Saturday, April 30, 2005


Lauren commented that she thought it was supposed to be spring (and not this cold, rainy weather). This is actually how I envision Spring. Most years, Louisville weather jumps right from freezing to 90 degrees. I love nothing better than laying in my comfortable bed at night and listenting to the gentle rain fall. My lettuce and spinach in the garden is coming up nicely, instead of bolting to seed. I love the rain.

Rain keeps William inside. William has learned to use all the locks in the house, and lets himself out often. At three years old, this just isn't safe. I'll have to send for a locksmith this next week to deadbolt all the doors and maybe put chains on high up. This may not work, however, as I found him standing on the kitchen counter yesterday looking for the piano key. He'd pushed a kitchen chair over and climbed on up. Watching him is a full time job.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Over the Coals

My dh expects this post, and I wouldn't want to disappoint him. As we unloaded the new grill, he paused and looked up. "This is going to be in the blog, isn't it?" he asked. Well, how could I dismiss such obviously good material?

It took both of us to unload it from the truck, not so much because of the dimensions but because of the weight of it. All stainless steel with sharp edges, I envisioned it slicing right through the palms of my hands. From the main body, two wings jutted out to the sides. "Can't it just fly itself up to the deck?" I asked. It has about the same number of controls as a small engine plane.

I won't bore you with the cost of the thing, but suffice it to say that I could've replaced my refrigerator that is held together with packing tape and that has limped along for 16 years now. "I knew you'd say that," he laughed. Well, how could I not? I suppose the grill is a symbol of having arrived in the male kingdom.

Once, when I worked at Colgate's very male-dominated, very rough factory, I listened to the guys discussing their boats. I tried to repeat a phrase that I had heard my mom say before - that you can tell tell the men from the boys from the price of their toys. Only, I got it wrong and what I said was that "you can tell the men from the boys from the size of their toys". My co-workers rolled around on the floor laughing for about an hour after that. It took me awhile to understand their mirth.

So, I am retiring from cooking meat at least. We now have a summer kitchen, complete with a burner, rotisserie, and grill. This is good, because the back burner of my stove doesn't work anymore and sometimes the oven, for no apparent reason turns off mid-bake. (It displays an F2 error that I don't even want to decode in case the stove is cussing me.) I'll get a lot of mileage out of this purchase!

Thursday, April 28, 2005


We learned a new word today - sarcoid. Jorgen, Lauren's pony, has a growth between his buttocks. Nice topic, eh? One interesting cure we heard of, by chance, was that a friend's horse also has a sarcoid which the vet is treating with a bloodroot compound rather than surgery. We are scheduled for surgery on Jorgen this coming Tuesday. I am considering having the vet biopsy it first, rather than remove it and try the expensive (yet not as much as surgery) compound. My internet search turned up many references (including veterinary websites and vet websites) to the successful use of this salve to cure sarcoids.

The girls learn a lot from direct care of these animals. We have discussed a neighbor's horse after taking care of it for the weekend. The horse is skin and bones, and balding rather than shedding. The owner feeds lots of oats and blames the loss of weight on having had a case of colic. The girls and I know colic doesn't cause weight loss alone, and have learned that oats are for energy (they're carbohydrates), not weight gain. I've discussed with the owner that something was wrong with the horse, and she is calling the vet. We're interested to see the results.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005


Dad is home from the hospital, resting comfortably at home. He received a pacemaker/defibrillator on Monday. We had a nice visit yesterday.

Lauren flew home from Germany on Monday, getting here around midnight. We've just begun to hear her stories, but it sounds like it was a wonderful opportunity.

I wrote about Will in my blog under "Play Doctor" and that the intern was upset that he had dropped to about 15th percentile in height. I maintained that he was just not in a growth spurt and it would come. Since that appointment, about two months ago, he's grown a full inch, jumping to about 45th percentile.

Except for a few finishing touches, Anna's room makeover is done. I learned to install laminate flooring, measure, cut and install moulding, use a miter, jig, and table saw. I learned how to make moulding corners and how useful is caulk. I have yet to install the ceiling fan, but I know how to do it.

Horses: Jorgen has some kind of growth on his rear-end that is going to be surgically removed on Tuesday. That should be an interesting learning experience for my kids. They gave the horses their West Nile Virus shots yesterday, apparently not a moment too soon. We found an adult starling dead in our field.

Chickens: One of the two Araucana's I purchase is a rooster. Even as tiny as he still is, he rushes at anyone reaching into the cage as if to protect the other little ones. I am going to work on taming him.

Some of our chickens are older, and apparently not laying much. Anna brought the funniest egg down from the barn. It was about the size of a robin's egg, but brown like our chicken eggs, maybe a little darker. She found it in the chicken stall. I thought at first that a bird had gotten into the hen house, but they live in a converted horse stall. All openings are covered with chicken wire (to keep out varmits that eat chickens) and there is no way a bird could get in. So, one of the chickens laid this mini-egg, perhaps one of the older ones. Unfortuately, it was cracked, and thrown to the dogs, or I'd post a photo.

Monday, April 25, 2005


I was trying to leave a message on a cell phone for Lauren, my daughter, when my call-waiting beeped in. It was Lauren calling from Germany to tell me she had a ride home from the airport. This past weekend, with my Dad in the hospital, twice I picked up the phone to call my sister, but before I could, she had called me. Many times it has happened that I'll be thinking as I drive the car, and then say out loud what I was thinking, and Anna, my daughter, will say "that's weird, that's just what I was thinking about!" This connection has happened also with my husband and my mom. More than once, I've pressed the button to get a dial tone to call Mom, only to find her already on the other end.

Probably one of the strangest occurrences was the morning I awoke and my first thought was "Something's wrong with Dad." I brushed it off because I knew that my sisters would call me if anything was wrong, yet all day I kept thinking that perhaps I should call. Later, my sisters did call, and Dad had spent the day in the hospital due to polyps that had caused bleeding.

I do not question that there is another sense or connection, perhaps like natural cell phones of which we humans are often oblivious. Our world is so full of noise and activity that it drowns out all my intuition and quiet messages. I don't think these are all coincidences, just times when the world quiets for a moment.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Prayers for Dad

My dad suffered his third heart attack yesterday. It was so good to hear his voice this afternoon on the phone. We are going tomorrow to visit him. He indeed has been blessed by God to have survived. He will have surgery tomorrow to install a defibrillator. I appreciate your prayers for his recovery.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Traffic School

The cop wasn't interested in any explanation two months ago when I was pulled over for going 13 miles per hour over the speed limit. He didn't want to know that I didn't know I was speeding, for the limit had just changed a few feet back, and I hadn't noticed, occupied as I was with a three year old screaming the same phrase over and over. He didn't care that I had two pre-teens talking at the same time or that I'd just spent two hours trying unsuccessfully get one daughter signed up for soccer in a very loud gymnasium. Perhaps he was right, I was speeding, he was waiting for me, and excuses are just that. It was a very bad day best forgotten.

In order to save my insurance rates and not get "points", I subjected myself to traffic school. Along with 42 other individuals, I sat for four hours of films on how to properly attach my seat belt, road conditions and statistics. Here are some of my more interesting learnings:

It is legal to drive barefoot in Kentucky.
It is legal for an adult to ride unrestrained in the back of a pickup truck.
It is legal to make a U-turn anywhere in Kentucky as long as the conditions for doing so are safe.

I am not sure safety school is going to make me safer after all.
Barefoot Cathy who drives an F-150

SOS History of Kentucky Review

I grew up in Ohio, where part of the curricula is learning the history of Ohio. I can recall from this class that Ohio has 88 counties, which is the only piece of trivia I retain. Yet, I thought it might be wise to cover something of the state, make that Commonwealth, in which we live. I purchased the Switched-On-Schoolhouse Kentucky History program.

The lessons in the program are short and sweet, though not particularly exciting or enlivening. Focusing too much on dates and facts, the content misses some key points. For example, we delved into the issue of slavery in this border state. One interesting point was that Kentucky was the only state that had members in the cabinet of both the Union and Confederate governments. It was stated that Kentucky did not have a large number of slaves, but did not at all touch the reasons why. From other reading that I have done, I know that Kentucky was a breeding state: many slaves here were coldly used, like livestock, to produce more slaves, which were then sold South.

The program is most entirely about white settlement. There is a brief mention in the beginning about the Indians that built the Wickliffe Mounds, but only in passing. No mention is made of how the white settlers came to control the land, or what happened to the populations displaced because of their settlement.

While it has served as a starting point for further study, it concerns me greatly that this shallow look at Kentucky History might used by some as comprehensive, which it most certainly is not. I would purchase it again though, as we have used it as a basis for further discussion. For example, we recently talked over dinner what it means that Kentucky is a Commonwealth, and not a State.

Visiting places in Kentucky, tied into good, real books, is a more lasting way to learn about Kentucky. I don't want to teach my children how many counties there are, but no real understanding of this beautiful place. I leave you with a list of books I have really enjoyed, but are for the older reader. I'd love to put together a list of good books on Kentucky History for the middle school age, and would like to hear from you if you have suggestions.

The following is a series by Janet Holt Giles, a Kentucky author, dealing with white settlement. Some graphic violence, particularly in The Kentuckians, is not suitable for young children.

The Kentuckians
Hannah Fowler
The Believers

Thursday, April 21, 2005

At the Zoo


By necessity, we are unschooling these days. Lauren, who is in Germany, is learning about German culture. At least I hope so. In her first call home, she said that they had gone to a pizzeria their first night there. I envisioned her eating sausages and sauerkraut. It will be interested to see what she learns from this trip.

Though she is reluctant to do so because they are so loud, Anna is learning a little about using the saws (see article below) and measuring. She is also working on web design, writing, and she is keeping up with a few of the programs I have for her independent work.

Yesterday, because the day was so beautiful, we took a break from our work to go to the zoo. What a wonderful day it was.

I think unschooling is terrific, and more meaningful learning. It does, however, require more journaling on my part and I wonder where I'll fit one more thing I need to do?

Cardinal Sin

This week, I did something I swore to myself I'd never do - I learned to use my husband's saws. Refusing to learn something basic is a survival instinct in our house. Not knowing how to run the saws, I had the mental excuse why I could not fix some of the many things around the house and barn that should be fixed. Dh just isn't home enough to fix all those things, and though we've hired someone for most of the remodeling, I am annoyed at the pace of his work. I suppose a determined woman can out-work a man anyday.

Other reasons for not running the saws is the mental picture of severed body parts, caused by inattention while sawing. Sawing is not a multi-tasking type of activity. It requires total attention. I am finding, however, that small dogs and small children are afraid of the sound, and will stand back.

Few men would tolerate my working conditions. I am replacing the floor with laminate flooring and the moulding in my daughter's 2nd floor bedroom. The saws are in the walk-out garage at basement level. Here is a typical "cut": I make my measurements, change Will's diaper, get him a drink of water, carry his 30 pounds downstairs, accompanied by our three dogs. I plug in the saws, which I unplug each use for safety around a three year old who is smart enough to turn them on. By now, I've forgotten my measurement, unplug the saw, and run back upstairs with paper to write it down. On the way down, answer questions of daughter. Make cut, and carry wood back up two flights of stairs, accompanied by son and three dogs. There, I realize the wall isn't square, and need to cut off 1/4 inch of the moulding. Sneak out quickly to run back downstairs to make the cut before my parade of kids and dogs realize I'm gone. Will has his toy, or sometimes, my real hammer when I return, and declares his intent to help me. Somehow, I manage to get through the day and actually get some of the work done.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Lauren on Jorgen at the Bluegrass Open

Out into the World

I remember once saying that I would only want to homeschool if we had the means to show the world to the kids through travel. (Silly me, I envisioned that I would be involved in the equation!)

Yesterday, Lauren embarked on her adventure to Germany. She will be in the Mounted Pony Games Pairs Competition for the United States team. I am so proud of her that she has the confidence and and is responsible enough that I feel comfortable letting her go. What an exciting world this is!

Friday, April 15, 2005

Slam Dunk

Huh! This morning, my husband (dh) was remarking that our three year old insists on putting any razors he finds in dh's shaving kit back in the original packaging (thereby mixing the duller razor with new ones). He is very insistent that they all stay together.

"He seems to have an organization gene," says dh. He pauses and looks at me, "Though I don't know where he gets it." Huh. Back to reading the Flylady.

Signs of Spring

We stop by a pond nearby to look for signs of spring. Last week, we saw six turtles the size of dinner plates. This week, we spied two Canadian geese with five goslings. My three year old remarked, "Look at the tiny geese! Not the big ones are tiny, but the tiny ones are tiny!"

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Shopping Hell

If you know me, you know I'd rather shovel manure than go shopping. Seriously. Shopping with a three year old for two pre-teens is challenging enough, but the selections available today make it impossible. Who are the people designing these clothes??

My daughters have just now crossed over from the big girls' section into the juniors section, which is when all the trouble began. There seems to be no standard for jeans manufacturing, and each brand's size fits differently. My long-waisted modest eleven year old will not wear hip huggers, which seems to be about all that is sold these days. She says they feel like they're falling off. My petite thirteen year old will wear hip huggers, but the jeans today are all made skin tight around the thighs, and that bothers her.

I suppose it is a sign of my advancing age that I am amused by the young girls I see shopping in the stores, wearing these jeans. Since when is showing your butt crack like a construction worker considered sexy?

And what designer decided that women want to go around dressed like Easter eggs? All the colors this year are lime green, robin's egg blue, orange, bright pink and yellow. Everything we saw were those colors, or worse, a combination of those colors. All departments were like that, including those where I'd normally shop for myself. As I looked yesterday, I saw the alternative: I was next to the "granny shop" where I could outfit myself in nautical themes though I've not been on a cruise and there seems to be no boat on the horizon.

After more than once having a heart attack because Will, our three year old, was in the middle of a clothes rack hiding, we called it a day. A few plain t-shirts and a pair of jeans each for four hours of shopping. And other women enjoy this?

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Is It Safe?

The most common response to the news that my 13 year old is going on a (chaperoned) trip to Germany is "Is it safe?" Safety. It is an interesting question to me, because it is based on an assumption that world in which we live, here in America, is "safe". I suppose relatively, it is. My children are not in a war torn county, they have all their needs met, they have clean water to drink, and they have parents that love them.

Increasingly, the evening news and newspapers point out, however, that even here, where we consider life "safe", it isn't for many people. Daily, I read about crashes on the local, unsafe highways. The news is full of violence on children, violence by children. Children abducted as they sleep from their own beds, or on their way to the local store blocks from their homes. Methamphetamine labs seem to be the new cottage industry around here. TV shows and video games intrude into our homes with material that no child should see, and perhaps no adult.

One of my most fundamental wishes for my children is to protect them and keep them safe. So how does one send them out into such a large world? If I could, I would go with her, not making her anymore safe, but assuring myself daily that she is indeed safe. The hard part isn't letting her go, it is staying home and waiting for her return.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Photo by Anna


I know it is spring when the girls beg for chicks from our local farm store. We started our chicken house several years ago, and it has been a rewarding learning experience. We've learned a lot about chickens and eggs, life and death. This year, we got two Aracanas in my mistaken hope that we might actually own a hen that lays an egg. (Of course, that is if the two we chose are female.) The remaining five were bantam chicks (miniature replicas of full size breeds) which the girls prefer as pets.

The next day after purchase, Anna brought one chick to the house, its head lolling off the edge of her hands. The shock of the new home was too much for it, or it was weak in some way. Being close to animals, we have learned more just how fragile life can be.

We have one rooster and seven full size hens, which are aging. I get only one egg from the same hen daily, yet they all eat my chicken feed. Now, in the good old days, a farm wife would've taken care of these slacker chickens on a Sunday afternoon. Not here. We now run a retirement home for old chickens.


I set the mower deck lower to try to cut off the offending heads of the dandelions, but they hunkered down below the grass, waiting until I'd passed by to pop back up. I spent hours grooming our now emerald green lawn, riding around on our mower, but surveyed the results with satisfaction. The next morning, from my window I could see a sea of yellow flowers, and that some had had the audacity to turn to seed.

As I cut, I wondered why this obsession with having a cut lawn. As I sit on the mower I think what a waste, of gas and time. I have read that perhaps it is a leftover instinct from our African ancestors, my own savannah where I can see enemies approaching because the grass is not too high. It keeps trees from sprouting in unwanted areas. More importantly, it keeps the neighbors happy. There is some sense of satisfaction in completing the task. A job well done, a bit of control over my own little world.


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