Category Archives: Random

“Holy Exhibit Hall, Batman!”

Flashback time.

Nearly every year, one or both of my parents would head off to Richmond for the annual Home Educators Association of Virginia (HEAV) convention.  For those of you that aren’t in the know, homeschooling conventions are fantastic places to hear speakers on a plethora of topics, meet fellow homeschoolers, and to examine/obtain materials for the upcoming school year…among many other things.  I was (am) one of those weird kids who were (are) actually disappointed when summer break starts, so I would use the boxes and crates of awesome that came home with my parents to console myself and get all jazzed up about the next school year.

As I got older, my friends started graduating at the HEAV convention.  Seeing them (and hundreds of other kids) graduate helped make being a homeschooled kid seem more official, especially back when homeschooling wasn’t exactly as mainstream as it is today.  Like George Washington, I cannot tell a lie…my favorite part of graduation was getting to go into the exhibit hall myself and browse among a selection of books that called to my book junkie self much like the Sirens called to lost Greek sailors.

This year, when I was brainstorming about what I wanted to do with Oldest and Toddler for the upcoming year, I remembered that HEAV has a convention option that gives you a shopping pass.  Since this was what I was most interested in…and because I didn’t think of the convention in time to do the hotel thing, I decided to go ahead and register.  The convention was this past weekend.  My hubs took Friday off and stayed home with the kiddies.  (P.S. Thanks, Baby!)  I left my house slightly after dawn cracked and made it to Richmond without getting lost more than once.  Side note…while I was lost, I think I may have accidentally run a red light which I didn’t know existed until I was already in the intersection.  Dang sun visor.  And dang roundabout intersection with no signs.  I didn’t kill anybody, and if I get a ticket, it’ll be my first one ever.  That has to count for something, right?  Anyway, this year, HEAV offered shuttle parking for the Friday of the convention, which was great.  I didn’t have to look for parking in any of the 8, 000 parking lots and garages around the convention center…I just had to grab my wheelie suitcase (to carry the awesome I expected to find) and hop (I use that term loosely these pregnant days) on a bus.  Easy peasy.

I got there and checked in about an hour before the exhibit hall opened.  This was good because I got an opportunity to look through the goodies I got at registration and kind of prioritize which vendor booths I really needed/wanted to visit.  I also found out that I would get to go to one speaker session, so I picked five sessions out of the program that looked especially interesting, and then factored in starting times/lunch/my estimated time of departure to pick the lucky winner.  (I ended up at an Answers in Genesis presentation on Creation vs. Evolution.  It was great, in case you were wondering.  So great that I bought the MP3s of the other three sessions being given by that particular speaker so I could listen to them this week.)

By this point, the exhibit hall was open, so I walked in to see what I could see before my session started.  I swear that place has quadrupled in size and content since my junior year, when I attended the convention with my dad and sister.  I’m a non-shopper.  Like, I don’t like it at all.  In fact, I prefer to visit the dentist.  Walking into the exhibit hall was something like drinking out of a fire hydrant.  I realized belatedly that my little wheelie suitcase was probably not going to be large enough to contain the awesome, but as my daddy always said, “Life’s tough…get a helmet.”  I ended up purchasing a variety of awesome from the following publishers/vendors:

At this point, my wheelie suitcase weighed about 75 pounds, so I was reduced to metaphorically drooling on a lot more awesome from several other vendors, including:

My hubs and I are hoping to be able to go to the whole convention together next year.  I really want to be able to attend more sessions, and to be able to browse the awesome a little more at leisure.

Leave a comment

Filed under Homeschooling, Random

“From Scratch” Ain’t Always Worth It

I know.  It’s a stunner.  I’m a total DIY girl, but I have realized today that somethings are just not worth DIY-ing.  Is that a word?  (Dang you, Pinterest, for nourishing my fevered desire to do it myself.)  Certainly, there are things that I don’t really want to do myself…like, folding socks, for example.  I don’t mind it when they all match, but they never do.  It’s disheartening.  That said, I undertook 3 mini research projects with DIY potential this morning, which may or may not have been fueled by weird pregnancy cravings.

I love crispy puffed rice cereal, sourdough bread, and yogurt.  Not so much together, but individually, they’re awesome.  Kind of like caramel corn and broccoli with cheese sauce.

Last night, the combination of watching my hubs make popcorn in our hot air popper and realizing that the only cereal we have in the house is Cheerios (which are great, but I’m just not feeling them right now), made me wonder if said air popper had more than one application.  Corn is a grain…rice is a grain…you see where I was going with this, right?  It won’t work, unless you happen to have rice that still has its outer husky shell thing attached in your pantry.  I do not.  I found some recipes that swore that you could fry cooked sushi rice and it would be kind of like the real thing, but it ain’t worth it.  I don’t fry things for a couple of reasons.

  1. I like my eyebrows where they are, thanks.
  2. My tummy doesn’t like fried or greasy things.  Not even doughnuts.  It’s sad, but what are you gonna do?

I have come to the sad conclusion that it ain’t worth puffing rice from scratch.  Which means that a trip to the grocery store is likely in order, unless I start craving Cream of Wheat sometime soon.

My hubs brought a loaf of sourdough bread home for our little date night on Monday.  I never remember how much I like sourdough bread until it’s been a year since I’ve had any.  Even though I can’t puff rice, bread is totally within my realm of capability.  I make it quite often.  This lead me to check out exactly how to start a, well, starter.  I have found about 30,000 conflicting recipes and techniques and I’ve only just begun to sift through them.  I called my grandma this morning to ask her how, and completely forgot when we started chatting.  It was awesome, but I remembered an hour later that I completely missed that proverbial boat and I’m going to have to call her back later.  My sister did that Amish friendship bread thing for awhile when we were kids, and that used a starter, so I can probably ask her, too.  The thing that I have come to realize is that a starter is like a pet.  For real.  You have to feed it every day, keep it in an ideal climate, and possibly talk to it to make sure it isn’t lonely.  Do I really want to undertake the responsibility of caring for a colony of wild yeast bacteria?  I’m still on the fence about this one.  I do love kitchen science, so maybe it’ll be a go.

My last “I really want” was yogurt.  Yogurt has turned out to be the only foolproof way of getting Toddler to consistently do dairy.  He doesn’t believe in drinking milk unless it has been flavored by Cheerios and is drunk by the spoonful.  It is a time-consuming and messy process, particularly now that he’s also into DIY.  With Momma.  One of the things I’ve come to discover about maintaining my blood sugar levels is that I can’t do dairy.  Well, I can do cheese, butter and small (1/4 cup) amounts of carb-smart ice cream, but that’s it.  I’ve switched to almond milk for the rest of my milky needs, but I can’t find almond milk yogurt anywhere.  I know it exists…just not where I can get it without paying an arm, a leg, and possibly a bit of my soul into the bargain.  It just isn’t worth it.  And then I got an e-mail about a DIY yogurt machine on sale.  (Dang you, Amazon, for nourishing my fevered desire to do it myself.)  I read reviews, recipes, researched (you guessed it) yogurt starters, different ways to make it with almonds, etectera ad nauseum.  I’ve gotta say…it’s tempting.  Like, a lot.  My kiddies go through a metric butt-ton of the stuff, so it’d by nice to be able to control what goes into it.  (I have issues.)  And if I could make my non-dairy non-soy (allergies…what are you gonna do?) version into the bargain, that’d be great, too.  Right?  I can take care of two bacteria colonies!  What are a few billion more mouths to feed?

Or, perhaps, I should just buy a loaf of sourdough bread when the itch is really strong and continue to live without yogurt in my life.  Need is a vacuous concept, after all.

Leave a comment

Filed under Crafty, Random, Tasty

Laundry…the Never-Ending Story

My Never-Ending Story

When I was a kid daydreaming about fighting battles, they usually took place in Narnia.  And I won.  A lot.  The battle I wage today (and every day of my adult life) is against laundry.  Unlike fighting against the White Witch, or against Uncle Miraz, this battle is completely futile.  I’m pretty sure I’m never going to win, and I’m (mostly) okay with that.

I just wish I could exterminate my Creepy Crawly Sock Monster once and for all.  Because of his insatiable and varied appetite, I currently have thirteen widowed socks living in my dryer.  Seriously.  I’m thinking of starting a Lonely Socks Club.  Our motto could be “Clean, single, and looking for a mate.”  Are you a grey sock with chartreuse stars sized 12-24 months?  We may have someone just for you!

I did nine loads of laundry this weekend.  I wasn’t particularly behind or anything when I started that evolution, but yesterday was Sheets Day, which always takes longer than I think that it’s going to take…for a couple of reasons.

In the first place, Oldest sleeps with about six blankets and at least five large stuffed animals, along with his sheets, pillowcase and pillow.  When I do the whole kit and kaboodle, his bed usually adds up to a little more than two loads all by itself. The rest of his third load was comprised of the sheets and pillowcases from my bed.  Yesterday was also Down Day, where my comforter and pillows each got their own respective loads…and because they are delicate creatures, the drying process is massively extended.  Like a lot.  When I finished those five (?!!) loads, I took one look at the growing pile of laundry and decided to wait on the babies’ bedclothes until I was able to carve a sizable dent in Mount Washmore.  And then I looked at the clock and realized with mounting dread that Mound Washmore wasn’t getting carved anymore that day.

Have I mentioned that typically I do at least one load of laundry every day of the week?  Because in my house, if you miss a day of laundry, you’re suddenly a week behind.  Anyway.

When I started back up this afternoon, the prospect wasn’t too grim.  And then I realized that sorting had to happen.  I had a load that contained nothing but two jersey maternity dresses and a maxi skirt, because apparently, they are the only clothes I have in those colors and with that particular set of fabric care instructions.  I had a load of mostly reds and another of mostly whites or whitish garments.  Normally, they’d have gone in together and I’d have used one of those cool little color catcher sheet thingies, but these reds were mostly new and I didn’t want to risk turning the whites pink.  I keep telling my husband that pink is just light red, but he doesn’t buy it.  The ninth load was the normal accumulation of clothing for Saturday, plus the green-tinged clothes from Grass Day.

I got everything folded/hung and put away after dinner and was about to indulge in a happy dance…when I looked in the corner by the washing machine and found a towel that somehow missed its load.

And then discovered a trail of tiny shorts and T-shirts leading to the bathroom, where two happy babies splashed in the tub.

And then found a heap of dirties in Oldest’s room after he got ready for bed.

And then I treated a stain or two on my husband’s shirt and mine.  (Newest Baby always gets spots in the same place…whether I’m wearing an apron to protect us or not.  Poor guy.  Poor Momma.)

Missed it by that much.  At least the first load for tomorrow is pretty much ready to go.

And I totally earned the No-Bake Lime Cheesecake from Nikki at Chef in Training that I made as a reward for myself tonight.  You should really check it out.  I saw her post yesterday on Facebook, and the picture alone was scrumptious enough to have me dreaming about it throughout my entire epic laundry adventure.  It’s light and fluffy instead of thick and, well, cheesy.  It’s not sickeningly sweet, either, which is my normal gripe with cheesecake.  The lime gives it a teensie push into the tart zone that is crazy awesome.  My cute little family loved it, too.  Baby cried when his bites were gone, and Hubs and Oldest brainstormed about other flavors that I should try the next time.  Like orange, cherry, raspberry, lemon and grape.  You got it, guys.

Leave a comment

Filed under Random, Tasty

That Song in My Head

Can we talk about music tonight?  We can?  Yay!  You guys are awesome!

Music has always been an integral part of my life.  Two of my earliest (and fondest) memories involve my musical maternal grandparents.  (I love alliteration.  Just sayin’.  Anyway.)

My grandfather was a quiet and rather strict man, whom I always approached with a great deal of respect and a smidgen of fear.  The one time he ever let down his metaphorical hair was when he would pull out his violin and give my siblings, cousins and me an impromptu concert, the highlight of which was “Pop Goes the Weasel.”  Try as I might, my little eyes never could catch his finger making the string “pop,” but I can still see his face breaking into a rare smile when he saw our awestruck faces over “Grandpa’s magic finger.”  My grandmother would follow the Weasel on the piano with songs that would set our little feet to dancing (and I use that term in the loosest possible manner).  One of my favorites was “The Doll Dance” by Nacio Herb Brown, who I later discovered wrote some of my favorite numbers in Singin’ in the Rain.  Those concerts were one of the few occasions where noise and chaos were allowed to reign supreme in my grandparents’ house.  When the music died away, we all knew that was the cue to go off to bed…until I was older and was allowed to stay up a little later to play Yahtzee, and then it was time to get the pajama pants beat off of me by my grandmothers.

When I was a small child (like, five almost six years old small), my parents started me in piano lessons.  I took to it like a proverbial duck takes to water.  There was one point early on where I remember wanting to quit because it was really challenging, and (not to toot my own horn) I wasn’t used to things being challenging.  I’m so glad that my parents didn’t let me give it up.  I fell in love with classical piano music and continued with piano all through high school, competing at local and regional levels before moving to competing nationally.

I had everything planned out…conservatory, winning fame at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, and then dedicating a solitary life to music.  I had a reality check when I looked at the cost of tuition, and went off to join the Navy as a musician.  Naturally, the Navy said I had too much aptitude for electronics to be a musician, and being seventeen, I said, “Okay!”  It turned out fine and I got a very awesome career and an amazing husband out of that deal.  Today, I practice much less than six hours a day and I teach four little boys piano lessons every week.  The soundtrack is still the first thing I notice in every (and I mean every) movie that I watch.  Some of the best moments in my life come with a soundtrack of their own.  I’ve already mentioned “Pop Goes the Weasel” and “The Doll Dance,” but, being in a reminiscent kind of mood, there are a few more that I want to highlight here tonight.

  1. Ride in a Blimp by Lynn Freeman Olson.  This is the piece I played in one of my first piano recitals.  I got to use the black keys and the pedal, and my young ear loved that they created.  It had a picture of an elegant garden on the front, which had nothing to do with a blimp at all, but it was the starting place for many a princess daydream.  I just ordered the sheet music for my oldest son to use in our piano recital later this summer.  (*sniff*)  Incidentally, his copy does have a picture of a blimp on the front.
  2. Minuet in G by Johann Sebastian Bach.  This is the first classical (okay, technically baroque) piece I ever played and it is a favorite of all three of my boys today.  It is the first piece I remember my grandfather praising after I played it.  Praise from him was a huge deal, and it made this little minuet a big deal to me.
  3. Kokomo by The Beach Boys.  My Nana taught my little sister and me a line dance to this song.  It was an even bigger deal because she let us dress up in her crinolines and frilly dancing skirts when we performed the dance for our parents at the end of our weekend at her house.  Every time I hear this song, I think of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, Nana’s gazebo with the bamboo forest and koi ponds, breakfasting on Lucky Charms in the sunroom, and her cat Kika of the blue and green eyes.
  4. Handel’s Messiah.  My children’s choir sang several of the songs from this epic cantata during our Christmas musical, and it was the first time I braved singing a solo in front of a large audience.  I got to wear blush because we were under a spotlight, and my red yarn bow tie didn’t want to stay under my collar where it was supposed to be.  I remember the candlelight, the smell of the pine wreaths, and the flash of pride in my director’s eyes when we were given the traditional ovation during the Hallelujah” chorus.
  5. Falling Leaves by Carl Kölling.  I won my first ever piano competition with this piece.  This was the day where I learned that jean skirts, while okay for church, were not okay for competitions.  I also realized that the waiting is infinitely less than the performance itself.
  6. In the Hall of the Mountain King by Edvard Grieg.  When I was at music camp during my junior year of high school, my classmates and I performed this for the end-of-camp concert as a sixteen-piano ensemble.  It was big and loud and totally epic.  I loved every second.
  7. Appalachian Spring, Fanfare for the Common Man and Hoedown by Aaron Copland.  These are the songs that made me love more modern (and I use that loosely) composers.  Before this, if it wasn’t written prior to the early 1800’s, I wanted nothing to do with it.  After I discovered Copland’s use of dissonance and harmonic resolution, my musical world expanded drastically.  I still had no idea what popular music was, but my repertoire expanded to include the music of composers such as Khatchaturian, Ravel, Debussy and Gershwin.  However, Copland has the ability to make my heart soar like few other composers.
  8. Proud to be an American by Lee Greenwood.  This is the song that they played at the end of Battle Stations in boot camp.  It is the song that was playing when I received my Navy ball cap and was formally recognized as a United States Sailor.  It still has the power to make me bawl my eyes out every time it plays.  The Star-Spangled Banner is the only song that makes the waterworks start even faster.
  9. One More Time by Daft Punk.  I associate this song with being on my own for the first time.  After boot camp while I was in my first of many technical schools, the Gurnee Mills Mall in Illinois was a popular weekend hang-out spot for young sailors like myself.  Every time I hear this song it takes me back to those Jam Van rides to the mall, the mortification of being dragged into Victoria’s Secret by my friend for the first time, getting my hair cut at a “real” salon, and going to the movie theater for the first time since I was five, where I saw Disney’s Cinderella and was terrified by Lucifer’s huge gaping mouth when he tried to eat Gus-Gus.  (The movies Miss Congeniality, Save the Last Dance, Tomb Raider, The Mummy Returns and The Emperor’s New Groove have the same effect.)
  10. Would You Go With Me? by Josh Turner.  This is the song that my husband used when he proposed.  This was only one of the best moments of my life, even though I had had a wisdom tooth out earlier that day and was loopy, bruised, drooling and in some serious pain.  I figured that if he could love me enough to propose when I was such a hot mess, everything else would be downhill from there.  Love that guy.
  11. Sweet, Sweet Baby by Michelle Featherstone.  I take it back.  This is the song that will bring on a crying spree faster than you can say “Quidditch.”  After Toddler (my first baby from scratch) was born, the hospital photographer did a photo shoot with his soft, yellow blanket, the hideous olive-green chair in the recovery room, and a battered wicker basket.  When she brought the slideshow of the pictures she’d taken, this was the song playing in the background.  I utterly fell to pieces.  I was so in love with my little guy already, but seeing him from her perspective tore me apart.  It still does.

There are so many more, but listing them will take more time and emotional energy than I am prepared to commit at this moment.  As it is, I’m this close to becoming a sloppy, teary mess all over this post.  Dang pregnancy hormones.

What songs are included in your life’s soundtrack?

Leave a comment

Filed under Random

“I Could Have Slept All Night”

When I was in high school, a friend of mine burst out in a parody version of the “I Could Have Danced All Night” number from My Fair Lady that made me giggle…and then sigh…because it is so true.

” I could have slept all night, I could have slept all night,

And still have begged for more.”

I went through a phase during my teenaged years where I slept as much as I could every chance I got.  Looking back, I’m really glad that I did that.  While it didn’t make for very interesting diary entries (“Took a nap today and it was awesome!”), it was arguably the last time that I’ll be able to do that for the next thirty years or so.  Seriously, I would give much to be able to have the two naps a day that my baby and my toddler fight so vociferously.  I’ve come to the determination that naps are totally wasted on the young.  I’ll make a deal with you, guys;  you do the laundry for me, and I’ll take the naps for you.  Deal?  I didn’t think so.

Can we digress for a moment and talk about diary entries?  I know it’s fairly off-topic, but even as uninteresting as my sleepy entries will be to people decades and centuries from now, I have to believe that they will still be more interesting than the entries in George Washington’s diaries.  I studied those suckers in high school and it still blows my mind that a guy that awesome had such mind-numbingly boring things to saw.  Seriously.  All four volumes were entirely comprised of how many miles he rode on his horse or what he had for dinner that day.  Where the heck were the entries on crossing the Delaware, or the awful winter at Valley Forge, or meeting Martha, or when he got his new dentures?  I’m just saying.  Mix it up a little, George!  P.S.  I’m still a huge fan.  Huge.

Anyway.  The last couple of days, I’ve been so tired that it physically hurts.  I sat down today to grade a couple of math lessons and woke up an hour later.  I’m going to chalk that up to the epic weekend and being pregnant.  (Energy, you should be back by now.  I’m giving you notice.  The books say you should be back, so where the heck are you?!!)  I’ve been going to bed at the time that an average adult might for the last few nights, and I’m telling you, it ain’t worth getting to stay up late with the grown-ups.

That song from My Fair Lady is stuck in my head.  And now it’s in yours, too.  You’re welcome…and good night.

Leave a comment

Filed under Random

New Kid on the Block

According to the results of the poll, New Baby is a girl by a margin of 2-1.

However…

Boy number four is due to arrive early this fall.

It’s a boy!  Boy number four should arrive early this fall.

Surprised?  Me, too.  None of my symptoms matched the ones from my first two male pregnancies.  Which, come to think of it, were completely different from each other anyway, so I shouldn’t have been surprised.  My dog and I continue to be the only girls in the house, which is totally cool…she digs musicals and would probably let me paint her toenails if I asked her really nicely.  And bribed her with bacon.

boy     noun/boi/

1. a male child.

2. noise with dirt on it.

In all seriousness, I couldn’t be happier about having another little boy.  Can’t wait to meet you, Little Guy!

Leave a comment

Filed under Random

A Check in the Box

Yes.  It’s been a while since I last wrote, and for that I am truly sorry.  There are a zillion reasons as to why that is the case, but it’s enough to say that the writing thing just hasn’t happened.  Until today.  (Whoo-hoo?)

At the beginning of this year, I posted my non-resolutions for 2014.  My brain loves checklists…not so much the list part of it, but being able to put a check in a box and say, “Boom! All done!”  This weekend, I was able to put a big, fat check into a few boxes…and I feel that it totally merits an update post.  Which, if you were unclear at all, this is.

  1. Non-resolution 1: Get an A in my ARTS 351 class.  Check!  After much blood, sweat and tears, this was a check.  Seriously.  This was supposed to be my “fun” class.  It was probably one of the two least enjoyable classes I’ve ever taken in my life, missing the absolute bottom by the virtue of it not being a Java programming class.  I learned a lot, and really developed my portraiture technique a lot.  People are not my strong point, and I’m feeling much more confident in that department after this class.  There was some good work that came out of it, but between technical issues on Blackboard, and a whole lot of professor issues, it was just not much fun at all.  Oh, well.  It’s over.  Thank goodness.
    An expressive painting of Baby. Copyright 2014.  Images may not be used without written  permission from the artist.  All rights reserved.

    An expressive painting of Baby. Copyright 2014. Images may not be used without written permission from the artist. All rights reserved.

    My final undergraduate project...ever: an expressive painting of my sweet Toddler.

    My final undergraduate project…ever: an expressive painting of my sweet Toddler. Copyright 2014. Images may not be used without written permission from the artist. All rights reserved.

  2. Non-resolution 2: Graduate Magna Cum Laude on 10 May 2014.  Done and done.  Whoo-hoo!  Being an online student, I’ve never actually been to campus until this past weekend.  Although it was a stressful and crazy busy weekend, I am so happy that I actually got to participate in Commencement and got to walk across the stage to get handed my fake diploma.  My real one came in the mail on 05 April 2014…the same day I got my cap, gown and hood.   But, being finished really didn’t feel real until Friday, when I got to my school and received my reader card and my honors/veteran/senior project cords.  And the most real moment of all was when I walked into the stadium.
    Walking into the stadium for Commencement.

    Walking into the stadium for Commencement.

    All decked in my graduation regalia.

    All decked out in my graduation regalia.

    My cute little family and best friend in the stands.

    My cute little family and best friend in the stands.

    Holy potatoes.  That was, in the words of Anne of Green Gables, an epoch moment in my life.  And then I found my husband, kiddies and best friend in the stand, which made it even better.  (My parents, grandmother, best friend’s parents, three brothers, one sister, one brother-in-law, and my baby nephew were on the grass at the back of the stadium, but I didn’t know that till later.)  It totally validated the nearly fourteen years work it took to complete the degree and made me start itching to start my Master’s degree right away.  Which isn’t going to happen because…

  3. Surprise: We have a new baby coming late September/early October.  At this point, I have no idea who’s cooking away in there, but hopefully, we’ll find out tomorrow.   With three boys in the family already, what do you think the odds are of this one being a girl?  Make your pick!  Results of the poll and the ultrasound will be out tomorrow.  (Eek!!)

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Random