November 2008

Photohunt: Metal

Motorcycles and mototaxis, Iquitos, Peru.  Taken late afternoon in the main square.

Both taken by the 10D with 1/20 shutter speed at f/4.  I wanted to get a slight blur with the taxis in the background, but didn’t have a tripod to risk slower than 1/20 and/or higher than f/4.

Art & Photography

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The start of a masterpiece

“I want to write books and make them all myself.  That’s what I want to do when I grow up.”

So announces Will toward the end of the trip back from Mobile.  He makes the declaration while producing the Ipod touch, where he has been typing for a solid hour… or so it seems.  It did not read like Hamlet, but I’m willing to bet that three monkeys with typewriters could have re-produced it.

“That’s great, Will” we said.  Paul added that I could help him write and make illustrations, that I was in to that sort of thing.

“Yes, Will,” I added, “I’ve kind of been writing a book online for the past 4 years… on The Blog.”

“I’ve been writing a long time, too, Mommy.  Since we left Granna and PapPap’s house… a REALLY long time.”

When we got home, Will asked to start his book.  This is what he wrote and drew.

Not to be left out of the fun, Kate made a picture, too:

Arts & Photography

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Outbuilding Update

We head home tomorrow, after the two days of monsoon rains have moved on.  Will is complaining of sore throat and an ear that hurts when he swallows… we may not be done trading viruses quite yet.  Progress on all fronts continues to painfully crawl forward.

The outbuilding work will continue when we get back.  Here is a video of progress as of the 15th, with a good look at the back of the house, the old outbuilding face, and the huge pile of growing debris.

Be warned that I speak on this video.  I may even laugh.  I apologize and completely understand if the sound compels to you run screaming from the room.

Home and Renovation

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Your powers are weak, Old Mommy.

The combined force of the holiday, the family, and the pending inevitability that Someone Else (aka: my parents) would show it to him first, we did it. We showed The Little Man Star Wars.

Parts were scary. Parts we had to explain. At one point, he asked to turn it off for a little while. It made me feel vindicated, in a way, to have to my point made about why we had wanted to wait in the first place. But at least now he knows, he’s been there, and we can move on. But there are some things that remain difficult to understand.

“Mommy, why did Darth Vader kill Obi Wan?”

“Well, they had a big disagreement and fought over it… but Obi Wan really didn’t die, he became one with the force… you know it’s all pretend anyway.”

“But why did they fight?”

“Sometimes that’s how people handle disagreements, in movies and in life.”

Quiet. Thinking. Squirming.

“You know that Mommy and Daddy believe that fighting is not the best way to solve problems.”


“Well, we just think that fighting hurts people and makes them want to fight back.”

“Then why do people fight?”

“Because… it’s what they know. It’s harder to think of other things to do when you’re upset. It’s easier to just fight.”


(Tentative, in a whisper.) “Mommy, when you yell at me, it’s just like fighting.”

Quick, deep breath. Wipe away sudden tears.

“You’re right Will, it is. Let’s work together so that I can learn a better way, too.”


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Part of the Main

Despite my instinct to hurl whenever I start to feel sappy, I was and am very Thankful for many things today.

I am thankful that my children are asleep without hunger or fear, that we have good health, love for each other, and a community that fills us with friends and opportunities to enrich our lives. What more could we ask?

In a world filled with unspeakable horrors and inhuman poverty, we are beyond blessed: we are among the most privileged on earth. Chances are, if you’re reading this, you are too. The Global Rich List is a quick way to check.

If we, then, are the world’s wealthiest people, do we have any social responsibility to those less fortunate? Any moral directive?

I’ve blogged about my own beliefs on these things before; John Donne still says it better than I ever could.

It’s been floating around for awhile that those in the lowest income brackets tend to give more in terms of total assets than those earning significantly more. The percentage of giving falls dramatically at the household earning level of $100,000 per year and does not rise again until you reach the ultra rich categories ( >$10 million/year).

Here’s another thought. Is giving something that one should do because it makes the giver feel better about them self? Or should one give because it’s something we all have a responsibility to do? Is caring for and about each other a goal to be met, or an aspect of what makes us human?

So as I am thankful for the peace within my household tonight, I think of those who do not have rest. This global recession will impact the most vulnerable the hardest. Even as we tighten our belts and hunker down for an uncertain future, shouldn’t we also be talking about what we can do to take care of others? Next year, I want to be thankful for peace in households outside of my own, in places in the world I’ve never been, with people I’ve never met.


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Turkey with Fungi

We don’t dress up for holiday dinners anymore, so there is no more of the tradition of ruining an outfit playing outside. It was just straight up, regular play.

Kate may have inherited my athletic prowess. Just check out how she throws the football…

(What is that football doing behind her in that picture below? Oops.)

The good news is that the fact she can’t keep pants on (note picture above) may be a sign that she somehow missed the voluptuous gene which has been passed down in my family from Mother to Daughter since time immortal.

Will got into the action, too. He even kicked the ball to me a few times.

There was plenty Daddy-tackling.

At some point, I proposed a walk to find pine cones. I figured we could find something crafty to do with them… somewhere in my head are memories of pine cone turkeys, pine cone people, pine cone bird feeders, pine cone holiday decorations, and more. All that thinking of crafty pine cone projects made me start to think all artsy, and I started to play around with the camera. Note Will, my unwilling muse, holding the pine cone… normal picture:

Then the ZOOOOM into the pinecone! I’m all about playing around with the shutter these days.

I also tried the technique with a Japanese maple in my parents’ front yard. The breeze meant that I needed help keeping the branch steady — so I didn’t get to play for all that long, but here’s a sample:

My contribution to my Mother’s usual spread of veggies, turkey breast, and stuffing was Mushroom Gravy. Randy made this for us one Thanksgiving in Blacksburg. The same Thanksgiving my future in-laws came to visit and I decided to make squash soup ahead of time… only to discover that my allergy to pumpkin innerds extended to squash. It was a brilliant plan, really, since everyone was very willing to help out to make the meal — no one wanted the woman with huge, swollen, hive-covered hands touching the food.

Randy’s gravy became the stuff of legend. The recipe, in nearly direct quotation from Randy, goes like this: “Put a LOT of onions, a LOT of mushrooms, and a LOT of oil into a pot. Add some liquid. Let it cook. Add something to thicken it.”

Which is pretty much what I did this year. It was really good, even if this picture makes it look a little funky?

Art & Photography
Special Family Moments

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Jasmine, Cloves, and Red Silk

I was going to write about my ongoing struggle with video games and handheld electronics… the weight of my son’s interest and inclination to them, my technology and development professional spouse, the heavy use these items get in my parents’ home, and where I sit in all of it.

But my heart is in India right now.

I have never south of Delhi, but the entire country has held my imagination captive for more than 6 years now. The sweet, humid air, the chaos and order, the colors and life. My friends are all in the north and are safe, but their work relies on international travel and interest. It may very well suffer in the months to come. If I were a praying person, I would pray that reaction to the tragedies unfolding involve the recognition of suffering and need rather than bombs and bullets. Please please let this end much more peacefully than it began and all who are under threat right now come through.

Home and Renovation

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Don’t you make me stop writing this post…

During our 140 mile drive from New Orleans to Mobile, I was nostalgic for the way things used to be. Back when we walked uphill 3 miles each way to wait an hour at the bus stop for a ride to school, and had to go to the library and use a card catalog to find books for research papers, and didn’t have a variety of handheld electronics to fight over on car trips. We annoyed our parents with “ARE WE THERE YET,” which is very much preferred over, “I WANT TO PLAY WITH THE GAME THINGY” “NO, IT’S MY TURN” “NO IT IS NOT YOUR TURN” etc.

I tried to explain the joy of simply looking out the window at the dark silhouettes of trees, looking for words and letters in street signs and license plates, listening to the radio, and using your imagination to day dream away the trip. That is how we did it, yessir-ree, and it was character building.

It just goes to show that no matter what you do, what you have, or what you put in front of children during a car ride — they will always annoy you as a point of fact. So save your batteries, Moms and Dads. Don’t worry about the DVD player, the Ipod, or handheld game machine. It won’t matter. They will still make you threaten to pull over that car.

Now that we are in Mobile, here are a few pictures of the kids from January 2007 that I found on my parents’ computer…


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Hit-or-Miss Holidays

Strange things are afoot in our household. Sure, everyone has been trading viruses for a month (there’s the 8-hour vomit one, the lingering fever one, the sore throat one, and the head cold one), but still, things seem… unseasonably calm. The last two weeks have been difficult with Paul working around the clock (literally) to get the outbuilding weather-proof before it rained, added into the whole Will’s-party thing, a week’s visit from Paul’s Mom, ongoing illness, school stuff, and job deadlines… but still, it’s been okay. I’ve even been getting work done and met a deadline today with relative ease and no late nights. Then I realized.

I said “no” to teaching this fall.

I must remember how good it feels to say no to things every once in awhile.

Except caffeine. I’ve lived life without and ooooh my, it feels good to be back on the wagon.

Tonight I started to inventory all the things I’ve collected this year and am very close to being completely done with the holidays. (Except for Paul, who is most likely getting a yet undetermined bacon-related something for spoiling the Wii surprise.) Last year, we sent out Mardi Gras cards because we were that behind. Today, our holiday cards arrived (I’m not happy with the color Shutterfly added to them, but hey, the price was right). I feel like I’m mellowing into a ‘this is what the season is suppose to be about’ place and it feels all starched and ironed, way too Norman Rockwell to fit my one-step-away-from-nervous-breakdown mode of operation. The question is, then, what in the world am I forgetting?

Don’t be surprised if our house burns down tomorrow.

Here is a holiday that we sort of missed, though. Halloween. That was when I kicked off our family’s month of illness by ruining Halloween. No carved pumpkins this year! But a few weeks before, I tried to be crafty… and even have proof.

Aren’t they cute? My favorite part is Franken-pumpkin’s bolts sticking out of his head. Please ignore the trash behind him that I obviously didn’t see when I took the picture. And the fact that the flowers are… ahem… not blooming. When I finally got around to taking this picture, they’d been out a month. (That’s why the bat’s eyes are falling off.)

Actually, they were suppose to be even cuter. Will and I spent an entire Saturday peeling oranges and limes, which we cut into nose and eye shapes and dried in the oven for 3 hours. Will took some pictures of me cutting. (Will did the peeling.)

I think this one has a cool artsy quality. One that comes from expertly putting the camera on the counter top and randomly pressing the shutter because “the camera is too heavy” to hold.

Here are the eyes and noses. I help him aim a bit before he pressed the shutter for this photograph.

Will painted pumpkins to make the bat. Initially, we were going to make three and hang them on the porch.

I don’t think he cared a bit that we only managed to get wings and eyes on one.

Arts & Photography

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I am soooo not drinking again.

The party happened.

I’m very embarrassed to admit this, but it’s a day and a half later and I still feel hung over. From the 90 minute party, in a location away from my house where they did just about everything, with very friendly well-mannered 5 year-olds who had a great time. Based on those facts, my new greatest fear is a sleepover with a dozen 11 year-olds.

10 days ago, when I called Elmwood in a desperate state, wondering if they too had everything booked party-wise, I happened to be on the phone when a cancellation for a party Saturday morning came in. Not wanting to ignore the miracle happening before me, I took the slot. It was for 90 minutes in the Adrenaline Rush Room, 60 of which is dedicated to a all-you-can-bounce inflatable obstacle course and 40-foot trampoline. The last 30 minutes is for pizza and cake. Very clear, straightforward, and easy. The kids had a blast.

Here is some video of them in the first few minutes of the party…

Will blew out his candles (in three tries) surrounded by some girlfriends. He was adorable.

Thank goodness it’s over.

(In that second picture, I tried to play around and see how it would look if I took out the candle reflections on his head. Not too well. Obviously, Momma needs to take in a few more photoshop tutorials on patching. And, if you think the pictures look grainy, it’s because they are. I didn’t want to use the flash — kids hate it — and the available light was dim. Sometimes you just gotta go to 1600.)


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