Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014 interviews/multiple good day

Sarah and I went to the grocery store and had this conversation on the way home:

S:  I get to make cupcakes!  It's a good day!
M: And the cupcake liners were on clearance.  It's a double good day.
S:  I'm going to make peppermint frosting!  It's a triple good day!
M:  And we got a great parking spot!  It's a quadruple good day.
S: We're also going to make pretzel turtles!  It's a....what's it called?  Oh yeah!  A quintuple good day!
M: And the price of gas is under two dollars per gallon!  It's a sextuple good day.

S:  I got a new folder!  It's a...what's 7?
M: Septuple?
S: It's a septuple good day!
M: And it was only five cents on clearance!  Octuple good day.
S: What's 9?
M: I don't know.  Let's just say it's a multiple good day.

I did an end of the year interview with each kid.  Sarah's was almost nine minutes long, and Noah's was barely six, and I had to prompt him with additional questions.  For example:
M: What's your favorite holiday?
N: Christmas.
M: What do you like about Christmas? 
M: What's your favorite holiday?
S:  My absolute favorite holiday is Christmas!  Oh my gosh, I love Christmas!  I get presents, and there's so much good food...and the ham!  I love ham.  I don't like turkey as much, because it gets kind of dry, so that's why I don't like Thanksgiving as much as Christmas.  I just love Christmas!

Friday, December 19, 2014


Yesterday's discussion in philosophy class was about knowledge.  Think about something you know. How do you know it's true? How do we really know anything? Firsthand knowledge, personal experience?  But what if our whole lives are just a dream?  Do you know something because you can detect it with your senses (seeing is believing?)?  You can't always trust what you see (optical illusions).   That led to a good chat about doubting Thomas.  A lot of what we think we know is just what others tells us.  Do we trust that?  How do THEY know? 

At this point, Sarah said, "Well, I KNOW that seven times nine is sixty-three."  I told her that's one thing I like about math.  It is absolute. Seven times nine is always sixty-three.  It makes sense, and it never changes.  There's a definite right answer that everyone agrees on. No gray areas. You know when you get the right answer, and then you're done.  Everything else is rather ethereal and unsettling.

My astronomy professor in college asserted that the universe is expanding all the time.  He said if you wake up in the morning and everything is twice the size as it was when you went to bed, how would you know?  You can't measure it, because even your measuring stick doubled in size. That blew my mind and made me want to do a page of math problems.  I like thinking about abstract ideas and trying to wrap my brain around concepts, but after awhile, I feel like the rug is being pulled out from under me, and I want to get my feet back on solid ground.

Noah and I had this discussion:
N: What is the point of doing math? When will I ever use algebra in real life?
M: Maybe you won't ever use this specific skill, but the point is learning how to THINK, which you will use all your life.
N: Not really.  If I need to know something, I can just google it.
M: That's disturbing.  We are not robots.  God created us with brains.  It's just FUN to exercise them!  Doesn't it feel good to think and solve problems?

I don't really care if my kids memorize state capitals, do busywork, do advanced math, know the periodic table, or diagram a sentence.  I want them to be able to read well, communicate well, and love learning.  I give them the structure of classes to help them focus and do their best with a good attitude, even if it's something they don't want to do.  I think that's a good skill to develop, because don't we all spend a lot of time doing things we don't want to do?  Besides if we didn't have "school time", they would default to staring at their screens, becoming more robotic than human.

Quotes heard around the house today

N (to me): Why are you looking at me like a mother hawk?

N: I'm going to do everything with my knees together all day.

S (to me): Waitress!  There's a hair in my waffle!
M: I'm sorry.  You can have your entire breakfast for free.

And from a few days ago:
N: I love you, Mom, even though you're difficult to work with sometimes.

I told Sarah to clean up all the clothes on her closet floor and she responded that she put them there on purpose because Marty sleeps there. That didn't fly with me. Then she said, "You're not only being mean to me, you're being mean to Marty!"

I asked Noah to please be more mature, and his response was, "Hey! I just realized 'mature' is only one letter off from 'manure'!"

And one final one from Sarah:  THINK fabulous, and you'll BE fabulous!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The eternal sources of food

I made lasagna tonight, which is Noah's absolute favorite food.  As he was blissfully shoveling it in, he said, "You know how lasagna came to be?  They were having a birthday cake in heaven and it dropped down through the clouds and became known as lasagna."  A few bites later, he said, "And kale was puked up from the opposite place."

Where's the garlic?

I found myself with a couple bucks in my pocket and a few minutes to kill before picking up Noah from a party, so I pulled into Burger King and ordered onion rings and zesty sauce.  The onion rings are just a vehicle for the sauce, which I could just eat right out of the package.  I love zesty sauce.  Since I was alone with nothing to do, I read the label on the zesty sauce. 
Seeing that picture of two delicious looking garlic cloves, I thought, "There must be lots of garlic in this sauce.  That's probably why it's so good."  But when I read the list of ingredients, guess what?  No garlic.  Not even garlic powder. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


Will I ever learn to use the right sized pan for the job?  Will I ever learn not to walk away and leave it on the stove?  I was cooking apples in caramel sauce and got bored waiting for them to get done, so I went to the living room to do something else.  From the living room, I heard that sound.  The one that sounds like sizzling, spattering, about-to-boil-over-and-make-a-huge-mess.  I'm all too familiar with the sound.  I yelled "NO!" and ran out there, but too late, as always.  This is the burned nastiness that's left after I cleaned up the sauce. 

Bloody telemarketing

This morning I read on Facebook that the next time a telemarketer calls, you should pick up the phone, whisper "It's done, but there's blood everywhere!" and hang up.  Noah and I thought that was funny, and we agreed that the next time we got a call, he would do it.  We didn't have to wait long.

Within two hours, the phone rang, and we eagerly checked caller ID to see if it was a telemarketer.  It was the American Red Cross.  Perfect!  They often call and ask for blood donations.  I bet they were surprised when Noah said, "It's done, but there's blood everywhere!"


I've been wanting to start a philosophy class but have been putting it off because I didn't feel quite ready. I knew my students were ready.  I think it's a mistake to wait until college to teach philosophy, because kids are very philosophical (at least some of them are), and we're missing out on their perspective. Also, it helps them learn to listen, think, disagree respectfully, and form educated opinions.  I asked Sarah to quote 1 Timothy 4:12, and we began.  I didn't regale them with names of ancient philosophers and their beliefs (though I plan to get into that in the future); I just wanted to have an intelligent conversation.

We've always had conversations, but today I taught (or rather, facilitated) our first structured class.  Sarah read one of our old favorite picture books (Frederick by Leo Lionni), and we had a discussion about what constitutes work and what it means to be part of a community.  It was a lively discussion during which I mostly asked questions and enjoyed listening to their beautifully uncluttered minds work.  It went on much longer than I thought it would, and they were both excited to participate.  The conversation took some unexpected twists and turns that touched on poetry,  communism, the body of Christ (physical and spiritual), the soul, individual uniqueness, and somehow...Harry Potter. 

At one point, Sarah said, "I wonder what I would have been like if I had been your first Sarah (our baby who died, also named Sarah).  I would be 11 instead of 10. I wonder if I would be taller or have blond hair."  I said, "You wouldn't have been you.  You are the only person with your exact qualities who has ever lived in all of history and who will ever live.  You are God's unique creation."  It reminded me that I used to wonder what I would have been like if my mom had married her previous boyfriend instead of my dad, and she always told me, "You wouldn't have been you," and I could never quite grasp it. 

When I finally wrapped it up, Sarah said, "That was fun!  Can we do another one?"  I wanted to leave them hungry, so I said that was all for today.  (Plus, I didn't have a plan for the next class, since I wanted to see how today's would go. Clearly, I need to do some more research and get some more books.)

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Alzheimer's home

This morning I took the kids to an Alzheimer's care center to do some Christmas activities with the residents.  I realized what I like about Alzheimer's patients:  they're real. They have no filter, no inhibitions, and their true personality is all you see.  Some of them still have a great sense of humor, and some are very feisty.  They spin yarns that I don't know whether to believe or not, but they're interesting.

The minute we came in the door, we witnessed an old lady cat fight.  One lady was yelling, "Shut up!" and the other one yelled back, "I'm the boss around here!"  The workers had to separate them, and Shut Up Lady told the worker to take Boss Lady far away from her.  Then another lady spread her arms wide and demanded that Noah give her a big hug, which he did.  She stared at him and seemed to be searching his soul, and then she got right up in his face and asked, "Are you all right?" and he said he was.  She hugged him again and let him go.

The main project of the day was to make gingerbread houses with them.  Some of them did a great job.  Some gobbled up their house materials before a house could be constructed.  Some just liked watching us build the houses.  One lady watched the guy next to her eat his whole house, and then said disgustedly, "How in the hell are you going to display it if you eat it?!"

I had this conversation with one lady about every 20 seconds or so:

L: Where are your kids from?
Me: South Korea.
L:  Do they speak English?
Me:  Yes, they do.  They've been in America since they were babies, so they grew up speaking English.
L: Where do they go to school?
Me:  I teach them at home.
L (frowning): Do you think that's a good idea?
Me:  Yes, I do.  Don't you?
L:  Well, I sure wouldn't do it!

Pause 20 seconds, and then she turns to me and says, "Where are your kids from?" and we start the whole thing over again. 

 This lady was hilarious.  I told her we were going to build a house out of her crackers, and she said, "You're a dreamer!" I asked her if she was an architect, and she said no.  I said I wasn't either, but I bet we can build it.  She said, "Whatever turns your crank, honey!"  

Noah turned himself into Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer.

After the gingerbread fiasco was cleaned up, Sarah led a conga line with her friends, and they danced all around the room while singing "Jingle Bells."  

And my favorite moment of the day.  This lady was sitting by herself in the back, not interacting with anyone.  I tried to chat with her, but she wasn't having any of it.  Noah came along, and this woman stood up, grabbed him by the hands, and started spinning him around, dancing, and grinning ear to ear.  When she was done, she kissed him and sat back down, looking completely satisfied and content. 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Too far to go

Driving along today, and Noah randomly asks, "Can I move to New Jersey next year?"
Me: No.
N: In 5 years?
M: No.
N: Why not?
M: Too far from your mama.
N: When I'm 30?
M: No.
N: When I'm dead?
M:  I guess you could request that your ashes be scattered in New Jersey.
N: I don't want my ashes scattered there.
M: Where do you want them scattered? Why are we having this conversation?
N: In Russia.
Sarah pipes up at this point and says, "We are not going all the way to Russia for your deadness, Noah!"

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Chinchilla guillotine

Our youngest chinchilla, Kozmo, is a crafty little escape artist.  I let them out of their cage for an hour every night, like prisoners.  This is the time I clean their cage, which requires daily cleaning.  We have a section of the basement blocked off with tables, old doors, cardboard, etc., so they can run free without having free reign to poop all over the whole basement.  I would think they would just be grateful to be out of their cage, but no.  Kozmo is constantly looking for ways to escape the enclosed area. He is very smart, and even more fast and agile.  I'm amazed that he manages to juke me every night and find some new way to bust out. Then I have to chase him around the whole basement as he darts in and out of corners, behind boxes, and even under the furnace.  During one of these episodes, Sarah came down and wanted to know what was for dinner, and I mumbled, "Chinchilla bisque." 

Last night, I saw Kozmo sitting on the workbench across from me, watching me.  I could see him studying the layout, looking for weak links, and biding his time.  When I went to clean his cage, he made his move.  My head was inside the cage, and I was up to my elbows in poop, when I saw a gray blur out of the corner of my eye.  I turned just in time to see Kozmo get a running start and make an incredible ninja jump, ricochet off the side of the couch, and fly over the blockade. 

Shadow the cat was hot on his trail, so I decided to finish cleaning the cage and let Shadow herd the rodent back into the enclosure.  A few minutes later, I heard a ruckus upstairs and feared that Kozmo had figured out how to use the stairs, which he had never done before.  Mike was in the living room, and was quite displeased to see the rodent come flying into the room with the cat right behind him. 

So today, Mike (who is not known for his love of chinchillas) is strengthening the fortress.  Noah heard him down there and asked me what he was doing.  I told him he was building reinforcements to keep the chinchillas in, and Noah said, "Right. He's probably building a chinchilla guillotine." 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Brain damage

Noah caused some offense to Sarah, and she said, "Ow! You gave me temporary brain damage!"
He replied, in his annoying big brother way, "You have permanent brain damage, Sarah."
Her comeback:  "You have ETERNAL brain damage!"

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Being a human

The kids were doing their weekly garbage collection.  Sarah dumped out Noah's garbage can and discovered a half-eaten Butterfinger.  She exclaimed, "Oooo, a Butterfinger!" and sat right down next to the trash can and ate it.  Noah caught her in the act and said, "Oh my gosh, Sarah, do you know what I throw in that can?  And I spit sunflower seeds in there too.  How can you eat that?" 
Mouth full of candy, Sarah mumbled, "It was still half in the wrapper...."
Noah was totally disgusted and replied, "You really need to get better at being a human."

Arrested by my son

I was in the kitchen when Noah burst in, pointing a water noodle at me.  He yelled, "Halt!  You're under arrest for egg poaching!"

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Decorating the Christmas tree

It's the Saturday after Thanksgiving, so that means it's time for the annual setting up of the Christmas tree.  The kids love this tradition.  They pull out their favorite ornaments and set up the nativity scene.  The big difference this year is that we got a new tree.  Mike and I bought our old tree at a garage sale for $20 fourteen years ago.  It was a pretty tree, and it served us well all those years, but the flocking was such a huge mess every year.  I sold it this year for $25 and bought a pre-lit, non-flocked one that came with a storage tub for $25 at a garage sale.  Today, as I was listening to the general hubbub, I thought how funny it would be if there was audio recording of this event.  I started writing down sound bites.  Here are some:

“Stop, Sarah. Look up. Do you see what I'm doing here? Does that look like a good place to start dumping stuff out?”

“This is the filthiest thing I think I've ever seen.”

“Everything was going so well until I smashed the angel's face into the wall. Sorry, bro. You ok?”

“Don't get that sticky on anything.”

“Why are there more branches than slots?!”

“I'm gonna have a real tree when I grow up.” “Well, that's your prerogative when you move out. I've never, ever had a real tree.”

“Sarah, get your head out of there.”

“It'll be interesting to see how we get it all plugged up.”

“There are two males up here, and one of them's a branch dangling.”

“I plugged it in...why aren't the lights on?”

“Dad, it looks like the tree is wearing a tutu.”

“I'm taking a break. I'll come back with a fresh perspective. I need hot chocolate.” “The hot chocolate mix doesn't work, Dad. It's too old.”

Some of the sound bites go with some of the pictures below.  You can match them up if you want a fun little game.

Noah's broken backhoe bucket and fire truck ladder that he's been putting on the tree for at least 10 years.

This one is very special, because it has sand in it from a beach in Korea.

The age-old bird that I remember putting on our tree when I was a little girl.

The cats LOVE this day every year.  

Sarah made this headband herself with the pompoms that she and Mike made this morning.

The top of the tree was stuck so tightly in the box that it took three pullers to extract it.

Success!  The top of the tree is birthed!

The cats always like the ornaments, but this year, I put a special treat inside a couple of them: the last of this year's crop of catnip.

A little holiday tussle ensued.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Noah's 13th birthday

 Instead of having a party for Noah, we took a trip to Milwaukee for his 13th birthday.  We left on his birthday (Friday, 11/21/14) and returned the next day.  Our destination was a place we just heard about recently:  The Safe House, a spy-themed bar/restaurant.

 The cats made packing difficult.  There was a very small window of opportunity where no cat was in the suitcase, early in the morning on the day we left, so that's when I packed.  The second I finished, Marty was right back on top of it.  They didn't want us to leave.

Noah got to choose whether he wanted to sleep in and then leave, or get up early and go.  He chose to sleep in, but he was up early anyway.  The first words out of his mouth when he woke up and inspected himself were, "Oh man. Not even a chest hair!"  He said thirteen doesn't feel any different than twelve.  Sarah had decided the night before to have a party for him in the morning, and she had decorated for it:

A big box had arrived from Aunt Kathy and Uncle Matt earlier in the week, and since we didn't have anything for Noah to open on his birthday (we had given him a bike a couple weeks prior), we saved it for him.

He was happy to find that it contained a bucket of baseballs.  Sarah also gave him several sweet gifts that she had made.  Then we were ready to hit the road.

We stayed at a Best Western in a slummy area on the outskirts of Milwaukee.  It was a super old hotel, but it had everything we needed, including a pool, free parking (that was the determining factor, since hotels in the city charged $25/night to park), free breakfast, and a good price.  The room was big, and it even had a full kitchen and a big bathroom with a whirlpool tub!  
Our first act was to go swimming.  You can see Noah's rugburn on his chest from playing football at youth group.
After swimming, we went to the Safe House.  Just finding it and parking and getting there was an adventure in itself!  The entrance is in some back alley that looks like nothing, and the sign on the front doesn't say anything about Safe House; it says "International Exports, Ltd."  There's supposed to be someone at the door to ask for the password, but apparently she doesn't come on duty until 5:00, and it was only 4:45 when we got there.  While we were wandering around, I pulled on some random lever, which caused a bookshelf to swing open, and we were in.  
We sat at a table by this sign...
and near this chunk of the Berlin wall.
While we were waiting for the food, our "server agent" sent us on a spy mission.  One of the clues was to find a picture of Burt Reynolds in the women's bathroom. Mike and I were skipping over that one, because the clue referred to Burt having a "heart-on".  But Sarah wouldn't let it go, and kept talking loudly about how we have to find Burt Reynolds' heart-on in the bathroom.  There was a naked picture of Burt in the bathroom wearing nothing but a big red heart over his area.
Sarah especially loved this mirror.  She stood there and laughed for a long time.

Noah got a piece of chocolate cake with a trick candle.
We left via the secret tunnel, after getting the code to open the door from a phone booth.

It was dark when we got back to the car, so we didn't notice this parking ticket on our windshield until the next day.  We thought it was two hour parking for free and unlimited parking after 6:00, but apparently it was two-hour metered parking, and unlimited metered parking after 6:00.  So the $25 parking we saved by staying at a hotel outside the city was negated.
A kind stranger took this picture of the four of us downtown, right next to the scene of the crime.  You can actually see the back of our illegally parked van on the right.  
The next day we stopped at Lasertag Adventure in Waukesha, Wisconsin, on our way home.  We were all on the red team, and we won.  Mike (a.k.a. Goliath) came in first place. 
Sarah played some games, won some tickets, and spent them on vampire teeth.
Mike & Noah played trampoline dodgeball.  That's Noah bouncing off the wall on the right.

Truck stop on the way home.

It was a good trip, and I think our brand new teenager enjoyed it.