Thursday, July 30, 2009

Tim's Latest Experiment

He did this with no rehearsal first. Thought of the song on the way over to the open mic night and then just did it!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Did I just read that?


"Aspiring Preditors - Las Vegas, NV
signature graphics, pre-recorded voice-over and audio tracks from our growing music library. You provide the vision and basic requirements -- 3-chip camera or...
From - 11:13 PM - save job, email, block, more..."

Yeah, my brain said, "Typo for predator" too. No, this is a legit job (producer/editor as for a reality TV show), but it looks like an ad for a Peeping Tom who can't spell......

Did I just read that?

On a tummy flattener thing at the dollar store:

"Stay Beauty Healthy!"

It also went to great lengths to justify (in Engrish, of course) the fact that if you wear it, you'll sweat like you're exercising in the Sahara in the summer. All of the claims, of course, centered on the idea that sweating makes your tummy flatter.

I'm still trying to figure that one out.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Penny Pinching Tips: Know Thy Dollar Store

Dollar stores are great.


You just have to know what to get there and what to get elsewhere, and you have to be willing to go regularly because their stock changes frequently.

Our dollar store today had fluorescent lightbulbs for $.59. Hooray! Green and Cheap--you can't lose.

We also get salad dressing there. It tastes the same (especially to the kids), is the same size, and half the price. Our dollar store also carries big cans of canned fruit--even pears (which my grocery stores no longer stock for some reason). And ten-packs of sugar-free single-serve koolaid powders, which I use for travel.


Watch the package WEIGHT. Often dollar-store versions of products have the same size package but less IN the package (it's that popsicle scam again!). I'd say this is likely the norm rather than the exception.

Watch the ingredients--sometimes they are cheaper or otherwise unbalanced. For example, the canned pears I get from the church canneries have pears, water, and sugar in them (in that order). Dollar store canned pears have Pears, water, high fructose corn syrup, and corn syrup in them. While there is some debate, many many people claim that the corn syrups are NOT as good for you as natural sugar, despite the fact that the nutritional content (there's nutritional content in sugar?) is the same. It doesn't taste as good, that much I know.

Watch the quality. For some things (picnic dishes you're going to throw away, small toys, inflatable pool balls, kids play clothes that are going to die a horrible stained death in three days anyway, etc.) it doesn't matter. For some things, the quality is the same or better (hair clippies, videos, bubbles, name-brand products, Jelly Belly "belly flops", pregnancy tests). Some things are garbage (movies burned to dvd? Yeah, I've bought them and then chucked them because they were unwatchably poor quality--worse than pirated flicks; spices with no flavor; a glue gun that exploded in my hands; yoyos that don't yo, etc.)

Be aware of what similar products cost in other stores. For example, there was cream cheese in the refrigerator section of our dollar store tonight. Sounds great if you only ever buy Philadelphia brand. But it wasn't Philadelphia brand, and you can get off-brands of cream cheese for $.88 at most grocery stores on sale--and it's on sale frequently enough that you wouldn't want to jump at this. It's not a deal.

And, finally, beware of products that you've never heard of that brand before that were manufactured or packaged in China. MOST Chinese products are fine (and more now that in the past), but there have been multiple (not just once flukey time) instances of Chinese products not containing what they say they do, having a higher concentration of alcohol or water than you'd expect, having lead-based coloring, or being sweetened with the same stuff they put in antifreeze. There have also been reports of bad Mexican Vanilla (more alcohol, less vanilla than legal) in dollar stores and of little metal pieces on jewelry and used as decorations on, say, shoes being made of lead. Solid lead. Of course, these products are often sold in dollar stores but can be carried in regular stores, too. Always let the buyer beware. And complain to the appropriate agency if there's a problem (like the exploding glue gun I bought once.....) so that ALL the onus to be responsible doesn't fall on the buyers.

Also, if you have a variety of dollar stores in your area, try more than one. Often they carry different products from each other--my 99c store here has food. My sister's Greenbacks in Provo has fantastic toys and bathroom products (like vaseline, which my store doesn't carry). Know your stores.

So, as usual, take advantage of the deals (T-shirts, little girl's slips, name-brand 100% silk ties, little toys, big bottles of bubbles, fresh produce, etc) but beware of scams.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Mommy vs Writer: The Encounter with Blood

Yesterday we were doing haircuts for the boys on the back porch.

I buzzed Daniel, and then we wrestled Benji onto the stool and mostly cut his hair before he escaped and ran off. Then Tim sat down.

And Benji climbed up on the table on the back porch and started trying to sit in the carseat that was put up there to keep hair out of it.

So Tim said, "Benj, get down." and I, scissors in hand, went over to lift him down.

I put out my free, unscissored hand to lift him down, and instead, he jumped. Right toward the scissors. I turned the scissors away so as not to impale him, but then couldn't catch him, and he landed, SMACK, on the concrete, his hip, elbow, shoulder, and head hitting simultaneously.

Now, I was prepared by my mission for what happened next (yes, I had a weird mission). Blood. Splurting, running, gushing, coating everything. I scooped him up and rushed into the bathroom, where I set him on the edge of the sink and then held him tight against me with a towel sandwiched between us to stop the bleeding.

I learned on my mission that even minor head wounds bleed a lot, so I wasn't panicking.

I also learned on my mission that you can't really stitch them, and can't really bandage them without shaving the hair off (and that some doctors use little girl's hair to TIE the wounds closed).

So I just held him tight until it stopped bleeding, wiped him off a bit (his tummy was red with blood, which had soaked into his diaper and down his legs, down his arm, filled his ear.....), examined the wound (1/4 inch long, pretty clean). And then, as it stopped bleeding, he started begging to get down and go play, so I let him.

And you know how the panic hits after the crisis ends?

Instead of having a full blown "I can't believe what just happened!" panic attack, I found myself sitting back and reviewing what happened over and over--with the writer in me noticing certain details and filing them away, and the mommy in me having other reactions.

The mommy in me kept remembering a firefighter's description of a mother watching her house burn down with her children inside--one of the most potent, literary things I've ever read, and it was only a sentence long! And each time it came to mind, I had a minor anxiety attack.

The writer in me was taking notes. I don't encounter blood very often, but I do write about it sometimes. Flowing, spurting blood has the consistency of whole milk (which is different from water) and is surprisingly bright red--almost orangy red. It's the color of red marker on bright white paper, or pie cherries. It flows like milk, but it sticks like liquid jello, coating everything as it runs instead of dripping off. It only takes a few seconds to cover a two year old. Blood splatters, freshly dried, are still of that bright bright red color (not the brown we come to expect), and they scrape off (my glasses, in fact) the same way tempera paint does. I imagine it would darken as it aged, but it was surprisingly paint-like when it first dried. Blood absorbs into diapers just like everything else does. It's not sticky when it's really really fresh, but gets sticky (like jello) as it dries. Heads don't crack against concrete--they kind of thud, but sharply (gotta find a word to describe that sound.....). The spot where he hit, a little dime-sized spot of blood looked like water had soaked into the concrete--not red--but when I came out later to clean up, it was dry (like water still) and definitely bigger than dime-sized (maybe as big as a 50-cent piece). I didn't feel scared at the blood or the fall--only glad he missed the scissors and spurred to action, but also dismayed that he had tried to jump. I remembered how my brother tried once to describe to me how it felt to have my little sister jump out of the tree house expecting him to catch her when he'd just caught another 2-year-old (and he was only 10) and he couldn't catch her and she broke her arm--a mixed feeling of it was inevitable and there was nothing I could do, and also guilt and sorrow. And I didn't get it when he described it, but I understood. I watched my mommy-self apologize for not catching him and hoping he would forgive me and trust me still, and also going over and over in my mind just how it looks when your baby hits the ground and just lays there for a split second, whimper, and then catch the breath and wail and I can't find a place to put the scissors down fast enough, and did his arm break and poor baby limped for hours after, and blood is normal and expected and can't be bandaged easily--and took notes on all those emotional responses, including noting how interesting it was that I kept thinking of the firefighter describing the mommy losing her babies and fighting off the resultant overwhelming anxiety. (WRite that stress even if at the moment you don't realize you had a when the train ran over that guy in front of me....hmmmmm....). And then later, when Benji flopped into a rocking chair and his wound opened again, it just oozed--oh, and THERE is the color I've come to associate with blood (sweet cherries color), and the thick ooze I associated with blood....hmmmm. Write that down. Interesting--he was unaware he had an owie on his head until the lady at WalMart mentioned it several hours later, and then he spent some time gingerly feeling it and other parts on his head to compare. Even after he stopped limping and was trying to play, he acted tired and grouchy, carried his baba, but couldn't manage to fall asleep even though he wanted to nap. Interesting. Doesn't know he's hurt and tries diligently to play and have things be normal, and it clearly confused that they aren't normal. And he's a little clumsier than usual.

The mommy in me had to stop and think when I noticed that. Anda fell off a chair when she was one and hit her head on the hardwood floor and actually had to re-learn some things, and complained about bells ringing down the hall for months. I've always felt guilty that I didn't take her to the doctor because we had no insurance. She's fine now, but I wish I had taken her in. And now we have medicaid, so with Benji more clumsy than usual, should I take him in even though it's now 3:00 am? (Happy to report that today he's fine.....).

Anyway, it was really really interesting to sit back and watch different facets of me respond to trauma, taking notes as I went.

I felt like a dual outside observer plus an internal observer after the initial trauma was over, with parts of me watching all the others.

Better go write that down.......

Benjamin's Trying to Figure out Praying

We pray multiple times a day--over meals, at bedtimes, when we lose things or are sad or whenever we just want to connect with God. It's part of our culture--Mormons are a praying people.

So Benji, age 2, knows we're doing "amens" and is trying to figure it all out. The other day he got all excited and said he wanted to say the prayer at the dinner table. Being Benji, he had to do it himself. And he said a fairly decent prayer that was mostly understandable (he's starting to phase out the jibberish-laced "Benjamese" in favor of real English).

Normally, prayers end, "in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen." To Benji, that was nonsense, so his little brain figured out what we were really saying.

He ended his dinner prayer, "And bless that Jesus doesn't cries. Amen."

Penny Pinching Tips: Watch the Package Size

The good news: WalMart dropped their prices on boxes of reams of paper from $20-$25.00/box to $15.00 a box!

The bad news: They also cut the boxes in half! So now you get 5 reams instead of 10, and each ream actually costs MORE than picking it up off the shelf in the non-bulk package.

This is a massive trend in industry right now, from ice cream to popsicles to boxes of paper. Beware that you don't get cheated by a cheaper package that is actually more expensive if you take the smaller size into account.

Penny Pinching Tips: School Supplies Time!

Once a year, crayons and glue become unbelievably cheap--often 75-90% off their regular price, even for the good brands!

Right now at our WalMart, boxes of crayons are $.25 (Crayola) or $.20 (a new brand called Cra-Z-Art, which Anda and Dan tried and said they like better than Crayola). Glue is similarly priced. Notebooks are $.10-$.15 each, depending on which store you go to. Pens, pencils, notebook paper, printer paper--all on sale dirt cheap.

So stock up once a year. None of these things go bad!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Did I just read that?

From my sister, Beth:

§ Fast track for health care reform is derailed
The top Democrat in the Senate says ....
The Washington Post

How can you derail a track? I thought only things that run on the track can be derailed from the rails. Ha Ha."

Unless the track now has no rails (it was de-railed), in which case it's no longer a track!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Learning Lynx begins....

I started posting lessons today. I've only written three so far, but it's a start. I'd love feedback. You can see kind of what I'm working on now by going to

Why You DON'T Want to be a Musician

This is Tim's day today (I say today because for him it was one day, although for most of humanity it spanned more than one day, since it is 36 hours long):

Tim got up at noon Tuesday (sounds bad, but he didn't get home from his gig until about 2:00 am, and then we had to do family home evening and he still had to wrap up Monday's day at work before he got to go to bed at about 4:00 am).

Tim then spent a couple of hours answering phone calls and emails, lining up a gig leading the music/teaching harmony singing at a religious revival and a live audition for one of the big three talent agencies in town.

Then he surprised himself by napping for 3 hours. (This was a good thing, as you'll see later).

Then up he got and did business emails and phone calls (he gets a couple hundred real emails a day that have to be dealt with). He also "worked". This entails:

He also spent time searching online for gigs (places like craigslist get tons of posts for shows that need performers, especially in performing towns), working on press materials (he has to take a bunch of stuff with him to his auditions), listening to recently-recorded projects to evaluate his own work, contacting known gig-generators (like State fairs, City and State Performing Arts Tours and rosters, etc), writing songs, recording snippets of ideas, working out the 'sets' for his six active vocal groups as well as for himself (it takes a lot of experience and skill to figure out what a group should sing and what order the songs should be....frequently Tim will wander in to the kitchen and say, "I need a cover song that has a repetitive bass and percussion line that is in a major key, is kinda bouncy and poppy, and is really familiar to people from the get-go--like Billy Jean but not Billy Jean" and I always have to answer, "For what group?" And he always laughs and says, "Oh, for ____ " (me looping, me tracked, Wonder Voice, or whatever). And I list off a half dozen songs and he starts writing furiously in his little notebook that he carries everywhere--usually writing down NOTHING that I said, but bunches of stuff it made him think of. And then sometimes he just wanders away, but usually he says, "Thanks" and sprints off to start recording or making lists of songs again.). He also spends a good deal of time watching YouTube. Sounds lazy, but it's actually research. He studies other songs that he likes to see what they did, he listens to recordings he likes to hear what they did, he compares his songs to classics and pop hits to improve his songwriting and performance and recording skills, he analyzes the videos to see what's hot and what gets passed along, he let's Benji sit on his lap and watch cat videos while he composes songs. He writes songs. He refines songs. He edits. He records audio. He strings audio together. He writes articles for He writes and produces the "A Cappella Originals Podcast". He edits video for and participates in all the CASA board meetings and activities and debates and discussions. He comments on people's blogs to maintain his web presence. He checks and updates his myspace pages and facebook pages (he has one for every group plus one for himself). He prepares sheet music for printing and prints "books" (stacks of sheet music for groups to rehearse for). He plans the music for church, since that's his calling in our ward right now. He prepares and prints press materials for six groups plus himself. He tests new equipment, sometimes for himself and sometimes for reviews and sometimes to help developers improve their products. He keeps up on the prices of equipment online so he knows what things should cost. He maintains multiple web sites, most of which include stores. He ships merchandise. He pays singers and sound guys. He schedules tours, contracts singers, follows up on arrangements, buys flights, makes sure there are hotels and cars available in every city they go to, talks to sound guys, loads and unloads trailers full of sound equipment (which he also has to be able to set up, run, take down, and maintain since most sound guys at public venues are competent with bands but completely unknowledgeable about sound for all-vocal enterprises--it's a different beast--so Tim has to know which frequencies to drop and which to "punch" on each mic his singers use, how to "eq" the whole setup, how to adjust sound on the fly, how to make the soloists pop out, how to make it clear and big but not Loud, how to train musicians on equipment including microphone use--they usually don't know--and how to talk to sound guys without offending them or they do a worse job!). He has to contact and follow up with all the business cards he gets handed (and he gets a lot--from free haircuts to show offers to collaboration offers to sound guys to other performers). He has to go to lunch with people all the time to network. He has to make videos for demos and for viral marketing. He has to research and keep up with advances in music technology--especially looping technology--so that he can stay at the top of his game. Did I mention that he writes, records, edits, produces music, too? Oh, and he has to rehearse his solo act and test new material for that (looping isn't easy, you know). And he has to rehearse all six groups (after he's produced the rehearsal materials--sheet music and rehearsal tracks--by himself with no help). Sometimes he gets to sing. Sometimes he teaches voice lessons, coaches groups, and helps people prepare for their own auditions. Sometimes he reviews other people's work or websites or press materials. He also maintains multi-media materials for his conference presentations that he gives several times a year. And he helps other people put together a cappella conferences. He sometimes sings as a sub in other groups or gigs with his own. And he spends some time every day looking for a "real job" because we all like the idea of steady income. And he spends some time each day helping Benji, who likes to play in his office.

After he'd done that stuff for a couple of hours, he went met with the bishop and then played basketball for a couple of hours. This exercise is necessary to keep his ADD brain functioning. He exercises every day if possible (and takes his pills three times a day to keep his mind turned on and able to finish things). Yesterday, when he got home, he exercised with the kids some, showered, and then took Daniel out on a date just the two of them to buy pepperoni so I could make pizza for dinner. (While they were gone, I heard FIVE gunshots not far away, so I worried about their safety--and ours--while they were out and was hugely relieved to see them back in one piece).

Then, back to the office to work more (see above lengthy list) while I made dinner. This time, he worked with the baby on his lap for an hour, until the baby started trying to nurse on his bicep, when baby came in and Tim took over pizza-making. And ate some. Finally.

Then he cleaned the house. Partly because it needed it, and partly because he was having a rehearsal in his office in the morning, and the office had kind of evolved into a giant clean laundry pile. So he cleaned his office, the bathroom, the hall, and some of the kitchen. He also called everyone to family prayer and led the kids in a "5-minute cleanup" of the living room. He helped me get the kids all into bed and then spent some one-on-one time with Daniel--this time working together, practicing reading (because Dan just started learning) and then eating popsicles together (sometimes he spends time working with Daniel on gymnastics or acrobatics, which they are learning together), who needed it, and also made sure that he had a viable conversation with each of Caleb and Anda since he hadn't yet played with them. (Sometimes he has them come help him with projects, test new equipment, or just record themselves singing or telling stories for fun. He often works with Caleb on making movies, since Caleb likes that, and he loves to sing with Anda. And he always asks them what they're learning in school or reading. Once a week he takes all of them to the library).

Normally, at this point, his brain is fried and he watches a TV show on Hulu that he likes for a little break (shows I've seen him watch more than once: Lost, Heroes, Chuck (I watch this with him), Psych (ditto), Lie to Me, Life, Battlestar Galactica, Terminator, and documentaries-- especially on history and pop culture). Most days he gives his brain a rest by reading the news and keeping up on sports.

This night/day/time he knew he was giving a group a brand-new "book" at 10:00 am, so he had to get that ready. At this point, I went to bed. It was, after all, 5:30 am.

Tim never got the luxury of coming to bed. Instead, he worked straight through until his 9: or 10:00 rehearsal.

He rehearsed Wonder Voice (since they have a showcase coming up on Aug 12).

Then he drove up to St George (3 1/2 hours away) and rehearsed a guy up there on moosebutter music to prepare for an August 6 gig. While he drives, he reviews the music he's recorded in the last little while to evaluate it. He rehearses and learns his own parts on new songs. He also always keeps his iPod in the car with him so he can record new song and show ideas into it. We have no radio in the car (they always seem to go out right after we buy the cars, and we never bother to get them fixed because having no radio makes driving time highly productive for creative people instead a complete waste of time), and Tim says he gets TONS done while he's driving.

So he rehearsed with the new moosebutt-er for a couple of hours.

Then he called me to check in. (Can you believe were still on ONE day for him?)

Then he headed out to get some food and go to perform at an open mic night in St. George. (Open mic nights are one of the keys to networking and "being seen" for a musician. If you want to get into the music world, go perform at ALL the open mic nights until you find the one or two where you fit, and then network like crazy.).

He had considered coming home after (getting here at midnight), but he said when he called that he's getting pretty tired by now, so I encouraged him to sleep there and drive home in the morning.

Nonetheless, he walked into the house at 11:00 pm. He unpacked, set up his office for tomorrow, and had a shower before falling into bed at 12:30 am.

So there you have it. One day for Tim. 36 1/2 hours with one 3-4 hour nap near the beginning to keep him going.

Now, granted, these mega-days only have 3-4 times a month. Most of his days are about 18 hours long. All are equally full.

And he sometimes wonders why he gets so tired!

Oh, yeah. And how much did he get paid for this long long long exhausting day?



On Being Two

Benji sometimes gets what's going on too well.

Yesterday, while I was reading, he was playing in front of me and I wasn't paying much attention to him or to the baby I was nursing until a few key words from Benji's song sneaked into my consciousness: "Coloring the baby. Coloring the baby." I peeked around my copy of Wired and found that he was, indeed, coloring the baby. Green. With marker. Which didn't wash off.


Benji has also grasped a key concept in our family: We don't use the TV for anything on Sunday, and we don't use the internet for entertainment on Sundays (so no games, no PBSkids, no funbrain). He didn't get it entirely, though. He thinks we're not allowed to do ANYTHING he likes on Sunday.

So the other Sunday he was standing at my knees while I nursed the baby and he said, "Sing a song, Mommy." I replied, "So do you want me to sing you a song?" He paused, thought for a moment, and then said (loudly, and with a surprising amount of force), "No! It's Sunday!"

Today (it's Wednesday), he wanted to use the TV to watch videos when the kids were already using it to play Nintendo. I watched him stand in the doorway and say to the kids. "No PacMan! Sunday for PacMan!"


Sunday, July 19, 2009

Did I just read that?

another one from craigslist:
"FREE Leather Couch/Armoir/Changing Table/PlayTable - (Southern Highlands)"

Now THAT is some item!

Did I just read that?

from in the free section today:

"ping pong table/ stereo - (LAS VEGAS)"

Now that's SOME sport equipment! I wonder if the music calibrates itself automatically to the rhythm of the ping pong balls bouncing back and forth?

Penny Pinching Tips: Eat Healthy and at Home

I hear all the time that poor people can't afford to eat healthy.

I'm wondering who is doing the accounting here and how they define healthy.

Anything that's pre-packaged is gonna cost more and be less healthy by my understanding of "cost" and "healthy". The same number of peaches as you get in a can, purchased fresh ON SALE is cheaper. Fruits and veggies are cheaper fresh and in season (because they go on sale in season).

If you "shop the verges"--the edges of the store--you get healthier food and it goes on sale more often. And it really is cheaper to make your own--be it hamburger helper or french toast--than to buy those things pre-made and heat them. Making your own orange chicken, hamburgers, pizza, hamburger helper noodly stuff, scalloped potatoes, etc, is more healthy and cheaper than buying frozen or boxes or restaurant varieties.

No you can't eat gourmet. No you don't get the most expensive steaks or leanest cuts of meat. But if you're serious about pinching pennies, you're probably also avoiding fruit snacks, boxed meals, storebought cookies and cakes, canned raviolis, and various other time-saving but unhealthy foods.

And it's really not that hard to drain your hamburger after you brown it, trim the fat off the chicken, and slice your own apples. Healthy and cheap, too.

Poor people may not eat healthy, but I doubt it's because they can't afford to.

Penny Pinching Tips: Home School

What? You say. Home school? Seriously? Give up a free education to pay for one at home?

If you have a stay-at-home parent anyway, homeschooling is actually cheaper overall than the cost of going to school for a mediocre education at a public school (and I'm just talking the monetary cost).

Let me explain. I spend about $180/kid/year for access to our online curriculum. If I didn't use the online curriculum and BOUGHT used books for all the subjects for each kid every year (and you don't have to buy new ones every year, so that would be a high estimate), I could spend $100/kid each year on curriculum, which you do get free in a public school. BUT, here are bills you pay that I don't have to:

--Gas money getting your kid to and from school each day
--Lunch money
--School Clothes twice a year (my kids need TWO nice outfits for going out in public; yours need one each day AND they have to have clothes that are socially acceptable to other children, not just to adults, which often cost more) (and yes, twice a year. They grow fast and wear stuff out fast.).
--School supplies, most of which are actually unnecessary (homeschooled kids don't need 2 dozen new pencils EVERY YEAR, and we don't need each child to have their own markers, crayons, glue, box of tissue, etc etc etc....the year Caleb was in public school, the list of required supplies was a PAGE LONG and we didn't use almost any of them). We can work our math problems on scratch paper--we don't have to have five color-coded notebooks that don't get filled.
--School fees (for band, for ski lessons, for art supplies, for field trips, for registration, for the locker, for books, for PE, for the library, etc. You know you pay them. Unless you get free lunches, and even that doesn't pay for choir robes, ski trips, field trips, extra art fees, etc).
--Project fees (see, if we don't have money for it, we just don't have to build a monument out of sugar cubes or a castle from cereal boxes or make a poster on real poster board. You don't get to beg off those things if you want your child to have good grades).

Any ONE of those categories can easily cost you as much as I spend on my fancy curriculum every year. For each child. How many of you honestly can say you spend less than $100 per kid on school clothes in August and then again in December? Some--because you scrounge as much as I do. The rest? You only spend that little if you get your kids stuff the other kids will laugh at them for wearing or things that will fall apart (like anything you get from WalMart).

Cheaper to home school.

And that on top of all the other advantages of home schooling (did you know, for example, that homeschooled children function on average a full grade level above their peers? And that's including in the equation those homeschooled kids we all know that don't do or know anything!).

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Tim's Latest Project: Elvis

You can hear Tim singing "All Shook Up" here.
It's all him--voices, handclaps, etc.--singing his arrangement.

I'm hoping this turns into a YouTube video some time soon.

Friday, July 17, 2009

NPR's "All Things Considered" meets Tim Jones....

Fairly poor quality video, but great performance

Tim performing with Toxic Audio in Vegas a year ago.

Did I just read that?

From a Smithsonian Blog on why brides wear white:
" Victoria donned a white satin gown with layers of lace made by two hundred women and a white veil."

How did the veil help make the lace?


Monday, July 13, 2009

Children's non-aspirin preservative!

Nathanael had his shots today, so out came the pain killers. And, for the first time, I read the box. Of two different brands.

And found the ingredients are not what I usually give my kids: Red 40 and sodium benzoate, both of which are implicated in ADD behavior, and high fructose corn syrup, which has been known to be tainted with mercury in at least one lab test.

Sounds like healthy stuff!

It did make me wonder--the evidence is pretty strong that vaccines don't cause autism. What if it's a reaction to one of the ingredients in the medicine parents give to ward off the pain? What if it was mercury-tainted tylenol, not vaccines, that caused the trouble? Or an allergy to sodium benzoate (since evidence is quite strong that it affects children's cognitive abilities and behavior).....Just a thought.

Did I just read that?

I found one of my all-time favorite advertising claims today, on the front of the box of Fred's Children's Non-Aspirin Acetaminophen that I got at the dollar store.

"Tested against the active ingredients in Children's Tylenol elixir" with a cute little seal with a lab beaker on it that says, "Lab-tested Guaranteed".

Doesn't even say, "Compare to....." Just "tested against". Not how it measured up or how the tests came out or who did them (except that they were in a lab, but I can call my kitchen a lab--I do chemical transformations in there. When I make dinner.) Nor does it say what they were testing. Not necessarily the effectiveness. No--perhaps the viscosity of the liquid? Or the volume of the bottle? The stiffness of the cardboard box? Recognizability on shelves as medicine? There are a million things you could compare.

Did I just read that?

From Time Magazine, July 13, 2009, page 47:

"The reason for these appeals to lasting unions is simple: on every single significant outcome related to short-term well-being and long-term success, children from intact, two-parent families outperform those from single-parent households. Longevity, drug abuse, school performance and dropout rates, teen pregnancy, criminal behavior and incarceration — if you can measure it, a sociologist has; and in all cases, the kids living with both parents drastically outperform the others."

So kids from two-parent households grow up to be long-lived, drug abusing criminals--and THAT is success?

Time Article

Waiting in the doctor's office, I read a great article on marriage in Time Magazine. I'm going to link to it below with this caveat: Time has this great article on morality and marriage, and they filled it with links to trash (a video of a gay marriage ceremony, "sex covers", top 10 mistresses...). Actions speak louder than words? Desire for money and click-throughs trumps the message? Who knows.

The other thing to keep in mind is that the author has unfortunately bought into the myth that long-term committed marriages can't also be fun, loving, and sexy. Or romantic. She makes a case for sticking in a marriage even though it can't be fun. I don't think the choice has to be stability and family vs fun and romance. Seriously. You CAN be happy married.

Anyway, the research she cites is good, if you read beyond the one poorly-edited sentence (see other post today).,8599,1908243-2,00.html

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Conversations with my kids

Dan: "When I grow up, I'll have kids and I'll get to pick out names for them."
Me: "Yes."
Dan: "First I'll have a boy named Joe and then a girl named Mary."
Me: "Joe and Mary, huh? At the same time?"
Dan: "No. The boy first and then the girl. And name the Joe, and then Mary. And then I'll have another boy and name him Joe, and another girl and name her Mary. And then another boy named Joe and another girl named Mary. Joe. Mary. Joe. Mary. Like that."
Me: "That's a lot of Joes and Marys."
Dan: "Well I like those names."

Dan is playing with a toy that poofs air into his face when he squeezes it.
Anda: "Dan, be careful, that's my perfume."
Me: "Your perfume?" I don't have perfume. I'm allergic to it. So I wondered where she learned about it.
Anda: "Yes. My perfume. It makes you smell like an animal."

Dan: "What did the chicken SAY when it crossed the road?"
Me: "What?"
Dan: (triumphantly) "Cockadoodle doo!"

Saturday, July 11, 2009


As I thought about the fact that two men were hitting on my husband, it began to seem rather brazen of them. After all, they made it a point to find out if he was married FIRST, and then proceeded to hit on him anyway.

If they are so anxious to claim marriage as their own, why do they have so little regard for it?

There are things you get used to....

There are things you get used to, being a performer's wife.

Like having people stop you at midnight in Wal-Mart while you're buying diapers so they can talk to your spouse. Like having people stop your spouse on the street to say, "Aren't you the ____ guy?" (Kazoo, Toxic Audio, moosebutter, etc). Like having people watch you walk by and twitter behind their hands (in both senses of the word--twitter is loaded anymore). Like overhearing on the phone as you walk past someone, "You won't believe who I just saw walk by!" Like phone calls and visits at all hours of the day and night. Like the jargon. Like rehearsals, auditions, demos, studios, producers, agents, etc. etc. etc. Like having your spouse gone frequently doing shows, including when you are about to have a baby--or even while you're in the hospital having just had one. Like stage doors. Stages. Theater staff. Getting in to places free that other people are paying a lot for. Arriving early and leaving late. Washing costumes. Which equipment the kids can touch and which they can't. Weird hours. Empty theaters. Seeing your spouse's face and name on posters and signs. Not being able to communicate or even make eye contact during shows. Keeping kids from running up on stage.

I've even gotten used to other women hitting on my husband. I know it happens--he tells me when it does. I see them making eyes. More than once he's called me over from across the theater to introduce me and all the kids to a woman that he's just met--and then we've watched her make a hasty exit. He often signs autographs holding one baby or another of ours--it makes a statement.

Tonight was the first time he came home saying that he had MEN hitting on him--overtly. Calling him "handsome" and asking if his wife knew where he was, and if she cared.

I'm not sure I can ever get used to that!

(I did ask him, when he told me, "What would they have done if they had known you were LDS?")

Friday, July 10, 2009

If asked, I probably would have written just this, too:,0,1927066,full.story

Contracts in Las Vegas

If you had told me ten years ago that Tim would work in Las Vegas, I would have laughed in your face. If you had further told me that he would be contracted to work in one of the edgier theaters, alongside a gay bar and a headlining magician who performs in drag, I would have thought you were off your rocker.

He went down to sign the contract today.

He starts tomorrow, doing Live Looping as part of "Carnival"--a late-night variety show (I've heard it also called a "freak show"--so I guess I'm married to a circus freak now!) once a month.
And I'm totally excited about it!

He's also in negotiations with a few other shows in town--a mentalist, a comedy club......

How did this come about?

Tim started doing open mic nights all over town. One in particular has been fruitful, not just for gigs, but also for networking, education (he's learning tons about structuring shows, banter with the audience, what works and what doesn't, business cards, etc). It's an open mic night for performers in town--runs from 10:00 pm to 2:00 am (normal hours for us, but not for normal people) so the performers can come after their regular shows--and is well-utilized by contortionists, magicians testing new tricks, comedy acts, and novelty and variety acts of all kinds.

And Tim.

Who has made QUITE a splash among the other performers because he can not only sing all the parts of songs, he can also sing all the instrumental parts convincingly, do vocal percussion WHILE he's singing bass, and make it sound rich and full. And he does original songs. And he does comedy. And he does it all live, crafting songs--all the parts--right before your eyes. He can sing Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean", including the band parts and the harmonies, all by himself with no pre-recorded backing tracks. No wonder the magicians love him! It's like a magic trick--with music.

Every week so far, he's gotten more talks in progress for shows, gigs, collaborations.

I'm hoping some of them come through.

And we were just ready to throw in the towel and move back to Utah while we looked for more traditional work!

Saxon Math

I have loved Time 4 Learning as a homeschool curriculum, but just in the last week I started really paying attention to what the upper school is offering. Caleb (grade 4 now) was frustrated and confused in the math, which wasn't engaging anymore, despite still being animated. The science and social studies were very fun for him--but were just "read the book, answer the questions." The art lessons are great but twice too long and lacking somewhat in visual examples and activities. The music lesson was, inexplicably, mostly text instead of mostly music.

I realized that for $20 a month, I can do better than that. Heck, I can do better than that for FREE.

Thus Learning Lynx was born. I posted the link early this morning. If someone wants to draw a cute cartoon Lynx for me as a mascot, that would be awesome. The goal: write an engaging, resource-heavy multimedia curriculum for K-8 science and social studies drawing on all the great free resources online. And share it with everyone--free, of course, since homeschool families have one wage-earner and make huge sacrifices, and since I'm drawing on mostly resources that are out there. Oh, and make it match state standards (while most homeschool families don't really care about this, the districts they have to register with do). It might take a while. I'm still trying to get my resources gathered and analyzed--not lesson resources, but what the state standards are and what other full curricula cover so I get the right topics in there.

And we bought our second Saxon Math Book. We found all of Math 54--test booklet, answer booklet, and text--for $20 on Craigslist and went to pick it up yesterday.

And Caleb and I were ecstatic. Well, as much as two language people can be about math. It is so much easier, even in covering the same subjects. At the end of the lesson, Caleb understood everything he was supposed to do and did it. We both discovered quickly that he just can't look at the book and do the sums. He just can't. But if I READ the problems to him, he can answer them in seconds. He actually gets it. He just finds it "sooooooo boooorrrriiing!" to stare at the page and try to do math all by himself. The lessons, to Caleb's great delight, don't skip things and don't stack things. (We gave up on Odyssey Math when they were trying to do missing digits, three-digit subtraction, and complex borrowing all at once--and the lessons had never ever taught how to handle missing digits, even to explain what that little x or ? were doing in the middle of the math problem. You were just supposed to guess or intuit what was going on--while juggling complex borrowing and three-digit subtraction. Oh, and in the midst of that, I realized that Caleb didn't have his math facts down pat--he's still figuring with his fingers--and I knew Saxon would take care of that in a second. And I realized we were just about to start multiplication, and if he didn't have addition and subtraction down, how could I trust them to give me multiplication and have him actually LEARN it?).

One of my basic learning philosophies (as a teacher and curriculum designer) is that each lesson (regardless of the subject) should teach ONE concept and review previous ideas--so that you're building on previous learning. Further, each test question should only test one concept. So, for example, if you want kids to place cities correctly on the map, don't also test their ability to spell the names of the cities correctly. Do that in a separate question. It's better to have more lessons, and more test questions, than to "stack" or "skip".

Anyway, hooray for Saxon Math 54! Saxon had the right idea when it comes to math. What I can't figure out is why everyone isn't copying him?

Did I just read that?

From my mother, Marnae Wilson:

"In one of my Clive Cussler novels, which are sometimes full of typos and grammar problems, I laughed out loud at the phrase, "...they stared miraculously..." as the rocket exploded or something. How do you stare miraculously, unless you couldn't stare before, I suppose."

My new project

Go see. Homeschooling resource extravaganza.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Did I just read that?

"Jackson family may be allowed burial at Neverland Ranch
CNN - Ted Rowlands - ‎1 hour ago"

So they're burying them all with the king, huh? I thought that practice was centuries outdated, even among royalty.

Did I just read that?

From longtime friend Laramie Leavitt--

Seen in a Boston Cemetery:

"Only Natural Plant Material Allowed"

And I ask where they find plant material that is not natural...

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Did I just Read that?

From a free sample that came in the mail today:

The included card begins, "We want to know how you feel about the Playtex Sport tampon sample that we included with your package. Respond today...."

Okay, so the "package" included a space holder, and a card, and another little box. Why the extra packaging? Why not just send the one box and the card? Who knows.

Anyway, the "how you feel about the sample" survey had exactly ONE question, which was, "What best describes your experience with Playtex Sport tampons before receiving this sample?" (emphasis added by me) and the questions are all about how much you knew about the brand before you got the sample in the mail.

In other words, they didn't really want to know "how you feel about the sample" they included with the card..uh...I mean "package" (the spacer in the box?).

And on the response card as one of the options was this gem:

"Tried Playtex Sport brand but did not use it/buy it."

What do they think "tried" means?

Did I just Read that?

"G-8 Leaders Back Temperature Limit, Poor Nations Fail to Commit to Reductions"

Maybe it's because the poor nations realize they can't vote to control God?

Did I just Read that?

"US federal security lapses found
BBC News -
‎15 minutes ago‎?"

I guess other countries have gotten fairly brazen about their spying on us? I mean, if they're posting it on the BBC when they have success, they must not think much about our security or willingness to defend ourselves (thanks Obama!).

And I thought the British were our friends.....

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

New Stuff on the Side Bar!

For those of you who read this in a reader or email format, come visit the actual blog to see the new features, including an extensive list of resources for home schoolers!

Home School Alert!

Now is the time when all the families dump last year's curriculum, so it's the time you should be looking for your next year's curriculum if you want to get it used.

I just found Saxon Math for cheap on craigslist--Math 54 through "advanced math", from various sellers. Also available were Abeka sets, manipulatives, and tons of "various books and workbooks, lightly used". I have also successfully found deals and purchased books through Ebay, so you might look there, too.

I would also keep my eyes on thrift stores and used bookstores, online book exchanges, and homeschooling forums/groups.

Does anyone know of a place where families can gather (in person or online) to outright trade things like Saxon Math sets ("I'm done with K and need Math 54....")?

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Things people have done for me recently that had a major impact

It's amazing to me that the things that have the biggest beneficial impact on my life are things that, often, the person who did them won't remember or ever know was a big deal to me.

For example:

My brother and I discussed once how nice it would be to have a wet-dry kitchen counter vacuum. Then I went home to Vegas and he went home to Salt Lake City. And then, out of the blue, about 4 weeks later, a wet-dry kitchen vacuum showed up at my door. It was a surprise delivery--he had gone to all the work to find out that they do make what I wanted, which brand had the best ratings, and then to buy it and ship it to me. It wasn't just that I had something that made my life easier, it's that I learned how powerful it can be to give a gift NOT at an expected time, but simply because someone will appreciate it.

A couple who are our friends came to visit despite the fact that they hate Las Vegas (just like we do) just to see us! And they spent time with us. And washed all our dishes without managing to make me feel like I needed to get up and do it. And we talked, played games, and had fun. It was like water in the desert. Friends who appreciate what you are and show a sincere interest in you make a major difference, even if intangible and indescribable. When they left, I felt refreshed and more able to face the grind of regular life and the challenges of being jobless in a bad economy.

These same friends have consistently shown me what service means. We've known them for years, and whenever they are around, life somehow is easier and more fun. It's not just that they washed every dish in the house without making me feel guilty. It's something else. For example, when I was pregnant with Caleb, Tim was going to school and working, and I was sick and alone a lot and living an hour from any family. And these same friends just managed to show up every few days to play cards or yahtzee with me. Not 'to be of service' but because it was fun--or at least, I believed they actually enjoyed my company. It helped me get through a rough pregnancy. And I learned what service really is from them (and continue to learn it every time they ask what we're doing and really want to know and get excited about it).

Sometimes the little offhanded things you say make a huge difference to me. For example, one of these same friends, when they were here, made a single sidelong comment about their own health problems and how much housework got done (almost none)--and not as a criticism or comment about me and my messes at all, and my whole outlook shifted. She probably doesn't even remember saying it, and I suddenly was reminded that I am not a failure--I have health problems. My house is not a disaster because of a character flaw or lack of trying. I have a disability--but that doesn't make me less of a person, even though it makes my house less of a tidy place. It was a paradigm shift I needed desperately. A gift I received through the openness and friendship of someone else who willingly discussed their real life instead of the life we always want people to think we live.

Last night, I was up every half hour or so with a sick baby. When it came time for church, I was so tired that the characters in my dreams kept lying down and falling asleep on the ground in the middle of the action. So we missed church. Tim went, but I didn't make it. After church, a family invited us to dinner. When we couldn't come, they brought dinner over to us! Not a huge thing for them--but definitely a huge thing for me.

Today, someone asked my advice about something that I happen to know something about--so I felt like a valuable resource for someone else. Being useful for something other than changing diapers and putting food on the table is really valuable to young mothers. By asking for advice, this friend gave me a huge gift: a chance to be competent and valuable at something I enjoy but don't get to do often.

There are hundreds of other examples and no space for them here.

What I'm realizing is that the little things--offhanded comments, kind thoughts, friendship consistently extended, enjoying being with someone, gifts offered and delivered, asking advice--those things make my life much richer and happier.

Good people who live kindly and connectedly change my life just by being alive themselves. I feel like their lives are gifts to me from God.

Makes me ponder what I can be (rather than do) that will be of use to the Lord.

Things People Say to (and about) Babies that I wish applied to Mommies

"What cute pudgy toes you have!"

"Oh--you smell like a baby. I love that."

"I just adore those cute chunky cheeks--it makes me want to kiss you!"

"What an adorable round tummy!"

"I just love it when they have fat thighs!"

"Oh, you poor thing...are you tired? Off you go to bed!"

"Are you hungry? Let me get you something to eat."

"Are you sad? Let me get you something to eat."

"Are you tired? Let me get you something to eat, and then I'll hold you until you fall asleep."

"Okay. Okay. We'll stop so you can eat."

"Hugs and kisses for you!"

"Oh--you're so smart!"

"Look, she can grab her toes! Good job!"

"Do you want Daddy to hold you? Okay. Here he is!"

"Ah, do you have a stuffy nose? Let's get you down for a nap."

"How cute! She's so fat she has creases where she doesn't even have joints!"

"That is so adorable--her hair is sticking up all over!"

"Shall we go for a walk? Here--you ride."

"It's okay. She can go without her clothes and shoes. It's hot anyway."

"Wait a minute. I'm almost done with the dishes, and then I'll hold you."

"Nap time!"

"If anybody wakes her, I'll be really mad!"

"Oh, did it get messy? I'll clean it up for you."

and, of course,

"What a pretty babe!"

America has talent?

In anticipation of moosebutter appearing on AGT, I have been skimming the shows with Tim after they air (I can't bear to watch them with Ads!). Now I remember why I don't watch stuff like that.

I have several issues with America's Got Talent, and I thought I'd get them written up before moosebutter has a chance to appear on the show, just so you know this isn't a response to how and if moosebutter is portrayed.

Here is my first beef with the show: The judges. David Hasselhoff is openly a lecherous drunk. More lecherous than drunk. I am seriously offended by his response to women. If you've seen the show, you know what I mean. It's beyond tolerable. Beyond "men love beautiful women." When he says, "Now that's what I'm talking about!" because a beautiful girl walked on stage in a bikini--and didn't even do anything else--it's too much. And that's when he's being nice. The man drools on the air. It's disgusting. And offensive. The other male judge, who isn't Hasselhoff, says at least once an episode (sometimes twice or more) that the act he just saw is "the best thing I've ever seen!" They can't ALL be the best. It's linguistically impossible. But he has nothing else to say about the acts--either they're the best ever or they're terrible. No in betweens. What kind of judge is that? And tell me, please, what ANY of them have as qualifications that make judge talent? Having a talent doesn't makes you qualified to judge that talent. Wouldn't it be more legitimate to have producers, agents, critics, or directors judge? Or people who mount shows in Vegas, if that's what the prize is?

Here's my second problem: People have talents, and people think they have talents, and it is NOT our business to mock them. And the show exists to mock people--sometimes people who legitimately have dreams and aspirations, not just people who are on the show to intentionally be outlandish. It's more than "gee that's mean." I think it's WRONG and unhealthy for a society to get pleasure from destroying other people, even if the other people "asked for it", "invited it", or "knew what they were getting into."

Another issue: I don't think it's okay to put kids on a show like that. Kids aren't emotionally mature enough to handle it, the prizes are inappropriate for children (a show in Vegas? Seriously?), and whether they are praised or criticized, it's not good for them. Very few children come out of show business happy they got in. On top of all that, the children are not judged by the same standards as the adults, which isn't fair to anyone. If we could make a parallel--American Kids' Got Talent--and modify the show to not destroy children (either by inflating their egos or by crushing them when they should be coddled), it would be fun to watch all the kids do their things. It's not that I'm opposed to children performing. It's that I'm opposed to children being used for ratings and put into adult situations. That's not right.

And finally, the prizes. The show really pushes the "Million Dollars and a chance to perform in Vegas". They say it half a dozen times per show. What they don't mention is that the prize listed in the paperwork is a million dollars distributed over 40 YEARS (in other words, not a livable wage by any stretch, even for a solo act--you do the math). No mention of a show in Vegas. Why? Because it's not a Show in Vegas you get. It's a chance to perform in Vegas. And I'd wager the finals are going to be filmed here, in Vegas, like they were last year. THAT is your chance to perform in Vegas.

Not a showcase in front of producers. Not a headline act at even a small theater or casino. Not a 3-year, 3-million-dollar contract that Terry Fator's agent worked out for him--AFTER America's Got Talent released him from his contract with them because they couldn't get that good of a deal for him. Not even a solo performance. Not even a solo performance as a piece of another Vegas show.

They present this all like they are "making the career" of someone with a million dollars all at once and a headline show in Vegas, and that's not what they're offering. And, in fact, that's not what they're looking for, either. I'd say 70% of the acts they put through to the semi-finals (and, in fact, were in the finals in previous years) are not even shows that would be mounted in Vegas. Ever. How many cute kiddie bands are there performing here? NONE. Most of the shows are in venues the kids couldn't even get into! Nobody comes to Vegas to see a family bluegrass group (they do go to Branson for that...but Branson is swamped with that). Or a classical trio. Or an opera singer (although Il Divo is here for a performance. Not a run. Just a performance). Nobody comes here to see an 11 year old with a big voice. They just don't. Vegas exists to entertain David Hasselhoffs--lecherous drunks who want to get rich quick gambling and use women as objects instead of people. BUT that kind of act doesn't make good TV--and 11 year olds with big voices do.

And here's what I wish people would understand:

1. Anyone who makes $25,000 a year will have a million dollars in 40 years. TEACHERS do that. Better than that, in fact. People who get that kind of yearly salary are on Medicaid and food stamps. Despite what most contestants seem to think (and the show's producers push) the "million dollar prize" won't change most people's lives or even allow them to quit their day jobs to pursue their passions--especially after the government gets ahold of their portion in taxes!

2. ANYONE can perform in Vegas. Just walk into town and sign up. There are dozens of open mics available every single week. Some begging for people to fill the time. Some even provide an accompanist. Seriously. If you want to perform in Vegas, make a few phone calls and JUST DO IT. And producers are hanging around in town looking for new acts. Careers are made here. But NOT from appearing on a TV show. Especially with an act that isn't appropriate for Vegas audiences (no matter how cute the little girls playing the electric bass are).

3. You don't have to be "discovered" to have a career in entertaining. You don't even have to be that good, although you can't be terrible. You just have to do your time, get the education, and work your way up. Just like in any other career, except the entry level pay is worse (close to $5,000 a year) and it takes 10-15 years of hard work to get to livable pay. But a career in entertainment ISN'T fortune, fame, and the 'easy life'. It's insecurity, no health insurance, hard work, bad hours and worse food, a disconnect from community, and rough on families. It's lonely, frustrating, unstable, hard work. And, despite what you see on stage, most musicians are still treated like second-class citizens. Even by their families and friends, who are always waiting for them to "grow up" and "get a real job" (flipping burgers?). It's a career of being unemployed, making other people happy at the expense of your own stability (and often happiness). It's not a career I would wish on most of the people who are trying to "make it big" through America's Got Talent.

Fortunately, one last thing (which most people don't realize when they watch the show)--most of the people you see are NOT backwoods hopefuls. Many (dare I say most?) are actually struggling professionals who have already played Vegas and are using the show as a stepping stone. Why? Because word around town lately is that you can't get a long-term contract here without national TV exposure, and America's Got Talent is one of the easiest ways to get that--and it's legitimate even if you lose.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Paper, Paper Everywhere

I don't know how most homeschooling families do on the paper issue, but we seem to have our shelves, boxes, and floors FULL of papers all the time--reports, worksheets, drawings, worksheets, and more worksheets. And we use an online curriculum! But they provide worksheets we can print. And then there's extra math worksheets you can download. And maps to mark. And vocabulary pages. And....

Paper Everywhere.

I tried just printing ONE set of worksheets and sticking them in sheet protectors in binders and having the kids write with dry-erase markers on the sheet protectors.

The kids didn't know the difference between dry-erase and permanent markers.

And they took the sheets out of the sheet protectors. Or the sheet protectors out of the binders.

And binders tend to pinch little fingers.

And that's a lot of binders!

So, as of this week, we've gone on a paper reduction diet. Now, instead of printing worksheets for the kids, I open the pdf on the screen, zoom in as much as the kid needs, and hand them a marker (any marker, although you might not want to go the toothpaste route required to faithfully remove permanent marker from computer screens). They work their sums, fill out worksheets, match polluters to their effects...all right there on the surface of the computer screen. I check the worksheet right there on the spot, and then we use a very slightly damp paper towel (the kids swear spit works best--so don't kiss our computer screens if you come to visit!) to wipe it all away. They even can work out math problems in the tests by writing on the screen.

Hooray for washable markers and glass iMac screens!

I can't say there's no paper waste anymore. It's really hard to do one of the kindergartner's beloved cut-and-paste worksheets on screen. But we have greatly reduced the print-and-trash cycle around here.

I suppose the downside is the kids will have much better handwriting on vertical surfaces than horizontal. Maybe they'll all grow up to be teachers....

my daughter, the witch

Anda, the self-declared witch, complete with character shoes, men's black sunday socks, toilet-plunger-handle wand, beat up old broom, Baby Kitty, and "boy hat". Oh, and two skirts.

And she makes it all look good!

Friday, July 03, 2009

Benji, the nintendo genius

Benjamin, my just-2-yr-old, came running in to me yesterday and said, very excitedly, "Mommy. I just. The Rawbot. And then. By myself. Me. Rawbot. Me. I did it. Come see!"

So I followed him.

He took me into the TV room, where a pair of golden cherries were hovering in the midst of some kind of rubble on the TV screen.

"See? See? Rawbot. And I did it!" Benji said, pointing at the screen. "See?"

It took me a minute to realize what he had done: He was playing PacMan World 2 all by himself, and he had beat the first boss, a giant robot frog, all by himself.

And, judging from his sense of accomplishment and pride, it was with a serious, focused effort. And not by accident.


Thursday, July 02, 2009

Since ya'll helped so much last time....a spider!

This little critter crawled across my shoulder and the baby's face while I was nursing. In my eagerness to brush him off, I managed to brush off six of his legs. We found him lying on my tummy, still alive, and scooped him onto a paper because I've never seen anything like this spider before. He has a white abdomen, black "antennae" (pinchers?), and brown 'ribbing' on his abdomen. We looked online and couldn't find what he is.

So we tried to get pictures. Difficult, considering we have a normal camera and the poor guy was 1/4 inch long and kept rolling around with his two remaining legs. If you want, I'll email you a better picture you can zoom in on to see what he really looks like (no photo editing software on this computer, or I'd zoom in myself and post that!).

The kids are anxious for it to be an as-yet undiscovered spider so they can give it the scientific name of "Secret Basilisk Spider."

He's in the freezer now, if you want to come visit the actual (now chilly) specimen.

I hope he's not poisonous and prolific, or we might have lots--in my rocking chair!

PS Caleb says to tell you all that Dan decided to play dead while we were identifying the spider. Pics of that coming tomorrow.

Sometimes the children have it rightest of all

Anda loves fruit snacks, but we rarely have them (I consider them unhealthy AND a waste of money--bad combo around here). So she got a whole box for her birthday.

To my surprise, she immediately distributed one pack to each child in the family.

"Those are yours, Anda," I said.
"I know. I want to share," she said.

Then she put all the leftovers away for another day.

Which was today.

When she got the box out and again distributed one pack to each child.

"Those are yours, Anda," I said again. "For you."
"But MOM," she said, "I want all the kids to be happy."

Goes to show....she knows a whole lot more than I do about what makes a girl happy.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Did I just read that?

From las vegas craigslist:

"second shooter needed for wedding july 4th (las vegas)"

Perhaps this is the embittered ex? Maybe they were afraid the first shooter wouldn't hit the bride AND groom at the same time?

Oh. Oh. Oh. Maybe they're looking for the final word on the Kennedy Assassination!

Hint: It may be industry slang, but to most of us photographers use cameras, videographers use cameras, and shooters use guns.