Friday, October 13, 2017

Barkless and biteless

Noah was giving me parenting advice at lunch.  I can't even remember what it was now (because it wasn't good advice), but it was something involving threatening Sarah with some ridiculous consequence.  I told him that idle threats would ruin my credibility, and he said, "Well, I do it all the time.  I'm all bark and no bite.  Actually, I don't have much of a bark, and I have absolutely no bite to back it up."

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Biting the magical genie

I was making a grocery list, and Mike and Sarah were giving me their requests.  I said something like, "It must be nice to just wish for something and then when I come home from the store, it comes true.  I'm like a magical genie or something."  Sarah mumbled, "A magical genie that gets angry sometimes..." and Mike said, "Hey, don't bite the hand that feeds you!"  Sarah replied, "If I bite it, won't it just drop more food?"

Special friends

Carol was probably at least 50 years older than I was, but we always liked each other.  We had similar interests, and I appreciated her gentle, fun personality.  She died a few years ago, and her daughter was left with the daunting task of sorting through years of Carol's collections.  Among her possessions was a box with my name on it, and her daughter gave it to me recently.  Inside were lots of letters I had written to Carol over many years.  The first one I found was written in my ten-year-old-just-learned-how-to-write-in-cursive writing.  I wrote letters from summer camp, college, and my first home as a newlywed, and she kept them all.  She was always faithful to write back too, but I didn't keep her letters.  Also in the box were newspaper clippings from when I made the honor roll, my college graduation invitation, and pictures from my wedding.  I sure loved Carol.  She and my grandma were both rare treasures, and I look forward to seeing them again someday.

Here's an excerpt from a six-page letter I wrote to Carol on October 5, 1997:
     We do get some sun on our house, but we have a couple big shade trees. Unfortunately, they're messy trees that spit walnuts all over the yard and the neighbors' yard, which doesn't make them happy.  We're thinking of having them removed (the trees, not the neighbors), but I think I would miss the squirrels that scurry around in those trees in the winter.
     I hope you can come over for lunch on the 20th.  You can get to know Mike better.  He's a wonderful person, and the more I find out about him, the more I like and admire him.  I'm now writing with one hand pinned down by a sleeping, purring cat.  Doesn't having a peaceful cat on your lap just make you so happy?  We have one cat that purrs at the mere anticipation of being petted.  They're so easy to please.  I can't imagine why everyone doesn't own at least one cat.  The world would be a happier place.  That's my theory anyway.  You can see why I'm not running for President!  My whole campaign platform would be "a cat in every lap!"

Wednesday, August 30, 2017


It's only 9:30 a.m., and I already need a do-over on this day.  It started early, fighting with Sarah before school.  While Noah was at driver's ed, I had a couple errands to run.  I drove to Dollar Tree and parked before I remembered it doesn't open until 9:00.  So I drove to Kroger, parked, went to get my purse...realized it's in the other car.  I scrounged up all the loose change and emergency bills I could find, and counted a little more than five dollars.  Can't buy much with that, but I went in to see what I could do.  I ended up with enough marked-down items from the produce section that I could turn them into lunch: kale, mushrooms, and beets.  I had to put the apples back because I couldn't afford them.  I was too ashamed to go to the regular checkout lane with all my pennies and dimes, so I went to the U-Scan and fed them into the machine, which took a long time. 

After Noah's class, I decided to make zucchini muffins for breakfast while he started on his English lesson.  I poured hot water into a cookie sheet and put the muffin tin on top of that.  My plan was to bake the crud off the cookie sheet and also to keep the muffins moist while they baked.  I stupidly didn't open the oven door before I got to it with a pan that was stupidly too full of hot water.  I needed Noah to open the oven door but didn't want to disturb his adverb lesson, so I tried to balance the pan and do it myself.  I dropped it and spilled hot water all over myself and the floor.  After I cleaned all that up, the muffins were ready to go in the oven. The recipe said to bake them for 10 minutes.  After 30 minutes, they still weren't firming up, so I scooped them into bowls and told Noah we were having warm zucchini pudding for breakfast. 

The day is still young, so I'm hoping I can start doing things right and redeem the rest of it.

Monday, August 21, 2017


I arrived at the school ten minutes early, like I always do, to pick up Sarah.  I left home in a rush, wearing a big tshirt, flip flops, and shabby black pants covered in cat hair.  My hair was a disheveled mess, and I didn't smell great because I hadn't had a chance to take a shower yet.  I thought, "Good thing I won't see anyone."  You know already that this isn't going to go well, don't you?

The bell rang, and kids started flooding out the doors. I looked at each kid, but I didn't see mine.  After ten minutes, no more kids were emerging.  At first I was annoyed, because it was less than two hours till I had to drive her to gymnastics, and I still had to make dinner.  A few minutes later, all the kids had cleared out, and Sarah was nowhere in sight.  I knew they kept the doors locked and I wouldn't be able to get in and look for her.

I'm an educated person, but as I sat there staring at the locked-up building, I just couldn't think of what to do.  No ideas at all came into my head (in hindsight, I have several).  So I called Mike and said something intelligent like, "I can't find Sarah. What should I do?"  While he was still questioning me, a man in a suit came out of the school.  He looked important.  I hung up on Mike and lunged at Suit Man with my big shirt and cat hair pants flapping in the breeze.  I said something inspired like, "My daughter didn't come out. Can you help me?"  He asked me her name, and when I told him, he said, "I think I remember her being called to the library after school."  He took me to the library, and there she was.  The school had been having trouble getting her ipad set up for the past two days, so she had been called to the library to get it fixed.  She told me that Suit Man is the principal.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Day in the Life

6:23 a.m.--Alarms start going off.  People are getting up, eating breakfast, getting ready for school.
7:30 a.m.--Leaving for school. Praying a blessing over each student in the car.
7:40 a.m.--Dropping off Sarah at the junior high.  She gets out, steps boldly in front of the car in the other lane, and puts her hand up like a traffic cop.  The mom in the other car stops, and we smile at each other about Sarah.
7:45 a.m.--Dropping Noah off at the high school for driver's ed.
8:00 a.m.--Quick trip to Kroger, then settle into my parking spot by the driver's ed door.  I do my morning devotions in the car now.
8:50 a.m.--Noah comes out, and we go to We Care, Inc. to load canned vegetables onto a trailer to take to Community Harvest Food Pantry. 
 10:00 a.m.--Home to work on math, English, biology, Korean, and history.
10:05 a.m.--Noah's friend's dad offer Noah a job at 1:00 today.  He will be helping tear out old flooring and install new hardwood floors.  It's a good opportunity to gain real life skills and earn some money, so I adjust the schedule.  Now we're going to get math and English done before a long P.E. class at 1:00.  Biology, Korean, and history are going on the back burner for now.
I read somewhere that burning bay leaves increases the mental ability to focus.  This is certainly a time when we need to focus on math and English, so we burn a few.  Noah said, "I don't think this is going to help me focus.  It just makes me want to play with the fire."  But I notice that he attacks his math with more focus than usual.
Marty comes along after awhile and eats the charred bay leaves.  Then she sprawls on Noah's math book, so he switches to English (thus learning compassion and adaptability).  He stays focused on it and does a great job. We go over the corrections together, and then he goes back to math, because Marty has moved to the floor.

12:15 p.m.  Lunch break.  Vegan quesadillas, cherries, vegan cookie dough dip.

12:50 p.m.  Taking Noah to his job site.
1:00 p.m.  Scurrying around starting dinner and doing a bunch of little chores that nobody will ever notice: emptying  and reloading the dishwasher, emptying the vacuum, cleaning up cat puke, going through the mail, watering the garden, etc.

2:45 p.m.  Time to pick up Sarah, quiz her about her day, and listen to her stories.  Her favorite subjects (for today at least) are science, art, and lunch. 

3:15 p.m.  Homework with Sarah. Petting Shiloh on my lap.

4:00 p.m.  Continuing dinner preparations.  Veggie and rice stir-fry after Mike gets home and before gymnastics.

5:10 p.m.  Taking Sarah to gymnastics.

7:30 p.m.  Home.  Time to relax and all be together.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Hiking at Mathiessen State Park

We hiked with friends today.  Mike is on vacation this week, so he got to go too!
 We started at the upper dells.  Noah quickly realized that he didn't wear the right shoes for this treacherous terrain.

 He ended up carrying his shoes and hiking in his socks.

 We stopped near here to have our picnic lunch.
 After lunch, we hiked to the lower dells.
 The kids climbed this slippery rock face and slid down the waterfall.

 Too old for climbing and sliding, we just enjoyed watching the kids and the beautiful scenery.
 Sarah slipped on the slippery rock and cut her chin and inner lip. For some reason, I happened to have a little fist aid kit, so I was able to mop up the blood, disinfect the wound, and bandage it. She washed her shirt when we got home and was glad the blood came out of it.
 I crawled through a cave to take a picture of Noah and Liza in the water.
 The whole gang.
 Sarah and Liza, joined at the elbow, hiking back to the parking lot after a fun day.
I was the only one who brought a change of clothes, and Sarah needed it more than I did, so there she is, dressed like me!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Biological insults

Yesterday, Noah learned in his biology book that there's a bacteria called euglena that uses light to create its own food.  If no light is available, it will feed on dead organisms.

Today I was scolding Noah for leaving all the lights on in the basement.  His defense was, "I didn't want the euglena to have to feed on dead organims."  I said, "They'll be feeding on YOU if you don't go down there and turn the lights off."  He then called me a parasite. 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Time flies when you're having fun!

We had such a great day that I actually lost track of time.  I'm pretty sure that's the first time that's happened.  The funny thing is...we didn't do anything spectacular, just a regular school day at home.  It's horribly hot and humid outside, and we didn't have anywhere we had to go (until evening when Sarah had gymnastics).  No phone calls, no screens, no friends at the house.  We started the day with our usual Bible reading and prayer, then we started our new read-aloud book, which is Davy Crockett's autobiography (finally finished The Scarlet Letter -- hooray!).  Since we had plenty of time, we decided to make a nice dinner together.  Sarah said she wanted to make Asian envelopes.  They are pretty labor intensive and time consuming, but we all love them.  I didn't have everything we needed to make them, so Sarah and I went to Kroger while Noah finished his biology and math.  Here's the recipe:

I haven't made it since I've been vegan, but I realized it would be easy to veganize it.  I just used vegetable broth instead of chicken broth, and chickpeas instead of chicken.  Sarah wasn't able to help, which I'll explain later, but Noah and I worked together and got it done in less than an hour.  He made the sauce while I chopped the vegetables.  He also helped wrap the filling into envelopes. They came out great, and he said the vegan version is just as good as the way we used to make them. I agree.

We also had this delicious salad I found at Kroger.  It had a lot of terrific ingredients that you just shake up in the bowl. It even came with a fork.  The regular price is $3.99, which I would be tempted to pay in a pinch.

And now for the best part of the day and the reason I lost track of time and Sarah had to go to gymnastics without dinner (Noah and I made it after she left).  I've been working on teaching the kids to read Korean.  It took less than a week, and today's the day they both started reading!  It was SO much easier and WAY more fun than teaching them to read English.  I started with teaching them consonants one day, reviewing them the following day, vowels the next day, and another day of review.  Then I taught them how to put them together to form syllable blocks, and today we could all sense that they were on the verge of reading.  They broke through and started reading at the same time, and it was just beautiful.  I got out their adoption paperwork and showed them their names in Korean, which I've done before, but this time they could read them themselves!  We spent some time writing their Korean names, and then all the sudden Mike was home from work and we hadn't even started making dinner.  I couldn't believe it was that late already! 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Sarah's going to school

It has been decided that Sarah will be allowed to go to public school this year.  She thrives on the social interaction and independence that she gets when she's away from home.  She proved that by working at Camp Good News this summer.  I think she will do great at school.

She's been ridiculously excited about going shopping for school supplies and locker decorations.  Today a new restaurant in Peoria was offering free lunch, so we went there to fuel up for the shopping trip.
 My lunch bowl at Core Eatery. 
 Look how excited she is.
 Back in my day, we didn't decorate our lockers (or at least I didn't).  It was just a utilitarian thing that held my supplies.  Now there are $15 DISCO BALLS for your locker!  Absurd. 
 There's her disappointed face when I told her I was only paying for supplies that are necessary, which does not include things like disco balls, magnetic wallpaper, shelves, locker rugs (!), and color coordinating magnets.  She put back several items at that point, but she spent $20 of her own money on magnetic wallpaper, magnets, and a couple other frivolities.  I did buy her a pair of gym shoes and promised her that I would make sure she has all the actual supplies needed before school starts, but I'm not just paying whatever Target is charging.  I have to research the back-to-school sales and get the best deals.  She told me I was taking all the fun out of it.
 Spiderman watched her do a handstand at Target.
 Then we came home to do our regular schoolwork.  Noah is taking a biology class, and he had an experiment today that involved studying bacteria under a microscope.  He had gathered specimens from a lake several days ago, and then fed the bacteria things like egg yolk, hay, rice, and soil.  He stored them in the
 hot humid garage.  When he opened those containers today, the smell almost made us sick.  It was truly disgusting what was growing in there.

 Even Shiloh covered her nose,
but she still wanted to get her paws on that bacteria-water!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017


At 6:45 a.m., my little buddy arrived for the day.  She was tired and not very pleased about the fact that her mom was leaving.  My teenagers would be sleeping for a few more hours, so I took Zoe on a walk to the park.  She cried most of the way.  She screamed when I put her in the baby swing.  She was not interested in learning U.S. geography:
 She perked up a bit on the way home, so we came inside and read some books and played quietly with cups until my kids woke up.
Zoe also enjoyed waving at Marty and identifying her ears (by poking her finger deep inside them).  Marty was extremely tolerant of this behavior.

I fed Zoe, and then she did what people do after they've been fed.  While I was changing her diaper, I turned around to find Sarah in this condition:
Then Sarah rocked Zoe while we had devotions and read our daily chapter of The Scarlet Letter, which did the trick, and I put her down for a nap.
During the two hours that she slept, the kids and I finished most of our school work.  She woke up before we got to our Korean lesson, so we planned to tackle that during her afternoon nap.
When she woke up, she was in a fairly jolly mood.  As I was feeding her broccoli, I was inspired to  sing my favorite broccoli song from the good old days of Saturday Night Live. Zoe seemed thrilled by the captivating lyrics:

There's a lady I know
If I didn't know her
She'd be the lady I didn't know.
My lady, she went downtown
She bought some ber-ra-ccoli
She brought it ho-ome...
She's chop'in broccoli
Chop'in brocco-li
Chop'in brocco-la
Chop'in brocco-laa-aa
 I performed it with much dramatic flair, and every time I got the line about "ber-ra-ccoli", Zoe gave me this look:
 which made me laugh out loud.  She did it every single time.  And every time I hit the high note at the end, she laughed.

After some more play time, I started the process of packing up all her stuff.  I went to break down the pack & play and fold it up.  Ten minutes later, Sarah came along, so I asked her if she could do it. She said, "Nope."  Our 11-year-old neighbor girl was here, so I asked her if she'd ever broken down a pack & play before, and she said, "No, but I can try."  We all tried.  We pushed, we pulled, we huffed and puffed, and we even resorted to reading the directions, but we were still wrestling with it when Zoe's daddy arrived to pick her up.  He folded that thing up and had it packed away in about 5 seconds. I explained to my daughter, to the neighbor, and to Zoe that we are liberated women and don't need men to do everything for us and assured them that we could have done it if only we'd had a little more time. 

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Random things from today

During English class, I told Noah that I would give him a big hug if he could spell "reminiscence" correctly.  He wrote, "remenicence" and I gave him a big hug.  He seemed pleased.  I said, "That's not quite right, but I just wanted a big hug."  Then I taught him how to spell it.  Later in the lesson, he wrote it correctly and I hugged him again.  He said, "I don't deserve that.  I just copied it from the book."  His next vocabulary word was "immaculate".  I asked him if he knew what it meant and if he could use it in a sentence.  He said, "It means very clean, as in 'Noah is immaculate.'"  He said this while farting, so I told him he's the opposite of immaculate and that his next word would be "flatulence".  In other gross news,  Noah returned from the bathroom and gave this speech to Sarah, who often forgets to flush: "We are not making soup in there, Sarah.  We don't need to marinate and simmer all day.  Just flush it right down."

During lunch, I dropped my fork with my right hand and caught it in midair like a ninja with my left hand.  I yelled, "Wow!  Nice catch!" to myself.  Sarah shook her head and said, "I pity you sometimes."

Wednesday, June 28, 2017


I introduced my kids to one of my favorite poems ("If" by Rudyard Kipling), which ends with:

"If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And--which is more--you'll be a Man, my son!"

Noah loved it.  
Sarah said, "It's good, but it's kinda sexist, don't you think?"
We talked about the fact that some women can be the kind of man described in the poem.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Jump roping armadillo

I had a date with Noah before we go pick up Sarah from camp today.  I bought him a slushie and took him to the library, where Andy the Armadillo (Texas Roadhouse's mascot) gave him a plastic cowboy hat.  He was too cool to wear it, but I wasn't. 

We watched a Guinness World Record guy jump rope and do all kinds of tricks.  It was a nice day to sit in the shade three feet away from my son (wouldn't be cool to sit any closer to me) and watch something interesting we've never seen before.

The jump rope guy even called the armadillo up to jump with him.  That didn't work very well, but at least we can say we've seen a jump roping armadillo.

We're going to pick up Sarah soon, and I rented a movie that she's been wanting to see, so I'm hoping to have a movie night with her tonight. She'll sit close to me but won't hug me.  Noah will hug me, as long as it's not in public. I'll take what I can get.  I love my teenagers.

Monday, June 19, 2017


Me: Hey Noah!  There's a double rainbow!
Noah: (from his room, probably wearing headphones): Thanks!
Me: Thank God! He's the one who made it!
Noah: What?
Me: Just come out here and see it!
Noah (goes to the kitchen): Where is it?
Me: Well it's not in the kitchen. Look out the back door.
Noah:  Hey, there's a rainbow out there!
Me: Yes, I know.
Noah: Cool. Where's the food?
Me: What food?
Noah: I thought you called me and said food was ready.
Typical communication around here.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Colorado--day 8

9:10 a.m. -- After working for two solid hours (cleaning the entire cabin, washing, drying, and replacing bedding and towels, packing and loading up the van), we got a nice early start for a long day of driving.

9:20 a.m.-- Mike noticed that one of the tires on the van was a little low on air, so he decided to fill it up before we went any further.  When he twisted the cap off, the whole valve stem broke off, and all the air rushed out of the tire.  So there we were on the side of a dirt road at the bottom of Mt. Princeton with a flat tire.
 Notice Noah is barefoot, because he had settled in for a 15 hour drive home.
 Noah worked on getting the spare tire ready while Mike removed the flat tire.  See those turdy-looking things behind Noah?  I spent several minutes trying to figure out what kind of animal poops in that shape before I realized they were old, dirt-covered hot dogs.

 After working in the hot sun on the dry dirt road, Noah opened the back of the van to find Sarah lying like a slug in a nest of blankets and pillows she'd made.  He put on an English accent and said, "Oh hello milady! Can I serve you in any way?  Perhaps lick your feet clean? Oh wait...they're not even dirty because you've been sitting in the chariot the whole time."  She just shrugged and said, "Not MY fault you didn't wear shoes." 

We drove into town to get the tire fixed.  Buena Vista is a small town, and it was a Saturday morning, which meant nowhere to get the tire fixed, which meant we had to drive 30 miles to the next town (Salida).  It took a long time, because you can't drive over 45 mph on the spare. The people at Big O Tires were wonderful, put a new valve stem on, only charged $15, gave us a free map, and got us back on the road within an hour.  By then it was after noon, and we had made almost zero progress toward home.

About an hour and half later, we came to an intersection where a woman was holding a cardboard sign on which she'd written "Any help appreciated".  I was in the middle of eating a bag of grapes, so I handed the bag to Mike to give to her.  He rolled down his window and yelled, "Are you hungry?  I've got some grapes."  Noah, oblivious, yelled from the back of the van, "No, thanks. I'm not hungry. Just thirsty."

By afternoon, we had decreased in elevation, and it was HOT on the dry dusty plains.

We had gone from 35 on the top of Cottonwood Pass a few days ago to 102, all within the same state.

8:00 p.m.  The kids wanted to watch a DVD, so I was looking through the selections, which we've been adding to since the kids were little.  Jokingly I asked them if they wanted to watch "Baby Genius: Trip to the San Diego Zoo".  They both said, "Oh yes! We love that one!" So that's what they did for the next 45 minutes.

We drove all night and arrived home around 5:45 a.m. totally exhausted.  You can't tell it in this picture, but these three furballs were thrilled to see us!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Colorado--Day 7

Our last day. Bittersweet.  So hard to leave this place, but I look forward to being able to breathe again and pet my cats.  Mike and I went out early this morning to look at lots. Meeting the realtor tonight.  Going white water rafting through Browns Canyon this afternoon.  Trying to balance vacation fun with the work of looking for land. I just caught Mike mumbling to himself, "Paved roads, natural gas..." It has been a wonderful week, but not very relaxing.  Starting the process of washing sheets and towels and getting packed up to go home.
Rafting was wonderful! We all loved it, especially Sarah, who smiled big the whole time and even burst out into laughter at one point.

 The back of Noah's life jacket kept blowing up and hitting him in the back of the head. He thought it was me tapping him on the head because I wanted him to turn around for a picture. So in this picture, he's saying, "Mom! Would you stop taking pictures!"
Our guide, Natalie, took this one during a calm stretch of water.
Near the end of the trip, Natalie said we could relax and move around because the rapids were over.  I relaxed.  Soon after that, a rock collided with the raft right at the spot where I was, and it popped me out like a cork.  I went sprawling across the raft and almost went over the other side, but my hero (Mike) grabbed my ankle and hauled me back in.  Somehow I didn't even let go of my paddle.

When we got back to the cabin, it was right back to work. We met Bob the realtor at our last prospective subdivision.  We think we found a winner. We'll have a 16 hour drive to finalize our decision tomorrow.
It was a perfectly beautiful night to go out on the deck and look at the stars.  We could see so many!