Saturday, December 31, 2005

good ol' Thomas

Imagine my surprise. Me, being the punk rocker that I am, never set out to enjoy half the things that appeal to me as a parent. There are those things you know about before kids come along, even if in passing, and I was somewhat aware that there was such a thing as Thomas the Tank Engine.
Big Brother had an extended passing fancy with trains, probably starting when he was between two and three, like The Boy. The wooden track was purchased for him in the pre-Boy years, though Thomas had not entered the equation at this point. Trains in general were a delight for Big Brother, and one that took a back seat to other interests as he got older. I won't say that he lost interest in trains, he just got older, and his world got bigger.
Credit The Boy with discovering Thomas. I'm not quite sure how it happened. We came to posess two Thomas videos which may have been the start. Thomas is now a phenomenon in our house. Big Brother is almost as crazy about it as The Boy, but he is also into it differently.
Big Brother is slowly memorizing Thomas. We got a set of the original Rev. Awdry Thomas books for The Boy for Christmas, and we've been checking out and wearing out videos from the library. The Boy watches the videos and Big Brother ends up watching as well. Then Big Brother reads the books. Of the episodes we've seen of which we now have the original story in the book, he can tell you the subtle differences.
So I hear Thomas in the background, and sometimes I sit to watch with the boys. I've really grown to love the Thomas stories. How can you not love Ringo Starr and George Carlin reading about cheeky tank engines?
I love the story of the Thomas stories. A parent makes up stories for their child based on something the child loves. The characters take on a life of their own. Somehow these stories are written and published. Because they are good stories, they become somewhat classics. I rank Rev. Awdry with A. A. Milne. Sadly, due to the proliferation of Thomas, I fear that the original stories get somewhat lost, much like the original Winnie the Pooh stories. I dare not go into that rant just now.
I forget now where I was going with this. The Boy, as per usual, is sleeping with Bill and Ben, having added Percy for tonight. It's always Bill and Ben in the left hand, and sometimes someone else in the right. On a tangent, homeschooling edition, Bill, Ben and Percy are all 0-4-0 saddle tank engines. Big Brother has taken a different Thomas toy to bed, but I forget the name of this one. He is the tractor that loosens the big boulder that wreaks havoc on the island.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

some gifts that stood out

This is not to demean the gifts given, the givers or anyone else. I love my family and appreciate the thoughts behind the gifts. I can't pretend that I always buy the best gifts, though I'd like to think I am good at getting people stuff.
So why do these gifts stand out? They all have their own interesting facets, but these three were especially notable for the reasons listed.
Lets start with the coffee. When I say I am a coffee snob, this is not intended to indicate that I like small cans of flavored coffee from the WalMart "gifts for people you haven't taken the time to know" section. Having said that, I will flavor my own coffee if I want to, but I still appreciate that, knowing I like coffee, someone got me something they thought I'd like. However, the only reason I didn't send it home with Grandma is because I hadn't written this humorous blog yet. After reading, you may decide that I still haven't written a humorous blog.
The only corporate name on the coffee is Zavida. The ingredients are listed as "100% Arabic coffee, natural and artificial flavors. No sugar added. Does not contain any nut products."
So far all of that sounds good. It's Arabica as opposed to the lesser quality Robusto. There are neither sugar nor nut products. So allergy issues are placated. Of course, if there are no nut products, then how did they flavor the hazlenut vanilla and the amaretto almond?
Now for the next gift. Momma and I are both cooks, but I'm the cookbook junky. I do use my cookbooks, or at least I use two or three of the nearly fifty. The newest one is good old Jamie Oliver. I've never really liked that guy. He does bring a little gayness out of me, making me want to be his wife so long as my own wife doesn't find out. The cook book has maybe one recipe for every seventeen pictures of JO's faggoty haired ass. Comb your hair you dink! They have combs in the UK?
Anyway, the food pics are really beautiful, as you would expect. This is one cookbook that I may not use much, and I kind of feel for whoever bought it for us. I appreciate the thoughts, but it won't be nearly as useful as the giver hoped.
Last gift to wonder about:
City Kidz die cast free wheel racer. What does that mean? Basically dollar store knockoffs of Hot Wheels. I'm not so brand concious that I care, and they belong to the boys, so as long as they like them, I don't care. That isn't at all the point.
The cars were produced in China and imported by a Canadian company. Most of Canada is English speaking, so the messages on the cars aren't their fault. I have to wonder though how the Chinese company making/painting these cars came up with the slogans to print on them. They look like typical Nascar style race cars. Then when you look closely you start to wonder. So here I will list the things printed on these cars.
On the yellow car:
Extra! Extra!
53 Spain
Two Way Power
Ka Boom
Good Boy
New Recovery

On the black car:
Pall Grace (this is the name of the driver I'm guessing)
Wheaton College
Correction Unit
High Class
Corper Team

On the red car:
First Aid
Cusyom Built
Condos that

Any misspellings or unclear words are copied directly from the cars. I honestly don't know what to think. I do wonder if the American version of toys for import to China have equally odd phrasings that leave Chinese parents scratching their heads as they hand the toy of to their child. From reading through them, several words seem as if a Chinese person heard the English words and used them. Maybe these are words that came up most often in some sort of Google search and got a bit tangled in translation.
Those are the stand outs. There are always some odd gifts. It is Christmas after all. The odd nature of the gifts in no way compromises the love I feel for my family and my inlaws. I appreciate them for more than their gift buying savvy, so please understand that these are not complaints.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

right behind me, or buncha savages in this town

or Men Alone II: the KY Connection
Clerks is on Comedy Central. I should be playing some music, and we have lots of new stuff that we got each other for Christmas. But I can't help it.
I really do love this movie. Sadly, Kevin Smith's other movies don't quite seem to measure up to Clerks in my opinion. Don't get me wrong, I'm a fan of the man's films, but Clerks has this special something. It's one of those random movies that just hits so many different points.
I didn't really plan to blog about the fact that I can hear this movie and see it in my mind. Is that bad?
Having said all that, I'll soon end up running through the Kevin Smith library, those of his movie which I own.

Random thougt:
What is it in people that drives them to hold opinions with no actual knowledge of the subject of their opinion? It's easy to jump to conclusions based on hearsay. It's easy to let a small amount of "knowledge" guide your opinions. I think too often, the leaders in society just give the party line. That line changes based on the postition of the particular leader, teacher, preacher, family. As a homeschooler, I'm loathe to use the perfect example because, as most homeschoolers, I'm sick to death of the "S" word. But the socialization arguement really is a prime example of what I'm saying. People will argue about socialization, will listen to the truth in well reasoned arguements from people who are actually homeschooling, and they will still deny that socialization happens outside of gschools.
That isn't the point though. The point is that people will argue wrongly, full of faith in what they say. You will disprove their arguement with reason, with direct quotes from real studies, duplicated results, and they will offer the sermon or lesson against what they believe is wrong. You can go online to their local library and put the book on hold for them, and they often still won't admit the truth.
Okay, rant off.

Effin-A blogs!!! by crikey!
I can waste more time jumping from link to link, starting with a couple of blogs that I actually care to read regularly. Then there's that random (currently it's a cold) reason that the day is especially lazy. I can read more blogs and still clean the kitchen and feed the boys. I manage to holler at them just enough most of the time. I get a decent little bit of television/video game time. But if I got paid dollars per blog read, I could . . . pay off a debt maybe?

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

currently reading

With the cold weather, I don't spend as much time sitting outside. And when all my lazing is done inside, I tend toward the computer as opposed to a book. Nothing beats sitting in the shade on a hot day with good book and a St. Terese pale ale from Highland Brewing.
So, while I stand outside and shiver and smoke, I'm reading Rob Roy by Sir Walter Scott. He's one of those writers I'd never gotten around to reading. I have to think I was aware of his having written, though having searched the library, I realized I'm very ignorant about his work.
Big Brother and I recently read Kidnapped as his bedtime book. Searching around the internet for information about time and setting of that book I came across references to Scott.
This is a "why I love homeschooling" moment really. Sitting here with the boys, letting them learn, I have been reading some great books, finding resources based on current interests and learning. We don't always learn together, and it's good that we follow our own interests. But very often, our different interests tangle together in interesting ways.
At this moment, Big Brother is reading to TheBoy. They just read The Bike Lesson and are now reading some random book.
Big Brother recently reread The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. We read through the Narnia books together a while back. I first enjoyed my own escape into Narnia as a child and was happy to share these books with my own boys. We have yet to see the movie, and it's likely it will not happen in the theater. The Boy isn't willing to sit through anything that doesn't regularly feature trains. I'm fine with that and used to waiting for the rental.
I think I'll restructure my own day enough so that we just watch movies from now until decent weather. I often think about a movie, but I also think that we should do something productive. At this point I usually turn back to the computer to see if any of the blogs or websites have updates because it's been an hour since I last checked on Home Education and Other Stuff or Punk Parents.

Monday, December 19, 2005

one week more

That whole "having kids speeds up time" thing, that just messes with me sometimes. Just one more week till Christmas. The boys and I have been such complete shutins lately that it seems to have crept especially quickly this year.
I have now wrapped three presents and ordered one more for Momma earlier. It's one of those gifts that will have her name on it, but we'll all enjoy it. Then there's the loot for the boys.
I haven't thought once about cooking for any of the three days that our particular holiday is dragged out to. We'll have a lovely Christmas Eve and Day, two weeks of rest before we drive south for a couple of days for the last family Christmas one week into the new year. I try to make pralines once a year, but those don't fly in Atlanta due to nut allergies, and no one here wants to take as much as I end up making. I may try to halve the recipe, but that might not work at all. I need to make more candy and learn all the intricacies.
Momma keeps mentioning new tattoos for Christmas, and I'm quite certain she knows exactly what she wants. I have too many loose ideas floating around my head, unfinished bits of tattoo ideas that I can't quite settle on.
I've been getting sucked into homeschool blogs lately. I never realized just how many people are posting the same kind of crap as me. I didn't think of doing this without having found a few of course and thinking . . .obviously not a lot . . .maybe I can do this. The problem is that it's like walking into, and here I'm stumped. I can sit here and jump from one link to another, all the while using as my excuse, I'll just bookmark the good ones and come back later. Certainly I can scan through and learn if it's something I want to read again. I can end up with ten tabs open at the top of my page, which I will wade through, Xing out of most. In the end, I while away the day in an attempt to find some blogs that I'll actually find interesting, jumping up periodically to holler at someone or fix a snack. The only reading that isn't the computer happens standing outside the back door smoking and shivering or taking care of a certain type of business best not mentioned.
So goes the past week I suppose. I haven't even written anything here because I keep reading blogs! I suppose that's how they get you.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

slowing down

I don't know that slowing down is the right word for it. I've been moving pretty slowly since the end of monetarily fulfilling work for me. I think I remember a spell of laziness that I considered to be a bit of relaxing.
At some point in time, I could no longer honestly suggest that I was really being anything other than lazy. The house was getting messier and even dirtier in some areas. I've caught Momma one too many times cleaning things that I should have done. She works hard enough, so my lazy ass really needs to scrub the damn toilet.
The slowing down of which I speak is more what unschoolers might call deschooling. Mostly, I'm relaxing my attitude toward a lot of things having to do with the boys. I'm rethinking the concept of rules, making my expectations of them make sense. I've long known I need to work on the yelling and being angry dad.
I've always felt that I needed to expect a certain level of everything from the boys. I've demanded a lot of them that I never needed to. I've forced levels of behavior that are often ridiculous. Now I'm trying to undo some of that. It's a hard moment realizing that you don't meet the expectations that you have for your kids.
Just these early tentative steps have been paying off. Momma has noticed that I'm nicer these days. I think I could have listened to her a few years ago and saved us all some trouble. She has been a little short with the boys, but I think a lot of it was my negativity being so much that it trickled down. Had I been more relaxed from the beginning, she would also have been. She has tried to show me before how I was being a butt, but I was certain I was right and probably argued my point better.
That's parenting. I certainly didn't ruin the boys. They're everything you could want in kids really. And we can all be just a little happier and loving toward each other. I'll do my part by expecting more of myself than I do of them. I'll model how I should be rather than telling them how I think they should be.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

ham and cheese scones

From Food Network, this was actually Emerill's recipe for bacon and cheese scones. I used country style ham instead of the bacon and didn't include the green onions as I didn't want that flavor in my scones.
His recipe called for six ounces of cheese, but after I'd grated about four ounces, it seemed like almost too much. I'll have to make these again with the whole six ounces.
They turned out really good. Seriously, ham, cheese and a scone? Did you wonder if it was going to be good? Silly ass!
I have to wonder if it has to do with geographic location, but every time I make a baked quick bread, I find that I need slightly more liquid than whatever recipe I'm using. I think Alton Brown's biscuit recipe may be the one that came out right. However, everything from my mother's biscuit recipe to James Beard's biscuits always need more liquid in the end. I'll generally measure out whatever the recipe calls for and proceed with the mixing. I can never get everything moist/sticky/incorporated without adding more liquid. The liquid of course is generally milk or buttermilk, and I never need more than a tablespoon or two extra. But it seems that, without fail, all baked quick breads require this same tiny bit extra.
Batter bread, muffins or pancakes for instance, always seem fine, even though muffins are baked. So instead of baked throughout this, I should possibly have worded it differently. Am I going to change it now? Hell no! That would take . . .like work? . . .or something?
yeah . . .

Friday, December 02, 2005

ramen sans packet

Late night hunger and nothing quick, see chips, cookies, any random snack at all; so what DO we have?
Two packs of ramen noodles, somewhere between 2 and 3 cups of chicken stock, some venison, portabella mushrooms, green onions. I sliced everything very thin, all the better to mix in the noodles.
Go ahead and boil the noodles if you want. They only take 3 minutes so you could wait. Stir fry/sautee the mushrooms, onions and deer meat. Toss in a little garlic and ginger, also sliced thin. Toss in some soy sauce and fish sauce, basically deglazing the pan, adding a little sesame oil even because it's really lovely stuff. Add your noodles and some chicken stock. Consider the whole 3 minutes to cook thing, I could happily have thrown the noodles in at this point and cooked them rather than precooking them. It also would have even saved the energy and water I suppose.
I wasn't quite happy with it. I added some more soy sauce and a little oyster sauce in a great what the hell moment, both of which came together, Wonder Twins style, to finish the job. It was delightful.
The deer was left over from Thanksgiving. The rest of the things are pretty much pantry items, depending on what the menu for the week looks like. The boys are lucky come lunch time tomorrow when they get the leftovers.
We still have a small amount of the venison and plenty of turkey. Tomorrow may be turkey salad sandwiches, followed by whatever the Joy suggest for leftover turkey. Tomorrow is turkey clearance day. All leftover turkey must go.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

musical post

Lately, I and the boys have listened to mostly country. We whole heartedly avoid the pop stations that claim to play country. We have very close to us, downtown on Gay Street, one of the coolest radio stations I know of and you can visit and even listen at So we listen also to some bluegrass and old folk music. As it is now Christmas season, we've also pulled out all the cd's of Christmas music, one of my favorites being Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker. We listen to a little bit of classical music, lots of the aforementioned country (think old/outlaw country) lots of punk and ska, and generally whatever we like.
Giving the kids that kind of variety is very important to me. We love different forms of expression, books, art, whatever we like basically.
Earlier today, sitting here at the brain magnet brand computer, The boy approached wanting to be on my lap, and of course he wanted me to find train pictures. I hadn't yet put any music on when he asked specifically for Johnny Cash. I was so happy. I know that it's a tiny bit selfish wanting the boys to like what I like. I do want them to develop their own taste in things, but I feel that providing them with variety is the best way to do that. Of course, that variety tends to consist of what Momma and I want to hear. Of course, they are welcome to find other stuff, which again, will tend to be what Momma and I like as that is what they are going to have access to.
I asked Big brother a few days ago what he wanted to listen to. He asked for Stevie Wonder. Sadly we don't own more than one Stevie Wonder album though we had checked out a greatest hits album from the library. We all enjoyed it (I'm going with DUH here) and I was happy that Big brother had remembered it fondly. We of course checked it back out on our very next library day.
A short time ago, as the Johnny Cash ended, I asked the boys what they wanted to hear next. I offered them Christmas music listing what we own, the Elf movie soundtrack, Stevie Wonder (the one of his albums we actually own, again, sadly), the Nutcracker, Squirrel Nut Zippers and a couple of compilations, Christmas Swing being one. Big brother asked for Stevie Wonder.
Now I'm old enough and punk enough to be a little cynical, cold, sarcastic etc. But Someday at Christmas holds a certain power, along with every other song Stevie Wonder has ever done. So of course I was delighted to play his request.
I also love that my boys are just as happy with Willie Nelson as Stevie Wonder as the Clash as Ozomatli. I have my fear of course of the teen rebellion days that I don't doubt are somewhere in the future. I also know that homeschool families tend to be a little closer, and we are not giving the boys much to rebel against. There are too many paths open to them for them to have to grow that rebellious nature. Then I have to wonder, is that drive to separate from the parents a natural phenomenon, or is it an outgrowth of those damn schools? By giving them such good music, will they one day rebel in favor of whatever replaces Britney Spears on the crap radio charts?
How's that for rambling?