Monday, December 21, 2009

One gigantic flag

Noah asked me what the words of the Star Spangled Banner were all about, and I was glad that I had a book about it handy, just waiting for someone to ask. So I read it to the kids and learned that the flag that inspired it measured 42'x30'. I couldn't get a clear idea what a flag that size would look like, and I figured the kids couldn't either, so we made a model of it in the back yard. Well, not really a model, but we just laid out pink ribbon measuring 42x30. Really good homeschoolers would probably make the actual stars on the blue background and put in the appropriately spaced and colored stripes, but we had a hard enough time with the pink rectangle. I think I was more amazed than the kids at how huge that flag was. It took up our whole back yard! So then we did some research on who made the flag and how it was made. That turned out to be very interesting too. It was made by a 37-year-old widow and her teenaged daughter, nieces, and indentured servant. It took them seven weeks.

Choosing joy in the bathroom

Yesterday our pastor talked about how being joyful is a choice that we have to make. We have to choose joy over all the other emotions fighting for top priority. I'm not a jolly person by nature (I'm more of a practical pessimist), so I have to make a conscious effort to choose joy repeatedly, all day long.

Last night while Mike was taking out the garbage, he noticed a lot of grossness in the bottom of the garbage can. Normally I would take it outside and hose it out, but since it's too cold for that, I put it in the tub and bleached it. I had to remind myself to choose joy.

This morning, the toilet was clogged. People continued to deposit all kinds of bodily waste in it, and it was all swirling around near the rim. I got the plunger and started plunging. Apparently there's some skill involved in plunging, and I lack it. I ended up shoving the plunger too deep into the hole, and the rubber part got stuck in there. I had to yank it as hard as I could to get it out, and it popped out with such force that it splattered the contents of the toilet all over me.

I'm ashamed to admit that in circumstances like this one, the first thing that comes to my mind (and/or out of my mouth) is not G-rated. Thankfully, this time, the only thing that instinctively came out of my mouth was, "Oh, shoot!" I took that as evidence that my character growth is progressing (oh-so-slowly) in the right direction, so even though I was dripping in filth, I chose joy.

My next move, obviously, was to get in the shower. As I was showering, I noticed that the water was not draining out of the tub, so I was ankle-deep in the filth that I had washed off myself. (Normally a writer's goal is to cause the reader to imagine what she's writing about, but in this case, if you're actually reading this, I wouldn't encourage you to develop a mental picture of what happens next, because it involves me, naked, crouched in a pool of yuck, pulling yuck out of the drain.) I turned off the water and unscrewed the drain plug. I started pulling out clumps of hair until I ended up with a ball of hair the size of a small rodent. Since the water then started draining, I chose joy.

I was still hunched over the little hair-rodent when the shower head fell out of the wall and landed on me. It was very, VERY hard to choose joy at that moment....but I did.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Pie school

We read a story this morning in which the main character made a lemon meringue pie. When I finished reading, Sarah said, "Mom, can we make a lemon meringue pie?" My first thought was of all the reasons I wanted to say no:

1) I don't like lemon desserts
2) I don't like meringue
3) I don't have any lemons
4) I don't have a grater to zest the lemons that I don't have
5) I've never made lemon meringue pie before
6) It will take the rest of the day
7) Cooking with the kids is messy and tries my patience

I knew that they were mostly selfish reasons. I was lazy and didn't want to be inconvenienced. I looked into the eyes that were looking up at me and waiting for an answer. I realized that, whatever my response was, the kids were going to learn something. They would either learn that it's all right to be selfish and lazy and not try new things, or they could learn to be flexible, to bring books to life, to measure ingredients, separate eggs, follow instructions, work together, take turns, and be adventurous.

So after a Walmart trip to buy lemons and a grater, we started by making the crust. The kids enjoyed zesting and juicing the lemons. Things were going well until it came time to separate the eggs. Neither child could successfully do it, after many tries (we're having omelettes for dinner). I patiently instructed and demonstrated; they continually blew it. Then I got frustrated and my patience ran thin. So, in addition to learning all those other things, we also learned humility and forgiveness in pie school.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

To flush or not to flush

Here's an illustration of one of the many reasons I can't stand cell phones.

I was at Kroger tonight and, for reasons I won't go into, suddenly had to go to the bathroom. A woman came in after me, having a loud personal conversation on her cell phone. She went into the stall right next to me and kept right on talking while she was using the facilities. I wondered if she was going to flush right in the person's ear.

By this time, I was ready to leave and realized I had the same flushing dilemma. She wasn't flushing, so I thought I shouldn't either. We were right next to each other, and those flushers are really loud. She was still chattering away, and I was staring at the back of my door, trying not to listen. I still had more shopping to do and had to make it to the library before it closed, so I didn't want to be stuck in this stall much longer. I considered leaving without flushing, but then wondered if that might be ruder than flushing in the middle of someone's conversation.

I waited at least a full five minutes. Finally I flushed and got on with my life.

Sugar overload

I was listening to Christmas music on the radio and making oatmeal this morning. I got out a pan and put in some apple chunks, raisins, wheat germ, and of course, oats. Then a great song by the Trans Siberian Orchestra came on, so I cranked it up while getting out the brown sugar. I held the bag over the pan and intended to sprinkle in about a tablespoon of sugar, but the music was coming to an exciting crescendo, and I admit I was bopping along like a dork. Unfortunately, there was also a big clump of brown sugar in the bag, and I'm sure you can figure out where this is going.

An obscene amount of sugar tumbled into the pan. I watched helplessly as it sank into the oatmeal before I could snatch it back. I stared at it for awhile and then decided I was just going to have to serve it, because I didn't want to waste all those good ingredients. I served up three steaming bowls of sugarmeal and called the unsuspecting kids.

Noah, expecting my usual health-ridden oatmeal, grumbled about not being hungry. Sarah was too busy shoveling it in her mouth to say anything. Noah took one bite, his face lit up, and I didn't hear from him again until his bowl was scraped clean. Then he said, "Mom! That was the best oatmeal I've ever had! Bobby Flay couldn't even make oatmeal that good!"

Saturday, December 12, 2009


Noah woke me up with the announcement that he was blind. I was in the middle of a weird dream, so the sudden awakening and strange announcement left me totally confused. I opened my eyes to discover that I, too, was blind. Slowly, it dawned on me that the power must be out.

I pulled back the covers to let Noah in, so we could keep each other warm. I told him about my weird dream, and we had a nice chat. Then he said, "Mom, you're my hero, because you're nice, and you comfort me." Then he prayed, "Dear God, thank you for being our light, but could you please turn the other ones back on?"

Friday, December 11, 2009

Half a Mom

The kids were pulling me in opposite directions, as they've been doing for the last five years, each wanting my full attention. This is definitely the hardest part of having two kids. Each wants all of me, all the time. In exasperation, I suggested I cut myself in half and they could each take a half. Then the little vultures started arguing over who would get which half. *SIGH*

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


We were reading about Daniel in the Bible, and I was reviewing the story of when Daniel was thrown into the fiery furnace. I told the kids that not only was Daniel not burned, but also that he didn't even smell like smoke when he came out of the fire. Sarah said, "I remember when Daniel got thrown into the pit with those hungry lions. They didn't eat him, and when he got out, he didn't even smell like lion breath!"


Winter has officially arrived at our house. Yesterday I saw Mike moving the fishing poles out of their corner in the garage and into the shed. Now the sleds occupy that corner. When the kids woke up to half an inch of snow, they put on all their snow gear and went out to play in it as if it had snowed several inches. They made snow angels, had a snowball fight, made a pathetic little snowman, and even attempted sledding with the grass poking up through the snow. They had been eagerly anticipating the first snow of the season, so they thoroughly enjoyed it. They have no concept of snow being an inconvenience or a danger; to them it's pure bliss. I love having kids, not only because of their unique perspective, but also because they give me an excuse to make snow angels on the driveway.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Another kitchen mishap

I had salmon marinating in the refrigerator for dinner. After it had been in there a few hours, I was walking by the fridge and noticed a fishy smell. Then I saw disgusting liquid dripping down the refrigerator door and pooling on the floor. I felt like I was in a bad horror movie. I really wanted to walk away and pretend I never saw it, but I knew it would only get worse.

Full of dread, I slowly opened the refrigerator door. I still have no idea how it happened, but the glass pan full of fish and marinade had leaped off the high shelf and flipped itself upside down, spewing it contents all over the refrigerator and the door. Since the freezer is below the fridge, I opened it to check the damage and discovered fishy goo inside it as well. I wondered, irrationally, if the headless frozen fish had somehow still been alive when I dunked it in marinade and had flopped itself out of the pan.

I resigned myself to the fact that I would be cleaning the fridge, freezer, and floor for much of the foreseeable future. I had to take out the drawers and shelves and everything. The rag got so nasty that I just threw it away. After I dried everything off and reassembled the refrigerator's innards, I was thinking to myself, "Just like most things I do, no one will ever notice this."

Just as I closed the door, Sarah came into the kitchen, on the prowl for a snack. She opened the refrigerator and exclaimed, "Oh, Mommy! It looks very, very good in here!"

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Too many Amys

Yesterday I mentioned that it was my cousin Amy's birthday. The kids continually get her confused with their aunt, whose name is also Amy, because they hardly ever see Cousin Amy. In fact, there was a period of time when the kids referred to her as "Different Amy", because at one time I had said, "No, it's not Aunt Amy; it's a different Amy."

So yesterday, I specifically made a point to emphasize that it was COUSIN Amy's birthday. The point was totally lost on my audience. Sarah said, "Oh, I wonder if Sam and Ben and Paul (AUNT Amy's kids) sang to her!" I explained yet again, that Cousin Amy is not Aunt Amy.

Finally, Noah said, "Oh, is she the one who's a missionary?" I replied that yes, that's the one. Then Sarah utterly perplexed me by saying, "Oh yeah! The one who lives in a museum!" I stared at her, in awe that a mother could have absolutely zero idea what her own child was talking about. Since I was speechless, Noah took over for me and asked, "What museum?" Sarah said, "The new museum." After a moment of confused silence, Noah smiled and said, "No, Sarah, it's not called new museum. It's New Zealand." I had to remind them that she doesn't even live in New Zealand anymore, but at least they had the right Amy.

Back in time

Noah and Sarah were good-naturedly teasing each other. I don't remember how it started, but it involved Noah doing something unintelligent and Sarah saying, "Looks like you need to go back to kindergarten." That prompted Noah to say, "Well then, you need to go back to preschool!" Sarah's comeback was, "You need to go back to being a baby!" Determined to have the last word, Noah replied, "You need to go back to your birthmother's uterus!"

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Cleaning windows

I was scrubbing bird brains off the windows this morning. Whenever I clean the windows (which is certainly not often), I'm reminded of my former boss when I worked at a theater in high school. She was very particular about how the glass doors were cleaned, which was one of my responsibilities. She insisted on using newspaper to clean the glass, and it always left my hands black.

So now my hands are black again, and my windows are clean. Not spotless, and probably wouldn't be approved by my former boss, but my kids will have their dirty little hands on them soon anyway. I told the kids that I just cleaned the windows (hoping they won't touch them for at least a couple days), and Noah asked how clean they were. I said they were good enough for me. He said, "Yes, but are they good enough for Grandma?"

Monday, November 16, 2009

Hacking and rummaging up lunch

The kids thought they would do something nice for me and make lunch all by themselves. My job was to stay out of the kitchen and let them work. I asked them what they were going to make, and Sarah said, "We can't tell you; it's a surprise." I was listening nearby, and heard their conversation:

Sarah: What are we making?
Noah: I don't know. I thought you had a plan!
Sarah: Well you're the one who wanted to make lunch.
Noah: You're the one who told Mom it was a surprise, so what is it?
Sarah: What is what?
Noah: What is the surprise?
Sarah: Lunch!
Noah: What are we making?
Sarah: I don't know!

It was starting to sound a little like a "Who's on First?" routine, but then finally Noah announced, "Ok, you rummage the pantry for something to eat. I'll hack up an apple."

When they called me for lunch, on the table was a bag of chex mix, an apple (very hacked up), a bag of carrots, and three pieces of string cheese.

Homeschooling at its finest

Noah was quizzing Sarah on her Civil War knowledge (or lack thereof). He asked her who the commander of the confederate army was. She looked like she was concentrating and really trying to remember. Finally she said, "Oh, I know! Albert Pujols!"

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Scary Siths

I was baking cookies while the kids were dressing up as Star Wars siths. Noah peered into the oven and said, "Mmmm....cookies: a sith's only weakness." Sarah was looking for something to make herself look scary, and she decided on her lion mask that she made at CBS for the lesson on Daniel in the lions' den. Noah said, "That's brilliant, Sarah! It would be even scarier if it didn't have a Bible verse on the back."

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Calgon Moment

It was my week to work in the children's department at Bible study, so I spent the morning with 8 two-year-olds. Then we did our usual Thursday Aldi stop. When we got home, the kids were unloading and hauling in the groceries, while I was putting groceries away and trying to make lunch at the same time. Soon I heard glass shattering and Noah screaming. I looked out and saw shards of glass and pasta sauce all over the garage. Before I could deal with that, the doorbell rang. It was the old lady across the street wanting to talk to me about taking care of her cat for a week. I told her I would come over later, and as she was leaving the phone rang. The oven started beeping. Groceries still covered the counters, and Noah was still standing in spaghetti sauce and glass. I cut the phone call short, pulled the food out of the oven, and headed for the garage. The smoke detector started blaring. I glanced around for hidden cameras, thinking I MUST be on candid camera, or that maybe I had forgotten that the Calgon people were coming to shoot a commercial today.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Cookie Helper

I told Sarah that I was going to make some cookies, and she said, "I can be your helper. I'd be great at licking the spoon."

Veterans Day

I was explaining to the kids that today is about honoring those who have served in the military and fought for our freedom. Sarah said, "Oh, you mean like Papa?" I told her that Papa was never in the military, and she said, "But he has guns on his walls..."

Monday, November 9, 2009

How old are we?!

I told the kids I was going to let them watch some old home videos of us when we were first married, before we had kids. Noah said, "Are they in black and white?"

Monday, November 2, 2009


Before Mike left for work this morning, he hugged us as usual. Noah hooked a glowing yellow necklace around his daddy's neck as he hugged him. Mike didn't notice, and off to work he went. We laughed and made wagers on who would be the first coworker to notice.

About an hour later, I sent him an email and asked if anyone had said anything about his appearance. He replied, "Not sure what you mean?" I told him that Noah had played a little trick on him and suggested he might want to look in a mirror. He discovered his adornment and thought it was a pretty good trick. One of his coworkers had noticed but not said anything, because he thought he might be wearing it for medical reasons!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Bible according to Sarah

Noah was reading his Bible today, and Sarah had hers open and was pretending to read it. She quoted many verses from various books, but this was my favorite. She peered into the book, moved her finger slowly down the page, and said, "Aha, here it is! It's from the Book of Sarah, chapter 2, verse 17: 'Always eat dessert first.'"


Going to the gynecologist is one of my least favorite things to do. There's the obvious physical discomfort, but just as bad is the emotional component. Every time I'm in one of those offices, it stirs up sad memories and reminders of failure and regret. And to top it all off, I'm surrounded by pregnant women. I can handle the occasional pregnant person out in the world, but being in a roomful of them still makes me cry.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Fire? No, just cooking...

I was making lunch, and the kids were playing downstairs. Our smoke detector seems to be highly sensitive, so almost every time I cook, it starts beeping. I have to wave something under it to clear the air. Since it's such a common occurrence, the horrible beeping rarely elicits any response from the kids. Today it was blasting away, and I hadn't had time to stop it, so after a few minutes, Noah yelled up, "Mom, are you cooking, or should we evacuate?"

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Love One Another

When I went to pick up Sarah from her Community Bible Study class, she dragged a little girl over to meet me. She said, "This is my friend Ellie. I love her." Ellie and I exchanged pleasantries, and then Sarah and I left. On the way home, I asked Sarah what she loved about Ellie, and she said, "I don't know yet. I just met her a few minutes ago."
I can see why Jesus loves children.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Unexpected Adventure!

I decided to take the kids on a picnic along Grandview Drive on this nice fall day. All was going well until Noah discovered a trail, and we thought we should investigate. It looked like a nice trail through the woods, and the leaves were beautiful, so we thought we would take a quick little hike. Bad call.

After about ten minutes, I was just thinking about turning around and going back, when Sarah announced that she had to pee. There was a sign just ahead of us that said "Nature Center" with an arrow. I asked Sarah if she could hold it until we got to the Nature Center, and she said yes, so we decided to forge ahead. After all, how far could the Nature Center be? Bad idea.

As we got deeper and deeper into the woods, and the trail got narrower and narrower, and we hadn't seen a single person the whole time, and I realized that Sarah was wearing crocs, I began to feel the slightest bit uneasy. I didn't really know where we were or if we would be able to find our way back, so I started discreetly marking the trail. The trail was now very rugged, and Sarah had fallen several times and was beginning to whine. Noah whipped out a little toy that he had brought along and pretended it was a GPS unit. He kept holding it up to the sky and saying, "Oh yes, we're on the right trail. Just keep going."

We came to a clearing where the view was amazing and the land was flat, so we rested. We were all sweating, and of course I hadn't brought any water, not thinking we would be going on a major trek through the forest. I started singing songs that I remembered from church camp and tried to motivate the troops (mainly myself). The trail got very steep, and I thought even if we ever make it to the elusive Nature Center, we'll never make it back to the van. I kept seeing signs for the Nature Center, but none of them said how far it was.

We crossed a rickety old bridge and climbed over a tree that had fallen across the trail. I tripped on a hidden root and went down, but fortunately didn't damage anything. That's when I began to internally freak out, thinking no one knows we're out here, and if I break a leg, the kids will have to go for help, and it's going to get dark and cold, and we're all going to starve to death and get eaten by bugs.... Externally, I was saying, "I'm in the Lord's army...sing it, kids!"

Finally, a road appeared and across it was the Nature Center. It was a beautiful thing. We entered, dirty and sweaty and exhausted. Poor Sarah still had to pee, so while I took her to the bathroom, I started thinking about a plan. My legs were feeling rubbery and shaky, but I knew I could hike back if I had to. I asked Noah if he thought he could, and he said yes. But we all knew that Sarah would never make it, and I knew I couldn't carry her. I found a map and studied it to figure out if there was a road that would take us more directly back to Grandview Drive. It didn't look good.

I found a Nature Center employee and asked her if there was a way back besides that trail. She said the trail was the quickest way. She looked at our pitiful condition and offered to have another employee give us a ride. I politely declined, not wanting to put anyone out on account of my stupidity. We sat and watched squirrels and wild turkeys for awhile. I thought about calling a taxi, or maybe Mike, or maybe my parents. Finally I decided to eat crow and take the woman up on her offer.

She called the other employee, and he came over. He seemed very tall, but maybe that's because I felt like he was looking down on me. He appeared to be smirking a little and judging me, but he was very nice and said he would go get the keys to the park van. I was so humiliated that I could feel my face burning. When he came back, Noah was standing dutifully by my side, and Sarah was....missing.

I looked all around and didn't see her anywhere. Park man smiled (a little smugly, I thought) and said, "Did you lose her?" My face turned another shade of red, and I said, "Yes, I lost her. I'm a loser." I sent Noah to look in the gift shop while I looked in the other room. We met back at the door, where the guy was still standing holding the keys. No Sarah. I didn't think she would be in the bathroom since she had just peed, but since there was nowhere else to look except outside, I looked.

There she was in the bathroom. A vein popped out on my neck, and she figured out that I was furious. She claimed that she had told me she was going to the bathroom. I bit my tongue so hard that it almost bled, grabbed her hand as gently as the circumstances would allow, and led her to the guy, who led us to the park van. He said it wasn't the first time that he'd had to drive someone back to the top after they'd hiked that trail. I told him I had no idea how long (or how rigorous) the trail was, and he said he didn't know why the park district didn't post a sign indicating how far it was to the Nature Center. I thanked him profusely, and I didn't even have to prompt the kids to thank him. They were truly grateful!

(The picture shows a big rock where we stopped to rest. Noah is checking his "GPS". The trail really dropped off after that point. )

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Food Critic

I think Noah has been watching too many Food Network shows lately. At breakfast this morning, he said, "Thank you for an excellent meal, Chef Mom. It was very flavorful, but I must say it lacked creativity."


The kids were writing on the art easel today, where I usually write the date, along with the day's agenda. Sarah erased Tuesday and announced that she was changing it to Friday. Noah said, "But Sarah, you can't even spell Friday." She resolutely ignored him, and wrote "FIDA" on the board. Then she turned to him smugly and said, "See? I can TOO spell Friday!"

Friday, October 9, 2009

Girl Day

My parents took Noah on an early birthday trip today, so Sarah and I are having a girl day. We painted each other's fingernails, read books, painted on the art easel, and went to a tea room for lunch.

I loathe tea. I have tried to develop a taste for it, just to make my life easier, but I haven't been able to do it. I can will myself to drink it in social situations, but I don't enjoy it. Sarah doesn't like it either, but she loves the idea of it. I think it makes her feel grown-up and fancy.

So there we were at the tea room, perusing the variety of fancy teas. I chose raspberry tea, thinking raspberry anything is bound to be good (as it turns out, tea can even ruin a good raspberry). I helped Sarah choose vanilla chai, because I thought it might taste more like hot chocolate than tea (wrong again).

The place was lovely, peaceful, and warm on this chilly rainy day. Sarah loved the pretty tablecloth (which she spilled on), frilly cloth napkins, and dainty tea cups. I loaded my tea with flavored creamers and several packets of sugar to make it tolerable. I even let Sarah put some sugar in hers, but she still didn't drink much.

She ordered a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and I had spinach manicotti, which was very good. Sarah informed the server that she was homeschooled but that her mommy really doesn't teach her anything.

Writing this entry has inspired me to write a poem, in the tradition of "Green Eggs and Ham".

Tea is not for me.
I do not like it in a bag.
I do not like it; it makes me gag.
I do not like it made with leaves.
I do not like it; it's one of my peeves.
I do not like it in a cup.
I do not like it when I sup.
I do not like it sweet.
I do not like it with heat.
I do not like it with ice.
I do not like it with rice.
I do not like its steamy swirl,
but I will drink it for my girl.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Homemade pizza

Tonight we made our own individual pizzas. I set out the toppings (cheese, pepperoni, sausage, onion, and spinach) and everyone put on what they wanted. I also had set out ants on a log as an appetizer, and Noah decided to see how that would work as a pizza topping. He put one chunk of ant on a log on each of his pizzas. He determined that celery and peanut butter do not make good pizza toppings, but he actually liked the raisins on his pizza! Click on the picture to make it bigger, and you can see the pizzas on the right side have ants on a log on them. The other picture shows Sarah anxiously waiting for them to come out of the oven.

Sunday, October 4, 2009


I was all settled in for the night when I realized I had to make a Walmart run. I already had my fuzzy pajamas on, so I just put Mike's nylon pants and jacket on top. I could feel softness against my skin, but looked fairly normal (although rather frumpy) on the outside. I was congratulating myself on my cleverness, thinking no one would ever suspect that I was actually wearing my jammies in Walmart. As I pulled into the perfect parking spot, I realized I was still wearing my slippers. I considered driving back home to put shoes on, but didn't want to bother, and also didn't want to give up that parking spot. So in I went, wearing my furry slippers and hoping I wouldn't see anyone I know. I was barely inside the door when I saw someone I know. It takes a lot to embarrass me, but as he looked me up and down and smirked a little, I felt a tinge of embarrassment.

Childlike Faith

Last week, Sarah prayed that she would get a new bike. As soon as she said "amen", she headed for the garage, saying, "I'm going out to see my new bike!" Now that's faith! For a brief moment, I thought wouldn't it be awesome if, by some miracle, there really was a new bike in the garage for her? But I knew there wasn't, and I hoped she wouldn't be jaded when she came back. She came right back, looking surprised and asked rather sadly, "Why didn't God hear me?" I told her, "God heard you. Do you remember the verse you memorized in Luke 1:13?" She had just memorized it the week before, so she quoted it perfectly: "Do not be afraid. Your prayer has been heard." She's too young to have to learn this, but I told her that sometimes God says no, or not right now, because He knows what's best for us. She still checks every day, sometimes more than once a day, and every time she says, "I'm going to see if my bike has arrived yet!"

Saturday, October 3, 2009

A Thousand Percent American

Sarah said something about "back when I used to be Korean", so I explained again that she and Noah are, have always been, and always will be Korean. She said, "But I thought we were American?" I told them that they are 100% Korean AND 100% American, like Jesus was 100% God and also 100% man. They looked confused, so I launched into my whole speech again, explaining how they are both Korean and American. Hours later, Sarah said, "There's a girl in my CBS class who must be like a thousand percent American!" I asked her why she thought that, and she said, "Because her skin is really pale."

Friday, October 2, 2009


The kids drew Star Wars characters, cut them out, and taped them to straws to make little puppets. They planned to have a parade and march the puppets down the hall. The parade plans ended up getting more complicated (as all plans do, when Noah is involved in them).

Sarah was the majorette, and she started the parade by carrying a Korean flag. She also had a small bowl of candy to throw to the spectators (me).

Noah was carrying a bag of candy, and he was also playing a drum, so he decided he couldn't make the puppets march after all. Instead, he taped them to himself as he marched.

The parade lasted approximately 4 seconds, since the route was very short. They had spent about an hour getting ready for it. When it was all over, they decided to just throw the candy all over the parade route. When they got tired of that, they just rolled around in the candy.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sweaty Princess

I had Sarah vacuum the kitchen floor this afternoon. She sat in one place and moved the vacuum wand around in the same spot, not really accomplishing anything. Then she started bawling like she was injured. I turned off the vacuum and asked her why she was crying. She sobbed, "All this work is making my neck sweat!" Noah laughed and said, "If I cried every time I sweated, all I would ever do is cry!"

Just a Normal Wacky Morning

This morning I made tapioca pudding, and Noah had the great idea to add some hot cocoa mix to it. I had some delicious amaretto cocoa mix from a Tastefully Simple party (Noah calls it "Tastefully Expensive") that was really good in the pudding. I added an apple and called it breakfast.

Then we resumed our Little House on the Prairie/Star Wars play. I was in the log cabin (under the card table), wondering what the weight limit was, while Luke Skywalker and Mary Ingalls stomped around on the roof. They rigged a doll (who was supposed to be Carrie Ingalls) up to the ceiling and made her bungee jump.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


I made a log cabin out of our card table and a blanket so we could play "Little House on the Prairie" for at least the millionth time in the last six years. I was Ma Ingalls, as usual, and Sarah was Mary. Noah changed it up and decided he was going to be Luke Skywalker. I protested that, because I said Luke wouldn't have been around back then, but he justified it by saying, "Star Wars takes place 'a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away'."

It was very interesting to hear Luke explaining to the Ingalls family about all the new technology. I sent Mary to fetch Dr. Baker, because Carrie was sick, but Luke saved the day by conjuring up Dr. Baker on his holographic communications system. He told me I could call Pa in the field if we both had cell phones. That led into a long discussion about how different frontier life would have been if they had modern technology.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Horrible Mom's Great Husband

Today my lovely little daughter said that I was a horrible mom. My knight in shining armor came to my defense and said, "She's not only your mom. She's also my wife, and I don't let anyone talk to her that way." I'm not sure what I did to deserve such a great guy, but I sure am glad he's mine!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Work and Play

The kids were playing happily in the living room, and I was in the kitchen, getting food ready to put in the crockpot for dinner. I was up to elbows in raw pork chops when the washing machine beeped. Normally, I would just ask the kids to go switch the laundry, but I hated to interrupt them, because they were at a critical point in their Star Wars play. Then I realized I didn't have to interrupt their play, just redirect it.

I yelled, "Luke! Leia! Wet droids have invaded the washing machine! Quick! Throw them in the dryer to save the empire!" They both ran full speed down to the basement and had the laundry in the dryer faster than I would have done it.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Heart March

Sarah loves making and delivering paper hearts. Noah joined her today. He cut out the hearts, and they both decorated them with markers. Sarah put dots, stripes, stars, and various patterns on hers. She signed her name on some of them until she got weary of that. Noah wrote "kiss" or "hug" on most of his (although some of his u's looked more like o's, so I hope people aren't offended if they receive a heart that says "hog" on it).

After all the hearts were made, they said they were going on a heart march. They put all the hearts in a plastic grocery bag and went to each house on our street to deliver them. It was chilly, windy, and raining, but they didn't care. Sarah was skipping along, carelessly holding the bag by one handle, and the hearts were streaming out behind her all over the street. When she went to pull a heart out of the bag, she discovered that the bag was empty. She looked behind her, saw hearts plastered to the wet pavement, and yelled in dismay, "Mom!" I was watching from the front door, so I yelled to her to pick them all up. Noah helped her get them all, and now they're drying in the kitchen for later delivery.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Marshmallow Feet

Noah has always had a hard time getting to sleep, ever since he was a baby. Last week I did a little guided visualization for him. I told him to take a deep breath, get comfortable and relax, and then I said, "Your feet are marshmallows bobbing in a cup of hot chocolate. Your legs are sticks gliding along on a peaceful river. Your torso is a freshly-washed sheet floating gently down to the bed. Your arms are feathers resting on soft, warm clouds. Your whole body is floating above your bed, and you're drifting off to sleep."

That worked great the first night. The next night as I was about to leave his room at bedtime, he said, "Will you do marshmallow feet?" I had no idea what he meant, so he said, "You know, where you tell me that story about how my feet are marshmallows and everything's floating?"

So now "doing marshmallow feet" has become part of the regular bedtime routine. However, its effectiveness is wearing off, because now he's had time to think about it and ask questions. Tonight it went like this:
Me: Your feet are marshmallows bobbing in a cup of hot chocolate...
N: Doesn't the hot chocolate burn my feet?
Me: No, it's not that hot, just pleasantly warm. Anyway, your legs are sticks gliding along on a peaceful river. Your torso is a freshly-washed sheet floating gently down to the bed. Your arms are feathers resting on soft, warm clouds...
N: But clouds aren't soft or warm. Aren't they cold and wet?
Me: Well, yes, but these are special dream clouds.
N: I don't know about that.... We need to make up something about my head too. Everything's floating except my head. It's still heavy as a rock on my pillow.

I told him I'd think about it, but that he should NOT think about it and just go to sleep. I think I'll make his head a big empty balloon tomorrow night.

Monday, September 14, 2009


We went to Ackerman Farms today, and the kids picked out pumpkins. Noah went for the biggest one he could find, and Sarah chose the smallest. They drew their designs on them with markers first and then cut out the faces (with a little help). We're cooking the flesh to make a pie and roasting the seeds. We love pumpkin season around here!

Working out a way to play

Noah built a big thing out of couch cushions, pillows, and blankets and invited Sarah to play with him on it. Of course, they had different ideas about how to play with it. Sarah started jumping on it like it was an inflatable bounce house.

Noah: Don't jump on it, Sarah! That is a dangerous weapon of the Empire, not a silly circus toy.
Sarah: No, it's not. It's a bouncy. Come on, let's jump!
Noah: I built the thing, and now YOU'RE trying to tell ME what it is?
Sarah: It's a bouncy, bouncy, bouncy. Boing! Yee-ha!
Noah (irritated, but trying to roll with it): Oh, so you want to pretend that the dangerous weapon of the Empire is disguised as a bouncy. Brilliant! The storm troopers will never figure that one out.
Sarah: Jump on it, Noah!
Noah: Ok, so let's pretend that it's R2D2's birthday, and we rented a bouncy for his party!
Sarah: Yeah, let's have R2D2's birthday party!

They spent the next half hour making a party for R2D2.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


I went to a Tastefully Simple party tonight, and driving home with no kids chattering in the back gave me an opportunity to wax philosophical about our GPS unit.

Mike wanted to get a GPS a few months ago, which I found totally unnecessary. The kids named it Sally Satellite. I've grown very attached to Sally and am thankful that Mike bought her. We set her to speak in a British accent, because I do enjoy a good British accent.

On my way to the party, I got distracted by a garage sale sign and deliberately disobeyed Sally's proper English instructions. She didn't yell at me, get frustrated, make sarcastic remarks, or even roll her eyes. She just calmly kept giving me directions to get me back on the right path. If only I could demonstrate such superhuman (or more accurately, subhuman) patience when my children disobey me.

As I unthinkingly obeyed Sally's directions on the way home, I thought how nice it would be if she could train my kids. When they met someone new, Sally would say, "Say 'Nice to meet you.'" She would remind them to say "please" when they ask for something. She could see their destination and direct them every step of the way, helping them make the right choice in every situation. I started wishing I had one of those for myself, and then I realized I do! God knows my destination and all the obstacles in my path, and He directs me using His Word and His Holy Spirit. All I have to do is listen and obey.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Bossy Chefs

My husband and I are followers by nature, but somehow we're managing to raise two leaders. They both want to be in charge when they play together, and they're constantly jockeying for position.

They've been watching cooking shows with me on Food Network (my favorite channel), and they like playing chef. They'll roll out the play clay and use cookie cutters and all kinds of kitchen tools to create their masterpieces. The problem is, they both want to be the executive chef in charge. I hear lots of arguing about, "I'm the head chef, and we're going to make..." "No, I'M the head chef. You're just the sous chef." "No, I'm not the sous chef. YOU'RE the sous chef!" Finally, Noah said, "Ok, ok, you can be my most important sous chef, and I'll be the head chef."

I don't think they ever actually cooked anything.

More Kid-isms

I love the way kids get words mixed up in funny ways. Noah did it twice recently. He was talking about Star Wars, as usual. He likes to make up little Star Wars quizzes to demonstrate his vast knowledge and my ignorance. He asked me why the clones turned to the dark side to become stormtroopers. Naturally, I had no idea, so he enlightened me. He said, "It's because Darth Sidious brain-wiped them!"

When we were browsing in the cemetery last week, he asked me why some people's tombstones had a blank space where the date of death goes. Apparently I used the term "staking their claim" in my explanation, because a few days later he stuck a fork in an apple and told me, "I'm claiming my stake on this apple."

Monday, August 24, 2009

Granola Bar Math

Kroger had a sale on granola bars, but you had to buy ten boxes to the get the sale price. Since Sarah eats a bar every day, I bought ten boxes. We also got some great math questions out of it, such as:

If there are ten granola bars in each box, and I bought ten boxes, how many granola bars do we have?

If Sarah eats one granola bar a day, how long will they last?

If I paid $1.50 for each box, how much does each granola bar cost?

If I paid $1.50 for each box, and I bought ten boxes, how much did I pay total?

We had a good discussion figuring out the answers.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Mortal Thoughts

Today we hiked through some woods and had school in a cemetery. Cemeteries have always been some of my favorite places. Walking among the graves puts everything in perspective and helps us realize what is truly important.

We saw the tombstones of Civil War veterans, babies, young adults, old people, and children. Some made me cry, which isn't hard to do. Some of the stones were so old that we couldn't even read them, and some graves had fresh dirt. Noah caught some crickets on a tombstone to feed his pet frog. I wondered if someday someone will catch crickets on my grave, or if strangers will stop to read my tombstone.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Mysterious Case of the Missing Shoe and a Bonus Oddity

We went to the lake this morning. After all the rain we've had lately, the beach was swampy. We were trying to walk on the beach, but our feet kept sinking in the quicksand. Noah was walking next to me when I heard a big suction sound, and then his feet came up out of the mire with no shoes attached. His shoes had been sucked right off, and the wet sand had immediately closed in on them and buried them. We found one easily enough, but after spending almost a whole hour digging through the muck, we couldn't uncover the other one. We had lots of fun digging channels for the excess water to drain into the lake, but we never did find that other shoe! Noah limped home with his one shoe, but we're planning to go back later with shovels and try again.

In another freak accident today, I was taking a shower when the showerhead suddenly fell out of the wall, for no reason at all. It landed with a big crash at my feet (thankfully not ON my feet), which left water blasting out of the wall right at me while I was fumbling around trying to turn it off!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Truancy Officer

I took the kids to McDonalds for lunch today, which is a rare treat. Noah got a McDonalds coupon from the dentist yesterday (for patiently enduring his xrays), and since this is the first day of school for everyone else, I thought it would be a good day to use it. There was one woman in the playland with her little granddaughter. As soon as we entered, the standard inquisition began.

Granny: "Are these your children?"
Me: "Yes, they are."
Granny: "They're cute."
(I never know what to say to that, so I just said thanks and tried to move on, but the inquisition continued.)
Granny: "How old is that one?" (pointing to Noah)
Me: "Noah, tell her how old you are."
Noah: "Seven."
Granny: "Why isn't he in school?"
Me: "He's always in school. He's homeschooled."
Granny clearly doesn't like that, and she shoots me a look that says, "Well then, why aren't you at home?"
Me: "Sometimes we have school at McDonalds."
Granny looks down her nose at me, and I resist the urge to tell her that today in school we're learning how to handle nosy strangers.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

My Testimony

At the beginning of this year, I started having disabling pain in my right elbow. It was diagnosed as tendonitis from playing the harp too much. I loved playing the harp and would do it for as many hours as I could every day. I had to stop playing (and using my right arm altogether), and I questioned why God would afflict me when I only wanted to serve Him with my music.

In the meantime, I had a nasty looking mole on my left arm that I had been meaning to get checked out some year when I met my insurance deductible. I had it for several years and never met my deductible, because I never go to doctors. After seeing a chiropractor for five months for my elbow, the deductible was met, and I decided to get that mole examined. The doctor removed it and tested it, and it turned out to be the most dangerous kind of skin cancer (melanoma). Immediately, my right elbow was completely healed, and I finally understood God’s good purpose. If my elbow pain hadn’t forced me to meet my deductible, my cancer would have gone undetected. God sees the big picture, and just like Romans 8:28 says, He works all things together for our good!

Someone from church read Psalm 91 to me, and she suggested that I write a worship song. I politely agreed, but I was thinking, “I can’t possibly write a worship song. Other people have that gift, but not me. I can barely PLAY music, let alone WRITE an original song.” But when I got home, God led me to my harp and my Bible. I opened the Bible to Psalm 91, and my fingers played a song I’d never heard before while I sang (and I am NOT a singer!!) the words of the Psalm, which fit perfectly. I have no doubt that God wrote the song, because I know I couldn’t do it on my own. Since I don’t know how to write music, I have played that song almost daily so I don’t forget it, and it has brought me much peace and comfort while waiting for test results, etc.

Paul says to give thanks in all things, and I thank God for allowing me to have cancer. I never thought I would say that, but I can see how He has used it in many ways in my own life and others’. Before my diagnosis, I was going through a crisis of faith. I was involved in a discussion with a college professor who had all kinds of intellectual arguments about his lack of belief. I was trying to lead him to faith but instead was swayed by his arguments and seriously doubting my own faith. As I was on the edge of this slippery slope, I had my cancer trial and saw God’s sovereignty again in my life, and my faith was restored. Also during this time, our pastor preached a sermon about how it’s a good thing when God’s hand is on you, but that He will remove His hand of protection from you when you stray too far from Him. I strayed, and God’s mighty hand of protection was lifted from me, and cancer creeped in. I repented and returned to God, and then had another mole removed that the doctor suspected was melanoma. Praise God, it was not!

In addition to the spiritual blessings I received from this ordeal, it also served as a wakeup call to protect myself and my kids from the sun’s damaging rays. I used to be outside all day, every day with my kids. I never sunbathed or used tanning beds, but we were just outdoor people. We would go out early in the morning and eat, read, work, and play outside all day. I never gave a thought to wearing sunscreen, because I thought that was only for pale people, and I never burned. I regret my foolishness, especially knowing that I didn’t protect my children as I should have. Now I use sunscreen every day, and I put it on my kids and even tell complete strangers that they should be using it. I hope that my newfound “ministry” will protect someone else from skin cancer.

So I thank God for all the trials I’ve had this year, because He demonstrated His healing power, strengthened my faith, spared my life (physically and spiritually), gave me a new song and a way to help others. Like the psalmist wrote in Psalm 119:67, I can say, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word.” God is good and faithful all the time!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Tales from the Homeschool

The most important thing I've learned in my seven years of homeschooling is to capitalize on my students' natural interests. This philosophy has taken me way far out of my comfort zone, because it turns out that my children are not miniature versions of me; they have their own unique interests!

Noah's interests (like his personality) run deep and intense. When he gets into something, he dives all the way in, investigates every angle, reads all about it, centers his pretend play around it, talks constantly about it, and even dreams about it. He has a way of sucking everyone around him into it too, like a black hole. After he has completely exhausted every aspect of his area of interest, he's ready to move on to something else.

Sarah's interests are less intense. She's been into princesses and fairy tales, tea parties, and all things pink. I never had any interest in any of those, but I've embraced them for her sake.

Noah's major interests have included construction, firefighting, and NASCAR, none of which aroused my passion. I forced myself to learn about backhoes and hook-and- ladder trucks, and I knew the names of all the major NASCAR drivers, as well as their car numbers and sponsors. It wasn't exactly my thing, but at least it was all real, so I could work up a little interest in it. Unlike his latest obsession....

Star Wars. UGH! How could any child of mine become obsessed with such a thing? It started innocently enough, when he sent in for a free Lego magazine. I thought it would give him some new design ideas, but when the first magazine arrived, it was full of Lego Star Wars comics. He had lots of questions, of course, and I tried to brush them off with a flippant, "Oh, that's just weird stuff. Nothing you need to know." But he wanted to learn all about it, so I deferred his questions to his much more knowledgeable father.

His interest has grown to the point of obsession, and I can no longer ignore or resist it, so I'm embracing it and trying to find something worthwhile in it. I checked out library books on Star Wars and listened as he read them to me, so I could learn what droids and siths are. We borrowed the DVD of episode 1 from the library, and Mike and I watched it. Well, Mike watched it. I really tried, but I just couldn't stand it for more than 20 minutes.

I'm still searching for ways to reach Noah through Star Wars, teaching him about space, good and evil, playing memory games with the names of all the freaks and aliens, working on his table manners (telling him, "A Jedi always eats neatly" works better than nagging him about using his fork). I know that someday this phase will go the way of all the others, so I have to utilize it while he's into it.

Meanwhile, my darling daughter told me she wanted to learn about spiders. She knows I dislike them but has no idea of the extent of my irrational fear. I have a hard time even saying the "S" word. I think she wanted to learn about them BECAUSE she knows I don't like them, so I called her bluff and read her a very thorough (and graphically illustrated) book about spiders. She didn't know that I wasn't looking at the pictures, and I don't think she detected it when my voice quivered (only one time). I was nauseated through the whole ordeal, but I kept my outer demeanor calm and matter-of-fact. Afterwards, she drew me a picture of a tarantula. Egads!

The other big thing she learned in school today was proper handwashing technique. You might think that a five-year-old would be capable of washing her hands without instruction. I made that same mistaken assumption myself! But after struggling with her obvious lack of mastery in this area, despite repeated nagging from both parents, I decided that a step-by-step demonstration was required. Hence this morning's course: Handwashing 101. She seems to have grasped the concept, so hopefully I won't see her in the remedial course tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Nobody got enough sleep last night, so we have all been annoying each other today. Sarah has been particularly unreasonable. Here's how Noah handled her when she wouldn't stop repeating him:
N: Luke Skywalker is awesome!
S: Luke Skywalker is awesome!
N: Did you know the Siths have red lightsabers?
S: Did you know the Siths have red lifesavers? (That's how she says lightsabers)
N: Why are you saying everything I'm saying?
S: Why are you saying everything I'm saying?
N: Stop it. That's annoying.
S: Stop it. That's annoying.
N: I'm a silly little girl.
[Though I was annoyed by their annoying behavior, I couldn't help being impressed by his cleverness. But Sarah outfoxed the fox himself with her reply...]
S: Yes, you are!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Another dirty little homeschooling secret....

Sometimes I use the back of cereal boxes for curriculum.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

God's Underwear

The kids were grumbling about having to fold laundry, so I was teaching them Colossians 3:23, which says, “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” I wasn’t sure anyone was paying attention, but the grumbling stopped. A few minutes later, Sarah held up a pair of underwear like an offering, and she said, “Here’s your underwear, Lord!”

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Sarah can read!

I could tell that Sarah was ready to start reading books, so this morning, I determined that I was going to teach her to read. I got out the easiest beginner book, put it in front of her, and said, "As soon as I get the dishwasher started, I'm going to teach you to read." She looked at the book while I loaded the dishwasher and prayed for patience (teaching kids to read is frustrating for me...a dirty little homeschooling secret).

I sat down by her and opened the book. I took a breath and was about to begin the "lesson", when Sarah read the entire book to me with no trouble at all! Turns out she's the one who taught ME a lesson: kids are learning all the time, not just when they're being formally taught. I know this, but it continues to amaze me just how much they pick up all by themselves!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Sweeping and Singing

I grew up in the country, where you could mow your yard naked and nobody would see you (or they wouldn't care if they did). I've lived in civilization for several years now, but sometimes I revert to my country-girl roots. For example...

Today I was vacuuming. I don't like to vacuum, so I was making up a song to distract myself. This is probably a sacrilege, but I was basing my song on Hebrews 12:1, which says: "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." My version went like this: "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of dust bunnies, let us suck up everything that hinders and the rug that so easily entangles, and let us suck with perseverance the dirt tracked in by us."

A child interrupted me in the middle of my vacuuming and singing. This child was concerned that I would accidentally suck her up in the vacuum, so I made up a new song for her as I resumed my work. It was based on one of my favorite Mr. Rogers' songs ("You Can Never Go Down the Drain"). My version went something like this: "You can never get sucked, never get sucked, never get sucked up in the vacuum. Dirt can go in, and dead insects too, but not you..." I had to sing very loudly, of course, so the child could hear me over the noise of the vacuum.

As I inhaled for my next dramatic verse, I thought I heard a horrifying noise. I turned off the vacuum and listened, and sure enough, there it was again. The doorbell was ringing. Full of dread, I peeked around the corner, and there was a person at the door. She was probably thinking that this wacko broad (me) would be just the kind of person to buy something from a door-to-door salesperson (her), but she was wrong.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Cooking Show

The kids and I watched a cooking show and were inspired to try one of the recipes ourselves. It definitely didn't turn out like it did on TV, but it was edible. The whole experience made me fantasize about having our own cooking show. Instead of a nice, big kitchen with all the newest, fancy tools and cookware, it would take place in our tiny kitchen with our limited supply of tools and old, well-used cookware. Things would be spilled and measured incorrectly (or not measured at all), the smoke alarm would be beeping, the kids would be bickering, and the phone would be ringing. The dishes would be stained and mismatched, and there would be no fresh flowers or lovely candles. It would be a reality show, the way real people cook. Would anyone watch it?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Jail Break

As I was driving past the jail yesterday, the kids and I were having a discussion about what the jail is and who lives there. I suggested that we pray for the people in the jail and asked the kids what they thought their needs might be. My sweet, angelic son immediately answered, "They need Jesus." In the next moment, Sarah said, "I think they need a jackhammer!"

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Ebay Kids

I just heard Noah tell Sarah, "Mom's baby died, so she ordered you online. Probably from ebay." Looks like I have some clarifying to do...

Frightened Telemarketer

We were in the throes of a full-blown English tea party when the phone rang. I was going to ignore it, but the princess thought it might be the king calling, so I answered in character, as the queen. I heard telemarketing chatter in the background as an unknown voice asked if Janel was here. In my most dramatic English accent, I said, "No, I'm afraid not. She's gone to England!" He hung up.

Nothing Exciting

I enjoyed an extra long snuggle with the kids on this deliciously chilly morning. I thought it would be a perfect day to stay in bed all day. The kids didn't think so. We did the next best thing: put on our pajamas with feet and made waffles. We read a couple books, played a game, and are getting ready to fold laundry. The van is at the mechanic, so we're happily trapped at home.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Day of Adventure

We had quite a day today! We found our way to our friends' house in Mossville, which is enough adventure for me for one day, but that was just the beginning. We held their baby chicks, and the kids all played together nicely. When it was time to leave, I started backing out of their driveway and noticed that something was very wrong. I got out to investigate and discovered that my front tire was completely flat.

As I started getting out the jack and the owner's manual and wondering where the spare tire was stored, an angel appeared (OK, it was just my friend's husband coming home for lunch, but he sure looked angelic to me!). Not only was I blocking his spot in the driveway, but he also had to spend his lunch break changing my tire. He had it done in no time at all. In fact, it took me and my friend longer to get the spare. I had to locate a screw in the floor, then locate and assemble a tool to unscrew it and lower the tire, which was in a case that was nearly impossible to separate from the tire.

So we got back on the road again and headed over to Forest Park Nature Preserve, which is right on the way home. Fortunately I had packed snacks, jackets, and hiking shoes, because we used them all. It was perfect weather for exploring the woods. We had a picnic, and I had everyone use the facilities before we hit the trails. Nonetheless, both kids left plenty of scat in the woods and meadows. Something about the great outdoors always makes them have to go.

Next, we went to the Tire & Lube Center at Walmart to get the tire fixed. They said it was unfixable and wanted to sell me a new tire. It's a fairly new tire with lots of good tread left on it, so I said I would see if a mechanic could fix it. Took it to my favorite mechanic, and he said he could fix it, so that will get done tomorrow.

So we were gone all day, and things didn't go as I planned, but the kids learned a lot, and we had fun.

Monday, June 29, 2009

A Couple Kid Stories

During lunch, the kids and I were discussing which months we like and why. I said I like all the months except February (the word "February" is one of my least favorite, and the month itself isn't much better). Sarah asked, "Do you like March?" I said, "Oh yes, I love March. My sweet baby girl was born in March." She looked confused, so I added, "March 15, 2004, to be exact." Sarah looked shocked and said, "You mean she was born on my birthday?!" She doesn't have many bimbo moments, but that one sure qualifies.

The kids, neighbor kids, and their friends made a big mess this morning, and Noah used the last paper towel on the roll during cleanup. Knowing full well that he is terrified of going downstairs by himself, I told him to go down and get a new roll of paper towels. He kindly invited his sister to go with him, but she saw right through it. She said, "I'm braver than you, right?" and he answered shamelessly, "I should say SO!"

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Who Knew Parenting Was So Hard?!

Sarah and I went on a rollercoaster ride of emotions today. She and I, along with Noah and two neighbor girls, were enjoying a nice morning at the lake. We were playing in the sand, chasing minnows with our nets, and fishing. Noah caught a nice-looking bluegill and a big bass. The neighbor girl got her lure caught on the rope bordering the swimming area, so I was trying to free that without having to swim out there fully clothed. Meanwhile, with another pole, she hooked her sister's shirt, so I gave up on the lure and started working on the shirt.

While I was thus distracted, Sarah said, "Mom, can I go pee?" and I said yes. Several minutes later, all the hooks were secured and lines untangled, and I looked around to account for all the children. Sarah was missing. I started calling for her. No answer. I didn't panic, because I assumed she was doing something naughty and not in any danger. Nonetheless, I scanned the lake quickly for her bright pink shirt.

I told the other kids to stay at the beach but out of the water until I could go home and look for Sarah. I was sure that she had gone home, because she had been whining about wanting to go home most of the morning, but I had told her no. Sure enough, as I was walking toward home, there she was coming out of the house and walking back toward the lake. I was infuriated.

She had the nerve to call out, "Hi, Mom!" to which I hissed, "You get yourself down to the lake, pick up your toys, and get yourself back home while I'm thinking about your punishment, and it's going to be huge."

After everyone was back home again, Sarah went to her room and lay down on her bed. I went in and asked her if she knew why she was in trouble. She said she didn't. I told her to sit there and think about until she figured it out and then I would talk to her about it. Meanwhile I called Mike and told him the whole story and asked what he thought her punishment should be. We agreed that a huge punishment would be to not let her go to the neighbor girl's birthday party tonight.

After that conversation, I went back to check on her and found her sound asleep on her bed. Noah and I had lunch, and I had time to cool off and think (hmmm...maybe I should do that more often). I wondered why on earth she didn't know WHY she was in trouble. Usually when she does something wrong, she can tell me exactly what it was. This time she seemed genuinely clueless. Then I remembered that I had told her she could go pee, thinking she meant in the bushes by the lake, but I realized that she could have meant at home in the bathroom. So when I said yes, she thought she had permission to go home, and the next thing she knew, Mommy had turned into a big angry beast for no apparent reason.

When she woke up, I put her on my lap and asked her, calmly and rationally, why she had left the lake and gone home. She said, "I had to pee." Then she said with a quivering lip, "What is my punishment?" I explained that the whole thing was a misunderstanding and that she didn't do anything wrong and wasn't going to be punished, and we all lived happily ever after.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Grandma's Dress

The women in my family keep old clothes for years. (I don't have the space or the desire to continue the tradition). My grandma recently gave my daughter a dress that she had made for her daughter (my mom) over 60 years ago. It's cute and looks brand new. I told Sarah that it was very special, because her great-grandma made it, and her grandma wore it when she was a little girl. Sarah was duly impressed and said in awe, "Grandma must have been a neat eater. There aren't even any stains on her dress!" OK, so that's another reason I don't keep my kids' clothes. They are messy, and stain removal is not my forte. Here's a picture of Sarah wearing the dress.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Police and Chickens

My children have been asking for months if we can get a chick as a pet. My automatic response to any pet request is no, because I'm at my maximum capacity for mess, noise, and living creatures demanding my attention. The chick idea did appeal to me, though, because chicks are so darn cute, and it would be a good educational experience. Plus, when it grows up, it could actually give back a little, in the form of eggs. I told them we'd check with the boss. I assumed he would say no, but he said we could do some research on it.

I looked up some information about where to get them, what supplies they need, how much it would all cost, and how much work it would involve for me. It was starting to sound pretty good. Then I found out that a family we know just received a shipment of 26 chicks. They even invited us over for a field trip! I know that when we go see these chicks, the kids are going to want to get one for ourselves, so I wanted to have my answer ready.

I called the city zoning board to find out if it's even legal to keep chickens as pets in the city. I didn't think it was an especially funny question, but after the woman finally stopped laughing, she said I would have to call the police department, because they handle animal control. So I called the police, and we had this conversation:

Me: Is it legal to keep chickens as pets in the city?
Woman: You'd have to call the zoning department about that.
Me: I just spoke with the zoning department, and they referred me to you.
Woman: Hold on.
(I'm on hold for awhile, and then someone else gets on the phone)
Woman: What is your name?
Me: Janel
(I didn't give my last name, because for some illogical reason, I didn't want the police to know too much. Besides, I reasoned, what's the difference what my name is? Do they determine my chicken-worthiness based on my name?)
Woman: Last name?
Me: Janes
Woman: Address?
(Now I'm starting to freak out, thinking maybe I broke the law by simply MENTIONING chickens, and they're sending the cops out to get me. I consider giving a fake address, but I figure they already know it anyway. Then I put aside the paranoia and think maybe chickens are allowed only in certain parts of the city, so I give my address.)
Woman: Where is the chicken?
Me: What chicken?
Woman: The chicken you're reporting as a pet!
Me: I'm not reporting a pet; I'm getting a pet! (At this point, the kids look at each other, very excited, so I revise my statement). I mean, I just want to know if there's any city ordinance against it.
Woman: I'll have to call you back.
A few minutes later, she calls back and says, "According to ordinance 6-11-3, it is NOT legal to keep chickens as pets in the city."
Me: Oh, good. Thanks.
Woman: Good? I thought you wanted to get a chicken?
Me: My kids want a chicken. Now I'm going to tell them no, but it won't be my fault, it'll be yours!

Now if only there was a city ordinance against ALL pets....

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Big School Day

I took the kids to the Ag Lab this morning. That's an interesting place. That was the forced part of school, but the spontaneous education took place at the mall and Naturally Yours Grocery.

I avoid the mall as much as possible, so I think my kids have only been there a handful of times in their lives. We had to go there today to get something for Father's Day that could only be acquired at the mall. The kids were fascinated with average things like mannequins, escalators, and security tags on clothes. There was even a woman having her eyebrows waxed or shaved or something out in the middle of the mall. The kids asked non-stop questions. We read a couple books in the bookstore, and I said "no" about 39 times to the things they wanted to buy.

At Naturally Yours, there was a wonderful customer who latched right onto my kids and asked them to "help" her with her shopping. I love it when other people educate my kids! They were writing down numbers off the bins, bagging things up for her, twisting twisty-ties, making friendly conversation, doing math, and learning about nutrition. We ordered a smoothie at the deli, which turned into a great lesson in patience for all of us.

Using the whole world as our classroom is great fun!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Health "Care"

Having had a lousy run-in with the healthcare system today, I'm thankful that I'm not seriously ill. All I have is a hideous mole to be removed and tested for skin cancer.

I made an appointment with Dr. Soderstrom's office. I arranged our whole day around this appointment and dropped my kids off with their grandparents. When I arrived at the office, I had to wait 20 minutes just for the privilege to start filling out the mounds of paperwork (which were supposed to be mailed to me in advance, I found out later). After another 15 minutes of filling out forms, the receptionist informed me that my insurance doesn't cover the provider I was scheduled to see and I would have to reschedule for another day with a different provider. She wasn't sorry or even pleasant about it. I said I wasn't going to reschedule, and I left.

I came home and called Central Illinois Dermatology to make an appointment. I asked them to verify that my insurance was acceptable to them. It wasn't. They accept my insurance but not through my husband's employer. ??????

So I called the last available dermatologist in the area. Good news! He takes my insurance and likes the place of employment. BUT...he requires a doctor's referral before I can make an appointment. So I have to pay a doctor to tell me that I need to see the other doctor, even though I already know I do!

Mike's boss is kind enough to refer me to her doctor, so I call to make an appointment. Good news! My insurance is acceptable, and I don't need a referral for the referral. BUT...she's not taking new patients. I threw around Mike's boss's name to no avail. Apparently this is one case where it's not "who you know".
I asked what number would I be on the list. The receptionist said, "Oh, I have no idea. The list is pages and pages long." I said, "I have no chance of ever seeing this doctor, do I?" and she said, "Probably not." I felt like I was in a bad Seinfeld episode.

I told Mike that if I die of skin cancer, he should sue someone.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Driveway Math

We were doing math on the driveway this morning, playing estimation games. I told each kid to grab a handful of Cheerios and then estimate how many they had. Sarah grabbed the biggest handful she could, made no attempt to estimate, and said, "Can I eat them?" I should know by now not to use edible manipulatives with her. I told her she could eat them if her estimation was within 10 of the actual amount. She tried very hard and got close enough to receive the reward.

Then I had them each take a handful of toothpicks and estimate how many it would take to make a line that reached a certain point on the driveway. After that, I got out the phonics tiles. They are little squares (about half the length of a toothpick) with various letter combinations on them. I asked the kids to estimate how many they would have to line up to reach the same point on the driveway. Noah studied them for a long time and then compared their length to the toothpicks and made a very intelligent estimate based on that information. It's such fun to watch their brains working!

We ended up seeing how many phonics tiles we could stack up before they collapsed in a heap. It was 64, in case anyone wonders. We probably could have gone higher if the wind wasn't blowing. We're going to try it again in the house to see.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Apple Trees, Duct Tape, and Sheets

As my parents' apple, I have surely fallen far from their tree. My mom washes her sheets regularly. I only wash sheets twice a year, unless somebody pees on them or bleeds on them (and sometimes not even then, since Noah has so many nosebleeds).

Today is my biannual sheet changing day, taking off the flannels and putting on the cooler ones. I stripped Noah's bed and discovered a huge rip in the plastic mattress protector, so I decided to duct tape it. Which leads me to the next way the apple has fallen far from the tree...

My dad is a professional duct-taper. He can (and will) duct tape anything with ease. Now here's a secret about me that I don't think anyone knows: I'm duct-tape challenged. I have trouble cutting it, using it, even finding it.

This morning I found it right where it was supposed to be, so I was off to a good start. But it was all downhill from there. I spun the roll around a few hundred times trying to find the beginning. Finally found it, couldn't pry it up. Finally got it started, pulled some out, and stabbed at it with a utility knife. It didn't cut like it does when my dad does it. It sort of bent over and stuck to itself and didn't come off the roll. I decided scissors would be better. I put the end of the tape in my mouth and pulled out a nice long strip, which got stuck in my hair.

Eventually, I did get the job done, but it took a long time and a lot of wasted tape. Another exciting day in my life! I can't believe anyone even reads this...

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Firecorn and S'mores

My mom gave us a campfire popcorn popper, so we tried it out this morning in our fire pit. I burned the first batch, but the second batch turned out pretty good. Then I realized I could cook other things in it, so I cooked some bacon over the fire. I popped some more corn in the bacon grease, and that was really good.

After all that, there were some embers in the pit just right for roasting marshmallows, so even though it was only ten o'clock in the morning, we had s'mores. I didn't really think about how unhealthy it was until the kids were telling someone that they had popcorn, bacon, and s'mores for breakfast!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Rights and Wrongs

Sarah put on her princess dress and was twirling around and dancing. Meanwhile, Noah was assembling a Lego car. Sarah asked, "Noah, will you be my prince?" He said, "No, because right now I'm a mechanic." She ignored his remark, grabbed his arm, and started tugging him out to the dance floor. He resisted, pulled his arm away, and launched into his American Rights speech: "Here in this country I have rights...." Sarah interrupted to say, "But you're not doing rights; you're doing wrongs!"

Elevator Etiquette

We just got home from our trip to Indianapolis, where Sarah made lots of new friends at our hotel. She's completely oblivious to the unspoken commandment: "Thou shalt not speak in an elevator." The elevator doors would open, we would squeeze in, and Sarah would look around at everyone and say, "Hi! I'm Sarah. I'm 5 years old. We're going to the 8th floor, because that's where our apartment is. We just had breakfast, and now we're going to the zoo!" or something similar.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Growing Up

Noah has had Barney, his security item, for 7 years. It was my nightgown when he was a baby, and he used to rub it against his face while I wearing it. I gave it to him and got myself a new nightgown.

Barney has seen Noah through a lot of trials: teething, sickness, haircuts, fears, first sleepover, pets dying, friends moving away, becoming a big brother, scraped knees, and many others. He's practically a member of the family.

Three days ago, Barney went missing. Noah didn't miss him until bedtime. We all went on a hunt but didn't find him. I promised we'd do a thorough search the next day. Noah didn't mention him again until the next night. We searched everywhere, but we didn't unearth Barney. More promises for the next day. Tonight, Mike was up to his elbows in chair cushions, when Noah came along and asked him what he was doing. Mike told him that he was looking for Barney, and Noah said, "It's ok, Dad. I gotta grow up sometime anyway."