Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Something to Ponder

Frank Lloyd Wright, the great architect, said, "TV is chewing gum for the eyes."

Monday, February 26, 2007

a scare

Last night I was happily summarizing historical eras for Tim to add that "humanities" layer to his choral history research, the kids were literally running in circles chasing imaginary blue bunnies, and Tim was sound asleep. It was 3:15 am. Suddenly, I heard a knock at the door.

This wouldn't be so odd for most families in the evening. Maybe a little unusual, but not unheard of. But for us? It was 3:15 am! Who knocks on a door at 3:15 am?

I didn't want to find out, so I went to get Tim, and then he was even hesitant to go down to the door and look out the window there to see who it was. By the time any of us got courage, nobody was there. Or, rather, Nobody had gone. I figured if it was a neighbor who needed something, they would have knocked louder, and again, and stood where we could see them from upstairs. If it was the police or fire department, the same. Anyone else should probably be knocking on the door of the fire station half a block (literally) down the street, or going into the 7-11 across from the firestation, or going into the emergency room of the hospital that is, literally, half a block further.

I realize we announce we are awake because we are the only house with all the lights blazing at 3:00 am. And it was cold last night. And the Nobody knocked softly, like they were hesitant to wake us if we were asleep. But it still scared the pants off me.

So now I feel bad. The person responded like a normal person--hesitant to wake us and then went away without pushing the issue--so maybe it was someone who just needed help. But, then again, the news lately is full of stories of rape and murder and I, being pregnant, am more than mildly paranoid (and full of nighttime anxiety, which doesn't help), and there's a fire station right down the street where someone could get help who needed it......

The extra adrenalin rush made it so that Caleb had a hard time falling asleep again, despite the good work I did feeding him cold cereal before bed. At least I finally know enough to realize what happened and not panic, and not get mad at Caleb. It's not his fault.

In other news: the kids are sick again. RSV (so sorry you got it, Ari!) is going around our ward, so I imagine that's what it is. Not so dangerous once the kids are bigger, but nasty nonetheless. We missed church, since 4 of the five of us have whatever this is. Fortunately, the weather is warming up, so we should be able to get more vitamin D soon, and that should help.

The nesting instinct kicked in, and I've been cleaning and organizing my house. ME! Shocking. Part of it is that my novel feels really done this time, at least for now, and it takes a week or so for me to "shift worlds" into the next novel, so I'm not "doing anything." All our food comes in smallish squarish boxes lately, so we have an abundance of "toy bins", so it's finally possible to get organized. I've sorted the toys into bins, and put labels on them (printed on the computer, with pictures and words so everyone knows what's inside), and put them on all the bookshelves, which were always empty anyway because bookshelves are hard for kids to use, so the books were on the floor. So now the books are in crates, and the toys are in boxes on the shelves, and the kids spend more time playing than ever before. Nobody ever says they're bored, and nobody watches TV or plays the computer all day anymore. Mr. PotatoHead is a lot more fun when you can find the pieces to stick in his face.

And we're practicing picking up and putting away what we're done with. Since I have three sequential children, they appreciate this. They like having clear floor space to play on, and they like being able to carry the small box of toys to the "play spot" for the moment. I like being able to walk across the floor without slipping on someone's something.

There is only ONE way for me to clean, though, since the pregnant belly and fibromyalgia get in the way. I sweep all the junk in one area into one large pile. Then I put two boxes near me--one big one and one small one. I sit on a stool or kid's chair and pick up the stuff I can reach. Garbage goes into the big box, everything else goes into the small box. When the small box is full, I pick it up and carry it around the house, putting away everything in it. This works for me physically because it guarantees every few minutes I will have a change of physical activity--necessary for those with fibro. I don't sit so long that my back hurts, I don't have to bend over, I don't have to stand very long, and everything gets actually put away. When my small box (think just bigger than a shoebox, or it's too big to carry with one arm) gets empty again, I start over. If I were normal, I could do the whole house this way in half an hour, one small pile in each room. Since I only pick up every 3-6 months, it takes a few days to work through everything. We still have stuff on the floor from Christmas--the last time we picked up--and it's almost March.

The only hiccup to the whole thing is that Dan is at that age when he's big enough to tear stuff apart in minutes, and too small to really clean up after himself. That's not fun. But at least there's a place to put things when I want to put them away. That is really the key to the whole issue. And it can't just be any place. It has to be a place I don't have to open to get to (like not a cupboard or drawer), a place I can reach easily, preferably by tossing the offending item, and a place that is big enough that I don't have to take the toy (think lego city) apart to put it away. It's taken me five years to figure out the details on this. And I'm sure I'll continue to refine the system until the kids are gone, and then it will be a lot easier to clean up. We'll only have to do it once a year!

The big revelation for me that made all this possible actually came when we were house hunting. I realized that a house (and the entire environment we live in) should serve us, not the other way around. Instead of bemoaning what I cannot do, I adjust what's around me to fit what I can do, and try not to worry about the rest. It's taken a long time for this all to trickle down through my brain to practical applications, but it has resulted in this latest organization push, and the "clothes room" where all the laundry gets put away on shelves, and taking the TV out of my "clean room", and lots of other things. Instead of trying harder to do it "right", I just look at what stops me from doing a job and try to adjust the job to fit my personality and handicaps.

It sometimes works.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Update on Insomnia

Unfortunately, we weren't smart enough to try one thing at a time. So I don't know exactly what's working, but here's what we've learned about Caleb's sleep issues:

We've been sending him out to play in the sunshine for a couple of hours each day. It's finally warm enough, but he still wears a woobie. So we get sunshine and exercise here.

We've been feeding him beef and meals he will actually EAT every day. So more food, more liquid, and better nutrition here.

Instead of protien before bed (which we give him throughout the day because it works to clear up his thinking, calm his restlessness, and keep him more focused), I've been giving him one or two bowls of cold cereal. It makes getting him into bed a serious chore because it shuts down his brain, so he's too distracted to brush his teeth and can't remember how many times he's gone potty (so he keeps going back again and again). But then his brain can't think clearly enough to keep him awake.

Today we didn't go outside and I fed him chicken. If he still falls asleep, then it really WAS my fault he had insomnia: I was giving him the wrong food before bed.

Periodic Table of Elements for Kids

A few months ago, Caleb became fascinated with how things can combine to make other things. Tim told him about hydrogen and oxygen making water, and Caleb thought the whole concept of "elements" was cool.

So today he started asking more about it, and we decided to introduce him to the periodic table of elements.

There are a lot of college-level tables of elements available online. But we did find some that are kid-friendly. This site: http://elements.wlonk.com/ has the very best periodic tables for kids I found. Not so oversimplified that they're useless; each square includes the NAME of the element, not just the symbol (rare, suprisingly); there are pictures and words showing where a kid might encounter something that uses that element (like Arsenic is in LEDs), and bunches of interesting information. All in a PDF that you can download and print for free. Go look. Very cool.

We also found http://www.starfall.com/n/N-info/download.htm , where you can download reading and writing worksheets free. Their reading philosophy is like the "Bob Books" philosophy, so my new readers love it. They can actually read a whole book--with a plot--by themselves.

http://people.howstuffworks.com/index.htm is for the perpetually curious about stuff. It's not just mechanical--they cover stuff like the CIA, and "love".

And http://www.intute.ac.uk/timeline2.html is one of the better, more accessible timelines of world events, for those who just want to know what was going on in the world at the same time as the British first ate bananas. It is a UK site, so the American experience is somewhat slighted. This is not a problem before 1630 anyway. Very informative.

So there you go. Some of our favorite resources for answering kid's questions online.

Of course, the first thing we usually do for specific questions (like "What is pepper made from?") is go to Wikipedia. Then Google it. Those are great sources, direct, and include pictures.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Ice Cream Experiment Update

A month ago Tim said, "Hey, you used to make home made ice cream all the time and haven't for a long time." I said, "Cream costs more in Colorado."

But it got me thinking, and I gave up on cream and am trying new ice "cream" flavors anyway. We've been using milk. Sometimes we add that poor-folk cream standby, evaporated milk (slightly different flavor, but you can even whip it like whipped cream).

So we tried pear ice cream. It worked okay. Tasted like canned pear juice. No surprise, since we used pureed canned pears, with the juice, for the flavoring. It was unusually, beautifully white. And surprisingly rich for pears, sugar, and milk. Nobody wants to eat a big bowlful, though. My judgement of the "goodness" of ice cream is how fast it disappears. This went, slowly but steadily, over a couple of weeks. We still have some left.

The next experiment was cake batter flavor. It tasted JUST like cake batter. But really, who wants to eat a Whole Bowlfull of cake batter? Nobody. Not even the kids. It would taste better with chocolate syrup, but this flavor I consider a flop. Too floury. There's quite a lot left of this one.

But I think I've hit on the real deal this time.

We've been experimenting with puddings (church brand pudding has to be mixed in a kitchenaid and not following their instructions to work, and we've been trying to enliven the usual "vanilla" and "chocolate" routines). So my most recent pudding masterpiece was Chocolate Raspberry Truffle, which was so good we ate it instead of lunch--even Tim had a lot, and he's avoiding sugar (fairly successfully, too) lately. It was as easy as peanut butter cup pudding. While the pudding is in its "two minutes of mixing" phase, drop in a tablespoon of raspberry jam. That's all it takes to create a fabulous tasty treat--tastes really fancy, like you'd get it at a formal wedding reception or fancier event served in crystal stemware with a swirl of whipped cream and a real berry on top. I want to try it stirred with cool whip to make chocolate raspberry truffle mousse--and that would make a great cake cream to go between layers of cake (and to frost it--yum!).

So my next ice cream flavors? Chocolate raspberry truffle frozen mousse, and peanut butter cup frozen custard. I've done frozen custard before, and, unless you have a fabulous pudding flavor, it tastes boring. But now I have two fabulous pudding flavors. Frozen custard is easy. Make the pudding. Before it sets up, whisk in all the milk, cream, half-and-half (or just milk for us here) required to fill the ice cream canister to the fill line. Then freeze it.

We'll let you know how it comes out.

Wonderful Quote from Miss Snark

I lifted this from http://misssnark.blogspot.com . Miss Snark is the pseduonym for an agent who keeps a blog on how to get an agent and get along in publishing. She is THE source of information for new writers trying to break in.

I didn't see that her postings had individual IDs (I might be wrong), and I didn't want you to have to go searching through piles of "When do I email my agent?" kinds of questions to find this gem that is not only applicable to writers, but to everyone. Just fill in the name of your talent in for "writing" when necessary. The question she is answering comes first. Then her answer.

At what point does one simply give up? When does one say to oneself "I can't write, and I'm wasting my life doing so?"


Publication may be nice but it's not the only reward.The very act of writing is its own reward.

It teaches you (if you pay attention) how to see the world through different eyes; how to wield language skilfully; how to organize a persuasive presentation.

You recognize that writing is a creative art and brings you joy.

You recognize that doing something difficult over and over again, and trying your utmost to improve is a worthy endeavor even if you fall short of your goal.

You recognize that these moments of despair or frustration or fear are part of the process, and will make the achievement of your goal just that much sweeter.

Monday, February 19, 2007

My Novel Is Done --AGAIN

I found out this week that one of the "big names" in Teen Vampire Romance Lit actually is an LDS woman who felt inspired to write her book--and said that it sounds odd to say that you were inspired to write about vampires.....

I know how she feels. But I was delighted to find yet another LDS woman writing because she felt compelled to--and getting an agent and selling her book. I am trying not to be discouraged that she found an agent with only 8 queries (and it was a big name agent, too), despite the fact that her book was 30,000 words too long. I've sent 25 queries or more. They say you have to send a minimum of 50 to find a single agent to represent you--if you're lucky.

I actually have two agents interested right now--one reading the first three chapters, and one waiting to because the first has them "on an exclusive basis" until the 21st or so. I'm getting cynical. I'm just waiting for the rejections. One of the previous rejections I got was with the comment that some agent would certainly pick it up IF I could "manage somehow" to cut it down and simplify it because it was "too long and convoluted." I tried to ignore it, but.....

I started poking around in my novel again and felt really strongly that I wouldn't be able to get an agent unless I cut the character Sirena and Kate's entire visit to the Ocean Realm. So I cut it. Three days later, I felt like a big chunk of stuff that I really like (all the catacombs stuff, everything about Tory almost, most of Tuck, all the ghost stuff, Bo Peep and Much the Miller's Son) should be deleted from this novel and used in the sequel.....So I cut and cut and cut some more.

THEN I realized most of the story was from Kate's point of view, so the whole Hansel-Gretel-Skins-Loopy Revenge subplot was distracting instead of enhancing. So I cut it out, too. It still happens--you just hear about it second-hand now.

Then I had to re-read to cut all references to the cut stuff, and to make Kate's travelling companion Tom instead of Tuck (this makes no sense to those of you who never read it......does it?). I also cut some stuff that dragged and that wasn't true to character (I thought I got all of that before!) and some stuff that didn't need to be said ("She grabbed the door knob, turned it, opened the door, and left the building" can be said, "She left."). And I'm a better writer than I was two years ago when I started the book, so I rewrote some paragraphs purely for artistic reasons (ME? Talking about artistic writing? Who would have ever thought).

And now the official word count is 139,000 words. Down from 214,000. The "acceptable" range for a first "fantasy" novel is 100,000-150,000 words, so this is now not out of the range. I can admit how long it is now. And I think the story is better. It certainly runs quickly through the action, keeping it so there are no lagging parts, and no boring parts. And it focuses on Kate's point of view, with just a few side-trips into witch-ville, which is the preferred way of doing things for many editors, I hear. But I cut enough to fill an entire full-lenght novel!

The thing that kept me cutting was JK Rowling, actually. Her last three books were not sufficiently edited. They would have been so so so much better 100-300 pages shorter, each one. I'm sure she was forced to cut tons of stuff out of book one to make it acceptable to a publisher--and it's a classic now. I can hardly make that claim about book five. It's 300 pages too long. I don't want people to say that about my books. They say it about Stephen King's stuff--he had to cut 400 pages out of The Stand before the editor would publish it. Tim read both versions and said the shorter version was far superior. So, not wanting to be accused to poor writing, I cut and cut.

It's been quite a journey, I'd say. I guess it's good the currently interested agents haven't gotten back to me. I'd like to send them the short version, the "new and improved" version. The one they can sell to editors. The one that I did manage to cut down and that is far far less convoluted and 30,000 words shorter than the version the agent read who made those comments. I suppose it was flattering that she said, "If you can possibly manage to cut it down" because that hints that nothing felt particularly superflous in the tale as it stood before. Maybe she was just trying to be nice. (You know, no men have looked at the book? Strange--I query men and women equally.)

I've learned a lot. I hope the book still makes sense.

This time, I think it might really be done. But I've said that, oh, six times now?

Friday, February 16, 2007


Caleb has horrific insomnia. Childhood insomnia is defined the same as adult insomnia (can't go to sleep, can't stay asleep, etc), but the time limit is if your kid doesn't fall asleep in 40 minutes, it's insomnia. It takes Caleb from 2-4 hours to fall asleep each night. I finally gave up and stopped sitting with him. (That actually helps because he has nobody to talk to and gets bored and sleepy faster).

So I did some research on insomnia in kids and found a lot of websites blame it strictly on the parents. They couch it in "you can solve this problem" terms, but the general gist of it is "It's your fault." Some help. It's NOT my fault. The worst are the websites that sell homeopathic or herbal remedies--I guess guilt sells product. EVERYONE agrees that if a kid can't sleep, you have to fix their "sleep hygiene" first, which means institute a bedtime routine and bedtime and stick to them.

We have a bedtime routine. Our bedtime is flexible, unfortunately, based on my judgment of how long it will take me to get the kids to bed based on their behaviour throughout the evening. If I try to put them to bed too soon, I discovered, I just sit there doing nothing and being angry for literally HOURS until they actually are ready to sleep. That said, we're fairly consistent with bedtime, although it shifts with the seasons. (This "seasons" connection, I think, may be the key to the problem).

So, having ascertained that I do everything the "sleep hygiene people" say to do except bathe the children before bed (are you nuts? That takes at least an hour and makes it so I can't sleep because it hurts too bad when I bathe kids--fibromyalgia.....), I did more research and discovered, surprise surprise, that it's actually a miracle that the OTHER kids don't have sleep-onset insomnia like Caleb does. Apparently, childhood insomnia is common in children whose parents have (guessed yet?) ADD/ADHD or Fibromyalgia because it is likely the child has the same problem as the parent--and both problems cause sleep issues.

Oddly, the fibromyalgia sites I read said that fibro is finally being diagnosed in children, but that in 75% of the cases it goes away. I think someone forgot to check back--I suspect the childhood fibro (often called "growing pains") just cycles more slowly in children, so it appears to disappear for years at a time but does, eventually, recur. I had growing pains, trouble sleeping, fidgetiness while sitting, hand and arm pain, etc throughout childhood--but would go years without. (On a side note, I wonder how many cases of childhood fibro are diagnosed ADD because of the fidgetiness and trouble paying attention issues--the inability to sit still because of pain, not brain focus trouble).

If we look at Caleb's problem that way, it is just like mine when I was a kid. I was the "night owl" in the family--I would go to my room and close the door and work on projects or read for one or two HOURS after everyone went to bed. Mom finally said, "Just don't keep the other kids awake." Fibro causes sleep prblems in its own right, including shifted schedules, but also as a result of "ignored" pain. Caleb would be the "night owl" in our family if you define it as a person who needs to stay awake for hours after the rest of the world has gone to sleep. He just stays awake until dawn because our "world" sleeps weird.

ADHD kids with insomnia often report that they are tired, but they can't sleep because their brains won't turn off. They just lay there and think and think and think for hours. Unfortunately, the lack of sleep exacerbates the ADD symptoms (to the point that doctors are suspecting that up to half of kids diagnosed with ADD actually have a sleep disorder that manifests itself during waking hours with ADD symptoms). The ADD/ADHD symptoms, exacerbated, make it harder for the kid to sleep, which just gets them into one of those nasty self-feeding cycles. This is definitely what happens with Caleb. Every five minutes or so after he's been put to bed, he asks me another fascinating question ("Why did the people at the time of the Jaredites try to build a tower to heaven?" "Is it going to be winter forever?" "Can Winnie the Pooh speak Spanish, too?").

Tim has told me that he didn't learn how to fall asleep and stay asleep until he was in high school and learned relaxation techniques in band. He had more of the symptoms of insomnia than Caleb does because he was forced to wake up to go to school--and his family has joked for years that Tim could (and did) fall asleep at the drop of a hat. They have pics of him sleeping in the bathroom when he was supposed to be brushing his teeth, and draped across the table "doing homework", etc. Classic signs of childhood insomnia.

So Caleb is just like BOTH of his parents. No wonder he can't sleep. Neither of us could, either.

And the cures? There are none. The only advice is treat the kid for ADD/ADHD and teach them techniques to go to sleep. In fact, until Caleb lost his bottle, he slept just fine, possibly because the baba was his "cue" to stop thinking and fall asleep, and he needs a new "cue". Some people advise reading your kids to sleep. Other, more practical people, advise creating a tape or CD of you reading something interesting but not so much so that it keeps you awake (like the Book of Mormon, for a five year old) so that Mom can go to bed but kid can be read to sleep anyway. LOTS of doctors say do what Mom did--say, "Do what you want but don't keep anyone else awake". (Interestingly, scientific studies noted that mothers of children with insomnia are less affectionate until the insomnia is cured.....)

We did notice that in the summer, it's not a problem. Probably because Caleb spends hours outside absorbing sunlight in the summer, and the melanin (melatonin? I forget which) regulates sleep. That's probably also why we all have a worse sleep schedule in the winter--not enough sunlight hitting our skin, even if we do go outside. The only scientifically studied sleep aids for kids that worked in most studies was to give them melatonin, but the side effects were mostly not noted except that it can cause epileptic siezures in some kids. Apparently this also adjusts the bedtime problems in everyone getting to bed too late because melatonin is the thing that resets the internal clock. No wonder vampires stay awake all night and are pale--they're allergic to sunlight, and that's what regulates sleep cycles. Maybe instead of using supplements, we need different lights, like the kind they use to treat jet lag.

We're just grateful that we homeschool. Caleb, unlike most kids with insomnia, is not required to wake up anyway, so he's not sleep deprived and we miss most of the worst problems arising from insomnia. We noticed early on (when we were trying someone's advice to just wake them at the same time every day and the bedtime will adjust itself) that if we deprive him of sleep, it doesn't get him to bed. It just makes him (and us) absolutely miserable.

I suppose if we moved to a sunny place, the insomnia would be cured because the kids wouldn't have a winter to deal with. They'd get plenty of sun. And I would have plenty of asthma. The next source of research in our house, then, is on melatonin suppplements--how safe are they, what are proper doses, etc. Also research on L-tyrosine for kids.....I'm so slow in getting to that.

At some point, we may have to go to a doctor. I just hesitate because my experience as a "welfare" patient has been miserable--everyone assumes I'm dumb and can't parent. Everyone is belittling and very few people actually listen. Their method of "teaching" is actually blaming everything on my behavior and making me feel guilty for it (like Daniel's eczema was somehow my fault?). Since insomnia isn't life-threatening, I'm going to try everything I can before we resort to doctors.

I'll keep you posted, since so many of you have fibro or ADD, too, and your kids might have insomnia at some point, too.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

When Anda Grows Up

Anda followed me around the house for a few minutes the other day. Then, dodging my large belly, she came around to face me and said, "Mom, when I grow up and have a baby in my tummy, I'll walk like a duck, too."

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Cooking Donuts

After all these years of cooking, I have discovered the secret! Google.

Now, when I want to make something I don't already have a splendid recipe for, I google it and print maybe 8 recipes, and then I combine them all and create what I wanted to make. It works because all the research has revealed that there really is usually just one real recipes for any given thing, and all the differences are minor (like 2 vs 3 tbsp butter). Sometimes the difference between 1 tsp and 1/2 tsp cinnamon is significant, but usually it's not.

So last night I made cake donuts. I love cake donuts. But I wanted a quick, easy recipe to try a cooking method experiment with. So I googled it, got my half-dozen sample recipes, studied them, made a couple modifications that my experience says work, and then concocted my own donut recipe. And it came out REALLY GOOD. So I shall release it to the world:

Mix together 1 c sugar, 1/4 c sour cream, 1 c milk, 2 eggs, 1-2 tsp vanilla, 3 c flour, 4 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, and 1/4 tsp nutmeg. (Except for the sour cream, which I used in place of butter, this is the "standard" cake donut recipe--I averaged the range of flour amounts, chose 2 eggs for richness and leavening power, and everything else on the sample recipes were almost identical). This makes a nice thick batter. Use food coloring if you want colored donut insides (we did pink, to appease Anda). At this point in all other recipes, they tell you to refrigerate for hours, knead in a little more flour, roll it out, cut it, let it raise a little, then carefully slip it into the hot (375) oil, etc etc. I didn't want to wait. So I spooned the battery stuff into a couple of small ziploc bags, sealed them, and snipped off just 1/4 inch from one corner. Then I squirted the batter, swirling it as I did, into the hot oil to make donut swirls. These cook very fast because the batter comes out thinner than a donut, but they taste really good. Let them cook until the exposed surface splits and batter begins to ooze out (like 1 minute), and then turn them and cook until golden. Let them drain on paper towels and then eat them plain or coat with glaze, sugar, or cinnamon-sugar.

It took us one hour to make everything, from "Where are the eggs?" to "How long do I wait for the oil to cool before I can put it away?". This sounds like a lot, but I was frying only three donuts at a time in a largish pot, rather than a frying pan, fryer, or dutch oven like most people do (I don't have a lot of oil to spare), and we made a couple dozen swirls (after each of us ate three while we were cooking them). And most cake donut recipes take from 3 hours to overnight to finish.

Next time we might try glazing them with this maple glaze recipe I found in a great cookbook Chastity gave me--the Bed and Breakfast Cookbook (which I use all the time). You make a standard powdered sugar glaze, but instead of milk, you add a couple tablespoons of maple syrup. Really really tasty on muffins (except then the kids just eat the tops off and throw away the muffins).

They look a little like funnel cakes. They taste like really good, fluffly, soft cake donuts (not that heavy kind they sell in the grocery store). Hooray for fast new recipes!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Strange Day Online

When I'm job searching for Tim, I am an avid reader of Craigslist. And today people posted strange things in the Wanted section. Stranger than the 17' toilet that was just a typo. Today we had:

A woman looking to interview a car thief for a book she's writing ( http://denver.craigslist.org/wan/277263125.html )

A man looking for the back end of a moose for taxidermy ( http://denver.craigslist.org/wan/277260778.html )

A person looking for dead reptiles--no purpose stated ( http://denver.craigslist.org/wan/277260759.html )

Someone wanting really creepy dolls, the beat the better ( http://denver.craigslist.org/wan/277227201.html )

Someone looking for large mirrors for a mystery invention that eveyrone will benefit from (http://denver.craigslist.org/wan/277279420.html and http://denver.craigslist.org/wan/277278862.html )

One titled "Do you have my door in your basement?"
( http://denver.craigslist.org/wan/277269361.html )

Someone looking for a cocker spaniel born on February 9 becuase it is really HER dog reincarnated ( http://denver.craigslist.org/wan/277237688.html )

Someone looking for a Leather Quiver (for arrows, of course) ( http://denver.craigslist.org/wan/277190482.html )

One titled "Need Blinds for a weird little window" ( http://denver.craigslist.org/wan/277095495.html )

Someone selling the entire contents of their seasonal junk/antique store as one lot ( http://denver.craigslist.org/wan/276889866.html )

And someone looking for a surf board to give as a gift to the inlaws -- in Loveland, CO, of course( http://denver.craigslist.org/wan/276877807.html )

And this is JUST TODAY. I haven't been carefully collecting these things for weeks and weeks. Somehow, all the crazy things people want got posted all on the same day. Bizarre.

Speaking of Precise Language

In our dinner conversation tonight, I mentioned "buffalo."

Anda said, "What's a buffalo?"

"A large animal," I said.

"An elephant is a large animal," Anda said.

To clarify, I said, "A large animal that's covered all over with brown fur."

"Woah!" said Anda, looking truly amazed.

I nodded.

"Even its eyeballs?" she said.

"Uh, no," said I.

"Even it's lips?" she asked.

"Uh, no," I said.

Curses, I thought. Foiled once again in my attempts to be educational......

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Language Is Tricky and other fun stuff

Daniel is really "Getting" language now, and has recently started using full sentences--occasionally (and we often can understand all the words). But he also has started responding to us when we talk in a very "I understand" way. Apparently I don't speak very clearly and precisely, though, because Dan's responses sometimes surprise me.

For example, when I took him out of his bath today, I said, "Where do you want me to put your diaper on you?" thinking he'd point at one of the bedrooms. Instead, he pointed at his bum.

Yesterday he was trying to put a video in the VCR, but he was holding it perpendicular to the opening. So I said, "Turn it to the side." Very obediently, Dan turned to his right and set the video on a chair. Then he picked up another video and tried to put it into the VCR, still perpendicular to the opening. I said, "Turn it round and it will go in, Dan." He looked at me for a minute and then turned in a slow circle (he turned 'round), and then tried to put the video in again. Still perpendicular to the opening. Finally, before I could frustrate or confuse him too much verbally, I went over and showed him physically how to put the video in.

And it's not just Dan who points out the flaws in my speech. Yesterday, we bought a dozen toner cartridges from a contact on craigslist (for the price of ONE in the store), and as we were driving home, the kids said, "What are those toners for?" I said, "For my computer so I can print things." The kids said, "Why does your computer need toner? Doesn't it go in the printer?"

I guess I need to be more precise when I speak?

Other Fun Stuff:

We made peanutbuttercup fudgecicles yesterday. Really Yummy. It was super easy, too. We made a big box of pudding (the kind that takes 4 cups of milk), but instead of using a wire whisk, I put it into the kitchenaid with the whisk attachment. We mixed it on low, then put in one teaspoon of creamy peanut butter and whipped it on medium for 2 minutes, so it was a little fluffier than usual. Then we froze it into popsicles. Yum. The pre-frozen stuff would make good pie filling, too.

We've made orange creamsicles, too: Pour flat orange soda into the popsicle mold (or paper cup) and add a tablespoon or two of vanilla ice cream. Then freeze it. Very yummy.

Another favorite variation is chocolate pudding swirled with cool whip...

Or koolaid with jello (put it in before it sets up)--the popsicles don't drip!

Our other experiment this week was home made ice cream. We used snow to freeze it and discovered that snow isn't cold enough unless you add a lot of water. We made pear ice cream. It came out very WHITE and quite tasty. Next time we're going to try cake batter flavor. Unless all the snow melts first.....

Caleb discovered Mobius strips a couple of days ago. He was delighted at the magic trick of cutting one in half and finding still only one loop. We had predicted beforehand what would happen (two strips), so it was all very exciting and magical.

And we learned that pepper is actually ground up dried berries! (Who knew?)

We also discovered http://www.bassettfurniture.com/RoomPlanner/tabid/465/Default.aspx , which lets you put in the dimensions of a room, and fill it with furniture (which you can custom-size), to figure out how to arrange your house mot efficiently. Just like what Dad used to do with graph paper, only online. The kids thought the "house puzzle" program was great--and I loved that it help me fit 4 beds, a crib, two rocking chairs, a dresser, a bookshelf, and a mirror (all accurately sized) into two room, one 9x13 and the other 9x9. Very fun and useful free tool.

I may be a terrible housekeeper, but the kids have a lot of educational fun!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Funny Kids part umpteen

Last night I found a whole piece of turkey roast just sitting on the counter. I picked it up and recognized it as one that I cut for Anda half an hour before. So I turned to Anda and said, "Somebody didn't eat their meat--named Anda!"

She looked at me funny and said, "Did you just give that meat a name? That meat doesn't have a name, does it?"

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Winners and Losers of the Day

Losers of the day:

We got a bit of junkmail from the Honda Dealership where we've gotten some work done recently. It included a $5.00 off coupon for the 157,500 mile service they offer. Fine, until you find out the 157,500 service costs $700.00. Some savings. Who ever heard of a 157,500 mile service anyway?

Winner of the day:

My doctor. I went in to my appointment complaining of several symptoms of pre-term labor. Instead of ignoring me OR putting me immediately on medication and bedrest (I've had doctors who would do one or the other without a thought), she did an ultrasound to check everything. No labor. Just dehydrated. Hooray for doctors who aren't afraid to use technology, despite insurance companies' attempts to mandate how it can be used.

Too Smart For their Own Good

Yesterday the kids brought me a rubber ball with a small pink bunny embedded in it. "Why is the bunny floating above the ground, Mom?" Anda wanted to know.

So I explained how they make the ball and embed the little figure inside, and how the bunny really isn't floating in air inside the clear ball but has the "ball stuff" touching it all over.

The kids listened intently. Then they looked at me like I was an imbecile and said, "Don't lie to us Mom. It's floating because there's no gravity inside the ball. So how do they get the gravity out of the ball?"

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Just for kicks

I'm too tired to think clearly today--but we made it to church before the sacrament!

At least four other families in the ward reported having just a horrid week, and the building seemed to be full of crying women, many of whom burst into tears when you said, "How are you?" It was that kind of week for everyone, not just us, I guess.

Our week was capped with, after all the other challenges of getting into school, a nice letter from the student loan people saying that we owe them $300 a month starting February 28 because Tim's student loans are suddenly due, even though he's in school now. So that's one MORE person I have to (or Tim will) contact Monday to sort yet more things out. We've stopped asking what else can go wrong--we find out soon enough.

At least the IRS accepted our taxes. I was really careful this time and kept good records, sent my 1099-misc forms out on time, and still had two guys complain that my numbers didn't match theirs. I gave them until Feb 3 to work it out, and then I filed our taxes. We need the $4952 tax refund right away. E-file is wonderful. We should have our refund in less than 2 weeks--just in time to pay our mortgage online (new service they're offering since the Colorado Housing Authority moved their offices to Dallas, TX).

Just for laughs: Another craigslist funny. The ad said, "male or female vocalest wanted for a rock metal pantera style band. we want to hear the words. play an insterment is a plus. must have your own equiment..." How does a vocalist NOT have their own equipment?

Friday, February 02, 2007

Hot Cocoa

One of Dan's few words is Cocoa. He also says Ice Cream, Taste, and Tasty. He doesn't say Mommy, though.

We are big fans of hot cocoa, and we've discovered you can make fancy gourmet cocoas at home, with the cheapest hot cocoa mix. No more expensive cocoa mixes! Here's what we do:

Make cocoa (follow the instructions and make sure you put in enough chocolate powder....). Then add:

a teaspoon of raspberry jam, or a pinch of raspberry jello powder
a teaspoon of peanut butter
any mint-flavored candy (candycanes, junior mints, dinner mints, etc)
a spoonful of cool whip and a dash of cinnamon
a spoonful of any flavor of ice cream you like (moosetracks is especially good...)
a chunk of any flavor of candybar (butterfingers are good....)
anything else that dissolves in hot liquid and complements the chocolate flavor.

For the gourmet non-cocoas, you can mix just a teaspoon or two of any flavor of instant pudding mix into hot milk (use a small whisk or fork, or it gets clumpy). For hot "wassail", use orange koolaid (the church's brand is best....but you can't buy it) with a pinch of cinnamon and a tiny pinch of cloves in it, then heat it.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Talent Dynasties

I have noted over the years that families often create "dynasties" in a certain profession (take the early Adamses in politics--or the current Bushes). These dynasties span several generations, with multiple family members participating, admittedly with varying degrees of success.

I hadn't thought much about it in the past--at least not beyond saying, "See, some aspects of talent are clearly genetic."

Sunday, though, Caleb sat down to "write a church song to put into my hymn book." And he DID. I was astounded. We've always made music notation software available to the kids to play with (and they have). We've always encouraged them to write down their thoughts and ideas, not just type what they've seen before, and not just express them verbally. But it completely surprised both of us when Caleb turned on the music notation software and began composing. Really composing. He would put in a few notes, listen to it, and say, "That doesn't sound like a church song," and change the ones he didn't like. He even was changing things like taking off the "dotted" part when he used a dotted whole note and it "was too long." Then he wrote lyrics and learned how to plug them in on the software, and was mildly distressed when his song was, as he deemed it, too short. We told him about other short "church songs" and then he was satisfied.

And then a whole bunch of realizations came. Families probably make dynasties not just because of talent. It probably is because of the environment, too. See, now when I say it, I think, "Duh...." Of course. When the parent/s are involved in something, there is a whole intensive course of education in the subject going on every day around children as they grow. The materials are available. The way you fit it into your life is modeled. The actual activity is also modeled. The opportunities to ask questions and wonder and experiment are around all the time instead of when you happen to get exposed in a classroom setting. And the activity is seen as a normal part of life instead of as something unique and unusual. Our children, for example, were completely baffled this summer when we told them that most kids' daddies don't sing on stage on a regular basis. NOT doing the activity was a foreign concept.

So the inclinations to pursue music may come from inborn talent. But the unfettered ability to pursue (and think about) it come from either inborn stubbornness or upbringing. I have known for a long time that people get into music careers in three ways: you are born into a music family, you marry into a music family, or you have unusually enormous amounts of talent combined with stubborn hard work and a great deal of luck. I used to think that's because of the "industry connections", but now I think it's so much more than that. It's a whole lifestyle thing, including all the ins and outs of creativity that most people don't consider part of the "industry."

It's not just that Caleb could think of a song. It's that he could do that, and the software was readily available, and that Tim knows how to use the software and could answer his questions, and that, in Caleb's world, it is absolutely NORMAL to sit down and write a song to express his feelings. Just like in a political family's world, it is absolutely NORMAL to go to political meetings, fight for what you believe, make speeches, and think about how the government is running in an active "I can do something about this" way (as opposed to the more common "I can complain about this" way).

Growing up in my family, it was normal to analyze things and then verbally express your ideas about what was going on. The tools for communication were around us all the time, and it was normal to communicate things, and think about what other people were communicating verbally, physically, etc. And now ALL my siblings have grown up into communicative adults. We like to talk. We like to think about ideas. And we like to express ourselves--through writing, art, speech, etc. We also grew up in a world where it was normal to do research--and, as adults, we all do lots of research, all in different fields. But getting into research and learning was not foreign to us, just like getting into music isn't for Caleb. Family dynasty of education and communication.

So then I realized that all those "mormon intellectuals" who have pointed to the "spiritual dynasties" in the church as evidence that it really is "who you know" that "gets you status" in the Church have it REALLY all wrong. It's not that the children and grandchildren of Hyrum Smith became leaders because they knew all the right people. It's because spirituality, like music, is something that can pass through families in this "dynastic" sense. Children, raised by righteous parents, learn what that means on an intimate level, just like Caleb understands what it means to be a musician. When children are raised by spiritual, in tune parents, they learn how to solve problem with prayer and faith, how to receive revelation, how to respond to crisis, etc. The children are raised in an environment where spiritual things are Normal, and the tools are readily available to them, and the behaviors and attitudes are modeled, questions are answered on a day-by-day basis, the reasons to pursue it are clear, etc.

Raised in this kind of environment, it's clear why there are "dynasties" in the church. It's not because of who you know. It's because living as a righteous person is a skill just like living as a musician is--and people raised in the culture have so much more chance of succeeding in it.