Thursday, November 27, 2008

It was ugly...

It was very ugly. Somehow I always overestimate the time it will take the turkey to cook. This year I used a newer (mid 1990's version) Betty Crocker Christmas Cookbook to look up the roasting time for a seventeen pound turkey. In the past I've used one of our Better Homes and Gardens Cookbooks (copyrights in 1953 and 1962). Since appliances have changed a bit in the last fifty or sixty years I thought that new technology might explain why the turkey was always done waaaaayyyy before I was ready for it.

Apparently that's not the case. This year I used the old roaster (probably circa 1950) and paired it with the roasting time listed in a more modern cookbook (and yes, I did take care to look up roasting times for unstuffed, empty birds). I was late getting the bird in the roaster. Planned time was 12:00. Actual beginning of roasting time was 12:40. The bird was frozen in the middle and I had to fight to get the guts out. It also took forever to preheat the roaster. When I peeked in the handy little glass window on top of the roaster at 3:30 this is what I found.

Thank goodness we don't worry about the bird's appearance since we don't carve at the table. Luckily we always roast the turkey breast down, which does not create a beautiful browned breast, but it does make the turkey super moist and delicious. If only parts and pieces of the bird are going to leave the kitchen and head to the table I'd rather they be moist, delicious pieces. Why is the orientation (breast up or breast down) important? Why, it's because the internal temperature of the thickest meat on that bird was 220 degrees at 3:45. And the bird is done at 180 degrees. Thank goodness we had the breast and legs down where all the backfat basted the meat and kept it moist. That bird sure was ugly and it was way overcooked.

It looked beautiful sliced on a platter and it tasted terrific. Only I (and now you) know how close it was to being a disaster (especially since dinner was served at 5).

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

It's a.... what the heck is it?

Oh my goodness!!! It's a skunk dog!!!

We had our house painted last month. Jazzmine helped. She painted both sides of herself from shoulder to hip. What the pictures don't show very well is that the edges of both ears and the tip of her tail are painted as well. Too bad we didn't have a freshly painted white board for her to run under and stripe the top of her back.

This is Claire the Super Puppy vs. Optimus Prime. I think Claire probably won that battle.

I love wine

I do. I really, really love wine. I haven't drunk much of it since I had children (something in my metabolism changed and now it makes me very, very hot when I drink) but I do like it. When I was in college I could drink 2 or 3 glasses in an evening with no ill effect, not even intoxication (unless I chugged them all in a row). I am now a half glass girl. Any more than that and I am loopy as can be... loopy doesn't work when you have kids to care for.

Wine has always been part of my family's celebrations. When I was very young Grandpa had just retired from the military where alcohol features at all social events and most evenings at home were not complete without a tipple. By the time I was in junior high my favorite uncle had bought into a small local winery. Many afternoons were spent visiting the tasting rooms and vineyards of the local wineries. Southwest Idaho now has it's own geographical designation like the Champagne region in France. Wineries are plentiful and the cultivation of the vines and chemistry of fermentation have always fascinated me.

In college I was blessed with roommates who didn't drink. It was a treat to be able to order a drink at dinner or have a beer at a party and know (really know, not just think) that I had a sober ride home. The funniest roommate/drinking incident that ever happened involved my Mormon roommate- Angela. She was always taking my open bottles of wine out of the fridge whenever I left for the weekend. Apparently she was worried one of her friends from church would come over and think the wine was hers. This was a little bit annoying, but not nearly as annoying as the weekend I came home and found out that she'd used up all of my tequila and rum making margaritas and daiquiris for the guys hanging out at our neighbor's apartment.

I think she was a little bit interested in our male friends. One of them was a devout Catholic. The other one was Mormon. On the surface the Mormon (Jack Mormon that he was) may have seemed like a likely conquest for a good Mormon girl. She maybe should have payed more attention when we called him "my sexually suspect friend." To make a long story short... I don't think either man was likely to convert and become a good prospect for her.

Shoot, my kids have found me and now I must go fix them something to eat. This post has absolutely no deep meaning hidden in it except... I am thankful for the freedom to eat and drink what I wish and enjoy the holiday with family and friends. I am also thankful for Uncle George- bringer of the "good" wine, since my budget tops out at $9.00 a bottle.!

Monday, November 24, 2008


It never pays to think you've outwitted fate. Never. My whole family caught colds a couple weeks ago. Not me. I didn't get sick when they did. They all started feeling (and looking) better and I congratulated myself on avoiding the nasty little germs. Until late last week. This cold has kicked my rear. I look in briefly on my blog day after day thinking that I really need to write something... but the only thought going through my head is: Gahhh (whimpering softly). Today I feel much more human (although I kind of feel sloth-like too).

We went to a birthday party on Saturday. I volunteered to bake and decorate the cake so we had to go. The birthday family was counting on the cake. My children were counting on getting to attend a party. I was hoping there would be nap time at the party and babysitting service.

Good news. The cake was edible and the decorating, while not top shelf, was passable. There was no nap time or babysitter available but my children behaved themselves and blended seamlessly into the brood of wild Indians running about the house and yard. The lamb was fresh (butchered that morning). The food was interesting and edible (featuring Uzbek culinary delights). The party attendees were varied in age and interest. No one's coats/shoes/valued possessions disappeared, never to be seen again, during the course of the event. All in all it was a success.

Sunday I slept. Dave took the kids to dinner at his parents' house and I got to stay home all by myself (with Grandma). It's been years since I've been left home alone (literally). Maybe since I was a good girl and didn't get into any trouble my husband will leave me home alone again sometime (soon, I hope!).

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Still here

I am still here. It may not seem like it since I haven't updated my blog since last week, but I am still here, still reading other people's blogs, still chasing children and cleaning up after puppies. If I could find my camera I'd post a picture of either the children or the puppies, but alas... I think Sam played with it... somewhere.... hopefully somewhere safe and dry.

The puppies turned six weeks old yesterday so I will begin advertising them next week. My goal is to find them all homes between 8 and 12 weeks of age. This week I need to vaccinate everybody and buy MORE food. I cannot believe how darn much food those little dogs go through. It was just last week (I think) that I purchased 60 pounds of puppy food. Tonight it is all gone. Tonight I need to go shopping.

We have a new cloverbud member in our 4-H club. He's going to be taking a rabbit project. This brings our total up to 4 kids with rabbits (confirmed- there may be 3 or 4 others who haven't committed for sure yet). Of those 4 kids, 3 are boys. This is unusual. Most of the time girls in 4-H outnumber boys about 3:1. Girls in the rabbit project usually outnumber boys about 20:1. It also looks as if all three boys may be on the Autism Spectrum. None of us knew each other before the year began. These are random boys who've found their way into our club and into our project. And now 75% of my members are males who most likely have Asperger's Syndrome or something very similar.

It's a very strange world and that small world is still supporting my suspicion that AS may not truly be a disorder or disability. I think that odd parents raise odd children and we should just accept that and stop trying to make everybody "normal." It's not as if the normal's are all that wonderful most of the time anyway. Possibly the scientist's and engineers among us are truly wired differently neurologically and we should respect the difference and quit trying to make them into social butterflies. It's important to have enough social skills to get through a job interview and not offend your neighbors (unless it's necessary to offend the neighbors... some neighbors could use a good offense). It's not really all that important that you can chit chat with strangers who you may never see again.

We all have our strengths and we should play to them. Our weaknesses should not define us or our children. If you have horrible handwriting you probably shouldn't be looking for a job doing calligraphy. If greeting the public is hard for you then a career in customer service probably isn't in your future. However, if as you vacuum the carpet you begin speculating about the volume and mass of dust a career in nuclear science may be in your future. There are always tradeoffs.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Elmer Canfield was my maternal grandfather. I remember him as the kind, gentle, loving man who wasn't quite sure what to do with a little girl... so he taught me to prepare specimens for examination under a microscope. By the time I came along he was a college professor specializing in fungi and forest pathology. Much of our time together involved hiking and being outdoors, gardening, raising hay (literally), irrigating, identifying weeds, riding horses, and looking up to see the airplanes flying overhead.

One of my final memories of him occured on the day he was being sent home from the hospital- to die. He asked us to watch out for Grandma and make sure she was taken care of. He told us, with tears not quite falling from his eyes, that he always believed it was wrong for his bride to have to take out her own garbage. Death wasn't something he feared, but leaving his bride alone was. At the time of his death they had been married for just over 60 years.

Grandma thought his concern for her well being over his own was a little bit silly since there were times even while they were married that she had, for all intents and purposes, been alone. One of the most troubled periods of time was while he was a P.O.W. in Germany. All these years she has kept the telegrams she recieved over the course of the year he was in a prisoner of war camp.

Reading these telegrams reminds me that the veterans we celebrate today are real people. It's easy to take for granted the freedoms we enjoy. Some here may complain of racism, or sexism, or other -isms but in reality we are very lucky to live in the United States. As a parent I hope that none of my children ever have to go to war. I hope that the world is all sunshine and roses and world peace occurs. But we all know that world peace isn't going to happen. There will continue to be times of conflict. Backing down from conflict by compromising whenever other countries don't approve of us is a surefire way to lose the freedoms my grandfather and so many others fought and even died for.

It's our duty to act as stewards of freedom for the next generation. War is ugly. We certainly shouldn't go out looking for a fight, but we can't turn the other cheek when the fight comes looking for us. Too many lives were lost, families scattered, when soldiers fought first to free us from English rule and later to preserve the Union. WWII was not fought on American soil, but our presence there was important in preserving our own freedom none the less. Genocide and tyranny are not small issues to be overlooked in an effort to preserve the peace. Peace gained through pacifism, surrending our freedoms in an effort to avoid a fight, is not peace. It's an invitation for tyranny to come live in our land.

Today remember what was sacrificed.

Remember the men and women who gave up everything to fight for us.

Remember that today you can safely walk into the religious institution of your choice whether it's a church, synagogue, mosque, or fairy circle. Remember that I can write (and so can you) in criticism of our government without fear of reprisal. Remember that we can own firearms to use for procurement of food as well as protection of life and property. Remember that you can choose how to educate your children, how to discipline your children, and how many children you will welcome into your family. Remember that all people are equal in the eyes of God and should be equal under the law as well.

Remember that our veterans are people just like us, with families like ours. They are people who loved as deeply we do, cared as much for their children as we do.

Remember that the men and women who sacrificed for us think our freedom is not just worth fighting for, it is worth sacrificing everything for.


Sunday, November 09, 2008

Is this information relevant?

Last Monday I took Chris to see a pediatric developmental specialist, one of three people in the valley reputed to be accurate at diagnosing autism spectrum disorders. Before the appointment we received several different questionnaires to fill out and return. Chris's school (where he still goes for speech therapy) sent in their own battery of tests and assessments. Everything had to be back to the office at least one week before the appointment. Since we scheduled back in June to take the first available appointment (yes, it was November 3) there weren't many problems completing our paperwork in time.

The doctor spent about 15 minutes interviewing Chris and me and then he looked at his little computer, cleared his throat and said, "Well it looks like Asperger's, although it could be a Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified. Asperger's by definition is not diagnosed when language delay is present..." To which I said, "Speech and language are different things and Chris has never had issues processing language, just forming sounds."

It was all very civil. After making his pronouncement the doctor asked if I had any questions. Of course I did (shocking, no?). I asked about homeschool versus public school. He said it was a personal choice and he didn't have an opinion. I asked about social interaction. He told me that usually he recommended that school was a good place to learn social skills but he understood we were from Nampa... and some schools are better than others when it comes to dealing with developmental disorders.

Hmmm. Isn't it interesting that even the medical community in Boise has heard that Nampa schools are not the greatest? I sit here laughing because I can not count the number of times I've said something to the effect of, "I'd keep Chris in school if we lived in Meridian or Kuna..." It's not that I don't have a great appreciation for the teachers and therapists Chris and Sam have worked with in the Nampa School District. I love them all. To a person they have been kind, caring, compassionate, well educated, and hemmed in by the quirky policies of the Nampa School District.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could just do away with the entire district hierarchy, leaving only the principals and school faculty and staff in place? If that ever came to pass I'd seriously consider re-enrolling Chris in the elemenary school. His IEP team last year recommended that we pursue the option of dual enrollment. He could learn the academic subjects at home where he's less distracted and better able to focus. He could go to school for the part of the day "specials" are taught and do his speech therapy, p.e. (always important, don't you think?), art, music, library, and computer lab. It sounded like the best of both worlds. He'd still get the social interaction (which is only so very important if you have a social disorder) and he'd get to experience some subjects on a scale that I'm really not able to reproduce at home (my form of p.e. is to put in the YogaKids video).

Then the school year started. His therapist reluctantly told me that the district has changed it's policies for this year. Chris would qualify for speech therapy if we used a service plan and said he was enrolled in private school (which homeschool is). Chris could also have dual enrollment and attend specials. He could not be dual enrolled and keep his speech therapy. Does that make any sense to anybody?

The therapist has been working on finding a compromise ever since. On Wed. the psycologist who was on our IEP team recommended I call the district office and start asking questions (I've been pretty passive since I really feed off the energy generated by confrontation... it's a bit addictive so I try to avoid it all together). I called. The lady in charge of special education told me that we'd need to form a 504 team and that if that team determined speech therapy was needed they could write it into the 504 plan (a 504 simply outlines any special accomodations that need to be made within the classroom for the time a student is present in class). Interesting, no? So I called our SLP and passed the info I recieved onto her. She said that is not what the district's been telling her and if they're willing to bend this far she'll confirm as soon as possible and try to get Chris dual enrolled as soon as possible.

So, back to my initial question. Is the diagnosis we recieved on Monday relevant information? I expected that once we had (or did not have) a diagnosis everything would change. And it didn't. The doctor did give me some ideas for curriculum to try and websites to visit to purchase curriculum well suited to children with Asperger's. He told us that Chris seemed to be doing well and to continue with what we're doing and check in again in six months.

It took a long time for me to be willing to go through the testing and get a diagnosis. I was so worried that my child would be labeled and people (especially teachers) would look at him differently. Now that we're homeschooling that doesn't seem to be much of an issue. It also took this long for me to realize the most important consideration when it came to diagnosing my son... a diagnosis doesn't change who his is. He wasn't broken before we had a name to call his quirky traits. He isn't broken now that we do have a name for those silly tendencies like fascination with smells and rabbits.

In essence, nothing has changed since last Monday. There are not a slew of new ideas or people running to show us how to "deal" with this unique child. He's doing well. I guess we'll keep doing what we've been doing... which is loving him and praising him and cherishing him for all the things that make him unique and special. Wouldn't everybody love to have someone in their house with a map of their surrounding permanently imprinted on their brain? Shouldn't we all take time to really smell the flowers (and rain, and wood shavings, and kitchen spices, and crayons, and...)?

Friday, November 07, 2008

We're so racist

Ok, I admit it. We are racist. Color matters to us. No one wants to eat off the pink plate. The yellow puppies get ignored because everyone who visits wants to play with the black puppies. The poor yellow toys and craft supplies get tossed aside in favor of green or red.

In the course of raising our three boys I've always tried to celebrate diversity and emphasize the value of all colors. Despite my best efforts the segregation and downright discrimination continue. It has reached the point that the yellow birthday balloon was popped... on purpose. The green and red balloons were mutilated by cutting their strings off so that other brothers couldn't play with them. Even the favored colors suffer when racism runs rampant.

I don't know what to do about it. My room is a collage of lavendar, purple, green, red, blue, orange, and yes... even yellow. My wardrobe is similiarly diverse (although it leans heavily towards the orange/red/pink end of the spectrum). Never have my children heard me express the opinion that one color is better than the other colors. Never have I rejected an object based on color (and you should have seen some of our early couches!). Yet, the racism persists. I can't even blame it on the horrid public school children (you know, since we homeschool).

Pink plates, cups, mugs, saucers, elephants of the world unite! This favoritsm towards other colors must end! The kitchen cupboard is the first place to begin uniting the color spectrum. Please think of the children.... buy brownish gray sludge colored dishes... they combine the best (and worst) of all the colors!

Seriously, if I have to listen to any more whining about the pink plate I will paint the dishes brown.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Dawn of a New Age

Yikes! It's official. The Democrats pretty much won the entire election. This scares me a bit, not because the President is a Democrat, but because when one party controls the White House and both branches of the Congress it also means they are not far away from gaining control of the judicial branch of our government as well. I would be just as concerned if it were the Republicans in power. It's just not healthy for one political party to wield that much power.

Historically speaking it would have been a major upset if the Republicans had retained control of the presidency. Never in the history of democracy has the current party remained in power when a recession occurred during their term of office. Not just in the United States, but in every democratic country in the world history shows us that the people punish the people in power and move to change everything when election time rolls around. In a time of economic prosperity they reward the people in office and elect them to another term. This holds true whether political policy is shown to impact the economy or not.

Interestingly, we can chart the economy and predict when the next upswing or recession will occur... it doesn't matter who's in office or what the rest of the world is doing... the economy follows the same cycle over and over again. It may vary by a couple years but for the most part we know there will be recessions and there will be times of prosperity. The important lesson we need to take from that knowledge is that the times of abundance will end and the times of trial will end as well. We just need to ride it out, be personally responsible with our finances, and expect the boom and bust trends to continue. Our economy is never static. It's always waning and waxing. Citizens tend to make decisions based on the situation of the moment, not looking ahead to better (or worse) times that are sure to come.

Those who don't understand history are doomed to repeat it.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Happy November!

My eldest child turned 7 on Saturday. It doesn't seem possible that the perfect little being I grew inside me is now over 4 feet tall, weighs close to 70 pounds, knows at least 25 breeds of rabbits by sight, can fix breakfast for the whole family by himself, can diagram a female reproductive tract (don't ask), is conversant on the techniques necessary to revive breech birth puppies and goats that aren't breathing at parturition, builds awesome Lego houses, and can tell highly detailed stories about Mr. Ferret and all his friends.

Both Dave and I had friends who were having fertility problems and so when we got married we decided that it might be best if we started trying to have children soon... just in case we couldn't... then we'd still be young enough to adopt if we needed to. Interestingly, we didn't have fertility problems (except possibly an overabundance of fertility) and the first month we tried the little stick developed two hot pink lines before I even got the cap all the way back on the "absorbent tip."

Our anniversary is November 4th. Chris' birthday is November 1st. When we started trying to have a baby I read that the average couple takes about six months to get pregnant. I figured that six months would give me time to: 1) lose weight; 2) finish writing thank you notes for wedding gifts; 3) unpack all the junk in boxes left over from combining two lives; 4) spend a bit of time alone together as a married couple before starting our family. We started trying in January.

On March 6th, 2001 I was somewhere like day 43 of my cycle. If you haven't recieved a thank you note yet for a lovely present you gave us at our wedding... please accept my sincere apologies for being late and know that we love and cherish the towels/crock pot/bakeware/salt and pepper shakers/blanket/placemats/magnetic letters you thoughtfully gave us as we started our life together. My memory and attention span took a hard hit as soon as I got pregnant and I still haven't found the list of presents and thank you cards. To this day it bothers me because I know some people did not get properly thanked. Thank you.

Chris joined our family a couple weeks early (thank God!). Our lives haven't been the same since. His sincere questions, creative mind and hands, sunny smile, and love of books bring joy to our home every day of the year. I can't even imagine how we'd find anything if I didn't have such a competent navigator giving advice and providing directions to local stores, schools, friend's houses, and churches. The Lego horses are also truly awesome. Happy seventh birthday to my oldest son!

Jake camping in the living room

Jake camping in the living room