Thursday, August 31, 2006

Road Trip

After driving 842 miles and 13 hours, I arrived home with my new car at 1 a.m.ish. I love my car, including the color and I felt like it was mine immediately. My car salesman picked me up at the airport in my car and when I saw the yellow beetle arriving I knew that car would always make me happy. I made a few stops in Chicago and each time I came back to the car, looking at it made me smile.

Air travel is not fun in code orange. I had to remove my shoes and put my feet on the nasty carpet. I told my mother this and she said, you walk around outside barefooted all the time, what is the deal. I guess it was the thought that so many people, who could have had fungus, removed their shoes at exactly the same place. I noticed that at Midway airport they had those paper surgeon footy things available. Jackson, apparently, is not that advanced in customer service.

The drive did not turn out the way I imagined. Though I did have much time by myself, the phone kept ringing and ringing and ringing - my children, my mother, my husband, my sister. All were curious about the car and whether I liked it. My children wanted to know exactly where I was each call so they could plot it on a map. My husband wanted positive reinforcement for a job well done. My mother was worried about my safety and my sister, thankfully, called late in my journey and talked to me until I felt alert.

Then, there was the road construction - huge projects everywhere. I did not get out of Chicagoland until almost 2:30, and I had that bumper to bumper, road construction stress related disorder that made me grumpy and late. Leaving Chicago at that hour, I knew all my down time was wasted so I had to rush through meals and rest stops. I had to stay on the interstate the entire time.

I realized something. Physical distance does not make you less of a mother. I saved the airplane snacks for my children because I thought they would like the small packages, I wondered if they were happy, and I answered, patiently, 10 or more calls from each child. They were so curious about the adventure, that they needed to be a part even if it was a remote and distant part. I felt loved.

I did listen to a book, but I will write more on that later. By the way, if anyone in the Chicagoland area needs a VW call Marcus Carter at Pugi in Downers Grove. He is young, exceptionally nice, knows his job, and could use a few breaks. I liked him and I don't think I have ever liked a car salesman. I'm not sure why.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

I'm leaving home at 5:30 tomorrow morning

I will begin my adventure tomorrow morning. I haven't had any solo adventures in 10 years. I have taken an obsessive role in the upbringing of my children and have only been away from them for more than a few hours on two or three occasions. I left Pink Panther at home when I was having Princess, but my loneliness only lasted 30 or so minutes before Princess appeared. I left them both one night when I was in the hospital (8 hours total) before I discharged myself. Other than those two times, I have never been alone. I have taken them everywhere or only had short absences. I know that sounds insane, but it was my choice and I really like my children. I enjoy seeing what they will do next. They are highly amusing. Tomorrow will be the longest. I leave at 5:30 and I am hoping to be back by midnight.

Anyway, I am excited! The drive will be boring. I have driven it many times and tomorrow I will see a lot of corn fields and beans. Excitement will be in the freedom. I will only have the responsibility to get home in one piece. I don't have to worry about pleasing everyone with music (or book choices), food choices, and temperature selection. I don't have to worry about the language of my book or music choices. I will have freedom of thought or lack thereof and freedom from interruption. It will not be possible for me to repair any body's computer. It will not be possible for me to repair links, answer e-mail, or intercede in squabbles. There is nothing to disturb my drive through the once prairie, now corn field. I will rush home (because that is my nature), but not too much. I will enjoy calm. I will enjoy my new car. I will enjoy my audio book even though I will long for the text on a page. I will be myself.

Having fun in History

I think I have mentioned earlier that our home school is using The World in Ancient Times series published by Oxford for our history reading. We are loving the stories about archaeologists, anthropologists, and paleontologists in the first book, The Early Human World, who are making discoveries and attempting to place the pieces of our past. Yesterday, we read about Jean-Marie Chauvet, Christian Hillaire, and Eliette Deschamps finding cave art in December of 1994. The thrill of making a discovery and the significance of the art in the research of our past is documented in just enough detail for the children. Though the book has some great pictures, we took it a step further and looked at more pictures in Sister Wendy Beckett's The Story of Painting and the really cool website of the Cave of Chauvet-Pont-D'Arc. Take the tour!!

We, next, tried a cave art project from Art Smart by Susan Rodriguez. The children went outside and gathered sticks, dried grasses, bits of charcoal, and some roots to use as brushes. We then took butcher paper and placed it onto the concrete patio and texturized it with brown and tan crayons. After the paper was transformed into a cave wall, we hung it in the dog trot and Princess and Pink Panther started drawing animals and hands. They both commented that using the found tools was much more difficult and if they had it to do over again, they would know which things would make better tools and could do a better job.

I was excited because all the elements - books, art project, Internet site - came together to create something tangible, something fun, something they will remember. My husband came home and said that if it were darker he would have thought he was in a cave. That was just enough encouragement for the children to add more paper and art to the hallway. As long as I don't trip on the skull of a cave bear (or any other creature for that matter), let the transformations begin.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Books on Tape

I downloaded Our Lady of the Forest by David Guterson for my driving extravaganza (driving my new car home) on Wednesday. I must say the selection of audio books has greatly improved in the last few years. I could have downloaded from 3 or 4 places and each of the 3 or 4 places had a tremendous selection. Not long ago, I would have had to order tapes or CD and wait for them to arrive. Then I would have had the tapes sitting around, taking up space on the bookshelf. I can think of, at least, five reasons to love downloading books:
  • Immediate gratification - I got the book immediately(or almost).
  • No visible clutter
  • Great selection
  • Many good readers
  • Good dramatizations make books come alive
  • Ability to multi-task while listening
  • School on Wheels -Ability to learn and enjoy even when books are inconvenient or impossible to use.
Yet, I was torn when purchasing the audio. I want to hold the book and see the words and punctuation. I want to feel the texture of the pages. I don't want to share the experience. I only want the voices I choose to say the words in the way I choose. I want the book. I want to touch it. I want to be able to go back to favorite passages and see how the words are assembled. I want to turn the pages.

The children and I listen to many audio books (borrowed from the library) and podcasts when we drive to ballet. I enjoy them as much as they. I suppose the problem arose because I needed a book quickly (our local libraries don't have audio books). So, I decided to purchase a book. Purchasing, though prices are much better than they used to be, made me think, "If I buy this audio, wouldn't it be senseless to purchase the book, even if I really love it." I know I will enjoy the book. I like David Guterson's stories. I have three of his other books. I know already that I want this book.

As much as I love to think about myself embracing technology and the future, what I really want is a beautiful, well made book with quality paper and the time to love it. I want to own the paper.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Guess What?

I went to the mail box a little while ago and I got our September issue of National Geographic. They have a story entitled "Every Shoe tells a Story." Their pictures are better than ours and their story is longer, their shoes are better than ours (maybe), and they include historic specimens, but still how cool is it that they did a shoe article so soon after our shoe meme. Do you think that the writer is a blog reader/writer? Check it out!

The Swagger and Bravado versus Reality

Last night, Pink Panther had a friend spend the night. I listened to much talk that can be expected of 10 year old boys who are trying to impress one another. I could barely keep a straight face as each boy told story after story full of danger, injuries, and bravado. I fully expected that one or the other would pull out an ID card and say, "I am John Wayne." Maybe not, but you get the picture.

I left them alone as much as I could safely do. But at 3 a.m. I heard the screen door slam and felt the need to investigate. They, who had yet to sleep, said, "We had to go to the bathroom." "We don't have an outhouse and our inside plumbing is working," I said. I also reminded them that the friend's mother would be here at nine a.m. to pick them up for Country Day and that perhaps they needed to think about sleeping. Pink Panther said, "I don't need sleep." The friend said, "I'm not sleepy." Completely ignoring my suggestion and sanity, they continued their project. Swagger.

At 5:30 I got up to feed the cats (so the older chickens don't eat the cat food), then got back in bed. A few minutes later, I heard the screen door slam. They were going out to explore. I got them to feed the young chickens and got back in bed. They were back at the house by 6:15. They said they were hungry, but I knew they just didn't have the strength to walk to the spring stream after staying up all night. I made flap jacks and bacon for breakfast since I was feeding cowboys. They ate and talked about their night. The friend, apparently, fell asleep for a few hours. Pink Panther did not and he was proud of it. He said he wasn't tired and was ready to go to Country Day. Being an expert in all nighters, I tried to talk him out of it because I knew the crash would come while he was at the festival. "Naw momma, I'm not tired." Bravado.

He and his friend sat down at the computer to play Crazy Machines. A few minutes later, I went to the living room to put things back in order. Pink Panther was asleep on the sofa. Shortly afterwards, the friend's mother arrived and I tried to wake him. He couldn't even sit. He hasn't budged in 3 hours. Reality.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Friday Updates

I found one of the missing nests of eggs! Unfortunately, there was a chicken sitting already and she was unfortunately dead. The nest was under a pile of wood we keep in the barn and I suppose Yellow Dog found her first. In his attempt to get her, the wood must have shifted because her nesting hole was collapsed. I will have to spend hours moving that pile to get her and the eggs out so they don't stink up the barn. We won't be able to eat the eggs because at 98 degrees eggs don't last very long. Even though I have plenty of chickens, I hate losing a bird. My young Buff Catalanas and Barred Rocks are now being trained to nesting boxes by being confined to their house for a few days as per Doc's prescription. I didn't realize how much food chickens actually eat since mine fend for themselves except for a few leftovers and the handful of corn I give them each morning so they will like me.

My husband comes home either tonight or tomorrow morning. He has business until lunch and will, then, start making his way home. If he drives through the night he will be here around 3 a.m. I've recommended that he go see his dad and sister in Memphis on the way home. He can, then, visit with family and be safer. I hate thinking of him driving so far by himself at night when he is tired.

The zucchini ball thing was obviously a cross between a zucchini and a cantaloupe. It proved inedible. There were seeds in the middle like a cantaloupe, but the seeds looked more like a zucchini. The meat of the vegetable was mushy, yet the skin was hard. I tossed the entire thing into the garbage rather than the compost. I don't want anymore accidental zuccaloupe or cantchini. Ewwww!

I will wait until next week to pick up my new car. When hubby gets home, the logistics will be better with the children. I will be able to make an early flight and get back before midnight.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

If shoes can change your image . . .

A few weeks ago, I was thinking about how shoes can say volumes about you. I also thought about how changing shoes can change your self image and change your perceived self in the eyes of others.

Now, I wonder . . . What about your car? Does your car speak volumes? I think so. But what?
I, now, drive a forest green mini van (so, so not me). The green is alright, though a bit dark. The size feels too large, but I appreciated the ease of strapping children in car seats through the side doors. I also like the volume of stuff we can carry when we travel. But, I never felt like the car was mine. The junk heap on the front seat is mine, but the car never seemed to be. Funny, the car before this one was a mini-van, too - a smaller mini-van. That car seemed a better fit, though I cannot say why.

My husband bought me a new car yesterday while away on business. It is the car I have wanted for a while, but was unable to find in Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana. Unfortunately, the car he found and bought is one of my least favorite car colors - bright yellow. I wonder if a bright yellow car will transform me into a perky, busy body? Will I be happy all the time? Will driving into the parking lot looking like a sun make others happy or will it annoy them to think of me being so happy all the time? What statement does a yellow car make?

I will have time to think about all of these things since I will have to fly to Chicago to get the car and then drive 700+ miles home.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Searching for Eggs

Yesterday and today I have been madly searching for eggs. I hear the young hens announcing eggs every little while. Only a few are using the nesting boxes and I have not been able to find the nests in the barn. The children and I climbed the hay in the barn yesterday and found many "perfect" sites, but no eggs. Other crevices and small caves looked perfect for chickens, but also for spiders or snakes. Since The Pink Panther is still recovering from a spider bite no one wanted to be the one to insert his hand or head. When the day cools a bit (if it does) we will go out to the barn once again armed with flashlights, long sleeves, and a rope and search.

With 30+ hens I should be able to gather more eggs than I can use. I am not.

The 6th Country Fair is open!

I'm riding the ferris wheel at the Country Fair. See you there.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


My sister gave my children a bunch of puzzles. Among them was a 3-d house puzzle, a glow in the dark puzzle, a 3 little pigs puzzle, and various animal puzzles, especially horse puzzles. I love puzzles - jigsaw, pencil and paper, visual, logic - and I am fairly good at them. Herein lies a problem.

I realized the problem this weekend as the children and I were assembling. As I was plipping pieces in place as quickly as I could my son got up and left the table. He said, "I'm not good at puzzles." At that moment, I realized that I had allowed my personal space to swell so large that I pushed my children out - completely out of the room. I was able to get him to come back, but not with the same enthusiasm. Needless to say, I felt terrible. They were, after all, his and Princess's puzzles. I tried to explain that I had had much practice so it seemed easier when I was assembling. I knew that while I was practicing, I never had anyone reaching over my shoulder plipping pieces making me feel insecure about my lack of expertise. So, I stepped away from the table.

Stepping back and allowing them to feel the joy of seeing a picture come together by their hands was so difficult for me. I, so, wanted to help (do the puzzles). I wanted to share my love of puzzles, but in doing so I knew I was extinguishing a joy in them.

You say, "It was only a puzzle, so what?" But, I wonder if I have inadvertently extinguished other fires.

Monday, August 21, 2006

A Void

My husband is out of town this week. He left yesterday. He travels a good bit so we are used to the routines. I find when he leaves that there is a void, not so much because everyone is pining away, but because when he is here he takes up so much space. Does that sound weird?

I've noticed that some people totally fill a room when they enter, not because of size, but because of presence - perhaps a strong voice, heavy walking, a willingness to modify surroundings for personal comfort, or a self assuredness that demands notice. My husband is one of these people.

The house feels larger and empty. I wonder, how much space do I occupy?

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Busy Day!

I made pear preserves. Yes, that is lemon in it. I use lemon so the pears don't discolor, but I like a lot of lemon. So, in addition to the lemon I squeeze on the sliced pears so they don't turn dark, I slice a lemon and cook it with the pears for an extra zing and because I think it is pretty against the glass. This is only the first batch. I should have more pears next week. Again, I always get a true feel good moment when I see jars lined up on the cabinet or when I look over at my pie safe and see all the jars in there. Productivity feels good.

Yesterday was busy. My mother hosted a wedding shower and I helped out by making crostini and artichoke dip for 100. Princess wanted to attend and help with the punch and presents. I got her dressed and I got dressed myself in case anyone saw me. I got the food and child to my mother's before 3, which was the starting time of the shower. When we arrived there were already 20 or more people there. My sister, who came to help with the flowers, was trapped in the guest wing without the things she needed to make herself presentable. She was shocked because everyone showed up so early. I wasn't (the reason I dressed) because I did the invitations and I knew that there were, at least, 15 hostesses. I thought it was absurd, but so this town. Everyone wants to help. No one wants the event at their house, but everyone wants to do something. Anyway, once I helped my sister get what she needed to dress and snitched a petit four, I sneaked out.

A couple of hours later, we all went to the funeral home to pay our respects to the family of the librarian. Most of the people at the shower were also at the funeral home. The librarian had six children, though only one still lives in town. All were there with their spouses and children. Most of the town attended, as well. We had to wait in line for about 45 minutes to see the family. I felt so sad and still do. I find myself crying at the least little thing. So many of those truly special older people in this town have died, lately. I can't help feeling a tremendous sense of loss.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Garden Mystery

Look at the winter squash shaped zucchini thing I found in my garden this morning. It came off the same vine as the more typical elongated vegetable. I am constantly amazed at the way cross pollination can create such interesting stuff. Funny though, I don't have any winter squash planted (no rain). I have no pumpkins planted (no rain). In fact, the only things growing in my garden right now are tomatoes, okra, cayenne pepper, basil, and zinnias. There may be a few cucumbers out there somewhere, but I quit watering and picking when I finished pickling. Oh, there are weeds, lots of them. So, whence does this surprise arise?

Ah, a mystery. Maybe I could find the answer in the weeds.

Friday, August 18, 2006

The Librarian

Our librarian died last night. She is also the mother of one of my long time friends so I knew her from way back when. We are sad - all of us.

To the town's tribute, they lowered the flag in front of the library/city hall building and the library is closed. She really worked hard to maintain and grow the library, even though our town of 500 has few readers. She always helped us find the books we needed, invited the children to special programs, and always had treats for the children. She decorated for the seasons and hosted summer reading programs. She did a lot to brighten the library even though it is only open 1/2 days and never on Saturdays or Sundays. I will miss her and so will my children.

I wonder what will happen to the library?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

I've been Napping

After organized school time, after I uploaded a batch of updates for a web site, after I went to the office to muddle with a networking problem, and after I picked up one or two things from the grocery store, I took a nap. I just couldn't go any longer. The heat and humidity are debilitating. I believe the heat index is hovering around 105, though the temperature is 96. I find it difficult to find the energy to do much of anything outside or, apparently, inside.

Regardless of the heat, or perhaps because of it, school has been going well. This is the best year ever. I have relaxed. I have begun to trust myself to know what my children need to know. I have become attuned to their educational needs so I can help them learn the things they want to know. We are all learning, happily. An example of this new found confidence lies in the grammar program.

We started The Plan this week by easing in with a review of subject, verb, noun and predicate definitions. My children know these so there was no problem here. I do want to mention the really cool way Strunk and White define a verb, "Verbs activate sentences." Yes, they also have the more standard show action or state of being in the definition, but they finish with, "Verbs activate sentences." I just love that simplicity.

We moved forward by identifying and diagramming subjects and verbs in simple sentences. I took the sentences straight from Henry and Ribsy, one of the books The Pink Panther is reading. I think taking the sentences from real texts or their own writing is important because the child makes the connection between language in books and what goes on in grammar. And that makes grammar more important. Some of you may be saying, "Why is she making her children diagram sentences? No one does that any more." I say diagraming is just a tool to help understand how sentences are formed. Besides, I think it is fun in small doses. Apparently my children do, too. Now if you need help remembering (or learning) those diagraming systems, there are several workbooks and books with diagramming. Of course, the first thing you need to do is decide how you will spell the word so you can do an internet search. Is it diagramming or diagraming? Both are acceptable and both are used in titles of books about the subject. Here are a few I have seen:
  • Better Sentence Structure through Diagraming comes in two levels and provides straightforward instructions and exercises. The lines are drawn and the students fill in the blanks. You can get this at Rainbow Resource.
  • Diagraming Sentences is also a workbook (around $6) but this one has perforated pages. The student is required to draw the lines rather than construct sentences to fit the diagram.
  • Grammar by Diagram by Cindy Vitto is more advanced and should really just be a tool for you. I think this book is beautiful and practical. It is spiral bound.
  • For that free online help we have come to cherish. Go here!
Having mentioned all these books and workbooks, I still feel students do better when you use sentences from their writing or from books they are reading because the grammar is not, then, isolated. Thinking of sentence structure while reading, writing, and speaking is so important.

After the diagramming, I added some editing practice. For this I do use a workbook type thing because no one wants their errors highlighted when they are just learning to put it all together. I chose Editor in Chief from Critical Thinking. Princess is not participating in this, yet, though I do hope she will be able to hop aboard fairly soon.

Added to this the children are reading good books, writing in a journal, and studying spelling. I will ask for more of them as they progress. That's grammar!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

I'm Sorry!

I have not been able to post or even access blogger all day. I'm not sure if it was blogger or my service provider. I have a great post, but I need sleep. I will catch up with everyone in the morning.

BTW, The Pink Panther is fine. He has a black place on his arm but it is not deep or infected. I honestly think the old remedy of applying a paste of meat tenderizer brought the poison to the surface before it had a chance to do much damage. I believe in an early response with meat tenderizer for all insect bites. This time it helped.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Frankie's Movie

I have watched Frankie's favorite movie, and it is, indeed, worthy of multiple viewing. The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio makes me want to be a better mother. Evelyn, played by Julianne Moore, finds hope, laughter, and self gratification in her less than optimal circumstances. My life situation is so much better and I find that I, frequently, complain, lose my temper, and don't look for the positive as much as I should. Watching her swirl through all adversity made me feel a bit inept, though motivated.

Though I have always been fascinated with stereotypical roles for women and men, I have to say that I cringed every time Evelyn had the courage to ask for outside help from establishments (police, church, and bank) and was politely refused. Even so, she was able to do what she could to nurture herself, her husband, and her children.

What a wonderful movie to be able to combine the feel good of a success story and the questioning of an editorial about the plight of women with children. I felt both elated and torn, happy and sad, and motivated and angry. Watch it!

Monday, August 14, 2006


Today, one of my natural insect control bit the wrong thing. I had to send The Pink Panther for a break while helping Princess with a troubling bit of school. He went out and started playing in a pile of ancient bricks we have been saving for a project. He was bitten by a poisonous spider. We assume it was a black widow, but he didn't see it and we can't find it.

I called him back to school. He came in and started complaining about his arm hurting. I looked and saw what looked like a wasp sting only larger with two marks. I got the beef tenderizer out and made a paste and applied it. I still didn't realize it was a spider. He, then, started saying he didn't feel well. He was light headed and nauseated. I started to realize what was going on and went for the Benydrl. By the time I got back with it his small spot was a blister. I spooned in a mega serving of Benydrl and went for the phone.

By the time I had warned the doctor we were on our way, Pink Panther was feeling better. It's a long way to the doctor, so regardless of how he was feeling at that moment we were going. We drove an hour and fifteen minutes. Our wonderful older doctor said that this was the first real spider bite he had seen. He said many people walk in with a suspected bite, but none were the real McCoy. He also said that unless Pink Panther had a life threatening reaction, which he has not, the anti-venom is too dangerous since it is a product using horse antibodies. He also said that no one dies of spider bites unless there are other extenuating circumstances.

The Pink Panther has an amazing immune system. He reacts to little. Now that the sun has gone down and the doctor is miles away, his stomach is cramping and his arm is stiffening. I am just a little nervous even though the doctor assured us that if a serious reaction was going to occur it would have started. Stomach cramping and the wilting skin is scary enough.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Legs in the Window

Yesterday, I was cleaning the disaster left by our first week of school. I vow to have a dedicated school room by next year. Our hub of school activity is the kitchen table. While that seems so cozy, it is also so messy. Even with my new under counter organization system, there are piles of stuff and the microscope, slides, samples and . . . . Imagine the worst, then triple it. Anyway, I know you are wondering, "What does the messy kitchen table have to do with legs in the window?"

When I was trying to find a permanent solution to the messy kitchen table and countertops, I kept seeing Princess's feet appear through the window in the kitchen door. She was in the dog trot practicing handstands and standing on her head. I could only see her legs and feet as they wobbled, found their center, and then either crashed to the doors she was using as a safety net or to the floor. Seeing the feet pop in and out of the window made me smile. I thought they might make you smile, too!

Saturday, August 12, 2006


My new hens have started laying!!!! The roosters are going crazy chasing hens and hens are squawking to announce their productivity. I wonder if I went around the house squawking would the family notice that I cleaned the kitchen, washed their clothes, and mopped the bathroom floor. Sorry, I got distracted. We have started finding eggs all over the yard. This is the children's favorite time of chicken ownership because eggs turn up in the most unexpected places (the pullets have no clue what is happening the first time they lay) and the miniature eggs are so cute. We have a few hens who have already found the nesting boxes and are using them. I leave a wooden egg in each box so the hens continue to think it is safe to lay there. It may not work, but it makes me feel better. I always have a few hens who make me search for their eggs in the hay, or on the fence row, or in the feed trough - annoying when I am in a hurry, but fun most of the time.

Now that I am ready to click the publish button, I realize that I should have put one of the extra-large eggs of my old hen next to these minis for proper scale. Trust me they are tiny - not more than a mouthful for the smallest.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Shoes! Shoes! Shoes!

After I delved into the subject of shoes last week, ZILLA decided we were not anywhere close to finished revealing ourselves to the blogging public. So, I present the Triptych Photo Meme consisting of an image of the pair of shoes you wear most often, the pair you own but wear the least, and the pair that reveals the most secret part of you.

The rubber garden shoe is the shoe I wear most often. As you can see, it is well used and retains much of my garden and barnyard on the sole and inside the shoe. I should just wear a boot, but these slide on and off easily. I actually have two pairs of garden shoes and alternate between the two depending on which is muddy or wet. I don't like to put my feet into wet slimy shoes. Both pairs are kept at my back doorsteps, unless The Yellow Dog decides to take them for a walk.

I've had these boots 20 years and though I have never worn them much, I haven't been able to get rid of them and I don't know why. The only other pair of shoes for which I have had such a sentimental attachment is the kelly green pair of pumps that perfectly matched the green in the dress I wore to leave my wedding. They were completely impractical because I owned nothing else green. Nevertheless, I continued to pack and move those shoes for years. I still have them though they are not in my closet. Maybe this boot should have been saved for the revelation shoe. I seem to be revealing an inability to let go of old shoes and, possibly, parts of myself. Now that I think of it, I also have a pair of forest green suede pumps and matching purse that I bought 15 years ago.

This is the pair of shoes I purchased last week. It is a compromise shoe and compromise is what I am all about these days so this is my revelation shoe. I prefer, like ZILLA and Frankie, to be bare footed. I have always been that way. My mother struggled to get me to wear shoes. In my kindergarten class group picture, preserved for eternity in the yearbook, I am barefooted. I'm sure my mother who purchased nice leather Mary Janes was horrified to see that picture. Now, with things the way they are, I'm sure my bare feet would not be allowed, but then, as soon as mother was out of sight the shoes were history. I find that I can no longer tolerate the whims of the fashion industry. I want comfort, but don't want to embarrass by friends and family by showing up with bare feet or in my Birks so I compromise. Sometimes, the compromise shoe has a higher heel, sometimes it is more pumpish, but always a compromise. Having been taught to be a true Southern woman and all that entails, I will continue to find a balance between style, comfort, and utility, because I cannot help caring what people think.

Now, the friends who know me in the flesh are saying, "Where are the Birkenstocks?" Having Birkenstocks in 4 or 5 styles, including garden clogs should be recognized somewhere. They are compromise, too, though a much more vocal compromise.

To keep this thing a true triptych let's tag in threes:
ZILLA because this was her idea and I want to see those great shoes.
Mother Crone because she seems to have a closet full of really cool shoes.
Natalie because I know she is obsessed with shoes and I want to drag her away from her stressful work.

If anyone is in a crunch for someone to tag, I want to see mull-berry's super stylish matte silver flip-flops and Jove's Doc Marten Mary Janes

Thursday, August 10, 2006

A Few Updates

School continues. We did fall into one of our bad habits this morning. The children wanted to do all the reading in the bed. So, I got back into my bed and they snuggled around me and we read History, Bible and each of the children's books. It felt good and they still could narrate so I suppose it wasn't such a terrible thing.

The refrigerator and ice maker are repaired. The parts arrived yesterday afternoon at two and the repairman was at my house at 2:30. Breakfast was so much easier to prepare since I didn't have to walk to the shed for all the ingredients. My husband wants to choose the new television so we will wait until he researches all the possibilities.

I really am going to do the shoe meme. In fact, you should see it today! I need to hurry because I think ZILLA is back online.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

So Far, So Good

Even with all the distractions, we have accomplished three days of school. I feel satisfied with our progress and our choices. We talked about our goals for the year a few weeks ago. Pink Panther wanted to work on spelling and handwriting (his weakest areas) and Princess wanted to be able to pick up any book and read it (I'm not ready for that) and to write in cursive. We are focusing on these areas, while still studying other subjects. We are easing into school, starting with some low stress review and a short schedule. This week we have started with these books and resources:
  • Early Human World by Peter Robertshaw and Jill Rubalcaba is the first book in the The World in Ancient Times series. We are reading one chapter a day. Today's chapter was a clarification of Darwin's Theory of Evolution. I liked the Burger Zoo illustrations and so did the children.
  • The Old Testament of the Bible is our first history/literature selection. We are reading one chapter a day. The children are already asking difficult questions.
  • Cursive Handwriting is going better than it ever has because Pink Pan is focused and determined to succeed. We have started with the letters in each of their names. By the end of the week we hope to have correctly formed and legible signatures.
  • Latin Primer is our early Latin resource. We have reviewed almost a quarter of what we learned in years past. If chants and roots are not known, I mark them. Hopefully, the review will be complete in a couple of weeks and we can move forward. This year, I am combining Latin Primer and Ecce Romani. The stories in Ecce Romani will keep the memorization of Latin Primer bearable
  • Science of the week is Botany using Essential Atlas of Botany. We have done drawings of cell structure and microscope work in addition to reading. Next week we will add experiments.
  • Spelling has been painless. Things may change, but I think I got it right this time. We have struggled with Spelling Workout and Spelling Power in the past. We are using AVKO Sequential Spelling and Pink Pan is not balking and actually responds to the patterns and families. Even though Sequential Spelling is designed for people with dyslexia, I feel the word family method is an incredible way to teach spelling to any child. I wish I had thought of it sooner.
  • Princess is reading the Mr. Putter and Tabby series, again. Pink Pan is reading Tom Sawyer, again. When he finishes I feel sure he will read Huckleberry Finn, again. Listening to an unabridged version of Huck Finn two years ago started this madness. He absolutely loves the adventures and pranks (though he doesn't need any encouragement) and has read and had me read these books over and over. I took a turn last night and accidently skipped a few words. He squawked and had me reread that section. I think he has memorized most of the book. He is also reading Henry and Ribsy by Beverly Cleary. I have both the children read aloud to me daily so I can make sure neither develop bad habits. I also spend a great deal of time reading to both of them.
  • Math has consisted of fact practice and some Cuisinare puzzles. We have done calendar and clock review for Princess.
In the next week or two we will add grammar, more math review, and nature study. When all that comes together we will add art and Spanish.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


This black and yellow argiope resides in my garden. She is enormous! We have been careful not to break her webs or damage her as we water, hoe, and pick. She hangs boldly in the middle of her web that is suspended between two tomato cages.

A few weeks ago, I found the evidence of a hornworm on my one of my German Striped plants, but I could not find it anywhere. I went inside, thinking the worm will eat so much that he will be very visible tomorrow. I was right. He was visible. He was visible while being wrapped by lady orb weaver.

Last week, I decided that it was time to red pepper spray my tomatoes because of stink bugs. I didn't get around to it, and last night I noticed my friend, agriope, had noosed a couple stink bugs. I have a natural insecticide working for me. So, I will continue to protect this beautiful arachnid.

She has a man friend living in an adjoining web. Maybe I will have a whole garden of insect eating spiders next year. Unfortunately, I will not be able to protect her man friend, because once they mate she will discard him with the garbage. We are curious, so we will watch.

Tomato Tart

Last night we indulged in a Tomato Tart using my enormous German Striped Tomatoes. I think they are beautiful in a mottled sort of way. Anyway, the tart is unbelievably easy, pretty, and delicious. The original recipe came from the Junior League of Jackson's Come On In cookbook. I am not a huge fan of JL or JA cookbooks, but this one is a step above. In a different life, I created a box lunch for 100 people using only recipes from this book(part of the job). When planning for that event, I found many great recipes hiding in Come On In. This is one of them.

Fresh Tomato Tart

1 recipe Pie Crust
8 oz Cheese, Mozzarella -- shredded
2 tbsp Basil -- chopped
4 ea Tomatoes -- sliced
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Pepper
1 tbsp Oil, Olive

Preheat oven to 400. Line 10" loose bottom tart pan with pastry dough. Spread bottom of pastry with cheese and sprinkle with basil. Cover with tomato slices, arranging to cover as evenly as possible. Sprinkle tomatoes with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Bake 30 to 40 minutes. Garnish with fresh chopped basil. Slice in wedges and serve warm or at room temperature.

I only make this tart in the summer, when tomatoes are deliciously tasty and fresh off the vine and basil is in abundance. I make a Pate Brisee (no sugar) for the crust and prefer to use fresh mozzarella. I, typically, use more basil and only kosher salt. Now you have the recipe and my secrets. Bon Appetit.

Monday, August 07, 2006

We started school today!

I meant to start school last week, but we just weren't ready. I had some projects that were taking huge amounts of time and the children wanted just a little more freedom. This morning the children were ready and I was able to scrape it together. I would have liked to have been a bit more organized with the books and manipulatives, but we were able to move through the plan quickly. We were finished with organized school in 2 1/2 hours. The children are, now, doing disorganized(free) school.

For science, we began talking about plant cells. I told the children that they needed to learn all the parts of the plant cell, so Pink Panther studied the diagram in Essential Atlas of Botany. Once we finished organized school, Pink Panther and Princess pulled out the microscope and began looking at plant cells and other stuff. I am being intentionally general with the word stuff because they have looked at everything they can shove underneath the lens (regardless of whether light will pass through it). They just left the office with a slide of my blood. Neither of them wanted to be the stuck pig so they came with a sterile needle (like a sterile needle is reassuring when wielded by 10 and 7 year old children) to get my blood.

I thought school went well. The children were happy, helpful, and focused. I think they were also thankful that they didn't have to go to public school and sit around for 7 hours today. We will slowly add segments to our school day, but will never get up to 7 hours. I, too, am thankful they don't have to go to public school.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Time to Back up

We had a scare yesterday. Around noon, as I was sitting at the computer checking blogs, mail, and news, I heard sizzling sounds, saw fire leaping, and smelled the acrid odor of melting electronic equipment. I started ripping cords from the wall, but I couldn't get to everything and the sounds and smells and fire wouldn't stop, so I burst out of the office to find my husband and children who were bursting out of the kitchen. Hubby said I was so freaked out that I didn't recognize him, but that wasn't true. I just wanted him to do something. I started screeching, "Pull the breakers! Pull the breakers!" He did. And the sounds stopped.

Though there was not even a breeze, a limb broke(from a perfectly healthy tree) and fell across the power line. It pulled the neutral wire loose, yet didn't break the positive and negative wires. The electric company man who came to cut power said this was the most damaging sort of situation because breakers can't trip and surge protectors can't trip because there is nothing to ground the raw energy.

The meter base and all those wires were pulled off the house so Mr. Electric Company said that he had to cut the wires and pull the meter, but that he would come back once we had a new meter base installed and inside wiring checked for damage. I did what any self respecting Southern girl would do, I called my Daddy. He swooped in, accessed the situation, and started calling in the troops.
  • The limb was sawed and stacked by an employee Daddy had called and told that there was an emergency and that the electric company needed the limb moved immediately to get the truck in the yard. The truck had already come and gone, but who is complaining.
  • Hubby and an electrician (who Dad also sent) whose name is Scooter disconnected the old meter base and removed the remaining pieces from the wall.
  • Daddy arrived with a new meter base and he and Scooter re-attached the wiring, etc. Dad kept telling me to go call the electric company to get someone on the way to reconnect the power (even though they were not finished).
  • I drove into town twice to get pieces that were broken or melted. When I got back from town, Mr. Electric Company had arrived even though Daddy and crew were not finished. He was patient.
Electricity was restored by 3:30. We, then, had to go around and check voltage for each breaker in the box and all the plugs and outlets. Once this was done, Daddy started restoring power to each room and I could go around and find out which of my electronics would have to be replaced. Here is the list so far:
  • refrigerator
  • scanner
  • television (was not even on)
  • a USB dock
  • charger for my Palm Pilot
Even though this was a very expensive day, I feel so lucky. Our house could have burned, my computer could have fried, the limb or live electric wire could have fallen on one of my children or me, but it didn't. I have a Daddy who knows how to fix things and commandeer troops. We live in a small town where we actually know the people at the power company so power was restored quickly. I have a husband who can laugh at the situation and not be so insecure as to mind my Daddy swooping in to take over when there is a need. I am thankful for all these things.

Last night and this morning, I am backing up the contents of my computer. I do not think I would have panicked as much if I had had a recent back up or any backup. I have on several occasions, recently, clicked "skip backup" even though I know how stupid that can be. I do payroll for a couple of companies (no backup), web site design for 6 companies (no backup), graphic design for several companies (no backup). I teach my children at home and use the computer as a record keeping tool (no backup). I run an almost paperless home office (no backup). After yesterday, I vow never to skip a scheduled backup again.

Saturday, August 05, 2006


Before I could go into the birthday party yesterday I had to buy a pair of shoes to replace the ones that The Yellow Dog used as a chew toy. I've had to buy shoes for Princess for the same reason. In fact Yellow Dog has chewed so many shoes that if he comes inside, Princess and I race to secure our shoes in a place above shoulder height. Looking at all the possibilities, yesterday, got me thinking about shoes.

Shoes truly make a statement about who you are. Change your shoes and your projected image changes and, possibly, your self view changes. Let's look at the possibilities.
  • Strappy high heel slides raise your stereotypical feminine image. A sway of the hips compensates for the added height and unstable foundation. Care is taken not to trip or step on non level surfaces (at risk of breaking an ankle) leading to a perceived sense of frailty. Stooping to pick up something is more difficult so others are called upon for assistance. Added height provides pound trimming length and graceful lines.
  • Classic Birkenstock sandals create that "of the earth" image. The perfectly molded foot bed and lower than flat heel seem to firmly root you to the earth. Movement is slow and thoughtful. The longer you wear these the slower you get because the straps stretch, so keeping them on your feet while moving quickly becomes difficult giving you plenty of time to contemplate the protection of the earth or yourself. Expect to look as if you have gained a few pounds while wearing these. Honestly, I think you do gain weight.
  • Tennis shoes are for the all action woman. Tied on for greater stability, the tennis shoe gives the wearer the freedom to move, without worry. The newer tennie shoes add a little height so you present a lean, vigorous and healthy image. Unfortunately, tennie (tennis) shoes don't work well for all outfits, though the tennis shoe manufacturers are working to create dressy styles that seem as if they could cross some borders, but don't be fooled.
  • The flip-flop (even the sequin studded varieties) project a casual image with that rubber popping sound that says, "I am so cool. I just came from the pool." Variety is the hallmark here with high, low, sequin, fabric thong, rubber thong, and the classic shower shoe. You are too cool to break a sweat, but you usually have a nice tan on nice legs.
  • The hiker (boot or walking shoe) is like the tennis shoe in that you have that tied on freedom of movement, but you also have the freedom to move off of the pavement. Women wearing these shoes are generally making the statement that they are a more active earth person who can handle most tasks unassisted, making it the consummate shoe for the feminist. Mud, water, and dew laden grass are not a problem, though looking and feeling great in a dress could be.
  • The mid height pump is the all business, all class shoe. For summer, lets throw in the open toe varieties (as long as they aren't too high or too strappy). Pump people are keen on tradition, have a business like attitude, and are immune to the swayings of the fad driven fashion industry. Expect to find tailored type clothing and a keen sense of order above the shoes.
  • The ballet shoe seeks to do too much and sometimes succeeds at little. A cross between a pump and a tennis shoe, the low to the ground, yet more classic look is a favorite of those who overdo. Style is sacrificed for comfort and freedom of movement, yet the attempt at a more polished look hints at someone who likes order and could be self sufficient, but likes to have a man around.
  • The high wedge, another cross selection, is high enough to bestow the length of line of the high heel sandal with more substantial foundation and straps that scream power. This person wants it all - sexy femininity, long lines, style, and action. Expect business from this person who is willing to forgo comfort for style while maintaining a demanding pace.
  • Doc Martens make that I am too angry to be a part of society statement. Rebellion is only a heartbeat away.
  • The compromise is the shoe that attempts to be stylish without sacrificing comfort or stability. It usually fails on all accounts, but gives the wearer a sense of stylish conformance, a little height (but not pound reducing height), and enough of a base as not to be dangerous. For the most part, people who wear this shoe have just taken off one of the other shoes on the list.
If we pretend that shoes don't make a difference we are fooling ourselves. If you wear shoes that are worn, dog chewed, or scuffed people assume that you don't care about yourself or that you can't afford nice shoes. If you wear expensively styled shoes in good repair you scream success. The same goes for your handbag, if you use one. Think about the classic movie scene in The Silence of the Lambs when Hannibal Lector places Clarice Starling as a wan-a-be.

Shoes matter. Women have been shoving their feet in shoes for centuries to make a statement or prove who they are. Think geishas or Cinderella in glass slippers. Think "barefoot and pregnant." And, though men have it easier their shoes speak volumes too.

What shoe are you today?

Friday, August 04, 2006

Another August Birthday!

We have a lot of August birthdays in my family and today was one of them. The children and I went to the city for my 3 year old nephew's birthday party. My sister really did a great job following through with the party theme. She did an under-the-sea theme for a swimming pool party. The invitations had an octopus on them. She borrowed some brightly painted fish from the local theatre and placed them around the pool. Balloons were their air bubbles. They had goldfish and little fruit juice gummy fish for snacks.

After the grilled burgers came the cutest under the sea cake with an octopus perched on top. The frosting was blue and there were fish swimming around the sides of the cake. I'm not much for blue food, but who can resist such a cute presentation. The children kept running out and jumping in the pool with their noodles (the party favors) and they looked like squid or octopuses floating around with all those extensions.

The children had a wonderful time - so wonderful that I practically had to drag them out of the pool and into the car. The drive was long, but it was worth it to see that cute little embarrassed face when my nephew realized everyone was singing to him and the party was all about him. I hope my sister captured that picture.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Pink Panther Struck, Again!

He got me again! At lunch today, I was going to get myself a piece of birthday cake. I lifted the foil, knife in hand, then screeched and dropped the knife. The PP strategically placed a rubber roach on the cake plate. For an instant I thought the roach was real - even though I had never seen a roach in the house and I knew he owned the roach. I was simply unprepared.

PP acquired this roach from my husband's friend. The friend is quite a prankster, but we, once, used his own tool against him. This friend wanted to be Emeril, so quit his job and started cooking at a barbecue restaurant about 40 miles from here. We wanted to support his lark, so took the children on several occasions. On one of those eating adventures, PP brought the roach. He placed it on his plate. My husband called the friend over and asked to send the food back because of a small problem. The friend, tired from standing over the pit and the stoves, didn't catch that it was his own roach and his joke coming back to haunt him. He nearly stroked. Once he recovered, he decided to take it one step further. He told the restaurant owner that we had a problem. The owner took one look and started stammering and trying to think of something to say. When he finally asked, "Did that fall from the ceiling or just come on your plate?", we couldn't keep straight-faced any longer - neither could our friend. Relief for the owner and laughter all around.

Pranks are fun. I just need to remember that someone in our family is growing into his prime prankster years and try not to be startled so easily.

Did you ever wonder?

Did you ever wonder why the appliances designed to help you wash things end up so dirty? I am referring in particular to the dishwasher and the washing machine. The door facing and drain of the dishwasher seem to be a magnet for filth. I find that I can't get that clean dish feeling when I have to look at that dark, slimy residue on the door facing. Yet, I feel like I shouldn't have to clean the inside of the dishwasher daily or even weekly. The washing machine is worse.

I have an older top-load washing machine so perhaps improvements have been made, but crud seems to build up around the opening and in all those orifices for bleach and what not. I, of course, am good at ignoring the dirty, soapy dried on mess for a while. Then, every time I open the lid I think, "That is disgusting. I should really do something." Finally, I get disgusted enough to clean all the crevices and bleach portals and I wonder if our clothes are more dirty than other people's. Why would they design a machine that would be so difficult to clean if crud build-up was a problem for everyone? What is the purpose of that hole in the top of the agitator if not just a receptacle for cruddy build-up? And if it is a crud catcher, then why not make it easier to clean?

Just a thought.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Happy Birthday to me!

Today is my birthday. Until tonight it didn't seem so special. My husband was going to do my chores for me this morning, but I woke up at my usual time. I just couldn't help it. I, then, had a not so great day at work and home. Things changed as the sun started going down. Tonight, my husband and children made a wonderful dinner for me. Princess cut and arranged some flowers. My husband pulled out the crystal (we have broken most of the everyday stemware) and china. Each of the children gave me some wonderful handmade gifts. I made myself a cake(chocolate, no zucchini). The children dressed for dinner and we had a wonderful celebration. I put candles on each person's piece of cake so each person could have a wish.

Then, one of my wishes came true. I could not in my wildest dreams have guessed or believed the gift I received. He gave me a trip to the Shakespeare festival in Stratford, Canada!! I get to take the children and him. I have wanted to go to the festival for so long. When we were closer, I had work obligations. After we moved here, where I have somewhat flexible hours, I had small children I didn't want to leave and a smaller income. My husband actually had business close to the festival a few years ago and he attended, then came home and gloated. Now the children are old enough to enjoy some of the plays and we are going. Is that not an incredible gift? Now, I need to decide which two plays I want to see that will also be appropriate for the children.

I Didn't Fall Off the Face of the Earth

But I sure felt like I did. Early yesterday morning, I lost internet connection that was not restored until a little while ago. I checked my connections (made sure the yellow dog had not torn out the wiring), checked my computer setup, and disconnected power to reset. When none of this worked, I called the service provider and found out that they had a wide spread outage. The nice customer service representative informed me that while the service had been out an hour and a half, which was a long time for them, he thought service would be reinstated very soon. Wrong! I waited and waited and waited.

Eventually, I gave up and took my traveling show to work. I packed the children, my papers, and a computer. While I borrowed internet connection from one of my employers, Princess roller skated around the big rectangle that encloses their office space. The Pink Panther played on a spare computer. I toiled, trying to finish before other employees ceased to find my children amusing and cute. After I finished everything that needed immediate attention, I went to the city to do some basics shopping and to help my nephew find direction for an assignment that is due when they start school in a couple of weeks. Truth is . . I was looking for productive things to do.

I was completely amazed that the unplanned outage left me at such loose ends. Feeling disconnected with pieces of my life dangling dangerously, I wondered if a proposal had been accepted, if anyone had visited my blog and left comments, if last minute changes had been made to another project that needed my attention, what was happening in the news, etc. etc. What I realized was how addicted I have become to my routines. I am not one to browse the internet for long hours (though I do occasionally), but I do check news, blogs, and e-mail frequently throughout the day. I cannot be fully functional at work without the connection, BUT there are things I can do without a connection. Why, then, did I feel the need to check the connection (wasting much time) over and over and over? Is this addiction?