Wednesday, April 30, 2008

I heart Yahoo Messenger

This afternoon, I was chatting again with my brother in Iraq. Which still blows my mind. Then my sister called from Houston. Then another tab popped up on my messenger and my brother's girlfriend from North Texas started a new conversation. So I was typing in 2 conversations with one hand and holding the phone for a third conversation. I was incredibly proud of my juggling skills until my brother called me an amateur and pointed out that he can hold 6 conversations at once.

Show off.

As my sister pointed out, it's because he grew up with 3 much older sisters who taught him how to communicate, thankyouverymuch.

On a side note, we are well on track to finish school next Friday!!! We are done with everything except a couple of new-ish concepts in arithmetic and the last of the tests that we have to turn in to the A Beka Academy. L is already done with all her stuff except the last couple of pages in her pre-school workbook and some dot-paint pictures I found. Hey, those are educational. She has discovered through her own experimentation that yellow and blue make green and pink and yellow make orange (and that Mommy gets really angry when you touch the tips together, because, after all, those things are kinda expensive). That's valuable knowledge, people! Maybe this summer we'll work on their ability to hold multiple conversations on Messenger. It could come in handy one day, I hear.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Too many sad changes

Our best couple friends are moving half-way across the country.

A very strong couple friends we used to hang out with is divorcing and she and the kids are moving half-way across the country.

A kinda-friend couple friends is divorcing and the rumors just keep getting weirder. Must stop listening to rumors.

A couple friends we camp with is separating. Just found out today and totally out of the blue.

What is going on? Maybe our friendship should come with a warning label: "Caution! May cause marital strife and/or major life changes!" Maybe it's just that our friends are getting to that stage of life where the mid-life crisis takes over and people just absolutely lose their mind. Husbands and wives go crazy and start making gut-wrenching, selfish choices. And through it all, so many people are left hurting. So many kids are thrown into situations where they have to learn about and deal with things that kids shouldn't have to experience. It just hurts every time I have to answer K's questions about where her friends are going to live and does she still say "Mrs. Whatever" or something else now. It hurts listening to K explain to her little sister that "Mr. Whatever" doesn't live at home anymore. It hurts listening to her try to make sense of everything while we assure her over and over that her Daddy and Mommy have no intention of ever divorcing.

It's just one of those days when I want to wrap my family in bubble wrap and hide from the harsh realities of the world.

Contrasting Views

This morning I was sitting at my computer on the dining room table looking out at a gorgeous blue sky and green trees blowing in the breeze.

My brother was sitting at his computer in an army barracks in Iraq, where it is afternoon, looking out at a vicious sandstorm that has obscured the landscape in a thick orange cloud.

We were chatting over Yahoo Messenger. I was avoiding housework and he was avoiding going outside.

Really, it's a toss up as to which is worse.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Embarrassing the Little Brother

Saturday, I found out that my brother has a girlfriend. Now, he's 23, on his second tour in Iraq, so it's a perfectly mature thing for him to do. I got his Yahoo ID from Mom, and he sent it to his girlfriend, so tonight I got a chance to talk to Theresa. She's very nice and I promised to regale her with a funny story about Aaron. After all, what's the good of having a little brother if you don't torture him with embarrassing stories?

So here goes...

Aaron is over 10 years younger than me and we've always had a pretty good relationship. Which might explain the direction his artistic talent took back when I was about 20 and he was still 9 or so.

I had been dating a great guy and Aaron liked him okay. Then someone obviously mentioned to my adoring little brother that maybe this guy and I would get married, because Aaron decided that my boyfriend was no longer welcome at our house. Aaron started drawing pictures of our dad chasing Mr. at Home off with shotguns and knives and such. Yep, he was making it pretty clear that no one was stealing his sister!

Of course, Aaron did get over it and eventually ended up in a tux at the wedding between Mr. at Home and myself. See? It all worked out.

Don't worry, Theresa, I'm sure Aaron's gotten over all that :-)

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Drive-by Linkage

I just read a short and powerful quote on Amy's Humble Musings that I wanted to share. It goes against every notion we have of "fair", but it's so incredibly true.

We will never know contentment in Christ if we seek him as a divine referee, however unfairly we may have been treated. His work in our lives is not about making sure we get the maximum benefits in the here and now, even when we are entitled to those benefits. In fact, real contentment often comes when we willingly embrace the loss of them.

Softball from a mom's perspective

If you want a play-by-play of Saturday's softball game, see Daddy's post. Here Mom reigns and you're going to get a play-by-play from my point of view.

K had a softball game Saturday morning and we had to get there early. Like really early. Did I mention it was early? Like "set the alarm clock" early? So they could get in an hour-long warm-up before the game even started.

Have I mentioned how much I love the coach this year? In addition to the constant practice of fundamentals using all kinds of different techniques, he is constantly heaping encouragement on these girls. He is always finding something to praise. After seeing the coaches of the *other* team Saturday, I doubly appreciate it. The other team's coaches had one inning where they yelled and got all angry at their players and it wasn't pretty to watch. Thankfully, the coaches all seemed to get over it and I didn't have to watch the grumpy stuff again. Then one coach got smacked in the back by her daughter who was taking a practice swing and she handled it with an incredible amount of grace in spite of the fact that she got dinged pretty hard. You've got to respect that.

We were a fairly small group in the stands, which is good because the bleachers aren't that big. There are two sets right up behind home plate and parents from both teams were mixed together. I am happy to report that the parents from both teams were incredible :-) Sadly, this has not been the case at all our games. We all cheered for all the girls, celebrated every good hit and every good play, and we had such a good time.

Our girls had a great game and K had an exceptional game. She got up to bat 3 times - struck out her first and got a single and a double. She knocked in 3 runs and managed to just barely beat the ball to stay safe both times. I was worried when the first base coach sent her onto second for that last ball. K inherited my...not so fast running skills and there wasn't much time for her to get over to 2nd base. But she managed to make it and stick her landing, avoiding the girl with the ball who was chasing her. The game ended in a tie and K got a game ball for her RBIs, which sent her over the moon.

Now if only the fields recover this latest bout of rain so we can play tomorrow's game.

Friday, April 25, 2008

An Unexpectedly Good Friday

I had big plans for today. There are only 2 more weeks until our planned last day of school and we still have a little more curriculum to wade through. I wanted to get another few lessons completed, a list of errands run, and some housework complete. But you know what they say about the best-laid plans...

Yesterday, the girls and I scored some free tickets to see Schoolhouse Rock Live - woohoo! It was at the library/children's theater uptown so we took the CD-ROM K had checked out with us to return there. After we had had our fun and returned home, we got a call saying that there was no disk in the case. Oops! Which meant yet another trip all the way uptown today. Can I let you in on a little secret? Promise you won't tell K?

I am so incredibly glad K forgot the disk.

Because as we walked into the library, we saw a group of friends from our CBS group. We ended up going to lunch with them and I had such a blast getting to know these women better. We took over the pizza place's outside patio and just let the kids run wild while we talked about everything under the sun. It was so nice to find two women that I clicked so well with.

Of course, we ended up spending far more time uptown than I had planned and so school today has pretty much been shot, but I don't think we'll have any problems getting school finished on time. We've got 2 weeks and several review kind of tests to finish. Besides, the girls did spend a lot of time doing computer learning games at the library and working with the machines that are currently on display. That's learning, right?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

WFMW: The Cleaning Tool You Can't Live Without

At least, it's the one cleaning tool *I* can't live without!

So this week I finally got disgusted at the state of my bathroom (and I finally found a great shower curtain in the perfect colors for $14.99!!) and I decided to do a massive deep clean. I removed everything that wasn't nailed down and got to scrubbing.

I bought a bathtub scrubber with an extendable handle that made the job so much easier. I hate cleaning the tub, but this thing made it *almost* enjoyable. But that's not the essential cleaning tool that I'm talking about.

I also rediscovered Comet. I cannot stand the scrubbing bubbles/tilex/toxic stuff that just about kills you and no sparkling bathroom is worth that. I don't think there's enough fans and windows to get "adequate ventilation" for that death-in-a-bottle. So my mind wandered back to my childhood in East Texas where every Saturday morning we girls drew "jobs" out of a big glass bowl. We always prayed for the slip that read "Help Dad outside", but I usually got "Bathrooms" where the Comet flowed freely. Between the long handled scrubber and the Comet, my shower tiles now sparkle, the grime came off the textured tub without an hour of scrubbing, and I didn't pass out from any fumes, but that's *still* not my essential cleaning tool.

My essential cleaning tool is...

My iPod.

And my playlist entitled "Favorites Today". 20 songs that I picked out right before I started the job so I could sing my heart out with those fabulous bathroom acoustics while I scrubbed the floor. My kids appeared in the doorway a few times, but I couldn't hear their pleas/requests/complaints over my eclectic mix of Evanescence, Enchanted, Cheetah Girls, Tim McGraw, Kelly Clarkson, and Geoff Moore singing my new favorite praise song "In Christ Alone". I tell you, I was down on my knees worshiping...and scrubbing the toilet.

Ah, it was heaven. And the tool that can make you say that about cleaning the bathroom?

That's the cleaning tool you can't live without.

For more fabulous Works-for-Me Wednesday tips, check out Rocks in My Dryer.

Disney World - Day 2

Magic Kingdom!

We were all up early, Mr. at Home headed down for a full day of conference and the girls and I grabbed some snacks for breakfast before catching the bus over to the Magic Kingdom. We were there in plenty of time to see the song and dance routine that opens the park and then we swarmed in with hundreds of our closest friends.

We walked toward the castle where the girls saw the horse-drawn trolley, so we had to ride that. To right back where we started. We jumped on the train and rode it round to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Where we stood in line with kids holding cups of water. For a science experiment. Thankfully, none of them were on our train when they discovered how hard it is to keep water in a cup on a rollercoaster. Gotta love field trips. Both the girls *loved* Big Thunder Mountain, but L was determined that riding it once was enough.

We had been seeing kids with buttons on all morning proclaiming "1st Visit!" One "cast member" told us we could get them at City Hall, so the next time we were over that direction, we stopped in there. We waited for just a minute for our turn at the desk and just as someone beckoned us over, L tripped and fell hard on the marble floor. As I tried to console her, K went up to the desk and talked to two very concerned people. One headed out the door saying she needed to take care of one thing and she would be right back. K came over and I asked if she had asked for the buttons, but she said they had asked her all kinds of questions and she didn't get around to the buttons. L eventually calmed down, we got the buttons, and walked outside where the lady came rushing back. She had gotten princess crowns for both the girls (the questions that had confused poor K were what princesses were their favorites) and stickers. They really take care of you at Disney.

Right after that, we went to get autograph books and trading pins. Those things are the absolute best souvenir *ever*. We all got lanyards and pins and most cast members have their own sets that they will trade pins with you whenever you ask. The girls must have gone through 20 pins each that day, trading with anyone with a lanyard.

After that we took the train around, make a potty stop, and spent the next *90 minutes* in line to see the princesses. That line's where they need to put the fast pass because entertaining kids for that long in line ain't pretty. When we finally got to the front of the line, it stopped. And we waited and waited. Someone finally got to ask what the hold up was. It seems that a Make a Wish family had gone in right before us and the characters always take extra time with those kids. The little girl had gotten sick as she went in and they were waiting while she was taken care of. Suddenly our wait wasn't nearly so annoying as I looked my own two healthy children. In a few more minutes we were escorted into the room where K and L got to talk to each princess, get their autograph, and have several pictures taken. It was a really neat experience in spite of the long wait.

The rest of the day was spent riding a few rides (K rode Space Mountain by herself and loved it!), walking around, trading pins, watching the light parade and the fireworks (where we had to buy a beach towel to wrap around the girls because it was COLD), and me reminding them that we could stay as late as they wanted if they didn't get grumpy. We finally walked out of the park at 10:40, 14 hours after we arrived. The girls both collapsed into unconscious heaps on the bus ride back to the hotel. I carried L, but I had to poke K for awhile to get her to wake up and walk back to the room.

It was an amazing time.

Monday, April 21, 2008

This weather. I cannot take it.

What does the weather have against softball?

Every single practice and game have been plagued with rain. Every single one has been postponed, rescheduled, or barely squeaked in between rainstorms. K has been practicing in the rain or running from the field due to lightning storms lately.

Today it has been threatening rain all day. Puffy, dark clouds have been floating around, sometimes gathering into menacing groups, but the rain has held off and the sky had started the clear. For the past half hour, though, the clouds have been getting darker, heavier, thicker. Why? Because K has a softball game tonight and we couldn't possibly have a game without worrying about whether the bottom will fall out just as we take the field.

Of course, I really shouldn't complain. The drought that has had the southeast in it's grip for so long is finally letting up and the water company is removing more restrictions all the time. We definitely *need* the rain. It's just that, why does it only rain when we've got a practice or game?

I'd better get everyone dressed for the cold and wet and head toward the ball fields, because you never know what this weather is going to do.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Disney World - Day 1

We arrived at the resort in Disney late Sunday afternoon, watched the girls exclaim over the elaborate hotel lobby and the view from our window, and went immediately in search of fun and adventure. And dinner. Dinner would be good.

We took the boar across the lake to the Boardwalk and...walked...on the boards. After assuring the girls we had no intention of spending $20 to rent a pedal car for 30 minutes, not matter how cool it looked, we decided on the hot dog place. That only took cash. In spite of the fact that the ATM was broken.


So we took the boat back to the hotel and ate at the overpriced buffet downstairs. Mr. at Home went off to his workshop opening ceremonies and I promised the girls we could walk down to see the pools. As the saying goes, "If you show a kid a pool, she's going to have to get into it". Or something like that. So in spite of the chilly weather, we donned our swimming suits. With jackets. Because we are fashionable like that.

The water (surprisingly) was not heated, but the girls decided that the kiddie pool had gotten warm enough to tolerate. I made them get out pretty quick, much to their dismay. But really, pneumonia would've really gotten in the way of all the fun we had planned for the trip. We then carted ourselves over to the playground and I let the girls play until we had just enough time for a quick shower before the fireworks show began.

The hotel had made good on their promise to put us in a room facing Epcot so we had a fabulous view of the nightly laser/fireworks show. If was a great room, even if we did have to travel 1.592 miles from the elevator just to get there.

After the fireworks and the loud booms that made K cover her ears, we all collapsed into bed because the next morning we were headed to the (cue majestic John Williams theme music of choice)

Magic Kingdom.

Friday, April 18, 2008

How to clean your microwave

I was cleaning the kitchen earlier (shocker - I know!) and I decided that the microwave could use some attention. I opened it, gave a couple of half-hearted swipes at the caked on messes, and remembered that there was something about water and vinegar and no scrub cleaning, so I sat down at my handy-dandy laptop to look up this magic cleaning solution. In addition to a fascinating scientific explanation of why liquids superheat in a microwave and the dangers therein, I found a large number of tips using water, vinegar, soda, dishwashing liquid, 3 minutes, 15 minutes, etc. Combining that fascinating research with my own dizzying intellect, here's my version of how to clean your microwave.

1. Find a small microwave-safe bowl, preferably plastic and old enough to be kinda rough on the inside to avoid the superheating thing. Because I am all about keeping my readers safe.

2. Fill the bowl with an appropriate amount of water and tea bags. (I used about 4 cups of water and 4 tea bags.)

3. Place it in the microwave and heat for 4 minutes. Don't worry about those metal staples because for some reason they don't spark and cause fires. Kind weird.

4. While the water is heating, add sugar to a tea pitcher. (My pitcher was gallon-sized and I used an unmentionable amount of sugar.)

5. Allow the bowl of water and tea bags to remain in the microwave for another minute or so after the timer beeps.

6. Remove bowl and contents from microwave.

7. Wipe down the microwave with whatever rag is handy, remarking out loud how amazing it is that all that caked on mess just wipes right off.

8. Remove the tea bags from the bowl and pour the tea-i-fied water into the pitcher with the sugar.

9. Stir vigorously while filling the pitcher the rest of the way up with cold water.

10. Enjoy a nice tall glass of iced tea as a reward for all your hard labor.

Now wasn't that better than using vinegar?

Disney World - Traveling with 2 Kids

We headed out at a very early hour on Sunday to make the Very. Long. Drive. to Disney World. We were stocked up on snacks and movies, which are two essentials when traveling with children, and the XM radio, which is essential for the parents.

Did you know that there is a whole lot of nothing between here and Orlando? Long stretches of absolute nothingness. Trees. More trees. Pavement. And cars. Curiously, there are lots and lots of cars traveling this nothingness. When there's nothing to look at but cars, there's only one thing to do.

You have to start writing down all the states you see on the license plates.

On the way down we saw plates from 36 states and 2 Canadian provinces. Lots and lots of cars and RVs from Quebec and Ontario. A bit of trivia for you - the motto of Quebec (which is on their license plates) is "je me souviens" which means "I remember". The motto of Ontario is "yours to explore". In light of the Ontario motto, the Quebec one seems a bit selfish. It seemed odd to see so many Canadians headed to Florida. In April. Maybe they just decided they couldn't stand one more minute of snow.

On way back home, we added three more states to the total and one more province. I was going to list all 39 states, but I figure it'll be much shorter to list the ones we *didn't* get.

First there are the obvious Hawaii and Alaska (which I have seen, just not this trip). Then there was Kansas and Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama (surprising), Arizona, South Dakota (we did see ND, which, as we learned from their plate, is the "Peace Garden State"), Utah.

Sheesh, I can't think of the last 2.



And Idaho.

Though I keep thinking we saw Idaho, but I thought I already had it and so I didn't write it down, so there's no proof.

Whew, it's a testament to my social studies, history, and geography teachers that I didn't have to alphabetize my list and compare it to a list of states.

To brighten your day, I'll include the very funniest moment of the whole trip. The one where Mr. at Home were sitting in the front seats laughing so hard that my stomach muscles hurt as we tried to do it quietly enough to hear the whole conversation.

The girls were in the back seat watching Robots. They had gotten to the scene where the mom and dad were trying to assemble the baby kit that had just been delivered to their door. That scene begins with the line, "Making the baby is the fun part." The following conversation was so innocently inappropriate.

L (who is constantly asking what and why): "What they're doing?"

K: "They're trying to make a baby."

L: "Why they're fighting?"

K: "They're not fighting. They're trying to push something together."

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Home and still going at mach 1

We are back from our whirlwind trip to Disney and back. We pulled into our parking spot at 5pm, AND

- quickly unloaded
- took the rental and our car to the airport
- did a quick loop through the craft store
- grabbed dinner
- ran into the store for a pack of pens
- went home and let the girls paint flower pots
- put the girls to bed
- put the finishing touches on the flower pots
- wrapped pens so they look like flowers
- made a late night run to the store for more pens
- finished up the flower pens and "planted" them in the flower pots
- sat with strawberry cupcakes and root beer and wrote this blog post

Tomorrow morning is the girls' last CBS class this year and the kids can bring little gifts for their teachers. I LOVE their teachers and the girls have had such a great time this year, so I wanted to make sure the girls did something to show how much they appreciate their work. And what better way than a gift that's inexpensive, lets the girls do all the artistic work, and is still fun and useful? Of course, it would have been easier on all of us if I had happened to remember to do this *before* the night before.

So tomorrow is CBS all morning, laundry and school all afternoon, and Mr. at Home's awards dinner at the university all evening. I've very much looking forward to going to that. You know, the whole getting dressed up and hanging out with other grown-ups is a nice change :-) Besides, I'm hoping I'll get to a glimpse into his life as a gifted part-time teacher of secure programming.

All this is to let you know that I really do have pictures and funny stories to share from our trip and I've written a few blog posts on the experience, but only in my head since I've been rather busy with...oh...having the experience. I promise that I'll be posting soon, but maybe not tomorrow. Because I'll be kinda busy.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

T minus 9.5 and counting

I've got 9.5 hours to finish a complete laundry cycle, pack my clothes, gather all the power cords and miscellaneous stuff that we can't possibly live without for 4 days, SLEEP, and get everyone out the door and in the car for DISNEY!!!

Can you tell I'm excited?

Can you tell that I love Disney?

Can you tell that I'm anxiously awaiting that moment when the absolute magic of Disney World is reflected in the eyes of my daughters?

In fact, I'm going to go pack my camera right now.
Ok. The camera is in my bag with an extra memory card, extra batteries, and the card reader for my laptop. Because if there's a free internet connection in our hotel room, I will be posting pictures for all our fans back home. If there's not a connection, my sassy red laptop will be a glorified DVD player.

I'm also packing books because I've recently learned that K makes a great audio book substitute. Who knew those Arthur books could be so riveting coming to you live from the back seat?

I think the laundry's ready to switch out so I can get the last load started. Good night all!

Friday, April 11, 2008

So yesterday I lost my debit card

And you know how much you rely on those things. I don't carry cash, don't write checks, don't use a credit card, so it is literally my only source of money at any given time.

As we stood in line at the grocery store where I bought the girls lunchables so we could get K to softball on time, I pulled out my little card holder. And my card wasn't in it. So I checked my pocket - nope. Dug through my purse - nope. Checked my card holder again - it hadn't magically reappeared.

(this is when the panic sets in)

Finally paid with a credit card that now has a $5.02 cent balance and drove quickly to the ice cream shop where I had last used it (it was in the same shopping center). Sure enough they had a debit card. Same bank, same uncommon initials, different woman. We went back home where I dug through the trash to find the receipts I had thrown in there earlier, but they weren't hiding my card folded into them.

Now I don't lose things. Okay, I *rarely* lose things. So I was panicked that I had somehow dropped it in the juggle at the ice cream shop or the drama around the fountain. What if someone picked it up and went on a shopping spree? After all, this was my *debit* card. I logged into the online account to check the activity and found a charge for Greyhound. Dadgumit!! I called the bank, got transferred around, put on hold for over 10 minutes, and finally got a live person as I was back on the road headed for softball. The guy was super nice, got the card cancelled, and said I would receive a new one in a week, but I could go into a banking center and get a temporary card to use until then. Because, HELLO, we leave for Disney Sunday morning!

After I hung up, I got to thinking. If the card had fallen out of my pocket, surely the receipts would've fallen out, too. So I pulled out my little card holder again.

And found my debit card stuck way down in the center pocket.

Mr. at Home, as I found out later, had bought a homeless guy lunch at the Greyhound station since it was the closest option.

This morning found me and the two daughters at the bank trying to get a temporary card, which they couldn't issue because our account is still in Texas. So we had to open a new checking and a new savings account here, transfer some funds to the new accounts, deposit a couple of checks into the new account, get temporary cards for Mr. at Home and I for the new accounts, fax Mr. at Home the signature card, and activate the new cards. All while entertaining 2 bored children and interrupting Mr. at Home's meeting. We will spend the next few months trying to catch everything that bills automatically to the old account and get it switched to the new account number. We will get new checks, new permanent cards, and I'll have to memorize a new account and debit card number.

All because I put my card in the wrong place and Mr. at Home bought lunch for a homeless guy.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Mini-Lecture on Gratitude

Today after CBS, I was going to be the nice mom. The cool mom. The mom who's house should be declared a federal disaster zone and so she decided that it would be more pleasant to take the girls out to lunch than to face the mess.

So I took them to a local deli where we ate their favorite flatbread sitting at an outside table. Since they shared their dinner without complaint, we stopped at the ice cream place where I let them pick out their own special orders. After they ate, we walked outside to the fountain where I hoped they would run around a play for a few minutes before we headed home.


K wanted me to take her home, let her change into shorts, and bring her back.

L wanted K to play with her.

K begged for coins to throw in the fountain in spite of the fact that I *always* tell her prayers are free and never let them throw in money.

L wanted someone to play with her.

K complained that she wanted to go wading/swimming/anything with water and why wouldn't I let her because it was warm (like lower 70s) today!

L sat on the steps and cried because no one would play with her.

They both just sat near me being grumpy, so I got up to leave. That caused them both to whine loudly that they wanted to stay and L threw a temper tantrum, refused to follow me, and made all the other moms ask if she was with me.

When I finally got both of them in the car, I gave a very short, but intense, lecture, including recent relevant examples, on the principle of gratitude and would they please try to simply be grateful about what they got and what they got to do instead of launching into complaints about the things they *didn't* get or do. Both of them burst into tears and all was silence and sniffles on the way home.

So I am going to practice what I preach.

I am going to be grateful that I have 2 beautiful girls with normally sunny dispositions that are playing nicely together right now.

I am going to be grateful that I have a nice home and enough stuff to make it messy more often than not.

I am going to be grateful for the beautiful weather that lets me open the windows and enjoy the breeze.

I am going to be grateful for my cleaning music - TFK's Phenomenon album (who would probably be horrified that a middle-age, overweight mom calls their high-energy Christian heavy metal "cleaning music").

I am going to be grateful that I have the physical ability to lift, sweep, climb stairs, wipe surfaces, and command a cleaning crew of two little girls.

And hopefully, in a little while, I will be grateful for the clean home that our efforts have produced.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

WFMW: The Best Advice No One Will Actually Tell You

There are many topics polite company will simply not address. Oh, they'll talk about all kinds of things that will make you blush, but they just won't cover anything that will actually be, you know, *useful*. I mean, it's just that it's not going to profit me in anyway to know how many random guys you made out with in junior high or every detail about your enhancement surgery. But don't worry, it was rather interesting conversation at the time. And that expression you saw on my face? I hope you didn't notice it was the same one that I wear when I pass a wreck and can't stop rubbernecking in morbid fascination.

So anyhoo, I'm here to provide a couple of very important pieces of information that you probably won't hear mentioned in polite society. If you ever find yourself in a situation where you need this advice, you will thank me profusely. In your head of course, because you will never admit out loud that you were actually in a situation where you needed this advice.

1. Preparation-H suppositories can be your absolute best friend.

If you have ever had a vaginal delivery where you spent 2 1/2 hours in the pushing phase, you know that it can have some...unfortunate side effects. It may come as a shock when a few days after you get home, your meds have run out, and you find yourself with knife-like, horrible pain when you're trying to do your doody. And no, the tube stuff will not work as well. You can appease your delicate sensibilities by going a few days before your due date to a store in the next county where no one will recognize you as they snicker at the completely embarrassing contents of your shopping cart. Toss in some witch hazel wipes and a box of those pads with an instant cold center because you might as well just get it all over with at once. Just have those Prep-H suppositories on hand just in case. If you get to the point of needing them, you will so incredibly glad for your foresight in being stocked up.

2. Sit on the toilet and throw up in the trash can.

You're welcome.

For more Works For Me Wednesday posts (and they will probably have a far lower squirm factor), go to Rocks In My Dryer.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Dizzy Hair Clips

Today we finished the CAT test! Woohoo! We're done for another year! And we met our self-imposed deadline to get it finished before the zoo trip tomorrow and well before Disney. So We celebrated with the long trip out to Sonic for some root beer floats and a cream slush. On the way back, we passed a park and decided to stop and play for just a few minutes.

My girls *love* this park and we don't make it out there too often. What makes this park so special? Why, this of course.

This park has not one, but *two* of these magic machines to accommodate the crowd of children wanting desperately to get rip-roarin' dizzy. My girls ran straight to these and wanted to go round. And round. And round. Until Mom was dizzy and made them go slide. By the time we left, the girls were chilly, muddy, wet, and L had dissolved into tears, but at least they got out some of their pent-up energy.

Tonight, I worked on my latest craft project. Since K got her softball uniform and will soon be playing games, I thought she might need some cute hair clips to match her uniform.

Because I have girls and can worry about things like that.

So I made a set of clips in the team colors. And another pink pair for L. And a blue and pink pair for K. And a set each for the girls whose mom babysat L today while K and I were finishing her test. And I kept adding bows and beads until you could just die from all the cuteness.

When my sisters and I were young, we learned to decorate our own hair clips by weaving ribbon into the little snap clips and bar clips. We'd leave long streamers and string them with beads and have all kinds of clips to match various outfits. I just pulled those memory files and put it into practice for a whole new generation. The girls were amazed at the clips and are so excited at their new treasures.

Aren't they cute?

A story you need to read

Lysa TerKeurst, who I've mentioned only about a bazillion times here, has an awe-inspiring, amazing story to share this morning. It's enough to give you chills to see how God so directly intervenes in our circumstances so that His will is accomplished, even in spite of the capricious behavior of airlines!

Go here to read the story on

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Works For Me...Sunday?

I have a Works For Me Wednesday post brewing, but this is not it. You'll just have to come back Wednesday for the most valuable advice anyone will ever give you.

BUT, I do have a tip for today.

Sometimes life gets busy and you get so far behind on housework that you feel you will never climb the slippery slopes of Mt. Laundry. The precariously stacked jeans and socks tremble with every footstep and an avalanche of pink t-shirts threatens anyone who dares approach the majestic (and smelly) summit. You know it will take days of washing, drying, folding, and putting away to level Mt. Laundry and by that time, it will have sprouted mini mountains that will never completely disappear.

Never fear!

Pack the whole mountain into trash bags, throw the bags and the detergent into the van, grab a bagful of quarters, and haul it all to your local laundromat! In a few hours, the whole thing will be clean and folded and DONE!

Can you tell that's what I did this afternoon?

We had a comforter and a sleeping bag that needed to be washed and that necessitated a laundromat with bigger machines than I have. So I took L and most of the laundry with me just so I could finally get caught up on one aspect to housework. Mr. at Home stayed home and worked on a few things and acted as test administrator for K's CAT test. We're trying to get it finished before our zoo trip Tuesday so she did some of it Friday evening, some today, and we'll finish it tomorrow.

So next time you're faced with the tremblings of the Mt. St. Laundry and you fear the impending eruption of mildewy towels, think Quarters! And Quadruple Capacity Washers! And Soda Machines that only dispense MelloYello! And don't forget your loyal assistant who will happily hand you coins, push the buttons, drink half your soda, and scold you for not checking each machine the second it stops. To you, an afternoon at the laundromat is work, but to her...well, it's a grand adventure.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The news lies

Yesterday I read an article that told us the water restrictions have been loosened a bit. The open burn ban has been suspended and people can water their lawns one day a week, but that may go away if "the the dry weather continues".

Um, where have people *been* this year that they think it's "dry"? Since softball started back at the end of February, we've been dealing with the rain. Skills Day was delayed because of wet fields, practices have been continually rescheduled or cancelled because of the rain, and last weekend's opening ceremonies and carnival were cold, windy, and drizzly. At least 3 practices have only happened because the rain held off until the practice was over. It's been anything but dry.

The reports all show that our water supplies are coming up nicely, so why are they still all gloom and doom about it? I think it's because the water company announced that because we had done such a wonderful job of conserving water last year, they hadn't made as much money as they need and their bond rating would go down. As a reward for our civic-minded responsible water usage, they are increasing everyone's bill by almost 20%. Yahoo. By making people think we're still in dire danger of going thirsty, they justify the price increase. By letting people water lawns, people use more water and the water utility gets more money.

It's all a big conspiracy, man.

Home Education Week - Day 5

Show off those talents. Share a story, a special moment, a piece of artwork. Any accomplishment, great or small, is fair game.

Cool, it's "Show and Tell"! And I get to talk about the cool stuff I do!

1. I write.
I hope that one didn't come as a shock to you, because I'd be very concerned if I caused you any undo emotional distress. I have a blog (I know, another shocker!) that I enjoy writing in tolerably often (sorry, that's the way I talk after I've spent a few days immersed in Jane Austen). I have one story published under my name in the book I'm Glad I'm a Mom (which is awesome and you totally need to read it. the book. not necessarily my story) and lots of technical writing that does not have my name anywhere on it. Around the time that the book was being published, my daughter K was working her her entry for the Young Writers and Illustrators Contest. She came to me in tears once because *she* wasn't published and everyone in the whole world couldn't read her stories. The whole writing thing is obviously something I've managed to pass on to at least one of my kids.

2. I craft.
I *love* to do anything that involves a glue gun, paper, ribbon, painting, etc. I hate to spend money on something I could do just as well or better *and* have the joy of making and personalizing it. Things like the Quiet Families and sewing and paper crafts. My project for tomorrow is making huge button pins with K's picture and softball team name to wear to her games. A lady came around last night at practice offering some really plain ones for sale and, being me, I figured I could do something cooler and cheaper on my own. So I made a quick run to the craft store, bought some button supplies, and that will be our homeschool art project for tomorrow. You've got to love homeschool.

3. I come up with cool games for when school gets in a boring rut.
I've posted about a scavenger hunt and I once did a chocolate lottery where I wrapped tiny chocolate bars in paper with each subject written on the inside and we did the subjects in order of being drawn and the kids get to eat chocolate all morning. That's the stuff that makes my kids think I'm a very cool teacher.

4. I wake up in the middle of the night and write blog posts when I can't go back to sleep and I'm suffering from yet another bout with a stomach virus.
Oh wait, that's not actually a talent. That's just my current state. Ad I think I'm about to put me and my stomach back to bed in hopes that I can claim a little more sleep before the sun and the girls get up.

For more posts on Show and Tell, visit Principled Discovery and follow Mr. Linky.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Taking a quick break from the homeschool goodness to say...

Am I the only person on the planet who doesn't watch American Idol?

Of course, that's a ridiculous exaggeration, but I've read no less than half a dozen summaries of the Dolly Parton-inspired performances this morning and I don't even know who these people are. And how many of you think the dreadlocked guy has ever heard a Dolly song *in his life* in spite of the fact that he's from Texas?

I must confess that I have never seen more than a few minutes of American Idol (even though I love me some Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood) and I've watched a total of 12.437 seconds of Survivor. I tend more toward the sophisticated and cerebral. For example, last night I read Pride and Prejudice and played Webkinz. What? You don't think Webkinz is cerebral? Ok, *you* get past level 11 on Home Before Dark and I'll personally mail you a fabulous, handmade Excellence and Lightning Fast Reflexes in Spatial Reasoning and Manual Dexterity award. Maybe I'll work on it next Tuesday night while I sit in front of the TV and figure out this whole American Idol thing.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Home Education Week - Day 3

And we have likely all felt the fool in one way or another. Share your greatest challenge. Or one of those terrible, horrible no good, very bad days where the only thing there is to do seems to involve moving to Australia.

I’m going way back in time for this epic story, but it does involve homeschooling, so be patient and read all the way through.

Back in the ancient history known as BC (Before Children), I was an upwardly mobile office professional, with my own little space in the cubicle maze where I answered Important Emails using acronyms like ASAP, FYI, SME, ETC. It was my 4th job in 3 years after graduating from college (remember, I was “upwardly mobile”) and I had been assigned to help with the updates and edits of an 18 book user documentation set.

In order to complete said assignment, I had to learn a new documentation software, all the company standards of writing and formatting, all the formal techniques of technical writing, and mainframe system administration. Yep, piece of cake.

The day when all the books had to be sent to the printers was fast approaching. It was also the day that my cousin was graduating from high school in a town a few hours away where I was supposed to attend a pre-graduation party and the actual ceremony. I was very interested in going as I had taught some of his classmates during my unfinished year of student teaching. It would be neat to see them go from their punk freshman attitudes to the oh-so-mature status of graduating seniors.

Before the big day arrived, I had made plans to meet my parents and ride out to Sulphur Springs, TX, with them. I would finish up work early and we could be out there in plenty of time for the party and Aunt Shirley’s baked beans. The only problem was that I had never done a Publication Day before and I had no idea the hurricane that was headed my way.

The morning of Publication Day, I blithely went through the files for all my books, tweaked a few things, printed them off, and handed them over to my editor for final approval one by one. Almost before I got back to my desk, the editor returned them with sticky flags *everywhere*. Change this, move that, reprint it and I’ll check it again. What?!? I had been working on this for months, how come all this was coming up now? So I made the changes, reprinted it, dropped it off, and got it back with more flags. It was a nasty, vicious cycle that I was sure would end the *next* time I handed it over.

The hour came and went for me to leave to meet my parents. I called them and explained I would be a little bit late. Then I called them again, “Soon” I promised. I was getting frustrated, the editor was getting frustrated, my boss was getting frustrated and it was *not* a pleasant experience for any of us. Finally, the books met everyone’s grudging approval and got their final sign off. I sent the files to the printer and raced out the door - very, very late. I raced to meet my parents and we ended up completely missing the party and just barely squeaking in for the graduation ceremony. I felt horrible that I had made everyone so late.

As we sat and watched the ceremony, I saw that the valedictorian was a student I had worked with when he was a freshman. That year had marked the first time he had been in school as he had always been homeschooled before. In fact, watching him try to adjust to public school life was one thing that influenced me against homeschooling. This kid dressed different, acted different, talked different, even *walked* different. He just couldn’t find a place to fit in and he seemed to be having a miserable time of it. But in the 3 1/2 years since I had last seen him, he had gotten the hang of this high school thing and had excelled. Maybe he wasn’t Mr. Popular, but he had obviously found a way to make the system work for him.

In the end, we had missed the party and the baked beans and I felt like a schmuck for not just telling my parents to go on without me. However, I did come away with a greater appreciation for homeschooling. It had obviously benefited that kid by giving him a strong academic foundation, even if I did feel that his parents should have given him more opportunities to interact with other kids *before* tossing him into the deep end of public high school.

That whole experience still influences me in my own homeschooling journey and it’s probably a big reason I get my girls involved in extra activities. Awhile back, we met up with some other homeschoolers for a trip to an orchard and I noticed a bumper sticker on another mom’s van. It read, “Warning! Unsocialized homeschoolers on board!” I had to laugh because the last thing our kids are is “unsocialized”. Sure, they don’t spend hours every weekday in a group of 20 other kids of exactly their same age, experience, and academic level all cooped up in one small school room. Because we all know that’s exactly what real society looks like, anyway. On the other hand, that small, unchanging classroom probably does do a great job of getting them ready for the 6'x4' confines of a their corner of the cubicle maze.

For more stories, go read Principled Discovery and follow Mr. Linky.