Monday, December 26, 2005

"But, Mom, it doesn't say No Unicycling!"

In my grandmother's neighborhood earlier today:

And now I really am done blogging for the year!

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Holiday greetings from Florida

We're having a nice vacation in Florida, but it feels like a week at Christmas camp. We're busy, busy, busy, with almost every minute scheduled. Our time is flying by, so I'm just going to share a few photos and then take a blogging break until we're back home in Kentucky.

Flamingoes are very popular as Christmas decorations down here. Mom and Dad have a holiday flamingo on their porch:

If you click here, you can see some rough video of Santa ho-ho-ho-ing.

Here's another scene of Florida Christmas. I took it outside a taxidermy shop in DeLeon Springs:

Finally, here is our official greeting card for this year:

Have a great holiday, and I'll be back in 2006!
  • Edited to add these, just in case you thought I was kidding about the flamingo decorations:

Monday, December 19, 2005

"My mom ate my homework."

I am proud to say that as of tomorrow, Mike and Annabelle will have completed one entire quarter of school. I'm not even sure that tomorrow counts though, given that they get out before noon, and everybody at Annabelle's school will be wearing their pajamas and slippers, so let the celebration commence right now!

I am also very proud to say that as of tomorrow, I will have completed one entire quarter of school in my maternal capacity. For those of you who are sitting out there shaking your head and thinking no way could you ever homeschool, let me tell you something: Homeschooling is sooooo much easier than regular school, or at least it was for us. I think the reason for this can be traced back to one major factor: homework! When you're a homeschooling mom and an assignment strikes you as tedious, pointless, or downright stupid, you can exercise your homeschoolerly perogative and blow it off. No such luck when the assignment is given out by a teacher (who presumably does not view it as tedious, pointless, or downright stupid). Nope, under those circumstances you are stuck at your dining room table, trying to be supportive in the face of much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Truth be told, you are often in fact the wailer and/or tooth-gnasher. Or at least, I am.

I was cleaning files off my antique computer recently in preparation for my annual hard-drive reformatting crisis, and I came across some images that illustrate perfectly why I should be kept as far away from homework as possible. But first, the backstory:

Surely you have all heard of Flat Stanley, right? He's a character in a book who is smooshed flat (falling bulletin board, I think) and is therefore able to travel to different places in an envelope. Somewhere along the way, some teacher got the idea of having students create their own little flat people whom they would then send out on various travels, which they (the students, not the inanimate "people") would document on posterboard. Very clever. What could be better than a homework assignment you foist off on friends and family?

Somewhere along the way, this became a rite of early elementary school passage similar to the loss of the first tooth, and now EVERYBODY is doing it. Little flatlings are winging their way around the world. I know--I posed with some woman's grandson's Flat Stanley in a restaurant in Rome.

Annabelle encountered Flat Stanley in first grade in Texas. I encouraged her to send her Flat Stanley to my sister, who I knew would put her heart and soul into showing a paper boy the wonders of central Florida. Annabelle, however, was adamant--her Flat Stanley was going to be sent to a child. (Sorry, Jenny.) This presented me with a problem. Most of my friends who have children also have lives, jobs, and other obligations that might get in the way of their hostessing the Stan-Man in Pearl Mesta fashion. No, Stanley needed to go to somebody who would be able to let the child handle the project without turning it into her own personal mission.

We (meaning me, because let's face it--first graders don't go to the post office) wound up sending it to a friend who I think does a really good job of letting her children live their own lives without excessive micromanagement. I resigned myself to the fact that Annabelle's classmates' flat travelers were going to go off on exotic jaunts to Vegas, Disney, and possibly Europe, while hers would be going to the playground and maybe the library or the mall.

We (meaning me, because let's face it--first graders aren't slaves to the calendar) started getting nervous as deadline day approached and Stan had yet to be returned in the postage paid envelope that we (meaning me, because let's face it--first graders just don't think of these things) had provided for him. We (meaning me, because by this point Annabelle had pretty much forgotten all about Stanley and was focused on her Neopets) didn't want to nag, but finally we (OK, do you get the theme here? Me, me, me, it's all about me!) sent out some feelers.

Turns out my friend had done such a good job of delegating Stanley to her daughter that he had gone AWOL. I told Annabelle's teacher about this unfortunate turn of events, and she was very understanding. Apparently, a Stanley or 2 go missing every year. "What most families do," she suggested, "is have the child make a new one and then just take it around San Antonio. You could take it to Sea World, Fiesta Texas, the Alamo . . . "

I don't want to sound like a Bad Mom, but at that point in my life, I had Other Obligations. For example, I was taking a guide dog puppy around San Antonio and cleaning up after her when she pooped not once, not twice, but THREE times in one trip to the mall. There was no time in my schedule for escorting two-dimensional tourists around town. Sorry.

Through the miracle of modern technology, however, I was saved from the shame of having my daughter turn in a Wanted poster for her Flat Stanley as her project. I had some digital photos that Fred had taken on a trip to Australia a couple years earlier, so I simply scanned Stan II into the computer and digitally inserted him into the scenes. Look, it's Flat Stanley on the Great Barrier Reef!

And here he is with Fred and a koala:

We printed out the photos, and Annabelle attached them (as well as some Australian-themed stickers, diecuts, and coins) to her posterboard. Voila! Flat Stanley was done.

I, however, just couldn't stop. I was seized by a Flat Stanley mania of sorts. Look, it's Flat Stanley crossing the Delaware with Washington:

Corporal Stanley planting the flag on Iwo Jima:

And my personal favorite, the Apostle Stan at the Last Supper:

I think given my history I have done an admirable job of dealing with homework for the past 9 weeks. Can I have a sticker?

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Our own personal REFORGER

I'm sure my military readers know what REFORGER means: "REturn of FORces to GERmany," a huge annual Army field exercise designed to reassure NATO of our willingness and ability to stop the Russians at the gap. The Army held its last REFORGER in 1993, but I am pleased to report that I will be carrying on the tradition. Well, at least the part about returning to Germany; don't look to me to be fighting the Russians (except for maybe that one jerk-face Kremlin guard).

Yep, the kids and I are coming back for 3 glorious weeks this summer! Mike has been hounding me for quite some time to at least send him back, but one ticket from Louisville to Frankfurt during the summer is at least $1000. Through careful internet surfing, I was able to secure 3 roundtrip, nonstop tickets between Orlando and Frankfurt for . . . I hope you're sitting down . . . $1559. Total. For 3 people. In the summer.

So, Germany, brace yourself. We're coming back!

Saturday, December 17, 2005

One room (almost) done!

Fred and I had a burst of energy this afternoon and managed to hang the living room drapes and put together our wooden flowers from Hawaii. We still want to get floor lamps for either end of the couch, but I'm really happy with the way it's looking so far. I'm especially pleased with our super-cheap end tables from Target.

Here's the view from the front hallway:

And here is the view looking TOWARDS the front hallway:

I think our mantel looks kind of empty. Fred's clock is definitely staying, but the pottery pieces are just something to take up space for now:

Any ideas of what we should put there?

Eddie loves the new furniture . . .

. . . and because of his nifty green claw covers, the new furniture loves Eddie, too:

Friday, December 16, 2005

Who's a sweepy boy?

Fred and Eddie kick back and relax:

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Formals and heavy machinery

What a weekend we had! I truly meant to blog this days ago (is it REALLY Wednesday already?), but somehow time slipped away.

Our formal Thursday night wound up getting canceled because of the icky weather. I felt guilty for being so happy, because it was a really big deal awards dinner, and apparently people had come in from all over the country to attend. We got our ticket money back, but frankly I would have paid $40 for the opportunity to stay home that night.

Saturday night we went to the USAREC holiday formal. I wore the red dress I bought for last spring's JAG prom. If there is one thing that offsets the psychological trauma we are inflicting on our children by moving every other year, it must be the fact that I do get a lot of opportunities to re-wear the same dress without worrying that people are thinking, "Why, here's Bonnie . . . and her dress." Here's me confessing my secret hopes and wishes to Santa Claus:

And here I am with Fred. You may remember that the last time I wore this dress, I had a rodent as a date, so I am definitely moving up in the world:

As I was contemplating getting ready for Saturday night's formal, my next-door neighbor called to tell me about the huge water line break out in front of our duplex. She had put in the emergency work order and figured they would be showing up at any minute to turn off our water and fix the pipe. Fred and I set a world record for showering, but we needn't have hurried. When we returned from the formal some 6 hours later, we still had water. At around 11 that night, however, they parked a huge tractor in our front yard, dug up the pipe, and kept pumps and other loud machinery running for a good 2 hours:

Sunday morning I refused to get out of my jammies until it was time to squeeze myself back into my wonder unders and put on the new dress I had ordered to replace the velvet one that seems to have inexplicably shrunk over the years. We dropped the kids off at the movies to see Narnia, and then we drove down to Elizabethtown (yes, the one just like in the movie of the same name) for the CG's holiday reception. We had a nice time. Secure in the knowledge that the wonder unders were on the job, I gorged myself on shrimp cocktail and the most amazing dip made from Vidalia onions and cheese. Here's the obligatory in-front-of-the-tree shot:

You might think that we would be done with our holiday social obligations after a weekend like that, but we're not. There's one office party and 2 coffees standing between us and packing to head for Florida after school next Tuesday. Ho ho ho!

Monday, December 12, 2005

Wish I'd found this last fall

Not that it would have changed anything (probably), but how cool is this?

Looks like they're still for sale here.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Action on the old blog

After I posted that picture of the kids in front of the very scary squirrels, I started going through some of the other pictures from Europe that I never got around to blogging. I decided to leave behind this icky, freezing cold day and journey back to warmer times and put up a post about our final trip to the Luisenpark. You can read about it here. I'm double-posting my favorite picture from that day here though, because it makes me happy every time I look at it:

I seriously contemplated using that shot as our Christmas picture.

Squirrels again

I can't stop giggling over this comment from Dawn about the dog-eating Russian squirrels:
Hmmm. Does this mean I should stop throwing rocks at the squirrels to keep them out of my feeders? Will they go all "Veruca Salt" on my ass and carry me into the trees? Now THAT is scary.
It reminded me of a picture from my still-unblogged photos from last May's trip to Venice. There we were cruising through Bavaria--or maybe we were in Austria by then--when we saw something so disturbing that we had to go back to take pictures. Here are my kids and my friend Sandra's son Heath standing in front of something you just don't see every day:

Like the sign says, "the future of nature." Be afraid. Be very afraid.

A most unfortunate typo

We got a heapin' helpin' of icky winter weather yesterday afternoon. The kids were sent home early from school, and Fred canceled his plans to go to Ft. Meade today. Last night as we lay in bed watching ER, I was paying close attention to the announcements of school and business closings and delays that were scrolling across the bottom of the screen. Looks like the Soiled Rotten Cloth Diaper Service will be running late on their deliveries today.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Beware of . . . squirrels?

As I was driving home from the PX this afternoon, I was half listening to NPR when something caught my attention. Apparently reports of vicious squirrels killing and eating a stray dog in a Russian park have been spreading across the internet. The speaker said that investigation has revealed that the report originated from a Russian tabloid known for its sensational stories. Given our familial interest in squirrels and other rodents, I just had to learn more.

This evening I turned to my trusty friend and typed in the search "squirrels attack dog." Bingo! There, as the very first hit, was an article from no less an authoritative source than BBC News--"Russian squirrel pack 'kills dog'":

A "big" stray dog was nosing about the trees and barking at squirrels hiding in branches overhead when a number of them suddenly descended and attacked, reports say.

"They literally gutted the dog," local journalist Anastasia Trubitsina told
Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper.

"When they saw the men, they scattered in different directions, taking pieces of their kill away with them."
The speaker on NPR reassured the host that this news article had come from the Russian equivalent of our supermarket tabloids, and I came home prepared to break the vicious squirrel news here and compare Komsomolskaya Pravda to the National Enquirer. Something just didn't feel right though, so I decided to investigate further. I found a couple of articles that accused Komsomolskaya Pravda of occasional yellow journalism but nothing that would suggest them to be a consistent source of UFO sightings.

I knew I wouldn't be able to sleep tonight until I found the original article. Do you have any idea how tricky it is to do a google search in Russian, even if you did manage to graduate with a degree in Russian Studies back in the mid-1980s? It's hard if for no other reason than I don't have a cyrillic keyboard, let alone know the word for "squirrel." I persevered though for you, my readers (all 15 of you!), and I am happy to report that I was successful. You can read the article in Russian here. OR you can read a snippet of the translation that I carefully prepared by pumping the Russian text through an online translating service:
People is going to arrange in a wood of an ambush on rodents

Above brothers our smaller local residents yet did not see such rough handling. In the center of settlement Lazo of area Dalnerechenskogo is a small wood: on its footpaths peasants go every day for work and home. That day on park three
lazovtsev walked. Nearby rezvilsja the homeless dog rushed between trees and oblaival black the squirrel, hidden on trees. Whether bark has bothered rodents, whether they too ogolodali, but is unexpected the whole flight squirrels have rushed on a poor mongrel.

"Excuse for a terrible detail, but they in literal sense gutted a dog," Anastasia Trubitsina, the correspondent of the newspaper
Shock Front, has told to us about punishment according to eyewitnesses. People, seeing such horror, have rushed the dog on proceeds, but was late. The squirrel flight tore up the dog no more minutes. And when squirrels have seen men, have rushed in all directions, carrying away with itself slices of extraction.

News about the flown into a rage squirrels has quickly scattered on settlement. Now many inhabitants bypass a place of severe punishment by the party. Are afraid, that squirrels in a wood any more only nutlets gnaws. If they have attacked on large dog can and up to children who like to walk, reach here.
So Anastasia Trubitsina--quoted as a "local journalist" by the BBC--works for a newspaper called Shock Front. I couldn't find a website for Shock Front, but I'm thinking it's what one might call a "rag" if one knew how to say "rag" in Russian. I find it amazing that I, a blogging mom in Kentucky, can uncover that small detail when the great minds at BBC, all of whom probably have really cool British accents, couldn't.

It just goes to show you can't believe everything you read in the mainstream media. Which is too bad, because, damn . . . bloodthirsty squirrels. Wouldn't THAT have been something?

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Weather forecast: Sun tomorrow, betcher bottom dollar

We just got back from Louisville. Fred and I took the kids up there this evening to see the touring show of Annie. It was a great show and lots of fun. Annabelle says she still ranks Cats as her all-time favorite, but she liked this one a lot, too. I don't know which she enjoyed more though--seeing kids perform or seeing a dog on stage! (Mike claimed to be going only because I insisted that he come along, but I think he enjoyed it.)

Right before the curtain went up, they made an announcement: "The part of the stray dog in the dog catcher's cart is played tonight by Heidi. The Louisville Humane Society will have information available in the lobby during intermission for anybody interested in adopting Heidi." Naturally, I stayed clear of the lobby for the whole evening, but I still got to spend the intermission squirming in discomfort while the kids begged for a dog (Annabelle) or a second cat (Mike).

ANNABELLE: Why can't we get a dog?!

ME: We just bought a white carpet.

ANNABELLE: But I never asked for a carpet!

Some future therapist is going to make a mint off of my kids.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Trapped in a velvet prison

What is the point of a blog if you can't occasionally humiliate yourself before all of mankind? You have to understand that I have been sick for the past couple of days. Really, really sick. I spent all day yesterday in my PJs wallowing in my bed, and it looked like today would follow the same pattern.

Even in the depths of my sickness, however, it was not lost on me that we have TWO formal events to attend next week--some Audie Murphy awards dinner on Thursday night followed by the holiday formal on Saturday. For the holiday formal, I'm planning on wearing the red dress I wore to JAG Prom last spring. (That is one good thing about moving every 2 years--there's always a new crowd, so nobody ever says, "Didn't you wear that thing to the last 3 dances?") I'm at a loss though as to what to wear to the dinner on Thursday night.

I've been planning on going up to Louisville to go shopping for a couple of days now, but given that I haven't even had the energy to shower and get dressed, those plans keep getting pushed aside. Today, I at least feel well enough to shop online, and that is what I have been doing for the past hour or so. I found several things I like, but of course they all cost money, and I'm feeling rather thrifty with Christmas staring me in the eye. So I went to my closet in a hail-Mary attempt to find SOMETHING, anything that I could make do with for the awards dinner.

I dug and I dug and I dug, and finally I came out with a long-forgotten black velvet dress that I had bought for a song at Lord & Taylors several years ago. I ripped off my PJs and pulled the dress over my head. I tugged and I tugged and I tugged, and finally I stood before my mirror looking not unlike a black velvet sausage:

Pretty dress, but it's not going to work for Thursday night unless I lose 5 pounds off my butt between now and then. Even the wonder unders can't provide the sort of control I would need to make this happen--believe me, I tried them.

Having used up what little energy I have this morning, I went to reverse the process so I could crawl back into my jammies and back into bed. I tugged and I tugged and I tugged, and I did manage to get the skirt up north of my hips, but then it stopped and no amount of tugging will get this dress off of me. It's a physical impossibility unless I break both arms and maybe a collar bone.

I've even looked around for a hook at just the right height, thinking that perhaps I could snag one of the bows on the back and then just kind of sink down, sliding out and leaving the dress hanging on the wall. I can't find the right hook though, and it's probably just as well. The only thing worse than having my husband coming home this evening to find me lying in bed wearing what appears to be a black velvet tube top would be having him come home to find my lifeless body hanging on the wall, strangled to death by a black velvet noose.

Then again, I don't know why I should worry about HIM. He knows what HE is going to wear--the same damn thing every other man in the room will be wearing, only none of them will be embarassed to find themselves dressed identically. After all, they look alike Monday through Friday, so it's old hat to them.

If I call 911, will they send the jaws of life?