Monday, December 30, 2013

Full Circle

Along time ago in a land called Kansas, Ben had two best friends - Katee and Jack.  The three of them were thick as thieves and hung out together daily.  All three were homeschooled, they all lived right next to each other, all their fathers were Army, and they all attended the same church and youth group.

When we found out we were moving to Hawaii, Ben was incensed because he didn't want to leave his friends.  He wrote a post on Facebook about not wanting to move to a stupid island in the middle of the stupid ocean and how we were ruining his life.  It didn't matter that Katee and Jack were also moving at the same time - one to Georgia and one to Oklahoma - he was going to be the furthest away and couldn't even go on road trips to see them because the stupid ocean was in the way.

He and Jack and Katee have kept in touch although they obviously haven't kept the same level of intensity to their friendship what with five years passing by and none of them being in the same state again.

But Katee only lives five hours away from away from us here in Illinois, and she got married yesterday.  And although Ben lives in Kentucky, he's home for the holidays and he was able to go to the wedding.

Kerry drove over with him for company, while the girls and I stayed home because someone has to walk the dogs.

Kerry got a chance to talk to the father-of-the-bride before the wedding and they were laughing about how we all reacted to each other's kids back in our Kansas days.

The first time Katee showed up at our door to ask if Ben could come outside, the girls came screeching through the house, "There's a girl at the door asking for Ben!"  We all went to the door to look at her.  She probably felt like a fish in a bowl, but we were all flabbergasted.  This had never happened before and we weren't sure what to make of it.

Katee's dad told Kerry a similar story yesterday, one we'd never heard before.  He told Kerry he'd liked Ben from the first time they met because Ben passed the "knife test".

Apparently the first time Ben showed up at their door, Katee's dad had just received a new hunting knife.  It was really long and he just happened to have it in his hand when he answered the door and found a boy there asking for his daughter.

Without preamble, he held the knife up and said, "This knife could go all the way through you."

 "Yep, it probably could," Ben replied cheerfully.  "Can Katee come outside?"

Saturday, December 28, 2013

RaNdOm CoNvErSaTiOns with Emily

Emily and I went shopping at the mall before Christmas.  At one point, I wanted to buy something for her, so I sent her out into the mall while I waited in line to make the purchase.  I just told her to keep in touch with me through texts to let me know where she was so I could catch up with her when I was finished.

Super Smarty Pants

Once again Emily has proven her intellect.

We received her PSAT scores in the mail recently and she rocked it, of course.

92nd percentile over all with 97th percentile in Writing Skills and 94th percentile in Critical Reading.

Yay, Emily!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Man Cave

This made me laugh -

Ben's girlfriend posted on Facebook:
Why do so many men feel like they need a "man cave"?  What about working women?  I want a cave.

Her father responded:
I don't need a cave, the world is my playground.

Ben then responded:
I take my manliness with me everywhere, rendering the cave unnecessary.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Cheer!

Merry Christmas!

Bringing a little Aloha to Illinois!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Truth At Last

Seven years ago, we were living on post at Ft Belvoir, VA.

One day, a hole mysteriously appeared in the wall over the sofa.  No one knew where it had come from .  All three children denied knowledge of it.  The hole stayed there until we moved.  Only it knew why it had appeared and it wasn't talking.

Yesterday, we were all sitting around talking and laughing and out of left field Ben suddenly says, "Oh yeah.  You know that hole in the wall in Virginia?  Yeah, that was me.  I guess it's been long enough that I'm not in trouble now.  I was playing with the dogs and my elbow hit the wall and it just caved in."

Kerry and I looked at each other and then at Ben, "Yeah, we always figured it was you.  The girls weren't known for flinging themselves around hard enough to knock holes in the wall but we didn't want to call you a liar."

Mystery solved seven years later.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Towel Pants

Katie came schlepping over to me after her shower still wearing a bathrobe and with a towel wrapped around her hair.

"You know what I'm going to invent?" she asked me.


"Towel pants.  When you get out of the shower, you could just pull them on and they would dry your legs so you wouldn't be walking around having water still dripping down your legs!"

I looked at her for a moment before I said, "I just use my towel and rub it all over my legs to get all the water off."

"I'm a busy woman, mother," she told me loftily.  "I don't have time for that!"

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Yep, we have got some serious snow coming down here.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Play, Play, Play

Our homeschool co-op produced three plays this semester.  Katie and Emily were each in two of them.

Emily was in "The Great Pandemonium", a play about a high school play during the tech rehearsal.

 She played a cheerleader who was standing in for one of the main characters who couldn't be there.  When she wasn't speaking, she pretended she was texting - but she wasn't pretending.  She actually updated her Facebook page while she was on stage during the live performance!

 Katie was in a play called "Goody Grissom" which is a folk tale set in prairie times.

 Katie played a young mom with a very sick child.

Totally weird to think of my thirteen year old playing a mother!

 Then both girls were in "Light in the Library", a story about two girls who get locked in the library overnight when characters from books come to life.  Katie played Alice in Wonderland and Emily played the librarian.    I somehow missed getting a picture of Emily as the librarian!  I wasn't at her dress rehearsal and we can't take pictures during a live performance.  If it turns out someone got a picture of her backstage, I'll add it on later!

Friday, December 6, 2013


Emily's a genius.  I've said it before and I'll say it again:

She's had the highest score in every class she's ever taken.  She has a fabulous philosophy that if anyone else in a class is doing well, she must crush them with better scores.

She's been writing full length novels since she was eleven.

She made the highest possible score on the Language Arts portion of the college entrance exam when she had only just completed tenth grade.  There's only one score you can make to be able to skip ENG 101 and she made it.

She's been taking an upper level Shakespeare class at the local community college and although we don't have her final grade yet, she's relatively certain she's made an A+.  She's also the only student to have not missed a single class and to have turned in every assignment.

But unfortunately, with all that brilliance bouncing around in her noggin, she occasionally looses her mind and usually at the worst possible moment.

Yesterday, we went to the college to register her for next semester.  Last semester, Emily had just taken the placement test and the counselor we saw was completely blown away by her scores and raved to us about how brilliant she is.

This time, we saw a different counselor, who had not seen Emily's scores and didn't even know that she had already taken the placement test.  She only knew (after I told her) that Emily is a homeschooler who has already passed all the requirements for dual-enrollment.  Side note here:  for dual enrollment, the college requires a form signed by the student's high school principal, teacher, and parent.  So I have to give them a form signed by me, me, and me.  *snark*

The counselor, who doesn't know if Emily is smart or has social skills what with her being homeschooled and all, hands Emily some papers to fill out while she looks on the computer to find a history class that will fit our schedule.

Emily looks at me and says, "What's our phone number?"  I tell her and she writes it down.  To be fair, she hardly ever uses our home phone number.  She does have all of our cell phone numbers memorized.  I still have to stop and think for a moment to remember what our current home phone number is.

Then Emily can't remember her social security number and rather than dig out her ID to get it, she tries to read her social security number upside down off the papers the counselor is looking at.

Then she asks me what county we live in and I tell her.  We move a lot and frankly all of us have trouble remembering what our current zip code is, much less what county we're in.  But I'm aware at this point that the counselor might be wondering why Emily doesn't know basic information that most college students probably have memorized.  I smile weakly at the counselor hoping we were past most  of the items that Emily is suddenly having trouble recalling.

Then with a nervous laugh Emily looks at me and said, "Umm.....what year is it?"

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Bad Omen

My fortune cookie was empty.  That's ominous.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Whizzah? Whazzah?

I went in to Katie's room to see what she was up to and her arms were on backwards.

Monday, December 2, 2013

A Long Trip

On Sunday, we had to take Ben back to college.  Kerry drove, but I went along on the trip so I could have a little more time to talk with Ben.  He's usually quite entertaining and I enjoy hearing all the details about his life at school.

The trip wasn't as scintillating as I had hoped.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

When The Cat's Away, The Mice Will Decorate

When Kerry and I are home with the girls, they play on the computer and I have to remind them to do school, clean up after themselves, and breathe basically.

When Kerry and I leave the girls alone for the day......

They decorate the house with lights, make a paper chain and decorate the ceiling fan with it, and bake cookies from scratch.

I think I'll go out more.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Author! Author!

November is National Novel Writer's Month.  Emily loves to write and has participated in NaNoWriMo for six years.  She has actually completed two full novels and reached her word count goal each year.

Each year NaNoWriMo chooses thirty participants whose novels sound promising, and have professional artists design a cover for the novel based on the author's description.  So this year out of around 200,000 people who entered........

Emily's novel was one of the thirty chosen!!!!!

She was told about a month ago that she was one of the ninety people who made the first cut.  All the cover artists were each given three titles and descriptions to work with.  They had to choose which of the three novels they thought they could best design a cover for.  Only .015% of people who hoped to be chosen were actually picked and Emily was one of them!!!!!


Kierstan Royal, a resident of the Last Colony on what remains of earth, has more or less resigned himself to his fate as a tour guide to the aliens that come to gloat over the wreckage of his home.
But when he and Cinnae Arche-tec, a half-human girl from a drifter colony a few galaxies over, discover that someone is actually planning to blow up the planet, he knows that he has to stop them. Even if he has to, say, stow away on a smuggler’s ship, break into a high-security prison, and get beat up a little… or a lot. Whichever. 
Point is, he’s—oh all right, and Cinnae is, too—going to save the world.
(In case you are wondering, the name "Kamily Bennard" is a amalgamation of "Katie", "Emily", and "Ben" that Emily is using as her pseudonym.)  Tee Hee.


And here is the info on the fabulous folks who designed the cover:

Jenn + Ken Visocky O’Grady are partners in work and life. Jenn is a Professor and Chair of the Art Department at Cleveland State University, and Ken an Associate Professor and Graduate Coordinator in the School of Visual Communication Design at Kent State University. Their work appears in numerous books and magazines, and together they have co-authored Design CurrencyThe Information Design Handbook, and A Designer’s Research Manual (which is suggested reading for the research portion of the Canadian Registered Graphic Designers exam). Through their work, the couple strives to make academic concepts approachable while celebrating the power, impact, and potential of 
good design.  
The pair travel North America as consultants; present workshops and lectures at creative industry events including those by AIGA, HOW, and RGD; and promote the value of design to external groups, like NASA, and the Canadian Institute For Advanced Research (CIFAR). 
Born-and-raised Clevelanders, the Visocky O’Grady’s proudly claim Ohio as home. They’ve been waiting a long time for an opportunity to combine their love of sci-fi, pulp fiction and design (Thanks, NaNoWriMo). 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Who?

Had to laugh yesterday at the conversation between my girls!

Emily and Katie were wondering what our dogs would be like if they were suddenly turned into humans.  We don't squelch imaginative thinking in our school.

They decided that Ringo would be the type to wear a leather jacket and ride a motorcycle.

Katie declared, "Yep!  He'd be a Harley's Angel!"

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Locks of Love

Katie has been letting her hair grown lo-o-o-o-o-o-o-ong!

It was driving her crazy and she was very tired of it, but she was growing it to donate to "Locks of Love".

 Today, it was finally long enough to cut!

 Hair salons will measure and cut the hair for you.  We'd been in a few times to see if it was long enough, but she didn't want it to be super short when she got it cut so we had to let it keep growing.

 She was able to donate ten inches of hair and still have enough left over to touch her shoulders!

Thursday, November 14, 2013


Emily was recently able to attend a homeschool homecoming masquerade dance. 
She only knew one other person at the dance and rather than sit at a table with her one friend all night, she decided she would just cut loose and dance and be crazy and have a good time because no one knew who she was so who cares what they think, right?

Very un-Emily like.

But boy, did that make me proud!

One of the challenges for glasses-wearers is finding a mask.  Most masks can't go over glasses, and glasses don't go over masks.  Luckily, after some research, I found a mask specifically made for people who wear glasses!

And.....since we are talking masquerades and all, here is the masquerade scene from Phantom of the Opera for your enjoyment:

Friday, November 1, 2013


Since Ben is too old to trick-or-treat for Halloween, and he's too far away to benefit from everyone else's candy, the girls decided to send him a candy gram.  

A piece of poster board would have been difficult to mail, so Emily found a piece of cloth to use.  It folded nicely into a box.  We used rubber cement to glue the candy to the cloth - and unintentionally to the newspaper behind it as well as to the dining room table.  We were fortunately able to peel it away from the table, but the newspaper had to be mailed with it.

It says, "Dear Ben,
Last Payday we drove to New York to get you some Turtles that we could teach to Rolo-ver but we got stuck behind a Slowpoke on 5th Avenue and it was only, like, Zero degrees outside and the car Frost-ed over so instead we flew to the Milky Way and Skor-ed you some alien Whatchamacallits.  They said to Take 5 but we only took 3 (Musketeers) because there wasn't room in our car.  Happy Halloween!  Wishing you Extra (Almond) Joy from your favorite Duo of Airheads - Emily and Katie

At the bottom, the girls glued a Nestle Crunch and a Now & Later and wrote, "These are from Mama and Daddy!"

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


Wow, have arcades changed since I was kid.  

I can't remember the last time I took the kids to an arcade.  I know they've been to them before, but it has definitely been a looooong time.  Years.

We found a deal on Groupon where we got $30 arcade cards for only $16.50 (I love Groupon).  I thought it would be something different to do for family time.

When I was a kid, we used quarters in arcade games.  When I got older you had to use tokens.  And the games would spit out paper tickets at you when you finished playing and when you were ready to leave, you could trade in your tickets for a prize.  

I think it was 500 tickets = a green Jolly Rancher or something like that.

Anyway, arcades have come to the modern age.  Now, you give the cashier the amount of money you want to spend, and she gives you a "credit card" with that amount of money on it.  Instead of putting coins or tokens in a game, you swipe  your card through it and it deducts the cost of the game and tells you your balance.  It also saves up all your "tickets" on your card and when you are ready to leave, they just scan your card to find out how many tickets you have won.

This was a particularly cool arcade though with laser tag, mini-golf, a laser obstacle course, a climbing wall, and a dodge ball court with a referee and real rules and stuff.  

When I was a kid, we had to play dodgeball in school for PE some days.  This mostly consisted of 50 or so kids milling in fear against a wall while four football players tried to hit us hard enough with a volley ball to actually crack a rib or two.  

Fortunately, there were so many of us, the first few throws would hit four or five people at a time.  I would pretend that the ball had hit me too - it was hard to tell as it ricocheted around who all had actually been hit - and I would go sit on the sidelines and chat with my friends until the teacher made us all get back up against the wall again.  

Nowadays, dodge ball has teams and you can throw the balls back at the people throwing them at you.

But we didn't do any of those cool things at this arcade.  I actually did go through the laser obstacle course and that was cool.  But our particular deal did not let us do the other cool stuff, so we just got to play games.  Which frankly was still a lot of fun!

Kerry enjoyed war games where he could shoot people.

And he taught Katie how to shoot as well.

Emily and I enjoyed Ski Ball!

We all liked Deal or No Deal and played it a bunch of times!  We had as much fun making fun of the models who open the suitcases as we did trying to win points on our cards.

The most hilarious moment was when I spotted a Guitar Hero game.  

"Let's play that," I told Kerry.

"I don't know how," he responded.

"Me either.  Let's play it anyway!"

We each picked up a guitar and tried to figure out how this game worked.  Apparently, you are supposed to pick a character to represent you during the game.  Unfortunately, neither of us could figure out how to scroll through the characters or choose one.  I wound up being a huge overweight Gene Simmons and Kerry wound up being a pink-clad rocker chick.

We had a general idea that we were supposed to push the colored buttons on the guitar neck as the colored dots showed on the screen.  I was pushing them in time to the beat, but nothing was happening.  After a few stanzas of an 80's rock tune, we finally figured out that we were supposed to hold down the colored button with our left hands and strum with our right thumbs in order to actually get points in the game.  This required way more hand-eye coordination than either of us possess.

Suddenly two 10 year old boys materialized on either side of us.  

"What are you doing???"  "You missed a power-up!"

"What's a power-up?"

"That thing you just missed!!"

They were horrified that we were wasting a perfectly good game by playing it so badly.  I was laughing so hard my sides hurt.  We could tell they wondered why two old fossils like us were pretending to play guitar.

When we were done they practically ripped the guitars our of our hands, strapped them on and started playing.  

Kerry and I wandered off snickering to find an old fogey's game.

And Kerry killed aliens.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

American History

Katie is currently studying the Revolutionary War at the Mama On The Move Academy For Exceptionally Gifted and Talented Children of Dizzying Intellect.  I was asking her questions about the material she had covered today.

"Where did the American army corner the British in 1781?"  (The answer is Yorktown, in case you don't know - although you should.)

" was that port town.  I can't think of the name."

I gave her a big hint, "Well, it sounds like 'port town' but it starts with a 'Y'."


Monday, October 28, 2013

Can't You Smell That Smell?

On our trip to Florida, we pulled in at a service station to gas up and get a snack.  The girls hurried to pick out a drink and a snack while Kerry filled up the car.

I was trying to find the snack and drink Kerry had requested as well as find something for myself that wasn't gross when Katie asked if she could get some beef jerky as her snack.  Sure, no problem.

It wasn't until I had checked out and my brain registered that the snacks seemed to be awfully expensive that I realized something was amiss.  I looked at my receipt and realized Katie's beef jerky was seven dollars.

"Katie!  You picked out a seven dollar package of beef jerky??"

She looked horrified, "I didn't know it was that much!"

"You should check the price when you choose something.  Don't just take it and assume it's the same price as a Slim Jim!"

When we got in the car, I told Kerry about the price of the jerky.  Then Katie asked me to help her open the bag.  As I pulled the bag open (and it was a small bag, not seven dollars worth of jerky in my opinion) the smell of expensive jerky wafted up.  "Ugh, it smells like Alpo," I thought.

A second later Katie said, "All right, who farted?"

"That's your seven dollar jerky," Kerry informed her.  "They should have called it butt-jerky instead of beef-jerky!"

Thankfully it tasted better than it smelled!

Saturday, October 26, 2013


What we did in Florida:

And then we went to a surprise party.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Road Trip

We went on a spur-of-the-moment road trip to Florida.

Rigger and Ringo knew something was up as soon as they saw the suitcases.  They are so pitiful, standing by the door with their ears and eyebrows raised.  They know suitcases mean we won't be home for a while.

After we loaded the suitcases in the car, we decided to walk the dogs.  When I held up the leash, Rigger came running to me high-stepping like a prancing pony.  His excitement was visible in every muscle of his body.  He thought  he was going with us.  Ringo was excited as well, but he contains his enthusiasm better.

Usually when we take the dogs out, they head straight for the curb.  That's where all the dogs who are being walked around the neighborhood leave their scent.  Our dogs usually drag us to the curb so they can leave their own scent in response to the other canines.  The edge of our yard is the Facebook of the dog community.

This time however, our dogs headed straight for the cars in the driveway.  Rigger nearly took me off my feet.  They circled each of the vehicles, looking for a way in.  "How are we supposed to go with you when we can't get it??  Open a door!"

We tried to entice them over to the grass to use the bathroom, but they were having none of that.  "Car, suitcase, car, suitcase....let me in!!!"

We decided to load them up in the van and go for a quick drive around the block.  This has worked in the past especially well with Rigger.  As long as he gets a ride in the car, he's happy.  He doesn't care how long it is, a ride is a ride.  And he usually forgets that there was a purpose to the whole thing.  So we loaded them up, I drove around the block with them and came back home.  Ringo hopped right out.  Rigger sat down in the back of the van and refused to budge.

Have you ever tried to move a 160-pound dog who doesn't want to move?  It's not easy.

I was really surprised he caught on to our little ploy.  Rigger's sweet but he's never been the sharpest knife in the drawer.  Ringo is the one who's scary smart.  But this time Rigger was the one who caught on to our little trick.  Kerry pointed out that many people who lose one of their five senses often develop heightened awareness in their remaining senses.  Apparently since Rigger recently lost a major favorite body part (he still looks baffled when performing his daily cleansing routine), it's heightened his intelligence.

Kerry finally managed to haul him out of the van and actually managed to shut the rear hatch without harming Rigger who was trying to get back in before it closed.

We made it to Florida and back, the dogs were delirious with joy when we returned (someone stayed at the house with them while we were gone) and they apparently will not require therapy to overcome the trauma of being left behind.

I think they might pee on our suitcases the next time they see them though.

Monday, October 21, 2013

For Want of a Key

Emily is making a bug collection for Biology.  We have often stopped everything we are doing to capture a bug without squishing it.

Last week, we were heading into the Red Cross building to check on a babysitting course.  As we were about to open the door, Emily spotted a wasp flitting around.

"I need the keys so I can go get a container out of the car!" she screeched,

I handed her the keys and Katie and I waited for her to run back to the van where her tennis ball container was available for bug holding duties.  I was not thrilled about deliberately taking a live wasp in the car but felt like it should be okay as long as no one accidentally knocked the lid off and released an angry wasp in the van.

But as it turned out, I had other things to worry about.

Emily came slowly trudging back from the parking lot with her head hanging low.

"I just locked the keys in the van."

Kerry had to come rescue us and the Red Cross had closed early so we had to sit outside and be eaten by mosquitos until he got there to open the van for us.

But at least she got the wasp.

Friday, October 18, 2013


We had to use a port-a-potty while we were at the Wolf Fest.  That's never a positive experience, but at least one of them was a lovely blue color.

When I came out of it Kerry quipped, "How did you like your journey in the Port-A-Tardis?  It's cleaner on the outside than on the inside!"

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Wolf Fest

We recently headed over into Missouri for "Wolf Fest 2012".

 Kerry's always been fascinated with wolves (and all wild creatures) and I knew he would love, love love this!

 The girls got to pose with the wolf mascot (they were beyond thrilled to be in this photo).

 We got to see some really cool demonstrations.  We watched demonstrations of therapy dogs, sled dogs, dogs pulling carts of flowers, and dogs pulling people on bicycles.  It's amazing really what they can train dogs to do!

 We got to touch lots of animal pelts and skulls.  All the pelts were from animals which had died of natural causes.  No animals were specifically harmed for their pelts, anyway.

We saw plenty of wolves too.  They were behind double fences but we could see them very well.  There were volunteers at each enclosure to tell us about the wolves.  

One volunteer was especially interesting.  She said many animals in the wild will kill or abandon an injured member of the pack.  But the African Painted Wolf will actually care for any member of the pack who is sick or injured.  They once observed a pack care for a wolf who had been injured in an attack.  They kept him hidden and brought him food for months until he recovered.

Now that's a good pack to be in!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Ringo Haiku

Ringo likes to find a nice sunny spot to rest in.  I snapped some pictures of him lying in a square of sun and then told the girls to each write a Haiku about him as an exercise in poetry.

Katie's Haiku:

Lying in the sun
The shadows dance like the wind.
I yawn.  I am tired.


Emily's Haiku:

Why are you asleep
When you woke me up at four?
Die, die, die, die die.