Thursday, August 28, 2014

That Time Of Year Again

I know it's only August, but I've been busy pre-emptively torturing my children with schoolwork.  Well, some of my children, anyway.  David is spending his senior year at the local community college, doing all sorts of math and science-y things, and little Susie is sitting around reading cartoon anthologies. A somewhat unorthodox way to teach reading fluency, but hey - it's working.

Rachel and Brian are the unfortunates bearing the brunt of my attention this year, and neither of them are thrilled about the situation.  Brian - despite his high-school-freshman status - would rather be left alone with his Lego creations, and Rachel (Grade 7) was perfectly happy sitting around reading all day.

Still, I am haunted by the vision of each of them at age 18 saying, "Why didn't you make sure I would be ready for college?" That, stated in the same sort of anguished tone as Steve Martin's grown son-turned-sniper in Parenthood shouting, "YOU MADE ME PLAY SECOND BASE!"

Welcome to a homeschooling mom's nightmares. Scary, right? Be glad you're not me.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Whitman's Sampler

So, I got this done today...

I removed the part where you can see my messy stove.  You're welcome.

2 things are weird about this photo: I only got 3 jars out of this batch, instead of 4 or 5, and the fruit is PERFECTLY distributed top to bottom, which never ever happens.  The only thing I did differently was to use powdered pectin instead of the liquid kind.  Does that have anything to do with it, Jennifer?

I know, the rest of you found that riveting.  But seriously, I think Jennifer would care.  She's like that.

What else? Well, I managed to locate black basketball shorts and a plain grey crew neck T-shirt for Rachel to wear to Civil Air Patrol on Physical Training Night.  If you think that was easy, you have NEVER gone clothes shopping with a 12-year-old girl.  To be fair, Rachel was fairly amenable. But no one makes girls' tees without something stupid written on them, and I could find no basketball shorts that are tailored for the fairer sex.  We ended up picking up the needed items in the boys' department at Kohls, and I am just glad Rachel is still young-girl skinny enough to make that solution work.

Ever since we returned from vacation, I have been slacking off on the exercise thing.  Apparently, I felt that hiking up a mountain a week ago gave me a pass from any more physical exertion for the rest of the month.  Luckily, my fiendishly fit friend didn't agree with that theory and dragged me out for a bicycle ride this morning.  I survived.  But I would still rather be knitting.

Actually, I want that cute baby more than the sweater. 
Speaking of which, I finally picked up the baby sweater that I had started on a whim a number of months ago.  Wouldn't it be nice if, when I start knitting a pattern, I would mark down which size I was attempting to make?  Instead, I had to wear out my eyeballs and my brain counting stitches and trying to do the math to figure out how many stitches I would have if I had done the 6-9 month size versus the 9-12 month size. Once I got past that hurdle and actually finished up the body of the sweater (I was that close to finishing it - why did I leave it for 3 months?  Why?), I discovered that I didn't have the right-size needles to do the sleeves.  That's odd, I thought.  Didn't I order those from KnitPicks ages ago?

You know, you receive online orders much faster if you actually submit them.  Turns out, those needles have been sitting in my shopping cart for months.  Months.  Probably because I was 33 cents short of the $50-order needed to qualify for free shipping.

I am nothing if not indecisive.  Also, cheap.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Malaria Is Looking Better Every Minute

For any of you who thought I may have been overreacting to our bat problems, I wasn't.  Nope, not one bit. That $550 I spent earlier this year? Worth every penny. Why? Well, according to this article I found on the NPR website, "Many signs point to bats as the main source of Ebola."

Ebola, people.  EBOLA.

So I have a suggestion - let's all agree to stop pointing out that bats eat tons of mosquitoes every minute, as if that makes up for their utter creepiness.  Really, how anyone can defend the existence of these flying rodents is beyond me.  I'm thinking that bats have just got some really good PR people on their side.  So good, in fact, that even the scientist who KNOWS that bats carry Ebola is still trying to defend these creatures. "Let's not blame the wildlife," he says. He claims it isn't their fault; it's our fault for living in their habitat.

Hello? Someone go explain to these bats whose habitat is whose, all right? You don't see me trying to live outside in the trees where they fly around, do you? They're the ones who are choosing to live in MY HOUSE, roosting in my walls and pooping in my attic.   What's up with all these science-y bat apologists, anyway?

Ebola - the main source of EBOLA.  Yikes.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Narnia And The North

Thoughts on camping and returning home:

Brian (formerly known as the Smile-y Child) was upset that we dragged him on vacation with us.  He's 14 - I really don't know what else he expected us to do.  He took a page from Anna's book by becoming immune to any sense of awe that might have been engendered by the natural wonders we visited. I attribute his misery to acute Lego withdrawal.

Brian was unimpressed by views such as these.

David (17) did not seem thrilled to be with us either, but he kept it under wraps fairly well. We'll just not speak about the evening he stole the batteries from Brian's lantern because the boys were fighting like toddlers over when to turn out the light in the tent.  I spent the rest of that night wondering where I had gone wrong.  Seriously.

Having had to spend our life savings on bike racks to affix 3 of our bicycles to the top of the van, Larry and I were DETERMINED to get our money's worth by biking on our vacation.  But the first time we biked, on Maine's Eastern Trail, Susie cried because we made her pedal for 5 miles and there was no place to buy ice cream at the end. The second time, now in Acadia, she was upset because the trail was packed gravel instead of paved.  The third time? There was a long ascent at the beginning which totally psyched her out. The rest of us ended up going on ahead while Larry walked with her until she decided it was "downhill-y" enough to get on her bike again.  She cried again.  A lot.  People stared.

I'm sharing this so you will understand that, when you see all those pictures on Facebook of people biking with their kids or see those minivans tooling along the highway with bikes on them and you think, "Oh, hey, that family is having more fun than we are"?  They're NOT.

Our van didn't quite look like this, but it FELT like it.

There is a septic tank servicing company on Mount Desert Island that goes by the name Royal Flush. I needed to share that fact with you. I don't know why.

When we last visited Acadia, the children ranged in age from 4-17, and Larry and I were exhausted with the effort required to get 8 people into a minivan and all the way up to Maine. That vacation is a blur, our memories only aided by the pictures we took.  5 years have gone by, and those children - that family, really - are gone.  2 literally, grown and on their own, and the others grown older, less of a unit, less ours. These past 2 weeks, The Horse and His Boy kept coming to mind, that part where Aravis is hurrying through the Tisroc's gardens during her escape from the palace and C. S. Lewis comments, "One of the drawbacks about adventures is that when you come to the most beautiful places, you are often too anxious and hurried to appreciate them...."  The most beautiful times as a family are when all the children are young, but you are too tired and stressed at that point to appreciate it sufficiently.  I feel very weepy as I type this.

I didn't look at my email for over a week.  This attempt to relax ended up backfiring, because - by the last night of vacation - I was having nightmares about what might be awaiting me in my inbox.

Camping tip: when you find yourself arguing with your spouse (in loud whispers, so as not to wake the children) about where to pack the plastic food storage containers and, in a supreme hissy fit, he douses the campfire you were enjoying?  It's time to head home.

Camping outdoors for 2 weeks makes you forget that there is such a thing as living INSIDE.  Home seems dim and far away. When you do get home, you wonder why you have all that extra stuff. You wonder if maybe you can live up north, away from the horrible humidity that is sucking the life out of you as you empty the camper and bark orders at the kids.  You look up house prices in New England.  You swear at the mosquitoes.

And then you run into your neighbors, out for a walk, happy to talk to you, and you remember it's the people, not the place.  I love my neighbors.   All of them.

Still, we could Skype...

[Acadia image: AllTrips]
[Bikes on van image: Allee Willis blog]

Saturday, August 02, 2014


I've written about BrickFair before - the long lines, the hot summer heat, the crowds.  Well, we seem to have found a solution to all that - Brian and I (since Brian is under 16) registered as official exhibitors at BrickFair this year, which means that we can breeze through the entrance doors, waving our Lego nameplates at the guards like the VIPS we truly are.

I needed help putting this together.

Honestly, it was such a rush to walk past the hundreds of people on line and do this.  Power really can go to your head, people.  My head, anyway...

What's more, there are 3 full days before BrickFair opens to the public, when only exhibitors are allowed inside the building.  They spend the time looking at each other's creations, having competitions (Combo Speed Build, anyone?), and (I kid you not) attending Lego seminars.  Add to that the silent auction, live auction, and raffle (all proceeds benefiting this charity), and you have what is essentially a Lego paradise.

Tonight? Is Adult Swim.  All the teen exhibitors are being kicked out at 9 so that the adults can engage in such activities as the Impaired Speed Build.  I believe there is alcohol involved.  They probably end up imbibing too much and then running around the exhibits turning over little Lego cars.  Brian is 7 years away from being allowed to participate in such debauchery, thank goodness. Who knew Legos could lead to such delinquency, anyway?

Meanwhile, back at the homestead, we are engaged in trying to put what seems to be EVERYTHING WE OWN into our pop-up camper.  Ah, nothing like getting away from it all, right?  Tomorrow I get to watch as Larry attempts to securely affix 6 (count them, 6) bicycles to our minivan, with (most likely) several amused neighbors looking on and offering advice.  Really, you'd think no one had TV around here.

Off to try to finish up watching Orange is the New Black (Season 2) with a friend.  I don't want to be left hanging for 2 whole weeks...