Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Where's Sarah?

I heard the laundry beeping and sent Sarah to get it.  The beeping stopped, but Sarah didn't reappear.  I vaguely wondered where she was, but I didn't worry about it.  Several minutes later, I heard her distant, muffled voice say, "If anyone is looking for me, I'm in the dryer!"

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Baby snowman cowboy

Sarah drew this today and explained that it's a picture of herself every year, starting when she was a baby and every year up to her current, eleventh, year.  I said, "What's the snowman?" and she said, "It's not a snowman. It's me as a baby."  I said, "Oh. Why are you wearing a hat?" and she said, "It's not a hat. It's all my little pony tails."  I asked her what the extra one was at the end, and she said, "That's my projection of how I'll look at twelve."
A few minutes later, Noah came into the room, and she showed him.  I asked him what he thought her baby picture looked like, and he said, "A cowboy." 

Parmesan-crusted pork chops

I post these food ones for myself, so I remember how to cook our favorites in case my mind goes.
 This is the best sale I've seen on pork loin, so I bought two.  I asked the butcher the cut both into half-inch chops (straight, not butterflied).  Then I can use them for any pork recipe.  If I'm making pulled pork in the crock pot, I just put in several chops. 
 I put one whole package straight into the freezer.  I took out four chops for tonight's meal and put the rest in a bag to make into other porky things this week.
 garlic salt and pepper on the chops
 Normally, I would do a full breading station with egg, flour, and bread crumbs, but I was in a rush tonight, so I only did bread crumbs.  This is two heels, garlic salt, pepper, and parmesan that I processed in the food processor.
 Coat both sides of the chops with seasoned bread crumbs.
 Pan-fry in hot oil till the crust is golden brown on both sides.
 Put on a rack over a baking pan and bake at 350 (or maybe I did 375? Whatever.) until they cooked through.  15 minutes maybe?
Everyone eats these happily, even Sarah.

Spelling bee

Our school was having a spelling bee this afternoon. 
M: Noah, your word is "taught".
N: t-o-u-g-h-t
M: Ding! Sarah, can you spell "taught"?
N: Wait, did you mean "taught" as in "I taught you to spell 'taught' a long time ago?" or as in "I tought I taw a puddy tat" or "That rope is taut enough to walk across?"
M: The first one.
N: Oh. T-a-u-g-h-t.

Every time I gave him a word that he got wrong (which wasn't often), just as I about to pass it to Sarah, suddenly he rattled it off correctly. Finally, Sarah said, "Why do you think better when it becomes MY word?"
Sarah shocked us all by winning the whole thing with the word "prestidigitator". 

Actual conversation with my teenager

My son is very passionate about minecraft. I've observed him playing this incomprehensible (to me) game with his friends many times. In an effort to understand, I had the following conversation with him at lunch:
M: So, what's the difference between a "pleb" and a "newb"?  [I've heard him saying these things when he plays minecraft.]
N: Good question.  Basically, a "pleb" is a person who makes dumb mistakes, like jumping off a bridge.  A "newb" is a person who just started playing and doesn't know what he's doing so puts on a full armor or something dumb like that. 
M: So they both do dumb things but the pleb knows better and the newb is ignorant?
N: Right!  And then there's the "scrub".  That's a person who's no good at PVP.  That's player versus player.
M: Well, how would you know if someone wasn't good at anything if they weren't playing PVP?
N: Huh?
M: Let's say some guy is just playing in his basement and...
N: Playing in his what?
M: Basement.
N: You mean minecraft or IRL?
M: What?
N: In real life.
M: Yes, I'm saying what if a person is playing minecraft in his real-life basement, as in the lower dwelling of his real-life house, and nobody sees him. He's just building his little world, not playing PVP. How would you know if he's no good at it?
N: Well, that's why he puts it on YT, so everyone will know how awesome he is.
M: YT?
N: YouTube.
M: Right. So even if you're a scrub, you could possibly have a perfectly awesome YT channel.
N: Right! What else do you want to know?
M: I know you've explained the whole "hashtag" thing to me many times, and I think I kind of understand that, but why do you say "hashtag" randomly in conversation?
N: Just being goofy. Plus it's fun to say "hashtag".
M: Ok, so in this egg war game I see you playing all the time, the goal is to keep your egg safe?
N: Yes, and also to get your opponents' egg.
M: Why don't you just go over there and get it?
N: Because they're guarding it, just like we're guarding ours.
M: So it's kind of like "Capture the flag"? [This is what our kids play with the neighbor kids when we make them turn off their screens and go outside.]
N: Yes! 
M: Or Stratego? [a board game I used to play as a kid, and Noah plays it when he goes to my parents' house]
N: Exactly!
M: Hey, I think I get it!
N: Well, except in Stratego and Capture the flag you can't respawn.
M: What?
N: If you die, you lose. But in minecraft if you get killed, you can respawn, you know, come back to life. Except you get sent back to your base and lose all your stuff.
There were a lot of specifics about when you can and can't respawn, and my brain was getting tired, but I think I have a better grasp on it overall. 

Saturday, September 26, 2015


 Noah working the fire. Sarah hauling her bedding to the tent.
 Noah cooking Sarah's hot dog for her.
 Sarah had to share her chair with Marty.  We had turkey dogs, baked beans, chips and salsa, and fruit salad.
 I like this picture because it looks like Mike is holding flaming hot marshmallows in his hands.
It wouldn't be a campout without messy s'mores for dessert.

 Such a perfectly beautiful night.
 Even the creek was pink!
 Still working the fire. He's always loved that. The kids played with the neighbor kids outside while Mike, Marty, and I sat by the fire. 

 We retired to the tent around 10:00 p.m. I read aloud the "Doughnuts" chapter of Homer Price,
and Mike and Sarah made shadow puppets on the tent wall.
 Sarah went right to sleep and slept all night, like she always does. Except once, she sat up and gave a loud soliloquy that made no sense. The only part I remember is, "Even the tip of my tail is wet, and I'm furious!"  Marty also had no trouble falling asleep. The rest of us were awake a long time.  Mike finally left for his cozy indoor bed at 2:00 a.m.
Noah said, "Get a picture of Marty and me sleeping.  Pretend to sleep, Marty."  :)
Dew started dropping on my face at 3:00 a.m. through these holes that we didn't know were in the top of the tent.  We've had it almost 20 years, so I guess it's wearing out. 
Woke up cold at 5:00 a.m. Jupiter was shining so brightly that we could see it through the wall of the tent. We chatted and waited for the sunrise, and then we came in the house. It was a fun night!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Sarah's story

The Bee and The Acorns
by Sarah Janes

“Once upon a tree in a little girl's backyard hung an acorn. His name was Mr. Nut. He hung proudly with his wife, Mrs. Nut. They hung together for years and years...until a bee made its hive on the same branch. The bee's name was Katie. She said, “Hello, fellow hive workers!”
Mr. Nut said, “We are not bees. Sorry.”
Katie said, “But you must be bees though. You live on this earth.”
“Yes,” said Mr. Nut. “We live, but we are not bees.”
“But...” said Katie.
“We are acorns,” said Mr. Nut. “We are not bees. You must realize you need to make friends with more than just your kind. You must be friendly. I'll teach you the rules:

Never stop
Do good
Yearn for more.”

“Thank you,” said Katie. “Now I know that friendship is more valuable than nectar and more precious than honey.”


[Shared with author's permission.  When I asked her if I could put it on my blog, she said, "Sure. Nobody reads your blog anyway. It's a little creepy. No offense."]

Wednesday, September 23, 2015


I am particularly prone to being duped by infomercials, especially the ones that air in the middle of the night, when my brain isn't fully awake.  I'm convinced that I need every item I see. So I try not to watch them. But last night I was flipping through the channels at 3:30 a.m. and saw an infomercial for the "Tummy Tuck Belt".  I watched the whole thing and determined that I definitely need one. Knowing that I'm a sucker, I resolved not to order in the next six minutes so I could get one easy payment of $19.99 knocked off.  For 3 easy payments of only $19.99 (plus shipping and handling), you get a thermal cream that you rub on your fat belly and a compression belt that you wear for 10 minutes. You come out looking like a supermodel with a six-pack. "With proper diet and exercise" and "results not typical" were in the fine print. You could sell anything as a weight loss product as long as you add that fine print.  In fact, if you read this blog, you will lose 20 pounds in a week!*

*When combined with diet and exercise. Results not typical.

Homemade gas mask

I took Sarah with me to Kroger yesterday.  In the produce section there was a guy looking at grapes, which is right where I needed to be, so I went to the lettuce section while I waited for him to move on.  After he left, I pulled up in front of the grapes and was hit with a wall of b.o.  It was so nasty it made my eyes water.  I grabbed the first bag of grapes I saw and got out of there, making a mental note to stay far away from stinky guy.

When I got to the meat department, there he was, right where I needed to be.  After he left, I took a deep breath of unpolluted air before I began my approach.  Then I glanced to my right, and this is what I saw:
She had pulled up her hood and was using her hair as an air filter.  All that air I had just sucked in came out in a big guffaw because it was so funny.  She said, "Good thing Noah isn't here. He would have gagged."


After spending way more time in the chinchilla fortress than I planned, I was behind on everything. The kitchen was a mess. I still had spelling to teach, math lessons to correct, dinner to make, etc. Sarah entered the kitchen, left the remnants of her snack on the counter, and flounced away. My voice came out loud and strained as I told her that she has to start taking more responsibility for herself.  I resurrected my "I'm-only-one-person" lecture, and I was almost in tears by the time I ended it with, "I'm drowning here!" At that point, she went outside to wait for her dad to get home and coined a new word:
Parsnippity--the desperate emotional state of an overwhelmed, irritated mom who is on the verge of a full blown breakdown and can be sent over the edge if one more person leaves clothes on the floor or dishes in the sink, bickers with a sibling, or asks for something. As in, "Watch out, Dad; Mom is feeling parsnippity." Which is how Mike was greeted when he got home.

Monday, September 21, 2015


I laid out an ambitious schedule for us today on the whiteboard.  We did pretty well until we sat down at the desk for math. I gave Noah his math book and he sighed unhappily--his usual reaction to math. His best buddy Marty appeared from nowhere and settled herself on his math book. He set a smartie candy on her and declared that of course he couldn't do math now.
Sarah jumped right on that bandwagon and said, "Hey, how about we go outside and play some frisbee?"  I said, "Well...we have a lot of work to do."  Sarah replied, "We can't work ALL the time. That's boring."  I said, "Yes, but we can't play all the time either. That's unproductive and unreasonable."
Guess who won?  Yes, the children. I try to say yes more than I say no, but it's very difficult to strike the balance between work and play, good parent and pushover.  Sarah noticed that the three of us made an isosceles triangle while we were playing frisbee, so that counts as math. And they did do their lessons in their math books after we went inside.  But first we did some insect study, and a service project, and a street investigation.  It reminded me of when they were little and we would spend all day playing, reading, wondering, serving, discovering, and investigating. But as they have gotten older, I have tried to incorporate more structure into our days.
On the Monday after the Pumpkin Festival parade, we always take bags and fill them with the trash we find littering our street.  The parade lines up on our street, so it's always a mess afterwards. That was part of my plan for after math, so I just switched it to after the frisbee game.
We saw these strange markings in the street, and we wondered.
This big heavy thing has been in the middle of the street for several weeks, and I've been very curious about it, so as long as we were out, we rode our bikes over there to investigate.
Through the slat in the big heavy thing, we could see a huge hole.
 There were lots of markings in the street and flags and pipes nearby, so we figure there's going to be some digging soon. What does "blind tee" mean? 
The big green question mark on top of the heavy thing could have been painted there by me (but wasn't) because I've been wondering why this thing has been in the middle of the street for so long.
 Of course we couldn't leave without climbing on and through the pipes.
Sarah even did a handstand on one.
**Update: 9/30/15**
 The pipes we were frolicking on are now in the ground.

Rainbow-colored snowflakes

I've been leading the kids in a Bible study about the attributes of God. This week we're starting on "omniscient", which got me sidetracked into a lesson on Latin roots.  Noah said the Latin root information was very useful and helped him in a lot of areas.  That was gratifying.  Back to omniscience...I read the verse about how God knows how many stars there are and He even knows the name of each one (Psalm 147:4).  I told them that God made each snowflake different from all the others, and He knows the design of every one.  Noah said, "I like to picture God at a computer, designing each snowflake, with the angels standing around Him, looking over His shoulder, nodding and exclaiming.  Do you think He ever throws in a rainbow-colored one? We'd never notice it among all the white ones."


Last night's dream:
My family and I were on vacation, and we stopped at this huge mall-like place, but it had only high-end specialty shops, and there were food samples everywhere. You could eat as many samples as you wanted, and we wanted a lot.  There were all kinds of fudge, ice cream, fancy cheeses on little crackers, cakes, etc. I stuffed myself until my clothes exploded right off me, and then I kept on eating. I went into a fancy clothes store and put on an oversized fancy mumu, like a royal cape, and a tall feathery hat, all the while stuffing myself with food. Then I saw a lady I used to work with and haven't seen or thought about in 20 years, but there she was in my dream.  She came out of a dressing room with a black velvet purse, fringed with jewels, and asked me, "Do I look hot with this bag?" I said, "Yes, Jan, you look hot. You've always been hot, and you always will be." Then she started singing and dancing like a Broadway showgirl. I woke up with that song in my head, and now, four hours later, I still can't get it out.  I sang it for the kids, and now they're singing it too and glaring at me for getting it stuck in their heads too.  It's a very catchy little tune.  The words are: "I've got clothes in my hot-bag, I do.  I've got clothes in my hot-bag, for you."

I think I figured out what it means, and it's not deep.  Ever since I broke my arm six months ago, I've been steadily gaining weight, and very few of my clothes fit anymore.  Last night at movie night at church, I mowed through enough candy to feed a small village, and even my big elastic-waisted pants were tight on my blubber. That explains why I dreamed about eating enough to pop my clothes off and still eating more.  I was always a little jealous of Jan, because she was in her 50's when we worked together, and she was far better looking than I was in my 20's.  And the Broadway song probably comes from the Pumpkin Idol contest that Sarah was in last week. One of her fellow contestants did a very dramatic Broadway song that impressed me.  Dreams fascinate me.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Scenes from the Pumpkin Festival

 Sarah sang "This is My Father's World" on the main stage.
 Noah and Sarah rode the rides with their friend Andrew.
 Wearing a pirate hat, eating pumpkin ice cream.
 Mike grilled hundreds of pork chops, ribeyes, and brats at the Pumpkin To Go Drive-Thru
 Sarah put Mike's pork chops on a bun and bagged them up for the drive-thru customers.
 Noah did various jobs at the drive-thru too.

Watching the parade.

Thursday, September 17, 2015


We are doing an Astronomy class this year, and it is more interesting and useful than the Astronomy class I took in college.  Today we built a compass in the back yard.
 First we had to calculate the exact time that the sun would be directly overhead at our location. That was interesting. It involved math and lines of longitude.
 We got distracted by a beautiful dragonfly but not for long, because...
 the markers had to go in the ground at the exact time that the sun was directly overhead.
 I sat on the ground to take pictures, and Marty stood on my leg to oversee the project.
 The completed compass.  I learned that when the sun is directly overhead, your shadow points north.  That's probably common knowledge, but I never realized it.
Distracted by a hornets' nest on the way back to the house.