Friday, May 29, 2009

Skywatch Friday

From assorted

Sometimes, when you look up, you see more than sky. :)

See more Skywatch photos from all over the world! Visit

Monday, May 25, 2009


A song for someone(s) I love.

We're proud of who you are.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Motorcycle Flashback

Even though it's been raining a lot, I've still got the itch to ride. I was looking through my photo program to find some older pictures to post for you all, and came across these- some of my favorites. This is Billy and me tearing up the Dragon's Tail back in May 2006. That was an amazing trip, one of those magic rides when our timing, skills and circumstances all come together in transcendence.

Hopefully Billy and I will get away soon for this year's ride. Until then, enjoy these shots (thanks to Moonshine Photo).

(Click on a photo to view it larger)

Friday, May 22, 2009

Negative Consequences

Lately, I have felt a little bit invisible.

OK, VERY invisible.

See, my children seem to no longer acknowledge my existence, unless they are asking for something. Often this is a good thing, because it means they are entertaining themselves and I am free to do laundry, cook dinner, pay bills, blog or even (*gasp*) go to the bathroom all by myself. It's definitely NOT a good thing however, if I am speaking directly to them or telling them to do something. In fact, being ignored in this way absolutely drives me crazy.

I have been making a concerted effort to organize a little bit, and then to tidy up on a regular basis so that, at any given moment, only some rooms will look like they've been bombed. In theory, the organizing part will make it easier for the kids to help put stuff away. Also in theory, making them responsible for some of the tidying will instill good cleaning/helping habits in them, so that this whole endeavor will become easier as time goes on.

I run into a problem when any instruction to my children goes utterly unacknowledged, and forcing acknowledgment from them has no affect on whether they actually do what I have told or asked them to do.

I can think of five ways to handle this:
1) Enforce some sort of negative consequence for willful non-compliance. In other words, I explain what the negative consequence will be if they don't do what I have told them to do, and then follow through with the "punishment" if they still don't comply.
2) I could bribe them to do what I tell them to do.
3) I could let it slide, and let them see the natural consequences of not cleaning up. Let them experience firsthand that a messy environment means they cannot find what they want, that they don't have room to play active games or set up elaborate constructions, and. . . well I'm sure there's other consequences that they might care about. Then they would see the benefits of keeping tidy, and this lesson would be understood much more clearly than in the first way of handling things.
4) I could lock them in their room, slip meals under the door and live in a clean house while they have their very own pigsty to enjoy.
5) Throw my hands in the air, clean it myself when I find time, and live in a disaster area the rest of the time.

So far, it's mostly been option 5. I'd really like to get a little more teamwork going in this equation, though.

I don't like option 2. I don't want my children to expect a reward every time they do something right- that's not the way life works. Despite that, Billy and I have been known to use this method on occasion. It is pretty effective. (Dammit.) Option 3 happens whether I plan for it or not, and I can tell you firsthand that the premise is laughable. Honorable maybe, logical perhaps, but utterly laughable. It doesn't work. And while option 4 might be very attractive sometimes, I don't think it's terribly practical in the long run. ;)

Therefore, I have been struggling with option 1: Negative Consequences.

Time outs are not effective in this scenario. They work in some situations with my boys, but not during a run-of-the-mill day at home. I've tried spankings, but the boys don't care about them enough to really change their behavior if a spanking is threatened. I will follow through, but if it's such a diluted concern that I end up having to spank often, then I want something more effective. I don't like giving spankings. I tried a "ticket" system wherein they could lose tickets for bad behavior, and if all tickets were lost they had to stay in their room the rest of the day. That's very difficult for me to enforce- we're always going someplace, and even after enforcing it a couple times it still wasn't "bad" enough to be effective. So, I've scrapped that one, too.

I'm feeling totally ineffective.

I need a better plan.

I'm writing about this here for a couple reasons: I know my experience is to some degree universal among parents, and I am looking for suggestions. Any ideas?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Planting Blueberries!

Last summer we went with a friend to pick blueberries in North GA. It was such a delightful trip, and we couldn't believe how many delicious berries we gathered! The berry bushes were absolutely laden with plump blue goodness. This got us thinking. . . we should plant blueberries, too! We thought about planting them at our house, but decided a better location was at my in-laws' property instead. I did a little research, and decided on some Rabbiteye blueberry varieties.
From Planting Blueberries 4/27/09

Time got away from me, and lo it was April before we got around to purchasing our blueberry plants and going to Grandma & Grandpa's for planting. That's OK, though- we were still within acceptable time for planting blueberries here in GA. It was a perfect setup: I did the research, purchasing and direction while Billy and his brother did all the digging and planting!

After I selected a nice sunny, well-drained spot on a gentle slope, we marked where we wanted the plants to go. Then, Billy and his brother set to work digging out the dense Georgia red clay.
From Planting Blueberries 4/27/09

The clay we found there wasn't quite as hard as some I've seen, but it still needed some good topsoil and compost mixed in.
From Planting Blueberries 4/27/09

The great Gimli McGuinness, our cairn terrier, was happily on hand to supervise. It was a perfect day for him, running free outside to get filthy. (And yes, he needs grooming- he's scraggly!)
From Planting Blueberries 4/27/09

After a hard day's work there were 7 blueberry bushes comfortably ensconced in their new home. Billy put stakes and string around them so Grandpa wouldn't accidentally mow them down.
From Planting Blueberries 4/27/09

Finally I contributed a little manual labor, to spread the mulch: lots of nice, acidic pinestraw to protect the plants, help discourage weeds, and hold moisture. (Blueberry plants like an acidic pH in their soil.) There is no shortage of pinestraw on that property!
From Planting Blueberries 4/27/09

Just as I was spreading the last wheelbarrow-full of pinestraw, big fat raindrops began splashing down. A short cloudburst of a thunderstorm gave the new bushes a nice drink of water and then moved on, leaving a breathtaking sherbet ice cream sunset to polish off the day.
From Planting Blueberries 4/27/09

Compare the two small sunset photos carefully, and you might notice a flash of lightning caught in the first one- it's the whitish blob behind the trees in the lower left part of the picture.

Now we look forward to many summers of blueberry harvests ahead!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Little Ways to "Go Green"

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Hey folks! Just stopping in here to tell you that I did a guest post on a great blog about environmentally-conscious living: Mainstream Green. Pop on over for peek!

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Friday, May 15, 2009

Campout 2009! Edisto Beach, SC- Days 5 & 6

Day 5 of the Edisto Island campout (see here, here and then here for days 1 - 4) was our last full day. Billy still wanted to ride the bikes some more, and my only desires were to scope out the state park's other campground loop, and to try a little letterboxing. Cousin Dashi's family was going to the Interpretive Center, which he'd already seen, so he opted to ride with us.

From Edisto Island Campout 2009

It was a beautiful day again, windy as always. Riding the park trails was a little bittersweet, because we knew our trip was coming to an end. First we headed to an undisclosed location to hunt our first box. Drat! Found the location, but no box. The kids played for awhile, and then we headed for the beachside campground loop. I wanted to scope out the campsites just in case there were some amazing spots for a future campout- the beachside campsites are much sought-after, and fill up nearly a year in advance.

We cruised through the campground, and it was quite nice- but it couldn't hold a candle to the walk-in sites we already had! (If we had an RV, the beachside loop would be the place to be- but it was a bit exposed for tent camping, in my opinion.) After making the rounds, we journeyed to a second undisclosed location to hunt the second letterbox. Double drat! Again, found the location but the box was gone. Zero for 2 on the letterboxing front. :(

Next we stopped by a playground for snacks and play time.
From Edisto Island Campout 2009

The boys had a blast climbing around and generally being little monkeys.
From Edisto Island Campout 2009

Babyman was especially delighted to climb around, with a bit of help from Daddy on the suspension bridge.
From Edisto Island Campout 2009

He is growing so quickly, ~sigh~. . . his climbing and walking skills are a sight to behold. He is eager to run and play with the big boys.

Next we rode back to camp, where all my little men dropped me off for a relaxing afternoon all by myself. They went off to ride the trails longer, while I sat quietly in the dappled sunshine, feeling the breeze play over my skin while I knit, then preparing to host our big group campfire later that night.
From Edisto Island Campout 2009

I went to the bath house and took my time washing up, which was a relaxing delight. I greeted some campers just arriving, and tidied up around camp a bit- word had it that there could be heavy rain later that night, and I wanted to pack as much stuff away as possible ahead of time. Soon everyone started wandering back into camp and getting dinner together, and I gathered supplies for the group campfire at nightfall.

Soon we were all collected around my sister-in-law's campfire, my boys roasting hot dogs over the open fire for dinner. We all had snacks (grapes, crackers and goat cheese! YUM!) and drinks to share, with s'mores for dessert. I usually open these "official" group campfires with a few thoughts, and afterwards we go around the campfire, with each person in turn telling us their favorite part of the trip, or most memorable, or really whatever they want to share. This takes awhile, because there is much reminiscing, joking and commenting from everyone else too. It's always a highlight of the trip for me. I pass around a journal and a set of colored pencils so that everyone can sign in, and those who wish can draw or write anything about the trip. I hope this journal (and those that come after- we've almost filled this first one!) will become a treasured family keepsake for years to come. Already, it's fun to look back and see how much the children's drawing skills have progressed in just a year. :) (I started the journal tradition last year.)

Slowly slowly, with drooping eyes, we reluctantly left our cozy group that night and headed for bed. We battened down the hatches in case of rain, and fell asleep listening to the wind roar.

It did rain that night, and I have to tell you: as long as everything is snug and dry, there are few things better than the sound of rain on your tent. I love a good storm. When you're tent camping, the best rainstorms are those that serenade you at night and dry out quickly come sunrise- and this turned out to be the perfect rain. We breakfasted while our tarps and tents aired out, and then began the long process of packing up.
From Edisto Island Campout 2009

Babyman tried to stay out of trouble
From Edisto Island Campout 2009

(sort of).
From Edisto Island Campout 2009

Most of the boys entertained themselves by climbing and playing on the rope swing, which kept them in our sight without getting underfoot.
From Edisto Island Campout 2009

From Edisto Island Campout 2009

Finally the van was all packed, we'd said goodbye to friends and family, and we were the last to check out. I was sad as I wandered our empty campsites looking for trash or lost items- far from being ready to go home, I could have happily slept in that tent several more nights. While bending over to pick up a piece of trash, I was startled by the sudden movement of a snake! It was interesting- I didn't recognize it at all. It seemed to be sort of olive-colored, speckled all over with tiny yellowish spots. Later I was to learn that it wasn't a snake at all- it was an Eastern Glass Lizard, a type of legless lizard! After getting over being startled, I enjoyed observing the little critter.

Once Billy had done his own sad walk-through, we were off. Our first stop was to hunt another letterbox, and finally! We found it right where it should be and enjoyed stamping in. 1 for 3 on the letterboxing front. After that we decided to explore Botany Bay on our way home. We loved the driving tour- the land is gorgeous! It was a great place to stop for a little picnic lunch.

We had just two more stops we wanted to make before heading home, to hunt a last couple letterboxes. Unfortunately as we were beginning to turn left off a 2-lane country highway, a speeding car tried to pass us on the left, striking the front driver side of our van! We were shaken and in disbelief, but despite it being a serious hit, everyone was fine. Then we noticed: the other driver was not stopping! Unfortunately, it turned out to be a hit-and-run. We were angry, but overwhelmingly grateful that we were all OK. The damage to our van seemed (miraculously) to be superficial. By the time we'd filed a police report, it was far too late for any more exploring. Time to head straight home!

It was a long, tired drive home, and we were still shaken from the accident. But even that frightening episode couldn't erase the fabulous week we'd just spent with our family and friends. Another year's campout, officially a success!

From Edisto Island Campout 2009

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

From Blogger Pictures

Navel Gazing: "Shut Up."

My brain has been waking up.

You know that saying, that you don't know what you have until it's gone? Well, sometimes you don't know what you've lost until it returns.

See, Babyman isn't sleeping through the night. He's nearing 18 months old, but he still isn't sleeping through the night. Gradually gradually however, he has been doing better at night. I've had a number of nights now where he has only woken once, and often that's while I am still up. So for me, there have been a number of nights that I get a full night's sleep. It's heavenly. I'm still tired all the time, and it will be a long while before I catch up on my sleep, but the difference is palpable.

Before, I felt like I was functioning pretty well, and I guess I was. The kids were cared for, the bills were paid, we managed to get to our various commitments if not on time, then at least in time to participate. The house wasn't (isn't) clean, but we had clothes to wear and dishes to eat out of. I spoke to my friends and family on a regular basis and felt like I'd had a good conversation once in awhile. I knew I wasn't doing as much as I'd like, but I was doing the best I could and it was OK.

Now I realize how little I was engaging the world around me. Sure, I was talking to people and observing my environment, but only a small percentage was being processed. I didn't talk as much as I might normally, because I couldn't hold a coherent thought in my head long enough to verbalize it and still be in the flow of the conversation. I wasn't actually noticing a lot of what was going on around me. I knew what the kids were up too; that was important. But beyond that, I was too sleepless and distracted to see much of what was happening. So I listened a lot, heard a little, and talked less.

I am still distracted, still scattered, but I am a lot more awake and aware than I was before. My neurons are firing in sync a lot more often than they were before, allowing me to follow conversations and think of things to say. This has led to a new problem: I talk too much. Now I make connections between what is being said in the conversation and my own experiences, and I am blurting them out before I've had time to think about whether it's really going to further the discussion or not. Sometimes, I am so excited by what's being said that I am interrupting people to blurt out things that are marginally useful at best. This goes for conversations with adults AND things I say to my kids. Too often, I am telling myself, "Shut up, Kit, just shut up."

I am SO glad to be functioning a little better. The sleep was desperately needed. I feel so much more awake and engaged, and I am getting more done. I see the benefits in so many little areas of my life. I didn't realize how badly my sleepless nights were taking their toll, until I started waking up. However, I am going to have to reign in this verbal barrage that spills out of my mouth. It's going to take conscious effort. Listen more, talk less. Make words the currency that you spend wisely. That's what I will work toward. (Hmm, it might be a good goal for my WRITING too, eh? Sorry.) Hopefully, I will find my balance where I can take care of business, enjoy socializing, and contribute to conversations without running my mouth non-stop. It's a goal. :)

Those of you with kids: did you notice the difference in your life when your baby (or babies) started sleeping better? In your mental function? Everyone: is there anything you are working toward improving in yourself right now?

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Conversation at the lunch table

At mealtimes Littleman often asks me questions, which lead to very detailed discussions of various topics. (I always knew all this useless knowledge in my head would be handy some day!) Mr. Sweetcheeks often chimes in with his own brand of comments. Today's lunch conversation went thus:

1) Littleman asks me, How is paper made? I describe the process in detail, and then he asks me
2) How is colored paper made, so I describe that, and these things lead to
3) How do people get different colors of skin? Which launches us into the subject of genetics and DNA, which I manage to explain pretty well, and next he asks me about
4) dwarfism, so I explain that as well as I can, which discussion quickly leads to
5) The Wizard of Oz movie, so I describe what I know (with a number of interruptions from Sweetcheeks) all the way through the melting of the wicked witch, which leads to
6) How does stuff melt? So I describe some of the physical science behind melting, which leads him to a question about
7) condensation, so I describe that process too.

At this point everyone is finished eating and I am tidying up, so Littleman goes off to exercise his sated brain on something else for awhile. My brain meanwhile, needs a breather! Whew.

And people wonder how the kids will learn anything without doing formal lessons.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Campout 2009! Edisto Beach, SC- Day 4

From Edisto Island Campout 2009

Day 4 of our campout on Edisto Island (see here and then here for days 1 - 3) dawned chilly again, but soon began to warm up. This was group picture day, so everyone slowly congregated as breakfasts were finished and cleaned up. My brother joined us to wait,

as did some sort of skink- an exciting discovery for all the kids!

It seems to be some type of Lined Skink- my guess is a Broadhead Skink, because it was so large.

Organizing the group picture is always a little like herding cats, but finally(!) we were all in place and our kind, patient fellow camper (a stranger before he was roped into being our photographer) took our commemorative picture. (To all of you in the photo: I haven't asked everyone's permission yet to post their picture, so if it bothers you, get over it I'm sorry! Just let me know and I can black you out.) ;)
See, I can do that to these people; they're family. :)
From Edisto Island Campout 2009

Once that was done, everyone scattered to get ready and head for the beach! We met there to hang out and play together as a group. There was a great deal of running and splashing to do,
From Edisto Island Campout 2009

From Edisto Island Campout 2009

kite flying,
From Edisto Island Campout 2009

and of course digging in the sand!
From Edisto Island Campout 2009

From Edisto Island Campout 2009

From Edisto Island Campout 2009

Babyman and Daddy had a nice long walk together along the beach while Daddy looked for shells.
From Edisto Island Campout 2009

Despite everyone's best efforts, the ocean of course came to reclaim her own,

and it was time to pack up and head out.

Billy and I carted the boys to camp for as fast a clean-up-dry-off-go-potty-change-clothes-getinthecar as we could muster, and we treated ourselves to dinner out at a seafood restaurant. Littleman was so exhausted, he could hardly keep his eyes open. . . but he was determined to eat all his shrimp and have ice cream for dessert.

He still had 2 shrimp left on his plate when I thought he'd gone to sleep, but then Billy heard Littleman mumble something.

Billy: "What?"
Littleman: mumble mumble
Billy: (leaning closer) "What, Littleman?"
Littleman: "Move my plate closer."

Well we cracked up over that one! He was too tired to reach for his shrimp or even lift his head, but by gosh he was going to finish eating anyway! And darned if he didn't eat all his shrimp and enjoy ice cream too, before laying down in his chair and going right to sleep at the table.

Heading out to the car, we witnessed a breathtaking night sky, with the full moon hung low over the rolling ocean waves. (I wish my camera were better able to deal with nightscapes. This was the best I could do, and it hardly approximates the dramatic panorama.) One more beautiful day finished!
From Edisto Island Campout 2009

(To read about Days 5 & 6, go here.)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

9 Years Ago Today

Today Billy and I celebrate our wedding anniversary. 9 years ago today, we wed in a beautiful, relaxed ceremony outdoors at my in-laws' home. It couldn't have been more perfect.
From Wedding Pics (05/06/2000)

Nearly a decade and three children later, I am still in love and deeply grateful that we are together for this life's journey. We sure did this one right, baby.

Happy Anniversary.
From Wedding Pics (05/06/2000)

Photos by Judy Kuniansky