Saturday, May 31, 2008

Book Binge results

As anticipated, my list of books is rather short for this month.  May has been a very busy month, with the end of school occurring.  Field day, awards ceremonies, end-of-year teacher gifts all took extra time - much of it coming out of possible reading time.

These first two books I had out of the library for over a month and never got very far.  I think if I had gotten farther into them, they might have caught my interest more, but I ran out of time.

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert - got to page 23, never really caught on

These is my Words, The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901 by Nancy E. Turner - p. 37  Again, I never really got into this book, so when I couldn't renew it, I just gave up on it.

Rhett Butler's People by Donald McCaig - I enjoyed seeing Gone with the Wind from Rhett's point of view, but otherwise it was only OK.

My Losing Season by Pat Conroy - Non-fiction of his final season playing basketball at the Citadel.  I've enjoyed Conroy's other books, but this one being non-fiction was very difficult to read just how cruel his father was.

In Defense of Food, an Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan - I'm at page 85 and counting.  It's a very interesting and thought-provoking book.  I would probably be further along, but I keep stopping to consider and occasionally  discuss the ideas.  I will definitely finish this book.

Affluenza by John de Graaf - another thought provoking book.  I've just barely started this one, but its already spawning conversation for the dinner table.

A rather short list, but M (12 yo son) makes up for it.  We went to the library last Sat and he has already finished all 20 or so books he checked out.  Plus 2 weeks before that he checked out another 30 (or so) books and read all them.  There was still another week in May before that but I don't remember how many books he checked out then - and the first week in May he was still able to check books out from the school library too.  Many of M's books are manga, but he has a decent number of other, mostly YA fiction.  Since he finished off his books, DH gave him one of his library books to look at - a rather unusual book for a 12 yo, but he seems to be enjoying it - Physics of the impossible, a scientific exploration into the world of Phasers, Force Fields, Teleportation and Time Travel by Michio Kaku.  It led to dinner discussions of robots and quantum mechanics tonight.


Friday, May 30, 2008

Chore Lists

Here are our current chore lists:

Week 1:
Monday - sweep kitchen
vacuum kitchen rugs

Tuesday - vacuum living room (incl doormat)
vacuum back hall

Wednesday - clean hall bath

Thursday - clean your bedroom

Friday - parent's choice

Week 2:

Monday - clean master bathroom

Tuesday - parent's choice

Wednesday - sweep front hall and living room

Thursday - clean your bedroom

Friday - sweep kitchen
take recyclables to garage

So far it seems to be working fairly well.  I had thought A was reasonable with the vacuum, but it seems he still has a bit of a problem with it.  So I suppose the vacuum LR and hall will be replaced by a "parent's choice".  And that leads, I suppose, to a question of what is "parent's choice"?  It's for those chores that don't necessarily need to be done every week.  Or that need to be done with a parent.  This week, A and I did some in-depth cleaning of his room and working on his clothes - he tried on about 20 pairs of shorts that were hand-me-downs from M.  M picked up sticks and pine cones in the front yard so we (or maybe M) can mow this weekend.  Future "parent's choice" will probably include working on M's closet with him, sweeping the dining room, sweeping the stairs, scrubbing the front porch and others.

A particularly didn't like sweeping the kitchen this morning.  I'm not quite sure why, but he managed to make it take a loooooooong time.  Of course, he was reading the comics, petting the cat and who knows what else during that time.


Thursday, May 29, 2008

Happy Birthday D!

Having a birthday right near Memorial Day means that often D hasn't had work or school on his birthday. Well, this year he only sort of had work. He spent yesterday and this morning chaperoning a group of rising 9th graders around GA Tech. It did mean that he got out of a day of post-planning yesterday (though the room cleaning and organizing still have to get done sometime this summer and sooner rather than later). He had a group of students sing happy birthday to him at breakfast this morning.

D got home early afternoon, so plenty of time to relax before I made him grill dinner. I fixed the rest of it (with my mom contributing her yummy potato salad and deviled eggs), but it is just too hard to get meat grilled and anything else cooked and have it all be even reasonably warm together. D had initially wanted tuna steaks for dinner, but when I went to the store this morning, they were all frozen solid. I bought them anyway, but also picked up some lamb chops on sale. D decided on lamb chops for his birthday dinner and we'll have tuna steaks in a few days once they've thawed all the way. We also had tasty spicy green beans (from Trader Joes). Those were great. I didn't think they were too spicy at all, but A did - so he joined M in having plain green beans. There was enough spicy marinade left over that I saved it and I'll add it to the grown up green beans the next time.

Here's D with his presents after dinner:

You can see that we are big believers in gift bags! I made several of the bags from my cloth stash.

The most unique gift D got was an Altoids tin that M made out of clay. It has a bottom and separate top and is labeled appropriately on top. We decided that the mints in the tin needed to be housed in a baggie though, as the clay is not completely dry yet.

Then we finished it all off with carrot cake. Yummy!

Labels: ,

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Getting into the Summer Swing

It's always interesting to change up the schedules, as we are doing now going into summer.

Today was the first day of morning swim practice for the kids. A's freestyle is really looking better this year. All that practice last fall is really paying off for him. I don't know how his times are, but he looks much better. He's even trying to breathe to the side. WOW. And he's hoping to learn to dive this year. We'll work on that once the water's warm enough for me to get all the way in (we went to the pool Monday and I managed to get in up to my waist). M was working on flip turns in practice this morning. He says he gets turned sideways and disoriented during the flip, so he needs to work on it more - maybe starting with just doing flips in the water. He says he's going to work on it - I hope so, because I think he will like how much faster it can be.

Getting time on the computer, especially to compose blog posts is challenging. Especially time when I'm not thinking about bed already.

The kids are on day 3 of their new summer chore schedule. It's working out fairly well - better than when I tried it before. I made up 2 lists and they will swap lists of chores each week. So far, I've been helping them some (especially some that haven't been done recently enough) and providing guidance on what the completed chore should look like (sweeping the LR means sweeping under the chair and end table also). They aren't thrilled with the chores, but they are doing them without too much complaint. It helps that the rule is no computer time until your chores are done - though I decided that I didn't want to be up monitoring computer usage at the crack of dawn, so it's no computer after swim practice until chores. M chose to read for an hour or so this afternoon before doing his bathroom cleaning, but it did get done by mid-afternoon, so its ok by me. I suppose I could be getting my computer time in while they are doing chores, but I find we all do better if I'm either assisting/monitoring them or doing other chores myself.

Labels: ,

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Pickle Preferences

A has the strangest (to me) pickle preferences - he chooses his pickles by shape. He always wants the chip pickles - no matter whether they are bread and butter (mommy pickles) or dill (daddy pickles). Neither D nor I like the others pickles, but A doesn't care about taste, only shape. Strange!


Friday, May 23, 2008

Last Day of School!

Woo hoo! We've made it through another year. M came through the door this afternoon singing "last day of school, last day of school". Ya think he's happy about it??? Maybe just a tad.

We celebrated tonight by watching a movie - Bedknobs and Broomsticks. And then I told the kids they could stay up and read if they wanted. I think A turned his off by 10:00, but M is still reading here at almost 10:15. I'll probably tell him to turn it off once we go to bed (at least once he hits a good stopping point).

Labels: ,

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

2 more days of school...

I can see the light at the end of the tunnel - and its only sort of an oncoming train - the train of summer!

Things I'm looking forward to:
NOT getting up at 6 am.
NOT hassling kids about getting their homework done
NOT racing home to meet A's bus at 2:30
NOT having to try to get dinner on the table at 6 o'clock sharp so I don't throw off the evening routine
more relaxed schedule
visiting with pool friends
time to sit at the pool and read

Things I'm NOT looking forward to:
lack of alone time - I've gotten used to quiet time during the day
hauling kids to the store - mostly I don't have to because D will be around, but it happens more often in the summer
endless requests for snacks
refereeing kids arguments
trying to keep kid computer time to a reasonable level
having to kick kids off computer so I can have some time on it

Overall, the pros of vacation definitely win, but somedays I wish I could send the kids off somewhere all day. This summer both kids have Scout camp, but on different weeks unlike last year. Last year I got a whole week of kid-free time from 8-3, but with D around much of it. Very nice - that doesn't happen often. This year A has day camp one week, then the next M has overnight camp all week. Oh well - at least they can't fight if they're not together... And maybe we'll find something fun to do with just one kid each week.

2 more days, 2 more days, 2 more days.....

Labels: ,

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Last Week of School

Yes, we have one more week of school around here. And of course that means that things are crazy busy.

In the last week we've had:

2 awards ceremonies for M
1 Court of Honor for M
1 Cub Scout Crossover for A
1 Kids Sunday at church, with both kids in the play
1 end of year pool party for church youth group - A
3 nights of D not home for dinner due to end of year stuff

In the coming week we have:

4 days of swim practice (times 2 since the kids practice at different times)
1 field day for A
1 awards and class party for A
teacher gifts I need to finish for said party
4 finals for M (that he isn't planning on studying for)
the last night of D's class he's been taking all year
Graduation that D has to attend
1 end of year church youth group party for M

In the midst of all this, we are trying to find hotels for our vacation this summer and having a very frustrating time of it. It's very hard to find hotels in Japan that are meant for 4 people in a room. And even when they have double beds (most hotels seem to have single beds or futon mattresses on the floor), they seem to assume that you will only put one person in a bed - ie 2 double beds is still listed as occupancy of 2, not 4 as US hotels would be. I don't know if you can put 4 people in the room or not. The idea of calling Japan and trying to work through language and custom barriers is a bit overwhelming at the moment.

Someday I'll have time to put up a coherent post again and maybe even pictures, but I'm not exactly sure when...

Labels: ,

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Banner Day for M

Yesterday was a banner day for M!

First up was 6th grade awards in the morning. M got an award for outstanding achievement in Science and another for outstanding effort in Social Studies. I must admit, I had to comment to the SS teacher afterwards that I was glad that he was seeing good effort from M, since at home he seems to put in the minimal effort needed to do well. He does care about doing well, but he doesn't want to do *anything* more than necessary. And he NEVER studies! But, hey, the teacher sees effort in class (and sees results too) so maybe he is doing more at school than home.

Posted by Picasa

Then in the evening, he had a Court of Honor for Scouts. M received 1 merit badge (art) and 2 increases in rank! He became a Tenderfoot and then moments later Second Class! Way to go M!!

Here he is pinning the rank pins on his dad.

Labels: , ,

Monday, May 12, 2008

A's new Challenge choices

It's time for A to pick his Challenge classes for next year. As usual, he has more interesting choices than slots to fill. He has 18 classes to rank - of which he will get 3 in the fall. I think most of these classes will be offered again in the spring and he will get to choose again then.

His top choices:

1. Discovering Engineering - Build a robot or design a bridge - it's all engineering. Come explore the engineering world!

2. Out of this World Astronomy - Explore the universe. Discover black holes, quasars, and star nurseries. Is here life on Mars? Take the wildest ride of your life - our of this world - SPACE.

3. Intro to Algebra - Did you know that numbers could really be letters of the alphabet? Join the fun of learning what algebra is really about and how equations work.

4. Inventions - Learn about inventions and inventors through research and class discussions. This class will conclude with the student creating a workable invention.

5. Wonders of the World - Travel the ancient world and learn about the reasons for the great wonders and the awesome architectural feats that occurred to get these amazing wonders to work! Replicate your favorite wonder for a presentation.

6. Math Games - Games from around the world that engage students in activities that are fun but hone skills in measurement, problem solving, critical thinking, and recognizing patterns.

7. Open for Business - Become an entrepreneur and learn the ins and outs of running your own business.

8. Whodunit? - Hone your detective skills to solve mysterious crimes! Learn some old tricks from Sherlock Holmes and new tricks from the pros. The Westing Game will get us started!

9. Those Roaring 20's - Experience the ups and downs of the stock market economics of the 1920's.

10. National Parks - Put on your hiking boots and grab your water bottle. Let's go explore what our National Parks have to offer us.

He didn't really want to put the algebra one quite that high up, but it was highly recommended that he take it this year, so I insisted.

M took several of these when he was in 4th grade: 
  • Inventions - where he built a cat doorbell
  • Wonders of the World - he built the lighthouse of Alexandria (3 ft tall!)
  • Open for Business - he (with more of my help than I really wanted) made 100 cookies, 3 different times to "sell" (with play money) at school
  • Whodunit - M was so interested, he read the whole book before the class started, only to find out that they were not supposed to read ahead

Labels: ,

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day, I think

Well, it is Mother's Day and it has been a fine day overall, but not quite what I or anyone expected.

We were awakened early this morning (before 5:30 am) by howling winds and driving rain (coming in our windows). We ran around shutting windows and in the noise of shutting windows in the kids rooms, thunder, long, light-up-the-sky lightening, the kids woke up and were up for the day. D and I tried to go back to sleep. He finally gave up and got up - and then I think I finally did manage to get a little more sleep.

While I was catching a few extra zzz's, he wandered the nearby streets checking on how much damage had been done by the storm. No real damage to our house. Our patio umbrella did take an unauthorized trip to the end of the yard, but it is back in place now in about the same state as before. Initially D couldn't find it and we thought we'd have to traipse through various backyards looking for it, but it was hiding in the brush at the edge of our yard.

One of the neighbors down the street wasn't so lucky - they got a tree resting on their roof:

Other neighbors had large trees or sections of trees come down, but without hitting houses. Virtually everyone had debris all over the yard. After church, we spent over an hour picking up branches and trying to clear the yard and driveway. Of course, its been very windy all day, so there are still branches and pinecones being blown out of the trees (and debris that is already down being blown around more).

After all the yard work, the kids wanted to go swimming. The pool isn't officially open yet, but we've been told it is ready to go. So, since we have a key off we went.

The pool was a little worse off from the storm also, but the kids went in and I spent some time skimming the surface. We had lots of leaves in the pool and M plucked a pine branch off the bottom of the deep end.

M in the water. He decided that maybe he did need a haircut (or at least a bang trim) here soon. He complained he couldn't see for all the hair in his eyes.

A in the pool.

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, May 10, 2008


Drama, drama everywhere. But luckily the drama around here is all taking place on the stage and not so much kid drama. We have taken the kids to see 3 plays in the last month.

First it was Cats at the high school. Good show. The kids liked the music and M bought various songs to put on his iPod.

Next came Fiddler on the Roof, put on by M's middle school. I was a little worried about 6th - 8th graders putting this on, but they did a great job. A few rough edges where they didn't have enough strong male voices, but overall quite enjoyable.

Lastly came A Servant of Two Masters, put on in town by Shake at the Lake. Very funny. Lots of current events/local humor, including some that luckily went right over the kids heads. Thank goodness - because some of the comments had me wondering about their "appropriate for all ages" designation. Adding to the hilarity of the play was the fact that it was intermittently raining - not hard, but it kept starting and stopping - and we were outside. So, about every 5 minutes the rain would start up, umbrellas would go up. Then after 2-5 minutes, the rain would stop and the umbrellas would go back down. Up. Down. Up. Down. For 2 hours!

Both kids did fine at all 3 plays, though A did get a little more restless. It's nice to have them both at an age where we can all enjoy plays now.



Two weeks ago when A and I went off camping with the Cub Scouts, M went biking at a BMX track for a friend's birthday party. D was going to get M's bike ready Sat morning, but discovered that WHOA that bike was too small. It seems M grew enough over the winter to not really fit his bike anymore. So off they went to Tar*get to get a new one. I'd already had to get M a new helmet after his last one self destructed (plastic circle with all the little foam bits had disconnected from the main helmet).

M had a good time biking at the track and is now enjoying his bike more. He says he'll be biking to swim practice this summer too.

Meanwhile, we needed to work some more with A on getting him truly riding his bike. Deja vu - his old bike was too small too! So, we got out M's old bike and lowered the seat just a smidgen and now we have proper size bikes for both kids.

I took A and the bike up to the top of the yard on a grassy slope and helped him get started. He was a little wobbly at first (over steering), but he had the hang of it. He was riding. on his own. He practiced some more down the front yard and back and forth in the driveway. By golly, this time I think it will stick! Several times before he had gotten very close on riding, but just didn't have the confidence to take off. I think this time he will. It didn't help though that he turned in the driveway and was about to head down a rather steep slope towards our neighbor's yard. He didn't brake soon enough and the brakes weren't going to be much good on that steep a slope, esp when covered with pine straw. He ended up skidding into the edge of a tree and stopping. Not hurt really, but a little shaken and a small scrape. So we ended the session. With thoughts of another session tomorrow though.

I'm glad he's finally getting the hang of the bike. At 9.25 years. I think he's happy too. Now he'll be able to bike to his friend S's house rather than walking...

Labels: ,

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

They're Baaaacccckkkk

cue the scary music.... the pantry moths are back. Picture me running screaming.... I hate those %$#*&% bugs!!!

I thought I was done with them back in the fall - after all the cleaning and purging and painting and living out of plastic bins. But now they seem to be back. SOB. The worst thing is that I haven't got a clue where they are living - or what they are eating. I've checked most of our food - no signs of them. I've put said food into the plastic bins - no signs in the bins. I threw out the last vestiges of candy in the closet - no signs, but out it went anyway (old Halloween and Christmas candy).

I talked to a very friendly extension service agent a few days ago and she said they could also be in wool things. So I currently have a moth trap in our closet. I just checked and it has one moth. Hmm. Maybe they are in there, but 1 moth isn't anything like the pantry infestation. Still, I should probably get the wool stuff drycleaned (or decide I don't wear it and can get rid of it) and then store it in some sort of moth-proof container. But not with moth balls! GAH. I can't stand the smell and it seems to permeate clothing. I just can't wear something that has been stored with mothballs.

The other thought I just had was what if the moths have gotten into my rug? The last time I had it cleaned they said it had some moth damage and they moth-proofed it. I guess I need to find out how long that lasts. I really don't want to have to take it in again - its a royal pain to take it into town and back (and not cheap either). Plus its not supposed to be good to clean it too often.

ARRRRGGGHHHHH!!!!! I thought lice were bad, but I think pantry moths are worse!


Monday, May 05, 2008

He's back!

It's nice to have D back home again! We spent the afternoon catching up on how each others weekend went. I've missed having someone to talk to in the evenings. Well, I can (and sometimes do) talk to the cats, but they don't have much to say back. Or maybe they do, but I just don't understand cat.

They had a good trip. 12 projects were presented (15 kids). 7 projects won money. Several others got an honorable mention. They got to meet and mingle with other kids from around the US and around the world.

M was VERY impressed that people won money. Gold won $1500, silver $1000 and bronze $500. And they awarded multiple medals at each level, so there were a bunch of people who won money. I pointed out to M that in order to win, the students had to actually go to the science fair and present. M did a science fair project last fall but chose not to make a poster so it could actually go *TO* the science fair. The teacher had made the poster optional (why, I don't know - I think they should have made it part of the assignment and then chosen the best ones to go on to the science fair). Anyhooo... maybe it will make M consider actually going the extra step on his project next year.


Saturday, May 03, 2008

Only at Rice

D is in Houston this week, with a bunch of students presenting at an international science fair. While the kids were busy, he headed over to our alma mater, Rice. He sent me an email from "a treehouse on the main quad". As he said, "only at Rice"!

I wish I'd thought to send a camera with him. I guess it will have to wait until this fall, though, when (hopefully) we will be back at Rice for our (gasp) 20th reunion. It really doesn't seem like its been that long!


Friday, May 02, 2008

Book Binge

book binge I'm joining Mary P's "Book Binge" this month - keeping a list of all the books I read in the month of May. Since this is the last 3 weeks of school coming up, I'm not sure how many I will read, but I will report back at the end of the month.

I guess this means a trip to the library is in order. I love my library (and especially its inter-library loan). I had a couple of books I've been meaning to read, but now I can't remember them. Drat! I'm open to suggestions - both for this month and for enjoying at the pool this summer.