Thursday, September 30, 2010

Keeping It Real


First, we've finally been having some of the fall days I long for.  Cold, clear nights, crisp mornings - often foggy around here, and gloriously sunny days.  My dogwoods are turning a purple-y red, and the virginia creeper is breathtaking with the afternoon sun filtering through it.  Thank you, Lord, for this brief reprieve before The Yuck sets in.

Let me refresh your memory of a typical fall day:

Second, just in case you're wondering... no, the irony of me being critical of the boys' addiction to "screen time", while using the internet daily myself has not escaped me.

Third, Tate picked up a woolly bear caterpillar, made a little habitat for it, and it promptly made a cocoon.  The caterpillar is cute.  Everyone's favorite.  But do you know what their cocoons look like?
Like a cross between a tiny owl pellet and a hairy turd.  Disgusting. 

And, btw, the amount of black vs. brown does not predict how cold the winter will be.  Rather, it tells how old the caterpillar is.  They have more black when they're younger.

Fourth,  have I mentioned Wyatt's attitude lately?  Yes, well, the hormone tide is rising.  After an excrutiating week of incessant complaining about school work (and everything else in his apparently miserable life), dismal effort at said school work and household chores, and assorted downright nastiness, we've decided that all that snarkiness is about to pay off.  In manual labor.

Hey, if you're too cool for school you need to know what kind of a life you're destined for.

Not that manual labor is a punishment, btw.  Many times I've wished we lived out in the country where I could give the boys more meaningful work to do. 

But for Wyatt, (who has always admired the character of Ernst in the Swiss Family Robinson movie), and has repeatedly expressed his intent to work in a field that uses his mind rather than his muscles, I'm hoping that a full day of sanding (the neglected dresser I started refinishing), cleaning up muck (left all over the yard from cleaning the gutters,) and shoveling and moving yards and yards of pea gravel from the former play area (and - I hope - future garden) to spread elsewhere, may just improve his attitude in the school room.

Feel free to pray for us tomorrow.

Fifth,  bonus!  The boys are spending tomorrow night at my sister's :D

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Wretched Stone

Disclaimer:  This is my opinion.  For my family.  Not a you really should... or a if you were really godly you would...  for anybody else.  And if it makes you feel better, I'm the minority in my own house.  
All righty?  All righty.

The TV and I have an interesting relationship.  I'd prefer that we were just casual acquaintances and not intimate friends.  But the TV is persistent.  It seems to pursue us, enticing my family to spend time with it, crowding out other, better activities.  It's a sticky, clingy friend that demands attention at inopportune times.  And I would really rather it lived somewhere else, at a distance, so I could visit at my discretion.

We've never actually bought a TV, though we've owned three.  (Not simultaneously.)  And before you think I'm all high and mighty, let me tell you how thrilled I remember being to find a box of Winnie the Pooh vids at a garage sale for 50 cents apiece.  I was pregnant with Tate or Gunnar, and they were the perfect length to pop in the VCR, plunk down the older kid/s, and take a power-nap on the couch while they were happily sedated entertained.  Hallelujah.  You do what you've gotta do, yah?  So I'm no purist.


Even when the boys could only watch videos or the one channel we received - and believe me I've seen my life's quota of Veggie Tales, and reruns of Blue's Clues and Bill Nye the Science Guy - the boys were hooked.  So hooked that when they were 6, 4, and nearly 2 and the TV broke, little Gunnar would sit forlornly in front of the space where the TV had been and ask, pitifully, for Pooh Bear.

But he got over it.  And it was spring and the boys were outside a lot.  And they adapted.  It was great!  And why buy a new one?  We were selling our house and moving.  Fresh start.  Hurray.

Then late that fall we were given another TV.

Okay, I can handle this.  The boys aren't used to having a TV.  It will be easy to manage their screen time.  You'd think.  But with Wyatt off to 1st grade, and Tate at a 1/2 day HoH preschool three times a week, Gunnar was lonely... and so it went.

And it escalated.  Of course.  And we let it.

Until the time we decided to homeschool.  Which, in our house, does not mean sitting around a screen all day watching "educational programming."  And it was hard.

But funny thing about that TV.  It had a habit of breaking.  Suddenly it just wouldn't work.  The boys would go into a tizzy and make wild guesses about how much it would cost to repair or replace, and I would shoot them all down.

Read my lips:  Not.  One.  Penny.

Pray about it.  If God wants you to have a TV, He'll take care of it.  And a few days later, the TV would start working again.  No kidding. Happened several times.

But I never prayed about the TV.

And then one Sunday a friend was preaching, in place of the regular pastor.  He worked with youth, and talked about how saturated they were with technology.  Plugged in all the time.  Texting people just feet away from them.

Certainly, technology can be a blessing.  He - like my son - wears hearing aids.  And think of computers, yah?  But it can all distract us from better things and isolate us from real life, and real relationships.

I don't remember what he was actually preaching on, (sorry Steve!), but he said something along these lines
If you wonder if some particular gadget hinders you, if it's more of a curse than a blessing to you, ask God - if He doesn't want you to have it - to break it.
Okay.  So I prayed about the TV.

And it broke.  It really broke.  A totally blank screen and some alarming buzzy electrical noises convinced us all that this was The Big One.

So we did what quick-thinking homeschoolers do and took it out into the driveway, handed out safety goggles, and let the boys have at it. 

Did you know that old TVs have a vacuum inside and will implode when you drop a heavy rock on them from the top of a step-ladder?  And it's really loud?  And sounds just like an explosion?  Oh well, the neighbors probably think we're nuts anyway.  I mean, we homeschool.

I was happy as a clam.  The boys were forced into more creative play and reading, and I didn't have to follow through on a ridiculously complicated system of the boys earning tickets to buy screen time.  And in a pinch we can watch DVDs on the computers.  Win-win!

And that went on happily for quite awhile.

Until someone-who-shall-remain-nameless went behind my back and got an enormous TV that had been rejected from his dad's rental.  And put a scratch in van door getting it.  And the remote had been lost so there was no way to work it (so he had to buy a new remote), and the sound didn't work so there was no way to hear it (so he had to buy speakers, which were lousy, and very challenging for Tate to comprehend).  And did I mention it was huge?  Also, it had a very special several-minutes-long selection from The Museum of Static it insisted on playing every time it was turned on.  Very nice.

And in spite of promises that it would stay in the garage and only come in for special occasions, it was soon installed in the family room along with a contraband PS2.

And maybe your kids enjoy playing games together and have no problem turning it off when their allotted time is up, and get along marvelously.  Mine do not.  Video-gaming brings out the worst in them.  It starts with negotiating and then the tension and the voices rise, and it escalates into bickering, yelling, occasional tears, and sometimes even physical violence.


And then I remembered.  And started praying about it again.

And guess what happened again...

Lastly, if you disagree with me about TV... feel free.

But if you're curious, I dare you to go to your library and check out The Plug-In Drug by Marie Winn and read it.

Go on.  I double-dog-dare-ya.

The Saturday Blitz...

... or make hay while the sun shines.

Since the sun was shining and the boys' soccer games were all in the morning, all systems were 'go' for a work party at home.  Lots to do before bad weather sets in.

If I tell you that we washed all the exterior windows and cleaned out all the gutters, that may not sound like much.  So easy to write, but quite a challenge to do.  Actually, I'm pretty sure it's the first time we've washed the windows since we moved in seven years ago.


Well, let me remind you that we live in a two story house on a sloping lot, and parts of the roof are pretty steeply pitched.

But we did something smart when we remodeled a few years ago.  We had fall protection anchors put onto the roof.  Basically, metal rings along the ridge-line, to which you can attach a rope.

Long ago, in a previous life before children, I used to do some rock climbing, and still have a bit of gear.  We used that gently sloping roof above the front porch as our staging area, and Tate was my fearless volunteer monkey.

Kerry did the manly-man thing and went up to the top to snake the rope through the anchor,

... while Tate waited on the porch roof... be safely on-belay.

Then he had no fear.

Don't freak out.

Yes, some of us are on the roof, 'unprotected'.
On the flattish part of the roof.

Yes, it looks like his belay anchor is running the wrong way - down.
Only because he was standing at the tip top.

He was the only one allowed near the edge,
you know, where the gutters are,
and then the belay was properly positioned.

Wyatt, posing, while Gunnar took the pic.
Check out the great view behind him.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Saturday Morning

We had to divide and conquer this weekend.
Wyatt and Tate's game overlapped Gunnar's.
And it was sunny.
And warm.

In fact, sometimes it's hard to concentrate on the game...

... when you have a view like this.

And, if you want a little lesson in meteorology...
those lenticular clouds you see
mean the weather is changing.

Sure enough, it was blowing and raining by about midnight.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Simple Woman 9-27-10

For Today... September 27, 2010

 Outside my window...  leaves are beginning to turn, but everything is still very green and lush.  We are having a warm, wet, September.

I am thinking...  how happy I am for all the work we accomplished this weekend.

I am thankful for...  crossing a few items off the Mother Load, encouraging messages at church, and everybody in this house is healthy.

I am praying for...  work for Kerry, safety and success for Grampa Grasshopper (off hunting in Canada), and the boys to be diligent with their schoolwork.

I am wearing...  oh, boring.  My usual 'uniform'.

I am creating...  clean, clean, clean.

I am going...  to be home as much as possible, but... soccer, soccer, and more soccer.
And a homeschool meeting, with a friend.

I am reading...  Gunnar has taken it upon himself to read The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
He's doing great, but got bogged down a bit right at the end,
so we're reading the last few chapters together.

I am hoping...  Wyatt's attitude will improve.  *sigh*

I am hearing...  the washer spinning.

I am remembering...  were we really camping, in 80 degree sunshine, just two weeks ago?

From the learning rooms...  the Dutch East Indies, order of operations (math), inertia, Jonah, mal-, and lots and lots of reading :D

From the kitchen...  I'm thinking Sloppy Joes tonight.

Around the house...  as the days get shorter I want more lights and coziness in the house.
More candles, more sparkly, pretty lights, more color.
Fall decorations are finding their way out, here and there.

On my mind...  our pastor is recovering (well, by all accounts) from recent surgery.

Noticing that...  just in the last couple of weeks Wyatt is breaking out.  (Don't tell him I mentioned it.)
Great... more hormones.

Pondering these words...  
When the government fears the people it is liberty,
when the people fear the government it is tyranny.
 - Thomas Jefferson 

One of my favorite things... Tillamook chocolate-peanut-butter ice cream.

A few plans for the rest of the week...  oh.  Yah.  School.  Soccer.  School.  Soccer.
Lather.  Rinse.  Repeat.

Here is a picture I am sharing...  

Boy and bunny.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Girls' Night Out, or What Women Want

Meanwhile, since the boys were off having fun (post below), Gramma Grasshopper and I had a Girls' Night Out.

It's not what you're thinking.

Girls' Night Out means an evening at home, with chocolate-peanut-butter ice cream, a chick-flick, and - mainly - since the guys aren't around - relaxing certain standards of dress. 

You know, neglecting to wear certain supportive undergarments.

Because we're classy like that.

Boys' Night Out, or Not Quite Talladega Nights

It was a beautiful, moonlit night.

A friend of the boys' had won tickets to the Speedway and invited
our family and another neighborhood family along.
I guess it wasn't purely a boys' night out,
(with two dads, one mom, two girls, and six boys,)
but it sure seemed like a boys' night out.

Not quite Talladega Nights...

But what's this?

just dust and exhaust.
Breathe the ambiance.

 And let the testosterone flow.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Just a Daily Day

The boys had a PTO day yesterday.  (What's a PTO day?  Click here.)  And I was feeling pretty darn good about myself, because I got all ambitious and knocked a few items off the Mother Load while they were gone.

*  Cleaned the furnace filters, though I'm in denial about summer really being over, and trying not to run the furnace until October.  Wish me luck.

*  Removed all the window screens (which we only really need for about four or five months), washed them, and stored them in the garage.  I even cleaned all the window sills - you know, all that gunky stuff that accumulates between the screen and the window?  And - wow - taking off the screens lets in a lot more light!  And the view is so much sharper!  Well, at least I notice a difference.

*  Started cleaning my office.  Made good headway.  The closet is nice and tidy, and I just have a pile of stuff on my desk to sort and act on.

Not bad, yah?

Only three items, but the whole window screen thing was a big one.  So I was feeling pretty good.

Until about 3am when I was feeling anything but good.  I'll spare you the details, but something I ate wasn't happy.

Guess what time it was when I finally started feeling better and dropped off to sleep?

6:00am... time to get up.

But I didn't.

So our day got off to a much-delayed start, meaning there is no way we'll be done with our school work by lunch time.  Sorry, boys.

Then I had to spend 30 minutes on the phone answering nit-picky questions (we're renewing our life insurance) while a very slow-talking woman very slowly typed my answers into her very slow computer.


Meanwhile, Wyatt and Tate had a wrestling match in their bedroom.

And Gunnar began to call frantically from the bathroom.

Where the toilet was overflowing.

And I skipped breakfast and now I'm hungry, but a little afraid to eat, thank-you-very-much.

I'm feeling about this morning rather like the Queen felt about 1992 when she said, with typical British understatement, that it was "not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure".

But the good news is, Friday's Hither and Thither awaits, and - due to the boys' hour long soccer practice in the rain last night - I had to turn the furnace on.  Else their shoes will never, never dry.

So the bad news is the house smells like wet, grassy soccer shoes, but the good news is, at least I'm warm.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Camping and Letting Go...

I may or may not have
let the boys climb every tree they could get a grip on,

ride their scooters all over the campground,
and use their boogie boards as skim boards.

I may or may not have
neglected to make the boys shower the whole, entire week

and called swimming their "daily bath".

So what if they smell a little fishy.

I may or may not have
applied the same standard to myself.
(Nice hair, yah?)

We may or may not have
had an enjoyable, if somewhat wacky,
dinner with friends of Kerry's.

Where I may or may not have
accepted a contraband start of a succulent
allegedly smuggled out of the legendary
Ohme Gardens
by the lovely Mrs. R.

I may or may not have
brought enough marshmallows to roast them
Every.  Single.  Night.

I may or may not have
made s'mores with peanut butter cups.

I may or may not have
told the boys they wouldn't like them
and they should just stick with ordinary s'mores
and leave the fancy stuff for the grownups.

They may or may not have
believed me.

I may or may not have
sent all the kids to bed and sat out on the point
with the grownups,
watching shooting stars and sipping
Must find more of that.

I may or may not have
 been able to resist the temptation
to grab these adorable bubble cheeks.

I may or may not have
have spent nearly two hours in a continuous near freak-out
enjoying a variety of creatures

that included a two-headed tortoise,
the 10 Deadliest Snakes in the World,
and some baby alligators scrambling excitedly around their cage
catching and eating
the biggest cockroaches I've ever seen.
(The things we do for our kids' education...)

I may or may not have
declined to eat right there in the Reptile Zoo's parking lot
at the Old School BBQ,
because I may or may not have been just a wee bit leery
of what they actually had on the grill.
But I'm sure it tasted just like chicken.

I may or may not have
treated the boys, instead,
to the glorious wonders of Zeke's Drive-In,
where you can eat in a real caboose.

We may or may not have had huge, delicious, greasy cheeseburgers,
(with a home-angioplasty kit on the side, says Kerry)
and enormous home-made onion rings,
and our choice of 20+ flavors of milkshakes.
Or in my case, a real chocolate malt.
*happy sigh*

And I may or may not still have
one "Camping Kitchen" tote in the family room
that I have yet to sort, clean, restock, and return to the garage
for next year's camping.

And, lastly, I may or may not have
put way too many pictures with this post.

Ya think?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Moments of Randomness

I keep starting posts and not finishing them.  Life just gets in the way.  Laundry accumulates.  People want meals at semi-regular intervals.  And soccer practices intrude on our evenings.  An idea strikes me, but there's no time to develop it.  You?  Ever?

So my draft file has a lot of great ideas, but they're dangling there, waiting for motivation and/or free, uninterrupted brain cells.  Consequently, here are some of my incomplete thoughts of the day...

1.  If you have toddlers or preschoolers and someone like their grampa gives them giant magnets, because magnets are Really Cool (which they are), keep your kids away from the TV screen.  (Where did that memory come from?)

2.  I hate, and I mean really really hate, grit in my bed.  I sweep and I sweep, but somebody isn't checking his feet before he climbs in.  *grrrrr*

3.  Wyatt, in a classic Proverbs 22:15 moment, announced today that he saw no reason to finish school and would like to drop out.  Now.  (He is 14, need I say more?)  This is the same boy who - when presented with chores that involve manual labor - claims that when he grows up he wants a job that uses his mind, not his muscles.  Yah.  No inconsistency there.  Quit griping and finish your math already.

4.  Once we got through our school work, we had an adventure today.  The boybarians and I went shopping with Gramma Grasshopper.  (Due to a stress fracture in her leg that is not healing, and recent hand surgery preventing her from "crutching", she is temporarily in a wheel-chair.)  We hit Wal-Mart and Costco with our little convoy.  Wyatt was her cart-pusher, Tate was her chair-pusher, and Gunnar was her fetcher.  And when I say "hit"... if an over-enthusiastic pusher pushed into you, I'm truly sorry.

5.  The highlight of my day (besides Gramma thanking all of us with a treat at Coldstone) may have been hanging a jumbo-size load of laundry out on the line and having it get dry.

6.  Other than that, the only thing I crossed off the Mother Load was something I noticed I'd written twice.  *sigh*  So altogether, it's been a daily day.

7.  But you know what?  I'm not the first to say this, but I think comments are a Love Language.  Y'all make my day :D


I won a contest!  Picture me - no - picture the dad in The Christmas Story.  It's a... it's a major award! Or at least a fun award ;D

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


When You Rise Up by R.C. Sproul.

"Sometimes I ask those who raise this objection ['What about socialization?], 'Now, when you speak of socialization, you're talking about my child's ability to get along with others who are different. Is that it?' Usually I get some sort of affirmative response. 'I see,' I go on, 'and your solution is for my ten-year-old to spend seven hours a day stuck in a room with a bunch of other ten-year olds?'

...But this isn't really what people mean by socialization. What they want for my daughter is for her to be hip about all the things other ten-year-old girls are concerned about, like fashion labels, television shows, pop singers, and other essentials to the good life. They are concerned that my daughter is not under the sway of Madison Avenue, that she is free. But I have none of that concern. I raise my daughter, her sisters, and her brother to be free. Their identity is in Christ, not in pop culture."

Monday, September 20, 2010

Grasshopper Camping... The Rest of the Story

In case you're not from around here, let me give you a little geography lesson.  I live in the state of Washington (not the capital  - if you're really not from around here - but the state in the top left corner.)  The state is roughly a rectangle, with the western side along the Pacific Ocean.  With me so far?  Good.

Now, imagine a vertical (north-south) line dividing the state roughly into 1/3 on the left (west) and 2/3 on the right (east).  That would be the Cascade Mountains.  The western side, along the ocean, is WET.  We are the reason Washington is called the Evergreen State.  And that's mostly nice because summer usually looks like this.

But camping is another story.  Let me show you a couple of typical campsites.

Notice the beautiful greenery... which prevents almost all sunlight from actually reaching the campsite, and collects moisture from any mist or morning fog and causes it to drip down onto the campsite.
Notice also that the ground is a gritty, sandy dirt, packed down to the consistency of concrete.  Just try poking a tent stake into that.  Or sleeping (comfortably) on it. 

And listen to yourself saying, I told you a hundred times, no shoes in the tent! as you try to remove the wet grit from the floor of the tent, your clothes, and your sleeping bag.  

Fun times.

So imagine my joy, my rapture when I googled up the campground and saw sites that looked like this!

Let's see...  sunshine?  Check.  Shade?  Check.  Gorgeous view?  Check.  Clean water, warm enough to swim in?  Check.  Soft, luxurious, green grass - comfortable for sleeping and handy for keeping the tent clean?  Triple check!

It did not once enter my overworked pea brain that green grass is not natural in countryside that normally looks like this.


The only green spot in that photo is the corner of an orchard, kept green and growing through the wonder of irrigation.   


So the first time we camped here, we were in for a surprise.
Every campsite gets a 40 minute delugeDaily.  And that's one of the gentle sprinklers.

Oh yes, you see the campground is also kept green and lush through the wonder of irritation irrigation. 

Did you notice the little orange cones in some of the pictures?  Look to the right of Tate.

This time we came prepared.  The first order of business in setting up the camp was a grid search for sprinkler heads, reminiscent of a FOD-walk on a flight deck.  All sprinklers that could impact our de-luxe accommodations must be marked and neutralized!

Next, at about ten minutes before sprinkler-deployment, we went into a count-down sequence, moving coolers, lawn chairs, boogie boards, and tarps into position to deflect the water.

The result?  Camping success!  Dry tents, green grass, and happy campers.

Simple Woman 9-20-10

For Today...  September 20, 2010

Outside my window...  cloudy, wet, drippy, and raining.

I am thinking...  about a friend, just starting out homeschooling.

I am thankful for...  our fun, fun, fun week of camping, and now getting into our routine.

I am praying for...  more work for Kerry.  I don't mean to sound ungrateful - he does have a project he's working on, about a month's worth of work.  Thank you, Lord.  And then....

I am wearing...  jeans, t-shirt, sweater.  My uniform.

I am creating... I need to start creating some Christmas presents!

I am going...  to get school started at 8am this week.

I am reading...  A Place of Quiet Rest, by Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

I am hoping...  the rain lets up for soccer practice.

I am hearing...  drip, drip, drip.

I am remembering... when I grew up, my mom usually made a biggish Sunday dinner for lunch, and then we were on our own for dinner.  Cold cereal was just fine.
Boys, take note.

From the learning rooms...  Monday's tower of books and work-to-be-accomplished always seems the tallest of the week.

From the kitchen...  leftovers?

Around the house...  I'm breaking out the fall decorations. :D

On my mind...  getting back into our routine, and all that that implies...

Noticing that...  we seem to have skipped right over our usually lovely September.
Where are those crisp, sunny, kick-the-leaves and pick-apples days?
We've jumped right into cloudy, dark, and rainy.

Pondering these words...  
The burden of suffering seems a tombstone hung around our necks,
while in reality it is only the weight
which is necessary to keep down the diver
while he is hunting for pearls.
 - Johann Richter

One of my favorite things...  sleeping under the stars with a warm, snuggly little boy.

A few plans for the rest of the week...  school, soccer, school, soccer, school, soccer... 
wash, rinse, repeat.

Here is a picture I am sharing...

 Two years ago... they look so little!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Camping, Grasshopper-Style

Since I couldn't bring you all along on our camping trip last week, I thought I'd give you a peek into the inner workings of...

...the Grasshopper Family, on vacation.

First, spend lots of time, energy, and money setting up a high-tech and luxurious home-away-from-home at the most glamorous spot you can think of.
In this case, Lincoln Rock State Park, on the Columbia River,
with a view of Turtle Island.

Spare no expense to provide yourself with gracious and comfortable accommodations.

Spend every moment in earnest and industrious exercise of both body...

... and mind.

Eat nothing but the finest and healthiest local cuisine.

Store up memories of all your happy moments of family bruising bonding.

Startle surprise each other with cold and wet little gifts that show your love and appreciation.

And, feed your intellect by conducting science experiments.
(Yes, the flames are blue.)

Come with us, next time?!