Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Saying Yes

It has always been my parenting philosophy that if something won't matter 10 years down the road, it won't matter today.  With a philosophy like that, you would think it would be easy to say YES often.  But temporary comfort and ease interfere with the best-laid philosophies and too often I say NO instead because I don't want to clean up the mess, don't want to deal with the fall-out, and am just plain lazy and selfish.

My friend Jessica Bowman over at Bohemian Bowmans is challenging me (and everyone else) to "say yes" more often.  And she's right.

So yesterday I said yes.  A friend of my daughters' is moving away soon and they want to squeeze as much time as possible in with her before she goes.  When they asked yesterday if she could sleep over this weekend instead of thinking about how much the house needs to be cleaned and how I'll have to restock the fridge and what a pain it is to come up with additional sleeping space in our house and how annoying giggling girls at 4 AM are, I just said, "Yes."

There will probably be some panic cleaning.  And I'll have to restock the fridge.  And I'll probably have to tell them to "keep it down" a million times before I fall asleep.  But it's worth it to say YES.

Jessica asked for pictures with this post, but the forthcoming event hasn't happened yet.  I'll update over the weekend with pictures of giggling girls at 4 AM.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Sorry for the MIA

I know, I'm overdue on a Recipe Busters and plenty of other stuff.  It just got lost in the shuffle of "life sucks."  Most of it you probably already know about like my sweet friend Lauren losing her son Elijah.  But what I haven't been talking much about is my cat, Tux, being sick.  About a week ago I thought she was on death's door.  She was sick in a bad, bad way.  But we took her to the vet and it turned out she was just diabetic and had a urinary tract infection and the vet said she would be fine with antibiotics and diabetic cat food.  And then tonight she died.  My husband and younger daughter, Shannen, have taken her to the farm for a proper burial.  I'm here at home with my older girl, Mindie, sobbing my eyes out.

Eleven and a half years ago my sister-in-law's husband worked at a lumberyard.  A stray cat decided to have kittens there and then did what so many stray cats do: got killed.  Two cats from that litter survived.  A scrappy little brindle and a sweet black and white, both female.  First they went to my sister-in-law's house but her assortment of strays didn't care for the competition.  So they went out to my mother-in-law's house to become barn cats.  The existing barn cats beat the crap out of the new kittens.  The next Sunday my children went to visit BeBe and PaPa and came home in tears at the plight of the kittens, who were both injured badly and miserable.  They wanted to bring the little kitties home and rescue them.
She loves fleece blankets as much as I do.

Now I've always been an animal over and it was the first time in my life I had actually been without pets or livestock.  But that was because I had my hands full with a toddler and a 3-year-old.  But what could I do?  I promised to go look at the cats and see what we could do.  I expected to possibly come home with a kitten.  What I found was a fuzzy brown bundle with one luminous eye and one eye scrunched shut.  I tried to check that there was an eye in the socket but the lid was firmly sealed and it was going to hurt her to look.  She was huddled in a ball on the porch, safely away from the barn cats.  Next to her was an adventurous black and white kitten who was playfully exploring the world but darted back every few minutes to cuddle and comfort her sister.  I'm a soft touch.  I couldn't break them up and I couldn't turn them away.

Both cats came home with us.  They had already been named by my sister-in-law and the children insisted we couldn't change them.  So Izzy and Tux became part of our family.  Safe and sanitary conditions soon healed up Izzy's eye and today she has two luminous golden eyes.  She's a playful, active cat who sometimes rolls over on her back as if demanding belly rubs just so she can sink her claws into your hand and bite the crap out of it.  Tux wasn't playful anymore, though.

About six months after she came home with us we got some new furniture.  During a kittenish game of chase, Tux slid under one of the new bookcases and cleanly snapped one of her rear hocks in two.  Though it healed in time, her playful kittenhood ended that day as the vet wrapped a plaster cast around the leg.  She became, in the words of Shannen, "a lump of meatloaf."  She was a matronly cat and like most old ladies, she had a temper.  Most of the time she sat on the back of a chair in the living room or in the doorway between the dining room and the laundry room where all the air from the central cooling system seems to get caught in an eddy and just watched the world go by.  But sometimes Izzy or Bass (the dog that later joined our family) would walk by and Tux would growl and reach out and swat them.

In the winter, Tux warmed my feet because she had a particular affinity for my fuzzy winter blanket.  If I moved my feet too much I, too, felt her ire.  But most of the time she just laid there and purred.  Her purr sounded like a creaky rocking chair.  Her meow was almost inaudibly soft.  She snored sometimes when she slept.

Eleven isn't very old for a cat but it was all the time we got with her.  She was a good cat.  Izzy has always been Mindie's cat, but Tux has always been mine.  It wasn't something anybody agreed on, it was just what Tux decreed.  She put up with the rest of the family but she loved me.  When I've been in the midst of a deep depression, Tux would leave her sacred places and find me wherever I was in the house, and comfort me.  When I've needed love, she's somehow always sensed it and come through.  And I do the same for her.  Sometimes when I wander through the house I can almost hear her calling for me.  I detour and find her rolled over on her back, waiting for some belly love.  She revs up that creaky purr that's almost always on as soon as she feels my fingers on her tummy or back and the next thing I know she's rolling around like a kitten again making sure I pet all the places she wants pet.

The last week with her has been rough.  I've been keeping her hydrated with an eye dropper.  Every half hour I go force as much water into her as I can before she refuses to swallow any more.  Usually half an ounce or so per watering.  Antibiotics twice a day.  And lots of love and attention.  She hasn't been well at all.  She's barely even been conscious.  To be honest, I've thought more than once that she was dead when I went to give her more water.  The vet left me so hopeful that any minute she would turn a corner and be ok, but she's just slid farther and farther down.  The last two days have been the worst.  She would be alert in the morning, moving around a little.  But within an hour or so she had exhausted her reserve of energy for the day.  This has been the worst weekend of my life.
Tux, forefront, in one of her sacred places.

And now she's gone.  It's not the same kind of hurt that I felt when I lost a parent but it still hurts.  And I'm sad.  It nearly broke me to carry her out to the truck and say goodbye.  I want to tell my people friends what a hole I have in my heart tonight but everybody's already really down and stressed and asked to stop focusing on the downer stuff and I don't want to add to the burden anymore.  So here it is.  Here's my goodbye to my furry friend.  I miss you already, Tux.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Because we're weird

So lately I've been catching up on the archives over at The Bloggess.  And she's totally inspired me with her haunted dollhouse.  As I posted earlier today, my older girl and I love horror movies.  And books.  And pretty much we love spooky/scary anything.  So we've decided to build our own haunted dollhouse.  Only A) I'm kind of afraid because last time I tried to build a dollhouse? Did not end with a product that was suitable to ever talk about again and B) I'm cheap.  So what's a girl to do?  I decided that the first issue could be addressed by the old adage "practice makes perfect."  I just need to build more dollhouses and maybe I'll get better at it! Also, if I start off with smaller, simpler dollhouses that would probably be better than the huge Victorian monstrosity with like 9 rooms that I tried last time.  And I read about this thing called "kit bashing" where you basically alter dollhouse kits to make a more custom and personal dollhouse.

So our basic plan is to start off with this and work our way up from there.  Mindie said this looks like a "charming little townhouse that totally isn't haunted" and I pointed out that it doesn't come painted and shingled and stuff so we can totally haunt the place up with our design choices.  I would show you my artistic vision in Photoshop but I suck at Photoshop.  But basically just picture it with gloomy, peeling paint and a weathered roof that's missing shingles.  And maybe some of that cute gingerbread dinged up and stuff.  But this is a little two-room dollhouse and who ever heard of a haunted two room house?

Our vision is much more grand.  "Rose Red" is a favorite movie of ours.  It's based on the idea of the Winchester Mystery House.  A house that keeps growing and metastasizing.  Which?  That's creepy right there.  And we can totally achieve that effect by kit bashing and adding on more dollhouses of other styles!  So we get practice, which can only be a good thing, plus we make our house creepier at the same time.

And before you point out that that's probably not the greatest house to kit bash because it has that weird little pokey outy bit on the side, I hasten to point out that the other side that you can't see in the picture?  Totally flat except the overhang of the roof.  There's a window on each floor on that side that I think could be cut out as a door when we're ready to add on and then we just have to deal with the roof thing, which I think maybe we can manage.

Especially since we plan to do this baby up right before we move on to any future additions.  Like wiring it for electric and fully furnishing it and everything.  So, yeah, we're probably a ways away from messing with the kit bashing mess anyway.

But seriously, is this not the coolest idea ever?  The Winchester Mystery Dollhouse.  Which probably?  Has been done to death elsewhere.  But not by us.  And we're excited about the possibilities.

Bloggity Update

Hey y'all.  Just wanted to let you know what's going on at this end.  First off, I know I haven't been replying to comments.  That was because every time I tried Blogger just kind of ate my comment without a word.  Turns out that the problem was in a cookie setting that comes default on Chrome that's buried in the middle of nowhere that rejects the third-party cookies that Google uses for Blogger comments.  Yes, Google is the new Microsoft.  And I'm lame.  Anyway, finally got that sorted so I promise to reply to comments more often.

Also, I'm working on moving away from Blogger anyway.  In the beginning this blog was really for ME instead of for YOU, my not-quite-tens of readers.  So I didn't care that it was on a horrible shared hosting package with a canned backend.  It was still less trouble than setting up a new WordPress blog on my husband's domain.  But now that I have readers and am actively working on building a blog that people will want to read, I've decided I really need more versatility and control than free hosting on a template-oriented site can offer.  In the near future this blog will be moving to a new WordPress blog hosted on my own server with a real domain name and everything.  I'll let you know when that move happens, and one way or another all of my content will move with me, even if I have to copy-paste it all or something.

And I'm also actively seeking your suggestions for my "Recipe Buster" Friday feature.  If there's a recipe you come across on Pintrest, or really anywhere on the internet, that you want to see me try out, just leave a comment on my blog or e-mail me (epithemeus at gmail.com) or hit me up on Pintrest (http://pinterest.com/epithemeus/) or drop me a line on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/epithemeus although you probably already knew that since 99% of my traffic comes from Facebook anyway) or something (can't think what else?  message in a bottle?  carrier pigeon?).

Why I Love Horror Movies

I mentioned in a group of Christian unschoolers today that my daughter and I have a passion for horror movies.  Someone asked why.  This is that answer.

I was actually exposed to very scary stuff in movies far too young.  Basically if my parents and/or teen sisters wanted to see a movie, I got to go along for the ride because going to the movies wasn't a convenient or easy thing in our rural community.  It involved an 80-mile round trip and you didn't do that just for movies, you did shopping and other things at the same time.  Which meant it wasn't possible to just hire a sitter for me so they could catch a movie.  Anyway, I was an anxious kid with a lot of fears anyway and those movies scared the tar out of me.  Even movies that probably shouldn't have like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom or The Dark Crystal.  I hated those kinds of movies.  In fact, I only within the past 5 years finally watched Temple of Doom all the way through and I've still never seen all of The Dark Crystal.  My point is, my love of horror movies is uniquely my own.  It's not the result of nurture.  I stayed far, far from scary movies until I was 13 or so when I had any control over what I watched.

But at around 13 I was having a whole different set of problems.  I felt emotionally numb a lot.  I think I was probably scared a lot, too, but I didn't realize it at the time.  That was when I first latched onto horror flicks.  It was before the horror renaissance of the late 90s by nearly a decade so A Nightmare on Elm Street and the Friday the Thirteenth endless sequels were the only "current" horror films that were really available.  Instead of watching that schlock, I found myself digging through the video rental store for older horror movies.  I started with the slasher films of the late 70s and early 80s and eventually ended with silent "monster" films of the teens. In the process I discovered that blood and guts didn't frighten me much.  But I got a total charge out of the adrenaline rush of movies that created tension and dread.  Alfred Hitchcock is a great example.  When I watched that kind of movie, I broke out of that emotionally deadened space I lived in.  My fear rose to a level where I could FEEL for a while.  But it was a safe thing.  I wasn't leaving scars on my body, I wasn't in danger of killing myself or harming anyone else.  It was "totally harmless."

Now, I'm sure you can see the flaw in my logic.  Not all horror movies are totally harmless.  I saw and exerted mental energy on things that can't be unseen or unthought.  But by and large, I don't think I hurt myself any worse than I was already hurting from things over which I had no control anyway.  And in time I learned to be much choosier about what I watched.  But I never left the horror genre behind.  To this day, I love the thrills, the pulse-pounding terror, of a well-written psychological horror film.

My daughter is a different story.  She came to horror in a different way and has explored it differently.  I shielded her from my scary movies for a very long time, until I was certain that she genuinely was interested and that she was mature enough to handle them.  Then I helped her dip her feet in slowly.  It started with simple things.  Goosebumps, Are You Afraid of the Dark, and Fear Street.  Terror calculated for tweens.  When she was "so done" with those we moved on to other "safe" and "clean" horror.  I walked her through my world of Hitchcock and Shirley Jackson and Lovecraft.  We mostly watched together because it's more fun being afraid with a friend.  We talked about what we were watching and how it made us feel.  She became experienced with the tropes of the genre and adept at predicting what would happen next.  Slowly, very slowly, we branched out together.  When I was sure she could safely deal with a little more we explored one of my favorite sub-genres, the haunted asylum/hospital movie.  And haunted houses.  We talked about the science and the spirituality of ghosts and poltergeists and the other things we were viewing.

Only last year she finally worked herself up to slasher movies and she still stays with the very tame variety.  She's not very comfortable with "mundane" evil, the kind that's real and exists in the world.  The horrible things people do to other people.  And I'm great with that.  It's not a comfortable thing to contemplate.  Better to stick with the un-real of ghosts and monsters and things.  They feel safer.  She's very aware of what is outside of her comfort zone and makes excellent choices for herself about what to watch and what to avoid.  She can even explain to you why she avoids most things, which is a lot more self-awareness than many adults exhibit.  And if you ask her, she can tell you why she likes horror movies.  In her words, "It makes the world bigger and more exciting but when it's over I can come back to my safe home."

Truthfully, horror movies fill for us the same need that say bungee-jumping or parasailing or zip lining fills for others.  It's a taste of that oh-so-addictive adrenaline but with plenty of safety nets and harnesses to keep us from hurting ourselves.  And it all probably hearkens back to our ancestors who had little besides an animal skin or a grass hut between them and predatory animals.  It's our own "Call of the Wild."  And as long as we're self-aware and cagey about how we experience those feelings, I think no real harm comes from it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Unschooling for the Win!

This post has hopped right on over to Christian Unschooling which is an awesome collaborative blog I write for sometimes.  So clicky the link to hear all about how I bribe my kids to do things for me by promising them LEARNING.  Seriously.  I don't offer them money or sweets, just history lessons and grammar lectures.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Godzilla vs. The Creature from the Black Lagoon

The hubs is watching "Gojira" with the girls right now.  Before he put it on he invited me in to help preface the movie with some context on why it might just be a stupid monster movie today but it was genuinely terrifying to people in the 1950s.  We talked a little about WWII and atomic energy and nuclear hysteria.  Then they started watching together and I left.  I don't honestly know how they can watch those stupid movies.  And then, as I was thinking that, I realized that I watch movies every bit as stupid.  One of my favorite movies of all time is "The Creature from the Black Lagoon."  It's utterly moronic but I find it hypnotic.

The thing is, the hubs and I both understand and identify with the fears that drive our particular favorite monster flicks.  Godzilla was a modern update of the same fears that drove Mary Shelly's "Frankenstein."  Science is capable of monstrous things sometimes and those fears are manifest in reanimated corpses, giant irradiated lizards, and even the fantastically popular "Jurassic Park."  I prefer a different sort of film.  The impetus for "The Creature from the Black Lagoon" is a fear of the unknown, the undiscovered.  Even today we're visiting remote locations on our very own planet and finding things we never knew existed.  Any one of those things *could* be a murderous beast.  Our own bold strides into the world, our insatiable need for understanding and discovery and exploration, could bring about the end of the human race.  Movies like "The Creature from the Black Lagoon" and "Star Crystal" and "Event Horizon" are flicks I can get behind.  I don't care much for the "Jaws" movies but the novel is among my favorites, along with some of Benchley's other novels of undiscovered terror.

No point to this post, I just find it interesting to look at what psychology motivates our media choices.

Friday, June 15, 2012

A Daliesque Day

Do you ever have one of those days where nothing quite makes sense?  One of these kind of days...?

This has been my brain most of the day.  It's like there's a vast internet conspiracy to make my brain explode.  Let me share with you a random sampling of the WTF I have been exposed to today.

My husband shoved this bizarre gem onto his blog last night and waited for it to detonate in my head this morning.

Then I show up at Shamus Young's blog and find THIS.  Before I've even had coffee I've been subjected to both of these.

After coffee a friend who does not deserve the anonymity I'm giving her here shared a link to vegetables that look like genitals.  And no, that's not safe for work.  They're vegetable that look like genitals.  Why would you even ASK if that's safe for work?  That's not safe for human consumption, people.

Next was this:

And then this: 

Followed by a link to an article about a woman that had her mouth raped by a squid and no, I haven't been watching the hentai again thank you very much.

And the guy that linked to the squid rape followed it up with this

And that was the point at which my head turned into a Daliesque mushroom cloud.  Thank you so much, internets.

New Regular Content Coming Soon

My super-awesometastic friend Dawn  blogged today about being a "Craft Buster" which is like Myth Busters but for Pintrest and other sorts of crafts.  And then I told her that she should make that a regular thing because it kind of sucks to try a cool-sounding craft and discover that it's either a hoax or requires a degree in quantum physics to execute.   She responded back that somebody needed to do the same thing for recipes and then she was all like *hint, hint* and I think maybe she was suggesting that she'd rather bust recipes but I'm totally going to steal that from her anyway :-P

Hello, I'm Mari and I love to cook and bake.  I love food.  People know this about me and are constantly sending me recipes and cookbooks and things.  And Pintrest is a really cool place to go for recipes.  But not all recipes are "user friendly" so from now on, every week on Friday I'm going to test a recipe I find on a popular cooking blog or on Pintrest and let you know how it turns out.  I'm not a gourmet cook.  In fact, my only real qualification for cooking is that I like to do it a lot.  I screw up recipes a LOT though, y'all, so I think I'm qualified to tell you if something is hard or easy.  And I'm not going to just be all like "This recipe sucks and is too hard."  I'll tell you why and how it works or doesn't work and we'll walk through it all together.

So, today is Friday and I'm going to just get the show on the road here.  Father's Day is this weekend here in the U.S. and this is a day that is all about gorging yourself on really manly food.  Or maybe that's Thanksgiving.  Or, well, pretty much every day, really.  Anyway, I'm going to kick us off with something pretty amazing that reminds me of my own father.  My dad was a total ice cream-aholic.  Like, dude would get a gallon and a half bucket every two weeks and eat it all.  In these HUGE mixing bowls.  Always vanilla. Often with Hershey's syrup poured over the top.  In our house it was called "nothin'" because you would hear him rustling around in the kitchen and ask, "Whatcha looking for?" and he'd say "Nothin'" and eventually I'd start saying, "Well get me a bowl of nothin' too!"

Until recently I always kept a bottle of Hershey's syrup in my fridge.  Good for making chocolate milk and topping a bowl of nothin'.  But I'm making a concerted effort to make more of my food from scratch.  It gives me more control of what is in our food as well as being a great budget helper.  So a while back I stopped keeping Hershey's syrup on hand.  But the other day one of my kids decided that she desperately needed chocolate milk right then.  I whipped out a recipe I had come across on Pintrest and we tested it.  Verdict?  AWESOMELY EASY.

Here's how easy this stuff was, y'all.  My 13 and 14 year old daughters made it themselves while I was frying bacon.  And it was still perfect.

So, here's the recipe, originally from The Tightwad Gazette
½ cup cocoa powder
1 cup water
2 cups sugar
⅛ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon vanilla
Mix the cocoa powder and the water in a saucepan. Heat and stir to dissolve the cocoa. Add the sugar, and stir to dissolve. Boil for 3 minutes over medium heat. Be careful not to let it get too hot and boil over! Add the salt and the vanilla. Let cool. Pour into a clean glass jar, and store in the refrigerator. Keeps for several months, but trust me it will be gone before then. Yields two cups.

We used store-brand baking cocoa and homemade vanilla.  Here's how we did it, step by step:

Mix the cocoa powder and water in a cold saucepan on a cold burner with a standard wire whisk.  Turn the burner on high and continue whisking until the cocoa is dissolved.  We slowly added the sugar (not necessary, but makes it much easier to stir in).  Reduced the burner to medium and kept whisking for 3 minutes.  A couple of times the mixture threatened to boil over.  When it starts rising up high enough to make you nervous, pull the pan off the burner and keep whisking while holding it in the air.  When it settles back down, return to the burner.  Remove from burner and add salt and vanilla.

Then just let it sit there.  After about 10 minutes it was still pretty hot, but mostly cool enough for the kid to make her chocolate milk.  It was definitely still too hot to bottle, though.  So I wandered off and pretty much forgot about it until late that evening and then I was like, "Oh crap!  I forgot to bottle the chocolate syrup!" So I dashed back in the kitchen and gave it a little stir.  It had a very thin skin on top that needed stirring but was otherwise still perfect and now cool enough to bottle.  I didn't have a pretty flip-top bottle handy like the one in the picture.  I did have several brown glass bottles for homemade vanilla, though.  So I used a funnel and poured the sauce into two of my brown glass bottles.  Then I printed some labels because I like pretty labels and like ten years ago I bought some kind of crazy case of full-sheet label paper for the printer and it's STILL not used up so I snagged some of it.  
There weren't a ton of places to take this picture.  Also, the wine
glass is for scale, not because I drink chocolate syrup from a
wine glass because that would be crazy.
I ended up with two of these brown bottles full of chocolate syrup.

And there you have it.  A super-simple recipe for homemade chocolate syrup.  I have not tried this recipe with alternative sweeteners or anything, just with regular granulated sugar from the grocery store.  So if your family is off of the refined sugars you're on your own.  But probably if your family is off the refined sugars you're not looking for reviews of chocolate syrup recipes anyway.

Tune back in next week to find out if adding pumpkin puree to yogurt is a good plan or a bad plan.  I'm kind of hoping for "good" because I loves me some pumpkin.  

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Common Internet Troll - Some Thoughts

So the hubs and I were talking this morning about internet trolling.  It was spurred by the following http://kotaku.com/5917623/awful-things-happen-when-you-try-to-make-a-video-about-video-game-stereotypes  Go read it.  Feel free to follow the bunny trail of links for a while to grasp the full scope what complete dicks some people can be.

Ok, done now?  Here's the thing: I'm not talking about the validity or lack thereof of the woman's argument (which is a whole other topic, and one that I'm not up to discussing so if you want to talk about it, go here which will lead you on a whole other bunny trail about sexism in video games, which is something Heather and Shamus are way better at talking about than I am so go argue with them if you want to argue about that.)

OK, done again?  Now, back to my point which is basically that the internet is filled with trolls.  If you haven't been under a rock for the past 15 years, this is probably not breaking news for you.  But it's something I want to talk a little bit about.  See, when I was a kid my parents held some questionable and probably not-good views about the world.  But generally you wouldn't have known it to talk to them because they were POLITE.  Basically, they were the kind of people that didn't particularly enjoy making other people miserable so they generally kept their opinions to themselves when they intuited that their opinions would be unpopular.  They taught me basically the same thing.  Your grandma might have called it, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all."  Your kindergarten teacher probably called it The Golden Rule and it went something like, "Treat others the way you would like to be treated."  Your middle-school peers didn't call it anything at all because kids are stupid and cruel when in large, institutionalized groups but a big part of raising children was once considered teaching them not to act that way by the time they reached adulthood.  To that end, adults did things like yelling at you and grounding you and refusing to let you hold "secret Prom" so you could exclude that one kid that nobody liked  and might even go so far as to ground you from the internet if they caught you making a fake social networking profile to torment a peer.  I'll be honest, I'm not so big on yelling and grounding, but there are plenty of ways I would make my displeasure known if I caught my kids acting like jerks to other people.  Because, yes, I'm polite and I want my kids to be polite too.

That goes for posting the kind of crap that appears on most YouTube videos with more than a dozen or so hits.  That crap is trolling.  It is deliberately posting offensive (and often below-the-belt-personal-attacks offensive) comments to the internet in an attempt to stir up controversy, debate, and general hate-mongering.  There's a lot of internet sociology and psychology commentary about the phenomenon of trolling.  While trolling is nothing new, it certainly seems to be on the upswing.  A lot of things I read about trolling indicate that the seeming-anonymity of the internet is responsible for the surge in such behavior.  Certainly there's some truth to that argument, but it doesn't cover the whole problem.  I've been an internet user for 20-odd years and I've never gone trolling.  Very few people I know engage in internet trolling, even though many of us use the internet for the majority of the day most days.

What brought all of this up to the point of a blog post instead of just a conversation with the hubs was the fact that while I was out running errands today, I happened across a Trollmobile.  I don't know what else to call it.  I didn't take pictures, mostly because I was busy being glad the kids weren't with me to see it.  Even if I had taken pictures, I wouldn't have posted them here because that car was covered in offensive bumper stickers like you would not believe.  One sticker featured a "double birdie" salute and the legend "F*** Cops."  Several extolled the virtues of Satanism.  One referred to the owner's enjoyment of engaging in a particular sex act with graphic slang vocabulary.  One even used a phrase that appeared a couple of times in the comments of the first link in this post - a reference to a sex act that lesbians are apparently in severe need of experiencing despite the fact that lesbians explicitly don't enjoy the body part necessary for such an act.  I can only assume, in the terms of internet culture, that this vehicle was owned and operated by "a 13-year-old boy."  I hate to use such an expression, though, because I know quite a few 13-year-old boys and none of them would engage in such behavior as trolling or use such vile language.  Besides the fact that such a vehicle must be owned by someone at least 16 years of age.

Frankly, the whole thing sickened me.  Not because the words were offensive.  I'm not the type to be offended by words.  What sickened me was the attitude behind such a display.  This wasn't an anonymous display of bravado.  This was a person who holds society in contempt and feels the need to dominate others with his/her ideas.  This was a person who hates.  And hate is sickening to me.  There are a lot of things in life that I dislike.  I disliked the bumper sticker display of that vehicle.  I dislike trolling in general.  I dislike most politicians on general principle.  I dislike certain people in specific.  But hate is something I can't honestly say I've ever experienced.  Hate requires a degree of energy that I just don't want to give my unhappiness or dislike.  Hate, like love, is not an emotion.  It is a verb, a DOING word.  Hate doesn't happen.  It takes cultivation, a conscious choice to indulge it and make it grow and keep it alive.  Those bumper stickers weren't just an outpouring of feeling, they were a choice to cultivate and nurture the basest and most negative things about life.  And that's what sickens me.  As screwed up as the world is, why choose hate?  If you expended that same energy in nurturing something positive and good and real, you might make a difference to the world around you.  Instead, someone chose hate and with every action, with every mile that Trollmobile drives, they are taking something OUT of the world.

What that person won't be taking out of the world is MY dignity, MY self-respect, MY love, and MY compassion.  I refuse to let that person and their hate win.  When I'm done with this blog post I will not waste another minute of my thought and feeling on their hate.  As Paul put it so well, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you."

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Zombies Everywhere!

OK, y'all, I'm just going to warn you now that this is the blog version of getting drunk-dialed except there's no telephone involved and I'm not drunk, just mentally deranged.  So by now the whole zombie apocalypse thing is old news and everyone's getting bored hearing about how the end is nigh because dudes are smoking bath salts and eating faces and throwing their own intestines at people and eating their children - which I don't think really counts as zombie activity anyway because that mom totally only did what most of the animal kingdom has been doing all along which is eating the weak young to nourish the mother so that she can nurture the stronger young.  And I think I may have missed something in that sentence but I'm not fixing it so just live with it you grammar Nazis!

Anyway, this blog is not about any of those events.  This blog post is about how those events are effecting my own household.  And I know what you're thinking.  Because I'm not just a zombie, I'm the psychic Queen of the Zombies!  Ha!  Um, yeah, anyway, you're thinking, "None of that stuff except the cannibal mom is even anywhere near you so why are these events effecting you?" But it doesn't matter because the zombie germs are already airborne and my family has been infected.

That's right, I'm infected.  I'm not completely zombified (which my spell-checker says is not even a word - clearly it has also been zombified and is like a PR zombie propagandist or something - and why is propagandist a word but not zombified?) but I think I may be too far along to cure.

I woke up this morning because my husband was violently jumping on the bed - or sat down on it - and I tried to open my eyes but my eyes were all like, "Do not want!" and I was all like, "Eyes, you guys have to open" but they refused so finally I lifted my arms to my face and forced one eye open and was like, "Victory!" and my eye was like, "That's what YOU think!" and closed again really fast.  So I thought I was just really tired but it turns out that was my first symptom of zombiefication (which spell-checker also claims is not a word - clearly my spell-checker is a zombie denier).  Eventually I managed to get both eyes to stay open but they were incredibly angry about this and kept burning and watering in protest so I got out of bed and shuffled to the bathroom which probably sounds like another zombie symptom but it isn't because I shuffle to the bathroom every morning but most days I'm not a zombie.  Once I was done forcing out the last vestiges of my previous life I shuffled on to the pet bowls and then the coffee maker.

Which is when Ben asked if I wasn't going to go to the bathroom first because he was busy being naked while I was forcing out the last vestiges of my life and totally missed it or something.  So I mumbled something at him and he was all like, "What?" and I mumbled it again and he pretended he got it that time but it was obviously the way you pretend you understand something because you're too embarrassed to ask someone to repeat something one more time and thereby admit how incredibly old you are so you just smile and nod.  This was zombie symptom number 2 and fear of admitting how old he is is the only thing that kept Ben from pointing and yelling "Zombie!" and severing my brain stem at that exact moment.  Otherwise he would have realized because I'm usually very talkative in the mornings and he's the one that mumbles entire paragraphs without moving his lips even once.

So I sat down at my computer after that and might have been unconscious for a couple of hours or I might have posted a bunch of nonsense to Facebook but I'm not really sure because the zombification is doing bad things to my brain and it's really all kind of a blur.  But the next thing I clearly remember is when Mindie came in to say good morning and then ran to the other end of the room and informed me that I smelled like "decomposing bodies."

Me: You mean like a zombie?
Mindie: Uh, yeah.
Me: Cool.  Apparently I'm a victim of the zombie apocalypse.
Mindie: Um, no, I don't think so.  You smell like a zombie but you're not all hunched over and shambling.  And you haven't been snacking on the flesh of the living.
Me: That you KNOW of...
Mindie: ...
Me: Have you asked yourself lately, "Where's my sister?"
Mindie: ... (backs away slowly)
Me: ...
Mindie: Go take a shower!

And then I sat there, zoned out and zombie-like for a while longer.  And then my phone rang and it was Ben needing me to pick him up "a lot of the really big boxes of baking soda" to clean out his agricultural chemical tanks.  Because he's a farmer but he's KEEPING IT GREEN y'all.  Because it totally counts as green agriculture if you wash out the evil Monsanto germs with baking soda after you're done hosing down the crops with them.  So I took a shower and kept trying to go to the store and get him his Greenie McGreenerson stuff but I kept getting more and more zombified.  And at one point Mindie came in and was like, "I guess you were right, Mom.  It is the zombie apocalypse.  Shannen just moaned something at me that sounded like 'Brains.'"  And I was all like, "See??  See, I told you I had been snacking on your sister.  And now she's a zombie like me.  You're the only survivor of the zombie apocalypse."  Only my speech centers were degrading by then and I might have said "apopalypse" which my spell-checker says isn't even a word and it is right.

At some point I made it out the door and there weren't hordes of zombies everywhere but that was ok.  And then I went to Wal-Mart and I kind of shambled mindlessly down the aisles and then I paid and went to the store because Wal-Mart didn't have the big boxes of baking soda.  And at the grocery store I did some more random shambling but the only brains they had were in the frozen pig heads (no, I'm not making that up) so I just got the baking soda and some chicken which totally tastes like brains but is leaner and cheaper.  And the checker was all perky and friendly and trying to converse and I just kind of stood there mumbling words that might have been "Braaaaaaains."  And the bag boy followed me out to my car but I forgot where it was and there's only ever like 20 cars in the whole parking lot but we wandered around for a while before I spotted my big, honking white SUV - although in my defense every other car in west Texas is also a big, honking white SUV so my car was kind of camouflaged.

I got home and put away the brains and might have wasted some more time on Facebook before the zombification took its toll on my body and I was forced to take a nap.  When I got up, I noticed that my motor functions were more impaired than before as I stumbled around like a drunken Buster Keaton.  But by that point, Mindie had also succumbed to the process and was similarly motor impaired.

When Ben got home we all fell on him like the zombies we are, at his brains out, and shuffled off into the night.  Or maybe that part didn't happen but I'm running out of things to say and can't figure out a good way to end this blog.  So, we ate my husband and shuffled into the night.  Beware, for the psychic Queen of the Zombies may be coming for you soon.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Texting is fun

So I'm having this text conversation with my husband.  We were talking about internet and network problems here at home and how I resolved them all by myself because I'm totally awesome like that.  And he said, "So it's fixed?"  And I said, "Yep.  So now I can watch the maiden voyage of the dead cat helicopter on YouTube."  And there's silence for like 7 minutes and then I get a text back that says, "Don't" and I'm thinking, "Dude, it took you SEVEN MINUTES to type that???" but maybe he's just really busy or maybe it took him a while to process the words or something.  So I text back, "Too late.  It was pretty awesome."

Monday, June 4, 2012

Public Humiliation is the Best Kind

In my ongoing efforts to provide better content for the whole six of you that read this blog, I've been vowing to start posting here daily.  This morning I started trying to find something to blog about but nothing came to me even after a torturous 2 minutes of wracking my brain.  At last, this afternoon, Mindie provided inspiration.
I love my kids but sometimes they are total spazzes.  Which is probably not a surprise to anybody who knows ME since I am also a total spaz.  But I think my kids surpass me.

Earlier this afternoon Shannen had to give her sister a hand.  Mindie had been sitting at her computer, reading and twirling her hair as she often does when concentrating.  She must have been concentrating very hard because before she knew it, her finger was caught in her hair so completely that she couldn't get it out.  Yes, my daughter had to get up and walk through the house with her hand stuck on her head because her finger was so tangled in hair that she needed help pulling herself loose from her personal "tar baby."  Shannen, always happy to help (inflict pain), grabbed Mindie's hand and yanked as hard as she could.  Mindie's hand came loose, still bearing a huge wad of hair.  Niiiiiiiice.  And where was I during all this?  Laughing so hard I couldn't breathe.

I don't know what it is with Mindie, but I swear she is the most accident-prone kid I know.  Saturday we went to a big graduation dinner at church.  On the way inside Mindie tripped (on misplaced molecules of air) and went flying, face-first, to the ground.  She lay there, stunned, and Shannen and I suppressed giggles and pretended to be helpful.  Finally I gave her a hand getting back up.  Apparently my laughter wasn't appreciated because she did her darndest to drag me to the ground with her.

Then there was Friday night.  I only have this story second-hand because I was sound asleep when it happened but it's too good not to pass on anyway.  Apparently the kid decided to cut her toenails.  She has to do that often and it's quite the ordeal since she got her father's toenails which are roughly the hardness of horse hooves.  This particular night she was hunched over with the clippers working away when a stray toenail shot out of the clippers and jabbed her square in the eye.  We're all grateful she wasn't blinded by her projectile nail clipping which was a distinct possibility.  Instead she sat there for a minute, blinking back tears, then realized the hilarity of the situation.  In true Mom spirit, she went across the hall to her sister's room and actually ratted herself out for being such a big spaz because somehow it makes you feel less like a dork if your spazziness can at least give someone else a good laugh.  And Shannen did, indeed, have a good laugh.  As did I the next day when I heard the story.

And just to prove that this blog isn't all about humiliating my children, I give you the following story about myself: the day I took Mindie to have her spacers put in, we had lunch at Carino's.  After the meal Mindie asked if anyone else needed to go to the restroom.  I didn't but knowing she wouldn't go on her own (because people might stare at her if she used the public restroom alone - bet you didn't know that's why women go in groups, did you?) I volunteered to accompany her.  We traveled all the way across the packed restaurant to the restroom where I decided since I was there I'd give it a shot anyway.  That's when I discovered that I had just walked all the way through a crowded public place with MY FLY DOWN.

So, yeah, a few embarrassing stories about myself and my daughter to brighten your day.  Now brighten mine up with an embarrassing story of your own.  Please.  I need to know I'm not the only loser in the world.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Bunny Trails

In case you're not familiar with the terminology, a "bunny trail" or "rabbit trail" or "rabbit hole" is the educational equivalent of wiki-surfing.  You study one thing which leads to another which takes you to a distantly related tangent which leads you to another subject entirely which...well, you get the idea.

I discovered that A-1 steak sauce added to the marinade makes for truly excellent jerky.  But I'm kind of nervous about bottled sauces these days as I work towards healthier eating and a more budget-conscious grocery shopping experience.  So this morning I started looking for a recipe for homemade steak sauce.

This is a stock photo of my food dehydrator.  And meat gun.
Which led me to discover that soy sauce is in A-1.  I'm really trying to drastically reduce the amount of soy in our diets (oxalate concerns for me, estrogen concerns for Mindie) so I went looking for a non-soy alternative to soy sauce.

Found a good one and went back to the steak sauce recipe.  Worcestershire sauce was also a common ingredient across many steak sauce recipes.  I wonder if Worcestershire sauce is ok for us?

Um, apparently not.  It *also* contains soy.  Oh, and dissolved fish bodies.  And something called "devil's dung" which may be perfectly healthy but I prefer to not have poop in my food, even metaphorical poop.  So I started looking for a Worcestershire sauce substitute with no soy, dead fish skeletons, or metaphorical poop.

Which led me to a website full of recipes for lacto-fermented condiments.  This is more like it.  Lacto-ferments are good for you, I'm told.  I've been meaning to look into those anyway.

So I start reading up on how to obtain whey to make my own lacto-ferments.  Apparently the most readily available source is store-bought plain yogurt.  I can do that.

Then I discover that I can use this store-bought plain yogurt to make homemade yogurt.  While this SOUNDS like a stupid catch-22 for unwary health nuts, it's not.  One container of store-bought plain yogurt apparently contains enough "yogurt juice" to make about a gallon of homemade yogurt, some of which I can resample to make more homemade yogurt and on and on like the yogurt version of Amish friendship bread.  And who wouldn't love their own Amish friendship yogurt, right?
Yum yum!  This is whey.  I'm betting Miss Muffet wasn't
all that sad to give her curds and whey up to the spider.

All of this yogurt goodness leads me to Amazon where I start looking at yogurt making machines (not that they are necessary for making Amish friendship yogurt - a couple of jars and a foam cooler are pretty much the only things you really need, according to my reading).

Which brings me to frozen yogurt and ice cream makers.  Mmmm.  Homemade ice cream and fro-yo.  And without all the salt and ice that my current ice cream maker requires.  And the hours upon hours of noisy motors driving me batty.

Ice cream brings me to a new thought.  Mindie is starting orthodontics right now which creates a whole new list of verboten foods for her.  No jerky, no nuts, no fruit leather, no crunching on ice.  Basically nothing too sticky/gummy, nothing too hard, nothing too tough or chewy.  I wonder if ice cream cones are prohibited?

Because this torture is not enough, you will also not be allowed
to eat anything tasty for 18-36 months either.
I search the internet to find out if she's allowed to eat ice cream cones.  General consensus is sugar cones broken into pieces are acceptable.  Avoid waffle cones.

In the process I read loads about chewing gum in braces and this stuff called Xylitol which is a sugar alcohol used in artificial sweeteners that has application in preventing dental caries, treating osteoporosis, preventing ear infections, and controlling candida outbreak.

Which is the point at which I realized how incredibly complicated this bunny trail had become.  I looked back over the tabs I had opened along the way and marveled.  Then I determined to share it with you all.  Please tell me I'm not the only one out there that does stuff like this.  What convoluted bunny trails have you followed lately?  Have any of your bunny trails ever come full circle back to where you started?

Monday, May 28, 2012

A few thoughts from my oldest daughter

I am publishing below the full and unedited version of an article written by my 14-year-old daughter, Mindie.  She wrote this entirely voluntarily and in fact without my knowledge until after the fact.  The thoughts are her own.


Home-schooling and Un-schooling: What They’ve Done for Me

Recently, my parents decided to pull my sister and me out of my eight year life at public school to home-school/un-school us. This was, of course, a big change for us. Many things would have to be different about our lifestyle from now on.
First, there was the issue of socializing. My sister isn’t as social as I am, but she has friends she enjoys spending time with as much as I do. We had friends that were also home-schoolers, and they invited us to many group activities and field trips they took as a home-schooling group. We still had friends that went to public school, and we wanted to keep in contact with them. For some friends, we could simply email or text message when we wanted to hang out. They didn’t live that far away, and as long as they were free, we could meet up. We do spend time with friends from our area, but we also have friends that it isn’t possible to just meet up. We have friends that live in other states, and we can’t just meet somewhere and spend time together. For these friends, we usually use online messaging programs, like Skype, and social sites, such as Facebook, to chat. We can’t see each other in person, but we are still good friends. Socializing hasn’t been that big of a problem for us.
There’s also the issue that not all of our family and friends were completely on board with us home-schooling at first. Since we started, they’ve mostly gotten used to it, but at there’s still many questions every time they see us. They are, of course, still unsure of how everything works for us, since even our schedules have changed drastically. We manage to make everything work, and we answer questions as best we can. I’m glad to see that they can support our decision in full.
I really feel like home-schooling/un-schooling has helped our family a lot. We no longer deal with abuse and bullying that happened in public school. We don’t have to adjust our schedules to the school’s anymore. And, for my parents, no more taking that drive twice everyday, or more.
Mainly, I think that home-schooling/un-schooling has helped my sister and me socially, mentally, and emotionally. We both no longer feel forced to be social, since we aren’t around a crowd of people 24/7 anymore. My sister had more problems with bullying than I did, and she’s gotten so much better. I think she feels she can express herself now without fear of ridicule. She states her mind, and gives opinions much more now. She’s been more free to explore her likes and interests, and has done so.
I think that home-schooling/un-schooling has helped me in several ways. For example:

I get what sleep I need, and I generally feel much more rested and happy most of the time.
I feel like I can actually like what I like now, and I’ve discovered more of what I like.
I’ve learned more about the world around me than I did in school. I’m slightly more involved with my community now.
I don’t feel like I have to live up to everyone’s expectations all the time, so I do it more.
I have more time to spend with friends and family, and to myself.
You can even ask my friends on this one, I am more social, and less shy around new people now. I talk more and make friends quicker, and easier.
I’m not having knowledge I don’t feel I need shoved into my brain, and therefore, I’m even more eager to learn.
I’m not spending 4 hours pouring over schoolwork now. I don’t get headaches as much, as I often did while doing homework.
I feel like I’m allowed to take more chances. Even if they don’t always go well, I’m experiencing even more now, I think.

I don’t think that college, or my future will be a problem. I think of it as, as long as I’m eager and trying, I’ll be able to do what I want with my life. I’ve already looked a little into what I want to do later in life, and colleges I might want to go to, but I’m also taking things at my pace. I like that I don’t feel rushed to do something with my life.
I would recommend home-schooling/un-schooling to anyone who is seeking a change in they’re child’s school life, or they’re own. I honestly think it helps everyone at least a little. I would love to see more people looking as happy as I feel now.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

What's in a name?

"That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."  - Juliet Capulet

While it's true that names are somewhat arbitrary, they do have meaning.  The Bible is full of people who changed their names to describe new life circumstances, new perspectives, and any number of other things.  Naomi, in the book of Ruth, returns to her homeland with her daughter-in-law following the death of her husband and two sons.  She announces to her former friends and relatives that her new name will be Mara, which means "bitter" because God has taken everything from her.

I'm not someone who has ever given too much credit to the meanings of names.  One day, though, I got on a hot streak and looked into the meaning of all my children's names.  It was surprising to say the least.  These were names we chose without giving a single thought to the meaning of them.  And yet each name says something amazing about that child.

I was 19 when I had Rebekka Marie.  Her name means "tied to bitterness."  Not exactly a flattering sentiment and yet her birth was tied to a great deal of bitterness.  Her adoptive parents changed her name to Stephanie Nicole, which means "crowning victory of the people."  Certainly a much more uplifting name and again very fitting.  What, for me, was bitterness was victory for the family that longed to have more children and achieved that by adopting her into their family.

Not quite two years later life had changed significantly for me.  I had met the man I planned to spend the rest of my life with and together we created Mindie R'nea.  Her name means "beautiful rebirth" or "beauty reborn."  She marked a turning point in my life, a rebirth if you will.

Not quite two years after that we had a second child together.  Shannen Makayla means "God is gracious; who is like God?"  God was gracious.  I wasn't supposed to have Shannen at all and came close to dying while giving birth to her.  Who is like God?  In some ways, Shannen is.  Obviously she's not *like* God but through her amazing heart for God and all of God's creation, she has revealed to me some incredibly important truths about my Creator.  Truly, Shannen is one of the few people I know that I feel embodies naturally what it is to live for God and through His son.

That which we call a rose, by any other name, might still smell as sweet but it's funny sometimes how well a name fits a person.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Life on the Prairie

There's an ebb and flow, a natural rhythm to life, that I think most people have gotten away from.  But nothing jerks you back to nature like farming.  Today is a slow, lazy day at our house.  It's steadily raining outside and this is our planting rain.  In a day or so family life will explode like a run away train moving 180 mph as my husband hustles to put cotton seed in the ground while the earth is still wet enough to nurture the seed.  And around here, that clock ticks by fast.  So today we're taking it easy, marshaling our resources, and just enjoying the sounds and smells of the rain.

A listed field, ready to be planted.
Life is very much like this for the farmer.  There are periods of near-frenzied activity, times of dogged endurance work, and times of rest and restoration.  We're never sure exactly when these times will be though we know the general seasons.  From February to sometime in May is endurance.  We work slowly, steadily, to prepare the land.  Sometime in May we'll get a planting rain if we're lucky.  This is at least 1/2" of rain that ideally falls over the course of a day or two so that it can soak in.  During the planting rain we rest, storing energy for the big push ahead because once the land is dry enough to run a tractor over we will be frantically working for a few weeks to get the seed in the ground before you lose the moisture.  We will work long hours, rising before the sun and working after its setting.  This portion of the year is a sprint against Mother Nature.

Once the seed is in the ground we return to an endurance race.  We work steadily to maintain conditions for the seed.  Weeds must be removed, insects must be kept at bay, the emerging plants must have soft soil to break through, and sand must be reduced to protect baby plants from being sandblasted to nothing in our punishing winds.  The summer months will primarily be about this steady pace but occasionally we will get a thunderstorm at the wrong time and suddenly we're back to sprinting, racing to "chicken pick" the ground or incorporate the sand back into the soil (known as "sand fighting") before it can damage plants.  Every significant rain in the early summer heralds one of these brief dashes.
Flash flooding is another danger to crops in the desert

At last sometime around late August or September, as summer fades to fall, the plants are mature enough that they don't require the constant coddling and protection of the farmer.  But his work is not done, nor is his crop assured.  Even now a hail storm could destroy the work of the past year.  This is a time of anxious waiting, like a set of parents anticipating the arrival of a new child.  We will continue to work to keep weeds under control but it must be done with tools that will not interfere with the now-large plants.  We will also be preparing for the harvest.  Strippers must be made ready, module builders and boll buggies dragged out of storage.  It's not unlike the expectant parents dragging crib and swing out of the attic for their new child.  Also like expectant parents, frequent checks on the progress of the offspring will occur.  Every day the farmer will anxiously drive by his fields, examining the condition of the cotton plants, to determine if the cotton should be left to ripen a while longer or if it is time to "induce labor" with chemical defoliants that will hasten the final maturation of the crop and simulate the effects of a freeze.

Defoliated cotton ready to be removed from the plant
Eventually either through defoliant or by nature's defoliant, the hard freeze, the leaves will dry up and begin to drop off, the bolls will fully open, and the entire plant will turn brown with bright white cotton bolls.  And again begins a headlong sprint.  This race with the weather and the plant is to ensure that the cotton is off the plant and protected as quickly as possible.  Ideally we will be done stripping the plants of their precious white bundles before the first snow falls and before the first ice storm comes to coat the world with crystal.  We're also racing the plant itself because the longer the cotton stays on the plant the lower the quality of the cotton lint.

We and many helpers will work long hours in late November and December to get the cotton off the plants and into a condition to be ginned.  If we're lucky we will be done by Christmas.  If we're not, we may still be stripping cotton in February.  Wet weather halts us until it dries.  Very windy weather will also stop us for a time.  Freezing cold doesn't even slow us down, though.  We want calm, dry weather as much as possible.  But not too dry because the cotton lint and especially the seeds are combustible.  Spontaneous fires in dry weather may reduce portions of our crop to smoldering ashes and even damage equipment.

During the harvest portion of the season we often find ourselves half-wishing for a light rain or high winds, though.  Harvest is long and the pace is crippling.  If we aren't sleeping, we're harvesting.  Thanksgiving dinner is usually eaten in the field.  We take Sunday mornings off for church sometimes but even then we're back at work as soon as church is over.  It's an exhausting time.  But as with birth labor, our arduous work will be well worth it in the end.

View from atop the module builder.
In fortunate years we're done with the harvest by Christmas and we have six or seven weeks to rest and recover before we return to the work of preparing for the next crop.  This time of rest is valuable and our family very much enjoys the time together to relax.  This is when we can vacation together (whoever told you that school calendars are designed around farm families lied; public school is anything but farm-friendly in their schedule), hang out together, and share the house with each other.

That's the ebb and flow of life in our farm family.  Modern inventions like the tractor, the stripper, and chemicals have made it easier and less manpower intensive but this is, essentially, the schedule of any agrarian society in history.  Life centers around nature's schedule for the plants and, in most instances, plants have a pretty universal schedule.  Do I feel somehow "holier" or more "connected to the earth" for working on this schedule?  No.  In fact, it feels weird.  I feel like a salmon swimming upstream.  This is not how most of the Western world lives today.  But this is the reality of my life.  I do feel a little more "in tune" with my ancestors, perhaps.  At least I have a frame of reference to sympathize with a few of their hardships.  And I feel a lot more connected to God.  I have no doubt there are atheist farmers but I don't know that I could do this without a great deal of faith in the providence of a benevolent Creator.  So much of our life now depends upon things over which no human has any control.

15 Years

Together at a wedding shower
Today is my 15th wedding anniversary and I'm feeling a little nostalgic.  So let me share a slice of the life I've shared with my husband.

On our first official "date" we did a group hangout thing with a bunch of my friends.  Poor Ben.  He was subjected to bowling, bar-hopping, and after-drinks "breakfast" at IHOP.  I, in my infinite self-destructive wisdom, had not eaten a bite all day and ingested something like half a box of over-the-counter appetite suppressants.  Then we went out, got incredibly physically active, drank large volumes of alcohol, and finished it off with a carb-heavy meal.  At which point, I was shaking and miserable but determined not to ruin my date. After breakfast we retreated to his apartment to talk.  I walked in his front door and puked my chocolate chip pancakes all over his light blue rented carpet.  Let's count my mistakes so far in the evening: 1) dragging an extreme introvert out with a dozen or so noisy strangers to crowded public places 2) the revolutionary "stupid diet" 3) drinking too much 4) ruining his chance of recovering his security deposit.  All things considered, not a great first impression.  Luckily, not only is my husband forgiving, he's also very much a gentleman.  He helped me clean up my mess, soothed me, and settled me onto his sofa since I was in no condition to drive home.

Fire and Ice rose
On our wedding day, Ben presented me with a surprise bridal bouquet.  It was made up primarily of Fire and Ice roses, a favorite of mine.  Fire and Ice roses remain a special flower between us and we each get them for the other occasionally.  The only Valentine's Day he ever got me flowers, they were Fire and Ice roses.

On our first anniversary we ate from the preserved top layer of our wedding cake.  I don't know who the hell came up with that "tradition" but it's stupid.  Iced cake doesn't preserve well for that long.  Ours was freezer burned and awful.   We ponied up the cash for a babysitter that year (we've hired babysitters twice in our kids' lives) and went to see Pleasantville at the dollar theater.

Over the years, most of our anniversary celebrations have been more than a little peculiar to outsiders.  There was the year we happened to be in San Antonio for our anniversary so we took advantage of my sister's willingness to babysit and went out to a restaurant we just couldn't eat at back home: Jack in the Box.  Yes, seriously.  We had "dinner" at Jack in the Box and then hopped over to the multiplex to catch X2.  This year he worked like a dog all day and came home exhausted so I got him Mickey D's for dinner and he's been listening to the Texas Rangers baseball game and unwinding.

Witchblade figure - and no, boobs don't work like that
Ben isn't a romantic in any sense that most people understand.  He's not given to making grand gestures and he's not big on holidays.  He's given me exactly three "romantic" gifts in our 15 years together.  The bridal bouquet, the Valentine's Day flowers, and the pearl cocktail ring he buried in my stocking one year for Christmas.  But the truth is that he's exactly the way I want him to be.  This year when he asked what I wanted for our anniversary I didn't hesitate to answer, "A food dehydrator!"  Yes, I asked for a practical gift and he was happy to give it to me.  It's just one reason we're so good together.

Our idea of "quality time" is me watching him play a video game that I don't have the patience to play myself.  We argued over who got to read the Harry Potter books first when each new one arrived at our door on release day.  Today, just for me, he posted a bunch of pictures of a scantily clad Witchblade figure because I said I wanted more pictures of his figures.  Instead of singing songs or playing License Plate Bingo in the car on vacation, we listened to historical radio documentaries together.  We've half finished a kit model of a Citroen DS 19 together.  And we argue about comic books.

Our idea of a good time
Ben took this inside Carlsbad Caverns
We're both geeky, awkward introverts who would rather spend a quiet evening pursuing our own interests than get together with friends or do "exciting" things together.  But where I'm so flighty I've been told my head would float clean away if it wasn't tethered to my neck, he's reliable and dependable.  When I want to charge on, guns blazing, at every new situation he holds back, reads the wind, and makes a plan before he does anything.  We're good for each other, we moderate one another.  I remind him to have fun and he keeps me from getting goofy enough to be arrested.  He likes baseball, I prefer hockey.  Yet somehow our crazies meld beautifully.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

They Call Me Bond - Hugh G. Bond

There's a school bond issue gearing up for the vote around these parts.  Actually there are two.  And one non-bond that I'm going to throw in for comparison.

The large local district is trying to get voters to approve a $40M bond to tear down the old high school and build a new one in its place.  The thinking is something like this: the school is in bad shape and will be expensive to bring up to current standards.  So let's skip that and just build a new one.  That will be wonderful.  The political argument being put forth in favor of this is: our school is ranked in the bottom 1% of Texas schools and our local economy sucks and the entire county is shrinking at an alarming rate and all of these problems will be magically fixed by building a new high school.  If you're like me, you're laughing at the non-logic of this argument.  The economy sucks so let's burden taxpayers with higher property taxes.  The school isn't teaching kids what the state says they need to know and this will be fixed with a fancy new building.  The county is shrinking but if we build it they will come.  The slogan of the campaign is: Vote YES for Lamesa.  Vote YES for kids.  Vote YES for Lamesa ISD bond.  Oh. my. gosh.  Did they really summon "But think of the children!" to this issue.  YES they did.  I'm not so sure the bond will pass, though.  In every issue of the local bi-weekly newspaper for the past month there's been a pro-bond full page ad and there have been 2 anti-bond full page ads plus a half page ad and a quarter page ad.  But to help secure the bond, the school district has "generously" offered to host early voting IN THE SCHOOL that's being voted upon rather than in the usual City Hall location.  Hmmmm.  Something's rotten in the state of Denmark.

One of the smaller local districts is also floating a bond before voters.  Theirs is a much more reasonable $4M bond to build a new collegiate sized basketball court/gym and weight rooms and locker rooms.  Because a school with 200 students (total - that's pre-K through grade 12) desperately needs a THIRD gym.  Yep, you read that right.  They already have two gymnasiums, neither of which will be shut down.  They also have a new weight room and locker rooms at the new football stadium across the street that was paid for with the LAST bond, which won't be paid off for another 12 years.  That's right, the previous bond won't even be paid off until this year's kindergarten class graduates, but the school desperately needs another one to build that third gym because the first two just aren't up to scratch for the basketball teams anymore.  And besides, two gyms aren't enough to meet the needs of the various athletics teams that need them for practice.  Some team or other is always being left out in the cold (specifically, the general PE kids are always being left out in the cold - literally - because during winter, aka basketball season, the girls' team works out in one gym and the boys' team works out in the other, leaving the general PE kids to either watch movies in an empty classroom during their physical education time or to run laps outside in the snow).  The argument for this bond is: but it's only $4M which is hardly any money at all and besides the kids need a bigger gym because that will prepare them for college PLUS this will further put off when the district has to resume making "Robin Hood" payments to the state for being a "wealthy" school district.

And now, for comparison, let us consider the proposal of a third small local district.  Their enrollment has been growing (as more and more kids are pulled from the big district by their parents and moved to a district where little Johnny might get taught to read) and their building is wearing out.  The school board's proposal is to use already allocated capital funds from the county (the county sets aside a certain percentage of their budget to be divided equally among school districts in the county to be distributed any time a district requests them for capital improvements - ie buildings and long-term equipment like buses but NOT educational materials like text books or classroom furnishings) along with the district's own "reserve fund" (aka SAVINGS) and, utilizing local contractors, make the repairs needed to bring the building up to standards.  They don't need to go to the voters about this because they're not asking the taxpayers for any money.  They're using money that's already there and designated for just such instances.  They're not planning any athletic facilities.  These improvements will be made to the science classrooms, the ag classrooms, and the social studies classrooms.  The intent of the improvements is to increase safety and improve structural integrity.

Guess which of these districts I would send my kids to if I were forced to put them back in public school?  Yep, the third one.  Even though it's the farthest from our home, makes the least effort to be "accessible" to out-of-district students (ie no "transfer" bus runs to town to pick up out-of-district kids that attend), and has a reputation for an "aloof" and "snobby" student body.  They boast no exceptional athletics programs and offer very little in the way of "options" to students, not even the options I personally value.  By way of "enrichment" they encourage participation in state-sponsored (and funded) programs such as academic UIL.  But at least they respect the taxpayers in their district enough to not burden them with additional taxes for things outside the purview of the public school.  And they respect their students enough not to burden THEM with bonds that the students will be paying for long after they graduate.

For the record, I only get a vote in the first bond proposal I mentioned.  And I think you can guess how I'm planning to vote.  I would vote the same way if my kids attended the school in question.  In the words of one of the anti-bond ads, "Surely a school originally built to house 900 students can be refitted to serve 400 for something less than the cost of building a multi-million dollar sports stadium."

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Nothing in Particular

So I haven't been blogging much.  It's not for lack of anything to say.  The few of you who know me elsewhere online probably privately lament my excess of "anything to say" on a regular basis.  I'm just not a very good self-starter.  In other words, I stare at this blank box in which I'm typing and think, "I have no idea what to say."  Whereas elsewhere on line I don't have a blank box waiting for me to impress my will upon it.  I have people saying things to which I respond.  Wow, was that wordy or what?  I guess I'm the family thesaurus for good reason.

Anyway, I finally have something to say without a prompt so here goes: This blog is entitled "Nothing in Particular."  In the beginning it was called that because I was just looking for a nice quiet place to keep track of what the children were learning and doing.  It didn't need a fancy-schmancy title because it was for me to chronicle our unschooling journey for myself.  But I wasn't terribly good at the chronicling thing because I'm a crappy scribe.  And because I was too busy DOING unschooling to record unschooling.

Doing nothing in particular
But the more I think about it, the more "Nothing in Particular" seems like a pretty good title for an unschooling blog.  That's a lot of what our unschooling life is: nothing in particular.  I don't mean "doing nothing" as in sitting around staring at the ceiling and drooling.  I don't even mean "doing nothing" as in sitting around staring at the television and drooling.  We do a little of this, a little of that.  Nothing in PARTICULAR but a lot of anything.

Today we worked on a jigsaw puzzle for a little bit until we all three simultaneously realized that we had been sitting there staring at pieces for like 5 minutes and drooling.  So we got up and did something else.  Shan went to surf the net for new webcomics while Mindie and I watched a really lame horror movie and kept asking each other, "What the heck?  Huh?"  Then Mindie popped in some "My Little Pony" while Shan played Minecraft and I watched Deep Space Nine and conquered the galaxy in Master of Orion II.  We got back together to make dinner.  Then Mindie watched more "My Little Pony" and I tortured Shannen with Weird Al videos on YouTube and we talked about the pop culture that was being commented upon and parodied by the videos.

It was a "nothing in particular" sort of a day.  Most days are like that now and we are all fine with it.  Every once in a while Mindie still comes in to me and stands there, slack-jawed and drooling, waiting for something to dance.  It's not boredom, it's a need to be around other people.  I usually drop what I'm doing and do something with her for a while, but nothing in particular.  Today when she needed to reconnect with the human race I chased her through the house for a while (why yes, I *am* three years old - thanks for asking), poked her with a giant poking finger on a stick a big, then led her away to do some kitchen science.    It wasn't anything special, nothing in particular really; just fooling around with ice and salt and water of different temperatures.  But it satisfied her needs and allowed her to re-energize for doing what she wanted to do with her day.

Don't you want to smell this flower?
When you're doing nothing in particular, it leaves you open to possibilities.  If a passing butterfly catches your interest you might follow it and discover a new plant which might make you want to start a garden which might lead to cooking with fresh vegetables from said garden which might lead to a career as a world-renown chef and television personality.  Or maybe not.  But when your day is packed with a schedule and curriculum and to-do lists and things in particular you can't follow the butterfly and then you'll never know if maybe you were born to be the next Emeril Lagasse.  Walter Hagen put it well when he said, "You're only here for a short visit.  Don't hurry.  Don't worry.  And be sure to smell the flowers along the way."