1" x 18" x 24", actually!) and Son2 used black marker to make his sign. He copied the word "Lemonade" from a packet, "25c" with me telling him how to make the cents sign, and then he looked for a good box for the stand itself. We had just been given several utility shelving units made of heavy-duty plastic, and a half-height one, so I hauled that out for him (too windy on Tuesday for boxes!! and it can be hosed down if be). It even had two extra shelf supports we added as poles for decorations.

By 3 pm Tuesday Son2 was out in our driveway with a real lemonade stand! There was his sign, the stand itself, his plastic chair, a plastic pitcher of lemonade, a tray with a bunch of plastic cups, and our wooden bench from our entryway for people to "sit a spell." He even had a "money box" (small cardboard box). The poles had acquired the whirligigs and mini flags from the front garden, as well as ribbon I'd helped him attach (it was a windy day!).

As the next-door neighbor kids and other kids walked home from elementary and middle school bus dropoffs, Son2 sold lemonade and gained company. The mail carrier bought lemonade! Son2 and his 1st grader pal next door began working hard to drum up business, calling out to passing cars and middle school kids! Big brother Son1, age 10, and the 6th grade girl next door (the pal's big sister) helped fine-tune things, adding a pitcher of Kool-Aid and pretzels to sell, a cupful for 25c. Also a couple of kids who live nearby hung out for a while.

At 25c a cup, with some lemonade given away to his "helpers" who "joined the business," Son2 ended up with $3.50 for the day. This is a LOT of money for my sons, who don't get an allowance and seldom receive money gifts or opportunities to earn money.

You can tell what happened toward the end of the day (5ish); a big fat pay dispute! Son2 and I, and Son1 as representative for the other kids, spent maybe 45 minutes working on this after the stand closed for the day. By dinnertime Son2 agreed to pay each of the other kids 50c. Apparently they had "joined" with the expectation that they'd get some money, so Son2 needed to do that. On the other hand the idea of dividing *everything* equally didn't float with Mom; Son2 was the idea guy, did all the setup work, earned the first $1.50 all by himself and, basically, was the business owner. We talked about possibly compensation schemes in the future (for example, every dollar earned in the future be divided equally), but by bedtime Son2
was firm that he was selling lemonade on Wednesday and Not. Paying. Anyone. To. Help.

On Wednesday, that's pretty much what happened. I insisted that Son2 tell everyone right away (after they got home from school) that he wasn't going to pay anyone, and if they wanted to hang out or even help that was okay but no money was going from him to them. Interestingly, everyone hung out and even helped drum up business. Apparently they got free lemonade after their first several cups, or something like that.

Before Son2 set up his stand, I pointed out that he needed to wash his plastic cups, 'cause we didn't have any more. I set it up and showed him how, and he and Son1 washed the cups! Son1 bailed pretty quickly, but Son2 was committed and got his lemonade stand ready to open, with lemonade, Kool-aid, and pretzels. The end-of-day report at 5ish was that Son2 made about $1.50, pretty much from the kids themselves.

That night Son1 declared that Thursday was his day to run the lemonade stand. Son2 didn't want to let the franchise go, but I insisted Son1 get his day in the driveway.

On Thursday afternoon a complication arose. Son1 was busy with schoolwork at 3 pm, so his stand wasn't ready to go when the neighbor pal got home from school, and Son2 and his pal decided they were going to have a Kool-aid stand! Arrrgh, says Mom, and I put my foot down (to a certain extent); Son2 and his pal were not to do it on our driveway and were not to use our things, because it wasn't fair to Son1 and the idea seemed sort of mean to me. If they got the okay from the pal's mom to do it over there, "whatever."

So... I have no idea how they presented it to my neighbor, but in the end we had the Local Lemonade Stand and the Junior Competitor (I would've said it was like Starbucks trying to beat out the local coffee joint, but local seemed the better setup in this case!). The older set hung out at Son1's stand selling lemonade and Kool-Aid (no more pretzels), the younger two were semi-loyal to their own raspberry Kool-Aid stand yet wandered. The younger boys were definitely trying to see into Son1's money box to see how their earnings compared, but Son1 wasn't having any of that.

At the end of the day, the younger set made about $1 which they split equally (hmmmmm), and Son1 cleared about $1.50, I think, after the 25c he paid me to wash the cups at the beginning (he forgot) and the 35c he paid another kid for some sort of help. He paid a third helper in lemonade, LOL.

It's been quite an adventure, and despite the big pay dispute and little upsets here and there, the boys have LOVED it! I'm not sure what they're thinking of doing tomorrow. We have a playdate planned here for after school. Hmmm. Maybe the stand will be reinvented once again on Saturday.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Groovin' now

My post of last Saturday might have left a lingering impression of Homeschooling Is Intense, and I hope to correct that now. I'd say that my way of doing the learning curve is more on the structured and intensely observant end of things. It has paid off, I think.

Later last weekend I puzzled out a good stab at a daily plan and a weekly plan, using how last week went and adding in the beginnings of art, music, history projects, and science. We've pretty much followed it for the last three days and after a bit of tweaking I think the daily and weekly plans will work.

Who knew (not me!) that a bit of piano practice followed by Latin and math would be a pretty good start to our days. Or that one kid really could play separately while the other got Mom time with math or phonics. Or that they would finally be willing and able to work independently a bit and still stay on track (whew!).

We've also started some history projects, made little books at an art museum yesterday, and gotten going with some activities. They LOVE the homeschoolers' chess club (second meeting was this afternoon). They LOVE Cub Scouts (first meeting for Son1 was Monday night; for Son2, Tuesday night). Within 24 hours Son1 memorized everything he needed to get his initial badge (salute, handshake, Cub Scout promise, etc.)!

On the other hand, my boys seem to HATE being challenged in homeschooling, or doing anything that requires application and effort. So... I find that some Mom-at-your-elbow time really helps their willingness and short-circuits their frustrations. Mostly, anyway. Sending them outside for half an hour with firm instructions to Run Bike Do Handstands Play Basketball Anything Active also helps, yay.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Finding our groove

Last week was somewhat intense, as we figured out how to do regular homeschooling and find a new routine for our days. We had a goof-off day on Monday, the first day of public school: morning treats at a coffee place, MOMS Club get-together, as-promised GameCube blowout in the afternoon. Tuesday through Friday mornings were about tackling our core subjects for homeschooling (math, Latin, phonics for Son2, writing for Son1), handwriting, and history (prehistory and ancient times around the world).

I think it went really well. The doing of it was more complex and adjust-on-the-fly than I even expected, as we got a sense of the curricula I chose, what the boys know, and how we want to tackle the work -- as well as the boys getting used to working those brains in a structured manner again. Whew! I'll talk through the details on my homeschooling blog, A Bit of Bubbly. For me the last week has been an intensive, very worthwhile workshop about my kids, what makes them tick, and how they think. Very cool.

The Tupperware summer catalog was ending, so I also spent some energy to get ready for the new catalog and to decide what goals to set for September and how to reach them.

The church program year is approaching fast as well. Time to get ready for Sunday school (Godly Play). Some things will be new this year. Our kindergarteners will move on to the other GP class; I haven't heard whether all three of us leaders are returning this year, which may mean only one leader per class; the neighboring Montessori has begun using our GP rooms during the week so we will be learning to co-exist peacefully. Sunday school classes begin Sept 17. Whee!

I also offered to run an Intro to Godly Play the following Sunday, immediately after the late-morning service, with a potluck lunch and child care. I'll personally invite the parents of the kids in the two GP classrooms, as well as some other folks. I want to introduce GP to these folks AND sign up adults and teens as "classroom helpers", which we need, and which is also a first step toward discovering potential GP leaders.

About three weeks later, in October, I'm going to host a Faith at Home (or similar title) gathering -- maybe I'll call it a workshop -- at church as well, with tips and ideas for enjoying your faith with your kids. Same thing: after the late-morning service, with potluck lunch and child care. There are many families with young children around the church lately, and if there's interest I'd love to do this. I'll draw heavily from my Web site, Faith at Home, and have some projects for all ages to start and take home. I want to offer the possibility of meeting monthly or... what do they want? Gotta think more about that and get it fully planned and promoted.

On the day before the first day of Sunday school, my Daughters of the King chapter will hold a 50th anniversary celebration luncheon. Much planning is involved, and I am trying hard, as president, to keep up with my responsibilities AND ask the other officers to do things they can do. I tend to do too much and not ask for help; while I've been an officer in my DoK chapter the last few years the Daughters in my chapter have taught me a LOT about letting them share the tasks, and about unconditional, forward-looking forgiveness when I fall short and don't do what I intended. Anyway, we start a new year with some new things, and I need to do my proper part to help that happen.

Keeping all of the above in mind, I printed dated, blank calendar pages for September through December and wrote out everything that affects the family on those pages. The boys' natural history classes at the museum, their weekly chess club, Dear Husband's weekly bowling league, my Tupperware parties and meetings, the start of Sunday school, my activities, a few MOMS Club things, family birthdays, etc. It helps keep things in perspective, both short-term and long-term, when I can lay four months out on the dining table and look over everything. I simply cannot do that with my PDA calendar, either on the PDA or on the desktop computer.

Perspective is good, finding our groove is very good, moving from summer to autumn is fine. I don't feel like I'm in a blender, spinning too fast. Hurrah!

10-year-olds and life lessons

Another blogger mentioned this article by a baseball writer for Sports Illustrated who helped manage a Little League team this year. I loved the perspective on 10-year-old boys, especially as one member of that category is in our household.

Life's little lessons: A team of 10-year-olds reminded me what's important

Back to School Friday Five

Back to School Friday Five, with the RevGalBlogPals

1. What is your earliest memory of school?
Tactile and visual memories of the Montessori manipulatives. I started Montessori when I was not quite three (fall birthday), and stayed in Montessori through second grade.

2. Who was a favorite teacher in your early education?
My Montessori school principal, Mr. Detmer. As he established new schools we followed him, so I'm pretty sure my parents thought he was great, too. I also really liked my third-grade teacher, Mrs. Fujioka. (I wonder what her story was. This was about 1970 in the Seattle area, and Asian background was semi-rare but not unknown.)

3. What do you remember about school "back then" that is different from what you know about schools now?
My public elementary school was very small compared to the "small" schools in this area; now that size is not even considered a small school. Instead of 120 or so kids in a school, in our district a typical "small" school has 500 kids, and a "normal" school has 800-1000. Everyone at my elementary school was able to walk to school -- four blocks in my case. Most kids where we live now are bused to their "local" school. Drives me crazy.

4. Did you have to memorize in school? If so, share a poem or song you learned.
Very rarely if ever, assuming you don't mean the multiplication table... In high school, I memorized the first few lines of... well, apparently I forgot the poem's title! "In Xanadu did Kublai Khan his stately pleasure dome decree," and three more lines but No. 2 escapes me. Something something something, " caverns measureless to man, down to the sunless sea." Hmmm.

5. Did you ever get in trouble at school? Were there any embarrassing moments you can share?
Yep. Beloved Mr. Detmer spanked me, don't know what for. I was mouthy and independent when I was little, I think, and who knows what I did!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

You can go outside or you can do chores...

Moments ago, with a clear conscience and a firm tone of voice, I told the boys they can either go back outside to play or do chores inside for me. They can unload the dishwasher and sweep the dining room floor. Funny thing, they chose to go outside, heehee.

The clear conscience is because this morning we did math, Latin, and copywork. The boys played a little GameCube. After lunchtime, we had a mom and her three kids over and the kids all played rather wildly (my boys' fault; they got several scoldings from me) for a couple of hours while we moms talked. After they left, the boys were split up into separate rooms with a toy and a book of their choice for the obviously needed quiet time. They were actually pretty content to do that for an hour. Afterward they played and goofed around for a while, but 15 minutes ago it was getting a bit rowdy so With A Clear Conscience I sent them outside. They tried to come back in pretty quickly and at that point I gave them the two choices, both of which were fine with me. Out they went again!

And in 10 minutes they'll be brought inside to unload the dishwasher before we head out to get their dad from work. It's a reasonably full, good day. I'm not sure when or by whom that floor will be swept, though. And so it goes.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Reviving the homeschooling blog, A Bit of Bubbly

Since I'm now in the mode of endlessly analyzing, reading, and thinking about how our homeschooling is going to hang together, I've revived my homeschooling blog for that purpose. Over at A Bit of Bubbly I just posted several things about our curriculum choices, how that developed, and what we're waiting on.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

A-homeschooling we go

After deciding homeschooling would be on the table for this fall, and then sort of ignoring the question all summer long, two weeks ago dear husband and I started talking about whether to homeschool one or both boys. We finally went over all of the things to consider and the decision was easy: we're going to homeschool both boys. Son1 is entering fifth grade and Son2 is entering first grade (homeschooled for kindergarten last year). I'm delighted and excited!!! Also, now I'm in a hurry to decide on a writing curriculum for Son1 and have him do the placement test for Singapore Math. Yay!

The boys were a little surprised and a little bummed at first. Within half an hour of telling them, though, they were cheerfully talking about how homeschooling would be different from school and what they'll miss about school. Too funny. Son1 appeared to be, dare we say, relieved, and that's a good sign. Looks like we've probably made the right decision.

My plans at this point:

Math -- probably Singapore Math. We have tons of manipulatives and other resources on our shelves, and two Family Math books of great games and activities for different age ranges. I'll have Son1 do a pretest to figure out where to start him in Singapore Math.

Writing skills -- Son1: not sure what to use. We need to focus on grammar and mechanics, and there are several good options I like; we'll work on his handwriting a bit, too. Son2: continue with Explode the Code 1 1/2 and the rest of the series (for phonics, other reading skills, writing practice).

Writing projects -- Creative Communications, on our shelf (lots of ideas for natural writing projects), and projects that arise from the boys' interest areas throughout the year.

History -- The Story of the World: Ancient Times, on our shelf, plus library resources. Also U.S. history when holidays come up, and Oklahoma history as topics arise (field trips, 89er Day, etc.)

Art -- either Drawing with Children, which I already have, or another resource that explores more art options and artworks. In the past Son1 showed talent in art; we're going to nurture that again.

Music -- piano and recorder exploration and familiarization for starters, while I figure out what direction to head. I'll probably get Teaching Little Fingers to Play or a similar early piano book. The boys have a lap harp, a harmonica, a tin whistle and a fife (thank you, grandparents, LOL!) that we can play around with even more once Son2 "gets" musical notation. Also, exploration of our quite diverse music collection.

Science -- botany, insects, birds, astronomy (when dusk is before bedtime), and weather. Resources on our shelves and at library, in our yard, on walks and bike rides, and at local parks.

For grammar help and for the coolness of learning a different language, I would really love to add Latin by mid-October. Several age-appropriate, inexpensive, fun programs are available.

As for a routine, I expect to do seatwork in the morning (math, writing skills, and similar subjects) with a brief "7th inning stretch" break. After lunch, more independent subjects (Daily: history reading/research or other writing projects. Not daily: art, music, science). Then, subject-related free reading (fiction and nonfiction) if it's not happening naturally throughout the week. I will probably tend toward doing Art Fridays, as I did last year with Son2, for messy art and science stuff and maybe field trips.

Can you tell this has been percolating for years?!?

Monday morning I'll deliver the withdrawal letters to their school (for Son2 it's just being thorough). We've already had fun buying school supplies we get to keep. Son2 carefully sharpened a new pencil for every pencil grip; too funny. We still need writing paper, art paper, some good art supplies, and probably three-ring binders for the boys. And those curricula I'm deciding on. We're going to have a fun day on the first day of public school, August 21, and then get rolling. Yahoo!

Friday, August 04, 2006

End of cheap energy

I wrote this to some friends and, as the saying goes, that'll blog! I've been thinking about this stuff for a while and not sure what I wanted to say or how, until today.


World production of oil and natural gas barely meet consumption -- we use nearly as much as is pulled out of the ground -- so there is a razor-thin buffer between us and very high prices due to "this, that, or the other thing."

I'm convinced we've seen the end of truly cheap energy. Remember the price of natural gas last winter? Stocks were low and there were supplier concerns about not actually being able to meet demand. Our cheap & easy oil and natural gas are becoming harder to find, deposits are much smaller, and the oil is of poorer quality, needing to be further refined. Natural gas is really hard to ship (i.e., to import); pipelines are the best, but on US soil we're using more and more natural gas but finding less.

The search for oil and natural gas continues, with more expensive techniques, in deep waters, arctic conditions, tar sands, and so on, but that stuff isn't going to be cheap when it gets to market.

The average American uses about 25 barrels of oil a year (household energy use, transportation, food growing and transportation, products, packaging, etc.). In China, it is about 1.5 barrels per year and increasing. In Europe, it is typically 10-12 barrels of oil per year. We could use less oil and still have a good lifestyle here in the USA. I'm starting to change my life now and stop assuming there will be endless quantities of cheap oil and natural gas forever.

Tom Brokaw's special on global warming a week or so ago had a really cool way of showing our energy use -- in cubes and blocks of carbon streaming from everything we used, piling up over a typical family's house. Then he talked you through reducing energy use, and it cut the pile of carbon in half pretty easily.
Tom Brokaw's global warming special
It'll be on the Discovery Channel again on Aug. 21.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Beat the heat, ease electric crunch

Air conditioners are beating the pulse of most of the nation right now, working hard to create cool or, sometimes, barely not-hot conditions in homes, offices, stores, and the engines of commerce and industry. It's hot, hot, hot, and we do mean hot, nearly everywhere.

I've been working to feel more comfortable in heat and to ease our electricity use. It occurs to me that if lots of people did lots of these things, the stresses on the power grids would be lessened and maybe brownouts and rolling blackouts would be unlikely rather than "Hmmmm..., honey, how about we buy a generator?"

It's been 100F to 110F here in Oklahoma for a month or so, with a several-day break about a week ago. The predawn low is around 77F most nights, so our house stays closed up all of the time. Here are my summer tips.

  • After several weeks of working on stretching our comfort zone, now we've found a combination of nighttime a/c setting and medium overhead fan that allows dear husband and me to sleep reasonably well upstairs at night with a flat sheet as our "blanket," and the kids are still comfortable downstairs.

  • I move the a/c in the nighttime direction when the kids go to bed, and to that lowest setting when I go to bed.

  • I run the dishwasher when I go to bed, and any warm-water load of laundry (about 2 per week).

  • Days
  • Immediately after the first time the a/c runs after the morning showers, I reset the a/c to the max setting. Nowadays that means the a/c runs rarely (as far as I can tell) until about 5 pm.

  • I use cold water for almost all loads of laundry. Less hot water to heat, and less warm moist air in the house.

  • We live downstairs except at night. I moved my business work from my office loft to a table in the living room, and am borrowing a laptop from my husband to lower the heat generation and electricity use even further.

  • We go outside for a little bit every morning and evening. Then indoors feels positively wonderful, but not in the brain-freeze way you get at some stores and restaurants.

  • I hang all of our laundry to dry in our sunroom, which is open to the backyard and closed off from the house. It keeps the moisture out of the house, and uses free sunshine rather than the clothes dryer.

  • We do relaxing, sit-around things in the late afternoon. Read, watch a TV show, read, play a board game, play the piano, play with Bionicles and Lego, knit, read.

  • All of our table and floor lamps use compact fluorescent bulbs. Now it's not an exercise in how hot can I stand it when I read or knit on a summer evening.

  • Food
  • No oven use! I use the microwave for some reheating and for steaming, and I use the stove about once a week to cook pasta or sausages or to warm up baked beans, and maybe once a week or so we have a cooked breakfast.

  • We grill dinner in the back yard once or twice a week, with planned leftovers.

  • We eat cold or room temperature foods for almost all of our meals. For dinner we grill, eat out (costly, though), or have salads: green salads with veggies and maybe meats or hardboiled eggs and/or cheese. Rice salad as a side (cold pilaf, I guess). Pasta salad.

  • We drink lots of water, and I make up Kool-Aid for the kids so they're more likely to drink enough fluids.

  • Myself
  • I decided to get used to being warm, not cool, in the summer. Being sweaty when I do household chores (sweeping, cleaning a bathroom) -- though I try to do that stuff in the morning while the house is still cool and, even better, before my shower.

  • I wear the lightest of my summer clothes. Usually a sleeveless top and light skirt or sleeveless dress. Shorts and a light top would work, too. Barefoot indoors, sandals outdoors.

  • Either outdoors or when I'm just rather warm indoors -- that's usually when I'm doing chores -- I roll up a bandanna diagonally, soak it, squeeze it out gently, and tie it around my neck. Very, very nice. I wear a hat when I'm outside in the sun, but mostly I totally avoid being outside between 11 am and 7 pm.

  • In the late afternoon I might be a bit uncomfortable; I make sure to have my bare feet flat on a cool floor. For us, it's our downstairs finished concrete floors. For someone else, that might be kitchen or entryway tile, or living room wood.

  • When I'm sticky and tired of it, I wipe my face, neck, and arms with a wrung-out wet washcloth and let myself air dry. Feels very nice.

  • Taking a break 'cause I'm hot. More later.

    Monopoly and Blind Man's Buff

    Son1 and Son2 spent many hours on Monday playing Monopoly. I was amazed at their interest and stamina! I spent most of that time on the sofa coaching them through the initial stage of acquiring properties, and over lunch I introduced them to the idea of buying and selling properties strategically. They were off and running!

    Monopoly lasted three days and one long, one short game before Son2's game patience wore entirely too thin yesterday and it wasn't too fun for anyone (stomp, stomp, yell, throw money. Oops). So, it's back on the shelf for two days chill out. Before that stage, though, the kids loved all the money. Son2 got lots of happy practice counting "dollars" and making change -- he would either work it out to get lots of 50s or lots of 100s or savor a few 500s, LOL.

    I must say it was sort of tough to see how bank-oriented Monopoly is, even with a National Parks veneer that is quite nice. It was especially prickly to see Son1 running out of money and relatively cheerfully selling tents back to the bank for half price and mortgaging properties for half the value. I supposed it wouldn't be so prickly uncomfortable if we hadn't had the experience some years ago of selling CDs and books to buy milk at the end of the month, and not really knowing how to make the paycheck stretch to the next month's meals. And it wasn't during grad school, either.

    Thankfully we're not in that situation any longer, but I sure don't like debt and don't ever expect to. The peace that comes from living within our means, even below our means in order to create a good rainy-day buffer, is our lesson learned. Not taught by Monopoly, though. Anybody up for "Living Simply, The Board Game"??


    Yesterday and today the boys spent some delighted minutes alternately giggling madly and being intently silent, with some quiet martial-arts-style moves and hula moves mixed in. Yes, one was blindfolded and the other was trying not to be found and/or touched. Sort of Blind Man's Buff but I think in BMB there is some sort of verbal clue-tossing. Or maybe that's Marco Polo.

    Son1 and Son2 had a ball. Eventually it got a little rowdy, or someone bounced off a wall or some such, and it seemed time to call it quits for a while. Still, a pretty great indoor game for two brothers on a hot, hot summer afternoon.

    As I padded around the blindfolded boy and his quarry in bare feet on our concrete floors, I decided they were too familiar with the sounds of Mom, 'cause they were never distracted by me. I love the idea that they know the sound of me without thinking about it.

    Gas prices

    Last year at this time we spent three weeks in Washington state. When we left (about July 25?), regular unleaded gasoline here in Oklahoma was $2.29. It's a lot more there; oil-and-gas-and-low-tax Oklahoma has low petroleum prices. Anyway, when we returned around August 15? gasoline here has risen 20cents in 22 days, to $2.49, and I was shocked and astounded.

    Then Katrina hit, and gas nearly touched $3.00 here in our fair small city. Expensive in our context.

    We all have watched gas prices do the roller coaster thing in the months since, but always generally trending upward. Still, sometimes it does shock me still.

    From yesterday to today, gas prices all over town went up 10c OVERNIGHT. And this isn't the first time we've seen it happen since winter.

    I'm expecting this to be the way of the future: the end of cheap energy. I'm just waiting for grocery prices to show the increased cost moving the lettuce from California and the cherries from Washington. I'm trying to get to the local farmers market early enough in the morning for a good selection of local food, but that's been difficult. I'm definitely placing an order with our Oklahoma Food Co-op this month.

    To buffer the price changes I try to keep my gas tank full. I concentrate on driving less like a speedy rabbit (my tendency) and more like a relaxed human being; it's very nice, actually, and not any slower!

    I've cut down a lot on car trips, which has also relaxed our days. We combine trips with a passion, and I plan to stay home most of the time most days, other than the trips to get my husband to and from work (5 minutes from home; I'm so thankful we bought the house we did, for this very reason). This afternoon my husband needed something brought to him at work, so I did a dollar store stop, topped off the gas tank, and brought him his item.

    I need to make a shopping trip to the warehouse store, so tomorrow morning the kids and I are going to go to store A and then store B and then get milk at the dairy store on our way home, where we will stay until time to pick up dear husband from work. Other than these days, we've pretty much stayed home all day, all week.

    It helps that it's so hot that it's unpleasant to do car-based errands after about 11 am!

    Friday, July 28, 2006

    Hot hot hot Friday Five

    RevGalBlogPal says: Global warming, anyone? Look on the bright side of melting glaciers and enviro-destruction by taking a crack at the Friday Five.

    1. What's the high temperature today where you are? 100F

    2. Favorite way(s) to beat the heat. Typical: stay indoors at home with the a/c on just a touch, wearing a light top and skirt, bare feet on the concrete floor, maybe even reading a good book and sipping a chilled coffee with cream and sugar. Favorite: chest-deep in a swimming pool when the shadows of the trees fall across the water, laughing with the kids and talking with friends. A light breeze is especially nice when it's over 100F. Even better if this is a backyard pool and there are gin and tonics...

    3. "It's not the heat, it's the humidity." Evaluate this statement. Over 90F it makes no sense at all! In fact, I think the most uncomfortable temps are in the 80s with high humidity -- dripping with sweat and horribly hot. Rise above 90F, and the heat is increasingly tolerable. Well, until you hit 105F and then, it's just plain hot. Add some wind, and you can call it a blast furnace for another 10 degrees or so; beyond that, I've never been. Back down in the 80s F, if the humidity is high, pray for a good stiff breeze; that helps considerably ease the misery.

    4. Discuss one or more of the following: sauna, hot tub, sweat lodge, warm-stone massage. Um, no thanks on all of them. Never really enjoyed a sauna or hot tub; never experience a sweat lodge or warm-stone massage. Any of these would be a lot more appealing in winter!!! I HAVE, on the other hand, hiked through snow a mile or two to a hot spring, stripped to swimsuit, and climbed in. Delicious! Didn't have the guts to run to the icy river and jump in there, though; I paid the price by being cold all the way back to the trailhead, LOL.

    5. Hottest you've ever been in your life. Temperature-wise, I'd say it's a tie between a youth mission trip to Haiti in August 1982 (no a/c; see my comments about heat-and-humidity, above), and a solar construction workshop in northern Arizona in midsummer 1980, tying rebar and pouring concrete. No a/c there either (over 100F with low humidity), but we knocked off shortly after noon, found some shade to cool off a bit, then hit the swimming pool with great relief.

    Non-temperature related bonus: In your opinion... who's hot? I haven't thought about this in a long while; how... sad! My standard answer in the past was Clint Eastwood and Harrison Ford, but I've been wondering if I ought to see what other possibilities there are nowadays. Hmmm.

    SysAdmin Day is today

    Today is System Administrator Appreciation Day. I'm gonna hug and kiss mine! Thanks, hon, for all you do, both at home and at that place called Work.

    Wednesday, July 26, 2006

    Harry Potter strikes again

    I sit in stunned disbelief. No, the kids aren't playing Texas Hold 'Em again. No, it's not thrilling news (LOL) about our electricity usage.

    Son2 is reading the first Harry Potter book.

    Or at least, it sure looks like he's reading it. His eyes and head are moving side to side, he occasionally turns the page, and I cannot believe it.

    Over the last couple of weeks I reread HP 4, 5, and 6; Son1 reread HP6; and we watched the first three HP movies again.

    Today we returned a boatload of books to the library, mostly mine, and picked up a few for each of us. Fast Food Nation for me, 'cause it's the one book for my nonfiction book club that I didn't actually read last year. The Shiloh books for Son1. And Son2 (age 6 1/2) was adamant that he wanted to borrow the first Harry Potter book in paperback. Son1 urged him to get the hardback version, 'cause the typeface was larger, so he got both. I figured, what could it hurt?

    Son2 just told Son1, "Just a minute, I have to finish this" (paragraph, page, who knows), and Son1 said, "Huh?!?" and looked at me. I grinned. He grinned, and waited patiently for Son2 to get to a pausing point. Now they're playing with Bionicles.

    For some context, so far Son2 has been about 9 months ahead of Son1's timing in his reading interest and progress. Apparently Son2 just leapfrogged past Son1's first-grade spring of reading easy chapter books, and caught up with Son1's post-first-grade summer of reading the first Harry Potter. OH. MY. This year ahead ought to be pretty interesting!

    Sunday, July 23, 2006

    It makes me laugh...

    ...that a highlight of the week away at church camp last week for Son1 (age 10 1/2) was learning to play poker. Um, er, okay. We're Episcopalians, after all, but I definitely heard several other parents at pickup on Saturday saying, "So you learned to play poker at church camp?!? Um, er, huh!" This session was for kids who had just finished 3rd through 5th grade, and it turns out several campers and at least one counselor had brought poker chip sets and cards, and kids were playing during free time, as best I can tell. Um, er, huh!

    ...that last night my husband, who plays poker with friends on occasion and plays online poker as well, backed up Son2 (6 1/2) and coached both boys as Son1 taught little brother to play Five-Card Draw and Texas Hold 'Em. I continue to be struck dumb at this, but I DO remember playing penny or matchstick Five-Card Draw with my brothers when I was perhaps Son1's age or a smidge older. Um, er, huh!

    That's what makes me laugh tonight. Though I would prefer Hearts, Euchre, Spades, Cribbage, or Gin Rummy. If they can master the rules of poker, maybe it's time to work our way up through our book of card game families to some of the games *I* like to play. I'm fairly terrible at poker, as best I recall.

    Saturday, July 22, 2006

    RevGalBlogPals anniversary Friday Five

    A totally late RevGalBlogPals anniversary Friday Five:

    1) What is your first memory of the RevGalBlogPals? I saw the first book listed on Emily's blog, Hazelnut Reflections, and from time to time she'd answer these Friday Fives :)

    2) Have you met any of the other ring members in real life? Actually, yes! I've met Dylan of Dylan's Grace Notes and Emily of Hazelnut Reflections.

    3) Of those you haven't met, name a few you would love to know in person. This is what delayed my post! I haven't been to every member's blog yet, much less gotten a good sense of each of 170-some blogs! so I don't have a good answer to this at all. I would like to meet Rev Dr Mom, 'cause she and I are on a big email list elsewhere and I'm familiar with her 'voice.' I agree with Emily that "we Oklahoma/Texas Gals/Pals should make an effort, and soon, to find a place and time to meet." Would be cool.

    4) What has Ring Membership added to your life? Since I'm in my first couple or three weeks of membership, what strikes me so far is that I am contemplating all sorts of aspects of life with faith that I hadn't been thinking about lately -- partly due to visiting member blogs and partly due to reading the RevGalBlogPals blog posts and comments. I love the new weekly cycle.

    5) Describe a hope for the future of the WebRing. I'll echo Emily again: "that we find ways to meet in person" -- it's amazingly enriching to an online relationship to meet in person. When I've met even just a few people from an online community, it's been so great and has brought new energy to the community as a whole.

    Wednesday, July 19, 2006

    Random observations

    When outdoor temps hit 90F by 9 am and max out at 108F by 4 pm, it doesn't take much time at all for laundry hung in the sunroom to become bone-dry.

    Laundry hung to dry on hangers is prefolded when dry. For instance, bath towels, dish towels, cloth napkins, washcloths hung on the hanger crossbar as though it's a towel bar. Kid t-shirts hung similarly, or big t-shirts folded in half lengthwise and then hung over the crossbar of the hanger.

    There is nothing like the crispness of a woven linen or cotton garment hung to dry. At least, if you don't iron, like me. Crisp! Cotton knit t-shirts do the same thing, but the effect isn't nearly as striking. Crunch! Crinkle! Crisp!

    Get a library book for kids about playing the piano and put it in front of a six-year-old who really wants to play, and he will spend lots of spare time the next two days exploring the book and learning stuff. Reminds me a LOT of when he (Son2) was beginning to learn to read but only knew the sounds that went with the letters. And was determined to learn how to do this thing! I used that, telling Son2 that the written music was a code to learn.

    Even when the air is 108F, a big outdoor swimming pool feels really nice. Well, nice enough. Even better when you get all wet in the chest-deep water, then stand up and let the light breeze cool your wet skin a little bit. Repeat until Son2 is done with swim class.

    When you don't water your lawn and you hand-water selected plants, a city-wide mandatory ban on outdoor water use (a city-to-city water main broke, so our city can't buy extra water until it's fixed) doesn't bother you too much. Until you realize that means no sprinkler play for the kids in the evening. But then it occurs to you that squirt guns and water balloons should be okay, hehehe. I take nearly-Navy showers anyway, so I guess I do my part...