Friday, January 24, 2014

How many mints would a woodchuck mince if a woodchuck could mince mints?

Noah is studying South Africa in school.  Here's a convoluted conversation we had today.
N: Ostrich meat is less expensive than mints in South Africa.
M: Hmm. Mints must be pretty expensive there.
N: What is mints?
M (giving him the crooked eye): You know what mints are.  You know, like breath mints?  Peppermints? Spearmints? You know.
N: No, not mints, Mom.  Mints.
M: What? Who's on first?
N: What?  I just want to know what mince is!  (He shows me the word in the book).
M: Oh, mince.  I have no idea.  Jenny Thomas likes mincemeat pie, but that doesn't answer your question.

I google "mince" and am glad I did it myself instead of assigning him to do it, because the first thing I see is the urban dictionary's definition:  "To move or act in a way that implies homosexuality."  What?!  I have never heard that one before.  I go to the regular dictionary definition, which defines the verb as chopping into small pieces, which everyone knows.  Then it defines the noun as "something minced, esp. mincemeat."   Is that a helpful definition to anyone?  Not to me, so I look up mincemeat.

Wikipedia tells me that "Mincemeat is a mixture of chopped dried fruit, distilled spirits and spices, and sometimes beef suet, beef, or venison."  I read that definition to Noah.

N: So it's fruit, ghosts, spices, and meat? And they call that a pie?  And Jenny Thomas seriously likes it?
M: Ghosts?
N: Distilled spirits?
M: Oh, that's some kind of alcoholic beverage, I think.  I'm sure it's not ghosts.
N: Still, doesn't sounds like a very good pie to me.  
M: No, it sure doesn't.  And it doesn't explain the fact that ostrich meat is cheaper than mince. 

Further research reveals that "mince" apparently just means "hamburger" in South Africa  I'm friendly with a lady from South Africa who works at Papa Murphy's.  Next time I see her, I'm going to ask her about it.   

Am I real?

I sent someone a message on Facebook.  No response.  I sent a different person an email.  Nothing.  I called someone and left a message on her voicemail, asking her to call me back.  She never called.  This all happened within the last week.  Today I arrived at 9:10 for my 9:15 dentist appointment.  I signed in and sat down to wait.  I like early morning appointments, because you usually don't have to wait long, because they can't be running too far behind yet. Other people came in, signed in, sat down, and got called back.  I sat there till 9:30.

I started thinking about a story I read in college about a person who didn't actually exist.  All through the story, it seemed like he was a real person, but at the end it was revealed that he was only a character in another person's dream.  When the dreamer woke up, that character just evaporated.  That story blew my  mind and disturbed me on a deep level.  I spent months (ok, probably years) wondering how we can definitively prove that we exist.

All these events converged on me at once, and I suddenly wondered if I was real.   There was one other guy in the waiting room, pecking away at his cell phone.  I stared at him for awhile, but he didn't glance up, so I finally said, "Hello."  He never removed his beak from his phone.  Awkward.

I finally got called back for my cleaning, and the pain and blood suggested to me that I was, in fact, a real person.  (These same signs suggested to the hygienist that I need to floss more often).  I stopped at Kroger on my way home.  I went to the self-checkout lane, just to be sure that I would be recognized by the checker.  

The minute I got home, I was greeted by people who wanted to talk to me, a message to call my mother-in-law, a pile of dirty dishes, groceries to put away, children who wanted me to make lunch, and cats who wanted water.  I felt like I existed.  I also felt that, if I really was just a figment of someone's dreaming imagination, this would be a good time for that person to wake up. 

A strange postscript to this story:  When I went to the website for my blog, I got this message:
And when I tried to upload the picture I took of that message, the computer didn't recognize my cardreader.  Hmmm.....

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Fun with mirrors

Noah was supposed to be cleaning his room, but I found him doing this:
 He said, "When I look in the mirror while it's pointing at the ceiling, my room looks perfectly clean!"

 Then he took the mirror into the kitchen and pointed it at the skylight.  It made it look like there was a big hole in front of him on the kitchen floor.  It was such a convincing image that he wouldn't take a step forward.

He flipped the mirror over and pointed it at Shiloh, who was walking by on the floor.  He said, "It looks like Shiloh is spider-walking across the ceiling!"  The whole mirror thing amused him for a long time.

Jokes and conversations

We were eating lunch, and Noah and I somehow got on the topic of eternity.  He said, "I don't see how there could be no beginning and no end.  Everything has a beginning and an end!"  I made some lame comment about circles, and I could see that Sarah was dying to jump in, but uncharacteristically restraining herself from interrupting, so I said, "Yes, Sarah? What would you like to add?"  She said, "What happens to baseball players when they get old?"  That gave me pause.  As I was thinking about how to respond to that, she said triumphantly, "They go batty!"  I said, "What does that have to do with eternity?" and she said, "Huh?"  I hadn't recognized that she was in Sarahland, with no idea what was going on around her. Noah smirked and said, "You used to play baseball, didn't you, Mom?" 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Ham and corn proverb

Every afternoon before quiet time, we read and discuss a chapter of Proverbs.  Today is the 21st, so we read Proverbs 21.  As I read, I sensed that the kids might not be paying very good attention, so I threw in a little something of my own in the middle to see if anyone would notice.  It went like this:

....To do what is right and just
    is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.

The plans of the diligent lead to profit
    as surely as haste leads to poverty.

If there is corn in the pantry,
     I will make ham and corn casserole for dinner.

  A fortune made by a lying tongue
    is a fleeting vapor and a deadly snare....

Noah said, "Hey, wait...what?  Do we have corn?"  Sarah said, "Ham and corn casserole is my favorite!  Let's go see if we have corn!"  

So I guess they really were listening.  They found corn in the freezer, so we're having Sarah's favorite tonight.

What's your deepest desire?

Sarah was telling me about a magical mirror in a Harry Potter book.  Apparently when you look into it, you see your deepest desire fulfilled.  Then she caught me off-guard with this question: "What would YOU see if you looked into it, Mom?"  I thought for a minute and then told her that I would see myself and everyone I love in heaven.  She said, "Is that your deepest desire?"  I considered, and then said, "Yes.  It really is.  What would you see?"  She said, "I see myself standing on the podium after winning the Olympic gold for the U.S. Gymnastics team."  What would you see?  Leave a comment.

Noah's HOPE chest

Last week, Noah heard a speaker from The HOPE (Helping Other People Excel) Chest.  They run a food pantry and give out 800 SnackPacs every month to children who are below poverty level.  Noah had a desire to help, so he brought home a list of needs and decided to make three SnackPacs with his own money.  He spent $7.60 and filled three bags with mac & cheese, raisins, crackers and peanut butter, granola bars, fruit cups, fruit rollups, and pudding cups.

Sunday, January 19, 2014


I have always had trouble getting the little protective hat off my new deodorant.  I pull at it with all my might, dig my fingernails under it and pry, and it usually doesn't come off.  Then I have to get the pliers, press the deodorant between my feet, grab the plastic thing with the pliers, and yank with both hands.  It finally pops off, sending me flying in the opposite direction.  It's quite an ordeal, and I've always thought there must be a better way!  This morning, I had to be at church early and didn't have time to wrestle with the deodorant.  So I used Mike's and left mine on the counter and asked him if he would open it for me later.  In the middle of church, Mike whispers to me, "I'm going to give you a hint that's going to make your life better."  I lean in expectantly, with no idea what this could be.  He tells me that if I twist the thing at the bottom of the deodorant to make it go up, the plastic hat just pops right off with ease.  Wow!  How could I have been so ignorant for the last 30 years that I've been struggling with deodorant?
As you may or may not know, our vacuum has been an ongoing source of problems lately.  Sometimes it sucks, and sometimes it doesn't.  Sometimes it makes a horrible noise, and sometimes it sounds normal.  Mike has taken it apart and put it back together several times with mixed results.  Our floors haven't been properly vacuumed for several weeks, and the filth is really starting to build.  Today it must have pushed Mike over the edge, because as soon as we got home from church, he got out the vacuum and took it apart again.  He messed around with it and put it back together.  When he turned it on, there was a boom, and a huge cloud of dust came out of the bowels of the thing, and it started working like a brand new vacuum.  I cheered!  The best part is....Mike is now vacuuming the entire house while I sit here and blog about it.  What a guy!

Friday, January 17, 2014

A day in the life

It's been a long time since I've done one of these, so here it is.
8:20 a.m. Sarah bounds out of bed and wants to make cupcakes.  I suggest the lemon tea cake that I just saw on Food Network.  She's super excited about that and wants to have a tea party with her friends.  I tell her that we'll have a tea party with Noah when he wakes up. 
8:30 a.m. Sarah eats breakfast (cantaloupe and cereal) while I give the cats their morning treat.  Today it's cantaloupe for the younger two and tuna for Marty (she doesn't like cantaloupe). 
9:00 a.m.  Sarah and I are zesting and juicing lemons for the tea cake.  We mix it up and put it in the oven.  Sarah makes raspberry tea.  We make some bracelets for her friends on her new rainbow loom. 
10:00 a.m.  Sarah wakes Noah and invites him to a tea party.  He grumbles a little.  She mentions the cake.  He comes bounding into the kitchen. We have tea and cake and make up songs about the cats. 
10:45 a.m.  Noah helps me clean up the kitchen, because he wants to play Flick Football with me on the table.  We start flicking quarters, and Sarah goes downstairs to make a goal post for us. 
11:30 a.m.  The kids want to pretend to be scientists in the tub.  I convince them to do spelling first.  After spelling, they head for the tub with legos, a mini muffin tin, some cups and spoons, vinegar, and baking soda. They ask me for rotini, which somehow has become a tradition every time they take a bath.  I cook some rotini and deliver it to the tub, where they eat it. 
12:30 p.m.  Sarah starts a load of laundry, including the towels that somehow got soaked during science/tub time.  She says, "Wouldn't it be cool if the washer and dryer had ringtones instead of that terrible buzzing?"  Noah cleans the bathroom.  I give them green peppers and apples to round out their rotini and call it lunch. 
1:15 p.m.  I start dinner preparations.  The kids quickly figure out that I'm making chili, and they both want to help. We all love to make chili.  Noah opens the cans of beans and tomatoes, while Sarah peels garlic and onions, while I cook the ground turkey.  We dump everything in a pot, add some spices, and turn on the heat.
2:00 p.m.  Noah needs to practice piano, so I ask him if he wants to call Nana & Papa and play a duet for them.  We play "The Mermaid" and they ooh and ahh.  We do a video chat with Grandma and Grandpa. The kids practice their forms and techniques for Kuk Sool Won, and Sarah does some gymnastics.
2:30 p.m.  Kids are doing math, and I am folding laundry. Noah watches the cats stretching and going back to sleep, and he laments, "I wish I was a cat and could sleep all day and not do any work."  Sarah reminds him that he would have to eat dry cat food, and he decides he doesn't want to be a cat anymore.
3:20 p.m.  We do our online Life Skills class. Today it's about playground etiquette.  Not the greatest, but still good.     
3:30 p.m.  I read our Bible lesson for CBS and then a chapter of our read-aloud book, which is currently "The Great Brain" series by John D. Fitzgerald.
4:15 p.m. Quiet time. It's later than usual today, but definitely a must.  Kids are finishing math and CBS, and I am blogging and snuggling with Shiloh.  Soon Mike will be home and we'll eat chili, and the neighbor kid will probably come over and want to play  Minecraft with Noah.  It's Friday night, so nowhere we have to go.  Will probably play, hang out, watch something, eat. We'll pray at about 9:00, and kids will go to their rooms.  Sarah will get in her bed and do something crafty or play with her dolls till about 10:00. Noah will read till about midnight.  

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Lesson in humility

Sarah got a rainbow loom for Christmas, and she hasn't been able to figure out how to make the more complicated bracelets on it.  I told her that it was just a matter of carefully reading the instructions and following along with the diagrams.  She said she had done that and still couldn't figure it out.  I was hoping not to have to get involved, because I dislike intricate little crafty projects like that, but finally I had to help her.  I (over) confidently started following the step-by-step instructions, making my rubber bands look just like the ones in the diagrams.  I was all cocky, thinking this was easier than I thought it would be.  Sarah kept saying, "Yeah, I got that far too.  It gets confusing when you have to start to looping."  I scoffed and doubted that.  After all, I have a college degree.  Surely I can figure out how to make a rubber band bracelet.
Well, it got super complicated and confusing when I had to start looping.  I read the instructions slowly, out loud to myself, studied the diagrams, and was utterly baffled.  Sarah looked smug.  I started searching online for a video tutorial.  I found one (done by a little girl), and suddenly it all made sense.  Sarah and I finished our bracelet.   It occurred to me that God gave us a hands-on tutorial when he sent Jesus to show us how to live.  Sometimes reading the instruction manual by itself isn't enough.  You have to see someone doing it in order to really understand.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Too literal

 Noah did well enough on his math speed drill today to earn this.  

Of course, he followed the instructions literally, even though it was cold and raining.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014


Noah was having some trouble with his school work, and he started getting emotional.  I told him to go do something else until he was feeling calm.  About an hour later, he came back and did fine.  I delivered a long lecture about how you can't think logically and rationally when you're emotional, and that's why you shouldn't argue with your wife when either of you is upset.  I could see I was losing him, so I said, "The same principal applies with your sister".  He could relate to that.  He said, "So when Sarah comes at me screaming and crying about something I supposedly did, I should tell her we can discuss it later when she's calmed down?"  I said yes, and also that it would be useful advice in a few years when he's driving, that he should never drive when he's upset or angry, because if you're feeling, you're not thinking.  We talked about how God gave us emotions, and it's good to feel, but don't try to do anything logical at the same time.

Later, I asked him if he wanted to work on a very intricate color-by-number picture with me.  While we were working on it, with our heads close together, he mentioned that there are some spaces that are supposed to remain uncolored.  That comment led me to talk to him about having margins in life, and leaving white spaces so we can appreciate the colors.  I knew he got it when he said, "Oh, that's why we have quiet time every day, right?"  I said, "Yes, exactly", and he said, "Wow, you're deep today, Mom."

Just like Barbie

Noah was messing with my hair, and he said, "Mom, your scalp is just like a Barbie doll's, the way it has little holes that hairs come out of."  Nobody has ever in my life compared any part of my body to a Barbie doll's, so I guess scalp is better than nothing!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Tilled pork

This morning, I put a pork roast in the crock pot with some apple cider vinegar, onions, garlic salt, pepper, brown sugar, and liquid smoke.  I turned it on low and let it go for about nine hours.  A few minutes ago, I took the roast out and started pulling it apart with two forks.  The delicious smell made its way to Noah, who ran into the kitchen, wrapped his arms around me, and declared, "You're my best friend, Mom!  That looks so awesome!  And since you're tilling the pig all up like that, we'll be able to eat MORE of it, and it will seem like less!"

I told him that it's technically called "pulling", but I actually like "tilling" better, so we're having tilled pork sandwiches for dinner.  I put the shredded up pig back in the pot, added some barbecue sauce, and tested it.  I added some more salt and a pinch of sugar, at Noah's suggestion.  He thought I should add some butter too, but I told him there was plenty of fat in the pig.  He said, "Is there any recipe that can't be fixed by adding butter, salt, barbecue sauce, or sugar?"  I couldn't think of a single one. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Cold science, bubbles, etc.

 Blowing bubbles in the living room for physical education today.

 Blew some outside into the below zero temperatures for science.  
We also took a cup of hot water out there and tossed it into the air and watched it turn into snow.

 The bubbles turn to ice shells!  This one blew back onto the rug so I could get a picture of it.

 This one blew back and stuck to the door before it froze.

 Sarah thought Marty might be interested in the bubbles.

 Shadow was terrified of them.

Shiloh didn't like them either.

Strange conversations this morning

Mike came in from shoveling, and we spent a good 10 minutes discussing nose prosthetics.  Some of the highlights were: What if your nose freezes off? Can they just mold you a new one out of some kind of claylike material?  How would they glue it on? It would be handy for picking purposes if it was removable.  It would also make trimming your nose hairs easier.  Would you still have nose hairs? Would they grow? It would be funny if somebody hit you in the nose and it caved in and you could just pop it back out.  Maybe you could make different shaped noses for different occasions.  It would be nice to have a cute little removable button nose instead of this big schnoz.

I asked Sarah if she wanted to go to Kuk Sool Won tonight, and she said yes.  I told her that classes might be canceled because it's so cold.  She said, "Oh no. Martial artists are tougher than that. I'm not even going to wear a coat!"  Two minutes later, I got an email saying that classes are canceled due to extreme cold.  I told Sarah and she scoffed, "Wimps!"

Sarah was curled up next to me, watching me play Candy Crush.  I was grumbling about how I've been stuck on level 452 for weeks, while my friend Penny passed it in a day.  I concluded my tirade with, "Is there anything Penny can't do?!"  Sarah promptly replied, "She can't do a cartwheel."  (Mind you, Sarah doesn't even know Penny). 
Me: How do you know?
S: Because moms can't do cartwheels.
M: I can do a cartwheel.
S: But you're not a real mom.  You're just a birth mom.
M: Ummmm....yeah.  I am YOUR real mom, even though I'm not your birth mom. 
That's how conversations around here can take a turn, and I'm left wondering how we went from Candy Crush to birth mothers in less than 10 seconds.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Grandma Opal

I know most kids think their grandma is the best ever, but they're wrong, because mine was.  I grew up living next door to her, so she was quite literally always there for me.  My bedroom window faced her bedroom window, and we would wave good night to each other and send various messages in our own form of sign language.  Somehow, she always had time for me and everyone else.  She was a great listener and truly cared about people.  When I was young, I thought she was perfect (even now, I still believe she was very close to it!).

We used to take a lot of walks together, and from my childish perspective, I thought she was the fastest walker in the world!  One beautiful fall evening, we were out walking, and we noticed the pavement ahead looked like it was moving.  As we got closer, we saw a huge herd of fuzzy caterpillars migrating from one side of the road to the other.  We stopped and stared.  There must have been thousands of them.  Grandma Opal wondered right along with me about how and why there were so many crossing the road at the same time. I've never seen anything like it before or since.  Grandma had a great sense of wonder and curiosity.  She was always looking things up in books.  She would have loved Google! 

Grandma took each of us grandkids on a birthday trip every year, starting when we turned six.  I remember going to the zoo, going to movies, having a picnic on Grandview Drive, and other special times with Grandma for my birthday. The tradition she started lives on; my parents take each of their grandkids on a birthday trip every year, and I intend to do it with mine someday.  When we graduated from 8th grade, Grandma Opal made each us of a scrapbook, full of pictures, stories and notes we'd written, programs from recitals, articles from newspapers, etc.  I still have my book.  In it is a poem that Grandma Opal wrote about the first birthday trip she took me on:

I remember one Mother's Day when I was about five years old,  I went to Grandma's house crying, because I didn't have anything to give my mom.  She pulled out the box of craft supplies she kept under her bed and helped me make a Mother's Day card, and I felt better.  She always made everything better.  One winter when I was sick in bed and couldn't go out to play in the snow, she made a big snowman outside my window
with a sign that said "Get well soon!"  One summer day, it was my job to ride my bike to the Harding farm to buy a dozen eggs.  I put them in the basket on the front of my bike and started home.  The gravel road was bumpy, and I hit a hole and the carton of eggs went flying up in the air.  It crashed hard back into my basket, and every egg was broken.  I was afraid I would be in trouble for breaking the eggs, so I was upset.  Grandma Opal worked at the post office, so I stopped by there on my way home to ask her advice.  She thought for awhile, then said, "Well, you could tell your mom that you have some good news and some bad news. The good news is...we're having scrambled eggs for supper!" 

I'm sure all of us grandkids have memories of playing library and dress-up in her attic.  We had many family gatherings at her house for holidays, birthdays, and celebrations of all kinds.  She kept her basement pantry shelf stocked with cherry Juicy Juice, because she knew we liked it.

She was the family seamstress.  She hemmed and mended lots of clothes for her children, grandchildren, and our spouses.  She even made my prom dress when I was in high school.  She let me pick the fabric and the pattern, and she even let me help with the sewing, although I'm sure it would have been easier without my "help." 

Whenever I had a big load of dirty dishes to wash, I would call Grandma.  She would always say, "Oh, I have some dishes to do too. Let's talk while we wash, so it will go faster."  I used to think it was quite a coincidence that she always had dishes to wash at the same time I did.  Now I think maybe she just pretended for my sake.  I still can't wash dishes without thinking of her and wishing I could talk to her. She used to be a great conversationalist.  She loved to tell stories and write them down.  She passed that love on to me. 

I was with her just a few hours before she died.  I played the songs she liked to hear on my harp.  Even after her mind was gone and she stopped talking, she would always sing the words to "Going Home" when I played it:
Going home, going home,
I'm just going home.
Quiet-like, slip away-
I'll be going home.
It's not far, just close by;
Jesus is the Door;
Work all done, laid aside,
Fear and grief no more.
Friends are there, waiting now.
He is waiting, too.
See His smile! See His hand!
He will lead me through.

Morning Star lights the way;
Restless dream all done;
Shadows gone, break of day,
Life has just begun.
Every tear wiped away,
Pain and sickness gone;
Wide awake there with Him!
Peace goes on and on!
Going home, going home,
I'll be going home.
See the Light! See the Sun!
I'm just going home. 

I cry because I miss her so much, but there is deep peace and joy in my heart, because I know she's with Jesus. She knew Him and trusted Him, so I know I'll see her again and get to be with her for eternity.  The last thing I said to her on the night I knew she was going to die was, "Go be with Jesus."  And she did.