That's Liza painting the little sculptures she made for our dinosaur diorama, me in the empty chair taking a break from painting the outside of the diorama box, and Jason gluing little laser cannons (or something) onto his Warhammer figures. Aren't we just the picture of geeky domesticity, or what?
Monday, August 31, 2009
Guess who ...
... got up five times last night because she "couldn't sleep?"
... came to sleep with me when Jason got up to go to work?
... slept until 11am, then rolled over and threw up all over Jason's side of the bed?
Hint: it's not me, or one of the cats.
Guess we're not going to the grocery store today, after all. I knew there was a reason I had so many Bill Nye videos checked out from the library.
Also ... I love the fact that I can now satisfy the "I want you to sit right here next to me while I watch this video for the 14th time" requirement and still post on my blog. Love it oh, so much!
Monday, August 24, 2009
Sunday, August 23, 2009
When I suggested the other day during our homeschooling work that she could practice her handwriting, she said, "Sure! I'll write a poem!" And while I rummaged around for more practice paper, she made this:
I'll have to see if I can get our own little Beatnik to perform this on camera, because it really is too priceless. According to Liza, the correct reading of this is (descriptions mine):
Picnic! (very excitedly)
Mmmmm ... (like Homer Simpson)
Oh! Oh! (like uh-oh, only with two ohs)
(I believe "rain" got written at the top because she ran out of room at the bottom of the paper.)
Damn, I hate shopping for electronics. There are approximate 473 choices to make on the spot, and I always have the sneaking suspicion that 470 of them will perform virtually identically when I use them. Add to that the need configure new equipment with new service plans, and it's enough to make my head explode.
For example ... I hate my computer. It's a desktop, and it's as slow as molasses in January. It can literally take 10 or 15 minutes to get from pushing the "on" button to the point where my internet browser is open and functioning. Do you have any idea how annoying that is? I've left a permanent forehead-shaped dent in my desk, if that's any indication of my level of patience with this paperweight of a computer.
Okay, so it's time to replace the computer. Right now I've got a crap computer and a 10-year-old printer and a DSL connection through AT&T that I'm not even sure how much I'm paying for it because it's lumped in with my phone service charges. I'd like to replace this whole shebang with a laptop with mobile internet access. And I'd like to keep the old crappy one around and be able to connect it to the internet occasionally, just as a backup for when the 4-year-old ruins the laptop and I have to send it in for service. Can you say, extended warranty that covers everything except acts of God?
There are about 100 different models of laptops at Best Buy, all with different combinations of processors, memory, screen size, and battery life. I can pay anywhere from $200 to $2000 for a laptop, and any of them would probably work better than what I have. Whatever I get is going to require a $100 wi-fi thingus to convince my current modem to be all wireless and shit, and getting the whole mess set up so that it works with both computers will probably involve a visit from the Geek Squad. Basic Wi-Fi is included in my current DSL package, but that pretty much only works at McDonalds and Starbucks, so if I want to work at the library, that's $20 a month more to get the premiere wi-fi access on my account.
So, for an average computer ($600) and a wi-fi thingus ($100) and premiere wi-fi access ($20/mo plus I'm probably paying $30 a month for the internet itself) plus Geek Squad setup for the home network ($150 ish, I think he said), we're talking about $2050 to buy the sucker and operate it for 2 years.
On the other hand, I could go with mobile broadband access instead of wi-fi. That's about $60 a month and includes the little USB broadband hardware dingus for free (I think it's built into the computer). That lets you connect anywhere you can get a cell phone signal, and it can't be hijacked by freeloaders (ahem, MATT) the way that a wi-fi signal can. It can also just be unplugged from the laptop and plugged into the desktop when I want to use the internet on the old computer (or there's a $100 device I can buy if I want to have the broadband on both computers all the time, but I wouldn't get that right away). As far as I know, I don't need any help to get the broadband set up, although without the home network, I would be stuck plugging in my old printer with a cord when I wanted to print something (or buying a new printer with wireless printing capability).
There's a deal right now on some laptops and notebook computers where they're cheaper if you sign up for mobile broadband when you buy them. So an HP with an average amount of memory but half as much hard drive space and a 14" screen (instead of the 16" screen on the one I talked about before) is only $500. That, plus $60/month for broadband, means that it would be about $2040 to buy and operate for two years.
Yeah, so price? Not so much a deciding factor here. Even if I go with the same exact computer and just compare the wi-fi vs. mobile broadband, there's only $100 difference over two years.
But wait! There's more!
Wi-fi is cheaper per month, and depending on the level of DSL I've got (who knows which one I'm paying for? Not me, at least not until I call India on Monday) it may be faster than mobile broadband. But ... it's limited to a certain range from whatever modem is powering it, so once you get far enough away from McDonalds, you lose the signal. Mobile broadband is a little more expensive per month, but it's continuous coverage - anywhere Verizon goes, so does the internet connection. And from what I can tell, the mobile broadband is more secure than wi-fi, which requires increased vigilance about SSLs and encryption and firewalls and all that. That's important, since I just spent waaaaay too much time setting up all of our bills so they can be paid online. I'd rather not share all those usernames and passwords with the world, thank you very much.
But wait! There's more!
Currently we have our phone, internet, cell phone, and television all through AT&T. I hate my cell phone model, and it would be the same price or cheaper if I had an equivalent plan on Verizon. So that's another dozen pieces of electronics I need to decide between (flip? slide? QWERTY? grrrrrrr). We hardly ever use our landline, and we've been talking about getting rid of it for months now. That would probably save us $40 a month or so (again, it's lumped with the internet on the bill, so I'll have to call to get the actual figures).
But ... if we get our DSL through AT&T without a landline, the price for the DSL goes up. Express DSL when you have a landline is $25 a month; the same speed of DSL with no landline is $35/month. So if we cancel our landline, we save $40ish and spend $10 more for DSL. And that means that DSL with premiere wi-fi is about $55 a month (plus the wireless router and whatever it costs to set the whole mess up) and mobile broadband is $60 a month with no extra costs.
Well, that was refreshing, wasn't it? I need to write down these in-depth benefit analyses more frequently, because I think I've convinced myself that mobile broadband is the way to go. Anyone who has it and hates it, speak now or forever hold your peace :)
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Let's see ... 6"x8"x1" = 48 square inches, but this is a triangle not a rectangle, so it's only 24 square inches of cake.
Seriously - Wild Mango, I love your cake, but I don't love it that much. Cut back on the portion size, mm-kay?
I was driving home from the movie theatre around 10:30 Friday night, cruising from stoplight to stoplight with the windows down and the radio up. After a long stretch of muggy nights, it was finally cool enough to raise goosebumps on my arms. A car pulled up next to me at a light, packed full of teenage boys goofing off ...
... and I'm 17 again, cruising Concord Pike with my version of Lloyd Dobbler after going to see a movie. We're in his mother's Celebrity, listening to the radio and talking to the other misfits on the CB he bought with the money he earned working as a grocery store bagger. I'm wearing my only "sexy" outfit, which was a tight-fitting black t-shirt (with a neckline low enough that my black bra would peek out if I wasn't careful which way I stretched) and a pair of jeans with a really cool black leather belt from Banana Republic. I can faintly smell the perfume I dotted on behind my ears, and the chill from the night air is raising goosebumps on my arms. He's holding my hand as we pull onto the twisty roads in the valley, back to the reservoir and the one-lane bridge where you have to flash your lights before you go across because you can't see the other side, and all the other landmarks I could never find on my own. We're getting lost and getting sort of found and realizing that it's 15 minutes to curfew and somehow we ended up in Toughkenamon and oh crap we'd better find a phone booth so I can call my parents.
Last night, almost 20 years after cruising Concord Pike and the valley, I drove home with the windows down, taking the longer way home on the road that winds down into our own little valley. I turned the radio up and drove with one hand on the wheel and wondered what had become of the grocery store bagger.
And I vowed to throw out that damn belt from Banana Republic, because really, 20 years is too long to keep an accessory, and in retrospect it wasn't that cool to begin with.
Monday, August 17, 2009
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Okay, so we've kind of started following a homeschooling curriculum based around the history of the world, starting with how the earth formed and how animals evolved etc. etc. When I was over at the library yesterday I found a copy of the Bill Nye the Science Guy episode about evolution, which I figured fit in with the other stuff we're talking about this week. This afternoon we watched it ... twice ... while she danced around to the music and talked about how cool the paleontologist was and told me to be sure not to drink the moss milkshake experiment and otherwise told me how much she loved science.
Since good old Bill was regular viewing fodder for me and Jason in college (it was on at dinnertime, right before Star Trek), I have to agree. Science is cool. As is Bill, in his own dorky way. I think I need the t-shirt.
Looks like I've got a mess of videos to request from the library, since there's only one episode per disc.
Friday, August 14, 2009
The nice thing about living within a short drive of the lake is that when we decide it's time to go swimming, we can hop in the car and go. We did the low-stress beach visit last night at dinnertime, bringing nothing but our towels and a couple of sand pails and shovels. We didn't even bring snacks or drinks, which made a much lighter load of stuff to schlep down the cliff from the parking lot.
You can tell we had a lot of company on the beach at 6pm ...
We dug a low-stress hole for Liza to stand in ...
... and let the wall-shaped sand toy do most of the work on our low-stress castles ...
... and we waded out so far the water was lapping at my crotch (you're welcome for that mental picture), and not only was the kid not freaking out about being up to her neck in the lake, she was swimming. Without me holding on. Like, swimming toward shore for 20 feet before she put her feet down, giggling hysterically every time she bobbed with the waves.
Yep, she's ready for her visit with Jason to Mom-Mom and the real beach next weekend.
And lo, the Angel of Craft said unto her, "Damn, girl, do you really want to get hit in the head with empty oatmeal containers every time you try to find a paintbrush? You need to do something about that craft closet."
Thursday, August 13, 2009
I hate it when real life interferes with my plans for blogging.
Okay, so two weekends ago we went to the Fort Wayne, Indiana area for a family reunion. While there, I had planned to visit a couple of kid-friendly attractions on Saturday (and *cough* a yarn store), starting with the Fort Wayne Zoo. It is ranked one of the best zoos in the country for children, and we're all about the animals around here, so it seemed like a safe bet.
We lucked into incredibly nice weather - when was the last time it was 78 and sunny in August in Indiana? Never, that's when. Well, except for two weekends ago, of course. Anyway, we started off in the newest part of the zoo, which just opened this summer and has an African theme. It's got the coolest entryway of any zoo I've seen ... to get to the African section, you go through a tunnel under a roadway, and where you come out the other side there are all kinds of mist sprayers in the landscaping. They make these filmy clouds of fog over the plants, which was cool enough, but when we went through, the wind shifted so that all the fog blew down into the exit to the tunnel, and it looked like you were going back in time or something.The African exhibits were well done, with many animals and habitats that I hadn't seen before. In place of the usual meercat colony, this zoo had a mongoose exhibit, and I'm pretty sure I've never even seen one of those suckers in real life, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi aside. They are cute little stripey buggers, and Liza was totally enthralled, and we had to pick her up and carry her away after like 15 minutes of her trying to get one mongoose or another to follow her finger along the glass.
The zoo also had a nice lion exhibit, which featured two of the most alert and crowd-aware lions I've ever seen. I'm pretty sure they believe the zoo visitors were brought in solely for their amusement and/or snacking pleasure.
By far the coolest part of the Africa exhibit for me was the fact that the group of ostriches was having a disagreement over who got to eat first. Most zoos have lazy ostriches that just sort of wander around slowly cropping grass, but these suckers apparently were on speed. And steroids. Also got to hear them for the first time - if you listen closely to the first part of the clip, you can hear the ostriches calling a few seconds after Jason makes the coyote joke.
And one of Liza's favorite parts of the zoo: the carousel. She only rode it four times, but I think we'd still be there now if we hadn't run out of ride tokens.
Monday, August 10, 2009
Part of the trials of last week included Liza's frequently abysmal behavior. We had everything from ripping the legs off of grasshoppers to drawing on the carpet with markers to screaming "NOOOOOOOOO! ARGHLFLARGLEBLABBLECHHHHHHHHH!" (or however you spell a gutteral scream of disbelief / utter frustration / fury) whenever I suggested anything. Anything. Some days I could have offered to buy her an ice cream cone and a pink pony, and she would have thrown herself headfirst on the floor and whined about how she didn't want that, she hated ice cream and ponies, and all she really wants in this world is ice cream and ponies and I won't give it to her and that's not the right color pony anyway and ARGHLFLARGLEBLABBLECHHHHHHHHH! I have never ducked so many flying objects, dodged so many kicks and fists, or been screamed at full in the face as many times as I did last week. There were days when I ran out of things to use as punishment, as I had already taken away all of her perks like books and songs and videos and time outside and dessert, and she was just as snotty when she came out of time-out as she was when she went in.
My daughter is not usually like this. Usually she's fairly reasonable, fairly good at following directions, fairly easy to redirect when she's pissed about something or other. But every few months she falls apart, just like Ames and Ilg predict. They suggest that children's minds need to basically fall apart in order to make any major progress forward, so any major milestone is usually preceded by weeks of uncoordinated, unreasonable, unpredictable behavior. Liza has been like this from day one, only instead of doing it every six months, she does it every six weeks or so.
It's comforting to know that most of the time Liza isn't acting out because she's suddenly turned 15 ... when I remember it. Of course, usually when she's falling apart, I'm so far into damage control mode ("Must not decapitate child with bare hands. Must not run child over with car. Must not use four- or five-letter words to describe child, at least to her face.") that I forget that these phases are short and usually worth it.
After a week or so of, um, challenging behavior, culminating in a couple bath/bedtimes that were so bad, both Jason and I were ready to trade her in on a ferret, Liza finally cleared the hurdle sometime last night. Here's an example of what I got today, versus what I would have gotten on, say, Friday:
Liza wanted to go to the bakery to buy breakfast this morning, but I wanted something healthier. I suggested we go to the other donut store that's across the street from a bagel place, so we could both get what we wanted.
Friday: "NO! I WANT THE BAKERY AND I WANT IT NOW!"
Today: "Do they have sprinkle donuts there? Okay. Can we get my donut first?"
We've been doing the Hooked on Phonics Master Reader program, and we're at the point now where all she needs to do to finish the first level is read the easy chapter book that came with the program. She's been too intimidated to try much of it, refusing to read more than about half a page at a time. This sucker is 100-plus pages, so we'd be here forever at that rate. I've been trying to entice her into working on it by offering to let her do workbook pages (and she looooooves these workbook pages) as a reward when she finishes a page in the chapter book.
Friday: "NO! I DON'T WANT TO READ THAT! I DON'T WANT TO READ ANY BOOKS!"
Today: "Okay. If I finish this chapter all at once, can I do a few extra workbook pages?" And she finished a four-page chapter in one sitting. And later that day when I wanted to read a few pages from my book, she sat down and read another chapter to me, two pages of which she did without me helping her keep her place or assisting her with sounding out words. And she was so excited about her progress that she tackled her father with the book when he got home, and read another page to him, just to show off. And she was reading fluently, with comprehension - she gave a decent (for a 4-year-old) plot summary to Jason before she started reading to him.
She's been drawing so much that we've been shipping a lot of her art off to family members so that our house doesn't become a watercolor- and crayon-colored fire hazard. She's recently discovered the idea of a drawing "looking right" or "looking not right," which has had predictable consequences. And no, I didn't put the idea into her head that any of her stuff is wrong - she came up with this on her own.
Friday: "ARGHLFLARGLEBLABBLECHHHHHHHHH! I CAN'T MAKE A SUNFLOWER LOOK RIGHT! I CAN MAKE ROSES AND PETUNIAS AND LADYBUGS BUT I. CAN'T. MAKE. A. SUNFLOWER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" (punctuated by stabbing the paper and finally throwing the box of crayons across the room ... and that's a direct quote from Sunday afternoon)
Today: "And this is a willow tree, and this is a regular tree, and look! I colored in the whole back part blue because it's the sky and the sky is everywhere, not just at the top like I used to color it, and I got some blue on the flowers, but that's okay, right? And look how perfect the doorknob on my house is!"
One of the workbooks we've been using is a very basic "how to tell time" book. It starts off with where the numbers go on the clock, and filling them in over and over again, so we've been writing a lot of numbers. She's got a very unorthodox approach to how to write them, but most of her numbers are legible ... except for 5. I have never seen a person mess up a 5 in as many ways as she did last week. I would have sworn she was doing it on purpose, they were so bad, even when she had the sample right above it to look at ... except she was getting genuinely frustrated by the whole thing.
Friday: "I QUIT! I AM NOT DOING THIS EVER AGAIN! I AM SO BAD AT MAKING A 5! I CAN MAKE 9 AND 8 AND 3 BUT I CAN'T MAKE A 5! ARGHLFLARGLEBLABBLECHHHHHHHHH!"
Today: "Mom, can you help me practice my 5s on this scrap paper? I know it's not in this lesson, but I want to get better." And she made two passable 5s with only minor assistance.
Swings. Oh my god, the swings. She's been so into swings lately that I actually ended up with cramps in my arms from pushing her for so long at a playground a week or so ago. And since the weather has been so mild, she's been out on our swingset every day. And despite the fact that I have seen her start swinging and get herself going as high as I ever push her, all by herself, she spent last week insisting that she couldn't do it.
Friday: "I WANT TO GO ON THE SWINGS, AND I WANT YOU TO PUSH ME NOW! NOW! ARGHLFLARGLEBLABBLECHHHHHHHHH! I QUIT! NO FAIR!"
Today: "I'll just go swing myself while you read in the hammock, okay?"
After dinner today she wanted to play "little girl and a fairy," and since she was in the fairy costume, I was supposed to be the little girl. I needed to clear off the dinner dishes, so I pretended to be a little girl who had too many chores to do who really wanted a fairy to help her. Liza was not on board with this at first.'
Friday: "NO! NO FAIR! I QUIT! I WANT TO PLAY THIS WAY!"
Today: "But I wanted to play 'lost little girl who needs a fairy to help her get home.'" And then I convinced her to play along with me, and she did, helping me clear away the table and putting away all of the clean dishes, too. At some point near the end of the clearing, she said (in character, to my character) "I hope you're enjoying this, because don't expect it to happen again any time soon."
Liza has been using lots of stalling tactics to avoid getting ready for bed. She's managed to dredge up so many things that we had previously mentioned maybe doing each day, and get indignant when we refuse to do them right at bath time, that it's getting really funny.
Friday: "YOU SAID WE COULD READ A BOOK, AND I WANT TO READ THIS 80-PAGE CURIOUS GEORGE BOOK RIGHT. THIS. MINUTE. NO FAIR!" And then she would latch onto some part of my body with a death grip worthy of a snapping turtle.
Today: "But you said we could do our nature craft today! Arghhhh!" I whispered that we would do it tomorrow and make it look extra nice and write the descriptions really fancy so that Jason would be impressed when he saw it after work, and she said, "Can we use glitter glue?" and trotted upstairs to the bathroom.
Thank god that's over. If her pattern holds, I'm safe until about, oh, the first week of school. Hurrah!
Saturday, August 08, 2009
Last week of July: My father doesn't feel so well for a few days and finally goes to the doctor, only to discover that he has pneumonia (again). Doctor puts him on a double shot of antibiotics, and he seems to be recovering well.
Friday, July 31: While searching for change to pay the toll on our way to the family reunion, I discover that my American Express card is not in its slot in my wallet. Frantic searching of my wallet and purse do not turn up the card, but I'm reasonably sure I just left it in the pocket of my pants when I got gas on Thursday.
Saturday, Aug. 1: My father passes out while taking a shower, gashing open his forehead and wrenching his shoulder. He's only marginally coherent when my mother finds him bleeding on the floor in the bathroom*, so he gets an ambulance ride to the hospital, where he gets eight stitches and gets held over for a couple of nights to try to figure out why he passed out. My mother doesn't call me with the news, since they don't know how severe the problem is, and it's not like I'm going to be able to do anything from Indiana, anyway.
Sunday, Aug. 2: I get to sit next to my grandmother at the family reunion. She does not say one coherent sentence the entire time she's there, but she does look pleased as punch to get a shiny package to unwrap for being the oldest attendee. When we get home from Indiana, I get my mother's message about my father being in the hospital. And my American Express card is not in my pants pocket. But nobody has charged anything on it since I bought gas last week, so I doubt it's been stolen.
Monday, Aug. 3: I go to the doctor to renew my prescriptions; he tells me I need to lose weight and that I shouldn't tell anyone how good my blood pressure is because I'd be a bad influence on them. And the nurse who draws my blood for routine testing strikes oil on the first try, yet still manages to leave a bruise the size of a 50-cent piece. My father is discharged from the hospital, and I talk to him while I hold the puke bucket for my daughter for the sixth or seventh time in less than two hours. And did I mention the puke in my bra? And my hair? And my hallway carpeting, all across the bathroom floor, and all over the bathtub?
Tuesday, Aug. 4: We stay home all day so Liza can recover her strength. Liza discovers that dry erase markers write really well on the family room carpeting. Liza's older friends from the neighborhood come over to do crafts with us, and I hear the saddest thing I've ever heard in my whole life: "You mean, it's okay for me to make stuff with the clay? My mother doesn't let me do crafts at home. She says it's too messy. ... Can I bring these back in a few days so I can paint them? I'm not allowed to paint at home." The girl is 10 years old. Meanwhile, Tuesday evening someone steals my iPod** out of my (unlocked) car. We got it for free, and I've been thinking of upgrading it anyway, but still ... I hate it when people violate my space. And they didn't even steal the $12 pack of batteries that were sitting right next to it, so they're obviously not very smart (or have never used those batteries before).
Wednesday, Aug. 5: I stay up late to finish the bodice of a dress I've been knitting for weeks for Liza, but when I get it off the needles and hold it up, it looks suspiciously wide. I try it on, and the chest area is too large for my waist, and the waist area of the dress is only slightly too tight for my hips. Whoops.
Thursday, Aug. 6: I wake up at 4:30, puking my guts out, only there's nothing in my stomach, so I get to dry heave about 400 bajillion times over the course of the day. Liza and I watch television continuously from 7am to 2:30pm; I'm so sick I don't even object to watching three hours of Barney videos back-to-back. I'm so sick, I don't blog. Or knit. Or sleep. I do, however, get lots of practice moaning and clutching my stomach. I'm so achy at bedtime that I have to take Tylenol just to get to sleep.
Friday, Aug. 7: Liza wakes me up at 2am and wants to cuddle. I'm too tired to go to her room, and Jason is sleeping downstairs to avoid The Plague, so I let her sleep with me. Liza wakes me up at 4am, having just peed all over herself (and my bed) for the first time in months. I send her back to her bed, pull back the covers over the wet spot, and go back to sleep. During the day, I recover enough to eat some soup and applesauce, and to clean up the squalor in my house. Liza is in rare form, refusing to do anything I ask and trying to find new and unusual ways to get in trouble. At one point she decided that the best way to get a piece of pink fuzz off of the cat was to cut off the cat's fur with a pair of scissors. And the cat let her. And she did it where I had already vacuumed. And the only reason the pink fuzz was there in the first place was because she had taken the scissors to her feather boa.
Saturday, Aug. 8: I'm feeling queasy again and it's raining, which means no visit to the Corn Festival for me today. Jason has taken Liza to the science center, and I'm trying to finish up some Lazy Mama business while not heaving on the poor lady's mermaid tail.
Yes, I know none of it is tragic. Jason has coworkers whose kids have been in surgery for various things this week, and other people have a lot more immediate and serious health issues than a stomach bug.
But still, daaaaaamn. This week has sucked donkey balls. And I can't even wallow in brownie-flavored self-pity, thanks to the queasiness (and my doctor ... asshole).
*So, did you get those stains out of the grout yet, Mom?
** It's a Shuffle, which uses a completely different docking/charging setup than any other MP3 player I've seen, so unless the thief already has one, he's going to have to buy one if he wants to change the songs on his "free" iPod. I hope he really enjoys the They Might Be Giants kids' tunes and Pinky Dinky Doo audiobooks. Rat bastard.
Monday, August 03, 2009
When you return to Indiana for a family reunion, there's a cop at the state line who won't let you leave the state until you take a picture of your kid in a cornfield.
We made it there, saw most of the folks we had hoped to see, ate most of the food we had hoped to eat, and made it back again, all in one weekend. We even had an extra day to play in the hotel pool and visit the zoo in Fort Wayne ... more on that when I've got the energy to download the pictures and edit the video.
Right now, I'm more interested in keeping up with Little Miss Pukes-A-Lot, who suddenly started throwing up all over me in the hallway at bedtime. Any day when I have to use the phrase, "Hold still while I pour the vomit out of my bra," is just destined to be memorable. On the positive side of things, at least she's getting lots (and lots ... and lots) of practice with the puke bucket!