Archive for April, 2007

The hummers are back!

This morning I saw a hummingbird at my feeder on the porch. He didn’t stick around long, but at least now know he and his kin are back in the neighborhood. Once the hummers arrive, I always have to resign myself to the definite fact that we will NOT be getting any more snow this season. Sigh.

However, my tomato plants are doing well in their barrels, the seeds in the bed around the mailboxes are coming up, and the shade-tolerant flowers I planted in the bed around the tree in the front yard are also looking good.

I would love to write more, and there’s plenty to say, but right now I must discipline myself to get my deskwork done. You see, there is deskwork (checking math, proofing papers, recording homeschool hours, filing mail, recording ministry donations and writing thank yous, paying bills, planning lessons, etc.) and there is deskplay (blogging, surfing, looking for great deals on used books, etc.)

At this moment I am playing, but I should be working. Hence, I must stop here for now.

Boy, did we have fun with the Childs!

We only get to see the Childs family every two years, because they are missionaries in Niger, Africa. You might call it “NYE-jur,” but it’s really pronounced “nee-ZHARE.” It’s a land-locked country in the southern Sahara desert, where most of the people are Muslims, but more and more are becoming Christians!

Actually, this time we only got to visit with 80% of the Childs family, because their oldest son, Trae, now 15, is in high school there and had to stay until his semester ended. We really missed seeing Trae, but we all had a lot of fun with Neal, Danette, Tanika and Tobi.

Tanika and Jessica are good friends (read: talk and giggle, talk and giggle, talk and giggle), and Tobi and Andrew are also very close. The little guys spent a lot of time on the trampoline and in the sandbox, I’m not sure where the girls were, and the adults talked and talked and talked – usually the females carrying on one conversation while the men carried on another conversation, all in the same room.

They were only here for less than 48 hours, but we made the most of that time.  They will be driving about 10,000 miles during four months in the States, in order to see their families, and many of their partners and supporting churches. We are very honored that they were willing to include our family on their itinerary.

Thursday was cool, rainy, windy, and about 52 degrees.  That’s FREEZING if you are used to 105!  Friday was much nicer, and we all went to Silver Dollar City. Various people rode various roller coasters, resulting in various intensities of headaches and various levels of nausea. I rode NO roller coasters and my neurological and digestive systems experienced no unrest.  = )

After everyone had ridden everything he wanted to ride (and let it be noted for the record that certain children rode Wildfire, the upside down roller coaster, EIGHT times), we wrapped up the day with a walking tour of Marvel Cave.  Some people may not know that the cave came first, and Silver Dollar city was built on top of it. We had a great guide and overall it was just plain fun.  Tobi had never been in a cave, so he was quite impressed. He kept saying, “so we’re in a cave under the ground? Under the ground???”

Danette continues to be a wonderful model for me. She never raises her voice to her kids, never gets angry or even flustered, always looks great, and is always ready to smile. When I grow up, I wanna be like Danette.

Proud Momma Moment

On Monday, Jessica did something she’s only done once before in her entire life; she took a standardized test. If I remember correctly, she took one when she was 10 or 11 years old (5th grade?). It was one of those Stanford achievement tests that covers a bunch of different subjects. She did very well on it, and I told myself then that I should have her do it again in a couple years, just for the practice.

I forgot all about that thought, and since it wasn’t written down it never happened, but what did happen was that a few weeks ago Jessica finished Algebra 2! We had switched algebra curricula mid-stream, because what we had been using wasn’t working well for her. We moved to Saxon, a math program that MANY homeschoolers love to hate.

There is nothing fun or even interesting about Saxon. In fact, it is tedious, monotonous, and mind-numbingly boring. However, with some help from Katie (having a built-in free tutor in the house is great blessing), Jessica did well with it.

One of our goals for the kids is to have them turn high school work into college credit whenever possible. We have chosen to go the CLEP route, although we know that some colleges don’t accept CLEP credits. Since neither girl is sure where she will go to college, we figured it wouldn’t hurt to try.

CLEP tests cost $75 each, and around here, they have to be taken at the university, a forty-five minute drive away. Also, at that testing site, only one person can take a CLEP test at a time. So… on Monday, we scheduled Jessica for her College Algebra CLEP at 8:00 AM and Katie for her American History to 1877 at 10:00. Katie would do the driving. Due to technical difficulties (mainly Mom’s airheadedness), they ended up switching those times. That was mildly problematic, since Katie is not usually fully cognizant until about 9:30 AM, but both girls did well.

I was so proud of Jessica. CLEP tests are scored – don’t even ask me how or why – from a low of 20 to a high of 80. The College Board (entity that runs the CLEP program) recommends that colleges grant credit for a student’s score of 50 or above, but each college is free to set its own threshold for any test that it chooses to accept.

Jessica’s score was a 60, which is very solid and, if she attends a college that accepts CLEPS, should surely get her a few credit-hours in college algebra. Go, Jessica!!!

After taking the practice test, she was pretty bummed because she had missed a bunch; mostly because she didn’t know how to work the problems and had guessed. I was pretty bummed, too. However, after Scott and Katie both helped her with a few key concepts, she was confident that she could make at least a 50. She did, and then some.

I think it’s great to have earned some potential college credit when you are 15. Next hurdle: she confronts the SAT for the first time next Saturday!

Why are paper products so promiscuous?

This question has troubled me for some time. I can leave a stack of papers on my desk, and when I return a few hours later, it’s half again as high as it was.

Or take books. I left a pile of them on the left pull-out of my desk, because they needed to be recorded. I went to Springfield and was gone for a chunk of the day, and now there are stacks of books on the left pull-out, the right pull-out, AND on the right side of the desk proper. The latter are balanced on (from the top of the pile down) the teacher’s guide for Josiah’s math book, my prayer notebook, Andrew’s academic folder, a Mercy Ministries newsletter, a magazine from Focus on the Family, one of those plastic doo-hickies that you put on the bottom of a toothpaste tube and slide up to flatten it, a copy of the local newspaper (which has Katie’s picture in a thumbnail on page one and full-size with an article on page eight), and a letter opener.

There are traces of plastic, metal, and wood in that particular stack, but I’m quite sure that the collection of wood pulp products materialized on their own, probably due to meiosis.

It’s time to take action. We clearly need some national legislation on the matter. Call your Congressman! Urge him to vote in favor of “The Paper Breeding Prohibition Act of 2007.” I propose that “Any paper product(s) found to be reproducing sexually or asexually on work surfaces will be summarily executed; their remains to be disposed of in the nearest trash receptacle.” I believe that the swift use of capital punishment in such cases will undoubtedly serve as a deterrent to similarly lewd behavior on the part of other like-minded paper products.

Remember, he who can conquer his paper piles can probably rule the world!

How about a comment?

OK, I can see that 65 people have looked at this blog, but I am very curious. Who are you?!?! Do I know you?

If you are so inclined, please leave me a short comment, just so that I know there are real people reading this.  = )

A Whole Lotta Sweatin’ Going On

The girls took the Toyota to Springfield today to take some CLEP tests (Jessica college algebra and Katie American history I). They both did very well, scoring above what should be required to receive college credit, so I am a proud and happy mom.

They got home looking rather damp and windblown, and I remembered that, although the drive up at 7:30 AM when it was 55 degrees was probably fine, the drive home at 3:30 when it was 83 degrees was pretty uncomfortable.

We knew when we bought the Toyota from my folks (for the kids to drive and/or eventually buy) that the A/C didn’t work. Dad’s mechanic had checked the car out thoroughly and told him that the A/C had a small leak, but that the part needed to fix it was no longer available – not even from Toyota. This is the car that my mom drove not very many miles for very many years, and Mom tends to be cold, so she probably didn’t run the air a whole lot.

The mechanic’s recommendation to Dad was to just charge the A/C at the beginning of the season and hopefully have some cool air for a while.

When the girls got home I made a deal with Katie: if she would make supper, I would take the Toyota to an auto A/C place in Branson to get it charged. She was fine with that, so, with windows down and ice water in hand, I set off for Mount Branson. It’s been a while since I was down by the lake. There’s some horrific construction going on at “Branson Landing,” which, don’t even get me started on. Traffic was really backed up, which doesn’t usually bother me, but I have become very spoiled lo these many air conditioned years. When the traffic ground to a halt, all my air flow abruptly ceased!

Anyway, the guys at the A/C place hooked found a loose valve leaking. That was easily tightened, and I had high hopes for a simple 134 charge. Sadly, it was not to be. They found that there is an obstruction somewhere in the system, the compressor seems to be shot, and some other part whose name I don’t remember is also questionable. The solution? Well, it depends on how badly we want air. They would have to disassemble the entire A/C system and flush and test each part till they found the blockage. Then replacement parts would need to be procured and more labor would be required to put Humpty back together again. That is the only way they could warranty their work. The expected cost? Approximately twice what we paid for the car!

I gave Katie all the above information and we agreed that her dad – who was too tight to replace the A/C in his own (former) Honda and drove it to and from work in Springfield for two summers that way (even though he’d have meetings with important people and needed to look and smell spiffy upon arrival) – would NEVER spend that kind of money to put air into a 21 year old car.

So, we will try our best to arrange things so that the girls can drive the van this summer, and we’ll hold the Toyota in reserve, except on nice cool, cloudy days.

Curious Cardinal Update

I have been trying for several days to get a picture of The Curious Cardinal, in order to document his rather odd behavior, but he has remained elusive. I do see him from time to time, but either I don’t have the camera ready, or I cannot get close enough for a good picture without scaring him off. Admittedly, I do look pretty scary in the morning, post-exercise and pre-shower.

Good news, though. Jessica has corroborated my story! She was out on the trampoline the other morning and noticed a cardinal (we can only assume it was The Curious Cardinal) going back and forth between the mirrors of the van and the Toyota. Evidently he has broadened his horizons and will take rearview mirrors wherever he can find them.

We actually have quite a nice supply of said. In our driveways – we have two, sort of – can be found parked Scott’s Honda, the family van, and the Toyota. The Toyota was a purchase that was more like a gift from my parents. It is 21 years old and in excellent shape. Sounds like a body builder. We bought the Toyota for the girls to drive, and one or both of them will probably buy it from us some day. Right now, we own it and maintain it, and they drive it, paying for gas used, of course.

We also have a fourth set of rearview mirrors, but they are less conveniently located. Our old van, a Ford Aerostar, which we keep around just because it’s our only vehicle that can accommodate a trailer hitch, is parked in the toyport (long story) at the back of the property. I am guessing that The Curious Cardinal hasn’t yet found those mirrors, but I could be wrong. Only time – or whitewash – will tell.

First Try at Posting a Picture

2 Tulips

It looks like I figured it out. I took this picture in our front yard about a month ago. If you click on it, you’ll get the full-sized image. Next project: Add a picture of The Chair to the appropriate post.

I re-upholstered a chair!

I have yet to figure out how to put pics in this blog, so I am sorry that I can’t yet post a picture, but I DID IT!!! I am so excited and happy.

The chair in question is a heritage item. First, it must be noted that the chair has absolutely no monetary value at all. It never did. It is just a cheap metal-framed chair with a wooden seat and back screwed on. However, it sat as an extra chair at my grandparents’ breakfast room table for as long as I can remember, and when we were at their house visiting, it was always MY chair, strategically placed right between Grandma’s chair and Grandpa’s. She would sit, stirring her coffee on my left, while Grandpa sat, peeling an orange (keeping the peel all in one piece, to my continual amazement!) on my right.

They must have acquired the chair at least 40 years ago. The metal frame was silver, and the vinyl on it was tan. Grandpa died in the fall of 1994, and when Grandma died in the spring of 1995, I was given an opportunity to request some items they had owned. I chose the chair.

For years, Josiah sat on it at our dining room table. The table is huge and was Grandma and Grandpa’s, too. I didn’t request it; it went to my cousin, but then she decided she didn’t really have room for the table and matching buffet, so she passed them both on to me.

When Andrew outgrew his high chair, he moved into “the” chair, and at seven, he still sits there at every meal. I don’t know if it’s that his bottom is bony or what, but the vinyl began ripping a few years ago. I did what any logical mom would do; I patched it with aesthetically pleasing strips of duct tape. Over time the edges of the duct tape frayed, and both crumbs and the bare legs of little boys stuck to the seat. The chair became an eyesore and probably a health risk, as well.

On Scott’s last trip, I decided I would try to salvage it. We went to Wal-Mart and spent a total of $4.00 on some nice green and white plaid vinyl (Andrew’s choice, discontinued and on deep discount), carpet nails and upholstery tacks. I came home and strategically positioned all those supplies on top of the piano, where they have collected dust for the past three months.

Next week, some friends of ours from overseas will be visiting for a few days. Now, there are many aspects of our lack of interior decorating (read: carpet that’s horribly worn; walls that haven’t been painted in over ten years and sport miscellaneous works of text and art in pencil, pen, and sharpie marker; kitchen cabinets that no longer close; dining room chairs that are missing parts of their parts, etc.) and my failure as a housekeeper (read: cobwebby corners; dusty baseboards and other surfaces; greasy hood and backsplash, etc.) that embarrass me, but most of those deficiencies cannot be corrected before our guests arrive.

The chair, however, was another matter. This afternoon, I looked at the chair and I looked at the supplies on the piano, and something in my inner constitution clicked. I COULD re-upholster the chair. After all, it was only held together with eight flat-head screws. How hard could it be?

I pulled out my trusty private red toolbox – the one containing tools that no one else is allowed to use outside my direct line of sight. Then I carefully disassembled the chair, making mental notes of how each piece of nasty, sticky, dirty, old vinyl had been affixed. Andrew scrubbed all the gunk off the metal frame while I completed my archaeological dig. During the surgery, I was surprised to discover under the yucky tan stuff a truly ancient layer of even yuckier black stuff. Who knows? Maybe Grandma covered the black with tan one day long ago when SHE was expecting guests!

I cut out of piece of new green and white vinyl and tackled covering the seat first. Being flat and having convex edges, it would be easier than the back, so it would be my practice run. Also, those dreaded corner pleats for the seat would be out of sight, as opposed to those on the much more visible back. I began pulling and stretching and hammering. It was quite the project, but after a fair amount of grunting and two finger smashes, the seat looked pretty good. I was ready to address the back.

Not only was the back curved (how DO they make wood do that, anyway?), the top and bottom edges were concave. I could not for the life of me figure out a logical way to get the vinyl smoothed tightly over such an odd-shaped item. I pulled and hammered, and stretched and hammered, and pulled and stretched, and hammered and hammered, and hammered and hammered some more. Quite a bit of sweating and grumbling occurred, but eventually, the back also looked good.

All that remained now was to screw the seat and back to the frame. Suddenly, I had one of those “Aha!” moments – or maybe it was more of an “Uh-oh!” moment. All that pulling and stretching and hammering had (obviously – duh) completely covered the existing screw holes! I didn’t have any idea where to put the screws. Taking the proverbial bull by the horns – I lined up the seat where I thought it looked good and began applying torque. It was really hard work. Who knows where those original holes were; I was clearly digging new ones.

Halfway through seat screw #4, Scott appeared. He had walked through a couple hours earlier, while I was trying to remove the tan layer, and had asked what on earth I was doing. When I told him, he LAUGHED!!! He said he had figured we should just throw that chair out. I had, slightly rudely, I confess, asked him to leave the room. Now he was back, offering to use his cordless drill to save me some elbow grease. I gladly received his help, and in no time, The Chair was back in one piece and looking spiffy.

Now Scott is very proud of it and of my determination to accomplish the makeover. We all like it, and when Andrew first saw the final result, he said, “Oh, Mom, it’s beautiful!

The 2 sweetest daughters west of the Mississippi

I had posted a few days ago that I was very behind on paperwork and that I’d relish a WHOLE DAY alone at my desk.

The girls read that post and decided to give me a day! They spent quite a few brain cycles figuring out how to make it all work, and then they presented to me Their Plan: On Wednesday, our wild errand-running day, they would take the boys and leave the house at 8:10 AM, do all the errands (Wal-Mart, grocery, bank), then spend the day at Silver Dollar City, and meet me at church at 6:30 PM. WOW!

It all worked just as they planned, and I had a super day all alone. I was able to get a HUGE chunk of the homeschool hours recorded, and really enjoyed going to the library boy-less.

The house was so quiet, and even more amazing, after I did the breakfast clean up, every other time I went downstairs, the house was still clean. And quiet. In fact, at 3:30, when I left for the library ancd church, it was STILL clean and quiet. This is an unheard-of situation at our house.

I told the girls that I felt like a queen and that if they ever wanted to give me a birthday present, a day like yesterday would be a perfect gift.

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