Friday, February 29, 2008

Election Discussion

You have to read this blogpost at Round, Unvarnish'd Tale. This is what English majors do; they go on to live lives where they can actually elucidate thoughts; unlike those of us who studied geology and can only pound on rocks with hammers! Read this, and the pitiful comment afterward.

Change in Plans

Seems I'm NOT going this weekend. I get to stay home and be the mom. I'm getting over it.


Heard from MAP yesterday. Seems he was jumping off a truck into a rut he didn't see, and sprained an ankle. He's on crutches and confined to desk work. Now, that makes a mommy feel really happy, even if only temporarily, but he is BORED. So bored he called his Momma...

Another lovely Friday.
Today I will be tortured by the physical therapist. We just have the best time together! I work until it hurts; he laughs and says, "You can handle ten more." Whatta guy. (Actually, it's really helping. If you have aches you can't resolve, give this a chance. Don't get mine talking about chiropractic, though!)
Afterward, I'll visit my cousin. Actually, I'll pick up MAP's car from his body shop (the windshield cracked in the cold.) Then I'll hit the road for MN and a friends' gathering. Why am I going north in this weather? Merlot and chocolate. Why else?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Snow Pictures

This is what geologists call the Driftless Area of Illinois. Laymen call them hills. Farmers call them *%#/@ hills.

A Quiz!

So I've been a little lazy about posting. It's been a combination of that late-winter ennui we talked about the other day AND Mr. John sweeping me away for a day and a little more. We went to stay in a small town with a nice hotel with many amenities. We had FIVE CONSECUTIVE MEALS and not ONCE heard, "Why did you make THIS?" "Is there more?" "How much do I have to eat before I get dessert?" and like comments.
Wanna guess where we were? Here are some clues;

A charming street scene in said town.

The home of a very famous former resident.

The view from his porch;

Yes, it was lovely; cold and VERY snowy. We got hit with another of those "surprising" winter storms early this week, as we were on our way out of town. We drove right into the storm, which, thankfully, didn't really HIT until we were sitting in front of the fireplace in our hotel room. We did venture out for dinner; there was no wait for tables!
Answers to the quiz will be received in the comment box; I don't know about prizes. Maybe the satisfaction of guessing? No? Sorry.
More pictures later of the snow; John got some good ones!

Monday, February 25, 2008

And the award goes to...

Guilty pleasure; I watch the Academy Awards each year. Actually, this year, I forgot they were on! I was busy watching Pride and Prejudice and was flipping channels when it was over. I was just in time to see something that made me happy; Daniel Day-Lewis winning another Academy Award (for a movie I haven't seen yet, so I suppose I should reserve my opinion, but he's such a good actor...)
I was also in time to see something that did NOT make me happy. Anyone else watch? Did you see the two awards for documentaries? The award for Documentary Short was announced and awarded via feed by servicepeople in Baghdad. It could have been very sweet and emotional, but, being the Academy, it came across as smarmy, a token nod to "we support the troops." Especially when the following award, for Documentary Feature, was given to Taxi to the Dark Side. I do believe the documentary should have been made; but the motive is faulty. How can I tell? Read the filmmaker's acceptance speech. It's in there!
I'm tired of hearing what I heard the Academy saying last night; "We support and love our troops. We can't and don't support their mission." Would you say that to a doctor? "I really like you as a person, but I don't like that you heal people because I don't know if some of them don't deserve it." Or a garbageman? "Thanks for picking up my garbage, but are you sure you should be doing this? I think my neighbor should recycle more." Our boys, well, don't get them started on this topic. JP4's response is short and sweet; and unprintable. The Sunday version is "Supporting me and not my mission can't be done. Period."
I know this country is not perfect. Our leadership has done things to be proud of, and things to throw on the dung heap. I know that Hollywood is not Washington, and real leadership is not to be found there. I see the arrogance of, "You pay me $6million for films, you must hear and respect me," from people whose education and life experience really wouldn't qualify them to park cars. So, why do I watch every year? I guess...Hope Springs Eternal. I can't think of another reason.
Oh, and did you like Helen Mirren's dress? Very elegant. It gives hope to those of us over 45.
(I am sorry about the last two links. takes forever to download. You may or may not think it's worth it. I understand. In a past life, I had dial-up.)

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Happy Sunday

Four more weeks until Palm Sunday.

Sleeping In

We slept in at Pine Ridge farm this Saturday. No real reason, except that we were tired. That means the critters haven't been fed yet. So they're out there, looking for us.

We aren't there yet.

I've never mentioned that we call this place Pine Ridge Farm. That's because we sit on the Marengo Ridge, and there are pines here. Aren't we creative? One of our kids doesn't think so. He prefers to call it The Funny Farm. MAP is SUCH a comedian!

Let's try a picture of the pines. This time of year, they often look like this;

They're gorgeous, anytime of year. I like the sound when the wind goes through them; it reminds me of vacations in the mountains. I like the feeling of the soft, new growth, early in the year. I like to go up on a warm spring day and smell that fragrance. I like putting pine cones on odd shelves throughout the house. (Not that anyone notices...)
Then my family kindly reminds me that the pines are in the pasture, mostly, and the fragrance I'm getting may not be so piney.
Time to get ready for the day. They're waiting...

Friday, February 22, 2008

Sorry...I'm Bored.

Too bored to write, even.
How can I be so bored? With four kids, three in the Army, (and one of those deployed!) one 13 going on 27, cows and dogs and cats and chickens and goats right outside my backdoor, 95 year-old grandma living with me full time and 3-5-7 year-old grandchildren living with us very part-time. With husband out of work and either underfoot or nowhere to be found. How can I be bored?
Tonight, Grandma and MSP and I discussed and agreed. We LOVE Winter...but we're ready for Spring.
So it's NOT boredom, but...weariness...

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

"Something's Gotta Be Done About Your Kids, Marty"

Quick...what's the movie?
Actually, this is not about kids. This is about taxes.
Last year we were "blessed" with a double salary. Not because anyone began earning a bigger or another salary, but because, after 28 years, Motorola decided that "due to business conditions, etc," John wouldn't be working for them anymore. The severance package was decent; one years' salary, medical insurance and full retirement benefits.
BUT...There's always a but.
The taxes are killer. Although we have already paid a large chunk of money in witholding, we STILL owe more in income taxes. It was very sobering, visiting the tax man last week. Even more sobering were some statistics he shared.
In 1913, the maximum individual tax rates were 7%. In 1944, they were 94%. In 2007, the maximum is 35%. So it looks like, while tax rates rose for a long time, they are well down, and, therefore, "better." But, in 1944, a taxpayer could receive full itemized deductions. We could not. College tuition deductions? Gone for us. No child tax credit, reduced itemized deductions. And, hey, we're still unemployed! (For reference, although taxes now are graduated, so it's confusing, our average tax rate was 21-23%)
Come to find out we, at our SINGLE salary, were in the top 10% of wage earners in the US; we were in the top 5% with our new double salary. We learned that the top 10% of income earners pay 68.19% of the total tax paid! The top 5% pays 57.13%. The bottom 50% pay 3.3% of the taxes collected.
This is goofy. I really don't mind paying taxes. I really don't; for one thing, three of my kids are now military. Their salaries are paid from those taxes. (Why they then have to pay taxes on that salary is beyond me, and could be the subject for a whole 'nother series of blog posts. But I digress.) Roads are maintained, services are provided, the government is supported. We all have to bear a fair share of these costs. But something is not right, although it took this serious family event to make me really see it. You know, I'm getting out of my element here. My brain is more keyed toward organizational skills, history, literature and psychology. I'm not gifted in economics or politics. But there is going to have to be a change in the way we fund our government.
Just for the record, I'm for a national sales tax. I think it's the most fair solution. Here's a whole bunch of "light" reading for you on the subject.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Monday, Monday

It's frigid here in the Tundra; windy, icy and, yet, there's water on the pavement. Water running in rivers across state and county roads. Water flooding over town streets. In short, it's nasty.
I got beat royally playing Quiddler this weekend. It was embarrassing, but I didn't even cry. I think I need more practice. Maybe I'll take it to Glenda's this weekend, when I selfishly leave my husband and children bereft of chef and cleaning lady so that I can indulge my sinful nature with chocolate, merlot and other diverse delights.
There's an inside joke there. Sorry about that, but it's my blog. I don't have to be polite.
Word games are the best. I've always enjoyed them. Scrabble is good. I also like Charades, which, at it's heart, is a word game. I'm not good at cards, so, invite me over to play something which requires betting with money. I won't show up, but you can invite me. I'm really good at Trivial Pursuit. Remember that one? My brain is just stuffed with trivial nonsense. It's one of my gifts.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Sabbath Breaking!!

Now, you know I wouldn't do this if it weren't REALLY important. And VicarMom has already seen this. So, for some friends who might not see it otherwise;

Congratulations and Best Wishes to Vicar and Bluebonnet (so named because she's a Texas flower who isn't liking the weather on the Frozen Tundra this weekend!)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Winter on the Farm

Winters past involved surviving; before refrigeration and central heating, getting wood into the fire was a constant occupation. Ice had to be gathered and stored for the summer. Think about this; winter was when people would make ice cream. I never thought about it much before. Thank God for the Jewel and Woodman's and Starbuck's Java Chip year round!
Winters now involve griping about the cost of heating fuel and whining about shoveling show. Imagine if your animals were 50 yards from the house and the only thing between them and death was your shoveling to get out to feed them. Puts a whole new light on whining, doesn't it? As I watch MSP's chickens scratching in the snow for some feed, I have to remind her about that...
Speaking of whining, our grandchildren are spending the day here. I don't know who whines more; us, about missing our quiet cup of coffee on Saturday morning, or them, who don't understand that rules are different at Grandma and Grandpa's.
Later today we'll have houseguests; our vicar and his brand-new fiancee (since two days ago!) She'll be staying into next week; his mom shouldn't worry. We'll kick him home early and often! Also later today, I "get" to go to the grocery store, something I avoid like the plague on Saturday. But, when you don't work your schedule rightly during the week, Saturday shopping is the consequence.
But the grandchildren promise to help me...if I buy them treats!

Friday, February 15, 2008

And now...

A friend calls to tell me that she is related to the gunman. She's astounded at the ridiculous questions she's being asked by reporters who call a shirt-tail relative for information.

No Words

This is my alma mater. I studied geology there. It is a small town, a relatively quiet campus where many students go home for the weekends. There is no apparent motive for what happened. There are no words.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Sharing a Picture

OK, so I said I'd share a picture of EP raisin' his hand when I could...FINALLY, I can! It seems we had a lot more snow and cold weather than I thought, because it was "impossible" to bring the camera in from the car for THREE DAYS. But, here it is

He is in the last row, all the way to the left in the picture. He is one of only 3 recruits raising their hands; #3 is out of sight to the right. (A poem...) The National Guard swears a different oath than the other services, so they say theirs separately.
In case you're wondering, they do not swear to take over the country, or any such silliness. They simply swear to obey both the Governor of the state and the President. And, guess what? The Governor takes precedence. If he tells the President that, no, this unit cannot be deployed by you, then they can't. This actually happened to JP4's unit shortly after he finished his training. The President asked to deploy them in 2002, but the Governor said, no, too many IL units were already deployed. The President had to wait, and he did, until 2003.
If, perhaps, the Governor of Louisiana had thought ahead when she agreed to deploy her troops in 2004 and 2005, perhaps the story in New Orleans would have been different. Perhaps not.
Enough of that. Take a good look at my kid. Doesn't he look happy? Excited? Proud? I know, you can't tell. That's because his dad loves to take pictures of us FROM THE REAR. He calls it "focusing on the event, not being distracted by smiling (or otherwise) faces."
I call it goofy.
Oh, and notice the red carpet? They actually do that to emphasize the "specialness" of the event and the people participating. That's what I was told, anyway, by another soldier there. It was really a cool day. Except...I did not cry. I will, when we finally send him off to training. But not yet.

Monday, February 11, 2008

It's a Hat Trick!

EP enlisted this weekend. He joined the Wisconsin national Guard---so the cheeseheads now have my boy!
Because he's not quite 18, he has 364 days to report to Basic. He should finish his Associates' degree in December. Between that and two awards he earned [Eagle Scout and Billy Mitchell(through CAP)] in his young life, he will START Basic training as an E4. He will start drilling with the Guard next month, in a separate program for recruits; he'll be paid for that. He'll have this semester's tuition reimbursed, and college paid for from now until the end. He'll get a signing bonus, and a deployment deferment of 2 years. And a spiffy uniform with a Badger on it! (OK, I don't know if the uniform has a badger. I wonder if the patrol cap has a cheese?) (OK, I'm sorry.) He'll be trained as a combat medic in sunny San Antonio, although he doesn't know yet where he'll attend Basic. He's very excited.
But I'm not. The camera got left in the car, which is now at the community college parking lot. So the picture we took of him "raisin' his hand" can't be downloaded until tonight. But we'll show it off as soon as we can!
As a side note, many of my military mom cyber-friends are offering me hair dye coupons. With three in the military, they say I'll need it! I say I like my grey hairs. They're the only thing on me getting LIGHTER! (Bah dum-CHING!)

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Farm Update

Little broccolis, rosemaries and cilantroes are now germinating. Lettuces are thinned and doing well. We need more grow lights....
This week we got our dogs back. Our Jack Russell terriers, Woody and Beaker, are 10 and 7, respectively. Woody is pictured here, in his (not my) favorite sleeping spot); Beaker tends to avoid the camera! The little darlings are great fun, and they eat their weight in mice.
But, for whatever reason, they seem to not like us. Rather, at every opportunity, they head for the hills. Now, they won't do it if they're out solo; they need the other to be a really good team of escape artists. It doesn't help that we have hundreds of acres of "dog heaven" (read: farmland, brush and ponds) surrounding our puny 5 acres.
We've tried invisible fencing. We've tried pens. We've tried double-fencing the pens. We even tried a chain and a stake, until it was pointed out to us that, from a hawk's point of view, they look just like a white and black rabbit. And it's just too easy for the coyotes if their food is tied up for them.
We have a wonderful neighbor who catches them up for us and calls us. We have another wonderful neighbor who catches them up for us and calls us, cussing and swearing. Thankfully, this time they eluded both and met up with a very friendly animal control officer, who took them home to the pound, fed and vetted them, and microchipped them. Now, after paying the ransom to get them out, we can rest assured, that, next time, they can be scanned and we will be called when they are found. We don't have to rely on collars and tags, with which they both left but without which they were both found. No, no, they have a high tech (and expensive) microchip to help in locating us.

P.S. Aren't you glad you don't pay extra for the sarcasm?

Friday, February 8, 2008

Got Plans?

Whatcha up to this weekend?
We have homeschool moms and their kids coming over to sled this afternoon. This evening, John and I may have a few hours to ourselves; it happens once in a while! MSP will be off at a church event, and EP will be at MEPS tonight, fixin' to swear in. So, tomorrow, we'll be heading north to take pictures and eat lunch with our newest recruit. MSP will sing in church on Sunday. Looks like a relatively quiet weeknd on the farm!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Posting Late

It's been a snotty day today. Really. Some sort of sinus crud has descended upon me, and no amount of Fisherman's Friend or Tazo tea* seems to be helping. It's just enough to make me feel like the world rolled over me, but not enough to suck all my energy and allow me to sink back into bed.
But I digress.
In my sinus medicine fog, did I hear that one of the Republican candidates dropped out of the race? Did I hear other Republicans being skeptical about one of the ones left? The one with the best chance of winning the nomination? What are we, BABIES? It's my way or I take my Binky and go home? "I'll vote for the Democrat before I vote for the Republican candidate, if he's the one." Geez oh Pete's, last I heard, Republicans were concerned about a brokered convention. Seems like we may not have that worry, but we're moving on to worry about something else.
Something a friend of mine told me long ago sticks with me through thick and thin. She told me it was from the Talmud; "Don't go looking for trouble. It might get lost on it's way to your house." Sensible, sane people are out looking for Trouble. Wait. Calm down. By the time November rolls around, Trouble may have gone on to someone else's house.
Or maybe I heard wrongly, and it was just the combination of Allegra and Mucinex. If so, I'm sorry. Carry on.

* My favorite combination for sinus and post-nasal yuckiness is 1 bag each of Tazo Zen and Wild Sweet Orange teas, brewed together and sweetened with a little honey. It's lovely. I hope you don't have to use it, though.
And click on the link for Fisherman's Friend, dragging your mouse over the bag. It's just cute.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

A Mother's Dilemma

To play or not to play?
NE IL is again being hit with a Storm. This time we weren't surprised, as if, like I've said, such a thing can happen in this area at this time of year. We're hearing upwards of a foot of snow today. That won't stop us from going into town for lunch. After all, Joe would worry about us if we didn't come in for our Wednesday slice of pizza.
But I digress. Today this homeschooling mom was faced with a Snow Day. The local schools--even the community college, which NEVER closes; ask my son!--have closed, due to weather. So, do I cancel school today for MSP, since her school friends are all home, "having fun?" Or do I hold school today, and save tomorrow, when the wind will have died down, for a snow day? This is the dilemma faced by the homeschool mom.
Well, the decision is out of my hands. I explained both options to MSP, giving her the right to choose. She chose (duh) today. No delayed gratification for this girl! Tomorrow she'll whine...but, oh, well.
And that is the fun of homeschooling. We have the ability to choose how to spend our time. This is one of the benefits I didn't see when we first started, and it's been one of the most valuable for our family. In fact, our list of reasons for homeschooling has changed dramatically since we started, and "freedom" is right there at the top. When Grandma is sick, we go to the hospital. When big brother is being deployed, we take off for Texas. When JP4 was in his freshman year at the local high school, he was actually PENALIZED for taking off to go to his great-grandmother's funeral. Compassion is never in big supply at the local public school. But things are different now. And we LIKE it!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Hey! I've Been Tagged!

I know, for most bloggers, this can be a real pain. BUT, this is my first time, and it proves that someone is really reading this blog, and, gosh, it's a fun one.
I've been tagged by AmusedMomma, who tells me to grab the nearest book, go to page 123, go down to the fifth sentence, and write the following three sentences. Here they are;

...It's hard to imagine that men exist who would do these things, especially to children--men who would so easily burn and steal and kill and rape.
I learned about rape last week. My mother took me aside after supper.

Whoa. Sorry to have picked up such a book, and found such a bummer of a passage; although, honestly, this is not as much of a bummer as some of the passages in this book. This book is called Tilli's Story, and is written by Tilli Schulze and Lorna Collier. Tilli lives near me, but grew up in what became East Germany, before and during WWII. While the book has many dark, dark moments, it also tells of incredible bravery and perseverence during a dark time in history. I highly recommend it, although I would not hand it to someone under 14, especially a girl, without prereading.
Hmmm...Who will be next?? How about Cheryl, Jenny, and Polly?

Monday, February 4, 2008

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety Jig

Yes, we're home. We came safely through a "surprise" winter storm. Tell, me, what is so surprising about a snowstorm, in January, in northern Illinois? Why was every weathercaster in the area SHOCKED and UPSET about this occurrence? If you figure it out, let me know.
Oh, and I made another discovery last night. Not only is winter weather SHOCKING in winter, but so is the parental expectation that household norms be maintained while the parents are away. Even Grandma, who stayed home, was surprised. But, truth be told, it may have been my fault. I never used, in a complete sentence, the words floor, sweep or the. Nor did I use keep, kitchen or clean. And I certainly didn't use dishes, dishwasher, empty, keep, the, or wash.
Guess what I'll be doing today.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Playing with long-Necks

Yep, we're here, playing with long-necks. We've had breakfast...enough of a workout to feel virtuous, but not to sweat too time...I think I'll take a nap. Then it's off to here for a wonderful German dinner, perhaps with some of this!

Friday, February 1, 2008

BIG Weekend Plans!

Yep, we have 'em. We have big weekend plans to head west to Iowa, to visit some friends who also happen to be relatives. How did THAT happen? And, how did it happen that these friends who are also relatives happen to be of the liberal persuasion, while we are most decidedly NOT? Isn't that supposed to be like "three horns don't play with long-necks?" Sometimes it CAN be...but, most often, we spend time talking companionably, (even about some things we, on opposite sides of the spectrum, "shouldn't") drinking coffee and letting our kids run each other ragged.
BUT we have BIG snow on the ground. While the roads aren't too bad, there is enough here to keep us busy for a while. We have all kinds of friends calling to tell us we're "crazy, nuts and silly" to be heading out this afternoon.
But we probably will hook up the team, throw in a couple of extra buffalo robes, and then, Nanook and I will head west for adventure!