Monday, February 28, 2005

Science Fair Tips

1. Let your child choose his/her own project.

2. Do NOT let them do a team project, even if it is with their best friend.

3. If they do end up on a team project with their best friend, make sure the best friend's father isn't a control-freak, type-A, overachiever who lives through his child.

4. If they are doing a team project with their best friend with the control-freak, type-A, overachiever father who lives through his child, insist on bringing the project home with you "just to add a few finishing touches" the day before it is due.

5. Enjoy watching the control-freak, type-A, overachiever father squirm as you drive away with the entire project.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Ghostly Friday

This past Thursday (or was it Wednesday?) I was outside experimenting with my camera at 2 a.m. It was a full moon and overcast, so I wanted to try to get some shots of the sky. Fortunately, none of the neighbors called HPD on me....

Anyway, I did manage to get some shots that I like, and when this week's Photo Friday theme was "Ghostly" I knew exactly
which one I would use.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Rural Friday

For this week's topic, I chose a
photo I took a few years ago. It is a couple of abandoned buildings on my parents' farm. It was taken at sunset, which can make anything look much more appealing.

(Note to self: Avoid all cameras , except at sunset.)

Monday, February 21, 2005

Race Wrapup

Miscalculations on my part:

- I assumed I would be healthy.

Sunday morning I woke with a headache, fever, and sore throat. I hoped it would be gone by Monday. (It wasn't.)

- I thought I could sleep until 5 a.m.

After double-checking the race schedule, I realized I needed to get up at 4:15 in order to be at the stadium by 5:00.

- We could slip out of the house quietly, without incident. The Blonde One plays in the school's Jazz Band and they were scheduled to play along the race route, so he and the Hubster had to leave the house by 4:30 to catch the bus at his school. The Diva could handle the Little Guy and the Wildcard...they would probably sleep until at least 8:00 anyway.

The Hubster and the Blonde One had just stepped out the door and I was lacing up my last sneaker when the Wildcard came flying out of his bedroom and running in circles around the house yelling, "I'm gonna BARF!! I'M GONNA BARF!!!" (So much for planning.) He did manage to make it to the bathroom in time, and when he was done I helped him get cleaned up and settled down. I took his temperature and it was normal, so that made me feel a little better about leaving him there with the Diva. As an afterthought, I checked my own temp (I LOVE those thermometers that you just zap inside your ear!). I finally left the house, 15 minutes late and with a fever of 100.8.

Pleasant surprises of the morning:

Honolulu by moonlight.

I had forgotten how peaceful it is to be driving through town on uncrowded highways with a nearly full moon lighting the sky.

Gospel music at 5:30 a.m.

Our bus from the stadium to downtown was half-filled with members of a church choir, and they broke out into song as soon as we left the parking lot. I tend to be easily annoyed at that time of the morning, but these people were good! It was very motivating.

Now, the race itself:

It was much better organized than in the past. I think a huge factor was that they were using timing chips (laced onto your sneaker), and anyone who started before their scheduled time would be disqualified. They staggered the start times for the different groups, and that cut down a lot on the walkers/strollers who were pushing their way to the front.

For me, Miles 1-4 went rather well. My throat was burning and my head was pounding, but I kept a respectable 10 minute/mile pace.

And then I totally fell apart. I had grabbed two cups of ice at the 3-Mile water station and had been chewing on it to cool my throat. It helped, but brought on stomach cramps, so I walked Mile 5. Between the ice and the water from before the race, a porta-potty break was in order at the 5-Mile mark. The lines were long, eleven minutes to be exact. I ran/walked/ran the remainder of the race, mostly just running the downhill stretches. At Mile 7, I nearly curled up on a bus bench for a nap but decided against it. I somehow managed to run the last mile, and am happy about that. I estimate my finish time to be somewhere around 1:45 (including the 11-minute porta potty line), I'll get the official time in the mail this week. It's not what I had hoped for, but all things considered.....it's okay.

There is a huge after-party at Aloha Stadium with bands and prizes, and it's always fun to hang out after the race for a while. The hostess is a washed-up beauty queen type (perky, but dumb, eager to break into song with little encouragement). I honestly couldn't take perky at that moment, so I headed home.

I zapped my ear again (101.5), downed a bowl of chicken noodle soup, three Motrin, and crawled back in bed.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Putting the Aloha Back in the Run

On Monday I am participating in the Great Aloha Run, an 8.15 mile run from Aloha Tower Marketplace to Aloha Stadium. This will be my third time running this particular race, and I'm not especially looking forward to it.

The GAR is a charity run, and is heavily advertised as "More than a race....an event. For runners and walkers of all ages!!" Participation is not limited, so each year there are approximately 20,000 participants.

Note my choice of the word 'participant' rather than 'runner'. Many, many people sign up for the race as walkers or stroller-pushers, which is fine with me. I'm all for physical activity of any sort, by anyone.

However, when organizing an event with so many people and a variety of skill levels, there must be guidelines in place to make it run smoothly. And those guidelines need to be enforced.

When you fill out your application, it asks for your estimated finish time, and race numbers are assigned based on estimated finish time. Prior to the start of the race, everyone is asked to assemble according to their race number, with the faster runners in the front. This only makes sense - the fastest runners should be in the front where they aren't tripping over the participants.

Now, just to clarify, I am nowhere near 'fast'. It all goes back to my days on the track team in high school. It was not unusual for my friend Sheila and I to jog across the highway for a pecan roll at the Mennonite bakery during track practice. That's how much of a serious runner I am.

The only time I have ever won a prize in a race was during a random drawing following a USO 10-k just before we left Hawaii last time. The Grand Prize was a "$1,500 diamond and ruby ring from Neiman Marcus". I was shocked when they called my name. My friend Shari (who was sitting with me) actually screamed.

I went up front, collected my Grand Prize, and returned to my seat next to Shari. I opened the box to take a peek at my bling, and immediately we both burst out in fits of laughter.

It was THE ugliest thing I had ever seen. Imagine dozens of tiny ruby and diamond specks shooting out in all directions atop a huge gold nugget. Can you imagine it? Well, my ring was three steps beyond that on the ugly scale.

Everyone seated around us wanted a peek at the Grand Prize and, upon showing it, not one person said, "Oooooh, that's beautiful!!" Instead, I heard, "What are you going to do with THAT??"

Good question.

Neiman Marcus wouldn't take it back. No pawn shop on the island would take the risk of not being able to re-sell it. I even tried leaving it in our household goods when we moved, hoping the packers would steal it and I could file an insurance claim. They refused to pack it.

So, the Grand Prize traveled with us back to the Mainland, across the country, and eventually to the Land of All Things Gaudy and Sparkly, South Florida.

The guy in the first pawn shop we entered offered us $100 for the ring. We took the money and ran, before he regained his sanity.

Anyhow, back to the 'event' with the 'participants'.

Now that we've established the fact that I am not fast and only win sucky prizes, I do have one thing going for me: I am honest about my estimated time, and line up accordingly.

Unfortunately, every freakin' year I am tripping over, dodging, and wedging between participants who have no intention of running eight feet, much less eight miles. They are the Lunch Hour Walkers who stroll along four wide, chatting, laughing, snacking, and stopping for pictures at every landmark or mile marker along the route.

I just don't get it. The registration packet is very clear that you will be assigned a color-coded number based on your estimated finish time, and will be staged according to that number. It is also written in the information packet, on the race number, and announcements (note the plural, meaning many, many announcements) are made during the staging process. How can these people NOT know that walkers (and stroller-pushers) line up at the back of the pack? Are they so involved in their conversation during the race that they fail to notice as thousands of people struggle to get past their quadruple-wide gossip session? And finally, why do they feel the need to be at the front? Does finishing the event in 3:20 make that much more of a difference than a finish time of 3:30?

Maybe I'm just in a pissy mood because I have to get up at 5 a.m. on a holiday.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Can I Get A Rimshot, PLEASE?

The Wildcard, as is his nature, has changed career paths once again.

He has decided that when he grows up, he wants to be a comedian.

Actually, a Comedian and a Scientist.

Oh, and an Engineer, so he can build a hovercar and other really cool cars. But that will just be his hobby. Like when he's not busy being a Scientist and Comedian.

He first began planning his career when we were in Vegas a few years ago and we stopped by the Guinness World Record Museum. He decided his goal in life would be to make his eyeballs pop out of his head like the guy in the museum video. Either that or be the first person to skydive naked from the top of the Stratosphere hotel.

The following year, when his grandfather asked what his mission in life was, he replied, "Well, I've already counted to ten-thousand, so the only thing left to do is learn to snap my toes." End of discussion.

When they had Career Day in 3rd grade, the teacher went around the classroom asking each student what he/she want to do when they grew up. The Wildcard said, "I want to find a cure for cancer." The teacher was very impressed, and asked what he would do if he wasn't able to cure cancer. Without hesitation, he said, "Then I will just collect every video game ever made and play games all day."

So, back to the present.... the career in comedy.

The problem with all this is that becoming a Scientist (or even an Engineer) can't happen when you are only 9 years old.

However, since comedy is ageless, he can start working on his routines now.

He has discovered that he is extremely funny, on a 4th grade level. (So, I guess it's fortunate that he is in 4th grade, and not a college freshman, yeah?) And since his comedy goes over so well at school, he has decided to branch out and work on a few bits at home.

He has jokes. Lots of jokes. Most involve bodily functions and/or obscure animals.

What happens when an aardvark devours a Taco Bell burrito?

He gets aardfarts!

(Ba-dum-bum!!)

You get the idea.

He has also come up with a few sight gags, and hopes to have them perfected in time for his birthday party next month.

He's been working really hard on one involving a plate of spaghetti and a squirt gun, but that's all I'm allowed to say.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Luscious Friday?

Okay, I had a bit of a challenge with this week's Photo Friday topic.

Luscious.

Of course, food came to mind. Lots of Luscious Food. But we don't have any luscious food in the house, and photographing food has never been a hobby of mine. So, no Luscious Food Photos.

Next thought was baby toes. Everyone likes to nibble baby toes, or cheeks, right? But I just did a baby photo a few weeks ago and don't want to bore you with more photos of the kid.

So, feeling uninspired, I browsed my photo files and found lots of Lush photos, but those will have to wait for another week.

I finally narrowed it down to three photos, pondered it, and eliminated two.

Since it's Valentines Day and all, I decided to pay tribute to
Mr. Lusciousness himself.
Challenge Day

Last week, the high school that the Diva and the Blonde One attend held a Challenge Day.

I'm sure you know what I'm talking about. The school chose 100 students, from all different demographic groups and led them through a series of activities which are supposed to give the students a new perspective on issues that their fellow students might be dealing with. Sort of a "Breakfast Club" type seminar, for those of you who remember that movie.

(Awesome soundtrack, by the way.)

The Diva and the Blonde One were both selected to participate, but on different days.

On Wednesday, the Diva came home and babbled for nearly an hour about Challenge Day, and how everyone cried most of the day while listening to some of the truly shocking stories their fellow classmates had to tell. She had never imagined that she walked the halls with students who were abused, witnessed gang shootings, been told they were worthless and kicked out of the house, and watched their parents being hauled off to jail. It was a huge eye-opener for her - she always assumed everyone was just like her. She talked about how lucky she was to live a relatively normal life.

But then she mentioned the final activity of the day.

The students lined up at one end of the gym, and the seminar leaders read off a list of life events. After each one was read, those students who experienced it would take a step forward.

Fine.

Have you ever experienced the death of a close family member?

Several students stepped forward. The Diva stayed put.

Have you ever witnessed a parent being physically abused?

Several students stepped forward. The Diva stayed put.

Has anyone in your family ever served time in prison?

Several students stepped forward. The Diva stayed put.

The questions continued, and the Diva was starting to feel uncomfortable because she was the only one who was still at the beginning line.

Have you ever been abused by a family member?

The Diva thought back, way back, to her sassy pre-teen years when I once slapped her cheek and told her she was acting like a little bitch.

Several students, including the Diva, took a step forward. She felt relieved to finally have 'issues'.

Do your parents curse at you and call you names?

The Diva smiled and stepped forward, remembering my comment that she was acting like a little bitch. (Apparently it felt good to have issues, even imagined ones.)

On the one hand, I'm annoyed that she looked back to that one incident and considered it 'abuse' and 'cursing/name calling'.


But then again, it was a real eye-opener for her and she has been so pleasant to be around all weekend.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

How Pathetic is This?

I just realized my most intelligent conversation of the day involved animal noises.

And now I'm sitting here waiting for the plumber to show up so I can have grown-up conversation.

I really need to get out more.


Tuesday, February 08, 2005

A Mystery No More

I've been working on my projects since the Hubster has been on the Mainland.

I managed to finish our taxes (except for the one mutual fund statement we are still waiting on - mail takes forever to get here sometimes).

The photos are organized, albumized (probably not a word, eh?), and stashed away. I cannot believe how many pictures I take, especially since I got my new camera. And it's only going to get worse....

The mystery boxes in the garage....so far I've uncovered:

The four unpacked cardboard boxes are filled with more Christmas stuff, sleeping bags, and home decorating items (our landlord doesn't allow nails in walls ((bastard)), so everything remains boxed up until we move again). I was pretty disappointed that I couldn't toss anything from those boxes.

And the plastic bins?

Two boxes of coaching gear. I've coached the kids soccer, volleyball, and baseball teams over the years, and we seem to have accumulated a lot of cones, extra balls, assorted jerseys, whistles, gym bags, and score pads. Half of it is in the trash and we're keeping the other half for when the Little Guy decides to play sports.

One box of the Hubster's stuff. We have an agreement that we never toss each other's stuff, so the fishing reels, drill bits, and whatever else that was will remain in the box until he decides to toss it.

One box of boat stuff. We had a boat, sold it, bought another boat, sold it, bought another boat, sold it, and plan to buy another boat when we move back to the Mainland. The boat stuff (life preservers, tow ropes, etc. stay.)

The remaining three boxes are my accumulated 'trash' (to use the official Marine Corps terminology). I don't even know why I still have half this stuff..

Box #1 - Various unfinished craft projects, including an afghan I started before I even met the Hubster, some half-painted Christmas ornaments in a Frank's Nursery bag (which dates them back to the Michigan years, before the Diva was born), some half-painted ceramic photo frames and an unfinished (and unstarted) wooden perpetual calendar in MCAS Iwakuni wrappings (dating them back to the Japan years), some pink/white yarn and pink/white (unstarted) embroidery project which probably dates back to the Early Diva Years, and some assorted, unassembled picture frames that I recall mail-ordering while we were in Japan because I couldn't find them over there....I have no idea what I was framing. Oh, and my bouquet from my wedding - a dozen (very dead now) red roses.

Box #2 - Eleven used kimonos (or is the plural 'kimono'?). Why do I have eleven used kimonos in a box in my garage? Because when I lived in Japan I had a Japanese friend who bought used kimonos and made gorgeous quilts from them. And I thought I should do the same, even though I only possess one-tenth of her talent. So, I scoured second-hand stores in Japan for months until I found the perfect used kimonos for my quilt project, then I stashed them all away in a box and moved on to my next Big Project. Some day I will make my kimono quilts and they will be gorgeous, but until then I will have a Mystery Box of used kimonos in my garage.

Box #3 - Woohoo!!!! I found the missing lamp!! When we moved from Oklahoma to Florida, we somehow lost a lamp - not the shade, just the lamp base. Our packers had packed things in strange places, so I always knew I would someday find my lamp again!! There is also another kimono in the box, this one is new. I won it as a prize and I really don't know what to do with this one - it isn't quilt material and I obviously wouldn't wear it anywhere....so it remains in the box along with the decorative wooden hangar that was part of the prize. The rest of the box is full of assorted Japanese 'trash'.

Tomorrow I will post pictures of my Mystery Box Treasures, Lol!!

Saturday, February 05, 2005

It's Distorted Friday!

This week's Photo Friday topic is "Distorted".

Since it's been raining for five days in a row, I'm not in the mood to go in search of a Distorted photo, so I pulled one from the archives.

I don't know why I like it, I just do.

The picture is from a trip to Vegas (or "Wegas", according to the ever-adorable 2 y/o daughter of friends who were with us). The picture itself is simply a group of tourists watching the volcano erupt in front of the Mirage as a bus passes in front of them, but I like the way the negative image turned out.

Distorted

Thursday, February 03, 2005

It's Project Time!

The Hubster is on the Mainland for a couple of weeks, which means it is Project Time for me.

I always take on my biggest projects while he is gone, I guess because I have more uninterrupted time to myself. In addition to my to-do list, I have three Big Projects on my list: Taxes, Photo Albums, and the Garage Boxes.

First, The Taxes. I worked on those last night and am amazed how much more complicated they have become lately.

Our taxes are never consistent from one year to the next, which makes it difficult to predict what the bottom line will be. Some years I work half-time, some years more than that. This year I didn't work at all (well, not for pay anyway.) We bought our house two years ago, but then converted it to rental property this year. I have a small, home-based business which fluctuates depending on how much effort I put into it (this year, zero effort). We seem to be on-again, off-again with tuition credits, foreign earned income exclusions, and moving expenses. And, of course, the investments fluctuate with the markets. This year we have another tax deduction (thanks to the Little Guy!) and huge medical expenses (thanks to two kids in braces and an orthodontist who gives a discount for payment in full at banding).

So, fearing the worst, I tackled the taxes last night. We are still waiting on three tax documents, but based on everything else, we're good.

Whew. Mission accomplished.

Next, The Photo Albums. This is one that I've let go way too long. I was flipping through my photo albums recently and noticed that they end at our Summer Vacation Extravaganza. (That would be the Summer of 2002.) The Hubster was in Hawaii for six weeks, so the kiddos and I packed up the MomVan and took a two-week road trip throughout the West. We stopped home long enough to do laundry and send the Blonde One off to Band Camp in Arkansas. We picked him up a week later, and headed to the in-laws in South Florida with a few stops along the way. Our trip back included a couple of days in New Orleans.

And that's where the photo album ends, with the street vendors at Jackson Square.

The Hubster has always said I take too many pictures, and that was before digital. Now I take an ungodly number of pictures, delete those I don't like, manipulate the ones I like into several different versions until I am left with way more than I had in the beginning.

Thus the baskets and drawers of unorganized photos.

I give myself three days to complete the Photo Project. Fortunately, I'm not into the scrapbooking craze. I need to have my photos organized in nice, neat, orderly slip-in pockets. They must be arranged sequentially, and in an eye-pleasing layout. I cannot mix my horizontal and vertical photos on the same page. I'm kind of a freak about this, and there are lots of rules.

Maybe I need to give myself four days.

And finally, The Garage Project. When we lived in Japan, I bought about 25 of those huge clear plastic rolling bins. (They were only 350 Yen each (~$3.50)!! They sell for at least $10 here!!) The Hubster (once again) thought I was crazy and wondered why we really needed so many.

Ha!! I showed him - they are now filled with ????something???? and stacked neatly in the garage.

A dozen are filled with Christmas items, I know that much. The kids each have one in their closet for "special stuff" and I have one for Halloween decorations and one for Easter decorations. That leaves about seven Mystery Boxes in the garage.

Plus the four large cardboard boxes that were never unpacked when we moved here.....

I may need to call the Hubster and see if he can extend his trip a few more days.