I Love This Woman, Crayfish are Scary, and I Married the Class Clown

Took the kids to the local park today with the homeschool group.   I was hoping while we were there to find something educational to look at in nature.

But I didn’t have to.

Shortly after we arrived, a man and woman came roaring up to the park on their motorcycle.  Nothing wrong with that.  My first date with Darling Husband involved a motorcycle ride.

They jumped off and headed into the park at a brisk walk. Very intense.  There’s a stagnant creek and shallow pond in the middle of the park.  Without warning, the woman flung herself into the pond, getting her jeans all wet, groped through the mossy stagnant goop at the top of the pond, grabbed hold of a snapping turtle and lofted him into the air.

And then, with her other hand, she reached in again and pulled out a water snake!

What a woman!  She was amazing!  I love her!

She allowed the children to gather around her as she told them all sorts of facts about turtles and snakes.  She held the snake’s neck and stretched it out so we could all get a pet.

Clarisse and Me, petting the sweetie-pie snake.

After she told the kids how very, very dangerous snikes are and only trained professionals, like her, should pick them up in the wild, she released the animals back into the pond.  I’m pretty sure she called them “lit’le beauties” in her thick Australian accent.  Then, she and her man hopped back on the bike and roared away.

Ok, she didn’t really have a thick Australian accent and call them “snikes,'” but she might as well have.  She was the female version of the crocodile hunter.

——————-

Whenever kids go to the park, they have fun tormenting the poor crayfish that live in the murky water.  They catch them in buckets, pick them up, then release them back into the water.  Well, not my kids.  My kids are a little wimpy about it, and that’s ok with me!

But this kid picked up a crayfish and we learned that crayfish carry their eggs around with them, as you can see from this lovely picture.  (Shudder.)

——————-

My favorite plants were at the park and I attempted taking pictures of them again this year.  I tried last year and failed to capture the look I wanted from them, and hoped that this year I knew enough about photography to get the shot I wanted.

First was a close up of the little flowers that grow under these things.

Then I tried to show how tall they grow.  They’re kind of short with big leaves, and they remind me of umbrellas.  They look great in nature, but not in this picture.

And here I’m lying in the dirt and gravel of the pathway to get a shot from down low.

I don’t feel that I captured exactly what I’m looking for, and they’ll be gone in a few weeks.  I might head out there and try again this weekend.  Before the snow comes.   Yes, you read that right.  Snow.

It’s 11:46 and there are so many clever and witty things I want to add to this, but, alas, there is no time.  Quick check for grammatical errors, come up with a title and hit publish.  Hate running out of time!  Was out until after 10:00 this evening at a get-together with the church board members and spouses to talk about the church and pray.  Those things are great, until about 3/4 of the way through when Darling Husband’s ADHD kicks into overdrive and he starts leaning over to me and cracking jokes.  And they’re funny. I end up getting the giggles and looking like a loon at the meetings, while he sits there looking innocent.  11:49!!!!!

A Nightmare Comes True: An Intruder In the House!

The day started calmly enough.  The alarm went off at 8:00.  I lazed in bed until 8:30.  At 8:40 I checked to see how many people had read my blog.  All three of you!  Thanks for reading.

Headed to the bathroom.  Was sitting there, quietly minding my own…er…business, when suddenly!  out of the blue!  my biggest fear came true!

An intruder in the house!

He was huge and hairy with blood red eyes and sharp fangs and a million legs!  He heaved himself under the door of the bathroom and started hurtling across the floor.

Some people are afraid of heights.  Others are afraid of snakes.  Or flying.

Me?

I’m afraid of Million Leggers.  Here’s a close up I managed to get as he ran across the floor:

It’s completely irrational.

I don’t overreact with any other bug.  I mean, I don’t like it when a bug is in the house, but I can manage to (mostly) calmly catch the bug in a cup and take it outside where it can be rehabilitated.  In fact, I caught three stinkbugs in the boys’ bedroom today and all you heard me say was a gentle, ““Hey there, little buggy!  Out ya go!”

But not with Million Leggers.  When I catch sight of one of those monsters, all rationality flies out the window and the screaming begins.

And there I was, helpless, on the can, when it came heaving under the door of the bathroom and hurtling across the floor.

And the bathroom is very very small.  I have always loved that little bathroom because the ceramic heater heats it up in about 10 minutes and all winter long I stand in the bathroom by the heater reading books and thawing out.  But when you’re in a very small little bathroom, with a Million Legger the size of beagle, you start to resent little bathrooms.

Million Leggers like to crouch in dark corners.  Like young toughs hanging out in dark alleyways.

This Million Legger took off for the darkest corner he could find in the bathroom, which just so happened to be the corner with my shoes!

Thank goodness they were boots, or he would have flung himself over the sides and curled up in a scary little ball in the toes of the shoes and I’d have had to throw them away.

As you can see from the picture, I was close enough to lean over and rescue the boots, while letting out big whooping shrieks.

He didn’t like his hiding pace being moved, so he took off again.  And now the screaming started in earnest, because, as you can see, he was running right past my feet!

The boys asked later, “Why didn’t you step on him as he went by?” and Darling Husband said, “Because if she did, he would have reached up, grabbed her by the foot and flipped her over.”  Dead right!

He ignored my feet and went for the next darkest corner, and then he started climbing the wall!  So that he’d be closer to my jugular.

At this point, the children noticed their mother shrieking like a crazed loon in the bathroom and came running, calling through the door,  “What’s wrong?!”

“Million Legger!”

They were deliciously disgusted.  I called out, “Get me the bug cup! And make it a big one!”

Boy9 said, “I’m right on it!” and I could hear him thundering away to the kitchen to get one of the plastic cup we use to catch bugs.

While he was getting the cup, I managed to sort myself out without taking my eyes off the bug, so that by the time Boy9 got back with the cup, I was prepared to slam the cup over the bug.

But I missed!  And he went skittering across the floor, past the toilet!  I went dancing from the room as if outlaws were shooting at my feet.

He went under the vanity!

Whereupon, he disappeared!

How?!  How did he disappear?  I was staring right at him.  My Holmes deduction was that Million Leggers really are little aliens and he’d transported back to the mother ship.

I got a flashlight and looked to see if he was stuck to the underside of the vanity.  No….

I waited a moment, and the peeked back into the bathroom, and slowly started to enter, when…

THERE!  There he was, on the wall by the ceramic heater cord!

The shrieking began anew and the boys were jumping about in excitement.  This was bad news, that he was on the wall.  Usually for Million Leggers, I manage to cup them on the floor, and then I leave them under the cup until Darling Husband is available to bravely handle the Million Legger for me.

Without further consideration of what I’d do with the bug once the cup was on him, I covered him with the cup.

Now what?  With other bugs I would slip a piece of paper under the cup and then take the bug out, but that’s a tricky move.  If you don’t do it just right, and the paper’s too flimsy, the cup might lift up a smidge, and the bug can make a desperate dash through the opening.  And Million Leggers are fast.  If he got out of the cup, it would be only one leap onto my arm and then I’d simply die.  There would be no other option.  Instant death.

Holding the cup firmly, I told the boys, “Quick!  Get me four pieces of paper!” The boys were so overwhelmed with glee at the shrieking and the hunting and catching of the bug, that they started running in opposite directions and bumped into each other.  I was worried that the Million Legger would gnaw a hole in the cup while the boys were looking for paper, but eventually they got me the paper.  I folded the four sheets in half with my free hand and slipped it under the cup.

The next tricky part is getting the paper from the wall without making an opening for the bug to shoot out of.

Fortunately, it wasn’t my day to die, and I got the cup away from the wall.

“Boys!  Open the door!”  Again they ran about in circles for a bit, but the door was finally opened.  There was no way I was going to be anywhere near the cup when the angry bug came out of it, so with another blood curdling shriek, I threw the cup into the yard as far as it would go, paper and all, and slammed the door shut.

——————

Later in the day, I was putting a few toys away in the attic.  I reached for this car.

And felt something drop onto my hand!  A Million Legger!

No, no…just a stinkbug.  I’m not afraid of stinkbugs.

No, wait!  Yes I am!  When they’re on my hand, yes I am afraid of stinkbugs.  I shrieked, flung the bug across the room, and he waddled off into a crack in the attic floor.

Boy7 called up the stairs, “You ok?!”  “Yes.  I just picked up a stink bug by accident.  Everything’s ok.”

——————-

Here are some pictures of dandelions in a field.

Sun glare-in the dark area at the top. Hard to see when the picture is small.

This was my first picture and there was that sun spot/glare thing going on.  An idea popped into my head: is my UV filter making the glare?  Took off the filter and the glare went away.  Who knew?

No sun glare

Here are a couple more pictures of the field.   They’re soothing after those terrifying bug pictures.

Girls Squeak and Boys Drool

I got a call yesterday morning at 8:40.  8:40?!  My kids aren’t toddlers anymore.  This means that I can sleep in until whenever I want.

Yes, you read that right.

I get to sleep in until whenever I want!  Or until 8:30, whichever comes first.

Ok, ok.  8:30 comes first, so I don’t technically get to sleep in to whenever I want, but 8:30 is stinkin’ sweet!

I sleep in late because I stay up late.  This wasn’t always true.  I used to go to bed early and get up early.  Had to.  If I wanted my bowl of ramen noodles for breakfast before work (and I did), then I had to get up extra early.

And then I had babies, which meant sleep was all mixed up and gotten in bits and pieces.

And now the babies are seven and nine years old.  And they kind of like their free time to play in the morning without Mom interfering.  And I kind of like staying up late writing blogs and reading books and watching tv.

So…I got a call yesterday morning at 8:40.  I was still stumbling around the house trying to find the bathroom at 8:40.  I let the answering machine get it.

It was a request for babysitting for this morning at….(are you ready?)…7:45 a.m.! 

7:45!  I haven’t gotten up at 7:45 since…well, since Sunday.  We go to church early, so I get up at 6:00 on Sunday, but still!  7:45 on a Wednesday?!  That’s just crazy!

I waited to call back about the babysitting until 7:00 that night.  Maybe by then, she’d have gotten someone else to help her.  Because I knew I was going to say yes.  She asked me to watch the kids because she needed blood work done.  You can’t tell someone, “No, I’m so self-centered that I will not watch your three young children while you’re having shards of metal stuck in your arm.”

No one else had stepped up to watch the kids, so I got the job.  Which meant I had to head to bed early.  I wrote The Blog extra fast yesterday, which is why it was just a long story about stinky socks.  I mean, seriously.  An entire post about stinky socks?  Oh, and that butt rash that poor trainee got.  You’re all hoping that I never get asked to babysit at 7:45 in the morning ever again.

And then…what to do with these three kids?  The two oldest were pretty easy to handle.  They’ve been drooling over our Game Cube for a while now.  I sat them down with Boy7 and he taught them how to play on it and they were happily mesmerized by Juan for the entire hour.

But the Girl3?  What to do with her?  I don’t know what to do with a Girl3.  I have a Boy9 and a Boy7.

First I showed her the mouse.  There’s only one left now.  Little Rose died a couple of weeks ago.  I put her in the box that my rose perfume came in.  It seemed fitting for Rose to be buried in the rose perfume box.  I put the box in a bag for us to bury her later, but I forgot about it until now.  (Thursday to do list: bury mouse.)

Girl3 took one look at the mouse and started speaking in the squeakiest voice I’ve ever heard.  Male children cannot duplicate the squeakiness of a female child.  It was a bizarre sound, though I’m sure those of you with daughters are familiar with it.

After she was done squeaking at the mouse I gave her some Playmobil toys to play with.   I heard her saying, “Nay nay,” and thought, “What an archaic way to say ‘no’.”  Then I realized she was holding a horse and it was neighing.

Another difference between boys and girls:  My boys have never said, “Nay” or “Baa” or “Bark.”  They make the actual noise.  And horses don’t make a delicate “Nay” sound.  When I was a child I was always so impressed by how the boys could sound exactly like the animal they were mimicking.  Now that I have boys of my own, I have discovered the secret.  The secret is that boys don’t mind spraying spit everywhere and having strings of drool stuck to their chins.  You can’t make accurate sounds without a lot of spit.

After she squeaked at the mouse and played with the horse, she got hold of one of my boys’ lightsabers.  Boy9, who loves to babysit babies and small children, was idly sitting near Girl3 playing on his DS, so she stabbed at him with the lightsaber and said, “I kill you dead!”  Without taking his eyes from the DS, he hammed up playing dead, so she stabbed him again and said, “I kill you dead.”  Without taking his eyes from the DS, he hammed up playing dead again.

And, I swear I am not exaggerating, she stabbed him and said, “I kill you dead” while he hammed up playing dead, never taking his eyes off the DS, for the next thirty minutes!  And neither one got tired of it.  I tried to rescue Boy9 after 10 minutes of this, but he said, “It’s ok, Mom.  She’s happy.”

I sat in the kitchen eating a pancake and watching Desperate Housewives, relaxing.

What a great morning!

——————–

I didn’t get a picture of all the stabbing.  Instead I got a picture of the rain on the windshield, my umbrella, and my empty bag of sugar snap peas.  It’s a twenty minute ride home from the grocery store.   The peas don’t stand a chance.

If you’ve been following my blog, then you’ll know that it rains, sleets or snows every single time I go grocery shopping.

The Chair of Plague and The Sock of Doom

We do our math work on the couch, except for Boy7 who had to start using his school desk because he wouldn’t stop doing headstands on the couch.  Here he is at the desk:

He likes it, except he says the chair is uncomfortable.  Tell me about it, kid.  Twelve years of Uncomfortable, and I lived to tell the tale.  School chairs are the worst.  Remember them?  They had the metal legs with the little flat feet attached to the leg by a ball socket so that you could lean a bit back in the chair before the foot left the ground.  But if you leaned back too far, you’d be on the rim of the flat foot and your odds of crashing to the floor increased exponentially with each millimeter you leaned back.  We learned more about physics from those chairs than from any old dusty tome, let me tell you.

The seat parts of the chairs were made of who-knows-what.  I’m pretty sure it was cast iron.

When I was a corporate trainer, some of the chairs in the third floor training room were made out of a soft plastic, which was comfortable, but tended to retain heat.  One poor trainee ended up with a heat rash on her bottom and we had to switch out her chair for one of the cloth ones in the waiting room.  You all know my immature sense of humor by now, and I’ll tell you I was hard-pressed not to let out an unladylike snort of laugher when she had to announce to us that she needed a new chair because the plastic one was giving her a heat rash on her butt.  She’d actually gone to the doctor about it because she didn’t know what it was. How do doctors ever keep a straight face?

Learning sure isn’t for the faint of heart.

Boy9 hasn’t had to use his school desk yet.  He sits next to me doing his math.  Today we were snuggled together on the couch, trying to learn the lesson, when a violent odor reached my nose.  I’ve not smelled a stench like this since I was pregnant and was burdened with the olfactory capacity of a bloodhound. Pregnancy is no walk in the park.  There are things on this earth that are not meant to be smelled.

So, there we were, listening to the teacher on the math DVD explain fractions, when the Horrible Stench reached my nose.  I felt a pain in the back of my throat from the cloud of green smog I’d inhaled.  With watering eyes, I cast about looking for the source of the ghastly pong.

Boy9’s filthy-sock-encased foot was lying on my leg.  I could actually see the wavy lines of malodorousness rising beneath my beleaguered nose.

I had to pause the DVD and tell Boy9 to “Change your socks!  I cannot work under these conditions!”  They don’t give homeschooling parents hazard pay.

Of course, he was completely delighted with his stinky socks and took his sweet time changing them.   He came back and the stench was gone….for a few minutes.  But then, as his foot warmed the new sock, the odious odor started up again.

The dread truth dawned: it wasn’t the sock–it was the foot!

We had to pause the DVD again and head off to the tub for him to wash his foul feet.

Later, I attempted to walk through the room where the laundry basket with the dirty socks was.  The entire room was covered in the green cloud of stench.  The poor mouse in her cage was lying on her side, panting shallowly.  Holding my breath, my strength quickly waning, I managed to crawl from the room to safety, dragging the mouse cage behind me.

If I didn’t act quickly, those dirty socks would take on a life of their own and provide the plot for a B movie titled simply, “Sock.”  Clothes pin on my nose, I had to double bag the socks and put them in the outside trashcan.  I’ll be calling the trash pickup company to warn them.  They get hazard pay, I’m pretty sure.  They’ll need it.

Come to think of it, maybe I should have burned them in the fireplace.  Those socks are in the trash can outside, nursing a growing anger at being banished from the family.

If you don’t see a new blog post by midnight tomorrow, you’ll know that “Sock” will be coming soon to a theater near you.  My last wish is that you’ll let the movie makers know that I want my part played by Angelina Jolie.  We have a strong resemblance to each other.

Little Bo Peep Ate The Sheep

Every year the Carroll County Arts Council holds a Peep Show.  Not that kind of peep show.  At this peep show everything is made of marshmallow peeps.  I posted some pictures of the art at the show a few blog posts ago, here.   Anyone can enter an artistic creation, from children all the way to serious  artists. Of course, how serious of an artist can you be if your medium is marshmallow peeps?  But I digress.

This year, I created an entry of my own for the show.  Now that the show is closed, I will post my creation for you.

Are you ready?

Ok, but before you see it, I do need to clarify something.  The one small flaw with my picture is that the peep itself is hard to make out.  It looks like a giant yellow blob, and if you don’t know it’s a peep, it can take a while to understand the picture.  I wasn’t worried about that for the Peep Show.  At the Peep Show, my picture was surrounded by thousands of peeps, so anyone viewing the picture would immediately recognize the yellow blob in my picture as a peep.  You, innocent reader of the blog, may not have recognized it without the heads up.

With that clarified, here it is:

Click on the picture to read the caption

And now I’ll tell you how the creation came to be.  This particular picture was a collaborative effort.  I don’t often ask for help for these types of pictures, because I want my work to be my own, but in this case, I had lots of help.

First, I needed an idea for the Peep Show.  I’ve done a few humorous storybook character photographs in the past, and I know that if I mull over the story long enough, inspiration will strike.  In fact, I wrote about the first one that I attempted back in January.  Here it is if you feel like looking at it. 

Peep. Little Bo Peep.  Lost sheep.  But how to turn that into something humorous?  It’s only funny if something bad happens to the sheep.  Maybe they could be stuck somewhere.  Maybe Little Bo Peep doesn’t want anyone to find her sheep, so she hid them.

I asked the kids, “Hey kids, if Little Bo Peep’s sheep weren’t really lost, but something else happened to them, what could have happened to them?”

And like all sweet and charming children, the boys immediately said, “She ate them!” and then they gave Doctor Evil mwa-ha-ha laughs.

Little Bo Peep ate the sheep!

Yes! That’s it! Little Bo Peep knows exactly where the sheep are…because she cooked them in…

…in what?  What’s something she could cook them in that I could take a picture of?

An omelet!  I could have chopped up veggies and my little wooden sheep mixed into the eggs.  I started working on the wording for the caption,  “Contrary to popular belief…”

When Darling Husband got home I couldn’t wait to tell him my wondrous idea.  But when I did, he gave me a frowny face and said something like, “Isn’t that a little macabre? Don’t children come to the show?”

“Macabre?  Sure.  But it’s funny!”

“Yes…it’s funny…but what if the Peep Show won’t accept it because it’s too creepy for families with children?”

So I started brainstorming with Darling Husband for alternatives to the cannibalistic peep.  I still liked the caption, but other than in a frying pan, where else could the sheep be?

She could be selling them!  Darling Husband came up with the words “Cash for Sheep,” which was just beautiful.

I decided to photograph both ideas and see which one worked better.  If the Peep Show people rejected my cannibalistic peep, then I would have the Cash for Sheep as a backup.

First I took the Omelet pictures, because frankly, I still liked that idea best.  I decided to have Bo Peep frying her omelet on the grill outside.  It seemed fitting that Bo Peep would be out in the fields making her omelet.

I took the picture, and let Darling Husband look at it.  Here it is:

Omelet

He didn’t like it!  He said that the sheep looked like a yellow blob and no one would know what it was.  I said, “It’ll be at the PEEP show and everyone will have seen a billion PEEPS so when they get to my pictures with the caption reading about Little Bo PEEP….they’ll get it.”  Yes, I was snippy.  Darling Husband just shrugged and said, “You still can’t tell what it is.  Where are her bonnet and crook? Not to mention that the pools of blood are creepy.  ”

Pools of blood?!  Those are tomatoes.  I think he was just trying to rile me up at that point.

So, I sent a copy to my friend Jo-Ann cold, with no explanation, just the picture and the caption, to see if it would make sense.

And it didn’t make sense to Jo-Ann, either, so Darling Husband was right.  Jo-Ann thought the sheep was an artichoke.

Back to the drawing board, and this time I started working on the Cash for Sheep picture. I sent this one to Jo-Ann.

She liked the Cash for Sheep better than the omelet one.  She said, “There’s something about the sheep in the pan that makes it get a little lost. Although I like the concept. I like the bow & crook addition.”

And then I sent them both to Scott for his critique of the execution of the photography.  He gave me a bunch of very helpful pointers (as I knew he would), which required that I re-take the pictures again.

After Jo-Ann and Scott’s assessments, I decided to forget about the omelet idea and focus on the Cash for Sheep idea and, after a total of 147 attempts, including the omelet pictures, I finally got the version that I entered into the show.  Here it is again, so you don’t have to scroll back up to see it:

What makes the last one work better than the 146 others?  A bunch of things:

The crook is well placed.

The sheep that is watching looks concerned, “Where are they taking the other sheep?”

The Cash For Sheep truck is somewhat blurry, but not too blurry,  so that it takes you a beat to read it and get its implications.

The placement of the truck on the background left and Peep in the foreground right gives the picture a nice symmetry.

The low angle was juuust right, not looming above Bo Peep and not so low that the grass gets in the way.  It took me a bunch of shots to get the angle just right.  I had to lie down in the grass to get it, to the bemusement of my neighbors.  Yes, they did come out to see what I was doing.

In the end, people seem to have enjoyed the picture.  When I went to see it at the show, I could hear a number of people chuckling over it, and that was gratifying.

And now I just have to find a place in the house  to hang a 16×20 photo of a marshmallow peep.

What? No Stories?! Just a Bunch of Stupid Pictures?!

Today I went on a Photo Walk around Gettysburg.  It’s the second one I’ve done with this group and today we chose to walk around the Evergreen Cemetery in Gettysburg.

I had a wonderful time.  We spread out in the cemetery keeping each other in line of sight, but mostly wandering around reading the headstones, quietly taking our pictures, and enjoying the day.   When we did catch up to each other, the conversation was pleasant and quiet, as befitted the setting.

It’s a bit late and I’m worn out from my day and spent a long time playing around with my pictures, so instead of writing much, I’m going to post before and after images of my photos.

Here goes, pictures are posted in the order in which they were received/taken. Don’t forget that if you click on them, you can see them larger.

I was pleased with the composition–the big tree, the little canons, the sky behind the tree, but didn’t like the sign in front of the tree, or the little marker on the left in the foreground.

So, I played a lot with colors, considered black and white, tried to make the sky a little bluer, but then had fun making the sky redder (redder?  that’s not a word.)  In the end, I went with this orange sky and I removed the sign and the little marker.

I liked the way this bus looks like it’s abandoned in the woods and getting covered with vines.  It’s not.  It’s sitting in the parking lot, but from this angle you can’t tell.  I also like how you can pretend that the canon is active, and the war is taking place while spectators are watching in their bus.

I left this picture pretty much entirely alone, except for bumping up the shadows.  Bumping up the shadows seems to make the colors richer as well, and I like it.

There’s a big statue of a General riding on his horse, maybe twenty feet high?  I don’t know.  It’s high.  I laid on the ground and took this picture zoomed on the horse’s face.  The horse looks scared in this shot.  I took the same picture at a different exposure, and I must have shifted juuuust enough that he doesn’t look as scared in any of the other shots.

So, I stuck with this shot and played with the shadows (again), which brought out the tiniest bit of color and makes his eye look better.

Canon wheel out of focus, cows in focus.

Same picture with shadows darkened and highlights lightened.

Same angle, only this time the wheel is in focus and the cows aren’t.

Adjusted with darker shadows and lighter highlights.

This is the gatehouse which is the entrance to the cemetery.  When I turned to look at the arch, I could see the field I had just been standing in with the statues and canons.  I thought I might be able to turn the arch into a kind of frame.

I worked on this picture on the computer for a bit, but started getting tired and instead of learning how to add clouds to the sky (because I have a bunch of cloud pictures!) I just burned the sky a little and called it a day.  The sky is horrible, I know, but I’m not working on it any more tonight.

I liked this carving of a rose on this headstone for Amanda M, who died June 10, 1877 and had this carved on her headstone: “Our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none …” I can’t make out the last word.  It looks like “abiding” but I’m not sure that makes sense.

Increased shadow, decreased saturation of colors.  I wish I was just a smidge more in front of this rose.  I took a shot head on of it, but that was pretty dull, so I tried this sideways shot, but now it’s almost too sideways.  But it’s still a nice carving.

I love this.  It wasn’t intended to be a scary face, I’m sure, but over the years, the carving has been eroded and there are cracks in it that turn it into a creepy face.  I spent a lot of time taking pictures of this from many different angles and different zooms.  The stone work was on top of a stone for a woman who died 10 days after giving birth.  Directly in front of her stone another stone had been placed–so close it was touching hers, where the baby, who lived for only four months after the mother died, was buried.  “Dear Kate and Our Babe” was carved on the stone.

I tried a lot of different things with this one to try to create the mood I wanted.  In the end, I used a preset thingee called Cross-Process which makes things sort of bluey-yellowy-ish.  I didn’t use the full cross-process; I toned it down, and I’m sure I played with shadows.  Because pretty much every picture that I take, I play with shadows.

The saddest graves were the ones for children.  Before I had children, I probably wouldn’t have been as bothered, but now that I have kids, these headstones bothered me a lot.  The children were given either much smaller headstones than adults, or they were given more ornate headstones, like the one above for little George.

I thought George looked better with more foliage behind him, so I added some more.  He also got the shadow treatment.

This one was for John, who was five years old when he died.

I played a lot with settings on this one.  Desaturated, warmed the temperature. Added a border on a whim.

If you look carefully, you’ll see a fuzzy blob under the sheep’s chin.  Someone put a stuffed sheep there, and it’s half disintegrated.

Played with saturation, shadow and temperature for the above.

If you made it this far, congratulations!  This was some pretty dull writing.  If I had the energy I’d tell you all sorts of stories from my childhood of all the picnics my parents took me on in the graveyard and how the dog mistook my mother for a headstone and peed on her and about how my parents would scare me with stories about the ghosts of little dead children coming to haunt me, and how we’d plan to have elaborate headstones with carvings of all our pets on them, but I’m tired so I’ll tell you another time.

Tragedy for Lynn, a Pet Peeve, and Dagnabbit, I want my Potatoes!!

The blog posts I most enjoy writing are the ones that have an actual point to them, where the entire post is about one thing and I can tell a story or explore an idea from beginning to end.

This one won’t be one of those.  It’s 10:15, I’m just starting to write and I have no clever ideas of what to write about.

On those days (this day), I write strictly about what happened throughout the day.  Which makes sense, being that the whole point of this blog is for me to keep track of what happens every day for a year.

First was Photo Club.  However, due to many differing circumstances, the only two members attending Photo Club this week were Gerhard and me.  For the past couple of days, we wrote back and forth on Facebook figuring out what we were going to do.  We settled on a field trip to the local diner.

Gerhard lives in the house at the other end of my street, so we carpool to Photo Club.  As soon as I got in the car he said, “Well, should we head right to the diner?”  And I said, (and I shouldn’t have) “No, let’s stop by the church to see if anyone new shows up to Photo Club.”

Of course, no one new was going to show up.  I mean, what are the odds?  On the day when none of the members were going to make it and my chipped beef gravy over homefries with sweet tea was waiting for me…surely this would not be the day that someone new showed up, right?

Oh so wrong.

Yup.  New person showed up.  Wanted to learn how to use her camera.  Didn’t have her manual.  Gerhard looked over her camera to figure out how her settings worked and we all chit-chatted while he did.

Gerhard is from Germany.  I’m not sure if this is true of all people from Germany, but Gerhard talks very slowly and deliberately.  Which makes him a great storyteller.  Every word is carefully chosen and profound.

The new lady was from upstate New York and talkedveryquickly.

I was entertained.

And thirsty.

If I’d had known there was going to be a newbie at Photo Club I’d have brought a drink.  Oh, I was thirsty.  And missing my potatoes.

Came home, ate an early lunch, and decided to hang the prize I won at Bunco last night.  You can see it in the picture below.  As I was hanging it, Darling Husband was washing dishes in the kitchen.  There I was, on the stool, tying the prize into place, when the kitchen window flies open and Darling Husband calls out, in great alarm, “Where’s the sock?!?!

He was so distracted by the hanging of the prize that he didn’t noticed that the sock was still there, safe and sound.

Find the sock.

Which reminds me of a story someone once told me.  (It’s 10:30, I don’t have time for stories!  Ahhh!  Here’s the story:)

One day Lynn was driving to work on the Baltimore Beltway.  Traffic was at a standstill from a car accident (as usual.)  As she neared the accident, she noticed that the car looked exactly like her mother’s car.  Hmmm.  Her mother drove that same route to work every day.  She inched closer and sure enough…it was her mother’s car!

In a panic she changed lanes until she was pulled over on the side of the road, right next to the accident.  She burst out of her car, crying and screaming, “That’s my mother!”  The police held her back until she explained, then they led her to her mother, who was strapped down on a gurney, with her head in a brace.

Lynn looked down at her poor mother.  Her poor mother looked up at her, her eyes scared and confused.  Lynn kept sobbing, “Mother, mother!  Are you ok, Mother?”

She followed them onto the ambulance.  And that’s when she looked a little closer at her mother.

Huh?  That’s not my mother! 

It wasn’t her mother!  It was some other woman who looked nothing like her mother!  She had to tell the police, “Er…that’s not actually my mother.  I don’t know this woman…” and slink off back to her car.

So, you can see, that when people panic they don’t always see things clearly, which is why Darling Husband couldn’t see the sock that was still right where it should be.

And that poor woman on the gurney must have had quite a fright:  “I’m her mother?  Oh no!  I have amnesia!  I can’t recognize my own daughter!

After hanging the prize, I wanted to sort out and clean up some toys that were all over the attic floor.

No I didn’t.  What I really wanted to do was to take my book and hide in the nice, warm attic and sit on the bean bag chair and read it with a soda and some Doritos.  And that’s what I did, sort of.  I had the book, bean bag chair and soda, but no Doritos.

Which reminds me of one of my pet peeves.  When I’m planning on sneaking to eat the last of the bag of Doritos, I just hate it when Darling Husband has the same idea, only he gets the idea first.  I had to make do with Easter “fun-sized” Butterfinger candy bars.

At the end of the day when no one felt like making dinner, Darling Husband said, “We should eat dinner at Li’s Buffet.”  He’s really smart and clever like that.  That’s why I married him.  I said, “We can take a board game and play it while we eat,” which sent him into his second panic of the day and he immediately deflected my attack by saying, “How ’bout we see if Gerhard and Janet want to come?”

Due to a misunderstanding, I thought Janet didn’t like going to Li’s Buffet, so I said, “Well, I don’t think Janet will want to go,” to which Darling Husband immediately replied, “How about Claude and Kendra then?”  He was angling to make me forget about the board game.

We called Claude and Kendra.  No answer.  While Darling Husband called, I popped on to Facebook to let the Photo Club people know we’d had a guest at Photo Club.  I suppose they didn’t really care, but I thought it was a little funny that the one day none of them showed up, we had a guest.  And lo and behold, Gerhard was online.

So I went ahead and invited Janet and him to Li’s buffet.  They were out the door and ready to go in ten minutes. And Janet was distressed that anyone could ever let the idea cross their minds that she didn’t want to go to Li’s Buffet.  She loves Li’s buffet!

After we ate a lovely dinner and had a lovely conversation and were just starting our ice cream, who should call but Claude?  And where were Claude and Kendra headed?  Li’s Buffet!

So, we all had a second round of dinner and some more lovely conversation and I made sure to eat lots and lots of potatoes.  They didn’t come with chipped beef gravy, but they did have a lot of butter.  Mmmmmm.

Chinese potatoes

I See My Classmate and I Want Him Painted Black

Homeschool co-op today.  I teach an art class.  Today we used black paint.  Black paint!  I was nervous and jumpy the entire time: eleven children all painting with black paint!   I was picturing having to mollify the angry parents of paint-covered children.  Fortunately the kids resisted the urge to paint the child next to them with the black paint.  I was so proud.

I’m a little bemused by my status as Teacher to these kids.  When I arrive at co-op, the students will catch sight of me and holler across the room, “Hello, Ms. Lizard!” and wave and grin.  If they’re close to me sometimes they’ll lean against me or give me hugs, or launch into long involved stories about their favorite toys.

Since these kids are homeschooled, I’m one of the very few official teachers they’ll ever have.  And I’m realizing from the way they seem to adore me that I’m like everyone’s kindergartner teacher.  They say that you never forget your kindergartner teacher.  I’m not sure that’s true, because I don’t remember mine, but that’s what they say.  Most people must remember their kindergartner teachers because they’re sweet and kind and kindergarten is when you do the fun stuff.  Being the art teacher means I’m like the fun kindergartner teacher.  It’s a sweet deal, but also a big responsibility.  I don’t want to let them down.

The kids just want you to be approving and kind and to laugh at their jokes and listen to their stories and Be Nice.  And that never really goes away.

When I worked, I was a corporate trainer at a health insurance company.  One group of people arrived in my training room, quiet and stony-faced.  Slowly, as the week of training progressed, they loosened up.  By the last day, they admitted to me that they’d been scared of the training.  They knew they were pretty bad at learning the stuff I would teach.  They were right about that; they were the most difficult group of people I’ve ever taught!  They Just Didn’t Get It.  And they were afraid I would yell at them.  They said, “We were scared of you and thought you would be mean to us.  But you were nice!  Thank you for being nice to us.”

It seemed sad that they thought they would be yelled at for not understanding what they were being taught.

I should track those people down and teach them some art sometime.

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Played Bunco with friends this evening.  It was at Wendy’s house so you know the food was good.  Oh, the food was good.  One woman kept trying to get us to stop eating the pasta salad because she’d been promised the leftovers.  We sneaked bites when she wasn’t watching.

I’m not sure how to describe Bunco, but it has something to do with moving everyone around to different seats and doing your best to get the comfy seat at each table.  Then there was something else about not forgetting to keep score, which was tricky.  Who can remember to keep score in the middle of a rousing game of Bunco?  And if you get Bunco, then you have to kiss a fuzzy dice and put it down your shirt.  I never really understood that part.

Wendy was queen of the day, as she won all of the Bunco categories.  Floating on a giddy high of victory, she insisted that I include her scorecard on The Blog.  So, here it is in all its glory:

If You Want the Baby to Sleep, Ditch the Mozart and Play that Baby Some 80’s Rap.

Took the kids to see the Lancaster Symphony Orchestra practice today.  During a pre-talk before the practice session, I put Clarisse on my lap, where she’s be discreet and no one would notice her, and used the swivel screen to get a few shots of the columns.  I guess I wasn’t as discreet as I thought since an usher leaned over to tell me that photography wasn’t allowed.  Whoops.  They probably announced that during the first minute of the talk I missed because I was in the hallway taking pictures of the light fixtures outside the bathrooms.

Lovely lightbulbs.

We were at the practice session for the orchestra because I have to find clever ways to educate the children about music without actually educating them all by myself.

See, my taste in music is just dreadful.  I rarely tell anyone what kind of music I like, because it’s such horrid and immature music for someone who’s almost 40.  I’m supposed to like classy music by now, something soft with a jazzy drum in the background.  But I don’t.

Part of educating the children is to expose them to beautiful music.  Blech.  I don’t like beautiful music.  I like catchy tunes with lots of words to sing along to and maybe a few “oooo-oooo’s” mixed in.  Commercial jingles are always welcome.

I might make some headway in teaching Boy7 about music, but I’m sure it’s a lost cause for Boy9.  He has my same dreadful taste in music and apparently it’s inborn.

When Boy9 was a baby he fought going to sleep at night.  He’d scream and cry and flail, even if you held him, and would not sleep.  As the old saying goes, music calms the savage beast, so we tried playing music for him.

We started with Mozart.  He screamed louder.  Maybe Vivaldi?  Nope.  Bach?  Uh uh.  Perhaps some Disney Soundtracks?  Celtic stuff?  Nope and nope.

Until this song.  Beastie Boys Rhymin and Stealin.  No, don’t read the words.  They are not words you sing as a lullaby to your tiny little baby.

From the first swoosh-boomp of the drums, he stopped crying and his little head perked up.  After a couple of stanzas he was quietly cooing.  And then, by the end of the song, he was fast asleep.

And he fell asleep to Rhymin and Stealin for the next year.  He often went from a throaty all-out wailing to sleeping like a…er…baby by the second verse.

Darling Husband is the opposite of me.  While I only like ridiculously obvious music with strong melodies and lots of drums and words to sing along to, he likes music that is so subtle and refined that most Americans can’t stand it.  He especially enjoys Chinese classical music that is so oblique that it has no discernible melody.  Just sounds of plucking strings and random twanging noises, maybe with an old man weakly warbling in the background.  Oh, how he loves the stuff.

And, oh how I hate it.

Yeah, long road trips in our car aren’t a lot of fun.

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Here’s one more illegally gained picture from the Fulton Theater in Lancaster:

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Dinner tonight:  Empress Garden Chinese Food.  House Mei Fun.  Oh yum!

Give that Boy a Goat Herd and Rage Against the Machine

Though we like the idea of homeschooling while cuddled on the couch, Boy7 has been getting increasingly wiggly over the past few months. There we are sitting on the couch, nestled in our blankets, huddled over a math book when I turn away to pick up a pencil and boom!, the child is sitting on his head with his feet waving in the air and I’m in danger of being kicked in the teeth.  Enough is enough.  I brought up a school desk from the basement today.

Thankfully, seven year olds are curious little creatures and the idea of sitting at a school desk is a novel one, so the transition was easy.  He happily sat at his kid-sized school desk and doodled all over his math page.

I’ve decided to officially start teaching the boys Home Economics beginning with laundry and dishwashing.  If Bedouin children can care for an entire flock of goats by the age of 3, surely my kids can figure out how to spin the dial on the washing machine.  It’s not like in the olden days when their arms would be ripped off in the squeezing dryer thingee.

I was inspired to begin the training early after listening to my Soup Day friends groan over how difficult it is to teach their teenagers how to do things around the house.  If I start now, before the children are bigger than me, I can still stifle a revolt by pinning the child to the ground and tickling him until he says uncle.

My Soup Day friends had me a little nervous about teaching Home Ec.  Gee would I even be able to teach my kids?  And then this morning it hit me: I homeschool the kids.  I homeschool the kids!  Duh!! I’ve taught them every single thing they know.  For good or ill, it’s all on me, and has been all along.

Yes, teaching children is probably one of the most frustrating tasks of my life, but I’m so numbed to it by now that teaching Home Ec should be just one more frustration in an already frustrating day.  If teaching them to read, which was pure agony, didn’t kill me than nothing will.

Speaking of frustrating, today had its moments.

I headed off to Gettysburg library for some art books I’ll need for Friday’s co-op.  After the library I was going to get my grocery shopping done.  And yes, it snowed today.  It was a freak snow squall that lasted only about 5 minutes, but I promise you, when I say that it rains, sleets or snows every grocery shopping day, I’m telling you the truth.

Anyway, I didn’t want to drive from Gettysburg to Hanover to do my grocery shopping, so for the first time ever, I decided to go to Giant in Gettysburg.

On the drive to the library, I got a call from Gerhard. “Hey.  Did you ever find your Nasalcrom?”  “Not yet.”  “Well, I’m at the Gettysburg Giant and they have it here.  Would you like me to pick it up for you?” “(!) No, actually, I’ll be there within the hour.  I’ll get it myself.”

As I’m driving along, I can’t help but notice that the weird weather has made some gorgeous shadows on the landscapes around me.  There’s an odd mixture of threatening black storm clouds and big puffy white cottony clouds and large patches of sunlight on everything.  Very moody.  The battlefield with its canons and monuments looked spectacular.

I was very tempted to take pictures, but no.  Need to stay on task: library, grocery shop.

Couldn’t park in the library parking lot because only the compact car spots were left.  Couldn’t find my library book because the librarians are crafty.  They don’t want to be out of jobs, so they hide the good books from the customers so you’re forced to ask for help finding them.  Then they roll their eyes at you and lead you to the trap door under the water fountain where they keep the oversized art books, and shake their heads at you for not figuring this out on your own.  Theirs is a reign of intimidation.

Dealt with those mild frustrations and then drove to Giant, considering whether I should stop for pictures or not….no….gotta get the shopping done.

This Giant is a foreign store, so I had to wander far and wide to find the things I wanted.  Got to the allergy medicine aisle and I could not find the Nasalcrom.  But I knew it was there.  Gerhard said there were five boxes of the stuff not an hour ago.  Where’s the blasted Nasalcrom?  I stared and stared and looked and looked and was seriously on the verge of throwing a weeping fit…when I found it.  Which makes me wonder if it was in all the other stores, too and I just couldn’t find it.

Then I made the mistake of going to the self-check-out register.  I’d heard other people talk about how frustrating the self-check-out register can be.  And I scoffed.  C’mon people, how hard can it be?  People who can’t figure out the self-check-out just aren’t as smart as someone like me, right?

Wrong.  I think my 7 year old Home Ec students could have done better than I did.  I’m not sure if there were instructions posted anywhere or if it was pure baptism by fire, but it took me a good 3 bags to figure out that when you bag your items, the bagging shelf is a little scale, and if it doesn’t feel the weight of your items going into the bag, the machine gets panicky and won’t let you check out anything else.

By the time I figured out what was wrong, it was too late and the machine was pouting in a corner, refusing to cooperate.  I stood there making a fool of myself by alternately pleading with the machine and raging against it, “But I did bag it!  I did!  How about the  mushrooms…please just let me ring up the mushrooms!” and putting the bags on and off of the scale hoping to coax the machine into ringing me up. *

Finally got it all done and headed home.  The sky and the lights were still beautiful, and I couldn’t resist any longer.  Even though there was milk in the car, I turned down a road I’ve never been on and took pictures of a graveyard.  I had about 10 minutes to play before the sun went behind clouds for the rest of the day.

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* Yes, I do get the irony that I scoffed at inept self-check-out people, then ended up being just as inept as everyone else.  And now I’m heading down that same path by assuming my homeschooling status will help me teach my kids Home Ec better than my Soup Day friends.  I’m sure I’ll soon be issuing an official apology for blithely ignoring their warnings.