Sunday, December 30, 2012

Happy Christmas

We had such a happy Christmas this year, though it didn't come without its trials.  

As any parent knows, Christmas really starts the night before, when all the presents are set out.  If you look closely, you'll notice that the stockings on the right are set on the floor.  They were so stuffed with goodies that they were causing the holders to tumble off the mantel, so we had to set the stockings down.  Sometime around 1 a.m., I heard rustling among the packages.  Given the vast quantity of cats that we own, I assumed that one of them was pulling tissue paper out of the sacks around the tree.  When I went to check, however, Speed Bump was the culprit.  The naughty dog had gotten into Oz's stocking and devoured an entire package of black licorice bullets.

For the record, black licorice doesn't harm dogs but does give them horrendous diarrhea.  And when the dog goes outside the next morning, leaves a mess on the porch, and then manages to get some on his back paws that he tracks back into the house... well, THAT is a memorable odor.  It was a heck of a way to wake up!

Still, we finally got the dog imprisoned in the garage and sat down to open gifts.

When I was a little girl, I had a Pogo Ball.  Now my girl has one, too.
Her favorite gift - a small radio and purple headphones
A step-by-step baking book - the kids have already made apple streusel bars!
Happy Christmas boy who just opened his metal detector
Oz brought out a new, properly-sized bike while we were opening other gifts
The Epic Perplexus had been on his list for months
A 'butterfly' chair to replace the papasan chair she broke last year.
This one's much sturdier and much more... well, FLASHY.
Oz enjoyed his Christmas, too.  The kids gave him a new lamp for his office.
Oz and I never get to play Santa at our house.  The kids insist on doing it all themselves!
My girl instantly wanted to try out her Pogo Ball.  This makes me proud.
Lots of smiles wreathed faces this Christmas.  After the presents, we ate our traditional Christmas cinnamon rolls before bundling up and heading over to my dad's for the rest of the day.  We were supposed to get snow on Christmas, but it all headed south and tormented others for the day.  We could use the moisture, and I can't say that I wasn't hoping for a white Christmas, but it was nice not to have to worry about ice on the roads.

Tomorrow - the kids and their projects!

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Big Day Cometh

Ever notice how things sound so much more classy if you add 'eth' to the end of it?  Except it reminds me of the movie "10 Things I Hate About You" where the nerdy male leads are at the prom and announce that things "hath hitteth the fan... eth."  And then the ending loses all sense of classiness whatsoever.

I'm digressing and haven't even started the post yet!

Tomorrow is Christmas.  We visited my mom over the weekend and dropped by my sister's cute new house on the way home so we could finally say we've seen it.  We visited Oz's grandmother yesterday and exchanged gifts with two of his brothers, his mom/stepdad, and his grandmother/stepgrandfather.  The only people we haven't seen yet are my dad and stepmom.  We're supposed to see them tomorrow.

HOWEVER... and this is a really excited however... it's supposed to SNOW tomorrow.  There's still some debate as to the quantity of snow, but the general consensus seems to be about 3" where we live.  That's enough to keep us firmly at home, since we won't be able to get out of our driveway, let alone our neighborhood, because the entrance to our neighborhood is a fairly steep hill and our driveway is equally steep.  So we'll see how the day pans out.  My dad may be bringing dinner to us since they have a four-wheel drive truck, but even that's up in the air right now.  I'm not worried.  I'm just excited to see snow.  Last year all we had was the most meager of dustings at one point, so I would love it if there was enough on the ground for the kids to go out front and make a snowman.

Today we're just relaxing at home.  I'm doing a few mundane chores like laundry and making detergent, and later I'll put together some cinnamon rolls for tomorrow's breakfast, but mostly we're sitting on our backsides and just chilling.  It's lovely.

I hope everyone gets to have a great, safe day tomorrow, no matter what your plans!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time, my little boy would snuggle up on my lap and fall asleep.

Now?  Well, he doesn't fit.

But he still falls asleep.  And when he wakes up?

Well... he was a little groggy.

Groggy boys are a tad grumpy.

But they're always adorable.

Monday, December 17, 2012

M1 and Writing

M1 has always been a reluctant writer.  He doesn't like putting words to a page, though he's magnificent at telling stories.  I vividly remember a little 5-year-old boy coming home from preschool and telling me a story about a boy in an apple tree.  It was such a beautiful story that I mentioned it to his teacher the next day and asked which book she had read.  Turned out that there was no such book and my son had invented the story on the spot.  It shocked me (in a good way).  Still, if I ask him to put pen or pencil to paper - or fingers to keyboard - I get a lot of resistance and a lot of stilted words and formulaic sentences.


I wrote a week or so ago about M2's writing project.  At the same time, M1 was doing one.  Because it's harder for him and I ask for longer paragraphs, it took him longer.  Besides anything else, we spent a lot of time finding his voice.  When he first whipped out an outline/rough draft, it read like this:  First, we did then.  Then, we did this.  Next, this happened.  Finally, this.  It was great.  Well, yes, it was, but you'd never have known by reading that paper.  I finally videotaped him telling me about Christmas and then transcribed what he said.  Then I told him, more or less, that he was putting the cart before the horse when it came to structure in his paper.  He was working so hard to make sure the bones of the paper were decent that he forgot that the depth and skin are what people notice the most.  I had to remind him that he can always add structure but he can't always add details and the fun bits of information that make something worth reading.

I don't know if it'll stick, but we did make some progress, and I'm glad. 

M1's story:

               I had a lot of presents on Christmas morning 2011. My favorite parts were the presents and stockings. My sister and I had a blast that morning.

               We were awakened by a cat falling out of the Christmas tree. It sounded like Santa had fallen out of the chimney onto our tree. For a while we talked about what we would do that morning and investigated our presents. Maggie discovered that she had a pink papasan chair. I figured out that I had a lot of small presents but no big presents.

I decided to wake up Mom and Dad. We pounced on Dad to wake him up and then shook the bed to wake up Doom. They grunted, “Oof,” and said, “Get off and wait by the tree!” We waited by the tree until they came in. It seemed like hours.

Finally they came into the living room. As soon as they sat down we launched into our presents. I found a Kindle Fire in one of mine; in another I found a box of Horrible Histories. Under a blanket, my sister found a pink papasan chair. I was so excited that I couldn’t remember anything (of anyone else’s) other than that papasan chair. I was happy that I could have Plants vs. Zombies on the Kindle Fire and turn brains into balls with limewater using a recipe from Horrible Histories. After we opened our presents we opened our stockings and found good things of all kinds. We found thick glow sticks, Tim Tams, Violet Crumbles, Twistz and a type of chocolate with a cup and a half of milk. It was an absolutely wonderful Christmas.

               There was so much delight on Christmas morning I could explode. It was the best day of my life.


On an unrelated note, I have things to say about recent events, but I'm waiting until the media and investigators are done with what they do.  Then I'll be able to talk.  Right now I'm still processing.  As many of us are.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Just Keep Swimming

I have to tell myself to just keep swimming a lot this week.  Between M2's Christmas concert, M1's ongoing swim practices and class, various appointments (dentist, doctor, etc.), and Christmas itself, I'm about fried.

I'm not complaining too much.  After all, I know it could be worse.  But the thing that made me the happiest today was finding out that M2 doesn't have a violin lesson next week because that week is reserved for make-up lessons and we haven't missed any this semester.  It felt so good to delete that from my calendar!

I will survive.  I know this.  But if you don't hear much out of me between now and, say, January, you'll have to forgive me.  Time is of the essence, and the kids won't stay little and excited about Christmas forever!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


So the DSM-V (which apparently is now called the DSM-5) reportedly has been finalized.  It is projected to be published in May 2013.  In some ways, I've been wondering what's been going to be in this new book for a long time; in other ways, I couldn't care less.

To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure how much it will affect us.  M1's current diagnoses were made when he was 5, and I haven't felt a compelling need to get him reevaluated since.  Technically his diagnoses are PDD-NOS (pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified), ADHD (attention deficit hyperactive disorder) combined type, and GAD (generalized anxiety disorder).  However, I'm almost 100% sure the anxiety was simply due to the fact that he was in kindergarten at the time and was basically running on 'high' 24/7, and I'm quite sure that if I had him retested now, the PDD-NOS would be a full diagnosis of Asperger's.  Under the new DSM-5, however, it won't matter which of those he has.  They're all lumped together under Autism Spectrum Disorder.  OK, so theoretically this should make it easier for us to get treatment, since insurance companies and clinics will have to plan treatment for all cases equally.  I've heard that some parents are upset that their child who was formerly 'high-functioning autistic' will now be under the same umbrella as a severely autistic child, but honestly, if they're all on the same spectrum, I hardly see that it matters.  The treatment for both is similar and has to be tailored to the individual child regardless of the 'type' of autism.

M2's diagnoses have the potential to change as well.  Right now she has the working diagnoses of mood disorder NOS, GAD, and separation anxiety. The first one has the most potential for change; that, however, was a given when we got the diagnosis.  She has been stable now - more or less - for nearly a year, and sometimes I wonder if perhaps all her depression and manic actions were just a phase that she was going through.  Still, it's entirely likely that they will recur at some point, because I can also be stable for years before again flinging myself off the deep end.  I hope she isn't like me, but if she is, then I suspect any new diagnoses would fall under the new DSM category of 'disruptive mood dysregulation disorder.'  That fits her manic/depressive phases to a T.  But we shall see.  Again, I suspect treatment for that would be similar to that of her current diagnosis, so what does it matter?  What's in a name, anyway?

The one new thing that really caught my eye, though, is something I haven't touched on here, largely because it has only been a recurrent issue, not a constant one.  Lately, though, it's reared its ugly head again, and I want to share it with you, not to embarrass my son (though no doubt it would) but simply to raise awareness of an issue that I find many families struggle with, especially families with socially impaired or ADHD children (primarily boys).  It's to be called Internet use gaming disorder.  In short, electronics addiction.  M1 struggles with this and always has.  It's hard to use the word 'addiction' when talking about a 10-year-old boy, but what else does one have to consider when catching your son with stolen electronics under his sheets at 12:30 a.m.?  I struggle with whether this is really a diagnosis or simply another symptom of his Asperger's or ADHD, but I suspect that if I brought it to the attention of doctors after the DSM-5 is published, it's a diagnosis that would be added to his list.

Some people would say that I simply haven't parented him right.  Either I've been too strict with electronics and he's begging for more freedom, or I've been too lax and just need to make more rules.  Before we go further, let me tell you how electronics time works in our house. (I'm aware that these folks just need to go take a long walk off a short pier into a bayou full of hungry alligators, but I'm laying it all on the table today, so bear with me.)

Rule #1:  No more than an hour or two of screen time per day.  Some days we have no screen time; other days he gets the full complement.  It varies. 
Rule #2:  All chores must be completed before screen time occurs.  'Nuff said there, I think.
Rule #3:  When screen time is up, you must turn off the device within 5 minutes.  I had to implement this rule when 'I have to save/get back home/finish this episode' turned into another 30 minutes of screen time.

On the computers, we have passwords, and the content is more or less controlled.  On the TV upstairs, we have parental controls locked down for content and time.  When they're borrowing an iPad, they have to stay where we can see or hear what they're playing.  In other words, we're hardly lax parents, but usually when they ask for screen time, if chores are done, they get it.  And yet, if you ask M1, we're tyrants.  We never let him have as much screen time as he wants.  When he does get screen time, he begs for more.  He gets angry when you make him turn things off.  He gets very upset if you don't say yes to his demands right away.  If he's been promised electronics 'later,' you won't hear anything else until he gets that time... and if we're out somewhere, the instant we hit the door, it's, "Can I have my electronics time now??"  If the electronics are in his room, he will be found on them at 12, 1, and 2 a.m. with great regularity.  If I take them away, he steals them back - or, once and very memorably - steals his sister's electronics just to get his 'fix.'  In many ways, his electronics obsession sounds like an addiction.

Unlike an addiction, however, I can't take away all electronics.  I can keep them out of his room, yes, but he's going to need computers to do school work, to send e-mails, and to do research.  He's going to have a phone to make phone calls and send texts - and probably play games - when he gets older.  He will no doubt use computers daily in whatever job he has as an adult.  This isn't like alcohol or drugs, which one can avoid simply by avoiding the atmosphere and/or the product itself.  It isn't like gambling, which can be avoided with more difficulty but with a large degree of success.  This is why I suspect that this diagnosis in the DSM-5 is simply a symptom of an underlying disorder, not a disorder in its own right.  But I'm not the powers that be, and I don't get to make that decision.  I can, however, keep an eye on him and decide if he needs special treatment for it.  For now, like I said, I keep electronics out of his room and make sure he uses them under special circumstances only.  If he gets older and the usage gets more disruptive and I'm no longer able to help (as teens rarely want to listen to their parents), there may be external help available for him, and maybe some books will be written on the topic in the next few years.  I might not approve of the diagnosis as such, but it's kind of nice to know that it'll be there to fall back on if we have to.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

M2 and Writing

M2 is a storyteller... but only on paper.  I can't think of a single time where she has come to me and told me a story she's created without having written it on paper first.  It used to bug me when she was little that she didn't invent stories, and I worried about creativity.  I thought all kids loved to make up stories and tell them to their parents (never mind that *I* didn't do that... we all know I'm a bit left of normal).  When she learned to write, though, everything changed.  She writes poems.  She writes stories.  She writes lists.  She invents characters.  She draws and sketches and writes entire stories about what she draws.

In other words, yet again, I shouldn't have worried.

Odd how most of my worries are for nothing, isn't it?  Anyone else find that they worry far more than is both necessary and good for them?  Ahhh, to be worry-free...

I digress.  A couple weeks ago, I asked the children to come up with some story ideas for personal narratives.  I let them brainstorm for a while, and soon they both came up with what they felt was a brilliant idea - the same idea, though they arrived at it separately.  They both wanted to write about Christmas morning 2011.

Since M2 had never done a big story project before, I was curious to see what she would do with minimal direction.

What I got was far, far more than I ever expected.  It rambles a little, but it's far more than I remember doing in second grade.  I helped her edit the original copy, but I didn't do much beyond helping her add a little basic structure and fixing some spelling and punctuation (and one really, really long run-on sentence).  All words and ideas are hers.

Christmas Eve to morning 2011
     I remember everything about Christmas Eve and Christmas morning in 2011.  I think it was an excellent holiday.
     On Christmas Eve the cats kept climbing in and out of the Christmas tree.  One time Hermes hopped in the Christmas tree and immediately fell out again.  It was supposed to be very naughty, but I thought that it was very funny and laughed.  When we decorated the tree most of the bells went down at the bottom, and the cats loved them, especially Hermes.  When you sat down to have some hot cocoa you heard a jingle, jingle, jingle.  The cats also went crazy because Christmas presents were starting to fill up their comfortable tree skirt.  Once I brought home a Christmas present from school and set it where Hermes always laid down, and he sat on it.  I thought that was funny.
     My brother woke me up at four in the morning to go watch the presents.  First we looked in our stockings.  I got the move Tangled, the movie Rio, and some candy like Hershey's.  Next we looked in the presents.  I had gotten a Papasan chair and a giant scrapbooking kit from Mom and Dad.  I got a makeup set from Miss Karen.
     On Christmas morning everybody was wearing robes, warm pajamas, and slippers, and nobody looked upset.  First I took the blanket off my Papasan chair.  It was pink!  Next I opened up the giant scrapbooking set.  The book was pink, and it had cursive letters and print letters.  There were puff-out cat stickers and a lot more crafty things.  After that I opened up the makeup set for me and mom.  I said, "I don't know how we are going to share this," and then Mom smiled even bigger.  Suddenly Daddy came out of the kitchen.  He had a very big smile on his face.  I noticed that he was carrying breakfast into the living room!  My face lit up with glee because we were going to eat in the living room. The cinnamon rolls were so delicious I accidentally ate a little too much.  My face was very messy, so I wiped it off.  I pounced Daddy becuse he had signaled it.  Mommy acted sad by making a frown and whimpering.  I told her that I would be there in a minute or so, and of course I was.  When I was sitting I felt very comfortable.  She asked me who her favorite girl was.  When I answered, I raised my hand and in a very squeaky voice I said, "Meee."  Daddy told me and my brother to go wash up, and brush our teeth, and put clothes on.  After that we cleaned up.  My Christmas morning was really exciting, and I hope the next one will be even better.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Teaching Something You're Not Good At

I am not an artist.  I'm not crafty, I'm not creative, I'm not artistic in the least.  My idea of artistic is finding something at the store that happens to match something else that I already have and putting them together.  Tada!  Once in a while I will do a cross-stitch project, but it's not a project *I* invent or design; I do what the pattern says and have done with it.

So teaching art isn't my thing.  Different mediums, different techniques, different periods in art - all of that is like a foreign language to me... and yet I want the kids to be able to appreciate these things.  I want to expose them to art in all its forms.  I want to teach art.  I'm just not good at it or knowledgeable enough about it to teach it with any degree of confidence.

That's where the books step in.

This is our second year using the Artistic Pursuits series.  Last year I used Book One in their K-3 series; this year we're using Book Two.  This means that M1 is theoretically doing stuff a year behind where he should be and M2 is right on track, but really, these books seem to be designed for the entire age group.  I've never had a single complaint about something being too easy or too hard (though Little Miss Perfectionist sometimes gets her panties in a wad because she thinks she's messed up a project... more on that in a minute).

Most of the time I can figure out what we're doing with very little effort, and I can explain projects easily.  This week, though, we were doing something that I had never even considered doing before.  We made prints.

Water-soluble ink on wax paper that's been taped to the counter
 I've toured a screen-printing shop once, years ago, and I used to work at the newspaper, where the presses ran for hours each day, and yet it had never occurred to me that I could transfer those techniques to anything I could do at home.

Roll the ink out with a tool called a brayer until it covers the area you want 
The kids, though, thought this was one of the best projects we've ever done.  I didn't hear one peep of frustration.  They were enthusiastic and really, really enjoyed the entire process.

Use a pointed tool to etch an image into the ink - we used skewers
Don't forget that the final print will be a mirror image, so don't write words! 
Press the paper firmly over the ink, making sure to rub every square inch 
The best part for me was that clean-up was a breeze.

Click on the images to enlarge
The end products weren't quite as good as the kids had hoped, but they were still enthusiastic and plan to make more monoprints later.

The fact that M2 was able to be somewhat disappointed in her final product and let it go is huge.  She really gets upset when things don't turn out the way she had planned. Thankfully, when we were on vacation in Kansas City last month, we got her a book that seems to have helped alleviate some of that anxiety.  It's called Make Art Mistakes.  When she looks through it, she realizes that mistakes in art aren't always mistakes.  You can still do something with those pages.  They aren't trash because one little dot was placed in the wrong spot.  They are still art.  Letting go of preconceived notions about art has been very liberating for my little girl.  M1 doesn't care - to him, art is fun.  He enjoys the projects, happily picks out his favorite paintings at museums, sometimes sketches random diagrams of things he wants to make, but really... not his thing.  M2, however, perceives herself as a rising artist and sometimes thinks that her pieces should look like they're on an adult level at the ripe old age of 7.  I'm very glad she's realizing that nobody is perfect and that she is doing just fine for her age.  As she gets older, I'd like to get her this Daily Creativity Journal so she has even more ideas.

I may not be good at art.  I may never be able to instantly tell the difference between a Monet and a Rembrandt.  But if I can have my kids love it, then I must be doing something right!

Monday, November 26, 2012


One of the things that I thought I might miss when we moved into a neighborhood inside city limits was the wildlife.

Birds.  Shocking, I know.
I figured we'd have birds - and we have, with hummingbirds this summer and winter birds so far this fall - but I wasn't as sure we'd have some of the other critters that we got at the old house.  It was fun to look out the back window and see coyotes or ducks or, once and very memorably, a groundhog who was considering making his home in our crawlspace.

I shouldn't have worried.  I put up our winter bird feeders about two weeks ago.  It didn't take long for the birds (and the neighbor's two tabby cats, whom we affectionately call Fat Bob and Skinny Bob though they're probably female) to discover the feeder.  The birds enjoy the food and taunting the cats.  In fact, I think they deliberately throw food on the cats' heads.

The squirrels don't object at all.  They come and perform clean-up duty during the day.

Last night, though, I wandered into the formal dining room to admire the lights that Oz, the kids and I put up and saw something poking around the strewn seeds.  I called Oz in and grabbed the camera.  Oz wanted to go out and see what it would do if he came outside, so he opened the front door.

The opossum did what 'possums do...

... and promptly shimmied up the tree.  Oz hadn't expected that and got a kick out of the critter that he had treed.  He hadn't realized that opossums in America climbed trees, let alone that they had prehensile tails.  He knew that Australian possums (which are really possums, not opossums) had those features and did those things but hadn't realized that opossums in the USA did the same thing.

Of course, the little guy (or gal) was gone by this morning, but as Oz was getting ready to tuck M2 into bed tonight, he happened to glance out her window - our little friend was back.

It seems that we haven't left Mother Nature behind after all!  And that makes me very happy.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Ah, December!

I hope everyone (well, those of you who celebrate it) had a lovely Thanksgiving and aren't regretting the overeating too much.  I'm sure I'll be trying to work off the extra calories for a week, but I'm already wearing my sweatshirt that proudly announces, "Christmas calories don't count!"

If only.

I'm hunkering down for the long haul now, that stretch of school between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  It might not be the longest continuous stretch of school that we have, but it's definitely one of the most demanding, just because there's so much going on and so much to do that it's very easy to let school fall by the wayside.

Still, I plan to keep them busy.  We'll do Christmas crafts, sure, but we're also going to write short reports (well, M2's will be short, M1's will be longer) on a scientist of their choosing, briefly study the Roaring '20s and the Great Depression, and continue work on some personal narratives that they've already begun.  They're also working on the state abbreviations, and we should finish those right before Christmas break; when we come back, we'll start on the capitals.  We're also doing a light unit in science, and both kids have been making great strides in math and spelling.  I don't want to lose momentum just because the holidays are here!

I'm feeling slightly less Grinch-y right now, though that will come and go as the holiday gets nearer.  We put up a few lights today, which made me smile, and I've decided what to get the last of my (and Oz's) family members in terms of gifts, which sets my mind at ease.  I've also gotten most of the Christmas cards personalized, signed, and addressed, so all I have to do is send them out sometime this week.  Still, Christmas is tough, and I know I'll have at least one full-on meltdown between now and the actual day.  It's inevitable.

For now, though, I'm off to have pie for dinner (What? Pie isn't dinner?  I beg to differ) - the kids felt jilted that we had to have Thanksgiving at a restaurant AND there was no cranberry sauce, so I made our own Thanksgiving meal last night, complete with pumpkin and apple pies.  Ahh, pie.  What heavenly bliss on earth...

Monday, November 19, 2012


I haven't posted in more than a week.  I apologize for that.  We've been a little busy.

M1:  He lost his glasses, and we can't find them anywhere.  I suspect he left them at the swim school and someone pitched them, because they aren't in the lost & found, and usually the staff are good at keeping tabs on those sorts of things.  He's got a sassy mouth, which drives me nuts, and he's taken to huffing around the house indignantly almost 24/7.  Tween attitude much?  We've been having a lot of talks about respect and the Golden Rule.  I've been attempting positive reinforcement, but it only goes so far.  Still, he and his sister got up last weekend and made me homemade biscotti with a recipe out of one of his cookbooks, so I can't be too mad at him.

He's been busy with swim, too.  Usually he swims three days a week - team practices twice a week and stroke development once - but his team has been participating in a meet, so we've had a fourth day of swim for the past two weeks.  It was so nice not to have to drive to one this week!  Still, M1 got a second-place ribbon at his meet two weeks ago, for breaststroke.  He's been so proud, and he's finally putting in some real effort at practice in an effort to get that first-place blue.  His swim coach's last day was last Thursday, so they've been in a transition for a while as well.  There's a new coach who has been preparing and training with the team for a while, so it won't be a major thing, but it's still a change.  I'm excited to see what direction the new coach will take.

M2:  Manic, manic, manic.  She's been constantly on the move lately, constantly talking or angry or making projects or whatever.  She had a violin solo festival that she attended last Saturday, and she got all 1s, which is a top score.  They were running a fairly relaxed festival, so she got to pick the color of ribbon that she could take home.  Guess what color she picked?  That's right - pink!

Oz:  Oz has been working, trying to get a ton of work projects finished up before the end of the year.  He's been magnificent and worked out how to hang lights on our house since he can't climb up on the roof like he's always done; we'll probably try to get some hung this coming weekend and finish it up on the 1st.

Me:  I'm just trying to keep up with it all.  Thanksgiving is Thursday, and I always try to have most of my Christmas shopping done before Black Friday.  I haven't gotten *all* of it done this year, but I've gotten probably 3/4 of it completed.  I need to run a couple of errands by myself at some point, but if I get desperate, I can do these things on the Internet - I'd just rather pick these things out in person.  I also have to work out what to do for some extended family members; I have a couple of ideas but nothing firm, and it's getting closer.  *sigh* I really wish gifts weren't 'mandatory.'

Oz and I aren't getting one another gifts this year because we decided to get new bedroom furniture instead.  When we got married, we bought the cheapest bedroom suite we could find because it was all our budget could afford at the time.  It worked - and still works - just fine, but it's not anything I care for.  Now that we have a bigger bedroom, we're moving up to a king-size bed and furniture to go with it.  I'm pretty excited.  It's being delivered tomorrow.  That means, of course, that I won't have anything to open or for Oz to open on Christmas Day, but we're okay with that.  Sacrifices have to be made, and Oz does have a birthday in late January! ;)

School has been plugging along.  M2 is an amazing writer, and M1 continues to astound me with his scientific knowledge and intuition.  Next week will be our halfway point in the school year; hard to believe it's already that far along!

For those of you in the USA, I hope you have a lovely, happy, peaceful Thanksgiving, and I'll be back when I resurface again!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Veteran's Day

It's Veteran's Day.  Some people and places call it Remembrance Day; others call it Armistice Day.  Whatever it is, it's traditionally used to commemorate World War I veterans.  I remember reading the article last year when the last surviving American WWI veteran died and thinking that it was rather sad.  However, I didn't have any relatives who served in the Great War, so it doesn't really hit home for me.  I can teach the children about it, but there's no family connection.

Sometime in the next week, though, the kids and I will sit down and discuss family members who fought (one died) in World War II.  Even though all those who fought in this war as part of our family have passed, I still find it relevant and therefore easier to teach.  My husband's great-grandfather (yes, great-grandfather, I do have my generations correct) died in the Battle of Sunda Strait while serving on the HMAS Perth.  He was only 34 - a year older than my husband is now - and had two young children at home.  We have his medals, so I can share those with the children.  Two of my grandmother's brothers served in WWII as well; one was in the Pacific theater and the other in the European.  The one who was serving in Europe was meant to have taken part in the D-Day invasion. However, he wound up in the hospital for various reasons and had to miss the landing.  Lucky for him, perhaps, but since he was heavily sedated, his parents, sisters and brother didn't hear from him.  They had known he was going to be part of a big offensive, and they didn't know he'd wound up in the hospital, so when they didn't hear from him, they assumed he was dead.  A week or two after D-Day was over and folks all around the country/world were getting bad news, they received a letter from him saying that he was alive and well!  I can't even imagine the relief.

Anyway, all these things are part of the family heritage.  My dad and his seven brothers still aren't sure how none of them got called up during Vietnam, and nobody in our immediate family served in Korea, either.  I have a cousin who's been in the Navy for several years, but really, ours isn't a military family.  Still, I want the kids to know how people served in years past and still serve today.  I want them to recognize that military service is a tough row to hoe.  We may not have any veterans in the family to thank personally, but we know a lot of military families.  So here's to you, veterans and families.  May you never be forgotten.

Sunday, November 4, 2012


Dogs.  They are always, always dignified.

At least, that's what Speed Bump would have us believe.

See?  Dogs rule, cats drool.  I'm bringing canine sexy back.
This is my dignified come-hither-into-the-grass stare.
Oh, wait... grass!!
Bump?  Um... I don't think this is...

What?  I'm still dignified!
See?  I'm stretching...
No.  No, Bump, that's not dignified at all.

Ohhhhhh, who cares!  ROLLING FOR THE WIN!!!
C'mon, ladies.  I'm one handsome, dignified dog.

Sorry, Bump.  You just lost all credibility with your audience.  We know what you really are.  But we love you, anyway!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween! (Post 2 of 2)

Today was the Big Day.  Halloween.  One of the traditions that I started recently (as in, last year) was making an actual Halloween meal.  Last year I did a cutesy thing where I made faces with food.  This year, I went a little more disgusting.

Moldy green beans with pond scum
 I made these by making green beans the same way I always do.  I started by pan-frying up some bacon, then throwing the green beans into the bacon grease, adding a little water, and simmering everything until the green beans are done.  Then I crumble the bacon and add it back in.  Not exactly health food, but it works.

The difference today is that I added black food dye when I added the water.  For the record, bacon takes food dye really, really well... and really quickly, too!  And in the end, the green beans were pretty gross-looking.

For the main dish I sliced hot dogs into really thin strips.  Simmer the strips (again, I added some red dye to enhance the color) until they curl up.  Drain, and add ketchup or barbecue sauce for 'blood.'

If you do it right, you can convince your kids that the hot dogs are actually worms or intestines.  My kids were extremely skeptical about that dish, and usually M1 sees right through these sorts of food pranks.

After we ate, it was time for dressing up.

This year I had Alice in Wonderland and the Mad Hatter.

M2 loved being Alice.  She also learned that long skirts making climbing stairs hazardous.  Don't worry, she's okay.  Ignore the red all over her face.  She's still recovering from having poison ivy all over her face, and she keeps rubbing her cheeks and licking her lips, so some spots are chapped.  *sigh*

Together, the kids were irresistible.

They do love one another.

Happy Halloween, everyone!

Halloween! (Post 1 of 2)

Halloween is always a month-long celebration around here.  A couple weekends ago we went to the pumpkin patch and selected our pumpkins, but we didn't actually do the carving until this previous Sunday.

Rotten pumpkins don't really make good holiday decorations, IMHO.

Oz cut the tops off of the pumpkins, we gave the kids spoons and bags, and they went to town.

Say cheese! 
Cleaning pumpkins is a messy process
M1 developed his own cleaning technique.
Cleaning pumpkins takes a while, and M1 got his cleaned out first.  Since he's getting a little older, we decided to let him try to carve his own this year.

Heh heh.  Heh.  I have a knife.

I'll admit, it was a little nerve-wracking watching him carve, but he did really well.  He didn't even nick himself.  It took a little work for him to get used to the process, but he eventually figured it out.

Meanwhile, I helped M2 finish cleaning out her pumpkin.

(Side note: When Oz picked up the camera, it was my instinct to either insist that he put it down or, alternately, delete the photos, but I read a blog post the other day about how moms never get in the photos and their kids miss that later... and so do the moms.  So here I am, IN THE PHOTO!)

M2 asked Oz to do the actual carving.  She drew her desired face,

and Oz carved it.

He got in the photo, too.

Oz also participated in the day by faking a Halloween costume.  Watch the transformation from regular guy to Unibomber.  It's freaky.

My very own Ted.  He just needs to get a little more gray in his hair.  And be mentally unstable.

On second thought, skip the Halloween costume.  I'll just keep my Oz.

Dress-up photos in a few!