Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The call of the weeds...

So I was forbidden to use the weed whacker.  Seriously.  And for what reason?  Neil just leveled a glare at me and declared it OFF LIMITS and went off muttering about missing toes and goodness knows what else happening.  It was quite unfair, you know.  I think I could probably figure out the weed whacker without losing anything major.  But he’s still holding some of the other “incidents” against me.  The lawnmower incident… the freezer incident… that thing with the bee last week… But in my defense against the bee incident, that was NOT my fault AT ALL.  How was I supposed to know that huge, overgrown black bees like Windex? 
But anyway.  So there was this patch of weeds under the grape vines and the trees that REALLY needed to be dealt with, and I was forbidden to use anything that ran on electricity, gas, or solar power (I guess he figured that covered just about everything).  So what to do?  Wait for Neil to get around to it?  He’s been leaving for work before it gets light in the morning and coming home after dark lately, so when in the world was he actually going to be able to get to it?  Besides, that weed patch bugged ME more, so it really was my responsibility.  It was a dilemma.  Until today, that is. 
My dad is really responsible for my attitude toward getting things done.  You see, when I was growing up and we would work together on things, if at first something didn’t work out (which it usually didn’t, especially if it was car repairs or plumbing), we tried something else.  He never gave up on something just because he couldn’t do it the way he thought he was going to originally.  I remember a lot a lot of staring at the problem trying to figure out HOW we were going to do something.  There was never any question of IF we would do it, only the how.  If there’s a roadblock, sometimes you move it… sometimes you tunnel under it, and sometimes you build stairs to go over.  My dad never liked hearing me say that I couldn’t do something.  “Don’t say you CAN’T,” he’d say, “Figure out how you CAN.”  My poor students get that line from time to time.  I think he’s regretted teaching me that philosophy every now and then. 
So anyway, I found some spare time today.  I wasn’t bored, no.  I’m really never bored.  But I was “at loose ends,” not having anything scheduled for me and a free morning at my disposal.  What fun!  The kids and I headed outside.  (Much better than contemplating the piles of laundry that still need to be done…)
So how to tackle the weed garden?  Obviously the weed whacker was out, since I am a nice, obedient wife and I would never dream of disobeying.  Besides, I had an inkling that Neil probably had a point, and with my mom and dad working, and Neil in meetings all day, there would be no one to drive me to the ER if it turned out Neil was right.  Plus, I really hate hospitals.  So we just had to find another way. 
 Juli and I had tried doing some old fashioned weeding, which worked around the plants, but not in the path areas where the ground was hard.  I didn’t really want to dig up the area, since that would just make it MORE fertile for weeds, so that was out.  And I really didn’t know of any enterprising young kid I could hire to do it for me (have you noticed that enterprising, hard-working kids are few and far between these days?  The last time I hired one was back when I was eight months pregnant with Juli and was having a hard time weeding my garden.  Let’s just say when I had gotten two buckets between contractions to her almost-full one, I knew I was wasting my money). 
“Clippers!” I declared.  “We’ll do it with clippers.”  Juli was excited.  “What kind of clippers will we use?”  “Oh, I don’t know,” I said, “We’ve got some hedge clippers, some rose clippers, some branch trimmers, and if all else fails, we’ll try some old scissors.” 
“Cool!” said Juli.  We collected the clippers together, and set them on the table. We got shoes on Juli and Alex, just in case.  Uh oh.   Alex was going to be a problem.  While Juli could handle some of the duller ones capably (and I knew they were dull – I have tested them many times), Alex really couldn’t be trusted with anything remotely sharp.  But I knew he wanted to help out.  We solved the problem by getting his little toy lawn mower, and he thought that was pretty cool.  Once he discovered the “Snail seat” on the back for his little snail buddy, he was all set. 
It was a big job.  I think I underestimated it a bit, but we had a good time.  Juli was busy “cutting wheat and weeds” to set aside for our snails to eat during the winter.  She also made up stories and pretty much talked the whole time.  We did some weeding in the tree areas and clipped the tall weeds in the rest of the area.  Alex alternated “mowing” with a little weed pulling, playing in the sandbox with his snail, and giving his snail a guided tour of the yard.  We took some pictures, too. 
We finally made it back inside around noon.  We were hot, sweaty, tired… and very dirty.  “Okay, guys,” I said, “Lunchtime!” 
“Mama,” said Juli, “When are we going to do my schoolwork?  And don’t we have to have a huge bunch of cookies for Daddy to take to work tomorrow?  And home group, too?  When are we going to make those?” 
<Oops.  I forgot.  I guess it wasn’t supposed to be a free morning after all… >

Before and After

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The lure of a glittery Bible...

Sometimes, I look up books with Juli on Amazon.  We find some that catch her eye, and talk about ordering them for a special treat sometimes.  The other day, she came in while I was looking for the next book to review from BookSneeze.  When she spotted the Shiny Sequin Bible, she thought it was gorgeous and just had to have it.  "Okay," I thought.  "We can order a sparkly Bible."  It was very pretty -- glitter on the front, hearts and flowers... everything designed to draw the eye of a young girl who can't even read yet. 

When it arrived, we looked at it together.  She thought it was the prettiest Bible EVER.  I agreed with her -- it's very pretty, and definitely girly.  I suppose it would be perfect for a young girl to carry to church in a little purse.  Juli and I decided that she would get it for a special occasion... after I'd reviewed it and read some excerpts. 

I selected two different books out of the Bible to read -- Haggai from the Old Testament, and James from the New Testament.  I chose these because I had recent familiarity with both of them, and would do a little less flipping about, looking for differences in the translations.  The ICB translation, while simplified to give understanding to children, seemed very choppy.  Short sentences don't necessarily make for easier reading, sometimes it just sounds like you're dumbing it down.  There were a few cases of words that I really didn't think needed to be simplified (patience instead of perseverance, for example) that  seemed to alter the meaning of the passage (James 1) just enough to give me pause.  In places during James, it read like a first grade reader, but in other passages, it was pretty obvious that the translation was meant for at least a little bit older reader. 
Then I flipped over to Psalm 23 just for fun.  It was okay, but the translation "very dark valley" just doesn't even come close to "the valley of the shadow of death."  And seriously, "walking stick" instead of "staff"?  You lose a lot in this translation, in my opinion. 

As far as being a kids' Bible, I was also disappointed to see that there were no in depth explanations for kids, or "special features," if you will.  The maps are few and there just isn't much inside that would appeal to kids.  Just the simplified translation that I could really have done without.  I'll just keep reading mine to her and explaining what big words like "staff" mean. 
So, as far as a beautiful outside, yes, it's pretty.  But the substance inside left much to be desired.  But, on the other hand, I now have a great object lesson in my hand. 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://booksneeze®.com/> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 <[...]> : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Monday, February 14, 2011

Once upon a Valentine's Day...

My sweet hubby came home today and apologized for not bringing me chocolates.  He had an excellent reason -- See's Candy was knee deep in men buying last minute candies, and had a line out the door -- and he knew that I prefer quality over quantity anyway.  Plus, he usually picks a box of my favorites only (NO NUTS!) and that takes time.  Then of course, he'd already given me the chocolate that he bought earlier for V-Day... evidently I'm not the only one who has a hard time holding on to gifts.  I noticed he didn't apologize for not bringing flowers.  Actually, we laughed together about that. 

Once upon a Valentine's Day, back when we were first married, my husband brought me flowers...

"Oh, sweetheart!" I said, "They're beautiful!"  And they were.  I don't remember all of what was in the bouquet, but I know there were a few daisies, and some absolutely gorgeous tiger lilies that were about to open.  I love flowers... they're beautiful. 

I put them in a vase in the middle of the table.  The next morning, the first tiger lily opened.  It was beautiful!  It was also... fragrant.  After eating breakfast with it, my eyes started watering and I started sneezing.  I decided the bouquet would look beautiful on the counter over by the sink.  I moved it. 

Doing the dishes that morning, I realized that I spend a lot of time in the kitchen -- and my nose was now running, and the sneezes were getting worse.  I decided the flowers would look better in the living room.  I moved them. 

During lessons, I kept sneezing.  My eyes were now watering and my makeup was toast.  I tried to explain to my students that it was allergies, but they still looked at me a bit skeptically.  I decided that the flowers would look very nice in the library.  I moved them. 

That afternoon, I started working on the computer in the library.  I soon realized that my nose was itching again and knew I had to move them.  But where?  I HAD to display them somewhere.  "The bedroom!" I thought.  They would look lovely in there, and Neil would be sure to notice them.  After I moved them, though, I started thinking about what a night breathing flower dust would do to me... and I knew I couldn't put them in there.  The bathroom?  No...

"Hi, honey!" said Neil when he came home.  I don't think he noticed right away that the flowers were gone from the table.  But he did eventually notice the flowers, prominently displayed in the laundry room on the washing machine. 

"Um... Neil," I said, "I LOVE the flowers... and they are so pretty... and you were very thoughtful to get them for me... thank you... but please never get me flowers again!" 

And he didn't.  :-)  At least not fragrant ones.  He's such a nice husband...

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Review of "Lies the Government Told You"

I am wading into politics a bit here, I know, but I couldn't resist on this book.  It was quite an interesting read.

When I started reading this book, I had no idea who Judge Andrew Napolitano was, or what the book was about.  Quite frankly, I rather figured that it was probably a book on conspiracy theories.  To my surprise (and pleasure), it is a well-researched work on specific  ways the United States government has deceived its citizens and lists the ways the government infringes on citizens’ individual liberties.  While the book is up to date and deals with modern issues, Napolitano also deals with historical lies, outlining ways that multiple presidents, including Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Wilson, lied to the people to accomplish their various goals.   
Refreshingly, Judge Napolitano is neither Republican nor Democrat, and he scathingly denounces members of both parties with equal vigor.  Neither does he stick to a particular party’s official line.  This is particularly evident in his treatment of Sonia Sotomyer’s confirmation process. 
Napolitano’s point that the government regularly lies to the people is not disputed from any quarter.  Indeed, people seem to accept as normal the fact that the government lies with impunity.  “[An] FBI agent tells the cultural guru Martha Sterwart, in an informal conversation in the presence of others, that she is not the target of a federal criminal probe, and she replies that she did not sell a certain stock on a certain day.  They both lied, but she went to jail and the FBI agent kept his job.” 
If you’re looking for an easy read, this is probably not it.  I did not find the book dry, as many of the other reviewers did, but Napolitano does refer to and cite many legal cases in making each of his points.  In addition, if you believe that political parties have all the answers, this book will not be your cup of tea.  But if you’re a little cynical and disillusioned with politicians in general – and enjoy reading about history – this book might be a welcome addition to your library. 
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Shopkeeper's Savvy...

I have had a LOT of difficulty with customer service lately.  Is it just me, or is it getting worse?  First, a bookstore I visited last week ticked me off enough to write a letter to the owner (and my complaint letter was a masterpiece, I tell you!), and then my husband's favorite pizza place lost some business when their staff was rude to him.  Fortunately for us, the little hole in the wall pizza parlor we visited after the fiasco was a perfect jewel, and I forsee a few more trips there in our future.  And don't even get me STARTED with the story of the pie... Anyway, it seems like customer service is going downhill.  But on a pretty day like this, I think I'd rather relate the tale of some GOOD customer service. 

Juli and I went into a little store to browse while Neil and Alex were at the car.  Right away, Juli found a little stuffed dog that tickled her fancy.  The man behind the counter smiled as Juli showed me the dog, dancing around with it. 

"Look, Mama, isn't she pretty?  I think she's a girl!  And I think I would name her Lucy.  Can we buy her, Mama, can we get her?" 

"Well, we'll see, Juli," I said, "Wait until Daddy comes, and then we'll see what he says."  Juli continued to cuddle the little dog until she reluctantly put her back to go outside with me to flag Neil down.  Juli was excited as we neared the store again.  Once inside, she headed straight for the dog. 

"See, Daddy?  Look..."  The shopkeeper, an older man, approached, and she asked him, "Excuse me, is this little doggy a boy or a girl?" 

He smiled down at her and said, "Oh, that one is DEFINITELY a girl doggy." 

"Ohh!!" squealed Juli, "I was RIGHT, Daddy, I was right!  I KNEW it was a girl doggy, I did!  I think her name is Lucy!  Can we get her, Daddy, can we take her home??" 

The store owner walked back toward the counter, and I just said, "Face it, Neil, I think you're doomed on this one."  As we walked toward the counter, the man had already rung up the dog... and asked if Juli wouldn't like to carry her new doggy out.  Then he picked up HIS doggy from behind the counter and showed it to her -- thereby making her day. 

"Good answer," Neil said to the man.  He just smiled.  I think he knew he had the sale as soon as he waded into the world of gender determination of stuffed animals. 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Big Question...

“I think I muffed it,” I said to Neil on the phone.  Fortunately, he was too polite to agree. 
It wasn’t like I didn’t know this day was coming.  It’s the day that haunts parents’ dreams.  It’s the question that you always secretly hope they’ll ask the other parent.  I suppose it’s inevitable. And I even had a good warning, since she’d danced around the edges of the question with her grandma a few weeks previously.  And of course, with several new babies in the extended family this year, it was bound to be on her mind.  I’d thought about what I would say.  I actually felt pretty good about my preparedness.  I’d discussed it with other parents who have faced the issue themselves.  But with all this, I must say, I wasn’t completely prepared for the question at 7a.m. this morning. 
“Mama,” said my daughter out of the blue, “How does a baby get out of the mommy’s tummy without breaking it?” 
<Ah, yes,> I thought.  <Here it is.  Deep breath, Bethi, you’re up to this challenge, even if you’ve only had one cup of coffee this morning.>
“Well, sweetie,” I said with what I hoped was relative calm in my voice, “God designed mommies with a special place that opens when it is time for the baby to come out.” 
“Oh…” said Juli.  She sounded a bit disappointed.  “Is that how I was born?”
“Well, no,” I said truthfully, “You were in a funny position and the doctor didn’t think you should come out like that, so he decided to take you out of my stomach through a little opening he made under my bellybutton.” 
My daughter’s eyes lit up.  “You mean he CUT your tummy open?!?  With a KNIFE?!?”  She leaned forward expectantly, “With a BIG knife?!?” 
“Um, well, no, honey,” I said a little hesitantly.  This conversation was taking a turn I hadn’t quite anticipated!  “He just made a little incision with a special little knife.  And out you came, just as cute…”
“You mean a SPECIAL knife that didn’t hurt?” Juli interrupted, “And he made a hole in your tummy?” 
“Well, no,” I explained, “He gave me a shot before he cut so that it wouldn’t hurt me.”
“Oooh!” said my bright-eyed daughter, “A SHOT!  A shot right in your TUMMY?!?”
“Um, well, actually, the shot was in my back.” I continued, trying to figure out how I got into this in the first place. 
“Ohhh…” said Juli, “A shot into your BACK… where? And did it HURT?  And it made you go to sleep?” 
“No, I didn’t go to sleep.” I said, “It just made my tummy and legs sort of fall asleep so they didn’t feel any pain when the doctor got you out.” 
“Oh, you mean when he cut you open with the special knife?  Did it BLEED?  Where did he cut you?  Can I see?” 
Right about this point, I’m thinking my daughter is a bloodthirsty little ghoul.  This conversation didn’t go at ALL like I had planned.  And I’m totally wishing I’d told her to ask Daddy, although he said he would probably just tell her the stork brought the baby.  Although if he had, she probably would have wanted to know if the stork had cut the baby out with a knife. 
I just can’t wait to hear her report this to Nana on the phone.  However she tells it, I just know the part about the knife will be told with relish and gusto.  Maybe we’re not looking at a lawyer after all.  She sure does seem interested in cutting things open.  Doctor?  Surgeon?  Or maybe a butcher.   
Can’t WAIT for the next question and answer session. 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Ah, the potty dance...

“No, Mama,” said Juli, dancing around with her legs crossed, “I don’t have to go to the bathroom.” 
“Juli…” I said, freezing her with a look, “Don’t lie to me – go potty right now.” 
“Okay…” she said with a longing look toward her toys.  “But, Mama, how did you know I was lying?” 
Well, let’s see now, Juli.  Maybe it was the way you didn’t quite meet my eyes when you said that.  Maybe it was the little dance you were doing.  Maybe it was the inflection in your voice when you protested?  Okay, so that’s a pretty easy lie to spot, I bet all moms of toddlers would get that one.  But I vividly remember teaching a young child years ago and NOT spotting the telltale signs of the potty dance before she sat on my lap.  Ah, experience. 
It’s funny, but this ability to spot these things is not confined to your own children, or even children you see on a regular basis.  I spotted a little girl in Target the other day with a strained look and the whole crossed legs, fidgety thing going on.  Her mother was chatting with someone and happily oblivious, but I guarantee you, I wasn’t the only one in the store noticing it.  I’m betting the security guards watching the monitors were already gearing up to get someone over there with a mop just in case the mom didn’t notice in time. 
Somehow, somewhere along the way, I figured out a way to tell if my daughter has to go to the bathroom without strip searching her and probing her stomach to see if her bladder is full.  And I can tell if she’s lying or hiding something with pretty good accuracy.  Most kids get better at hiding things as they get older – but most involved parents get better at predicting.  I know my parents always seemed to know when something was amiss.  Sheesh, even my husband can spot any prevarication on my part a mile away. 
“Honey, did you rest today?” 
“Um, well, uh, MOSTLY…” 
There are other lies out there that aren’t as easy to spot, but we figure them out pretty quickly. 
Juli!  Did you just hit your brother??” 
“Uh…. No?” 
“Juli… did you take a cookie without asking?” 
“Um… well, I think Alex did that.” 
“Juli, is your room clean?” 
“Um… well… are you going to go check it?” 
And then are the times when they flash you that guilty look and you know they’re up to SOMETHING – you just don’t know what.  It just takes a few questions to get to the bottom of it. 
So what does this have to do with anything?  Well, Neil and I were discussing TSA the other day – and whether we would go through the body scanner or have a physical search – and while we didn’t agree on what we would personally do if faced with the TSA choice at the airport, we did agree on one thing – there HAS to be a better way to do security.  Let’s see, a naked picture or some extended groping.  What a fun thought.  Welcome to America.  For now, the two of us are determined to avoid recreational flying.    
Talk about an inefficient way to spot a liar or a terrorist!  Let’s just randomly select a bunch of preschoolers and feel their tummies to see if they have to go to the bathroom!  I don’t profile my students (although I must say, the youngest ones do seem the most susceptible to accidents, sorry if I just offended anyone…), but I do ask some of them from time to time if they have to go to the bathroom.  I don’t randomly select them… I read the signs.  (And I haven’t had an accident in my living room for a long time.) 
I read an article about how the Israelis government screens for terrorism in their airports – they train their agents to spot people who are nervous or lying.  What an excellent idea!  But does it work?  Well, they haven’t had a breach in security since 2002.  That’s a pretty good track record, I’d say.  (Check out if you want to read an article on it) 
Maybe the government needs to spend some time on training their people to spot liars, smugglers, and terrorists.  If they can’t get the Israelis to come train us, I bet they could hire some moms…