My middle sister (with whom my daughter and I are currently staying on our little vacation) read my last blog entry and couldn't help but notice that I failed to mention her extraordinarily gracious hospitality, good looks, and generalized charm and wit. I regret the oversight.

In other news, I'm enjoying having some quiet time. Today I watched two Dateline episodes in a row and got some reading done. My kid spends every waking moment with her eight-year-old cousin.  They get along pretty well. One interesting little development,though .  .  .  she's been kissing him. A lot. Now, I think it's fine, but I'm not sure at what point one should discourage such displays of affection - or at least the frequency of them. Earlier, he threw a dirty sock at her and she said, "If you do that again, I will kiss you!"

He replied, "That's not really a threat because I don't mind at all." We went to my sister's gym today and while we were waiting for my sister to check us all in, A and her cousin were sitting on a couch in the lobby. They were taking turns sitting on each other's heads and kissing each other on the cheek. Since we were just about to drop them off at the kids' play area, I thought I'd pass along some helpful advice.

"Hey, maybe take it easy on the kissing when you're in the play area, okay?"

My daughter looked at her cousin and, in a conspiratorial tone, whispered: "We'll just find a place to do it in private."

"Um, can't you two just, you know, give each other a noogie or something?"  Ai-yi-yi.

I also found out that my daughter has been telling some tall tales when I'm not around. My sister took her three kids plus my kid to a frozen yogurt place yesterday afternoon. During our visit last summer, my daughter had bragged to her cousins that she was, in fact, in possession of the new Justin Bieber movie, even though it had not been released yet. My niece and nephew decided to call her out on it yesterday, and asked if they could watch the movie next time they visit our house. My daughter quickly came up with a story explaining why they would not be able to do that.  Would you believe that we have a ninja living across the street from us and that she broke into our house and stole the DVD?  Worse yet, she forgot the case and broken in a second time to retrieve it. And here I thought our 'hood was so dull.

Following the Oregon Trail

After studying the early explorers in history last year, we are now learning about American history. We spent several months on colonial history and the American Revolution, then read about Lewis and Clark. Peter read and enjoyed the book Seaman's Journal: On the Trail with Lewis and Clark, which is written from the perspective of the Newfoundland dog that accompanied the Corps of Discovery. Next, the boys will watch Ken Burn's documentary on the exploration. Following that we covered the gold rush and Oregon state history. It was kind of fun that on the day we read about the end of the Oregon Trail and the Father of Oregon, Dr. John McLoughlin, we happened to drive to Oregon City (the official end of the Oregon Trail) and drove by his historical home site. (We went to Oregon City to pick up our new dog, Danner.) Unfortunately, because we were in the city in the evening, we couldn't stop and go into any of the pioneer museums there, but because we had just finished our studies of the area the boys' short visit was very much enriched.

Fortuitously, our local home school group planned a field trip to a more local pioneer museum in The Dalles, a place that also claims to be the End of the Oregon Trail. The Discovery Center has exhibits on Native American history, Lewis and Clark, and pioneer history. Lewis and Clark traveled right through this region on the Columbia River. Some day I'll have to take the boys out to Astoria on the coast where the Corps of Discovery stayed for the winter before returning east.

Our visit to this museum was a bit too short to thoroughly absorb all the information on display (don't all museum visits tend to be that way?) but what we did see enhanced our understanding of what we had read.

In our reading, we had learned about mountain men, trappers and rendezvous so this display of their typical gear was interesting.

This was meant to depict the camping spot on the trail for the members of the Corps of Discovery.

The boys ran through the early Oregon state history displays, as boys are wont to do.

The main event for the visit was a planned project for the homeschool group. The museum had a clever way for the students to think through what it was like to be a pioneer on the Oregon Trail. The kids were divided into two groups, each representing a wagon train. Each group was appointed a Trail Master. Peter was head of one train and Sam was the leader of the other. They were given honorary straw hats. Other kids were given jobs for their group such as record keeper, animal herder, etc. Each team was given a set of dice and the rules for rolling them.

By rolling the dice and doing a little math on each question they were to determine the status of their wagon train.

The record keeper wrote down the results of each roll. The two teams compared their answers.

The idea was that the wagon train had just reached The Dalles after being on the Oregon Trail crossing the plains all summer. They still needed to pass the Cascade mountain range to continue west and reach the Willamette Valley, the promised land, where they would buy land and farm. If they arrived in The Dalles in August they would have plenty of time to get across the mountains.

After they determined the status of their wagon train, the number of people and animals, how much money they had, etc., they then had to explore which option would be most feasible for continuing west- rafting everything down the Columbia River or crossing Mount Hood on the Barlow Road, a toll road with many dangers.

More dice rolling determined how successful each option would be for the group.

Each group would decide which route they would take.

I thought this information was particularly interesting, especially considering the disdain some people hold for the county east of us. Wasco county at one time covered all the (original Oregon) territory from the Rocky Mountains to the Cascade Range!

At the end of the project, Sam and Peter, as wagon masters, reported on the success (or lack thereof) of their wagon trains.

I thought this project was well-done and informative. It was a good way for the students to think through some of the details of the dangers of traveling in the nineteenth century. My boys were severely disappointed though, that they were not physically loading a covered wagon and hitching up real live oxen to drive. They fully expected the museum to provide them with that kind of experience.

The museum director reported to us that he was conducting a class for a school in Louisiana via Skype following our project with him. Maybe the Discovery Center would do this for other homeschool groups in the country. If you are interested, it could be worth contacting them to find out.


The kid and I are hanging out in the DC area for a week or so. We're staying with my middle sister and her family. My sister had a doctor's appointment this morning and two of her three kids had school, so she dropped us off at the Metro and A and I headed downtown. The kid has been studying American presidents in school and I thought it would be educational for her to see the Lincoln Memorial and whatnot.

When we got downtown, we walked from the Smithsonian Metro stop all the way to the Lincoln Memorial, which is actually a bit of a haul. As it turns out, it takes even longer when the shortest member of your party stops every 30 seconds to pick dandelions. Anyway, we made it to the memorial and she even read part of the Gettysburg address. We also visited the Korean War memorial and the WWII memorial. The Washington Monument is closed, but we walked up to it and took some photos. 

After that, we walked to the Old Post Office Pavilion and rode to the top of the observation tower. Then we ate a couple pizzas of greasy pizza. I called P to ask if our washing machine had been delivered* and put his daughter on the phone. She told him that she "didn't do much" today. Five monuments and she didn't do much?  After we left the Old Post Office Pavilion, I then took her to the American History Museum - you know, for more nothingness. I also bought her a plush version of Bo, the President's dog. In a pink purse . . . because you know that's how Bo rolls. 

On the ride back into Virginia, she insisted on hanging on a pole even though there were plenty of seats.

Keep my baby off the pole! 
*I would tell you about my trip to the laundromat, but I've blocked most of it out. It involved a lot of unsupervised children and loud, non-English shouting. My soul died a little that day.

chore cards

I saw this idea floating around Pinterest.  It has been AWESOME for Tanner.  It's sparked a fire under his bum to do chores again.  Kate....not so much.

The set also comes with STAY IN BED CARDS.  Those have worked great too.  

Bloody Mary.

A few days ago at school, Kerri's ex boyfriend told Kerri a scary story about "Bloody Mary". He told her that if she went to the bathroom, closed the door and turned off the light, and looked into the mirror and said "Bloody Mary" three times, Mary would come out of the mirror with a knife and murder her.

Kerri shared this information with her Daddy, who had went to pick her up at the bus stop. She could not wait to get home, and went straight to the bathroom before I even had a chance to say hello. And her Daddy, who thought it would be funny, decided to scare her. Kerri ran out of the bathroom screaming. Daddy was chastised.

There were tears. And she was afraid. And then came the nightmares. It took her a few days to summon up the courage to try it again. And just like I told her, nothing happened. And now she knows not to believe everything she hears, even if from her friends. Kerri asked me to share this on the blog so other kids would know not to be afraid of Bloody Mary.

Life with Kerri is not bloody amused.

West Coast Teapots

I stopped in to the gallery the other day to see the show called West Coast Teapots.

I had seen a show announcement and happened to walk by during its opening reception a few weeks ago. I stayed outside and gazed through the windows at the potters and collectors, many of whom I recognized, holding their glasses of wine and talking pottery. I couldn't bring myself to go inside and spend the evening explaining why I didn't have a teapot in the show and why I am manipulating cake instead of clay.

I heaved a sigh and walked on.

Someday, I swear, I will get back into my studio for more than an hour, if only to make replacements for all my dinnerware that has been broken in the last two years.

So I made a trip to the gallery to view the show knowing the pots were going to holler the Siren's call.

Teapots have always been a special challenge to potters. There are many design and functional elements to a teapot. The perfect pot will have all the elements working seamlessly together. The handle needs to feel comfortable and balanced in the hand while supporting the weight and tipping of the pot itself during use. The spout needs to be angled correctly and the lip of it finished carefully so that it doesn't drip when pouring. The lid must fit snuggly but not too much and that can really be a problem to solve. Throw in a desire for an imaginative design and glazes that complement the shape and the challenges mount. Then there is the possibility of warping, twisting or cracking of seams. When a gallery wants to bring out the best talent in the ceramic world, they have a teapot show.

I loved this teapot set which was made by the show's curator, a potter living just down the road from me, Jim Diem. This one asked me to take it home.

But this! I loved, loved, loved! The teapot was great but I really wanted the cups. The red glaze, so hard to get, is divine. The slip trailing, the finishing details....I want!

Another teapot by the same artist as the cups above, Jeff Morales (check out the pull chain desk lamp on his website- Amazing!) really wanted to come home with me.

I love the colors and simplicity of this set. It says Coffee to me rather than Tea.

Every element of this charmer fits perfectly with each other, the delicate feet under the weighty spherical shape gives it whimsy.

Funky and masculine.

So fun!

This has a beautiful blue celadon glaze with a classic carved surface.

This set really grabbed me with the careful sgraffito work. I loved the texture and subdued color as well as the salt glaze finish. Salt glaze gets me every time.

So this was my prize. It just jumped into my bag. I wanted the whole set, especially that teapot, but the wallet said No. I hated to break up the set by buying just one element but the gallery manager assured me it was fine.

Can you see the animal on this pot? What an imaginative design. Great glaze too.

If I could just cut back on sleep and showering, maybe I can get some time in the studio again.

my new blog layout

So....way back before Christmas, I had my blog redone by....DESIGN by AINSLEY.  She is awesome.  Great to work with....she has excellent taste and completely works with you.  You have specific ideas...she'll design them, you like a certain thing on one website, but not another, she'll make the adjustments.  She's also super cute.  = )   Here she is with her hubby and little one...

She made me this header first.  Which I love.

After a couple of months, I hired her to make me a new one....which I also love.

THANK you Ainsley for updating my blog.

I'm so glad I bought the warranty.

When hubby and I moved to Canada in mid 2007, we bought beautiful reclining couches for our living room. Almost three years later, the handle broke off of one of the recliners. Since I had bought the store's five year warranty, I called them. And they sent a man over to inspect the couches.

Kerri and I still laugh about that day. The very large, muscled man was absolutely terrified of our twelve pound Pookie. Pookie knew it, so he bared his fangs and growled all the more menacingly at the poor man from his cage. And every now and then would grab the cage with his fangs and rattle it furiously, sending the man ducking for cover behind the upturned couch he was checking out. I think he might have peed his pants. He left quickly, and we never heard from him again.

About three weeks later, I called the furniture store and they said they would not be sending the man over to repair the couch (as originally scheduled). We were to come in and pick out new couches, and they would take the old ones away. So I flew my Dad up on vacation, and took him, Nana, Kerri and us to the furniture store. And after a grueling 8 hour day, where we sat on every single couch in the store at least twice, we finally chose a new set.

One year and ten months later, the couches are starting to show some wear and tear that should not be happening. Since I had bought the store's 5 year warranty again, I called them up. They sent a different man this time. And although he put on a braver front, he made it very clear to me that the dog had to go when he came back to repair my couches. Pookie did not like that, so he curled his lip, showed his fangs and went all beast in my arms. We never heard from that man again either. That was about three weeks ago. So I called the furniture store, and after a few days they called me back to tell me we are getting a full store credit for the purchase price and tax, and we have 30 days to go to any of their stores and pick out a new set. But this time, we get to keep the old couches, because they don't want them back.

So last night, hubby told me I was amazing. And I explained I had nothing to do with it, that it was the store warranty. But one of the neighbor dads had told me this was the first time he had heard about someone not having a problem with that store's warranty - not just once, but twice. So hubby and I agreed that maybe the amazing one was Pookie, and we have him to thank. As I complained to hubby about having to spend another agonizing day picking out our third set of couches in less than 5 years, hubby started to laugh. And before I knew it, we were both laughing so hard we cried. In between giggles, we hysterically came up with all the different things we could use as living room furniture, that would surely outlast this store's couches.

I suggested blow up plastic pool lounges. Hey, they have cup holders! Hubby thought we could put rugs down and use the store credit to buy every pillow they have, and have a more exotic living room. Then I suggested lawn furniture, especially the hard plastic, stackable kind. Hubby said if we needed durability, he could always build a sofa out of bricks, and then put cushions on it. I thought that would scratch the floor. So he then suggested Lego bricks. And said this way we could rearrange the furniture and change it any time. And it would double as a play room for Kerri. Pookie hid his head under my pillow. And I was amazed we did not wake up Kerri with our out-of-control fits of crazy laughter. We came up with many more funny ideas. But in the end, we resigned ourselves that we will be spending a very long weekend shopping for couches.

Life with Kerri is grateful for insurance, and our sense of humor.

our latest smoothie concoction

So Tanner really does eat smoothies for the majority of his meals.   Three times a day.  Everyday.  Even if it's a school day, his after school snack is a smoothie and then he wants another for dinner.  If I could only pack him one in his lunch....

Because he lives on these things, I've had to get creative, so he's not just living on Greek yogurt, berries and xagave.  

Our recent fave....

1 part greek yogurt 
1 part frozen fruit...
handful of raw oats, per serving
2t chia seed (or flax seed), per serving
xagave, to taste

*did you know the kind costco sells, has 23 grams of protein per cup?!
*my favorite frozen combo is raspberries/mango, but we use everything...blueberry, pineapple, cherry, blackberry, strawberry
*xagave (pronounced, "zagave) is a brand of agave. thus far, it's the only one I trust.  I researched the company, where they get their sources, how it's processed, what goes in it, etc.  
*if you don't want to use xagave, you could use fresh, pitted dates, pure maple syrup or raw honey
*chia seed is super good for can buy it at a health food store.  the taste is more subtle than flax, so I prefer it for smoothies

Quick update.

Sorry I have not posted in a few days. We have been busy spending lots of time outdoors, and lots of quality family time together. Kerri seems to have sprouted overnight, so we are also going through her wardrobe and shoes since nothing seems to fit right anymore. And the weather went from summer highs to frigid winter in just a week. This morning we woke up to 23 degrees (but feels like 7 with the wind shield factor). We went from t-shirts and shorts to winter hats and gloves overnight.

Pookie is enjoying having Nana over. She came to visit so he had plenty of lap and cuddle time with his favourite girl. And Kerri is outgrowing that lap pretty quickly! But I don't think Nana minds.

Life with Kerri is good.

Cross Country

Over the weekend the boys got a chance to go on their first cross country ski outing. Our neighbor is a world class bi-athlete. He competed in biathlon which is cross country skiing and shooting. His sons are my boy's best friends. The family took the boys with them on one of their many cross country excursions on the mountain. I gave Samuel the camera and these are the photos he came home with. I don't have much commentary since I was not on the trip but I think the photos are great. It looks like it was a gorgeous day to be on the mountain with new snow and bright sunshine.

This is the snow bank in the parking lot of the nordic center. Lots of snow removal this year!

Peter suited up for his run.

Samuel, ready to go.

The boys having their snack.

Sam looks like a pro.

I think I'm going to have to try this sport. Such a gorgeous setting for a workout.

What a fun morning!

Of broken washing machines, pet expos, and birthday parties

The worst has happened: our washing machine died. I deduced that it was not working properly when I attempted to wash a blanket, only to find that it weighed a hundred thousand pounds when I attempted to pull it out of the washer and put it in the dryer. The spinny thing inside the washing machine? No spinny now. When I told my husband about the washer's passing, he rolled his eyes and said this: "Fine! Let's just replace it. Again! I swear, we've had to replace that thing so many times!" I waited until he was done with his rant and suggested that he go downstairs, lift the washer's lid, and look at the date of manufacture. I knew he wouldn't do it, so I took the liberty of advising him of the date, which is 1998. You know, the year we bought our house? While it is true that we've had to replace the dryer, the washer served us for 14 years. To me, that seems like a pretty good run. I gave up on trying to convince my husband of the washer's dutiful loyalty, though. It's hard to reason with someone who does not understand how time works. He also maintains that he buys me flowers "all the time."  All the time = once a year on Mother's Day and once a year on my birthday.

Anyway, I went to Best Buy on Friday and bought a new one, which will be delivered on Thursday. The kid and I are flying out to DC on Wednesday. By the time we get back, I'll be looking at nearly two weeks of laundry that will have accumulated. So, I am thinking of doing the unthinkable: going to the laundromat. Now, I do not mean to imply that I think I'm too ra-sha-sha to to go the laundromat. It's just that, you know, I did my time with that crap. I'm having flashbacks to living in the dorms in college. No matter what time of day or night you tried to do your laundry, if you didn't have your stuff out of the dryer within a millisecond of the buzzer sounding, those chicks threw your shit on the floor. When P and I lived in an apartment back in the day, I had my share of hauling my clothes through the snow and across to the laundry building. Walking back to our apartment one time, I remember finding a pair of my underwear in a snowbank.  I was so traumatized by the whole thing that when we bought our house, I made sure that a washer and dryer were delivered the same day we moved in.

I may just suck it up and do a couple loads before we leave this week. I did run to Kohl's the other day and buy Miss Thang a new pack of underwear. They are iCarly drawers, which thrilled her to no end.

In other news, I worked at a pet expo Saturday and Sunday. I took my foster dog, Valentino. He was such a good boy. Everyone loved him. I did have one little mishap, though. When I was leaving the booth on Saturday (as the expo was ending), I thought maybe I should take a bunch of our cash with me so that we weren't leaving it overnight. I'm the treasurer, so it seemed to make sense. I put the money in an envelope, grabbed Valentino's leash, and headed out. But when I got home . . . no envelope. I had a panic attack. I flipped my purse inside out. I searched my car. I thought maybe I had dropped the envelope in the parking lot or something. I sent an email to the two volunteers who were working the first shift this morning, letting them know that I lost the money and to send me a text if they found the envelope. I wasn't really expecting that they would find it, though. Seeing the state I was in, my daughter asked her Magic 8-Ball if I would find the money. "Yes," came the reply.

Well, lo and behold, they did find the money. Apparently I left it . . . right on the table in our booth. However, we did cover the table with a sheet before we left, so I guess that's why I didn't see it. Anyway, half my weekend was sort of ruined, but I'll live - if my stupidity doesn't kill me, I guess.

While I worked at the pet expo this afternoon, the kid was at a classmate's party. I went to Target yesterday and picked out a gift and a birthday card for her friend. I handed A the card last night. "Here, sign this," I told her. A few minutes later, she handed the card and envelope back to me. She had written "I LOVE YOU JACK" all over it. Then she drew hearts and wrote "J+A" inside them. What the? She told me she loves him as a friend. Well, I sure hope so because what is the alternative? Also,  guess I need to talk to her about subtlety and such. I didn't realize she was so keen on this boy. They are on student council together, so maybe their love blossomed while they made posters encouraging the student body to participate in Crazy Outfit Day?  All I know is . . . Mama's not ready for any boy stuff. Nosirree.
Ensemble for Crazy Outfit Day

an addition to the kids art wall

Remember this?  Well I finally filled one of those empty frames....

I had no idea the kids would love it so much.  So many "oohs" and "ahhs" and "how did you do that?"  Tanner helped me organize all the crayons and taught me the order of a rainbow.  Then we hot glued them in.  After it was up, Elle figured it was where the crayons went so she kept popping them off and then returning them.  So I finally hot glued the whole thing shut.  

I know I took a picture of the whole wall, with the new addition.  But somehow it got lost on my super organized (ha!) computer.

Spring Fling

One last blanket of white before the season is officially over here in the Great Northwest.

We always seem to have the opposite weather from the rest of the country which currently has unseasonably warm temperatures. This beautiful snow, sparkling under the morning sunshine, drew me out for a walk before the school day commenced.

A snowfall like this in December generates lots of excitement- charming snowmen, closed schools, driving anxieties, hyperbolic weathermen, and lots and lots of hot chocolate consumption.

But in March, two days into the official spring calender, the reactions to snow like this range from blasé to consternation. People are wanting to wear flip flops and plant their gardens, not drink hot chocolate and sit by the fire.

Not me. Now that the plague is gone and we're all sleeping through the night, I'm happy to stay holed up just a bit longer and pretend the seed orders and spring cleaning are still weeks away.

I enjoyed my snowy morning excursion as much as I would have in December except that the snow falling on me from the trees kept insisting that this was a spring snow and would soon be gone.

Farewell winter.