Monday, April 30, 2012

April 30

You know, the strangest things have been happening today regarding April 30. I'm telling you, it's odd.  First, Bubba and I were doing grammar. Now, our grammar book is just divided up into a series of lessons. Lesson 1, lesson 2, etc. We do a lesson every day.  Today's lesson was on writing a friendly letter and how to make a proper heading.  So, we're working on that and in the example, the date was..... you guessed it, April 30.  We thought that was rather strange since it was just a coincidence that we happened to be doing that lesson today.  Then, the second strange thing happened.  We were studying the inauguration of George Washington in History.  We are finally finishing up the Revolutionary War/ Declaration of Independence/Constitution and today we inaugurated George Washington and guess what the date of that was..... yes, it was April 30, 1789.  It's all very bizarre. It's like the planets are aligning or something. So, I thought I'd see what else has happened in history on April 30, and this is what I came up with....
** in 1989 the U.S. beat Costa Rica 1-0 in the third round of the World Cup in soccer.
** in 1962 Willie Mays hit 4 home runs
** in 1952 Mr. Potato Head was the first toy advertised on television
**  in 1900 U.S. annexes Hawaii
** in  1838 Nicaragua declared independence from the Central American Federation
** in 1888 hailstones kill 250 people in Delhi, India
** 1492 Columbus is given the royal commission to equip his fleet.
So, there you have it. All these things happened on April 30.  I'm not sure if any of these things will change your life much, but it may earn you an extra point next time you play Trivial Pursuit.
Have a wonderful day!

Friday, April 27, 2012

And they're off!

Today was the day of the annual homeschool track meet.  It's a pretty casual affair. We don't compete against other homeschool groups, just amongst ourselves, but we sure have a good time. It was a beautiful day for it, too. We have the meet at this place out in the country behind a mountain in the middle of a bunch of orange groves. It's a mission organization that processes food for the needy in other countries. (That's basically what they do, in a sentence. It's a very wonderful organization with ties to our homeschool group)  Anyhow, they divided the kids up into age groups and did basic track and field events.You've got your foot races...
javelin toss (which was actually a plastic missile of some type, but it worked and nobody got hurt)
There was shot-put....
And jumping....
The kids all had a great time. The weather was just perfect. Sunny with a cool breeze.
My kids all did well in their events, too. Here's Bubba in a foot race. He took home about eight first place ribbons.  Now, granted, he's eight years old and was in the six to eight year old group, so he was one of the older ones, but he's also a really good athlete.
After the events, we had hot dogs and chips and salad and fruit for lunch and then the awards ceremony and then everyone started heading for home. It was a wonderful day. I love getting together with our homeschool group, probably as much as the kids do!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

And it only took 15 minutes!

We had a tree taken out today. It was a Raywood Ash. You know, they are beautiful trees. Very dark green foliage and very dense.  But, they have root problems.  And this one wasn't in a good place to give us shade. It was in the southwest corner of our yard and to really give us shade when we need it, it would need to be in the northwest.  And, we wanted to plant our new Elberta Peach tree. So, it had to go.  We discussed how this was going to be done.  Hubby thought about doing it himself. Of course, he'd have to get a chainsaw.  And it would probably take a while.  But, we knew he could do it.  Or, we could hire someone.  After much discussion, we decided to hire it done.  I'm telling you, it was the most amazing thing I have ever in my entire life seen. Seriously. And I've seen some amazing things.  Elephant seals on the beach are pretty amazing. They're gross. But amazing.  I've seen Rio de Janeiro.  That's an amazing place.  Dangerous. But amazing.  But cutting down our tree was truly amazing.  The crew showed up a little after 8:00 and they didn't mess around. That chainsaw was going in no time.
The kids were fascinated. I was thankful for the big windows facing our backyard because they had an excellent view without being in the way or in danger.
Watching those guys was like watching a perfectly choreographed dance.  The one guy would cut pieces off, they'd haul them out of the way and then drag them off.
They all knew exactly what to do when. I was as fascinated as the kids were. When they'd gotten all the foliage off, they cut down the trunk (they left the stump, cut off at the ground), dragged the remainder of the tree to the front, put it through the shredder, got out their broom and blower and cleaned up the debris and left.  I'm telling you, it was all done in 15 minutes.
That, my friends, is truly amazing!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Phylum: Mollusca

So, tell me.... what do you really think about snails? I mean, really! How about octopuses? Squid? Clams and oysters?  Well, they all pretty much creep me out; they are totally gross. But, we are studying invertebrates and indeed, they are invertebrates. They are part of the biological group called Mollusca.  They have in common complex organs, a soft body and a shell.
 So, why are we talking about these gross things today? Because we've been studying them in science.
 Of course we read all about them,

studied their anatomy and then Friday we had a snail lab.  After the lab the kids combined playing with legos with studying snails.
Eventually they even made planes, trains and automobiles for their snails.  Thankfully there were no casualties.  That would have been really gross. But, the kids had fun and I think they learned something.
I'm just glad we don't have to do a lab on the giant squid!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

He Strikes Again!

The flower guy, that is. At our church.  Last month I showed you the beautiful bouquets of daffodils that graced my kitchen table and this morning a huge bucket of peonies made huge the eyes of the ladies at our church.  I love peonies.  But peonies do not love California.  Many of the women at our church didn't even know what these flowers were.  I don't know why they are so hard to grow around here. Maybe it's our hot, dry climate. Whatever the case, they're rare, but Mr. D can grow them well and we were all delighted to take with us a few blooms to beautify our homes!

Glad to Be Alive....

This morning our family almost lost its life. Thanks to the alertness and excellent driving skills of my husband we are all alive and well. We were driving to church, which is about a 20 minute drive to a neighboring town.  We were on the main road heading out of town, the speed limit is still 35 mph and all the sudden Hubby gasps, brakes and pulls over to the right.  Headed straight toward us (going into town) driving probably 70 mph (that's what Hubby guessed) was a 4x4 pick-up, passing two cars. Hubby said that it looked like he might have even been trying to go around us, too, but Hubby pulled to the right, so the driver of the pick-up went between us and the car he was passing. I have no idea what could have inspired someone to drive like that. Hubby said maybe someone was chasing him or he was high on something, because it wasn't a "normal" occurrence.  But, thankfully we were driving slow enough (Hubby was driving the speed limit), so Hubby could react in time and pull us over without flipping the car; thankfully the road was still wide that we could pull over and still be on pavement; thankfully the idiot driver of the pickup saw that we were pulling over and decided not to go around us, too. Otherwise we would have been in a head-on collision. I'm trying not to think about it, too much, but I did spend a lot of time in church this morning thanking God for His hand of protection on our family. Clearly He has not decided it's time for us to go Home yet.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Perfect Saturday!

This has been a good Saturday. Lately, Saturdays have just been too busy. I've had to go up to the Big City and get my allergy shots most Saturdays, and since I'm up there I might as well do a Costco/Target run!  Which ends up taking up the whole morning.  And then I'm tired, too when I get back.  But today... today... no shots. I'd gotten them on Thursday when I took Missie Lou to get tested for allergies (she turned out to not be allergic to anything, so now we've got to figure out what's causing the fluid build-up in her ears if it's not allergies).  Today I got to make a Regular Saturday Breakfast which includes bacon and pancakes. And since we had a ton of oranges from my parents, we had fresh squeezed juice. It was yummy.  Someone had given Hubby a bag of oranges at church, so I put those in, too, but I had quite a surprise when I opened them up. They were dark red inside. Blood oranges. They made the most beautiful juice. It was red orange juice. After breakfast we used the orange rinds to make bird feeders. You know where Duh-duh got the idea? From his standardized test. Is that not a hoot? Apparently, in the reading comprehension section they had directions for making a bird feeder. So, Duh-duh thought it was pretty neat and wanted to make one. We had enough oranges for everyone, so we have lots of bird feeders. And they've been getting customers today. Sweet little finches. I love those birds.
I did yardwork most of the morning, which was great. I know I've said this before, but yardwork is so satisfying. Here's Baby playing with the kitty. She just loves that cat.
  And then this afternoon, I went to the nursery. Yes, I know, it's a dangerous place for me. I think we've discussed this before, the fact that I have no self-control when I go to the nursery.  But... I was on a mission. Since our neighbors took down their shade tree, we were determined to replace it, on our side of the fence.  So, I got another Chinese Pistasche. And I asked the nursery man for one with lots of color. The kind you want is the Keith Davies variety. It is just brilliant in the fall.  So, here it is. I had to run and get my dad's pick-up to take this bad boy home with me. I'm standing there looking at the mini-van and the tree (and the whiskey barrel, I also purchased) and thought, "this isn't going to work!" Fortunately, my parents live close, so it all worked out.
Then I went grocery shopping and stopped to get these.... these... jewels. Don't they look delicious? The road side strawberry stands are popping up all over the place. I love this time of year. Oh my word. It is the best.  The kids all had some and then the box was on the table and all the sudden Bubba says, "Baby's in the strawberries" and she'd gotten up on a chair and was covered in strawberry juice and had the biggest smile on her face. I don't blame her. They're delicious!
So, there you have it. What I consider the perfect Saturday. Hubby's gonna get a tri-tip on the grill for supper and we'll end this day right.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

If You Don't Want to be Woken up at 6:00 in the Morning....

keep your stinkin' dogs inside!  I've been trying to go walking in the mornings. I really don't like it all that much, but it is a pleasant time of day, I can be alone with my thoughts for a few minutes and I really do need the exercise.  So, I'm out walking this morning in our neighborhood. We have a nice neighborhood. It's solidly middle class, with wide streets and nice houses. There are a few people out and about - jogging, walking, leaving for work, but it's generally peaceful that time of day. We don't have a huge subdivision, so to get in a half hour of walking I have to go in and out of every cul-de-sac and up every street. So, I enter this cul-de-sac this morning and I'm walking by a house and the garage door is open. I peer in a little and see the pedestrian door is also open to the backyard. And then I hear barking.( I know what you're thinking, why didn't you just turn around right then? You have to understand that all this was happening in a matter of a few seconds and I'd been up this cul-de-sac a million times before and never had dog problems, so I wasn't expecting it) I walk past the house and I hear louder barking. And right then two dogs (a little yappy dog and a medium sized black and white dog) come bounding out of the garage and start barking at me, standing in the street between me and the outlet to the main street. Basically, I'm trapped. Usually, I have my pepper spray with me, but I haven't been able to find it lately.  And I'm not sure if I really would have sprayed those dogs. I'd prefer to use it only if I were actually in danger of being attacked and at that point they were just barking.  So, I kept walking in the cul-de-sac, hoping that if they saw me walking the other direction they'd go home. But no. They didn't.  They just kept barking and barking! Now, my heart is pumping a little faster and I'm not quite sure what to do. I started yelling at them to go home, but they kept barking at me. So, finally, I just went up to the door of the house and rang the doorbell. Yeah, it was early, but I didn't know what else to do. This older guy came to the door. I said, "I'm sorry! I'm out walking and your dogs got out and I'm afraid they're going to bite me." He just said, "OK" and by the time I was at the street, the dogs were put away. I felt kind of bad (yeah, I know, it's his fault, and he should be thanking me because even though we have a quiet neighborhood, leaving your garage door open like that is like telling the world, "Come rob me!") but not as bad as I would have felt if they would have bit me.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

What are you going to do when it gets REALLY hot?

Remember the scene in the Wizard of Oz in the poppy field? And poor Dorothy just can't hardly move. She's saying, "I can't run anymore. I'm so sleepy." And her friends say, "Give us your hands and we'll pull you along," and she says, "No, please. I have to rest for just a minute," and then she just falls right there in the poppy field fast asleep and the Wicked Witch of the West is watching through her crystal ball, cackling away.  I'm having one of those days. I'm sure you have them, too. The first really warm day of the spring. Of course, if we had a day like today in July we'd pull out the sweatshirts, but it's 81 degrees right now and very pleasant outside and I can just barely function.  There's so many things I could/should be doing right now. I just don't feel like doing any of it. I did go outside for a bit and pull weeds. Until I came across too many gross things like snails and bits of dead worms. And then that stinkin' winter grass that is so hard to pull out and then when it does come out it takes all the dirt with it.  And then I kept seeing all the holes that our former dog dug in my flower beds and started getting mad, so I gave up on that.   But Baby was having a good time. She was picking my irises and chasing the cat around the yard. You know, most of the cats I know are pretty tolerant of babies. They just run away.  And Baby's running after Socks screaming,"Tee, tee!"  She loves kitties.  So, anyhow, I'm sitting here, with a cup of coffee at the computer, trying to muster up enough strength to pick up the markers and the flashcards and the new curriculum and the trash and everything else that's on the floor. And I keep saying to myself, "No, please! I have to rest for just a minute!"

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Out and About!

We were out and about this afternoon. Getting all sorts of things done. All of those piddly things. You know, they don't take long to do in and of themselves, but they don't get done and then they just weigh on you! Cee-cee had a dentist appointment.  That went really well. Actually, he just looked at her teeth. Nothing big when you're three years old and have good teeth.  We'll do x-rays on the next visit. But, she was very excited and got to pick a toy out of the treasure chest.  Then, we went to the Post Office and shipped off those silly standardized tests.  I was glad to get those out of my hair and off my messy counter top. On the way from the Post Office we took some books back to the library.  The back of the Sienna was filled with stuff for the thrift store, so we went there, too.  And, as we were getting back into the car, Duh-duh and I sniffed the air at the same time and looked at each other and smiled. He said, "I smell sausage!" and I said, "I do too!  That would be good for dinner, wouldn't it?"  Because we both smelled that indescribable smell of German Sausage on the grill. It was drifting through the air from a cafe down the street. So, I went around the block to the cafe where they sell the stuff frozen and bought a couple packages. Now I'll have one to cook and one for the freezer.  And then we came home. To a clean house.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Lessons, lessons, lessons! And some repentance!

"Asa was not completely obedient in the outward, visible areas of his life. He was obedient in what he considered the most important areas, but he was not entirely right. Beware of ever thinking, “Oh, that thing in my life doesn’t matter much.” The fact that it doesn’t matter much to you may mean that it matters a great deal to God. Nothing should be considered a trivial matter by a child of God. How much longer are we going to prevent God from teaching us even one thing? But He keeps trying to teach us and He never loses patience. You say, “I know I am right with God”— yet the “high places” still remain in your life. There is still an area of disobedience. Do you protest that your heart is right with God, and yet there is something in your life He causes you to doubt? Whenever God causes a doubt about something, stop it immediately, no matter what it may be. Nothing in our lives is a mere insignificant detail to God."  Oswald Chambers, "My Utmost for His Highest", April 15

You know, sometimes our lessons from God take a long time. Sometimes we have to wait and wait and pray and things are revealed over time and things grow and change in our lives. And sometimes they don't. Sometimes it's like.... flash, bang, sin revealed, and "aaaah, so this is why I've been praying for this and not receiving this blessing....."  

So, with that in mind, I will share with you one of those moments. I had it this morning. It goes like this....Those of you with children, especially with many children know that the work is never done. Never. There is always, and I mean always laundry to either be thrown in the washer/dryer, folded or put away. Always. There is no reprieve from laundry. And the house is always a mess. There are always toys laying around. Groceries need to be gotten. Vacuuming. There's always something to do. Always. Constantly. Do you understand what I am saying? Can you relate? Can I get an amen? And, unfortunately, I have tended to use Sundays as my "catch-up" day. I'd do my grocery shopping (because I could leave most of the kids at home and shop in peace), lesson planning, baking occasionally, and all that after church and honestly, I'd go to bed exhausted. And I knew that wasn't right. Sunday was supposed to be a day of rest and here I was completely worn out on a Sunday night.  But, I'd keep doing it and praying for energy and strength the rest of the week, reminding God of His promise from Isaiah - "Isaiah 40:31  but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint."  And then, this morning, I was praying again for energy and strength and I had just finished reading Oswald Chambers and it was like God just said to me, "I give you Sundays to 'renew your strength', to rest and you refuse my offer of strength and rest. You are disobedient (Exodus 20:8  "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.) and you wonder why you are tired all the time. Repent. Get it together. Rest when I tell you to rest and then we can talk."  So, I did. I repented. I'm working at just resting this afternoon. I'm not going grocery shopping. I need to. But, I'm not. I do have lesson planning to do, but I'm going to try to do it quickly (and my goal for next week will be to have it done before Sunday).  Hubby and the kids are gone to a baseball game, so it's relatively quiet here.  And I am thankful. For the convicting power of the Holy Spirit and God's Word. And for a day of rest.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Bits and Pieces from the Weekend!

Well, it's been a rainy week here in good ol' Golden California. Too bad we couldn't get rain like that all winter. The hail canons were going off all week, too. And I don't care what the real scientists say, those hail canons work. Because everywhere else got hail, but our fair burgh got missed.  Everything's pretty wet and muddy, though, which means...... yes, the game is cancelled. See, the baseball park is a ponding basin and that works out real well most of the time because in the winter, when there's rain, it can be a ponding basin. And then, in the spring, when there's not supposed to be this much rain at once, it can be a baseball park and everyone's happy.  But.... that's not happening this weekend. It's a ponding basin now.

Last night we celebrated Cee-cee's birthday. She's three year's old.  And I made another butterfly birthday cake. She wanted one so bad. That's all she could talk about. "My butterfly birthday cake!" And she really enunciates "butterfly". Says every syllable quite distinctly.  We had both sets of grandparents over and she got lots of presents.  That the other kids were extremely jealous of. Oh my word, they just couldn't keep their cotton pickin' hands off. And we have a rule that the birthday kid doesn't have to share their presents for the first couple of days after receiving them. You know, the whole idea of sharing things has been a very difficult thing in our home. Not only teaching the kids to do it, which is always hard, but also just the whole idea in and of itself. I mean, sharing is great in theory, but when it comes down to the nuts and bolts of actually doing it.... it's hard. Toys are laying around all over the place, and this is Duh-duh's but Bubba picks it up and wants to play with it. Is Duh-duh required to share? And for how long? And Bubba doesn't take good care of things, so what if he breaks it? It's all very difficult to navigate.  We still don't have an answer.
Hubby's been doing this new thing with the kids on Saturdays. It's been pretty neat. He's been taking one kid at a time out to lunch. Just a special time with Daddy. They love it.  As of today, he's taken all the older kids. I'm not sure when he's going to start doing Cee-cee. She's awfully young to really appreciate it.  But, it's been good. They go to fast food, but they all really look forward to it and I think Hubby does, too. Our kids, when they are all together are completely exhausting.  But one on one, they are quite charming!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Few Words on Standardized Testing....

First, just let me tell you from the start that I purposely do not blog about controversial things. For one thing, I am not, by nature a confrontational, debative person. I don't like arguing. I don't like debating subjects.  For another thing, I will not pretend to know enough about controversial subjects to be able to present them or an argument for or against them and come across as not looking stupid. And yet another things is.... I don't like to be divisive. The purpose of my blogging is to entertain and amuse myself, give myself a creative outlet, and hopefully entertain, amuse and somewhat educate (at least on the merits of zwiebach) those dear souls who pop in from time to time.  Now, with that said, today's post is on standardized testing.  Because we're doing that this week.  Now, California does not require standardized testing from homeschoolers. Actually, surprisingly enough, California requires very little from homeschoolers. But, that's a whole different thing.  I decided to test just to satisfy my own curiosity.  Well, I learned a lot. A lot that I wasn't expecting to learn.  And just for the record, I am staunchly against the weight and the importance the government puts of these tests. I always have been.  But anyhow, these are some of the things I've learned from this grueling and frustrating experience.....
1.  This testing is entirely different educational procedure than anything my children have ever done before. I can see why some school districts spend so much time preparing for these silly tests.
2. While I can understand the reading and math portions, why do they test science and social science?  Unless you have a national curriculum and you know what each kid is learning when.... how can you really test this stuff?  There weren't any questions about the Pharaohs in Egypt or Julius Caesar either!
3.  What is really frustrating is when you have dictated tests and you have to give them to a little boy who is an extreme visual learner.  Duh-duh did horribly on the Mathematics Problem Solving portion because.... the test is dictated. It's just the answers that were in front of him. He has some trouble with auditory processing. We did fiddle around with some of the other dictated tests (without compromising the integrity of the test) so that he was able to read the questions to me and he did much much better. But I'm just sitting there watching him mark the wrong answers because.... because he doesn't get it by just listening.  How many other kids in classrooms all over the country do the same thing?
4.  I learned a lot of other things, too. Like.... I'm never going to do this again. Unless I'm willing to take the time to really prepare the kids for these tests and for me that would be wasted time when we could be doing other things that really educate them.  Also, that I really need to adjust my teaching for Duh-duh.  But one thing I found to be very interesting. I gave both boys a test called the OLSAT (Otis Lenin School Ability Test) which is a bunch of puzzles that don't test what they know but how they think. It's very interesting. I gave Duh-duh his today and I was amazed at how quickly he went through it. At first I thought he was just filling in bubbles, which is kind of what he did in the math one.  But then, I looked at his work and he'd gotten every one right.  I'm looking forward to getting the results of that one!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Out My Windows!

It's a rainy day here! The kids are wild, which is to be expected, but after enough tears I just separated them and told them they had to play apart for a while. I get so tired of people getting hurt all the time. And they're not really hurt. They're just a bunch of whiners! Anyhow, I haven't been able to stop looking outside this morning. I love watching it rain (since it doesn't rain much around here, I have to enjoy it when I can) It also gives my eyes a rest from the chaos inside. But I've been admiring my yard this morning.  My yard has suffered neglect over the years since we've had kids. Sure, I maintain it, but it doesn't get a lot of thought.  But one of the things I do love about spring is that my yard has a lot of shades of green in it, and that's a lovely way to decorate. Most people think that a variety of color is the way to go. And that is nice, to be sure. Don't get me wrong. I love color.  But, it's also fun to just choose one color, or maybe two and then work on putting in plants with many shades of that color.  I've been working on green (and a little purple) over the past several years. My limemound spirea is a favorite. When the leaves are new, it's almost a neon yellow green. It still stays pretty limey over the summer, but now the color is just vivid.
Then, we have the greyish-green Lamb's Ear. I love that little plant. It's fuzzy and soft. You can see the bright green ferns next to it.
This is a Bridal Wreath Spirea. (I have about half a dozen kinds of spirea in my back yard) It's just starting to bloom, but it's got kind of dull green foliage. And then there's all sorts of other greens in the tangle along the back fence of my yard.
The irises are blooming, too. They're bright purple and are beautiful against the dull purple of the catmint you see in front of it. Of course the truck in the lower right corner really adds a lot to the picture.
My yard is really looking pretty this time of year. In an understated way. Hopefully I'll be able to get out and plant some annuals for summer color some time soon!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

"Life is the flower for which love is the honey!" - Victor Hugo
Today our homeschool group got together for a little Bee Study. I'd forgotten all about it until I got an e-mail last night and I was so glad we had something to do this afternoon.  We went to the home of one of our families. They have a lovely backyard - large and well suited for entertaining. There was quite the crowd, too. Thirty children plus mamas.  I wish I would have gotten pictures, but I kept having to chase around a little 18 month old girl, so the camera, unfortunately, stayed in my purse.  The afternoon started with a lecture from a local bee-keeper. He was a good speaker and had the kids' attention for the better part of an hour. I learned a lot. Did you know that the male bees, aka drones, do nothing? They have no purpose in life, except to mate with the queen and then they die. Hmm. Then, one of the moms had a cooking demonstration (they made candy with honey), and some other activities for the kids. I think they tasted different types of honey, and colored some pictures. At that point I'd drifted off to the play area of the yard, following my two youngest and another mother who had little girls close to the same age as my youngest girls.  We watched the little girls play and had a good talk - you know, the usual stuff moms talk about, kids, parenting problems, theology.  It was good.  Then the kids watched a video about bees. I love this video. It's put out by Moody Science and is called "City of Bees".  This video was made in the 1960's. Seriously. It is so old, but it is still really good. Of course, there are some things in it that make it seem really dated. Like this scientist standing in front of a "super-computer" that takes up an entire room and bragging about it. Today's hand calculator has better technology than that super-computer.  But, still, the video was very interesting. It talked about the life of bees and how they do this little dance back at the hive to communicate how to find where the good nectar is. It really is fascinating.  Of course my boys had already seen the video, so they tried to make their escape, but I told them to go back with the other kids. "But, we've seen that video and we want to play!" "No, get back in the room with the others!"   But, they did get 5 minutes to play when the class was over. Then we had to jump in the car and run to baseball practice.  Although in those 5 minutes they were able to get together a game of Capture the Flag and two kids actually got hurt and T had a bloody lip. All in 5 minutes. I can't understand how those things happen.  Anyhow, it was a very good afternoon! For all involved.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Go Get Your Hands Dirty!

You know, I just love gardening. It's one of those hobbies that really suits my personality. I'm not a crafty person. Or someone who does decorating or creative stuff. I'm just not that creative. And I can't put things together and make them look right. You know, some people can do all sorts of nifty things - my daughter has been the recipient of several darling little hair do-dads made by the mom of a friend of hers. I can't do that sort of thing. But gardening and baking are pretty forgiving hobbies. Saturday was a beautiful day for gardening and look what we found.
Get a load of these carrots. We have never been that successful in growing carrots. They've always been kind of short and fat.  But then, this winter we grew them in a box with potting soil.

And they came out beautiful and very carrot-looking. I guess carrots need looser soil so they can grown down. Who woulda thought?  And then these peas. We've been harvesting peas.  We would have had more but there was an accident with the trellis. It was the dog that tipped it over. Yeah, the dog! No, it was the wind. Yeah, the wind blew it over. Or, maybe it was the cat....... Or maybe it was a little boy riding his bike in the garden when he wasn't supposed to! Well, anyhow, we have a scant harvest of peas but they are yummy and we will be eating them stir-fried with carrots and mushrooms tonight for dinner.
And now, for something completely different. Well, still within the agricultural milieu, but... so, have you ever tried plant propagation? It is more fun than you can imagine! Really. I learned how to do it when I was taking a gardening class (actually for starting a school garden) about 10 years ago.  You can start new plants from old plants. It's the neatest thing.  Here we are propagating grape vines. Just because we can.
When Hubby pruned last fall I told him to just stick some sticks in some old pots I had. So, he did. They stayed there all winter. They even survived an accident. I think it was another bike accident. Our children really need to learn how to ride their bikes without crashing into things.  Anyhow.... so, we just ignored them all winter and then....
one day last week I saw this......
and this..... it's a bud. A bud, I tell you. I was so excited. It may look like a dried up, dead stick to you, but there's life in that stick!  Hubby's like, "What are we going to do with them? We don't have room for another grape vine!" That's true. We don't even have room for all the tomato plants and we still have to plant squash and melons!  But, it doesn't matter what we're going to do with them.  What matters is.... we did it! We have more grapevines.  That's the point!
Oh, and if anyone in the tri-county area wants some grapevines, just let me know. I'll give 'em to you for free.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Lots of Things....

I noticed it's been a couple days since I've blogged. I hate when that happens. I like writing every day. But...things just happen. Like..... hmmm! What has happened. Thursday...... Thursday..... Thursday. I can't remember. It has just disappeared from my memory. That's what all these children do to me. They cause Child Induced Amnesia (CIA for short).  Yesterday we did school and I baked a ton of zwiebachs and hot cross buns for Easter Sunday breakfast (You know, last year I made a new recipe for hot cross buns and they turned out absolutely horrible! But this year, I used.... guess!  Yes, you know me so well! My zwiebach recipe, but I put more sugar in and an egg and raisins and some cinnamon and then just made buns out of them, brushed an egg wash over them and sprinkled a little sugar and I'm telling you, they are delish! I just cannot emphasize enough the importance of having a good, basic, do anything bread recipe! It's the "little black dress" of baking!) and then I took Duh-duh and Missie Lou in to the allergist.  Hubby had an appointment there, too, so the doctor just saw all of us.  When we were checking out after our appointment I asked the receptionist if they gave family discounts. Actually, I was kidding, because I knew they didn't, but she gave me this look like she really didn't know how to answer me.  It was pretty funny!  So, that brings us to today. Planted my herb garden (basil, oregano, tarragon, and mint), grocery shopped, planted some more digitalis (aka foxgloves) in my border. You know, I was reading once in a magazine about people having themed flower gardens and this one lady had one that I've never forgotten. She was an avid reader of mysteries and whenever she came across a plant-based murder weapon, she'd find that plant and put it in her garden. I thought that was so cool. The only poisonous thing I have in my yard is foxgloves.  So, anyhow. That's my day. I'm tired. I think I'll go wash my face and get ready for bed. And then snuggle down with my iPad and read more about how Peter the Great strong-armed his country into the modern age.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Sometimes You Just Have to Laugh!

We're studying the Revolutionary War in history. It's a great study. We've read a wonderful biography of George Washington and a wonderful biography of Patrick Henry ("Forbid it Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!")
Yesterday we finished reading this great book....
It's a very interesting account of Lexington and Concord, where, in the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson "Here once the embattled farmers stood/ and fired the shot heard round the world."  The start of the American War for Independence.   So, anyhow, today we're reading from our history spine "The Story of the World" by Susan Wise Bauer.  We recapped the battle of Lexington and Concord briefly and Duh-duh raised his hand and innocently asked, "So.... when did they bring out that big horse?" I smiled kindly and said, "Honey, that was a different war!"

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Take Me Out to the Ball Game! But Don't Harass the Umpire!

Well, it's that time of year again, friends. Baseball season. The boys had their second game tonight. Should have been their third, but Saturday's game was rained out.  Both boys are in Little League this year and both are on the same team. There's a "brother rule" in the draft. I guess to save the parents' sanity, if one brother gets drafted, then the other brother is automatically on the team as well. Which could be a good thing if both boys are good players.  Bubba's on the same team as last year. One of the assistant coaches is the manager this year. We are pleased. We liked R. He's a good coach and works well with the boys.  Anyhow, they played a decent game tonight, for all it's so early in the season.  We lost, 9-7, which is a respectable score.  Bubba even pitched and struck out six batters. We were all pretty thrilled. But, the game was kind of a downer. For one thing, the umpire wasn't all that great. But, she was calling poorly for both sides, so.... whatever. You're gonna get bad umps.  What really bothered me, though, was that a lot of the parents on our team were harassing her. And then I glanced over to these rude parents and kind of gave them a look like, "it's not a big deal" and this woman called me out. Really. And so I got up and slammed her against the wall, and said, "listen you....!"  Uh.... no. Not really. I ignored her.  But, it just really bothered me. And you know what? Last year we had such a good group of families on the team. Nobody really got upset. I remember once when one woman started yelling at the ump, everyone turned and looked at her. She didn't say anything else for the rest of the game. Going to the games was fun. It was a good atmosphere. And tonight it was just on the verge of ugly. I hope it's not going to be like this all season.

Monday, April 2, 2012

A Little Taste of Sunshine!

Do you like lemon bars? Yeah, those yummy little things that are sweet and sticky and lemony and taste like a little bit of sunshine. Yeah, that's what I'm talking about. I love them! Second question! Do you have a divine recipe for lemon bars that is sweet, sticky, lemony and tastes like a little bit of sunshine? You don't? Well, finish this post and you will have a recipe that is just like that. I made lemon bars today. I told my mother-in-law I'd bring a dessert to Easter dinner and what is better that lemon bars? Of course I'm making a lemon meringue pie, too. Actually, that may be a tad better than lemon bars, but then again.... it's a toss up!   (I hope everyone there likes lemon. I think someone else is bringing a dessert, too. Maybe that won't be lemony!) So, I made a couple pans of lemon bars and I thought I'd share the recipe with you all, because I don't believe in secrets between friends.  So, first you have to make the crust.
Take 1 cup butter, 1/2 cup powdered sugar and 2 cups flour and blend it up with your handy dandy pastry blender.
So, it looks like this.  Then, you pat it into a 9 x 13 pan and cook it for 15 minutes at 350 degrees. It should look like this when you're done.

Then, you make the lemon part.

Mix up 2 cups sugar, 4 tbs. flour, 1 tsp. baking powder, 6 tbs. lemon juice, 4 eggs, beaten and a little grated lemon rind.
I have to show you one of my favorite little gadgets. It's my microplane zester. Oooooh, it is fun. It makes grated lemon rind, grated parmesan cheese, grated whatever you like so easy.
Once you take the crust out of the oven, pour the lemon mixture over the crust and then bake for another 22-25 minutes at 350 degrees. It'll look like this when you take it out of the oven.  After it's cooled, dust with powdered sugar and cut into bars.
It is absolutely heavenly. I promise.