Friday, January 29, 2010

New Math

Dh looked over William's math page from yesterday. It was about grouping single digits that combine to make 10 for quick addition. "Very interesting," he said. "I use this way of adding up my golf score." Good, I am at least teaching the boy something he can actually use later in life.

William bought with his allowance a kit to make a Star Wars ship. It snaps together and says that it is good for kids 8+. Both of William's engineer parents have looked at it and have shaken our heads. It's going to require a graduate degree.

We are expecting snow. On Tuesday, I had heard that by Thursday night, we would have NINE inches. A run was made on bread and milk at the grocery. By yesterday, we heard that it would be 1 - 3 inches starting this morning. This morning, 1 - 3 inches are expected to arrive after sundown. What delayed the weather? Did it find a better place to be? Get blown off course? No matter, I'm happy it got lost, although William is already lining up his sled. Myself, I'll be driving pretty much all day tomorrow. I'm hoping that the weather gets lost again.


Expecting the farrier this morning. The horses hooves do not grow much during the winter, so hopefully, this visit will hold them for awhile. It's expensive - $30 per horse, $20 per mini - but I do enjoy hearing how the horses hooves look, and the farrier generally has all the neighborhood news.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Notes of All Sorts

Cauna, our Americauna and oldest chicken, suddenly doesn't look too good. I think the very cold weather is difficult for the old ones. She has a heat lamp, but still.

Speaking of cold, I'd just about congratulated myself on surviving the worst of the cold, and it returned. It is 29 degrees F here today. Again, I put on layers upon layers. The horses are waiting at 5 p.m., asking to be let in already.

Even though it is cold, we've put nine eggs under our broody hen. They are to go to a friend who wants more chickens. The hen purred and gurgled, she was so pleased to be gifted with the eggs. How many will hatch?

February will be a busy season for us, as Lauren auditions at several colleges in preparation for going to college next fall for piano performance. My "brain worms" of classical piano music are alive and well.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Self-Portrait by Anna

Regional Gold Key Winner
Scholastic Art and Writing Competition
by Anna
Painted with a brayer roller


(Left: Louise, Anna's cat)

We learn a lot about life through art and music. For example, Anna recently entered the regional Scholastic Art and Writing Contest. She was awarded a Gold Key and two Silver. Interestingly, the Gold was awarded to an edgy self-portrait painted with a small roller. The more realistic paintings, such as her painting of the horses, "Clouds Over July", got Silver. We've heard back that the judges of the paintings this year were looking for "edgy".

We've experienced this before. Her painting, "Temptation", a portrait of William got only third place in a small county art show with only four paintings in it. Yet, in the Kentucky State Fair, it was Supreme Grand Champion, first in the whole Commonwealth.

We have learned:
  • Be true to yourself, paint (or live) the way you need to
  • Be happy with your efforts if you've been true to yourself
  • The opinions of others say more about them and what they seek than it does about you or your work
  • Be humble, even if you win - it was that person's opinion that day
  • If you didn't win today, you may win tomorrow
  • The more you enter contests, the more likely it is that you will win one day. In other words, you can't win if you don't try
Why the cat photo? Well, judges are like cats. You just never know what they are thinking.
And if I've not said before, I am very proud of my daughters. They are passionate about who they want to be and how they want to live. A parent can't ask for more.

I bought salad tongs. Just saying, in case you are over for dinner and I serve salad. The desecrated tongs are now on top of the bathroom cabinet for our next "event".

My spirits were lifting this weekend. My husband made a delicious dinner, I cleaned up my desk, the weather was mild, in the 50s. I allowed myself to be thinking winter was on the way out. It is snowing.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

"One man's trash....."

William was in a very excited state this morning. "Look at what I found at the dump!" He pulled out a dull pocket knife with four implements.

Dump? I had sent him with his dad to the recycle center, not the dump. The idea is to dispose of trash, not pick up more trash to bring home. Well, it seems that someone had "recycled" a number of metal objects. A pipe wrench, a few tools, and oh, joy! Toenail and fingernail clippers! William had scooped those up, too. I recoiled. I'm going to start buying hydrogen peroxide by the case. I guess at the rate things like that are going down the toilet, it does help to have a few extra.

I am thinking he's about the Tom Sawyer or Dennis the Menace age with a pocketful of dead frogs, marbles, cool rocks and petrified insects. I have trained him to put those things in our "natural history museum", an old glass octagon shaped end table where we keep bird eggs, snake skins, dried lizards and such. I'm sure you have your own collection.

Watched Star Trek last night, which explains how I came to have Vulcan children.

Live Long and Prosper

Friday, January 22, 2010

Marriage Insurance

My dh and I sometimes lament over our house purchase fifteen years ago. It's not that we don't enjoy where we live. We do. I shared with him that friends that visit always remark how much they like our house. But of course, they are only commenting on the surface view. We are aware of all the underlying problems. But, I told dh, I see this house as marriage insurance. In this economy, we could never sell it with all the things we'd need to fix, and we couldn't afford another residence should he decide to trade me in for two twenties (or is it twenty-fives, now?)

Ah, the problems, though. Our plumbing, we found out sometime after we moved in and signed all those forms with blood, is aged. Not only, it was plumbed with piping that is typically used in trailer parks. And, the septic system was limping along, as evidenced by a verdent green patch of grass at the bottom of the hill.

And there is the issue of the incredible foresight of the plumber who put the overflow for this system in the garage. For some unknown reason or perhaps because of our recent deep freeze for weeks, the pipes blew out a wad of toilet paper in the garage followed by a washing machine load of water. That seemed to fix the problem, and we've been eyeing the relief valve pipe with caution. What caused the back up then?

Today, while I was on the phone, my son came to me with one half of the toilet paper holder, the spring hanging out the end where the other half should be. Now, why he was touching it at all was a mystery, for as I've spelled out here before NO ONE, I say, NO ONE, ever takes that spring thing off and puts the toilet paper roll on the holder. Yet, here he'd removed it, and dropped the other half in the toilet bowl. The now full toilet bowl if you know what I mean.

I knew that I could not flush it, for it was needed and besides, I've not yet heard the end of the time I flushed the toenail clippers rather than retrieve them from a full toilet. (Do you see the pattern here?) So, I got our pair of salad tongs and William said, "I'll do it! I'll do it!" and he fished it out and threw it in the sink. Do you think if I hold them over an open flame it will fully sanitize the vision of him using them in the toilet? Will anyone ever eat salad at my house again?

I suppose we should start a sinking fund to replace the whole system. The black ooze on the other side of the lateral lines isn't Texas gold. Dh put black plastic over the area last summer. Looked like a Kentucky slip-n-slide. Gotta good barn though. Maybe we ought to move in there with the horses.

A friend has emailed that she'd like to use our incubator bantam hen to hatch some eggs. She's bringing them over this weekend from her own hens that are aged two.

Mud. That sums up just about everything.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Why Johnny Can't Read

It's no secret that schooling is generally more geared to girls than boys. I think I've discovered the secret to fixing that. We need to design materials that are more interesting to boys. For example,
in the car recently, William asked a question that had never occurred to me, "Why do your fingers make a noise when you snap them?" Friction, slapping fingers, and other odd ideas lead to a broad discussion of the source of the noise of other bodily functions. You can imagine. Do I need to spell it out?

Early readers (books) are all sugar and spice. I think I could become a best selling children's book author by writing books which contain many references to bodily noises and emissions. Not convinced? The first word Lauren could read and write was "zoo". William's was "fart", which we find written in various and sundry places around the house. Case closed.

Humidity or Humility

At dinner one night this week, I mentioned that you can tell when the humidity is very low in the winter.
William and I had gone to McDonald's hat day for lunch because we had coupons for buy one Big
Mac, get one free. You know when the humidity is low when you try to open your
mouth wide
enough to bite a Big Mac and your lips crack. Everyone started laughing a bit, but then the Mickey Mouse laughing started, you know the kind when you can't quit, and you start crying, and your little kids start asking, "Mom, what's wrong, are you okay?" What brought that on?

It started when dh threw in the comment, "like a cat's butt". I started laughing.
"When have you last kissed a cat's butt?" The image of that is what caused a
good deal of mirth around the table.

It seems I had forgotten the story (and he hadn't) about the mom who found that her son
had been using the Chapstick on the cat's butt because it was "chapped".

I have a black bantam hen that has gone broody. I wonder if I can rent her out as an incubator?
I won't allow her to sit on eggs because I don't want any chicks. We could still have another
month or two of bad weather. I stole the one egg she had, and she now gives me dirty looks
when she sees me.

Thanks to all that commented on Anna's painting here and on Facebook. This painting
got a Silver regional Award this week from the Scholastic Art and Writing Contest.
The judges this year were looking more for "edgy", not realistic, but Anna had submitted
a self-portrait that was painted with a roller, rather than a brush. That one, that got a Gold.
With art, you never know what the judge is looking for. Myself, I want the painting back, but
it will be hanging in the show for a month along with the self-portrait and
another painting that got a silver as well.

The college application process continues with Lauren. Choosing music as a field of study
makes the whole process grueling, but we are starting to see some fruit. A letter yesterday
awarded her an academic scholarship to a school she's not yet even auditioned. Though it
isn't likely to be the school she will choose, it is good to see that things are moving in the
right direction.

PS There is something wrong with Blogger today. The text wrap isn't working, sorry
about the formatting.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Clouds Over July

Anna's most recently finished painting.
These are our neighbor's horses and field.

Friday, January 15, 2010

We are down to one computer again between me, Lauren, and William. Given that Lauren and William do schoolwork online, you know where that leaves me: staring at the screen of an old computer that works so slowly, I can see the liquid crystals arranging themselves on the screen. I'm going to send that one out to a friend to see if it can be revived.

It is finally warming here a little, a twenty degree difference! That still leaves us in the forties during the day. This melts the snow, which runs down our blacktopped driveway, and when the sun goes down, it freezes. Ask me how I know. Ask the egg that I was carrying. Oh, that's right, you can't since it is now broken.

Last night, Simon Peter the Rooster was all bloody on his head and neck. No apparent serious injuries were visible. I wondered if we'd had a varmit intruder, but everyone else appeared okay. Had he tried to get into Judas' cage (Silkie rooster)? No, Judas was okay. Before shutting up the big coop, I peeked inside and sure enough, Lester was a bit bloody, too, although he clearly won this one. Evidently, they were fighting through the wire cage. If it continues, Simon Peter won't crow three times.

Later today: I will post Anna's recently finished painting. We are going to try to get the image on note cards and sell them to raise money for Haiti.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Feline Hyperesthesia Syndrome

My cat is schizophrenic. Or, at least, he has the feline equivalent of it. A Google study yesterday turned up evidence that he most of the symptoms of feline hyperesthesia syndrome, for which there is no cure, only drug treatment or holistic care. He doesn't overgroom or self-mutilate, but has all the other symptoms.

We've long wondered about this cat, who would seek affection, rubbing against human or horse legs, only to turn and attack if the human (or horse) returned the affection, leaving the humans greatly confused. It progressed to unprovoked aggression, pissing him off by merely having the audacity to walk past him. Was he afraid?

Outside, he would be sitting by you and suddenly, madly dash off and run up a tree, run down, dash across the yard. I thought it was playfulness.

Petting was allowed on his head, but no one, NO ONE, was allowed to touch the back of this cat. He would hiss, and vocalize if you even looked like you were thinking about it. His recent back pain is symptomatic of this condition as well, it seems, as is the twitching skin near his tail. I found one expert online, a Dr. Dodson, that says anesthesia can be a trigger, which explains why this cat went from being very nice before neutering, to being a mean one after. The cat becomes hypersensitive also to being touched, particularly on the back.

The prognosis is not great, as it can continue to escalate to seizures. I guess I owe the neighbor a mental apology, for I'd blamed him and his son for poorly socializing the cat as a kitten. Yet, it seems that the cat has a progressive neurological disease. And, it's easier to forgive the cat for his behavior when I know he can't help it.

Monday, January 11, 2010

On Being Old

Photo left: Using Rigid Wrap, the girls make a "death mask" on me. It comes off in one piece minutes later. I'll explain it's relevance in a moment.

Over dinner, our family discussed one of the choices of essay questions that Anna could have chosen (but didn't) for a summer program she hopes to attend: What one person - modern or from another era - would you choose to travel with you on a cross-country road trip.

We discussed that these type of questions are often designed to test your creativity. The answers of most people are quite predictable and Jesus wins most every poll. He would be my first choice as well, as not only do I have many questions, I assume he'd make sure we'd have a safe trip and I'd become a better person. But then, nine out of ten people are going to pick him, and just for discussion sake, we moved on to who next? Again, typical answers are Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, and so on.

Having just watched Groundhog Day again, I though Bill Murray would be fun, but maybe get us in trouble. George Clooney would be pleasing on the eye and seems to have a sense of humor. A few Googling phrases hit on John Travolta. He is a pilot, has his own jet, a sense of humor, and money. Could be fun. No, Anna said, "his time has passed". I could hear the air hissing out of my tires. He can't be much older than me. Okay, he's about six years older, not much. Is my time is passed? Well, I certainly do have days when I think time is running out.

At least my facial features are preserved now. (See photo.) Who would you like to cross the country with?

My kids are calling me. Not as in "hey Mom where are you" but as in "I call Mom at 8 o'clock tonight". My time may have passed but I am still in great demand.

Williamisms: Mom, do you think I could be a dentist when I grow up?
Me: Certainly.
Wm: But I'm not going to talk like my [pediatric] dentist.
Me: What do you mean?
Wm: Well, she said (uses syrupy, sing-song voice) "Okay, now I'm going to give your tooth a little huggggg" and then (now changes to aggressive voice) she grabs my tooth and twists it HARD and yanked it out. I didn't know what she meant.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Hugs and Kisses

Roxie is the black mini and Chiron (aka "Chi")
is the one trying to give you a kiss on this chilly FREEZING!!! morning.

Which got me to thinking about "F" words. The other day, my husband asked if I had a book for him to read. I gave him the Time Traveler's Wife, which had already been read by my two teenage daughters before I got to it. I was telling him I was somewhat aghast at the amount of sex in the book, and the use of the "F" word not knowing William was listening in. BIG, big mistake. He spent the rest of the evening following me around asking what the F word is and why I won't tell him what it is.

I have Googled "It's colder than...." sayings but thought you'd like to add your own. Be clean - it's Sunday.

Cool! Today is 01/10/10.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

The Birds

With days, weeks of subfreezing temperatures, the birds have become desperate. Yesterday, crows the size of my bantam hens were trying somehow to eat out of the bird feeder. I have been trying to video the large flock of European starlings that are getting in the chicken coop, but Daisy has learned that if she runs outside to the coop, it bursts suddenly with a flurry of feathers and this is enormously satisfying to a beagle-labrador mix. I had to sneak outside without her to get this video, which doesn't even show the large flock that flew off as they saw me walking up the driveway:

Note to Kim: I'm betting you won't be coming over to stick your head in the coop!
Tomorrow, a video of the miniature horses enjoying the snow.

Lazarus has been found and by my count, has used three of his nine lives. He was laying in the garage, which has a cat door and is always open for him to use. I brought him inside, but he is moving very slowly and carefully. We can determine no injury, and he can walk, eat and use the litter box, but is obviously tender on his back. I had suspected frostbite, but his pads are all pink and don't seem tender. We will baby him a few days. I'm always slower to take this half-feral cat to the vet, as it traumatizes him so greatly and he goes completely, hissing feral. I will see how he is doing by Monday.

William has somehow gotten the idea that he'd like a parakeet or some other bird to have as a pet. He wants a bird to hold. I told him he had a whole yard full of them - chickens. Go hold a chicken, I tell him. Evidently, that's not the same thing but I'm holding my ground on this one. So William's now adopted the stupid red cardinal that yes, is still butting it's head against a bedroom window. We've taped the outline of a hawk there, but it is too stupid to take the hint.

Stay warm! Looking forward to a twenty degree change by Wednesday! A heat wave in the 40s!

Friday, January 08, 2010

Woe is My Piano

Lauren had a joke this past week: What do you call a musician without a significant other? (Answer: homeless.) This week, the joke is on her: What do you call a pianist without a piano?

Shortly before Christmas, I received a present: news that our grand piano was so heavy in the action, it threatened Lauren's very wrist ligaments. Two musicians tried it. Yes, it was serious. A piano emergency. I tried to understand how this happened so quickly. We'd had it tuned only two weeks before. The weather? Age? I could not understand. Yet, as a non-musician, I had no recourse and we called our tuner.

He brought a tray of copper weights and gasped as he set them on the keys. He could fix it, but the friction had built up so much, he was going to have to take it with him. Luckily, that meant just the keyboard, which comes out. A week he said and $300. I had expected the $300 but a week! Lauren plays daily for hours in preparation for her auditions in February at several colleges. The timing could not be worse, though we have been generously offered piano time at both a dear friend's house and at her piano instructor's house.

And then it snowed......and snowed. So I drove.....and drove. Pet sitting, piano. pet sitting. It is very pretty. The semi on the highway gave my heart a bit of a flutter but....

We got several inches of snow and a possibility for more tomorrow. William tested it: good for sledding, not good for snowmen. Of course, just plain sliding with friends is not enough. You have to get "air" as a friend put it. William is in the orange cap.

I've not seen Lazarus (red tabby cat) since it started snowing. While he's a mean cuss, I don't wish him dead. More proof that he's cheating on us with another family.

My sister gave me a silkie chicken egg, which hatched out Judas (so named because he betrayed me by being a rooster). She says she doesn't take returns. Not only that, she offered me a silkie hen to keep him company. I started considering, could I manage? That might be nice. And then she told me that the hen was named "Precious". She was fine, her top and bottom beak just didn't quite line up. That's what I need - a chicken who needs orthodontia. Here I thought she was bein' nice.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Back to Work

After taking a break from my computer, somewhat induced by my computers (3 of them!) taking a break from me by breaking, it is difficult to know where to start. We have replaced one laptop, given the desktop a quick funeral, and repaired one laptop. To give you an idea of the age of the desktop, it came loaded with Windows Millennium.

Snow is falling outside gently onto ground already frozen by weeks of temperatures below freezing. Our high each day doesn't break 30 F. I have learned to dress in many layers and that in doing so, you can actually get hot while shoveling manure and carrying hay. With the reduced daylight, it seems that I no sooner put the horses out and do stalls, then it is time to go out and reverse the process. The horses stand at the gate wondering what is taking me so long.

I feel sorry for the chickens, who must go outside in their bare feet. I wonder if they make little booties for chickens? They stand, holding one foot up, then the other, fluffing all their feathers trying to warm themselves. Mostly, they get back in their coop to roost under their heat lamp. Small wild birds have discovered their free-choice food and heated water bowl, and the chickens do not seem to mind their company. The wild birds, however, have found they can go in the side of the coop where the heat lamp sits and warm themselves. This is puts them directly over the chickens, however, who emerge each day coated in bird crap. They don't seem to notice.

The winter snow advisory told us to expect 3 to 5 inches of snow. In Kentucky, that causes a great deal of excitement and could, if it happens, shut down the city. Our county schools are indeed already closed and there is less than an inch out there now. At Wal-Mart yesterday, there was more joviality than I observed before Christmas. People were laying in a store of frozen pizza, soda pop, milk and donuts and so on; you know, the necessities. In case they might have a week off to watch TV and eat. Kids were excited for a snow day, because they had been back to school all of two days.

The weather has not had a good effect on my own appearance. Putting on stocking caps and having the frigid wind at my face, I look in the mirror and see Snape looking back at me. I am looking forward to spring.


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