Interminable Summer

It’s always hottest before you get the new air conditioner.

I have a new A/C unit sitting in my backyard waiting for installation.  The guy will come Sunday morning, he says.  Earlier this week, things weren’t too bad.  We had several cloudy days and a few inches of rain.  House temperatures were reasonable.  Yesterday, and today, the heat index was (is expected to be) about 110.  It was 89 upstairs at bedtime last night. 

Next week will be glorious.

*******

Last year, I only sporadically watered the lawn here.  The front has a sprinkler system, so it’s not like it’s a difficult thing to do: turn ON.  Irregular watering led to a less than lush yard.  And I felt like a bad steward.  It was bad enough that the oppressive heat kept me from doing any weeding until the fall.  This summer, I decided I would set the sprinkler system going on a regular 4 day watering cycle and let it be.  The lawn looks very nice right now.  I am a good steward.

And then I got my water bill yesterday, which is billed 6 times a year (every 2 months).  Hm.  I think I’ll be knocking down that watering to twice a week.  Or maybe I’ll just pray for more rain.

*******

Of course, if it rains, then I can’t hang my clothes outside to dry.  And my electric bill will be higher.

But it’ll be lower, because the A/C won’t have to work as hard?

I think I just want it to be October already.

Baby Steps

I’ve sent my oldest son off to week-long Scouts camps three times now, plus a 5 day camp for military kids.  Each time, it has gotten easier to say goodbye.  Of course, the little worrier voice in my head will try hard to remind me of natural disasters striking Scouts, but I’ve not been too concerned with the boy himself having fun or not.

Of course, each of these camps, he went along with kids he knew.  And trusted adults helped him through that first camp that began a few weeks after his dad deployed.  Between homesickness and missing his dad, it was a tough one.

Yesterday, I drove him out to a vocations camp our diocese is having.  Even though he didn’t know anybody else going, I was sure he’d do just fine.  He is a reserved boy, but he is also extremely likeable.  All he needs is the invitation to be included in some activity and he’ll jump in and be a great team player.

But still, not knowing anybody made him nervous.  It would make me nervous too.  I’ve gone to conferences and talks alone, and wondered if I’d have anybody to talk to, if anybody would let me sit at their table during lunch, if anybody would recognize me as that obscure mom-blogger with the stupidest blog name ever…typical middle-school worries, which are appropriate for my 13 year old son, but less understandable in a 40 year old woman.

Anyway.

Poor kid complained of headaches and stomachaches all week long as yesterday approached.  It was a 3 hour drive, and we stopped for lunch.  He ate 2 bites of his sandwich and then put his head down, a sure sign that the kid is full of angst.  After signing him in and dropping off his gear, he was pointed in the direction of the basketball courts where a dozen young men were playing pick up games.  I watched him slowly drag himself in that direction.  I took my time in the van, setting my GPS for home, firmly buckling my seat belt, making sure all the kids were set and had no pressing needs.  I backed up and headed out, watching my son’s progress toward the courts.  I saw him tentatively step onto the surface and wait for a welcome, an invitation to join a group.  5 seconds…10 seconds…15 seconds…and then I had to choose: stop the car like a worried mother hen and make sure that my little boy had playmates before I left for home, or continue down the drive where he was out of sight and trust that somebody would notice him soon and include them in their game.

With a lump in my throat, I drove on, leaving him to make his own niche in that corner of the world.

He’s fine; I know he’s fine.

But with this child, my oldest, I am learning that growing up is as much about me becoming an adult as it is about him maturing.

Convenient inconvenience

Fritz keeps losing pocket knives.  This past summer camp, he lost one of his dad’s.  It was, intentionally, an inexpensive knife, so it’s not a big deal, but for the frustration of having a son who is generally responsible, except in this one area.

*******

Years and years ago, my husband and I had an ongoing argument about joining the NRA.  I was opposed to membership on the grounds that someday NRA membership rosters would become government “most wanted” lists.  I argued that NRA members would be the first ones to have their homes searched when guns were ultimately outlawed.  I preferred to present to the world a “normal” facade while hoarding a stockpile of weapons under the floorboards of my house.  My husband felt that the NRA would be the organization that would work hardest to prevent such a scenario and that membership would aid them in defending 2nd Amendment rights.  At some point, he did join the NRA, because he is a grown man who has a mind of his own and who only goes along with his wife’s paranoid ideas if it suits him.

Hopefully, if things ever get that bad, we’ll have some sort of e-Paul Revere sending texts: “The ATF are coming!  The ATF are coming!”

Anyway, dutiful bill-paying wife that I am, I make sure that his quarterly dues to the NRA are paid in full.  At some point, they were automatically charged to his credit card, but a compromised card led to a new number and the NRA sent us a paper bill when the charge to the old card was declined.  On the paper bill was the suggestion to have the dues automatically charged to a credit card, and the enticement that you could get a free pocketknife and flashlight if you did so.  I did so.  And we got a free pocketknife and flashlight.

Three months later, we received another paper bill with the exact same offer.  Even though last quarter’s dues had been charged to the credit card, they hadn’t set it up as an automatic thing.  I filled the form out again and a few weeks later, we received a package with a pocketknife and flashlight.

Three months later, we got another paper bill.

I can’t even remember how long this has been going on, but I’m mailing out yet another paper bill with the credit card information on it.  I think we have 9 more quarters to go before his Lifetime membership is all paid for.

*******

It’s actually quite amusing to me to see how long this will go on.

My main hope is that Fritz stops losing pocketknives before they figure it out.

Last Week of Summer Break

I almost might complain that school begins around here next week, except that school ended before Memorial Day and it’s too hot to do anything else.

I will complain, though, about my calendar, which I just filled with piano on Mondays, Scouts on Tuesdays, CCD on Wednesdays, and ballet on Fridays.  Still left: flag football.  We should find out this week if that will be on Mondays or Thursdays with games on Saturdays.  I hope hope hope it’s on Mondays.  It would mean the boys can go to fencing on Thursdays, and it would mean that I would have one free afternoon/night a week, because if Bill doesn’t take them to fencing, they don’t go.

Fritz is the only one enrolled in CCD.  The rule at our parish is that you must attend CCD the year prior to the year you receive a sacrament (here or at another parish).  I brought Fritz’s report card showing he was enrolled in what I called a “private, Catholic distance learning school,”  where he received an “A” in religion class.  Unfortunately, though, our last name isn’t exactly common, so the parish secretary, who may not know my face, knows who we are, and knows we homeschool.  She might even remember telling me a year and a half ago specifically that homeschoolers must enroll in CCD. I’m sure she’ll take her case to the pastor, and I can’t say what he will decide.  But he likes Fritz, he likes our family, and it doesn’t hurt that the boys are altar servers.

Anyway, all these extra-curriculars begin the second or third week of August, severely limiting my ability to go to the beach on random days.  I guess I should take them one day this week.

My Pre-K Program

Thanks to Mary, I have a new vocabulary word: acute-able.  Not just cute: cute and adorable.

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The great thing about having older siblings is having so many people who can explain things to you.  Who needs Mom or Dad for the facts of life when you can just talk to your big sisters?

Mary needed a bath and I needed to read a new book I intend to use with school to remediate spelling for those who know how to read and teach phonics to those who struggle in this area.  Normally I delegate bath supervision to older children, but it was no trouble for me to sit with her with a book.

Instead of reading, I got to listen to a biology lesson about how when babies are in their mommy’s tummies they get food and drink through their belly buttons.  She wasn’t quite sure how that worked, so I explained about the umbilical cord which I likened to a “hose.”  She wanted to know what had happened to the hose.  I informed her that it was thrown away.  This greatly upset her.  She wanted me to call the doctor and get it back.  (I guess we’ll talk about home birthing with no doctors some other time.)

What about your umbilical cord?  she wanted to know.  Perhaps Grandma was more considerate and saved it?  Thrown away!  I told her.  How about Katie’s?  Jenny’s?  Peter’s?  Fritz’s?  Billy’s?  Greta’s?  


Thrown away!

Dogs don’t have belly buttons! she insisted.  Having never noticed one, I couldn’t be positive, but I couldn’t imagine that they wouldn’t…and, yes, in fact, they do.

We then moved on, somehow, to the fact that the umbilical cord was cut.  The barbary!  But that hurts! she objected.  I told her it did not.  She insisted it did.  Wait until she learns about circumcision.  I know my boys have gotten all squeamish when learning what that entails.  There are times I question the wisdom of reading the Bible to children, although I have taken advantage of Solomon’s downfall to point out the folly of getting involved with women who aren’t of your religion.  But the whole Dinah love affair and how her brothers had the entire tribe of men circumcise themselves…clever ruse, or just plain cheating?

****

Back to Mary.  For weeks, everything was “cute” (cuuuuuuuuuuuuute!!!!!!!!!!!!!! – only little girls can pronounce this correctly).  Then she moved onto “adorable.”  Now it is acute-able.

Another favorite word is “polite,” as in, frequently, “Peter is not being polite.”  I wasn’t sure she knew what it meant, but today (in the bathtub) she told me about how her friend, Lillie, was being polite and saying “excuse me” to some man. I think the man and polite words are a fictitious event, but at least she has some notion of what the word means.

Also, in the bathtub, she was pointing at the tub and asking what it was.  I am not sure exactly what word she was searching for, but it wasn’t tub.  I finally used the word “porcelain.”  She really liked that word and repeated it, very correctly, several times, pointing to different parts of the tub: “This is porcelain…and this is porcelain…and this is porcelain.”  I told her the tiles were porcelain, too. 

It was quite fun for both of us.

Grilling experiment gone awry

It’s bad enough to have a greasy grill fire leave your dinner an indistinguishable pile of char.

But then to have your neighbors witness the event?  {sigh}

If I could see myself, I might have been amused.  After all, what the neighbor saw was me coming back outside (after having discovered the fire) with a big box of baking soda, calmly walking over saying, “Oh, yes, I have a fire, thank you,” in response to his slightly alarmed expression and gestures at the grill, and dousing it with the white powder.  No need to panic.  I have handled a greasy grill fire once or twice…or a dozen times.

Note to self: cooking bacon on the grill, even in a closed pan, is not a good way to avoid kitchen heat.

Old dog, new tricks

I am old enough that when I was in high school, there was a class called “Typing.”  There were mostly girls in this class.  And it was, in my teenaged, not-very-humble opinion, a class for those whose highest aspirations involved working for the CEO, not being the CEO.  My guidance counselor suggested this class when I had a free period and did not want a study hall (another completely useless thing, in my thoughts) but I turned my nose up at the idea.

So, I hunted and pecked my way, on a word processor machine, through my upper class research papers and graduated with a diploma that reflected higher learning, not secretarial training.

Even in college, not knowing how to type wasn’t such a big deal.  I didn’t take very many liberal arts classes with writing assignments.  I earned an engineering degree (please note the distinct snobbery in my voice).  Knowledge of spreadsheets and how to format them was much more useful than what was becoming known as “keyboarding skills.” 

It’s really only been in the last 5 – 7 years, since I began blogging, that knowing how to peck out more than 30 words per minute seems like a good idea.  When a typical day includes homeschooling, running, cooking, laundry and basic housekeeping, time for blogging is often carved out of time I could spend doing things arguably more important.  If I could type faster and more accurately, blogging would take less time, theoretically.  Or maybe I would just blog more.

I would still be saving self-improvement programs for some future rainy day if this past school year hadn’t convinced me that my children needed to learn to type, too.  One child in particular was having a very difficult time coping with the fine motor skills required and muscle fatigue that occurred with some of the assignments.  My MODG counselor suggested I just let him use the computer instead of facing the daily battles.  He and I were much happier with this idea.  Now, too, both boys have to write papers.  I honestly do not know which is worse: watching the mental strain of my 13 year old son as he constructs a thoughtful and grammatically correct sentence, or watching him stab the sentence out using only his right index finger.  My suggestion that he use two index fingers at least was declared “too difficult.”

Then, too, I am not a happy computer-sharer.  I confess, I am selfish with my toys.  If my children need to use the computer, they need to get on and get off as quickly as possible.  Agonizing over the location of every letter of every word every single time is just not conducive to family harmony when there is a queue of people who are waiting for you to be done already.

Last summer or fall, I scoured the internet and looked at different keyboarding programs.  The free ones online were inadequate, I felt.  After much waffling, I finally decided upon Keyboard Classroom, which is not a cheap program.  I bought a single-user version to try it out.  I had Katie begin, and she liked it very much.  You begin with a rank of Cadet.  The keys are introduced gradually.  In order to earn a “promotion” to the next rank, the keys must be practiced so often that memorization of their placement is the result.  As you work on your promotion, you earn tokens which can be used to play games.

This summer, I decided to buy the triple-user license so that Fritz, Billy and I could also learn to type.  Other people can sign on as Katie, but they would be working at her level.  Unfortunately, I had significant difficulty loading the triple user version on the computer.  It continued to bring up the single user version, even after I uninstalled it and re-installed the triple user.  I emailed Keyboard Classroom, and within a short period of time received help on how to load the triple user version (it wasn’t my incompetence!  There was a special trick to delete the other code, I guess to prevent abuse).  However, I had wanted 4 users (single plus triple) and there was no way to get both to work, it was either or.  Once again, I emailed the company about my dilemma, and they got back to me right away.  They ended up giving me the code for 5 users, which I very much appreciate.  Their technical support/customer service team is top-notch!

Yesterday, Billy, Katie, and I spent some time working with the program.  I thought I was doing well with 85 – 95 keystrokes in the time period, but then Billy got on and was doing over 100, consistently, with fewer and fewer errors (I attribute this to his years of piano lessons).  I’ve told the kids I want each of us to do 15 minutes a day.  Katie wanted to do longer; Billy was fine doing it and stopping after 15 minutes; I, personally, thought that 15 minutes was the maximum tolerable time period.  It hurts to learn new tricks, mentally.  Well, I’m not learning a new trick as much as re-training myself to do something in a better way.  Fritz will start today.

I do recommend Keyboard Classroom.  Until we get away from using a keyboard, which I don’t see happening anytime soon, it is a skill that our children will need to have, sooner or later.  Once a user has mastered the program, you can clear that user and another user can start from the Cadet rank, so you only need enough users as people who will be actively participating at one time.  I could have managed with just 3, and either made Katie wait until I had mastered it, or waited myself until one of the children grew proficient.  I’m hoping that in a month or two, we’ll all be typing away at a steady pace.

Then, perhaps, it wouldn’t take me two days to write a blog post!