Friday, October 31, 2008

A Halloween scare I could've done without

Dakota and Dylan move through life at radically different speeds. Dakota likes things planned and can take ten minutes or more to just get his shoes on some days. Dylan seems to find it excruciating to be still for longer than 20 seconds (and no, he is not ADD, ADHD, or any other alphabet combination). Zadie Smith says of one of her characters in White Teeth that she "moved through life with her mouth wide open". I first read this when Dylan was only about three but several years later this expression still fits him like a glove. He seems to want to experience absolutely everything in as short a time as possible so that he can move on to experience the next great thing. Especially when they were younger, I felt like I was constantly playing a sadistic game of "Which one do you love more??" For example, Dylan (age 4) is pedalling his bicycle ahead of me and has almost reached an intersection where I don't know if he will stop on his own - but Dakota (age 6 - with Autism Spectrum Disorder and because of it, low muscle tone) is behind me and has just gotten to the top of a hill with a sharp corner at the bottom and there's a 50% chance he won't be strong enough to brake his bike to a stop before he crashes if he can't make the turn. QUICK - Which one do you love more?? Or Dylan (age 2) has run off in one direction like toddlers tend to do while Dakota (age 4) thinks it looks like fun so he runs off in the opposite direction. QUICK - Which one do you love more??

Now that they're a little older, it plays out in a slightly different way. Dylan takes about 15 minutes to get ready for school (dressed, bed made, lunch made, breakfast eaten) in the morning and, if I'm not paying attention, will wear the same clothes as the day before just so he can get to school earlier. Dakota will linger, taking at least 15 minutes just to eat breakfast and he couldn't care less about getting to school early. I finally had to tell Dakota that if he was late to school, he will lose activity time in the evening.

We only live about a quarter mile from the school and I accompany the boys every morning whether walking, riding bikes or, when it's raining hard, driving. This year, however, since there is only one of me and two of them and the two of them have such different time tables for getting out the door, I'm once again playing Which one do you love more?? I've started just this year to allow Dylan to go to school by himself while I follow with Dakota about 5-10 minutes later. This morning Dakota and I were about a block away from the house when we heard sirens. Now, I'm a worrier. Devin tells me I worry way too much. I respond that I'm really good at it because I've had so much practice and am just playing to my strengths. It's a joke because the truth is I do worry too much and I know it. If I hear sirens and one of my boys isn't in sight, I just KNOW those sirens are for him. -Then I talk myself down from the ledge. That's what happened this morning. - - Until we rounded the corner and I saw two police cars and an early-responder fire truck, all lights flashing, on one of the streets where Dylan would have crossed less than 10 minutes earlier. Now I'm fighting panic because I know it's Dylan even while the rational side of me is trying to stave off hyperventilation by thinking, "Really, Ann. Get a grip! What are the odds?" I sped up anyway and started looking for Dylan's white helmet. About a block later I see it in the middle of all the lights about the same time as the ambulance pulls up. I'm sure nearly every parent has imagined something like this but, trust me, I was WAY more freaked than I would have ever imagined. I was still visibly shaking an hour later.

Dylan was fine, thank God, just very scared. He's gotten hurt worse falling off the skateboard when there was no car involved. He was riding his skateboard across the street when a teenager came off the main street turning left and didn't see him until she "tapped" (the police used this word) him and knocked him off the board. Dylan said he tried to stop at the corner but couldn't. The teenager did the right thing by stopping to help (you hear so often about people - even adults - who don't). It was one of those horrible accidents that could have been prevented in so many ways and could have been soooo much worse than just scaring the daylights out of everyone involved. I'll bet the teenager looks more carefully for little kids and Dylan stops all the way before crossing streets from now on. In the midst of all the drama, Dakota passed right by with barely a pause because he didn't want to lose activity time for being late to school. I didn't realize until I looked around later that he was already gone.

Halloween blessings:
Non-fatal life lessons
helmets - which don't do any good if they're not worn
boys who, if you're lucky, follow the rules when it counts

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Harvest Festival

Kids no longer get to have many of the celebrations throughout the school year previous generations grew up anticipating. I guess the school boards have to recognize all holidays (including Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, Druid, etc.) if they allow any and at some point it became impossible to accommodate everyone's personal beliefs without offending anyone. As a result, nothing is celebrated, which I think is really sad. Halloween, which some opponents insist is a devil-worship holiday, is no longer allowed at any public schools that I know of. At the last school the boys attended, it was renamed "Book-o-ween" and children came with book in hand, dressed as their favorite fictional character. Here, they don't even do that. Most of the teachers do absolutely nothing, pretending as if Halloween only exists in some parallel universe. Dakota's teacher, however, is very creative to the point of being slightly subversive at times - and I think this is a good thing. She takes the attitude that she is preparing these kids for life and, from what I can tell, everything she does develops from that premise. Case in point? Dakota's class, unlike the rest of the school, got to have a Harvest Festival. They all belonged to one of several committees (games, food, cleanup, etc.) and had responsibilities associated with that committee. They went outside for about an hour and played games, then had snacky food when they got back inside. When I look at these pictures and see the joy on these kids' faces, I wonder how anyone can think that an occasional celebration at school is a bad thing, no matter what we call it. The kids got exercise, had more fun that they've had at school all year, and worked together toward a common goal. In real life, it's called team-building.

This boy busted through the bottom of his bag in the sack race and celebrated his certain victory all the way to the finish line. It was absolutely hysterical.

Bobbing for apples was really fun to watch, too. Even the kids who had no interest in actually eating the apples were determined to get one. Some got absolutely soaked in the process while others quickly figured out that, unless they could unhinge their jaw like a snake or had pointy teeth like a shark, they needed to go for the stem (creative problem solving).
Dakota finally got his apple. He didn't figure out the stem thing, instead choosing to empty the bucket one mouthful of water at a time. It took awhile but in the end his unique strategy was successful. He never did win the sack race prize of a single candy corn, although he tried several times and was disappointed because he really wanted that candy corn.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

SO, just what the heck is a thunder egg, anyway??

Thunder eggs are the state gemstone of Oregon. According to Native American legend, the gods would steal the thunderbird's eggs and throw them at each other in anger during thunderstorms. The geologically more accurate, but much less colorful, story is that they were gas pockets in rhyolitic lava flows. Over millions of years, silica (quartz) and other minerals seeped in, partially filling the pockets to create geodes - or totally filling them to create thundereggs. This is what they look like on the outside. Very unassuming! What's amazing is that they have this very distinctive pattern of squares around the outside with a rounded top and bottom. I'm not sure what causes this pattern to form but they reminded me somewhat of really old cannon balls that have been buried and have corroded over time. The exterior pattern made them look man-made, if primitive.

Anyway, some of them are very boring when you cut them open - like flat opaque quartz. Others are stunning. Here are some of mine that have been cut open. These aren't even the prized ones. We could only get to two of the nine beds they had and the bed we ended up going to had this type, which are considered just run-of-the-mill pretty. I still think they're very cool, though, and would like to go back at some point with a 4x4 vehicle to visit some of the other beds. If you're an adventurous type and enjoy doing odd things outdoors, I highly recommend doing this.... But then, maybe I'm just easily amused?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Weekend trip - Sunday - success at last!!

On Sunday we finally did what, in hindsight, we should have done first on this trip. Then we could have spent the rest of the weekend lounging around the pool at the hotel sipping mixed drinks. I'm just kidding. Although it wasn't as productive as we had hoped it would be, the rock hunting was fun and we spent time together as a family.

What we did is we finally visited Richardson's Rock Ranch ( This was originally a 20,000 acre cattle ranch whose owner decided 30+ years ago to let people come dig thunder eggs out of the beds located here. I imagine it snowballed from there. These pictures show the TONS of rocks he has from all over the world. There are separate piles of rose quartz, petrified wood, obsidian, uncut geodes, etc., priced by the pound. All this is in addition to all the cut, polished, and otherwise improved rock he has inside his large shop. Although the shop itself would have been worth the trip, we were here to finally score some thunder eggs. We took our rock picks and buckets and headed out for yet another long, dusty ride over rutted roads to get to the beds.

Success at last!! Once we got the hang of it, finding and digging out
these little beauties was surprisingly easy. See that rounded object in the center of the picture? That is a thunder egg jutting half-out of the surrounding rock. In a couple hours, we collected about thirty between the four of us and headed back to the shop to have them cut open to reveal their inner beauty.
I'm sure it says something about me that I liked the guaranteed success involved in this last trip. They told us what to look for, where to dig, and even supplied us with the tools. --And I'm okay with that.
After a late lunch, we headed back home, where the boys fell into bed without complaint as soon as we got inside (around 9:00). I think they were asleep within minutes of laying down. I know I was.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Weekend trip - Saturday

On Saturday morning I poured myself out of bed, desperately seeking caffeine. I had slept with the octopus. -When I get more sleep, I call him Dylan. Who knew one small boy could move around so much while seeming to be fast asleep?

Once we topped off our tanks, we headed out for the day's adventures. First up was Stein's Pillar. Millions of years ago this was the molten inside of a volcano. Over the years the outside eroded away, leaving the basalt core sticking up from the surrounding mountain. It's 350 feet tall and 120 feet wide - even bigger than it looks in the picture. I was expecting something like Devil's Tower, which dwarfs this, but this was pretty cool.

Next, we headed for the first rock site of the day. We were better prepared than the night before with our GPS - coordinates already entered. I'm so glad Devin is kind-of techie, because I hate things like that, even though he got the unit for me so we could go geocaching.

On the way there, we stopped at Bandit Springs. Supposedly Oregon's biggest Ponderosa is located here. AND, much more fascinating for the boys, there are the skeletons of six horses left tied to a log by bandits who never returned for them. We found neither of these things although there was a large stump where the tree was supposed to be located. At this point, I'm starting to think this trip is cursed.

The site we were headed to was literally in the middle of nowhere. There wasn't a single building to be seen for miles and neither of our cell phones had any coverage for most of the day. Without a GPS we would have been hopelessly lost. The road was listed as maintained. We began questioning the definition of maintained as we tried to avoid the 2 feet deep ruts while branches scraped the sides of my six-month-old minivan. On the plus side, we were thankful we hadn't even attempted to go to a site where 4x4 vehicles were officially recommended. We finally did find the location and piled out to find the promised thunder eggs and agates. About two hours later, we left with a handful of tiny agates and no thunder eggs. It wasn't a total loss, though. The boys were thrilled to be allowed to get as dirty as they wanted and then get back in the van without being stripped down to underwear first.

By the time we got back to Prineville, it was about 3:00 and we still hadn't had lunch, although we always travel with snacks, so the boys weren't doing any Omen reenactments just yet. We stopped for fast food to eat in the car on our way to the final stop for the day. I have to say that this was the most beautiful drive of the whole trip. It was along a river canyon and there was just enough green to make you really appreciate it where it appeared. The light was soft but sunny and the colors in the rocks were just amazing. I'm sorry I don't have any pictures to share, but Devin was focused on reaching our destination and wouldn't stop. He promised to stop on the way back, but of course it was dark by then. We parked and started the climb to the top of the mesa where we were supposed to find petrified wood, agates, and calcite. I found one small piece of petrified wood on the way up and Devin found a large agate. The boys had better luck, both finding lots of agates and Dylan finding a couple pieces of petrified wood. It was quite a climb. This is from the top of the mesa, looking steeply downward. That tiny dot in the upper right corner of the picture is our van. Although we didn't find anything noteworthy on top of the mesa, it was beautiful. I enjoyed just walking around and looking at these twisted, weathered excuses for trees. The textures were amazing!

For the boys, the high point of the entire day came when we were ready to get back in the van and drive back to town. Dylan found, wonder of wonders, bullet casings! The boys quickly collected all they could find and were disappointed when we told them they could only take 5 each. After all, if we take them all, what would that leave for all the unfortunate children who come after us?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Weekend trip - Friday

We've had a crazily busy weekend - which I'll get to - but I wanted to give fair warning that I'm shamelessly back-dating posts. It's my own personal version of time travel.

We decided at the last minute this week (about Tuesday) to pull the trigger on our central Oregon rock-hunting trip and left on Friday. We didn't get to do this rock-hunting on the way back from Montana last summer as planned (with just me and the boys - rest assured I won't be making that mistake again). For reasons I'd better not go into, I decided I would rather do it when Devin could come with us and help me ride herd on the boys. Wise choice!

It's about a four hour trip from here to Prineville, our destination. It only took about a half-hour for me to realize that those with the y chromosome in my family speak, quite literally, a different language - one I have neither the time nor the inclination to become fluent in.

Dakota was reading one of those card trading magazines (he's an avid card collector and has THOUSANDS). All of a sudden, "No WAY! DUDE! I have a Charzard EX! It says here that it's worth $130!" Devin, injecting calm, "Just because it says it's worth that doesn't necessarily mean you could sell your card for that. We could check it out on Ebay. It's like your Kayor. If you hadn't activated it, it would have been worth $90, but if you wanted to sell it, since it's already activated, it would only be worth around $30." Dakota, "Yeah, but I didn't know before I activated it. And I wouldn't have wanted to sell it anyway because I have an underworld deck and he makes it really hard to beat me. I wish I had a Lord Van Blut. Then I would be invincible." Devin, "And I wouldn't want Kayor, because I have an overworld deck. I would need Fribit."

Dylan clearly understood the conversation because he chimed in at the right times. I, on the other hand, am left scratching my head. First, although I recognize that they are speaking Pokemon (and later Chaos) I (stubbornly??) don't speak that language. Second - $130 for a CARD???? One that my 9-year-old son has in his room and plays with??? Who has this kind of money? All those with y chromosomes (husband and sons) seemed to take this in stride. I, on the other hand, am thinking we need to sell all those cards littering the bedroom floors and fund four years at a private university for the boys with it because this is serious money. Clearly this is not only a language barrier, but also a culture barrier.

Anyway, we finally got to Prineville and checked in at our home away from home for the next three days. They had these totally charming sculptures around the hotel. These are two of them. There are some very similar ones here in Newport and I'm wondering if they are done by the same person.
We raced out to our first site but got there with only about a half-hour to search and the coordinates weren't in our GPS unit so we didn't even really know where to look. We had an unproductive hunt (lots of jasper but nothing else) with an "exciting" trip back down a steep talus slope trying to beat the sunset. We managed to make it back to the path before total dark but by the time we got back to the van it was ghost-story black outside. If we had only known, this was a harbinger of things to come.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

"Cinnabon" cinnamon rolls

The kids have today and tomorrow off school (teacher work days). The last two weeks were four day weeks and now we have a three day week!!! They are home almost as much as they are at school!

I've been promising Dylan I'd make cinnamon rolls for a couple weeks now but keep forgetting. It has to be a non-school day so they have time to cook and I have to start them the night before or it will be lunch time before they are ready. What I do is put the ingredients in the bread machine and let it work its magic while Devin and I watch television. 1 1/2 hours later, right before bed, I pull the dough out and make the rolls. Then I cover up the pan and put it to bed in the refrigerator for the night. The next morning, Devin pulls them out as soon as he gets up so they can warm up for about an hour before I put them in the oven.

The reason I'm giving all these details is because these cinnamon rolls are SO worth the trouble and I'm sharing the recipe here: and the frosting recipe here: I use butter instead of margarine in the frosting and it is absolutely to die for. I wouldn't want to make them too often because they are NOT healthy but as a treat they are over the top. I would post a picture but, honestly, they just don't last long enough to take a picture. Everyone swoops down on them and devours them as soon as they're ready (although this morning I salvaged some to share with my lovely neighbors before I put them on the table). Now I'm enjoying my food coma and the most wonderful smell lingers throughout the house. YUMMMY!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Trash day

I have this strange fascination with garbage trucks (really all kinds of service-type trucks). -If you have absolutely no interest in garbage trucks, you might want to stop reading now. Although I've made comments about the garbage trucks in the various places we've lived to Devin, I don't think even he realizes (or maybe cares?) that I actually find them fascinating. I think this goes back to growing up in the boonies and having a burn barrel with periodic dump runs rather than a "waste disposal service" that actually comes to me. I appreciate the mechanism by which I put my trash out by the curb, and it magically disappears. Anyway, there are several things about our trash service here that are different from every other place we've lived. In Florida, for example, there was a team of about 3-4 guys who would come around twice a week with a standard crusher truck and take anything we left on the curb, including three foot high piles of yard debris. Here, maybe because the weather is frequently awful, there is one guy who drives a totally mechanized truck. There is this mechanical arm that comes out and picks the can up, lifts it to the top of the truck, and overturns it. Then it sets the can back down within inches of where it was picked up! I still have to stop and gape if I'm anywhere near when it happens, it's so cool to watch. It's almost surreal that this little teeny town of 10,000 people has mechanized trash trucks, of all things. Another difference is that the amount of trash we are allowed to have picked up is extremely limited (AND only once a week). The large blue can being lifted in this picture is actually our recycle bin. The other, much smaller, green can on the left is our trash can. It holds about 2 kitchen trash bags. Any yard waste we generate has to fit in this can also. Talk about incentive to recycle!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Conversation with Dylan

Me - snuggling up to my 7-year-old's neck and giving him a kiss, "You are my favorite Dylan in the whole wide world."
Dylan - grinning, "Yeah, yeah, just leave me alone."
Me - teasing "Aren't you going to say I'm your favorite Mommy in the whole wide world?"
Dylan, "Well, there are a lot of Mommies in the world and I don't really know if you're the best. There might be better ones."
Me - feeling slightly deflated, "Even if there are better Mommies, I can still be your favorite, can't I?"
Dylan - grudgingly, "Okay, you're my favorite Mommy.....But I still don't know if you're the best."

Monday, October 20, 2008

Vision Screening

Today and tomorrow I'm helping with the vision screening at the elementary school. Every year, the Lions bring in a huge made-over RV (similar to the ones you might give blood in) and spend two whole days at the school screening every single child from kindergarten to fifth grade. They also visit other schools in the area and perform this same service. If a child needs glasses and the parents can't afford them, they will also help with that cost (but they can't go to the parents, the parents have to ask them). This is a pretty low-income area, especially when it comes to the family demographic. Both elementary schools in town get extra federal money because such a high percentage (I want to say something like 90% at our school, which is lower-income than the other school) of the students are eligible for free or reduced price lunches based on the parents' income.

Last year I helped but I was "crowd control". This year I'm actually performing the screening. I honestly don't know whether to be thankful or appalled. I guess I'm a lot of both. I'm thankful that, unlike so many others, we have good health insurance and I never have to let financial considerations come before health considerations for my family. All of the boys have at least 20/20 eyesight and I know this for a fact because they have actually been to an optometrist to be checked.

I'm appalled because what I experienced first-hand today is a pretty strong indictment of our society. MANY of these kids need glasses. Now, you might expect that with the younger grades. This might be the first time they've ever been screened. And you might expect some older kids to score borderline when they were fine last year. However, when a fourth grader comes in, sits down, hunches over and says, "I already know I need glasses," and scores 20/60 OR WORSE!! the train has jumped the tracks somewhere. I would venture to say that there were more kids screened who needed glasses and didn't have them than there were who actually had glasses.

There could be many reasons for this. Maybe the kids aren't covered by any health insurance at all and the parents simply cannot come up with the money. Maybe the parents don't even know there are agencies that will help with the cost or are too proud to access those services. Maybe the parents are ground down by ______and this isn't even making their top ten list of things to worry about right now. Believe it or not, I understand and sympathize with all these possible reasons. I'm sure there are more that are just as valid. However, the simple fact is: It doesn't matter why. It doesn't matter if the fault lies with parents or schools or our health care system. What matters is that this many kids are coming to school every day (some for years) primed to fail because they can't read the blackboard. What matters is that we, as a society, are saying this is okay with us because we allow it to continue. And, just to be clear, I'm no longer just talking about kids needing glasses. I'm also talking about the whole range of health services that are evidently inaccessible to way too many children in the United States.

All in all, it was a pretty depressing day. The only "consolation" for me is that, after this screening is over, it won't happen again until next year, when I'm sure many of these same children will - SHOCKER! - still need glasses.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Terminator Pumpkin '08

About 40 minutes north of us is a big casino. Today was the third annual Terminator Pumpkin event sponsored by them. I'm glad to know it's an annual thing so we can plan for it next year because it was pretty cool for four reasons.

First, they have $1000+ prizes for the biggest pumpkin. As you might imagine, this is enough to draw quite a few entries. This year there were about 20 entered. You can see from this picture with Dylan for scale they were huge (even if Dylan is a little on the small side)! I've only ever seen pictures of pumpkins this big before. The winner last year was over 1200 lbs.Second, they had a pumpkin carving contest that anyone can enter. The plan was for us to enter the boys' pumpkins. However, we got there too late due to Dakota having a soccer game until 1:30 today. Here are the first and second place pumpkins. They didn't have age groups so even I have to admit that Dakota's could never have competed with these two but he definitely would have been a contender for third. These were absolutely amazing. I've never seen anything like them before. Next year we'll have to get there earlier in order to enter. Hopefully the ringer who created these works of art will be otherwise occupied.

Third, they had a haunted house that was very small but well-done. The live head on a platter, the live dracula coming to life when you reach out to choose a piece of candy from his hand, a palm reader to tell your spooky future, an electric chair that flashed lights when you sat in it, etc. - Not too scary for little kids but scary enough to hugely entertain older ones.

Fourth is the main event - the Terminator Pumpkin. DUN, DUN, DUUUUNNNN! They took two huge pumpkins which together weighed about 2000 lbs., lifted them 100 feet in the air with a crane, and dropped them on a vehicle. This year it was a Jeep Wagoneer, but last year was a police cruiser made over into the "pumpkin patrol". Too cute! At first, we were a little worried that we might go home covered in orange goo,
because we were as close to the action as we could get.
Come to find out, though, they scoop the goopy guts out before they drop the pumpkins. Also, as you can see from this last picture, the vehicle mostly contained the pumpkins. There were plenty of chunks but, even as close as we were, they didn't reach us. The whole Jeep just collapsed in on itself. Note the bent frame and the rear tire which blew out on impact. Even I enjoyed this and the boys, including big-boy Devin, were totally jazzed! What is it about total destruction that is so exciting. Hmmm! With three boys, I'm not sure I want to examine that question in too much depth.

After the pumpkin drop, Dylan and I took a detour down to the beach while Devin took Dakota back to the car. There was this big rock out in the water that the waves were breaking on in a pretty spectacular way. This was my favorite picture of the batch.

Afterwards, to cap off a great day, we ate dinner at Mo's. Mo's is the local legendary restaurant along the Oregon coast. There are about six from Lincoln City to Florence, with two in Newport, where the original one is. Dakota loves the clam chowder there. I personally prefer the chowder at Chowder Bowl, another local restaurant, or, better yet, I make my own, but it's always nice not to have to cook it myself, which also involves digging the clams.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Pumpking carving time!

Halloween is by far my favorite holiday. Obviously, for any kid it would have to be Christmas, and I was no different. The gifts, the get-togethers, the gifts, the time off school, and, oh yeah, the gifts. When I got done with my gifts, I would go to my best friend's house and we would play with hers. Then we would go back to my house and... well, you get the picture. Christmas remained my favorite holiday until about sixteen years ago when some traumatic events took place right around Christmas. For several years after that it became the season to be not quite so jolly. Anyway, even though I enjoy Christmas again (although the gifts part is no longer the primary reason), Halloween still has the edge. I think the main reason is that Halloween takes place before the holiday craziness starts so I can really savor it. Christmas brings with it so many obligations. I find myself worrying about whether I've forgotten someone on my gift list, gotten out the Christmas letter soon enough, spent enough time with so-and-so, fully charged the camera, remembered the whip-cream for dessert, or, god-forbid, gotten the right kind or enough batteries for all the electronics that seem to demand them. Halloween has none of those slightly (Devin will tell me, "way more than slightly, hon") neurotic worries. Even costumes are easy now that the boys refuse to even consider letting me make them. I put up quite a fight about that at first but finally gave up. By the time Dylan came along, he never had to fear the home-made spider costume gone horribly wrong. Now I'm wondering why I ever cared. It's so much easier to just make a stop at Walmart.

One of my favorite parts of this, my favorite holiday, is carving pumpkins. Sometimes Devin supervises and sometimes I do, but it just isn't Halloween without a jack-o-lantern on the front porch. Yesterday we walked over to the neighbor's house so the boys could pick out the pumpkins for their masterpieces. -The neighbor has a farm where he grows pumpkins and then he sets them in the front yard for all the kids in the neighborhood to pester their parents about. It's quite a racket. - Of course, nothing mattered to my boys but size. Obviously the obsession with size starts REALLY early and without much encouragement for boys. $20 later we had two ginormous pumpkins that I had to carry back to our house - alone. About then was when I wondered why I hadn't waited until Devin came home to do this - he could've at least carried them.

Once I got them home and the tops cut off, the boys did almost all the work themselves (YES! -Picture me doing the happy dance) although Devin did help with scraping the insides to a manageable thickness once he got home. Dylan, as usual, provided the comic relief by trying to shove his head INTO the pumpkin. Imagine my relief when I realized I'd cut the opening too narrow for that to happen because I could just picture him stuck in there - forever.
He'd be forced to be the headless horseman for trick-or-treating... - and school. When we call him pumpkin-head, it wouldn't be funny. He would have that grotesque, leering grin in every family photo. I could go on, but it's becoming too horrible to even contemplate.

That huge pile next to Dylan is the guts and scrapings and the bowl has all the seeds. Of course we roasted the seeds and they were very yummy. I'd always salted them but had never put Worcestershire sauce on them. I got the idea from a fellow blogger, The Wedge: Pumpkin Carving , and thought I'd try it this year. I was gratified when Dakota declared them the best pumpkin seeds ever! Dylan, however, first informed me, "I don't want to try new things anymore." In the end, he grudgingly tried one but immediately afterwards ran into the bathroom where loud gagging noises were heard. Hey, this is all true, I couldn't even make this stuff up.

To further illustrate how my boys do absolutely nothing alike, Dylan was done carving in less than 30 minutes, including drawing on the face with the marker and standing back to admire his handiwork for all of seven seconds. Dakota, on the other hand, carefully chose a stencil, diligently poked the holes, and patiently carved for over two hours. He still isn't totally done but it won't happen until tomorrow. Guess which pumpkin belongs to which boy?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Migraines and Little Baskets

I bet when you read the title you thought there was a connection, right? Well, let me explain: Today I woke up with a migraine. I try not to take the medication for it unless I absolutely have to function well because the medication causes its own set of problems. Migraines for me make everything fuzzy. I have a hard time following directions or remembering anything at all. Even conversation is hard. I find myself groping for words and slurring my speech. Today I didn't have anything I absolutely had to do, so I decided to just do easy things - no complicated projects or things that really matter to me. I thought it might be a good time to sew up a couple little baskets (great tutorial at I've been meaning to do these for quite some time and am really pleased with how easy they were and how cute they turned out. These will be filled with candy corn and given to the boys' classroom teachers on Monday.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

I Voted Today!

Since we currently live in Oregon but are still Florida residents, Devin and I both vote absentee. After filling in the little bubbles, I put the ballot into the included "Secrecy Envelope", and yes, it really says that (in letters two inches high), put it in the outer envelope, put $1.00 postage on it (holy cow! Does the post office give the elections office a kick-back on that?) and mailed it. It took me a little over three hours this morning to research the candidates for the various offices. It sounds like a lot, but I strongly believe that if I appreciate the fact that I live in a country where I am the government (and I do), I also have the responsibility to be an informed voter and participate in the election process in the best way I can. In other words, since I am the government, I can only expect the government to be as good as I am. If I vote based on 30-second slur-filled commercials, or vote a straight party ticket, or fill in every third bubble, I really can't expect much. If, on the other hand, I vote to elect officials who I believe (based on research into past voting records) will actually represent me and my positions, I will be much happier with the outcome. So please, vote. I don't even care who you vote for - well, I do, - Go Obama! - but that's not as important as your active, educated participation. To that end, I thought I'd share some websites I've found to be helpful.

The best non-partisan website I've found is:
Click on CANDIDATES at the top of the page. I especially like the interest group ratings feature. When you get to the individual candidate, it is in the list of options under the candidate's picture.

Another good site is:
One especially interesting feature of this site is this quiz: which ranks the various candidates according to how they conform to your priorities based on a short set of questions you answer.

Once you get below the national level, it gets a little harder to find information. A site which is linked to the League of Women Voters, another non-partisan group, is:

Enter your state and click on ON YOUR BALLOT on top of the page. This takes me to a page where if, for example, I (in Florida) choose "ballot measures", I'm given a brief pro and con of the different proposed state constitutional amendments on the ballot.

There are obviously many more sites with valuable information out there and they vary state by state. I'll leave it to you to find the ones that benefit you the most. One more suggestion is to simply google the name of any local candidates and see what comes up. But please take your responsibility as a citizen of this great nation seriously enough to take a few measly hours every couple years to become an informed voter. I'm off my soap-box now.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Jerusalem Artichokes, or - The Other Artichoke

We have a plot in a community garden. It's just a little plot and was intended to be a family activity. However, you know what they say about the best-laid plans. It has somehow become my sole responsibility to plan, plant, weed, harvest, and otherwise maintain our plot. Really, considering my boys, who have the attention spans of gnats unless it involves something rude or disgusting, this was a totally foreseeable outcome so I only have myself to blame....

Actually, the truth is, I love to make things grow, even if it isn't in amounts that substantially contribute to our diet. This year we have gotten peas, snow peas, and cucumbers from our garden. The deer liked the beans too much to share. None of the varieties of squashes did well, I think in part because we don't get enough sun in the corner of the garden where our plot is. The only thing left as of about a month ago was cucumbers and my artichokes, those tall leggy things in the front of the bed (and marigolds, just for color).

The surprise was the artichokes. I planted these artichokes expecting them to grow artichokes like you see in the store. My first clue that all would not go as planned was about half-way into the summer when I realized the leaves of my artichokes looked nothing like the artichokes in my neighbor's plot. About a month later, the neighbor's plant was sporting big, mouth-watering, lush artichokes. Mine...nada. About two weeks ago, I happened to mention to one of the other gardeners that my artichoke wasn't bearing. She very patiently informed me (I'm sure while internally rolling her eyes in disgust) that I had not planted THAT kind of artichoke. My variety, Jerusalem Artichoke, has little things like potatoes which have to be dug up - not the luscious leafy things which are merely plucked. Great! Note to self, - next time, bring shovel. I finally got around to that today. There was mulch which needed to be spread on the paths around our bed to keep the weeds down and I decided I would do both at the same time. About twelve wheelbarrow loads of mulch later, I knew I was finished shoveling mulch, hopefully for the year, so I harvested my artichokes and a few late cucumbers. I'm told that, after they are washed and cooked, these will taste almost exactly like artichoke hearts. I have about five pounds of them. Good thing I like artichoke hearts!

Monday, October 13, 2008


Yesterday we got to see David. We haven't seen him since I put him on a plane for Florida back in August. He didn't really come all this way to see us, of course. He came to visit his girlfriend, Kimberly, who grew up here in Newport but attends Western Oregon University. However, since he was here, he "allowed" us to take them out to lunch at our favorite restaurant, Red Robin. This restaurant chain is all over the country but the closest Red Robin for us is in Albany, a little more than an hour's drive from Newport. And bonus for them! -It's only about 20 minutes from Western Oregon University. They have a full menu of burgers, which are pretty good, but the real draw is the all-you-can-eat (or all-you-can-keep-down, as my grandmother used to say) french fries. The fries are really good and unlimited is good with growing boys, who sometimes seem to be bottomless pits when it comes to food. So we got to spend an hour or so wolfing down food and chatting with David and Kimberly. Kimberly is a very nice and personable young lady and we all enjoyed ourselves, even if they were LATE. Here they are. Just as I clicked the picture, David did his puffer fish imitation. David, when you read this, let this be a lesson to you! No more puffer fish! David caught a plane back to Florida this morning and we won't get to see him again until Christmas.

After lunch, we went to visit some friends of ours who live in Albany. Devin and Colin go way back to college days when they were roommates but, coincidentally, Colin and I actually grew up only about an hour away from each other in Montana, although we didn't know each other at the time. Now his family and ours only live an hour apart and we get to see each other every month or so. We are also godparents to Colin's youngest boy, who is such a cutie at just over a year old. We took four of the seven boys we have between us to this very cool playground that had an honest-to-goodness merry-go-round, among other things. You hardly see these anymore and we all had a blast playing with it. I was laughing so hard at one point my stomach hurt. Here's Dylan running around it pushing for all he's worth.... And another of both Dads pushing it with all the boys loaded on.... Dylan also got to practice a little with his skateboard. He's getting pretty good at it but I'm just waiting for the broken bones to start. If he's anything like David we'll be on a first name basis with all the emergency room doctors within a hundred mile radius any time now.
Today was a day off school for the boys and I have to admit I am soooo looking forward to them being back in school tomorrow so I can have some quiet time. I'd put myself in time out but they follow me there. Also, today Dakota finally had that dentist appointment that I posted about a couple weeks ago. They were so sweet about rescheduling that (contrarily, I know) I felt even worse about it. With absolutely no segue I have to mention that my hygienist is named Destiny. So, whenever I have an appointment, I think of it as my "date with Destiny." Cheesy, I know, but I take amusement wherever I can find it.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Dakota has a BFF!! (Best Friends Forever)

So, about three weeks after school started, I'm walking Dakota home from school and he says, "Me and my friend talked about it on the playground and decided we were going to be best friends." My heart races with hope as I ask, "What's your best friend's name?" He replies, "I don't remember." Okay, if you know Dakota, this is funny and not so funny, depending on how you look at it. -I prefer to be amused.

For those who don't know, Dakota is on the Autism Spectrum. His official diagnosis is Pervasive Development Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS for short), an alphabet soup diagnosis which sounds really scary but basically means his brain doesn't work quite the same way most people's do. Among other things, remembering names and faces is really not his strong suit. Ask him about the Goosebumps books he's read, though (which is every single one available at both the school and city library), and he can tell you every plot line in mind-numbing detail.

Anyway, a week or so later, I get a call from the school speech therapist who has Dakota and this other boy in her social skills group. She wanted to let me know about this budding friendship so I could possibly facilitate get-togethers outside of school time. At last, I have a name! Nathan! -I love him already. This is the first friend Dakota's had since Kindergarten that he's made all on his own. Most of his other friends pre-date kindergarten or are his friends because their moms and I want to hang out together so we force the kids to hang out together, too. In the last couple weeks, Dakota has gone over to Nathan's house a couple times and Nathan has come over here a couple times. -I'm pretty sure Nathan is also somewhere on the Autism Spectrum. Dakota and Nathan hang out together on the playground and it is so wonderful for both of them that they have a new best friend in the other.

Fast forward to last Monday. Dakota comes home saying he's gotten an invitation to a birthday party. I think "Oh, wow! He wasn't invited to a single birthday party all last year. I wonder who it's from?" I say out loud, all nonchallant, "Whose birthday is it?" He says, "Aurora Pavlovich-Christiansen" or something equally long and difficult to remember. I'm really impressed and say, "Oh, is she in your class?" "Yes." Is she the blond girl who sits at the next group of desks from yours?" "I don't know who she is." Then, immediately moving on to the next topic, he says, "And my friend wants me to come over on Thursday after school because there is no school on Friday." Now I know he means Nathan. Who else could it be? But I have to ask anyway, "Which friend?" He says, "Um, I don't remember his name." -Once again, I prefer to be amused.

Thursday after school, Dakota did go over to Nathan's house to play until after dinner. About 7:30, Devin gets a phone call asking if Dakota can spend the night. Now, this is universe-shifting moment for us. Dakota has NEVER spent the night at a friend's house. Not once! And he's in fourth grade! Of course it's okay! I drove over to drop off pajamas and a toothbrush and he was on top of the world. He was so excited he was bursting with it! They had a really good time doing all those things boys typically do at a sleepover (eating extra dessert, staying up until past midnight, -probably terrorizing Nathan's parents) and is still tired and cranky two days later. Is it worth it? You bet it is!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

"Quilty" post

Wow! This has been an insanely busy week! I had a workshop yesterday and today (Friday/Saturday) and had quite a bit of work that had to be done before it even started. This workshop is probably the best I've ever taken. We learned trapunto the first day by doing this block:
For those who don't know what trapunto is, it is extra layers of batting which are cut away in certain areas. The piece is then densely quilted where the extra batting has been cut away to make it lay totally flat, creating a three-dimensional design. Well, it took all day to do this one block as there are several steps involved and lots of quilting. When I brought this one center block home last night and showed Devin, it is a serious understatement to say he was not impressed.

However, the payoff came today. We put the trapunto block together with the pre-made basket blocks and then added a scalloped border, resulting in this:

It's still just a lonely top without batting and backing to keep it company but I'm so pleased with how it turned out that I just had to share! Hopefully I'll have time to finish it soon.

On a related note, I have to brag on Devin. Yes, he stayed home with the kids today so I could go play. Yes, he also took yesterday off work so I could go play (the kids here have no school Friday or Monday). He supervised Dylan's sleepover on Thursday night and took Dakota to his soccer game this morning. As if all these things weren't already great enough, he has to go totally over the top and get me flowers, too. These tulips greeted me when I got home. AWWW. He's the best! I'm totally spoiled.

Saturday thanks for:

Tulips that can be made to bloom in October, my dear over-achieving husband, and computerized sewing machines that make sewing "sew" much fun - definitely NOT in that order!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Dylan's first football game

Dylan had his first football game last night. He's in the youngest league. In fact, I don't think David played football until 3rd grade. This league takes 2nd-5th graders. Needless to say, Dylan is one of the smallest guys on the team. He was so excited that he could play football this year that when he got his mouthguard, he wore it to bed three nights in a row. I finally put my foot down and told him to leave it on his helmet. We were late to practices because we would be ready to go and suddenly realize we had to go search his bedroom for the mouthguard. I haven't really watched his practices much so this is the first time I've really gotten to see these kiddos in action. I can summon the experience up in just two words: "sheer entertainment!" These boys are so much fun to watch in a totally different way from watching older kids who actually know what they are doing. The method seems to be, if you see a jersey of a different color than your own, jump on it! I mean, look at this, can all these boys really think they've just tackled the guy with the only ball in the game? After every play, it takes the coaches a couple minutes to get everyone back into position and then they do the dogpile thing all over again. I was very impressed as there was one (failed) passing play, and the whole crowd went absolutely wild when there was a fumble recovered by the other team.

Dylan is especially fun to watch - but then, I'll be the first to admit I'm biased. When waiting for the snap, he takes the crouching stance to extremes. That's him on the far left looking for all the world like a backwoods camper in desperate need of privacy. When seen from behind, his little butt looks like it's sitting on an invisible chair, he's so far down. At some other times, it's hard to tell what he's doing, although it's pretty obvious his head isn't always in the game. It's so clear these kids are having a blast and the parents are all so relaxed that it was an enjoyable experience all the way around. I guess it's not until high school football that over-zealous parents start booing the coaches and referees. That's a spectator sport I can do without. Judging by his smile at the end of the game, he had as much fun as we did.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Laugh for the day

You HAVE TO watch this. My friend Barb sent it to me quite a while ago. I've probably watched it a dozen times but I still find it laugh-out-loud funny. Especially when she tells her teenage son why she had him. Enjoy.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

UFO (unfinished object) completed

All I have left to do on this little gem is the binding which will only take about 5 minutes (not including the hand-work which I don't count). I greatly underestimated the work involved in this and am really happy to finally finish it. I first started it back in February. I pick it up every month or so, work on it a couple hours, get bored, work on something else, come back to it, etc.

It's the first time I've echo quilted anything. I'm glad I chose a smaller project for my first attempt. Attention wanders ever so slightly and it's quickly very obvious. Rip, rip, rip, -frog stitch to the rescue. Anyway, it reminds me of this
real-life hummingbird I snapped a picture of last fall outside the kitchen window.

Sunday Blessings:
Music to stitch to
Indoor flush toilets
Hummingbirds, bumblebees, and any other creatures which can't possibly do what they do but never get that memo so they go ahead and do it anyway.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Movie Night

Tonight was movie night. Every couple weeks Devin and I choose a family movie and we all watch it together in the living room. The boys get to eat dinner sitting on the floor and, after dinner, we all eat popcorn together snuggled up on the couch. Tonight we watched Evan Almighty in which Steve Carell plays Evan, a modern-day Noah, who is told by god (excellently played by Morgan Freeman) to build an ark. It is such a great movie. I love that it has a message but it doesn't beat you over the head with it. I love that the family works together to accomplish something big. I love the end when you learn that you don't always have to do big things to change the world (ARK = Acts of Random Kindness). I even love that Noah and Evan and I each have three boys. But most of all I love that there are still movies being made that people of all ages can watch together and enormously enjoy. I don't think anyone even said "butt" in this movie, much less the language you hear in some so-called children's movies. And yet, Devin and I enjoyed it as much as the kids did. Anyway, I highly recommend it, especially for anyone looking for movies to watch with younger kids.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Granola Bars

Devin and I joke that the boys must get up after we've gone to sleep and decide who is going to like what food items - heaven forbid they make it easy on us and eat the same things! Dakota likes jelly sandwiches and rarely eats peanut butter while Dylan will only eat peanut butter - hold the jelly. One of Dylan's favorite foods is macaroni and cheese. Dakota won't eat anything with cheese and eats macaroni with sauce. Dakota will eat cantaloupe. On one of those getting-to-know-your-child things that always come home at the beginning of the year, Dylan had to write three things he was afraid of. The basement when he's down there alone, nightmares and oh, yea, cantaloupe!

Dylan has recently decided he LOVES granola bars. He's been begging me to buy them. Sometimes he shows great restraint and asks only once a day but most often he asks in the morning packing lunch, after school at snack time and another time thrown in there just to make sure I am perfectly clear that he would really like some granola bars. You'd think I'd break down and just buy some but, no, I've been down this road before and the scenery does not improve with familiarity! As I see it, there are three problems with me going out and buying granola bars. First, they are expensive. Second they are filled with sugar. Third, and most important, if I buy a kind that Dylan likes, Dakota won't touch them and vice-versa. If I buy one kind that I'm sure one boy will like and another kind the other one will like, there's every chance neither one will like them and I'll eat them all myself. If I'm going to eat sugar, I'd rather sacrifice myself on the chocolate altar than waste it on granola bars.

So I dug out my recipe books and found a recipe for granola bars. This way, each boy gets to decide on the spot (and in the case of chocolate chips for Dylan and sesame seeds for Dakota, after generous sampling to make sure nothing was poisoned) what goes into his own granola bars. True to form, they had six ingredients in common (honey, oats, egg, cinnamon and allspice - and some wheat germ I threw in when no one was looking) but Dakota added Craisins and sesame seeds while Dylan wanted peanut butter, chocolate chips and teensy raisins, -which is our fancy name for currants. Here are the results. They smell delicious and hopefully these granola bars will be eaten by the boys and not by me.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

OOPS! with bonus photo

OOPS! Yesterday I totally spaced off Dakota's dentist appointment. It was at 3:30 and around 5:30 at soccer practice I'm talking to Dakota and suddenly think "Oh, shit! The dentist!" I'm sick to my stomach thinking about this because this dentist always runs on time. If he respects my time, I should respect his, right? His office even called me on Tuesday to remind me. I was like "Oh sure, it's on the calendar. I won't forget." But I did! I called this morning to but they are closed for the next week. I'm trying not to take that personally. lol Now I will worry about this for the next week until I can get ahold of them, swallow my bitter pill, and reschedule. Anyway, even though today isn't busy in itself, this whole thing makes me feel totally scatter-brained. I mean, I can't even keep track of the only lousy appointment all week, what kind of mother does that make me? My kid is walking around with holes in his teeth and it's all my fault! There's a tiny rational part of my brain that recognizes this reasoning as ludicrous but that part isn't in control right now. So it ends up being a bymyfingernails day.

One of the best things about living on the west coast is the sunsets over the water. I mean, who really wants to get up at the crack of dawn to watch a sunrise on the east coast. Here, we frequently catch the sunset serendipitously and it's enjoyed all the more for being unplanned. This was taken at Shore Acres in southern Oregon last November.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Rest of the Story (with a nod to Paul Harvey)

"We have rats!" This is what Dylan will tell anyone who will listen, such as his teacher on the first day of school, or the pastor at church. Now admit it, you thought when you read it that we have an infestation of ugly, red-eyed, disease spreading, disgusting RATS!! No matter how many times I gently suggest he say, "We have pet rats." he insists on telling the story his own way. Meanwhile, I see the horrified look on people's faces and suddenly it makes sense why no one wants to come play at our house after school. So, just to clear the air, I thought I would show everyone these little cuties. On the left is Bill, being modelled by Dylan. Originally his name was spelled Balll and pronounced Bill (Hey, Dylan is only seven!) but Dakota just couldn't let that pass without comment. - Or, to be more precise, a comment approximately every 20 seconds accompanied by near-hysterical laughter.

Eventually Dylan caved to peer pressure and changed the spelling to Bill. Bill is sweet and cuddly. He loves attention so much that he won't even eat treats if you're holding him. He waits to get back in the cage to devour them. The one on the right being modelled by Dakota is Ric. This is actually the second one named Ric, with a different spelling from the first one, spelled Rick. Tragically, Rick (the first one) died while we were on vacation over the summer. He had little seizures from the time we got him as a baby last June. -Ironic that Dakota would own the only rat I've ever known to have neurological issues. Anyway, Devin put him in cold storage (i.e. the freezer) until we got back and could arrange the funeral service. EWWW! Rick is very active and seems to find his way out of any area where we try to confine him. His favorite spot to hang out when he escapes is behind the dryer in the back corner of the laundry room. So yes, we have rats, pet rats.