Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

It's the big reveal! The costumes I slaved whole minutes over.


We have Lydia as a butterfly made from last year's leotard, a new pair of purple wings, and some glittery face paint. She fluttered around, flying excitedly from house to house saying "trickertreating!!" until she suddenly had to go to the bathroom and the night was over for her. Ah, the 4-year-old years. Yes, it does seem to go on and on for years.

Kathryn was the much more daring robot. We spray painted a box silver, added some wires, an LED light fixture (that Will had to rewire so the lights were dimmer), and a candy sack integrated right into the costume. In case you're wondering, it was my own invention, taken from an idea that my friend gave me. I took a long piece of fabric, folded it in half, and glued the sides together to make a bag. I pulled the bag through 5x7 picture frame, wrapped the edges around the frame and glued them down. Then it was a bag with a stiff rectangular opening. I cut a hole in the box, stuffed the bottom of the bag inside, and glued the frame to the outside of the opening and viola! A candy receptacle right in the costume! She got a lot of compliments on it.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Didja vote yet?

Up through last week, I thought early voting was for people who *needed* to vote early because they were planning major surgery or a trip out of the country or something equally as catastrophic that there was simply no possibility they could exercise their rights in this great country on the appointed election day.

Boy, how wrong I was!

Early voting is now for anyone for any reason. And there's a whole lot of people doing it. The lines have been wrapped around the early voting sites all week with waits of several hours in many places. It's nutso. But, I can definitely see the upside to being able to go vote when it's most convenient for you. Like when your husband volunteers to work from home and watch the kids while you go sit in one of those long lines.

After lunch today, I sentenced one child to a nap and the other to schoolwork and left them with their dad while I went in search of the senior center with "twice as many voting machines". The line just to get into the parking lot was long and there were parks & recs workers guiding traffic so we could all park. The line of people was stretched along the sidewalk, but it was moving pretty quickly. As we waited, there was one person handing out democratic voting guides, one person asking for votes for a democratic candidate, and two republican candidates for local office greeting people in line. I figured since there wasn't much else to do, I talked to all of them. I talked to another homeschool mom who brought her daughter with her. I went inside and brought back voter guides for everyone around me. Before I knew it, I was inside and signing in. I had brought my super-enormous travel mug full of iced tea and the lady behind the table stared at it incredulously, declared it the biggest cup she had ever seen, and commented, "I bet you've killed a few trees in your lifetime."

Um..huh?? Hello? I'm being environmentally conscious with my reusable cup, thankyouverymuch. She was very weird.

Anyway, I voted and was back outside with my "I Voted Early" sticker all in less than an hour from the time I parked. Not bad, and now I don't have to worry about Tuesday. No watching the weather, no making sure I had childcare or entertaining kids in line, no worrying how long the lines might be.

If you have a little time over the next couple of days, I highly recommend this early voting thing. It's not just for catastrophes anymore.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I love making costumes...kinda

After the pumpkin carving yesterday, I decided that it was time to start on the costumes. This year both daughters requested things I figured would be easier (cheaper) to make rather than buy. So we pulled out the bag of stuff I bought ages ago and got to work. K had to take frequent and lengthy breaks from her schoolwork to watch and L got excited to try her stuff on and show it off for Daddy.

The "kinda" part comes from the fact that the excitement gets the girls so wired up that they are in everything, constantly talking and offering suggestions, and just generally buggin' the tar outta me. I love them to death, but by the afternoon I was ready to toss them in their rooms and shut the doors. Aaahh! They kept playing with the costumes until things were ready to fall apart and I had to threaten them with their lives. Or at least their trick-or-treating privileges.

On the other hand, the girls are incredibly supportive and just kept saying how they had the *best* costumes and this is Kathryn's *favorite* costume ever! It is pretty cool, but you'll just have to wait until Friday for the big reveal.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

In which I carve some awesome pumpkins

Earlier in the month, we visited a pumpkin farm where we got pumpkins and the girls extracted a promise from me that we could carve them. Between busyness, laziness, and knowing that carved pumpkins don't last, I've managed to put off their requests to please carve them now.

Until today. When I finally decided that we were home, we didn't have anything planned, and it is only a few days until Halloween. We gathered up the various sharp implements, scrapers, and bowls, and went to work. Make that *I* went to work. The girls just had to decide on a design.

L requested stars, hearts, a princess face, and leaves. She settled for a princess face. So I cut and scraped and ended up with a rather pretty face if I do say so myself. I even tried the method where you scrape the outer skin off, so that the light shines through the flesh of the pumpkin, creating a pretty glow for the princess' hair.

K wanted a moon background with a tree in front of it and a scarecrow if I could do it. Not one to shrink from a challenge, I created it.

We took them outside and took a picture with Freddy the Frog dressed up for Halloween. Freddy is a friend's "class pet" and he got left at our house by mistake. Since we can't return him until tomorrow night at church, we decided he needed to have a little adventure during his time with us.

As if all the carving wasn't work enough, I decided to try my hand at roasting the pumpkin seeds. I can't recall ever having even tried pumpkin seeds before, but I just hated to see all those seeds go to waste. I fudged and recipe I found on-line and they are awesome!

Pumpkin Pie Pumpkin Seeds

  • 1 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • dash salt
Rinse seeds well. Pat kinda dry with paper towels.

Combine all ingredients, except seeds, then toss the seeds in the mixture, coating well.
Heat oven to 300°. Spread coated seeds in a shallow baking sheet, stirring periodically, for about 45 to 60 minutes, or until nicely browned and crunchy.

"New" and "Improved" cold medicine?

It's the cold season here and I'm not just talking about the weather. Mr. at Home and I have been hit with a killer cold that just keeps on giving and giving - fever, chills, congestion that makes your head feel like a brick, and a snot factory that just keeps increasing production.

Like any good American, I ran to the store at the first sign of illness in search of a miracle cure. In the absence of a miracle cure, I resort to Alka-Seltzer Plus. Growing up, that's what my family used and over the years I got used to the taste. Then they went and changed the flavor, dadgumit. But at least you can get the orange zest, which isn't too bad, and the stuff still worked.

On this particular trip to the store, I found the cold section and imagine my surprise at the dizzying array of Alka-Seltzer Plus options. There were pills and fizzy tabs specifically for certain symptoms. There were day and night versions. There were new flavors. What the heck?!? Don't they know that people who are suffering from nasty colds have absolutely no interest in poring over new medications and reading labels? All the colors and words make their heads hurt. After a frantic search of the labels, I found the spots for the familiar original pills, but they were empty. It seems that everyone else wants the real stuff, too, Mr. Alka-Seltzer!

I finally found a box of fizzy tabs labeled for the general array of symptoms in day and night varieties and I headed to the check-out. On the way I continued reading the box and noticed a little symbol proclaiming new, stronger pain relief. Uh-oh. They had switched out the nice familiar acetaminophen with aspirin. ASPIRIN. Did they not take into account that I am allergic to aspirin?

Back to the cold medicine aisle I went where I put the Alka-Seltzer stuff back on the shelf and grabbed a bottle of Tylenol Cold liquid. I did a quick check of the label to make sure it still contained acetaminophen, then headed home to take some. I am happy to report that it worked just fine, Mr. at Home even took it and didn't complain about "medicine head", and I will be going back to the store today to stock up on a few more bottles.

"New" and "Improved", my...foot.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

New Home Tour - Part 2

My house was all clean all at the same time yesterday, so I quickly snapped some pictures to memorialize this rare moment in history. So to continue this tour of our home (and not overwhelm one post with a ton of pictures), I present The Bedrooms!!

Our bedrooms are all at the back of the house with windows facing the beautiful woods behind us, which are currently deepening in fall colors that make it an amazing panorama.

Downstairs, we have the master suite. It's a large room dominated by a king-sized bed covered in a new soft dark brown duvet. Eventually, the walls will be painted and the color scheme will be brown and robin's egg blue and there will be some shelves on the wall, but that can wait. For now, we'll just have a bed decorated with tiny stuffed animals.

As I said we moved Mr. at Home's desk down to the room and he's digging his new quarters by the open window. Where it's quieter. Where he isn't interrupted by one daughter's school and the other daughter's play. Yep, I can see why he likes it.

At the top of the stairs are the doors leading to the girls' rooms. Hanging in front of one door is this decoration:Can you guess who claims this room?

That's right! It's K! Someone commented last night that you tell when a girl starts to grow up because she wants to hang stuff in front of her door. Inside you will notice that K is not exactly a minimalist. In fact, both my kids seem to think that the more stuff they have on display, the better. But it's a fun room and K seems to enjoy it.

Across the hall is L's room. I asked her multiple times "Is your room clean?" "Is it perfectly clean?" "Are all the toys, paper, and pretzels off the floor?" Obviously her interpretations of these questions are different from mine. But at least you can see the girly, princess stylings preferred by my youngest daughter.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Repurposing a room

We've been in our new home 2 months. That's plenty of time to decide what's working and what isn't and do some rearranging. Like we did today.

Today, we

- moved Mr. at Home's desk from the loft down to the master bedroom where it's quieter for him to work during the day

- moved the TV with all it's players and game systems into the loft, making the girls ecstatic over having a "game room"

- rearranged the living room since there's more room without the TV stuff

I've spent the last two days cleaning and the timing worked well to get the rearrangement done and try something different.

So why am I cleaning?

Because we're having our first guests tomorrow night! A friend is graduating from the police academy and we're hosting a little get-together afterward in celebration. As of 5:45 tomorrow night, my whole house has to be clean and I think I should be able to get it all done without too much stress tomorrow. I hate stressing before an event with the frantic last-minute cleaning and I hate stressing during the event by trying to make sure everything is going smoothly. So I'm keeping things simple and I plan to spend at least as much time sitting and talking as I spend in the kitchen. It helps that it looks like we're only going to have a few people which is perfect.

I *promise* to get pictures of the rest of the house that I didn't get around to last time I planned to give you a photo tour. At least you'll get to see the new arrangement and not the old.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A thank you gift or two

Our mission trip to Mississippi was filled with helping others, but we were also blessed in turn by many, including two special people that I wanted to give a little extra special thank you. And what better way to give that extra special thank you than by doing something creative and personal? It's not like being crafty is a sacrifice on my part or anything, you know.

So the first thank you goes to our new neighbors who took care of our cat and watched over our home in general while we were gone. We've only known them a couple of months and they were still nice enough to do it, so I wanted to so something nice for them. They're a young couple and this is their first house, so I made them a fall wreath. I can't imagine they have much in the way of seasonal decor and nothing says "home" quite like a wreath on the door. The girls helped pick out the decorations that would go on the wreath and I put it together. Isn't it beautiful?

The second person we wanted to send an extra special thank you is the lady who owned the house we spent most of last week working on. Bev's such a nice person and she's been out of her house for over three years now and the reconstruction is finally coming to end, hopefully, by the end of the year. I was looking for something fun to do with the girls and my parents over the weekend and our contact at the church said Bev worked at a neat place called Ship Island. When Bev found out we were interested in going, she insisted on providing us with free passes. Ship Island was beautiful and we had so much fun walking along the beach and playing in the sand. For her thank you, we had to stay small and sturdy since we have to ship it, so I found a wooden wreath and decorated it with tiny tools. I do hope she'll be able to hang it on her tree in her own home this Christmas.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Mississippi Mission Trip

We are at the end of Day 3 and so far we are having a wonderful time. We're sleeping on air mattresses on the floor of Sunday School rooms and taking showers in a small shed they've fitted with plumbing and shower stalls. We wake up in time for breakfast at 7 and we stay up playing games and doing laundry until late at night.

Mr. at Home was assigned to work with some of the long-term volunteers to lay the foundation for a new house. The rest of us have been moving around from job to job. We started Monday morning together to clean up a yard, where the kids found a really, really great old oak tree that was perfect for climbing. In between tasks, the limbs of that old tree were filled with intrepid climbers. The inside of the house was gutted and is being rebuilt by different volunteer crews. Those are the skilled workers, but there's still plenty of work for us grunts and we've been having a blast.

L has charmed her way into the hearts of everyone here, including three of the older girls in our group who have been acting as her babysitters/audience. K is loving having so many other kids around all the time to play with. K came with me yesterday to paint and L joined us today. The lady who's house we're rebuilding has been so wonderful and just adores all the kids. It's great that the girls have met some of the people that have given their lives to this rebuilding cause as well as some of the people that are being helped.

Driving around the neighborhoods, it's so odd to see the driveways that go to nowhere, the empty concrete slabs and posts, the houses that are still boarded up, and the damaged buildings that sit next to the glitzy rebuilt casinos. And this is three years after the hurricane.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Now that's an interesting way to look at it

A couple of bloggers that I read have recently posted about a different way to ask a very common question. You know the question as you were asked it hundreds of times growing up and it's come out of your own mouth, no doubt, a few hundred times more.

"What are you going to be when you grow up?"

How would it have changed your answer if the question were asked,

"Who are you going to serve when you grow up?"

After all, isn't that what it's all about? Serving. We serve. By focusing on the serve aspect of the rest of our lives, it would have given us a better direction, a better perspective. It's not about me, about how much money I make or how much prestige I win. It's about who I serve and how I do it.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

We're almost ready

Today has been busy. Not crazy-pull-your-hair-out busy, just enough to do that we stayed active most of the day. There was a van to be picked up, clothes to be washed, bags to be packed, a few last-minute items to pick up at the store, tools to be labeled, miscellaneous stuff to gathered from around the house and organized into the back of the rental, the GPS to be programmed, the neighbors to be told where the cat food is - stuff like that.


Tomorrow morning we're off for Mississippi!

It's a family mission trip and we're headed down with two other homeschool families to do whatever it is that the church down near Biloxi tells us to do. We're told it'll mostly be yardwork since we do have children helping and they're not allowed on the real construction sites. But whatever it is, we're ready with our bug spray and work gloves. Do you *know* how hard it is to find work gloves for tiny preschool hands in October? We ended up with a pair of Hello Kitty winter gloves with heart shaped grippers on the palms and fingers. Naturally, L loves them and they'll make her feel like she's just like everyone else.

I'm told the church has internet access and I'm bringing my laptop so I can post pictures and updates during the week. For now, I've got to shut this baby down and pack it away in my bag because I'd hate to forget my laptop!

Friday, October 10, 2008

My morning routine

I'm not a morning person. Way back when I worked for an actual paycheck, I had to haul myself out of bed at dark-thirty, stumble through a shower and getting ready, and head off to the office or classroom. Mr. at Home learned fairly quickly in our marriage that mornings were not the best time for involved conversations. Or any other kind of conversation. In fact, it's probably better to just pretend you can't see me while staying far away.

Since I wised up and stopped working two jobs - one for a paycheck and one that involved taking care of my family and home - I've usually been able to avoid that whole "morning" thing. I taught the girls early on to get themselves up, get their own breakfast, and find something to do that doesn't involve making me get out of bed to deal with them. I get to wake up peacefully without an alarm, take a shower without worrying about the clock, and get a slow, gradual start to the day. I justify this because I don't get off at 5 and leave my work at the office. Even during those times when the girls are busy and I can sit down for a break, I'm always "on call" and there's always something I need to be doing.

Every once in awhile, though, I wake up really early and something prompts me to get out of bed. Like today when I woke up at 4:30 and laid there trying in vain to get back to sleep. Around 5:30 I got up and went to catch up on all my on-line reading. When Mr. at Home's alarm went off, I went back to the bedroom, got a shower, and decided to use the quiet of the house to organize my office. Unfortunately, it wasn't long until the girls decided to wake up and get moving, but at least they've been so well trained that they left me alone to work.

Today was a field trip day and we left early, without the chaotic last-minute rush, and we arrived at the pumpkin patch almost an *hour* early. The girls had time to enjoy the slides and other play structures before they got overrun with schoolkids on field trips. It felt so nice to be so relaxed and unhurried. Tonight I am sitting in a clean office with an empty inbox as I actually had a large enough space to take care of everything. And now I'm off to go relax and watch a movie with Mr. at Home and hope that I don't fall asleep!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Let's talk photography

I like to take pictures.

I have a nice little point-and-shoot camera that I keep in my purse so that I can whip it out and catch those pictures of goofy moments or hairclips or the little shirt I found at the craft show that I know I could duplicate at home for half the price.

I love my little camera as it takes great pictures. Unfortunately, it's falling apart. No really, it's literally falling apart. It's missing at least five screws so the casing is loose. It's also rather beat up because, as I said, I keep it in my purse and with me all the time. It's exactly 3 years old now and it's about time for it to be retired and make way for a newer, sleeker model. After all, 3 years is an eternity in the life of electronics.

Not one to do exhaustive research on something, I clicked over to the Target site and started looking at new cameras. I want something small enough to fit comfortably in my purse or pocket that I can whip out when I want. I want a big view screen on the back and I'd really like it to come in a cool color, like my new red phone. Hey, who says a camera can't be a fashion statement? I'd like at least 8 megapixels, but I was mesmerized by the ones that come in 10 megapixels. Who knows when I'll want to print something out in poster size?

Here's the deal breaker. Most of the ones I saw came with a lithium ion battery "so you'll never miss a shot". Huh? That seems to me like the ultimate way to "miss a shot". I would *never* remember to take the camera out of my purse to charge it and if I *did*, then I would never remember to put it back IN my purse so I would actually have it with me. I had to really search to find a high resolution camera that still took good ol' double-As. At least that way if my batteries die, I can run into the giftshop, spend way too much on new ones, and keep taking pictures. Of course, I could buy a back-up battery, but those things cost a fortune and I would still probably never have it when I needed it.

Am I just an old fuddyduddy? Anyone else see my point or has the lithium ion battery thing worked well for you?

I think it's time to get her own glue gun

On Tuesday after our MOPS meeting, I caught up with a friend to ask her a question and discovered her selling hairclips. She and her sister?/sister-in-law? have a little side business making and selling these hairclips through boutiques. They're really cute and all, but they're rather expensive. On further inspection, I realized how they were made and the simplicity of it all just floored me. I could do that!

Today we made a quick stop at a local craft store where they had tons of ribbon on clearance that was exactly the perfect width, so we picked out six different patterns and got a package of "quilt binding clips" (those little snap clips that bend back and forth), and a package of small jewels. I came home, grabbed the glue gun and my ribbon stash, and whipped up a whole batch of super cute hairclips. K wanted to help, so I taught her and she made two sets all by herself. These are easy to make and K was so excited that she can do it on her own. We made a few duplicate sets for friends and we're planning to make another batch of them for the Operation Christmas Child boxes our homeschool group is doing. It was so neat to sit side-by-side with K tonight and work together on the hairclips, but we did end up fighting over the glue gun so I've got to dig out my second one for K to have her own. Like mother, like daughter.

Here's a picture of the back. Can you figure out how it's made?

Monday, October 6, 2008

I am very, very honored

Today I was poking around my sitemeter records just for fun and what do I see but a visitor from Wasilla, Alaska! Maybe it was Governor Palin! I just wanted to say welcome. I hope you like my little corner of the blogosphere and I am very much a fan. You've done some amazing things and done them with just the right blend of tenacity and grace. I also want you to know that I'm praying for you as you deal with the public scrutiny and attacks on your private life. I see that you hopped over here from my friend Marybeth's blog. She's a great writer, isn't she? And a very understanding friend as I still haven't returned a book she loaned me way too far back for me to publically admit. She doing a giveaway right now for a mom planner that looks really neat and I could see that it might come in handy for keeping track of your busy schedule. (Get it? "Track"? Like your son's name, "Track"? Oh, I slay me!)

Hummnn?? What's that? Governor Palin isn't in Wasilla right now? She's on the campaign trail so it's not likely that she was visiting my blog from her hometown? Well, just burst my bubble, why don't ya? Oh well, whoever you are from Wasilla, welcome to you, too!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Ok, I am *officially* a homeschooler

Tomorrow we are going to the zoo. The weather is beautiful and some friends wanted to go so we are loading up the minivans and heading down to the Riverbanks Zoo in South Carolina. I didn't really have any other motivation to go, but I did manage to find an educational application.

Tonight, K started making up a little list saying she could write down which animals are animals, reptiles, etc. She has a test she has to take Tuesday on classifying animals and this would make great practice. Great idea! I took it and fleshed it out with a worksheet on the attributes of each classification and included a sheet where she could write down what she sees in the appropriate category.

And what's good for one child is good for the other, right? I found some handwriting paper on-line and made short lists of basic mammals, reptiles, and birds so L can find those animals and practice writing their names. There's even room on each paper to draw some of the animals. To spread the love, I made copies of those sheets for the other young kids who are coming with us.

So tomorrow I will show up at the zoo gate with worksheets, clipboards, and pencils. I even have three lunches packed and lined up in the fridge along with travel cups already filled with milk for breakfast in the car and "to go" breakfast items waiting on the kitchen counter. Yep, I look like a real homeschooler. Heck, I even have a new *52 oz* car mug to hold enough sweet tea for the trip. I am ready, baby!!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Serving our neighbors near and far

Last Saturday our church did a really cool thing. We signed up over 1100 people to spend the day doing community service in the parks, gardens, and the elementary school around our town. We installed benches, painted fences, planted gardens, assembled playground equipment, spread mulch - whatever was needed.

Our family signed up and reported to the church building for breakfast in the pouring rain. Not an auspicious start to a day of working outdoors. One of the elders offered a prayer for the food and asked that God stop the rain so that we could accomplish our work and by the time breakfast was over, the rain had stopped! We all went off to our assigned work areas and got muddy!

Mr. at Home was put in charge of a group to trim trees and shrubs and put up sticks - a perfect job for young volunteers! It was so neat to see the kids set to work so energetically and there were a ton of them. The whole day, I never heard even one child complain that they were tired and didn't want to work. L ran tirelessly back and forth dragging branches twice her size as Daddy worked the tree cutter and K hauled the biggest and heaviest branches. After awhile, L found a rake and went to work smoothing the new gravel we put down to fill in some muddy places while K commandeered a shovel and carried gravel from one side of the park to the other. L ended up visiting the nurses' station a few times - once with a HUGE bug bite and again for bug spray, but she didn't let that slow her down.

They did take an opportunity or two to be a little silly like when K decided to make "tree antlers" and L found a worm. The Princess had no problem picking up the squirmy, muddy thing and examining it quite closely. Mommy was just happy when the little girls decided to let him go.

It was a really cool opportunity to serve the community. The city told us it would have taken them three years to accomplish everything we did in just one day. I also loved watching my girls work with such enthusiasm and working hard. Mr. at Home and I were both incredibly sore the next day after our exertions, but the girls were just as active and happy as any other day.

In another week, we're going to take our little family work crew on the road. We're headed to Mississippi with a couple of other families to work with a church who's community is still recovering from the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina. I've heard we'll doing a lot of yard work, but hey, we've got experience!

Entertaining the children - for free!

After a quick stop at The Walmarts the other day, I decided to go search a local business park for an amazing piece of art that was rumored to be somewhere in the vicinity. The girls and I turned down a side street where we were met with a row of trees already sporting some fall color. I love living here!

Unfortunately there was no sign of any artwork besides the trees God had painted in shades of red and orange, so we turned down another street. Where we saw it. A GIANT head split into seven sections that rotated independently with thousands of reflective surfaces. We sat for a moment or two watching it, then the girls loudly begged to get out and go see it.

So we did.

The statue was mounted in the middle of a pool of water surrounded by a large, empty brick courtyard, that was perfect for running and jumping. The pieces of the head rotated in different patterns and would sometimes line up so you could see the face clearly with a spout of water coming from the mouth. Between the head, the water, the courtyard, and the airplanes flying right over as they came in a landing at the nearby airport, it was an exciting place for the girls to play. They played tag, watched the head, practiced various jumps, yelled and pointed at every airplane and even put on a show with singing and dancing. They loved it and it was all for free.

You can't beat that with a stick.