Friday, July 29, 2011

Too Tired For Words

Guess what we did today...  I'll give you a clue.

Yes, the pictures of the living room are rather dark.
Did you notice the difference?

I sure notice the difference.








And oh boy, did we get a lot done.

We had a problem tree.  Too close to the house, and too crazy.  Not far from the ground it split into three huge trunks.  At least two of the three had been topped at different times.  If you're not familiar with Douglas firs, if you top them, they will grow a "crown".  Many smaller branches will sprout right below the cut, and they all compete to become a new tree, way up high.  Sort of like a giant, mutant Saguaro cactus.  So this was not one tree we were dealing with, but several.

And did I mention the part about right next to the house?  Why yes, yes I did.
And the prevailing winds here blow toward the house.  Consequently anything that comes off the tree comes right at the house.  Yah.  I'm not too crazy about that part.  Oh, and they 'like' to break at the crowns.  We had one piece come down in a windstorm, right on the peak of the roof.  And the butt end of it was a good ten or eleven inches in diameter.

Not that I have to justify this to you (or anybody), but that's why we took out the tree.
That and I'm tired of cleaning needles out of the gutters,
cones out of the yard, and moss out of the grass.
Yah, that too.

Kind of tricky, this tree.  Being right next to our house, right next to the street, and surrounded by various power/phone/cable lines.  (We unhooked the neighbor's cable TV for about a half an hour, with their permission.)  But our logger friend dropped it right where we wanted, with surgical skill ;D

Then the work began... so many trunks, and branches, and cones, and so much mess!  And oh my, let me assure you, I am quite unaccustomed to eight hours of hard, physical labor.  But all went well, in spite of our neighbor - Moonbat Busybody.  A city official paid us a visit, early in the afternoon, claiming that they'd received a complaint (gee, who would've seen that coming) that we had cut down a tree without a permit (and we all know that permission = revenue) that was in the city right-of-way.

Well, let me tell you something.  My family has owned this house and property since 1902.  I'm pretty sure that tree was OURS.  But if he wants to call it the city's... I asked him,

Do you mean that we could have had the city remove this problem tree, that has been threatening our house for years?

Oh no, ma'am, the tree is the property owner's responsibility.

Well great.  We just took responsibility, then.

Actually, the city guy was pretty nice and very reasonable.
Much to Moonbat Busybody's chagrin, I'm sure.
We were tempted to buy a bottle of vodka and leave it on her doorstep, with a sympathy card, but decided to take the high-road and stop at gloating privately.

And thanks to my dad, Kerry, and three hard-working boys, we got a lot done.

How much?

I'll show you.




Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Much Less Wordy Post

Wyatt and Tate came home from CAP very excited to have received their first uniforms.
They don't have all the patches and gizmos yet,
(which I must figure out how to order, and then sew on...)

but don't they look quite the handsome young men?!!!!

Personally, I like their smiling faces best, but they preferred a serious pose,
feeling the responsibility of wearing the uniform,
which is a good thing :D

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Home Library Project

...otherwise entitled, When Your OCD Needs Someplace To Land.

Remember my motto?

When you do stuff, stuff gets done.

Yes, it's an amazing cause-and-effect relationship I've discovered.  (eyes roll)
And I've been reminding myself of it for the last week, while our dining room table has been covered with piles of books, rolls of colored tape, more piles of books, sharpies, lists, still more books, and other essential tools as I slogged through all of our... books, books, and more books.

And, whaddaya know...  Ta-Daaaaa!  I got it done!

Pics first, and then I'll explain my system, okay?

And guess what, this is a pretty wordy post.
So if you're not interested in the intricacies and inner workings of my organizational system,
just do yourself a favor and move on to something else.
No hard feelings ;D

Here's what I ended up with:

This bookshelf is in our dining room and holds most of our Bibles and Christian books as well as some oversized travel/photography books.
And look!  There's my great-(great?)-grandma's dresser that Kerry and I refinished last summer.
And by "Kerry and I", I mean that I had the idea and started the project, but he did most of the work.
I keep tablecloths, runners, and cloth napkins right there, handy to the table.

 These two bookcases are side-by-side in the family room.
The shelves on the left, top to bottom, hold family photo albums,
art and poetry books, history (non-fiction),
the boys' camera gear, encyclopedias,
science, more science, and some oversize book, like their Star Wars collection.
On the right, homeschool materials we're not using right now,
historical fiction and biographies,
children's picture books,
miscellaneous reference type books (gardening, finances, etc.),
kids' magazines we've kept (Discover, Ranger Rick, etc.) and oversized kid books.

 Here's a close-up of the history shelves.  I've tried to put the books roughly in chronological order.
Over on the left we start with ancient Egypt and work our way to the right through the Roman Empire, the Vikings, the Middle Ages, etc.  Of course, we're pretty heavy on US history, and especially on wars, battles, and weapons
Hello... I have three boys ;D

Over on the bookshelf to the right are books the boys are more likely to pick up and read from cover-to-cover.  Many are historical fiction, but we also collect biographies and other non-fiction too :D
These are also roughly in chronological order.

 My grandpa made this piece of furniture and we inherited it when we bought the house.
The cabinet below holds our games, and is full to bursting.
These books are mainly adult fiction.  And by adult fiction I'm referring to the reading level more than the content.  There's nothing there I wouldn't want the boys to pick up and read, though many of these don't interest them.
Also, you can see that the boys use the top shelf to keep their MOST prized Lego creations out of smaller hands.

Here we have the kids' books.  I guess I would call this "older kid books".
You know, chapter books.
And on the bottom shelf, Kerry's garage sale finds.

In the cabinet I've stashed all the toddler/board books that I'm still hanging on to,
as well as some of my OLD books.  Some from my childhood, and many much older than that.
I also have our P.J. O'Rourke collection here, though I don't know why they're not out with the other adult books.  (Sometimes I confuse even myself...)

Lastly, the bookshelf in the schoolroom.
I don't keep a lot of books up here.  Our house is 109 years old.
Google up "balloon framing" and you'll see why I'm reluctant to keep to many books upstairs. ;D

Here are some close-ups to show more of my method, which I'll explain below.
Most books have just one color of tape.  Some have two.
This is the only group where some have three, and is due to using a Sonlight history curriculum for the first time, and wanting to be able to identify those books quickly.

Most of our science books are downstairs.  I keep the reference-type books up in the schoolroom.

Same thing with history.  Most are downstairs, but references we use repeatedly stay up.
And our poor, old Kingfisher History of the World...
the yellow tape on the spine is not part of my categorization system.  *sigh*

So that's what it looks like.

Now - since some of you asked - here's how it works.

To my way of thinking, organization is all about categorizing.  But how to categorize...?  I started very simply with fiction and non-fiction, and that served us well for years.  But we now have about 1500 books and I wanted something a bit more refined.  Kerry started teasing me about being completely neurotic filing all our books by the Dewey Decimal System and I gave a nervous little laugh, because I was actually considering it.  Turns out I used it as a starting point, and modified it to suit our collection.

In case you can't whip it out of your memory bank, Dewey has ten major categories:

000   General Information and Reference Works (Encyclopedias, etc.)
100   Philosophy and Psychology
200   Religion
300   Social Sciences, Education, Government
400   Language
500   Science
600   Applied Science, Technology
700   Arts, Architecture
800   Literature
900   History, Geography, Biography

Each of those are broken down into ten sub-categories, and each of those into ten finer divisions.  You can see it all HERE.  (Did you notice what's missing from Dewey?  Fiction.  I'll deal with that later.)  But that's total overkill for a library the size of ours.  Kinda silly to have a category with only one book in it.  Or none.  So I decided to break down our collection into large categories according to the kinds of books we have (your mileage may vary), and that looked like this for us:

1.  Religion and Homeschool (background, methods, motivation, and philosophy of, not nuts and bolts)
2.  Reference Books, Home and Garden, and Trains (don't ask me why trains are here, except that train books are sort of reference books, yah?)
3.  History and Geography (this includes travel books)
4.  Language, Art and Architecture
5.  Math and Logic
6.  Science
7.  Fiction and Humor (which isn't always fiction, but is usually more fiction than fact)

But a lot of the actual books were tricky.  For instance, Tate has a book called Wicked Bugs: The Louse That Conquered Napoleon's Army and Other Diabolical Insects.  But how to classify that?  Entomology?  Military History?  Biological Warfare?  Horror?  Ultimately, you get to choose for your own library.  But to streamline the process, I relied heavily on THIS classification website.  Just enter the title and author of a book and it will show you how most libraries file it.  Apparently Wicked Bugs usually gets filed at 632 (Plant Injuries, Diseases, and Pests), or 355 (Military Science), but we put it at 595 for Entomology.

Now that makes it sound like I did go all out for the Dewey Decimal Classification System, but I really didn't.  I bought seven colors of labeling tape (like narrow masking tape) for my seven general categories, and made my own subcategories when I needed them, by putting an initial on the colored tape.  For instance, our Christian books have categories like Parenting, Dating/Marriage, Apologetics, etc.

History was a bit tricky, as we have a lot of historical fiction.  Those I double-labeled, with red for history and blue for fiction, but I shelved them with history.  (That's why in one of the pictures from the schoolroom you see two or three colors on some of the books.  All the books I'm using for this particular Sonlight history have an additional stripe on them so if we mix them in with the rest of our books, I can always 'pull' them easily.  Overkill, I know, but it works for me.)  Also, the way most libraries shelve history books makes me crazy.  It's usually regional, and my mind works chronologically, so that's how mine are organized.

When it came to our science books, I knew I needed help.  We have a LOT of science books.  Hundreds, in fact.  Here's where the Dewey numbers really helped me, though I didn't follow them exactly.  My loose version came out like this:

500   General Science
510   Math and Logic
520   Astronomy
530   Physics
540   Chemistry
550   Earth Science
560   Paleontology/Paleozoology (Fossils and dinosaurs)
570   Life Sciences, Origins, Ecology
580   Botany
590   Zoology
600   Applied Science
610   Anatomy
620   Space Exploration

And as helpful as that was, I still needed to break down the 590s, Zoology, into groups of animals.  And here, I didn't go strictly by Dewey, but modified that according to our collection of books, which is 'weighted' toward animals the boys have been passionate about.  Therefore, we have:

590   General Animal Books (references)
591   Sea Life, (and I lumped in aquatic mammals)
595   Insects and Spiders
597   Reptiles and Amphibians
598   Birds
599   Mammals
I know I'm missing whole categories, but again, it works for us.

That leaves fiction.  I packed away all our toddler/board books, Dr. Seuss and the like.  We're past that, but since we have room - for now anyway - I'm keeping them for guests and grandkids someday.  The rest of our fiction I divided into three groups - little kids (picture books), big kid (chapter books), and adult.  Of course, some of the fiction is shelved with history, but all the rest got shelved by author.  C for Cleary, D for Dahl, you know.  That was the easy part :D

As far as where they are on our shelves... there's no rhyme nor reason to that but shelf space and frequency of use.

So there!  Too much?  I warned ya ;D  I'm just glad it's DONE.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Girls Night Out - It's Not What You Think

It's been a lovely, lazy Sunday.  Well, not terribly lazy - at least for the boys - as they mowed my sister's yard today after church.  She's touring Italy for five weeks - FIVE WEEKS! - and we're doing yard work. 


The boys have actually been making some money this summer and I can tell you right off that Tate is the only one who really knows how to save.  (A young man after my own heart :D )  The other two spent every penny they got until I laid down the law.  For every ten dollars they get, they need to give some as a tithe, half gets saved, and what's left is their spending money.  And the tithe?  I'm not pressuring them on an amount, but they're very agreeable to ten percent.  Sometimes more. 

But they had been forgetful, so Tate came up with a solution.  He decided they needed a jar in the kitchen so they could put their tithe money in the jar right away, because by the time Sunday rolls around it tends to slip their minds.  His brothers agreed.  He found a jar.  Problem solved.  Of course, their offering smells like dill pickles, but I don't think God minds.

My parents invited us up for lunch, which was absolutely lovely.  I'm not sure there's a better summer food than hamburgers, cooked on the grill.  And, for an added educational/entertainment bonus, the smoke from the barbecue spooked about thirty bats that were roosting under the eaves, and they all swooped away for a safer haven, right in broad daylight.

Now, before you get all EWWW about bats, let me tell you something we learned in science last week.  Those little brown bats are very clean - no kidding - and, even better, did you know they eat up to 600 insects per hour?  All night long?  I probably saw thirty, and I'm sure there are more.  Probably a LOT more, but let's just say there are 50 living in their roof.  Our nights are pretty short this time of year.  Let's say six hour of darkness?  They may feed longer than that, but I'll estimate low.  That means that every single (summer) night those bats eat up to 180,000 insects

Well.  I'll take bats over mosquitoes, hands down.

Meanwhile, something I am eternally grateful for is window screens.  Amen?  With our cold, wet spring, followed by a cool, damp summer we're having a bumper crop of mosquitoes.

And speaking of my mom (a moment ago)...  That is just like her, to invite us up for lunch, when she's the one in the middle of her radiation treatment and should be being pampered.  I haven't mentioned how she's doing lately, and she's doing great.  She says she's starting to "feel it" a bit.  Having a bit less energy.  But it's mighty hard to tell.  Still, I invited them to dinner this week, just because I want to. :D

Oh, by the way, summer finally came today.  Our thermometer actually hit eighty degrees.  EIGHTY.  Go ahead and laugh, all you southerners.  It was a heat wave, I tell ya.  Which necessitated the Girls Night Out.  My mom and I made that up.  That's when it's hot and uncomfortable and we remove certain foundational undergarments in the privacy of our own homes, and let 'the girls' out.  No margaritas are involved.

You're welcome.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

In Which I Have A Short Attention Span

I could call this another Brain Dump, but I'm not sure I can spare two in one week.  I might run dry.  Here's an update, anyway ;D

1.  I'm flogging away at the Organize The Books project and making headway.  I made a small start about a week ago, got overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of books, and almost quit.  But Dan, if you're reading, I'm dangling your new book like a carrot at the end of a stick, as my reward for finishing the job.

Which won't be tonight.  I'm so close, but the boys are in the family room (aka library) watching some testosterone-laden he-man movie, and I don't want to be milling in and out. 

Also, my back is KILLING ME.  Moving 1500 books is a lot of work, y'know?  We also moved two of the book shelves today.  Okay, one of them we only moved about two inches (it was too close to a wall and the lower cabinet door wouldn't open properly... great planning when we put it there, yah?) but I still had to take all the books off and put them back.  And yes, I would like some cheese with that whine.

I'll show you pics later - soon! - when it's done.  For now, I can tell you that the system relies heavily on categories, colored tape, and Sharpies.  I have this thing about Sharpies.  Love those pens. 

Moving on...

2.  I just discovered robins building a new nest right outside my office window.  Did you know that (around here, anyway) robins can have three broods each summer?  And they will usually build a new nest each time?  Anyway.  And can you guess how I noticed the nest?  It's right above the hood of the van.  Gee, thanks.

3.  In better news, my dad came by this morning with a logger friend and they have assured me that they can remove an enormous fir tree from my front yard for a FRACTION of the cost of those professional tree service guys.  Their plan involves a Really Large Chainsaw, a long cable, my dad's huge John Deere tractor, and a dump truck.  Oh, and temporarily removing a wire that goes from a pole into my neighbor's house.  Because they have assured me that the tree is not tall enough to hit that wire on the way down, but - y'know - just in case.  It probably won't hit it.  But it might.  I'm just sayin'.  Good thing my dad's an electrician.

And a really good thing our neighbors are so nice :D  In fact, we are distantly related, so they're not just neighbors, they're family.  I think he is some kind of shirt-tail cousin to my grandma, who used to live here.  (In case you're not from around here, "shirt tail cousin" is not an insult.  It just means that I know we're related in some convoluted way, but can't exactly work out how.)  Doesn't matter.  They are sweet.  They put up with all the craziness and loudness our kids and their friends can dish out and they still love us.  Tate takes the bunnies over for visits.  And Bea brings us treats.

4.  Tonight it was rice-krispie treats, molded on a popsicle stick, then rolled in white "chocolate" and cake sprinkles.  The boys thought they'd died and gone to heaven.  Which tells you about how often I make homemade treats.  And is also somewhat hilarious because two of my three boys think they don't like marshmallows.  That didn't stop them from gobbling them up.  And going next door to thank her.

5.  Wyatt and Tate have received their first set of uniforms for CAP.  I'll get pictures on Tuesday, when they suit up.  They are just a wee bit excited.  In fact, they have taken it upon themselves to instruct me in the special techniques of how said uniforms are to be ironed.  Which translates, in mom-speak, to, It's time for you to learn how to iron your own clothes.

6.  Kerry took Wyatt and Tate mountain biking today - up a real mountain.  Okay, around here we'd call it a hill.  But they really rode up it.  All the way.

I'm cheating.  This pic is from last year.  But this is where they went.  And yes, you have to ride up from "civilization" you can see down below.  They rock.

And can I just tell you how much more pleasant they are to be around after they've expended a few thousand calories?  They need to go up there every. single. day.

7.  So there you are.  I think there's nothing to write about, and here I am, a few hundred words later.  Ready to check my brain at the door and call it quits for the night.

Hope you all have a relaxing and encouraging Sunday :D

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Thursday Brain Dump

 The Brain Dump.  The perfect kind of summer post.  Not much planning.  Kind of like you and me, sitting in the sun (or the shade, depending on your context) and drinking some sweet tea.  Okay?

1.  And the whole sun/shade thing?  I'd be in the sun.  If I could find it.  Any time the sun comes out I go outside to my plastic lawn-chair throne and set the timer for 20 minutes of do-not-disturb-me.  I tell the kids it's doctor's orders, because we're all chronically low on Vitamin D. And I'm only partly joking.

See, I know I may have given you the impression that it rains a lot here.  That's because it does.  But usually we have an absolutely glorious summer, from about the 5th of July (because we have a proud and long-standing tradition of enduring rain on the 4th, when we're all trying to barbecue- eyes roll) until the middle of September.  This year?  Not so much.  If I didn't have some appealing plans later in the year I'd feel gypped.  Because I woke up this morning to 58F and rain.  Again.  This is unusual even for us.  That old adage about 'we don't tan, we rust' is starting to hit too close to home.

2.  I took ten kids to see Cars 2 on Wednesday.   I may have lost my mind.  Actually, we had a good time.  My favorite part was the whole Squatty Potty thing, in Tokyo, but the kids didn't quite get it.  Actually the very best part was that I got my act together and made sure we got to a showing that was captioned, so Tate could enjoy the movie too :D

3.  Clearly I'm not as organized as I'd like to be, as TWO of my boys have had birthdays that have gone unmentioned.  Wyatt just turned 15 last week.  FIFTEEN!  How did that happen?  He's gotten 15 years old and I haven't aged a day ;D  And Gunnar, my baby, hit the double digits.  My youngest child is ten years old.  I could be all sentimental about that, because they were pretty funny when they were little.  But, come to think of it, they're still pretty funny.

 And aren't they handsome?!
Sorry about the glare, uh...
somebody forgot to turn off the lens flare generator.
(That's for the boys ;D )

The boys were appropriately celebrated by family (Gunnar's b'day in June, with Father's Day, and we honored Wyatt last Sunday) and with friends, hence the ten kids to the movie.  Or maybe it was nine.  It seemed like ten.

4.  We're all just a little bit distracted by this whole wedding-in-less-than-two-months thing!

  Dave and Allyson

 Soooo happy for them.  And soooooo glad I'm not the one trying to plan a wedding in eight weeks ;D

5.  Meanwhile, I spent about seven hours with my mom on Tuesday, shopping for a "mother-of-the-groom" dress for the aforementioned wedding.  And found a FABULOUS one.  I tried to find a picture to show you its wonderfulness, but Macy's website indicates they have approximately 2904 dresses.  I'm not kidding.  And I don't have that kind of devotion to fashion.  You'll have to take my word for it.  She's going to look mah-ve-lous.  Even better, she had tried the dress on earlier in the week and put it on reserve - unsure, and wanted a second opinion.  So when we went back to look at it, it was on the 40% off rack.  AND even still better, a sale was starting the following day, and if she left it at the store overnight they'd give her an extra 20% off.  No problema.

So that was pretty fun, in spite of the fact that I'm convinced I'm lacking the fashion and shopping genes normally present in females of the species.  *sigh*

A friend asked what I'll wear to the wedding, and all I have to say is that I'm leaning toward clothes.

6.  All week I've felt blah.  Not sick.  Just unmotivated. Slug-like.  As if I'm moving through molasses.  I blame hormones.  A good mom would write a glowing tribute to each of her birthday boys but I don't think I could do them credit right now.  Possibly several hours of ten kids in the house, trying to take over the world (aka playing Risk) has something to do with that.  I finally just set the timer and told them that when the frog rings (the timer is a frog) they all had to go outside.  And I don't care if it's raining.

7.  The UPS man brought me a new book today :D

The World-Tilting Gospel by Dan Phillips, a bloggy friend you can find at his own blog here, or at a joint blog here.  Dan has a disarming and sometimes startling way of serving up truth, with a side of wit.  And this is just his first book.  I understand he'll have another out in a month or so, on Proverbs.  Looking forward to it.

8.  Books, books, everywhere books.  My little organize-the-home-library project tried to intimidate me into quitting.  You know, so many books and how to sort them?  But I've called its bluff.  I'm on it.  Clearly my OCD needs a place to land ;D

That's all I've got for now.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Saturday Brain Dump

Yesterday was a daily day.  

Want to know what I did?  Absolutely nothing interesting.  Not even anything I can pretend was interesting unless you're dying to know that the tantalizing smells coming from the crock-pot were a constant distraction, or you have an inordinate fondness for the details of our laundry and vacuuming habits.  (And whoever decided that putting carpet in the dining room was a good idea, anyway?)  So I'll take this opportunity of blah nothingness to pat myself on the back for knocking six things off the Mother Load - none of which are interesting enough to tell you about - and then we'll move on.

1.  We were off to a blazingly early start at 6am this morning.  (Yes, in fact, it IS Saturday.)  Wyatt and Tate are helping at an airshow today and Did Not Want To Be Late.  I'm thankful for that attitude, truly, though they're a wee bit over-zealous.  At least their granny (or great-aunt?) won't tease them when they come to visit, with, "Oh look!  It's the Late G****s!"  (Kerry told me that story.)

2.   As I was driving home from dropping them off at the airport I saw two bald eagles.  I remember when I was growing up they were very rare, and now we see them all the time.

3.  So, hurray (!), all the boybarians are occupied this morning, and I am getting ready for a party tomorrow.  Wyatt is fifteen, FIFTEEN!  His real birthday was Wednesday, which we observed at Coldstone - thanks for the gift-cards, Aunty Tam-Tam :D  But, in keeping with family tradition, the real party is tomorrow.

4.  Each boy likes a different treat for his birthday.  Not so much cake.  And for Wyatt, it's raspberry pie.  In all humility, the BEST raspberry pie in the entire world.  Which requires the best raspberries in the entire world.  Good thing we live here, in the PNW.  This is berry-growing heaven.  Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, huckleberries, marionberries, boysenberries, salmonberries... and more.

Sure, all year long we can buy berries... from California.  And we eat them.  But in the summer, when our berries are ripe we realize we've been duped.  Those California berries are practically flavorless.  Like berry-flavored water.  Our berries don't mess around.  The downside is that they have a shelf-life of about ten minutes (okay, a couple days, tops) before they'd better be frozen, cooked into something, made into jam, or eaten.  No problem.

This year I'll get pictures of the pie and share the recipe.  Promise.

5.  And if I forget we'll blame Motherhood Amnesia.  You know about this, right?  All you moms with kids underfoot, and hectic lives?  I can get so engrossed in the daily moments, and training, and cleaning, and schooling, and laundry, and everything, that I gloss right over what's happening in the world.  Oblah-blah?  Debt?  Royal wedding?  Wiener-gate?  Whatever.  I'm sure most of what's happening isn't worth remembering anyway.

6.  The things I WILL remember are more likely to be ridiculous.  Like the boys all dissolving into hysteria yesterday, thanks to this clip, which is totally safe for work and family, but may give you an ear-worm that will last All. Day. Long.  You're welcome.  I heard the boys, throughout the rest of the day, imitating Gimli - I've heard enough.  Shoot him.

7.  It's just possible that I'm not the most culturally sensitive person on the planet.  Because I really fail to see how this song could ever be a big hit.  Even in Russia.  Apparently the original lyrics are NOT tro-lo-lo-lo-lo, but Я скачу по прерии на своем жеребце, мустанге таком-то, а моя любимая Мэри за тысячу миль отсюда вяжет для меня чулок,  which translates, loosely (?) as:

I'm riding the prairie on my stallion, a mustang as such, and my sweetheart Mary now knits a stocking for me, a thousand miles away from here.

Well.  The artist claimed it was a naughty song (I don't want to begin to contrive how that works) and he couldn't publish the lyrics at that time.  Or we could infer that Brezhnev had a low tolerance for lounge singers.  You choose.

8.  Wait!  Something DID happen yesterday.  I received yet another forwarded email from an uncle I haven't seen in a couple of years.  It contained some Very Useful Advice, which I'll share with you now.  Because that's the kind of friend I am.  Are your ready?  Okay.

Handle every stressful situation like a dog.  If you can't eat it or play with it, just pee on it and walk away.

Alrighty then.  Now those are words to live by.

9.  Surprise!  My neighbor, whose husband manages a restaurant, has just invited Gunnar and me out to lunch, so I'm publishing without editing and heading out the door.

Happy Saturday, friends.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Summer Science

I think I've mentioned that I'm cruelly forcing the boys to do science this summer.  Actually, only one of them has complained, and he complains about everything, so I don't pay much attention ;D 

And what's up with that anyway?  I've become habituated to it and I'm not curbing it like I should... for his own good.  Wyatt absolutely gives me fits some days, and then (when offered options, like taking one or two classes, part time at the high school), proclaims vehemently that he NEVER wants to go to public school and wants to be homeschooled all the way through, full time. 

Then apply yourself, son.

But back to science... Wyatt really resisted allowing himself to show any interest in the first few chapters of his book, but now that he's getting into some biology I see him getting drawn in.  Don't tell him I noticed, yah?  And Tate and Gunnar are loving their study of birds, bats, and (moving on to) bugs. 

Well of course they are!  I haven't met a kid yet that isn't interested in animals!  And when the boys were smaller, and we were just starting homeschooling, that's what we started with.  Animals.  (And volcanoes, because we were going to Mt. St. Helens, but that's a different story ;D )  They LOVED it!  I found a simplified chart that showed how animals are grouped into phyla and classes, adapted a form from Susan Wise Bauer's Well-Trained Mind, and away we went. 

We'd choose an animal we were interested in and gather our resources.  First we'd scour our home library, then get books and often nature documentaries from the public library, (Gunnar and I recently enjoyed The Biggest Dam Movie You Ever Saw - about beavers - from Netflix, so the opportunities are nearly endless), and we'd look for an opportunity to observe the real thing, if possible.  We started with things we could capture and keep, at least for awhile... bugs, lizards, tadpoles, frogs, even a fresh-water clam!  (And, if memory serves, way too many reptiles, friends.  To clarify: 'too many' starts at one.)  Just click the tag below (creature feature) and you'll see many of our wonderful finds.  Not for the squeamish.

Each boy had an animal notebook, to save all his notes.  We started with our Animal Observation sheet.  Most of the questions can be answered just by looking at the creature and using a (visual) classification chart, but some we had to research together.  My master looks like this;


Kingdom:            (This would be Animalia ;D )
Phylum:               We mostly dealt with arthropods (crabs, insects, etc.), molluscs (have shells), and 
                              chordates (have a backbone).
Class:                   These are still big groups kids can manage, like birds, mammals, reptiles, fish, etc.
Common Name:  (Duh)
Latin Name:         Didn't always do this when they were really little, but kind of interesting when you
                              start recognizing Latin word roots.

Does it have a backbone?           Kids can usually figure this out.  They learn that most animals have
                                                        a skeleton on the inside or the outside.
Does it have fur?                         Easy :D
Does it have wings?                    Some insects' wings are hidden under wing-cases, but usually easy.
What does its skin feel like?      Furry, scaly, smooth, bumpy, rough, slippery, soft, cold, warm... 
How many feet does it have?
What do its feet look like?          Color, texture, claws, size, shape, toes, hooves, etc.
How many legs does it have?     It's good to notice that they come in pairs.
What do its legs look like?         Color, covering, joints, size, shape, etc.
What does its body look like?    Size, general shape, thickness, covering, color, etc.
What does it eat?                        Look it up, you might be surprised :D
Where does it live?                     Where is it native.  Not the zoo.
How big is it?                             They'll learning what measurements mean, or use comparison.
What do its babies look like?     A small version of the adult?  Hairless and blind?  Completely
                                                     different?  Ahhhh... metamorphosis...
Is it domesticated or wild?
Is it endangered?

* Sometimes we recorded observations of animals we captured.
* Sometimes we summarized books we'd read.
* Sometimes we made maps that showed the distribution of the animal.  (This was especially interesting when we studied the fresh-water clam, which was introduced from China and is an invasive species.  We mapped out where it started and how far it spread for various years.)
* And I had them make a picture.  If I remember right, Bauer has them do that at the beginning of her observation sheet, but I thought their pictures were better if they made their observations first.  They tended to notice and include more details.  Although, to be honest, when one of my smaller smalls (ahem, Gunnar) sometimes got frustrated with drawing I would sometimes print out a coloring sheet of the animal that he could color and I would help him label.  And sometimes we just found a picture to cut and paste.  It's hard to be the youngest.

So there ya go :D

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Suburban Wildlife

Animals.  We've got 'em.  In our little neighborhood alone we've seen: garter snakes, alligator lizards, salamanders, tree frogs, mice, moles, rats, squirrels, foxes, raccoons, wild rabbits, deer, and birds too numerous to mention.  I'm sure I've missed a few species.  Coyotes, skunks, porcupines...

Everybody loves the furry ones.  They're so cuuuuute!

Cute?  Yah, okay.  Nuisance?  Definitely.

I just do not understand how we 'city folks' (okay, suburban) have so much more trouble with wildlife than our friends in The County.  Take those adorable raccoons for instance.

Last summer I realized the boys were outgrowing our little pool, and decided not to store it for another winter.  Just when I was ready to post it on craigslist, two raccoons decided to use it as a playground and popped the inflatable ring around the top.  (eyes roll)  I have patched and I have patched... and that was the end of the pool.  And if that isn't enough, apparently they have fantastically toxic poo, with millions of roundworm eggs that can survive for years in the soil.  We've seen so many raccoons my yard may qualify with the EPA as a Superfund clean-up site.  Fabulous.

The squirrels and birds I don't mind so much, since I don't have a garden yet.  (A project for next year.)  But I'm not overly fond of the Dawn Patrol, singing at 4:30a.m. every morning.  Also, the squirrels do dig in my flower beds, endlessly burying and retrieving the peanuts my retired neighbors supply all year long.  (Do the squirrels ever figure out that they don't have to bury them - there will be more tomorrow?  Or that the jays watch them from the trees and come take nearly every nut they bury?  Life has so many questions.)  And the birds... good grief.  If I find any more blue feathers I'll be able to reconstruct an entire Steller's Jay.

And our yard?  Well.  The moles are having a field day... oh, I crack myself up.

But the deer... the deer.  Those long-legged scavengers.  They eat my plants.  Not the weeds.  Only the pretty ones.  Roses, impatiens, tulips, balloon flowers, Chinese lanterns, hosta, burning bush maples, and even - sob - my stargazer lily.  Kerry likes to buy those.  Frankly, I find them overwhelming in the house, but one year he bought me a live one, which survived nicely in the yard.  It managed to escape the notice of the deer until it bloomed.  It had seven enormous buds.  (The operative word there being had.)  Two opened and filled the yard with their glorious fragrance.  For one day.  That night the deer came and promptly ate the plant down to a nub.  I couldn't even find it this year.  Gone.

My tree-hugger neighbor would probably sigh and talk about how we've encroached on and destroyed the deer's natural habitat.  (Rotten humans, you know.)


This neighborhood has been here for  more than a hundred years.  I have pictures.  That deer has not been encroached on.  We were here first.  It knows a free lunch when it sees one!

All of which put me decidedly in the wrong frame of mind to re-read The Yearling.  Because at the end of the book when Jody's yearling deer keeps eating their crops the minute they sprout, and he tries to build a fence (which would have to be a good 10 to 12 feet high to be any good - trust me) and is completely avoiding reality...  You're supposed to get all weepy and sympathetic for him and his love for the pest pet deer.  But I couldn't muster up any compassion.  Your family is hungry?  Just shoot the d*#n thing and eat it for dinner.  Because I'm all about being soft headed hearted. 

So there you go.

That's the way it stands between me and the deer.  ;D

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Grasshopper Days

Grasshopper Days

Outside my window...  two flickers under the suet feeder, a nest full of baby robins in the grape vine, Steller's jays scolding the squirrels, and the d*#n deer in my flower beds again.

Oh, yah.  She's retreated haughtily across the street (you can see the edge of the road in the pic) and bedded down under the neighbor's tree.  Where she waits for me to look away, so she can gorge herself at my birdfeeders, and eat my few remaining flowers.

Long legged rat.

I am thinking...  I had a total brain fart yesterday, as I was mentally calculating distances, for a trip we're planning later this year, and how long it will take to drive them.  We've often driven to a favorite spot on the Oregon coast.  We leave after breakfast and arrive late afternoon - about seven hours of driving.  For some reason I had it in my head that it was 250 miles and I started panicking, that I'd totally overestimated how far we could (reasonably) drive each day and I would have to reschedule everything.  (Because I'm never dramatic at all.)  When it hit me... it's actually more like 370 miles.
My travel-time estimates are probably workable.

I am thankful for...  my brother is getting married :D

I am praying for...  my brother and his fiancee, work for Kerry, and good relationships with extended family.

I am wearing... denim capri pants, blue t-shirt, flip-flops.  I know, I know...

I am creating...  working on my library project :D

I am going...  to do some birthday shopping this week!

I am reading...  Robinson Crusoe, and it's taking forever.  I'm very underwhelmed.  Swiss Family Robinson is a million times better.

I am hoping...  to effectively discourage Wyatt from his habit of baiting Gunnar, until he's hysterical.
Yes, Gunnar is over-reacting, but we need to yank this weed out by the roots.

I am hearing...  silence and giggles.  The boys are reading Calvin and Hobbes.
(The boy and the tiger, not the theologian and the philosopher.)

I am remembering...  not much, sad to say.
Motherhood amnesia.

From the learning rooms...  an egg soaking in purple water, banana slices - with and without yeast, jars of chicken boullion with various things added (salt, vinegar) or not, ivy cuttings in water, and books about bats :D

From the kitchen...  had taco salad last night, so will probably make crunch wraps for dinner with the leftovers.  Yum!

Around the house...  books are strewn everywhere.  The boys are in for some major house chores after science today.

On my mind...  putting consequences into place for Wyatt...

Noticing that...  the Mother Load is growing again.

Pondering these words...  oh help, there must be something!  (Peeking inside my brain... finding several lists, but not much introspection today.)

One of my favorite things...  indoor plumbing.  Yah.

A few plans for the rest of the week...  Wyatt and Tate have CAP tonight, Wyatt's actual birthday is tomorrow (tomorrow!!!), they have a PTO day on Thursday, and we're having family over for a BBQ on Sunday to celebrate Wyatt's b'day.

Here is a picture I am sharing...

A tree in my yard on a recent sunny day.
Where are you, summer?  Come back!

Monday, July 11, 2011

It's 7-11 Day

Organic health-food folks can pass right by,
nothing to see here...

For the rest of us,
7-11 is 7-11's birthday!
(What a shocker, yah?)
So treat your kids to a free slurpee today :D

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Another Boggled Day

 Wyatt and Gunnar both had check-ups this morning.  No big deal.  Except that right before we walked out the door, Kerry burst in from his office calling for help.  One of the bunnies had somehow escaped - the cage must have been left open - and we all went streaming out to corral Miss Polly.

Mission accomplished, with blood pressures and pulses somewhat elevated, off we went to the doctor.  Of course, I assured Wyatt and Gunnar that neither of them were due for any shots... but I was wrong.  Wyatt was given a choice and deferred until next year, but Gunnar manned up and took it in the arm.

Can I just say HALLELUJAH!  It is awesome to finally be at a point where the boys can submit to unpleasantries without drama.  His eyes got big and he let out an OW! but didn't squirm or resist, bless his little heart.  And we kept the family tradition of When You Get Shots You Get Ice Cream, and stopped by Dairy Queen on our way home.

And speaking of family traditions... the boys have created one that is uniquely theirs. On Independence Day, after watching The Three Amigos, they burn El Guapo's house.

 Yes, I realize it looks nothing like anything from the movie.

That is not the point.

The point is that they make something flammable, stuff it full of smoke bombs, cap rolls, etc.
shoot it with little firework tanks, and
burn it.

That is the point.
 If you don't get it, that's probably because your chromosomes match.

 Tate bought some old school firecrackers and released his inner Sid.
(You'd have to be a Toy Story fan to get that.)

Oh Tate, he had no idea why the Metamucil container he labeled and repurposed to hold his personal fireworks was so funny.

Kerry apparently made an unauthorized trip to the Indian reservation for some extra fun fireworks,
which even Gunnar was brave enough to handle.

 I think that's Wyatt.
And a wonderful Fourth was had by all the Grasshoppers, who blew things up to their hearts' content, and kept all limbs and appendages intact.

At their CAP meeting the boys were officially accepted as members, though - as mentioned - they don't have their uniforms yet.  You can see the back of Wyatt's head (yellow shirt), and Tate is on the left of him.

Lovely view, on the way home.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Scrambled Brain-Dump

Does anyone else get a bit scrambled when we have a holiday on Monday?  Because yesterday seemed like Monday and today feels like Tuesday, but it's Wednesday.  And we did science this morning even though it finally feels like summer.  So I'm all mixed up.  And how fitting is it that I made scrambled eggs for breakfast?!

So, things going on in our world...

1.  Wyatt and Tate are now members of the CAP - the Civil Air Patrol.  They'll feel more "official" when they get their uniforms, but they've started their Basic Training, which so far involves a lot of push-ups and saluting.  Yes, SIR!

They came home quite impressed at what they heard.  Apparently just two or three years ago the unit here was pretty rag-tag, poorly attended, and about to be shut down.  A new commander (colonel? lieutenant? something?) came in and turned everything around.  They've won awards and seem to be one of the top eight groups in the country (overall, or in what category, I don't know.)  At any rate, it's a real going unit and the boys are enjoying it :D

2.  Gramma Grasshopper has started her radiation.  Five days a week for seven weeks.  We're praying that she breezes through it with no (or minor) side effects, and that's the last she hears of cancer.

3.  My office is partially (dare I say, mostly?) tidy.  Not home free yet, but I have room to work on things.  And more mental peace.  A cluttered environment usually goes along with a cluttered mind.  I need the time and space to think ahead to Christmas :D

4.  Kerry and I were taken out to lunch yesterday at a great restaurant down by the marina.  He has some very pleasant (and grateful!) clients that we spent nearly three hours with, lunching on the patio, in the sun... the SUN I tell you!  Watching the boats and seagulls.  Soaking up the Vitamin D.  Kids playing over at the neighbors.  It was awesome.

5.  Laundry drying on the line.  Which should be a given by now.  Or weeks ago.  (Have I mentioned what a cold, wet spring we've had? ;D )  But now we have a warm, sunny, breezy day and everything is flapping happily on the line.

6.  In keeping with the summery weather, I buzzed all my boys.   Love it.  What a huge difference, especially for Kerry.  His hair is kind of tricky.  His radiation (20 years ago) left him a bit short in the back.  Where most people's hair grows down to the neckline, his stops... a bit higher.  Also, his hair is very fine, which can make it appear greasy and limp even when it's clean.  And what with age, well, let's just say his forehead has grown.  Basically, his hair only grows well around his ears/sideburns...

which is not the look we're going for.  

Now that's more like it.  I think he looks fabulous with a buzz :D

7.  Gunnar reported that the boys had let the bunnies get together for a moment this morning (ready to intervene, if necessary), but,

     He didn't do his thing, Mom.  He just sniffed her.
     As if to say, 'My work here is done.' 

And for the really big news...

 8.  My brother is ENGAGED!!! 

The shock is starting to wear off.  We really had him pegged for a confirmed bachelor.  But he's GETTING MARRIED!  So happy for him!   

Yay, Dave and Allyson!!!!!!!    :D

Monday, July 4, 2011

Independence Day :D

July 4, 2011

Outside my window...  fireworks going off, and have been all weekend.

I am thinking...  I'm proud of my country, thankful for my freedom, and love celebrations...
but I'm getting tired of explosives.
Tate would beg to differ.

I am thankful for...  though the US has many flaws, I still think it's the best country there is.

I am praying for...  my mom's radiation starts tomorrow - praying all goes well, also for more work to come in for Kerry, and for other exciting happenings in my extended family.

I am creating...  I should really use my free time during the summer to make some Christmas presents, but having trouble with motivation ;D

I am going...  to watch fireworks from my parents' house, way up above the crowds and hubbub.

I am reading...  The Dry Divide, by Ralph Moody.  I've only read two of his books so far, but they seem like must-reads for boys.  Think I'll order a couple on Amazon that I've borrowed from the library.  Need to own these ones :D

I am hoping...  our cool, damp June-uary protects us all from 4th of July fireworks' "oops".

I am hearing...  explosions.

I am remembering...  4th of July when I was a kid.  We lived on a large lake and most folks around the lake set off their fireworks from their docks.  Pretty safe, and a great show for everyone.

From the learning rooms...  no lessons today, but Wyatt is moving on to human anatomy, while Tate and Gunnar and I have one more week of bird study.

From the kitchen...  BBQ/potluck today.  I made a cabbage/Ramen salad, and have berries ready to make jam.

Around the house...  had three extra boys here yesterday, but everything is pretty well picked up.

On my mind...  lots to do out in the yard, though ;D

Noticing that...  entropy.  It's a fact of life.  My life.

Pondering these words...  I can't take notes fast enough some times, so I'll have to wait for our pastor to post his sermon notes, but he made a great comparison between flying a plane and faith.  (He was a military pilot.)  It was to do with the difference between taxiing around the airport and runways, versus powering up and taking off.  Something about "Refusal Speed" - you have to commit to taking off by going fast.  As in, "You will fly or die."  And that if you are just taxiing around the airport with no intention flying, you might as well give up the pretense.  (My apologies if I'm mangling the analogy!  Because it wasn't to do with our effort, but our commitment.)

One of my favorite things...  polite, friendly, fun company, like the three boys we had over today.

A few plans for the rest of the week...  work in the yard, make jam, quit pretending the kitchen floor doesn't need to be scrubbed and probably waxed, and maybe - just maybe - breaking out the sewing machine.

Here is a picture I am sharing...
Working on the organizing.  This is only some of the books.
I'm at 1400 and still counting.

(Old picture, ignore the "Get well soon" balloon.  All is well.)