Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial

Sassy studied Abraham Lincoln at the end of this past school year, and she was fascinated by him. It was a great study, and I always love it when the children get sincerely interested in history.

Because so much of history can be dry facts and long-ago dates, I always try to do hands-on history whenever possible. When the opportunity came to travel south last month, I chose our path to take us by the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial in southern Indiana.

The Memorial is part of the US National Park service. The website didn't give a lot of detail on what to expect, so in typical me-fashion, I packed the car and set off, still not knowing but hoping for the best. It really is just as straightforward as presented on the website -- a small but lovely museum, a 15-minute introduction film, a short walk to the cemetery and farm site. The children also got a nice little "Junior Ranger" packet, which had puzzles and questions that they worked/answered as we walked the museum and site.

[Aside: Everyone who knows my love of Star Trek (original series!) will realize how delighted I was that Leonard Nimoy was the narrator of the film! We were two syllables in when I gasped, elbowed both children, and said, "You realize that is SPOCK, right?!"]

The film details Lincoln's life in Indiana, which sets the stage for the artifacts and reproductions in the rest of the museum. The museum is small, but very nicely displayed. Sassy loved that they had a cabinet that was built by Abraham Lincoln's father, Thomas.

(Is it just me, or does Thomas look like an older Harrison Ford in this photo?)

Also in the photo is Abe's mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln, who died just a couple of years after the family moved to Indiana.

They also enjoyed the interactive "house" which had a spotlight over certain components of the pioneer household with explanations of each.

After the museum, we took a small walk up the hill to Pioneer Cemetery, where Nancy Hanks Lincoln is buried. This fascinated the children more than anything else. Maybe it's because my love of old cemeteries has rubbed off? Maybe it's because it is a very personal, tangible link to such an important person in our American history? I'm not sure, but we stood in front of this for far longer than I expected. They were mesmerized.

(That big shadow isn't me; it's a stubborn tree that wouldn't move for me!)

A little further down the path, past the cemetery is where the Lincoln farm actually stood. There are outlines of the footings of the original farmhouse and a reproduction of the house just a little further down the path. The reproduction farmhouse has characters in costume to answer questions and interact with the visitors. While we were there, one of the men was trying to get a rooster in the pen. That was quite unintentionally entertaining!

Sadly, we didn't spend much time there (and I completely forgot to take photos) because the mosquitoes were having a nice feast on Sassy, who is not only tasty to them but allergic as well. It never occurred to me to bring bug spray!

All in all, we spent about three hours at the Memorial, and it was definitely worth stopping. Next time we have reason to go that direction, I'll probably stop again, just so we can see more of the farmhouse. When it isn't 90+ degrees, and I'm armed with bug spray!


Wednesday, June 08, 2011


I think I'm over the whole Facebook phenomenon.

I have an account, as do (it seems) most people in the electronically gifted world. Checking what other people are saying seems to be almost a necessity, since ... well, I'll get to that in a moment. But as a forum? I think I'm about finished.

Lately it seems that most of what I've read is rantings of one thing or another. Personal affronts, political agenda, religious ravings. Drama, drama, drama. Seldom do I see someone encouraging another person without attempting to tear down someone else, whether it's a group or an individual.

When I first created my account, I wasn't all that thrilled with it. It seemed ... pointless. But I joined because the leader of my (then) homeschool group was supposedly using it as a way to communicate. I never got one group-related item from her. Just random "pokes" that made me say "what was the point in that?" Then more and more people found me, and it was nice hearing from old friends. Unfortunately, those old friends don't post much.

Two things happened very recently to make me realize the extent that Facebook has reached.

First, Skeeter's best friend got married. We don't live near him any more, but they talk fairly often, and they see each other when Skeeter is in town. Best Friend got married, and he "announced" it on Facebook. Skeeter is rather like me. He checks Facebook from his phone at odd moments, and he misses a lot. So he completely missed that Best Friend had gotten married. Not to even mention that the idea of marriage for this man is shocking. Skeeter had been in town, gotten a tour of Best Friend's new house, and had dinner with him. Four days before the wedding. Not one mention that he may or may not be getting married in the near future.

Second, which occurred just yesterday, I found out that my sweet Memaw was admitted to the nursing home. Through FACEBOOK. I'm feeling rather bitter about the whole thing. I am not angry about it because it's over, done, and can't be changed. Also, I know that it was an exhausting, emotional day for my mom and my aunt.

(I won't mention here that The Michael KNEW and didn't tell me. KNEW. But even he will get the benefit of the doubt, since I didn't anticipate NOT getting a phone call about it.)


As I was saying, it was quite a day for them. I found out through a Facebook post because I decided to skim before I went to bed at midnight-ish. It is not secret how I adore my Memaw. I would have appreciated a three-minute phone call to let me know so that I didn't have to find out with the rest of the world on Facebook.

Facebook can be such a great thing. My current Mom group uses it. I've used it for Bible study. I like seeing photos of my friends. But there are just some things that need a little more than a group post. I'll keep checking it a couple of times a day though, in case there are other life changes that I need to know about.


Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Radish Salad

I got a new recipe last week that is too good not to share! Yes, as the title suggests, it's radish salad. I'm not a great fan of radishes because they are so spicy, but this uses a Daikon radish, which has a much more mild flavor. The recipe actually reminds me of my Memaw's cucumber salad.

1 Daikon radish, peeled and sliced very thin
1/3 cup diced scallions
1/4 cup black olives (whole, sliced, diced -- whatever you fancy)
2 T olive oil
2T vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Simply mix and enjoy! It would probably taste wonderful with a zesty Italian dressing, if you prefer not to do the olive oil and vinegar. I also added a little bit of feta cheese to the dish when I made it at home. Next time I will probably throw in a thinly sliced regular radish as well, to bump up the spice a little bit. Feel free to suggest other improvements!


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Like Mother, Like Daughter

The scene: Mother, walking out of the bathroom after cleaning.

Sass: Oh, Mom, you smell good! Can I wear that perfume? What is it?

Me: Bleach.

I swear, I can't make these things up. I don't know if I've mentioned it here, but my love of bleach is no secret. Seems like Sassy takes after me in that.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011


A snippet of a texting conversation with my 9 year old:

Me: Do I need to tell Daddy how to rent the Redbox?

Me: Just tell him to put in the promo code before he swipes his credit card.

Sass: I got you covered, girl.

Maybe it's because I could hear her voice in that, but I laughed aloud right in the middle of Spyder's magic meeting.


Friday, February 11, 2011


Friday is my least favorite day of the week.

By the time Friday comes along, I've usually had a hectic week. Running here and there, schoolwork, messy house because I was busy with everything else. The minutia just catches up to me. I don't like Fridays.

For several years, the urchins and I didn't do book work on Fridays to alleviate my Friday Blahs. Instead we did "Friday Fun Time" where we would go to the zoo or a museum, or even just a park or a movie.

We haven't really done that since we moved. It's ironic that we now live in one of the largest metropolitan areas in the US, and it's harder to do things. Not because there aren't opportunities available, but because it just simply takes so long to get to things. It's not uncommon that it takes a hour just to get to a museum, once I factor in the time for locating parking. And some things are just cost prohibitive. I never realized how much I took it for granted that we lived near the Memphis museums and zoos. Getting there took 20 minutes, tops. And we were able to go to the zoo year-round. Ah, those were the days.

But the children miss it, and I miss it. So I'm making it my mission to seek out those opportunities.

Today's activity: outdoor ice skating.

I'll report back the results, assuming I can sit once it's all over. :)


Wednesday, February 09, 2011



I've never truly lived in the suburbs before. We lived in midtown Memphis, then we moved to a suburb of Memphis, but it wasn't The Suburbs as I had seen portrayed in movies. The houses were all older and different from one another, on unevenly spaced plots of land. That was our old neighborhood.

Now, we DO live in one of those neighborhoods that looks like a movie set. Every time I hear the "Over the Hedge" version of "Rockin' the Suburbs" I laugh because it is now so familiar. Skeeter drives past our house at least once a week because everything looks so similar.

This isn't to complain because we chose to live here. There ARE good things about our neighborhood. Skeeter and I aren't really suburb types -- I like my space, and people tend to annoy me -- but the urchins have many friends and places to play, and I am satisfied with that.

Still, our neighbors are now significantly closer, and Skeeter and I are careful to have good neighbor manners, specifically where the dogs are concerned. Just like us, the dogs were accustomed to having more space and (minus the squirrels) fewer neighbors. As a result, it took them a while to get settled. They were barky outside, but we made sure to shush them every time. And they stay in our yard; we don't let them roam free. Of course, with dogs, we have the usual "doing their business" issues, which -- again -- is in OUR yard and we clean up. (I might mention that we clean it much less frequently when it's 15 degrees out and there's snow on the ground, but we DO clean it.) While we are certainly not perfect, we do make an effort to not be intrusive on others.

Some of my slightly-too-close-for-comfort neighbors don't seem to make that same effort.

One neighbor with a beautiful Great Dane lets him sit outside and bark for 20 minutes at a time. BARK BARK BARK. BARK BARK BARK. They are three doors down, and it sounds like he is sitting in my yard. You'd think it would annoy his owners just as much as it annoys me.

The barking is bothersome. Very bothersome. But the worst ones are the neighbors who let their dogs do their business in other people's yards, either on a leash or by letting them roam free. I'm not particularly thrilled with having to clean up after my beasts, but I do it. I'm definitely not happy when I have to clean up after a dog belonging to someone else. It seems to be happening with increasing frequency too, and I'm completely at a loss for what to do about it.

I've never seen the dogs in action, but I'm cleaning up the aftermath, so I know it's happening. Sometimes it's on the sidewalk; sometimes it's in the driveway. Sometimes it's from a small dog; sometimes it's from a big one. It always makes me mad.

So ... suggestions? What can I do, if anything?


Sunday, February 06, 2011

Car snob

I am a car snob. I have no reason for it. My car is a Nissan Versa. This one. Yep, I still have that one. And I still love it.

It's really amusing to see my little car next to all of the other Mom Vehicles. SUV, SUV, van, SUV, van, my little car, van, SUV, van. The juxtaposition makes me smile.

My first car was a huge boat of a thing, one of those 70s classics. My dad bought it for me the night before I took my drivers test. (No pressure!) The shop class boys flocked around it before and after school, which amused me heartily since I was a nerd, and I seriously doubt they even knew my name. That huge boat of a car has probably colored my opinion of cars though. Since then, I've almost always had a small car.

My second car was an old Toyota. Manual transmission, which I didn't even know how to drive at the time I bought it. My previous experience was with my dad's old Ford truck with the shift on the column (not at all similar, which was a good thing since I thought it was difficult on the column) and my friend's mom's station wagon (which I ended up BACKING down the road because I couldn't even get it out of first gear). Of course, after having purchased the little Toyota, it was kind of a requirement to, you know, learn how to drive it. My dad took me out to one of the back roads and I drove. And drove and drove and drove.

And my snobbery began.

Turns out that I loved my manual transmission Toyota. Loved it. I drove it for a few years, then I moved out of town. The car was old, and I was always worried about driving such an old car with my daddy to far away to save me if I needed it. So my parents helped me find and buy another car. This time it was a 1987 Toyota Camry. Again with the manual transmission.

The Camry was owned by someone who drove a LOT. It was four years old when I bought it, and it had over 100,000 miles on it. But my dad (my mechanical genius) checked it out and said it looked good, so I bought it. Paid $6000 for it, and I drove it for nearly 12 years, when my dad pronounced it less reliable than I needed. I hated to get rid of her. The Grey Ghost was practically a member of the family.

I'll spare you the play-by-play on the other vehicles (one of them deserves her own post), but when I had the choice (read: Skeeter didn't need to drive it), I chose a manual transmission. My current vehicle is a manual transmission.

Not long ago, the urchins and I were discussing learning to drive, as Spyder will be learning pretty soon (ACK). It was never an issue whether he would learn on my (manual) or Skeeter's (automatic) vehicle. He will learn to drive a manual transmission. I'm indoctrinating them!

All kidding aside, I do think it's important. There were a couple of situations before I learned where I needed to drive one and couldn't (see above paragraph about backing down the road), and I don't want either of them to be unprepared if they are in similar situations someday. And maybe they will come to dear old mom's rescue when my old and arthritic joints can't manage the clutch or gearshift.


Thursday, February 03, 2011

In the wake of The Blizzard

As I mentioned yesterday, the blizzard came through in two phases. The first occurred from about 3 pm to 5 am. It never stopped snowing entirely, but it was slow enough that we could shovel. Until about 11 am, that is, when the second phase came through. That lasted until about 4 pm.

I should have taken more photos, but I was more worried about being able to open the garage and the front door without snow falling inside. And attempting to get Skeeter off to work.

This is our front door after the first wave. I didn't get a photo after the second.

And here is the drift between our house and our next door neighbor. Large, yes?

This is what it looked like during the second wave, about noon. This isn't the darkest it got. At one point it was a complete white-out, where we couldn't even see the houses across the street.

And our deck, during the second wave. We had completely cleared it after the first one, so all of that was new snow.

And the poor dogs. LOL. The lowest drifts were chest-high, and we don't have small dogs -- a 70 lb Lab and an 85 lb shepherd/lab mix. They were highly annoyed by the whole thing. This is Lucy, swimming her way through the snow to get back up the stairs and inside the warm house!

And here is Sass playing in the snow today. These are the snow piles from shoveling the driveway. You can't really tell from the perspective, but they are almost as high as the top of the garage door. She was using the snow pile as a sledding hill.

So now I can say I've been through a blizzard and dug my way out on the other side! And it was one that made the record books too.


Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Snowmageddon 2011


Spyder had an orthodontist appointment yesterday morning, but we were done before the snow began in earnest. We even had enough time to stop at Wendy's for lunch (doctor or dentist appointment = patient chooses lunch).

We were home by 1:30. The snow had started, but it was still in the early stages. Around 3 it really picked up, and by 5 the wind was howling. We even had thunder snow later that night. The snow was mostly over by the time we got up at 5:30 this morning. Skeeter was scheduled to report to work, so we started shoveling around 6:30.

Shoveling is where it got ... interesting.

First order of business was getting a path for the dogs. The deck had almost a foot of snow, so Skeeter cleared it, and we let the dogs out. They were highly annoyed with the snow, but they were able to get out and back with little trouble.

We had 3+ foot drifts completely covering our driveway. We don't have a particularly large driveway, but it took us almost 4 hours to move enough of the snow for Skeeter to get out. And that is only because one of the neighbors took pity on us and brought his snow blower over to help us get the last 10 feet or so.

It was snowing the whole time we were shoveling, sometimes lightly, sometimes more heavily. About the time we finished -- around 11 am -- the snow started feeling like a blizzard again. By the time I got inside, I had so much snow on me that my hair was crunchy!

Skeeter attempted to go in to work, but he ended up having to turn around less than a mile from home. The roads had not been plowed, and driving was treacherous. I was glad to see him pull back in the garage because I was worried about him driving in all that. Not long after he got home, the snow was so heavy that we couldn't even see the homes across the street.

The second wave of snow lasted until around 4 pm, and it completely undid all of the progress that we had made before. ::groan:: But it had to be done, so we headed on out. We are in for sub-zero temperatures tonight, which means that moving that snow would be a lot harder tomorrow!

Our official total is somewhere around 22 inches, but it sure felt like more!


Monday, January 31, 2011

Blizzard Watch

I may live in the Great Midwest, but I am a southern gal to the core. Those two little words -- "blizzard watch" -- make me shiver. I've gotten over my fear of plain old snow, sort of. I still don't like it, but it has become somewhat commonplace, so it doesn't really BOTHER me like it did. It also helps tremendously that we don't really get ice here the way we did in the mid-south. It's all snow.

During the last big snow, we had drifts that were taller than the dogs. We had to shovel a path down the steps and into the yard just so they could go out to pee. And that was just a regular old snow. (The dogs were most unhappy with it too.) We have had more snow since then, but it has only been an inch or two at a time.

The forecast for the next couple of days puts the snow totals over two feet. This could get interesting.


Sunday, January 30, 2011


This year marked the 25th anniversary of the Challenger space shuttle disaster. Like many people, I can remember where I was and who delivered the news (at school, walking down the hill, and the news was delivered by one of my jokester friends, so I didn't believe him). I've tried to explain the impact to the children, probably with little success.

When I discovered that the Challenger Learning Center nearby was hosting a family day, Skeeter and I immediately made plans to go. Spyder had taken the Voyage to Mars class last year, so he was familiar with the center. Sass and I were in the observation room during the class, alternating between watching the mission and playing games together, so we were somewhat familiar with it. Skeeter had never been and was pleased to have an opportunity to see it.

The coordinators ("commanders") had set up learning stations, using simple hands-on experiments to show the challenges faced by the astronauts in space. One of them was as simple as putting on a pair of work gloves and screwing a nut onto a bolt, but feeling the challenge is a effective learning tool than being told or even seeing it.

The experiment that the children found the most fascinating showed the effect of the space vacuum, very similar to this one:

Spyder was incredibly proud of his massive marshmallow astronaut. :)

We also saw two planetarium shows and a short laser show. The children had never seen a laser show before, so that was the one which most interested them. They were already making plans to see another one as soon as the lights came up.

There are many of these Challenger Learning Centers all over the US. If there is one near you, I highly recommend seeing what it has to offer.


Since I've been gone ....

A great many things have taken place, most notably moving from the Mid-South to the Midwest. Chicago, to be more specific.

We seem to have settled into the groove of the area just fine, although I will say that winter here is significantly different from the winter I'm accustomed to experiencing. To be honest, it seems like our old life is ... well ... a lifetime away. I'm not really certain that I could explain, but life is different here. It's more than a change in the weather; there is a difference in the social climate as well.

I'm looking forward to the adventures.