Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The halfway mark

I've been having a minor crisis this week. Summer break, as of Friday, is officially halfway over. I called a friend of mine yesterday and asked her, "WHERE is summer going???"

Luckily, she didn't know, either. It's not quite a case of misery loves company, but it's close.

Then another blogger I read, Big Mama, wrote a post about how she's getting basically two weeks of lazy days right now.

TWO WEEKS of lazy days?!?

WANT!

OK, OK, so after two weeks of anything nearly resembling laziness around here, my kids and I would all be dead. They likely would have killed each other, and I would have died from a brain hemorrhage from trying to *keep* them from killing each other.

But I would like some nice, quiet days where my butt can grow roots and become one with the couch. Not likely, but it'd be nice.

Part of the reason my summer has been so busy is that I know my kids love to be busy. In the first week of summer alone, we hit the library, the farmer's market, the pool, the splash pad, and hung out with some friends.

In the second week of summer, we revisited the library and the farmer's market, had a big meetup with my mom's group, and then I dropped the kids off at my mother-in-law's for my 10th anniversary trip. OK, so I *could* have gotten some down time then, and I sort of did, but it's amazing how fast the stress comes back when I hear my own children speak.

Two weeks ago, we had a day of laziness followed by several days of events including swimming with my homeschool group and cleaning the house so a dozen kids could learn to cook their own food. Then the kids went down to my mother's for the weekend.

LAST week, swimming lessons started, and all hell broke loose. We went to the aquarium, the library, the Philbrook Museum, and I started officially planning for our annual Fourth of July party. Then I had that lovely weekend I've written about that got kicked off on Friday with a playdate out at my friend Angie's, and now it's back to swimming lessons again. We'll hit the library today and hopefully get some Porter peaches for my canning marathon tomorrow while Oz amuses the children, and then it's off to clean the house before Sunday. Oh, and Oz is taking M1 to a baseball game on Thursday evening, with his mother and youngest brother. That's gonna be fun. My friend Mary is going to come over at some point that evening since her mom is planning on borrowing her boys for the night, and I'm supposed to go out with Bridgette and Megan tonight.

And we're not even into July yet! I have one week in there that has an entirely blank calendar on it right now. I'm sure I'll fill it with things like a trip to Enid to see their children's museum and, if the weather is decent, maybe a trip to the zoo, but maybe... just MAYBE... I'll do nothing at all, and we'll have some gloriously lazy days.

Then again, if the kids start fighting, piling them into the car is an easy answer.

Hope everyone else is having a great, FUN summer, too!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tortillas!!!

Inspired by Pioneer Woman and her adventures in tortilla-making, a few weeks ago I decided to try my hand at making my own. Except I didn't use her recipe because I had found another one online that A) used whole wheat flour and B) didn't use lard.

Theoretically, this makes the tortillas better for you. It does also, I will admit, make them a little bit tougher than regular white-flour tortillas with lard. But they are still soft and delicious, and the recipe can be doubled easily, which is what I always do since 8 tortillas barely feeds my family dinner. The pictures below are of the recipe doubled but the ingredients given are for a single recipe.

Oh, and the dough does keep nicely in the fridge for a few days. The oil will begin to separate out if you leave it in there too long, but it can be kneaded back in and still used if need be.

Start by mixing 1 c. each of whole wheat flour and white flour with 1 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. baking powder.


Add 4 T. canola oil (I just use plain ol' vegetable oil because I don't keep canola specifically on hand) and 2/3 c. water. Stir it all up until it comes together and then turn out onto a floured surface and knead just a few times. No need to overwork this dough :)


Divide the dough into balls. Each of these balls will make 8 tortillas. You could probably get a dozen small tortillas out of them, though, because...
They make nice burrito-sized tortillas. Just roll 'em out nice and thin.

Make sure you preheat your pan to medium heat and then toss one in. It'll only take 30-45 seconds before it's ready to flip. You'll know it's ready when it looks like this:

I just use a fork to flip them over and cook the other side for another 30 seconds or so.

Stack them all up and resist the urge to eat them all at once.

Here's the recipe: Pipin' Hot Bakery Whole Wheat Tortillas.

Enjoy!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Me and my social life

I went to my 10-year high school reunion this weekend. It hadn't been on the agenda until Friday, when another classmate and good friend of mine named Erica told me she was going to crash the picnic at the park on Saturday and did I want to come, too.

Oh, sure. Why not?? That part, at least, was free.

So I went, with the kids, so they could play in the splash pad. And while I was there, my friend Bridgette texted me to say that she'd just gotten into town with her husband from Indiana, where they live. I hadn't seen her since Megan and I went to visit her what, two or three years ago now? I *HAD* to see her. Had to. She's the Thelma to my Louise. So I told her that I'd work out some plans to get together that evening.

Billy showed up shortly after that. Billy wanted to know where Erica (and Erica's husband, who went to elementary school AND high school with Billy and I) and I had been the night before because apparently no one else out of our 'group' had shown up and he had been more or less by himself. We laughed and said we were at home, probably sleeping, and mostly taking care of our kiddos.

And THEN Mica, another classmate of ours, texted Billy and wanted to know if I was going to be at the Saturday night event because he wanted to see me.

Which begs the question, what the heck? I don't talk to these people for years and NOW I'm popular?

Crap.

So I stared at Oz, who had shown up at the park after getting done with lawn work, and sighed and said I'd see what I could do. Then I called Megan to see if she had any bright ideas, which she didn't because she was very busy getting ready for a wedding. Then Oz tried to find a sitter so that he and I could both go. After that, I gave up the ghost, arranged for Megan and Bridgette to come to my house about 9-ish, and agreed to go to the reunion for a couple of hours.

And THEN... because doesn't this just keep getting better and better??... Erica texted me and told me that apparently it was 'wear a dress' night. And I only own ONE. It requires me to fix my hair to look decent.

I fixed dinner for the kids and Oz and myself and managed to get all dolled up while smelling the funk from a dinner that had burned over in the oven and got out the door while the oven ran through a cleaning cycle that smoked up the house even more and caused the smoke alarm to go off.

I'm a great cook.

It was nice to see some of these folks again, but since I was never popular to begin with, I didn't have a ton of people that I felt I was abandoning when I left. I was more than happy to head back to my house to meet up with Bridgette and Megan. I had more fun with them than I had at the reunion, and all we did was sit around and talk and laugh and have a couple of drinks.

You know you're living the good life when, at 2 a.m., your husband gets inspired to see if amaretto whipped cream will burn and decides to test it out on the sidewalk with a blowtorch. (Answer: A disappointing no. Apparently the cream part keeps it from burning.) Everyone said good night shortly after that, and I figured life was going to be back to normal with work and all that jazz.

Oh, except that my friend Mary had gotten back into town after being away on a week-plus-long trip to West Virginia to visit family and had souvenirs. And her kids had been whisked away to spend a couple of nights elsewhere. And her mom had cleaned her house, so she didn't even need to do that.

Me being me, I checked to see if I had work (six jobs do not an evening of work make) and invited her over. I also invited Bridgette over after she texted me about something else because I'm just crazy like that. They all came over, and we drank (again... I sound like a horrid lush, don't I??) and played video games and talked again.

Finally, today, I swear things are getting back to normal... until Megan and Bridgette and I work out something else to do together this week. Time and friends are precious, and I love to make every second count!

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Tale of Two Museums

I shall now attempt to do something completely essay-ish. I will compare and contrast two area museums that my kids and I have visited over the past few weeks, the Gilcrease Museum and the Philbrook Museum.

First off, let me say that I had never been to Gilcrease before our recent visit. I may have lived in this state since the early '90s, but I'm a slacker. Hence the reason I drag my kids everywhere in an attempt to make them completely familiar and bored with it all by the time they're teenagers.

I do what I can.

I had been to Philbrook twice, once as a visitor and once in a work capacity to interview and photograph a woman whose work was going to be on display there. I couldn't say I remembered much from when I had been before.

Basically, I was a blank slate going in to both places.

For the sake of predictability, let's start with similarities.

1. Both have Native American sections. Not surprising.
2. Both have stunning grounds and gardens that sprawl for ages.
3. Both have restaurants that I haven't set foot into and for which I believe they grow food in their gardens. I can't imagine any other use for tomatoes and peppers and corn and zucchini in a museum garden.
4. Both have a free family day each month (more below).
5. Both have membership programs and audio tours and classes and lectures, and both have very enthusiastic staff to try to get you involved as much as possible (which I really do appreciate because I am one of those people who tend not to SEE as much as I should).
6. Both have individual memberships for $50 and dual/family memberships (two adults admitted - children 18 and under are free at both museums) for $65.
7. Both offer things for children to DO while they are visiting the museum. I elaborate extensively on this below as there are also differences here.
8. Both are about the same amount of drive time away from my house. While this may seem irrelevant, let me just say that many things in this city are on the opposite side of town and I dislike driving more than 15 minutes to anything if I can avoid it. There is a homebody in me somewhere. I'm just never home long enough to find it.

I'm sure there are more similarities between the two museums, but this is all I can think of right now.

The differences, as always, require a bit more explanation than the similarities, but there aren't as many.

1. The outlook of each museum on the experience for kids (which is more important to me than just about anything else) is different. Both of them offer sketch pads, pencils, and erasers in their kits. Both of them offer scavenger hunt cards or booklets for the kids to find certain museum items. Finally, both places offer these things for free. That's where the similarity ends.

Gilcrease has backpacks in little cubbies near their front desk. These backpacks have different names on them such as "Animal Tracks" or "Textures in Art." I forget the exact names, but those are probably pretty close. You check out the backpacks to your kids, and inside, along with the items already mentioned, are some worksheets to take home, some texture panels (the little plastic boards you put behind papers to add a background), booklets on different art techniques or information about art in general, and maybe a hands-on item (such as a piece of buffalo fur). I believe they also have crayons or colored pencils in their packs as well, if I remember correctly. Even if I'm wrong, these backpacks are well and truly stocked for the kids. The catch? You return them when you're done and only take home the pages your child has drawn and the workbook pages that can be done at home.

Philbrook's art kits don't have as much in them - only the paper, pencil, eraser, and scavenger card - but the kids get to take them home. Then, each month the kids come back, they get another art item (crayons, colored pencils, clay, etc.) and a new scavenger card. The idea here is to get you to purchase a membership so you'll come back often and maybe attend some classes and bring the boxes.

Interesting contrast, eh? BUT WAIT! There's more! Gilcrease also offers a room called the KS Ranch where the kids get to touch things! There's a "campfire" with chairs and ranch-related books around it, a chuck wagon with some of the typical gear, an art table, a saddle and lasso with practice horns, and computers with games and an art program (and yes, they are hooked up to printers, so you can have the joy of bringing it all home). Then there's the Discovery Center where you (and the kids... and if they're like mine, they'll never want to leave this area) can look at thousands of items that are in the museum without ever leaving one room. You can use the computers to search for keywords and then find the items in the drawers or you can just randomly open drawers and see what treasures are inside. Both kids dearly loved this room, and the docent didn't mind their excitement at all. I think it amused her to see M1 insist he was "working" as he dashed from computer to drawer and back again and again. There are also games on these computers, too.

I believe Philbrook had some sort of backpack as well, which may be similar to Gilcrease's, but I don't know anything about it, so I'm going to just stop here. All I know is that I saw them and so did M1.

OK. I think that's it. Exhale.

2. Genres of art. I guess this should be a no-brainer. Gilcrease has Western and Native American art and Philbrook offers a more European approach to most of its collection (although, as mentioned, they do have a Native American section in the lower level).

3. Free family days. Yes, both museums have them. The difference is in the day. Philbrook offers theirs on a weekend (second Saturday of each month) while Gilcrease offers theirs on the first Tuesday of each month (called TU Tuesday, so named for the university that owns the museum).

----

I had been contemplating getting a membership to one of these museums. I would probably just get an individual membership given the fact that most of the time I visit places where I have a membership, it's usually just me and one or two munchkins and neither museum is all that expensive if we wanted to go as a family. Oz could just pay his own way ;)

I had figured, given all the hands-on stuff, that the membership we purchased would probably be at Gilcrease. So I was surprised when I asked each kid (on an individual basis so no copy-cat answers could be given) which museum they liked better.

M1 loved Philbrook because of the scavenger hunt. I thought that was a bit odd, since Gilcrease had a whole booklet of scavenger hunt items and Philbrook only had the one card, so I asked him for more information. Turns out having a whole book of items to hunt for completely overwhelmed him, and he got very animated telling me that it was frustrating when he was searching for one item and walking past others and didn't even know it.

Fair 'nuff.

He also liked that there were different types of art at Philbrook. I can understand that, too. Western-themed art can get repetitive after a while.

M2 had a more equivocal answer. She initially liked Gilcrease because they had more stuff in the backpacks. However, When I reminded her that if we went back to Philbrook, she could get more stuff, her eyes lit up and she instantly switched loyalty.

She doesn't have to touch things, so that didn't matter to her, and when I reminded M1 that Philbrook didn't have a hands-on area, he didn't seem to care. He was more worried about things to hunt. He's a mini-man on a mission.

I guess even I'm glad they're picking Philbrook. Maybe they don't have as much for kids initially, but things get old fast when you're young, and after seeing the same backpacks and the same hands-on rooms a few times, I imagine both kids would get bored at Gilcrease pretty quickly. That's not to say that we won't take advantage of those TU Tuesdays and try to go a few times a year and have a lot of fun with those backpacks, but I think they'd enjoy Philbrook more in the long run. Getting a new art item is probably also going to save me a lot of effort, and Philbrook does have really neat exhibits that come through sometimes (right now they have an Ancient Egypt exhibit on display that is extremely fascinating - I would love to go through it again without a kid on my hip).

I think we have a winner. I'd love to hear your thoughts on each museum and your experiences there, if any, before I go spending actual money, though. Thanks!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Scientific Method

So, because it's the middle of summer and my kids are bickering constantly and M2 has told me repeatedly that she is ready to go back to school "tomorrow," I thought I'd resurrect thoughts of formal schooling. I've had these pictures for a long time... some of them since December. The right time just hadn't come to share.

Now it has.

Towards the end of the school year, my homeschool group held a science fair. No judging - it's a small group and really, what's the point? - but each kid did their own scientific experiment and presented it to the others. M1 grew mold.

Mold, I tell you. In a dresser drawer in his room. You should have seen the other side of this piece of bread coated in sugar water. It was naaaaaaaaaaasty.


This piece didn't grow a lot... just a little around the edges where it hadn't been treated with lemon juice.

Same with this one, which is supposed to read "melted butter" but actually reads "m_ltrd ...." M1's hands were a little coated with the stuff, which then coated the bag... and the Sharpie. And Sharpie won't write on melted butter.

There's a little bit of mold around the edges of the control here, but it's hard to see.

All in all, the mold took about five days to grow. Ironically, since this was homemade bread, the three slices that were left of the loaf in my kitchen went moldy the same day the control did. At least I knew it was an accurate test. I'd rather have not known that.
Another day, it took M1's fancy to learn about molecules. Since he has only the most rudimentary understanding of the periodic table in general, I didn't get into a lot of detail, but I did find these pictures on the lovely ol' Internetz and printed them off. I figured M1 would use Legos to build these.

But I was WRONG. K'Nex apparently have much better molecule-constructing capabilities than Legos. He spent a good hour working out the details and putting them all together. It was really, really cute, and he was SO excited about it.

These are the pictures from December, obviously, as nobody in this house will be wearing long sleeves again until Jack Frost rears his ugly head. But Oz had gotten some dry ice in a package and wanted to show it to the kids. M1 had seen and played with dry ice before, but he didn't know what it really was and why it moved the way it did, and M2 hadn't seen it at all.

Scientific fascination runs deep. Deep down, in this house, we're all great big nerds.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Seinfeld-esque blog post

I have nothing to say today, but I felt the urge to write, so here I am, attempting to get something meaningful written when there is, in fact, very little meaning in what I am doing today. It's errand day, which means as soon as my kids get up from their mommy-imposed naptimes ("You HAVE to sleep today. Whacking your sister is a sign of fatigue, and if you don't take a nap, you'll keep picking on her, and by 5 p.m. you'll be in bed anyway so I don't tie your hands behind your back permanently. So TAKE A NAP!!!") we're off to town.

The other reason I'm making them nap is that I hate grocery shopping with the kids. I love my kids and I love doing things with them, but grocery shopping is what I truly think Hell must be like. Dante clearly didn't have kids or he'd have set Hell up more like this:

Level 1: This level, being the nearest to goodness and light and an escape to Purgatory (Purgatory now being the inside of a minivan in 100+ degree June-in-Oklahoma weather) instead of sheer Hell, is reserved for the moment when you walk into the grocery store with your list and the kids are promising to behave so you'll buy them something at the checkout register. And you have your list in hand and are promising to follow it and not spend an extra $30 on something your gut doesn't need, especially since you stepped on the scales that morning and realized that since January, you've gained nearly 10 pounds and most of it is probably attached to said gut. Not that this has happened to me... today.

*smiles*

Level 2: Produce aisle. What IS it about kids and the produce aisle that makes them want to touch EVERYTHING??? Maybe it's the lighting. Or the fact that the produce aisle has black square tile patterns that encourage jumping (don't fall into the alligator pit! What alligator pit? The white squares are alligator pits! MOM, you're dead! Oh, look, apples....) OK, so maybe it's just my kids, but my kids want to buy everything in the produce aisle. MOM, can we have squash?? MOM, look, cherries that are on sale for $143 a pound!! MOM, I found bean sprouts? Can we have some? It makes me mildly proud of them that they love the produce aisle so much, and I really do tend to indulge them because what mom in her right mind doesn't love it when her kids are begging for bean sprouts?? Never mind that there isn't a single recipe on the menu that could possibly use bean sprouts and that by next week, they WILL have gone bad in the crisper. They asked for vegetables!

By the end of the produce aisle, though, my Achiles tendon hurts from being run into multiple times by kids who can't pay attention because of the alligator pit... which means the alligator pit thing has well and truly worn out its welcome and I take over pushing the cart. Just in time for:

Level 3: The meat and dairy aisle. The instant we walk past the first thing in a box that contains more sodium than the salt shaker on my dining room table, the kids start in: "Mom? I'm cold. Do we have lots of stuff to get from this aisle? I'm cold." Seriously?? Didn't I TELL you to stay out of the mist by the Brussels sprouts?? Of course you're cold! But we need to get bacon and cheese.

Cue the rush for the cheese.

Now, again, it might just be my kids, but cheese sticks seem to be a food group. And since I'm a bit green and crunchy around the edges, I like organic cheese. Which means I usually buy blocks and cut my own cheese sticks. But the kids still feel the need to beg and bicker over which kinds of cheese we should get. Which means I usually buy two kinds just to shut 'em up. And then they whine that they're cold again and I feel my nerves starting to fray.

Usually at some point in this aisle I have to stop moving and wait on the children to start to actually freeze before I'm able to move again because they're picking on each other something fierce and I refuse to move till they are willing to pretend to behave again. And we're not even to the back corner of the store yet!

Which brings me to:

Level 4: The bread aisle, known to my kids as the cracker and snack aisle.

This is where all forms of discipline start to break down. I don't go down this aisle every week, especially now that I've started making my own tortillas (which I'll have to share with you at some point because they are whole wheat and don't contain lard!), but when I need English muffins for Oz or bagels for the kiddos for breakfast, it's a necessary evil. And makes the kids say things like, "Mom, how come we can't have the giant package of Oreos that would add another 10 pounds to your waist?"

OK, so they don't talk about my wub. It's a rule. They sometimes poke it and watch it jiggle like freshly-set Jell-O, but they don't talk about it. They do, however, beg for Oreos. And every other cookie they see. Which sometimes causes me to buy them Goldfish because it's at the end of the aisle. SOMETIMES. If I'm not homicidal yet.

Level 5: Canned goods. No question... I'm always homicidal by this aisle. My level of anxiety goes up about five notches just walking into the aisle because M1 has a condition called Flailing Limbs and M2 has a giggle that often triggers Flailing Limbs right about the time we hit the tomatoes. Which means I have to try to put one kid on one side of the cart and the other kid on the other which then triggers a reflexive response in the children called Gang Up on Mommy where they giggle maniacally while trying to touch each other from opposite sides of the cart.

See my note about Flailing Limbs and its trigger. I'll be glad when I can buzz right by the tomatoes because I've canned enough at home to reach till next summer.

Canning is more than just survival of the Apocalypse. It's Survival of the Grocery Store.

Level 6: The cereal aisle. For all the kids can agree on the same vegetables, they cannot agree on a cereal to save their lives. As an interesting social experiment, I may one day start in this aisle and do the produce aisle last just to see if there's any difference in going down this aisle at a different point in the routine. I suspect it won't matter. I think all the sugar in the air of the cereal aisle causes a chain reaction where kids automatically start bouncing. Literally.

This is where I start wondering why grocery stores don't offer Kid Cages. I'd happily put my kids in lockers for a couple of bucks. As long as they're able to see a television, they won't mind. I promise!

Level 7: The baking aisle. Again with the sugar. The kids smell defeat by this point and know that Mommy's weakness is dessert. Carbs are my consolation and crutch. They are the reason my wub doesn't shrink. So you see that box of brownie mix in my pantry that I swore I'd never buy again because I can *make* brownies from scratch and don't need a mix? Yeah, that's a result of Hell finally winning. My nerves AND soul are in shreds by the time the baking aisle comes. Might as well give up and claim defeat.

Level 8: Frozen foods. Repeat the baking aisle process with frozen dinners, frozen pizza, frozen pierogies, and frozen desserts. Oz benefits the most from this. He just doesn't know it is because at the 8th level of Hell, my blood is boiling over so much that I have to buy something frozen to keep me from exploding all over the flowers that are delicately set on pedestals near the frozen foods. Flailing Limbs is still in effect.

And, finally, the last circle of Hell on Earth, otherwise known as Grocery Shopping with Kids: Checkout. They're done. I'm done. And the cashier, who is most likely the Devil in disguise, has the gall to ask me how I'm doing and then chat cheerfully to the sacker while taking her sweet time running up my ungodly total.

Must. Curb. Homicidal Rage.

Oh, look. The kids are up and so's my blood pressure!

I'm off to run errands. If anyone hears of some kids who were "accidentally" left in the dairy section of the supermarket today, I'll deny it was ever me.

Monday, June 21, 2010

MCD

Contrary to what you might think, the title above has nothing to do with a fast-food restaurant or any of its ilk. It's a new medical acronym that I have just invented for the condition commonly known as "Mad Cow Disease."

Since apparently Oz reads this blog to discover the nature of my mood before he comes home, I figured fair warning was in order. After all, it isn't *ENTIRELY* his fault that I have MCD today. Mostly it's because I'm running on about 2-1/2 to 3 hours of sleep from last night, which is also not entirely Oz's fault because I'm about 98% sure that my lack of sleep was due to the fact that I ate Sonic mozzarella sticks at 10 p.m. and had a Pepsi at 6 p.m.

I'm not sure which one affected me more, but the one thing I *do* know is that I am immune to the supposed effects melatonin because 6 mg didn't do diddly-squat.

Didn't help that the &*#% cat kept stealing green beans out of the bowl in the kitchen and tossing them to the floor and then batting them around.

Didn't help that the dogs were barking their stupid heads off outside and making me have visions of shock collars used at maximum voltage.

Didn't help that my internal temperature was roughly 864 degrees from all the carbohydrates my body was trying to literally burn off and that I was still burning up after I turned down the thermostat five degrees. I thought it was only two degrees. That's what I get for thinking. And not that it mattered.

The eye mask that I got out of the freezer didn't help, either. I think it stayed cool for about five minutes. I was seriously burning up.

So when 2:08 rolled around and I was still awake, I knew I was going to be crabby this morning and there was not one darn thing I could do about it. I think I finally fell asleep sometime around 2:30 (since I go to bed around 12:30, this isn't has awful as you might think, but even so) and then the &*#% cat woke me up at 5 doing his green bean thing again - repeatedly - until 5:45-ish - and then the birds had the gall to wake up and start SINGING. Birds shouldn't sing until I'm up and moving. It should be a rule. I'm going to start a petition.

And *then* when I was just finally getting back to sleep again, Oz came in at 6:30 and woke me up... sort of... cause I had already heard his alarm go off and I couldn't get mad at him because I'd told him to get me up so I could water the garden before it got to be 864 degrees outside as opposed to inside my body. And then M2 got up at 7.

So after trying in vain to get her to go back to sleep which resulted in me getting more irritated by the second because my daughter has an external dialogue instead of an internal one and you can hear that from the living room even if she's in her room with the door shut, (and I was sleeping on the couch because sleeping with Oz was a ghost I gave up around 1)... I got up.

It's now 10:32 a.m. and I have done the following things today:
--Watered the garden
--Let the chicks out of the coop
--Gotten pissed because Oz pushed the latch so far back against the door that I canNOT get the door open to clean out the chicks' water, which irritates me. And I was going to tell him this when he called to see how my morning was going except that his boss beeped in and *that* was more important than *me* ranting, and he said he'd call me back but apparently he didn't mean it because it was shortly after 8 this morning when he called and even though I have one call that I missed because my phone has quit ringing when people call and just send them to voicemail and doesn't even show a missed call... it wasn't him and it's now 10:34 a.m. And yes, he's in trouble. And while I realize that when I called him two seconds ago to ask him a computer question, he did realize that he hadn't called me back... I'm still cranky. Sorry.
--Stripped and remade the beds that EVERY. SINGLE. PERSON. in this house MADE this morning even though I asked every. single. person. in this house to strip their beds.
--Washed three loads of laundry and had a rant at M1 because I don't know what it is about him, but he can't manage to get a single meal into his stomach without wearing a good 25% of it on his clothes.
--Cleaned out a gerbil cage.
--Directed the boy to scrub his fish tank and help spray all the stains on his clothing.
--Fed and Zyrtec'd the children.
--Handwashed dishes.
--Swept the kitchen floor and picked up the fur wads that have accumulated on the carpet in the last 24 hours because God forbid my house stay clean for more than 0.000003 seconds. It's not like anyone actually *helps* it stay clean.
--Gotten my squishy cow stomach stepped on by a cat while I'm typing this.

So clearly I am being productive and am about to actually go get dressed and brush my teeth and put on make-up so when I take the kids to swimming lessons, we can all pretend we're a nice, happy, normal family whose mother isn't running on severe sleep deprivation. 'Cause while I can run on four hours of sleep, anything less makes for One Mad Cow.

Moo.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Garden update and Father's Day

So I have been *told* that there are folks out there who are missing Chicky Cam. Since we moved the chicks out to the outdoor coop, which isn't wired, it's been offline. Oz is working on that. He got an indoor/outdoor camera and is trying to get it set up, but he wants to bury an electrical conduit out to the coop. It wouldn't just be for the camera, though. It'd also be used to run a heater in the winter. Since the horses also have a water trough heater that runs during the winter, the electrical thing has been needed for some time. We just haven't done it.

But here's what the chicks look like.

They're big girls now! They're about a month old, weigh between 2 and 3 pounds (some may weigh a little more), and are just the most well-behaved birds a new chicken person could ask for. They even let me catch them for the most part.


OK, so they're also a bit sassy.

They'll eat out of your hand, though, so I can't object too much.

So long as they quit thinking my toes are edible.

The garden's not doing too badly, either. I've gotten probably five pounds of green beans out of it, four whole pieces of okra, half a dozen small yellow sweet peppers, and half a dozen bush tomatoes. And 9 pounds of cucumbers. Pickling time is getting close, and I picked the stuff up for that process today. I'm going to try to get myself down to Porter for peaches and make peach preserves and canned peaches the same day so that I don't have to overheat the house too often. Running the dishwasher, cooking the jam, and heating up and boiling the canning crock all day long takes a toll on the electric bill. The blackberries are almost in, too, so I'm hoping the tomatoes come in about the same time they do so I can do blackberry jam, canned tomatoes, and salsa simultaneously.

I might have a food preservation fetish. I still have frozen pumpkin from fall and last week's applesauce in my freezer.

Anyway, here's a shot of most of the garden.

The cucumbers have taken over their corner and are threatening to spill into the grass. There are hundreds and hundreds of flowers in there. I may wind up with more than I bargained for in terms of cucumbers, which is fine cause I'll just sell the extras. One can only use so many jars of pickles before getting a little overloaded with sodium. Mmmmmm high blood pressure in a jar....

My green bean plants still haven't started putting out climbers yet. I'm starting to wonder if they ever will. There are still flowers on the plants and I'm pulling out about 1-1/2 lbs. of green beans per week (so far), so I'm not terribly worried. They seem happy.

The tomatoes are happy, too. They've created their own little jungle. I am really, really liking the square cages that I got. I'll definitely replace all the round ones next year and am contemplating getting a few more now to use for stacking. These plants have already outgrown them! Yay! I hope to be completely inundated with tomatoes soon. I'm getting annoyed at having to buy tomato products (other than paste) at the store.

This is sort of an 'everything' shot. From the front, we have strawberries, rhubarb (that'd be the thing with the humongous leaves), herbs (basil growing wild everywhere which is fine cause I'll just make pesto and freeze it, rosemary, oregano, parsley), and then the lettuce that's starting to bolt and get bitter. Since I've never grown lettuce before, I'm just happy it's lasted this long. Here in a week or two I'll pull it out and let the ground rest before planting more lettuce in the fall. It did very well and I'm happy with it. We'll have to see about spinach. It didn't make it to the edible stage this time, but I suspect the heat had a lot to do with that. It was doing fine till the daily temps hit the mid-80s.

The huge thing in front here is the butternut squash plant. I've heard tell that I'm only now supposed to be planting this buuuut... oops?? It doesn't seem to be doing badly. There are about two dozen little squash on it, and we do love eating them, so I'm excited. I found a document on how to preserve it, too. I've also killed all the beetles I've seen on the plant this year, which might help matters a bit, and apparently butternut squash are more beetle-resistant than typical summer squash. I'll let you know.

Behind the squash are the peppers, peas, and okra. Peppers and okra are doing just fine, same as last year, but I have learned that peas don't like Oklahoma heat very much. They scorch pretty easily. I picked all the peas we got and yanked the plants out today and will try them again late August or early September along with more lettuce, spinach, peas, and radishes. They didn't take long to grow, so we'll see if I can manage to get a second crop. Can't hurt to try, right? If they don't make it, I'll try putting them in a shadier spot next year.

So that's the garden now!

The kids were down at Granny's (my mom's) house this weekend, so Oz got to have a nice, lazy, quiet day. I got some English banger sausage from the local farmer's market to see if he liked it (he did but said it still wasn't like 'home') and fed him that and mashed potatoes and the homegrown peas for dinner. Between that, the Jimmie Johnson NASCAR T-shirt from M1, the Chicago Bears NFL hoodie sweatshirt from M2, and Super Mario Galaxy 2 for Wii... I think he had a pretty good Father's Day. I hope all the other fathers out there did, too. What did you get for good old Dad? Do anything special? I'm always on the lookout for ideas, so I'd love to hear them!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

And now for something completely different!

OK, I've bogged this blog down with the deep, dark, secret insides of my world for the past three days, so I'm really feeling the need to lighten things up a bit.

So here's a good one. Did you know that this blog, for whatever odd reason, now has 26 people listed as followers? TWENTY-SIX! I'm amazed. I keep thinking that sometime people are going to realize that this blog is just a very odd little corner of the world and serves no real purpose and bail on me, but then one more person adds themselves and I find myself amazed all over again. THANK YOU!! You are the reason I write! Well, that and I can't make myself keep a journal, but apparently a blog is another story altogether. And my husband likes to tell me that for every person following, there's probably another person out there reading who just doesn't 'follow.' Which is fine by me. I just love you all!

And to prove it, I'm going to share with you my top 5 favorite movies of all time. Or at least for this year, until something else comes out and I like it better.

I'm fickle like that.

So here goes:

1.


There's nothing like this movie. I don't care for horror movies. I don't care for movies where there's all action and no plot. But I. LOVE. This. Movie. I can't help it. I bought it for Oz, but quite honestly, I'm the one who usually pulls it out. In fact, I watched it last night, which is how it made #1 on the list and why I'm writing this post in the first place. I giggle every time I hear the words "Fascist" and "Hag!" I'm sorry. You'll have to watch the movie to understand.

2.


Jessica Tandy cracks me up. She reminds me of my own grandmother - you know, the one with the farmhouse in impeccable condition who gave me her Frankoma - and even sounds like her on occasion. She doesn't miss a lick. Just substitute Lutheran for Jewish, and you've got it, right down to the floral dresses and weekly hair appointment and the do-it-just-so-and-that's-MY-way attitude. Tough old birds, yes, but they do know how to run everything and run it well. I tell Oz that after my grandmother passes, I'll have to watch this movie to remember her by.

3.


I love Sandra Bullock in her romantic comedies, but I think this one is my favorite. Two Weeks' Notice is probably second, but The Proposal still wins. I'm not sure if it wins on its own merits, the fact that it deals with getting married fast to deal with immigration, or... the fact that it stars Betty White. Because Betty White's performance ranks right up there with getting to see Ryan Reynolds' rear end. Which is another bonus. Oh, and I love the dancing scene because the song that Sandra's character sings is a very... um... *interesting* club song (not that I'd know from personal experience lol) and if they hadn't been clever at editing it, this movie would have to have been rated R.

I'm just sayin'.

4.


Honestly, the only reason this movie made the list is because it made me cry. Hard. Almost to the point of sniffles. And I don't cry at movies. I didn't want to see this movie at all, because I'm not a sappy movie person (Have you worked out I'm picky about movies yet?), but one of my friends insisted I see it and brought it over. I watched it, and to be honest, I didn't care for the first part... but then it gets good. It hooks you. And then, before you know it, you're bawling like... OK, well, you're crying. I don't know what makes most people cry because I don't often cry, but I cried at this movie. And I'm not ashamed to say it.

5.


I had a hard time picking #5. There were several contenders. This one won simply because of what it is. It's Monty Python, and I love Monty Python works. I love spouting quotes and songs and other tidbits from this movie. How many people can't finish the quote, "Your mother was a hamster..." It sustains me on nights when I want something intelligently stupid to watch and TV doesn't provide that (though "House" does a nice job). It's a classic.

Now... What I want to know is... What are your top 5 movies du jour?
MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL

THE NOTEBOOK

THE PROPOSAL

DRIVING MISS DAISY

HOT FUZZ

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Raising Crazy Children... Part 3

So here in this impromptu series of mine, we've so far established that A) my kids are nuts and B) M1's insanity is entirely different than M2's insanity.

So what does one DO when one is confronted with raising crazy children?

Well, if you're me, you'll go through every stage of grief before you even manage to come to grips with the fact that your kid is different than most. For illustrative purposes and because I've actually done all of this with him, I'm using M1 as my example. I'm currently somewhere between denial and pissed off with M2. If I didn't find the entire situation just FUNNY, that for whatever reason *I*, the most impatient person I know, have been deemed worthy of raising two very special and very different children, I'd probably be well into anger by now. Or maybe with the second kid, you just kind of skip that stage. We'll see.

Anyway, stages of realizing that you have a crazy kid:

Denial: "What do you mean, he's different? He is not. He's busy, but that's just the way some boys are made. Well, yeah, that and he'd rather talk to adults and learn about science than play with other kids. That's just who he is. It's normal."

And then, because you've decided he's normal, you pack him up and send him to preschool or kindergarten because while you had considered homeschooling, you'd much rather have some alone time, and he *does* need the practice interacting with other kids. In the back of your mind, though, you consider the off chance that there might be an issue and ask the administrator about special-needs programs. Just in case. Even though your kid won't ever have problems. (I realize that for several of you folks reading this, sending a kid to a school isn't an option, but for me it is... was... is... whatever.) :)

Anger: This comes after you've had the umpteenth chat with the preschool teacher about your kid and his temper tantrums. Or gotten the 47th e-mail that month from the kindergarten teacher asking you how on earth to control your son so he will wait his turn instead of blurting out every answer he knows.

"Good grief, so he's a little different. FINE. But he's not a BAD kid. He just has a few issues to work out. Why can't YOU work with him? I'm doing everything I can at home already! It's not HIS fault that he's different. It's not like he has a diagnosable problem or anything. He CERTAINLY doesn't need medication. He's just busy! Keep him busy! Send him to the hidey-hole if he blurts out answers. YOU'RE the teacher. YOU come up with a few ideas."

Bargaining: "OK, so I'll take him in to see the pediatrician for a psychological evaluation. But I'm not putting him on meds. Just because he might have an actual problem doesn't mean he needs them. Well, or if he DOES need meds, I'll only use non-stimulants. And we'll definitely get some counseling/therapy because that way we can get him off the meds more quickly. And it doesn't mean he's a bad kid, does it??"

Depression: "Oh... he *does* have a problem. A significant one. And I'm the idiot who buried my head in the sand for two years trying to just say that he didn't. My poor baby... if I had just paid more attention, maybe he'd be in a better place already and wouldn't be having all these problems."

I cried a lot during this stage. And the anger stage, too, because I just couldn't work out why everyone kept harping on my boy when he was doing his best. Which he WAS, except his best and accepted norms are in somewhat different ranges, and teachers don't often get Aspies in their classes. ADHD, sure; autistic, maybe. Asperger's, not so much. Or if they do, not Asperger's with ADHD and anxiety. And he was being difficult at home, too, and I spent a lot of time crying about what a crappy parent I must be because I couldn't make him settle down or mind me or even follow a simple command. Like "tie your shoe, please."

Acceptance: I'm the proud mother of a very smart, socially inept boy with Asperger's, ADHD, and anxiety! And, to coin a phrase, I can help him be the best he can be.

-----

It's quite the process. And that's just the emotional side of things. From a logistical side, things are much, much simpler. Here's how the diagnosing process broke down for me:

1. Give in to the fact that your child might be a tad different when he's the kid throwing Legos at another child's head or crying in the middle of class because someone touched his art box or hitting another kid because they accidentally brushed against him... and that's just in school.

Home is even worse.

Ask the assistant teacher whose son is ADHD if you think *your* son might be a little ADHD (Asperger's wasn't even on my radar then). Watch in horror as she nods so hard you think her head might fall off and then be secretly relieved that you're not the only one who thinks your kid is crazy.

2. Call the pediatrician because you don't know who else to call. Set up a 2-hour psychological evaluation. Find a sitter for your other child and make the spouse take that afternoon off of work to go with you because this is his kid, too. Fill out the stacks and stacks of paperwork and go to the evaluation. Listen as your pediatrician (whom you have known since this kid was 1 and whose hobby is studying about mental illnesses) goes through everything, listens to the family history, and tells you straight up that she can't diagnose your kid exactly because he falls right in the middle of ADHD and the Asperger's side of things and that, really, we'll be able to tell in a few more years when he's a bit older. Oh, and he definitely has anxiety. Would you like to try some medication? Sure, we can do non-stimulant. Strattera it is (Intuniv wasn't out yet). And go schedule that appointment with the psychologist.

3. Visit the psychologist. Fill out loads and loads of paperwork again to get a diagnosis from the office pediatric psychiatrist who is quite good at what he does. Get the "official" diagnosis of ADHD, anxiety, and pervasive developmental disorder. Surprise! Your kid is officially nuts! Attend many sessions and learn the basic tenets of cognitive behavioral therapy to try to get the boy to *think* about what he's doing instead of just doing.

4. Read book after book to figure out what else is going on and how else you can work with him to treat it. Use your highlighter prodigiously.

5. Find a happy medium and realize you actually *can* raise this kid after all.

-----

Next step for me is to do the same thing with M2. For now, I'm keeping a "mood log" for a week. She doesn't know I'm doing it; she doesn't know that I suspect her moods are even a bit off. Though when she came in last night at 5:42 and told me she'd had a nightmare where "a paw came down and squished the people and cooked them," it was kind of hard not to shudder.

In addition to the mood log, I'm reading everything (well, everything USEFUL) I can get my hands on. Come fall, we'll see how she does in kindergarten. Many of her friends will be there, and I know that two of the boys in her class have issues of their own - one is moderately autistic and the other hasn't been diagnosed yet but I suspect Tourette's and sensory issues - so we'll see how she does. If she has no issues at school, then I suspect I won't have a leg to stand on, so to speak, if I haul her into the doctor and say the word "bipolar" out loud. So right now it's a wait-and-see sort of thing.

I hate waiting. If I'm gonna have crazy kids, I just want to know what's going on so I can help them!

Though having one with an autism spectrum problem and one with a mood/conduct problem could make life very, very interesting.

As if it wasn't already fun enough :)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Raising Crazy Children... Part 2

As promised, I'm here again, this time with my lap-sitting cat Dorian Gray, to write a post about personality differences in children and why I can handle M1 but not M2. This might be another long one, but do I really write any other kind??

Sorry about that. Feel free to not read all the way to the end.

Off to the races...

M1 has not always been "easy" to handle. Fine, if I'm honest, he still isn't sometimes, but we've come to understand one another better. From the perspective of many folks, he's odd, which I suppose comes with the territory when you have a disorder from the autistic spectrum. We went to a birthday party a few weeks ago at a friend's house where the kids and I frequently go to play. M1 and Oz were playing baseball in the back yard - just toss, hit, toss, hit, etc. Oz noticed that M1's shoe had come untied and asked him to tie it.

Cue tantrum.

I didn't see it, but apparently he did his thing where his arms fly up in the air and he thrashes and flops about like a fish for a little while before becoming coherent enough to listen to the fact that ALL YOU DID was ask him to tie hie shoe, which is something he's perfectly capable of doing. And then he'll do it. And then all is well. He is a logical little Spock. On half of him is a human stuffed full of emotions with an especially large, red-headed temper; the other half is a logical scientist who can listen and debate with the best. Emotions run strong in this one, but I have no doubt he'll eventually conquer them.

A couple of people who had never seen one of his fits (a next-door neighbor and the husband of another friend of mine) were just in shock. Oz didn't even blink, took care of the problem, and had totally forgotten about it till I asked him if M1 had thrown a fit at the party over shoe-tying, because my friend whose husband saw it mentioned it to her and she was just making sure M1 was okay.

Well, sure he is. As okay as it gets!

Clearly, we're used to these sorts of tantrums. They happen. We're all just happy that his anxiety has settled down to the point where he's no longer bouncing off of the furniture or walls and doesn't make life miserable for everyone (including himself) because he can't handle the smallest request or scenario change.

The trouble is that M2's fits are entirely different. There is screaming and wailing and gnashing of teeth, just like an M1 tantrum, but her screams are like nothing I've ever heard come out of a child. They're primal. Gutteral. They remind me of a bobcat, to be honest. Plus... They. Just. Don't. Quit. Once she gets started, we're in for the long haul because she's more than likely checked out and won't be back to her regularly scheduled self for some time. Buckle your seatbelt and hang on for dear life, folks; we've hit some turbulence.

And just like airplane turbulence, you never know when her fits will strike. M1 has predictable tantrums. If you ask him to switch gears in the middle of something or get him when he's hungry or tired or put him in a loud place for too long, he will eventually lose it. Guaranteed. Finding his triggers has done wonders for our family and for him, because now I know there are just times when I canNOT ask him to do things. On the other hand, I *never* know when an M2 fit will show up. They can show up when asked to do things (sometimes but not others), when someone irritates her (but the same person could do the same thing another day and she'd be fine), or she could just have a fit out of the blue with no obvious provocation.

That's what happened yesterday. We were in the lobby of the Bartlesville Community Center at OK Mozart and I suggested that we go into the room where the stage was and look through the gift shop area before going to sit down to watch Miss Megan.

"I don't want to go in there."

"Why not? Look, they have jewelry!" (She loves, adores, and begs for jewelry. She's a girly-girl.)

"I don't know, but I'm not going in there. I don't *LIKE* jewelry."

Oh, Lordy.

Well, because I'm a genius, I coerced her into going in there, thinking that surely if we sat in one spot and she had some snuggle time, she'd settle. WRONG!!!! I won't get into everything that ensued, but it sure wasn't pretty. The umbrella chewing was one of the quieter, nicer moments of the whole shebang.

I tried talking to her to figure out why she didn't want to be there, but honestly, I don't think there was any logic or reasoning behind it. She just didn't want anything to do with that room and was willing to do anything in her power to get me to take her out of it.

Which brings me to the third major difference in the kids' fits. M1, for all his screaming and wailing and gnashing of teeth, has never deliberately tried to hurt anyone. He'll try to get away if you touch him when he's upset and may lash out then, but that has more to do with sensory input than trying to injure the person who touched him. M2 will hurt you. She will wrap her arms around you and squeeze you so hard it actually does hurt. She'll pinch. She'll hit. She'll kick and bite and headbutt and scream in your ear (on purpose) so that you'll give in and give her whatever it is that she wants at that precise moment in time.

Whatever that is.

Oh, and if you dare to send her to her room during a tantrum, she'll stomp all the way there, slam it shut as hard as she can (sometimes repeatedly for better effect), and beat the ever-living tar out of it with whatever is handy - toys, fists, feet, etc., all while uttering the bobcat scream.

So all of this is why I thought that surely a book called "The Explosive Child" might help... and surely reading "The New Strong-Willed Child" might help. Because while well-proven methods of working issues out with logic and thought and plans have worked wonders for M1 (with the added bonus of figuring out his triggers so I can catch him in the good moments to think about the bad ones), I don't think they're going to do much for M2. When you can't see the tantrums coming and you can't get your child to think (or speak human, let alone English) in the middle of a fit, and when she's all sunshine and rainbows when it's over and hardly remembers what she has done... traditional methods don't work.

Part 3 will be all about how we went about originally diagnosing M1's issues and what I'm doing to see about helping M2. Raising crazy kids is hard work, isn't it?? ;)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Raising Crazy Children... Part 1

I hadn't originally intended to write anything like this today, and I certainly hadn't intended to start a whole series of posts. In fact, I had hoped to be able to share some beautiful photos from OK Mozart with you, as I took the children up there today to listen to Native American stories (for M1) and (for M2) learn a few Irish step dancing steps from my friend Megan.

Sorry we couldn't stick around, girl. I wanted to get some photos of you to share, 'cause you were rocking those shoes and your hair was too cute for words!

But anyway. I have no photos of cute Irish step dancing shoes or equally cute hair. M2 didn't learn any Irish step dancing techniques. In fact, while the plan had been to hang out through the workshop that was to end about 2:45 and then get to chat with Megan for a while, none of that happened. We left the festival by 2.

Because my child is crazy.

DISCLAIMER!!!: For the purpose of this series of posts, I may use the term 'crazy' as an affectionate and endearing term for potential mental illness. I might also say 'nuts' or 'insane' or heaven knows what else. Please don't take offense. I'm not talking about anyone else's kids here. Just mine. Though if you think yours are a little bit bonkers, feel free to say so. I won't tell.

I really do use the term crazy with affection and endearment. Promise. I adore my munchkins and missed them something fierce last week. And I'm sure that there are times when all parents believe their kids are nuts. Certifiably insane. Off their rockers. Out of their gourd. Etc.

Told you I'd use all sorts of terms.

My kids, though, are special. OK, OK, all parents think that, too. And all kids *are* special. I love watching them and learning from them. But let's go through a few things that may indicate that your kid's sort of special isn't what most people consider normal:

1. If your kid goes to school for nine months with the same teachers and classmates in the same place and then comes up one day with severe separation anxiety and clings to you like a Tenacious Howler Monkey and screams like a Tenacious Howler Monkey once or twice a week for the remainder of the school year, she might be a tad off.

2. If you've ever taken your child to the pediatrician for a well-child visit - the same pediatrician in the same office where you've been going since before this child was born - and watched her throw a fit so massive that even the doctor voices concern, you may have a little bit of Crazy on your hands.

3. If you've ever videotaped the tail end of one of the above-mentioned fits and had your friends show it to THEIR friends because holy crap, that's one massive tantrum... and, again, that's just the TAIL END of the fit... you may have cause to worry.

4. If you've ever had to physically defend yourself from one of these fits and/or given your child her umbrella because she "has to bite something right NOW" and then watched her chew on it for 15 minutes straight and leave teeth marks all over it... and she's FIVE... and you're just glad she used her words and isn't biting or pinching or hitting YOU for once... well... you get the idea.

6. If you've ever watched your child go so sub-human/glassy-eyed during one of the fits that she is no longer capable of talking and only elicits grunts and primal screams and inflicts physical pain and breaks stuff...

6. If you've ever read both "The New Strong-Willed Child" and "The Explosive Child" in less than a week and thought, "Well, those were interesting books and might help me with my semi-predictable Asperger's/ADHD/anxiety kid, who now seems incredibly normal, but what about the OTHER one??"...

7. If the next book on your list to read is "The Bipolar Child" because *something* has to fit this kid so you can figure out how to handle her...

You might be me.

I know that, with only one or two exceptions, none of you have seen M2 behave this way. Those of you on the exception list probably saw the video. ;) I know that some of you are probably looking at this list and wondering what kind of discipline I employ. Others may be thinking that I should re-read those books. Some may be completely shocked that any kid can act that way. And yet others might be reading this list and thinking, "What do you mean, that's not normal??"

My problem is that I am not a child psychiatrist. Or psychologist. Or developmental pediatrician. In other words, I Am Not An Expert.

Realizing you might be the parent of a child with a case of Crazy is kind of like taking a kid out of Little League, sticking him in a World Series game, and whispering in his ear just before the pitch, "You better hit a home run, kid. Everyone's watching."

Makes you want to pee yourself.

Makes you realize that you might know how to play baseball, but you don't really know HOW to PLAY BASEBALL. This is the big leagues, and in parenting, EVERYONE watches. Everyone is sitting there wondering how come you can't get your kid under control, wondering what on earth you did to make him or her scream like that, watching while you struggle to cope the best you can, and - worst case scenario - pulling the number for the Department of Human Services (the Oklahoma name for Child Protective Services) out of their pockets to turn you in for slacking off on your job.

And it's a daunting task.

Up next: The difference between M1's brand of crazy and M2's and why I can handle him but not her. For now.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

I'm back!

Because I'm sure you noticed I was gone (yes, I'm kidding), I'm hereby announcing to the world that I'm back. And I have my kids again. I missed them like crazy, and I need to take a picture of their matching facial bruises. Leaving your kids with their grandparents for four days apparently results in physical trauma. I say this with great sarcasm because M1 dropped a bowling ball and had it bounce back into his cheek and M2 somehow whacked her eye on a bedstead. So the grandparents had nothing to do with it.

Anyway, Oz and I have been married 10 years now. That's just over 1/3 of my entire life. In another 10 years, if we haven't killed each other before then, I'll have been married over half my life. All you math whizzes out there should be able to work out my age (roughly) if you read that carefully enough. Let me know if you work it out. I'm not that motivated.

We never had a honeymoon. When we got married, I had a job - barely - as a small-town lifestyle reporter, and he had no job and no car and - the kicker - no green card. He wasn't here illegally, but there were glitches with his visa that our marriage kind of helped to work out. "Kind of" as in he would have been deported if we hadn't gotten hitched. So we've only ever taken two trips without the kids, and one was our first anniversary, which was before M1 came along.

It was time for another trip, so when Oz mentioned visiting Arkansas wine country (I hear you out there. I do. You're saying, "Arkansas has WINE country??"), I went along with it. Especially after he booked a hotel room with a Jacuzzi.

We took off on Saturday morning with the goal of reaching the Wiederkehr Winery by roughly lunchtime. Wiederkehr is run by a family of Swiss German descent, though with a good Arkansan accent, it's pronounced WEE'-da-ker'. That messes with my head every time I see it.

But I have a German flag tag on the front of my van and a penchant for pronouncing things properly.

It still drives me nuts to say Miam-uh for the town named Miami in Oklahoma.

Wiederkehr is such a cute little place. The girl working there said it's "stuck in a time warp," but I can see why they keep it that way. It does have charm.

This is one of the buildings in front of one of the parking areas. I guess they have a Weinfest every year, so they have ample parking and several bathrooms. After you've been in a car for 2-1/2 hours and drunk orange juice AND coffee on the way, bathrooms are important.

They have tours, so we decided to kick around for a while and wait for the next one, short though it was. I let Oz take this photo of me because my entire outfit was brand-spankin'-new and I had been instructed to make sure a photo was taken of me in a skirt with accessories and a purse. And new shoes.

The thing about shoes... when purchasing flip-flops to be worn on vacation, look for arch support. My calves were killing me by the end of the day.

Live and learn.

This was the gift shop at Wiederkehr. The tasting room is in the back area. Tastings are free, though tip jars are set around. Their Grand Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon tastes like a really, really good steak. And I strongly dislike red wine. But we bought some of that, and I may have to splurge for some filets to go with it. Yum yum yum.

I loved the grape leaves carved into all the railings around the buildings.

A performance room. There was a recorder band practicing while we were there. I suspect they usually practice up the road at St. Mary's Catholic Church, but there was a wedding going on that day (Oz and I found that out when I was going to go take pictures of the church and the happy new couple were walking out. We maaay have left rather than disturb them.), so they moved to Wiederkehr. Cool, huh?

Wiederkehr also has a little restaurant on site. It's located in what was the original wine cellar that was hand-dug in the 1880s and is actually listed on the historical register. Oz nearly cracked his head on a few beams, but the interior is darling.

I also liked the little herb garden growing next to the restaurant. They were growing parsley, sage, rosemary, and ... dill. And basil.

We did hit up the restaurant for lunch. Five-star cuisine it isn't, but it's not bad, either. Their fried potatoes are delicious, and Oz loved the onion soup.

After we left Wiederkehr, we wanted to hit up Mount Bethel Winery. I'd provide a link except I'm experiencing a bit of sour grapes, so to speak, about them. We drove up to the place, which is basically a small store across from a nice-looking house, parked, and walked into the shop. We were greeted by dogs. Two dogs in the store and one dog outside. And that's it. We had seen a woman when we drove up, but she never came in. We wandered around the shop, and I really wanted to taste some of their fruit wines - blackberry, elderberry, etc. - but... you'd have thought the place was abandoned. After wandering around for about 10 minutes (felt like an hour), we left. We saw a man on the way out. He walked into the house and shut the door.

So poo on them!!!

Luckily, the Post Familie Winery was pretty much next door, so we popped in there. It's a busy place, and they had very nice employees. Apparently winery-hopping is a common weekend activity around there, because we saw several folks there who had been at Wiederkehr with us. We came, we tasted, we bought. It was pretty, and the wines were good, but the place didn't strike me as anything spectacular. I would go there again, though, because the people were kind and they had quite few cute goodies in their shop. And cheese lol. If it wouldn't have melted in the car, I'd have bought some of that, too.

Finally, we headed back toward our hotel with a Jacuzzi and passed by what probably should have been the first winery of the day since we passed it on our way to Wiederkehr, but it wound up being the last. I'm very glad because they had the best wine we tasted all day.

Welcome to Chateau Aux Arc (pronounced Chateau Ozark). It's a fairly new winery - their web site tells you more - but they're doing very well for themselves. Word to the wise: It's more of a spot for young folks, as new-age music is piped into the tasting room/gift shop area and we were greeted by a blond man in dreadlocks who was reading philosophy. But he knew his wines, and we had a great tasting. They do charge $5 for their tastings, but you get to keep the glasses (nice advertising) and get to taste every wine you want.

And they have the best wine I've ever had. Oz loved it, too, and for us to love the same wine is almost unheard of. It's called their Altage. I don't see it on their web site - not that I could have it shipped to Oklahoma even if I did. It's a limited-edition wine for them because it's made from some special grapes... I'd share the story, but it's kind of long and this post is going to be long enough as it is. Suffice it to say we bought two bottles.

Beautiful grounds, too.

Since we still had a good chunk of afternoon to kill, Oz decided to take me antique shopping (I am not a person for whom antique is a verb) in Van Buren. It didn't happen, though.

There was a bike rally in town, so most of the shops were shut! There were some awesome bikes, though. I really wanted a certain red one that happened to have an H and a D somewhere in the name. I'm such a freak. :)

I'm glad we stopped in, though. Van Buren is cute. Couldn't stay there, though. Crawford County is dry. So we went back to our hotel in Fort Smith and went to Landry's for dinner. Very much a college joint, what with the blackboard walls and ginormous beer selection, but also very good. I'd happily go back.

All in all it was a great weekend trip, but I'm glad to be home. My garden and chickens were glad to see me, too, and have informed me that I'm stuck at home preserving food and taking care of everyone for the rest of the summer.

I think I can live with that.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Harvest time!

I got a HUGE surprise when I walked out to check the garden today. I found produce!

These were my first clue that things were ripe. I was bending down to check the peas (not quite ready yet, by the way, but getting there) and saw a flash of red in the middle of one of the plants. I grabbed it and saw another. Thorough investigation uncovered the third. The weight is measured in pounds and ounces, so that's 1 lb. 9 oz. of tomato there, and there are *lots* more on the plants just waiting to ripen.

I grabbed these next, because they were easy to see. The two in front are very, very teensy and the one in back isn't big, but ripe they were, so in they came. They are bell peppers, by the way, just orange and yellow varieties. I plan to pick some of them green when I get a few more tomatoes so I can make some of my own salsa again. The family has really enjoyed it over this last year.

Then I found these. I thought I'd find maybe half a dozen. I was not expecting this many. At all. I was using my shirt as a kind of apron to hold them. By the end, I had been wishing I'd stepped back into the house for the five whole seconds it would have taken to grab a bowl. Have I mentioned that the green bean plants haven't even STARTED to climb the trellis yet? I'm going to be rolling in green beans by this fall. Don't think we'll run out this year.


Finally, I figured since I'd already gotten that much, I'd poke through the cucumber plants to see what I could find. I found these babies. There are a few more that are almost ready and hundreds of flowers still on the vines. They are supposed to be small like this since they are pickling cucumbers, but I strongly suspect that if I'd left them, they'd get still larger. I want snacking pickles, though, so I picked them now.

I'm excited! Let the harvest begin!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Sound of Silence

My children are gone. They are at my mother-in-law's house for FOUR days. Count 'em with me - one, two, three, FOUR. It's my 10-year wedding anniversary this weekend, and she's taken the munchkins off my hands so I can get my hair done and enjoy a peaceful, long, glorious weekend and remember what life was like 10 years ago when I was all of 18 years old and had a flat stomach and time on my hands. One day you'll have to make me tell you the wedding story. It's insane. Truly.

So because my children are gone for four days, I am sitting here in my living room with three sleeping cats and two sleeping dogs and there are no toys being tossed around and no fights that need to be broken up. The only sounds I hear are the fan of my computer and the train whistle from across the way. There is an entire cat's worth of fur on the carpet because I have been refusing to vacuum until the children are gone, and now that they're gone, I'm not inclined to move.

I have, however, gone shopping. I started at Ross. I bought three tank tops - yellow, green, and white/blue - and a white skirt (skirt!) and a pair of Tommy Hilfiger capri pants because I love Tommy. He does good things for my figer... I mean, figure. And then... and this is the kicker... I went to the $1 jewelry shop and ACCESSORIZED. Those of you who know me well might die upon reading this. I should have put in a disclaimer asking you to sit down and check your pacemakers first. Most of the time my 'accessories' include my wedding ring(s), a waterproof IronMan watch from Wal-Mart, and whatever pair of fake pearl or cubic zirconia earrings happen to be in one set of the holes in my ears (my ears are pierced twice). I don't use purses. I don't shop. So accessories just. Don't. Happen.

Ever.

I bought three necklace/earring sets that actually match what I bought. And I had left the tank tops in the car while I did the purchasing. I impressed myself.

And now I'm going to copy some recipes out of some cookbooks that I'm getting rid of (not keeping cookbooks that only have one or two good recipes) and freeze some blueberries and generally sit on my expansive derriere and enjoy the silence.

Though come bedtime, I'll miss tucking my babies in. There's a price to be paid for everything.

But when I'm sitting at Starbucks tomorrow morning and don't have to buy a giant bottle of juice and a scone for a boy who is done and bored and starving again 30 seconds later, that price will be oh, so, wonderfully worth it.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Negotiation with terrorists

I do not, by principle, negotiate with terrorists.

Apparently, however, I negotiate with 7-1/2-year-old boys and 5-year-old girls.

Oddly enough, I find them to be pretty darn similar on most counts.

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Let's explore the similarities:

1. Terrorists and children both make highly unreasonable demands.

"Mom, can we sleep on the couches tonight instead of in our beds?"

Um. No. But thanks for asking! Run along now and clean up that tornado of toys you've got strewn over two bedrooms, the hall, the living room, and the kitchen, k?

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2. They both have something to gain by their demands, while you get the short end of the stick.

"Well, if we can't sleep on the couches, what other options are there?"

What do you MEAN, if you can't sleep on the couches, what other options are there? There are no other options! NO, you may not set up the tent. In the living room OR outside. No, you may not trade bedrooms. You may sleep in YOUR rooms. In YOUR beds. WHY do you even want to sleep on the couches or in the tent??

"Um... we want to talk. And stay up really late."

Nothing good ever comes of either of those. Good Lord, he must think I'm missing half my brain. See point #1. And point #3.

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3. They don't ever, ever give up. And they recruit others if necessary.

"But we both think it's a good idea, Mom! It's not just MY idea!"

Oh, good, drag your sister into this. She's supposed to be cleaning up her half of the tornado, you know... as are you, if we want to get back to the point *I* was trying to make. I'm also trying to make supper. You may NOT sleep on the couches. You may NOT sleep in the tent. You may NOT trade rooms for the night. Your rooms. Your beds. Heck, I'll concede that if you want to sleep on the floor, I'm okay with that, but YOUR floor in YOUR room.

"Can we sleep in the hall?"

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4. They're very, very good at skewing your words to their purposes.

OMG no. Not in the hall. Dear heaven, not in the hall. I'd rather you sleep on the couches where I could at least keep an eye on you than have you both parked in the hall doing God only knows what.

"So we can sleep on the couches???"

NOT what I said. And tell me again why you're not in there picking up your toys?? Oh, right. Point #5.

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5. They're both very good at dismissing anything they consider irrelevant to the conversation.

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6. If worse comes to worse, they'll happily throw themselves under the bus for martyrdom's sake.

Cue meltdown because I'm "not listening."

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In the end, Terrorist 1 and Terrorist 2 settled for getting to stay up half an hour later than their normal bedtime. I'm not sure how that made up for not getting to sleep on the couches since M1 can tell time but just won't take two seconds to look at a clock and M2 can't tell time yet, so as far as *they* know, it's 30 minutes past bedtime.... an hour early.

I do not negotiate with terrorists.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Roaches, with Love

This is my friend Nan's house. She just closed on it last week. It's a darling little place.

Did you like the additions on the floor?

Did I mention it was her birthday a couple of weeks ago?

Traditions run deeeeeep around here, and we couldn't let it pass without totally pranking up her new place. Thankfully, she's living with her sister temporarily, and her sister has no problems letting us hooligans into the house so we can create much havoc.


So we roached her. One of my Cohorts in Crime thunk up and created that cake.

We also decided to be nice and get her some actual stuff for her house. Other than roaches.

We put them EVERYWHERE. She'll probably never find all of them. When we left, the cats were hard at work hiding a few under the couch.

We had to throw a few near every drain in the house,

which meant all sinks, tubs, and even the dishwasher.

Figured a few in the fridge (and crisper!) couldn't hurt as well.

I just hope she found these before nuking something. I'm not quite sure these would survive the same nuclear holocaust as their live cousins.

I do love my friends. And it's a good thing they love me, too. :)