Thursday, February 26, 2009

Funny Photo Friday

Potty training was a long, hard road for us. A few days ago, apparently E wanted company in the toilet, and this is what I found when I came in to help her take care of business. She had lifted the lid and shoved her brother's stuffed puppy in, presumably to relieve himself. I did my best not to laugh, as all parents can relate to...this is a promising sign, a toddler teaching a stuffed critter how to use the can! (Visit Expat Yelli for more funny photos...)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Unplugged - Clothing

E and I tried our hands at weaving for this week's challenge. We did not intend to weave clothing, but rather with clothing...reused shreds of clothes that had seen better days. I remembered from an arts fair how to attach lengths of fabric without tying (kind of like how you make a string of rubber bands), so I made us a long strand while E "helped." She thought I was making her a jump rope, which we did try, but no was too light, and baby doesn't know when to jump.

I made a simple loom with a cardboard box and we were on our way. During E's nap, I started weaving just to see how hard it would be...pretty hard. But of course she was eager to join in once she woke up and saw that I had started the "project" without her! She did get the hang of over under, over under, but we did NOT get the hang of how to keep the fabric equally tight between rows. The result was, well, pretty ugly. But one thing I've learned from the Unplugged Projects is, if it's really ugly, just zoom way in when you take your pictures. Everything looks like art if you get close enough. After the fact, we decided it was not an ugly pot holder, it was actually a very nice hand woven rug for the doll house daddy. He is just happy to have something to sit on, since we don't have any chairs for him.To keep with the theme, we also did some dress up, but E is not too crazy about being in costume. So the game was mostly me dressed as a princess (complete with crown...the beaded headband I wore at my wedding) and talking in a "princess voice." Don't ask me what that is, I just tried to sound snooty and said "thou" and "thus." It worked.

Then Daddy broke out a giant pile of CLOTHING so the kids could go outside and play in the snow. I stayed in and did some cleaning...with the TV on. But Daddy was truly unplugged, dragging two toddlers around on a sled through deep, wet snow. Thanks M and thanks Unplugged Mama for the weekly inspiration!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

My JellyBean

We have 3 cats, though a visitor to the house might not know it. We love them, we so love them. But they are now in "isolation", because they were destroying the house. They had marked so many times near the back wall of the living room that we had to rip the carpet out, replace the padding, and have the carpet sanitized on both sides....and you KNOW that they would have marked all over again. It's what cats do, especially when irresponsible cat owners let their pets saunter up to OUR back window to torment our indoor kitties. So Larry is in the bedroom, Mac is in the basement, and Bean travels between the two rooms. It's working...they are well fed, they don't mark, and they seem okay.

We acquired these kittens in very different is the story of Bean.

My last year of field work, I was living in a cabin in the Pigeon River Country State Forest. The nearest town was Vanderbilt, and we often went to Darcy's Bar to unwind after checking traps on the weekends. One night when we walked in, there was a skinny white cat behind the bar. She was sniffing around looking for food, and the bartender said they were calling her "Darcy". I called her over and she jumped into my lap, and fell asleep...purring. Over the course of the night, I endured jokes from one persistent biker dude, who thought it was funny to refer to my "p*ssy." It didn't matter, I was totally in love with that cat. They said she was the bar cat, and that they were keeping her. I left my phone number just in case, and wouldn't you know, they called. "Guess what? The owner said it was a health violation to keep a cat in a bar."

A few days later I was the proud owner of an imaciated one-year old cat that I promptly renamed Emma, until one of my roommates pointed out should be called "Emmet." Huh? Oops. So his new name was JellyBean, or Bean for short. The first night he spent in the cabin, he stood on the window sill and yowled. The next night he invaded the garbage can. It was a rocky start, but once I moved him to my apartment downstate, it was all good. I had him checked out at the vet, convinced him that he wouldn't go hungry, and let him sleep under the covers with me. It's hard for me to believe that that was over ten years ago...seems like yesterday. He's always a kitten to me. :)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Am I a skier?

No, I'm not. I have skied, yes, but I really prefer not to. Cross Country is okay, but I could go the rest of my life without downhill skiing and I would be just fine with that.

Why am I so bad at it? I think it's because I'm scared of speed. You cannot be a good skier if you are afraid to point your skis down the hill. I can only remember one ski trip that was fun for me, and even that one had a little mishap at the end. I think I was in 7th grade or so, and we took a bus up to Belleayre (?) for the day. I did very well in my lessons on the bunny slopes, and was pretty confident going up and down the lift. Granted, the hill was all but flat, but I thought I was pretty hot stuff.

Most of the day, I skied alone, because my skill level was, well, unmatched among my friends (I was by far the worst). Still, I was happy. On the last run of the day I decided to take another route down the mountain. I zigged when I should have zagged. To my horror, the path I chose was a dead end with a funny looking lift that I had never seen before. It was a T-bar. I was get to the bus I would have to take the T-bar to the top and then ski down the main slope. And I was almost late already.

"Okay, I can do this." I got in line for the lift and when the T-bar came my way I did what any normal person would expect you should do...I sat down. The bar of course did exactly what you would expect it to hit the ground. They had to stop the lift so I could roll off to the side and get back in line. The second time the lift operator offered this advice: "Don't sit down." Thank you, really. I tried to stay calm, I tried to relax, but I was starting to panic. When the bar hit my heiny it threw me completely off balance, and I fell again. Again the lift stopped, to the back of the line for me.

After 5 or 6 tries, I started to cry. A very nice mommy-type lady saw me and agreed to show me how to get up the hill. With her help and 3 more tries, I finally made it. My adrenaline was pumping and I just flew down that bunny hill to meet the bus. To my relief it was still in the parking lot idling, waiting for us stragglers. Turns out that adults don't trust 7th graders to be on time anyway. I probably could have made another half dozen attempts before anybody would have noticed I was missing.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Unplugged - Wrinkle

A baby prune is like his dad,
But we ain't got 'em half so bad.
We've got wrinkles on our face,
But pruney's got 'em everyplace!
No matter how hard a prune may try
He's always getting stewed.
Little seed, within a pru-in,
Is it night, or is it nu-in?
Whatcha doin' pru-in, stewin'? Hmmmmm?

This song has been going through my head since I read the theme for this week's Unplugged Project. My sister used to sing it to me...maybe it's a Girl Scout song...anybody know it? So I looked up how to make prunes and raisins, and you either need a food dehydrator or 17 hours in the oven. So I ditched that idea real quick.

Idea number two consisted of wrinkled, wet tissue paper, and allowing the dye to leach out onto a canvas. The only problem we ran into was that we could only find one color of "runny" paper. So that project was, well, disappointing. Idea number three really stretched the theme...we had piles of wrinkled tissue paper, so I started looking up tissue paper crafts. Lo and behold, Tie-dye! The directions are pretty easy, and E had a great time painting with food coloring.
The hardest part about this was waiting until it dried to unfold it. We did about 6 pieces, and probably diluted the color a little too much, but they're pretty, nonetheless. This craft would be good for a variety of ages...the only drawback I can see is that my fingers are still red, two days later! :)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

I Just Can't seem to Get it Right Today

Today was just a bad day. Messing up at work just really stinks, and I messed up several times today. I forgot to change the time for a class to meet their bus for a field trip, so they were stranded with no transportation. The instructor worked it out, thankfully, but my mistake inconvenienced quite a few people. I feel terrible...

This reminds me of a day in graduate school when I was travelling to Rosebush (maybe?) to talk to another biologist about trapping grouse. The back road that led to his field office was a sheet of ice, and I slid off the road right into a ditch. Do you see a theme with me and trucks??? I had no prayer of getting un-stuck, so I walked (skated) to the nearest house. A very nice lady drove me to the field office, very, very slowly. The biologist was very nice about it, but I could tell he was not impressed. He drove me back to my truck, and hooked up the tow strap. He instructed me to put the truck in neutral, which I did, but then I got out. I don't know why I got out. In retrospect, I'm not sure what I thought would happen. In retrospect, what happened was perfectly logical.

I don't know if Mr. Biologist thought I was in the truck, but he hit the gas and pulled mine out of the ditch, and as soon as it hit the icy road it just kept on going...right into the ditch on the other side. I just stood there on the ice with my mouth hanging open, and I could see him shaking his head. He didn't say much to me after that, and any chance I had for earning his respect as a new wildlifer was gone. I'd say that was the story of my first 2 or 3 years at MSU. One stupid mistake after another. But thankfully, in between, I was able to recover and of course I did not give up. I remembered that we are all human, none of us perfect, all of us flawed.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Unplugged - Floating!

Float was a fun theme for us. I knew that E would enjoy my first idea, because I had seen hundreds of kids do it at a fair a few years ago. The idea was to take a piece of aluminum foil and make a little boat....then place pennies into it, counting them up as long as the boat stays afloat. It's really a competition, but E just took sinking the boat as the goal!
Baby m had a good old time too, but his theme seemed to be "splash." I couldn't give him too much to float in the water, because he took it all to be food...maybe because I had him in his high chair.When cousins J and L came over on Saturday, we did a "floaty" craft...dragon boats! E had seen an episode of Ni Hao Ki Lan where there was a dragon boat race...oops, does that violate the "unplugged" part??? Anyway, I drew out a template for the kids to color, and then we cut them out and decorated them with ribbons. I told them that the dragons would scare away the bad guys and they seemed to like the thought of that. I was so impressed with the way my niece used scissors...she insisted that she could cut out the dragon herself, and she's only 3! She didn't do a bad job, either. Sure, we had to tape the head back on, but so what? Her independence was to be admired. I think the picture below shows that it was another big Unplugged Success!(My question for those reading is there a way I can share templates on the web? How do people put files out there to share??? Any input would be appreciated.)

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Many Faces of Frustration

Yesterday was a very frustrating day for me. Three individuals (myself, E, and Baby m) at home, each one in a foul mood, each one within 6 inches of the other. Ya. Bedtime could not come too soon. Lately, I've been thinking about an incident in grad school, not one of my finest moments, and perhaps one of the most frustrating days in my memory.

I was given a truck to use for my graduate work...mind you, I was not well versed in the use of a 4 wheel drive vehicle, or in the use of anti-lock brakes (this was in 1993). I got the hang of the ABS, by necessity, on the roads of the Pigeon River Country State Forest. Then one December day, the little light came of those dreaded dashboard lights that sent me to the dealership in Gaylord. "Well", the mechanic told me, "it looks like your anti-lock brakes are malfunctioning. I'm going to disable them for now." My instructions were to bring the truck back to the university for repair, and I headed back to the forest.

The cabin was about 30 miles away, and I got 2/3 of the way there without incident. Then, just after I exited the highway, I hit a patch of black ice on an overpass and lost control. "Slam on the breaks, slam on the breaks!" Long-term memory overtook the short term knowledge that I had no ABS, and I spun part-way around and hit the barrier on the opposite side of the road. I was beyond lucky...there was no oncoming traffic. Some passersby helped me get the truck back in the right lane, and the only real damage was to the driver's side door and the left front quarter panel. As I finished my drive to the cabin, my blood pressure went up and up and up, as I visualized my embarrassment at delivering the damaged truck to my boss.

When I pulled in the driveway, I couldn't even get my door open. As I shuffled to the passenger side and slid out, I began to cry. I can't remember what I said to the truck, but I know it included profanity...and then I did a very stupid thing. As hard as I could, I threw the keys at the hood. In one fleeting instant, I saw them bounce off and sail away into the snow, never to be seen again. Literally. Hours later (with friend M by my side), I conceded defeat and called a locksmith. I remember it cost $70...because I did not have the money, and I had to write a check from my VISA account.

Thankfully I have grown a bit since then, but yesterday I almost threw the keys again...but what good does it do? It lowers the blood pressure temporarily, but in the end it costs you more.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Unplugged - Color and Light

Working at a college, I find myself constantly collecting strange things from colleagues that I think I might use someday. My office also seems to be a recycle and reuse depot, seeing as I can hardly bear to throw anything away. So I had a lot of things hanging around to use for this week's Unplugged Project.

First, E and I used some old transparencies to make stained glass windows. I cut up the acetate into shapes, using the pictures and graphs for color. Then I drew a church on an old manila folder, cut out the windows, and attached some contact paper to the back. Then E stuck the shapes to the paper...she graciously let Baby m and I finish covering up all the blank spaces, and then she colored the front with crayons. I also have a giant box of random slides that I can't seem to part with. I thought E might enjoy projecting them on the wall with a flashlight, but I didn't know how hard that would be! When I looked up "Make your own slide projector" on google, I came up with directions that involved many lenses, mirrors, jigsaws, hammers, and glue. Finally I figured out that all I really needed was a flashlight and a magnifying glass. The set up below shows the final product...flashlight, slide held up by a cardboard base, and magnifying glass held up by play-dough. The picture on the wall was not perfect, but good enough for E! In fact, I would say that she was a little bit TOO interested for this project. She wanted to move around the light and experiment with the magnifying glass. Every time she touched anything, though, the picture would disappear and she would end up frustrated. I'm now thinking that the guy who recommended a hammer and glue had a toddler! We did finally settle on one fun activity...E liked standing in front of the "projector" and seeing the butterflies tattooed on her body! That's my girl.
Header Image from Bangbouh @ Flickr