Thursday, September 29, 2005

Mommy, How do you spell . . .

The twins have catapulted into the "emergent stage" of writing (in the lexicon of Words Their Way). This means that they know all their letters, the sounds they make, and how to write them.

I've been getting longer and longer missives from Ben this week. They say "YT A B YAT MN" and that means "Me, Ben, and Mommy." (The boys are a little more willing to use pronouns now, but still feel compelled to remind everyone they're speaking to of their correct name since dangnabbit the rest of the world can't be counted on to know a Ben or a Milo when they see one.) When they draw a picture or write a letter, they can write their own names on it -- though Milo still needs the whole thing spelled out for him. Ben is 50/50. Sometimes he'll write it out, sometimes he'll write a string of three letters and say that means Ben.

The boys were drawing pictures today and Milo wrote his name. Then he wrote another three letters and said, "I wrote grandpa!!" He was incredibly proud.

I am, too. I am blown away. They see "letters" everywhere and they have to sound them ALL out. I am surrounded by "b b b b ah ah ah ah yuh yuh yuh" (Bay, if you don't know anything about long vowels or the "ay" sound or even that y makes at whole host of different sounds.)

Now if only we could go a whole week without a daytime potty accident. They're both into holding it WAY too long. I don't want to admit how many times a day I have to say, "STOP DANCING AND GO PEE!!!"

I want to say to them, "Hon, going pee is SO much easier than reading and writing. WHAT is the deal?" But then again, I don't want to screw up the reading and writing. Maybe once they get throught this literacy spurt they'll polish up the potty skills.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

One More Thing

I was looking over at Crib Chick's new clothing line and trying to decide if I should, you know, buy a long sleeved shirt with all the money I don't have. Then I got to thinking that *I* wanted my own Liberal Mormon Democrat t-shirt line. So here's my first attempt. Too long though. Will only fit on the XXXL shirts.

Top Ten Benefits of Homeschooling

10. No morning alarm.

9. Everyone qualifies for "the school lunch" program.

8. You can put all your kids in the Gifted and Talented Program.

7. You know if they have homework tonight and why.

6. "Busy work" cleans your dishes and washes your windows.

5. You can talk to yourself and call it a parent-teacher conference.

4. Conferences between the teacher and principal are *really* productive and may even result in increased enrollment.

3. You know EXACTLY how your child is doing in reading, math, history, science, P.E., music, art, any foreign or ancient languages he or she may be studying EVERY DAY.

2. They think you know everything for just a little bit longer.

1. You get to be with them in the morning when they're sharpest, in the afternoon when they're funniest, and in the evening when they're tired and kind of difficult like every other kid. You get to be there.

Wed - nez - day

Tell me I'm not the only 37 year old who still has to say it like that it spell it right.

Wed nez day

Okay, I started off the day with a bit of a post-yesterday traumatic shock syndrome panic attack but then got out of my chair and got to work. It ended up being a pretty productive day in terms of work and homeschool even if I did nearly have to resort to violence to get the boy to redo his essay. His first draft was really terrific. For a second grader. So we did a second draft today. While waiting out his simmering anger (Hey, his father and I have the same temper. BOOM!!!! grrrrrrr . . . what? everything's cool!) I surfed the internet looking at writing curiculum options while laughing at myself.

I was *really* good at teaching writing back in the day. Fourth grade writing. Even my special needs kids made a full year's worth of progress. yep. But teaching my own kid writing makes me question my sanity and makes him hate my guts. At that moment anyway.


Anyway, even as I was deciding that next year Calvert sounded like a GREAT idea for maybe all THREE kids, his anger fizzled out. He got to work. He wrote his four paragraph essay on his bionicle and we called it a day. Phew. No blood shed.

But I bookmarked Calvert just in case.

It was a beautiful afternoon so I sat on the front porch for another thirty minutes blogging the silly blog below and just enjoying the cool air, the feeling of porch railing under my feet, the fun of waving to all the neighbors as the drove or walked by. I can see why old people do that. Makes you feel part of the neighborhood. Smile. Wave. Smile. Wave. Feel happy.

Then it got to being football time so I started getting Max ready. About this time I checked the crockpot and realized that the dinner I thought would be ready AFTER practice was most definitely already ready. So I explained to Chris what I'd had in mind even though he was a bit put off by the term "fajita." It was wicked simple since Milo is my only kid who will eat most vegetables -- lettuce, ranch, marinated and shredded lamb, rolled in a whole wheat tortilla. I made one for Max and I while Chris helped Max finish dressing. Then I grabbed my knitting and Max and I left Chris and the twinkies to feed themselves.

We went to football. Max footballed. I knitted. Two hours later we came home. On the way I stopped at Max's friend's house. His mom and I talked some more about the tooth situation. Long story, short -- boy feels no discomfort at all, so Mom is taking things nice and easy and exploring their options to find the least expensive way to handle things. Turns out Max's friend is the youngest of three boys and the oldest is 17. Explains the whole mellow approach to all of this. It's not her first rodeo. {{{mentally hugs her}}} So we talked some more about her big boys and then I took Max back home because he's still grounded.

And now I'm just trying to stay conscious long enough to get the kids to bed. Tomorrow -- more work. Group piano. One day at a time.

[Hey Eliza girl -- I'm FINALLY almost through 2 Nephi! (Does my touchdown dance.) I'm just so proud of myself for staying in the game even if I do still have to read 6 pages a day to pull this off. Oh yeah, and two months since my last cup of coffee :)]

From: Department of Common Sense

August 28, 2005

To: Mrs. Herself

This note is just a friendly reminder to our customers that the fall is approaching. We encourage you to start preparing now for the upcoming season by engaging in a few appropriate behaviors such as putting on your shoes and purchasing a few long-sleeved shirts.

September 5, 2005

To: Mrs. Herself

While we're grateful for your contribution to the economy, those shirts you bought for $4 each at Target were short sleeves. Wise consumers at this time are purchasing long-sleeved shirts.

P.S. Don't forget the shoes.

September 22, 2005

To: Mrs. Herself

Happy autumnal equinox! This note is just a friendly reminder to our customers that winter is approaching. We strongly encourage you to start preparing now for the upcoming season by looking for items such as snow boots, snow pants

P.S. We realize it was probably just an oversight, but it has come to our attention that not only have you failed to purchase a single long-sleeved shirt, but you still have no shoes on. Please, Mrs. Herself. If this matter remains unaddressed we may be forced to terminate your account with us. This would be most unfortunate.

September 26, 2005

To: Mrs. Herself

We were encouraged to see you pricing pallets of wood pellets today! That's a step in the right direction! However we feel we must remind you that they must actually be purchased to count as a true measure of preparation.

P.S. Shoes, please!!

September 29, 2005

To: Mrs. Herself

We must congratulate you on wearing shoes to walk the dog this morning. As the temperatures were below sixty at the time, we feel this was a wise decision! However, since the temperatures never rose out of the sixties today, we were puzzled to find you barefoot again from 10 a.m. on. Remember, in order to keep your account, you must occasionally actually show some measure of common sense. Please rectify the situation immediately.

P.S. It was far too cool for you to be outside this morning without a jacket. What were you thinking? Go back inside and put one on, missy!


Okay, I'm in a wee bit of denial.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Junk Drawers and One Dumb Toss

Today I was finishing up a work project and this involved me, at one point, hunting around for an index card to write down some notes. In the process I found myself going through the two most long-lasting junk drawers I've ever had.

Is it some kind of sign that for the first time in, literally, years, I didn't pick through the top, and then in an effort to avoid knowing what's really IN there, give up, close the drawer and move on? Nope, I found myself strangely unafraid of the drawer today.

We only have one other junk drawer in the whole house. It's a long narrow one – maybe five inches. It has a depth of about three inches. In short, it can only take so much before it won't close. Nevertheless, it's enough to meet our needs as the house's "fat pants" (plagiarized directly from Jill there).

I don't need these two drawers. They were my office's fat pants back in MINNESOTA. Yep. There's about 50 cough drops scattered around the bottom of the drawer. They're only, what, three years old? They weren't new the last winter we were in Minnesota. They may be older than the twins. There's elastic left over from a sewing project, a snap-press, snaps, velcro, needes, thread, post-it notes, dead markers, broken pencils, safety pins, binder clips, etc etc.

The bottom drawer actually has some useful things in it. It has the thread for one of my incomplete needlepoint projects and its directions. Huh.

I had a Mr. Incredible moment at this point. :::picks up the bag, eyeballs the unfinished neelepoint canvas leaning nearby:::

"Yeah, I got time!"


About this time I found an index card. I wrote on it "clean out junk drawers" and the other two thoughts I was struggling to hold in what's left of my short-term memory (chronic sleep deprivation during the twins' first year caused, I think, some irreparable damage). Then I went back to work.

But you know, maybe when I get one of the sweaters done I could do some counted cross-stitch? If I got started now, I might get one of the twins' Christmas stockings done . . .


In other news, Max had a BAD day. Was playing nicely with a friend until he suddenly lost his mind and after losing a gamecube game tossed the controller at his friend. They were only a few feet apart -- so not only did it hit the friend in the face, but it knocked off a good chunk of the kid's tooth.

What do you do?

I walked the boy home. Told him about the bond on my front teeth (me and the cement side of a swimming pool had a bad meeting), reassured him that it wasn't too bad in terms of dental experiences. He was trying to decided if this qualified as "exciting" or "potential for getting in trouble." (Obviously, we hadn't exposed the nerve with this chip -- sliced off the bottom 2mm of the tooth is what we did.) I hadn't met this child's mother before, so I'm walking over there chewing my lip.

So we met. She was bummed, but not furious. No dental insurance. I said of course we'd pay. (Internally I said, "Thank you for understanding that it was an accident.") The whole thing felt awful. She was actually really understanding. Max felt two inches tall, and that was with shoes. I let him for a good hour. I told him I didn't know what to do about a punishment. (I don't know where we're going to get the money to pay for the tooth, either.) He said he wouldn't play gamecube till the end of the year. Alright. That's a start.

I added that he was grounded AND he'd have to earn part of the money to repair his friend's tooth.

After he'd sat in his misery for awhile I told him he'd made a really stupid choice, but I still loved him and I knew that he'd learn from this and make better choices in the future. He cried in his odd Max way. We moved on.

Now, I need to make a LONG list of chores. Good thing we have three huge oaks in the backyard. That'll give us leaf (and acorn) raking for at least a month.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Getting Creative

Sometimes you want to have a little treat and not share.

Making brownies will not achieve this purpose.

Oreos -- only if you've managed to keep them hidden from EVERYONE (and I mean everyone) else and it's after bedtime and Himself is in Wisconsin or at least locked in his garage inhaling paint fumes.

But it's 7 pm and you just want a little sumfin' . . . and you don't want to have to divide in five ways.

Solution: develop a taste for stuff you just know that they're categorically opposed to.

Chris won't eat broccoli for cold, hard cash. Therefore, his sons won't either. Obviously if Dad won't eat it, it must be poison. Suits me. Drenched in butter and laced with salt it meets all my demands in a treat. Likewise, saturated in gooey fake cheese in a Green Giant box, it passes as an illegal treat. Nothing that high in fat can taste bad.

There's these tofu thingies by a guy called Pete in all sorts of wild flavors you never knew you wanted to eat like Mango Tango or some such thing. I have to be in the right mood for these things, but in the right mood I *love* them and they are ALL mine. You can always count on tofu to look brown and disgusting when well marinated. It was my first choice tonight but the last bit of it looked like it was suffering from something deadly and the expiration date was a stand-offish August 9.

So it was green giant microwave broccoli covered in gooey hot cheese-like substance. And I didn't have to share :)

I should start marking things on the calendar though because I *still* feel like sending Chris to the store after the kids are in bed for two packages of Oreos ('cause, if I sent him for one, he would come home with just the wrapper).


I've been flirting with Apollo lately. We've more or less stuck to our schedule. We made all our football games and did all our school work. Most astonishingly, after whipping the house into shape a week ago -- it. has. stayed. clean.

So this weekend I broadened my sphere of influence. Having successfully kept the kitchen, the living room, and the large playroom clean, I cleaned and painted the dresser my Mom brought back in July and put that in the twins room. Then I tidied IT. I scrubbed the toilets and their immediate surroundings and the sinks. Then I headed down stairs and spent :cough: 5 mere hours doing finances and cleaning off my desk.

I even got the Latin flashcard binder reorganized (too many flashcards. It wouldn't close anymore -- so I added a second one and split them alphabetically.)

Chris was willing, so I sent him off to do some banking, mail some mail, drop off some paperwork at the YMCA, and get two new piano books for Max at the piano book store.

But most of all, I cleaned my living room top to bottom last weekend. I reorganized it. I made it look great. And I kept it that way for a whole week. A whole week!

I dunno. It's very stressful this month -- not having enough work -- but God always knows what He is doing, and it may very well be that He knew I'd need the time to get the place firmly in order, establish better habits, and get some sleep.

Hopefully right before He sends me a TON of new work. Towards this end, I received a box full of [work stuff] today. That's promising. Unfortunately I don't have any directions for what to do with it yet. I don't remember praying for patience. Do you think He was aiming for Chris and missed?

Saturday, September 24, 2005

In Which I Am Reese Witherspoon

In Sweet Home Alabama Reese Witherspoon goes home for the first time in many years. She thinks she's going to shake down her husband for a divorce and then go back to her new yankee home to marry her new yankee boyfriend.

None of that has anything to do with me.

But the part that makes her human (and a good actress) of course is that she goes back home and in spite of desperately NOT wanting to get sucked back in, immediately gets sucked back in. You see it coming because you a) can see that the girl is still completely southern no matter how much she may have tried to lose the accent and b) you're not her.

So I may have said before that a) I'm still a little wigged out to be back East because I never thought I would be again and b) I'm still ASTONISHED by how the simplest things bring back a flood of memories that have more than once stopped me dead in my tracks as I can suddenly hear, taste, or smell something from 30 years ago. The other day it was when Max and I took the twins into a Giant Food Store because he had to go pee and we were all STARVING to death. I walked into that Giant and suddenly I was seven years old and all I wanted to do was find the cookie counter where there was an old lady who would give my brother and I a free cookie with colored sprinkles on it.

Giant carries things that other groceries don't -- it's subtle maybe but I saw stuff in this old Giant store in a tiny town off of 322 in central PA that I haven't seen in a long, long time. So on the one hand, I was bugged because the deli lady was a little slow on the uptake -- upshot, we didn't get any deli -- and on the otherhand, I was walking down memory lane (with my cute little shoplifters in tow -- no worries, I shake 'em down at the counter -- if I don't remember then Max does).

Then last week I was sitting on the swing in the backyard and watching the darkening sky beyond the leaves . . . and it wasn't so much the trees or the leaves or the smell of an early fall but the sound of an early September evening. The bugs, the squirrels, the plop, plop of dropping acorns. No flashbacks there but a quiet awareness that I needed to come back here. The familiar smells are calming. The familiar sounds are calming. I feel like I can be more patient knowing that you just never know when things will change, when people will change, when good things will happen. That bad times are inevitable, but they do pass. Unlike God, the Enemy does tire of you.

So here I am, an East Coast girl back on the East Coast, raising my kids who will become East Coast kids. And just like you *know* Reese is going to be happier back in Alabama than she ever could be up north, I feel happier in my East Coast house (badly in need of a new roof) than I ever did in my West Coast house.

Thankfully, my West Coast husband seems to be transplanting well, albeit more slowly than a native plant like myself. And Max? Max hasn't been so happy since he was in Ginny's daycare at the age of 2. He picked up another neighborhood friend this week. I like this kid and his mom, too. How could we live so many places and have such an abyssmal shortage of regular old neighborhood boys Max's age?

:::puts violin away::::

So here's my "just when you think the world is in its handbasket and on its way" story of the day:

I called to cancel my membership. I really like this service. For less than $20/month I get two audio books a month and then I get a discount on more if I want them. But I never remember to go get my audio books. I've downloaded six of my books in the eight-ish months I've been a member. So I called to cancel.

The guy at the other end of the phone says he's very sorry to hear that, but he's happy to help me do that. He looks at my account. "Hey! You've got ten unused books here!"

Well, yeah, that's kind of my point. And if you don't use the points within a month, then they're gone. So, really, those are ten books I don't have. Okay, I have two. Two from this month.

No, he explains, all you have to do to get the books back is call nicely and ask! Tippity tappity go his fingers. There! He can only reinstate book points from the last six months, so he gives me back eight books credits.

I brace myself, knowing that next he's going to try to convince me to keep the membership since he's been so "nice" and all.

"Now," he says, "back to your request. Let's see. Reason for cancelation--too busy I guess!"

Ben is babbling happily about a foot away from the phone. The guy says enthusiastically, "Oh my! That is so cute! Who is that?"

We talk about my kids. He laughs everytime Ben says anything for the rest of the conversation. It could have been saccharine? But he was genuine. I bought it.

I then confessed I didn't remember my password. Then it turned out I *did* but for some reason it wasn't working. He resets it using personal information he's gleaned from our conversation. It was funny. From anyone else it would have been invasive.

Then he proceeds to tell me exactly when each of the book points will expire, ending with, "so basically, I'd get online now, pick out your books, and check out." He wishes me the best, hopes I subscribe to audible again in the future, reminds me that if I want I can get a book any old time anyway, just without the "member" cost, and we say goodbye.

And I hop online and get the rest of the Narnia books, the first three Bunicula books (counts as one book), and someone's autobiography (for me).

Isn't that great?

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

I would blog but . . .

Max is making me go swim with him tomorrow for a whole hour so I'd better get some sleep. It's my only hope of keeping up.

Jill of PGM, if you read this, check your email.

Our house is on day four of pretty darn clean. :::glow:::

I'm off to bed! Know this: everyone here is healthy (except Chris who is allergy infested as usual), school is going well for everyone (ohmigosh it's all I can do not to laugh every time the twins start earnestly sounding out the letters they see -- no full blown click yet. They just don't blend well enough. But it's sooooo cute!!!), and Chris met his third Stay-at-home-dad of twins in State College. I think SAHDs of twins must be more common because in general twins cost too much to put in daycare. Someone HAS to work, someone HAS to stay home -- you're more likely to look for creative solutions.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Mrs. Zook's Tomato Soup (Amish)

Makes about 10 quarts (but I put in pints because it's a fantastic soup base. If you're going to add other stuff to it, then a quart is too much for lunch for my family.)

Mrs. Zook's Tomato Soup

14 qt. tomatoes
2 qt. water
7 onions
14 sticks celery
pepper to taste
3 bay leaves
14 strands parsley
14 T melted butter
14 T sugar
14 T flour
8 T salt
1 pint water

Boil tomatoes, onions, parsley and celery with 2 qt. water, put through sieve (or use a squeezo/food mill with strainer if you have one). Boil sugar, butter, flour, pepper, and salt together with 1 pt. water. Add to tomatoes as soon as it thickens up and stir really, really well. Put in jars and process 30 minutes.

To use -- heat 1 jar tomato soup, add 1 jar cream or rich milk, serve with crackers -- or mix with 1 jar vegetable soup.

My variation: I also added an entire head of elephant garlic to it. Elephant garlic is more mild than regular garlic. It added interesting depth to the soup, but no obvious garlic taste.


I canned the vegetable soup last weekend.

Mrs. Zook's Vegetable Soup

1 large head cabbage
3 large onions
1 large bunch celery
12 large tomatoes
1 lb carrots
1 handful fresh parsley

Chop all vegetables till fine. Put in large kettle, cover with water, add salt to taste. Cook till carrots tender. Put in jars, process 25 to 30 minutes.

This is incredible when added to the tomato soup. Incredible as in, you'll never be constipated again, there are zero weight watcher's points, and it can heal whatever ails ya.


Nope. No idea who Pam is. But this is her kick-tush salsa. I added a whole-lotta garlic to it, too.

Pam's Homemade Salsa

12 Qt. tomatoes (1/2 bushel)
1.5 Cup vinegar
2 Tbsp coriander
1 Tbsp parsley
2 Tbsp cumin
1.5 Tbsp oregano
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp chili powder (revised by Alaska)
4 tsp garlic powder
1.5 Tbsp canning salt
3 large sweet peppers
2 C chopped onions
1 C chopped hot peppers


1. Scald and peel tomatoes. Chop into chunks

2. Wash and chop peppers and onions. (Use gloves when handling hot peppers. Hey, I didn't think I needed to either. It doesn't hurt at all -- at first.)

3. Put all ingredients into large pot.

4. Cook over medium heat until desired thickness is attained.

5. Put in hot jars and seal. Process in hot water bath 20 minutes.

Note: All ingredients may be put in food processor to chop if a smoother consistency is desired. (But although I would and did cheerfully use the food processor freely for the vegetable soup, I do think that using it here would lose something. Like, big chunks of ripe, vine-picked tomatoes.) Taste salsa periodically to see if additional spices may be needed. Season to taste.

Everything else I made this year is out of Ball's Canning book. Well, okay, Saturday night's jam which Max and I dubbed "Very Berry Orange" was

pick out all the raspberries and blackberries that didn't go back from the big collection of raspberries and blackberries you bought. Stare mournfully at the cup and a half you have left. Shrug shoulders and move on. Cut off leaves and chop into quarters 2 qt. strawberries. Give to 9 year old to mash everything into pulp. Remember that container of Schwan's frozen orange concentrate which is 100% juice. Toss all that in there, too. Add 7 cups of sugar (oh, yeah! Great lesson for 9 year-old on exactly why jelly is considered a sweet and not a fruit. He'll stare open mouthed for a bit.) and a package and a half or even two packages (but we did a package and a half) of powdered pectin.

Bring to hard boil for one minute stirring constantly. Pour into hot jars, seal, and process for 10 minutes. 15 if you underestimated how many jars and lids you needed and started grabbing clean, sanitized, but not hot jelly jars off the shelf. Made about 20 half-cup jelly jars and three half-pint jelly jars. We put half a small jelly jar of this jelly on our biscuits last night with dinner and agreed that we'd really come up with something here. THIS is worth giving out for Christmas presents! If we don't eat it all before then. :::Brushes biscuit crumbs off shirt::::

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Mania? Too Many Double Mint Oreos?

We'll never know the reason but every so often I have a kick-tush weekend like this one and even I, Alaska-the-never-really-satisfied, have to give myself a pat on the back.

:::pat, pat, pat:::

I met my work deadlines this week (Good, Girl! Here's a biscuit!)
I fed the kids mostly healthy food (Good, Mommy! Here's a biscuit!)
I canned a million tomatoes and strawberries and stuff (Mmmm, dip the biscuit in the soup!)
I resurrected the sour dough feeder (best kind of biscuits!)
I got enough of the living room reorganized and cleaned that I know I can finish the job completely tomorrow (Good, Mommy! Now take your biscuit and go do the basement.)
I made good progress on my blue sweater. (No crumbs on the sweater!)
I made good progress on the outside of the house. (No biscuits, the squirrels already ate them all.)
I didn't get squat for sleep though (BAD, Mommy! No, biscuit.)
And I did some emotional eating (shut up and give me the biscuits. and none of that low-salt stuff.)

Oops, all that back patting woke a baby. He probably smelled the biscuits. Off to bed!

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Slow Blink

Slow blink is what Chris used to call the funny look Max would get on his face right before he passed out cold. His eyelids would go doooooooown and then uuuuuuuuuuup and then dooooooooown. zzzzzzzz

I have slow blink.

But for a darn good reason! After I stayed up too late doing salsa, I got up at 8am. I managed to find Max a ride to his football game so I wouldn't have to lose five hours going -- only to get to watch none of it because of the need to keep the minions alive. We got him dressed and he headed off to his game where he . . . didn't play at all. But he was expecting that this time and since he gets to play every play of the whole game during the grey games, he didn't care.

While he was gone I attacked the second half of that bushel of tomatoes. It took two hours to get everything ready but I finally had tomato soup cooking. Then I sat down and read six pages in the Book of Mormon. I'm trying to do the Book of Mormon challenge and get the whole thing read again before the end of the year. In order to pull that off at this point, I need to pretty much read six pages a day. Oy. So anyway, I did. Then I looked up cherry tree pruning on the Penn State extension website. It was alarming what they wanted me to do to my poor defenseless toddler cherry trees, but I could see the purpose, so I headed out to the yard and pruned the cherry trees, the American Holly tree (so the neighbor can drive into his own driveway without paint damage), the huge magnolia bush, and the lilac tree. I discovered that there are carpenter ants living in the lilac tree and making a somewhat successful attempt at killing it. oh dear to that. I trimmed our solitary hedge for what is probably the first time this summer. But it looks great now. I pulled a bunch of weeds.

And then the twins were sick of keeping me company outside so they went back inside. That put an end to my yardwork. About this time Max came home so I offered to pay him and his friend to take all the limbs and go put them in a pile by the compost. They happily did so and I happily paid up.

Then I spent another two hours smooshing all those cooked veggies first through my collander and then through a fine-screen seive. The end result was great though. I got 19 pints of fantastic tomato soup. I added some half and half to the leftovers and Milo, Ben, and I pigged out on that for dinner.

Around this point it was 7:30 and I had to decide what to do with the time left to me. I picked jam because if I didn't, I'd have to admit I let a billion pounds of strawberries go bad. Luckily Max agreed to help me by smooshing the strawberries. Strawberry jam is REALLY easy to make, even if you do keep messing with the recipe by adding some orange juice concentrate and some blackberries and some raspberries (came out great). I used up every last canning lid including some vintage ones that Jill found in an (unopened) box in her basement. They worked fine.

So there! Now our church clothes are laid out on the ironing board and I just heard the last jam jar pop so it's off to bed for me. Tomorrow is church, a swim team kick-off meeting, and some paying work. Oh yeah, and more work on the living room. I did actually make great progress on that today, too. But it needed a LOT of work.

Friday, September 16, 2005

I take it back

I was putting in the second round of salsa, trying to decide what I thought about having ruined 16 pints of salsa with too much chili -- when I decided that, duh -- we love chili! I'll just mark it "chili base" and add that to beans and hamburger and ta-da!

There was only about a quarter cup left when I'd finished filling the last jar, so I dug around in the cupboard until I found some different chips. The first batch I'd used are lime encrusted tortilla chips. The ones I found are simple round tortilla chips. So I take a bite.

And then another one.

Hmmm . . .

And another one.

Hey! Not so bad!

Mental note: this batch doesn't go with the lime chips. Plain chips are fine! Is there a chili taste? Yes. But it's not as overpowering as I thought. :::wipes salsa juice from chin::: It'll be fine. Nevertheless, I marked the first batch on the lids "C Salsa" so I'll remember that these are the ones that *would* be good in chili -- if I make some.

I'm blind!!!!

Why are some onions so much more painful to chop than others? Half of my right eye is still glued shut from tear goop and I'm afraid to touch it to clear anything up because I was chopping the hottest jalepenos I've ever owned this evening.

I picked up my last bushel of tomatoes this afternoon. At first I thought that the Amish farmer I'd bought the tomatoes from had kind of stiffed me. I didn't really hold it against him because, well, it's the middle of September and I kind of figured he'd given me every "canning grade" tomato he had left. He'd been so sweet about carrying the tomatoes to my truck (this is a farmer's market. I could have been parked blocks away. I wasn't. I was illegally parked in the pastor's parking space just a few feet away but that's another story.) that I didn't begrudge him the quarter bushel I thought was missing. When I went to start dividing up the two boxes of tomatoes into "salsa" and "soup" I realized that the box I thought said "1/2 bushel" really said "1 1/9 bushel" and the smaller box was the 1/2 bushel. In actual fact, he'd given me a little MORE than a bushel of tomatoes. So here we are at 11pm and half of them are simmering in the horrifically full 12 qt pot. I'm hoping I'm done by 1 am. I actually scalded the tomatoes around 5 pm, but then the youngin's all started clammoring to be fed. Max's friend was over, so put the scalded tomatoes in the sink and made angel hair pasta with meat sauce. That went over well. After that, Max and Brian headed over to Brian's house for a bit and I went back to working on the salsa. I had borrowed green peppers from Jill because the ones I'd bought for the salsa appear to have been eaten. But just as I was building up steam again, I realized that we were out of "goodnights" and we really needed some of those.

(Related to that, I was talking to Jill's husband just a bit later as I was getting the boys ready to go out the door and I said that I was going to the store for "Goodnight." He said, "I have one of those you can borrow." Now, you have to understand, Doug makes little jokes ALL the time. I thought he was doing his typical play on words thing and I laughed, then said we'd stop by in a bit to borrow some gardening tools. Well, when I *did* stop by for the gardening tools I find out that he was completely serious! I was talking to Jill and telling her that I was happy that they finally have "store brand" Goodnights because they're, of course, much cheaper. Turns out her younger daughter is still using them. So I really could have borrowed a night diaper from them, LOL.)

So anyway, I packed up the boys, swung by Brian's house to get Max, brokered a sleepover for NEXT Friday, headed out to the grocery store, bought more green peppers, drove to Jill's house, borrowed garden tools, headed home and spent two more hours putting together the stuff for salsa.

After all that? I think it has too much chili powder. I'm bummed :( That's a lot of salsa for too much chili powder. Lesson learned -- when making big, big pot of salsa, add spices slowly, taste often. Oh well, it's edible. It'll be great with beans.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

pant, pant, pant

I really have no love for these mid-September last-Harrah-of-summer heat waves. I have no love for hummidity in August, but I accept it. It's August on the east coast, ergo, it is humid. But by mid-September I expect some relief. And I don't mean from the air conditioner. So, I am grouchy today. Because it was HUMID and it was HOT and it was SEPTEMBER 15!

On the upside, it was a day where much was accomplished. I can't say anything much was FINISHED, but it was a day of promising beginnings. Having accepted that we were keeping the enormous Ethan Allen living room set that I got at auction the other day for next to nothing, I called Jill this morning and asked her to help me assemble the hutch and move bookshelves around in the living room to make room for it. She did so, and then tentatively offered some design advice. I'd put the piece here and she said it would look better there. It *would* look better there, but that opened a whole new can of worms with the remaining bookshelves, and I had decided I would solve that problem the day I could afford to trash the four el cheapo Target bookshelves (that have to be bolted to the wall just to stay upright. I don't mean they'll lean forward and fall on their face. I mean that they'll collapse sideways due to the damage this humidity is doing to their cardboard core.) and replace them with inexpensive but at least they'll stand up by themselves matching IKEA bookshelves.

Then I pointed to the stagnant pile of unhung pictures that have been leaning against the wall in the living room since the end of April. Jill has the honor of having more pieces of art and framed photographs on her walls than ANYONE else I know. I've been to the Hirshhorn and the National Museum of Art and MOMA and a dozen other art museums and I'm thinking that Jill could give them all a run for their money -- all in her 2500 sq feet of historic old house. But the amazing thing, once you get past the sheer numbers, is that it's all so wonderfully arranged. Unlike most houses I walk into, I really do spend time just looking at the pieces of art, the photographs -- the walls invite you to. So, I wanted her to help me figure out where the rest of photos should go.

Jill said she could but she'd have to, um, take down all the existing pictures first and put them where they REALLY should go. I offered to go find a nail puller. So she went home and came back with a full picture-hanging kit. She ripped picture stands off the back of frames that had no hooks and added hooks. We swapped out some pictures so that more deserving pictures could have the better frames. She offered to go home and get some of her pieces that she doesn't actually have wall space for anymore and bring them over so I could have MORE stuff on the walls!

I thought that was very funny. And, as soon as I get a chance, I'll take the kids over there and see what she has.

The most interesting thing to me about all of it was that she said most people hang their stuff too high on the wall. Most of what she took down she re-hung in some new location at a lower level.

The pictures themselves clearly LOVED having her there. Old, tired photographs seemed to literally leap off the shelves. As she worked, I started seeing piles of frames tucked away on a shelf I hadn't noticed in months. The photos in standing frames crammed three layers thick jumped up and down and demanded to be considered for wall space. An old photograph of Max and the twins at Disneyland seemed to suddenly wiggle out from under a pile of homeschooling materials and demanded to be noticed. About the same time, a collage of photos printed on plain paper of a trip to the zoo many years ago, admitted that it had faded and lost most of its color and volunteered to give up its frame. It truly did seem like Toy Story among the picture frames.

Only about a third of the frames were hung before it was 2:50 and she had to skeddadle home to go mother her girls. But she promised to come back soon and hang the rest. They all lay propped against the wall that she staked out for them. They still look VERY happy and excited. They can't wait for her to come back.

I only had an hour after she left to put a few things in order. Oh, I should mention here, that I spent last night regorganizing his homeschooling stuff and fine tuning the schedule now that preschool has started and it's time to get into a really nice rut. It took about two hours but I even got the schedule laminated, hole-punched, and on a binder ring before midnight. So today we flipped to the Tuesday, Thursday card on the ring and Max *loved* the little time limits I'd put in parenthesis after each subject area. It's as if in knowing by when he was supposed to be done, that the task suddenly seemed so much smaller. OH! It's only 20 minutes of math is it! Well, pshaw, that's no time at all! Zip, zoom. That's done, Ma! What's next? And we had the most enjoyable morning of homeschooling in about a month. No dwaddling, no attitude. Just read, do, gloat, move on. We took a long break while Jill was here, but still got everything done in time for Max to get to go to his friend's house to play (after his friend got home from school).

Then it was off to Max's weekly group piano lesson. I'm supposed to sit in on it, too -- because it's Suzuki oriented. But when I suggested to the teacher that Max might have to miss the lesson because I didn't have a sitter for the twins, she scoffed at the idea -- she cracks me up. She said, in her usual theme of "you baby that boy too much" that its not mandatory for the mom to be there (mind you, the week before her theme was that the parents really SHOULD be there and be involved in the group lesson) and that the moms who WERE there for the whole lesson were "the moms of the little kids. Max is not a little kid."

I can't tell you how WONDERFUL it is to be seen as an overprotective worrywart of a mother who OBVIOUSLY doesn't give her son enough freedom. It is MUCH more fun than being the overwhelmed mother of infant twins who OBVIOUSLY must be neglecting her older son entirely since he's such a horrific discipline problem and probably has ADHD and she probably feeds him twinkies and lets him stay up all night and that's why he acts like that. Or, she's just a nincompoop who has never bothered to teach him to behave in a civilized manner. Being THAT mother wasn't much fun. So I brought him home to give him some more time under a higher level of LOVING supervision and we appear to have made great strides because lately I've heard that he's really a pretty great kid. (Well, I knew that, because he was never really that much trouble at home at all. It was group situations that triggered the falling apart.)

So I packed up his piano stuff and gave him the eye and told him to behave and I dropped him off at piano. And the twins and I went off to drop off two over-sized blankets at the cleaners and then headed over to Micheals to get two beads that I needed to finish up a project, and then we went back and sat in the music academy parking lot and the twins watched a movie and I knitted and we waited. And he came out, happy, had a great time, confessed to goofing off some in a matter-of-fact way, but promised that it was no more so than anyone else in the class (I can count on the kid to be truthful, by and large, so I do expect that he's reporting things accurately) and again I felt some relief. I can handle behavior "within the range of normal." I don't NEED perfection. Pick some other kid to be the homeschool poster child. I'm not your missionary. I just want normal, regular, ordinary. We can raise the bar next year if we want. For now, five months into our life here in our PA home, I'm basking in having hit the goal we set when we brought him home at the end of first grade. Ordinary.

Anyway, after piano we drove to football. I spoke with one of the team moms about this and that, told Max I'd be back around 7ish, and took the twins home for an hour. We had dinner, I checked email for the first time today, and then we headed back for an hour at the playground that is next to the football field.

Once we were all home again the boys were all restored to civilized levels of cleanliness (and no water on the floor, yay!) I put *most* of the displaced books back on their respective bookshelves, and then I did some paying work. Now, back to the paying work. (And sulking because I didn't get a goodnight call from Chris the traveling husband. But he's fine, right? Not in a ditch? A girl worries.)

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Cold Feet

All that's left to finishing the soakers I made for my little cousin Konrad is weaving in three strands of thread. That's it. I keep putting it off because I'm not convinced that it was all for nothing and won't fit anyway. I want to immediately launch into the second soaker, but use and entirely different waistband -- then send them both together in hopes that one will fit properly.

The danger with this is that if I get held up with work or an overabundance of boys sports activities then he could potentially outgrow BOTH soakers likety split. 3 month old boys are uncooperative like that.

In the meantime, I've been drowning my sorrows in my sweater. Now, progress on this has been slow because it's a lacey pattern and that means really, really paying attention to what I'm doing.

At some point I decided that part of my problem was also the bamboo circular needles I was using. So I went off to my neighborhood yarn store -- Stitch Your Art Out -- and bought a longer set with metal ends, telling myself that I'd knit faster. Hey! It wasn't just an excuse! It worked! It's a silky cotton blend and it flows over the metal in a way it just didn't over the bamboo. And, the whole thing is a lot more manageable on the longer needle. I knit a few rows yesterday and it really was nice to finish up a few rows in a short sitting instead of making it halfway across the row. I found myself thinking that maybe it was time to start haggling over end dates with myself. It's really a spring sweater, but it could be worn nicely under a cardigan.

I've been barely working for the last week. I had a few things coming across my desk that took an hour or two each morning, but that's it. So you'd think I'd have accomplished all this wonderful stuff, right? Like, all the laundry would be caught up and the whole house would be spit polished, and the kids would all be smarter, more polite, and better looking.

Sadly, all I have is a lot more spaghetti sauce and some grape jam. Oh, we've had our moments. I took the boys to the park today and we were even on time for his last football game. Preschool has been interesting to say the least. They sent the boys home with homework. Uh. Homework? Get this -- they sent them home with little fishing nets and told them to collect bugs to bring back tomorrow.

Oops -- off to another football game. Don't want to be late!

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Oh that was painful

I just did a blow-by-blow of the rest of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Lost the whole entry when a software update decided to shut down my browswer for me.


So now you get a very unsatisfying note that we had a wonderful time at the farm, slept deeply, relaxed, made a million pints and quarts of tomato juice, tomato soup, vegetable soup, and salsa, and basically had a great time. Favorite memories include dinner by candle light, outdoors, after dark, and Max having a fantastic time being Vic's cashier at the auction.

So Monday we reluctantly weighed anchor and headed home. We stopped in Columbus for a few hours to hit COSI with my mom, then drove the rest of the way, arriving home around 2 am.

I spent the rest of the week catching up with work, canning spaghetti sauce, jam, vegetable soup, going to new activities with the kids like the twins' speech preschool, Max's new group piano lessons, his individual piano lesson, and myriad other little errands. It's been fun, but ironically, I'm really tired. I stood all day today and peeled way too many tomatoes. After next weekend's bushel, I'll be sick to death of tomatoes. I got all my baking done today though, so at least tomorrow we'll have bread. We've been out for a few days.

The last of the bread is out of the oven. I'm off to bed. It's good to be home.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Where Was I?

Okay, I'm so far behind in my blogging that this may take a few entries spread out over the night. First, reports that I have canned the minions are greatly exaggerated. If I was eyeing them it's because Milo in particular won't stay dressed. It's September and apparently September is a great month to be three years old and naked. very naked.

We had a wonderful, wonderful time in Indiana. We left an hour later than I'd planned on Thursday -- 6 am instead of 5 am, but I'd stayed up till 1 am the night before and 5 am wasn't happening. We drove as fast as the law would allow but still didn't make great time. The traffic was fine -- I just had to keep stopping for more caffeine. We got to Indiana about 5 pm their time. The first thing we did was untangle my Aunt's computer a bit so that it would let her use her verizon email. That went smoothly and then we headed over to my grandmother's apartment to have dinner with her. We hung around and knit for a bit, then headed back to Charlotte's house to sleep. She has a great guest bed. We slept soundly.

In the morning Charlotte had gone to work, so Max and I went back to grandma's apartment fr breakfast. She eats in the cafeteria there for breakfast and there were a half-dozen other residents there at that hour. There was a piano in the next room. Grandma had wanted to hear Max play, so he played a few of his tunes. He was an instant celebrity among the 90+ crowd. He liked that just fine.

More later.

Friday, September 02, 2005

If You Wubba Me, Then I Will Wubba You --Grover

I wubba my husband and sons -- and I miss my husband and twinkies. A big, big miss.


I'm having a wonderful time with my Aunts (happy girl sigh).

Max ran the battery on the lap top WAY down. So this is all you get. But suffice to say that we have MANY MANY empty jars and grand plans for filling them.