Archive for August, 2012

Good outline (with Kudos to mom)

A few days ago, Josiah chatted me something about did I remember how much emphasis the author of his high school literature curriculum placed on writing good outlines.

I said that I did.  I also remembered the intense (initial) challenge of getting him to produce a “good” (that is, well organized and useful) outline.

He replied, “Well, I’m about to write a good outline!”

I don’t know what class that was for, but just the fact that he saw some value in at least one – distasteful to him – aspect of his homeschooling education made me smile. I said something about being glad that that was useful, and he quickly replied that while he thought he’d probably be using writing his his work for the rest of his life, algebra was COMPLETELY useless.  We discussed that a bit and I told him that that very morning, I, who am now going through beginning algebra for the FIFTH time, had aught Andrew how to multiply polynomials using the tried-and-true “eyebrows and smiles” technique and he had then scored a 36 out of 36 (100%) on that day’s assignment.

There may be another way to multiply polynomials, but “eyebrows and smiles” is the only way I know to do it and the only way I can teach it.  Actually, after my emotionally devastating experience of Algebra 1 in ninth grade with that teacher who had the one glass eye, so we could never tell which direction he was really looking, and who rapidly scribbled wrote equations from left to right across the chalkboard with his right hand while simultaneously erasing them from left to right with his left hand, so we couldn’t copy any of it down (I’m pretty sure that was the only class that consistently made me cry, and I know it’s the only class where I ever cheated on a test; there’s a reason why I only cheated once, and it wasn’t my sterling integrity), I was glad just to remember anything useful about Algebra 1 and be able to communicate it effectively!


Bon voyage!

Today, Andrew flew to North Carolina to spend the Labor Day weekend with his aunts, uncle, grandma, and cousins, including a potential new cousin for whom it looks like his aunt will be providing foster care sometime soon.  That young man is just a bit younger than Andrew, I think, and he’s also “brown.” Andrew doesn’t have contact with many people of color; we are hoping the two boys will both enjoy their time together.

We sent a phone with Andrew since he was flying unaccompanied.  (We were required by the airline to pay an unaccompanied minor fee each way because he is under 15.  The ticket was free, but the fee was definitely not!)  Andrew sent me a number of texts while he was in transit, and I don’t think he’d mind my posting them here. I retained his spellings when typing these up.

1.  “I am MAD!! I can’t even have my backpack with me!”  (Note that that may have been b/c it was packed to the gills and weighed 16 pounds!)

2.  “Yeah.  I regret having soo much packed in there now.”

3.  “Can you carry anything with you on a plane?”  (I told him I could carry a book and a purse if it would fit under my seat.)

4.  “Wait to text me back.  I have to shut my phone off.”

5.  “Sorry I couldn’t respond we had to take off.  I’m hoping I can at least out something in my black bag.”

6.  “We are on the ground in Atlanta!  A lot of turbulence about halfway through and didn’t stop until we landed!”

7.  “Funny.  It was sort of akward because this is my first time.  Do you know the info about my next flight?  (I told him it should be on his second boarding pass and to let me know if it wasn’t.)

8.  “They let me off the plane first!  Ain’t I special!”

9.  “I got a private ride in a official airport can to the other part of the airpet to wait for my next plane!  I feel really special!”

10.  “I meant to say official airport van. Not can.”

11.  “Question:  Can I stuff some odyssey and books into my blue backpack until I get on the plane, then put my black bag under mt feet and put my blue backpack in the overhead thingy?”  (I told him he’d have to ask his Delta person that question.)

12.  “Because I really want something other than one Hank the Cowdog book and my lifesavers!”  (Note that he had a bag of – I’m guessing – 60 individually wrapped lifesavers!)

13.  “Looking sort of stormy here.  Pray for no bad weather so we can take off on time.”  (This after he had told me repeatedly how disappointed he was that it was clear blue and sunny in SGF, b/c he wanted to fly through clouds.)

14.  “I am sitting in the really big plane all by myself!  And I get a window seat again!”

15.  “My suitcase is above me and my backpack (with everything in it) is under the seat in front of me.  Yay!”

16.  “And I can actually hear what they say!”

17.  “We are about to take off.  Bye!”

18.  “I am on the ground in Charlotte.  The second flight was MUCH better than the first one.”  (I asked if he was with Aunt Kristy.)

19.  “Yes I am.  Sorry I didn’t respond I was walking out.”


Mt. Vernon journey – continued and concluded

Scott was nowhere to be found, Andrew said he was in the truck, and so I raced out there.  No Steve.  Where was Steve if Andrew was riding with him?  Scott was in the passenger seat of the truck, laptop open, working.  Like a ditz, I asked, “Who’s driving?”

“You are, ” he replied.

Lovely!  Have I ever even driven a pickup truck?  Well, no.  So I adjusted the mirrors and tried to get the seat close enough for me to reach the pedals.  This was a major ‘ouch’ to long-legged Andrew, who was sitting in the middle with his school box on his lap.  The middle part of the bench seat moves with the driver’s part.  Scott had plenty of leg room, but Andrew was squashed like a bug, feeling like his knees were in his armpits.

Steve’s truck is great.  It has more than 250,000 miles on it and the loosest steering of any vehicle I have driven in recent memory.  He uses it for his overhead door business, so it also featured a distinctive “eau d’construction worker” aroma.  ‘Nuff said.

We made it to Mt. Vernon in about an hour and ten minutes and located the house.  Around the side was parked The Camper.  The owner had it hooked up to electricity and had even turned on the air for us.  Air in a camper.  What a concept.

I need to figure out how to get some pictures of this thing into this blog.  It’s quite large.  I think that is an understatement.  It’s a 1999 model Bantam pull-behind that looks something like the one on this page.  It’s 18 feet long (!!!), and if you scroll down to the F18 floor plan here, you can get an idea of the layout.  Below all the facts and figures there are a few of pictures that look (other than our Bantam being older and having different upholstery) pretty much like ours.  The 1999 model is a little bit different from that 2002 model, but similar.

The only features that I really wanted in a camper were:

– an “up” camper that didn’t pop up and down (allowing for storage that you didn’t have to bend/crawl to access)

– pull-out beds on the ends, at least one of which was at least a queen size

– an attached, retractable awning

Things I didn’t care ANYTHING about included:

– air conditioning (can it really be camping if there’s A/C?)

– toilet and/or shower (I’d rather use the campground’s than deal with draining that junk!)

– fridge (never had one to camp before, but I guess it might be handy)

– heat (with the exception of Yellowstone in 2000, we have rarely needed heat when camping)

So, we stepped into this ice cold camper, and it was amazing.  First of all, the beds on the ends, one full and one queen, fold down; they don’t pull out!  you just fold ’em down, use your shoulder to put the support poles underneath like on a pop-up, button the cover/screen thing in place, and pull up the support bar just like a pop-up.  Sweetly easy.

Next to the queen fold-down bed is a seating area with a table that can be used there or moved outside.  That table makes into another queen bed.  The owner said that when he and his wife camped, they just used that lower queen bed and didn’t even fold the other one down.  There’s a kitchen-ish area with a two-burner propane stove, a tiny fridge, a small single sink, and lots of counter and cabinet space.  There’s even a small microwave!  Then there’s another built-in table and seating area (for four) that makes into a twin bed.

There’s a tiny “bathroom” (maybe as big as my desk) that has a porta-potty and shower head.  I do not intend to use either of those and told Scott so, but I guess it’s nice that they are there. There’s also a small “closet” where you could theoretically hang a few clothes.  Or stash other stuff.

Outside are all kinds of little doors and pipes and hoses and fittings and connections, most of which I don’t know what to do with, but hopefully Scott will.  There’s the electrical cord thing, a propane water heater, two propane tanks, numerous water tanks, the sewage drain, the other water drain, a battery compartment, a cable for lights and camper brakes connections, a double-locking outer door and a screen door, jack handles to do something (level it?), and a special tool to grab the awning thing to unroll it.

This rooster will sleep seven inside in actual beds, which is certainly overkill for the three of us.  = )  However, Andrew insists that we take his friends along when we camp, so maybe that would fill all seven sleeping spots.  Sigh.  This little (or big) camper has virtually all the comforts of home, including hook-ups for cable TV!!! Sheesh!

Scott made a deal with the owner that both seemed to be well-satisfied with, and that done, he assured me that his plan was to use it for a year and then, if it wasn’t working out well for us or if it was just too much camper, he could turn it around for a tidy profit.  I trust him on that.

He and the previous owner got it hooked up to the truck, but it turns out that the truck couldn’t accommodate the camper’s type of connection plug. This meant that Yours Truly would be driving an unfamiliar truck on the freeway for an hour and ten minutes, towing an 18-foot camper with no tail lights, brake lights, turn signals, or license plate.  Yours Truly (the extremely Law Abiding One) told her husband that she would do this ONLY on the condition that he get the entourage onto the shoulder of the freeway and that he then content himself with her driving in the right lane, ALL THE WAY HOME (as she was not comfortable changing lanes with no turn signals).  He agreed, but once he got us all onto the freeway, he decided it would be better for him just to drive it home.  The wife was greatly relieved, although the whole expedition meant that he lost about a half day’s wages.  Thankfully, he was able to work on the way to Mt. Vernon; just not on the way home.

At home, there was the issue of where to park the camper.  Our decrepit pop-up was in the toyport, and backing the new camper up around our vehicles, trees, buildings, and other obstacles was not a task for the faint of heart.  Scott did an admirable job of same, merely drilling the A/C unit into one fairly stout overhanging tree branch.  He strongly wanted to park the camper in front of the two-car “garage,” but overhanging limbs made this impossible.  ACME weed eater pole saw to the rescue.  It was a scrawny old tree anyway. . . He parked the camper and later that evening (8/28) returned Steve’s truck to him with sincere gratitude.

Tonight (8/30), Scott had a softball game in the pre-Isaac wind, and since it’s forecast to be very windy and rainy for the next couple days, he decided (without mentioning it to me) to put the new camper under the toyport.  I was in the office at the time, and it seemed that Scott should have come in the house from his ball game, so I went looking for him.  I found him, in the dark, out at the toyport with Steve and Steve’s truck.  I guess they shoved the pop-up out the back end of the toyport and then used Steve’s truck to back the new camper around the garage, snake it between the lawn building and the trampoline, and slide it neatly into the toyport.  There had been some concern that it might hit the canoe, being as tall as it is, so maybe they had to also shorten the canoe chains.  I don’t know about that.  Frankly, realizing what had been paid for the camper, I didn’t want to watch the pitch-black backing-up operation, so I went back in the house!

Steve’s a really nice guy, but astute readers may now be wondering if we have somehow now purchased a camper without owning a vehicle that can tow it.  Well, yes, that would appear to be the case.  Andrew is thrilled with this knowledge, because he has long been seriously ashamed of our van and is always beseeching us to get a more stylish vehicle.  I suppose we are now in the market for one, because I know Scott pretty well.  When he buys something new (car, shirt, camper, CD), he is driven to use it IMMEDIATELY, if not sooner.  Of course, we do have yet to get the camper licensed and pay sales tax on it, but once that little task is done, he will be raring to take it out somewhere.  I told him that after driving Steve’s truck (and no offense to Steve or his truck – we greatly appreciated the use of both), I am sure that I do not want the regular family vehicle that I drive daily to be a truck.  I’m fine with a van or an SUV.  My only requirements for my vehicle is that it be “up,” (not down low like a car) because “up” is so much more comfortable for me.  Ideally, I’d also like it to have a cassette player so I can play my MP3 music over the speakers.

We shall see what Scott comes up with on that.  Having bought one vehicle this week, he may choose to wait till next month for the next one.


Went past Chesapeake to Mt. Vernon today

I was planning to be home all day till Andrew’s piano lesson at 4 PM, but at 7:45 AM, when I was out watering and about to spray for bugs, Scott asked me how quickly I could be ready to go.  Hmmm. . . filthy dirty and sweaty, wearing exercise and gardening clothes with my signature floppy olive drab hat. . . how about 30 minutes?

So, while he went to the bank and Andrew practiced piano, I showered and put on my face (and my clothes!) and prepared to go to Mt. Vernon.

Communication was rather lacking.  All I knew was that he had found a camper, he had called the guy, I had said I thought it would be best for both of us to look at it together, we’d have to have a pile of cash in hand in case we wanted to buy it, and supposedly our van could pull it.

Clean and sweet-smelling, I asked Andrew to collect his school box and he played more piano while I straightened up, started a load of laundry, and collected library books.  Meanwhile, Andrew informed me that he was riding with Steve.  Whatever.

Scott flew in and I noticed that Steve’s truck was in our driveway and Scott’s Honda appeared to be Absent Without Leave.  Whatever.  I figured I was supposed to drive the van, and Steve would drive the truck.  Why?  I had no idea.

Oops!  Just remembered that I forgot to make Scott’s lunch!  BTW, Jessica, isn’t that your responsibility?  (And along those lines, Josiah, your failure to do the Wednesday night supper clean up was noted with GREAT disappointment at about 9:15 PM.)  These kinds of behaviors simply cannot continue.

It’s 10:30 PM, and I need to get that lunch made, so I’ll have to tell you about our trek later.

Cooking for three

This is a whole new realm of life for me.  The last time I cooked for three would’ve been about 21 years ago, and back then it was really only cooking for about 2.3:  Scott, me, and a one-year-old Katie.  What with various activities and guests and groups and stuff, I really haven’t had to ace the music yet on the cooking scene, but I think that will happen on Thursday this week.

I am also having to seriously adjust my grocery shopping.  I mean, how does one buy half a head of lettuce?  Or half a bag of spinach?  Sheesh.  The other day, Scott poured himself some milk at supper and said, “Umm. . . I think something’s wrong.  This milk is coming out in clumps!”  Figuring out how much of what to buy – when I still only want to do grocery shopping once a week – and figuring out how to store whatever it is so that it’s accessible, visible (or it doesn’t get eaten), and adequately preserved is a real challenge!

I did buy an eight-inch square glass dish and some comparably sized foil pans to freeze and bake stuff in smaller quantities.  Maybe I will break them in on Thursday.

In other news, I have a new cell phone, but I don’t yet know how to use it.  My goal on that is to get Scott to help me master it on Saturday.  Actually, maybe that should be a prayer request, because his teaching me tehno stuff has not historically been what one would term “marriage building.”  It works a lot better to have a stingray, or in a pinch even a llama, in that instructional role, but so many animals have flown the coop that my options are more limited than ever before.

In any case, by the end of the week, I anticipate having cooked at least one meal for us three and having sent a text that is not maximally tedious.  Maybe as a bonus I will be able to talk on the phone while sitting in the green chair!  Now, that would be very relaxing.  When I called my mom yesterday, I tried standing next to the piano (the one location on the first floor where I can get a signal), and when that didn’t work, I tried lying on our bed (the second-best location on the second floor for getting a signal; the first being in our office, but Scott was working in here), and when THAT didn’t work, I gave up and went to the attic. Lying on Katie’s bed seemed to work OK.  I don’t know if the signal problem is caused by my phone or if it’s just the way it is with any phone.  You can call me after Saturday and we’ll see.


Mercy on the downward path

I had my annual exam today.  Thankfully, my doc is a very nice lady and we have a good relationship.  We first ranted to each other a bit about our government’s continued intrusion into health care, and then I told her I was self-pay and she gave me a 30% discount on her services (but regrettably not on labs, which they are not allowed to discount), she wrote me refills of all my on-going prescriptions, she answered all my questions, and when I told her that my weight was nice and low two weeks ago when I was sick but that since I had gotten well and resumed eating (especially chips and salsa and BBQ potato chips -two of my great temptations!) it has gone up five pounds, she said, “Well, you’re still down eight pounds from two years ago and down five pounds from last year.”

I can’t imagine where on earth she got those previous figures, but I am assuming God was once again amazingly merciful to me.

Then I went to have lunch with my friend, Dianne, at our favorite Mexican restaurant, Elenita’s.  She’s moving to Texas next month, so this was our last lunch together.  (No portraits were painted, and we did NOT sit on the same side of the table!)  Any day that either of us has a fasting-for-lab-work doctor appointment, we celebrate afterwards with an truly innumerable amount of chips and at least a half gallon or so of salsa.  Ah, the joys of friendship!

Tomorrow I resume my downward trek!

No ball tonight

It rained!  It rained!  It rained!  Praise God, it rained!

This, of course, means that Scott’s ball game was rained out, but that’s okay, because he’s giving his sore elbow a rest tonight anyway.

We are carving out a new normal, now that we’re three, and it’s been both pleasant and difficult.  While Jessica was home, she and I decluttered two specific spaces: the lower two kitchen drawers that were full of gadgets and junk, and the playroom shelves.  I still feel a great deal of satisfaction when I open one of those drawers to get something, and see again that ONLY the stuff I regularly use lives in there!

Those kinds of things are good, but having only the one child around to ask for help on any given task is kind of stinky.  Likewise cooking for three.  That is really something that truly should not be done.  I had to buy smaller foil pans for freezer storage and a smaller glass dish for baking, and I confess that I stood in Wal-Mart in front of the (very limited selection of) bakeware and cried.  I can now look at the 8″ square baking dish without crying, but I haven’t actually used it yet.  Between Andrew’s wisdom teeth keeping him from eating much normal stuff at all, and full-sized cooking for groups and guests and such, and the fact that it’s just hard for me to motivate myself to cook seriously for just three of us, especially when we usually have to eat fast and get to or host some meeting, service, group, etc., I haven’t crossed that bridge yet.

However, I do have much for which to be thankful.  Andrew’s mouth is doing a lot better.  The big kids are making their various ways in various locations.  We don’t have ANYTHING scheduled on Friday night.

It rained!

Turtle return!

It’s been at least three weeks since I’ve seen a turtle in the creek under the bridge, but this morning, I saw one!  I was so excited!  It was like seeing a long-lost friend.  I’m sure the turtles moved downstream, where there was more water.  It had gotten really low at the bridge – probably only about four inches deep and with lots of “new” gravel bars and big rocks exposed.

It rained on (I think) August 4, and that rain didn’t seem to raise the creek level at all, but on the morning of the 7th, the day Jessica moved to Hong Kong, it was suddenly and dramatically deeper by about six to eight inches.  I think that was a gift from God just for me.

As I type this, it’s raining very hard, and I assume the turtles are happy.

I got to sleep last night!

It involved Ambien, but after five consecutive virtually sleepless nights with Andrew’s wisdom teeth removal recovery, I told him last night that I was done.  Now Andrew can deal with the pain, the Ibuprofen, the heat, the rinses, himself, and it was absolutely WONDERFUL to sleep for seven hours in a row.  I am firmly persuaded that many areas of life can be improved with a solid night or two of sleep!

Thankfully, Andrew’s bleeding has virtually stopped (it’s stopped several times before and re-started, but we think this is the real deal), and he’s spaced out to a solid four hours between Ibuprofen doses.  Tomorrow he starts the targeted rinses and resumes wearing his retainers.

Katie, Jessica, Scott, and I are planning to play bridge Saturday night, and that should be loads of fun.

Katie has HER car back and running well, after paying a mere $65 to have the $3000 computer (or whatever it’s called) repaired under warranty.  What favor!  What grace from God!

Jessica has been in Hong Kong for just under a week and is adjusting to life and work with YWAM there.  She has been through all kind of challenges trying to get her phone set up to use there and may need to buy a different one.

Josiah visited the Browns in Delaware – one Brown in particular – spent a night or two with Katie, and is now in the midst of freshman orientation at PHC.  We heard that he won a microwave oven tonight!

Andrew will begin piano lessons with his new teacher next week.

Scott has been super busy with many meetings at work, and we are meeting ourselves coming and going with church meetings, as well.  Only five of them relate to church, but we have commitments for nine of the next ten nights.  This level of activity tends to drain me, so I am planning to discuss the matter with Scott and see what options there may be to reduce the meeting load.

I have been super-abundantly blessed by God’s presence today.  He is so very good to me!

And now, a second night of sleep – this one without meds.  = )

Strong wind

When our friend, Tara, dropped off Andrew from his cleaning job this afternoon, a storm was brewing.  The wind was really horrific and had, in fact, blown over three of the tomato plants out front.  We propped them up on the front steps where they were somewhat sheltered from the wind, brought in the flag and enjoyed the storm.  It rained heavily for a few minutes, and the wind was something else.

Just after Scott got home, while he and Josiah were playing ping pong, just prior to our fun meal out at Freddy’s, I decided to tackle the few dishes that had been sitting around all day.  It was an odd, disjointed day, what with Scott at work in Springfield, Andrew helping Ms. Tracy clean the church and then helping Ms. Tara clean the Rendezvous, me fighting a cold, and Josiah packing for his departure tomorrow.  I also had a bunch of desk-ish tasks I was working on, and there were numerous interruptions, and a couple rounds of tears.  All that to say that there were reasons why I hadn’t gotten the dishes done by 5:00 PM.

So I turned on the hot water to get started and stuck my hand under it and waited.  And waited.  And waited.  The water just stayed lukewarm.  Not a good sign.

I then interrupted the Olympic table tennis game in the playroom to ask if one of those guys would go down and try to re-light the pilot.  Josiah tried diligently for over five minutes.  He could light it, but no matter how long he held the thing down, when he let go, it went out.

Scott called a plumber and they will come out tomorrow, but they will have to wait till I get home with Andrew minus his wisdom teeth.  Hence it will be attic showers all around or cold showers in the morning.

This on the heels of the cellar fridge dying for the second time in a month, and I am not too thrilled with my cellar appliances.  The thing I truly can’t figure out, though, is how a windstorm can blow out the pilot in a water heater located in a closed cellar.  Trust me, there is no wind down there.  I don’t know HOW that happens, but it has happened on more than one occasion.

To end on a good note, Katie was miraculously saved $2935 in car repairs this week.  Thank you, God!!!

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