Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Just call me McGyver!

The North Idaho Fair opens today. I had intended to enter several things in the Open Class category, but I would have had to have them there last week, and I just didn't make it. Mainly because most of the things the girls and I have made over the past year are still in various and sundry boxes who-knows-where! However, I had also pre-registered to enter the table-setting category. They only accept 9 entries and you have to apply about 2 months in advance. So I had applied before we knew we were going to need to move in July. I did manage to get that exhibit together, and went last night to set up. (Good thing I didn't have to have it there last week!)

There are 3 themes for the tablesetting division, and supposed to be 3 tables for each theme. Turns out they only had 6 entries this year... 3 in the "Blue Ribbon Good Times" theme, 2 in the "Home for the Holidays" theme, and 1 in the "Baby's First Birthday" theme. Each theme is judged for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place, so I think you're pretty much guaranteed a ribbon for even entering. If you're the only entry in a particular theme, I don't know if you automatically get the blue or what... but as it turns out, mine was the "Blue Ribbon" theme, so I have more competition. I assume they did the judging this morning... but we aren't going to the fair till tomorrow, so I'll have to wait to see how I did.

The girls went with me to set up, and we had to wait around a little bit because there was some tastin' and judgin' going on in the corner of the room where we were to set up. When they were finally finished we started unpacking and setting the table. One of the things I did was make a loop of wide blue ribbon and pin a small sunflower at the center of the loop, to lay across the tops of the plates as "place cards". As I carefully set each ribbon into place it became very apparent that they would not stay in place, because there was a fan behind my table blowing vigorously! That would not do! I had to think fast. No, I didn't have any tape with me. What else? A-ha! I pulled a package of chewing gum out of my purse. "Here, girls! Chew some gum!" And we stuck those ribbons to the plates with wads of chewing gum.

There's an ol' Ed'ards sayin' about that: "Necessity is the mother of invention."

Saturday, August 19, 2006

I *still* love camping!

When I was a little girl, we mostly lived out in the country. So we never went camping. No need to, really. However, DH was a city boy and among his best memories growing up are the family camping trips. He taught me how to camp after we got married, and I've always loved it. I think mostly because I miss living out in the country. I also think it's a great thing to do with the kids.

We started off, all those years ago, with a borrowed tent and no supplies... but over time we gradually accumulated the necessary equipment, until finally this year we were able to get a nice family-size RV. Being able to stock the trailer has made it much more convenient to get away for a couple of nights at a time here and there. So... you would think this would be our best year ever in regards to camping, right? Well, you would think!


After the disasterous way our last camping trip at the near-by state park started off, we decided to go way out in boonies last weekend, to a national forest campground about 60 or 80 miles from here, to avoid the over-crowding problem we ran into before. So, we started off on Thursday evening. (Because of church responsibilities we need to not be gone over Sunday, so we plan our camping outings to be back home by Saturday night.)


It was raining a little as we left home, but we weren't too concerned because, after all, we would be sleeping in a trailer, not a tent! But as we got into the mountains the storm really kicked up. Still not a huge amount of rain, but sky-to-ground lightning and high winds. There were some small branches on the road in places. But we persevered. DH decided that maybe it would be better to stay in the closer of the forest service campgrounds (Bumblebee), rather than the one we had originally planned on (Kit Price), so we took the turn-off for it. We drove the 3 miles in to Bumblebee to discover it was closed! Good grief! We turned the rig around and headed back to the main road, and on in to Kit Price, about 10 miles further.


I want you to know, less than a mile before we got to Kit Price, we hit something on the road (still don't know if it was a rock or a branch) and had a blow-out on the truck! The great big Dodge truck that we'd had less than 2 weeks, with great big macho tires on it. Not one of the little, wimpy, cheapy tires on the trailer... no... it had to be one of the new expensive tires on the truck! And, of course, it was raining. Sheesh! Ya think maybe we're not s'posed to go camping this year?


We got out, in the rain, and got the stupid tire changed and pulled on into the campground and made camp.


The rest of weekend was fun and relaxing... so it was worth it... I guess. Maybe. Anyway, the kids had fun playing in the river the next day... finding pretty rocks, catching frogs and tadpoles, and visiting with other campers.


I hope our kids will have good memories of camping when they are grown, like their Daddy does! Maybe the "disasters" won't traumatize them too bad!

Friday, August 18, 2006

The "Do Not Call" List!

Oh, my!! Did I forget how bad telemarketing calls were back in the day before the "Do Not Call" list? Or have they doubled up on targeting phone numbers that aren't on the list? Or is it because we've just moved, so they think we need all these services? Since we've moved I've been getting about 6 or 8 telemarketing calls a day! It actually took me a week or so to realize that our new number hadn't been registered at the Do Not Call website. As soon as I thought of it, I did register it but it can take up to a month to take effect.

*sigh*

Where's that list of things you can say to a telemarketer to discourage them from calling? Ah... found it! (See below.) It's funny to read... but I don't have the patience or the nerve to actually try any of these.

How To Deal with Telemarketers

1. If they want to loan you money, tell them you just filed for bankruptcy and you could sure use some money.

2. If they start out with, "How are you today?" say, "I'm so glad you asked, because no one these days seems to care, and I have all these problems; my arthritis is acting up, my eyelashes are sore, my dog just died..."

3. If they say they're John Doe from XYZ Company, ask them to spell their name. Then ask them to spell the company name. Then ask them where it is located, how long it has been in business, how many people work there, how they got into this line of work, are they married?, kids?, etc. Continue asking them personal questions or questions about their company for as long as necessary.

4. Cry out in surprise,"Judy! Is that you? Really?!? Judy, how have you been?" Hopefully, this will give Judy a few brief moments of terror as she tries to figure out where she could know you from.

5. Say "No", over and over. Be sure to vary the sound of each one, and keep a rhythmic tempo, even as they are trying to speak. This is most fun if you can do it until they hang up.

6. If MCI calls trying to get you to sign up for the Family and Friends Plan, reply, in as SINISTER a voice as you can, "I don't have any friends... would you be my friend?"

7. After the Telemarketer gives their spiel, ask him/her to marry you. When they get all flustered, tell them that you could not just give your credit card number to a complete stranger.

8. Tell the Telemarketer that you work for the same company, they often can't sell to employees.

9. Answer the phone. As soon as you realize it is a Telemarketer, set the receiver down, shout or scream, "Oh No!!!" and then hang up.

10. Tell the Telemarketer you are busy at the moment and ask him/her if he/she will give you his/her HOME phone number so you can call him/her back. When the Telemarketer explains that telemarketers cannot give out their HOME numbers you say "I guess you don't want anyone bothering you at home, right?" The Telemarketer will agree and you say, "Me, either!" Hang up.

11. Ask them to repeat everything they say, several times.

12. Tell them it is dinner time, BUT ask if they would please hold. Put them on your speaker phone while you continue to eat at your leisure. Smack your food loudly and continue with your dinner conversation.

13. Tell the Telemarketer you are on "home incarceration" and ask if they could bring you a pizza.

14. Ask them to fax the information to you, and make up a number.

15. Insist that the caller is really your buddy Leon, playing a joke. "Come on Leon, cut it out! Seriously, Leon, how's your mom?"

16. Tell them you are hard of hearing and that they need to speak up... louder... louder...louder...

17. Tell them to talk VERY SLOWLY, because you want to write EVERY WORD down.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Lesson Plans

It's that time of year again... time to be thinking about what the children should learn for the next year. So, I've been doing the research and gathering my materials and laying out my plan for the year...

First of all, as church youth director, I needed to come up with something fresh and pertinent for the next few months (at least until time to start working on the Christmas program!). I decided that a study on the spiritual parallels in The Chronicles of Narnia might go over well, with the recent popularity of the movie. So I got:

We started that 2 weeks ago and it seems to be going over pretty well so far. A Family Guide lists scriptures for each chapter of all 7 books. I have found that very helpful!

Then, for our homeschool co-op this year I will be teaching a literature class where we'll be reading The Lord of the Rings trilogy, one each trimester. Don't ask me why I had the brilliant idea of trying to teach Tolkien and Lewis both at the same time, because I'm really beginning to think I'm quite nuts! I'll be using the Progeny Press study guides for the literature class.

I have also volunteered to be the coordinator for a new Keepers at Home club we will be starting at co-op. We have about 40 girls enrolled so far, ages 5 on up through teens. And several moms have volunteered to help. I'm excited about this as an incentive for both myself and my daughters to learn homemaking skills that I really do need to take time to teach them!

Naturally, we will again be using Sonlight for our main curriculum at home. It's what we've been using since we first started "formally" homeschooling 9 years ago. (Wow! Has it really been that long already?) We will be finishing up Core 7 (Intro to World History, Part 2), and be ready to start American History In-Depth next year as my oldest goes into high school. I deliberately planned it to take 3 years to cover the 2-year World History course, so that American History could count for high school. We were able to add in more books to the World History course that way, as well.

I'm excited that our co-op will be offering a class in conversational Spanish, since we bought the Rosetta Stone program a couple years ago and haven't really used it much. So I want to work that into our schedule this year.

My oldest will also be using Apologia Physical Science and getting her lab class at co-op. I was happy to discover that they have the textbook available in MP3 format, because she has a visual disability, and I read the honkin' big ol' General Science book to her last year! I really enjoyed it (love Dr. Wile's style), but it was terribly time-consuming on my part. Having the audio book will be a huge help this year.

My brain is whirling! But once I get it all organized in my mind, I'll be good to go. I'm tentively planning to start school the week before Labor Day, even though we'll be in Texas staying with my sister at that time. Life goes on... and the beauty of homeschool is that you can just work around it.

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Sometimes ya just gotta wonder...

...why is it that some people never really grow up?

I have been hurt at various times throughout my life by numerous people... most of the time unintentionally, I'm sure. Or, at least, I like to give them the benefit of the doubt. I don't always understand someone's motive, so I try to excuse them that they didn't know better or didn't really mean it the way I took it. It still hurts, but it does allow me to basically shrug it off and move on. When we all get to Heaven either we'll understand... or it won't matter any more!

However, every now and then I run into someone so obnoxious that I struggle to understand how they could get that old and still be that immature and down-right ugly. My excuse with young people who act that way is that... well, they're still young... they'll learn. But what is excusable in a college kid is not-so-excusable in a middle-aged person! There is absolutely no excuse for some behavior.

A few weeks ago we were excited to get to go to a new Sonic in area. (Understand that I love Sonic drinks and until now it has been an 8-hour drive to the nearest Sonic! ) Well, apparently we weren't the only excited ones. There was a block-long line down the alley with a Sonic employee directing cars into stalls as they got to the head of the line. The line was moving pretty quickly so it was soon our turn. We were directed to a particular stall and as we turned to go in, a motorcycle zoomed up the alley and cut in front of us and darted into the stall ahead of us. We were shocked! My DH rolled his window down and called out to the guy, "You might want to wait your turn like everyone else!" The guy yelled back, "I'm on a motorcyle. I can do anything I want!" I was just so amazed that someone would be that blatantly rude. We talked with the kids (who witnessed it, of course) about what kind of upbringing this poor person must have had to make him think that was okay.

Another example: Several years ago I was involved in a friendly chat room. It was mostly older men (besides me) but the discussions were never inappropriate, always clean, and my husband knew I participated in it. In fact, he got to know a couple of the guys on there some. However, there was this one strange character that was just kind of an "odd duck"... Middle-aged and single (for good reason!), and a Christian man, but very lacking in social skills. He was constantly making unneccessary and rude comments. Nothing hateful or nasty, but just mostly chauvenistic and judgemental. Most of the other guys didn't care for his personality and one day he just took it a step too far so the administrators made the decision to ban him from the chat room. He had my Yahoo IM so occasionally he would try to IM me but by that point I just ignored them. He just kinda gave me the creeps. That was 4 or 5 years ago. And eventually I quit using Yahoo IM so I didn't hear from him any more. Recently I started using Yahoo again and when I booted it up I noticed that there were several messages from him dated way back in the winter and everyone of them just said, "Hi!" I figured he was just trying to strike up a conversation again, but I didn't think too much about it. Well, this weekend I got an IM from him that basically said that he noticed I was online and he wanted me to know he had zero respect for me and he was sure I was going to hell. The poor, sad man. No wonder he can't "win friends and influence people"! I told my DH about it and we just shook our heads. Obviously, I didn't bother to respond.

Then just today, someone very close to me was bombarded with some of the most awful attitudes and opinions and downright hatred that I have ever in my life seen or heard! This person also claims to be a Christian, but I'm sorry... there is just no way!

I just fail to understand... how can middle-aged people (who supposedly have the benefit of years to learn how to behave)... who claim the name of Christ (Who would never act or say such things)... who were raised in Christian homes and should know better... ever live with themselves for expressing such ugliness? (Okay, I have no idea if the motorcycle guy at Sonic claims to be a Christian or not, but the other 2 do.)

Lord, please keep me sweet!!!

Monday, August 7, 2006

A Train Puzzle

No, this isn't one of those brain teasers where you have a train leaving one city at a certain time, and another one leaving somewhere else at a certain time, and then way too many other details for me to every keep track of! This is a real-life mystery that I'm sleuthing around on the internet trying to put the clues together to get the solution! (Yes, I'm easily entertained.)

A railroad track runs past our new apartment. It's only about a half-block away so we have front row seats for every train that goes past both day and night! People tell us we will get used to it and begin to tune them out, but so far we haven't. The trains run frequently! We haven't kept a log yet... (I want to. I told the kids that we will have a unit study on trains this fall.) ...but they go by every 5 to 45 minutes. It's interesting to notice what kinds of cars are in each train... grain cars, box cars, tank cars, flat cars with containers, and several I don't know what to call. But, of course, we never see a passenger car. And that is where the "mystery" comes in.

About 30 miles northeast of us is an Amtrak depot (in Sandpoint, Idaho). The Amtrak route runs from Sandpoint to Spokane, Washington. So I assumed that the Amtrak train did come past our house, but just in the middle of the night, which is why we never saw it. (I remembered from looking up Amtrak once a long time ago that it only came through Sandpoint once a day, about midnight.)

Well, yesterday I happened to notice that there is another railroad track that runs more or less parallel to this one about 4 miles south of here. Hmmmm, maybe Amtrak runs on that one? So... that's my puzzle!

I hopped on line and did some digging around until I discovered that "our" train track is the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe. At least I was pretty sure it was. I confirmed that this morning when I noticed that the engines going by had BNSF on them. The other railroad, from all I can figure out, is the Union Pacific.

Ya know, it never really occurred to me before that each railroad track you ever cross belongs to a particular railroad. Probably because I never really thought about trains much before at all. Naturally, I know the story of the race to connect the Union Pacific with the Central Pacific to make the transcontinental railroad... but beyond that, I have no idea what's what.

So now the question remains, does the Amtrak train from Sandpoint to Spokane travel the BNSF line or the UP line? Inquiring minds want to know!

Sunday, August 6, 2006

Highway 1

On Day 5 of our roadtrip we drove up the central coast of California on Highway 1. It was pretty foggy – not ground fog to make road visibility bad – but enough to make it hard to see the ocean. I guess that’s typical for mornings this time of year. The fog finally burned off about noon and we enjoyed a sunny, clear day with moderate temperatures.

One place we stopped along the coast was beach where Elephant Seals lived. They are great big critters with funny bent noses (like very short trunks!). There was a whole bunch of ‘em snoozing – and snoring! – in a pile on the beach. Every now and then another one would come out of the water and scootch up to the pile to join in the community nap, or one would up and squirm back out to the water. They used their flippers like hands! They’d lay there and flip sand up on their backs… or lay on their backs and scratch their tummies with their flippers. It was neat to watch them.

Later in the day we saw a batch of Harbor Seals on Monterey Bay. They were smaller than the Elephant Seals, and some had babies.



The highlight of the day was a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. We had a personal tour by one of the volunteers, who is the teenage son of a friend! They went with us through the aquarium, and knew a lot about it to tell us that we wouldn't have learned otherwise. DH and I had been to the aquarium once about 18 years ago. That was before we had kids. The aquarium has expanded quite a bit since then, so it was fun to see the new exhibits. My favorite exhibit was still the sea otters. They are so much fun to watch!

We spent 2 or 3 hours at the aquarium and then went to the beach for a few minutes to let the kids wade and look for shells.

Friday, August 4, 2006

Route 66

Day 4 of our roadtrip (see previous days below) called for an uneventful 10-hour trip from Williams, Arizona to San Luis Obispo, California. We continued to see signs about Historic Route 66 as we drove along and we talked about how much fun it would be to try to follow the old route sometime. We stopped in Kingman, Arizona for drinks (at Sonic!) and saw a museum about Route 66. I was just dying to go in, and we would have taken the time except it didn’t open until 9:00 and it was only 8:30. We decided we shouldn’t just wait around for the museum to open. So DH decided to get off the interstate right there and follow the old highway to Needles, California (about 50 miles) before resuming our originally planned route.

As we angled away from the interstate the highway began to look just as I had always pictured it in my mind. Narrow two-lane highway, no shoulders, sand right up to the pavement with the ribbon of road stretching across the desert as far as the eye could see. It was a surreal experience, especially as there was very little traffic and no buildings or other signs of human life for miles at a time.


We could see mountains ahead of us and I wondered how the highway crossed the mountains. We soon found out! This narrow two-lane highway twisted around and around and up and down, with hair-pin curves and sheer drop-offs (still no shoulders!), winding it’s way over the mountains. Now I could understand why the Joad Family in The Grapes of Wrath waited until night to cross the mountains so their car wouldn’t overheat! Did I mention it was already 100 degrees by 9:00 a.m.? Well, it was!



We passed through an authentic ghost town, somebody’s old car (from back in the day) that apparently hadn’t made it around one of the curves and was just stuck in the brush half-way down the mountain, and another “live” town that looked like something from the Old West with wild burros wandering through the streets. This stuff was REAL, too! Not staged for tourists.



By the time we finally made it back to civilization I was in desperate need of a bathroom! (Remember the Sonic drinks?) So we were happy to find a gas station, even if gas was $3.89 a gallon for regular! By then the temperature was 110.

We somehow lost the old highway about 10 miles before we got to Needles. The signs we tried to follow just led to a dead-end road, so we just got back on the interstate. I hadn’t noticed before how wide California is down in the southern part of the state. We drove across that wide expanse of desert, past Edwards Air Force Base, and gasped to breathe the next time we stopped at a blistering 114 degrees!

The rest of the drive was uneventful, and the coast was blessedly cool (mid 70s) by the time we got to our motel about 5:15 p.m.

I was just thrilled to get to experience this small portion of the historic "Mother Road"!

Thursday, August 3, 2006

Grand Canyon

We spent the first day of our trip traveling. We enjoyed southern Utah on the second day (see previous post). Day 3 was our day to see the Grand Canyon. DH had planned our trip to allow for plenty of time there. Our first stop inside the park was at an overlook that had a watchtower we could climb for great views of the Canyon. I was impressed to find plaques with verses of scripture (psalms of praise to the Creator) at various places... With it being a National Park I'm surprised they don't consider it a violation of "separation of church and state" or something stupid like that.



The next stop was at some Indian ruins, showing where the natives had lived 800 years ago. All that remained were piles of rocks showing where the walls had once been. It's hard to imagine how the human race has survived on the face of the earth for centuries before the modern conveniences we enjoy today.



From there we drove on to the Grand Canyon Village. We parked and took the shuttle bus to the Visitor’s Center, then back through the village to transfer to another bus that went along the rim of the Canyon to “Hermit’s Rest”. The bus driver on our way back told us about a mama mountain lion that had been seen in the area with 3 cubs. Apparently they were crossing the road in front of one of the buses one day and one of the babies just sat down in the middle of the road. The mama growled and fussed at it from the side and it wouldn't budge, so she finally had to go pick it up by the scruff of the neck and carry it off! I would like to have seen that! Sounds like some kids I know!

When we got back to the village we went to the post office for stamps and to the general store for ice cream and drinks. Then we hiked a half mile out to the rim one more time before we left the park. I would love to go back when we have more time to stay!

Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Bryce Canyon National Park

We just returned from a 10-day road-trip. Part of it was vacation, and part of it was work-related (homeschool convention). I'll be posting highlights of the trip as a series. There's too much to put in one post!

Our route took us from our home in north Idaho, down through western Montana, back through the bottom of Idaho, then down through Utah, hitting the Grand Canyon as we cut across Arizona to the central coast of California, then inland to Modesto where the convention was, and finally up through Oregon and Washington home again!

This first picture is of the highway through southern Utah. I love taking pictures of roads so this is a great one for my "collection". (That's partly why I named my website "Roads to Everywhere" referring to our love of road-trips!)

Our first sight-seeing stop was on Day 2 in Bryce Canyon National Park. We had never heard of it, but were passing right by it and we have a NP annual pass so we decided to see what it was. (We got our annual pass for $50 at Glacier NP when were in Kalispell, MT on Memorial Day weekend for the Montana homeschool convention. It cost $25 for a one-time visit, or you could pay $50 for an annual pass that would get you into any NP for 12 months. We knew we were planning to go to the Grand Canyon so 2 visits would pay for it. The visit to Bryce Canyon would've cost us another $20.) It was simply spectacular!

We stopped at one scenic overlook and it was a half-mile hike to the previous one (which we had missed as we drove past). It was along the rim of the canyon so we just hiked over there. The temperature was over 100 (a dry heat, but still very hot), so I suggested we catch the (free) shuttle bus and ride back to the car. Well, the shuttle system was kinda weird. The bus didn't go directly back to where we had parked. Instead it went in the opposite direction back to the gate and visitor's center. So we had to ride it back to the gate and catch another bus going back into the park. DH was a little frustrated, but the kids thought it was great fun to ride the bus, so I thought it was time well-spent!

After we left Bryce Canyon we cut across through the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument... 40 miles on a complete unimproved dirt road! DH and his brother had accidently driven over that road last fall when they went to Phoenix to pick up a printing press. The computer trip planner actually routed them that way! DH was impressed with the scenery in that area so he wanted to take me that way.

Four...

I am cleaning out my inbox (from being gone) and came across this email my sister sent me. I thought it would be fun to post it here. Feel free to copy and paste to your blog, and comment here that you did so I can go read your answers!

A) Four jobs [outside the home] I have had in my life:
1. nurse’s aide at a nursing home for 3 months when I was 18 (I hated it!)
2. banking: teller, receptionist, bookkeeper (not all 3 at once)
3. sales clerk at Goodwill
4. assistant children’s librarian at the public library (best outside job I ever had!)

B) Four movies I would watch over and over:
I don’t know about over and over (I’m more of a reader than a movie watcher) but some of my favorites are:
1. It’s a Wonderful Life
2. The Grapes of Wrath
3. Gone With the Wind
4. Sabrina

C) Four places I have lived:
1. Louisiana
2. Arkansas
3. Kansas
4. Idaho

D) Four TV shows I love to watch:
Again, I’d rather read… but I do like:
1. The Andy Griffith Show
2. The Waltons
3. Little House on the Prairie
4. Monk

E) Four places I have been on vacation:
1. Washington DC
2. Mount Rushmore
3. California
4. Grand Canyon

F) Websites I visit daily: (or semi-weekly):
1. Paperback Swap
2. Sonlight
3. BzzAgent
4. My Blog (to see who has commented!)

G) Four of my favorite foods:
1. popcorn
2. Crab legs
3. Cheese cake
4. Starbucks caramel machiatto (Does that count as “food”? It’s my favorite “treat”!)

H) Four places I would rather be right now:
1. On a roadtrip to anywhere with DH
2. In a bookstore with a latte
3. In a hammock in a forest campground (with a book!)
4. I dunno where else… touring Europe? That would be fun!