Wednesday, May 07, 2014

This week...

We are all SICK! It started with O waking up with a cough on Saturday morning. The morning of his birthday party. I thought about  cancelling but I knew he wouldn't go for that. What 8 year old would!? So we soldiered on and he had a good day, although I could tell he was tired. For his party he invited his schoolmates over and we had a minion party. O and Morgan created a great obstacle course and the weather was so nice the kids were able to spend most of the time outside. We kept it low key with just cake and ice cream and games. Here is the minion cake I made for him.
When I asked O what his favorite part of his party was he replied, " the presents." When I asked what his second favorite part was he replied, "my minion cake. And it was even better because you made it for me." Aw, that made it all worth it. Even though he's 8 now he's still my snuggle bug. Subsequent parties are going to need to be a little more low key. Or directed by someone else. These kids get crazier every year.

Monday was O's actual birthday (yes, he's a Cinco de Mayo baby!) and he was feeling a little blah that morning but he went to school anyway. After he got off the bus he told me his ear hurt really bad which I figured could only mean one thing, an ear infection. So we headed off to the minute clinic. O has only had one ear infection before, which was only 5 months ago. I thought children mostly had these when they were younger but apparently not Owen. The wait was long at minute clinic and Owen was convinced he was dying. He has his father's flair for the dramatic. He was whimpering and crying and carrying on and I did my best to comfort him while we waited. Fortunately Morgan was on his way home so he grabbed the ibuprophen and brought that over to us. That made a huge difference. Basically it brought O back from the brink of death. By the time we go in to see the NP he had made an almost complete recovery. Except for the actual infection of course. We were able to get antibiotics and get out of there in under 3 hours. Just the way to spend an 8th birthday. Here is O on the brink of death.
He actually took this after he was feeling better but it's a pretty accurate portrayal of what was going on during his throes of pain. He's had more (perceived) near death experiences in his 8 years than anyone I know. Sometimes they've happened twice in one day. I honestly don't know how he manages. It's not that I'm not sympathetic, okay, it is that I'm NOT sympathetic, I'm not very empathetic either. Nevermind, being a child is very traumatic and it's amazing that any of us make it to adulthood. I try my best to be patient and kind and I must do a decent enough job because he seems fine and I don't drink hardly at all. When we were heading home for the evening after dinner at Culver's we drove past the clinic, Owen pointed at it and said in all seriousness, "that is where I faced my death tonight."

Since Owen developed his cough (a nasty one) and ear infection Morgan has come down with some crud too and I have a head cold and sore throat. I'm hoping we can throw open all the windows this weekend and air out the house to get rid of all the germs. I might wipe every thing down with bleach too!

All the illness has distracted me from dwelling on Owen turning 8. EIGHT! Every year I marvel at how we got here. Not because of the near death experiences but because it just goes so damn fast. One of my co-workers was talking about her daughter having her senior pictures taken in a few weeks and was showing me the photographers website. Which was filled with senior photos. While they were all amazing I told her I couldn't look anymore. Some day Owen will be that age and I just can't think about that. Or senior pictures. Or anymore near death experiences. I try to take one day at a time. Moment by moment and enjoy them as best I can without looking so far down the road that it makes me weep.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

One week later...

It's been a week since I assembled the terrarium and so far so good. There are water droplets on two of the plants and several of the cyclamen buds have opened up. Although I'm pretty sure even I have not killed a plant in the span of one week! 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Building a January!

Growing up my mom and grandma both had house plants and gardens. My grandma's house was like a greenhouse on the inside, and outside she grew vegetables and flowers throughout her yard. Plants and gardens and visits to greenhouses are a vivid part of my childhood memories. I think a large part of my grandma's success as a gardener was manure and neglect. She let nature do it's thing and it turned out beautifully. While these memories are fond I also remember at a young age resolving to never have a house full of plants like my grandma did because it was messy and a little unkempt. Despite this resolve I did foster several African Violets and English Ivy for the majority of time I lived in an apartment on my own and then during the first five years of our marriage. After Owen was born all of our plants eventually died. I guess it wasn't in us to keep more than one thing alive at a time. Over the last 12 years in our house we have had a variety of outside gardens and plants and the majority of them have died with the exception of the hostas, which were here before we were and can survive just about anything, two bleeding hearts and a mish-mash of bearded iris. Plants and gardens seem to require attention that I am not capable of giving. Mainly remembering to water them or in some instances not water them so much. Gardening also requires being outside in the summer to do the weeding and the watering which always involves bugs and sweat, two more things I don't care for.

So forgetting my history with the care and feeding of plants I decided it would be fun to jump on the terrarium trend. I have a vague recollection of my mom having one when I was very young and I've always loved the idea of them. Mainly because they are contained within something and not growing with wild abandon all over the place. They also, supposedly, require little attention. Another thing right up my alley.

Prior to building the terrarium I did a little research to find out what I would need to put in it to maximize my chances of success and which plants were best suited to being grown in a terrarium. I have an assortment of glass jars and hurricanes but nothing large enough for plants. Fortunately Crate and Barrel came to my rescue in the form of an e-mail featuring some lovely large jars. Owen and I settled on the 128oz Heritage Jar that has a wide mouth and seemed just about the right size for where I wanted to put it. Rather than wandering the aisles of Home Depot or Menard's gathering the ingredients for the jar I decided to go to one of our local floral and garden centers where I hoped they would be helpful and have all the things I would need. The one closest to us, which I prefer, is not open until April so I had to settle for the bigger chain one. That was both good and bad. Good, because when I went there they had a Build Your Own Terrarium or Mini Garden kit containing all the layers of stuff I needed and bad, because I didn't think their selection of plants was that great and some of them didn't have names on them and no one could seem to tell me exactly what one of them was. But because it was easier and convenient, I grabbed the kit and selected three plants for the terrarium. Normally I take Owen on these kinds of adventures but he was off getting a haircut with Morgan. And when I asked him if he wanted to go with me he said no. Owen isn't real big on leaving the house right now anyway!

The kit came with river rocks, sheet moss, potting soil and charcoal. The small bag in the front is the charcoal. The directions in the kit said to put a layer of charcoal 1/2" thick on top of the river rocks. The kit included about 1/4th cup of charcoal. Which would provide a 1/2" layer of charcoal if I were using a small jelly jar for the terrarium. I added all of the charcoal and am hoping for the best. The purpose of the charcoal is to keep the terrarium from smelling funky. At this point I felt like the people who designed the kit didn't read the directions. I have more than enough rocks, sheet moss and potting soil for a second terrarium but didn't have enough charcoal for even one!

 Here are the terrarium ingredients. The sheet moss is in the back.

I selected cyclamen, peperomia, and arrow plant. At least that's what I think the other two are called! They are about 2" tall.
1 1/2" layer of rive rocks.
1/2" layer of charcoal.
A layer of sheet moss.
This sheet moss is the natural equivalent of glitter. Once I took it out of the bag and started working with it, it was all over the place!
3/4"- 1 1/2" layer of potting soil.
And finally the plants.
The layers of stuff on the bottom and the plants in place.
The finished terrarium on the coffee table.
The directions said to spray it all with water after putting the plants in place. I did not do that for two reasons. I don't have an empty spray bottle right now and the plants were pretty much soaked when I brought them home so I thought I'd let that water dissipate in the soil and then check on them in a few days. Today one of the plants has water drops on many of its leaves so I think for now they are okay. We'll see how it goes. I think it looks nice on the coffee table in the living room, adding a little life in there. Along with the PVC fort and the Lego war that has been taking place for a couple of weeks now. When I mention it might be nice to put the Legos away I'm met with resistance from the republic so the war wages on. The millenium falcon is currently in Mama's Lego fix-it shop though because I stepped on it (OUCH!) in the middle of the night two weeks ago. I think a smattering of Legos laid out on the floor is probably a better deterrent for burglars than having a dog or a gun.

All in all this was a fairly inexpensive and easy little project. It probably only took about 30 minutes and would have taken less time had I not been photographing it at the same time. I may add a couple of small plastic dinosaurs just for fun!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Being faith-full...

There is a popular quote, by who I don't know, that goes something like, "God doesn't give you more than you can handle." I saw it yesterday as, "God doesn't give you more than you can handle. Apparently God thinks I'm a bad-ass." I find this funny and not so funny for a couple of reasons. First, because bad-ass always makes me chuckle and second, because I used to believe the first sentiment to be a way to put into perspective the difficulties that have come up in my life journey. But as I've gotten older and dealt with more "stuff" I've started to look at it differently and maybe just not believe that statement at all. It's always fun to be a little bad-ass though.

Over the last several years I've felt not so full of faith. To be honest I've been rather pissed off at God. Some horrible things happened that I didn't think should have and I've blamed God for them. I feel like he wasn't listening to my and many other people's prayers and those prayers were not answered the way we wanted them to be. But I know I am not alone in my feelings and this happens all the time to people. We get all high and mighty about our faith. I believe in God. God will guide me. God will heal people who are sick because they are good people and this just can't happen to them.

And over the last several years of struggling with my glass half-empty faith I've come to realize some things about that quote and my faith and my journey.

  • God hasn't given us the "stuff" we are dealing with. The "stuff" happens. To everyone. Good people, bad people, faithful people and non-faithful people. Good people die. Bad people get away with murder. I do not believe God's master plan included my friend dying of cancer or her mother losing all of her children. I don't think his plan has the dates of natural disasters written in it. SHIT HAPPENS. And I think the biggest lie people tell is that it is God's will. No, it isn't. A lot of times it's the bad choices we make because we have free will. And many times it just that bad things happen. Not so we can struggle, not so we can suffer but just because.
  • God doesn't pick and choose who lives and who dies. People die because they get sick, or hurt or injured and the treatment they receive isn't enough, doesn't work or can't save them. We are human and we are fragile. But we forget that and blame God when we or someone isn't saved. 
  • The point of prayer is not to ask God for what you want and then expect to get it because you or others have asked for it. When I was in graduate school I had a class called Social Foundations of Education +Teaching Vocation & The mission of the Church and in that class we discussed and explored using prayer in education. One group did a presentation discussing the types of prayer and how to go about doing those with children. The five types of prayers were: blessing & adoration, petition, intercession, thanksgiving and praise. And our prayer can have direction either inward, outward or upward. Our inward prayer is transformative, our upward prayer helps establish, develop and strengthen our relationship with God and our outward prayer is in service to others through our actions. The only part that God plays is to listen. Prayer is our way to God and fosters our relationship with him. Along the way I forgot this. I didn't get what I wanted and I got mad. 
  • The bible is a guide and there is a lot of meaning in it but I don't think the important part is to believe that everything in it is the truth. Or in other words that it all happened the way it is written. The point of the story of Jonah is not that he was a guy who got stuck in a whale. The point is that he learned that God asked him to do something and Jonah learned to have the faith that with God's help and guidance he could do what was asked of him. 
  • God is here even if I don't hear His voice. And He sits with us through our joy, and sorrow. Lots of people talk about hearing God speak to them. I don't hear that. I have often thought that I was the hard soil that the mustard seed falls on or the deaf ears because I don't hear God's voice the way that other people claim to. But I have learned to see God in many things, especially science and nature. I find too many things to be so perfectly orchestrated that it can only be because of a divine hand. I don't think science and theology are at the odds that the media try to make them be.
  • God does not give up on us even if we choose to shut him out. I know my half-empty faith is my fault. I have not wanted to confront my own pain and grief over the loss of my friend and so I harbor resentment and anger toward God. But I know when I am ready that God is ready too. 
I have always believed that struggle is part of faith development and if one isn't wrestling with something; whether it's why bad things happen, or certain passages of scripture or something that is happening in one's life then growth and spiritual development aren't happening. And I guess it's probably time that I start wrestling again rather than being comfortable in my resentment and anger. I am after all kind of a bad-ass!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Tuesday Tidbit...

I thought a fun little way to share some of my favorite tips, household and otherwise, would be with a Tuesday Tidbit post. So this is my first in a series (I hope). 

I love it when I find a way to reuse something. For a long time I've been keeping and collecting the rubber bands that come on produce like broccoli and asparagus. Because they are a little bit wider and heavier than a regular rubber band I have found them to be particularly useful for labeling water bottles. I use Sharpie to write Owen's name on the rubber band and it will stay put for quite some time. Because the bands are small and fit snugly he is not able to remove it easily.

My other favorite use is to put it around the edge of stuck jar lids. I discovered this one day when I was trying unsuccessfully to open a jar and the rubber jar opener thing we had was not helping at all. I began digging around for something else and decided to try one of the wide rubber bands. It worked liked a charm. On jars that I have a hard time with on a regular basis I just leave the band on the lid. If it's a smaller cap like salad dressing or something I just wrap it around twice and it works just as well!

Monday, June 10, 2013


We made it! We are officially on summer vacation. Well, Owen is. I'm on an abbreviated summer schedule which is not unlike my during-the-school-year schedule but I won't be working all the days of the week unless it's imperative.

Last night during our prayers Owen said he was thankful for making it past first grade. I am thankful for that too. SO THANKFUL! It was a lot of work. There was a mommy blogger on the Today Show this morning who had written about how around the end of April or early May she basically checks out. I can empathize. When I was teaching I felt like that about that time of year and I know the kids did too. I also didn't have air conditioning in my classroom so if it was a hot spring it was doubly bad! Being on the other side of the table has been interesting. I don't think I noticed it as much last year as I did this year. Kindergarten, for a variety of reasons, was a crazy and disjointed year. This year was long and hard but full of a lot of success and we were all ready for the end and some time away from the grind.

Owen had a fantastic teacher this year. She has a lot of the same beliefs about teaching that I do and a rather similar teaching style. She is basically who I was 10 years ago. A dedicated, childless parent dedicated to being a good teacher and helping her students do the best they can. And this year, more than before, I realized how being a teacher without children is very different than being a parent or a teacher with children. Which is a big part of why I no longer teach. I want to raise my son and not be a teacher at the same time. I loved my students, as Owen's teacher loved her's; but it's not the same as the way I love Owen. And one cannot know the difference until one is a parent and is (or was) a teacher. And many times this year I found myself thinking back to my years of teaching and wondering if my students' parents thought I was a tough as I thought Owen's teacher was.

This year Owen struggled with reading. The foundation that should have been laid when he was in kindergarten was not, and we weren't aware of the extent of that until he was into first grade. Thus we began the hard work of working on reading with a child who was not happy about doing so much reading and writing and math both in school and at home. And his confidence in his ability to be successful was quite low. As a teacher, one approaches it from a problem solving angle. What skills is the child missing? What strategies will best help the child build those skills? Is there an underlying issue that is keeping the child from progressing? And those are all things that I asked when we began this journey but Owen is also my baby and it broke my heart to watch him struggle and feel so bad about himself. Mamas don't want to watch their little ones hurt and not be able to fix it. And since my experience with first grade was limited to one semester of student teaching almost 15 years ago I was rusty and inexperienced in teaching reading. But the even harder part is that Owen attends an immersion school so he's learning everything in Spanish not English! I feel like I'm a good enough teacher that if I need to teach something I can figure out how to do it and what will work but that's near impossible in a language that I don't know. I don't know how people who don't have a fluent Spanish speaking person at home do it and I'm so thankful that Morgan is. In the end I did a lot of research and applied the same strategies I would use with an English speaking class to working with Owen is Spanish. I just didn't understand a lot of what he was reading or the words he was learning!

Owen's teacher listened to us and our concerns and we listened to her and her concerns and together we came up with a plan that included lots of intervention and tutoring and working on skills at home and reading, reading, reading. And like anyone else, once Owen started to experience some success in what he was doing he began feeling better about what he was doing and what he could do. And things slowly got better from there.

We still have work to do this summer and he expressed his discontent about that on Saturday when I said we were going to the school store to find some stuff to work on for the summer but he eagerly went along after I bribed him with a trip to Dairy Queen after the school store. And because it is so difficult to find materials in Spanish we ended up with a great science experiment kit on Light and only one resource for practicing reading skills! We are also going to begin working on learning to read in English this summer which Owen is quite enthused about. And since he's build a good foundation of reading skills in Spanish I think those will help him immensely. 

This week we jumped right in to summer activities with VBS camp this morning and a Lego engineering class in the afternoon. While Owen is off doing those things I am getting all his learning materials ready! I'm sure he will be so happy when he gets home!

We also have a nice bucket list of summer activities which we've all contributed to. Chief on Owen's list is to go visit his cousins and stay at a waterpark hotel. Today is seems like we have nothing but summer days stretched out ahead of us but I know how quickly it will go so we are going to do our best to relax and enjoy it and each other as much as we can!

Monday, December 10, 2012

The death and resurection of my iMac...

Good morning!  I would like to introduce you to my iMac. 17" of beautiful screen. No fancy wireless keyboard but it does use a purple wireless mouse! And to the left is a lovely, large external monitor. I like to see things up close and 17" isn't all that big. Why you might ask am I introducing you to my computer, well, because not so long ago, just over 2 week to be exact, my iMac died. There had been some signs. The first was a weird R2-D2 noise. If you own a Mac you know there are no R2-D2 noises. Rarely are there noises at all. Unless your Mac is really old (which according to SOME people, mine is). Then there was the flashing file folder with a question mark. These two signs lit a fire under me to acquire a large external HD and back up everything on the computer. The Monday after Thanksgiving I took my iMac to the Apple store where I learned the HD was dying. Throwing up errors was the terminology the genius used. (No, I'm not being funny, the Apple people call themselves Geniuses.) And unfortunately he could not replace the HD for me because they only replace them with what was originally in the machine and that was no longer available. (Because they don't make them that small anymore!) So I took my beloved iMac home to see what I could do about the situation. I cleaned it up with some software that does that and got some space back but that did not seem to help with the errors that kept happening, which presented themselves by locking the computer up and thus requiring it to be turned off with the button. A week after the appointment at the Apple store it officially died. I tried reinstalling the OS but that did not work. I was basically resigned to buying a new one (I know, the horror!) but the thought of spending that kind of money this time of year makes me (and Morgan especially) a little ill. After some contemplation, calling a repair place, and some googling I got a wild hair to put in a new HD myself. I had located a video showing how to do this on YouTube and it took the guy 5 minutes. As long as I had the special screw drivers I should be able to do it. So I got online and ordered a new HD which arrived in 4 days and got the special screw drivers from our friend who is an IT guy. Which might lead you to ask, "Why didn't you ask the IT guy to do it Heather?" Because when I get a wild hair to do something myself everyone better get the hell out of the way. 

Now, because this was going to be a 5 minute task I started it before we were going to have dinner. I took out the screws just like the guy in the video and attempted to lift the back of the computer off just like the guy in the video. And that's where the video and I parted ways. You see the model the guy in the video was working on wasn't EXACTLY like mine, but it LOOKED just like mine so I presumed (or assumed) it would work the same way. I was wrong. WAY WRONG! Morgan thought, as he usually does, that I needed to pull harder on the back of the machine. He always thinks applying more muscle gets the job done faster. Which I suppose is correct except that things often get broken in the process. Morgan thinks strength can compensate for patience. We think differently. So after some sighing and googling and looking through some more videos I found yet another one with the correct model with step by step instructions for installing the HD. A much more complicated step-by-step process than the first video. By the way, the process in the first video was, remove screws, take off cover, disconnect & remove bad HD, install new HD, put cover back on, put in screws. Bada-bing! The second video did not have a Bada-bing. Although it did provide me with some opportunities for cussing (in my head because O was home). 

So here is the first step of removing the FRONT cover (opposite of first video). The LCD sits on top of all the other "stuff" and that needed to be removed. Which would seem simple except that it is held in place by a lot of sticky metal tape stuff. Again, not an opportunity for the muscles. After meticulously unsticking the sticky metal tape stuff I was able to lift up the LCD screen but didn't want to remove it because there was even more sticky metal tape stuff with holes in it (like mesh) at the top, so I just leaned it against something. And the whole time I'm trying, as I was instructed, to not pull the two black wires past the top of the frame!
 Finally it became apparent that I was not going to be able to remove the bad HD without removing the LCD screen so I very gently unstuck the metal mesh tape stuff. (Yes, I know, all very technical stuff.)
 Above is the inside of the computer. That thing in the top middle with the green circuit board on it is the HD. Once I got to all of this it was relatively easy to work. I have little fingers and I can use little tools and follow directions. I can also put things back in the same way I took them out so it wasn't too complicated. Owen kept coming in and asking, "What is that Mama?" and pointing to various things inside the machine. To which I would respond, "heck if I know!" Although I could identify the speakers! 

Once I got the new HD put in and attached it was fairly easy to reassemble and close up. Then came the reconfiguring and installing of the OS. I tried using the original OS but that wouldn't go and since I had a newer version (Snow Leopard) I tried that instead and that's when I got my BADABING! moment! At one point I had a sinking feeling that after my 2 plus hours of work I was going to have to take the whole thing apart again so I could return the new HD and buy a new computer.

Once the OS was installed I was able to reinstall the other software we had been using and do all the updates and makes some other tweaks to things and then transfer all of our music back into iTunes which was safely on the external HD. 

People, I cannot emphasize how important it is to back-up your information. If I hadn't we would have lost all of the music we have purchased over the last (almost) 7 years. I don't want to add up how much that would cost to replace. I have another external HD where I keep photos and portrait files but I really was most concerned about our music and things that I had amassed over the last year. I'm pretty good about keeping important stuff in a safe place and fortunately the Time Machine feature on the Mac is super easy to use. But if I hadn't done it when I did, I would have missed the opportunity because once the HD started going it went pretty quickly. 

Although I cannot upgrade to the newest versions of PSE or get the latest version of Aperture, I saved us well over a thousand dollars by replacing the HD myself. And who knows how long it will last before something else goes on it and we will have to get a new one but so far it's working just like new. And with a 500 GB hard drive vs. the 160 GB it came with originally! And every time I walk past it I have the satisfaction of knowing I fixed it! I love that. 

Now, if I could just figure out what is wrong with the treadmill...