Monday, January 28, 2013

Aaah! The lovely aroma of 8th graders. Or...A roomful of B.O.

I've been doing a lot of substituting lately. With kids getting sick it's inevitable that teachers get sick too. Most of the time I substitute at my boys' elementary school which is handy because it's right across the street from our house. But recently, I was called to sub at the junior high down the road. Back in another life I was an art teacher in a middle school, which is by far my favorite age to teach. Middle schoolers are old enough to do a lot of things on their own, they don't whine (much), and are still young enough to be a bit silly with. they haven't yet succumbed to the idea they are "too cool" to be a little goofy. Middle schoolers come with their own unique sets of strengths, weakness and challenges; one of them being body odor. 

I was an English teacher last week with 6th, 7th, and 8th graders parading through my room throughout the day. Things went smoothly and fairly uneventfully the entire day except for the class right before lunch. In this class, which were 8th graders, there were about a dozen students about half of which were boys. I had handed out their assignment, explained it, answered questions and was walking between desks when I was sporadically being assaulted by a rather unpleasant aroma. Inevitable I found this "fragrance" to be drifting from a boy, well many of them actually. Body Odor. 

B.O. Fairly strong from some of them too! I felt kind of bad for those guys. Most of them were taller than me and probably didn't have a clue that they reeked. I couldn't have told them either!! How on Earth could I have brought to the attention of an 8th grader, subtly and without embarrassment, that they needed to check their deodorant? I probably would have absolutely mortified them! 

"Excuse me, here's some free deodorant. 
Head to the restroom and become acquainted, how about it?" 

Yeah, I don't think so. 

You wouldn't think B.O. would bring back memories to me but it did. Obviously not pleasant ones either. Back when I taught middle school the 8th graders at our school would take a bus trip form Indiana to Washington D.C. every spring. This trip consisted of about 4 charter buses, 100 students, 50 parents and half a dozen or so teachers. We would leave Indiana in the evening and drive all night long...without sleeping much. You know how the rocking motion of a car can put a baby to sleep? Not 8th graders, the rocking motion of a bus brings on extra giggles, goofiness and alertness to 13 year olds. Sometime in the early morning hours we would stop at a truck stop, and give everyone the chance to change and eat (no showers mind) before we got back on the bus. Then it would take us a few more hours to get to D.C. where we'd spend the rest of the day checking out the sites (off, on, off, on, off, on the bus) before we'd finally make it to our hotel about 9pm. So 100 kids, packed on a bus, over 24 hours without showering, constantly moving in the warm May air. Add onto that a broken air conditioner on the bus and you have a gourmet recipe for FUNK!! year my bus's air conditioner broke down and we were driving in downtown D.C. with temps in the 70's and 80's and boy was it ever miserable. It smelled so bad even the boys were complaining of the stench. These were boys who played football, basketball and wrestled and practically lived in a locker room so that should give you some idea of how badly our bus reeked. Yep, the horrible memory of those 8th graders' B.O is with me to this day, over ten years later. 

Though I don't usually get called to substitute at the junior high, I already have four days scheduled in February to be back among these wonderful kids. They may be smelly but I really do enjoy working with middle school students. Just the thought of four more days walking among them sends a flurry of questions through my mind.

"Where can I buy a pair of "discreet" nose plugs?"

"How early would I have to arrive at school in order to slip deodorant into each of their lockers?"

"When do boys start getting smelly?"
(I need to know because I'll be getting the FUNK double in my house and I need to be prepared!!) 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Daddy Magic

Oooh, now that's a nasty look Yahoo.  

Smile for me....

Not even just a little smile? 

I think I see something!! 

Thanks Daddy! I knew you could help her find that pretty smile! 

Friday, January 25, 2013

School Mural Painting; making progress

I've only been able to work on the school mural once last week and once this week for a few hours. Slowly but surely though it's coming along. 

January 7

January 11

January 22

I worked for about an hour and a half on just the mountain. I'm starting to feel a bit anxious about it. It's such a big painting that anything odd, or out of place isn't going to be something easy to hide. Also I haven't found a good reference photo to use for the foreground mountain so I'm pretty much making it up. After last night I'm pretty sure I'm doing a lousy job of it too. Considering there will be black letters over most of the painting I'm also struggling with how much detail I need to put into that foreground mountain. Too much and then I'm afraid it will visually take away from the words. I think every artist struggles with problems in the midst of their work that they may not have anticipated, unless of course they did a whole butt load of research and planning ahead of time. I'm too ADD for that. 

There you go, there's the progress so far. Spring Break begins March 8th which is my self imposed deadline. I'm still optimistic that I'll be done by then. Cross your fingers. 

P.S. - Do you find it as ironic as I do that I'm painting a mountain range for a school in the Kansas plains? 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Germs, germs and Home Remedies

It's that time of year when the germs are rampant and vicious. Luckily our house hasn't been hit by any nasty flu viruses but this weekend we were hit by a pretty nasty cold and cough. DR and I were hit the worst. How is it that kids can get sick but they still have the energy to keep going? But when adults get sick, we get knocked down to our knees! 

This time of year I really don't like the idea of dosing my kids up on a bunch of store bought cold medicine. A lot of times I don't even think the stuff that you can buy from the store even works. Except NyQuil...I'm a huge fan of NyQuil only because it totally knocks me out! But it sure doesn't cure anything. 

This winter I've tried out a few different home remedies. Why not? I feel a lot better giving my kids something natural to relieve their symptoms than something full of funky chemicals. 

This first recipe was given to me by a neighbor who found it somewhere on Pinterest. 

¼ teaspoon Cayenne
¼ teaspoon Ginger
1 Tablespoon Cider Vinegar
2 Tablespoon Water
1 Tablespoon Honey 
Dissolve cayenne and ginger in cider vinegar and water. Add honey and shake well. Take 1 Tablespoon as needed for cough. Hoo-wee.
Note: this doesn’t dissolve perfectly. Always shake well before using.
If you make this in small batches as the recipe is written, there is no need to refrigerate.
If you prefer, you may refrigerate this. It keeps as long as you need it. I like to make small batches (it is so easy to mix up.) and use it up in a just a few days.

I gave a does to Yap last week after a particularly bad coughing fit. Afterwards he downed about a pint of water, it is rather spicy, but then he confessed that it wasn't as bad the store bought stuff. 

My favorite cold and cough medicine was shared on my friend's blog Amy's Assorted Adventures.  My kids really don't like this one though, they think it tastes too much like onions. I, on the other hand, could drink this everyday, cold or not. Of course maybe I like it so well because there's a bunch of whiskey in it.

First I slice 3-4 onions and pour a cup of honey over them. This needs to sit for 5-6 hours during which time the onions will soften and all the healthy goodness will seep into the honey. Next pour a cup of boiling water over a tablespoon of dried thyme and leave this to sit until it cools completely.
Strain the honey/onion mixture and the thyme 'tea', Combine them with a cup of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar. Whisk in a teaspoon of dried ginger. Lastly add one cup of whiskey, any kind will do. (Kids 1Tablespoon 2-3 times a day, Adults 2-3 Tablespoons) 

The last home remedy I've been using is one I found on Facebook but I really doubt it works. The folklore goes that if you cut an onion and sit it by your bedside that it will "draw away" the germs. I don't think it works, germs are spread by contact, but why not try it? 

How are you feeling this winter? Are you staying healthy? Have you any home remedies that you swear by? 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sunday Devotions - Grandpa's Bible

Back in the spring my grandfather passed away. I've written about my Grandpa Asa a few different times; his funeral, the long sad vacation, his western shows, and why I refuse to eat squash. The other day my mom sent me a box from Indiana with some late Christmas presents, magazines for my kids and a Bible that belonged to Grandpa Asa. Grandma auctioned off the house and the farm in November and Mom helped her out going through all of the stuff in the house. Grandpa had enough Bibles that my six brothers and sisters and I all received one of his Bibles and there were still some left over. 

I lived with Grandpa Asa while I was going to college. (Those four years with him were an adventure!)  I always remember Grandpa having a Bible sitting on the table next to his recliner. I never really thought much about it though. I mean, I never really looked to see if he had more than one Bible and I never thought to see what Bible translation he had. 

This one is the Living Bible. It's not a very old Bible, at least I don't consider it too old. The print date is 1973 but the cover is ready to fall off. He must have spent considerable years with this one if I judge by its cover. 

The pages are stained and yellowed. 

I even found where my cousin practiced writing her name. I sure hope her handwriting has improved because her last name sure isn't Goa. :) 

But throughout Grandpa's Bible he's noted various passages or chapters. This page makes me laugh because,until I saw it, I had forgotten what an awful speller my Grandpa was; Leviticus, Hebrews. I don't think he cared one way or another how things are spelled, he knew he'd get his point across. 

That page above with all those scripture references made me curious so I looked them up, or most of them anyway. I can't find a Isaiah 42-35. 

Leviticus; The Passover of the Lord, The Festival of Unleavened Bread, The Festival of First Fruits, The Festival of Pentecost, The Festival of Trumpets, The Day of Atonement, The Festival of Tabernacles

Hebrews 10; The old system of Jewish laws gave only a dim foretaste of the good things Christ would do for us. The sacrifices under the old system were repeated again and again, year after year, but even so they could never save those who lived under their rules. If they could have, one offering would have been enough; the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and their feeling of guilt would have been gone. But just the opposite happened; those yearly sacrifices reminded them of their disobedience and guilt instead of relieving their minds. For it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats really to take away sins. 

John 8:20 Jesus made these statements while in the section of the Temple known as the Treasury. But he was not arrested, for his time had not yet run out. 

Romans 12:12 Be glad for all God is planning for you. Be patient in trouble, and prayerful always. 

Hebrews 12:12 So take a new grip with your tired hands, stand firm on your shaky legs, and mark out a straight, smooth path for your feet so that those who follow you, though weak and lame, will not fall and hurt themselves, but become strong. 

Matthew 12:38-39 One day some of the Jewish leaders, including some of the Pharisees, came to Jesus asking him to show them a miracle. But Jesus replied, "Only an evil, faithless nation would ask for further proof; and none will be given except what happened to Jonah the prophet! For as Jonah was in the great fish for three days and three nights, so I'm the Messiah, shall be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights. 

Matthew 14: 22-23 As they were eating, Jesus took bread and asked God's blessing on it and broke it in pieces and gave it to them and said, "Eat it- this is my body." Then he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it and gave it to them; and they all drank from it.

Isaiah 55:8 This plan of mine is not what you would work out, neither are my thoughts the same as yours. 

It makes me wonder what Grandpa was thinking of and pondering when he wrote those notations. When did he write in this Bible? Is it the one I remember on the coffee table? 

Though Grandpa and I sat and talked (okay, argued) about a lot of things, we never sat down and talked about our faith. I think partly because I never felt the need to question him. He faithfully went to church and was active in his congregation and community. He wasn't perfect, none of us are, but he tried his best when it came to his family. He had doubts, frustrations, triumphs, and joys like we all do. 

Dear Heavenly Father, I miss Grandpa. I wish I had realized when I was younger that I should have talked to him more about anything, everything. It's a comfort though to know that he and I have read the same words. We have the same Savior. We have the same Home. Thank You for the wisdom of the generations. Thank You for this Bible. Thank You for a role model like Grandpa. Amen. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

I Don't Want to be a Twin!

When I was pregnant with my twin boys I often envisioned that they would grow up and have a really close relationship. I always thought how wonderful it would be if they were each other's best friends, lovingly shared everything and really enjoyed spending all their time together....basically attached at the hip. The closest I came to that as reality was when they were babies asleep in the same crib. This little fantasy of mine busted long ago...and it continues to be out of reach to this day. 

Yip came home from school the other day, kind of down in the dumps, and said, "I wish Yap had been born a different year than me." He wished he wasn't a twin, poor guy. He's spent 8 1/2 years sharing toys, clothes, a bedroom...everything, with his brother. Yip and Yap have probably had to share more stuff than DR and I have since we've been married. Our school is so small that there is only one teacher per grade so Yip and Yap have had to share a teacher and classmates for the last three years. 

I had six brothers and sisters and I know from first hand experience that siblings are annoying but I'm getting the feeling that a twin sibling must be a whole new level of aggravating. Yip and Yap seem to really know how to push each other's buttons and tend to test those buttons on a regular basis.

There's a lot about the lives of my twin boys that I just can't change. We don't have an extra bedroom so they don't have to share one. I can't get them separate teachers. I would be happy to divide and label all their clothes so they wouldn't have to share those but...they're boys, I don't think they care one bit whether they have to share clothes or not. (I would venture to guess that would be totally different with twin girls though.) 

DR and I have made a lot of efforts to encourage their differences though. Yip is into duct tape and cardboard, Yap has his Legos and I'm not going to make either share with the other. Yip likes t-shirts, Yap prefers hoodie sweatshirts. Fine, I promise to never ask you to wear identical clothes. 

The funny thing is though despite the fact that Yip and Yap can be one another's mortal enemy there are also times they are one another's biggest ally. For example; a new Lego set was just released (something to do with crocodiles, lions and boats....I'm sure I'm oversimplifying it but that's the gist I got from them) and DR and I won't buy it for them, it's something like $70! However, Yip and Yap have decided to pool all their money and buy it together. This isn't some spur of the moment thing. They've been talking daily about it for 2 weeks; counting their money and looking for new jobs to get paid for. 

It seems like being a twin you don't have to just deal with the normal sibling aggravations, rather they are pushed to the extreme. There are extreme negatives but extreme positives too. So what's worse the extremes of twins or the drama of girls? (I'll let you know once I've survived Yahoo's teen years. Her three year old drama is a whole other subject that easily rivals twin extremes!) 

Any suggestions? Tips? Great twin stories to share? How can I make the life of my twins, who sometimes don't want to be twins, just a little bit easier? 

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Spiderman/No Girls/No Shoes Fort

Since Christmas Yip has made good use of his five rolls of duct tape.  I don't keep track but I wouldn't be surprised if he has already used up three of them already! Yip thought he needed a much bigger box than he was able to find in our house or at the recycling garage down the street so he decided to talk to the owner of the hardware store (down the other street), who also happens to sell appliances. 

And a very happy little boy came down the street shortly after hauling a large dryer box! (ahem, I have neglected to mention to him that the hardware store would probably be willing to give him many more such boxes if he would ask.) 

Yip and Yap pretty much have the run of the basement of our house. A lot of times they will disappear into what we affectionately describe as their "cave" for hours at a time. 

Yip and Yap, mostly Yip, has been working on this "house" for about the past week. (And arguing with their little sister to stay out of it! Oh, the yelling that's come from the basement!!) I hadn't really taken a good look at it lately but as I was cleaning their wreck of a basement this morning I noticed some of the details. 

First, a no shoe sign. I guess he really takes pride in the cleanliness of his house. I wish he'd take that much pride in mine! :)

And a window curtain from a t-shirt. He's made a duct tape curtain rod that runs through the sleeves of the shirt then it can slide from side to side. 

This was kind of hard to take a photo of but this is the ceiling of the inside of his house. The black cardboard is a trap door... his attic. It was really hard for me to get in and take a picture of this but sometimes he stores toys and his rolls of duct tape up there. 

This was the newest addition to his house. The spider man mural!! How cool! I knew he was working on this drawing all Sunday afternoon but I just love that he put it in his house and that he built the orange spider web...AWESOME!! 

I'm softening up to the idea of an addition to his house.
Maybe I'll surprise him with a new box today when he gets home from school! 

Friday, January 11, 2013

Where's the SALT??

Often when I am in conversation with others the fact that I am not a Native Kansan often pops up. Over the weekend a friend asked, "Have you learned to enjoy living in Southwest Kansas?" 

I didn't answer right away. 

It's not that I don't like southwest Kansas, I do. But there are so many places and things I miss about Indiana at different times of the year. 

I never thought I would miss spring rains in Indiana. Ever spring my sisters and I battled mud in the barnyard as we went to do chores. I mean mud that would suck off a boot if you weren't careful. Yep, I miss that. 

Well I always knew I would miss a good shade tree. Growing up there were three large maple trees in our front yard that my siblings and I spent a lot of time playing around and in. I've yet to find a shade tree anywhere as good as those I grew up with. 

And of course I desperately miss Indiana's colorful autumn leaves. I had forgotten how wonderfully the humidity of Indiana permeates everything and creates rich, earthy smells...especially in leaves. 

More than those things though I miss certain places at particular times of the year. I miss my brother's crowded old farmhouse when we get together for Christmas. Granted it's never crowded except for that day! 

I miss laying on the sweet green grass to watch the 4th of July fireworks in Columbia City over the highway with semis driving underneath them. (Remember the year it was so cold we were bundled up in blankets, hats and mittens?) 

But the thing/time/place I've really missed this winter are the snowy Indiana roads....after they've been salted!!! Kansas needs to be introduced to my friend the salt truck. On New Years Eve we had 5 or 6 inches of snow. But for a week or more afterward this is what our town's roads still looked like. 

Of course the state roads were cleared. 

The town and dirt roads like the one below stay snow covered pretty much until it melts off naturally. 
Sometimes I see graders or tractors out on the roads working, but really there isn't much of a difference after they've been through. 

After driving on this I sure miss Indiana. In Indiana as soon as the snow starts falling the salt trucks are on the roads in force! Indiana snow doesn't have a chance to get to slick or packed on the roads; the salt combined with the friction from passing tires melts anything pretty darn quick. What Hoosier hasn't had the enjoyment of driving in slush?? 

Well, yeah, there IS that down side of having a lot more rust on your vehicles because of all the salt. MAYBE the salt makes Hoosiers a bit too confident when driving in bad weather. I'll take it though. 

Huh, never thought a salted road would be something to be homesick for! 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

I am painting a School Mural!

In my boy's elementary school there was a large painting that measured 57"x 75". It hung right inside the entrance so it was on e of the first things you noticed when you walked in. I Hated IT!!! Everytime I looked at this painting I would just shudder. The objects were too small, so was the lettering and there was too much empty space with nothing big enough or bright enough to be a strong focal point. No offense to the artist who first painted it. Painting on an extra large space is intimidating and takes a different point of view. 

So imagine my excitement when one of my teacher friends asked if I'd be interested in re-painting it. I literally jumped up and down (in front of a class of 4th graders). Talk about making my day! I just love painting BIG!! 

(I had started to prime it before I thought to take a picture. The only thing you really don't see are some word's at the top.) 

I don't think there are too many more inviting things than a large blank surface just calling to me. 

It was decided that I'd choose a few different quotes or inspirational sayings and the teachers would narrow them down to a couple of their favorites. They chose; "You are Braver than you believe, Stronger than you seem, and Smarter than you think." and "Reading is Dreaming with your eyes wide open."

Then I came up with a quick sketch for each quote. I think these were about 2' x 3'. 

It was decided that I'd bring both drawings into the school and show them to the students and answer any questions they might have. Then the sketches were hung up in the hallway for a week for the studetns to look over. As a school they voted on teh one they would like for me to paint as the final mural. 

Can you guess which one they chose? 

I was anticipating that they would choose the girl reading the book.


But they didn't. They chose the cliff diver by an overwhelming majority! 

I was able to get started just a little before Christmas vacation. The school is nice enough to let me paint in an older unused school building. Thank goodness because I don't know where I'd put a painting this big to work on in my house. 

I'm so excited and I'm having a ball with it! So far I'm fairly pleased too. 

I think the students are excited too. One fourth grader asked just last week if I was finished yet..such optimism! The fourth grade teacher is also going to drop in on the room occasionally, with her class, so they can see the progress of the painting.  

I'll keep you updated on how it's going. My goal is to have it finished by spring break. Cross your fingers! 

Friday, January 4, 2013

Foody Friday - Crockpot Tomato Basil Parmesan Soup

I found this soup Tomato Basil Parmesan Soup
 recipe on Pinterest back during the summer and only recently felt like trying it out. I'm so glad I did. On a cool winter day it was the perfect meal. 

I also really love it when I find a photo of a recipe and after I make the said recipe, my food looks like the original photo. It gives me faith in my abilities as a cook! 

Of course being that it was soup DR refused to try it. Where as I could live on soup all winter long he won't touch it. Of course my kids saw the green sprinkled herbs in the soup and immediately decided it was disgusting and they would surely die if consuming such a horrendous dish...all without tasting it mind you. 

Since I was the only one in the house smart enough to enjoy the soup I decided to try freezing some pint jars with the leftovers. I've never done this before and only read on another blog about freezing soup in jars. So far so good, I mean nothing has exploded in my freezer yet or anything. I haven't thawed it out yet to try it but I'm confident it will be great. 

Tomato Basil Parmesan Soup
2 (14 oz) cans diced tomatoes, with juice

1 cup finely diced celery
1 cup finely diced carrots
1 cup finely diced onions
1 tsp dried oregano or 1 T fresh oregano
1 T dried basil or 1/4 cup fresh basil
4 cups chicken broth
½ bay leaf (didn't have any)
½ cup flour
1 cup Parmesan cheese
½ cup butter
1 1/2 cups of half and half, warmed 
(I used cold milk...worked fine but only used about a cup.) 
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper

1. Add tomatoes, celery, carrots, chicken broth, onions, oregano, basil, and bay leaf to a large slow cooker.

2. Cover and cook on LOW for 5-7 hours, until flavors are blended and vegetables are soft.

3. About 30 minutes before serving prepare a roux. Melt butter over low heat in a skillet and add flour. Stir constantly with a whisk for 5-7 minutes. Slowly stir in 1 cup hot soup. Add another 3 cups and stir until smooth. Add all back into the slow cooker. Stir and add the Parmesan cheese, warmed half and half, salt and pepper. Add additional basil and oregano if needed (the slow cooker does a number on spices and they get bland over time, so don't be afraid to always season to taste at the end). 

4. Cover and cook on LOW for another 30 minutes or so until ready to serve.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The dress that I hope stays in the house.

Even though I grew up with three sisters none of us were really girly as children. We grew up on a farm feeding animals, driving tractors, hauling firewood. Only one of my sisters had any leanings toward girly stuff. 

Then I had twin boys so of course I knew trucks and Legos and dirt. 

Then came my daughter. Oh boy. 

If anyone tries to convince you that there is no big difference between little girls and little boys they are sooo wrong. Even surrounded by boy toys for the first couple years Yahoo has a passion for PINK, and DANCING, and RUFFLES! 

My mother, bless her heart, made Yahoo this dancing dress for Christmas. Three tiers of ruffles that a sparkly! 

My mom even thought ahead and made the elastic casings accessible that I can loosen it as Yahoo grows. Realistically, she could probably wear this dress for 3 or 4 more years! 

God Bless my mother! She definitely will do anything for her grand-kids, even make an incredibly GAUDY dress that I would prefer she didn't wear out of the house. I dodged a bullet this weekend though when Yahoo didn't choose to wear it to church. But I won't be that lucky forever! 

I guess I'm getting paid back though. I remember being about Yahoo's age and being obsessed with this striped crocheted yarn dress that I would wear all the time. My mom even admits to hiding it from me because I wore it so much. Okay, I guess Yahoo gets some of this girliness from me after all! 

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