Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Cat's Paradise!

I really hate this time of year. It's the time of year that the ground is strewn with baby birds - dead and alive. Boy, what a picture that creates in your mind, huh? OK, maybe not strewn exactly, but it is the time of year when the nest becomes a bit too crowded and somebody has to go. Maybe it's the smallest, scrawniest baby. The one who can't hold his own in the family. Or, maybe it's the bully and everyone gangs up on him and shoves him out. I don't know. I don't know how it works in bird families. However, the kids found this little guy on the ground this afternoon. He's pretty cute. Pretty noisy, too. They carried him around for a while and I kept telling them to "put him back where you found him so his mommy can get him!" I know his mommy won't really get him. As Missy Lou so profoundly asked, "But, how will his mommy get him back in the nest?" "Oh, she'll pick him up with her beak!" I don't think Missy Lou believed me. I don't know what to do about him. We have no idea which nest he came from. But I certainly don't want the kids carrying him around all over the place. They're actually pretty gentle with him, but... it's a baby bird. You don't just carry around a baby bird. But, if they leave him on the ground the cat's gonna get him. He can't fly. So, basically, he's a goner whichever way you look at it. It's like that this time of year.

Monday, May 30, 2011


We just finished reading the book "The Adventures of Marco Polo" by Russell Freedman. It was an excellent book. A little long and descriptive for my boys, but I learned a lot and it had great illustrations. If you don't quite remember who Marco Polo was, he was a 13th century Italian explorer (well, actually, his dad was a merchant who, on his way home from a trading journey with his brother, got a little side-tracked due to a regional war and found themselves attached to a Mongol envoy on it's way back to the court of Kublai Khan, so they decided to join it, then they came back and Marco joined them on a second trip to China) who spent about 20 in China in the service of Kublai Khan. He wrote very detailed accounts of his exploits and since they were so fantastic, very few people believed him.
Anyhow, one description of some people he visited in the Yunnan mountains just made me laugh. Not in a "wow, that's hilarious" way. Or even in a "that's ironic" way. But in a "you really can't be serious" way. So, I thought I'd share it with you.

"'The men are all gentlemen, according to their customs,' Marco wrote. 'They have no occupation but warfare, hunting, and falconry. All the work is done by the women.' But when a baby was born, then the men gave their wives a break: 'After one of the wives has given birth, she washes and swaddles the infant. Then her husband goes to bed with the baby by his side and lies in bed for forty days, while all his friends and relatives come to visit and entertain him. They do this, they say, because the woman has done her part by carrying the baby in her womb, and it is fair that the man should do his share.' The tribespeople believed that this practice helped establish a close bond between father and child. But while the man stayed in bed with the baby, receiving congratulations, his wife 'does all the work of the house and waits upon her lord in bed.'" From "The Adventures of Marco Polo" by Russell Freedman


An Endless Battle.....

I have a problem. (And you know that the first step toward good health is admitting that you have a problem!) It starts with a "c" and ends with an "r" and the middle letters are "lutte". Yes, that's right - it's clutter. I read some place that if you have a place for everything, you shouldn't have this problem. Well, I would agree with that premise. However, what do you do if you do not have a place for everything? Then what? What do you have to say to that? The thing is, it's hard to find a place for everything. For example.... this. This is my pile of socks without mates. They actually have their own support group. They hang out in this bag in my laundry room until such a time when I have absolutely nothing to do and I get them out, sort through them, find maybe one pair amongst the dozens of singles in there. Then, the ones who are left get thrown back into the bag to talk among themselves until the next time I dump them on the bed. How on earth do socks get lost? That's what I'd like to know. And then.... we have these. Just sitting on my countertop. Do you know what these are? They're little pans you throw up in. We got them at the surgery center when Missy Lou had her tonsils out. They gave us three. I know, I know. Just throw them out. But, they're brand new and they're pink and I just... what if I need them some day. What if I need to throw up. And then... there's that whole landfill thing going on. If I throw them out they go in a landfill. Yes, I could probably throw them into recycling, but I haven't even used them and I just toss them? Here's my closet. I told you I have a problem. There's so much junk in here. I don't even know where to begin to start. There's scrapbooking stuff , leftover from when I ditched traditional and went to digital. I don't want to get rid of it. I might need it someday. And I do use it for making little cards, or letting the kids use it for crafts on rainy days.

A place for everything, huh? Well, Santa here was hiding when we put the Christmas stuff away. He's so cute. But, the Christmas stuff is in the attic, so here he sits on the shelf in my closet until next Christmas. And this is sitting on the shelf in my closet, too. I have no idea what it is. I think it's some kind of wooden cookie jar. It's got cookies painted on the side. It's very retro looking. I think it may have some sentimental value. I'm not sure I should get rid of it, but I don't really know why I'm keeping it.
So, as you can see, I really do have a problem. The kids are all outside right now, doing heaven knows what. Terrorizing the neighborhood or something. But as long as they aren't bugging me, then that's fine. Maybe I should go into my closet and throw a few things out. Hey, I'll start with those throw-up pans!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Happy Birthday, Bubba!

We had a birthday yesterday. That would be Bubba's. He's 8 years old.Where does the time go? Actually, in a sense time goes quickly, but in a sense, it doesn't. But, it was almost seven years ago that Bubba and Duh-duh joined our family. Look at this picture. He's such a baby there. Those chubby cheeks and big grin. Nothin' at all like this lean, mean baseball machine. Bubba's really grown up and matured over the past year. We're very proud of him. Happy Birthday, Bubba!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Where are we in time?

When someone asks, "Where are you?" our answer is generally relating to where we are in space. Right now I am at home, sitting in front of the computer. I can figure that position out latitudinally and longitudanally. A satellite can pinpoint my exact position. When we drive somewhere, my kids are always wanting to know where we are going, if we are going in the right direction and, if it's some place we've gone many times, they'll say something that indicates they are familiar with the area. So, I think it's safe to say that we as humans are very concerned and cognizant of our position in three-dimensional space. However, I don't think we are as concerned about our position in the fourth dimension - which is time. I was never concerned about that. I always thought that the world just revolved around me. The present is where it's at, man. This concept is reinforced in the modern way that history/social studies is taught in schools. This quote by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer in their book, "The Well-Trained Mind" has completely revolutionized my view of learning history, as well as how I view my own self and my position in time. They write, "A common assumption found in history curricula seems to be that children can't comprehend (or be interested in) people and events distant from their own experience. So, the first-grade history class is renamed Social Studies and begins with what the child knows: first, himself and his family, followed by his community, his state, his country, and only then the rest of the world. This intensely self-focused pattern of study encourages the student of history to relate everything he studies to himself, to measure the cultures and customs of other peoples against his own experience. And that's exactly what the classical education fights against - a self-absorbed, self-referential approach to knowledge. History learned this way makes our needs and wants the center of human endeavor. This attitude is destructive at any time, but it is especially destructive in the present global civilization. The goal of the classical curriculum is multicultural in the true sense of the world: the student learns the proper place of his community, his state, and his country by seeing the broad sweep of history from its beginning and then fitting his own time and place into that great landscape." Wow! You mean, I am not the center of the universe? It's kind of a new proposal. Like, how back in the day everyone thought that the earth was the center of the solar system and the sun and the planets revolved around it. But then, Nikolas Copernicus came along and said, "No, the sun is the center of the solar system," and put the earth in it's proper place. It tends to give a person perspective. When you look at where we are in time and then look back at what happened thousands of years ago - the empires, the empire-builders, what caused these empires to crumble and others to take their place - things tend to make sense. You see patterns (the other day we were comparing the empire of Alexander the Great with Genghis Khan and how both were strong rulers with enormous empires, but it was their sheer force of personality that kept it all together, after their deaths things tended to fall apart) and can make predictions. Even at young ages children can see these things, and these are important things to know. This shapes a person's world view and I think if I can give my kids a world view that is broad and thoughtful and knowledgeable, they will be much better equipped to navigate the times that are ahead of us in our country.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

It's all History!

How many of you can honestly say that history was a favorite subject of yours in school? I really can't say that. For one thing, I don't remember much about history. Yes, I suppose I must have studied it at one time or another because I do know things about history, but I never was really interested in it. Probably because it was taught out of text books from an "event oriented" perspective. That means, you study events - the Pilgrims came to America. Well, events aren't all that interesting. It's the people who made history that makes history interesting, but nobody really bothers to study that. I think it's more from a standpoint of practicality than anything. I mean, you can read about the Pilgrims coming to America in a paragraph or two and be done with it, but studying someone like Myles Standish might take some time. About ten years ago I really got interested in studying history. I started reading biographies and found them to be fascinating. I can't remember exactly who I started with, but I know that I got hooked on history by reading the bios of the wives of Henry VIII of England. I guess if you're going to start somewhere, you might as well start there because those women had quite interesting lives. From there I went to the Plantagenet Dynasty of England because I really became interested in Eleanor of Aquitane, one of the most famous Medieval Queens who was the wife of two kings and mother of three kings.
I've read several bios of her, some of just her individually and some of her husband Henry II, in which she figures prominently. While I've found that biographies are the most interesting, I do read other history books just to get a broad overview.
The book on the right is an excellent book for someone who wants to improve their general knowledge of world history. It's written by Susan Wise Bauer (2 points for you if you recognize that name from some other posts of mine). She's the author of the history curriculum that I'm using with my kids. But this book is written for adults. It's written in narrative form and is very interesting. The book on the left is one that I've read before, but I just had to pick up again last week because it is just so good. (And also because I'm getting kind of excited about seeing "Pirates of the Caribbean 4" in a couple of weeks.) It's not exactly a biography, but the focus is on the actual pirates who terrorized the Caribbean during the "Golden Age of Piracy" in the early 18th century - Samuel "Black Sam" Bellamy, Edward "Blackbeard" Thatch, Charles Vane, and the man who brought them down - Woodes Rogers.

I've found, too, that while I particularly enjoy reading bios and histories from the Medieval-Renaissance periods of European history, I'll branch out a little at times and read something entirely different. Around Christmas-time last year I became engrossed in a bio of Cleopatra and then paired that with this bio of Julius Caesar. That was fun. Caesar was an amazing man.

And sometimes I'll pick up a fun little book about something totally obscure. This book is a wonderful summer read. It's about how they discovered longitude. Everyone knew about latitude, they found that out from looking at the stars, but longitude..... that's an entirely different thing. Think clocks! I'm not sure what I'll be reading next. Or who I'll be reading next. I've got about three books going now that I really need to finish up, but I'll let you know when I figure it out!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Great Toy!

One of the best "hand-me-downs" we've ever gotten is this doll house. A couple of years ago one of our neighbors came by and said she had this old doll house her mother-in-law had given them and it was really great and would we like it? Well, I'm not one to turn down free stuff, so I said, "Sure, we'd love it!" I had no idea what we were getting in to. This doll house is one of many playsets made by Playmobil and it is awesome. Not only did we get the doll house, we got accessories coming out of our ears. We keep it on a large piece of plywood in the living room and the rule is, "Only doll house stuff on the plywood, and none of the dollhouse stuff can go off the plywood." That seems to keep things from getting lost, or getting mixed up with other toys. Because I know my boys and they would love for dinosaurs to attack the house, or Tonka trucks to run over it. One of the things I find to be so interesting about this set is the attention to detail. Check out the patio. The little flowers in the window-boxes, there's even a potting bench. We have a little piano that actually plays music, and there's even sheet music that goes on the piano that is real music. To a real song. It's amazing. The components are very durable, too. We've had this set for a couple of years, and though it's not out all the time, there really hasn't been anything broken. It's been a great toy for the kids, and I think their interest in it has been high since we'll keep it out for a month or so and then put it away for a couple of months. I took it out for Missy Lou, since she's really been bored with the "post-surgery period of relative inactivity", but the boys really enjoy playing with it, too! As I said, this has been one of my favorite "hand-me-downs!"

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Out in the Back Forty!

The back 40 feet that is. Of our yard. I'm not sure if it is really 40 feet. I've never been very good at math. Anyhow, today, my friends, we are going on a field trip to see what is growing on our little suburban farm. It has always been a dream of mine to have a farm, but since we live in town, we have to make do with what we have. We are actually able to squeeze a surprising amount of crops in our small bit of land. And we are learning things every year. Some things we've done have been complete failures, and other things quite successful. I heard once that the mark of the true farmer is not dwelling on this year's failures, but always looking with hope to the next season. Well, if that's the case, we are farmers in the truest sense of the word.

One of the crops we have had great success with is grapes. We are growing two varieties of grapes here on our little farm. This variety is called the Red Flame. In my opinion, it is one of the best table grapes. It is sweet and very crunchy and delicious. Here is a baby picture of a bunch of grapes. We are going to have quite the crop this year. The other variety of grape we grow is the Thompson Seedless. Thompsons are mediocre table grapes (in my opinion), but they make great raisins. Our Thompson has a very distinquished lineage, however. See, when we lived in the great metropolis of Clovis we had a neighbor who had close ties to the Enology Department at Fresno State University. In front of the Enology Department grows a huge grape vine that is very very old. Well, said neighbor once brought us about three cuttings from that grape vine and we planted them and voila'.Here it is taking over my cucumber trellis. I'm telling you, these things will take over the world if you'll let them. We also are experimenting with growing strawberries, though we're not doing it very well. Yes, they look pretty in the picture, but by the time they get ripe, usually the slugs get them or the birds, or they just start to rot because the ground is damp. We need to read up a little bit more on growing strawberries.

Here is practically our entire blueberry crop. Blueberries are another thing we don't do well here. I think part of the problem is that they require care. Ours is the type of farm where, if you can be stuck in the ground and survive and produce with the occasional watering, you'll do well. But, if you need to be babied and coddled and fertilized with special fertilizer, well... this is just not the place for you. Blueberries are just a little too high maintainance.
We also have trouble with birds eating our blueberries. Here is our fruit salad tree. A fruit salad tree is a must-have for an urban farm. It is one tree that has a branch of peaches, a branch of plums and a branch of nectarines. Well, that's what our fruit salad tree has. I've seen many different combinations of stone fruit, but this is what we wanted. Here is the peach branch. It seems to have a pretty nice little crop on it. And here is our plum branch. It has Santa Rosa plums on it, which is the best variety of plum (once again, in my opinion).
Here is something new in our little farm. We've got a raised bed and are growing watermelon, canteloupe and pumpkins. Don't my pumpkins look wonderful? They should, they're growing in prime soil. It's some kind of expensive mix we got from the nursery.
And our last stop on this little farm tour is meant to celebrate the spirit of volunteerism that is so apparent here. This is Queen Ann's Lace. It's a staple in my summer bouquets. I planted it one year and it just continues to re-seed itself. I love it. We get all kinds of volunteers around here. Lots of tomatoes mostly. But, we welcome volunteers of all shapes and sizes. As long as you're not a weed, you're welcome here.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Eating, Drinking and Sleeping..... Baseball!

I'm just thinking that this will be my life for the next.... oh....ten years. Or more. Last week was a monster week for baseball. Because they fiddled with the schedule, Bubba had four Little League games last week and Duh-duh had his regularly scheduled t-ball game. It was an insane week, to say the least. I felt like just pitching my tent there at the baseball park.I do enjoy going to the games. They're fun, and Bubba's team is really good. I'm not just saying that like a proud mama! They're good. They wupped the Phillies on Saturday night 18-3. (Now, I know what you're thinking. The coach just runs up the score! Well, he doesn't. As soon as we get a fairly reasonable lead, he lets the kids play whatever position they want, benches the starters and we still get that far ahead. The score on Saturday night was not unusual for our team) That was the official score. But, they have this rule that once a team gets 5 runs in an inning then they switch. It's just to keep the innings from going on and on and on. However, we had 17 points and we'd already gotten 4 in that inning, so we could only technically get one more run. Dylan got up to bat. There were two men on base and he whacks that ball into left field - 3 run home run! It was amazing. But, according to the rules, they only counted one of those runs. I count all three, though, because that was an awesome hit. So, anyhow, we're top-seeded going into the playoffs, so we don't have a game till June 7. That's good. Gives us a chance to catch our breaths. But not these guys.
They still play baseball... (Yes, you saw that right. They're using a stick as a bat. Bubba lost his bat. He loses everything and we are not going to replace everything he breaks and/or loses. Therefore, they use a stick as a bat)

Every chance....... they.... ... get!!!!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

At Loose Ends!

It's been one of those days. Missy Lou is not exactly feeling lousy, but she's not feeling great. She's bored out of her mind with... Otter Pops, popcicles in general, watching tv/videos, being inside. She wants to go outside and play, but the doctor said she's not supposed to get her blood pressure up or she'll pop the clots in her throat, or something like that. So, she's whiny. And I don't blame her, so I'm trying very very hard to be an understanding mother and answer her patiently and kindly, but I'm getting a little irritated myself. I'm tired of being at home, and I'm a little bored. OK, I'm very bored. Had to stay home from church with her this morning and that was no fun. I wanted to post something profound, or even mildy amusing on my blog, but I can't think of anything even mildly profound, or slightly amusing. I apologize. I'm at loose ends. I guess I'll go play Candyland with her. I always rig the game by putting all the picture cards first so we can get those out of the way right off. I mean, there's nothing more annoying than getting all the way to the end and then drawing the candycane card and having to go back to the beginning. That's why I put all the picture ones first. So, here I go. Maybe tomorrow will be a better day!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Bye-bye Tonsils!

Well, today was the big day. Missy Lou had her surgery. She's been looking forward to it for weeks. This was the day she'd get her necklace and be able to eat unlimited amounts of icecream. So, we were up early so we could make it to the surgery center by 7:30am. They schedule the kids first thing because they can't eat after midnight the day of the surgery. They were going to take out her tonsils and adenoids and put tubes in her ears. She was a real trooper. They let her pick what kind of sleepy-gas she wanted. It's flavored, so here she is with Daddy smelling what kind she wanted.
She only had to smell three before she knew she wanted bubblegum flavor. Daddy asked her if she wanted to smell more, but she said "no". She's the kind of person where when she finds what she wants, why bother looking (or in this case) smelling more options? The surgery took about an hour. Daddy went back to work as soon as the doctor said she was fine. I stayed there at the surgery center for another 2 hours while she recovered. It was pretty cool. They had recliners in the recovery room for parents to sit and hold their children. She did ok for a while and then got kind of agitated and then the nurse came back with "a little something." That "little something" worked great because she went right back to sleep. I'd like to find out where I can get some of that "little something!" The rest of her recovery went smoothly. She threw up once, all over me. I was sitting there yelling for the nurse and she came running. I couldn't reach those little bowls, but we got cleaned up pretty well. And, as I told the nurse, I've been thrown up on before. So, we got home around noon. She's all set up on the couch. She's got her jewelry (bracelets, headbands and a ring) and unlimited Otter Pops. She's got a little Tylenol with Codeine to take the edge off and lots of PBS-Kids on the tube, and her brothers won't be home yet for a little while (they're at Grandma & Grandpa's house). What more could a five year old ask for?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A New Family in the Neighborhood!

The kids discovered a nest the other day in the neighbor's shrubbery. And it has a family in it. A family of robins. I tried to get a good look in it and but it's kind of hard. I saw at least two babies, though. It's so exciting. The cool thing is, it's fairly inaccessible as far as them getting at the nest, but it is fully viewable from the fort. I got some mediocre pictures and all you can see is the big baby with his mouth open hoping for a worm. Isn't that just like a kid? Always wanting something to eat. I'm telling you, I'm already starting to get eaten out of house and home and my oldest is only 8 years old. Another fun thing about this nest is that our reading book is called "All About Animals" and wouldn't you know it, we just finished the section about robins.
So, now that we've just read about robins and how they care for their babies and how the mothers are different colored than the fathers and all that, we can see them up close and personal. I just hope the cats don't get at them. I just realized that while the nests may be inaccessible to the kids, they seem to be pretty accessible to the cats. Hmm!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Laugh, and the world laughs with you,
Weep, and you weep alone;
For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth,
But has trouble enough of its own.
Sing, and the hills will answer,
Sigh, it is lost on the air;
The echoes bound to a joyful sound,
But shrink from voicing care.

Rejoice, and men will seek you,
Grieve, and they turn and go;
They want full measure of all your pleasure,
But they do not need your woe.
Be glad, and your friends are many,
Be sad, and you lose them all;
There are none to decline your nectared wine,
But alone you must drink life's gall.

Feast, and your halls are crowded,
Fast, and the world goes by,
Succeed and give, and it helps you live,
But no man can help you die;
For there is room in the halls of pleasure
For a long and lordly train,
But one by one we must all file on
Through the narrow aisles of pain.


"Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth;
break forth, O mountains, into singing!
For the Lord has comforted His people,
and will have compassion on His afflicted...
Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.
Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me."
Isaiah 49:13,15

Monday, May 16, 2011

Sea Lions, Banana Slugs and Kites! Oh my!

Ahhh, there's no place like home, Toto! No place like home! Ain't that the truth. Although vacations are lots of fun and I do enjoy them, I like coming home! We took our annual trip to the coast this weekend. Ever since Hubby and I were married, we've been going to a certain beach house near Santa Cruz for vacation. It's not a fancy place, but it's two blocks off the beach and it's clean and comfortable. The first time we took the boys, when they were just babies, they both threw up and had diarrhea for about two days. That was really bad. I can't look at the carpet in the corner of the living room without remembering how we scrubbed. Whew! But, subsequent trips have been great. This year we spent a lot of time at the beach. The kids are at the age now where they can just spend hours there playing in the waves. We bought kites at Target before we came and had a great time with those. The beach is the perfect place to fly kites. You don't even have to run to get them started. Just throw them in the air and they go. Missy Lou got tired of flying her kite and gave it to me instead and I just sat down on my beach chair and held the kite in one hand and my book in the other and it stayed up there. It was pretty fun!
We saw lots of sea lions crusing the breakers for... fish I guess. And there's always tons of sea gulls and pelicans. And kelp. The Monterey Bay is famous for kelp. One day we drove out to Pacific Grove. Wow. If I had some serious money I'd buy one of the houses along that road. Gorgeous houses. Gorgeous views. But, for us normal people, we could play on the rocks for free, which is what we did. Here's my little mountain goat. I just don't watch him. He scares me to death the way he just leaps from rock to rock. But, he's never fallen. I just keep my mouth shut.

Sunday we drove up to the Redwoods and took a train ride on this old logging train. That was fun. We'd done it once before when the kids were really little and they didn't remember it. They sure did this time. It was great. And we saw the infamous Santa Cruz County Banana Slug. Those are the nastiest things ever. We had gotten off the train for a little nature walk and this man spotted and picked up a slug for our visual enjoyment. Get a load of the size of that bad boy. I don't know who these little girls are, but the looks on their faces are priceless. Especially the little one on the right.

Monday we cleaned up and came home. It was a great time spent together as a family.