Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Homework Hell, Part 2

2 - (-3) = 5

Of course this makes perfect sense.

Can you see the sparks and smell the smoke and hear the gears grinding to a halt as I try to explain this to the dynamic duo?

"Well you see children, when you subtract a negative you are actually adding a positive.
It makes perfect sense.
No really.
It does.
No, I'm serious, that's how it works.
The rule is: Two negatives make a positive.
Yes, I know I've said that two wrongs don't make a right, but this is different.
I don't know WHY OK?
Just accept it as fact and finish your homework."

I think I hate homework more than they do.

Probably because I thought I was all finished with school and now here I am spending an hour or more a day on solving Algebra problems, making Neolithic tools, coloring maps of Mesopotamia  and looking up who were the axis and allies of WW2.

Yes, they are doing most of the work but I need to supervise because half the time neither are headed in the right direction and it's easier to cut them off at the pass and send them back 5 or 10 minutes instead of having them redo an hours worth of work done incorrectly.

And that wouldn't be quite so bad if I didn't have to argue with Katherine every 15 minutes about how I am right and she is wrong.

Oh wait...

I got that backwards.... SHE is right and I don't know what the hell I'm talking about.

"MOM, you CANNOT subtract 13 from 3."

My eye begins to twitch.

I try (gently and without irritation) to explain to her that Yes, actually you CAN take 13 from 3. That she has done it for the last 4 problems. Nothing has changed. The number line has not suddenly stopped at zero. She rolled off her chair in frustration, hands on head in a simulated faint. "I don't get it!"


So next I try to explain an easier way to figure out certain problems. A way I was taught when I was kid. A way that makes perfect sense to me and seems ridiculously easy compared to how she was trying to work it out. I am greeted with a raised eyebrow even Spock would be proud of.

Sarah wandered through and whispered "Don't worry Katherine, Mom is Old School.... it's OK if you don't understand what she's saying."

Katherine nods in understanding. "They taught them different back in the day, didn't they?"

Yeah, way back when, when we were learning by firelight and writing on cave walls.
At least then we didn't have to do this crap like charting points on a graph to make a picture.
That even after the 4th attempt the damn thing still looks like a butterfly who was injured in an unfortunate netting accident.
And no matter how we both try we can't seem to figure out what was done wrong.

I'm done.
And so are they.
No one cares that they will not get an A on the graph.
They are just happy that the rest of the work is done and they can each have a homemade cupcake and fall into bed so they can do it all over again tomorrow.


Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Scale of Awesome

So the dynamic duo is now in middle school

They are all grown up and mature and no longer require close supervision to make sure they are getting along and playing nice.

Oh, yeah.. who are we kidding.

Basically I am on the verge of abdicating my throne.
(You did know I was queen of the household didn't you??)

Tonight my subjects were unhappy with their assigned homework duties of studying for their "top-o-GRAPHY" quiz tomorrow. (It's to-POG-raphy Jeffrey, I might have already mentioned that once or twice or fifty times this evening).

Frankly, I didn't know there could be so much bickering and fussing over who was going to make the flash cards and who got to hold them first. Apparently there is some mystical phenomenon that causes you to immediately rise several levels on the scale of awesome if you are in charge of flash cards. And anyone else who is NOT in charge of said flash cards might as well give up hope of ever even registering on the scale, now or in the future. I was unaware of this and am glad that my children are here to educate me.

I decided that I would allow them to work through their bid for superiority themselves and eventually they did work it out.

And work it out they did... because suddenly there was a moment of intense giggling and hooting which lasted far too long and was far too loud for any studying to actually be going on.

I stepped in and put a stop to that...
Yes siree... none of that "having fun when you should be studying" nonsense allowed in THIS house!!

and they immediately went back to arguing about who did a better job on the map of Mesopotamia that they had to draw.

I just can't win.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

A Visit to the Huntington Library in Pasadena

In an effort for the kids not to spend the entire summer holed up in their room on electronic entertainment and to broaden their cultural horizons, we took advantage of the Huntington Library's free day.

They give the tickets away on the first of the month for the following month. I had to fight the hoards on line by hovering over the "get tickets" button well before 9 AM when the ticket agency opened because I discovered the month before that Free Tickets are like Free Money and they were snatched up and gone within 2 minutes of opening. Making me have to try again next time.

And it also happens to be a pretty freakin' long way away from our house. Probably an hour by the time we navigated the freeways (and stopped to let me use the bathroom). Or maybe it just seemed like an hour with all the "Are we there yet?" and "How come it looks like we're going to Disneyland? Isn't this the way we go when we go to Disneyland? Why don't we just go there instead...???"

Eventually we arrived, parked and headed in.

This used to be a private residence back in the day.

I loved this:

Beautiful flowers:

The view from the top of the hill. You can see out into Pasadena.

First we made our way down into the Japanese Gardens:
Love this giant bell. There used to be something you could strike it with but I guess people abused the privilege so it's not there anymore.

They have this beautiful tea room open to look at but you can't go inside:

Zen Garden:

The Bonsai Tree Garden.
These were SO incredible:

We went into the giant greenhouse which was incredibly humid but the plants were beautiful:

The orchids in a cage:

The center dome:

This plant (on the right) is in the process of producing one HUGE leaf that will be 15 foot tall.:

This looks like something out of Dr. Seuss:

They thought this huge leaf was worth posing in front of:

Hey, go stand in front of the giant urn and I will take a picture...
No not go look goofy.....
Smile... stand there and just smile....
Oh never mind....

We finally made it into the main residence which was incredible:

A Gutenberg Bible:

Sarah, Jeff & Jeffery admiring Blue Boy:

Pinky across the gallery:

George Washington:

I couldn't use my flash so this picture is blurry but it gives you the idea of how impressive the galleries were:

Outside looking out at the grounds:

Monday, July 30, 2012

Geek Family Games ~~ Videos

Back in June I entered a Fathers Day video contest.
It was the first time I tried out editing.
I made the top 10 in the contest but didn't make the coveted top 5 probably because I didn't really adhere to spirit of the contest which was supposed to be about memories you had playing games with your dad and how it affects your family.
I had a real blast doing it though and really want to make some more.

This is an "outtake" reel that I made.
Gives you a good idea of what a lovely pair of coconuts I've got.
Mostly just for more practicing in editing.

Snacks the really cute kitten massaging another cat

This is Emily's cat Snacks when she was just a tiny baby.
It's also my first attempt putting music to a video.

Summer Follies

Not sure when I became such an old curmudgeon.

But I'm not enjoying this thing called summer at all.

Now don't get me wrong, I love being able to sleep in later than 7AM and not have to drive the dynamic duo and Captain Quiet to school, but this kids not only being at home all day, every day, but having to feed them as well is getting old. Seriously, when did they start eating so much? Isn't one meal a day enough? Or maybe one meal and a snack? Do they really need to grow any bigger?

Feeding them lunch not only requires a large amount of time but it makes such a huge mess in the kitchen.

You know, the kitchen I just cleaned up the night before when they insisted they needed to eat dinner.

Today I've got not only my 3 but the twins here as well. So I used some of my finest culinary skills and produced a lovely spread that should satisfy even the pickiest customers.

Macaroni and cheese, fresh off the stove, leftover spaghetti (with homemade sauce) ham and cheese or peanut butter and grape jelly sandwiches that I would make because they aren't allowed to touch the knives for obvious reasons.

Really... what more could they ask for?

How about: Milk, green juice, cucumber salad, sauce without the yucky spongy mushroom-y pieces in it, strawberry jelly, pasta that isn't in that weird twirly shape, a different color cheese for the sandwich.

I would go on but you get the idea.

Once they realized that nothing else was forth coming, they settled down and ate the offerings without much more commentary and moved on.

Trying to keep a positive attitude and a clean kitchen I started loading the dishwasher and putting the food away.

I had just stuck the large plastic spoon in the bowl of mac and cheese when Katherine screamed at the top of lungs, scaring the absolute crap out of me and causing me to launch a spoonful of cheesy pasta into the air, onto the ceiling, into my face, hitting the front of the fridge and sliding, this way and that all the way to the floor leaving a yellow gooey cheesy trail in its wake.

I was caught in that moment when something unexpected happens and you can't do anything but stand there and stare. Katherine snapped me out of when she came bursting into the kitchen yelling something about a spider. She came to a screeching halt, mouth agape and eyes huge.

"Why did you throw macaroni and cheese onto the fridge?"

She looked up.

"And on the ceiling? And on your face?"

A muscle in my jaw flexed and for the life of me I could not think of single thing to say. Well other than a few things I could not include here.

She opened her mouth I assume to yell for her brother to come take a look, when I told her quietly,evenly that if she dared say one word I would require her to spend the rest of the day writing "I will remember to use my indoor voice and not scream and scare people to death" until it was time to go to bed.

Looking utterly perplexed, she turned and disappeared without another word.

I spent at least 15 minutes cleaning up that mess, then another 15 working through the dishes that had been left in the wake of lunchgate.

Now I've got 5 hours until the whole process starts all over again with dinner.

Frozen pizza is starting look like a reasonable and healthy choice.
And I will keep telling myself that until I almost believe it.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


Apparently, even though I might believe otherwise, I am not the poster child for proper and polite driving manners.

I was pulling out of the market parking lot the other day, waiting for the traffic to clear so I could turn right. When it looked like I had an opening I pulled out into the far right lane just as someone changed lanes in the intersection and almost plowed into me.

I swerved out of the way.

"HEY" Jeffrey shouted from the back seat... "HEY, did you see that?? Honk at that guy... Why didn't you honk? Did you see him? He almost hit us! HONK HONK HONK!!!!! Why aren't you honking?"

"Jeffrey, calm down. Whoever it was is long gone."

"But you should have honked... That was the perfect time for you to have honked... you ALWAYS honk when someone is being an idiot."

"I do NOT!"

It would be highly inappropriate for me to pass judgement on someone's mental competency when I have not even met them.

"Yes you do.... you always honk one really long time and then you yell at them that they are being an idiot."

Apparently Jeffrey has been driving in a car with some OTHER mother.

Because I would never do that.


No really.

I swear.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Talent Show Rehearsal Video ~~ Surfin' USA

The talent show was a success this year.

The only hitch was after the show when the kids went to collect their trophies (everyone gets one) theirs wasn't there. It did show up the next week which made them happy because now they have 3 different trophies each displayed on their shelves.

I did not buy a professionally filmed DVD of the extravaganza this year because, well, ummmmm.....  overall the acts were.... well, shall we say, under rehearsed. Two poor little kids got lost in the the middle of their acts and the audience sat holding their breath while each of them struggled to get back on track. Eventually they both did and they got some of the loudest applause of the night, but they weren't moments I want to relive.

Fortunately I recorded my dynamic duo during rehearsal which came out fine. They had had only 3 days of practice when I took this and by the time the actual show came around they were pretty much completely in sync.

They crew never could get that dang surfboard to stand up.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Friday Night Follies

Evenings at our house can never be described as boring.
(Or quiet but we already knew that).

Jeffrey at the top of his lungs in the shower (heard from 2 rooms away):

"Somebody once told me the world is gonna roll me
I ain't the sharpest tool in the shed..." (pause for deep breath)
"She was looking kinda dumb with her finger and her thumb
In the shape of an "L" on her forehead....


Repeat 45 times.

This is what happens when I let him borrow my IPOD.

Friday, March 23, 2012

LA Natural History Museum Survives the Crew

It's spring break out here in our neck of the woods. 
And in order to keep the natives from climbing the walls we decided on a family outing to the LA Natural History Museum.
The Hall of Dinosaurs has been closed for several years so this has been our first opportunity to get downtown and see them since they re-opened.

Let us start with the first exhibit that hasn't changed since my oldest kids were in pre-school.

This is a picture of Jeffrey before he got warmed up into comedian mode.

Our first stop was the new exhibit area which really showed off how impressive these creatures were.

I wanted to see more of these long necked guys:

 They had several walls of bones behind glass:

Sarah models next to a T-Rex head.

Everyone taking a look at bones in the way they were uncovered:

Jeffrey studies a large marine tortoise (turtle?):

This was the upper leg bone of one of the dinosaurs.
(I guess I should have paid more attention to what I was taking pictures of)

A T-Rex foot:

A Carnosaur... I believe it is the same as the dinosaur in the Disney World Ride in Animal Kingdom:

One of the docents let the kids hold some casted T-Rex teeth and she even had some real fossils they got to handle.

A full grown T-Rex and baby:

A close- up of it's head:

These frilled dino heads were SO impressive:

This one was HUGE!!

A Stegosaurus... I couldn't get people to stop cluttering up my picture.

This stained glass was on the ceiling of the rotunda outside the dino gallery:

This extinct animal is related to modern day pigs:

Katherine checks out some of the interactive displays:

Jeff and Jeffrey read about the mammoth:

Sarah studies the remains of one of the earliest humans:

I think Jeffrey was waiting for the polar bear to talk at him:

In the Great Halls were all the taxidermied animals.
I find these both fascinating and a little sad.
The halls are completely dark with the only lights coming from the glass covered displays,
so I really couldn't get very good pictures.
Here is a Grizzly:

The big displays at the end of each room did not have glass and the pictures came out looking more like a painting than real.
This shot is with no flash and lightened in photoshop.

With flash and no photoshop:

I took these hippos for Emily!
(Wish you were with us!)

And then it was into the Hall of Gems.
WOW there was so much to look at.

And so it starts....
"Jeffrey go stand with the meteorite..."
This causes massive amounts of giggling:

And it becomes contagious and this is what I get when I try to get 3 of them to stand still long enough for one decent shot...
Alex of course is behaving himself.

More meteorites.... with no accompanying goofiness:

A view of one of the display walls:

Here are a few of the displays up close.
Of course the pictures do them no justice because the flash either washed them out or no flash left them in the dark.

There was SO much to look at:

This is one of the world's largest flawless crystal balls:

In the gem vault.. I love opals!

I was trying to get a picture of Katherine while we waited for the boys.
"Smile Katherine"
She smiles then immediately gets distracted before I could click .... LOOK A SQUIRREL!

We took a ride on the huge antique elevator which creaked and groaned to the point I was glad we made it safely to the 2nd floor. It came complete with an elevator operator.

And then came the bug zoo.
A really big wolf spider.

But the WORST was this tarantula which was bigger than Alex's hand.

What's this?
Is everybody actually standing and smiling for the camera nicely without any fooling around?

Out the window you could see the Colosseum... USC's football stadium.

This little Musk Rat was SO cute and fuzzy:

Trying to fit a dinosaur back together:

I knew that previous picture was good too good to last:
Thank you crazy-eyed child.

Around the corner from the discovery center (still on the 2nd floor) was a place you could see the paleontologists work:

Downstairs by the exit there was a giant mega-mouth shark preserved in a tank.
There was also a coelacanth (which Jeffrey immediately knew how to pronounce), but I couldn't get a good picture of it.

We moved onto the Science Museum across the park and spent about an hour checking out the exhibits after we spent a small fortune at the on-site McDonald's where Jeff stole Katherine's Little Pony Happy Meal Toy and threatened to make Alex carry it around on his shoulder for the rest of the day:

Sarah and Alex demonstrate the infrared screens:

Alex listens to sound waves through different sized pipes:

This was SO cool.....
One person sits on one side of the room:

And another sits WAAAAY across on the other side and you can whisper and hear what the other person is saying.

Trying out the musical instruments:
(Well goofing off AND trying out the musical instruments)

Figuring out which car is the most aerodynamic:

Outside we saw the original entrance to the museum.
"Los Angeles County Historical and Arts Museum" it reads.
Right now you can't go in this way but it was very pretty.
The stained glass in the ceiling I showed earlier was just inside of this entrance.

My crew heads into the rose garden.
Look how nice and well behaved they are pretending to be.

Me: "Lemme take a quick picture of the museum from back here"
Sarah: "Woo-Hoo!"
Me: ***SIGH***

OK, that's better.

And before we get back to our car we passed some seriously huge Rubber Trees.

So that was our day.
We had a really great time and I think the kids might have actually learned a thing or two.
At the very least they didn't spend the day glued to the TV or bickering.