Cheesecake to Make and Milk Duds are Great

Quick one tonight because I just remembered that if I want to eat the lemon-lime cheesecake tomorrow night, I have to make the lemon-lime cheesecake tonight.  (It has to chill overnight.)  And I do want to eat the lemon-lime cheesecake tomorrow night!


Picture of the Day:

The karate studio is right next door to the Dollar Store.  And you know what’s in the dollar store, don’t you?  That’s right.

Milk Duds.

I may have to move the kids to a new karate studio.  I cannot resist the call of the Milk Duds twice a week, singing to me through the connecting wall:  “Come to us!  Buy us!  Eat the whole box before the next karate lesson!”

But if I don’t resist the call, I’ll have to go back to Kohl’s and buy the billowy button-down shirt after all.

Wailing and Gnashing of Teeth and Anti-Sneak-Floof Fashion Advice

Today was a day of great cleaning in the house.  This is the playroom.  The boys had to clean it.  And there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

This is where I write The Blog.  It needed to be cleaned as well.  I had to clean it.  And there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Here is but a tiny sample of the dishes that needed to be washed, dried and put away.  The boys and I had to clean it together.  And there was much wailing and … yeah, yeah, you get the idea.


More suspect fashion advice from The Lizard:

If you buy a button-down shirt, check it out from the side.  It’s very difficult to find ones that don’t floof out all funny in the back.  Like this one:

The Sneak-Floof-In-The-Back is a pet peeve of mine.  The shirt looks great from the front and fits well on the sides, but when you turn sideways, suddenly, you’re double thick.  Who wants to be double thick?  Not me!  And not you, either.

See, this is the actual shape of my back, and I daresay the vast majority of women do not have random growths on their spines, even though the makers of button-down shirts seem to think we all do.

I ended up with the blue and yellow pullover, because it doesn’t accommodate my non-existent hunch.  And speaking of hunches, I’m off to find some calcium pills.

See here on how to avoid a “dowager’s hump.”  #1 piece of advice: don’t slump at your computer.  Oooo.  Are you slumping right now?  I was.

Women Like Being Told They’re Wrong

I managed to annoy another Soup Day friend.  For those who don’t know, every other Wednesday I get together with a group of friends for soup.  There were 7 of us at Soup Day today.

You see, sometimes when women tell you something, they want you to listen and say, “Mmmhmm,” and just agree with what they’re saying as a friendly show of support.  And other times women want you to listen and point out when they’re wrong and when they’re not considering the opposite point of view.


“…women want you to point out when they’re wrong…”  Stop it!  Stop it!  I can’t breathe!

Hang on while I recover from that bit of hilarity.

Ok–so, when some poor innocent Soup Day member tried to tell her story, I had to butt in and say, “But did you consider the other point of view….”

There were crickets in the room.  This is what happens when socially inept nerdy people grow up.  We can blend in for a while, but soon it becomes crystal clear why we weren’t popular in high school.  “So…this is one of those times when I’m supposed to Mmmhmmm in a show of support and not debate opposite points of view, right?”  Right.

Later in the day, I recounted a story where I had told someone to consider another point of view.  I said, “You know how I am.  I had to tell her that there are other points of view…” and everyone’s head started nodding vigorously.  Yes, we know you do, Jackie. And…quit it.

I blame it on being an only child and not having the joy of a sibling to haul off and smack me on the back of the head whenever I make glaring social blunders like that.


And I really hope that my writer friend, who asked me to assess an article he wrote, meant it when he told me to “be brutal.”

I have a friend who is a writer.  No, not a writer of blogs like me, but a real bona fide writer.  It’s how he makes his living.  His editor has recently given him his own column.  My writer friend asked me to review his first article for the new column.


That’s like Mozart saying, “Does this sound right to you?” or Einstein asking you if he can “run a little theory by you and get your opinion.”

I love my friend’s writing.  It’s not like mine–no, his writing is good.   I get tears in my eyes almost every time I read one of his articles.  Seriously.  I get goose bumps.  It’s just that good.

So, I read his draft for his column (and got tears in my eyes–twice!)  But then I pointed out a couple of places that didn’t quite flow for me.  (Did you consider this other point of view?)  I cringed as I did, waiting for a bolt of lightning to turn me into a little puff of ash.

Critiquing his writing is like critiquing the Pieta.  “But couldn’t Michelangelo have made Mary’s face look a little more expressive or something?  I’m just not feeling it.”


Picture of the day:

Routine eye exams for the kids.

My son can’t decide whether his mother is The Terminator or Adolf Hitler

So, we’re back to fighting about grammar again.  Finally it boiled down to this conversation,

Boy9:  I’m not going to stop fighting you on this.

Me:  We can fight every day for all 180 days of 5th grade, but I will not give up.  By the end of the year you will have learned your grammar one way or another.  I will win this fight.

Boy9 looked at me in horrified disbelief.  Sort of like the look on Sarah Connor’s face when the Terminator just keeps coming.

We did half the lesson, and then moved on to history, with the intention of coming back to grammar when Boy9 was less emotional.

In history, Boy9’s favorite subject, we read about Hitler’s systematic invasion of Europe.  The last thing we learned was that it took 28 days for Warsaw in Poland to fall.  By the time we got back to Grammar, Boy9 was more tractable and did his assignment without much fuss and mostly correctly.

He said he still thinks grammar is stupid and he doesn’t want to do it.  I told him, “We have to do this.  I just hope we don’t fight for all 180 days.  Maybe we can fight for just 28 days.

“If you’re Poland…think of me as Hitler.”

This caused him to burst into laughter.

I have an uneasy feeling that he’s been comparing me to Hitler for a long time now.


P.S.  For those of you feeling sorry for Boy9, don’t.  The boy is highly intelligent (if I do say so myself) and falls into the trap that lots of highly intelligent people fall into: they’re so used to things coming to them easily, that as soon as they run into something that takes effort, they give up right away.  They don’t know how to persevere because they so rarely have to.

I’m thinking tomorrow we’re going to learn about perseverance:

“…we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender…”

Tomorrow, I get to be Churchill and Boy9 can be Hitler.


Picture of the day:

Ada gave me a billion tomatoes from her garden today.  Thank you, Ada!  Garden tomatoes are one of my favorite foods.  The uglier, the better. Yum!

Redneck Yokels, Grammar in Real Life, and Dead Groundhog Walking

No fighting with my sons about grammar today.  Here’s why:

So, there I am, half listening to Nephew13 while I’m driving home in rush hour traffic on the Baltimore Beltway last Friday afternoon.  He’s prattling on about how he makes maps (some sort of graphic) for a computer game he likes, and I’m uh-huh-ing, and dodging and braking and trying not to be too conspicuous driving around in Maryland with my Pennsylvania plates.

I know what Maryland drivers think of PA drivers, since I used to be an MD driver.  They think that PA drivers are a bunch of redneck yokels who can’t drive their way out of a paper bag.

The MDers are wrong, though.  PAers don’t drive badly.  In fact, they’re very polite drivers.  It’s just that they don’t understand “rush hour.”  When we bought our house here in PA, the previous homeowners told us, “Closing will be in Gettysburg.  Oooo.  You’d better plan to get there with plenty of extra time because of the rush hour traffic.”

There were like, 6 extra cars in Gettysburg during “rush hour” traffic.  We were 40 minutes early and had to sit in the car, sweating.  I thought we had just misunderstood a local joke, because no one could possibly be serious about 6 extra cars being “rush hour.”

But no, just ask any of the locals in the area and they are dead serious about the  hassle of “rush hour traffic” in Gettysburg.

I have more trouble in the middle of the day when I get stuck behind a tractor.  Now, that’ll make you late to your appointment.  Not rush hour in G’burg.

So, anyway.  There I am, driving in real rush hour traffic with the other 300,000 cars on the road, half listening to Nephew13…when he says the magic words that almost killed us all.

“…but they rejected my applications, so I’ve been working really hard on my grammar.”

Working on his grammar?  What?!?  I almost caused a 300,000 car pile-up.

“Whoa!  What was that?  Can you say it a little louder?  Boys!  Listen!”

Apparently, Nephew13 filled out some applications, hoping to work with the makers of the games he enjoys and share his maps with them.  But they rejected him and were kind enough to tell him why: “Try again when you learn grammar and spelling.”

My boys, who have been fighting me tooth and nail about grammar and asking, “When will we ever need this in real life,” needed to hear this.

“Go ahead, Nephew13.  Tell us again what you just said.”

“I said, I’m working on my grammar because it’s really bad.”

“And why is this–you wanted a job but you couldn’t get it? Is that right?”


“Say it in a complete sentence, so we can all hear.”

“I wanted a job, but I couldn’t get it because my grammar was too bad.”

Fortunately, my kids were so stuffed with Cici’s pizza and brownies and high on the adrenalin rush from getting toys from the gumball machines, that they were good-natured about their mother’s crowing and I-told-you-so-ing.

I assured Nephew13 that there was hope for him, and if he wanted to send me any of his writing, I could assess it for him.

‘Course, he doesn’t have a job, so he can’t afford my fee…


Picture of the day?  Eep.  I only have this bad picture.  It’s of the groundhog that lives in the backyard that ran away when I opened the window for a better shot.

The next door neighbor–remember him?  The ex-soldier who is currently in the marine reserves, who spooks easily?  He’s got a vendetta against this groundhog and warned us that if we heard a gunshot, it would be him taking out the groundhog.  I think he was kidding, but if not, see above about redneck yokels.

Scary Bugs and Bad Husbands and How Scary Bugs Handle Their Bad Husbands

This praying mantis was on the side of my in-laws’ garage. As I took its picture, I noticed that the mantis’ legs were stuck in the sticky strands of a spider web.

You can see some of the strands by its head in the picture.

Help meeeee!

I know that spider webs are part of the circle of life (and horrifyingly slow death), and the spiders have to live, too, so you really ought to leave the poor fly in the web.

But there was no way one little spider could have eaten that entire praying mantis, unless the spider caught the mantis for his whole spider village so they could survive the winter.

I decided we ought to free the mantis.  But while praying mantises are cool to look at in a picture, I don’t want to actually touch one.  This is why women get married: so they have husbands to set the scary bugs free.  Sometimes you’re stuck with a husband who will pretend to trip toward you while carrying the scary bug, but those are Bad Husbands and you’d do well to try to weed those out in the dating process.  That’s what premarital counseling is for, after all.

Darling Husband freed the mantis and took it far away into the yard where it fluttered around.

May you live long, little praying mantis, and dine on many fat husbands.

You can see more web strands on its back legs.

Darling Husband bravely transporting the Scary Bug

Snake Pits of Death, Bologna Sandwiches, and Grey Hair

Nephew13 is visiting again this weekend… for the last time.  While I was innocently eating my lunch at a picnic table in Gettysburg enjoying my time with family in the warm breezy air, Nephew13 observed, “Hey, Aunt Jackie—you have a big spot of grey hair right in the middle of your forehead.”  Tammy, you need to talk to your boy about what not to say to women.

Nephew13 was lucky to be eating lunch with us at a picnic table and not stuck at the bottom of a boulder.  As usual when he visits, we headed to Little Round Top and Devil’s Den so that he and his cousins could swarm over the boulders, leaping and bounding over the Snake Pits of Death, turning my hair grey (ahem) from watching their casual attitudes toward life and soundness of limb.

This time, Nephew13 managed to slide down a boulder and then couldn’t figure out how to get back up.  He couldn’t walk around the boulder because he was hemmed in by Snake Pits of Death and poison ivy. Our plan of action was to toss him a bologna sandwich and come back for him when the first frost killed the ivy.

Wait…where are you going? Don’t leave me!

But when we called his mom to tell her that her son would be living under a boulder and foraging for berries until the frost, she said, “You get my boy out of there, or no more employee discounts for you.”

We got him out.

Those employee discounts are sweet.

And, warning, sappiness ahead: Nephew13 also observed (after his crushing remarks about my grey hair) that he thinks climbing on these rocks in Gettysburg will end up being one of his favorite growing up memories.  Awwww.

Berries are good for you. Nephew13 could live off of these quite nicely.

This Girl Nose Her Stuff, DH and I Are Even, and a Really Long Frog Leg

Took the kids to the Walter’s Art Museum in Baltimore today.  We go there once or twice a year as part of our history studies.  Seeing the stuff at the museum after we’ve learned about it helps bring history alive.

For instance, this guy is Caesar Augustus who founded a little thing called…the Roman Empire (!!).  Remember him from the Nativity story?

“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world…and everyone went to their own town to register.  So Joseph also went up…to Bethlehem.  He went there to register with Mary, who was…expecting a child.  While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.”

It’s sort of nice to know what at least one guy from the bible really looked like.  Well, other than the fact that it’s obvious he was airbrushed for wrinkles and pimples.

There are a few profile reliefs of other people mentioned in the bible, like Cyrus the Great and Nebuchadnezzer, but you have to travel to Iraq or Afghanistan to see them in person.  Not exactly places where American families commonly go for their summer holidays.

And then there was this Egyptian fish:

This falls into our current events category: “Boys, we have this very same fish in our freezer at home.”  See:

Apparently, if you refuse to eat your tilapia and leave it on your plate for 3500 years, it turns this lovely bluish-green color.  I’ll never get the kids to eat their fish now.  “But Mom, we want to see it turn green!”

There’s a room where the museum people restore art.  If you’re lucky, someone will be restoring art on the day you visit the museum, and you can peer at them through an open window.   And if you compliment them on their nose ring, they’ll talk to you and answer your questions.

This very nice woman showed us some rusty items she was restoring and talked way over the kids’ heads about oxidation and humidity and wah-wah-wah.  They weren’t getting it.  So, I reminded them about Darling Husband’s key that we destroyed.   The boys and I took Darling Husband’s skeleton key that went to his grandmother’s house in Pittsburg and buried it in the backyard, when we were playing archaeologists (You know you’re a homeschooler if…).  Unfortunately, the key got badly rusted in the 4 days it was buried in the yard.  Darling Husband was distressed that we ruined the key.  “That was all that I had of my grandmother.”  I felt like such a heel.

(Aside:  Hmm.  I guess we’re even now.  About a month after we were married Darling Husband accidentally broke a key to my antique sideboard, probably devaluing it by a good $80,000.  Or maybe it was $80.  Anyway, Darling Husband handled his disappointment over his ruined key much more graciously than I handled my disappointment over my ruined key.)

Anyway, as I was explaining to Boy7 about rust, the art restorer was listening in.  She said, “Do you still have the key?”  “Yes.”  “Go to Home Depot and get some tannic acid.  It’ll restore the rust.”  It’s so nice to hang out with art restorers!  They’re full of good advice like that.  I should have invited her to Li’s Buffet the next time she’s in Gettysburg.   And now I can kill two birds with one stone: head to Home Depot for a dishwasher and some tannic acid.

Then we swung by Nephew13’s house to bring him up here for the weekend.  Stopped at Cici’s pizza for lunch and Petsmart to look at the fish and scorpions.   Look at this frog’s long leg.

If I were going to ever get more pets, it would be frogs.  I really love frogs.  Aren’t those great looking frogs?  They look so happy.

A Flying Pig

At 7:50 I looked at my husband and children and said, “Uh oh.  I haven’t taken a single picture today.  What should I take a picture of?”

Boy7 does what he always does and tells me to take a picture of the first thing his eye light upon.  This time it was the flying pig.  He said, as if he were giving me the Best Idea Ever, “Hey!  Take a picture of this pig!  And then…write something funny about it!”


Nope.  Got nothin’ about the flying pig.

My Aunt Ginger is 4’11 and probably weighs 90 pounds or so.  She grew up in California, but she lived in Texas for a few hours.  Apparently once you’ve lived in Texas, it never wears off.  She has big hair, a lilting Texan accent, and a habit of telling hilarious stories, completely deadpan.

The last time I saw her was when Darling Husband and I visited her in California about 10 years ago.  Before we’d even left the airport, she was telling stories that had me laughing so hard that I had to sit down by the luggage carousel to catch my breath and wipe my eyes.

Aunt Ginger says that when her sister Julie visits, Julie sits in a chair across from Aunt Ginger and then stares at her, on the edge of her seat…waiting…waiting for Aunt Ginger to “say something funny.”

And now I know how Aunt Ginger feels.  Because…nope—still can’t think of anything funny to say about the flying pig.


P.S.  There is not a single funny pig joke on the internet.  I just read them all, and they’re all bad.