Friday, May 29, 2009

Grand Tour

Yeah, I'm just kickin' it here at my parent's house, enjoying the sunshine and good company... and the fact that I don't really have to do anything. At all. I've been so busy for the last few weeks that now it feels really good to just chill. Read a book. Do nothing.

Okay, well not entirely nothing. I've got places to go. People to see. Really.

So. Nothing much to report, really.

But I have to post something here on this little ol' blog of mine. In racking my brain, I found these pictures sitting on my camera that I thought I would show you. For your enjoyment and enlightenment. While I'm sitting around doing nothing.

This garden has been a lot of hard work. Landscaping takes time and patience. You have to wait for things to grow and fill in. You have to experiment with arrangement of plants and finding just the right site for each one so that it flourishes instead of curling up and dying.

Yeah. It's a wonder I have any time to blog! You see why I needed a vacation?

You know, it really takes a lot of hunting around to find these whimsical sculptures and hardware that add just the right amount of diversion from the growing things.

Take for example, this white metal... thing... that I got... um... somewhere. Really, isn't it just perfect in that spot?

But I had to move it around. A lot. To get it just right.

Exhausting, I'm tellin' ya.

I love to have little nooks and crannies in my garden. I like for it to look just a little bit wild and untamed. Like it could be just out in the woods somewhere. Like it took no effort at all on my part to look that way.

Except, it's really quite tiring.

But it's worth it. There's just nothing quite like being surrounded by plenty of pretty growing things. It makes life so peaceful.

That is, after you get done with all the backbreaking work, like installing stone steps in a small embankment.

Or putting in a patio.

Have you ever tried putting in a patio? It's hard work.

But it's just so worth it when you wander along a leafy path and admire your handiwork.

There's just something... so...

Wait a minute...

I might be getting mixed up a little...

Something's just not quite right here.

Maybe I'm thinking of a different garden...

Like... my Mom's. That she's be working on for 15 years.

Yeah. That's it.

Well, at least I still get to enjoy it.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Good to be Back

The trip is long.

Really long.

AND just brimming with questions:
"Are we at Portland, yet?"
"What is that?"
"What is it for?"
"Is that a fighter jet?"
"Does our plane have guns?"
"Are we at Portland, yet?"
"Is that man going to sleep?"
"Are we riding a fighter jet?"
"What is that called?"
"Can I have a snack?"
"Are we getting on the plane, yet?"
"Are we at Portland, yet?"
"Does this plane have fire coming out?"
"What is that noise?"
"Are we gonna tip over?"
"Are we at Portland, yet?"
"Is this plane taking us to Grandma and Grandpa's house?"
"Can we ride in a fighter jet?"
"Can I have a snack?"

All those, and more. Lather, rinse, repeat for nine hours, frequently perforated with "LOOK! AN AIRPLANE!" and "I gotta go poooootttyyy!"

But there's a good reason for it all and it's all worth it.

For the reunion.

The good times.

The goofy.

The laughs.

The downright frightening.

(Just kidding.)

The cute.

The silly.

The... weird.

It's gonna be fun.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Weekend-- Making Memories

We live so far from all of our family that we eat up every minute we get to spend with any of them. Nathan's parents faithfully make the loooong drive here from Minnesota twice a year-- for Thanksgiving and Memorial weekend.

We sadly waved goodbye this morning, but we had such a great time with them! We didn't really do anything special --a couple of errands and a little garden planting were the only activities-- but we mainly spent the whole time just hanging out and visiting. When we only see them twice a year there's a lot of catching up to do!

Jonah gratefully absorbs all the extra love and attention he gets from his Oma and Opa.

Oma ever-so-patiently helped him plant some corn in the garden yesterday afternoon.

And believe me, it took a lot of patience. She had to keep redirecting his attention back to the task at hand-- "Put down a seed. Now move the stick. Move the stick! There you go. Now another seed..." On and on through two rows.

That, my friends, is what Grandmas are for. I'm pretty sure.

In general, however, Opa is the man of the hour.

Jonah pretty much spent every waking minute "pestering and tormenting" his Opa.

Opa loves to be pestered and tormented.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

July San Tos'? Wie Bother?

We generally don't use credit cards. They are handy to have for certain things, however, like buying plane tickets. We have a certain card that we use for things that will be reimbursed right away, and we pay the balance every month. This month it had some purchases such as the order for the food co-op that I run, and some supplies that Nathan picked up for the people that he works for.

Yesterday, I went to pay this credit card, so I signed on to the website to pay it online. Instead of my account, I got a message saying that our card may or may not have been jeopardized, so just to be safe, they canceled our account and are sending new cards. "Oh, that's just great." I thought. I've had this happen before and it is such a hassle. Not to say I'm not thankful for fraud protection, because it's saved my bacon a few times, praise God. It's just a hassle. I know, first world problem.

So anyway, I had to consider what I was going to do. For one thing, I knew that I had a food co-op order about to bill that card, and it obviously wouldn't go though. I called the company to give them a new card number for billing. Then I realized that the credit card bill was due on Tuesday, and it's a holiday weekend, and the mail had already come, so chances are, if I mailed the payment, it wouldn't arrive on time. Maybe, maybe not. So I called customer service. After being subjected to a computerized recital of my past months transactions --"yeah, yeah, not what I called for, thankyouverymuchpleaseshutup"-- I finally got a real person... with a strong Indian accent.

I really should have followed my first instinct to "please hang up and try your call again." I always know when I get an India-Indian on the phone I'm going to spend the whole call straining to understand what in hey-diddly he's saying anyway.

Cotton-mouth Customer Service Rep: "Good aptahnoon, how may I hewp jou?"

I explained the situation, asked why happened to my card, and got the same explanation as the computer gave.

Me: "Okay... so if I mail the payment at this point, it might not get there in time. Can I pay over the phone and have the charges waived?"

CMCSR: "Oh, jes, ma'amb, since jou are one ob ouwah bedy best customah wit bedy best pehment histady, I would be habby to do dat por jou today, ma'mab, and we wild not charge jou da fowty-nine ninety-fibe today, ma'amb, since jou were not able to pay online today, ma'amb."

Me: "Okay. Great."

So I gave him the payment information and prepared to go about my day.

CMCSR: "Now ip I could just hab a momment ob jour time today, ma'amb, to tell you about da program enrollment..." And just as if I had already agreed, he launched into a (barely intelligible) description of an income-loss protection program.

Now, I already know that we carry no debt on this card, so not being able to pay the card is the very lowest on my list of crashing-economy-worries. It would be a complete waste of money to enroll in this.

Me: "Look, I'm really not interested in this right now. I don't need it and I don't have time for it. I'm getting ready to go out of town and I'm not going to be able to look into this."

CMCSR: "But, ma'amb, dere is no risk, and it is a tirty-day free triald, and I'll gib you da cancelation numbah rdight now, ma'amb. We will send you de infodmation, and jou can look obah it in jour own timbe, ma'amb, and decide ip dis prograhm is ford jou or not, ma'amb. Jou can cancel any timbe. Now I'll oedly need a mombent ob jour prechious timbe, ma'amb, to enroll jou and I'll send out de infodmation today, ma'amb."

Me: "No, look, I understand that, but I really don't want this right now. My husband would have to make the descision anyway, and..."

CMCRS: "Jes! Jour husbad can read it ford hibself! I'll just get the papehs done now and..."

Me: "Look, I really appreciate your offering this to me, but I do. not. want. this."

Here, he actually started yelling at me! He totally couldn't understand why I wouldn't take a free trial for this! He launched into a completely uninteligible re-explanation of the program, yelling and emphasizing that "Jou can cancel ANYTIMBE ip jou don't want dis prograhmb, ma'amb!"

(Of course, it didn't occur to me to get his name or ask for his supervisor or anything, because, really, I just thought the whole thing was so hilarious! I've never been yelled at by an Indian before! All because I won't buy what he's offering! I'll just add that to my list of thigns I didn't know I needed to experience before I die.)

Me: "I know! But I will forget to cancel! And then I'll waste my money because I don't even want this program!"

CMCSR: "Fide! Fide, ma'amb, I wild respect jour desijion, ma'amb, and will not enroll jou today. Hab a nice day."

Friday, May 22, 2009

Eyeballs, Forks-- You Know the Rest

I nearly expired from the shock of boredom I experienced today when I caught some of the song lyrics on one of Jonah's kiddy tapes.

I love my blanket every day,
Every day, every day.
I love my blanket every day,
When I sleep and when I play.

Come. On. Are you seriously kidding me?

(Ha. "Seriously kidding." Oxymoron, much?)

Let's go out and play today,
Play today, play today.
Let's go out and play today,
Let's go out and play!

Great balls of flaming inanity!

Run like I do,
Run like Iiiii do,
Run like IIIII am doing nooooww,
Run like I do,
Run like I do,
Run like IIII am doing noooow.

Jump like I do...

Argh. That tape is teaming with inane, meaningless gibberish all sung to the same three tunes.

What happened to good old Mother Goose?

I am a musician. (Mediocre at best, but still a musician.) I play instruments, and I have since I was a child. I've spent many and hour playing in lessons, orchestra rehearsals, church services, recitals, and just for fun. I want Jonah to grow up with an appreciation of GOOD music. This tape is not furthering those purposes.

To top it off, Jonah memorizes things faster than you could believe, so he's constantly singing these stupid songs. It's a waste. A waste, I tell you. And (as much as I love to hear him sing) it makes my ears bleed. I've been on a hunt for some tapes of Bible verses set to music for him to listen to and memorize. The one I like the best is from a homeschool curriculum that puts out many memorization song tapes. The verses are simple, the references are included in the songs, and the music is quite good. The problem is, the verses are from a variety of translations. Nathan said we should only use songs that have King James Version verses. So when I went looking for those kind of songs, I found none that have GOOD music. They're all irritating and smarmy tunes played on various versions of a synthesizer. I'll end up with diabetes listening to that crap.

I haven't even been able to find good recordings of simple, traditional hymns for him to listen to. I can only find collections of saccharine and repetative and only vaguely "religious" songs. Doesn't anyone put out some good kid music?

So I keep looking. In the meantime, that particular tape is going to mysteriously get lost. Hmm... now that I think about it, somewhere around here I have a box of my old tapes (from back when I listened to tapes). I bet I could replace Stupid Kid Songs, Vol. 947 with the Les Miserables soundtrack and he'd be perfectly happy. So would I.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Laboratory, with Emphasis on "Labor"

I know I've been somewhat absent around these parts lately. It's only because the temperatures are pushing 80 and my garden calls to me and my computer prefers to sit on the desk rather than schlump around the garden with me.

And then there's the fact that I leave for Oregon in less than a week and I have an incredible amount of work to get done before then. I feel like I can easily just work outside from the time I let the chickens out in the morning until I close their coop again at night. There are so many tasks to be completed that I can't even keep track of them all.

Oh, and then there's the fact that I've been playing nurse-maid to a chicken with a prolapsed pooper-shooter. (I'm being glib here, but honestly, I'm worried about her. I'm afraid she may not make it, and then I'll have an orphaned chick on my hands, and this chicken funny-farm is getting out of hand fast.)

But back to the garden.

(Sorry about that.)

(Oh, maybe not that sorry...)

(Just a little.)

I'm being a little experimental in my garden this year. Well, I always have to be a little experimental. Keeps things interesting. Even when I was a kid and I helped Dad in the garden, I liked to experiment. He used to let me have my own little spot and I would pick what I wanted to plant and try them out to see how they did. One year, he let me try some blue potatoes in the potato patch. They turned out to be pretty neat-- well, at first anyway. When you cut them open, they had great color, but when you cook them? Not so appetizing. My brothers didn't want anything to do with the mauvish-gray mashed potatoes for supper. So maybe some experiments are more successful than others, but isn't that the point? Try new things and find out what works.

So my tomatoes desperately needed planting a week or so ago. I had to get them in the ground, since they were getting a little leggy and sad. So I did. And here's the experimental part-- I'm really sick of flimsy tomato cages, so I'm trying something new. Nathan put up a long piece of woven wire fence that has large openings, and I planted the tomatoes along it. As they grown, I'll weave the branches through the fence for support. In theory, this will make easier picking and less disease. I guess we'll find out!

So I got those planted, and then we had some chilly nights. In fact, we had a frost. Ack!

I'm so glad that Nathan reminded me to get the tomatoes covered. They were already look a little droopy, so that frost would have done them in.

I feel like I'm looking at my Grandma's garden. She always used to use milk jugs to protect her tomatoes.

See? They're pretty happy in their own personal greenhouses.

This year I'm also trying leeks. They're a little on the fussy side. They especially dislike getting trampled on by a small child right after planting. Sheesh. So picky.

When we tested our soil this spring, we found that the soil is deficient in nitrogen. So one thing I'm trying is planting beans here and there throughout the garden instead of just in one spot. Ideally, they'll "fix" nitrogen in the soil for the plants nearby.

So instead of a stake to make my cuccumber and melon plants, I'm using a bamboo pole with a few pole beans planted next to it. We'll see how that works.

I was very excited to find sweet potato slips at a nursery in bundles of 25 for 5 bucks! Score! So I got those planted, and I'm praying that we'll have no more frost now or they'll be lost in a hurry.

Another experiement is one of my garden extentions. Instead of having Nathan pull up all the sod and till, I decided to just spread a heavy kill mulch a few months ago. The idea was that when I came time to plant, I'd just put holes in the cardboard where plants needed to go. It was working great, until we locked the chickens in the garden. Then they decided to tear up my mulch. I know they couldn't help themselves... In short, it's a mess, and the grass is coming through.

I went ahead and planted some cabbage, broccoli, and brussels sprouts in there anyway. I just need to add mulch. Well, I think I planted those cool-loving things too late and now they look pathetic. In fact, they're barely alive.

Poor things.

Oh, and I'm now the proud owner of my very own asperagus bed!

What? You can't see it? Well, try not to pay attention to my freakish claw-handed shadow... there are asperagus plants there... I promise...

I'm in the process of putting in a flower bed on the north side of my kitchen. I've been digging out the hard clay subsoil that came up when the foundation was dug, and I've been hauling in some topsoil to replace it. So far I have a few hostas and some weak little ferns in there.

Someday... it's gonna be great. Really.

The clump of Plantation Hostas that I put in is made up of three smaller clumps. Jonah dubbed them a "Mother and a Daddy and a baby! Oooohhh... hooow sweeeet..."

It has just now occurred to me that I should make sure that the chickens are not out there undoing my day's work, and who wants to be inside on a day like this anyway?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Preschooler Time Saving Tecnique #47

Put your clothes on over your pajamas. This allows more time for BOTH screeching about how much you think you should get your way before breakfast, and playing with trucks right before bed.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Call Me Trashy...

...but I found some totally cool stuff at some yard sales this weekend.

I mean, how adorable is this?

It's the classic enameled tin cup, complete with dents and chips, IN RED.

I'm in love.

And then there's this:

OH STOP. Quit looking at me like that.

So it's a little rough.

And rusty.

But it looks like it could have come out of storage in Grandpa's hay loft and it's gonna look GREAT with a coat of Rustoleum (or three).

Also, I actually let Jonah buy toys at one of these yard sales. Yeah. We never buy toys. He had some birthday money, so I let him pick something out. He shied away from the toy swords (for "cutting down trees" he said) and army helmets and after I declined the freakish-looking-(broken)-transformer-thingy, he opted for a fighter jet and a hatchet. The latter of which he uses completely inappropriately like a hammer, blade-side up. Oh, come on. It's plastic.

Ahhh... there's just nothing quite like spending the weekends pawing through other people's old and overpriced junk. Garage sale season is upon is!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Toothpaste Theories

Jonah has discovered toothpaste. That's what "thoothsath" means, I believe. I've always just brushed his teeth with water, as I do my own, but Daddy uses toothpaste. So here, Jonah is giving his theories on why one might need toothpaste at all.

Hey, as far as I'm concerned, it's as good a reason as any. I'm not a big believer in brushing to prevent tooth decay. I have far more faith in some good quality cod liver oil, thankssomuch.

Suppertime Conversation

Nathan, notices flies buzzing around: "Hm. I think it's about time to put up some flystrips."

Me, glancing at kitchen door wide open to let in fresh air and glorious sunshine: "Hm. Yeah. And some screen doors."

N: "Okay. Look, I'll put up one screen door if you will take care of the flystrips for the summer."

M: "Hey! No fair! You put up both screen doors, and I'll take care of the fly strips."

N: "Two screen doors for flystrips? That's not very even!"

M: "Sure! It's like a half-hour of work for you, but I have to do flystrips for the whole summer!"

N: "Yeah, that's like ten seconds of work at a time!"

M: "But I have to remember them all summer. I have to think of it. Not that easy. I have a lot in my head you know."

N, pauses, considers tasteless remark, wisely reconsiders: "Fine. I'll put them up. But you had better keep up on those flystrips!"

M: "Yeah, yeah. Hey, what, are we one of those "modern" marriages now? Where we divvy up all the work so that it's exactly even?"

N: "Oh, yeah, right. That's it."

M: "Okay. I will... do the dishes if you will... let me sweep the floor."

N: "Ha. Sounds great."

M: "And YOU can... mow the lawn and I will... let you till the garden."

N: "Har, har. You think you're SOOO funny..."

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Big Muzzy

We got Muzzy for Jonah for his birthday.

I picked it up cheap on Ebay. It's pretty expensive new (though it's now on DVD!), so I just found an old, used set which contains cassette and VHS tapes (yeah, you know-- you have to put them in a VCR and "rewind" them when you're done. You've heard of it?)

I've heard a lot of good things about Muzzy, and now I know why. It's fantastic.

Muzzy is basically an immersion-style language course for children (available in several different languages). It's a clever story that's amazingly complex and enjoyable (and the old-style cartoons make it even more fun, in my opinion) yet is made up entirely of very simple and repetitive dialog. The method is that the child watches the videos in English (or whatever the native language) to learn the story and then watches the videos in another language (in our case, Spanish). Ideally, they make the associations to begin understanding the other language in the same way that they learned their first language. Little kids' minds are ripe for this kind of learning and this ability is lost as they get older.

Now, I certainly am not expecting Jonah to become fluent in Spanish or anything. He doesn't even need to be and obviously doesn't have anywhere to use Spanish. But here's my reasoning for using this program: First of all, this will hopefully just stretch his brain in the direction of language learning, and if we continue with it over the years (Muzzy has a second level that I can get later), maybe it won't be so hard for him as it was for me when it comes to getting down to learning the grammar of the language. Maybe he'll never need it, but maybe he will, who knows? Secondly, we're homeschooling (and I say that in present tense even though he's only 4 because we're gearing up for it. We do all sorts of "unschooling" style school throughout our daily life and I'm making plans for his future schooling.) What are the main things he's working on learning at this point? Language and things pertaining to it: speech, syntax, letters, sounds, reading, writing. These videos cover all of those things, and there's nothing better than a different language to help you understand your own, right? I can see how even just watching the English video would be helpful to a child learning to talk. The story covers numbers, colors, letters, question words, prounouns, manners, "this one and that one", time, location and many other language concepts.

Also-- Muzzy is very systematic and WAY more fun (and less obnoxious) than Dora, which I despise (because Dora is teaching multiculturalism, not Spanish).

Jonah is addicted. He begs to watch one of the videos every day (in fact he's completely forgotten about the new Bob the Builder video he got!) and when he's not watching the videos, he's listening to the audio tapes.

I'm actually amazed at how quickly he's picking it up. He's seen the English video three times, and the Spanish version three or four times, but he knows the story well enough to be able to follow the audio tapes. He plays them over and over in his little tape player. (Aside: did you know that a kiddy tape player like that costs hundreds of dollars? No kidding: look at this one and this one and this one. When I looked a few months ago, there was one for $400. Insane. Seriously. I picked this one up at Salvation Army for 50 cents, only to get it home and find it didn't work. However, Daddy was able to wave his magic wand and get it working, and we've been regretting it ever since. Oh, the saccharine kiddy songs that run through my head daily!)

So we haven't even had Muzzy in the house for a week and already Jonah is repeating phrases. I was surprised, actually. I expected him to be frustrated or confused at not being able to understand, but he didn't miss a beat. He says, "Buenos dias! That means 'good morning!" Yesterday, he came to me while listening to the tape and said, "Mom! Mom, 'Llevenselo!' means 'Take him away!'"

I tell you what, it's fun way to learn.

Monday, May 11, 2009

It's the Hat

Don't ever accuse this kid of being a cowboy, never mind the hat.

Cuz he'll quickly inform you that he's a farmer.