Thursday, October 30, 2008

FUN WITH FIRE!!!!

OK, I know one day very soon I'll break down and try this myself because I just can't stand not having this totally awesome trick under my belt. (Let's face it, my exploding coffee creamer only gets me so far...)
I saw this on Food Detectives (Food network) and looked around online to prove it. And it's true.
Grapes, when cut a certain way, will explode into flames when put in the microwave. Apparently the electolytes in the little fruit arc between the halves (you have to cut the grapes a certain way) and the thing shoots up in flames.

Science is so cool.

Anybody ever try this?
Anybody want to bet how long it takes me before I set my house on fire?

(FYI: I found a video of it here: http://vimeo.com/1761680?pg=embed&sec=1761680)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

My totally insightful thought for the day

I am constantly struggling with explaining things to my kids. It's nearly impossible for them to understand the adult world, but I have to admit the following description of a "bad mommy day" is nearly perfect.
Ellen to Toby getting ready for a shower while he runs around naked and pretending to sing opera at 8:45PM: Just be good so mommy stops yelling so much today.
Me: Have I really been yelling all day?
Ellen: Well, not ALL day. But a lot of it.
Me, tempers rising as Toby is still not behaving and now my daughter has called me out on my crappy parenting: Well let me explain it to you this way. Imagine you wake up and someone hands you a piece of homework and you have to do it. You have to do their work! And every time you finish one problem, they erase it. Over and over. And over and over. And then, when you finally get something finished, they hand you another piece of homework. All day long, you can never get anything done because you're busy not accomplishing anything. That is my life today, but wouldn't you be yelling too??
Ellen: Uh, yeah.

We all hope for good mommy days. And no homework.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Stress-inducing school photos: Just tuck in a t-shirt?

It was pretty fitting that the forms came home from school because I was just noticing how much dust had formed on last year’s school pictures. Now that we’ll be getting new ones, I suppose I can hold off on the Pledge until I replace the toothless, hairless smiles from last year with brand new ones.
School picture day is extremely insignificant in the context of the entire world, but in the tiny world that my children and I live in, it is a huge deal. They are very concerned about what they are going to wear to be preserved in childhood history, and I am very concerned about ordering enough copies for all of the grandparents, not to mention remembering to send the money to school that day.
Of course, there are other things I worry about too, all which stem from the disastrous memories of my very own school picture days. In first grade, the cowlick that still exists on the right side of head was in full force which only complimented the bangs that my mom cut at a too-steep angle. And I can remember standing in line in elementary school forever, waiting for the two seconds you got to sit down and smile. Then you’d wait months to find out if your eyes were open or your smile was cattywhompus in the yearbook. This same kind of humiliation continued on all the way through my school-aged career, with the culmination being my senior pictures when I woke up with those puffy sleepy-eyes and wore a daisy vest I sewed myself and my grandfather’s fedora hat. (Oh, the nineties!)
To this day, I can’t believe my parents spent the money to buy any of those shots in a large print size.
But this year photo day is causing us problems even before the actual day arrives. My son, Captain Camouflage, refuses to wear anything with any class. In his mind there are two types of clothing: comfy clothes and fancy clothes. Fancy clothes consist of the tuxedo he wore at a recent wedding, and his comfy clothes are all grass and mud-stained or ripped (he is a boy, through and through.) I just don’t think the tux would fit in very well with the other preschoolers.
Confiding in some close friends over lunch yesterday, I told them that I was beginning to worry about picture day because my son doesn’t have any decent clothes that I can convince him to wear. And buying something new that he will only wear for two hours doesn’t make all that much sense, so I wasn’t sure what I was going to do.
And bless their hearts, both of them brought me, at separate times, clothes from their own sons to borrow. They are pretty spectacular friends, with very well-dressed sons, and I was pleased as punch until I opened up the bags of clothes.
They didn’t look like anything like my son. If I dressed him in a clean shirt with a collar, I’d probably have to put a nametag on him. He’d be unrecognizable. And why would I want a picture of someone who doesn’t look like my kid at all?
For that reason, we decided to dress him in his nicest of “comfy” clothes, something that will best represent who he is this year at school. And who he is, is a rough and tumble boy who loves camping, skateboarding and building forts. I want a real and truthful memory of him, and if that means he won’t be the nicest dressed, well, it won’t be the first time. Or the last time, either.
Chances are it’ll be a fabulous shot, and I’ll be reordering large sizes to pass out to the family. I know my parents will be happy to hang it on the wall, right next to the captured moment shot of my sleepy eyes and grandpa’s hat.
Karrie and her family live in Orrville. Drop her a line at www.KarrieMcAllister.com.

Piano Practice

Ellen (aka Carmen Miranda) practices for her piano program...

CLICK HERE to view.

Darn the first entry -- THE BOOTS.

I hope to, years from now, sift back through the archives to view the very first entry of this blog. And most likely, I'll be disappointed because reading things that you've personally written aren't quite the same as reading what someone else wrote.
Just like coffee and salad always taste better when someone else makes it. It's one of those worldly mysteries that not even Nancy Drew could figure out.
I'm starting this blog in lieu of my old web site which is now defunct because the whole economy is going somewhere in a handbasket. But this [free!] alternative gives me one great place to post everything and anything I want, combining my old blogs, SmallTownSoup.blogspot.com and OutdoorMama.blogspot.com.

But to put something of substance in this first entry of this new blog, I thought I'd tell a bit about the boots you see in the logo. This photo was taken before Annie was big enough to wear shoes, so there's only two little boots following mine.
Toby's and Ellen's are self-explanatory, but my boots, my dear, dear boots, are something special.
I bought those boots in 1995. They have been all over the United States and Australia. They have walked through deserts, rivers, over mountains, and through coal mines hundreds of feet below the ground. They have smelled so bad that we had to keep them outside the tent at night, and they've been worn so hard that they've been resoled. Twice.
I love my boots, as smelly as they are, so much that I wanted to wear them under my wedding dress but I didn't because of the obvious odor. But it would have been quite fitting because I fell in love with my husband while wearing them. (And he still married me!)
These boots have lead me all over the world and essentially, into love. And now that I'm a mom, they lead my children too. They lead us around the woods in our backyard, and someday they'll lead us all around the world.
And hopefully, they'll lead my children into loving the outdoors as much as I do.
I realize that's a lot for a pair of boots to live up to, but judging by their record, they should have no problem.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Piano Practice

Ellen (aka Carmen Miranda) practices for her piano program...

CLICK HERE to view

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Too funny not to share


Toby is almost 5 years old, and last weekend my husband, Ryan, took him out squirrel hunting for the very first time. They sat silently in the woods and when the time was right, Ryan pulled the trigger and the squirrel, still with a nut in his mouth, took his final breath.
Ryan went to retrieve the little guy and left my own little guy sitting silent at the tree so that they could wait for the next squirrel to hop by. When he got back, Toby picked up the dead animal, petted it, and at one point even rubbed his cheek on the soft fur.
Ryan was very impressed that Toby wasn't afraid of the dead animal.
When it came time to dress and clean the animal, Toby was right there to learn. He happily scooped the guts out with his little hands. Again, Ryan was very impressed.
Examining all of the body parts, Toby asked "is this the poop-hole, dad?"
"No," answered his Dad, not really ready for what came next, "that is his weiner. And that there are his, uh, er, his nuts."
Then Ellen the older sister came by.
"Look, Ellen," says wise Toby, "that's where the squirrel keeps the nuts that the finds!"
Ryan quickly corrected him, but really couldn't blame him. It makes sense, doesn't it? Squirrel collects nuts, and has a little pouch for them. Good engineering?
So when I walked up a few minutes later after the situation had been cleared up, Toby held out his bloody little hand and said to me, "here mom. This is a squirrel ball," and he tossed the tiny testicle into the woods.

Squirrel stew tomorrow. Nut free.

Too funny not to share


Toby is almost 5 years old, and last weekend my husband, Ryan, took him out squirrel hunting for the very first time. They sat silently in the woods and when the time was right, Ryan pulled the trigger and the squirrel, still with a nut in his mouth, took his final breath.
Ryan went to retrieve the little guy and left my own little guy sitting silent at the tree so that they could wait for the next squirrel to hop by. When he got back, Toby picked up the dead animal, petted it, and at one point even rubbed his cheek on the soft fur.
Ryan was very impressed that Toby wasn't afraid of the dead animal.
When it came time to dress and clean the animal, Toby was right there to learn. He happily scooped the guts out with his little hands. Again, Ryan was very impressed.
Examining all of the body parts, Toby asked "is this the poop-hole, dad?"
"No," answered his Dad, not really ready for what came next, "that is his weiner. And that there are his, uh, er, his nuts."
Then Ellen the older sister came by.
"Look, Ellen," says wise Toby, "that's where the squirrel keeps the nuts that the finds!"
Ryan quickly corrected him, but really couldn't blame him. It makes sense, doesn't it? Squirrel collects nuts, and has a little pouch for them. Good engineering?
So when I walked up a few minutes later after the situation had been cleared up, Toby held out his bloody little hand and said to me, "here mom. This is a squirrel ball," and he tossed the tiny testicle into the woods.

Squirrel stew tomorrow. Nut free.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Look out, folks—there was a well-timed spark

The little fire-making workshop came just at the right time because lately I’d been really getting bogged down by the daily doldrums of being a mom.
Stuff was starting to get to me. I’d practically break into a sweat about the smallest things, like I had totally lost perspective on what really matters in life. Not that fire really matters, but I found myself worrying about what the other moms would say if I fed my kids white bread and at what percentile the baby clocked in.
It was getting out of hand, and I knew it when, driving to my little fire-making workshop, I bombarded my husband with my apparently annoying life. And if I would have been a fly on the wall in my own conversation, I probably would have thrown up. “The weather these days is so annoying. The school rule is that it has to be 60 degrees before you are allowed out without a coat, and I know this because I got scolded for not wearing a coat one morning, and now it’s like 59 degrees when we leave for school and the kid have to carrying a coat around all day. It’s nuts! And by the way, how did you like that new bread I bought? I like that you can actually SEE the whole grains in there…”
Blecccch.
About once a year I venture away from my family for an empowering couple of days in the wilderness, or something like that. An annual program put on by the Department of Natural Resources called “Becoming an Ohio Outdoorswoman” is my latest love away from home—it’s a weekend of getting dirty and having fun. All sorts of adventurous classes are offered, everything from camp cooking to instinctive pistol shooting, and each and every one of them makes you feel, as a woman, just a little bit stronger, more confident, and ready to take on the world and the makers of the 60 degree rule.
This year, because of having a baby at home, I was only able to sneak away for one class and I begged the powers-that-be to just attend the one class that I had been dreaming about since I saw it happening the year before: primitive fire making. In the class, you actually make your own bow drill and through a series of carving and sweating, start a small fire without a match in sight.
It sounds terribly nerdy, but those who personally know me were not surprised to hear me babble about how excited I was about this class. I literally counted down the days. Then when the time finally came for the class to start, I left my family and walked into the room ready to become skilled in the ways of making fire. I had visions of myself screaming like Tom Hanks in Castaway when he finally starts that first spark. I am woman, hear me roar!
So when, not five minutes into carving my bow drill fire-making set I sliced the tip off of my left index finger with the brand new knife, I was pretty upset. Tearful, really. An entire year of waiting went down the drain with the gushing blood, and I spent the first half of the workshop holding my hand up in the air with my finger wrapped in gauze while everyone else sat there carving and all empowered.
Bleccccch again.
I could have easily spent the rest of the time wallowing in my own self-pity and band-aids, but eventually I realized that even though I was getting a late start with a handicap, I could still begin work on my bow drill. So using what fingers I had left, I started carving here and there. When the session ended, I took what I had started home and spent the rest of the weekend, in between motherly duties, carving and actually trying to create the a tiny spark. And let me tell you, it is hard work. Very hard.
But today after another round of attempting fire, I finally saw a tiny hot ember. It was very small and not even big enough to make an actual fire, but it was just the spark I needed to get me going, to empower myself and, should I need to, wave my bandaged finger at anyone scoffing at my kid’s sandwich.

Of bald eagles and cheerleaders

You’re never too old to learn something, right? Playing a child’s board game recently, I have learned two very interesting fact. For one, I never knew that a group of twelve or more cows is called a “flink.” (And I am anxious to add it to my next Scrabble game!) Secondly, I learned that the bald eagle when it is a young bird, looks nothing like a bald eagle.
Like most birds, they start off kind of funny looking with grayish down that covers their little bodies. At about three or four weeks, the little birdie begins to grow its secondary coat of gray down, and by the time the little dude (or dudette, as it may be) is around 6 weeks old, it will be nearly as large as its parents—but will just start growing in its black feathers. Not white, black.
In other words, no bald head.
The white feathers that grow on the head and the tail and that are so characteristic of bald eagles don’t grow in until sometime during the bird’s fourth year of life.
In other words, eagle kids don’t look anything like their parents.
This may not seem all that much of an important fact, but it’s something I can really relate to. Of my three children, my youngest two look very much like their father. My oldest daughter, however, looks very much like me. As if someone put me in the dryer too long. A real life Shrinky Dink. She has my same dark eyes and little nose, and she’s got the overly large two front teeth that she’ll eventually grow into, just as I did.
We both love to read and be outside. We both play the piano and love to dance. We both love garlic and can eat popcorn like nothing you’ve ever seen. So for the most part, we are very, very similar…but not completely.
It started with a simple flyer that came home in her first grade folder, advertising a cheerleading camp. Having grown up anti-cheerleader (and not because I didn’t like them, but because I split my time between the marching band and generally being a nerd), I was rather shocked when she showed some interest in attending.
“Mom, you get pom poms!” she said. “And a pizza party!”
And somehow, I felt at that moment that all of the energy I spent on raising my child as an intellectual artist (and, well, a nerd) was beat out by red puffy things and pizza. Like the little person that I always thought looked just like me really wasn’t that much like me after all.
Then came the time to make a good parenting decision, and we all know how hard it is to do the right thing. I swallowed my anti-cheerleader pride and signed the check for her to attend cheer camp.
After picking her up from her first session, her eyes were glowing with excitement and looking at her I had a flash to the future, seeing myself sitting week after week on a set of bleachers. The excitement carried over to the football game where the field was lined with little girls with little pom poms and loud screechy voices. She was hooked.
It’s hard being a parent because you tend to want your children to turn out to be like you…but even better. You instinctively want them to have all of your best traits, and carry on your legacy, whatever that may be. But sometimes you’ve just got to let them be who they really are and let them make their own choices, even if it’s not the choices you would make.
I just think of mama eagle way up in the nest, looking at her little black-headed eaglet. She must wonder if her baby will ever have her same matching white feathered head just as I wonder if my daughter will be a cheerleader or join the marching band. All we can do is let nature take its course and usually that course turns out pretty well which is good because really, there ain’t no stopping it.



Learning things the hard way prove to be real life lessons

This past week I learned, the hard way, that one should not roast hot chili peppers on the same day one goes to the dentist. This is, of course, because of that last minute rush to the bathroom, five minutes before your appointment, where you scrub the garlic bagel out of your breath and hope to trick the dentist into thinking that you floss more frequently than a full moon.
Because when you are rushing to roast hot peppers and then floss your teeth, you tend to be a bit lazy with the whole rubber glove/hand scrubbing thing, and you inevitably end up running around the bathroom, fanning your face, spitting, and yelling “my lips are on fire! My tongue is on fire!”
Eventually the burning subsides and you go to the dentist and while laying there in the chair, mouth pried open with multiple instruments that suck and scrape and grind hanging out, you sit your nine-month old baby on your lap in the hopes to keep her occupied while your mouth is sucked and scraped and ground. And to keep her quiet, you, in your infinite wisdom, grab a container of Cheerios that you’ve got stashed in your purse and slip one in her open mouth.
Her tiny tongue reaches out for the snack. Her tiny lips wrap around your finger to take in the entire oatey deliciousness. And your hot-pepper-laden finger lets go of the O…and some of the hot chili oil…into her most delicate mouth.
Then, with baby screaming, spitting, drooling, crying, etc. (I’m pretty sure there was baby goo coming out from every hole on her cute little head) the dentist happily informs me that I am cavity free! Hooray! Just what I was really worrying about at that point.
Shaking my head on the way home at my poor choice of parenting, I am taken back to when my daughter at a young age learned about creek mud. The hard way. We’ve got the stained shoes to prove it. Avid creek walkers will appreciate the hidden danger of creek mud, the semi-solid black organic muck that seems to come alive as it sucks in your foot and sometimes your entire leg. And even worse, sometimes it goes as far as to eat your shoe. It takes a trained eye to spot the quicksand of the woodlands, and guaranteed, if you step in it one time it will be your last. Your lesson will be learned.
“I learned about creek mud the hard way,” my daughter will tell people, all the much older and wiser. She’s an expert now.
We learn a lot of things the hard way, it seems. Just when we gain enough confidence to try something new and exciting, whether it be roasting chili peppers or creek walking, sometimes life just up and reminds us not to get to comfortable in our own shoes. (heh heh heh…)
But those very lessons that we learn the hard way are the ones that tend to stick with us the longest. Think back to something you did a little bit too carelessly and it backfired on you. Maybe you went too fast and rushed through things. Or maybe you didn’t look closely enough or let your mind wander. In any case, chances are you haven’t done it again.
Learning things the hard way might even be one of life’s reminders to take things slowly and pay attention to the little things. To stop and smell the roses, to look before you leap. And I don’t know about you, but I’d rather look before I leaped in creek mud and not have chili oil up my nose -- I know I’ll never do that again.
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