Friday, June 30, 2006

SPF - Shaun Style!

This week, Kristine has been busy with wedding plans, and has asked her fiance Shaun to come up with the SPF topics. So here we go!

Something with a story behind it

When my great-grandmother died, my parents, brother and I were given the task of cleaning out her house. Now, I was only twelve at the time. I asked if I could keep something from the house as a memento. These teacups were what I chose. She had collected them from all over the world. Some of them are quite old. Most of them have matching plates. The cup on the bottom shelf in the middle is from Germany. Both of her parents immigrated from Germany in the late 1800s, so that's probably the oldest one. I have added my own pieces from my travels, as well. I would have added more, but I ran out of shelf space.

Something truly Random and Odd I found this on my kitchen table this morning. Caption, please!

Something borrowed When I was trying to get pregnant the first time, someone lent me this book. I never told her I wanted to choose the sex of my baby, I just said I was hoping for a boy. She insisted I borrow this book. Then we moved away, and now I can't remember the name of the woman I borrowed it from. So, does it work? Maybe too well. Not only did I have a boy, I had three more after that!

So, did you play?

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Monty Python gets married

I recently came across this letter I had written to my former college roommate after attending the wedding of a friend. I won't include names - who knows who might come across this - but I thought it was funny. The groom was a dear friend of ours, and the bride, well, we didn't think much of her. She was a nasty, snarky person who didn't think her intended was funny, when he was actually one of the funniest people I've ever met. Now, I don't think there's anything wrong with having something done at your wedding that other people have done in the past. But since my dad was a wedding photographer, I had seen a lot of weddings, and this one was the grand cliche of weddings. No originality whatsoever. Anyway, here's the letter:

A mutual friend put it this way: "This is like a parody of a wedding. It's like Monty Python Gets
Married." Seriously, it was like the whole thing was planned by Weddings-R-Us. Imagine anything that you've seen at every wedding you've ever been to and they had it at theirs.

First of all, the guys wore black tuxedos, of course, and [the groom] wore tails. The bridesmaids wore the typical bridesmaid dresses of satiny material with lots of ruffles and puffy sleeves. The color, and trust me, this is a very common wedding color, was teal. The other color was ivory, and would you believe [the bride]'s dress was ivory? I wonder why... It was a very plain dress, which is not to say it wasn't pretty, it just wasn't very fancy. And of course, it had puffy sleeves.

The ceremony took place in a church which was extraordinarily plain inside. The only decorations they had were two flower arrangements. The ceremony itself was literally a joke.
The pastor they had didn't seem to think this was any serious thing, this getting married. He stood up there and joked around, announced each thing that was going to happen from the
program as though he'd never seen it before ("Oh, and I see now that Paul's going to sing another song!"), and had us all applaud the soloists ("I know this isn't usually done, but they've sung so beautifully, let's give them a hand."). If our pastor had acted like that at my wedding, I would have been furious.

The reception, of course, was total cliche. They had a buffet for the guests, including cold cuts and that wedding reception favorite Swedish meatballs. They also had a DJ, who played some of the most cliched wedding songs of all time (It's the new album from Ronco: "Wedding Cliches of the Eighties"), including "Always," and "Just You and I." Naturally, they danced to "Daddy's Little Girl." But imagine how amazed [Hubby] and I were at the incredibly original idea of having balloons as centerpieces! They didn't release theirs, though. [We had balloon centerpieces at our wedding three months earlier, which we then released.]

[A bunch of us] and the best man completely nuked [the groom]'s car. [Hubby] and
[his sister] wrapped it in toilet paper, [his brother] filled it with balloons (and I mean FILLED it), and [the rest of us] put streamers everywhere. It was awesome. I also made the Just Married sign which, when flipped over, said "Call 911" - just in case of any highway emergencies. Just as we finished it started to rain and all the colors from the crepe paper ran onto the car, and of course the toilet paper became a wet sticky mess. It absolutely poured. But by the time they came out, it had stopped and the car still looked pretty incredible. [The bride] thought it was
wonderful, amazingly enough. She looked right at me and said, "This is great!" and she meant it. Wow. Maybe she's changed. That would be pleasant.

Anyway, to top it all off, they went to the typical honeymoon spot, a tropical island. Bermuda to be exact. We tried to call them a little while ago to see if they were back, but we got a very frightening answering machine. "Hello, you have reached the blissful abode of ..."
with some kind of sappy music in the background. Ack!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

WBW - Let's play dress-up!

I thought I had nothing for this week's theme. I was not a girly girl, and rarely if ever played dress-up. And then I saw TKW's. So I give you this, which, like hers, was taken on a cruise ship:
In December 2003, we went on a cruise on the Holland America line. One evening at dinner, these adorable little Dutch hats were waiting for us on our plates (Holland, Dutch, get it?). The men got little caps (see my little Dutch boy sitting next to me?), and the women got these things that looked like mutated napkins. But, being the goof that I am, I wore it the whole meal.

So, did you play?

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Let me give you a hand

My mom had surgery on her hand last week to replace an arthritic joint. I know many people have heard of knee replacement, but it seems as I tell people about my mom's surgery, most are surprised that doctors can and do replace joints in the fingers.

So I found this neat page at Hand University on how the joint replacement surgery works. It has illustrations and animations, but nothing gory. From that website, here is a brief description of the surgery:

An incision is made across the back of the finger joints that are to be replaced. The soft tissues are spread apart with a retractor. Special care is taken not to damage the nearby nerve that passes by the joint. The joint is exposed. The ends of the bones that form the finger joint surfaces are taken off, forming flat surfaces. A burr (a small cutting tool) is used to make a canal into the bones that form the finger joint. The doctor then sizes the stem of the prosthesis to ensure a snug fit into the hollow bone
marrow space of the bone. The prosthesis is inserted into the ends of both finger bones. When the new joint is in place, the surgeon wraps the joint with a strip of nearby ligament to form a tight sack. This gives the new implant some added protection and stability. The soft tissues are sewn together, and the finger is splinted and bandaged.

I am told she is recovering nicely, and my parents will be here tomorrow to set up camp next to our house for a couple of weeks. She had the same surgery done on her left hand a while back, and has been very happy with the results.

Isn't modern medicine amazing?

Monday, June 26, 2006

Carnival of the Blogging Chicks 3

I totally forgot last week and again this week to submit anything, but go check out the Carnival. There are some great submissions from great bloggers over there! And next week, I'll be in there for sure. Unless I forget again.

4 Boys + 1 Toad = 5 Hours of Fun!

You can probably imagine the scene at my house on Saturday when this little guy made the mistake of hopping across my three older sons' paths. Hubby and I were up on the deck, working on putting up posts for the railing, when I heard a squeal of, "A toad!"

I walked over to the edge and peered down at them. Sure enough, my six year old was holding a large brown toad. I smiled and went back to work.

A while later, my oldest came to the bottom of the deck and wanted to know what they should do with the toad. "Um, let it go?" I answered. "Oh, wait, bring it up here. I want to see it." So they all trooped up to the deck and brought it over for me to see. I had never held a toad that big before. It was pretty cool. "Okay, now let it go."

I watched them go back down and set the toad free in the field.

Imagine my surprise when over an hour later, they were playing with Mr. Toad again. Apparently, he had not learned his lesson the first time and had hopped right past them again. By this time, the baby had gotten up from his nap. I suggested that he would probably love to see the toad, too. Sure enough, he squealed with delight watching the poor little thing try to escape from my other boys, repeatedly. I went back up on the deck.

Then things got really fun. There's a large tray on the ground, catching the drips from our air conditioner. It was pretty full of water. They decided to watch Mr. Toad swim. Over and over again, the poor thing would swim to the edge of the tray and climb up, only to be tossed back in, like some kind of survival boot camp for toads. This delighted the baby to no end. Eventually, they got bored and walked away. But Mr. Toad hung around, right near the tray of water. So naturally, when they came back, it was time for round 2 of his swimming lessons.

Finally, they grew tired of the toad and left him. This time, he used the common sense he should have exercised hours earlier and got far, far away from there! It sure made for a fun afternoon.

Update on the poison ivy: Still there. Still itching. I am tempted to just scratch it open. It is slowly driving me insane (not that I have far to go).

Friday, June 23, 2006

SPF - June 23

For SPF this week, Kristine has given us the following assignment:
1. Your Drinking Glasses.
2. Your Address book/Stationary (remember that stuff we used BEFORE email?)

Here are my drinking glasses, still in the dishwasher:
I think this is the most recent address book I used. It's got loose pieces of paper stuck in everywhere and things crossed out. I was so happy when computerized address books came along. Of course, our kids will say, "You mean you used to write down people's addresses? In a book? Why?"
Here is my new shirt. This is the first time I've worn it. I love purple and for five bucks, how could I say no?
So there we go. Did you play?

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Itching to blog

I have always been one of the fortunate ones. People around me have fallen to its power, but I remained untouched. I suppose some would say I got cocky. Others might say I deserved it. Either way, that which I so long mocked has its revenge: I've got poison ivy.

Now think of the worst place it could be. No, not there. The other worst place. Your mouse hand. It's on my wrist, precisely where I normally rest it when I'm mousing or typing. It's also on my index finger, the one I click with. By the time I finish this post, I'll be itching so badly I'll have to soak my arm in hydrocortisone.

So if you haven't seen me commenting much recently, that's why. No longer will I mock the power of the poison. Never again will I defiantly pull weeds bare-handed. I have learned: payback is an itch.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

WBW - Summer fun!

In honor of the first day of summer, TKW has asked to see any photo showing summer fun. I had come across these pictures the other day and wished for just such a topic for WBW. So here goes!

Here is a cookout on my back patio, complete with hot dogs on the grill! From left to right, my mom, Kenny (a friend of mine and hubby's), my brother the goof, me, Hubby, our friend Dan, and Sonia, the Spanish student who stayed with us the summer of 1988. Dan truly thought he was going to get somewhere with Sonia. Her favorite phrase that summer became, "No, Dan."

Here we are on the Fourth of July, sitting on the side of Federal Hill in downtown Baltimore. You can tell it's the Fourth of July, because I'm wearing a red and white striped shirt and blue shorts. We went up there to watch the fireworks over the harbor. That's Sonia, Dan, me, Hubby, and my brother down front. That was a fun summer. The same summer, Hubby ran a house painting business and Dan and I were painters for him. Dan used to sing "Roll With It" by Steve Winwood every time he was rolling paint on a wall. Drove me nuts.

So there you have it, summer fun of the past! Did you play?

Oh, and check out my wedding photos below - I love to show them off!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Fourteen years!

I really cannot believe it's been fourteen years already! If you recall my series back in January about how Hubby and I met, and how I chased him until he caught me, you know that we spent a lot of time apart during our courtship. I am still thrilled and thankful every day that I am with this wonderful man, who is everything I ever dreamed of, and more.

And now, the wedding photos! Sorry for the quality - my album is way too big to put on the scanner.

Happy anniversary, my love!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Families and fathers

We had a nice day Saturday, going to the annual reunion of Hubby's family. His father was the youngest of twelve (I think - I lose track), so he has tons of cousins, second cousins, etc. Every year we meet at Cowan's Gap for a potluck lunch. Afterward, Hubby took the boys for turns in our bike trailer, while his sister and I and one of the aforementioned relatives went for a walk around the lake. Isn't it pretty?
Yesterday, we invited my parents over for a Father's Day dinner. I grilled pork chops, and even though the grill caught fire, they turned out very well (done - haha). Then Hubby and I went over to the motor coach to watch The Dead Zone season premier, a show I have now managed to hook my parents on, too. Incidentally, the preview for next week's episode, which is on the website right now, could be called "Every Dead Zone ever written." All it shows is Johnny saying, "Something's going to happen here. People are going to get hurt. Some people might even die." That's it. If you've ever watched the show, that could be any episode!

So, that was my weekend. Tomorrow is my anniversary, but we're going out tonight so my parents can watch the kids. Fourteen years, people! And yes, I will be posting wedding photos tomorrow.

Friday, June 16, 2006

SPF - Puzzled

Ick, it's been a migraine morning. I'm feeling a bit better now, so I thought I'd pop on here and play SPF - wouldn't want to let Kristine down! (Yeah, like she'd notice if I didn't play...)

Anyway, here is My Puzzle: How does this room end up messier two days after they clean it than it was before they cleaned it? I think if I could answer this puzzle, I could solve the problem of world peace.

My Best: I used to love to sketch people's faces. This is, IMO, the best one I ever did. Bonus points if you know who it is.

Something Old:

An authentic Little Black Sambo Story Book. We found this at my great-grandmother's house after she died. It was published in 1930 and, of course, isn't in print any longer. A fascinating little piece of history, no?

So, that's it! I'm going to go see what other people have done. Let me know if you played!

EDITED TO ADD: My son decided to play this week! Go give him some love at Caleblog!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Photo Safari

My dad had this great idea and I thought it would be fun to share it. He gave each of my older boys a camera, he and my mom each took a camera (yes, they have that many), I got mine, and we went for a walk down our street. Dad had given each of us a list of things to take pictures of, no two exactly the same.

The first thing on my list was Red, White and Blue. I saw this:

Then later, I saw this:

See the red bricks hiding behind the white paint?

Next, I had to find something fuzzy. First, I saw this:

And then I saw this:

Then I had to take a picture of someone not in the family. I thought this would be the hardest one, but there were some little Mennonite kids sitting out on their front step. They all ran inside after I took the picture. I think I scared them.

And finally, I had to take a picture of a horse. Now, just about everyone on this street except us owns a horse. I thought it would be easy. Wrong! For some reason, no one had their horses out yesterday morning! I had to wait until we got home to get a shot of my neighbor's horse.

We had so much fun, we're going to do it again today! I can't wait to see what Dad comes up with this time!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A few updates and such

No WBW this week - I have no picture of myself in a tub that I can access at this point in time :(

So, I will give you a few updates as to what's been going on around here. My parents are here in their coach and will be until next Wednesday. Mom and I have been working in my front weed patch garden and have got it looking pretty decent. Now we just need about a ton of mulch to finish it off. The boys have finished their "official" school for the year, though of course there will be numerous learning opportunities throughout the summer.

I am 90% sure I'm going to keep Joshua home again and just try to be very relaxed and not stick to any really strict curriculum. I've been researching my options and there are tons of nice curricula to choose from. If it's not working, then he will be enrolled in private school mid-year, but I'm very hopeful that changing the way we "do school" around here will change his attitude. It definitely did with Caleb, and he was MUCH more difficult than Joshua from the beginning!

I have lost a grand total of six pounds so far just by dieting. Now I have to get myself in gear and add some exercise. My muscles definitely got a workout pulling weeds, but I need to get some aerobic activity in there, too.

I've also started the Clean Heart, Clean Home Challenge. Sort of. It has way too much stuff for me to keep up with, so I'm just trying to do the devotions and the cleaning. So far I've cleaned out my vehicle. Today I'm going to clean the front door area outside, including windows. Tomorrow I move on to the living room. It's a 52 day schedule, so it'll take a while, but I hope to be rewarded with a sparkling-clean home and a bit of organization. And maybe I'll find a few things I haven't seen in two years. I just found my bathrobe the other day! (Not in the car - just during some unrelated cleaning).

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Maybe this time

I caught the end of the movie Somewhere In Time yesterday, and I did that thing I always do. I started yelling at the screen, "Don't look at the penny!" But he did. Why does he always have to look at the stupid penny? (If you're lost, suffice it to say there is not a happy ending.)

I'm the same way when I watch Titanic. Maybe this time they won't hit the iceberg. No, don't turn! Don't turn! If you turn, it will scrape the side of the ship and sink you! Don't... oh, man, he turned again.

Or in Romeo + Juliet, every time he just narrowly misses getting the message from the priest that Juliet is alive, I am screaming, "Go back - you just got a letter! Go back!" Or later, when her eyes flutter but he's not looking at her, "She's alive! Look! She's alive!"

What is it about these movies that makes me watch them over and over and expect a different outcome every time? I guess I'm drawn to great tragedies. Of course, I knew ahead of time what was going to happen. As the story of Somewhere In Time progresses, before he ever does the time travel thing, you know that at some point he's going to get taken away from her. Unless you live in a bubble, you know that any movie named Titanic is not going to end well. Same for Romeo and Juliet. Of course, Shakespeare is nice enough to tell you up front that they're going to die in case you haven't seen it before.

Then there are movies like The Perfect Storm. No warning. Boom, everybody's dead. I know it's based on a true story, but really, why bother getting us all invested in the lives of these fishermen just to watch them die? I won't watch that one again.

How about Ladder 49? Same deal. You get so involved in the life of this character, and then, well, he dies. I understand the point, and I actually really liked the movie, but I won't watch it again.

Or Pay It Forward. Why does the kid have to die in the end? Stupid.

So what's the difference between the ones I'll watch over and over and the ones I dismiss after one viewing even though they were good movies? I'm thinking it's the romance. All three of the first movies have a payoff. At the end of Somewhere In Time, they're together (in death). Same with Titanic. And in R+J, the director uses imagery of the two together from earlier in the film to get the same message across. Even in death, there is hope. In the last three, they're just dead. The end. No hope there.

How about you? What movies make you yell at the screen?

Monday, June 12, 2006

Ways to tell your grass is too long

After spending three hours cutting the grass on Saturday, I devised this handy list to help determine when it next needs to be cut. And being the helpful soul that I am, I now share it with you.

Top Ten Ways to Tell Your Lawn is Too Long
  • You don't need a weather vane, you just watch the grass waving in the wind.
  • Your kids are outside playing. You can hear them. You cannot see them.
  • Your cat has learned to walk on his hind legs so he can see where he's going.
  • The local farmer offers to lend you his combine harvester.
  • On your way to the mailbox, you run into a man with a pith helmet and a machete.
  • You get a notice in the mail that your property is now a wildlife preserve for endangered insects.
  • You know you had a shed out there... somewhere.
  • You could take down your privacy fence and no one would notice.
  • The neighborhood kids are seen daring each other to go into your yard.
  • Your lawn mower takes one look at the grass and breaks down.
Hope this helps!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Carnival of the Blogging Chicks #1

The first Carnival of the Blogging Chicks is up! Go here to read all about it! And if you're a woman and you blog, you're welcome to join the blogroll and participate in the next Carnival! Could I use any more exclamation marks in this post?!?

Friday, June 09, 2006

SPF - Aperture

Soon-to-be-bride Kristine has given us the following assignment for this week:

A wide-open space: This is going to be the view from my new deck. In the other direction, there's more field and more mountains. And of course, I'll be able to watch my little monkeys playing in the sawdust pile down there (see the Tonka trucks?). All we have left to finish is the floor boards and the railing!

Brightness: This is my dog, Zelda. I guess the flash was so bright, she had to put on shades. My oldest son took this picture.

In the dark: Hubby took this picture of our coal stove glowing in the dark. He was trying to make me see how cozy and inviting it is. And it is. It's wonderful. As long as I don't have to be the one to keep it burning. The stove and I have a definite love-hate relationship. It hates me and it loves to torture me.

Did you play?

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Lessons from a landlord

My husband and I have been landlords for seven years now. We started out living in one half of a duplex and renting the other. When we moved, we bought another duplex and did the same thing. So now we own four rental properties. Overall, I've been pleased with our experience as landlords, and I've learned some important lessons. I think all of these lessons can also be applied to life in general, and so I share them with you.

1. There are good people in the world and there are bad people; you can't tell them apart by looking at them. After the first tenants we had skipped out on us while owing two months' rent, we found a service that will do background checks for landlords. It's worth every penny. I've met plenty of potential renters who I really liked, until I read their credit history.

2. Don't be bullied; there's always a better tenant out there. I once had a call from a man who was opening an Italian restaurant in town with his brother. When I met with them, all I could think was mafia! They were seriously like people straight out of the Sopranos. Anyway, the house needed new carpet and paint before we could rent it. I told them this. I told them it would be a month before it was ready. They told me I would have it ready in a week. I stood my ground, and they finally stopped calling me when they realized it really couldn't be ready in a week. I always feel like I dodged a bullet with that one (no pun intended).

3. Trust everyone. But file an eviction anyway. We have lost a couple thousand dollars in non-payment of rent by trusting that people really are going to pay us. Now, if a tenant is late with the rent, they get one phone call from me, and one chance to pay me within two days, or I file for eviction. It's easy to stop the eviction process and it lets the tenant know I'm serious.

4. Some people are really good liars. Some just think they are. If you're going to lie to someone, at least make sure it can't be easily refuted by the neighbor who is also renting from your landlord. Because yes, your neighbors really are watching you! My favorite was the couple who swore they didn't have a dog, even though the neighbors could hear it barking, saw them walking it, and (gross!) could smell when it was left in the garage too long without walking.

5. Some people are just weird. As long as they pay their rent, I don't care. We've had a tenant who wanted us to get her a new stove because the clock on the stove was too loud (we didn't get her one). We've had tenants who painted a whole room in paint that could only be seen by black light. One of the current tenants periodically cleanses the house by waving burning herbs around the foundation. None of this bothers me. The first two moved out without owing us anything, and the third pays her rent faithfully.

Eventually, we'll sell the houses, pay the capital gains tax, and "retire" from the landlord business. But the lessons I've learned will last me a lifetime.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Books for summer

Back when I was childless, I used to dream of the day when I could share my favorite books with my kids. Books have been my constant companions through life, and there are some that have been very special to me. It's been such a thrill to see my oldest son embrace reading, and boy #2 is well on his way to being just as enthusiastic about it. Since summer is coming, I thought I'd put together a reading list of some of my favorites, and maybe you can share a few with your little readers as well!

For the pre-readers:
Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt- Kids can never get enough of this book. It has no story, just lots of fun things to touch and look at. Both my copies have been well used,

Dr. Seuss's ABC - I adore the way the alphabet is done in this book. Many real words, many made-up words, all Seuss!

For the early reader:
I Can Read books - I remember going to the library and just getting piles of I Can Read books. You're bound to find many great stories, and your child will be improving important reading skills along the way.

For pre-teens:
Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys books - I loved Nancy Drew. I own a few of them, the rest I got from the library. It was always fun to try to figure out the mystery.

Charlotte's Web by E.B. White - What child can resist a story about talking animals?

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster - I adored this book as a child, and when I read it to my boys, they loved it, too. Milo drives his toy car through a toy tollbooth and ends up in another land, where he is sent on a quest to restore Rhyme and Reason (the two princesses) to the throne. Along the way, there are many interesting characters and hilarious puns.

All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor - I loved this book about a Jewish family with five little girls and the events in their lives. I especially recommend it for girls to read, but I think boys would enjoy it, too.

A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket - Obviously, I didn't read these growing up, but I am reading them aloud to the boys and we are all loving them! If you haven't read them, by all means go grab book 1, The Bad Beginning, and get started!

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein - Oh, how I love Shel Silverstein's poetry! I have many of his poems memorized and like to recite them at appropriate moments. My kids have enjoyed reading from this book. It's a great way to introduce kids to poetry beyond Mother Goose.

Whistle in the Graveyard by Maria Leach - If you like scary stories, you'll love this collection. I used to get this book out of the school library in elementary school at least two or three times a year. It's out of print now, but you can still find it used. If you see one, grab it!

Lois Duncan books - Long before "Goosebumps" there was Lois Duncan. Now, I can only vouch for books she wrote before 1990 or so, but she always had a way of creeping me out and making me want the light on at night.

The Belgariad by David Eddings - Long before Harry, there was another boy named Garion who discovered he had special powers and a special calling. I read these books as they were being published and it was torture waiting for the next one! It's a wonderful fantasy series, which is continued in The Mallorean series.

The Hitchhikers Guide series by Douglas Adams - You might have guessed I love these novels. Hilariously funny and fun, I could read them over and over again. And I have.

The Myth series by Robert Asprin - This series started back when I was a teenager, and he's still writing them! A great fantasy series with a great sense of humor, the Myth books will have you laughing out loud. They follow the adventures of Skeeve, a young magician's apprentice whose magic doesn't always work quite right. Read them in order; each one builds on the last.

I know there are more, but I'll leave it at that for now. Happy reading, to you and to your kids!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Wonderful 9/11 tribute idea

I think this is a fabulous idea for honoring the memory of all those who died on 9/11. Go here
and sign up.

Ghost stories

I'm not sure what started it, but the boys decided they were going to shut their door and tell ghost stories last night, the only light in the room coming from the flashlight held under the storyteller's chin. I could hear them in there laughing at the stories, all of which seemed to have a silly ending. So I told them that I knew a silly ghost story.

I shut their door and held the flaslight under my chin. "One night," I began, "a little girl went to bed. She looked up at her dresser and there was a ghost sitting on it." As soon as I said that, my oldest crouched down in the corner and started whimpering. "So she called her parents, who came running, and told them. They turned on the light," which I did at this point, "but there was no ghost." Light off again.

"The next night, the little girl got in bed, and when she looked up, there was a ghost on the ceiling!" Oldest boy whimpers louder. "She called her parents, who turned the light on, but there was no ghost." My six year old, Mr. Know It All, is saying, "Of course! Ghosts don't like light."

"The next night, the little girl goes to bed, and the ghost is sitting right there on her bed!" My oldest sounds like he's going to pass out from fear. I keep giggling because of his reaction, and because I know what's coming. "She started yelling at the ghost, 'What do you want? What do you want?' And the ghost said..." At this point, I blew a really loud raspberry! The boys all screamed and then started laughing. It was a big hit.

Of course, they didn't want the lights off after that!

Monday, June 05, 2006

It gets colder at higher altitudes - DUH!

Saturday was a pretty cool, cloudy day. We were attending a picnic in the evening with some people from church, and by mid-afternoon it had warmed up somewhat, so did I pack jackets? No. Put on long sleeves? No. At least I didn't change into shorts. The park we went to is up on top of a mountain. It was cold.

You know how usually when you go to a park, you hunt and hunt for the picnic table in the shade? Well, we wanted one in the sun, hoping to get just a bit of warmth that way. There was only one. For thirty-some people. That wasn't going to work. So we sat in the shade and shivered, waiting for everyone else to arrive.

There's a fantastic playground up there, so the boys were happy. Even the baby really got into it, climbing up the equipment to get to the taller slides, then coming down feet-first on his belly. I spent about an hour pushing Isaac (4) on the swing and made myself sick on the merry-go-round. It was fun.

It did rain on us at one point, but it was a short shower. Nothing goes with icy winds like damp clothing, right?

After that, we went to the brand-new WalMart in town. It's so nice and new and shiny. Even the cement floors are shiny. And it's a lot closer than the one we used to drive to. The only downside is that it's in PA, so they have the minimum price for milk. Yes, in PA, there is a minimum price which must be charged for milk. So while it might be $2.49 a gallon in MD, just north across the border, you can't find it for less than $2.85. We bought a gallon anyway, though: we were out.

Then we got home and worked on our deck a bit more. It's coming right along. I'm really looking forward to sitting out there in the morning with a cup of coffee, or in the evening with a telescope aimed at the nearest planet. And then maybe we can finish the master bedroom we've been working on for two years.

Friday, June 02, 2006

SPF - Ooo, pretty!

Kristine's assignment this week is relatively simple. Play along, won't you?

Something shiny (okay, apparently it was "sparkly"): I was going to go take a picture of the sun, but it's a nasty, cloudy day. So instead I give you my favorite picture of the sun, taken by my Hubby back when he was in college. We have it blown up to poster size and hanging in our basement family room. Look at how the sun sparkles on the water!

Something dull: If you majored in English, as I did, then you were no doubt forced to take some dull literature classes. The dullest I had to endure was 19th century English lit. We had a professor who liked to read long passages out of the books in the most monotonous tone imaginable. Then he would give us quizzes with stupid questions like "What was the name of the cat in Chapter 2?" My roommate and I were both in the class. We used to make faces at each other across the table to stay awake. Back in our room, we'd do imitations of the professor and crack each other up. Anyway, the dullest novel we had to read was Middlemarch, by George Eliot. This book is so dull I bet not even George read it when she was done.

Something colorful: Last night's weather map for our area. We live in that triangle between Washington, Pittsburgh and the I-80 symbol, so we got some nasty rain last night. It didn't last long, but boy did it pour! I love thunderstorms, though, so I hope some of that stuff around Columbus is headed our way!

Did you play?

Thursday, June 01, 2006

In which I slowly lose my mind

I have been debating something for a while now, and I'd love to hear some feedback from everyone, especially those who keep their children home for the purpose of educating them.

My second son, Joshua, started out kindergarten absolutely thrilled to be "doing school" like his older brother. He was usually finished the entire day's lessons in about an hour and a half. He did really well with everything. But this year, first grade, has brought a big change in his attitude. He never wants to come into the school room (I have a separate room in the house just for school). When he does, he wants to take control of the computer and surf Lego websites. It takes me an hour and a half just to get through one lesson with him. Frequently this year, we have started school at 9:30 a.m. and, including lunch, not finished until 4 p.m. It's been tremendously frustrating for me because that leaves no time to work with my older son, not to mention keep house and cook dinner.

Near us is a very good Christian school, where quite a few of the young people at our church attend. Joshua is definitely the type of child who would love being in a classroom with other kids. I'm sure it would be an adjustment for him, but he would do fine eventually. If we sent him there, I would have all day to work with my fifth grader, not to mention more time to keep up the house and play with my younger two boys. He would learn not only his lessons, but also why it's more fun to be home all day than stuck in a classroom, and maybe he would be more receptive to staying home for third grade.

On the other hand, if we sent him there, we're tying ourselves to the school's schedule. We can't just take off whenever we want to. And I would have to be here when he gets off the bus every day. Not that I'm not home normally at that time, but I like having the freedom to go out if I want. And then there's the matter of tuition, which is reasonable, but still would make a dent in our budget that would mean cutting back on things like weekend trips to the amusement park or buying DVDs. Not that we need those things, but it's nice to have the option. Plus, he would be away from his brothers all day. He and his older brother are best friends and I hate to take that away from either of them.

So my other option is to keep him at home, but switch curriculum. Maybe he would do better with unit studies, or something less structured than what we've been doing. I'm leaning toward this option because I think he really benefits from being at home and having one-on-one interaction with his teacher.

But on the con side, what if I keep him home and he continues his rebelliousness? I had a neighbor years ago who kept two of her kids home and sent the other to school because she didn't have a "teachable spirit." I never understood what that meant until this year with Joshua. He doesn't want to be taught. You would not believe the struggles we have had this year. If he continues this way no matter what the curriculum, I will lose my mind. And it's not fair to Caleb, who needs more time from me than he can get when I have to spend all day fighting with Joshua.

So I really don't know what to do. Should I put him in school for half a year maybe? Or keep him home and then put him in school if he can't behave? Or just pick one or the other? I'm so confused! Any help would be appreciated!