Tormenting our kids..

December 2, 2008

…is a duty and a privilege. The latest elaborate prank on Joseph involved the ongoing meme of Joseph’s hatred for Buzz Lightyear, who in younger and kinder years was a treasured friend to the boy. James has collected his related paraphernalia, in particular anything depicting Evil Emperor Zurg. At one point James made Joseph a Star Wars CD and, awful man that he is, made the first track Zurg’s Planet. Joseph was, erm, indignant to say the least.

So anyway, James has got a couple Zurg figurines on his desk; half to piss Joseph off, half in defiance of his growing up (whose, you ask? Good question..). James started his prank by putting this through the mail slot:

(Yes, it’s taken me a while to post this). Joseph, having failed to notice in his excitement that it’s written on my note paper and that it’s quite obviously James’ handwriting, asked if he could call the number. He called the ‘courier’ and had a very sweet and polite conversation about his parcel. I would have gotten all sniffly at the cuteness if I wasn’t trying so hard not to laugh. Joseph got off the phone and said the parcel would be coming tomorrow. Then James ran around the side of the house and phoned Joseph back.

He told Joseph that a courier was in the area and would drop the parcel by shortly. A couple minutes later, James dropped a parcel on the step, rang the bell, then booked it for the back door. While Joseph was getting the door, he slipped back upstairs to his office.

Joseph happily trotted back inside with his parcel and opened it up.

The letter read something along the lines of, “We hope you will enjoy playing with your new Zurg action figure. Regards, the Evil Emperor Zurg Corporation.” Joseph was confused, but after a nano second or two of thought started to smell a rat. He ran upstairs and demanded to see James’ Evil Emperor Zurgs.

James showed Joseph his miniature straightaway, and blandly told Joseph that he’s only ever had the one. Joseph was fairly convinced that he’d been had but as James is such a good bullsh*tter, was not quite sure. Nyssa took the opportunity to steal James’ computer and laugh derisively.

Joseph did manage to get revenge. A few weeks later he found the most hideous Jar Jar Binks hand puppet at a charity sale. He bought it, boxed it up as though it were a work-related parcel and had it ‘sent’ to a horrified James. Hehe.

Well done Joseph. It’s good to know we’re teaching, uhh, valuable skills.

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Contrast: The House

November 30, 2008

November has shown a lot of variety out here.


A deluge of incredibly heavy wind and rain early in the month robs us of what would have been a spectacular display of autumn colour, but it was still quite pretty.


It properly snowed one night! It even lasted most of that day. Living farther inland we’re definitely going to see more winter weather, I think.


This is how things have been looking for the last week or so, quite misty and a thick frost on everything.

Me and the Girl

November 30, 2008

I like December because Christmas shopping gives me an excuse to take the kids out singly, which I always enjoy. Yesterday, Nyn and I went to Edinburgh.


That’s right, those are a US 6.5, so she’s certainly fitting into adult shoes now.


The German Market is in town! Pretzels and pyramids for everyone!


Put a moon in the door instead of a heart, and you’ve got something I seriously need to own.


Warm pretzel love.


Possibly the best thing of the day–all bedecked with garland was this kid with a sign that said ‘free hugs’. How could we not? Reminds me of the Seattle ‘smile’ guy.


Nyssa really wanted a trip to the salad bar at Pizza Hut. The waitress convinced her to get the kids meal because it included one for free. See here her puny salad. I love the ‘I’ve been gipped’ look on Nyn’s face when surveying her meager bowl. Hehehe.

We had a very nice time, and public transport actually more or less worked (it’s been real touch and go lately). We got our gifts, wasted all sorts of time in shoe and perfume departments, and drank plenty of decaff lattes. Having a daughter is excellent stuff.

Me vs. the Cat: Sewing

November 30, 2008

Mitu has needs. Most of them involve being the centre of attention, particularly when I have things I want to get done, *most* particularly when I have things I want to get done without the addition of cat hair…


whether it’s napping on my very nice Scottish tweed…


or sitting on top of my neatly stacked, and equally nice quilting fabric…


or seemingly trying to open an artery on the rotary cutter. *sigh* He IS pretty cute though.

Halloween–Scotland Style

November 2, 2008

This year we decided to fully participate in Halloween. When we lived in a downtown area, it didn’t really make sense to. Now that we’re in a village, with streets with houses with front doors and porch lights, I thought we’d finally have our first British trick-or-treat.

Difference one: I don’t know how things have progressed in the States, but out here in the Scottish sticks, you’re not necessarily out of luck if you need huge amounts of groceries and don’t have a car. What this means is that we had our Halloween pumpkins delivered, which obviously took away a key aspect of the activity back home–getting to pick them ourselves. No matter, they worked out well enough. Here James is helping the kids plan their designs. That is, he’s trying to explain why perhaps carving a Darth Maul face is a bit ambitious for the amount of energy he had that evening.. I’m glad he was willing to do it, because I still had to sew up a rudimentary costume so Joseph could dress up as the aforementioned Sith.


Even in trying to be scary, Nyssa is incapable of not being cute.


You wouldn’t expect it, but Joseph will play to a camera..

On Halloween the kids were hopping around all day waiting to get dressed and go out. I was still fairly nervous about going, partially convinced that I had heard wrong and people would open their doors to us with utter bewilderment. The plan was to wait until well after sundown, but what I was actually waiting for was for some kids to come to my door first. Joseph pointed out the obvious logical flaw there–what if everyone does the same?? I told him I was fairly certain that no one else would be as out-of-the-know and neurotic as his dear mother. He wasn’t terribly impressed, but at about 6:30 some kids turned up and that was that.


Darth Joseph.


Cute devil fairy? I dunno, it was the best I could find on ebay at the last minute.

So off we went. I was unsure which houses to knock at, so I went with the old standby of only going for houses with porch lights on. This is a bit problematic, as most houses don’t actually have porches, but we made do. Some houses in the village were actually quite decked out in Halloween decorations. And at most houses the kids were invited in by older women who insisted that it was too cold the kids to be mingling about outside. That of course would be huge difference number two. I was strictly instructed as a child to never step over the threshold. Child molesters surely laid in wait if I did. At one house, there were some 20-somethings that had decorated, from what I could tell, their entire house and asked kids in to have a cookie and gave them each a party bag full of treats. I have to assume that this doesn’t happen in larger towns, particularly the unwrapped baked goods and fresh fruit we received (also huge no-nos from childhood–apples can contain razor blades, don’t ya know!).

I had made sure the kids had memorized a couple jokes because I had heard that a remnant from the old Scottish tradition of guising was that some folks expected kids to do some sort of trick–song, dance, joke, whatever. It’s a good thing I did, because that indeed was the norm. My assumption growing up was that trick or treat meant give me a treat from that big WalMart bag of candy or I’ll play a trick on you. This of course was bolstered by that lovely ‘trick or treat, smell my feet..’ rhyme that we all enjoyed so much. The kids’ small efforts were inordinately rewarded, I have to say. Between them, from not more than 15 houses or so, they had earned in excess of 8 pounds. There were also many full-sized candy bars in their stash.


Here they are with some of their spoils.

It was sort of amusing to run into other trick-or-treaters. I did notice that there were no fairies, Elvises, clowns, etc. Everyone was dressed ghoulishly, which I suppose makes some historical sense. I mean, a Tinkerbell wasn’t likely to scare anyone into giving her anything. Since all these kids go to school together, they all wondered, quite loudly have to say, who the heck Nyssa and Joseph were. One surmised that they were those American homeschooled kids he met once at the park, but that was quickly dismissed by his friend. Hehe.

The trick-or-treaters to my house were more confusing than anything. I certainly wasn’t going to make them tell me a joke. The majority of them were teenagers, I noticed. Back home that tends to get dirty looks. At one point I opened the door to a dozen or so teenage boys with horror masks on, standing around with their hands in their pockets. I looked at them, they looked at me. I finally asked them if they might like some candy. Some shuffled forward, some refused, saying that they were good guisers. One asked if I wanted to hear a joke. “Go on then,” I said. His joke: What comes out of your nose at 250 mph? A Lamborgreenie. *sigh* Another kid offered one: Why do you look down the toilet? To see poo. “Wow, that’s crap. Get it?!!” I replied. He just looked confused. Teenagers, eh? Most of the rest were less awkward, and we actually managed to rid ourselves of a big colander full of treats. I was quite impressed, and more than that I know what to expect for next year. I also don’t need to worry myself over the fact that the kids have missed 4 years or so of trick-or-treating–if we stay in this country they’ll be able to go out guising until they leave for university, apparently. 😛

I hope everyone had a fun and safe Halloween!

Meet Classroom Assistant Mittens

October 27, 2008

The economic downturn has meant some tough choices. The parents’ minds are obviously too bogged down crunching budget numbers so the kids needed a math tutor. This is what we could afford:

He’s a thoroughgoing professional.


“Let’s have a look here at your sums..”


“You’re doing it wrong. I don’t see why you think it’s so funny.”


“Your numbers look appalling. Borrow my straightedge.”


“What. Did you or did you not hire me to be the ass-istant??”

On copping out..

October 26, 2008

..at election time.

If you read what I write, listen to my drivel, etc., it’s probably no surprise that I haven’t found a home in either of our two major political parties. It’s also been hard to place myself amongst some of the alternatives. Some parties would have us eschew centralized government completely, which I think is unrealistic and would merely have us governed by the corporations that provide the services we crave. Others would have us so dominated by Washington D.C. that we would be completely at the mercy of TPTB (if indeed we aren’t already..). I’ve also aged into a sort of distaste for the mindless lefties that have appeared, noisily and with dred locks whipping in the wind, as liberalism has become ‘on trend.’ They’re almost as obnoxious as the equally asinine folks on the right who persist in laboring under the delusion that the general election is the meaningful time to vote the moral(istic) line, and then wonder why the neocon Republicans have a carte blanche to do whatever the hell they like with the vast American ‘moral majority’ bolstering them up. The Democrats don’t represent folk like me, and the Republicans no longer represent their supporters either. What an interesting situation. This is our two-party State, my friends.

I should point out that I have nothing against non-progressives. You don’t have to share my superb political insights for me to like you ;). I also have nothing against dred locks. Indeed, I endeavor to have an enviable set in 40 years time or so.

A couple months ago, I managed to corner John Taylor Gatto at a home education conference in Arbroath. I was keen to quiz the guy on the relative merits of voting for a less horrid candidate who has a chance of getting in or voting for who I believe would actually do the sort of work I believe needs doing. He thought there was great value in voting for the alternatives. He cited the example of Perot making people nervous when he managed to get a chunk of the popular vote in ’92. Of course there’s also the still-debated effect of Nader on the Florida race in ’00. Then he brought up Ron Paul as an interesting possibility. I think the man is fairly charming, with his Dr. No moniker and his actually attempting to adhere to the constitution, but..oh dear. I’m way too much of a cynic to believe that the sort of deregulation and governmental non-interference his sort of libertarians propose would see the average poor person treated very well. You can build more community autonomy without corporate laissez-faire. In that sense, I lean much more toward the Green Party.

There is also the issue of my home state. I come from Idaho, a state that hasn’t voted in a Democrat since ’64, and then only by a thin margin. In this case, given that McCain is projected to win 2 to 1, do I vote ‘not republican’ or ‘not any of this status quo nonsense’? Do I dare hope the enthusiasm that Obama has stirred up will reach the hearts of my beloved compatriots? Or do I make a statement vote for a party I actually believe in?

In the end, for better or worse, I admit that I fell for the glamour. I did ‘cast’ my absentee ballot for Obama, and for every other Idaho non-republican nominee I could color in an oval next to. I did feel quite awkward voting for positions other than president. I haven’t lived in Idaho for more than 4 years–do I really have a right to help determine the direction of a place that isn’t my home? After giving it some thought, I decided that, if anything, I’m a more informed voter now than I was when I did actually have a Moscow zip code. It is also a right afforded to me, when it comes down to it, and perhaps it’s a bit self-indulgent to worry myself over it.

As I get older I am more determined that it is the day to day living out of one’s political and social views that makes the difference. As I live and speak and write, hopefully I will have a positive influence and people will associate those influences with the ideals I try to embody. This is the hard graft of being a good citizen, but it’s the meaningful bit and I’m suppose I’m happy to give it a go. In the meantime, y’all remember to go cast your ballots!

‘Let’s be clear’…

October 23, 2008

…to quote an Obamaism.

I am going to do my part for election-season clarity. Not many people read this blog, and not all of the people who do agree with my positions on things. I’m really sick, however, of reading homeschooler propaganda about Obama opposing their education choice. In case there is any doubt amongst my friends here, I invite you to google ‘Obama position homeschooling.’ The gist is, you will quickly find, he considers it a choice to be honored.

There. People who have visited my site will no longer be able to use homeschooling as an issue over which to hate Obama. Of course people can get all hinky about the issue of degree of approval, but they can’t say he’s looking for a blanket ban and to march 2-year-olds into the schoolyard at gunpoint. I’m feeling very patriotic now.

*horror movie scream*

October 23, 2008

Something I’ve never quite gotten over is the whole household cleanliness honesty thing, particularly where in-laws are concerned. I always envisioned myself becoming, certainly by my late 20s, someone who would have the household rhythm down and everyone more or less clean all the time. It eludes me still, but rather than just accept it, I have quasi-panic attacks just before visitors come. OK, admittedly not all visitors, and this all depends on how well I’m feeling (which affects my ‘give-a-sh*t’ levels to a high degree), but generally I try to nurture the fantasy that I’m not a complete slob. So in the interest of evolving honesty, I post the following–the photo of my laundry closet after I gutted the house of all the dirty laundry I’d managed to pretend didn’t exist..


Nooooooooooo…..

It seems though that I might have a good out for being a bit immature about the housework. A neighbor came from across the street the other day to introduce herself. She greeted me, sort of looked me up and down, and asked, very nicely I should add, if my mom was home. Good god. I sort of feebly replied that I was indeed the lady of the house, tada. Granted, it probably didn’t help that I was wearing camo pants, pig tails, and bright lipstick, but come on. I’m 30 years old.

Certainly old enough to vote–which I did!

I find it fairly charming that they must assume that everyone, from the sorority girl to the old farmer, is going to be keen on getting a sticker. I put that in the mail the other day, so I see no reason why it shouldn’t get home in time. I’m a good citizen, w00t.

Speaking of good citizens, here’s a very good little world citizen, learning about her planet. She loooooves her geography. She cuddles her geography. I suppose that’s one benefit of homeschooling–you can engage with your material in any number of strange ways and there are only a few people who will give you wierd looks for it.

Another demonstration of good citizenship–here are the kids walking back from doing the recycling. I like the ‘No Golf’ sign just on the other side of our wall.

Being a good citizen also involves reusing. What the hell am I doing to this guitar with knitting needles, you ask? This is yet another example of my awesome McGyvering skills. I was reading about lap steel guitars, and decided I need to play around with one. The only reasonable course of action at that point was to take this crappy £5 guitar we got at a knick-knack shop, put a wooden needle under the strings to raise them, tune it, then use an aluminum addi knitting needle as the bar. Do you know what, it worked just fine. The guitar being incapable of holding its tune for more than 2 minutes is what did it in, not my elite instrument building skills. Hehe.

To be a good citizen, one must also support small business. To that end, I just bought some more knitting needles. These are beastly *15mm* addi circulars. Yeah, woah. You know, they’d make mighty fine steel guitar bars…

As a responsible citizen, I also support the arts. Would you take a look at this?

This is a typical example of James’ doodling. That’s right–his doooodling. I finally convinced him to stop doing them on envelopes and I ordered him some proper paper. I don’t think I’m merely husband-proud in saying that he is quite talented. He has an extraordinary sense for forms and lines, and he’s doing all of these with a set of Sharpies. He refuses to let me buy him proper artist markers, and I think that’s a pity. Could be that I use the holidays as an excuse to get around the ban.. In any case, I’ve told him that what I want for Christmas is a huge one in a frame.

Package Requests

October 23, 2008

Nyssa showed me a little craft project today in her American Girl Magazine (sounds a bit nationalistic, doesn’t it..nothing of the sortreally), and requested some of those spearmint gummy leaf candies that you can get in the States. That reminded me that this is round about the time of year that family back home starts pondering what to put in packages. We are altogether too spoilt, but I have to admit that we don’t mind it at all. 🙂 So, here are some food items that we find ourselves longing for:

-the aforementioned spearmint leaves
-cinnamon gummy bears
-red Nibs
-Nestle Crunch/the hershey equivalent (Krackle?)
-peanut butter baking chips
-brickle baking bits (forget what they’re called..tiny bits of toffee–can you believe you can’t get those in *britain*??)
-gummy bears
-fruit snacks
-wintergreen candy canes
-rootbeer anything
-red ropes
-Dots
-Whatchamacallits
-tootsie rolls, particularly the fruit flavored ones. Footies are nice too.
-york peppermint patties
-come to think of it, mini candy bars of any description. I miss raiding the Wal-Mart clearance aisle after Halloween!
-Luna Bars (especially the s’mores ones!), Clif Bars (especially peanut butter or carrot cake!), things of that sort that don’t involve dates or raisins are really very much appreciated. I had Luna bars sent this way once and customs about killed me.
-flavoured beef jerky, particularly that jamaican kind
-that crappy international coffee powdered stuff, any flavor so long as it’s decaff

I hate that I can’t get Cool Whip. I know it’s rubbish, but I can hardly bear to make pumpkin pie as it’s just not the same without it.

Now, if people would send me a list of the foods they would like from the UK, I could try to get packages out in a timely fashion this year. I would assume that everyone likes Cadbury and McVities cakes, but I don’t recall anyone actually saying they like the things I send, so.. Did anyone like those flavoured fudges? Hehe, I also need to ponder what gross thing to send Dad this year. I need to keep a record, as I’ve forgotten what I’ve send already. I think there was bloater paste, spotted dick pudding, lunch tongue, steak and kidney pie in a can..they’ll can anything in this country.

Oh yeah, does anyone want Christmas crackers (those British party favors you pull from both ends)? I can get them premade or send you kits to make them (lots of fun :).

So anyway, please leave a comment or send me an email. There should be a link on the info page, if you’ve not got it.