Tinkering, Pictures of My House, and Logic

As you know, we’ve been playing Myst lately.  Myst is a computer game where you a dropped on some sort of island and there’s a bunch of machinery lying around.  You have to tinker with it to figure out how it all works.

I told the boys that when the copiers would break at work, I would pretend I was playing Myst and tinker with the copier until I figured out how to fix it.  It’s a handy mindset to have when there’s a frustrating tinkering project looming ahead of you.

Yesterday, when Darling Husband and I were on our Shopping Extravaganza at Target, we bought two doorknobs with locks for the bathroom doors.  We live in an 8,000 year old home which was built in the olden days (obviously—because 8,000 years ago is pretty olden), when families of 20 were merry and content with a single bathroom.

But times change, and sometime in the last 8,000 years, one of the bedrooms was converted into a second bathroom.  And then someone else built an entire secret room on the other side of the converted bathroom.  Oh, this isn’t making any sense.  Hang on while I go take pictures.  I hope I tidied up today…

…I’m back.  The original bathroom.  Kinda small.

This is of the bedroom that was converted into a bathroom.  We installed the washer/dryer in there.

See, how they’re side by side?  (Watch out for that chandelier!)

And see this door at the end of the converted bathroom? Oh—and look: there’s me, waving at you in the mirror.

The door used to be the bedroom window, but now it’s the door to the playroom.

You didn’t expect an entire room through that bathroom, did you? One of these days, I’ll get around to covering that door with a mirror and coming up with a clever latch system, so that you don’t know there’s that entire room hidden back there.   You’ll think it’s just a really big mirror, but then….creeeeak…it’ll open to the hidden room.

The only problem with the Big Bathroom, as we so cleverly named it, is that the doorknobs don’t have locks.  So while using the toilet or shower, there’s a constant sense of anxiety that someone will burst in on you during a vulnerable moment.  What makes it even worse, is you can be burst upon from all sides–from the main house, or from that addition in the back.

What’s the point of all this?  Today, inspired by Myst and my new efforts to prepare the boys for increasing independence, I handed them each a box with a new doorknob (with lock) and a fistful of screwdrivers and told them to install the new doorknobs on the doors to the Big Bathroom.

The only help I gave was a little bit of brute strength to get the screws going.  Other than that they did the entire job by themselves, without using the instructions.  I was proud and so were they.  I counted it toward their Logic class in homeschool.  Yes, we have a separate class for Logic.  It’s my school and I get to do whatever I want.

Aside:  Quote from The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe:  “‘Logic!’ said the Professor half to himself.  ‘Why don’t they teach logic at these schools?'”

And then Boy10 had to go and ask, “So, what do I get for doing that job?”  Sigh.  Next parenting challenge—crushing that inflated sense of entitlement.

“What do you get?! The satisfaction of a job well done and privacy–a precious commodity in a world of seven billion.”

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Picture of the Day.  Trick or treating.

Hurricane Fallout: Shopping, Screeching, and Tuna Noodle Casserole

Darling Husband’s college was closed again today due to the hurricane.  We did what anyone would have done in such a situation—slept in until 9:00, skipped homeschooling, and headed straight to Target.  While there, I got a (purple) cover for Sandra, my new iPad.  I also bought a tube of the skin cream that does not make my skin orange.  (Refer to this post.)

We spent the rest of the day playing Myst on the iPad.  Darling Husband has worked in the IT department for a bazillion years and has all those reams of wires hanging around the house  (refer to this post).  I’m delighted and awed to say that if you plug one end of one of those wires into the iPad, and the other end into the tv, you can see the iPad screen on the TV.  Will modern marvels never cease!

The entire family gathered around the tv in the living room screeching at gently encouraging whoever was controlling the iPad to “Click the button!  Hurry up! No, No!  Not that one, the other one!  No, no–just stop, stop!  You’re doing it all wrong!”  Precious family memories.

Somewhere in the middle of fighting over playing Myst, we ate some tuna noodle casserole.  This is because we have a burgeoning shelf full of canned tuna and peaches and tomatoes and the like, in case we lost power from the hurricane.  We’ll be eating a lot of tuna/peach/tomato casserole over the next couple of weeks.

I also have a triple batch of Banana Bread, which I forgot about until just now.  Hang on while I go get myself a slice….

…I’m back.   Whoever invented banana bread should have won a Nobel peace prize.  Or at least a blue ribbon at the county fair.

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Picture of the Day

These are the hurricane clouds on the way to Target.  The clouds seemed particularly low and dense today.  I wonder if hurricane clouds really are different from regular clouds?  Hang on while I ask the professor of meteorology sitting to my right at the table….

…Yes.  He said that hurricane clouds are different from regular clouds, so I wasn’t just imagining that they were more dramatic than usual.

My in-laws live on the other side of those trees behind the white house, so basically–this is their neighborhood. You may have to travel 27 minutes to get to Target, but at least the scenery is gorgeous along the way.

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A cautionary note:  If you play on the iPad while you’re on the windy roads on the way to Target, you will get car sick.

You just got a new iPad! What are you going to do next? Download Myst! Duh!

My iPad arrived!  I think I might be coming down with Strep or Tonsillitis!  I have to write a blog!  And fix a bunch of pictures!  And, oh yeah, there’s a hurricane outside!

At any second, I might have to stop blogging to gaze affectionately at the ipad, have a throat culture, doodle notes of blog topics, correct the exposure on a picture, or find a flashlight if the power winks out.

That last one seems imminent, so better post this fast.

Picture of the Day:

And now, off to charge up the iPad so I can play Myst with the kids tomorrow.  Oooo!  Myst!  The best thing about having kids is that it gives you an excuse to relive your youth, and there’s a Myst app.

Note: the iPad’s name is Sandra in honor of her arrival in the middle of Hurricane Sandy.  Sandy’s not very sleek, so she likes to go by her full name.  Sahn-dra.

Teenagers Don’t Have to be Children

I’ve realized this weekend that it’s time to start shifting the focus of my parenting.

When I was a teenager, I got A’s and B’s (and C’s in gym class) in school. Starting at 15 I had a babysitting job that I went to every single day after school and every weekday during the summer.  Never missed a day.

At 16, I got a part time job at a secret government agency (after school) and was considered “essential personnel.”  By the time I was 17, I had graduated high school and was working full time at the agency and only took off one sick day in the 3 years I worked there.

I worked a rotating shift (days/mids/nights) and weekends.   Being essential personnel meant that I was required to go in to work during snow storms in my Ford Festiva– no matter how bad the snowstorm, and on every major holiday:  Christmas, New Years’, Easter, etc.  For two years, aged 17 and 18, I was the one who volunteered to switch my schedule so I could work those holidays, so that the people with kids could be at home.  It never crossed my mind that I was a “kid” and maybe my mother wanted me home with her on Christmas morning.

In the event that the building was under attack, at least one of us was expected to stay in the room and keep the lines open to the bitter end, bombs bursting in air and all.  I kinda figured I’d be able to run away screaming, being a civilian, and that one of the military people would stay and sacrifice his or her life to keep the lines open.  But at the same time, I resigned myself to the fact that if they all ran away faster than me, I would stay behind and sacrifice my life.  It was never put to the test, so I’ll never know what I’d have really done.

If my salary had been high enough, I could have easily lived on my own at 17.  Easily.  I was a dependable employee with a full time job, paid all my own bills and lived then the same way that I live now. Actually, I went to bed earlier back then and Darling Husband pays the bills now, so, in some ways, I was more independently responsible at 17 than I am now.

I married at 19 and am still married to the same man.  For the next 10 years, from 19-29 years old we both worked our jobs rarely using sick leave and spent less money than we earned. We bought a house when I was 21.

I was convinced of it then, and I’m just as convinced of it now, that teenagers are easily capable of running much of their own lives and of handling serious adult responsibility: working all day or all night as the shift may require, marriage, proper handling of finances, home ownership, and the very real willingness to sacrifice one’s life for a greater cause amid exploding bombs.

I don’t believe I was an anomaly.  I personally know more capable teenagers than I know incapable ones.  You’re right that they don’t have as much life experience as someone older, but that doesn’t last long.  There are plenty of people in their twenties who have traveled or lived through hard times that, when you put his or her experiences side-by-side against mine, actually have a more well-rounded life than I have had at almost-40.

It’s only been within the past 200 years that teenagers have had their adult-like responsibility and rights stripped from them.  Throughout the entire span of human history, girls were often considered marriageable by about 12, and for boys it was about 14.  Our culture and our time is the anomaly.

And I believe we’re doing people in their teen years a disservice by treating them like children, when all it takes is a cursory glimpse throughout history to see that they’re capable of much more than we release to them.

I know people, In Real Life people, not just someone I’ve heard about on the internet, who have raised their kids to be capable of running the family’s household by their early teens.  I’ve actually met these teenagers.  Sure, they still enjoying being young and having time to “play.”  And sure, they make more blunders than I would make now that I’ve had 20-25 extra years of living, but they are handling themselves with a respectable level of maturity and responsibility.

What’s the point of this?  I realized today that Boy10 is…well, he’s 10.  Only 3 more years until 13.  That’s the blink of an eye.  Boy10 will be a man very soon with Boy7 not much farther behind.  And what am I doing to prepare them?  As they shortly enter their teen years, will I continue to treat them like children to be controlled, or will I equip them to run their own lives before they reach the end of their teen years?

Now that I’ve been thinking about these things, and have noticed that Boy10 is 10, I’ve been reassessing how I parent him.  It’s time to switch gears and slowly release him into greater responsibilities and to grant him more rights.  Boy7 is still small, but will probably benefit from this as well.

First step: I’m revoking my vetoing power over their allowance purchases.   As of today, they’re in full control of their finances.

Second step:  Letting them pick their own chores off of the day’s to-do list, rather than assigning them, and teaching them how to do the harder chores.

I’ll let you know in three or four years whether it’s working or not.

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Picture of the Day:

Lunch with Gerhard and Janet.

Big burrito.

No burrito.

No, that wasn’t mine.  I was clever enough to fill up on chips and salsa so that I would have leftovers.

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P.S.  Hurricane coming.  If there’s no post tomorrow, you’ll know our power went out.

Ignoring the Teacher, BBQ Potato Chips, and A Real Giant

Today was Photo Club day.  Unfortunately, my iPad hasn’t arrived yet and so I…what?  I didn’t tell you about my iPad?  Really?   Allow me to remedy this:

On Wednesday evening, Darling Husband and I were sitting at the dining room table, which is where we keep our laptops.  I was writing The Blog (this one) and Darling Husband was keeping an eye on the weather forecasts.  Out of the blue he said, “Do you want your own iPad3?  Here’s a really good deal on a refurbished iPad3.”

We had a very dull conversation about whether or not I really want an iPad. I’m not going to recount it here since I don’t want to be responsible for your medical bills if you pass out from boredom and hit your head.  But ultimately, it ended with me saying, “I guess…” and Darling Husband saying, “I’m getting it!  I’m buying it!  Right now!

I’m not sure, but that could possibly be the very first impulse buy that Darling Husband has ever made.  Ever.  Well, let me quantify–it’s probably the first impulse buy more expensive than a $4.29 bag of Bickle BBQ potato chips.

Wait.  I just told Darling Husband what I was writing and he pshawed and said, “I don’t spend $4.29 on the Bickle BBQ potato chips. I wait until they go on sale for 2 for $4.”

So, buying the refurbished iPad3 is the biggest impulse buy Darling Husband has ever made above a $2 bag of Bickle BBQ potato chips.

Back to the beginning.

Today was Photo Club day.  Unfortunately, my iPad hasn’t arrived yet and so I couldn’t sit at the table with Kevin and Gerhard and play with the iPad and ignore the lesson.  Do you remember this picture:

Kevin maintains that he’s not “playing.”  He claims he’s “researching class material.”  The picture is semi-wrong.  It shows Gerhard ignoring the lesson by playing with his camera, but often he gets out his Kindle and reads on it.

I’ve waited almost two years to join their lofty ranks–of sitting at the table ignoring the lesson.  I’ve finally heard that lesson on ISO and aperture and shutter speed so many times that I could teach it.  And yes, I offered to teach it today–anything to get out of having to listen to it yet again–but Scott didn’t want to have to listen to it either, so he hogged the whiteboard pen.

But my iPad isn’t due to arrive until Monday.  Monday!  At least it looks like it should be here before the hurricane blows all the FedEx trucks into the sea.  So when a new Photo Club member showed up (hi, Hannah!) and Scott pulled out the whiteboard to teach her the ISO/Aperture/Shutter Speed lesson, I had nothing to do except play with my camera.

I took a few pictures of Scott.  The pictures I took today will once and for all put to rest your doubts that Scott really is tall.  All along, you’ve been thinking I’m exaggerating, but I’m totally not and I can prove it to you.

This is the picture I took of Scott droning on and on teaching the lesson today in the church’s atrium.  The ceilings in there are probably a good 20 feet tall, and look, just look, at how Scott is just about tall enough to bump his head on the chandeliers:

Oh, alright.  He’s not really that tall, but he’s close.  But, honestly, when you’re bored during your photography lesson and you don’t have your iPad3, and you have your camera nearby, what do you expect?  Scott should be proud that I actually remembered all his lessons about distortion at 18 mm well enough to pull off the picture.

And no, it wasn’t by accident.  I got the exact shot I envisioned.  I believe that this means I have well earned my ticket to sitting at the table with Kevin and Gerhard, ignoring the lesson.

Balloons, Shaving Cream, A Handsome Young Man, and a Really Bad Impression

Ridiculously busy day today.  When I’m done typing here, my clever plan is to fall asleep sitting up in my chair and then slowly slump over onto the table and get a good night’s rest without having to actually stand up and walk into the bedroom.  I’m just that tired, people.

I won’t bore you with the details of every little thing I did all day long, that’s for Facebook, but I’ll just say that I went out before 9 a.m. and got back home after 9 p.m. and the only time I sat all day was for the 40 minutes I was in the car.

If you recall, today was the day that I look senior portraits for Eric.  Here’s a picture I took of Eric with his family last Christmas.

He’s the tall one on the side sticking out his tongue.  No, I didn’t notice that he was sticking out his tongue until I got home and looked at the picture on the computer.

He’s grown since that picture.  I told you a few days ago that he’s 8’12, but I was wrong.  He’s only 6’2.

Which was such a good thing.  Melissa let me borrow her 6 foot tall reflector with a stand.  When on the stand, the reflector was taller than Eric, and waaaay taller than me, so it was his job to schlep it everywhere we went.  We were at an outdoor location with a few acres, so there was a lot of schlepping.

Boy10 was working as my assistant (and after today I have some new insight into why 10 year olds aren’t often gainfully employed…), and at one point I looked around and said, “Where’s Boy10?”

Eric pointed to the reflector, which had fallen over, taking out Boy10 with it.  But Boy10 pressed on undeterred, playing his DS game while under the reflector.  What a trooper!

Here’s a picture of Eric.  Isn’t he so handsome?

I’d just taken a nice picture of him and said, “You looked like your mother in that last shot,” so he immediately launched into his impression of his mother, with the above result.

I don’t think it looks like her at all.  See:

Oooo!  Sorry, Kris!  No, not really.  This is the second time I’ve posted this amazingly unflattering picture of Kris, which makes it even funnier than the first time I posted it.  We’ll be rolling on the floor laughing like loons the third time I post it.  I can hardly wait!

After the photoshoot with Eric, I headed to the church for pictures of their Halloween event.  Since a lot of churches really don’t like the scary/spooky parts of Halloween, they’ll sometimes have events that give the kids candy and let them play games without all the scary/spooky stuff.  The church goes all out for this event, and thousands of locals come to it every year.  There’s a petting zoo and a bouncy house and cotton candy and hot dogs and so on and so on and the kids just love it.

Here’s a very bad picture to give you just a glimpse of how busy this thing gets. This was only a small portion of the parking lot:

It’s late, and I’m running out of time, so even though I have lots of pictures I could show you, I’ll just post this one picture of Gil.  I have no idea what was going on at this booth, but it involved balloons and shaving cream.  Gil is covered with the shaving cream.

It wasn’t until an hour later when Kevin showed up with his camera that I found out why Gil is covered in shaving cream.  I’m still a little fuzzy on the details, but the kids are supposed to draw or something on the balloons in the shaving cream, but when they try to, the balloons pop.

(ETA:  Darling Husband just explained to me that it’s supposed to be “Shaving School” and the kids “shave” the balloons with some sort of plastic scraper and that’s when the balloons pop.  Darling Husband also has a sneaking suspicion that Gil helps the balloons to pop, but that’s unconfirmed wild speculation at this time.)

Kevin got a shot of the balloon at the moment it popped, and you can see huge gobs of shaving cream flying through the air, heading straight for Gil.

Speaking of being a trooper, I think Gil gets the prize today!

Famous Friends, A Mysterious Painting, and Food Art

My friends Michael and Kim are local celebrities, as some of you may recall.  You can see them here in the Gettysburg Visitor’s Guide.  They’re in the banner at the top of the site, and in the magazine as the pages are flipping. (Updated 4/13–they’re not on the website anymore.  New pictures are on it now.)

They are The Happy Family in the Visitor’s Guide.  Every now and then, they get recognized by a tourist.  The last time was about two weeks ago when they were eating ice cream at Mr. G’s. The tourist bemoaned the fact that her Visitor’s Guide was back at the hotel and she couldn’t get an autograph.

Somewhere along the line, Michael’s sister, Kelley, started reading The Blog.  Due to the subliminal messages I hide in The Blog, she got addicted to it, just as you have. So when she planned to leave her home in Detroit to visit her brother Michael, she knew what she had to do:  get off the airplane and head directly to Li’s Buffet with The Happy Family and her favorite blogger, Dustylizard.

Look at this picture:

This is Tom.  Who is Tom?  I don’t know!  But doesn’t he look familiar?  When Michael called to say that he and Kelley were on their way from the airport, he said, “A surprise visitor will be coming, too.”  When we arrived at the restaurant, Michael said, “Here’s the surprise visitor: Tom.”  And for a moment, I was thinking, “Oh look!  It’s ol’ Tom!  Tom and I go waaaay back.”  But then I remembered that I’ve never met Tom before.

But that didn’t stop us from having a great time.  We spent a great deal of energy trying to sort out this painting:

This is hanging in the room with the tables that seat 8 and 10.  Whenever we come with a group, we’re put in this room with this mysterious picture.

Are these babies?  If so, how are they strong enough to row?  Or maybe they’re unwrinkly old men.  But if they’re old men, why are they naked?  And what are they singing?  They’re clearly singing.  I’ve pondered these questions through many a meal at Li’s Buffet.  If you have any insights into this painting, I’d love to hear it.

There was only one thing missing from our experience at Li’s Buffet.

Jin.

Jin!

Jin was missing.  Jin is the owner’s son and always takes the time to stop and chat with us whenever we eat at Li’s Buffet.  But today is Jin’s birthday, so he had the day off.

As you all may remember, whenever we celebrate a birthday at Li’s Buffet, Mr. Li will make food sculptures for us and the staff will sing a sedate “Happy Birthday.”

How could we let Jin’s birthday go by without a food sculpture?  We couldn’t!  Of course, no one had a clue how to create a food sculpture, but then Darling Husband had the idea that we could spell out the words Happy Birthday with rice.  Fortunately, Kim is an artist and Kelley was a floral designer, so the two of them were on the job.  Here they are:

And here is their masterpiece:

Happy Birthday, Jin!

It was great to finally meet you in person, Kelley.  And you, too, Tom!