Thursday, June 30, 2011

Never Thought I'd Be Doing This!

You know, when you sign up to be a housewife, there are certain things you expect to do. It's just part and parcel of the job. You've got your basic cooking and cleaning. Laundry needs to be done on a regular basis. Raising of the children is part of your job description. But, one thing I never imagined doing is pollinating plants. "Why would you be pollinating plants?" you ask. "Isn't that a bee's job?" Well, you would think. The problem is, the bees aren't doing their job. They've gone on strike for higher wages, which I think is pretty nervy, and refuse to pollinate the pumpkins. Well, not really. I have no idea why the pumpkins don't get pollinated. There were plenty of bees around my fennel plants that I've allowed to go to seed. However, I think this is not an uncommon problem with pumpkins. Last year we had a great big old pumpkin vine and got one pumpkin on it. Our pumpkin vine is quite healthy this year (as you can see) We have tons of flowers, but nothing has set on. So, we went on the Internet. Because everyone knows that the Internet is a wealth of information that is entirely true and reliable. We looked up why we weren't getting pumpkins set on. We looked on several different websites. (See, I liken my travels on the Internet to my travels in Brazil. If you get lost in Brazil and stop to ask for directions, you will get directions. Said directions may not be entirely or even slightly accurate because it is not polite for a person to say they haven't the slightest idea where it is you're trying to go. So, they'll tell you something. The best thing to do is ask 3-4 different people for directions and then take a consensus. If most people say it is this way, then it's this way. Same thing with the Internet.) Anyhow, the consensus was, that pumpkins need to be artificially pollinated at times.
So, that's what I did. I tried to maintain the dignity and the privacy of the flowers, but I went in there with my little paintbrush and went swab-swab-swab inside one flower and then went to the next flower and went swab-swab-swab and so on and so forth on down the line.

I was tempted to just keep on going when I got to the watermelon and canteloupe and see what kind of Frankenstein gourd appeared, but I restrained myself.

So, here's hoping our little procedure worked. I really hope we get some good pumpkins this summer.

You Gotta Strike While the Iron's Hot!

I think most people will agree with me that reading is an essential life skill. You can't make it in this world if you don't know how to read. So, we take reading very seriously in this house. The kids have been read aloud to since they were infants, chewing on the corners of "Good Night Moon" and slobbering all over "The Runaway Bunny". And we continue to read aloud on a regular (I want to say daily basis, but it doesn't always happen) basis. Now we're in the middle of "On the Banks of Plum Creek" by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and I don't plan to quit reading aloud to my kids any time soon. Even when I was teaching jr. high I read aloud to my classes and they loved it. The class would be silent and heads down on the desks as we hurt with Pony Boy from the S.E. Hinton's classic "The Outsiders". The class was tense as we stood with Charlotte as she faced Captain Jaggery's madness in "The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle"by Avi. I read aloud to my 5th graders once, "Where the Red Fern Grows" and was standing there at the end of the book, sobbing (yes, really) when the dogs died, and the whole class was crying, too. Seriously. Well, I could go on and on. There is so much good young adult fiction out there. Anyhow, no one is too old for a good read aloud. And reading aloud to young children is the best way to prepare them for all aspects of life, both academic and otherwise. So, even though we are taking a break from school for six weeks this summer, we are still reading. The boys read aloud to me and then I'm training them to learn to read silently to themselves. I had planned on starting Missy Lou on a good phonics program when we started school up again in August, but all of the sudden yesterday it dawned on me.... why am I waiting. She's ready. She's been ready. Let's just do it. Of course, part of my problem is my ultra-structured, do everything according to schedule temperment. I can't start teaching her now, we're on summer vacation. I must wait till we start school again. I know, I know, it is something I need to work on and I do work at it. I need to be more flexible. And I'm trying. OK? So, anyways, yesterday when I was cleaning out my homeschool cabinet I came across these little phonics readers for preschoolers and I thought, I'm just going to start her on these. Now. Well, not now, as in yesterday. I was knee-deep in books and as much as I would have loved to just leave them because it was a huge mess, I did clean it all up and start with her today.
She went through the first three books lickety split this morning. They were pretty easy. She knows most of her letters and so now we're just working on putting two letters together. But, she's a hard worker and extremely motivated. So, we took about 10 minutes and went through the A Beka readers and then I got out one of my "Special Books!". These are my special books. The Bob Books. They really aren't that special, but... you know. You have to build enthusiasm and excitement or you'll just lose the kid.
And she read through the first one. Well, she worked her way through the first one. It was all about Mat and Sam. Who sat on eachother. And then, they just sat. Sounds good to me. Especially if they sat with a cup of iced coffee. But, "iced coffee" is a little beyond our phonetic capabilities right now.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Why I Buy My Books!

Remember back when you were a kid and you were always admonished to never write in your books? Now, I can understand that is good advice for a small child wielding a blue crayon. I have no problem with that. But then, you get to be school age and you get the same thing... don't write in your books. No underlining or highlighting. Nothing. Well, not that there would be anything really worth highlighting in the typical social studies curriculum, but still... if there was something you might want to highlight, you couldn't. And I understand the reasoning behind this. The books had to be used from year to year, the teachers wanted to prevent undue vandalism, yadda, yadda, yadda. However, after all these years of "training", a person can really develop a complex about writing in books. But, then you get to college and you actually have to buy your books and you get to retrain your thinking. Yes, you can write in your books now. Writing in books is a good thing, but it took me a looooooong time to figure this out. See, I was a very good, rule-following, compliant, didn't-want-to-get-in-trouble kind of kid growing up. I never wrote in books. I don't think I even wrote in books in college. It took me forever to get up the nerve to underline a verse I loved in my Bible. But once I did, boy howdy, the dam burst. All that pent-up underlining rage was unleashed and I just went to town. Observe my most current reading material. It's "The Story of Britain" by Rebecca Fraser. Awesome history. Very readable and informative. And this is what I'm doing to my book.
I'm underlining like crazy. And not only underlining, I'm expressing my thoughts in the margins.
Amazing, I know. And so liberating. I feel so free. Where have you heard this quote before? It's all over the media. And yet it was so applicable to Europe's relationship with Russia after World War II.
This can be quite a problem with library books. I got this book from the library the other day.
It's a great book. If it were mine, I'd be underlining like crazy. But it is not my book.
So, I am forced to take notes. Isn't that crazy? It's slowed my reading waaay down. I suppose, in a way, note-taking is better because instead of just underlining, I'm actually copying what is being said, which is fixing the idea more firmly in my mind. OK, I'll give you that. But still.
So, that is why I prefer to buy my books. That, and the fact that because of my problem with returning library books extremely late it's more economical to buy books sometimes. But I'd like to encourage you, now. Grab a pen. Go write in a book!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Happy Monday

It's a hot one out here in the Golden State, but then again.... that's summer. And it's been some weekend for us here in our little family. We were all hit hard with this awful stomach bug and I will spare you the gruesome details of our experience, but suffice it to say, it was not pretty. We're all better, though. At least I am, and that's really all that counts because being the Mom, I cannot get sick. When Mom gets sick, everything grinds to a screeching halt. Although I must say that Hubby did a stand-up job as Mom-fill-in on Saturday while I languished in bed, near the point of death. Fortunately, I was sick on Saturday when he was home anyway. I was just mad because I didn't get anything done that I wanted to get done on Saturday - like lots of weed-pulling and pruning and maybe some more work on my little containers I'm working on. Did I happen to mention those?
I used to be so "in" to container gardening back in the day. When I was living the single life in the Bay Area I had an second-floor apartment with a huge balcony and I indulged my green thumb by gardening in containers. Of course they were all flowers and stuff. I never did any vegetable gardening that way. But, I can tell you, when I had a bad day at work, I'd go buy myself a 6-pack to make myself feel better. A 6-pack of petunias, that is. Or coleus. Or pansies. But, then.... I got married and we got the munchkins and I gotta tell you, containers are kind of high maintainance. So, that kind of got left to the wayside. I had good intentions, but my geraniums ended up dying and everything just looked shabby and awful until I just gave it up. But, then, hubby gave me this lovely rose for Valentines day (he doesn't give me cut flowers often, they're always of the rooted variety) and since I couldn't find a place to put it in my yard, I decided to put it in a pot and plant some of these pretty trailing petunias around it. Yes, it's taken me till June to plant my Valentine's gift. That's how far behind I am. I won't even tell you how far behind in scrapbooking I am. But, I am making progress. I actually got some library books turned in today... and they're due tomorrow. Can I hear an amen? So, anyhow, I've got a few containers planted and I'm really working hard at keeping them alive until I can hook them up to our automatic sprinkler system. Oh, and remember those beans I planted last week? Look! Isn't this the most wonderful thing you've ever seen? Well, ok, maybe not the most wonderful thing, but it is pretty amazing, isn't it? That that little green thing can come out of that old dry seed after just a few days and a little water and sunlight.

Friday, June 24, 2011

A Prayer

In keeping with the utterly haphazard nature of the topics of this blog I thought I'd share something today of a little more serious nature. Generally, my purpose for writing is.... well, I'm not exactly sure. Entertainment. Sharing about my family. Posting cute pictures of my kids. Getting on my soap box. I don't do a lot of writing of a spiritual nature because... well... that's just really personal for me. Nothing I particularly want to share on a public blog. However, I came across this prayer in my morning devotions the other day and I just keep coming back to it every morning because it seems like exactly what I want to say, so I thought I'd share it. It's actually from Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible. Matthew Henry was an English commentator and Presbyterian minister back in the 1600's (so please excuse the "thees" and "thous". I'm copying this verbatim). This is from Matthew 6, The Lord's Prayer.

"Lord, do what Thou pleasest with me and mine. I refer myself to Thee and am well satisfied that all Thy counsel concerning me should be performed. Enable me to do what is pleasing to Thee; give me that grace that is necessary to the right knowledge of Thy will, and an acceptable obedience to it. Let Thy will be done conscientiously by me and others, not our own will, the will of the flesh, or the mind, nor the will of men, much less Satan's will, that we may neither displease God in anything we do, nor be displeased at anything God does."

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Something Fun!

Today is Nifty Gadget Day here at "Livin' the Good Life!" Because how can you really live the good life if you don't have nifty gadgets? (Well, I suppose it is possible, but it's not nearly as fun!)I've had this nifty gadget for many years now and it is just really.... nifty. Today we are going to explore the many unique and useful qualities of the Paper Pot Maker. I'm not exactly sure where I got this handy little tool. I think I ordered it from somewhere. It's been a while, but if you really want to get one for yourself, just Google it. There's two pieces to it. The bottom piece....
and the top piece. (I'm sorry, I'm sure they have a technical name, but I have no idea what it could be. So, from now on, we'll just refer to the pieces as "top part" and "bottom part")
Now, you may be asking yourself at this point, "Why on earth do I need this? Why does she think this is nifty? If I bought this, would it really improve my quality of life? Shouldn't we really call that little skirmish we had with the Brits in the late 1700's 'The American War for Independence' as opposed to 'The American Revolution'? (this is a question I've been pondering lately)". Well, let me explain. This is what my zucchini plants look like now. Don't they look nice? Fresh, pretty and compact. But in a few weeks they are going to be huge, sprawling nasty looking plants. So, my plan this summer is to stagger my planting to control the size and aesthetic appeal of my plants (I know, I have this weird thing, but when plants look gross to me, I'm a lot less likely to eat food they produce). So, when these zucchini get to be a little out of control, I'm ripping them out and will plant new ones. However, I want to get the new ones started before I rip the old ones out, hence, we get out the paper pot maker. I suppose you could plant seeds in the little plastic 6-pack thingies you get from the nursery, if you still have them. (For that matter, I suppose you could plant them in the ground, but I don't have a whole lot of room now, and the only things that have sprouted directly from the ground this year have been weeds, so I'm done with that method) So, I prefer to do it this way. For one thing, the paper pots are a little bigger than the 6-pack cups and for another, you can put the whole thing in the ground when you plant them because the paper just disintegrates and you don't have to disturb the roots of the baby plantling. I also want to plant a few more green beans, so I can continue having those throughout the summer once the ones I have go ka-put! So, this is how easy it is to use a Paper Pot Maker. You get strips of newspaper. I generally cut them about an inch longer than the length of the Top Part.

Then, you wrap the paper around the Top Part....

And then smash the ends around the bottom of the Top Part...

And then you smash it into the bottom part really hard and that keeps the whole thing together. You don't have to use tape or glue or anything!

And there you go. Isn't it cute?

Then you put a little potting soil in there....

and say "hi" to your kitty....

... get out your leftover seeds....

... plant them and there you go. Put them in a sunny spot in the house, water them and when they're big enough you can plant them in the garden. I use this method a lot to start seeds in early spring when I'm getting impatient to garden, but it's still too cold to put them in the ground. And yes, you heard right. You don't have to take the plants out of the little pots. Just dig a hole and put the whole thing in the ground. Now, you have to agree with me. This is a pretty nifty gadget, isn't it?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Some things I like.... others, not so much!

It's Wednesday. There are some things I'm likin' today and some things I'm not!

This.... I like. The kids are going to VBS (aka Vacation Bible School) this morning. Don't they look cute in their t-shirts? My parents' church is having VBS this week and the kids go there. There are a lot of kids and it's definitely not an environment that they're used to, but they seem to have a good time. And this morning, I get to get to go to Walmart all by myself.
This... I don't like. These are Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches. Yes, you heard that right. Cockroaches. In my house. On purpose. We're babysitting them for a couple of weeks. I'd really like to get rid of them now. They are they grossest things I've ever seen. It really goes beyond, "This I don't like." It's more like, "This I really hate and it totally creeps me out!" We need to give them back. This.... I like. A day on the calendar with nothing scheduled. No doctor's or optometrist's appointments (Duh-duh went to the optometrist yesterday, since he flunked his eye screening at his physical. He's a little far-sighted and needs reading glasses. He and I had quite the disagreement over frames. He picked some that look really dumb, but I finally I let him get them. He's the one who's going to have to wear them and he was very very insistant that he liked them. Oh well! I asked myself, "Is this a hill I'm willing to die on?") Oh, I guess there is something written there in the corner. That's to remind me that Bubba can't play computer games. See, the kids each get 20 minutes a day on the computer. Well, Sunday, Bubba took full advantage of the fact that his Daddy and I were napping while it was his turn on the computer and played waaaaaay longer than he was supposed to. So, he's grounded for several days.
This... I don't like. It's 8:01am and 77 degrees out. That means in 3 degrees I have to go around and shut all the windows because it's gonna be a scorcher today, baby! 107 is the predicted high temp. I was listening to my favorite weather guy on the radio this morning and he's saying stuff like, "Yes, it's going to approach records today, but keep in mind, this is the hottest time of the year and we're going to have many more days like this." And I'm thinking.... how is this supposed to make me feel better?And finally, this..... I like. Check it out! My rising second grader used an apostrophe to indicate possessive. Without even being told. Of course, he spelled "turn" wrong, but it's close. And yes, the apostrophe looks like a "9". Duh-duh's handwriting leaves a lot to be desired. But the point is.... he used an apostrophe to indicate possessive. I am thrilled. My child is learning something in grammar class. The little note is cute, too. See, the kids were playing Uno before breakfast yesterday and I called them for breakfast and Duh-duh wrote this little note to remind them all who's turn it was when they started back up again. He's just like his mama. If it's not written down it gets forgotten.
So, this is how my Wednesday is shaping up. How's yours?

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Morning to Myself and What am I Doing?

Wasting time. That's what I'm doing. I actually have a morning to myself. I will have five of them this week. The kids are all at Vacation Bible School at my parents' church (Well, Bubba isn't today. He was throwing up last night, but he's laying on the couch watching "Tom & Jerry" cartoons and sipping Pedialyte right now. That's just as good as being gone. Put him in front of a tv and he's mentally gone.) this week and I was so excited. All the things I'd be able to do without being interrupted just danced in my head. I'd get homeschool stuff organized for next school year (we start at the beginning of August), and I'd get Jr. Church curriculum written and I'd do some cleaning out of clutter. Maybe I'd get a little yardwork done in the morning before it gets too hot. I've got brains in my head and feet in my shoes, I can steer myself any direction I choose! (Sorry, some how that line from Dr. Seuss got in there). But... here I sit. I am completely unmotivated. Could be because I didn't get much sleep last night because of Bubba throwing up and then I couldn't get back to sleep. But, I've been surfing the Web for over an hour and just doing nothing. Anyone want to come over and give me the proverbial kick in the hiney? Anyone?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Fun in the Wilderness

We go to a small church. We average about 75 people there on a Sunday. Mostly older folks. It's a wonderful church, though, and we love it. Anyhow, today was our church picnic. Mr. & Mrs. C live out in the country on a couple of acres with a creek running through it and it's a wonderful place for a picnic. It's all very natural with lots of oaks and wild berries and all kinds of brushy stuff I have no idea what it is. So, while the adults relaxed under the towering oaks, the kids had a treasure hunt. There were clues hidden all over the place and they had to read the clues and solve the riddle to find the next clue.

The treasure was eventually found by one of the many decks overlooking the creek. It was a wonderful treasure filled with bubbles, water guns and candy! Lunch was bbq hotdogs and hamburgers and a huge spread of salads, fruit and dessert. Did I ever mention that when our church has a potluck there's good food and lots of it? So, after a good lunch, I was hoping to be able to just sit and visit, but that was not to be the case. The kids wanted to go on a hike, so one of the other moms and Pastor P and I took the mob on a hike through the wilderness. We stayed well on the paths and kept away from the stinging nettle and it was all fine and dandy until we stopped on this bridge to watch crawdads. And then Hunter lost his flip-flop in the creek. Pastor P, who also happens to be Hunter's grandpa tried to get it with a stick, but that didn't work so Devin got in the creek to try to fish it out. What he didn't realize was that the mud at the bottom of the creek was the slurpy, quick-sand type of mud and he sank in up to his knees, panicked a little and jumped out, leaving his flip-flops in the mud. So, then his mother had to go in the creek to retrieve his flip-flops.Which she did. Woohoo! Of course with all the commotion the crawdads were scared away, so we just continued on back to home base and had sodas and told the tale of our adventures to anyone who would listen. And that's the story of the church picnic!

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Importance of Friends....

"From quiet homes and first beginning,
Out to the undiscovered ends;
There's nothing worth the wear of winning,
But laughter and the love of friends."
By Hillaire Belloc

"Today a man discovered gold and fame,
Another flew the stormy seas,
One found the germ of a disease.
But what high fates my path attend: For I - today I found a friend."
By Helen Barker Parker

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Happy Anniversary!

Yes, today is it. Nine years ago today I became a Mrs. It's been a wonderful nine years and if I could do it again, I would! Hubby and I were in our early 30's when we met. A little older than a lot of people. But, God knew what He was doing. We met in December, 2000. I'd just moved back to Fresno from the Bay Area and joined the same singles group I'd been in before I moved away. I still remember the night we met. It was in early December and a group of people from the singles group were going to take a walk down Christmas Tree Lane. You know what a Christmas Tree Lane is, most cities have them. Neighborhoods that really whoop-de-doo it on the holiday decorations and so people from all over come and walk or drive to gawk and gander and enjoy the Christmas spirit. Well, this Christmas Tree Lane has been around for years and years, it's in a ritzy part of town and is very popular. Most of the time it's only open to cars, but they do have a couple nights in December that they only allow walkers. So, that was the night we were going to go. I was at work and I got a call from my girlfriend, who I was going to go with as I didn't know anyone really at that time and she whined, "I don't want to go tonight. It's cold and I have a headache!" Well, I wasn't all that thrilled about going either, but I was annoyed with her, so I said, "Take an aspirin and put on a sweater! We're going!" (Aren't I a nice and sympathetic friend? Don't you all want to be my friend now?) Anyhow, we go and get there and are sitting in our friend's house waiting for everyone to show up and the door opens and two guys and two girls walk in. And I look at one of the guys and think to myself, "He really looks nice. I'd like to get to know him." And that's just what I did. We ended up walking together most of the evening and found out that we had tons in common. Even down to the fact that when we were in 6th grade we were both at the same summer camp (though we didn't know each other), and we graduated from the same college on the same day (and we still didn't know each other). So, after a nice walk, we headed back to our friend's house for hot chocolate with the gang and I'm telling you, I couldn't sleep that night. I lay in bed going over every word of every conversation we had that night. I was smitten! We of course, started dating after that. Most of our dates consisted of hiking in the Sierras which he loved and taught me to love. (I did like hiking previous to meeting him, but I learned to really love it!) He was training to climb Mt. Whitney that summer with a group of people from the singles group and so a lot of our Saturdays were filled with group hikes, inside jokes, and the traditional post-hike icecream bar and occasional pizza at Bear Mountain Pizza. It was a great summer. We dated for about 14 months and then he proposed - the day before Valentine's Day. That suprised me. And then we got married. And then we got these guys!
Ain't life grand?
PS: In case you didn't notice, I just figured out how to use the scanner. That's how I got these pictures. It's so easy. I can't believe it! Did I happen to mention that I am technologically apathetic? That's why I hadn't figured it out before. I know, I live in the Dark Ages. But I don't care. Hence the term, "technologically apathetic!"

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

There's good news and then.... there's bad news!

Well, I'm sure some of you will consider this good news! This will be my last blog post about baseball for a while. The bad news is, yes, we lost the game tonight. Basically because..... the other team was better than we were. And that's all there was to it. Here's my analysis of the game and the reasons why the other team won.
1) The Indians hit better. Our outfielders actually got a little action tonight and didn't quite know what to do about it.
2) The Indians fielded better. Their outfielders were catching our fly balls all over the place. That's never happened before.
3) The Indians were bigger than we were.
4) The Indians were just better than we were.
And in life, you will always come up against someone who does things better than you do. Sometimes that can be hard to take. But, it can be a good thing. It can expose your weaknesses and show you areas where you can improve. It helps with that whole pride thing you can get going when you just clobber everyone else in your league. So, there you have it. Now we can get on with our summer. Have a little more free time. It's a good thing.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Boys and Girls!

My friends, I have a new bit of information for you! Boys and girls are different. You knew that, you say? Well... I guess I did, too. It's amazing how different they are. Here's Missy Lou. She had her first ballet class today and let me tell you she was thrilled. Of course, I forgot to take a picture of her in her leotard. I was too busy yelling at Duh-duh to get his shoes on and trying to get out the door on time. We're half way there and I realized I'd forgotten my camera. Anyhow, she's been wanting to take ballet for so long. For months she's been checking out ballet books from the library (her favorite one being Angelina Ballerina) and she loves practicing her pirouettes. Last November my sister-in-law and I took our daughters to a performance of the Nutcracker (in the big city!) and Missy Lou was just beside herself. Here's Missy Lou and her cousin with the Rose from "The Waltz of the Flowers". There's just not a decent dance studio in our small town. There is a dance studio, but at the risk of sounding entirely judgemental, it just doesn't seem like the type of dancing I'd like my daughter to be doing. But, this summer the parks and rec department of our fair burgh is sponsoring a "Classical Ballet and Tap Class", which is a little more to our liking. Missy Lou had a wonderful time this afternoon pointing her toes, raising her arms gracefully and returning to the "first position".
The boys, on the other hand, are spending their afternoon participating in a destruction derby in the back yard. Boys don't like ballet. They like wrecking cars and making noises. And that my friends, is the difference between boys and girls!

PS: Look at what's growing in my garden. Isn't it exciting? I can't wait to eat it for dinner!