I’m Whinier Than a Preschooler, Burn Up in the Sunshine, and Refuse to Waste Hershey Park on Kiddie Rides

I’m finally studying the book that Darling Husband bought for me that explains how to use Photoshop Elements.  I’m sure that this news will be met with deep sighs of relief by my photography friends.  Last time Melissa helped me with Elements, I heard my own voice getting whinier and whinier until I thought she’d have to resort to saying, “I can’t understand you when you talk that way.”  For those of you without kids, that’s what you’re supposed to say to a whiny preschooler.  Darling Husband has had to listen to me ranting about Elements ever since I got it for Christmas.

Before buckling down to study this book, I’d flipped through it and half-heartedly tried a few things, but sometimes they’d work and sometimes they wouldn’t.  For no reason at all.  Apparently, Elements hated me and was doing it’s best to drive me crazy, like in the movie Gaslight.  You ever see that movie?  The man marries the woman so that he can move into the house she owns and search the attic for some rubies that he knows are there.  In order to search for and keep the rubies for himself, he systematically tries to drive his new wife insane to get her out of the way.

But now that I’ve started reading the book from the beginning and am forcing myself to use Elements more and more, I told Darling Husband that maybe, just maybe, Elements wasn’t as horrible as I thought, and perhaps, I might even be starting to almost think about liking it.  At which point Darling Husband raised his hands to the heavens and announced that there is a God and He’s still working miracles today.

Do you see the sarcasm I have to live with every day?  Pity me.


For the picture of the day, the boys got haircuts for the first time in about 2 years.  Here is Boy9 with his long hair.

I have to say, I love the long hair.  But it’s very impractical in the heat.  When the boys get hot and sweaty, their hair sticks to their faces and gets stinky and gross.  And twice last Friday, two different people thought that Boy7 was a girl with his long, golden locks.

After.  Boy9 is hamming it up for the camera:

At first they didn’t like the haircuts.  I think they went into physical shock from so much hair being clipped from their heads.  We had to have them breathe into brown paper bags.  But they got used to it.


A few weeks ago I wrote that I didn’t buy myself a rose bush because I was saving up my money to refill our coffers after paying for Alex.  Kris (you’ve seen her portrait a few times) felt pity for me and bought me a rose bush.  Thank you, Kris!

I was going to plant it today, but I’m not sure exactly what happened.  One minute I’m grousing, “I guess I’ll plant this thing…” and the next minute Darling Husband is out there in a flurry of dirt and shovels and doing all the work himself.  I just sat there in a big floppy hat, taking pictures.

It’s either the hat or slathering myself with sunblock.  If I’m out in the sun longer than 3.6 seconds, I burn like a little stick of bacon.

And what’s up with sunburn?  How did we end up being on a planet where the nearest star is so close that it burns up the creatures that live on the planet’s surface?  That sounds like some sort of H.G. Wells novel.  We should all be living in our underground domed cities because of the searing rays of Sol.  I’m really resentful that I can’t go outside without risking my skin burning and sloughing off, like the burned skin of a marshmallow roasted over a fire.

Oh yum–doesn’t that sound good right now?  The marshmallow, not the burned flesh.


It is with great jittery shaking that I announce that tomorrow the boys and I are going to Hershey Park, an amusement park for those who don’t know.

Going to the park isn’t what makes me jittery and shaky.  Wait, come to think of it, going to Hershy Park is what make me feel jittery and shaky, but in a good way.  I love, love, love, love, love roller coasters.  The boys will be going on their very first roller coasters tomorrow and I am so thrilled and jittery and shaky that I’m about to fall off this chair right here and now.

People use to ask me when the boys were toddlers, “Are you going to take the kids to Hershey Park?”  What a dumb question!  No!  They weren’t tall enough for the good rides.  I’ve been waiting nine years to take these kids to Hershey Park.  And not for dumb ol’ kiddie rides where I’d have to stand there in the hot sun watching them ride around on little trains.  Nope.  We’re riding the Comet and the SooperDooperLooper which were the first two roller coasters I ever rode when I was a kid.  I can’t wait!

The part that makes me bad jittery-shaky is that I won’t be taking Alex.

Or Clarisse.

Or even little Daisy Mae.

No camera at all, except the goofy one on the cell phone.  This will be the first time since at least October, and maybe earlier, that I won’t be carrying a camera with me all day long.  I’m sure there will be a tearful parting, and I’ll probably call home a few times and ask Darling Husband to put Alex on the phone so I can reassure him that I’m coming back.

Ok—enough!  I have to get to bed early tonight.  I’ll be getting up at 6:00 tomorrow and you know how I feel about that.

You Don’t Tug on Superman’s Cape, Spit into the Wind, and You Don’t Mess Around with Airport Security

Ok.  I’m a big (big, big!) Jim Croce fan, and it’s bothering me that there’s not enough room for the entire title up there in the title bar.  The entire title should be:

You don’t tug on Superman’s cape, you don’t spit into the wind, you don’t pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger, and you don’t mess around with Airport Security.  A doo doodun da deet deet deet’n dee…  Click here to sing along

And now, down to business:  I am taking the night off!

Bridgette told me that if I ever wanted a night off, I could pull an old story that she wrote and post it on my blog.  So, that’s what I’m-a doin’.  (You have to talk like that after you listen to Jim Croce.)

In case you’re new today, I introduced Bridgette in yesterday’s blog.  If you missed the intro you can click on the word “Dustylizard” at the top of your screen and then scroll down to yesterday’s post.  Or you can click on May 29th on the calendar to the right of these words.

Before Bridgette’s story, here’s a picture of her with her lovely current husband.  Not the ex from the story:

My Darling Husband looked over my shoulder and said, “Huh.  That guy looks Greek.”  Yup.  He is.

Here’s Bridgette’s story and I’m off to wash dishes and work on my job.  What?! What job?!  Oh, wouldn’t you like to know!  I’ll tell you about it another day.


Why My Ex-husband Got Talkened to by the FBI

You know when you get divorced that there will be those moments that show up and continue to be peppered throughout your life, that remind you, “Yes, this is why I divorced you, buddy!” Unfortunately for my ex-husband, his ego coupled with his astounding cluelessness regarding American culture tends to  cause major problems in his life.

Perfect example: my ex decided to take the kids to Florida for Spring Break. Why he goes there during Spring Break is a curiosity to me.   Another curiosity is the fact that it always has to be the beaches in Florida and never anywhere else. My kids have been to Disneyland about 8 times by now. But anyway.

One of the things about my ex that is really annoying is that he is frequently late. Almost every time he’s late. In fact, when we were married, people would invite us to dinner and tell us dinner time was an hour earlier than it really was because he was notoriously late. The other classy thing ex does is never bother to contact the waiting person to let them know what’s going on. He also doesn’t admit he has time management issues, preferring instead to blame the traffic, the car, the people, the weather.

We all have flaws that can be turned endearing if we acknowledge the things that cause us to struggle, but not my ex. If he’s late, it’s because you planned things too early. I tend to get very annoyed with people who act as though their time is more valuable than everyone else’s.  Since ex is doing quite well financially (he has four stores in New York) he tends to treat everyone else like they are annoyances in his plan.

So of course he shows up to the airport and checks in for the trip to Florida and then, not wanting to be one of the fools that actually sit on the plane waiting to take off, he has a habit of showing up to the gate a minute or two before the takeoff. Everyone else sitting there, waiting? Too bad suckers!

Except this time it’s Spring Break and they’ve overbooked the flight as it is. So when he gets to the gate the flight attendant tells him “Sorry, but you didn’t show up when we paged you on the intercom so we sold your tickets to someone else.”

Screeching of the record to a halt. What? This cannot be! Do you know who I am? Where is the manager? Who’s the boss? says he.

“I’m the boss, we can and we did, you should have been on time, sorry about that, but the flight is leaving.  You can go buy another set of tickets at the desk.”

So of course he’s on to her, he tells me later.  He knew she was just stalling to make sure the plane left without him, to cover up her mistake. He wasn’t going to take it that easy!

“You had no right to do that! I’m here! I’m standing right here! And the plane is there and my… (he grasps at straws) …my medicine is in my suitcase! Where are my suitcases? Where is my luggage?!”

“It’s on the plane, sir.  You’ll have to sort that out later.  You were late.”

Then he steams up full force and starts ranting about how irresponsible the airline is and how this is a breach in safety. He really gives it to her now. “You aren’t supposed to do that! You are supposed to off-load the luggage! I could have put a bomb in my suitcase and then not gotten on the plane!”


In case you didn’t know, my ex is Egyptian and pretty much looks exactly like Mohammed Atta.


Security is called and he’s kept in a room where he shrieks about racial profiling. Thank God he was traveling with his girlfriend who kept the boys in the terminal until he was released.

He has since been banned from flying on US Airways.

I worried for the kids.  But when I spoke to them later Zead’s take was, “Wow, that was pretty dumb.” And Bassem said, “All I could think the whole time is, what would Eddie Izzard do with this routine?” So all’s well. They are coming home tomorrow.

I am concerned, however, that their names are going to be on some sort of a watch list by association.

But, oh brother.

My ex’s take is that US Airways is a stupid airline and who wants to fly on it anyway?  Yeah.  Ok.

All I Ever Wanted Was Someone to be Kind to Me. Bridgette was.

As I’ve mentioned before, I was a very awkward child and young adult.

Everything was fine until I switched to my third school in the middle of the fourth-grade school year.  Unfortunately, there was racial tension in the area and I found myself as an unwanted minority.  I was also the smallest and youngest in the class and had no group to belong to, being the new kid. There were many taunts and a few physical threats, and one physical altercation, so I retreated into a shell and never really figured out how to come out of it until I was in my late twenties.  People were mean and scary and talking with them only caused anxiety.  And I don’t use the word anxiety lightly.

I ended up being the kid who sat silently in the corner and was, frankly, a little weird, and certainly too much effort to be friends with.

But every now and then, someone would see through the wall and they’d be nice to me and overlook my awkwardness and I’d feel safe enough to come out for a little while when they were around.  And then I could be my real self that you all know and love today, and not the shy mouse that most people saw.

Jo-Ann was one such person, as was Darling Husband.

And Jo-Ann’s sister had a friend named Bridgette.

Bridgette was consistently nice to me.  Bridgette came from a troubled home and perhaps had depths of compassion that the other kids didn’t have.  Bridgette has her own issues with shyness, but she didn’t handle them like I did.  She didn’t retreat.  No, Bridgette is one of those people who are larger than life.  And tall, so she couldn’t hide like I could.  She decided that rather than withdrawing into a shell, she would push herself into the fray.

When the school put on a play, the other kids stood on the stage, stiff and serious, annunciatinG the lasT consonanT of every worD, the way they’D been taughT so the sounD woulD carry.  They sounded ridiculous.

But not Bridgette.  When she stood on the stage, she became her character.  She annunciated each word so that it reached all the way to the back of the auditorium, but it was natural and engaging and she was fascinating and beautiful and mesmerizing.

She was a year ahead of me in school, but we rode the same school bus together.  Sometimes, coming from her troubled home, Bridgette would almost miss the bus.  She’d run down the street, trying to catch up, and the bus driver would make a point of speeding up to make her run faster before he stopped for her.  I hated that man.  Really hated him.  Go ahead and pick on someone who’s already down, why don’t you?

Bridgette was forced out of her home at around 15 years old or so.  She got a job at the local ancient movie theater and lived in the apartment above the theater.  I used to think that she was so grown up; working, living on her own, and going to high school all at the same time.  Now, I look back and see that she was a baby, being tossed into the world too soon.  Fifteen!  And holding down a job and getting herself an education.  What an inspiration.

I remember my mother saying, “I would rather you don’t go alone to Bridgette’s apartment, since I don’t know who else lives there.”  I only went once, against my mother’s wishes.  What a different life we led.  Bridgette was forced out of her home and lived in the old rundown apartment above the aging theater, while I was still carefully sheltered at home by my mother.

Some mornings she would miss the bus and would wait outside the small grocery store and hope a mother with a child would come out of the store, so she could beg for a ride to school.  Other days, she would walk the two hour long walk to school.  She says the walk helped clear her head.

But the mornings that she made it to the bus, she would sit next to me and talk to me.  She and her elder sister were the only two who would.  And when we talked, she wouldn’t mock me or roll her eyes at my meek attempts at humor.  She treated me like a normal person, and not the weird girl that everyone else saw.  I loved the days when she was on the bus.  She would lift my spirits.

One time, Jo-Ann, Bridgette and I went out to eat at Bob’s Big Boy, our favorite restaurant, and Bridgette wore a blonde wig and told us funny stories, flamboyantly acting out the parts, until we were sick from laughter.  It’s one of my favorite memories.

And then she was gone and we were gone and life got so much better.  We heard that she married a man from somewhere in the Middle East and lived in Turkey, I think.  We made jokes about her crossing borders, late at night, under cover of darkness, wearing a burka.

Years and years went by, and I found Facebook and there was Bridgette!  We friended each other.  She reads my blog.

She’s also a writer, and much of her work is poignant and speaks of her troubled childhood and truths she’s learned throughout her life.  But she does have one piece that she wrote that is humorous, and she offered me a night off from writing my blog, and told me I could post her story.

But since I’ve already written over 900 words just introducing her, I think I’ll save her story for tomorrow’s post.


To stay true to the purpose of this blog, here’s the picture of the day:

JJ’s Habachi Grill.  Opened today by the owner of Li’s Buffet, on the other side of Gettysburg, in the same building that The Mayflower used to be in.  They still have work they want to do on the place, (windows, stuff like that) but they opened quietly anyway.

They had the same sort of stuff on their buffet as at Li’s, but the habachi grill part is new and, oh YUM. I made it all the way to my car before I started craving it again.

Scary Homeless Lady Strikes Again, Resistance is Futile, and A Willing Victim

Yesterday I had composed and posted a beautiful post that, if read by enough people, would have sped up the evolutionary process of humans by a million years, and we would have all changed into beings of pure energy and floated around the universe in a cloud of peace and serenity.

But, then, someone hacked into my wordpress account, deleted my post and left such a bizarre post that I’m not sure what it was even about.  Oh well.  Such is life.

Today a number of wondrous things happened, like lunch at Quiznos (oh yum!), movie with Mom (I can’t remember the entire title, but something about the exotic marigold hotel), and then dinner at Casa Rica.  Plus!  Plus! Gerhard gave me a remote for my camera!  A remote!  Do you understand what this means?!  This means that if I set up a shot that I want to be in, I don’t have to click on the shutter release button and then dash to the front of the camera, just in time for the camera to take the picture of me all hot and disheveled from running.  I can stand there, serene and composed and click on the remote and SNAP, the picture is taken.  Oh heaven!  Thank you Gerhard!  Plus, he also gave me a very, very nice tripod.  Again, thank you soooo much, G!

I took pictures of those things, but I’d rather talk about yesterday’s memorial day picnic at church.

Here’s what I’ve discovered.  If you’re very loud and obnoxious in your blog about how you love to take pictures, then when people meet in you person with Alex (my camera) wrapped around your neck at picnics, they will resist for a picture or two, but eventually they’ll realize that resistance is futile, and will give in and let you take a nice picture.  Well, most of the time.  Here’s what I mean:

The picnic was outdoors, so I was hoping to get some nice pictures of people with trees in the background, especially since Scott had forced us to take so many outdoor portraits of him the day before, and all the techniques were fresh in my mind.  So, I slung Alex around my neck and stood in line for food.  A couple of people who read my blog, but haven’t yet met Alex said, “Oh, is that Alex?” and I introduced him and he was very polite and shook everyone’s hands.

Then, I sat down to eat on my lawn chair next to Jeff and Shelby.  I was going to take a picture of Alex (not the camera, but a real man) who was standing nearby, but Jeff sat down right in front of him, so I said, “Jeff, you’re in the way.  I’ll have to take a picture of you instead.”

Oh, he tried to sabotage my attempts, but it didn’t work.  First, he wouldn’t open his eyes and gave me Billy Idol snarly lips, and when that didn’t work, he resorted to letting food fall out of his mouth.

But I was not to be deterred and I let him know that I was going to keep taking pictures until I got a nice one, so he finally smiled, just to make it stop.

Much better, no?   This is a great picture of Jeff.

For those of you who are fascinated by the process, here’s an example of how the pictures look before I use Elements to clean them up.  Note: that kid was in the background of the above pictures, too, but I annihilated him.  And I chopped off Jeff’s hand, too.  (Thornberrie, you’re right–cloning is violent!  Click here to see Thornberrie’s blog.  I’m a big fan of his stuff.  Very funny and great pictures.)

Next was Kris.  She’s a little more used to this, being that I’ve taken her picture a number of times at Soup Day.  I have to admit, Kris is a great subject because she has perfect skin, clear eyes, and white teeth.  She looks good no matter what I do with her.  I can’t possibly mess up pictures with Kris in them.

As you can see, she was only mildly irritated at first.

I wanted her to look a little more dramatic, so, I lowered my lawn chair down flat and took a picture of Kris from below.  I told her to “look serious” which, of course, sent her into a fit of giggles.  When that passed, I got a very lovely picture of her looking serious.

And again, an unedited original:

Boy9’s friends were hovering, eating, and watching the picture-taking process with interest.  I asked them if they’d like their pictures taken, and Boy9’s friends said, “Yes,” but Boy9 is soooo sick of having his picture taken that he stood for the picture, but made one of his goofy faces.

I edited this picture last in Elements and you can tell I was getting sick of fixing up these pictures and wanted to get to the Composing of The Blog.  The colors are kinda weird.  Boy9 looks sickly pale.  Or else, he was overheated and about to gak again.  I could have badgered and bullied him into a nicer picture, but that was just too much effort.

Next, I was talking with Kris and her husband, Eric.  Eric and Kris make a lovely couple, as Eric is a nice looking man if you can get past the scary-looking, wild-man beard, complete with twigs stuck in it.  Ok, not really about the twigs.  Well, as far as I know anyway.

In a pause in the conversation I brightened up and was in the middle of inhaling to ask, “Hey, Eric can I take your picture…” when his eyes flickered from my face to the camera and back, and before I got out a word he said, “No.”  How did he know what I was going to ask?  “Just one?”  “No.”  “How about your tattoos?  Can I take a picture of your tattoos?”  There was a lot of eye-rolling and sighing, but he stood still long enough for the picture.

But then, I wanted a shot of the people frying the chicken and French fries.  The man who is scooping out the fries was very pleasant about the picture taking, but I don’t know his name as I don’t know him personally.  The other guy holding the pan practically leapt to be in the shot.  He wanted his picture taken!  A willing victim! I should have dragged him around the entire picnic area and had him pose for me everywhere.  Maybe he didn’t realize he’d end up in The Blog.  Shhhh.  Don’t tell him.

Original is below.  Note the missing truck and a few missing people.  Where’d they go??

And then, I wanted a picture of Traci, because she recently colored her hair and it matched her eyes so nicely.  The thing with Traci is that I have to catch her when she’s not telling a story.  But I was impatient and didn’t want to wait, and she was getting increasingly irritated at all the picture snapping while she was trying to tell her story.  At one point I looked at a picture of her and said, “You look sort of irritated in this one,” and she said, “Gee, I wonder why.”

Jackie, quit it!

(P.S.  Traci, this is what you’d look like with green eyes.)

Not to be deterred, I said, “Well, let’s get one where you don’t look irritated,” and she stopped her story long enough to give me a nice smile.  Thank you, Traci!

AND THEN!  Remember how I take naps in the car, because it’s peaceful and warm and quiet?  And remember how I told you that Barbetta’s mother was my inspiration?  Barbetta’s mother is a nurse and works the night shift.  She would come to the church parking lot on Sunday mornings and catch a little nap in her car on the far end of the lot.  And one day, a couple of little old ladies came bursting into the church and told Jeff (not the same Jeff above) with great alarm, that there was a homeless woman napping in the church parking lot!  Jeff went to investigate and realized that the “homeless woman” was his mother-in-law.

Well, here she is, only this time, she’s not in her car.  This is at the end of the picnic when almost everyone has gone home and she can no longer stay awake for the festivities.

I wasn’t going to post it, but Barbetta said it was ok, and Jeff insisted.  I think he rather enjoys reminding his wife that her mother is the scary homeless lady at church, and this pictorial proof only adds to his glee.

And that, dear friends, was the memorial day picnic.

Alert! Guest writer on my blog tonight–don’t believe a word of it!

Alert! Alert!  I have a guest writer writing The Blog tonight!

My guest writer is Scott, the Great Leader of Photo Club.  We invited him to a lovely meal in our home (thanks again, Vic, for the salmon recipe), and this is how we’re repaid.  Sheesh!

(Don’t forget to click on the pictures to see them larger. The food looks awesome!  Great pictures.)

Take it away, Scott:


Welcome to Elfin Cottage

Hey! That sign’s supposed to read “Bramble Cottage.” It’s next to my front door. Yes, I named my house. Didn’t you name yours?

Many of you only know of Dusty Lizard from the daily posts that you read on your laptops, desktops, iPads, and the like. What you see are the images that Dusty Lizard and her clan want you to see. The images and stories present some truth (approximately 2.5%) about the inhabitants of this happy home.

From her blog, you may get a glimpse into the psyche of the blog’s author and the interesting (uh, can we say, slightly twisted) happenings that made up her childhood and helped construct who she is today.

But the purpose of my guest blog appearance is to bring you a more realistic glimpse into what it’s like to be a guest in the home of The Dusty Lizard.

First things first…what’s up with the name, Dusty Lizard? As far as the Lizard part is concerned, I can only offer my opinion. We all know that lizards have forked tongues, and this particular lizard writes with the aid of her forked tongue. Now, I’m not trying to say that she’s a liar per se; however, there is a level of purpose to the weaving of her exaggerated tapestry, known as her blog.

The Dusty part…well now, that’s a different story. Here I can offer a bit more than speculation, and provide you with concrete evidence through the art of photography. As I take you through one of my more recent visits to the Lizard’s lair, your understanding will be expanded.

There are some things about visiting the Elfin Cottage that I like, but others that are quite bothersome. What you need to know is that I am the runt of my family and have been picked on all my life for my diminutive size. But, when I’m with Lizard and her family, I feel like Gulliver in the Land of the Lilliputians. So, the upside is that I finally get to feel tall. The downsides…here we go:

As you can see, the Cottage is so small that my head is near the ceiling. It’s nice, because I get all the warm air, which is beneficial since they heat the place with a since piece of coal.

Being so tall in this den, though, means that I get asked to take care of things that the occupants can’t reach. Here I was asked to place the strand of lights back on the bookshelf.

While there, I happened to notice this poor little elephant wedged between the books. He looked a bit dusty, and when I tried to wipe the dust off with my finger, it barely moved and practically fought back.


Another downside is the little creatures that Lizard likes to call her children. If you’ve read the blog, you know that the brood are homeschooled and rarely see civilization. Therefore, when guests come into their domain, they’re like devious little wood imps that rejoice in creating havoc for the intruder, by darting between one’s legs, leaping out of dark corners and scampering about like mischievous woodland critters (click here).

Since the ceilings are so low, it puts the lighting fixtures in the perfect position to maim taller prey. Here you can see how the children’s incessant scurrying has landed me with a face full of chandelier and a horrific headache.

This is one of my all-time favorite pictures. Having tall guests in the house is wildly entertaining, no?

Not only was I subject to the physical pain of crashing into this ill-placed illumination device, but I ran the risk of being infected by the multitude of microbial inhabitants that have spent years building and defending their dusty colony.

We like the dust. It helps to diffuse the light and is very flattering to our complexions, thank you very much.

The reason The Lizard and her burrow are so dusty, you ask?

Because the cleaning supplies are out of her reach.

If I had taken a video of this, you would be able to see the masses of dust busily bustling in an effort to reinforce the protective barrier they have been building around the can of Pledge. I made the mistake of trying to touch it, and at least one of them growled at me.

Another hitch in being a guest in the Elfin Cottage is mealtime. Although the food is a pleasure to the palate, the portions leave much to be desired. From the first image, it appears as though there is a plate full of food and its presentation could rival a fine restaurant.

However, when compared to my normal plate, with the same portion size, one can see how it is merely a tease and not more than a trifling appetizer.

In an attempt to wrap things up, and bring my first…and probably last…guest appearance to an end, let me just say that the facilities are not the most comfortable either. In an endeavor to keep this post PG-13 and not gross you out any further, here is a recreation of what it looks like when I have to use the lavatory.

And, not only are the books tiny, but the only ones in the bathroom are printed and bound copies of the Lizard’s blog; insufferable!

Therefore, if you should ever visit the Elfin Cottage (and I suggest that you do), make sure to watch your head, bring a respirator, pack a snack and some good reading material for after dinner.

If You Can’t Say Something Nice, At Least Make it Funny…or…If You Can’t Laugh at Yourself, Laugh at Your Friends.

Photo Club today.  Being the leader of Photo Club seems to have finally gone to Scott’s head.

First, he arrived in his dressy clothes with a tie, telling us that he would be the model and we would have to take all our pictures of him.  But before we started, he made us sing a song praising his photography skills while he conducted with a baton.

He inspected each picture and if he didn’t like it, he threatened to hit us with the baton.

Not good enough, Kevin! Take it again!

He timed how long it took for us to adjust our camera settings and if we weren’t quick enough…yes, you got it; the baton again.  I’m starting to wonder exactly how Gerhard landed in the hospital.

When the sun came out, Scott brought out his parasol but he wouldn’t share it and forced us to stand in the sunlight taking portrait after portrait.

Poor Kevin was languishing, standing in the blinding sunlight, while Scott was hogging the refreshing shade of the parasol, as you can see from this completely-undoctored-that-I-did-not-play-with-in-any-editing-software-to-make-Kevin-look-sunnier,-honest picture below.

Finally, we’d had enough, and Kevin and I combined forces and took away Scott’s baton and umbrella.  He pouted for the rest of the day.

Not really sure what happened today, because Scott’s normally a pretty nice guy, when he’s not busy whining about how he doesn’t want to be the leader of Photo Club.

In this shot, he even scrunched down so that I could take a picture without my camera pointing up his nose.  No one warned me that you’re supposed to be tall to take pictures.

And then Scott helped me figure out some of my settings by taking a picture of me with Alex.

But now that I’m home and not in the glare of sunlight, and had time to test it, I think something’s wrong with Alex’s metering.  No matter whether it’s on matrix, center weighted, or spot, the camera reacts the exact same way.  I tried those same settings on Clarisse and she reacts differently depending on the setting.  Alex!  What’s going on?!  Come to think of it, Scott spent an awful lot of time alone with Alex the other day…


Went out to dinner at Li’s Buffet.  It’s been almost two weeks!  Too long.  Posted on Facebook something about going to Li’s, and within five minutes the phone rang.  Claude and Kendra wanted to come, too.

Here’s their sweet baby at Li’s Buffet.  She loves Li’s Buffet.  She gets to chew on the chopsticks.  I made her glowy.  Is she too glowy?  Dunno.  Stared at the picture too long and now my eyes are all dried out.

Scrapbooks are Yucky, Gaking is Yucky, and Hospital Food…is Yucky!

Took the boys back to the stables for another field trip with the co-op.  I won’t add it to the State Mandated Scrapbook of Doom, since this is our second time going this year.  Hey—did I ever tell y’all that I hate scrapbooking??

Here’s a picture of the stables.  (Don’t forget to click on the picture to see it larger.)  This is less than 4 minutes from my house.  I can’t say it enough: it’s gorgeous around here.  People who grew up in this area don’t always understand how good they have it. Really, if you’re from a city or suburb, it’s shocking how beautiful the scenery can be.  I mean, when I drive to Walmart, I can see the horizon!  The horizon, people!  Without 82 miles of buildings in the way.   In my old neighborhood, you might see a whole football length before your eyes were stopped by a building.  But I can look out my car window and nothing blocks my view for miles, except for maybe a knoll or a sheep or a rosebush.

Uncle Bob and Aunt Susan are visiting this weekend from California.  They’re staying in a hotel in Gettysburg and they went on and on about the scenery. Of course they did!  We had a lovely dinner with them tonight.

Uncle Bob and Aunt Susan

When we first moved here (and stop me if I’ve already told you this story….ok, no one’s stopping me…so I’ll keep going), I was terrible on the roads, just terrible!  Why?  Because I was so busy rubber necking at all the scenery.

Then I got better and was able to pay attention to the roads again.

But then, I caught the photography bug and it’s a wonder we get anywhere 1. in one piece or 2. on time.   Everywhere I look, I see something that would make a beautiful picture, and I’m back to rubbernecking.  And half the time, I can’t resist and I pull over to take pictures of it.

Here’s a close up of the stable.

I walked past it and thought, “Ooo.  Such a pretty little scene,” and then spent the next 15 minutes taking pictures from different angles and adjusting every single setting on the camera, just for fun.  Hey, you do your boring scrapbooking for fun, and I adjust settings on the camera for fun.  Different doesn’t mean wrong, it just means different, right?  Unless it’s state mandated scrapbooking.  And then, that’s just wrong.

It was hot today.  During the lunch break the boys played with their light sabers…in jeans and boots…in a field…in the hot sun.  They turned bright red and were Miserable with a capital M.  Boy7 melted ice cubes from the cooler on the top of his head.

Boy9 does badly in the heat.  He can’t tolerate it well.  He gets physically ill.  So, about an hour before the event was scheduled to end, I decided to take him home to cool him off since he looked like he was going to keel over.  We got in the car and about 3 minutes into our 4 minute drive home, he gaked up his breakfast.  He didn’t gak up his lunch because he didn’t eat his lunch.  Thank goodness for picky eaters when they’re just going to get overheated and gak things up.

After all the gaking, we went to visit Gerhard in the hospital.  Gerhard regaled us with tales of the Horrible Hospital Food.  I’m pretty sure they feed you such horrible food just so you have something to talk to your visitors about.

Right in the middle of a rousing tale of bb-sized blueberries and cream of yuck for breakfast, Gerhard’s dinner arrived.  Mmmm.  Doesn’t it look tasty?

Here are his luscious peaches for dessert.

Gerhard started out with high hopes—meatloaf, with gravy!

Here goes..


Oh well. Maybe the peaches will be good…

Thank you, Gerhard, for being cool about the picture taking.  In fact, these pictures of him…er…enjoying his meal were his idea.

My Lame-O Homeschool, What if You Morph Into A Monster, and The Theater has Sims Carpet

Took Boy9 to have his homeschool evaluation today.  What that means for us poor beleaguered souls in the hateful State of Pennsylvania is that we have to track down someone with a teaching certificate (Patti) who is willing to wade through our resume/scrapbook of worksheets and photos from the past year and assess whether or not the kids have learned anything.

I prepared Boy9 ahead of time, telling him that she would ask him questions and he was not to make goofy jokes and say things like, “Duuuuuh” and roll his eyes around in his head.  The problem is that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and if Boy9 was in a class, he’d be the clown.

In fact, he already is.  When we attend the co-op, he’s the one that tried to convince everyone that there was a spaceship in the background of a Raphael painting of the Madonna.  These are the times when you look at the other co-op parents, shake your head and muse aloud, “I wonder whose kid that is?”

When we got to Patti’s house, she sat us down and looked through the scrapbook and then asked Boy9 a few casual questions.  And just like the frog in that Looney Tunes cartoon that won’t sing and dance for anyone except the one guy, Boy9 just sat there and croaked.

(Here’s a little clip of the frog singing, “Hello my baby.”  Here’s the full cartoon.)

Yes, people, Boy9, who normally talks your ear off, choked.   And sure enough, his eyes rolled around in his head.

It’s not like she asked him to diagram a sentence or recite his 8 times tables.  They were questions like, “What do you like to do for fun?”  “Duuuuhhh” eye roll.  “What’s your favorite subject?”

Oh, wait, he got that one.  For “What’s your favorite subject,” he answered, “History, because I don’t have to do anything.  Mom just reads to me.”

What?!  “History, because I don’t have to do anything?”  What kind of lame-o homeschool do you have, Ms. Lizard?

It’s totally not true.  I make him fill in blank maps (at least 2 a week), we listen to clips of Churchill speeches and bugle calls from the Crimean war, we look at pictures of the famous people and places, I make him fill in an outline, we discuss, discuss, discuss what we’ve read until we’re hoarse….

…but he has to go and say, “history, because I don’t have to do anything.”

Whatever!  Kids!

Patti and Frog Boy

We only have 8 more days of official school left to meet our 180 day requirement for the year, so we took off part of last week and all of this week.  Today after the evaluation, I took the kids to see The Avengers .  There wasn’t much of anything in the movie that was inappropriate for them, even though it is rated PG13.  Boy7 is a touch sensitive about things, so when meanie Loki took that guy’s eyeball, I had him look away, and when the Hulk changes the first time, I had him look away then, too.  He gets really creeped out when people morph into other things.  I know where he’s coming from.  Sometimes when I was a kid, sitting by my mom I’d wonder to myself, “What if she suddenly turned into an evil witch and tried to scratch me or stab me?”

What?  Didn’t you think like that when you were a kid?  No?  Oh well.  Let’s move on…

But in this case it wasn’t the movie that was difficult for Boy7, it was those intense previews.  Stoopid previews.  Here’s the shot of my drink that I didn’t get the first time I went to see the Avengers, but I got it this time.

Oh!  Alex does better than the T3i in low lights!  That’s another reason for you, Kevin!

And then, while the boys were taking forever in the bathroom, I was thinking that the carpeting in the hallway looks just some of the carpeting from The Sims. Here’s a shot of it:


After they got out of the bathroom Boy7 was full of energy and ran up and down the hallway.  I kept telling him, “Get outta my picture!” but after sitting still for two and a half hours, he needed to run, so he’s part of the picture now:

Boy7–gotta run!

Tormenting My Friends, The Weather Hates Me, and Gollum Makes for a Bad Guest

There was a Welcome to Soup Day party for Alex (my new camera) scheduled for today.  Which gave me an opening to torment my friends by practicing photography on them.

Traci Cupcakes.  “Welcome to Soup Alex” was written on them, but the letters melted a little in the car.

Today, I had A Plan other than my usual plan which is to fumble around aimlessly snapping pictures and hoping for the best.

Warning:  boring blah, blah, blah about photography ahead:

First was Traci.  I won’t post the picture here because she asked me not to, because her hair wasn’t “done.”  If you ask me not to, I will not post your picture.

But the other day, I got a great shot of Traci in a wondrously flattering pose, by pure accident.  The only problem was that I was only playing around when I took that picture and didn’t fix any of the settings on the camera or make any attempt at making it look good, and there’s a huge glare of sunlight right across her face.

And that’s exactly the wrong way to go about photography.  You’re supposed to have A Plan and know ways to flatter your subject other than telling them they have the most beautiful eyes you’ve ever seen and ‘if I told you your body was hot, would you hold it against me’, kind of flattery.   You’re not supposed to take a billion pictures and hope one turns out.

So, I studied Traci’s sun-glared picture until I could see what had worked in it and tried to re-create it with her today, deliberately.  I sort of got it and sort of didn’t.  I had her at the table with everyone else and I should have moved her into another room so I could have worked with her better.  In the end, I wanted to compare pictures from every angle around her face, so I told her to stay still, but to follow me with her eyes while I circled around her holding down the shutter button, letting the camera take 584 pictures in a row. I don’t think Traci liked having me circle around her like a buzzard taking non-stop pictures, but she bore up well, and I am grateful.

Aside: The Nikon d5100 does a better job at continuous shots than the Canon T3i.  Kevin asked the other day why I chose the Nikon vs the Canon, and my mind went blank, but now I remember about the continuous shooting: so, Kevin–that was one reason I chose the D5100 over the T3i. Aside, over.

Next, I wanted to pose Kris and Barbetta, one standing and the other sitting.  I’ve read a teeny-little bit about posing and wanted to try a few things out before overwhelming myself with knowledge and forgetting things.

I started with Kris and told her what sorts of things I’d learned so she would know what I was trying to accomplish.  The hands were a little tricky.  If you’re not careful, women’s hands can look like Man Hands in pictures, so you’re supposed to try to photograph their hands a bit from the side, and maybe a little bit curled.  No, not curled like talons, but gently arched.

So, I told her to put one hand on the arm of the chair and we got that one situated and then…what to do with the other one?  I moved it around a couple of times, and I’m going to have to find out from Kris what hand lotion she uses because she has very soft hands!

Finally, she moved her hand where it is in the picture and that seems nice enough.  I’d still like to figure out a couple more places for The Hand.

Here’s the picture, but please be merciful.  It was really hard for me to figure out what to do with Kris.  And certainly don’t look at the lighting, focus, or background, like that kid standing there chewing on a blanket.  (Kids are so weird.)  I purposely ignored lighting, background, etc, so I could concentrate only on posing.

Sit here. No, no. Sit this way. No…how about putting your hand on the chair? Tilt your head…no, don’t tilt your head after all, put your foot forward. No, maybe the other foot…oh, criminy, this is hard!

I’d show you the picture of Barbetta, because I like what I did with the hands in that shot, but I don’t think the angle I was shooting from was the most flattering, or else her shirt was billowing in a weird way, so she won’t want everyone looking at that picture. Incidentally, Barbetta has surprisingly soft hands, too.  Surprisingly because she’s a nurse and has to wash them all the time.  I’ll have to ask her about her hand lotion as well.

I had Barbetta standing, and I asked her to place one hand flat against her upper thigh, keeping her arm arched very slightly away from her body, so you could juuust see the curve of her waist.  Her other hand was resting on the top of the chair.  It was just subtle enough not to look too posed.


Then…grocery shopping and the weather was out to get me again.  Look at all the rain we had today.  In this shot, some car is wading through a lake.  That’s a lot of standing water!  This picture was taken through my windshield.

Rain rain go away…

In this next one, my car is wading through the lake and those are the splashes coming up from my wheels, going as high as the mini-van roof.  I was going about 10 mph, so you know it was deep.  Again, not the best picture, but I was  driving while I took it.  Hey–you’ve looked at your phone to see who’s calling, or found an address on a GPS or fiddled with the radio while you’re driving, so don’t get your panties in a wad.  I held the camera up and pushed the shutter button and let it snap, snap, snap any ol’ way it wanted to, without even looking at what it was taking a picture of.  I was watching the road and was slowing down at a stop sign, so the roads are still safe, even when I’m on them.


Then, Scott stopped by to help me learn the 7,415 settings on Alex.  I had to endure continuous digs against Alex, because Alex is a Nikon and Scott has a Canon named Erkel.  Half the time Scott wouldn’t even let me touch Alex, and kept slapping my hand away, hunched over and hogging his time with Alex, obviously wishing he had a sleek Alex of his own and not boring old Erkel.  I think I heard him say “my precious” a few times, but I’m not sure.

And then there was all the whining about not getting any payment for all his help.  Hey, he got a really nice salad out of it.  I knew a woman who made salad by chopping up a head of iceburg lettuce and drizzling dressing on top–voila;  Eat yer salad.  My salad was beautiful and had shrimp and walnuts on top and a choice selection of delectable dressings, so I don’t know what his problem was. He was just bitter that he wasn’t smart enough to get a Nikon.

Serious is Boring and Don’t You Ever Brush Your Teeth?

In this house, we take dental hygiene seriously.

Look at all this dental stuff I found in our bathroom cupboards:

I counted:

11 old toothbrushes

10 new toothbrushes

14 things of floss

19 toothpaste tubes

6 bottles of mouthwash

1 box of Crest Whitestrips

Do we do some sort of couponing?  No.  Are we stocking up for when The Big One hits us?  No.  Oh, then it’s because whenever you get all those free samples from the dentist you don’t use them because you guys never brush your teeth? NO!

Apparently, we are well-loved by our dentist and she likes to relentlessly shower us with gifts of brushes and mini tubes of toothpaste.


Hey!  Do you all remember how Bridgette asked me to rework my blogs into five paragraphs she could use for the SAT test prep book she’s writing?

Yes.  You remember.  No problem, Bridgette!  Within an hour or so, the paragraphs were worked over to make sense standing alone.

But then!  Then!  She asked me, “Hey, can you re-write those same paragraphs, but make them serious?  That way, the students can compare serious vs humor.”

Sure, no problem Bridgette!

Wait…did she say “serious?”

I did it, but it wasn’t nearly as much fun as writing humor.  The paragraphs are completely and utterly unfunny.  Some of them even turned out almost…sentimental.  I know, I know!  Is that even possible!? Gak!

But hey, she paid me some more money AND scored me some camera gear!  Oooo!  A new battery and lens hood, and maaaybe a little tripod.  I can be serious if it means Alex gets accessories.


Ok.  Gotta run.  I was given strict instructions to finish watching Once Upon A Time with Darling Husband in time for Soup Day.  Which is tomorrow.  Kris wants to talk about it.  So….gotta get watching!  Season finale!  Oooo!


Oh, and Soup Day people, beware.  If it doesn’t rain, I want to take pictures of you outside.  I have some ideas I want to practice.  Instead of just randomly taking your picture, I have an actual Plan!  Don’t wear your slobby clothes (as if you ever would…)