Sunday, October 30, 2011

My Paintings at McDonald's

About six weeks ago, Jerry came home from work with an art commission for me. Oh, boy did he ever.

His squadron was hosting a fun run, and they had heard that I was a good artist, so hey, can she paint this logo on a sheet of plywood for the race?

And in his infinite support of his wife, he vouched for me saying, "Sure, she can paint that for you no problem."

Viola. A commission.


This is the sheet of paper they gave me to copy. They wanted the logo, the dude with the bulls, and a few lines of the text. I was sure I could do it.

But then life got busy and I decided not to add anymore to my already overfull plate. When I told Jerry to tell his people to find someone else, he said, "Well, um, OK. But they really wanted you to paint four of them."

FOUR! Four pieces of 4' x 8' plywood. Painted by hand. With script!

No way! No way, I told him! How can I do this with homeschooling, co-op, shuttling the kids to this, that, and the other, and blogging? Let alone having any down time?

No way!


I went for a run and while all of those feel-good endorphins were swimming around my system, I started thinking, which is not always a good thing, "These people sought me out. They had heard of me, approached Jerry on their own, and picked me. ME! What an opportunity! What an excellent way to get my art out there!"

So I said "yes". With conditions.

1. As they weren't going to pay me (most of the money earned during the race was going to a good cause), I at least wanted to be reimbursed the $130 worth of supplies.

2. I wanted to be added to the list of donors. If I were to charge for this, I would have made $500 or more.

3. Jerry would have to help me, and I wanted the wood delivered to my door TOMORROW.

Done, done, done.

Two weeks later and they were finished. First, I measured and drew the background of the logo, then Jerry and Paige used tape to fill in with the grays. Next I drew in the runner and the bulls, and then painted them in. Finally, and this was the hardest step, Jerry and I worked together to make a stencil to spray on the words. That was a royal pain in the patootie.

But I got it done. WE got it done. Each one is almost the same but with slight variations. One guy looked like Wolverine, another looked like a dufus, another looked like he used too many steroids, and the last one was OK. I think this is the OK dude.

I'll tell ya, if I ever see this guy again it will be too soon. I'm actually starting to twitch just looking at him while typing this blog.

After delivery, they put the billboards up around town. Here is one in front of the mall. Look! We have a Marshalls!

And here's another in front of the Mickey D's!

I'll be honest, it sure does make an artist feel accomplished when their artwork is displayed in front of a McDonald's. I don't know about other towns, but Del Rio runs on the Golden Arches.

Overall it was a rewarding experience. I was so busy for two weeks that now, without those dumb billboards to work on, I have all of this spare time. Well, not really. But more at least!

I'm glad I did it, but next time, we've decided, that when he's approached to volunteer my art again, he'll answer with a polite, "Oh, yeah, she's good, but not THAT good. You should find someone else."

Or pay me $500.

Friday, October 28, 2011

We Got a Cat

We have a cat. Kind of.

Ever since we moved in about 7 months ago, we've seen an orange tabby cat creeping around our house and the houses around us. I assumed it was a neighbors indoor/outdoor cat. But then after asking around, I realized that the cat was a stray and had adopted us.

More like adopted our trash cans.

We keep our trash and recycling cans in a specially built enclosure on the side of our house. One day while moving the trash can, I was startled by the tabby hiding behind two extra trash cans we don't use.

I squatted down to get a closer look and....

...BING! Off she went, carreening away into our neighbors tree, and then probably to go hide behind one of our neighbors trash cans. She gets around.

I've seen her a dozen more times, but each time she's alluded my camera. She's one fast kitty!

Finally, after a month of squatting down and speaking nicely to her, she posed for a picture.

Hello, kitty. Nice to see you. Eaten any good rodents lately? Keep up the good work!

Two days ago I found a dead squirrel back there in her hiding spot. Still in her mouth upon further observation. She got spooked and ran away, but I left her the squirrel to come back for. Hey, a cats gotta eat and I ain't feedin' her.

By the next morning the only part of the squirrel that was left was the tail. In FRONT of the trash cans.

I think it was a present to me.

Thanks, kitty.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Where'd All the Birds Go?

Jerry has lost his mind.

Gone. Poof. Nowhere to be seen.

Also nowhere to be seen are our finches. Where did they all go?

We used to have one small "dangler" full of finch food from which 10-11 finches would eat.

But now? Not 10. Not 9. Not 8, or 7, or 6, or 5, or 4, or 3, or 2. Maybe one finch will eat at our feeder.

Why? What happened?

The "dangler" was replaced by a jellyfish-shaped feeder.

There are now four danglers on the feeder and a convenient automatic refilling container on top.

And no finches to eat it.

Where did they go?

Somewhere. Elsewhere. Anywhere but here. When the single dangler broke and Jerry replaced it with the jellyfish, all of the birds flew away.

Can you blame them?

I have a brain larger than a peanut and I'm scared of that thing, too.

But he couldn't replace it with the SAME dangler, he had to get a BIGGER one. A HUGE one!


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Big Dude, Little Umbrella

There's something disturbing about this photograph. It must be because:

a. Jerry needs a bigger umbrella.

b. The umbrella needs a smaller man.

c. It's not raining but full of sun.

d. He's sitting in a N.C. State red folding chair.

e. All of the above.

If you answered "e" you get 100%! Gold star for you! (And $5!)

For some reason I feel like watching Mary Poppins.

Chim chiminey Chim chiminey Chim chim cher-ee! A sweep is as lucky As lucky can be  Chim chiminey Chim chiminey Chim chim cher-oo! Good luck will rub off when  I shake 'ands with you Or blow me a kiss And that's lucky too  Now as the ladder of life 'As been strung You may think a sweep's On the bottommost rung  Though I spends me time In the ashes and soot In this 'ole wide world  There's no 'appier bloke  Up where the smoke is  All billered and curled 'Tween pavement and stars Is the chimney sweep world  When the's 'ardly no day  Nor 'ardly no night There's things 'alf in shadow And 'alf way in light On the roof tops of London  Coo, what a sight!  I choose me bristles with pride Yes, I do A broom for the shaft And a broom for the flume  Though I'm covered with soot  From me 'ead to me toes A sweep knows 'e's welcome Wherever 'e goes  Chim chiminey Chim chiminey Chim chim cher-ee! When you're with a sweep You're in glad company  No where is there  A more 'appier crew Than them wot sings "Chim chim cher-ee Chim cher-oo!" On the chim chiminey Chim chim cher-ee  Chim cher-oo!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Teaching the Elements to Elementary Students

Some elementary schools don't start science until 4th grade.

No science until the child is 9 or 10 years old.

Not in MY elementary school.

In MY elementary school, we do science. We do all kinds of hardcore science.

What can I say, I'm a science junkie.

This year, I decided to "do" science from the micro to the macro. From the small to the large. Naturally, we started with atoms.

Then we moved up from atoms to elements. (Elements are the smallest amount of a substance, like gold or oxygen. Atoms are the smallest part of each element. Picky, ain't it?)

Next we were to start cells and then the human body, so I decided to try and segue the two topics. (Not realizing that I would stick electricity and circuits in between the two.)

After tracing and cutting out the shape of each child's body and taping it to the wall,

I showed the kids what elements made up the human body. They were to find the elements out of a pile of symbols, label the atomic number on each element (how many protons are in each atom)...

...and then glue the elements onto their bodies in decreasing order of prevalence.

Did you know we have nine different elements in our bodies? In an average size adult, there are 97 pounds of oxygen, 15 lbs of hydrogen, 4.5 lbs of nitrogen, 1.3 lbs of phosphorous, 0.50 lbs of potassium, 0.50 lbs of sulfur (pe-ew!), 0.25 lbs of sodium, 0.25 lbs of chlorine, and 0.06 lbs of magnesium.

Phew! We're full of it.

Paige is detailed oriented, kinda like her mama, and decided to go back and add how many pounds of each are in the human body and also the atomic weight of each element.

Instead of being done with school for the day, she did extra work.

That's my girl!

Now go out and play. Mama needs a break.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Paula Piper's Pickled Peppers

It's almost that time of year to put the summer garden to bed for the winter. Gone are the days of hot, summer weather. Instead we're only up to 85 degrees everyday.

Winter is practically upon us! Time to break out the parkas!

But seriously, we really do intend on trying our garden again in the Spring, this time without all of the thrips. To do that, we have to build and then fill with specially treated dirt, the gardens in the fall so they will be ready for the Spring planting season.

That is, February.

Early in the season we lost our cucumbers and green beans to thrips. Then later on, we lost our tomatoes to heat and aphids.

The only thing to survive my obvious lack of gardening skill was the tiny jalapeno pepper plant.

Even though it's still only a small, pathetic little thing, I did just harvest 52 peppers from that tiny plant.

That's right. 52!!

They were small, plump, hot, sweet, and perfect little peppers. All 52 of them.

I know! 52!!!

What the heck am I going to do with 52 jalapenos?

I love the Internet. I really do. I found a good recipe, and with my 52 (52!!!) jalapenos, I made pickled peppers.

"If Paula Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, how many peppers did Paula Piper pick?"



I sliced up those bad boys (wearing gloves, of course), put them in sterilized jars, covered them with a homemade pickling brine, and processed the closed jars for 10 minutes in boiling water.

After all of my hard work, we now have 6 jars full of delicious yet oh, so hot, pickled jalapenos in the fridge.

(Why in the fridge if I sterilized and jarred them? Oh, I'm a freak about botulism. In my other life I was headed into medicine where I wanted to study infectious diseases. In my years of study, I've come to respect the tiny bacteria that causes botulism. With it's nice endospore and endotoxin, I'm not one to play around with it. So what if I didn't process them correctly? I ain't dying over some darn pickled peppers, I can tell you that for sure.)

Moving on......

We have already eaten two jars and I'm relieved to say we are both alive and well.

They are super tasty on homemade nachos, in a breakfast egg and cheese sandwich, and popped into a morning omelet.

And all from my garden!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

I Want a Grape!

I'm competitive. Did you know? I like to put up a good fight for the win. I try my best.

I bet you that we can win the "Who has the Most Spoiled Children in the World" contest.

My winning entry:

Jerry, hand-feeding the baby grapes, because she's too busy playing on the iPad to take a break and get her own grape.



Wait a minute..........



Maybe this is one contest I shouldn't want to win.

But, whatever!


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Mommy - Adventures in Parenting and Great Savings

A few weeks ago I was contacted by a new website, Mommy Page, and asked if I would be interested in giving an interview for their Mommy Blog section.

Sure, I'm a mommy. I blog. Let's go!

My interview with Mommy Page airs today, so if you get a chance, hop over and see it!

Until then, here's a little blurb about Mommy Page:

I am delighted to welcome Sarah Abfalter from as a guest blogger.

We’ve just launched a new site, MommyPage, to bring expectant moms, new moms and veteran moms a single source to all of the deals, coupons and savings opportunities offered online!

Our goal at MommyPage is to scour the internet to find and consolidate the latest free samples, coupons, and special offers from some of the best name brands that moms like us love! When the brands we love most aren’t offering something special – we have a team of moms that reach out to those companies to encourage them to offer something great to our MommyPage Turners! MommyPage currently has found and posted offers such as VTech Kids, Kellogg’s, ThredUp, Baby Talk and American Baby!

Beyond our offers and deals, MommyPage helps all moms navigate their way through parenting. Our community of moms share stories on buying maternity clothing, healthy eating for two, baby behavior, first day at preschool and more! Being a mom is about managing a home and lifestyle. With our tips on parenting and access to savings – we hope to help moms make parenthood a successful adventure!

We hope that you allow us to join you in your adventure in parenting! Visit our Mommy Page today.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Jerry Fixing a Car

Once upon a time, Jerry had an old Datsun 240 Z. That's a car, by the way, for those of us not in the know. Or in the care.

It was a 1972, or something, and he bought it from his brother when he was a teen. By the time he was out of high school, Jerry had completely rebuilt, re-painted, and re-everything-ed his Z-car. All by himself.

To say the least, he is quite a genius when it comes to fixing car engines, transmissions, and carburetors. Whatever those are.

He used to work on navel-high workbenches, full of tools, equipment, spotlights, and space.

Now, his workbench is a Little Red Wagon. A little red Radio Flyer.

I wonder what an 18 year old Jerry would have said if you were to tell him that one day he would repair car parts while sitting on a plastic patio chair, working from within the wagon of Radio Flyer.

I guarantee you that I would not be able to write in this blog the swear words he would have said hearing that bit of prophesy. This is a family blog, after all.

He had quite a sailor's vocabulary back then.

But I bet he would never have pictured himself sitting side-by-side with his son, teaching him how to fix cars, and spending quality time together getting grease beneath their fingernails.

Some things just have to be learned through experience.

It seems Josh is well on his way to becoming a grade A mechanic.

Or plumber!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Observing Biology

It had to happen. Eventually I would have to start blogging about homeschooling. After all, I spend most of my week planning, teaching, and whining about homeschooling.

No, not really whining. Truth be told, other than a few times per week when I want to go off, and as my sister says, become a potato farmer so I can be by myself, I really do enjoy homeschooling.

"Home educating". That has a much nicer term.

A little less Children of the Corn image-inducing.

I happen to find other home educators blogs very informative when I need suggestions for a project or teaching technique, so I've decided to add into cyberspace my own tiny tidbits of teaching tricks.

That, by the way, is an alliteration, when all of the beginning letters of a sentence are the same.

In case you wanted to know.

Our co-op meets once per week for classes. For our bi-weekly "core" classes, I teach the 8+ years old experimental science class. For our first class, I wanted to really get the kids attention, get them excited to come to co-op, do science, and enjoy homeschooling.

In other words, I wanted to bribe them. No, entice. I wanted to entice them.

What is the weirdest thing you've ever had on your table?

For me, it was 15 Mason jars full of goldfish.

Yep. Real, live goldfish. These swimmers were a whopping 38¢ from Wal-Mart. My plan was to teach the scientific method using these fish, testing what type of food they would eat; flake or pellet.

They also learned the difference between subjective and objective observations. (Subjective observations are based on opinions. "The fish is cute. It is small." An objective observation is based on measurable data. "The fish is 3.2 cm long. The color of the fish is orange with a wavelength of 625 nm.")

So the night before our first class, I had to sort the goldfish into individual glass Mason jars filled with distilled water, poke a hole into the tops for ventilation, and dish out 15 travel cups full of fish food so the kids could feed their fish when they took them home.

Yes, the kids got to bring their fish home. I made some temporary mom enemies that day.

"WHAT? REAL FISH? I thought when you asked if they could take goldfish home, you were talking about snack cracker Goldfish?"

Don't look at me like that, fish. It's not my fault you and all of your friends died within 2 weeks only to be replaced with other goldfish that also died within two weeks.

After this, I had to promise not to send the kids home with anything alive again.


Anything explosive?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Halloweens of the Past

Every child has a Halloween history. Here is ours:

Paige was born in November so she celebrated her first Halloween right before turning one year old. This was the hottest Halloween night on record in NC where we were living, and this costume was made of polyester. She wore it for 6.2 seconds and got hyperthermia.

For her second Halloween, her baby brother had just been born a few weeks earlier so Paige was going solo. But then a wicked storm came through on Halloween night despite having been in a three month dry spell. We improvised and Paige went trick-or-treating through our house as I ran from room to room so she could knock on each door to receive some goodies. She didn't know the difference and we got to keep all of our good candy.

Josh had just turned one and was still a huge beast so we went with the Texas popular football player and cheerleader costumes. We had just moved to Texas from Shreveport so we thought football was a good theme. Oh, and we already had the clothes. The end.

2007 marked the year of the Disney Princess, when all the little girls on our street dressed up as one princess or another. So naturally, Josh went as Superman to keep them all safe. He succeeded.

The following year, with Josh 4 and Paige almost 6, Paige went as a Disney Princess, again, while Josh was determined to go as a wasp. Well, sorry buddy, but Wal-Mart was fresh out of wasp costumes so he got to be a spider instead.

Phoebe was around somewhere, too young to participate. I'm a cheap party pooper. If they have to stay in a stroller the whole time, they don't get any loot. Or a costume.

Here is Phoebe's Halloween debut! She was a year and a half old and dressed rootin' tootin' cute in a pink cowgirl outfit. Paige and Josh, having never even seen one before on TV or otherwise, decided to both be Power Rangers. I don't even know how they knew about Power Rangers. That, my friends, is one show I simply cannot handle watching. Too much bad acting, Hi-yah-ing, and weird characters.

And last year. Ah, last year. We were living in a tiny apartment in San Antonio for a few months. Somehow, apartment living is just not very enticing to go trick-or-treating. But Paige went on with the show and was an angel while Josh went the other direction and went as Death.

Nice, I know.

And Phoebe? She could never decide on a costume at the store so she was happy to go as her Aunt Mimi in one her Mandy's old leotards. They made quite a show.

And what about Belly? She won second place in the best dressed dog contest. She's a winner!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

National Anthem

On an Air Force base, every day at exactly 1700, or 5 pm for you civilians, the National Anthem is played over the loud speakers. When that happens, you are expected to respect the song and do one of the following:

1. If you are outside, you must

a. Stand up, face a flag, or at least toward the center of base where the flag is being lowered, cross your heart and stand still. Singing along is optional.

b. If you are in uniform, you must come to attention and salute the nearest flag, or in the general direction of the center of base where the daily flag lowering ceremony is taking place.

c. Hurry inside at the very beginning notes of the song so you don't have to stand there and get assaulted by flies.

2. If you are inside you must:

a. Stay inside until the entire song has finished playing.

b. Open a fresh bottle of wine because it's now happy hour!

3. If you are driving on base you must:

a. Pull over to the side of the road and remain stopped until the end of the song.

We've been working with the kids for years to know what to do, and what not to do, while the National Anthem plays. Phoebe is still young so she will occassionally go outside on purpose as the song begins so she can stand still, heart crosses, and try to sing along with the orchestra.

Sometimes she gets it. Sometimes she doesn't.

But what they haven't figured out yet, six months later, is which direction to face during the song:

If you don't know which way to face, chances are you'll be right some of the time if you keep changing directions.

Now, play ball!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Dogs in Bags

On my way to Florida last month, this little bundle of nerves was a fellow flier on my United flight.

She lived in a vented soccer bag. She had on a pink sweater. Her "mommy" swaddled her in a pink blanket and sang it lullabies.

She drank out of the cap of the Evian water bottle her "mommy" carried around for her.

Her "mommy" shared the same bottle of water. The "daddy" didn't.

All I know is that if I tried snuggling my Dane next to my chest I would suffocate. And then Jerry would divorce me.

The end.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Sand in Your Toes

Sometimes when you have your day wrapped up and nothing much else to do, it's nice to get out of the house and go to the beach.

But wait. That's right! We live in the middle of the desert with the closest beach 300 miles away!

Well, what is a mom if she is not creative?

I give you:

Laughlin AFB Public Beach

It may not have lifeguards.

It may not have lounge chairs or seagulls.

It may not even have water.

But it's a big pile of sand for the kids to run around in, make sand castle, and have a blast.

And even though this is a different kind of beach, it's still good for the soul to get your toes in the sand every once in a while.

And when you lean back and look up over the top of the houses, this is the view that makes it all worth while:


Even Eleuthera can't complete with the sky down here at Laughlin AFB Beach. What a day.....

Friday, October 7, 2011

Keys to Happiness

What are the keys to happiness? They are really quite simple:

1. A warm lap to curl up in.

2. A friendly face to smile down on you.

3. A gentle hug and words of encouragements.

4. A loving word and sense of security.

5. And a giant-sized tub of cheese balls.