Sunday, September 30, 2012

The World's Laziest Corgi

We have a Corgi.  His name?  Speed Bump.

There's a reason for this.

Speed Bump is the world's laziest Corgi.  Part of the reason for this is that when we got him, he weighed between 70 and 80 pounds, so his joints are somewhat older than the rest of him.  However, he's still a Very. Lazy. Dog.

Wut?
 In fact, let me prove to you how lazy he is. An anecdote: I've seen him sit up on his hind legs precisely twice. I've *never* seen him jump. The first time he sat up - and the only time he's sat up on his hind legs without supporting his front legs - was when I offered him a bit of fat from a steak.  I've since offered him bits of fat, and he will not repeat the trick.  Thus, he doesn't get the treat.  Since his entire motivation for living is to eat, this is interesting to me.  The other time he sat up, he was straining to get at our baby chicks.  He didn't repeat that trick, either.

Anyway, since he won't repeat the sit-up-for-food thing, and since we've moved into a house with a staircase that he won't even attempt to climb, I was curious to see if I could motivate him with a little treat.

Cheezy poofs... OK, OK, cheese balls from Sam's Club
I set some cheese balls on our stairs.  I walked around the back of our couch and sat down.  The dog stood at the bottom of the stairs and looked up.  Then he walked around the couch and stared at me as only a dog can.  You can almost hear them think when they do that.

"Mom?  Mom?"

"Yeah, Bumpa?" (I call him all sorts of things.)

"There's... there's food on the stairs.  And... and... and I should get to eat it.  Because otherwise the cats will eat it, and if they eat it, they'll urp.  And you don't like it when I try to eat the cat urp."

"Bump, darling, if you want the cheese balls, go get them yourself."

Finally, he huffed a big doggie sigh and went to make sure that the cats hadn't yet eaten the snacks.  They hadn't.  So he came back to where I was sitting.  It took me a while to realize that there was no way he was even going to think about trying to climb the stairs if I was in the room.  So I went to my room and shut the door... except for a tiny, tiny crack.

And I brought my camera.


First, he lay on the floor like the lump that he normally is.  When I wasn't holding the camera up, he couldn't see me, so he'd act normal.  He came to the bedroom door and tried to nose it open.  That didn't work, so he went and sat in front of the staircase.  He'd look at the bedroom door, then look at the treats.  Door.  Treats.

Door.

Treats.

Until finally....


AHA!  He ate one treat.  I closed the door quickly after I snapped this shot, counted to 10, and quietly opened it again.  Bump's front paws were still on the bottom step, and he was staring at the other treats, presumably trying to use his massive brain skills to make the other cheese balls move in his direction.  It didn't work, so he wandered over to the carpet and went to sleep.

He walked away from cheese balls.  I've seen him climb stairs, because he had to do it at the old house to get in the back door.  But no... not here.  World's Laziest Corgi.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Fall Means...

Fall.

It might not be the best season of the year (sorry, folks, but I'm a springtime girl... provided we've had an actual winter, of course.  This year didn't count.), but it's close.

One of the things I do love about fall is decorating the house.  Spring is nice, of course, because it's all flowery and fresh and pretty.  Fall, though, is all about getting everything ready for winter.  All the smells and colors have a delicious appeal.


My mantel, for example, is now covered with leaves and candles and two little scarecrows that hold votive candles of their own.  The evenings have been cool enough at times to open the windows and let in a little bit of a breeze.


I've gotten a drink station all ready underneath the cabinet that holds the mugs.  We have containers of, from right to left, coffee, regular tea, herbal teas, and hot cocoa.  There are marshmallows in the pantry.  All I need now is some whipped cream to make the cocoa muy delicioso.

The kids have been looking forward to fall, too.  As soon as there was a cool evening, they donned their new fall pajamas and parked themselves on the hearth for a picture.

I told them to snuggle up and act like they liked each other, and I got this:


And then....


Oh, my.

BE NICE, KIDS!  This is going on the blog for posterity!!


Much better.


And now, back to your regularly scheduled day.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Presentation of Art

Art.  M2 loves it.  M1 tolerates it.  But both of them despise the idea of 'sculpting.'  If I ask them to sculpt something, I can guarantee that there will be tears.  I have no idea why.

Today, though, I learned that at least for my kids, there is a major difference between 'sculpting' and 'carving.'

Carving isn't nearly as scary.

M2 took to it right away.  She was thrilled to sculpt carve a face.


Her favorite parts were the eyes and lips.  She even spent a good 15 minutes making sure that the face was going to be the right shape - oval, not round or square.


M1, who is desperately looking forward to Halloween, decided to create a pumpkin.


They decided on their own tools, too.  M2 chose a kitchen knife so she could create bigger indentions and not worry about her tools breaking.


M1 was perfectly content with a plastic knife.  They really worked hard on their ... carvings.  I was even more impressed when they stuck around afterward to clean up their mess.


And look, Ma!  No tears!  M2 was very proud of her face in the end,


and M1 was very proud of his pumpkin.  (They would also like you to know that these are three-dimensional shapes and that on the back of the pumpkin it says, "BOO!" and the back of the face will have hair when it's dried and painted.)

Apparently art is all about presentation.  Renaming is a powerful tool.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Always in Motion

The last week has been such a blur.  I hardly know where to begin.

We have our usual schedule - swim three times a week, violin once though M2 is very good about practicing most of the other days, library once a week, and Mondays and Fridays at home.  This week, though, changed a bit, and I have to admit it threw me for a loop.

First, M1 had to get an allergy shot on Tuesday.  For about six months, that had been a normal weekly occurrence.  For the last few months, though, he's only had to go once a month, and now that it isn't happening every week it seems like such a horrid inconvenience.  It's been very nice not to have to dope him up on Zyrtec every day, however, and he can live in his bedroom without being bothered by all the dust mites that no doubt inhabit every inch of the carpet. 

On Friday, we attended a co-op meeting.  This particular co-op is only just getting off the ground, so I'm not 100% sold on it yet.  The kids both enjoyed it, but if it was meant to be an educational experience, it wasn't.  And given the number of younger kids - ages 5 and under - I'm not sure how much of an opportunity it will be.  We shall see.  But I promised the kids we would go back and give it a fair shake before deciding one way or the other.  It does mean, though, that Fridays have to be rearranged somewhat, because a full day of school isn't going to happen if there's a co-op meeting involved.

This weekend was particularly special for us, too.  We hosted a housewarming party!  If I was any sort of good blogger, I'd have been going around shoving a camera in people's faces and taking photos of all the merriment that was had by all... but I'm not, and I didn't.  Merriment, however, filled our home.  At one point, I went upstairs to check on the kids in the game room, and they were laughing and having a wonderful time (no fights! and the floors were visible!); I turned to come back down the stairs and the adults were doing exactly the same thing.  It was a beautiful chaos.  I got to see my friends, see (most of) their kids, share laughter and stories and food... after everyone left, I couldn't stop smiling until I collapsed into bed.

Tomorrow we have a meeting here, and then we're back into the swing of a 'regular' week again.  Sort of.  Next weekend I have plans, too, and then the weekend after is when we're celebrating M1's 10th birthday.

Time really does fly when you're having fun.  I'm so lucky to have the ability to do so much and have met such wonderful people to share it all with.  No matter where you are, take a moment, savor your life as it is RIGHT NOW, and never forget we're all in this crazy world together!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Cooking Lessons, Week Two

OK, so I said last week that we were going to make runsas/bierocks this week for our cooking lesson.  However, life happened, and today was a really, truly, awfully horrific school day, and making dough was not on the agenda.  I did, however, go rip out the crap that was in my front garden.  It made for great stress relief so that I could come inside and help the kids make...

PIZZA.

Without biting anyone's head off.

First they helped me put some ingredients into the bread machine so that it could make the dough for me.  I'm all for ease of preparation.

Then I told M1 his job this week was to chop everything:


He started with onion, then moved to olives, both black and kalamata, then continued with bell pepper and finished up with chopping...


... the bacon that M2 cooked on the stove.  Her job this week was to saute everything to go on the dough once it was prepared (my job).  She was a little nervous about the bacon because of the spatter, but she did great.  We cooked some of the onion as well as some spinach in the bacon fat, and then I put some sausage in the pan.  We always have to make two pizzas at a time; my family would starve if I tried to feed them just one.

This week's pizzas were Greek (kalamata and black olives, onion, spinach, feta cheese, and bacon with olive oil as the sauce) and "American" (sausage, onion, bell pepper, olives, and mozzarella cheese with your basic tomato sauce).


The kids took their jobs very seriously.  In fact, they were so intent on what they were doing...


... that when I called them, they both looked up in complete surprise.  It's probably a good thing that I broke their concentration, though, because I wasn't the only one stalking them.


Tempest was being a hopeful cat.  M2 promptly hollered at her, and she disappeared.

In the end, I stretched out the dough, and M2 put together the Greek pizza. M1 assembled the sausage one.



Delicious dinner.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Signs of Growth

I suspect the boy is going to grow.  Or is growing.  I'm not entirely sure which.

I have discovered over the years that there is a progression leading up to the growth of the boy-child.  It goes something like this:

1.  Purchase clothes for the upcoming season. In this case, that would be fall/winter.  We've had a few days where he's needed jeans, and on one of them he came downstairs to inform me that a pair of jeans needed to be thrown away because it wouldn't stay buttoned.  I made him try on the pair to show me, and he could barely get it buttoned, let alone breathe.  And the bottoms?  Yeah, that was a lot of ankle on one boy.  So we've had to start looking for jeans.  I also bought him new swim jammers because his old ones were getting worn.  These purchases somehow triggers a growth spurt.  Guar-an-teed.

2.  Watch him get a little chunky.  About the time he starts getting a 9-year-old version of a beer belly and his biceps start to look less like sticks and more like sausages, it's time for him to grow.

3.  Cue the hiccups.  I know it's supposed to be an old wives' tale that you get the hiccups when you're about to grow, but he's had hiccups - the big, violent ones - three times in the last few days, and I can't think of the last time he'd gotten them before that.  This is not an uncommon occurrence around here.  He doesn't get hiccups often, unless he's growing.  So it makes me wonder.

4.  The sleep patterns change.  This is the biggest clue of all.  Normally M1 is up before the crack of dawn, puttering around the house before anyone else even contemplates rolling out of bed.  The last two days, *I* have had to wake him up. 

5.  He can't focus.  School, particularly math, suffers.  He rocks and mutters and fidgets like Rain Man and Michael J. Fox got together and had a genetic love child.  You'd swear he was fully autistic if you didn't know he was high-functioning most of the time.

6.  The eating.  It's nonstop to begin with, and seconds are pretty normal fare for him no matter how high I pile his plate with food, but lately he's been asking for thirds, extra snacks, etc.  Yay protein shakes!

7.  The aching.  His legs, arms, hips, and back ache. 

8.  #7 causes The Whining.  #5 and #6 actually contribute to The Whining, too, in their own ways, and I think that may also be because I have to get him up before he wants to get up in the mornings.  See #4.

9.  Finally, after we all suffer through #1-8 for a few weeks, he grows.  He outgrows his pants, his shoes, his shirts, his everything.  He giggles hysterically at the fact that he's closer to my height than ever before, and we all get used to the new normal.  Then we're safe for a while... at least, until it happens again.

(Height before growth spurt: 61"... I'll try to remember to update everyone on his new height when he goes for his well-child check in early November.  *sigh*)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Cooking Lessons: Week One

Because the kids' friends aren't available to play on Wednesdays and we generally don't have anywhere to go other than the library, they asked for cooking lessons.

For their first lesson (mind you, my kids have plenty of experience with chopping, measuring, and mixing), I chose shepherd's pie.  There aren't a lot of ingredients, it goes together easily, and each kid can do one part.

I started with M2.  I peeled the potatoes, and she chopped them into pieces so we could mash them.  While her potatoes were boiling, I got M1 started.  His job was to chop up an onion and brown some beef. 


Breaking up beef uses fine motor skills, which he doesn't possess in abundance.  This was work for him, but he kept at it and did a great job.


M2 used her upper body strength to mash the potatoes into submission.

Once they had their respective parts done, I put them together in the casserole dish.  M1 helped me smooth out the potatoes on top, and M2 sprinkled on some cheese.  While it was baking, we prepared some (canned) green beans, and they set the table.

I'd have taken a picture of the leftovers except... there weren't any.

Next week, we're making runsas, known as bierocks in some parts of the country.  M2 gets to chop the cabbage and brown the beef, and M1 will make the dough.  They're already looking forward to it.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Poetry

I am not the world's biggest poetry fan.  I enjoy some of it - Poe, Frost, Shakespeare - but for the most part, I don't care for it.

My kids, however, are entirely different kettles of fish.  They happily check out entire books of poetry from the library and dash downstairs at random times to read me their favorite passages.  M2 wants to memorize "The Road Not Taken" for fall, and M1 is debating which Poe poem he wants to memorize in time for Halloween.  This is voluntary, I should add - while we have a classical bent to our education plan, I don't insist on a lot of rote memorization of anything that doesn't require it.  Periodic table?  Optional.  6+3?  Mandatory.  I figure they'll have resources at their fingertips from now till the end of time, and I'd rather them learn to use those effectively rather than doing a lot of memorization... which isn't to say we don't memorize things.  We do.  Just not a lot.

As part of their writing curriculum, we've been doing a lot of free writing.  I started out just letting them do a true free write - anything that popped into their head was fair game to put on paper.  Spelling, punctuation, grammar, and even sentence structure were ignored for the sake of letting the kids write.  This has worked very well, and now I'm starting to throw a few guidelines at them to see how well they integrate what they know into what they've been writing.

Today, I gave them a choice.  They could either write a poem or they could write about their favorite activity.  To my surprise (especially with M1), they both chose to write a poem.

The results surprised me even further.  Without further ado, and also without editing, their poems:

M1:
Cats are sometimes naughty,
Always being haughty.
Tipping over dishes,
Slipping through niches.

M2:
quiet is gold, all sold. all the food has mold. The slaves were even sold nothing was left but cold  the food had a mood  winter was becoming very bitter and cold. all was gone exept for the lawn wich spoke to each other. one by one the lawn died. and it all melted away forever.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Back To It!

Today was our first day back after a week off.  We have another week off coming up in a month, and then several breaks over the holidays, so I can officially say that we've survived our longest continuous stint of school for the entire school year.

The kids were ready to get back into the swing of things, too.

They finished up building a K'Nex chainsaw for science.  It hadn't worked the way the directions had said it would, so M1 put on his engineer's thinking cap and figure out another way to make it work.


Shortly after this photo was taken, he hauled the chainsaw to his room to see if he could engineer it to fit with one of his K'Nex robot motors.  So far he hasn't had success, but I suspect he'll keep trying.  If not, he's asked if we can buy some of the other kids that come with motors... like this one, because it's $115.  I told him to ask Santa.


M2 threw a giant fit during the making of this self-portrait before finally deeming it good enough to show others.  Despite her self-disparaging words, she amazes me with her artistic ability.  I could not have drawn that at her age; quite frankly, I'm not sure I could draw/paint that well now.


The kids are currently outside clearing out one of the garden spaces that I want to use for herbs and other healing plants next spring.  For the record, I didn't ask them to do this.  M2 pulled out the rake and trowel and begged to go digging and asked where she could dig.  M1 chugged down some herbal tea and then joined in.

These are the days I can't imagine not being a mom and not having them home.  What would I do all day if I didn't get to be constantly amazed at the creativity and initiative of my kids?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

A Week Off

We haven't had school this week.  I told myself when I scheduled our school year that I wasn't doing three- and four-day weeks because it drives me crazy to start a 'week' of school only to have the end yanked off or 'skip' the first day of the week.  It messes with my very Type A head.  Since Monday was Labor Day and Oz was off of work, the whole week became what I had been hoping would be a very nice break...

... and a nice break it has definitely been.

M1 had swim team practice and his stroke development class. M2 had a swim lesson and a violin lesson.  We visited the library.

Other than that, we've hung around the house.  The kids have played upstairs and gotten along nicely for the most part.  Yesterday they worked together and organized the game room closet, cleaned their bathrooms, and tidied their bedrooms without even being asked.

We've started some work on Christmas gifts; we have too many people in our extended family for us to shop for everyone - I simply don't have time or the inclination to come up with 20 or so individualized gifts each year - so the kids and I figure out what to make and make it.  Last year we made bars of soap for everyone.  This year we're doing something different.  The kids are excited about their projects, and I love socking the gifts away for the holiday because otherwise I turn into Scrooge sometime around early November.

I decorated the house for fall.  It's a bit early, perhaps, but I'm ready for the seasons to change.

The kids have played with some of the neighbor kids during the afternoons.  They discovered that their friends aren't readily available on Wednesdays, so we decided to turn Wednesdays into cooking lesson days - each Wednesday I'll pick a recipe and a technique and they'll get to learn something new.  Next Wednesday we'll make shepherd's pie.  M1 will mince onion, brown the onion and beef, and learn about adding seasoning properly; I'm going to help M2 make the mashed potatoes.  I'll probably try to take some photos of these Wednesday 'classes.'  I'm excited about them.

All in all, this week has been the break that we've all needed.  It's been lovely to get up late, lounge around for a while, and do absolutely nothing that requires deep thought.  I think I can say that I'm ready to start up again... right after I take the kids to see a movie tomorrow.