Friday, June 3, 2011


My oldest child is a fish.  He adores swimming and always has.  I helped teach him how to do it.  I'm in the process of teaching my youngest.  One of the impressive parts of both of those sentences is that I am not a good swimmer.  It's amazing to me, in fact, how many things I have given up being actually afraid of, so that I would not pass my fears on to my kids.

I don't usually mention it, but to this day, I can clearly remember being 4 or 5 and almost drowning.  We were at a neighbor friend of my stepfather's.  She had one of those round 5 ft above ground pools.  I was in the middle of a little rubber duck.  Everyone else had gotten out and gone in.  I was actually having a great time, right up to the point that I decided I wanted to go inside as well.  I was in the middle of the pool and wanted to head for the deck to get out.  And was small enough that I slipped down through the center of the duck.  I did like all people who don't know how to swim-- and panicked.  I remember my feet hitting the bottom and pushing up to the surface and trying to grab the duck-- but I didn't know where it was.  I remember taking as much of a breath as I could before going under again.  Hitting the bottom with my feet and pushing back up to the top again.  I don't remember calling for help.  I don't think I had the breath to do so.  I very, very clearly remember seeing Keith standing by the sliding glass door watching me.  Pushing up again and seeing the lady of the house come running towards me.  Pushing up again and seeing her dive into the pool. I remember her snatching me and putting me on the deck and as I lay there gasping for breath, with her beside me, I also very clearly remember hearing Keith say, "Well, you -almost- swam."  And thinking, "Swam?!  I almost -drowned-!"  And for the next 14 years, would not go in water I could not stand up in and still breath if I wanted to.  I still can't stand to have water in my face.  Even in the shower.

On an aside, with this being the season for swimming, I want to share this information about drowning.  It may save a life:  like mine, when the neighbor friend recognized that I was drowning.

All of this to say that I didn't learn how to back float, or even do rudimentary swimming until I was 18 and my friend Ambrosia taught me.  I was always okay with being in water that I could stand up and breath when I got tired.  Once I learned that I could back float, I was no longer terrified of being in deeper water...  though on more than one occasion, I would take a deep breath, sink in the deep end and walk along the bottom towards the side of the pool, pushing up to the surface for another deep breath as needed so that I wouldn't freak out about failing to swim--a way I learned -not- to panic.

So now we fast forward to having children.  I have never wanted my children to have's not exactly fear any more, but it's certainly not pleasure or enjoyment-- and I have always wanted my boys to be like fish in the water.  My oldest was easy.  He's always loved jumping in and having a grand time.  He really learned how to swim when he was about 6 and finally had regular access to a pool to practice in.

My youngest, on the other hand, 2 years ago, when he was 2 1/2, was in a neighbor's pool with a bunch of older kids.  The water was about shoulder height on him and the rest of the kids started swirling and rough housing-- and knocked his feet out from under him.  He went under and couldn't get his feet.  I immediately grabbed him from the side and set him on his feet.  I did -not- freak out.  I did -not- take him out of the pool as I checked to make sure that he was alright and only surprised.  Once I was sure he was okay, I let him continue to play in the water.  He doesn't even remember it, but from that day, he's been 50/50 about getting in pools and absolutely would not put his face in the water.

Until today.

Yesterday, I called Mark's cousin and we set up to go over their way to swim in the pool.  So today, my youngest made a deal with me before we left.  He said, "Momma, will you take your glasses off?"  (Which I almost never do.)  I said, "If I do, will you not be a weanie about being in the water?"  He nodded, I nodded, and we had ourselves a deal.

My oldest and his cousin swam around in the deep end having a jolly time and my youngest and I were in the shallow end.  I got him comfortable getting his face wet, cupping his hands and moving his arms properly, keeping his feet of the floor of the pool, and starting to kick.  We worked on holding our breath under water (which meant that we -both- had to get our faces wet).  I even got him more comfortable with jumping into the water.  After an hour, we had both swum across the shallow end over a dozen times.  Admittedly, he was in a chest floaty, but he took it off twice to practice without it!  I am so proud of him!

Then, he wanted to swim across the length of the pool into the deep end.  And he did (with me staying close by, hanging on the edge of the pool.  I am not a fast swimmer, nor a strong one, so I wanted to be close enough to reach him quickly, if needed.)  He went back and forth half a dozen times, even starting to hold his body correctly and dip his face in the water (: 

And after each of his accomplishments, I'd say, "Do you know what -you- just did?!"  And he'd be proud of his own feats (:

I love this smile, on my 5 year old, out in the deep end without me for the first time.  Pure enjoyment and confidence!  Shortly after this he said, "This is fun!"

In the end, I got out of the pool and just let him play with the water, his brother and his cousin. 

And in my mind, I danced in joy that my boy was starting to be a fish like his brother, especially when he didn't want to get out when it was time to get ready to go home (:

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Memorial Day (and a couple of days after)

We had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend.  Saturday was a whole lot of moving furniture around, then Sunday, Mark did ribs and his parents came over for dinner.
One of my absolute favorite parts was when my guys and their Grandma Judy set up the dominoes.

 That evening, we took the boys outside and roasted marshmallows.

 Even the dogs got involved (;  Once the boys (and dogs) had their fill of marshmallows, we sat outside and just enjoyed watching the fire for a bit.

The boys were -going- to go camping that night, in the backyard all by themselves.  You probably noticed the tent set up in the above picture.  They laid down at 8:30 and started telling ghost stories... they came in 2 hours later after they'd frightened themselves. (;

So last night, they asked me if we could try it again, and if I'd sleep with them.  I told them yes, and at 8:30, we headed discover this:

In the dark, with arms full of sleeping bags and pillows, and 96 degree weather-- I wasn't game to try to figure out how to fix it.

The culprit (lol)  Ruby will try to run through the gas grill, tree stumps, stairs...the tent presented no challenge at all (;
So we headed back inside to a house already dark and my oldest says, "Mom!  Can we camp out in the living room?"  I set the sleeping bags up on the floor and the boys and I watched Super Capers:

which was absolutely least to me (;  The boys haven't seen all the movies this one referenced/ spoofed.

Then the boys stayed up to watch a couple of other Netflix selections, but I'd reached the end of my ability to stay awake (it was already 11) and was fast turning into a pumpkin.  I gave them instructions to turn everything off when the last show was over and to be nice.  It's times like these that I know that I am blessed with good children!

This is what I came in to when I woke up at 8 this morning:

My two boys sleeping peacefully in their camp out in the living room (:

Now that I've got the tent set back up, we'll see if they're game for trying to sleep back out in it tonight....

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme

Or "Variety is the Spice of Shepherds Pie".

Mark and I had been married for almost three years before I'd ever heard of Shepherds Pie.  We went over to our friends, Jess and An, for dinner one evening and they prepared it:

Browned ground beef, green beans, a can of tomato soup mixed in a casserole dish, topped with mashed potatoes and baked at 350 for half an hour.

It was absolutely delicious.  And it sparked a conversation with Mark because that's not the way he made it.  So a couple of days later, he did:

Browned ground beef, green beans, shredded cheddar cheese, topped with mashed potatoes and baked.

I typically make it based on Mark's recipe, but add onions and minced garlic.  As for spices, the first two are limited to salt and pepper.  Mine adds garlic powder and onion powder.  (I'm sure I've previously mentioned that my husband says he'd never met a family who uses as much garlic and onion as mine does.  (As a further aside, it makes you less likely to be munched by bugs.))

What I discovered in the last 2 weeks is that you can say, "I'm making Shepherds Pie for dinner tonight" and a most people are going to know -exactly- what that is... sort of.  You see, they all use different ingredients.

It turns out that the unifying theme for shepherds pie is the mashed potato topping over a meat mixed with -something- else.  It originated in the late 1800s as a way to take care of leftovers for poor people (because, lets face it, in the 1800s the rich weren't going to eat lowly potatoes.)

My sister in law is credited with making it:

Browned ground beef, corn, and mashed potatoes. 

And I have to admit, hearing that reminded me of how I like to eat my mashed potatoes with meatloaf.  So I decided to use that statement to make tonights dinner.

Instead of ground beef, I bought ground pork, a can of corn, a small jar of pork gravy and made mashed potatoes from actual potatoes.  As I browned the pork, I added diced onion and minced garlic, then seasoned with salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder, like I usually do...but it didn't smell 'right'.  So I added rosemary...then sage...then I started thinking about

and thought... "You know...all four of those spices go well with pork" and so I added thyme and parsley as well.  And finally, the meat smelled like it was worth eating.  As per the usual instructions, I put them all in a casserole dish and covered with the mashed potatoes and baked for half an hour.  The end result was pretty good, but very different from what I'm used to.

Next time, if I'm feeling really adventurous, I'll choose from one of these 400 shepherds pie recipes (;

The Day of the Spider

I may not have mentioned it lately, but my oldest child considers himself a bit of a prankster.  He likes to see if he can get me to scream.  It absolutely drives me nuts-- and makes him giggle with delight in his eyes.  Cheeky bum.

His latest prank was to place his large black spider ring

under the corner of my bookshelf.  Just enough that if you come over to it, you're going to notice it.

And I did.  And thought it was real.  Even as I type this, I'm getting itchy thinking about spiders.

Fortunately, before I freaked out, I noticed that it had a ring on the bottom side, so I picked it up and put it back in his room.  Scream averted.

Unfortunately, it set me up -perfectly- for the very real spider on my kitchen floor.

At first glance, I thought he was trying again and went to pick it up to put it back in his room... before it moved...

Snake Nightmares

I woke up several time in the night from having snake nightmares.  I've had them off and on all my life.  Fortunately, not terribly frequently.

They are always one of two themes.  In the first, I dream that a vast multitude of snakes

are trying to make their way into whatever building I am in.

I'm sure it didn't help that I learned at 6 that they could climb up walls.

The other dream, and the one that I had progressing through last night, features a single snake.  Sometimes, it's huge.

which makes it -really- hard to get away from.

But the more terrifying nightmares are actually when the snakes are quite small.

Because tiny snakes are easy to overlook.  And can get in through the cracks in windows...and under doors.

So in the dream last night, I avoided stepping on the little snake with bare feet in the yard (I've -actually- stepped on little snakes in our yard with shoes on), only to find it in my kitchen (where I've periodically come across little lizards and taken them back outside).

In these particular dreams, I am always bitten.

Okay, it's not really that traumatic.  I'm usually bit in the hand.

But in the dreams, I am absolutely certain that the snake is poisonous and I have to bring it with me to the emergency room.

So that they can identify it properly.  I have never yet, in a single one of these dreams, successfully made it to being treated with anti-venom.

Sometimes, I can't catch the snake and the poison acts too quickly.

Sometimes, I can't drive and hold on to the snake at the same time.

Sometimes, the snake grows larger as I hold it, and it fights back to get away, getting stronger as it goes.

Sometimes, I make it to the emergency room.  And one of two things happen.  Either they absolutely freak out about having a live, poisonous snake brought in and it's an entire hospital pandemonium dream sequence.

(sans all the zombie killing...)

Or they don't have anti-venom at my hospital and I'll be dead before they can get it from another hospital.

Fortunately, I have always woken up before it killed me.  Unfortunately, when I have snake nightmares, it's a variety of them throughout the entire night.

There are many interpretations of snakes in dreams-- but you have to bear in mind that what it means depends on the person dreaming.  I was born in the year of the snake, so I tend to think of them as a representation of me-- getting in my own way, be it procrastination or doubt or simply not getting started.

So I'm figuring I endured a night of rough sleep as my minds way of telling me it's time to take care of my room and start preparing for visiting family this summer.

...That, or I should watch out for snakes... (;