Wednesday, December 31, 2008

About me

This is from Chelle, and I think I may be supposed to pass it on, but I'm not bothering right now.
Things About Me--
2 names you go by: Karen, Mooooooooooom!
2 things you are wearing right now: a sweater, jeans
2 of your favorite things to do: look at the stars, go caving
2 things you want badly at the moment: more time before school starts, a neat house
2 pets you have/had: my dog Maddie, my cat Lollipop
2 things I did last night: watched It's A Wonderful Life with the kids, talked to my sister
2 things you ate today: Lasagna, Chocolate Silk pie
2 people you last talked to: Caly, Zaven's friend Camryn
2 things you plan to do tomorrow: clean house, get more winter clothes out
2 trips taken in last five years: Chicago, Niagara Falls
2 favorite holidays: Christmas, Fourth of July (because there are no obligations, you just eat hot dogs and go to the fireworks)
2 favorite beverages: diet Big Red, Pink Cows (a Big Red float)

Monday, December 29, 2008


I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. I had meant to take some pics of our tree and post them, but I haven't managed to get around to it. It's worth looking at because there's almost no green visible.

I've been out of town for almost a full week and just got in this evening. We had a lovely visit with Scott's family and even though it was cramped driving, we even enjoyed the drive there and back. We also managed to cut back quite a bit from previous years' excesses and that made it even nicer. Somehow instead of making Christmas more exciting to get and give more presents, even for the kids it becomes simply overwhelming. A doll that you might have loved or an art set that may have thrilled you is simply lost amidst the sea of toys. So Scott and I have worked hard to resist trying to make Christmas perfect by spending more money, and even to some extent more time since it usually backfires by making us exhausted and grumpy with the kids. Instead we focused on family, on giving to charities, and on explaining why we celebrate.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Crunchy, with a chewy center

So last night I ended up in the ER with a kidney stone. I get them every 4 or 5 years so it's not surprising. I was sent home to try and pass it, which is nicer than staying in a hospital and passing it there. At least at home I can snooze in my own bed. They give you the same painkillers either way, so the only other difference is the expense. That pain is almost (almost) as bad as the pain of the stone. Happily, I have insurance this time around. Unhappily it's half way through December. I will have used up our Flex Spending Account and paid my deductable and in two weeks, it resets and I will need to pay it again if I have any complications or illness. But at least we have the insurance, and I have hardly put anything on the Flex Spending Account, so it will cover almost the entire deductable. It would have rolled over... but I'm still far better off than the last time I had a stone.

As for the stone itself, it was/is a very big pain. I'm on some painkillers now so I'm not hurting, but last night was insanely bad. It hurt so bad I puked. But even in the midst of all that, I am still a smart-ass at heart. When the nurse asked me if the pain was sharp or dull, I said that it was dull all over my side and back, but the pain in the center of my side was very sharp. What I thought was "crunchy, with a chewy center."

Sunday, December 14, 2008

It was the best of concerts. It was the worst of concerts.

My kids are musical. Zaven plays cello, Caly plays violin and trumpet and sings in the chorus, Zoe has perfect pitch, and Quinn knows more song lyrics than actual words. And this week, all that music came to a head. In the past 7 days, I've been to a professional musical show, a school band concert, a school chorus concert, an afterschool strings concert, and a Christmas party featuring professional violinists and singers as well as group singing.

It all began last weekend, when Zaven, Scott, and I got to go to a professional performance of Stomp! in Cincinnati. And while I really enjoyed it, they were not the best show of the week. Of course, they were not the worst of the week either. That honor fell to the middle school chorus. They were doing one of those productions where there's a recorded soundtrack for them to sing along with, and a fairly stupid play that they read off of scripts. Yup. Read. In barely audible monotones. In their defense, the teacher explained that several students had gotten sick that morning and these kids had filled in at the last minute. But it was bad. Very, very bad.

On the flip side was the strings program. Now you may think that a meet-for-half-an-hour-once-a-week strings class with over a dozen beginning violin players would sound like a screechy nightmare. But they are GOOD. Really, really good. I was kicking myself for not bringing my camera to record them. It was a joy to go hear the results of all their hard work. They always blow me away, too. The class is taught by a little old woman in her 80's whom you can barely hear speak, but man can she teach a kid to play the violin. And even if my kids weren't in it, I'd go to that program any day of the week.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Tag, I'm it.

OK, I was tagged by Tara and that means I'm supposed to list 7 things about myself that you may not know. So, here goes.

1. I like people, but most days I don't actually speak to anyone I'm not related to.

2. I don't like milk in my cereal and when I eat cheerios, I eat them three pieces at a time.

3. As a kid I had to stop watching the Flintstones because it made me too stressed out with worry about how they'd get out of whatever trouble they got into.

4. I have almost no sense of smell.

5. I'm a sun-sneezer. Bright lights make me sneeze.

6. I have a strong urge to make something up for this list just to see if anyone believes it.

7. My favorite thing about Christmas is wrapping presents.

And I am tagging Chelle, Pearly, and Heather.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


I love books. I really, really do. I was thinking about it all day. It started last night when I ran across a quote from Anna Quindlen that I'd saved. "I would be the most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves."

This morning, I got Quinn out of bed and directly onto the changing table, where I'd accidently left the copy of Click, Clack, Moo! Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin that I'd been reading to him last night. Now I don't read to him every night, but I do sometimes and he loves it. But it's not like you see on TV, where the child sits contentedly in his mother's lap and listens, or even where he's grabbing the page and trying to tear it. Nope. He won't stay in my lap. Instead, I'm on a bench and he's stuck in his crib (can't get out) and he's using it as a trampoline and yelling and you can barely hear me. But he seems to like it because he smiles a lot when I read and so I do it anyway. So this morning when I put him on the changing table, he grabbed the book, opened it up, turned it right side up (how did he know?) and proceeded to read it to me. "Ababble-ee-ah-sooooo. Cick, cack, MOO! (He turns the page.) Ha-ba-ba-na-na-na. Cick, cack, MOOOOOO! (He turns the page again.) RRRAAAAAAAAAA! Cick, Cack, MOO! I was so impressed. I honestly thought he hadn't heard a word of what I was reading. Apparently he heard three of them.

All of my kids love books. They see them as old and dear friends, but also as the new kid at school who's lived in a whole other city. Books are the best of familiar and comforting surroundings... the perfectly broken in shoe, or the worn and faded blue jeans that fit just right. And the best of the new and exciting... adventure without risk, suspense without danger.
And so they read and read and read. And I am so gratified to know that I did this one thing perfectly right.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Every year as Christmas approaches, I hear adults talking about believing in Santa. Mostly, they're worried that their kids will stop believing or wondering how to handle it when their kids ask them if they believe. And I always think the same thing. Because unlike most adults, I actually DO believe in Santa. And not just the spirit-of-Santa generosity BS that I hear adults start to degrade into when they don't want to 'fess up that they don't really believe. I mean I believe in the reindeer-wrangling, sleigh-riding, chimney-climbing Santa that defies all the laws of physics and visits every child in the world in a single night. And I KNOW that I believe because the first year that I was married, Scott and I spent Christmas eve at his mom's house. We were sound asleep when a noise woke me up. Wide awake. Suddenly. And the first thing that I thought was, "Santa!"

Of course the next thing that I thought was, "duh!" But even so, there's no denying. I believe.

Sunday, November 30, 2008


Kmart is having a sale this week where they will double all your coupons up to and including $2. So if you have a coupon for $2 off something, you'll actually save $4. I don't live near a Kmart, but I was at my MIL's today and she's only a few blocks away from one. So off I went this morning with my big binder of coupons. I managed to get some really good deals. I was tickled. I got lots of stuff that was free after the coupon, and several things that were very good deals on stuff we use every single day, like diapers, toilet paper, and ziploc bags for Scott's lunch. Of course, it took forever because I wasn't nearly as organized as I should have been. But I saved over a hundred dollars and filled up my trunk with stuff that I actually wanted and needed. Very, very cool.

OK, I dug out my receipts and here's what I got.

1 Toy for Zoe (Was $10, I got it free)
2 Max Factor Lipgloss (Free because it was mismarked on the shelf)
1 Tweezers (Free)
1 Emery Boards (Free)
3 First Aid tapes (Free)
2 First Aid gauze pads (Free)
1 First Aid rolled gauze (Free)
1 Large Size Pert Shampoo (Free)
1 Cascade Rinse Aid (Free)
1 Mr. Clean spray (Free)
3 Revlon Nail Polishes (.19 each)
2 Wet Ones tubs (.29 each)
6 Hershy bars (.33 each)
2 Sun Maid Raisins 6-packs (.79 each)
3 Reynolds Aluminum Foil (.99 each)
2 Novelty pens for Caly (1.00 each)
2 Sets of Ziploc Containers (1.00 each)
10 cans ravioli (1.09 each -- not great but Zaven's fav snack)
2 Boxes of Ziploc Sandwich Bags (1.19 each)
1 Magic Eraser 2-pack (1.29)
3 Boxes of Tampax (2.16 each)
1 Mr. Cleam liquid (2.29, but came with the free spray)
1 Cascade 16 ct. Dishwasher pack (2.99)
2 Cottonelle mega-roll TP 6-pack (2.99 each)
1 Wisk Detergent (3.49)
2 Scott double-roll TP 6-packs (3.99 each)
4 Pullups Overnights (7.74 each)
2 large boxes of Baby wipes (8.99 each, but that's how I got the free toy)

$118.47 out of pocket, but $63 of it was diapers, wipes, and toilet paper and $9.50 was tax. So, if we can just manage to stop having bodily functions and paying taxes, that would cut our bills by 60%.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Needing to pee.

Zoe came running into the kitchen the other day shouting, "I needa go potty! I needa go potty!" She had to run right PAST the bathroom to get to the kitchen, but that's what she did. She ran in, hands on her crotch, knees together, bouncing slightly in her urgency, and shouted, "I needa go potty! I NEED TO PEE!"

I said, "Well, you better hurry up and go to the bathroom!"

To which she replied, "What have I got acrosst my butt?" (And yes, across ended with a T.)

"I don't know honey." I couldn't see a thing on her butt.

"What Have I Got... ACROSST... My Butt?"

"I don't know. I don't see anything across your butt."

"WHAT... HAVE I GOT... ACROSST... MY BUTT?" as she bounces with ever greater urgency.

All of the sudden it hit me. "Your hands?"

"YES!!!! Cause I needa PEE!" And off she went to the bathroom.

Apparently it was more important to tell me how badly she needed to pee than it was to actually go pee.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Dish Network

Well, if you've ever dealt with Dish Network, you probably already know that they have agents specially trained to drive you crazy. My friend Tara always ends up on the phone with someone who barely speaks English. But I hardly ever have that happen when I call them. However, they still manage to get everything wrong the first four or five times. But for once, I think I got the better end of the deal.

I suppose I should start with some back story. I am a long standing client of Dish Network. And to be perfectly honest, as long as the equipment is working, I'm very, very happy with them. They're less expensive than the competition (at least around here), have all the channels I want, and don't randomly screw up the bill like my water company used to do. Plus, I absolutely love having a DVR. With four kids, I don't get to watch a show without interuption. Pausing live TV saves my sanity. But every now and then there's a problem with the equipment. And then you have to deal with customer service...

So, about a two months ago my DVR began to randomly erase my recordings. It didn't happen all in one shot, but over the course of a week. And the first time it happened, I called to report it. They gave me the run around but didn't do anything. Then it happened again, and I called again, and again they did nothing. So when it happened the third time and ate all but 2 hours of recordings I called and raised hell. I told them there wasn't any point in having a DVR and paying extra for DVR service each month AND extra for a warranty on the machine each month if the DVR erased my recordings and they didn't honor the warranty. I asked to speak to supervisors, and then asked to speak to the supervisor's supervisor until finally they agreed to replace the unit. And then they sent me a "new" unit that was used. I was annoyed but it seemed to work and only had one glitch upon installation. I called about the glitch but since it seemed to have straightened itself out I didn't demand any action on their part.

Fast forward to last month. The DVR has been steadily having more and more problems when suddenly it dies. No reception, no recordings, everything gone. I call and they tell me they'll have to send someone out to look and make sure that all the connections are still working and that the outdoor dish doesn't need adjusting. I tell them NO, they don't need to send someone because there wasn't a storm or a falling tree branch that damaged the dish and cut off the signal. I was sitting here watching it on a perfectly sunny day when it happened. And besides, even if that had been the case, it still erased ALL my recordings. Lost of signal from the satelllite didn't explain that! I told them that I wasn't willing to pay for a service call and asked to speak to the supervisor. When he got on the line he told me that he would waive the fee for the service call and still send someone out. I told him to send someone with a brand new receiver.

Two days later, the service guy shows up, tests the unit, and tells us it's shot and we need to replace it. He didn't bring a replacement with him. I told him that I wasn't going to pay for him to come on a different service call because I told them to send him with a new unit. So he says that since he didn't bring all the equipment he needed, he wouldn't charge for the second service call but he would be back tomorrow with a new unit. Knowing that the unit that just quit on me was supposed to be new but came used, I asked him if it was going to be a new unit, or a refurbished one. He said it would be used. I told him NO, I don't want used, and I pay extra each month to have a warranty that will replace defective units. He said they used to replace them with new units, but that they quit making that particular model. If I wanted a new unit, I'd need to upgrade and the warantee wouldn't cover it, plus there's be installation fees and an extra fee each month because the newer models ran on two satellite feeds so you could record two different channels at the same time. I told him to bring the new unit with him just in case I decided to go with it, but I was calling customer service to see what I could do about having to pay for all that.

So I called them up and explained it all and said I wanted a new unit or I was switching companies. My contract was long over and I didn't want to mess with used electronics. (I happen to know how electronics are repaired. They turn them on and fix anything that is malfunctioning. But if the problem only comes up when the unit is left running hours on end, they'll never find it. So I don't mess with used electronics unless I know who fixed it.) When I mentioned going to another company, the CS guy said that if I signed a new contract, they would give me the new unit for free and all I would have to pay is installation. I said what about the extra cost each month. He said that if I hooked up a phone line to it so they could update it regularly, he could fix it to waive the monthly fee. So the only extra cost I would have would be the installation. I told him that the repair guy was coming any way, and was installing a new unit anyway. I didn't see how they could charge me $50 extra for picking which box he hooked up. He said that he couldn't tell the guy not to charge me, but if I could talk him out of the charge it was OK with them. I double checked... next month's bill is going to be the exact same as this month's? Yes, except if the repair guy charges you to install. OK. I'll do it.

So the next day the repair guy comes and hooks up the new unit. I ask him if he's going to charge me the $50 install fee and he says no, cause he was supposed to bring all the equipment with him the first time so he's not going to charge me for this visit. I'm pretty happy with that... and the new DVR is sweet! Records two shows at once and shows the caller ID on the TV when someone calls me.

But a few weeks go by and I get my bill. And it's for $180 more than it normally is. I call them up and explain all about the deal I worked out. I even wrote down the names of the people I spoke to and their supervisor's names. But I didn't need to because there are notes in my file that say the same thing I told them. So the girl I'm speaking to is very confused and says she doesn't understand why I was charged. She puts in some more credits for me and says that this should take care of it. I'm on autopay so she's not sure if the credits will be applied before it's deducted. They weren't, but I'm not freaked out yet. As long as the next bill is $180 LESS than normal, I'll be OK. But when it comes, it's for the regular amount. Not more expensive than before all the fuss, but not reimbursing me for what I overpaid last time. So I call them again.

This time, the lady I'm talking to puts me on hold while she investigates. When she comes back, she tells me that I DID get all the credits I was supposed to, but that when my old unit arrived at their repair place, they found a sticky black liquid in it when they opened it up. That voided my warranty and so they charged me $175 for the unit. I told her NO, that didn't happen. I have toddlers. I put all electronics up on a high shelf. There was no liquid near them, and it could NOT have been damaged during the month I had it. It was a used machine, so how do they even know that the damage came from me. She tells me that all their used equipment is refurbished and any damage is repaired before it is sent out. I tell her I want to speak to her supervisor.

So her supervisor gets on the phone and she is pissed right from the get-go.

The unit was used, but it had been repaired before it was sent to me.

Really? Send me a copy of the repair records.

I don't have those records!

Then how do you know it was repaired?

ALL our units are repaired before they are sent out!

Really? You've eliminated human error in your repair shops? There are NO mistakes? You can document that?

And you're saying that it was working perfectly in your house and just HAPPENED to fail.

No. It never worked right. Check my file because I called with problems the day I got it.

Please HOLD!

... long wait. Then she's back.

I'm making a note in your file!

What does the note say?

We are reimbursing you the $175 as a courtesy, but JUST THIS ONCE!

So today I got the bill, and there's been another mistake. They reimbursed me $270. I'm not calling to complain on this one.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Week's end

I didn't blog over the weekend, and to be honest, I didn't even think about it. The time flew by and there's very little to show for it. But even though it doesn't show now, it will. Zaven and Caly both got to spend some time with their friends. You would think that wasn't much of a big deal. But it's amazing how fast time is slipping away. With four kids, each in their own activities, there really isn't much of an opportunity to simply spend time with a friend. It's hard to decide what takes priority when it comes to our time, and even harder to stick with that decision. But I've always made an effort for them to get the chance to simply be kids. To have a friend spend the night, to stay up late watching movies and eating popcorn, to just hang out... those things are just as important as a fancy Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings. Heck, when you're a kid, they're far more important. And those are the times that heal your soul.

Friday, November 21, 2008


One of the things that I've been doing over the past few months has been trying to figure out how to get everything I want, legally, without paying. I say trying because it's not exactly been successful. So far no one has volunteered to pay for my water bill or chip in on my cell phone service. But all in all, it's been a productive study. I've learned a lot about how to maximize what I get for my money. I suppose I should write it all out, but honestly, that would take forever and not even be all that interesting. So instead, I will give a bit of advice for all those greedy people out there.

#1 Saving money takes time. It's a bit of a trade off. You spend the time researching prices or clipping and organizing coupons, or even calling customer service reps. But it pays off in a big way. Far bigger than most people realize.

#2 Since your time and money are both valuable, let other people do the work whenever possible. There are tons of websites and blogs that describe in exacting detail how to track sales, and many of them will match sales and rebates to coupons for you. In fact, it's almost a matter of too much information on a lot of the sites, too many deals in stores that aren't in your town and or for products that you don't buy.

#3 Stand up for yourself. When something doesn't work, make them take it back. When the price is too high, tell them that you're taking your business elsewhere. And when the wrong price is rung up, make them refund your money. Heck, ask them to give it to you for free. Because people are after your money. They are. I swear it.

One day soon, I'll tell you a great story about Dish Network, a company that sometimes make Goldilocks look generous. But don't worry, the story has a happy ending, LOL!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The shortest fall ever.

Well, I never thought I'd be talking about the weather on a blog, but I just can't resist. The weather here has been freaky. I woke up yesterday morning, stepped outside and did a doubletake. My entire yard was bright green. No, not grass. Leaves. We'd had an early freeze and the temp had dropped to 19 degrees. My maple tree had lost it's leaves a few weeks ago, but the pecan tree was still full and bushy. But the sudden freeze made it drop all of it's still green leaves. That was yesterday. Tonight it started snowing. And right now there's half an inch of snow on the ground. So Fall lasted exactly 36 hours.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Return of the Prodigal Blogger

OK. I'm guilty. I totally blew this off for way too long. Seems like we've just been overwhelmed by everything lately. With the beginning of school there should have been more time. More time during the day when 3 kids were in school and the fourth was napping. More time in the evening because the kids all need to get in bed at a reasonable hour. But I totally forgot to factor in the other mores. More colds, viruses, and germs for Zoe because this is her first year in school and she doesn't have immunity to all the germs yet. More colds, viruses, and germs for me because the colds I got immune to when Zaven and Caly were little are not the colds going around now. And more exhaustion leaving me ready for bed long before I get around to thinking of something fun, smart, and witty to say.

But (cross your fingers) I think things may be settling down. Scott is still sick... but that's it. The rest of us seem to be well. And frankly, I missed this. I missed taking a moment to share with another adult the quirky little thoughts running through my head. So I'm hoping to do this again on a regular basis.

Now, you may be wondering what great thought and ideas I had while beseiged by germs.... I'm wondering that, too. It seems that if I don't write them down on a regular basis they evaporate. I know I thought a lot about politics. I was so torn up this year by the elections. I really, really admire John McCain the individual. I read about what he's done for his countrymen and am so inspired. But I didn't think John McCain the politician was the right person for the job this time around. I worried about the Republicans being so extreme in recent years, and I worried about how a uber-conservative supreme court could affect the nation. So I ended up voting for Barrack Obama but not feeling happy about that. It's not that I don't like him. I do. But I'm always wary of a good show. Too many times in my life I've realized that a good show was JUST a show, and didn't have substance. I hope, hope, hope that is not the case with Obama. Because if he CAN do all he says, then he'll be an amazing president. I just worry. I take all this very seriously.

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Food of the Gods

It's not chocolate. It's bananas.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Why we do what we do.

I volunteer. A lot. I can't help myself. I agree to do things because I know they need done and I worry that no one else will do it. And Scott is the same way. He was the cub scout pack leader for a year after Zaven was out of scouts just because no one else would do it and he didn't want it to fall apart. But we have a reason. We do what we do because it's the right thing.

This summer, Scott worked for Upward Bound, just as he does every summer. And just like every other year, he and I both put our hearts into trying to make this a wonderful experience for his students. And one of the things we got to do was invite some of the kids over for a cookout. when they got here, Zoe immediately told them it was time to play in the sandbox. So all of them went to the sandbox and played with her.

It's funny, I know. But it also breaks my heart a little. Some of the kids in this program are not appreciated by their families. A few are not really even wanted. They come from broken homes, poverty, or worse. And we, the big we, not just our family, or the program, or the donors, but all of us, everyone who cares and tries and gives of themselves... We try to make the world a little better for them. Because despite the fact that they are three times as tall as Zoe, they are just kids. Kids playing in a sandbox.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Getting worse by the moment

Today, as we sat on the porch and tried to pretend there weren't hundreds of things we should be doing, needed to do, and really did not want to do, Zoe looked up at her dad, smiled lovingly, and enthusiastically declared, "You rock!" Then she added, "You are a rock. I don't like you. I hate you."

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

M-16, The Eagle Nebula

This is the M-16, the eagle nebula. It is a beautiful thing. I have a hard time thinking the universe was made by accident when I look at these pictures. When I look at these, I feel the same way I feel when I look at my kids, or really, any kids. I feel it was made with the utmost care and thought.

And this is a small part of it. Small being a relative term since they are light years tall. And if you're wondering how big that is, the earth is 8 light minutes from the sun. It's called the Pillars of Creation. Stars are born here. Or rather, they were. They were destroyed by a supernova about 7, 000 years ago. But we won't be able to see the blast for another thousand years.

And this bit is the Stellar Spire. Somehow it looks like it's moving to me. Spinning and dancing like a little girl. Maybe it is. You never know.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Great Escape

I normally try to write something for this blog every few days. But as you may have noticed, that hasn't been the case lately. I've been doing good if I get something written every few weeks. I thought I should explain what's up, since some of you may wonder if I'm even alive. It's all pretty simple: Zoe figured out how to open the baby gate and the front door.

Sometimes, she leaves them wide open and she and Quinn simply start exploring the house, i.e. dumping everything in the floor and getting into dangerous situations. Sometimes she remembers to close the gate behind her and Quinn stands at it screaming and throwing his things over it. And sometimes, she heads outside and plays with the kittens, i.e. carries them by the tail and tries to teach them how to go down slides and ride on swings by themselves. Outside isn't as bad as it could be because I live a fair distance from the road. But it's not great because there are all kinds of trouble they can get into right next to the house.

So my days are now spend chasing and corraling and picking up the messes left behind. But pre-school starts in the fall. And Zoe will be gone for a few hours each day. And somehow, even though I look forward to a few hours of time alone with Quinn, I hate to see her grow up. She is finally out of the terrible twos, and though she's still a difficult child at times (especially when she's sleepy), she can be such a joy. She is vibrantly alive, playing and laughing and coloring and thinking all day long. She will be four on Friday, and she's so excited. She wants a huge party like Caly had for her birthday.

And Quinn will be turning two in September. He loves to run, to sing, to play music on every toy he can find, all at the same time. He's gone through all of Zoe's old toys and searched out each one that plays a song. His goal seems to be to have them all going at once and then run back and forth and jump up and down to the music. I have never seen a baby love music so much. He sings more than he talks.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Being Lazy

Today I feel insanely lazy. The is warm and breezy and I feel like taking a nap. Which would be great, except I've felt this way for about two weeks. When last I wrote, I was busy trying to get the house cleaned up for Caly's party. We did get it clean, the party was wonderful, and I was worn out. My friend Jenny came to visit for a few days, which was especially nice timing since everything had been spiffed up for the party. We got to relax, go out to eat a few times, and just enjoy some peace and quiet (as much as one is able to with kids, that is).

And since the weather has been nice, the kids have been outside a lot. So I've been taking it easy, just relaxing and not getting much done... and now the house is a wreck again, I'm behind in EVERYTHING, and I still feel like sitting here doing nothing.

Tonight, I will finally get around to putting up some of those party pictures, and of course doing some cleaning. And tomorrow I'll have to make myself get back to doing all the stuff that comes up when you have kids. But for now, I'm off to sit on the porch and watch the kittens try to grab each other's tails.

Saturday, June 7, 2008


I hate cleaning. Well actually, I hate re-cleaning. But the problem is that things don't need cleaned once. They need cleaned, then re-cleaned, then re-cleaned, ad infinitum. When you build a house, you don't have to re-build it the next day or the next week or even the next year. And when you write a book you may re-write sections or even the whole book. But eventually you finish it and stop. You don't continue to re-write it for the rest of your life. But when you clean, you do so knowing that you will be doing it again soon. That you will be doing it over and over the rest of your life. And it's just kinda depressing and futile seeming.

That being said, I am enjoying the product of our depressing and futile labor today. We are having a birthday party in a few days and we're trying to sort through every bit of our summer and winter clothes, clean the house, shop for the party, wrap the presents, and make the cake. It's a lot and I'm worn out and stressed out and occasionally freaking out. But we FINALLY made some real progress this afternoon. The kids realized that I truly would cancel the party if they didn't start working at it instead of play-working at it. Half-hearted efforts and breaks for everything they could think of were not cutting it. But they pulled themselves together and started really trying to get something done. And they did. Our house is not clean by a long shot, but it's a lot better, and you can see that things have changed and improved. So even though I know that I will eventually be re-cleaning every last thing that I cleaned today, I am feeling better about it.


Since school got out, the kids have gotten spoiled. I'm not sure how it happened. I think it was me. I always want them to be happy. And I never really want to say no.

Don't get me wrong. I say no a LOT more than some of the parents I know. No TVs in their rooms. No games consoles at all. And they get a tiny allowance and they're expected to pay for all the stuff that they want. And they have chores, too. Even Zoe has to help load and unload the dish washer and put the wet clothes in the dryer.

But I always want them to get to DO everything. Can I go to Grandma's? Yes. Can I go to the movies? Yes. Can I invite a friend to spend the night? Stay up late? Go swimming? Go to the drive in? Sign up for this camp? Sign up for that camp? Go on this trip? Yes, yes, yes. I always want to say yes. And I have GOT to stop.

Because tonight I belatedly remembered it was the free swim hours at the brand new water park they just opened in Richmond. So I told them to grab their gear and even though it was mostly over, I'd take them so they could catch the last half hour. I warned them on the way that we wouldn't be there long, that I'd need help with the kids, and that I'd take them back another day when we had more time. We'd been tense all week because we've been sorting summer and winter clothes because the average temperature just went up 15 degrees from what it had been. Caly's birthday party is Tuesday and the house is a mess and we're not at all ready... but we needed a break. So I thought this would ease things up a bit.

And wouldn't you know, Caly complained about it. She didn't get to do anything because she had to help with the babies and Zaven took too long to come back and just when she was next in line for the big water slide the park closed. And I told her to stop. But she had to finish her complaints. And I told her to apologize to me. But she did it in a sing-song voice while she rolled her eyes. So when we left I drove them over to the playground and let Zaven and Zoe play while I made her cry. No, I didn't yell. But I didn't back down either. This week she complained about having to try on new clothes that she loves and wanted. She complained about how she was having to help clean the house. The whole family had been cleaning the house and yard all week so she could have a party. And she complained about having to stay at Wal-mart for so long while we bought a new TV that's much nicer than the one we have now. I told her I didn't want to hear one word of complaint about her party, her presents, her cake, any of it. And I made her tell me what she was grateful for and say thank you for the things we'd been doing recently.

And of course Quinn was listening to all of it and started saying "Tank OOH!" every time she did. But I think this time they may have both meant it. Maybe.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Shiny things.

All the breezy spring days lately have me thinking of warm summer nights out under the stars. So I decided to do another astronomy post. The first half of the Messier list is heavy on clusters, so I thought I'd skim through some more of those. So here are some shiny things you might like to take a look at this summer. Most of them I don't know much about other than their names. This is M-9, which is near the center of the Milky Way.

And this is M-10, and it's very close in the sky to M-12, so if you're looking at one, you can probably find the other easily.

This one is M-11, and is called the wild duck cluster. That's duck, with a D. I repeat, duck with a D. Get your mind out of the gutter.

This is M-12. It used to have a million more stars in it, but it lost them. They claim that the Milky Way stole them with it's gravity, but I'm not sure it didn't just set them down on the seat next to it in the restaurant and then forgot to pick them up when it left.

And this is M-13. In "The Sirens of Titan" Kurt Vonnegut wrote "Every passing hour brings the Solar System forty-three thousand miles closer to Globular Cluster M13 in Hercules -- and still there are some misfits who insist that there is no such thing as progress." -- And once, we sent a message there. It was in 1974 and was called the Arecibo message. It was really was pretty boring as such things go. We sent the numbers 1-10, the atomic numbers of the elements found in living organisms, and the most pitiful looking stick figure of a man you can imagine. And we aimed it at a planet that won't be there when the message arrives. Clearly it was done by committee.

This is M-14. In 1938, a nova appeared in this globular cluster, but nobody noticed it for almost thirty years. Then someone who was studying some old photographic plates from the thirties realized that there was a star in one of the pictures that was new. They think it was five times brighter than anything else in the cluster for a brief while.

and M-15, which I actually know a little about.

In the center M15 there are about 15 very hot stars isolated at the core. Scientists think they are the ‘naked cores' of stars that have been stripped of their outer envelope of gas. This could only have happened if stars were so crowded together in the cluster's core that their gravity pulled material from each other. They call it "stellar cannibalism", which kind of sounds like it's cannibalism done really well. Here's a picture, just so you know what a stellar cannibal looks like.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


I don't get to take too many pictures of the kids while they're asleep. Zoe (seen here on the sheets we tie-dyed for her while I was pregnant) can tell in her sleep if you're looking at her. You can be in the room banging pots and pans together and she'll be fine, but the minute you actually look at her she starts screaming. So that picture is probably the last sleeping picture I've got of her. It's hard to believe it was taken almost four years ago.

Caly has always loved sleep. She was the only baby I ever heard of who LIKED to be laid down in a crib. She's smile this huge smile, sigh deeply, and work her shoulders into the matress. Then she'd just close her eyes and go to sleep. I think she gets a love of sleep from me. We took this picture in a hotel room, because it's easy getting sleeping pictures when their bed is right across from yours, but I swear I could probably go upstairs right now and film a movie complete with sound effects and extras and she wouldn't wake up.

This picture of Zaven sleeping is an old one, too. But then again, he doesn't sleep much at all. He never has. Even as a baby he always stayed up late and woke up early. And he was cheerful and energetic, too. He gets up a half hour to an hour before he needs to in the mornings so that he can read and have some time to himself. I KNOW he didn't get that from me.

Quinn can fall asleep in the course of about a minute. That's not to say that he always goes to sleep quick. Just that when he's tired, it's like someone turned off a switch. He's fallen asleep in his high chair, the floor, and the toddler swing on the swing set this week alone. I swear I'm not just keeping him up late. If you put him in his crib he doesn't go to sleep. Apparently it's more relaxing if you're in the middle of the action than if you're stuck somewhere that you can't see what's going on.

Scott loves this picture of Quinn the best of all our sleeping pictures because he looks like a pirate baby. Too little to have a knife in his teeth, he settled for a spoon. He actually has a pirate hat, too. And (when awake) he shouts, "YAR!!!" all the time, so he's well on his way to being a full-fledged pirate one day.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Business calls

I have spent the week on the telephone. It's all for stupid stuff, too. I've been calling three different companies: the bank, the insurance company, and the telephone company.

The bank and the insurance company are both for the same thing. I have our life insurance and long term care policies set up on autopay. They debit my account three different times each month. Once for my life insurance policy. Once for Scott's and the kid's (who each have a rider on his policy). And the last debit is for both of our long term care policies. But at the end of March, I got a letter saying that two of my payments were returned for insufficient funds. Well, I immediately called the bank and they assured me that I was not overdrawn. The payments had been paid, and it said so on my statement. I got my statement and sure enough, it had been paid. The evidence was very clear, too. I had not been fined. Have you ever heard of a bank that didn't fine you when you bounced a check? Neither have I. So I called the insurance company. They said they'd check it out and call me back. But they never called and I forgot all about it. Until April.

In April, only one of the policies was debited. The other two didn't come out. And I got a letter saying they would no longer cover us because we hadn't paid our insurance the last two months. I called the local branch. They said I needed to call the home office in Georgia. So I called the home office. They told me that they didn't debit my bank in April because automated payments are cut off when a payment doesn't go through due to insufficient funds, and that's what had happened in March. But I had paid them in March. I had not bounced the check. I knew that, because the bank records clearly indicate that the money was gone from my account and paid to Ky. Farm Bureau. And besides, I wasn't fined. It is a known law of physics that you can't bounce a check without getting a big fat fine from your bank.

Clearly unwilling to accept my word for this, I was told to fax in my bank statement that indicated the alleged payment. Since I only get online statements, I drove to my bank, got a statement that showed their letterhead, drove it to my local Ky. Farm Bureau office, and had them fax it to the home office in Georgia. Then foolishly I trusted that having proof of payment, I would be absolved of the charges. Wrong. When I called to ask if I needed to restart automated payments or if they would take care of that for me, the secretary told me that we could start it back up once I paid the March bill. I told her that I'd brought in my bank statement showing I'd paid it, but she asked how did she know that that was my whole statement. I could have taken out the part that showed how the money was credited back into my account later.

Yes. That's what she said.

So I printed out all my bank transactions dating from March 18th (when I had $300 more than I needed in the bank to make the payment), through the time when the payments were taken out of my account, past that mysterious period when no fines were given, no checks were bounced, and no payments were deceptively put back into my account, all the way up to the present. And I brought it in and showed her boss. (Let us all say a quick prayer that she will be fired forthwith.) And he was stunned. So he pulled the records of the transaction and instead of saying that it had been returned for insufficient funds like their secretary had been telling me all along, the official transcript said that it had been returned for "insufficient information from bank". And he said, "Well, we know it came out of your bank. Because if it bounced, you would have been fined. There's no bank in the world that doesn't fine you when you bounce a check."

Thus begins the calls to the bank. First, the home branch.... Can you see where this is headed? Although the bank was a bit quicker on the uptake. The very first woman I spoke to said, "Well we know it wasn't insufficient funds, because we would have fined you for that." Truer words were never spoken. And, they didn't accuse me of stealing the money, either. That's always a plus.

So now the insurance company is supposed to call the bank. The official name of the office that they're supposed to call is the office for "Inquiries and Rejects". I can't say I have a lot of faith in that office. But at least it seems pretty clear how they plan to handle the inquiry. I've told Scott that he's not allowed to die until this is cleared up. He seemed OK with that plan.

My other game of phone tag is being played with the phone company. As I may have mentioned, Scott is starting a business, and back in February, he tried to get a phone line installed in the building that he's renovating for his office. Now this is a building on a farm, and it has never had phone service at all. There were no lines going from the telephone pole to the outside of the building. So when he called, they told him they'd send someone out to hook it up and turn on his service within the week. But no one came out. Then we got the bill at the end of the month for $50 basic service plus about $50 more for the hook up. But there were still no wires connecting the building to the outside world.

So we called. They apologized. They had activated the number like they would if there had been existing phone service and hardware. They didn't know why the service guy didn't come out, but they'd take that month's service off the bill and send him out to hook it up right away.

Fast forward to May. We still don't have service. There's now a wire that goes to the outside of the building, but the guy who put it up warned us not to hook anything to it because no one had told him that there really wasn't a service box on the outside of our wall. (We installed jacks on the inside, but you can't just hook the main line into them.) He promised to send someone who knew how to do that the next day, but that was a month ago. Apparently people who know how to do their jobs are quite scarce nowadays. Meanwhile, our bill is now up to $250, we've been reported to a collection agency and our credit reflects four months of missed payments.

Last week they sent us a letter saying they were cutting off the phone service. Gosh that would be really inconvenient. Almost as inconvenient as it is now.

Pray for my sanity.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Bees in the mail.

Well, today was interesting. And life promises to get much more interesting very soon.

You see, we have bees. A hive of bees has been living in one of the walls on our house. From the inside, you would never know they are there. But from the outside, you can see a fair bit of activity. Now this is not a few bees. This is a hive. Hundreds of bees are in that wall. They found their way in over a year ago, and we kept putting off the inevitable. But they must come out. They are starting to get more active as the days get warmer. And the hive is big enough that the honey will begin to damage the wall.

Perhaps normal people call the exterminator at this point. But we have never been exactly normal, so we did research instead. Turns out, bee hives are good, and if we can avoid killing them, can successfully move the queen into a man-made hive, and can prevent them from swarming and abandoning the hive it would be a very good thing. There is quite a bit of profit to be made in beekeeping. Plus, bees have been dying off all over the country so saving this hive is a worthwhile thing all on it's own. But that all assumes that we can do that first part, the tricky part. So today we went to a beekeeping supply store to get all the supplies we'll need and a lot of advice. Quite possibly the most disturbing thing I found out was that you can order 3 lb boxes of bees in the mail. I told the man who was helping us that I NEVER wanted to get bees in the mail. A box of bees in the mail is something out of a nightmare. He said, "Don't worry, you can't mistake them for regular mail. Regular mail doesn't hum and vibrate." Not the most reassuring thing he could say, but I can tell you right now that I will check every box I get for the rest of my life to make sure it doesn't hum or vibrate.

I also learned how to identify the queen bee if we see her. It's absolutely critical that we move her to the new hive because the other bees will smell her and go to her wherever she is. If we can find her and move her, the rest of them will follow and move out of the wall on their own. If we don't move her, all the ones we do move will simply come back. Scott and Zoe discussed the situation and decided that if we find her we should name her Miss Stingy.

We spent $257 on the gear, and the owner gave us a slight discount because we'd decided to try and save the bees rather than kill them. He wasn't sure it would work, but he felt like we had a chance. And if it didn't work and the hive left, we could always order a box or two of bees. Apparently he missed the massive shudder that went through me the first time he mentioned mailing boxes of bees.

He also gave us his card and asked if I'd e-mail him the youtube link.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

This is just for Chelle, and the 'possum under her house

If he's looking for something to read, 'possums prefer Spider magazine.
And you thought I was kidding.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Guilt trip from a toddler

This morning I woke up to a fight. Scott had left to take Zaven and Caly to school and he'd left Zoe and Quinn playing and watching TV in the living room. It only takes about a half hour to drop them off and drive back home, and he knew I'd been up with the baby late last night, so he just let me sleep and let them play. Since our bedroom is right beside the living room, there's no way you can sleep through it if something goes wrong. So I woke up to both of them screaming at the top of their lungs. I knew from the sound of the scream it was hurt feelings, not injuries, so I wasn't in a panic. I went to the baby gate and Quinn was across the room. He was crying hard and when he heard me, he ran across the room and slammed into the gate I was standing behind. He hit hard and bounced off of it so hard he fell on his butt. And then he was so mad and hurt and offended that he wouldn't let me pick him up. I reached for him and he just screamed harder and swatted at my hands.

I finally just wrestled him into a hug and sang to him 'til he forgave me. But the sad thing was, I felt so guilty. I hadn't done anything wrong. I was just standing behind a gate, trying to gather my wits to figure out how to open it (I am NOT a morning person.) But from his point of view, he ran to his mom for help and she shoved him and knocked him down.

Zoe told me Quinn was mad because she hit him. I asked why she hit him and she said he kept turning the TV on and off over and over so she hit him, but he should say he's sorry because when she hit him, he hit her back.

I think maybe she's figured out how to tranfer her guilt over to me. Clearly she has none and I have too much.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The tulips by my mailbox

An afternoon at the new library in Somerset

These are from the newly built library in Somerset, KY, where Grandma and Nana and Papa all live. The entire upstairs is a children's library, and they built it with a train theme, complete with tracks on the floor and ride-on engines to match. The engines weren't out the day I took these pictures, but there were so many other books and games and toys that the kids hardly noticed.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The loudest child on the planet

Zoe is loud. Not just a little loud, either. She is incredibly, amazingly, deafeningly loud.

Tonight, Scott and I needed to run to Lowes to get some stuff for the bathroom. Quinn was asleep, it was almost Zoe's bedtime, everyone had eaten, and things seemed reasonably calm. So we decided to let Zaven and Caly babysit while we ran our errand. And this is what happened.

Zoe got loud. Loud enough that they told her if she was going to scream that loud she'd have to do it on the porch. Now this is pretty much the rule in our house. Yell if you want, but do it on the porch. We're an eighth of a mile from our closest neighbor so it's not that big of a deal. So she went on the porch and yelled and hollered and screamed. Then one of the neighbors in the subdivision an eighth of a mile away yelled back. So she yelled. So he yelled. Back and forth.

Then she yelled one time and he didn't yell back.
So she yelled, "CAN YOU HEAR ME?"
...and he yelled, "NO!"
Then she yelled, "CAN YOU HEAR ME?"
...and he yelled, "NOT QUITE!"

By the time we'd got home all the kids except Quinn had conversed with him and they'd made plans to do it again tomorrow night. I, however, am going back to Lowes to see if they've got a cone of silence.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

M-7 and M-8

This is M-7, Ptolomy's Cluster. It's called that because Ptolomy described it in 130 A.D. He called it a nebula, but with a telescope you can see that it is made of stars. Nebulas also have dust and gases. They look like smudged sky.

This is a nebula. Well, actually it's a nebula and a star cluster, too. There's an It's M-8, the Lagoon Nebula. It is visible to the naked eye... but it doesn't look like this. It just looks like a grey smudge. And in time lapse photos, it looks red. But Hubble makes some pretty pictures, and these two shots of it are beautiful. The colors are produced by using special filters on the image to show different gases as different colors.

This picture is also of M-8, and it shows how the gases are twisting and mixing. See how right where it's brightest, there are those shapes that look just like tornados? Those are tornados. Well, space tornados. That sounds really silly doesn't it? What's going on in the picture is that some areas of the nebula are hotter than others. The outsides of the clouds (where the light hits it) gets hot. The shaded interior stays cool. The difference in temperature means the same thing in outer space that it does on Earth. The gases shift around. So there's a wind. And tornados. Space tornados. And you thought this was gonna be boring!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Just so I remember

Zoe thinks that the singular of "clothes" is "a cloe". She also thinks that when I say "a knife" I'm saying "an ife". She'll sometimes tell me she wants "the blue ife".

Quinn says thank you now, but he pronounces it "gan-ku", and he growls it out like a Klingon. He seems to think it's what you say to threaten the person who might take your banana back. And he sings all the time. I'm thinking he'll be a Pip when he grows up.

Caly asked me if this summer she and I could go on a shopping spree and spend $100 on toys. She is feeling a bit abandoned by Zaven going to Upward Bound for two months, and she wanted to do something really special. I told her we might, I would have to see how much money we had. Today she told me that if we did it, she wants to buy Zoe a fancy princess tricycle. The trike is about $30. She wants to spend a third of her spree money on her sister. I hope I never forget that.

And Zaven will sit with the baby in his lap and sing and sing. He sings the Beatles and Warren Zevon and Jimmy Buffet. Yesterday he was singing Margaritaville and Caly noticed he'd changed the refrain. "Some people say that there's a sis-ter to blame... but I know, it's all Momma's fault."

Thursday, April 17, 2008

A Taxing Effort

My taxes are done. I am at peace with the world.

This year, our taxes were more complicated. Scott had started a business in 2007, so there were oodles of receipts to go through. And it was an educational experience. In the process of preparing our return, I learned a little bit about our federal government, and a bit more about the way my husband's brain works.

And what facts did I uncover for your consideration?
  1. Jack of All Trades is not a federally accepted job description.
  2. Deodorant is not a business expense. Even if you need it.
  3. You can have a business and not know it. And when you do, Turbo Tax will say, "Congratulations! You have a business!"
  4. Buying it at Ace hardware does not automatically make something deductable. Especially if that something is a candy bar and a coke.
  5. Quicken is a brand of financial software. The Quickening is from Highlander. There's a difference.
  6. If your job is to salvage scrap metal, and to repair and/or re-sell cars... you cannot deduct a single cantaloupe.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Malice of Afterthought

Caly was accusing Zaven of something the other day. I don't remember what... but I do remember that she accused him of doing it on purpose. I chimed in to agree, mostly to tease him, and said, "You did do it! And with malice of forethought!"

To which he replied, "Actually, it was an afterthought."

I guess malice of afterthought is when you didn't mean to hurt someone, but when you realized that you accidentally had your reaction was, "Oh yeah! Now THAT'S what I'm talkin' about!"

It reminds me of the story of Wiggle, the Cannibal Pig, but that's a tale for another night.

Friday, April 4, 2008


Quinn is a sweetie. That's all there is to it. He loves people and animals and hugs and bananas. Now it may not sound as though bananas belong in that category, but if he's not just starving when you give it to him, he'll sit in his high chair and hold the banana and talk to it and smile at it and visit with it before he eats it. Of course, if he's hungry, he just bites its head off.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Bad hair day... or good, depending on your definition

Zoe and Caly at Caly's birthday party last year.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

M-4 again

Since all those star cluster pictures tend to look alike, I thought I'd check the Hubble Telescope website and see if there were some prettier ones to look at. I found a neat one of M-4 that I had seen before but forgotten about. It's a close up of one section of the cluster, and if you look close you'll see a green circle a little more than halfway up on the right edge of the picture. The first thing I thought when I first saw this picture several years ago was Wow, that green circle thingy doesn't even look natural. No, it's not a natural green circle in the middle of space. (Insert mental image of me blushing.) In reality, that circle was put there by a computer to mark a particular star on the picture. The star is a pulsar (I'll explain that some other time) and the reason they marked it was because it's orbited by the oldest planet known.

This is an even tighter close up of the same picture, just so you can see there's something in the circle.

Monday, March 31, 2008


As you may have noticed, I changed the colors on the blog. Actually, I changed the colors and removed the logos, and changed the background colors, too. I wanted it to be bright and cheerful, but the background was grey and depressing. So I went to the customization page and changed the colors. Then I saw that it didn't change the background so I went back and realized that the only way I had the option of changing the background was to start over with another template or to edit it in HTML. Well I wasn't about to start over 'cause I just did all that work and got it the way I wanted it. But I know nothing about html. So I left it.

But the next time I logged on, there was that grey looking back at me and I thought I just don't want to be responsible for people looking at a grey screen. So I started experimenting. As it turns out, changing the colors using html isn't hard at all. You just look for where it says color:# followed by some numbers or letters. And when you put in different numbers or letters, you get different colors. Fun, really.

I try not to let little things intimidate me. I mean, if I screw it up, the worst that can happen is I have to start over. And I just don't like grey.

I put on my description of myself that I like to paint. I do. But mostly it's because I like to make things bright and shiny and colorful. I like to paint pictures, but I also like to paint walls and cabinets and fingernails. And this was a lot like painting. First it was boring and grey, now it's colorful and bright. And I am happy.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

M-2 through 6: The Clusters

These pretty things are star clusters. I put them in order, just in case anyone should ever want to go outside and try to see one. You can look them up on wikipedia to find out which constellation to look in. Or just post here and I'll look them up for you. The first four (M-2, M-3, M-4, and M-5) are called Globular Clusters. That's just a fancy way of saying that they large dense groups of stars which orbit the core of a galaxy.

This first picture of M-2 doesn't look like much. But it's got 150,000 stars in it. The light from there takes 36,000 years to get here. And of course the light from here takes the same amount of time to get there. So if someone there is looking at Earth, they'd be seeing Cro-magnon men. But they'd better have a darn good telescope.

This one is M-3. It has half a million stars in it. I know. I counted them last Saturday. It took up the whole afternoon.

M4 looks like a fuzzy ball of light in even a small telescope, and in bigger ones you can see that it's made of stars. It was the first globular cluster that they were able to see individual stars in, and now they've even managed to find a planet in it.

This one is M-5. (How did you guess?) It's one of the biggest and oldest of the globular clusters. It's 13 billion years old, which is about three times as old as the Earth. And before anyone gets all over me for religious reasons, let us not forget... In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth had no form.
M-6 is a galactic, or open cluster. Open clusters are made from only a few thousand stars that were all formed at the same time. It's about 2,000 light-years from Earth, so this is what it was like when Jesus was walking the Earth. It's mostly made of blue and white stars with the brightest being a yellow or orange giant. Some people call it the Butterfly Cluster, but it doen't look like a butterfly to me. Maybe the guy who first discovered it had a little girl with him.

Well, it's too cloudy to see the stars tonight, but not too cloudy to do the dishes. So I'm off to work on the other Messier stuff. Good night.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

If Dick Cheney were president

Years ago, back when Bush and Cheney were running for office in 2000, Dick Cheney said the funniest and most presidential thing a man can say. Bush had just seen New York Times reporter Adam Clymer, and unaware that a nearby microphone was broadcasting their conversation, turned to Cheney and said that Clymer was a "major-league asshole." To which Cheney replied, "Oh yeah, big time."

And that, my friends, is the perfect thing for a president to say. Think about it.

"Mr. President, did you use drugs in college?"
"Oh yeah, big time."

"Mr. President, do you intend to raise taxes in the coming year?"
"Oh yeah, big time."

"Mr. President, are you really planning on bombing Denmark?"
"Oh yeah, big time."

"Mr. President, did you have sexual relations with that woman?"
"Oh yeah, big time."

"Mr. President, did you really just shoot a hunting buddy?"
"Oh yeah, big time."

And isn't that the most perfectly presidential response you've ever heard? Oh yeah, big time!

Friday, March 28, 2008

The sky is falling

We had some storm damage to our roof last week, and the section over the bathroom and kitchen had the shingles ripped right off. Since this happened during a series of storms and heavy rains that lasted a few days, we got inside damage, too, and now there's a hole in our bathroom ceiling.

This isn't quite as bad as it sounds. You see, back when we first got married Scott had to reshingle that section of roof. It was an addition to the house and somehow that part was in a lot worse shape than all the rest. Since we couldn't afford to do the whole roof, and that part doesn't really show from the front of the house or the road, we just reshingled it and left the rest. Then a few years later we started the never-ending roofing process for real. We got some beautiful metal to put on, hired a team to do the work... and then another team, and another. Somehow nobody wanted to stay on the job when they realized that Scott was going to get up on the roof with them and make sure they did it right.

Eventually we got most of the roof on, but not the section over the bathroom because that was sound and freshly reshingled and even though it didn't match, it didn't show. So last week's storm only ripped out the part of our roof that was going to eventually be covered up anyway. And that hole in the bathroom ceiling? Right over the tub. It'll be a pain to fix, we can't use the shower, and right now the mildew smell coming out of it is awful. But no rain damage to the floor. If you have to have a leaking hole in your ceiling, over the tub is an awfully convenient place.

So we called the insurance people, and they sent a nice lady out to come and take pictures. Zoe must have overheard that she was coming for that reason, because when she got here Zoe looked up at her and said, "Hello. The sky is falling."

The woman looked a little surprised but took it in stride and said, "Really? The sky is falling?"

"Yes," Zoe told her. "The sky in the bathroom is falling down and you need to come take a picture of it." Then Zoe gently took her by the hand and led her to the bathroom and showed her where the sky had fallen in. It was so sweet and innocent that it somehow didn't seem real. Who is this sweet child, and what have you done with MY kid?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Easter pictures

Just started looking through the Easter pictures and this one of the girls goofing off was my favorite. I'd bought them matching dresses, which I'd wanted to do since Zoe was born, and I was trying to get them to pose for a picture. I was going for a pose with the skirts of their matching dresses swirled sweetly around them and angelic smiles on their faces. But somehow I forget that they like each other. So they started playing and this is what I got. All you can see of poor Caly is the crinkle she gets on her nose when she laughs. But I wouldn't trade it for anything.

I tried to get the boys into the picture, too. Zaven was trying his best, sitting quietly and not sticking his tongue out, but Quinn wouldn't even come sit with them. He didn't want a bit of it. If they grabbed him up and tried to put him in the picture, he's just start crying. So we just let him wander around.

While I was trying to take pictures he found the Easter basket remains and was working hard to eat every crumb of animal crackers he could find, and when he finished with those he just started eating the box.

I've got a great video of him biting little shreds of the box off, spitting them out, then checking to see if there were more crackers in it. Nope, no crackers. Takes another bite of box, spits it out and checks again. When he was done there was nothing left but a pile of cardboard scraps and the string that had been the handle.

It did snow on Easter, but this picture of Quinn with the dog is from a few weeks ago. I'd not downloaded the pictures for about a month, so it was a nice surprise to see this one. Scott took it and I had no idea it was there until it popped up on my computer screen. Quinn is the only one of my kids who plays with the dog. The other ones love her, but get kinda overwhelmed because she jumps up on them. I kinda think they may be cat people more than dog people. That's OK though, because we've only got one dog, but have about 7 cats. Quinn likes the cats, too, but he really likes Mattie. He just looks at her with such amazement, like she's the coolest thing he's ever seen. Maybe she is.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

M-1 Crab Nebula

Since I said I'd be blogging about things that interest me, I thought I'd start with some of the astro- nomical Messier Objects. No, I'm not an expert. I can hardly find these things at night. But I like to try from time to time. This is M-1 (short for Messier-1) and it's the Crab Nebula. It's the remains of a supernova. Think the debris from a large explosion, the dust hanging in the air, only bigger than a planet. Bigger than the solar system. If you want to see it, look in the constellation Taurus. It amazes me when I think about the fact that humans saw the supernova that created this nebula. It wasn't even that long ago - 1054, when they were busy building castles and having crusades in Europe. The light from it was so bright that the only thing in the night sky that was brighter was the moon. Of course, they didn't see it as it was happening. The thing about astronomy is that there's a time delay. You're watching what happened year ago, or hundreds of years ago, or thousands. This photo is borrowed from Wikipedia by the way, and of course they borrowed it from NASA. It was taken by the Hubble telescope, and it looks much, much better than what I see when I use my Wal-mart binoculars. But then again my binoculars only cost me $5.

I had planned to put some family pictures on tonight. But I'm feeling a little like going outside and seeing if the stars are out. It was a beautiful sunny and warm day, and soon the evenings will be just right for camping out or building a fire. I think I'd better go enjoy it while it lasts.

Messier Objects

I was considering what to name this blog, and I decided to go tongue in cheek on this and call it Messier Objects. For those of you who aren't astronomy buffs, the Messier Objects are a group of galaxies, nebulae, star clusters, etc. that are easily visible from the northern hemisphere using binoculars. (Named after Charles Messier, the French comet-hunter who felt all these shiny things which do not move were annoying.) My Messier Objects are shiny (and sometimes annoying), but do move quite a bit. They are my four kids who keep me so busy that I only get time to myself at night, when I could be outside with binoculars looking for galaxies, etc, but am too tired from cleaning the Mess.

I'll tell you all about us and start putting pictures and stories and all the interesting stuff on here tomorrow or the next day. But in the mean time, I'm going to consider it quite the accomplishment to have started this in the first place.

Have a happy night. I hope you enjoy it.