Archive for January, 2011

Figured out what I want

It was after Jessica and I cleaned out one third of the top shelf of the china cabinet.  We tackled our fine china, the lovely stuff that may have been used once twenty-three years ago.   One of the many reasons it just sits in there and collects dust – by the way, the top plate on each stack was so dusty that it was a different color from the next one down – is that we have such a strange number of pieces.  In addition to a bunch of cups, saucers, dessert, and salad plates, we do have seven dinner plates, so maybe. . .

Anyway, we did what we set out to do on that cabinet, including unearthing ONE place setting of our silver-plate.  It was BLACK!  What a chemistry experiment!  Josiah said it looked like someone had taken a torch to it.  = )  He also wanted to see if hydrochloric acid would dissolve the tarnish, but I successfully suppressed my innate homeschool-mom-love-to-learn tendencies and forbade that.

So it was about bedtime and I ate an orange but wanted something else.   I didn’t want to eat anything more till I figured out what it was.  I stood in the kitchen for a moment, pondering my craving, and I finally figured out what I wanted:  a big hot pretzel from Mr. Dunderbak’s in McCain mall, slathered with port wine cheese spread.  Ahhhhh!

We didn’t have any of those in the house, so I dipped a pretzel rod and cheese dip and called it good enough, but it was very satisfying to put my finger precisely on my yen.

We’re expecting up to 12 inches of snow in the next 15 hours!!!  Rejoice with us!!!

Word to the wise

Never get fat or develop any chronic health problems.  These conditions are especially to be avoided if the primary wage earner in your family is self-employed and/or if he purchases his health insurance outright.

Many years ago, a combination of health issues rendered me virtually uninsurable.  I went without insurance for about 18 months, but we decided that since I had more health issues than anyone else in the family at the time, it wasn’t wise for me to be completely uninsured.  So I applied and was denied over and over and over, but eventually an obscure company (Central Reserve Life) took me on, with a very high premium and a sky-high deductible.

Through the years, we have complained about the high premiums and poor coverage, and we have continued to make the monthly payments.  Every year, the rates go up – not only on my personal policy, but also on the Blue Cross family policy that covers Scott and the kids.  Their family policy generally costs about half what my personal one costs, and even though dealing with Blue Cross was a first class pain where the sun never shines, it sure was a blessing to have that coverage when the $34K ski accident occurred.

Last year (2010), my personal premium high-jumped to a truly exorbitant $719 per month.  This is the kind of money that causes one to choke when writing the check; and it’s especially rude, considering the fact that I am steadily (although slowly) losing weight, I am on fewer prescription meds than I have been in many years, and I am healthier than I’ve been in at least ten years.

In December, Scott started having me fill out applications for other health insurance companies.  These forms are tedious at best and disgusting at worst.  Have I ever had any of these zillions of conditions?  I’m not kidding; there are hundreds listed.  And if I ever have, I have to tell the date it started, the date it ended, and the name, address, and phone number of the doctor who treated it.  On a separate sheet, I have to enter the details of the diagnosis and treatment and also tell to what per cent I have recovered.  And this is literally for EVERYTHING beyond a head cold in the past ten years!

I did it by hand for the Mercy form (and was denied), so when the Aetna form was an online one, I was pleased.  It’s easier to fill out online forms than to hand write all that information.  I laboriously muddled through to the page 4 (out of 13), and when it asked for my height (“feet/inches”), I ignorantly attempted to enter 5/3 in that box.   Now, you must understand that I am very proud of those three inches.  There are actually only two-and-a-half of them, but in math you always round up, so I always say three.  But on this stupiotic form, no matter how I tried, the ONLY thing I could put in that box was 5, and I resented that.  I’m NOT five feet tall, and that fact is especially important on health insurance applications where underwriting will compare your weight to your height to decide if they’ll take you or not!  Sheesh!

So I ended up having to print out all thirteen pages and fill them out by hand.  Plus, I had to create a three-page supplement to answer all the questions they didn’t give me room to answer.  It took an hour and a half to do all that.  Scott sent it in and we’ll see how much Aetna likes me.

In the meantime, I was sorting through yesterday’s mail and found an item from my current insurance company, which, by the way, is HealthLink through WORLD insurance.  Central Reserve Life sold my policy to WORLD last year.  They didn’t even ask me before they did it.  So this letter from WORLD was to inform me that my new (and improved?) premium effective March 1, 2011 will be $879 per month!!!  There are words for increases like that, but we Christians don’t use those words.

So now I am debating whether or not to tell WORLD exactly what they can do with their $879.  We shall see if Aetna takes me, we shall call Blue Cross and see if they’d like to add me to the family policy for a number less than $879, and we shall check into ObamaCare, where, if I accrue enough denials, I may qualify to join a high risk health insurance pool.  However, even if I do, if it’s more than $879, we may well plunge back into the realm of the uninsured and just pray more fervently for my health to continue to improve.

End of rant for today!

65 and sunny!

Here it is late January, and it was 65 and sunny today!!!

I also got to have lunch with my dear friend, Dianne, at our favorite Mexican restaurant and then help her with some overwhelming paperwork.  It was the mindless filing out of a bunch of forms, and being the strange person that I am, I actually enjoy filling out forms.

I was also encouraged to be able to talk today with another dear friend, Sue, like me, is in the situation of trying to help her recently-graduated daughter figure out what her next steps should be.  As I’ve stated before, that role of (high school) guidance counselor is not my favorite, by any means; mostly because I feel so totally ignorant and unequipped to fill it.  We encouraged each other, and even though there are a number of unknowns for both of our families, at least we are not alone in our struggles.

Finally, just as I sat down to lunch, I got the text announcing that our friend, Kelly, had given birth to her much-anticipated son, Ellis!

It was a sunny day, all the way around.

Off day fun

I worked really hard last week (planning) and this week (doing) to carve out an off day for myself and today was the day!  I overslept – bummer – but did go walk and pray before doing the breakfast cleanup and 30 minutes of piano practice.  It was mostly for worship tonight, but that’s better than no piano practice.  After showering, doing some FNL correspondence, and updating Quicken (it’s MUCH easier when you only have three or four days’ worth to deal with, instead of two or three week’s worth), I was FREE to work on a little sewing project of mine.

I’ve been working on drawstring gift bags – just because I can – as an easy first step to refresh my very rusty sewing skills.  I managed to create two bags today, but first I had to figure out how to make a pattern; find something to make it out of; do the math to get the right measurements (which were WRONG on the first bag); re-read how to wind the bobbin (after eventually re-locating the instructions, which I had creatively filed in a completely illogical place); wind the bobbin; re-thread the machine; and, partly because of poor planning on my part and partly because the web page that had the instructions for making the drawstring bag no longer EXISTS (how very rude); rip out portions of four seams in order to eliminate some raw edges.

The end results met with Jessica’s approval, and the second bag actually was the right size for its intended contents.  The whole thing took way too long, but it was fun and I felt productive.  Fun and productive are important to me.

Ok, so I missed a day

But there were good reasons.  On Wednesday, I

– took Andrew to piano

– went to Wal-Mart for a big one, including six brooms and seven deodorants

– forgot to go to the bank

– picked up Andrew from piano

– worked with the boys to put all the groceries away

– supervised Andrew’s academics (compressed due to piano and Odyssey taping)

– cooked the equivalent of six batches of chili for the neighbors (whose mom just died)

– baked a batch of cereal cookies

– cleaned up the kitchen

– collected all the stuff to take to the neighbors (food, paper goods, etc.)

– finished collecting the library books

– arranged for a friend to make the bank deposit I forgot

– went to dentist for him to attempt to repair the tooth I cracked apart by chewing on ice (was there from 4:10 – 6:30 PM, and he thinks he successfully re-filled it; he knows it won’t last forever and the next time it breaks I will have to have a crown)

– remembered to call Desiree to say Andrew would not be able to help in Kidz Church (due to the dental visit)

– took Andrew and a zillion books to the library in Springfield

– got home and had a 30 minute phone call with a friend who was emotionally distraught

– went to bed at about 11:00 PM, with some six neighbor kids also sleeping in the house (many thanks to Jessica and Josiah, who did ALL the hosting, arranging, entertaining, and cooking for them)

So that’s why I didn’t post yesterday.


All homemade, conclusion

6.  At that point I was instructed to turn the lump out onto a lightly floured surface and “knead ten minutes or until smooth and elastic.”  Hmmm. . . I dumped it on the counter, set the timer for ten minutes and went to work.  It was a pretty sticky mess and it kept sticking to the counter, so at about seven-and-a-half minutes remaining, I began to wonder about this whole “soft dough” vs.  “stiff batter” concept.  I had to keep sprinkling flour on the counter and over the dough, and even at the two minute warning I wasn’t at all sure I was achieving anything smooth and elastic – except maybe my forearm muscles.

7.  When the timer FINALLY dinged, I formed the mass into a ball (but what about all those loose flaps and things?), put it in a greased bowl, sprayed non-stick all over it, and covered it with a towel as instructed.  Amazingly, in about 45 minutes it really did double in size.  Wow.

8.  Next, I punched it down, pulled the edges in, and flipped it out onto a lightly floured cutting board. I had already cleaned the counter once (and washed a zillion dishes), so I decided to try to contain the mess this time.  With a sharp knife, I sliced the puppy in half.

9.  Now came the challenge of cutting each of those halves into 36 pieces.   With scissors.  This took some eye-balling, and it’s a sure thing that all 36 (or actually, 72) pieces were not exactly the same size.   However, I proceeded to roll them into 72 balls and drop three into each of 24 greased muffin cups.  Melted butter was then brushed over each.

10.  Covering each pan with a towel, I placed them into the oven, which I had preheated a little bit and then turned off.  It’s hard to find a place in This Old House that would qualify as “warm and draft-free” in January, but I thought the new oven would be a safe bet.

11.  In another 45 minutes, the little cloverleafs had doubled again, so I pulled them out of the oven, warmed it to 400, and baked them for 10 minutes.

They smelled wonderful and tasted pretty good.  At least no one complained, and it was a totally homemade meal.

All homemade

I made a new meal tonight, and although it took a lot of time and used so many dishes that, once washed and stacked in the dish drainer, they created a modern art sculpture of monolithic proportions, I think the end result was positive.

We had a chef’s salad, and then I made Spinach Chicken Noodle Soup.  Now, that sounds pretty bad, but both boys liked it enough to have seconds.  It made a nearly full crockpot’s worth, and I need to note on the recipe to reduce or eliminate the salt.  Pretty tasty stuff.

Then My Susie Homemaker genes took over and I decided to try the Holiday Cloverleaf Rolls from scratch.  I’m not sure what I was thinking.  It takes quite a bit of effort and time to make 24 rolls, but I did it.  Now, granted, they were not quite as flaky as I would have liked, but for a first attempt they were not at all bad.  They were three hours from start to finish, but for a lot of that time, I was not intimately involved.  However, if anyone had been video taping me, I think I would’ve ended up on YouTube.

Here are the steps:

1.  Combine the flour, sugar, salt and yeast.  First I had to figure out how many teaspoons of bulk yeast would equal two envelopes.  Any guesses?

2.  Heat the milk, water, and butter till they are “very warm.”  This was admittedly an old-fashioned recipe, but what kind of direction is THAT?  I chose to use the microwave rather than the stovetop for this step, and I clearly went several notches past “very warm.”  So I had to let the stuff sit out till it cooled down to that temp.   Which took too long.  So I stuck it in the fridge for a while.

3.  With the mixer on low, gradually add the liquid to the dry ingredient.  Then set the mixer to medium and beat for two minutes.  This was not hard to do.

4.  Add flour until a firm batter is formed and beat two more minutes.  Again, we could ask how firm firm is, but I dumped in a lot of flour and beat like crazy.  This was problematic, because no matter what I did, the batter climbed steadily up the beaters and into the beater housings! And the stuff in the bowl wasn’t all that deep.   ACK!  Due to that mess, I only managed to beat it for about 26 seconds.

5.  Add enough flour to make a soft dough and beat two more minutes.  Sheesh.  So I guess a soft dough is stiffer than a firm batter.  Well, having already plugged the beater holes with soft dough, I beat it like crazy with a wooden spoon.

to be continued. . .


So Josiah finished Algebra 2 with Mr. Saxon while complaining daily about how idiotically stupid Mr. Saxon was.  This after he did Jacobs Algebra 1.  To MY way of thinking, Mr. Jacobs is an infinite improvement over Mr. Saxon, because Mr. Jacobs makes the problems interesting and/or funny.  Mr. Saxon is as boring as a dirty sock.

Today I was checking the Llama’s JACOBS Geometry, and as usual, the Llama had a bone to pick with the textbook author.  It was a logic question and it had to do with whether or not a certain postulate clearly stated that the line determined by two points is straight.  GIVE ME AN EVER-LOVING BREAK!  Technically, no, the postulate doesn’t say that.  It says that two points determine a line, but as I tried unsuccessfully to explain to Josiah, there are a few very basic premises that simply must be ASSUMED to be true.  Kind of like you can’t argue biblical doctrine until both parties choose to accept the Bible as their final authority.

The Llama and the Pelican went round and round on the above geometric matter, until finally I was too dizzy to think straight.  (Hmmm. . . would such supposedly “straight” thinking involve deductive or inductive reasoning?)  Anyway, I turned my firstborn son over to the Major Skink, who managed to read the problem and calmly explain to the Llama that the only way two points can determine a line is if the lines are indeed straight.  I didn’t follow his reasoning, but I decided I didn’t need to follow it, because I had no moral or logical qualms whatsoever about the matter; I was perfectly fine with assuming the line was straight.

Josiah went away satisfied that his answer to the problem (which I had circled in red as wrong – none of that emotionally sensitive purple ink in this household) was indeed wrong.  I was relieved, but oh my stars, are we going to have yet ANOTHER math course that results in daily arguments?  As I remember it, and my recall is admittedly quite a bit less than perfect, math was so much easier with the girls.  I assigned the work.  They did the work.  I checked the work.  If they disagreed with me (or actually, with the answer key) on an answer, they calmly explained why, and based onwhich way the wind was blowing that day, I either did or didn’t give them credit for the problem.

I have now been through the Algebra 1, Algebra 2, Geometry series a total of 3.7 times.  I still have to do the whole thing one more time, and specifically, I have to survive the next several months of Josiah and Mr. Jacobs.  The frustrating thing is that it wouldn’t matter if it were Saxon, or Teaching Textbooks, or Math-U-See, or Singapore, or Abeka, or Horizon,s or Bob Jones, or any other math curriculum.  Josiah would argue with every single one of them.

I guess I should be thankful that I don’t have a whole classroom full of bleating Llamas!  May God help the school teachers who do!

So many posts, so little time

Almost every day, one or more occasions cause me to think, “Ah!  That’s a great blog title!”  But inevitably I’m not at my desk and when I do get there, I seem to have lots of other more pressing things to deal with.  I really, really want to post something every day, but I don’t because I have all these grand ideas and each one would take thirty minutes to write and I don’t have thirty minutes and I only have three and so it never gets done and that is sad.

This morning, something happened that I think will finally motivate me to post daily.

Now, my parents are getting older.  Hard to imagine, I know, but it’s true.  I am fairly sure they access my blog most days, and I know my mom is pretty disgusted (or at least pretty disappointed ) when I haven’t posted anything new.  Also, my good friend and neighbor, LaShell, is walking through a very difficult season of caring for her elderly parents who live an hour away.  Her dad has significant dementia, and her mom (her dad’s primary caregiver) is not recovering well from hip replacement surgery a couple months ago.

Sobering.  But then this morning, our good friend and neighbor, Jodi, called, crying, to say that her family couldn’t participate in our church’s scheduled outreach today at 10:00 AM, because her husband had received a call thirty minutes ago from his brother that his mom had died.

Lorraine was probably about 60, and she managed a hotel in town.  She and her husband are strong Christians who have been a great blessing to and positive influence on Bob and Jodi and their blended family.  I had seen Lorraine a month ago when we went Christmas caroling and she was perfectly fine.  Healthy, enthusiastic, smiling, great.  Last night she had pain in her side and they put a heating pad on it.  It got worse in the night and when she stood up, she passed out.  Her husband, Don, called 911 and the ambulance came.  On the way to the hospital she got a lot worse, and the ambulance called Med-Flight.  Either in the ambulance or in the helicopter, she died.

I know my mom will die, but although I’ve lived half a century, I can’t even imagine that kind of loss.  Bob and his five siblings are – very suddenly – without their young, healthy, vibrant mom.  His kids are now without their grandma.  She was an organ donor, so they don’t even know where her body is right now, and what do you do first?  And where do you go?  And how on earth do you process the fact that your mom has died and is in heaven and you can’t see her or talk to her again in this life?

It all made me realize AGAIN how fragile and temporary our time on earth is, and so I figure if I have something to blog about, I’d better seize the day and do it while I can.  That may mean a lot of really short posts, but I think that will be better than nothing for weeks at a time.  If you have my email address, feel free to hold me accountable.

Blogging makes me smile, and I think I need to smile every day in 2011.

Never seen ’em ALL open before

Not even at Christmas!

Jessica and I made a small Wal-Mart run this afternoon for an odd assortment of items:

– a soap dispenser to replace the non-functional one in our bathroom

– some 40 watt light bulbs

– two pairs of scissors (in most houses pens go AWOL; in our house it’s scissors)

– smaller sweat pants for me   = )

– some miscellaneous groceries

Between light bulbs and scissors, we passed a white-haired gentleman who looked familiar.  As we passed him, I said to Jessica, “I believe that’s Mr. Smalley.”  I turned back and addressed him, and sure enough, it was!  I told him how much we appreciated his ministry and how much our family had benefited from his wisdom through the years.  He proceeded to tell us all about his latest focus on memorized and meditating on scripture; how it affects our actual brain structures and the fact that he’s working with Navigators on his newest DVD, which will be out in a week or so.  I shared that Andrew and I are currently working on the first 60 Navigators verses, and that Scott had made me memorize them when we were dating.  He thought that was a great pre-requisite for a romantic relationship.  He was just as engaging in person as he seems to be in his books and videos.  I walked away smiling.

Jessica and I moved on through the store and had finished most of our shopping (minus produce) when the lights went out.  Now, we were over near meat, and that sector got pretty dark, but it seemed that the lights were still on in the central part of the store.  Nobody panicked, and we just kept shopping, noting that all the bananas look greener in the dark and that in dim lighting it can be hard to distinguish a good head of Romaine lettuce (not that Wal-Mart is ever known for carrying good heads of Romaine lettuce) without a flashlight.

While we were there in front of lettuce, a charming female voice announced over the loudspeaker that Wal-Mart was experiencing a problem (no joke) and that everyone must move IMMEDIATELY to the front of the store and check out RIGHT NOW.  Jessica took off at a run, and I followed.  Something else was announced about there being only fifteen minutes that the cash registers would work, so we slid into a line and watched all the commotion as we waited.

The ONLY electrical things working in the entire store seemed to be the cash registers.  All the lights were out, and what appeared to be lighting in the center of the store was actually daylight through the skylights.  Even the conveyor belts were off and we manually pushed our purchases up to the cashier.  She was checking as fast as she could and another employee was sacking.  When do Wal-Mart employees sack anything?  The one sacking kept telling the one checking to go as FAST as she could, because the generator running the cash registers only had a few more minutes.  Interesting.

While I watched the checker madly sling our purchases to her left, I looked around and noticed that, as best I could determine, EVERY checkstand in the store was open.  They must’ve pulled every employee who knows how to work a cash drawer and sent ’em all to the front.  I’ve always wondered why Wal-Mart installed 20+ check stands when only six or eight are ever in use even in the busiest of times.  At first I thought they put in so many because they’d need them at Christmas time, but they certainly weren’t all open then.  Now I know that they only need all those checkstands when the power goes out.

I paid fast, and we grabbed our stuff and ran out the door.  The door, by the way, was standing wide open, I suppose because it had been in that position when the power went off.  Outside, employees politely but firmly told people trying to enter the store that they could not.

All in all, it was quite the little experience, and Jessica and I agreed that it was about the most interesting Wal-Mart run we’d ever had – and trust me, we have had MANY Wal-Mart runs.


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