Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Some Christmas Crafting

Here are a few of the things I made this Christmas:
Helen's Christmas dress, made from a hand-me-down pattern from Kim Rudd and some pass-along fabric from Lisa. I intentionally made it big, so she could wear it next year too, provided she follow my plan of growth for her. Ha ha.

Superteeth now has a pajama shirt. I did this with freezer paper stencils. It was nearly the most fun project ever, like I caught myself wanting to jump up and down in the kitchen as I peeled the stencil off the shirt.



And Christmas cheesecake. This little stinker grabbed my fork off the table! He hasn't even mastered baby cereal yet, and here he goes for caramelized sugar, Ghiradelli chocolate and cream cheese. From the accidental tastes I've had of baby cereal, I can't say that I blame him.

Merry Christmas from us to you, albeit a late greeting!

And Jack just turned six months old. He has four teeth and a great sense of humor.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Another Helping of Insanity, with a Little Crazy on the Side

Two days before Christmas, Jason had carpal tunnel surgery on his right wrist. We made it through Christmas with his one-handedness, even hosting out-of-town guests and holding a Christmas morning brunch for the extended family. We had a LOT of help from Uncle Phil, Aunt Twila, Jonathan and Andrew!

As our company pulled out of the drive, I wiped Owen's tears, then said to Jason, "I'm ready for you to get over this surgery, already."

"I can tell you are," he replied.

"Oh really? I didn't know I was so transparent."

"The first day, you were so nice. You kept bringing me drinks and ice and asking if there was anything else I needed....and then it stopped."

Well.....ahem.

Yesterday afternoon, a poopy diaper on Jack interrupted my busyness. I dropped the overflowing, slimy, yellow mess into the trashcan because I didn't have time to origami-fold it into the smallest, tightest wad I could. I ran back to the kitchen to work on my time-sensitive soft pretzel dough for another get-together. As I was throwing the Kosher salt on my pretzels, Jason appeared with Jack. He had been investigating the foul smell, and when he found it, asked me why in the world I left such a smelly diaper and didn't finish the take-out.

I didn't handle the question very well. I shoved my irritation for about five minutes while he dumped the diaper in the garage bin, then unloaded as politely as I could. I might have mentioned some things about the kid wrangling, the cooking and the house cleaning I had been doing, without much of his help.

After we got to our destination, and had mingled a bit, he came back with a sheepish smirk. "Well, I guess I got paid back for my comment," he announced. It turns out he noticed something on his shoe, and when he couldn't tell what it was, he wiped his finger in it and smelled it--Jack poo!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Cheesecake ahead

Confession: I've never made a cheesecake before--GASP!!

Two reasons: 1) Jason is just not that into cheesecake, but I am, and I didn't want a graham-cracker-crumb-covered, 3-blocks-of-cream-cheese pie in my fridge and me with a fork in my hand. 2) It intimidated me because too much was at stake; expensive ingredients, the better part of a morning, my *cough-cough* cooking reputation--all could go up in smoke, and I could end up with a dry, tasteless, cracked-top cheesecake that nobody but the compost pile would want to eat.

Saturday I faced my fears and tried this.

I made it for Jason's family Christmas, and nobody has died yet.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

3-4-5


Once Upon a Time...

...I was cool.

I wore this coat for several years. Please accept my apologies, World.

What's really scary is that Mom saved it. I cut out the pocket zippers and threw the remains in the trash bin. (The zipper salvage may scare some of you readers, but you never know when you'll need a good zipper.)

Monday, December 8, 2008

Spelling it out

Some Basic Rules around our house:

1) Use good table manners.

2) Treat others (including pets) with kindness.

3) Share your toys.


Some lately-formed Specific Rules:

1) Don't set your sippy cup on the edge of the table. Push it way in, so when you stretch or move your hand, you don't knock it onto the floor.

2) Don't lock the kitty in your cupboard for an hour and a half. Don't put her in there anymore, at all.

3) Let PawPaw watch your new combine video. He isn't feeling well, and he will enjoy it. Stop crying. Stop asking to watch your combine video when PawPaw has it. Go to bed. Stay in bed. Go back to bed--OK--go potty, then go back to bed.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Cleaning the Living Room

Yesterday I removed three nails from the trim above my living room window. They had held up a sheet in lieu of a more traditional window treatment, but the sheet had been down for, oh I don't know, maybe a year?

Last night we put up the Christmas tree. I found busy weevils snacking on a gold spray-painted pasta ornament I had made with my students 8 years ago. Because I'm sentimental, I:

a) air-hosed it off and hung it from a light fixture.
b) repaired it with glue and dried beans.
c) thanked God for the chance to get rid of it, and junked it along with the box.

You decide.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Playtime

Here's what's happening at our house:

Helen colors voraciously. She gets crayons out 2 or 3 times a day. Thank goodness for washable Crayola crayons!

Owen puts on concerts and leads worship. His microphone is the cat-shaped toilet paper holder made by Jason's grandpa. We borrowed that idea from a cousin.

Jack chills out. He is beginning to grab everything. He grabs my shirt when I'm changing his diaper. He grabs toys to chew on them. He grabbed the cat, and I put a stop to that.
We got our hands on a giant length of packing paper. It stretched all the way across the basement floor. It was a great place to run.


Owen plays Blue's Clues. Here's his handy-dandy notebook and his handy-dandy crayon. He even hops into his "thinkin' chair" when he has all of his clues.

Helen feeds her baby most nutritious lunches.
The cat complies. They have since stuffed her into a small cabinet and said she was going night-night. Daddy put a stop to that.


Helen chats to Grandma on an old cell phone they use as a toy.And these are a bunch of baby hats I made out of old t-shirts and an old jumper of Helen's. They were a lot of fun. They're on their way here.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Backyard Citrus

The satsuma trees are loaded again this year, and the ripening fruit is getting sweeter every day! Satsumas in the fall are our climate's peace offering for the grueling summer heat.
Helen loves them so much, she can eat at least two in one sitting. She peels them herself. Here she made sound effects as she threw the peels onto the ground.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Lessons in Chivalry

video
Fortunately, Owen has a little time before going on his first date.
Do you ever wake up early when the birds begin to chirp, and just wish you could roll back time for some more sleep? I am never ready to get up, and sometimes wish I could tuck the sun back in bed, below the horizon. I felt like that the other morning. But then I looked out the window.
The morning sun was so beautiful. I don't remember if it coaxed me out of my morning fog, but it sure improved my attitude.

Here's another thing that improves my attitude:
Jason's friend and Atmore's only coffee roaster, Mr. Joel, found a new espresso (not "expresso" Why does that bug me so much when it gets mispronounced?) machine at Goodwill. It took up space at his house for a while, and he never used it, so he gave it to us. We bought some of his espresso blend, and mornings never tasted so good.

Fortunately for our family, the kids like mornings. A house full of grumpy people in the morning would be less than ideal. Owen's first words are usually, "It's morning time!!! My tummy hurts. Mommy, make oatmeal!"

Monday, November 10, 2008

Helen Turns Two

Once upon a time, Helen was born. Fleeting moments later, she turned 2. Our little chickie-doodle is fast becoming a big girl.

She wakes up talking. She says lots of phrases--adjective, noun (Owen's football shirt!)--and is beginning to say more sentences--noun, verb, predicate adjective (Jack is funny!)

When upset with him, she refers to her older brother as Owen Darrell. (Pronounced Own DARE!!)

She is super ticklish and has a great belly laugh.

She uses the potty, although not totally trained yet. She wakes up dry in the morning. She will bring a diaper and wipes to me when she wants to be changed.

She is highly opinionated about her clothes and shoes.

She has sparkly brown eyes.

She loves to help Mommy, and, actually she is a help. She puts my shoes away and throws trash in the wastebasket.

She mothers Owen. She springs forward to do things I ask of him, like laying out new clothes for him, including fresh underwear and shoes and socks.

We had a party for her, combined with a birthday celebration for my mother in law and an early Thanksgiving feast with Jason's immediate family.

Here's her lamb cake. It was destined. Family tradition speaks. No gum drop flowers this time, I didn't have enough time or energy. The candy was for energizing all my nephews and my niece.

Here are the little munchkins at the feasting. They had their own table, complete with tablecloth--and place cards! I love place cards.
Here's the big table, after the meal, and after the de-wheating by Leslie. The wheat stalks obstructed the view. I was too busy to get a before picture. We ate by candlelight. A few of the tealights wimped out after dinner was served, but no one complained. Helen called the cake her sheep cake--BAA!!
But she wouldn't bite off the nose. She loved all her presents, especially the food. Big surprise. She was not excited about being pulled away from her new play food to go get her tricycle from mom and dad. In fact, I think her exact words were, "I NO LIKE-IT!!!"
The next morning was her actual birthday, and her feathers were back in place again.
And for a snack, she and her brother got to eat lamb cake (with milk!) on their new $5 yard sale find.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Cracks and Crevices

Sooooo....

Last night I was baking snickerdoodles in the kitchen, and Jack was hanging out in his door jumper. He started fussing, so I asked Jason to please take care of him. I was absorbed in rolling cookie dough balls in cinnamon sugar, and so I was taken aback when Jason promptly came to me with the baby--still in the door jumper! He shoved him in my arms, and said, "Take Jack and go to the other end of the house, NOW!"

An uncharacteristic command--I quickly heeded.

The first thought that flashed through my mind was reptilian in nature. All I could picture was Jason getting the gun and blasting a hole in my floor.

I was right--it was a snake! A baby snake, but still, a snake!! In my own house!! I screamed inside my head, since the older kids were in bed.

The door that leads to the garage has a huge gap between it and the threshold. This problem could be fixed by a new threshold, but the problem is the door itself. It's an interior door, and really, very inadequate for insulating purposes.

Logic flees in the presence of fear. Jason said the snake was cold, and was coming in where it was warm. I said I didn't care, I wanted a new door tomorrow, snakes have snake buddies. I might have gotten a little bossy about it. Jason tried to grin, laugh and cheer me up about it, but I gave him my best hairy eyeball.

So, bless the man's heart, we are getting a new door today. He hired a friend to pick one up and install it this afternoon.*

Later that evening, Jason told me not to take any more baths in our tub.

"Huh?"

"I found a crack in it."

"As in, a crack in the paint? Or a crack in the tub?" (We painted the original blue tub with tub and tile paint.)

"As in, a crack in the tub. So don't take any more baths until I figure out how to fix that."

"Niiiiice!"

*I must add that Jason is fully capable of changing a door. He just doesn't have time right now, since it is harvest season.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Raising Cane

About six weeks ago, I helped Eric, a farmer buddy of mine, plant 95 acres of sugar cane. Right after college, Eric worked in the precision ag research department at Auburn, and still has some good friends at the university. When Auburn wanted to put in a sugar cane trial, Eric became the local farmer in charge of making it happen. Since I owed him a favor, Eric drafted me to drive a cane wagon.

Planting sugar cane is much more labor intensive than anything planted (legally) in this part of the country. Planting soybeans, for example, consists of me backing the planter up to the seed tender, starting the conveyor to fill the hoppers with seed, turning on my iPod, and planting until the hoppers are empty. Not exactly difficult. Sugar cane is quite different. You start with a crew of 11 cane planters from south Florida, four tractors pulling cane wagons, a knuckle boom log loader, and several truckloads of cane from Louisiana. (the drivers of which were known by some as "the coon a-- connection.") The wagons are loaded with sticks of cane and three planters who will each toss cane into one row. The stalks of cane are dropped about three wide into a furrow and each joint in the stalk will sprout a new plant. Two more planters walk behind the wagons with machetes to trim twisted stalks and fill in any skips in the row. Walking with a machete isn't terrible--I did that for half a day or so. Tossing cane is a different story. The cane we used was twisted by hurricane Gustav and full of mud and fire ants. Pulling a few stalks off the wagon to fill in skips was as close as I wanted to get to this job.
The purpose of the whole cane experiment is quite interesting. The trial is on the prison farm (several thousand acres just laying idle--I don't have time to go into all of that) which years ago had 800 acres of cane farmed by inmates. The state sold the cane syrup, and the inmates used it to brew bootleg liquor in the toilets. Governor Bob Riley learned that a company called Amyris had developed a way to make synthetic diesel fuel from cane juice that was stable in cold weather and 80% cleaner than conventional diesel. In addition, Amyris is working on a process to make jet fuel. The Air Force wants to have 50% of its fuel from domestic, renewable sources by 2018. Governor Riley would like that fuel to come from Alabama sugar cane. The only problem is that the largest commercial cane patch in Alabama was five acres--not quite enough. The Governor met with Amyris, and the state funded a grant through Auburn to plant 100 acres of cane for seed stock. The idea is that this 100 will provide seed cane for 1,000 acres next year, and 10,000 the following. If the local area can support 50-60 thousand acres of cane, that will be enough to build a cane mill, with the goal of having 150,000 acres in the future. Will it work? Who knows. It did, however, provide me with some very interesting experiences.

I got to learn about the sugar cane industry.

I got to go flying. One of the extension agents from Auburn flew his homebuilt RV8 down to the project. He took me flying. He let me take the stick. He let me do a roll. People with questionable judgment make me happy. Prior to this, I had never been in control of anything more than three feet off the ground--and that was my four-wheeler jumping a dirt pile. Four-wheelers are fun, but they do not compare to flipping an airplane upside down and diving straight at the ground.

And I got to meet the governor. About two weeks ago, Governor Riley came down to tour his pet project, and Dad and I were invited to attend the presentation.


--Jason

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Peanut Harvest

Jason and his dad are finished with peanuts for this year!

Because peanuts grow underground, before they can be combined, they have to be dug up and turned over. Then they are left for a few days to allow the roots and vines to dry so the peanuts will separate from them easily. Unfortunately for y'all, I didn't get pictures of the digger. Just imagine a tractor moving very slowly in a linear fashion across a field.

This is the peanut combine. It's Owen's favorite piece of farm equipment. Unfortunately for him, it's a one-trick pony, and is only used once a year, but that doesn't stop him from talking about it year-round.

A close-up. Don't ask me how it works!

This is the nut cart that is used to transport peanuts from the combine to the truck. This is a huge timesaver, since the combine moves so slowly.

A peanut dump.

This is where your Jif comes from!

Another peanut dump in progress.

Get the scoop shovel ready! Bubba missed a little.Peanuts are dirty business! In the evening, the dirt from combining hangs in the air like fog, and is actually kind of pretty. All that pretty dirt will settle--right onto the clothes on your washline, through your screens and onto your furniture. Pretty, pretty dirt.

Some neighbors asked for some peanut hay for their cows. They picked up a bunch of missed peanuts too. She was roasting them in her oven.

A tailgate party. Tip I learned from Mom: pack a jug of warm, soapy water for washing up. She always did this for berry picking and picnics. Here I had used an empty 2-liter, just so you know we weren't washing our hands with Coke.

Jack the chick magnet.

And here's that ruggedly handsome farmer I've mentioned before. He might kill me for this picture, but I'll take the chance.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Now I know...

...why I bought all those $1 Dover paperbacks and covered them carefully with contact paper--so Helen could pull the whole stack of Thornton W. Burgess children's classics down several times a day. She de-books the shelves regularly. I'm not sure whether she is delighting in pure badness or if she is searching for just the right story. Several weeks ago, she latched onto Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George, and paged through it very seriously on the recliner. Her attachment to that particular book lasted for several days. I became interested in it, and she grew territorial.

On another literary front, Owen is listening to Little House in the Big Woods. He snuggles into me while I read, and points at the pictures. "What's thay-at?" he asks in his cute southern accent. He is very interested in Laura, Mary, Ma and Pa, and their life in the woods of Wisconsin. Helen, however, tries to distract us while I read. Yesterday she threw toys up in the air and laughed a bad little laugh, then threw a sideways glance to see if she had our attention.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Guitar Smashing

Owen turned 4 on Sunday!

Unfortunately, he was sidelined by a case of hand, foot and mouth disease. So was his sister and his mom, and his baby brother had a mild, intermittent fever. I was very surprised to have gotten it, since it is a common viral illness among children. I must be lending my immunity to Jack while he is nursing. It's not the worst virus there ever was, but it is annoying. I have blisters on my palms and the soles of my feet and inside my mouth. The ones on my hands and feet feel like paper cuts. The ones in my mouth feel like I scalded it or I bit my cheek. I also feel like I got hit by a truck.

We had to adjust party plans. His cousin Abby was born the day after he was, and we were going to have a big shindig. Instead, we invited Jason's parents over for lunch after they came home from church. Owen's outlook improved once we told him our new plans.

He loved the card he got from us. His gift is still on its way.

Owen was so! excited! about his guitar cake. He could hardly take his nap while I was making it on Saturday.

We had cheese puffs! I don't remember buying these ever before. The label said, "Made with real cheese." Hmmmm. The kids had never tasted anything so good. I dignified them with china.

We had my final freezer casserole that I made before Jack came, an uninspiring pizza-rice combo, but it was something to eat. Ruth brought some yummy purple hull peas from her garden. I made garlic bread, and we had punch I had made for the big party.

Owen actually blew his candles out! He has never been able to do it before. He huffed them out one at a time. We love you, Owen! Happy birthday. We're glad you and Helen liked the cake.