Saturday, February 26, 2011

Baaa...Raaaaam...Eeeeewe: Adventures in Animal Husbandry

Now that there are thin spots in the snow, we can't keep our silly sheep out of the neighbor's alfalfa field.  They wander out there and dig in the snow and munch the crowns off, which we have learned is not a good thing for the alfalfa.  Gayle kindly and patiently informed her ignorant neighbors of this the other day.  So Sorry Gayle.  I don't think we make very good farmers.  But we are learning what we need to know, slowly but surely.

And so we've become more diligent about chasing the itinerant wanderers home immediately when we see them out in the field.  We're getting lots of exercise.  (I should count all that for my ticker!)  I think the sheep have spring fever, because they certainly are frisky.  Butting each other, leaping and kicking their heels up all the way home.

Once they are home, back they go again toward the field.  Sometimes I am sure they are laughing as they make such quick turns on their heels.  They dart off and get around me.  And off they go.  I always start off giving them a wide berth, until I am on the far side of them.  I walk toward them, gathering them slowly, back again toward the house.

They are very curious and friendly, sometimes stopping and facing me as if wanting to start a conversation.  I can get my face right down near them, and we visit a little.  Then I stand up and clap my hands and say, "Go on home, you silly things."  They walk slowly at first, then one of them will start frisking around and soon their heels are up and they are heading every which way.

Joe had tried rope halters the other day, according to instructions on sheep husbandry sites.  For some reason, his didn't work as they were supposed to.  Probably there are a combination of factors involved: the sheep are not used to the ropes, so are fearful; the wool is long and fluffy; and Joe's hands quickly get cold while trying to work out the unfamiliar process.

Yesterday I bought two sheep halters at Fleet Supply.  Each came with a lead rope that can easily be clipped on and off.  Yesterday Joe went out with Clara and tried to get them on.  I didn't hear the whole story, so I don't know the details, but the halters did not go on last night.

They did, however, this morning, in the 17 below cold.  Well, one of them went on.

Joe was dressed and ready for his Saturday church.  I was sitting in front of my living room window enjoying a quiet cup of coffee before the kids got up.  Out of the corner of my eye, I caught sight of movement outside the window.  When I turned to look, there were the silly sheep going through their waking up routine.

They climbed over the big drift in front of the house and down on to the driveway.  They wandered around a bit, sniffing at the little, uh, items they have so kindly left scattered around the driveway all winter.  Ever so gradually, however, the two animals were working their way closer and closer to the drift at the end of the driveway that separates our yard from the hayfield.

Suddenly "the mood" hit them and they were up and over the drift in a flash.  I  got my boots and coats on and started my wide circuit.  I walked to the southwest corner of the church parking lot before crossing the drift into the field.  I then skirted along the edge of the field until I was passed the sheep.  As I made my slow way back toward them, they stopped and turned back for a little visit, and then I scurried them on their frisking way back across the drift to our yard.

Joe was out by this time and he was waiting in what is supposed to be the sheep's part of the yard.  Joe was baaa-ing at them and when they saw him there, they frisked in his direction.  Joe wanted to start with the ram, since he is the more skittish of the two.  So Joe coaxed him near with a handful of hay.  Just as Joe went to grab him, the ram sensed that something was amiss.  He darted quickly aside and Joe grabbed his wool.  I turned quickly to head them off from the front and ran smack into the branches of a little oak tree, that was sticking up a few feet above the drift on which we were working.  Unfortunately, it has somewhat fewer branches now.  Sorry Mr. Oak Tree.

Meanwhile, Joe was able to hold on to the ram's wool long enough to get twirled around and then swung off into the snow.  There are times a nice solid drift is a good thing.  It may have been a softer landing had the drift not been so solid; but crawling out would have been a longer process.

Out I went again to the hayfield after the sheep, again, making a wide circle around the now even friskier urchins.  It's a good thing I've been practicing running with my "couch to 5K" program, so I was able to keep up a steady jog.  I certainly could not have kept up with the sheep if they decided to really run, but I was getting tired of the whole process by that time, and didn't want to waste any time walking the distance I needed to cover.

Eventually we had the miscreants back in the yard where they belong.  The ram immediately climbed up on the hay bale out of Joe's reach.

I said to Joe, "Just grab the ewe.  It's getting late."

And so he did.  Tackled would be a better word.  Joe was not taking any chances of a sneaky get-away this time.  I handed him the halter and he tried to wiggle it onto her, but little Miss Ewe was understandably frightened of such a thing coming directly at her face.  She was gradually fighting her way out from under Joe.  I quickly grabbed the halter back from him and he reinforced his hold.  I finagled the halter on and tightened up the buckles.

Then I clipped on the lead rope, and tied it to another rope that Joe had prepared around the T-post at the corner of what is supposed to be the sheep pen.  But the ewe was still pretty worked up.  I decided that probably I put the halter on upside down.  The primary difference, is that the big buckle is right on top of the ewe's nose, so she kept seeing it and and trying to back away from her own face.  Perhaps the thinner strip in that location would have been less fearsome to her.

But Joe is a good sheep daddy.  He hugged her and calmed her and spoke sweet nothings in her ear.

Currently she is standing all alone out in the yard, because instead of staying with her as he was supposed to have done, Mr. Ram is back in his favored location between the window wells up next to our house.

Joe is off to church after getting cleaned up and dressed for church a second time.

And Clara and I are on our way out soon to see if we can finish the job.  I'm not sure I'm brave enough to tackle a sheep. But I bet Clara is. She is our animal lover and she takes very good care of all our pets.

Clara, however, may not have quite enough body mass to hold down the ram, should he choose to frisk, which I'm sure he will.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Day 3, Week 2, Couch to 5K

OK, I must admit, I'm tired of this already.  BORING.  Mostly because I'm stuck to indoor exercise, which I hate, for another few months here.

Next week Connie will be back to her routine after her vacation, so I'll look forward to visiting again during my workout.  I've downloaded the Lestyn podcasts which have prompts to change speed, but no music.  So hopefully I can pay enough attention to hear them, while I yakety-yak with Connie.

Today, in order to keep going and not quit out of sheer boredom, I visualized the 5K I hope to run in Fosston this summer.  I love Fosston.  It's such a pretty little town.  I like the variety of house styles and the landscaping.  It also helps that because of the warmth of the buildings, spring comes there about three weeks earlier than it comes here. 

Today I didn't write down all my stats.  I did the workout, I tried to do 4.6 mph on the jogging intervals and 3.2 on the walking.  I didn't do any extra minutes today, since I'm a little pressed for time. 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Small Schools Strive for Excellence

As long time readers may know, Joe and I made the full transition from homeschooling our kids to enrolling them in the local public schools just last fall.  Some of our older kids had moved to the public schools during the previous years, but we held out with our younger ones until last fall.

I continue to be pleased with our decision.  There are many blessings in being a part of a small community.  I realize that we are remote.  I realize that our communities cannot offer all the fanfare that a larger community might be able to.  I realize that for some young people especially, this may seem like a drawback instead of a blessing.

But from this parent's point of view, the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks.

But small schools have some different challenges to overcome than larger schools do.  Keeping enrollment up is one.  Providing college bound students the options they want is another.

The following is a video highlighting a great option our local schools offer the students here.  Matt brought information about this program home just the other week.  It is appealing to me, because unlike the PSEO program, our kids stay right in the building with their peers while earning college credit.  Mrs. Schue explains in the video the benefits to not only the kids, but also to the school environment.

Again, these are small schools.  Losing the best and brightest young people to other "college during highschool" programs would be a noticeable loss in such a close environment.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Easiest Yogurt Yet

I've been making yogurt for years, but within the last several, I've been getting lazier and lazier about the process.  I realized somewhere along the line that yogurt is a natural thing.  When using a yogurt culture to get the process started, the result is not going to poison you, it might just turn out less good or really good depending upon how you do it.  

In Eastern European and Middle Eastern countries, I've read that the diets include much more yogurt than do our typical American diets.  But it's not generally the sweetened flavored yogurts to which we in America are accustomed.  It is used as an accompaniment, condiment, or topping, similar to how we might use sour cream.  In some areas, they even use it as a beverage. 

I've read that in these regions, they just stir starter into milk and let it sit.  They use the product at whatever stage it's at.  Sometimes more cultured, sometimes less; sometimes tangier, or thicker or thinner.  Besides from cows' milk, it can be made from the milk of goats, sheep, yaks and even camels and water buffalo.

So, if you want to try it, don't be too stressed out by the process.  It's very forgiving.  Just go ahead and try it.

There is a basic process.  But the basic process is easy. 
  • In America, where we are used to thick yogurt, heat the milk to 170-200F.  Some instructions say to maintain that temp for 20 minutes.   Allegedly, the higher the temp and the longer it's maintained, the thicker the yogurt.
  • Let it cool to 110F.  
  • Stir in your culture, about 1 c starter to 1/2 gallon final product.  Any store bought yogurt that says it has live or active cultures will work for starter; I use Dannon Plain when I need fresh starter.  Once you make yogurt, you can just use your own yogurt for the starter.  Starter can be frozen and used later.
  • Maintain the temp at 110F for six to eight hours.  
Tada!  You will have yogurt. 

That's the "correct" way to make yogurt. For my easiest yogurt yet method, you'll have to read on, through all my tips and mistakes, etc.  It's waaaaay at the end.

Before I had a yogurt maker, I used quart jars in a gas oven, using the heat from the pilot light to keep it warm. Then we moved and I had an electric stove, so lost my pilot light. 

There are many recommended alternatives to an "official" yogurt maker.  Warm water in a beverage cooler, with a quart jar within; setting your container on a heating pad, and wrapping it with towels; using a crock pot to heat the milk, and after it cools and you've added your culture, just wrap the entire thing in a baby quilt...I'm sure there are many other methods.

I eventually got a very nice yogurt maker as a gift.  And I used it faithfully.  As the family continued to grow, I bought another at a second hand store and used them both faithfully.  But eventually our yogurt needs outpaced the little jars.  We use a significant amount of yogurt, so it's just easier to have it in bigger containers. 

I go through stages during which I just buy it, always in the big quart sized containers of plain yogurt.  Usually three or four of them at a time.  Only for a vacation treat or when I have to pack lunches for the kids during our church's VBS, do I buy the sweet, flavored stuff.  I know, I'm a hard Mama.  "We never get anything good," my kids tell me.  So be it.  "You'll thank me for it someday."

One time, however, when I was still using the little jars and the "official" yogurt maker, I had warmed about a quart too much milk.  So I poured the extra into a jar and figured we'd use it for a Yo-J type drink if it didn't thicken.  But guess what.  It thickened just as well as the stuff in the little jars at the "official" 110 degrees for six to eight hours.

Eventually memory of that accident led to my current yogurt making system.  We prefer our yogurt thick, so I generally heat the milk first.  But that's about the only "rule" I follow.
  • I usually fill up my dutch oven, so I suppose that's 5 quarts of milk, or so.  But I don't get too particular about amounts or the the heating process.  
  • I set it on low and after it gets a little foamy I turn it off.  With the volume of milk and heat setting I use, it probably takes an hour or so to get the frothy look .  
  • After it cools to blood warm, I stir a ladleful of milk into 1-2 cups of  starter culture.  
  • Then I wisk the starter/milk mix into the milk in the dutch oven.  Sometimes I run the immersion blender through it if it doesn't seem to want to mix in well.
  • I put the lid on and let it sit until I feel like dealing with it.  Sometimes it's overnight.  Sometimes it's a couple of days.  
The result might be a bit thicker or thinner; it might be a bit tangier or sweeter.  Because I'm not very consistent, my result is not either.  But it works for me.  The higher proportion of original culture you use, the faster it will culture.  The riper the yogurt is, the tangier it will become.  The warmer your home, or the location in which you culture it, the faster it cultures.

In case anyone wants to try not heating the milk first, I've also gone through stages of skipping that step.  This also makes a tasty yogurt, but not thick.  It's about the consistency of heavy whipping cream, but tastes like yogurt.  It has the same pro-biotic properties as yogurt. We drink it from a juice glass or pour it over oatmeal or other cereal.  But it's definitely a pouring product.  It is a bit clotty, so if that turns you off, you can whip it with an immersion or regular blender.  This will result in a silky smooth beverage or topping. 

So, in short, don't be intimidated by the process.  It's very forgiving.  There are as many right ways to make yogurt as there are people who make it.

Day 2 of Week 2, Couch to 5K

I was kind of wiped out today.  Low grade asthma, I think.  I felt out of breath much more easily than I should have.  It took me the entire 2 min. of walking interval to catch my breath after each jog, and usually it's just a matter of maybe 10- 20 seconds.  So each time I caught my breath it was time to go again and I just wasn't feeling motivated for that much cardio intensity today. (The Couch to 5 K narrator on my podcast advises keeping your jog slow enough that you can carry on a conversation; I don't think I could have done that even during my walks today.)

I took everything a bit slower than normal, plus backed down even further for the last two intervals.  That was kind of a bummer for me, but as least I didn't stop all together.

Today I did

  • 5 minute slightly less brisk warm-up walk @ 3.2-3.3 mph
  • six 90 second jogging intervals @ 4.6 mph (dropping to 4.4 mph for intervals 5 & 6))
  • five 2 minute walking intervals @ 3.2 (dropping to 2.7 mph for the last two)
  • 5 minute cool down @ 2.7 mph
According to the tread mill, I covered a distance of 1.76 miles and burned 226 calories total, of which 70 were fat calories.  It took me 29 minutes.

I also did

  • two sets on the Nordic rider, 50 in the pulling position, and 25 in the pushing position, each set; and
  • 10 minutes on the Gazelle, one set of 20 in each of 5 alternate positions, three sets of 30 in each of 5 alternate positions, and however in the "fast" position I needed to get the 9 minutes.  I didn't count them.

Two Year Olds, Second Breakfast, and Coffee Breaks

A conversation with Inge this morning:
Mama: Let me get your diaper changed, Sweetie.
Inge: Nooooooo.  I noooo biper change!
Mama: Do you want to get a sore bottom?
Inge: Nooooooo.  I nooooo sore bobbom!
Mama:  Then let me get your diaper changed.
I then grab her and start the business.  During the entire ordeal, Inge argues in the way only a two year old can:   Nooooo,  nooooo, I nooooo want biper change!  I nooooo want biper change!

Do we see a theme here?  Yeeeeeees!

Sometimes my little ones are not hungry yet when they are woken at 6:30 for our family breakfast.  I usually just leave their food on the table for the mid-morning snack they generally need.  I've taken to calling it second breakfast, in the spirit of Tolkein's Hobbits.

Today, by mid morning, I had finally summoned the energy to get rolling and get the left-over rice custard put away.  (Thank you to Louisa, BTW, for preparing it last night, for an easy pop-in-the-oven breakfast today.)

Inge came in just then and gobbled her food from earlier.  And then, of course, "Muurrrrrr, Mama, muurrrrrr."  (In case you need translation, this is an adament, "More," in two-year-old speak.)  I was just depositing the bowls from first breakfast to soak in the hot sudsy water, so I told her she had to wait a minute. 

Stella came in, "Could I have some more, too, Mom, since I finished mine like a good girl this morning?"  Well, of course her first bowl had just gone into the sink.

So out comes another clean bowl, along with the left-overs that had been in the fridge all of five minutes.  I got everyone situated and put the food away once again.

Then Donna came in and quickly finished her first serving.  By that time I had wisely removed myself from the kitchen.  So when Donna's inevitable, "Can I have more, Mom?" came, I could holler back, "That's all for now.  It's all put away."  With the additional, "...again," muttered under my breath.

In a loving sort of way, of course. 

And now, my food for thought today, "Is it wrong to need a coffee break first thing in the morning?"  At first glance, the answer is quite obviously an assured, "Yes.  You haven't done anything yet.  What do you need a coffee break for?"

But when I think in terms of the volume of everything in my life, I'm a bit more forgiving.  I get up and immediately get breakfast on for eleven persons every morning.  I rush around making sure six of those persons are ready for the bus at 7:07.

Between breakfast and that 7:07 moment when they all run out the door, the typical cacophony around here sounds something like this, "Find your socks.  Did you brush your teeth? Let me check your hair?  Is your backpack ready? Go change that shirt, it's not appropriate." 

Probably also a, "Mom, I don't have any socks?"  And my reply, "I didn't get them sorted yet, sorry, you'll have to dig in the sock box." (or insert missing clothing item of your choice, and an appropriate maternal response.)

In between the above will inevitably be a couple of older kid concerns, "Mom, I need a lunch for the knowledge bowl meet today?"  Or "Did you sign my permission slip for the ski trip." Or my favorite, of course, "Do you have money for ...?" (fill in the blank with whatever).

And then there's the stuck zipper, missing gloves or hats or snow pants, wet boot liners, etc.

Once they are out the door, I breath a huge sigh of relief.  I only sometimes have energy to clear the table before pouring that lovely cup of soothing warm brew, and settling down in the living room with a good book.

I guess it's not really too indulgent when described that way.

In fact, I think I need another coffee break just writing about it.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Day 1 of Week 2, Couch to 5K

Even without a podcast, I managed to get the first of the week two workouts done.   I got mixed up somehow and didn't realize it until I was nearly done with my cool-down walk,  then I ran two more intervals.  I know I did the six required, but I may have done seven.

The workout is supposed to be, again, a five minutes warm-up; six intervals of 90 second jogs with 2 minute walks, then the 5 minutes cool down.  My order was totally screwy, so I'll just improvise (as I did earlier).

Today I did

  • 5 minute brisk warm-up walk @ 3.3-3.4 mph
  • four or five 90 second jogging intervals @ 4.6-4.7 mph
  • three or four 2 mintue walking intervals @ 3.3-3.4 mph
  • 5 minute cool down @ 3.3 mph at first, then gradually slowing a bit, as I cooled down.
  • two more jogging intervals, the first at a brisk 5.1 mph, the second at 4.5 mph
  • in between I added a 1 minute walk
According to the tread mill, I covered a distance of 1.84 miles and burned 237 calories total, of which 73 were fat calories.  with all the mix-up, that was 30 minutes.

Again, order to get my goal of 40 minutes, I also did
  • two sets on the Nordic rider, 50 in the pulling position, and 25 in the pushing position, each set; and
  • 8 minutes on the Gazelle, a slight variation from my normal, but still the same variation of positions.
I ended up with 45 minutes today.

Hope I can figure out my MP3 player tonight.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Day 3 Couch to 5K

I got through week 1.  We'll;l see how week two goes.  Since my exercise partner returns from vacation on Monday and since I'm using her treadmill, I may wait until the spring weather comes to continue the Couch to 5K workouts.  I'll continue to workout in some fashion, but what method I will use remains to be seen.

But I've proven to myself I can do it and that's a big step for me.

Another thing I noticed today is that the what I had thought was seven intervals of jogging is actually eight.  I've corrected that in the previous posts.

I tried today to pick up the pace a bit.

Today I did

  • 5 minute brisk warm-up walk @ 3.4-3.5 mph
  • eight 60 second jogging intervals @ 4.9-5.0 mph (one was even at a brisk 5 mph)
  • eight 90 second walking intervals @ 3.4-3.5 mph
  • 5 minute cool down @ 3.3 mph at first, then gradually slowing a bit, as I cooled down.
According to the tread mill, I covered a distance of 1.79 miles and burned 230 calories total, of which 71 were fat calories.

Again, order to get my goal of 40 minutes, I also did
  • two sets on the Nordic rider, 50 in the pulling position, and 25 in the pushing position, each set; and
  • 9 minutes on the Gazelle, one set of 20 in each of 5 alternate positions, three sets of 30 in each of 5 alternate positions, and however in the "fast" position I needed to get the 9 minutes.  I didn't count them.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Day 2 couch to 5K stats

I did the walks bit slower today, since I have kind of a sore foot, wimp; but it doesn't hurt when I jog, so I did those a bit faster.

Today I did
  • 5 minute brisk warm-up walk @ 3.1-3.3 mph
  • seven 60 second jogging intervals @ 4.6-4.8 mph (one was even at a brisk 5 mph)
  • seven 90 second walking intervals @ 3.1-3.3 mph
  • 5 minute cool down @ 3.3 mph at first, then gradually slowing a bit, as I cooled down.
According to the tread mill, I covered a distance of 1.71 miles and burned 220 calories total, of which 68 were fat calories.

Again, order to get my goal of 40 minutes, I also did
  • two sets on the Nordic rider, 50 in the pulling position, and 25 in the pushing position, each set; and
  • 10 minutes on the Gazelle, four sets of 20 in each of 5 alternate positions, and however normal position I needed to get the 10 minutes.  I didn't really count them.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Now It's Just the Highs

As a follow up to my previous post, I'm glad to report that, in fact, I am not worse than a couch potato.  (As if that's the penultimate negative status or something anyway.) My competitive nature was a bit fearful of starting from below that level.

I finished the full 28.5 minute workout. 

I did 
  • 5 minute brisk warm-up walk @ 3.3 mph
  • seven 60 second jogging intervals @ 4.6-4.7 mph (the last two weeks did three 0.1 mile intervals at 5.0 mph or a little faster within a 1.5-2.0 mile total)
  • seven 90 second walking intervals @ 3.3-3.4 mph
  • 5 minute cool down @ 3.3 mph at first, then gradually slowing a bit, as I cooled down.
According to the tread mill, I covered a distance of 1.74 miles and burned 224 calories total, of which 69 were fat calories.

But wait, there's more...

Since my goal of 40-45 minutes of exercise was not complete,
  • I did two sets on the Nordic rider, 50 in the pulling position, and 25 in the pushing position, each set; and
  • 7 minutes on the Gazelle, about 50 normal, then three sets of 20 in each of 5 alternate positions, and about another 50 normal.
As my girls would say, (is it from London Tipton, of Zach and Cody fame?) "Yea, me!"

Exercise Highs and Lows

I'm not feeling that proverbial exercise high this morning.  Perhaps because I didn't do anything but sit around over the weekend.  But there's another more psychological reason I'm not feeling it this morning.  I'm procrastinating.  Who, me?  Nah.

I'm supposed to get started on the first Couch to 5K workout this morning.  I've got my MP3 player all loaded and everything.   That was an accomplishment in and of itself.  I should pat myself on the back and get on with it.  I decided on the podcasts by Robert Ullreys.

But in all truth, I'm a bit nervous.  What if I can't even do the first workout?  How pathetic is that?  I don't sit around watching TV.  I'm not a typical couch potato.  I do spend time at the computer and reading and other more sedentary hobbies (such as crochet, lately).  But I don't engage in the quintessential couch potato hobby of watching  TV.

And I've been working out for 5 weeks already.

But what if?  What if I can't do it?  What if I'm even worse than a couch potato?

When I was in high school I'd come back to the dorm from track practice or basketball practice or whatever, even just a good run.  Often I'd do aerobics afterwards.  Or even get up early to do them before school.

I remember one conversation with a friend.  We were wondering how people could possibly get out of shape.  "That will never happen to us."  I got such a rush with exercise, that I really couldn't imagine ever not doing it.

It's easy and fun to exercise when that's all one has to do in one's spare time.  But eventually the responsibilities of adult life drag some of us down.   Gradually severe out-of-shape-ness creeps up on us.

I was at my worst about 5 years ago.  I think it was after John was born, but perhaps it was after Stella.  I had gotten very overwhelmed with life and just wasn't doing anything.  Hadn't done anything for several years.  Except regular life, that is.  I was always nursing a baby or being pregnant, teaching the kids or doing laundry or dishes or fixing meals.  Just holding things together as a mom of seven (or eight) and wife and home educator and pastor's wife.  Just that.

But I hadn't even taken walks for probably a year or more.

I bought myself a beginning pilates video, and Joe and I would go downstairs and pop it in the computer.  We did it early in the morning before the kids were up.  We were so bad at first.  Uncoordinated, inflexible, weak--structurally and cardiovascularly.  Really pathetic.  We just laughed our way through those first few weeks.

But we kept with it.  It was a start.

Now I try to take walks all summer.  I try to keep up with pilates all winter, or some other sort of exercise.  Last summer I even started running again.  Not tons, but a little bit.

And I've been working out consistently for 5 weeks or so, the last two weeks very strenuously.

So really, I shouldn't have a problem doing the Couch to 5K thing.

But I still can't shake that nagging,  "What if?  What if I'm worse than a couch potato?"

I guess the next hour or so will tell.

If I can get going.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Meet the Cowans

From what I can determine, it was in September of 2009, when this video of Marlow and Frances Cowan first "went viral" on youtube.  The following is that original video clip.

I enjoyed this video clip so much I did a little research on the Cowans. They are from Iowa. Marlow is 91 this month. They perform at local functions on both the piano with handbells.

Because of their youtube fame, the Cowans returned to the Mayo Clinic Atrium for a less impormptu performance last March.  The mayo clinic posted a series of videos of that performance.  I've not watched them all, yet.  (I have a somewhat slow connection.)  But I hope to take time to watch them all soon.

Return I

Return II

Return III

Return IV

Return V

Return VI

Return Finale

After that concert in March, their fame continued to escalate and they appeared on Good Morning America last year, in May.  I love their take on life.


Very inspiring.  If only I had that much spunk and such an good attitude at my age, 40 something.  I will aspire to that in my daily life.  I didn't find any more recent news of this delightful couple.  I pray they are well.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

SAHMOSCA The Easy 12-Step Program for Stay at Home Moms of Small Children

By incorporating these easy steps into your daily routine, you too can improve your sense of accomplishment..

Do you ever feel like you don't get anything done?  Are there times you feel further behind at the end of the day than when it began?  Do your kids ever make a mess in one room while you are busy cleaning up the mess in another.

Shake off that futile feeing with this new and exciting "Cross off Your List" system.
  • Step 1:  Get Up.  
This may seem like a freebie, but even this can seem difficult some days.
  • Step 2:  Get Dressed.  
It may be tempting to stay in your jammies.  Then you won't ruin any of your nice clothes with spit-up, jam, or the black lipstick you have to clean up after your little one got into his big sister's room.  But you'll feel better dressed.  Just keep a supply of grubbies on hand to wear around the house
  • Step 3:  Put your Jammies Away.  
Whether under your pillow, on a hook, or in the corner of the closet, have a place to keep your jammies when you're not wearing them.  Your clothes can go there at night, too, on the rare occasions they make it through the day without becoming soiled.
  • Step 3:  Brush your Teeth and Hair.  
You'll feel better, smell better, and you will be less likely to serve your family loose hairs with their meals.
  • Step 4:  Make Your Bed.  
You mom taught you this years ago, just do it.  If you're feeling especially generous, you can even make your husband's side.  :-)
  • Step 5:  Throw a load of wash in.  
  • Step 6:  Feed your kids breakfast.  
  • Step 7:  Do breakfast dishes.  
Right away.  Just do it.  No e-mail or facebook until it's done.
  • Step 8:  Throw another load of wash in.
  • Step 9:  Read a story to your kids.
  • Step 10:  Read another one.
  • Step 11:  Just sit and watch your kids.  
Enjoy their personalities.  Note their small accomplishments.  Thank God for them.
  • Step 12:  Look how much you've gotten done!  
Sit down with a cup of coffee and a good book or your favorite morning show.  Just remember to get up again in 15 minutes or a half hour tops.

Wow, I feel so much more accomplished just writing about it.  I've  got a few more steps to do this morning (I'm not going to tell you which ones) so I better get moving.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Why Parental Oversight is Required

I'm so disgusted with something I discovered last night while dinking around on the web.  But the worse thing is that these things were originally created for MTV, which many children watch unsupervised.  I'm appalled.

I suppose I am a bit naive, since we don't have television, so we don't get to see how far downhill mainstream television content has gone.  But in some ways, that makes it easier for me to notice such demise when I'm confronted with it.  I've written on this topic before.

I'm going to warn you that the following will include some graphic language, but since you may not be as naive as I am, it may not be as graphic as I feel it is.

After hearing the Black Eyed Peas during half time last night, I recognized their sound from my kids' radio listening.  I started loading various music videos that correspond to some of the Black Eyed Peas songs.  I also found corresponding lyrics pages for scan as I listened.

One of the milder songs lyrically, had the worst video of the ones I viewed.  (Well, there was a video I didn't even watch because the kids came in just then.  After all the butt caressing and jostling in the first few moments of "My Humps," I closed that one pretty quickly.  I'm not sure what followed that, um, interesting beginning.)

The video to the song, "I Gotta Feeling," began with gals who appeared to be getting ready to do some streetwalking.  As the video continued, however, it became apparent that they were just getting dressed like hookers to go to a party.  The first minutes of the video showed female singer, Fergie, getting ready for her night out.  Legs in the shower, stopping just short of..., well, you know; front view in nothing but a micro bra and panties, then the back view which was even more micro; then she sits at her dressing table upon which is sitting a little doll dressed in a hootchie mama type negligee. 

After everyone got to the party, there was lots of necking and gyrating, caressing and titillating, between couples of opposite and same gender.  There were scenes of obvious inebriation and/or drugged out behavoir.  Basically a drunken orgy type setting.

I mentioned my revulsion to Joe and he showed me one he has seen when he was in someone's home.  The TV was just tuned to MTV during the middle of the day, at a regular person's home.  This one was Lady Gaga's "Alejandro."  This video was filled with S&M scenes, with scantily clad characters engaged in chaining and whipping and gyrating.

Yeah, say whatever you want about artistic license.  But this junk used to be considered pornographic.  What is wrong with people that they think this is normal?!?  What is wrong with parents that they allow this to be viewed in their homes by their kids?!?

This is deviant behavior.  It is not normal.  Please be aware of what is on TV in your homes.  Please be aware of what your kids are viewing on the TV or computer, phone, ipod...  Please take a stand against this kind of tripe.

Again, this is deviant behavior.  It is not normal.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

My Handsome Oldest Son

Some potential graduation pictures we took over Christmas break.  The first group are from among the set Joe took on his own.  

This one is pretty close to how Jeremy usually looks.  Do we go with the natural look?
Another natural look, but with more distracting wall stuff in the background.
I have a cropped version of this one that's pretty good, but I'd still like to see his eyes.
Too white an glaring.  Makes me squint to look at it.
This second set is after theMom made Jeremy brush his hair and suggested a couple of more uniform backgrounds.  theMom was also engaged in silly antics behind Joe's back in an attempt to coerce Jeremy, who hates to smile for pictures, to be more, well, smiley.

Too much white shirt.  I'll try to crop it.  I love the smile.

Missing an eye.  Looking intrigued.  An oft seen expression.
Again missing an eye. But I like the smile.
I like this one, too.  So hard to decide.
I love the somewhat confused expression on this one.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Bad Car Day

OK.  Yes.  Well.  I had an embarrassing driving day.  Nothing dangerous.  But plenty embarrassing.

I was scheduled to pick up Sophie and some girlfriends from their slumber party this morning south of Erskine, and Louisa had drivers ed in Oklee starting half an hour later.  I might have just made it if I really boogied, but I didn't want to feel rushed.  And I figured I'd probably visit a few minutes when I picked up the girls anyway.

So I arranged to drop off Louisa at Alysa's so she could ride to drivers ed with them.

No problem so far.

I might add at this point in my narrative that this morning was one of those very white days.  Fog here and there, overcast.  Lots of white around.  Really hard to see in three dimensions.

As I was backing out of the driveway after dropping Louisa off,  I kept my eye very studiously on the snowbanks on either side.  What I didn't realize however, was that on the left, the driver's side, as I backed up, the snow at the foot of the snowbank gradually got a bit deeper as it got close to the snowbank.  It all just looked that flat white in the rear view mirror.  Wouldn't you know it, I drove into the deeper snow and got my left wheels stuck. 

I sent Clara to the door to call Louisa out to help me.  She and Karleigh came running out.  I let Louisa drive and the rest of us got behind to push. 

Louisa did such a nice job listening to instructions and giving the car just the right amounts of gas.  I was very proud of her.  We only had to go forward and back once and then she was able to pull forward out of the ledge of snow.  Yeah!  Just in time for Alysa and Dave to come running out to help, too.  I hope you didn't work nights last night, Dave.  All I could think after I saw you come out was, "I hope they didn't wake him."  And thanks to you all for being willing to help.

After something like that, one is always a little shaken up, even if it's nothing really bad.  By the time I got a few miles down the road, my adrenaline levels had returned to normal and we were good to go. 

So I thought.

Sophie's friend, Kia has a driveway with a bit of a drop in it.  Not a very steep drop and really not that long a drop either.   But it also has a curve.  And the two together in a rearwheel drive passenger van, with not much room to work, apparently is not a good mix.  I tried to back out first.  I could tell I wasn't hitting the curve just right, so I came back down and tried again.  This time, when I got to the drop (which on the way out of the driveway is a rise) the wheels just spun.  So I pulled forward again and tried again in a little bit different spot.  No go.  AfFter a few more tries, I pulled back down, resigned to my humbling situation.

Since it was questionable whether I'd have space to turn around even without any other vehicles, I had to run inside and ask the other mom who was picking up her child if she could please temporarily remove her van from the driveway.  If I had had a tail it was pretty far under my legs at this point.  Embarrassing!

Eventually, through a series of back and forths, I managed to get the van turned around to pull forward.  Whew.  A big sigh of relief. 

My sigh was premature however, since much to my chagrin, I still could not get up that little hill.  I still don't know what the problem was.  Perhaps I just didn't have space to get up enough speed first.  Perhaps I had glossed up the surface enough trying to back out that there was no way to get traction.  Perhaps the angle and length of the rise is just the wrong combination for a vehicle the length of mine.  (I'm pretty sure my tires are still good, though.)

As I backed up the final time, thinking I'd have to go in and grovel again, I saw Jeff come out all gloved up and ready to push.  Thank you, thank you.  In no time at all he had pushed me right over the rise and I was once again on my way.

Two pushes in one day.  And I don't think either time was really anything I could have done differently.  I suppose I could have been more attentive at Alysa's, but even so, when everything is all white like it was, one just can't determine the highs and lows in the snow.

Ah well, all worked out and nobody and nothing was hurt.

Except my pride.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The White Witch's Power is Crumbling

Last week the ice covering the roads sublimated in our subsequent cold weather.  This morning's snow and freezing rain, which was very slick on the roads when I left home an hour ago, is MELTING!!!  There are PUDDLES!!! on the roadways and in the church parking lot.
And in that silence Edmund could at last listen to the other noise properly.  A strange, sweet, rustling, chattering noise--and yet not so strange, for he'd heard it before--if only he could remember where!   Then all at once he did remember.  It was the noise of running water.  All round them though out of sight, there were streams, chattering, murmuring, bubbling, splashing and even (in the distance) roaring.  And his heart gave a great leap (thought he hardly knew why) when he realized the frost was over.
From The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

For My Friend

Psalm 3
LORD, how they have increased who trouble me!
         Many are they who rise up against me.
 Many are they who say of me,
         “There is no help for him in God.”  Selah
 But You, O LORD, are a shield for me,
         My glory and the One who lifts up my head.
 I cried to the LORD with my voice,
         And He heard me from His holy hill.  Selah
 I lay down and slept;
         I awoke, for the LORD sustained me.
 I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people
         Who have set themselves against me all around.
 Arise, O LORD;
         Save me, O my God!
         For You have struck all my enemies on the cheekbone;
         You have broken the teeth of the ungodly.
 Salvation belongs to the LORD.
         Your blessing is upon Your people.  Selah 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Driving West to get East?

Remember how Columbus went west to get east?  Today on my way to Oklee, when I turned to head west, I found myself driving southwest in order to travel west.  There was a very strong south wind.  I was in a high profile 12-passneger van. 


Every time I passed a homesite on the south side of the road, I had to quickly re-adjust in order to avoid driving into the left hand ditch.  And then I'd get passed the site and bang, I'd have to re-adjust again to avoid the right hand ditch.

Got my reflexes exercised on the way to town.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Original Poems by John and Me

With all the sickies around here, there is much vying for the spots on my lap.  And although my lap is somewhat more extensive than I'd like, it still cannot always accommodate the lap requirements of the feverish multitudes.

As I asked everyone to be still so I could sneak in a sip of coffee this morning, John's muse overcame him and he spouted the following
If you sit still
You will not spill.

I, still having a hard time totally letting go of the homeschool mentality, grabbed the "teaching moment" to talk about haiku poetry.
Kids on lap sit still
Hot coffee, cocoa, or tea
Will not spill on me

John said it didn't sound like good poetry.  Apparently my muse was insufficient.