Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thanksgiving Chronicles

Once back from camping, I had a whirlwind 48 hours to unpack, do laundry, repack for our RV trip, and scoot the family cross-town for an early Thanksgiving with my side of the family. It was a rare gathering of some of my once-close cousins and our growing brood. Some of us hadn't seen each other in years. That's me in the back middle between Joe and Shiane. When Shiane was an itty-bitty thing, she was the flower girl in our wedding. Now she's driving!
The RV Trip Diary:   
Tuesday- We didn't discover the mouse poop until bedtime on Tuesday night. We had arrived safely at the Grand Canyon, donned our warm clothing and raced the sunset to the canyon's edge to show the kids a view of a lifetime. It didn't disappoint, even with the deep dusk and the snowclouds. Once we were all tucked in for a night of sweet dreams, I realized the little black specks of "dirt" all over the place were really mouse poop. Nothing a little positive thinking and some disinfectant wipes couldn't take care of. Thankfully, I think the poopers themselves were back at the RV storage facility in Las Vegas, rather than on board with us at the Grand Canyon.

Wednesday- We bundled up to the best of our desert-folk capability and made our way back to the canyon's edge to walk a bit along the rim trail. SO beautiful. Our hope is to go back in the future when we can hike down and camp - maybe in another five years-ish. Here Kevin poses beside our big rig with the four toasties. (Many thanks to the Early family for the use of their RV again!)

We posed right at the head of the Bright Angel Trail. It looked a bit foreboding covered in ice, but I still want to hike it someday - during a different season. Interestingly, this is also only a few feet from the Kolb Studios. In my recent read, Sunk Without a Sound, by Brad Dimock, I was introduced to the Kolb brothers - so it was really neat to stumble upon their actual studio!

On the way south from the Grand Canyon, in Valle, Arizona, there is an airport where some antique airplanes and motorcycles are displayed. My dad had a huge part in restoring them, so we stopped to take a look. Here we are beside the Ford Tri Motor (a.k.a. the "Tin Goose"). I took a ride in that sucker when I was Cayna's age, and still haven't forgotten it!

Thursday- How about a pajama hike to start the holiday off right? After a night at Granite Dells in Prescott, Arizona, our final destination, we killed some time in the early morning and followed a trail and let the kids climb some rocks.

From there, we showered and dressed and arrived at Grandma and Grandpa's house. My Thanksgiving was a slew of in-laws, yummy food, about five hours of the game Apples to Apples (no exaggeration), and some football watching.

Here is father-in-law carving one of the turkeys.

It doesn't surprise me that I don't have a group photo. We were so busy enjoying our meal!

Friday the men golfed (Joe got to drive the cart a lot!), the women shopped, and I elected to stay home with a few of my kids and go for a walk and make gingerbread houses. My only shopping hankering involved a used book store, and my wonderful mother-in-law took me out the next day to fulfill that.

Before heading home, we celebrated Joe's birthday a little early so he could open his gift from the grandparents.

Once home, to usher in the pre-Christmas season, we watched "Miracle on 34th Street". There was plenty of popcorn to go around.
We had a memorable trip. And a joyous homecoming. And now we go full tilt boogie into Christmas prep. I'm grateful for Advent to keep me focused and quiet. Yeah, right.

Monday, November 29, 2010

To Prep for the Holidays: CAMP!

If you're feeling a little edgy about all the upcoming family mirth (like I am), and it's not quite time to take down the fall decor or deck the halls with Christmas stuff - I highly recommend getting out there and TENT CAMPING!

You know, I've tried a lot of things to deal with my anxiety over family issues in the past. I've gone to counseling. I've turned to food. I've turned to drink. I've turned to television sit-coms. But until last week, I'd never tried heading out into the cold winter wilderness for a little tent camping. It certainly got my mind off any worries I had related to family and holiday stress!

Thanks to the Cub Scouts, and to WalMart for our new 8-person tent - we had a great time! As we entered Valley of Fire State Park, we exited the norm of pre-holiday craziness.

You've heard of "The Love Shack?" This is "The Love Tent." We were very happy here for two nights. And you can't see it in this photo, but there is a small hole in the tent in the lower right hand corner where a hungry mouse chewed through to help himself to my trail mix. I can handle mice. Bears, notsomuch. But mice are fine.

There were lots of families on the trip, but we had a nice little set-up with our friends the Rickards. So this is an ode to our two families. Not to be confused with Ralph Lauren, which would make no sense whatsoever on the red desert floor.

Here's a little shot of our "neighborhood". You can see Cayna running toward the tents. You can also see the beautiful rocks all around.

Speaking of rocks, the kids had a blast climbing all of them. If you put on your specs, you can see tiny Joe waaaaaay up on this one. About three fourths of the way up on the right. He really liked to perch there and look down on us.

I greeted the rising sun on Saturday morning. It was exhilarating to be up so early for a good reason!

AND I greeted the rising sun on Sunday morning. (We had gone to bed about 7:15 on Saturday night.) I'm telling you, with the cold temperatures and the lack of other responsibilities, you start going to bed and getting up with the sun like the pioneers of old. (Well, at least the pioneers who didn't have to stand watch for Indians and wolves all night.)

And speaking of Indians, here is some of their artwork. No one was there to translate, so Kevin and I decided that's a fallopian tube on the left. Some antelope. A cinnamon roll. A trapeze artist. And some allusion to their addition skills. Put those all together and I bet you'd unlock a mystery of the universe.

As I stated earlier, this was a Cub Scout function, (not just a getaway for me from my holiday "issues"). So here you see Joe helping fold the flag on the last morning as we packed up to go home.

You will note, or you should, that there are no photos of me. While this is sad, it is for the better, and let me tell you why. I didn't brush my teeth for 48 hours. There were no sinks, and no running water except from a too-distant spigot. Normally, I am very obsessive about tooth-brushing, and can't sleep unless my pearly whites are clean. But I threw all my normal hang-ups to the wind on this trip. I'd like to say it was liberating. But mostly it was just icky.

Also, it was VERY cold and VERY windy. So the whole weekend I wore my favorite cozy warm green hat to cover my ears and contain my hair and make me look like a court jester. And, the final reason there are no photos of me --- I looked mildly traumatized the entire time due to the very-scary pit toilets. Cayna and I developed a system where we talked or sang to each other during bathroom visits to keep distracted from the horror of the pit. And we survived! Wind-burnt, slightly frostbitten, and aptly distracted from the stress that otherwise precedes the major holidays. What a successful weekend.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

First Tooth!

I like that we celebrate the arrival of teeth and their departure. Lots of attention we give teeth.

Bethanie tried to pry the lid off the toasted pumpkin seeds with her teeth a couple weeks ago. There was much pain, bleeding, and crying. She had yanked her bottom tooth very loose. Once the drama ebbed away, she was sooooo proud. She would show anyone who would look, and often asked me sweetly to tell perfect strangers. More than one grocery checker in our neighborhood got a look-see into Bethanie's mouth.

With all of her interest in making the event a community one, it is fitting that the tooth fell out at choir practice, with several of our close friends around.

The tooth fairy, having no scruples about more sugar this close to Halloween left chocolate coins and bills under Bethie's pillow. Plus a little Cinderella playset thing that is apparently a "first tooth" tradition started by big sis. (Tooth fairy also has no scruples about more gifts this close to Christmas.)

Bethanie is happy as can be, now showing off her "gap" to anyone who will look. Standing at the Kohl's counter the other day, I refused to tell the minorly grouchy saleslady about Bethanie's lost tooth, despite the tiny tug at the hem of my jacket. She was so sad I have promised myself to shout it from the rooftops whenever she asks from here on out. I should celebrate it. She probably won't be this enthusiastic about the other coming-of-age milestones in her future. ("Mom! Tell that lady I just started using deodorant!")

Little Bethanie - I'm so proud of you and your beautiful smile.

Gambling! World Class Restaurants! Pony Farm!

Las Vegas really does have it all.

Good weather: It's November and we're not even sure whether the weather warrants long sleeves.

Good food: Top chefs, five stars, sensational venues.

Gaming and entertainment: Poker and roulette and any other way you choose to lose your money, plus comedy, magic, dancing, singing.

Pony farms: The J.R. Pony Farm. What a surprise to find a farm only minutes from the Meadows Mall. My kids had a blast, learned a lot, and the people were very nice and good at talking to kids.

Cowgirl Bethanie on a pony just her size
Cayna Cowgirl
Johnny tries out pony riding. Photo credit: Andrea of Las Vegas Mama
Joe receiving special instruction for a Cub Scout achievement
Bethanie feeding sheep
Had to add a photo of a llama. They're so weird.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Dad's Birthday and the Mud Pig

My dad is seventy-four today. Holy Moly, that's hard to imagine! (For me --- think how HE feels!)

I'm not sure what plans he has to celebrate. He isn't one to throw himself an extravaganza. For my part, he will be receiving a heartfelt card in the mail complete with the signatures of all his grandchildren. And he can rest in the knowledge that I'm thinking of him. Especially since this morning his old mud pig lost an ear.

I have a vivid childhood memory of playing in the backyard of our pink-aluminum-siding-house. My dad was there, and while I sat watching, he crafted a little pig out of the mud. As a young child, I thought it was so cool that he could make such a thing so seemingly easy. All these years later, I remain impressed.

I've taken good care of the pig over the years. Until one of my own children accidentally whacked its head off a while back. Kevin took care of it with Gorilla Glue. And then today... TODAY... Dad's birthday, the scissors fell from above the pig and the poor darling lost its ear. Before Mister Pig sustains any further injuries, I'm taking a picture!
Maybe when I'm older and more mature, I will write a birthday post honoring my dad wherein I laud all his accomplishments outside of parenting his lovely daughter... but because of the mud pig, I'm kind of in the mood to recall all the things Dad has made for me over the years:

A two-story playhouse (I should mention this construction project was for my brother as well)
A "TERI" puzzle
My name in cursive with bits of wire found around various airplane hangars
Shutters for my bright-blue childhood bedroom
A matching lamp made from the same shutters
Lots of dollhouse furniture
A bookshelf which traveled with me into and out of half a dozen apartments in my college years
Bookshelves in the "study" of my first house with Kevin
A toybox for my firstborn son
A pedal plane for that same son
Lots of dollhouse furniture for my daughters

I could compose a separate list for all the trips I've taken with my dad, and another for the interests he passed on to me. But we'll save those for future birthdays. And for now, I must go find a safer place for the pig.

Bold Shoelaces and More of My Issues

I remember riding bikes a lot with my friend Allison in junior high. On one particular bike ride, I noticed her new "I Love Boys" shoelaces. Horrors! I'm pretty sure those shoelaces made me blush. Besides the fact that such a proclamation is throwing the net pretty wide, I would NEVER wear such shoelaces for all the world to see.

I like to think that I've always been understated. Non-desperate. Reserved. (Truthfully, I've long been unsure what to think of boys.) To this day, I'm not exactly a confident, self-assured woman of the world, relating equally to men and women.

Take the other day. I was sitting innocently in the vestibule at church. Bethanie's soccer coach, who happens to attend our parish, came walking in to drop off his daughter at CCD. Here is what I COULD have said: "Hey, Coach. How's it going?"

Here is what I DID say: "I've never seen you in pants!"

I'm quite sure that Allison in her boy-confident shoe laces would NEVER say such a thing.

I heard myself saying it and recoiled in embarrassment. Luckily, he only looked at me a tiny bit funny and kept walking.

It was a true enough statement. I've only ever seen him in shorts. And it was unique to see him at church and in work clothes. But why verbalize that? Sheesh.

The whole issue of "grown married woman relating to men" is a tricky one for me. And I'm not sure it will (or is even supposed to get better). What am I getting at? Well, I think I am bugged by the fact that I am now forty years old, and I still feel kinda like the bashful kid I was in seventh grade, to the point of blithering like a goofball around a soccer coach. I don't need to be able to impress anyone, or flirt, or captivate. I'd settle for maintaining a non-dork status.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sunday Mass - What I've Learned Since 2006

Four years ago, when we walked out of our non-denominational coffee-house style church - the only thing I knew about Catholic Mass was what I had read in books or what I remembered from a couple visits to Catholic churches or Catholic weddings. It is a drastic understatement to say I was nervous to leave behind the familiar. On our last Sunday at Yucaipa Christian Church, I knelt during the singing time. I felt more than a little weird, but I was humbled by the significance of the occasion. After church, and after we picked up our children from their fun Sunday School classes - I paused on the walkway to pray for the church, its pastor, and all the people we'd come to know but were now leaving. And we weren't just leaving that church in Yucaipa, we were leaving all that I had known as a Christian up to that point.

I had a lot to learn. I'm still learning. I like when my kids ask me questions about the Mass because it's like giving myself a pop quiz. And if I don't know the answer, it's fun to go research it.

I think for the next few Sundays, I'll blog about the parts of the Mass. I was thinking today about how much I've learned, and how much I'm still clueless about. This will give me a chance to reflect on it. Today's episode: The Entrance!

We start off by singing as the priest and his entourage enter the church. I don't think many official church documents will call the deacons, ministers, or altar servers an entourage. And I don't mean to be irreverent, in fact I'll try to be the opposite. But if you want to read the official structure of the Mass according to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal - go here. Otherwise, this is my personal version, along with my characteristic sidebars, tangents, and overthinking that go along with all that I write.

Once the priest reaches the front of the church, he bows. He also kisses the altar! Can you imagine what I thought when I first saw that? Well, truthfully, but anticlimactically, I just wondered why. Turns out it's a sign of veneration. Somehow, every Sunday for the last four years this moment gets me emotionally. Maybe I'm thinking about the priest's commitment to Jesus and the Church and am moved by it. Whatever my reason, I like that moment. (It gets even cooler on Good Friday when the priest(s) lie prostrate before the altar.)

From there, the priest goes and stands by his chair, the singing stops, and everyone makes the Sign of the Cross. Here we go! The Sign of the Cross was easily picked up by clueless little me, or so I thought, until I found out later that it's only done with the right hand and there is even a certain way to hold your fingers. While I think the church should do a better job of instructing newbies like me, I'm at the same time glad that there are no police in the aisles checking to make sure I get everything just right.

That's it for the entrance! If you're with me this far, you already know more than I did about the nitty gritty details on my first Sunday in Mass.

P.S. Just to get you going - do you know that it is a mortal sin for a Catholic to miss church on Sunday (unless there is a serious reason)?

See you next week when we delve into the Act of Penitence!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Negative Effects of Costco Consumerism on the Obsessive Compulsive Housewife

Heather Hall... are you out there? For some weird reason, I've never forgotten the sight of Heather's supply of Ziploc bags from Costco in her cupboard. There were like two hundred and ninety two boxes. And, oddly, I sort of envied the amount. "With that many Ziploc bags, you'd NEVER run out!" Isn't that the promise? The dream? Never run out... ahhhh, what bliss!

Since becoming a member of Costco, I don't think I've ever had fewer than two dozen rolls of toilet paper in my house. What am I afraid of? A sudden onslaught of diarrhea that simultaneously hits all six members of my family for two weeks straight? But that's the way it is. With access to huge quantities of toilet paper (and chicken, and juice, and Ranch dressing, and Ziploc bags, and cheesecake, and dental floss, and trash bags) - I am able to buy myself a little extra security in the material goods department. Yes, a loved one might fall victim to disease tomorrow, and that would leave me shaken, - but I will NOT be caught unawares without enough toilet paper.

(As a fascinating side note, I once spent six weeks in India. They do not use toilet paper over there, so I learned how to not use toilet paper. If toilet paper were to suddenly disappear from use, I could get along quite nicely with my left hand and a small water cup... but that's a story for another day.)

My whole point in writing this is to comment on how dependent I've become on buying large quantities of merchandise. And how good it makes me feel to be all stocked up on t.p.

Furthermore, I purchased the Kirkland (Costco) brand of facial tissue for the first time recently. It has this neat feature, highlighted on the giant box (containing 3,750 tissues): "Includes Colored Flag Sheets That Indicate 'Almost Empty'". The "Colored Flag Sheets" are a lovely shade of light blue, whereas the rest of the sheets are pure stark white. But the problem is, once that blue tissue pops up, I'm a nervous wreck! When will we run out? Should I get an extra box right now just to have nearby? Is it irresponsible of me to let a box stay "blue" too long?

See? The extra security I gained by having vast numbers of toilet paper rolls stacked in tall towers in my closets is COMPLETELY undermined by the new blue "Almost Empty" tissues.

I think Costco has me right where it wants me.

Friday, November 12, 2010

"Sin City's Past" Museum

There is a very nice, big, indoor/outdoor (mostly outdoor) museum in Las Vegas. It is called the "Clark County Heritage" museum. I am glad the museum namers went with this name, rather than "Sin City's Past" museum. It sounds more reputable.

Las Vegas may be a hard sell for Christian country folk from, say, anywhere else - but there is a lot to like about this area, and it IS interesting.

My four offspring (two of them native Las Vegans) and I visited the museum for about the fifth time the other day. It does have the requisite Vegas stuff:

Slot machines-


And wedding chapels (this actual chapel was moved to the museum site fairly recently)-

Such highlights as these make the museum experience very Vegas-y. But, like the reporter-at-heart that I am, I'm only giving you the most sensational examples of the exhibits. In reality, there is much more to be seen on the museum grounds - covering the history of our city including Native American background, pioneering, mining, ranching, dam-building and tourism.  (And mafia, but that's getting back to the more sensational stuff.)

If you are in the area, or if you visit, I heartily recommend this museum. It is comprehensive, unique, diverse, and just plain fun.

In closing, let me show you a photo I took of the very first thing a visitor sees upon entering the indoor exhibits:
Sweet and cuddly, right? It's a father wolf defending his two pups. (The two pups are barely visible in the lower right corner of the photo. They are smaller, only slightly-less ferocious versions of their father.)

In an effort to be transparent, let me share with you the quote from my three year-old when he looked up at this wolf: "He looks like you, Mommy!"

Sheesh. I know I can be grouchy. And I do tend to yell a lot. But I didn't know I ever let my fangs show!

Thursday, November 11, 2010


I don't know when my fondness for 11/11 started, but it's very strong. It's only slightly dorky now, but when I am an old, old woman, it will be one of the things that makes me eccentric. Because I won't just say I'm "fond" of 11/11 and then change the subject, I'll throw large parties on the date and invite a diverse group of dignitaries and relatives and nincompoops and serve expensive wine and wear elaborate outfits involving capes and whatnot and the neighbors will complain about the noise so I'll invite them, too, and everyone will have a good time and wonder what obscure excuse they can come up with to throw such a party.

This year, I spent my 11/11 in the following way: First, I employed a new method of cheering myself up in the morning--- (I need cheering up in the morning because I want with all my heart to stay in bed until ten o'clock, but my life tells me I have to get up much, much sooner and do things like shower and raise my children.) ---I decided to try a little fantasizing. I imagined that my house wasn't a suburban family home, but a charming little hillside bed and breakfast. And I opened the curtains and looked out at the foresty view (this can be accomplished in reality with just the right amount of squinting, as the neighbor behind us has an enormous pine tree) before tiptoeing downstairs to start the fire and begin making breakfast. Breakfast consisted of oatmeal, poached eggs, eggs Benedict, and plain old scrambled for the less adventurous guests. Fresh fruit with real cream. Cinnamon toast. French toast. Scones. Sausage and turkey bacon. Homemade yogurt topped with just-picked berries. Just delightful. And as my fantasy reached its height with the aroma of fresh-brewed coffee and just-squeezed orange juice, I heard John yell, "MOMMY!" and so I bounded up the stairs and into his room to the stink of poopy morning diaper and the fantasy disintegrated rapidly and entirely. We all had a bowl of cereal within the hour.

The rest of the day, I forsook the fantasizing, with the exception of one moment on a cross-town drive when Veggie Tales "Lord of the Beans" was playing on the DVD and I imagined myself listening to a book on tape. Thankfully, it's not necessary for me to escape my life TOO often. And, actually, "Lord of the Beans" makes me laugh right out loud a time or two.

Mid-morning, my darling children, along with over twenty other homeschooled darlings, sang for the residents of a skilled nursing facility. And there was piano and guitar and violin and recorder and poetry recitation and a whole lot of red, white, and blue for Veterans Day.

Lunch with friends, which is a joy, and some reading time in the afternoon before P.E. at the park and then our last soccer practice of the season. Bethie's team had a pizza party after practice, and that amounted to a whole bunch of us enthusiastic sports families standing in the dark and cold while we waited for the pizza. You'll be proud of me that I did no escapist fantasizing. I just stood there being thankful I have boots and a coat and live in the desert.

Tonight a short run with part of my running team and then a hot shower and pajamas. I'm typing about this funky day wearing a cozy sweater and the hood on because it's just downright chilly.

A year from today will be 11/11/11. Yes, I'm having a party. Certainly you are invited.

But for today, I think my reality beats my fantasy, and I'm glad for that. Except for the notion of that really wonderful breakfast... gosh I could sure use that!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

File This Under "Parenting Lessons: Pork"

Ever since I got my job, I've figured out some of what needs to be taught to my children:

1) You can't fly
2) Be nice to people
3) Wash your hands upon returning from the grocery store
4) Don't lean so close to the pond
5) Bring a sweater to the movie theater

But I'm frequently stymied by the number of things I don't realize need teaching, until it's too late.

In case this one has escaped you, add it to your parenting manual: Do not lick raw meat.

I had a huge pork loin thawing on the counter. Mid-day, I noticed it had been "handled". It was resting on a potholder that I didn't put there, and was covered by another potholder. I couldn't imagine why anyone felt the need to cover it, but whatever. Later, when I was removing the plastic wrap to marinate the thing, Cayna walked up to me at the sink and said, "We licked all the ice off of that for you."

Cringe. Shudder. Eyes widen as I informed Cayna that raw meat is NOT something we should make a practice of licking. (The plastic wrap was of small comfort. Those things are oozing at the butcher's counter... how clean can they be?)

Trichinosis is a disease resulting from infestation with Trichinella spiralis, occurring in humans, caused by ingestion of infested, undercooked pork, and characterized by fever, muscle weakness, and diarrhea.

Forty-eight hours later, and no signs of trichinosis. What a relief! On to the next lesson.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Beauty and Charles Dickens and Whether or Not I Will Attend a Symphony

I've been learning more and more these days about beauty. I remember having a discussion, over a year ago, with some fellow Catholics who asserted that beauty isn't subjective, though I'd thought I'd thought it was. (I say "I'd thought I'd thought" because I'd never really thought about it.)

A few days ago, I discovered two articles on a shelf near my toilet. Ironically, considering their nearness to the toilet, both addressed the topic of beauty. One is "Presenting what is beautiful: The joyful duty of Catholic Education" by Andrew Seeley. The other is "The High Cost of Ignoring Beauty" by Roger Scruton. The crux of each article: beauty isn't subjective.

Subjective means existing in the mind; belonging to the thinking subject rather than to the object of thought.
Objective means based on facts; unbiased.
Much of my recent delving into the Classics of literature has led me to question which writing is objectively beautiful, or good? I don't understand how the beauty is determined. Same question when it comes to areas other than literature: art, interior decorating, hairstyles... If this all makes sense in YOUR head, this determining of objectivity - please explain it in my comments section or call me at home immediately!

Anyway... though many things are still confused in my brain, I have determined that if something has been deemed beautiful... I want to give it a second look. I want to find truth. I want to get smarter. And I want to experience beauty! In literature, art, interior decorating, hairstyles, education, child-rearing, religion, relationship, etc.

I gave it a go by having a book group Saturday night. We discussed The Merchant of Venice, by Shakespeare, and drank wine and ate a cheese ball. I got a lot out of it (the discussion and the cheese ball). Most of all, I decided the extraordinary effort I made to understand the play was worthwhile. It was satisfying to uncover the plot and the themes, and it was enriching to decipher Shakespeare's eloquent language and even to chuckle a time or two at his humor.

I asked my friends what they thought about the whole beauty thing - and if it was worth some work to experience beauty (i.e. reading a book slowly; re-reading it; looking up a hundred words; examining commentary...) We agreed that it was. We also realized that some forms of beauty are easier to enjoy for some people than others. A symphony, for example, might be objectively beautiful, but I think it sounds enormously boring to sit through! For someone else, a symphony is delightful, but Shakespeare is enormously boring to sit through! Are we willing to try out the thing that has been determined to be objectively beautiful even if it sounds dull? My answer is YES! I'm looking for a symphony to attend soon. And if I have to drink a lot of coffee beforehand, so be it! By the end, I hope I've come to appreciate something of beauty. Not just in my opinion, but in Truth.

Even before I attend the symphony, I have to contend with the fact that next up on my reading list is Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities. If you know me, you know that I am not a fan of Dickens. I complain every Christmas about how much I dislike A Christmas Carol. And earlier this year I tried, and failed, to read Little Dorrit. But thanks to my new-found insights into beauty, its objectivity, and the effort needed to uncover it, I have resolved to read A Tale of Two Cities. My own teen-aged handwriting all over the inside covers of the paperback is proof that I read at least part of it in high school, but I don't remember it. Surprisingly, I'm nine pages in and really enjoying it so far.

A quest for beauty, even at high cost, might be a marvelous quest. Hey, I'm reading A Tale of Two Cities! If I can do this, I can go to the symphony. And if I'm willing to go to the symphony I might... MIGHT have to give Little Dorrit a second chance as well. We'll see about that.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Just Your Everyday Homeschool Field Trip

The problem with homeschool field trips is that I am the one in charge of explaining and educating.(Eureka! I have just stumbled upon the problem with homeschooling in general!) HA-HA! In all seriousness, I'm fine and dandy when it comes to explaining certain subjects, but when we found ourselves about to enter Nellis Air Force Base for a sweet little tour of the Threat Training Facility (whose idea was this?) - I was at a loss for words.

Joe: Why does the guy at the gate have a huge gun?

Homeschool Field Trip Proctor (Me): Hm... weeeeell... Well, this is a military base, and...

Cayna: What's the military?

Me: Hm... weeeeell...

Joe: Mom? Why does he need that gun?

Me: Actually, Joe, we're hoping he doesn't! HA-HA! Come on kids! On to the Threat Training Facility! (Thinking to myself: Where on earth are the other people in our group?)

Immediately upon arrival at the facility - after getting lost only once on the base - we were greeted by a lovely civilian gentleman wearing a concert t-shirt and bleached hair, in sharp contrast to the soldiers in their fatigues everywhere else.

Lovely Civilian Gentleman: Kids! Have you looked at these guns?
(There was a wall full of guns, all kinds. But Lovely Civilian Gentleman points to one in particular and proceeds to tell the story of how it was acquired. It was here that the contrast between our homeschool outing to the Air Force Base and Joe's first-grade public school outing to Anderson Dairy became starkly evident.)

Lovely Civilian Gentleman: This guy gets pulled over for a routine traffic violation and the dogs just went CRAZY!!! (Dogs? Why were dogs involved in a routine traffic violation? But, as the humble proctor, I zip my lip and smile wanly.) They found THIS (indicating an AK-47 Assault Rifle with a bayonet-like thingy sticking out the front) along with several kilos of cocaine! He was a total gangbanger! Keep this in mind, mom (to me, obviously) -- next time someone cuts you off in traffic think it through before you give 'im the high sign... (praise the Lord he did not demonstrate the "high sign" at this point - I had enough to explain to my children with the introduction of the terms "cocaine" and "gangbanger") ...because he might be carrying one of THESE in the trunk! (To Joe:) Have you learned about the Geneva Convention in school yet?

Joe: (shakes his head no)

Lovely Civilian Gentleman: Well, this baby is totally in violation of the terms of the Geneva Convention. Alright! Enjoy the rest of your time here! (exits) (thank God)

And with that we were free to enjoy the acres of tanks, helicopters, and fighter jets.

What words do I use to describe how I felt seeing my five year-old sweetheart on top of a Russian tank?

Or what it was like to stare down the barrel of the enemy's weapon?
Joe sat in an enemy jet:
And John posed by a "rocket" (a missile, but I didn't go into detail about the difference):
Cayna smiled from the side of a big blue helicopter:
My innocent children held hands with a mannequin bedecked in the finest flightwear available in 1970:
And I? I snapped a photo of the AK-47 on our way out a couple hours later. And thanked heaven that next week we're going to a farm. You've heard of those -- cows, ducks, sheep... and not an assault rifle to be seen.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Painter Me

One of this house's previous owners did a LOT of decorative plaster work. I put much effort into removing some of it, but plenty remains on the walls.

I kinda liked the design above the front door and decided to paint it. Like many other things in many of the houses I've lived in, I probably wouldn't have put it there myself, but I don't hate it enough to get rid of it.

Here is what it looked like right after I started painting some of the leaves:

I think the relief without contrasting color was alright as it was, so if I end up hating the paint, I can always cover it again with good ol' "Rustic Taupe".

Here's the finished project, including a close-up:
At first I didn't like the white parts, but now the white is growing on me. All together, I probably spent almost five hours on this. Kevin sat on the couch reading or watching TV and calling me Michelangelo.

Time will tell if I'll like it or cover it again with the main wall color. It was kinda fun, though.

Next project?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Today's Product Recommend

I think my soap is helping me deal with overeating issues AND get more vegetables.

Trader Joe's Next to Godliness Oatmeal & Honey Soap Pure Vegetable Soap. It's $1.29 for a two-pack of four ounce bars. It's cruelty-free AND there are only two words in the ingredients list that I can't pronounce.

Here's the thing - this soap smells like delicious, just-baked cookies. There is a hint of spice akin to what you would find in pumpkin bread, but not exactly. I can't totally decipher it - and the oatmeal and honey title doesn't help me. Anyway... since I started using this soap, I do spend a great deal of time standing in the shower smelling the soap. And that's where the overeating issues are addressed. If some of my sensory needs are being met by the aroma of the soap, I have no real compulsion to go down a couple loaves of actual pumpkin bread. Or carrot cake, oatmeal cookies, spice cake, zucchini bread, etc. As I stand in the shower inhaling my soap, the extra, unwanted pounds are melting away!

Furthermore, I can cut down on eating vegetables yet still enjoy their benefits. This soap is "Pure Vegetable". Says so right on the label. And consult your nutritionist to be sure, but I'm pretty confident that if you're rubbing vegetables right into your skin every single morning and again after you exercise - there is little or no need to ingest them at any other time!

Now go buy some! You're welcome.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Bug Fear Post #220

I've been living in a bug-free euphoria in our new house.

When we first moved in, there was an annoying colony of ants trying to share the kitchen with us, but a couple extra visits from my friendly professional exterminator and that was dealt with.

NO scorpions at this new address. NO earwigs or spiders or other creepy crawlies. I've wondered how long the bliss could last.

Friendly Mr. Bug Guy sprayed recently and there were literally MILLIONS of dead roaches of all ages littering our porches front and back. Literally. Millions. (Do you ever wonder if people understand the use of the word "literally"?) At least there were dozens. My neighbor, who (whom? really, I have no business calling myself a writer) I whined to, assured me that roaches are a sign of a good ecosystem. I do not care to have a good ecosystem in that case.

Anyway -- the whole point of this post is to express my fear that my bug-free world is about to come to a sad end. The weather is nice, and my carefree husband likes to OPEN THE WINDOWS to let in the fresh, cool air. What he does not seem to consider is that he also lets in all the creatures of the outdoors. Now, granted, we live in the city, so it's not like an opossum is going to let itself in (although I know from sneaking a peek on Kev's facebook that this ACTUALLY happened to a friend of mine in Fresno. Well, it didn't sneak in the house -- but it was quite comfortable in her backyard) but I remain afraid of scorpions and large striped roaches of the variety I've seen dead on the ground. The ones that will sneak in my window are the ones that escaped the ground poison and will now come to seek their revenge on ME for killing all their relatives.

I think we can all see from this writing that I have an overactive imagination. We can also see that I likely need some sleep... I'm just scared to go into the open-windowed bedroom for fear of what is waiting on the wall.

Saints and Trick-or-Treaters

Have to post the pics of my good-lookin' kids.

Dressed for All Saint's Day and a party we went to with the Catholic Homeschool Group:
That's St. Michael the Archangel; St. Elizabeth Ann Seton; and Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha.

Here is our little St. Raphael the Archangel. His wings were devised by Kevin from leftover foam board from Joe's wings:

And here is the crew right before trick-or-treating. Now an astronaut, a princess, Kateri and a knight. Though the knight is proud of the sword he procured at the Renaissance Faire, he kept his hands free for toting candy.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


I'm wearing my "I Voted In Clark County, Nevada" sticker.

Now to anxiously watch election returns on TV...

Monday, November 1, 2010


On a golden October day that is typical of the month in Las Vegas, I cruised along in my van with my sun roof open and tried to keep my eyes on the road despite the beauty of the sky.

My period was one day late.

And this was the first month since my miscarriage that pregnancy was a possibility.

I did what I had to do:  I stopped at Walgreens to buy a 2-pack of pregnancy tests. I had no intention of taking the test that day, since that day was Halloween. I was worried that if I found out I was carrying a new life on Halloween, that new life would have a birthmark shaped like a black cat smack dab in the middle of his or her forehead. Not good. Nope, I'd wait to pee on the stick until November 1st - All Saint's Day! Yes, that's a much nicer day to discover a pregnancy.

I sauntered into Walgreens and took a look to see who was behind the check-out. Wonderful. A nice, twenty-something male would scan my pregnancy test. And you can't just load up on unneeded groceries to disguise a pregnancy test. What goes good with pregnancy tests? A bottle of 7-Up? Face cream? A Hallmark card? Nope, might as well just get what you came for and act as nonchalant as possible... ("I do this every day!"-- "It's for a friend!"-- Whistle and avoid eye contact.)

As I browsed the aisles looking for the "feminine hygiene" section, I was caught up in the weirdness that is Halloween. All down the candy rows were tiny shrunken horrific plastic heads, and I'd just seen an otherwise normal-looking couple carry their purchase of a zombie-like, life-size party decoration out the door. It was then I noticed a Phil Collins song playing on the store's sound system and the whole wildness of my situation made me smile. I'm forty. I've got four kids at home waiting to dress up and go trick-or-treating later, and here I am in Walgreens buying a pregnancy test while my favorite singer from high school croons over the speakers.

OF COURSE I've got to take the test today. It's so me! I remind myself that there is absolutely no evidence that a baby discovered on Halloween will be born with three eyeballs or have a penchant for horror flicks.

Before going home, I made one other stop at a favorite little shop in The District. Here, "Sweet Caroline" by Neil Diamond was playing. I had to laugh! Who can hear "Sweet Caroline" and not want to sing out loud? With extra verve! My mood was so dizzy and fun that I determined to take the test immediately after arriving home.

It was negative. Kind of a bummer after the story I had going in my head entitled "The Day I Found Out I Was Pregnant With You." PLUS the due date would have been around my next birthday. Oh, well. Better luck next time*. And since I bought the two-pack, no reliving the Walgreen's trip come Thanksgiving.

*For the record, I'm not as dismissive about this as it may sound. I am truly hoping to have another baby. I don't take my fertility for granted, and it's never been a good thing to see the negative sign. But also for the record, sometimes I have to take it lightly!

Happy Halloween! Here's Your Orange.

It was my turn to bring the snack to Cayna's soccer game on Saturday. I had the noble idea to bring oranges instead of, say, chocolate Teddy Grahams, since Halloween was the next day and I figured all the kids would be getting enough sweets. I guess I also figured all the parents would personally thank me for saving their kids' teeth and casually praise me for my thoughtfulness. Didn't happen. And oranges are $1.29 a pound at my grocer, which comes out to be a tad more expensive than Teddy Grahams.

At distribution time, each kid got their orange. They only looked at me slightly funny. Not one parent patted me on the back or gave me a high five for sparing them a higher dental bill.

Bethanie's team finished playing and SHE received not one, but two BAGS of candy.

I was defeated. On the walk to the car, Kevin said I shoulda drawn jack o' lantern faces on the oranges. At least that would have been more festive, if I was going to deprive the little athletes of their candy.