Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Annual Left Hander's Day

Apparently, today, August 13th has been designated as a celebration of Left Handedness for the last 19 years.

I still remember the day I decided to be left handed.  I was 5 or 6, and came home to my Grandma Carole after school and told her that they'd told me I would have to choose a hand.  Apparently, up to that point, I would alternate when one hand got tired.  She told me that most people are right handed.  And in that moment, I decided to be left.

I chalk it up to being ornery.

I remember my mother saying that my Grandma Betty had been left handed when she was a little girl, but they'd rapped it out of her across her knuckles when she tried.  Thankfully, they were over that 'treatment' by the time I was first going to school!

I was the only left hander in my house when I was growing up.  I learned that when sitting in a restaurant (Okay, fast food) booth at the table to eat, I would have to be on the left of a right handed eater-- or we'd play elbow hockey the whole time.  I have always worn my watch on my right arm because I hated dragging it across the table when I wrote.  And speaking of writing, to deal with the 'drag my hand through what I've written as I'm writing' issue, I brought my hand down and under what I write, the same way a lot of right handers do.

I was -extremely- grateful when left handed scissors came out!  Cutting is the number one instance where being left handed was ever a disadvantage-- right handed scissors not only wore my hand out, but guaranteed blisters.

I was in high school the first time a teacher made me sit in a left handed desk.  In this instance, I couldn't believe that right handers could stand to be in their 'proper' desks, if I'd been doing it backwards.  Sitting in the 'right' chair (ergo 'left handed') meant I banged the hell out of my elbow.  Frequently.

It was also in high school that I realized I was -really- good at mirror writing.  Writing and passing notes written this way-- a teacher would pick it up, look at it, and hand it back.  And all my friends would have to do is flip the page over to read it through the back, or hold it up to a mirror.

I remember that when it came to learning manual things (painting, archery, musical instruments, sewing, etc.) , teachers would ask if anyone was left handed, and when I raised my hand, they'd attempt to 'flip' what they were doing.  I was 9 when I started telling them that I was, but not to change how they taught the lesson, please.  I'd already realized that if I sat facing them, instead of beside them, it was already 'mirrored'.

Both of my little boys are also left handed.  Mark says I taught them to be.  I thought I was impartial, but research suggests it genetic.

At least they're growing up in a world where left handed scissors already exist (;  Now that's worth celebrating!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Creating Amazing Contraptions

This evening, my almost 6 year old wanted to watch the next episode of Blues Clues on Netflix.  He was amazed that he's on episode 105, which turns out the be Season 5, Episode 5 - Contraptions.

The first thing we see is Joe with the contraption he's made to help waving.  And then he makes a crayon slide so he can slide crayons down a ramp to blue.

At that point, my youngest pauses the episode and dashes off to his room and my 9 year old runs to get a book he has that is full of contraption ideas.  After browsing through the pictures and learning about Rube Goldbergs, my oldest daydreams about running a series of lines and pulleys across his ceiling with baskets and magnets to choose books off his bookshelf and pull them to his bed.

Meanwhile, my youngest son has gone into his room and pulled out all of his building blocks to make a ramp for his matchbox cars.  With a little help regarding supports and side rails, he made it tall enough to go from the seat of his desk chair all the way down to the floor, pretty much all by himself-- and it -works-!

And earlier this evening, he was playing with dominoes.  He started out setting them up to knock down, then decided to use them like building blocks.  It was pretty impressive.  He managed to get it 7 'stories' high.

He's even inspired the rest of the family, on occasion to join him in his dominoes.

It's not the first time that he's impressed me with his ingenuity, manual dexterity and patience:

Once again, all he needed were a few pointers to get him started, and he ran with it!

 He's always had a fascination for stacking things.  One of the things that impresses me most is that he'll vanish into his room to work on something, sometimes for hours (with me occasionally checking on him to make sure he's alright) and then he comes out to show off the finished product.

They've always been very impressive!

I'm always excited to see what he's come up with when he calls me into his room.
 Tomorrow, my boys want help creating a Rube Goldberg of their own.  I'm very interested to see what they come up with (:

Thursday, August 11, 2011


This summer, my older son got to spend a month with my parents.  My boy has always been a pet person and it wasn't long after I left that he started bringing one of the dogs in to sit with him and sleep with him at night.  ...I should probably mention she's a daschund, so it's much easier to cart her around.  About a week before I came to bring him home, while talking to him one evening, he asks me if he can keep said dog.

Mark and I discussed it and I had three questions for my Mom:  1.  Is she spayed? (I don't keep viable pets.  Every pet I've ever owned was spayed as soon as they could be.) 2.  Is she house broken?  and 3.  Is she up to date on her shots?  The answer to all three was yes.

When I talked with my son, I told him that she'd be allowed to come home with us, but it was conditional:  She would have to get along with our other animals-- all 3 other dogs, as well as our grumpy old cat.  She would have to get along with his brother and us as well.  And she would have to learn our rules.  If she couldn't pass any of these tests, she would have to go to a shelter because we couldn't make the 12 hour drive back to my parent's house.

She traveled beautifully all the way home.  And the day we got here, we got her a name tag with our information and made sure our yard was likely to contain her (meaning Mark filled in the holes by the fence that the other 3 dogs have been digging off and on for the last 3 years.)

She's 5 years old.  My mother had only had her for about 6 months.  Previous to that, she was at a puppy mill.  There's no telling how many litters she was forced to have before she was rescued.  She's skittish and frequently scared.  And previous to my parents, she had almost no human contact.  While with them, she got used to sitting with people and allowing them to touch her (she's still not a fan of being picked up) and my son taking her out of the dog house every day brought her even further along, socially.  My parents told me that she never barks and she never jumps up.  You have to put her on the furniture.  She has to be brought in and out and she has to sleep with someone at night.

Her name is Pebbles.  We've now had her for 2 1/2 weeks.  She gets along beautifully with all four of our other animals.

Yes, that is indeed, the cat's tail across her nose as she lays by my side.
She jumps up on the furniture if she wants there and comes outside or in when called.  I have to admit, it helps that going in and out are really the main 'commands' we have for our dogs.  And it sounds like this, "Critter, critter Out-side!" or "Critter, critter In-Side!"  I use this phrasing so often, my boys use them as well.

We do have to put her under a laundry basket to eat.  That was one thing I had to call my Mom about on the second day we had her-- she wasn't eating.  She was used to having a bowl of dog food on the porch that was always full of food-- and she would only eat when no one else was around and if she thought no one could see her.

But I can't do that at our house.  For one thing, we have a dog that was a starvation rescue and she will eat and eat and eat (and throw up in the yard) and just keep eating.  If we tried that, Pebbles would literally starve to death.  And for another, our pets have to be on a routine that works with our schedule.  I feed them twice a day.  Once when we get up, and once in the early evening.

We had to put her under a laundry basket with her food to prevent her from running away.  For the first week, we had to put an empty cooler on top of it to stop her from escaping.  This week, we don't need the cooler any more, and she's emptying the bowl every day now.  And eating while I and the other animals are in the same room.  She's making some serious progress!

The fourth day we had her, I heard her bark.  She only does it when she's outside with the rest of our dogs-- and only to bark at other dogs outside of our yard.  For now (;  We're fairly certain our girls will teach her to bark at squirrels and deer, and fighting cats, and strangers-- eventually.

She's definitely bonded with her boy.

See her snuggling under his arm while he and his cousin play Fusion Frenzy?

She's looking at her boy waiting for him to come to bed and turn out the light for the night.
And I think she's settling in quite well.

We'll make a Wise out of her yet!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


A week ago Monday, after discovering how terribly I let myself go for the summer, I decided I needed to try to get into some semblance of shape.

My problem is that I absolutely hate exercise.

So each morning, at 10 minutes to 5 am, when my alarm clock goes off, I guilt myself into getting out of bed and going to do it anyway.

I have a great assortment of options from home owned dvds, mind you:  I have belly dancing from beginners through advanced.  I have a couple of different yogas.  I have pilates.  I have hula hooping.  I have several different dvds focusing on all sorts of isolations.  And I have the complete P90X...  (I'm trying to build up to that one.)

I wake up each morning and decide which video I'm going to endure for the next 15 minutes to an hour, depending on the choice.

I came across this today:

It shouldn't take more than 15 minutes, but I'm fairly certain it's going to kick my butt...even if it says it's all about the belly (;

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Irish Stir Fry

So this evening, my children started calling for dinner at 4.  I have a refrigerator with a calendar on it that has meal suggestions for pretty much every day of the week.

I didn't feel particularly inclined to make any of it tonight.

So I opened the fridge and took a look:  I saw left over pot roast, fresh carrots, fresh celery, and a bowl of bacon grease.

And suddenly, I was thinking... "I wonder what happens if you take all the ingredients for stew and toss them in a frying pan full of bacon grease instead?!"

So I diced up the pot roast, put the bacon grease in a large frying pan and started it up under medium high heat.  Then I peeled and diced a large onion.  (As I took care of each new ingredient, I tossed it right in.)  Then I peeled and large diced over half a dozen potatoes.  Then a handful of baby carrots.  I added salt, pepper and minced garlic and covered it with a lid to help steam the root vegetables while I fried them.  Roughly every 7 minutes, I lifted the lid and stirred the contents to make sure everything had a chance to brown.  With only 10 minutes left before the root vegetables would be perfectly tender (meaning I'd been cooking for almost 50 minutes), I diced up celery and stirred it in.

It's about as pretty as regular stew, a whole lot less healthy...and absolutely delicious!


When I was a little girl, particularly after my Mom and Dad got married, people tended to think that my sister Erin and I were adopted, while my sister Amanda was their birth daughter.

My sister Erin and I, when we were little.

All three of us girls, with my Dad.

All three of us girls with my Mom and Grandma Betty.

That's not actually the case.  My mother married a Hawaiian and had my sister and I before they divorced.  My youngest sister is actually the one who is adopted.  As I've previously mentioned, I'm half Hawaiian.

My sister and I with our biological Father.

There are only two instances I ever remember being made to feel bad about my ethnicity.  The first time, I was about 8 and had spent all summer seeing how dark I could get:  Classmates accused me of being half black.

The second time was after my youngest sister was born.  My family was at a Holiday work party for one of my parents and this woman came up to me and told me, "It's so kind of your parents to have adopted you and your sister.  Especially considering they can children of their own."  I was surprised and shocked.  And pointed out that Erin and I were actually the biological children, thank you very much.

When I was 13, I heard my first racial slur joke.  I don't even remember what it was.  What I -do- remember is that from that moment until we figured it all out, my sister and I were on a quest to discover what our ethnic heritage would be in racial slurs.  This was NOT an activity my mother approved.  We'd found Chink (Chinese), Nip/Jap (Japanese), Kraut (German), Mick (Irish), Jock (Scottish), Nitchy (Native American) and Redcoat/Limey (English).  But we got stumped on Hawaiian.  When I asked my Mom what the slur they'd use for us in Hawaiian was, she laughed and said they'd call us, "Haole" -- which is Hawaiian for white.

My family at my wedding.  Yes, that's my niece trying to eat my bouquet (;

I have to admit, I didn't think about ethnicity at all when Mark and I got married.

Although I -did- have a couple of conversations about in the four years living with Mark's Grandmother.

Referencing her own Granddaughter's marriage, she told me the story of the bird and the fish that fall in love, and asked me where they'd build their nest.  My response was that it was more like a blue bird and red bird making pretty purple bird babies....

Another time, when the conversation turned to race, I told her that I'd always worried that she would object to Mark and I marrying.  She looked surprised and asked why.  I told her, "Because my father is Hawaiian."  She said, "But they're white, aren't they?"  I told her no and showed her pictures of my biological father.  Afterwards, she got very quiet, and said, "....Well...I always liked you, Janin."

So this morning, I read my friend Kim's blog about visiting the Smithsonian Race: Are We So Different? Exhibit.

And learned that I'm Hapa, as are both of my boys!

Mark and our two little boys, when they were VERY young (:

It's a slang term that is gaining popularity, to mean: of mixed ethnic heritage, with partial roots in Asian and/or Pacific Islander ancestry.

And it actually originates from the Hawaiian derogatory term my mother told me, oh so very long ago:  Hapa Haole:  Half White.

I think I'm going to purchase the book, Part Asian, 100% Hapa, to show my children a glimpse of the diversity they are a part of.

When I Grow Up, I Want To Be Happy

This morning, I read a article on Happiness and why most of the ideas we have about it are wrong.  It completely reminded me that when I was little, if you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer (if it wasn't a teacher or dancer or Daisy Duke) was that I wanted to be happy.

I think I was fortunate enough to grow out of that particular wish.  I was 12 when my standard wish on shooting stars went from, "I want to be happy." to either, "I wish for everything we need and some of what we want" or "Thank you."  Sometimes, there's not a thing I wish for, except to express gratitude for what I already have.

I remember my first boyfriend in college, a theatre major who was given the assignment to just observe people for a week.  He pointed out to me that I was the only person he saw who smiled pretty much all the time-- even when I was all by myself.  I've mentioned it before, but it bears noting again-- I frequently amuse me and I'm prone to random thoughts.

I have to admit, I consider this a blessing.

About a week ago, a friend on facebook posted to her blog that Craft Materials Are Not Groceries.  Besides being an excellent reminder to not hoard craft supplies and actually work on craft projects, she linked to The Happiness Project.  I spent hours perusing that site.  Some of the best advice is realizing that you have to accept what makes YOU happy, and not what you wish would make you happy.

Watching the birds eat at the bird feeder outside my living room window makes me happy.  Watching my cat watch those birds makes me happy.  Watching my dogs play with each other in the backyard makes me happy.  Watching my dogs play with my boys make me happy.  A really good meal I don't have to cook.  A really good meal I did.  Having clean hair.  Having warm feet.  Laughing-- about all sorts of things.  Reading, curled up with a good book.  Reading, curled up with my cat.  Reading out loud, curled up with my boys.  Learning something new.  Doing something I'm good at.  Learning something new that it turns out I'm going to be good at.  Watching my house plants grow and thrive.  Watching my outdoor plants grow and thrive.  Watching the wild flowers I didn't have a thing to do with grow and thrive.  Snuggling.  All of these things, and so many, many more, make me happy.

Now don't get me wrong.  I have bad days.  And even good days have bad moments.  Because happiness is not a constant thing.  It can't be.  Like all moods, it's passing.

But paying attention and appreciating the moments when it happens means that I'm grown up, and I'm blessed to be happy, thousands of times every day.

Monday, August 8, 2011

It's the End of Summer least for my little boys.  I actually have another week and a day before my classes start.  I don't know how well any of us are going to sleep tonight, though, as we're -all- excited about them starting tomorrow. (:

I've always loved school.  And learning.  Even when summer was fun, I was always ready for it to be over so we could get back to school.  Heck, when I was little, my sister and our friends would -play- school.  I stayed up all night writing out math and spelling words and teaching them the next day.  Did I mention that I loved school?

My boys are not quite so zealous about it.  In fact, when summer began, my almost 6 year old cried because he was afraid about going to his brother's school and the shear amount of homework he'd have to do (from the horror stories his big brother told him.)

We had first grade open house on Sunday.  I left my oldest and home and it was just my youngest and I.  He wore his brand new school tennyshoes, and we brought all his class supplies.

There are a couple of great changes their school has already done, and school doesn't even start until tomorrow!  First, they got rid of the terrible 'clear book bag'.  For 5 years, I've had to purchase those stupid things-- and they fall apart after 3 months.  When you tape them, they only last another 4 at most.  And then when you go back to the store looking to replace them-- there aren't any.  It was a terrible fiasco.  FINALLY, the school saw reason and dropped that rule.  For the first time in his school career, my oldest son got to choose his own bookbag (:  Secondly, they divided up the open houses-- first and second grade on Sunday, third through fifth on Monday.  Makes a world of difference when you're looking for parking!  And third, we all know that the only reason we all crowd into the gym is that we want to know who our children are going to have as teachers.  This year, they had tables set up in the gym and while we waited for the main meeting to begin, we could walk up and find out this all important information!

This was definitely the most stress free and easy open house season we've ever had.  After the 30 minute meeting, we brought all the school supplies to his classroom and met his new teacher.  She was very nice and asked me to repeat his name so that she would know how to pronounce it.  And the only form we had to fill out then and there was for the buses (which will be running the very first day!  Yet another change.  In fact, they've apparently reworked the entire bus system!)  After checking the list they had in the classroom, I knew my boys would be on the same route they've always been on.  And she had goody bags out for each of the kids.  My little boy was hooked from the moment he got that pinwheel (:

I just took the rest of the paperwork home, filled out and put it in his notebook that is currently sitting in his book bag and waiting to go with him to school in the morning.

This evening, I repeated the experience, except with my oldest son.  He got his #1 hope:  his best friend and he are in the same class again this year (:  And his friends have told him that his teacher is one of the nicest.  And she made sure to learn his name and the nickname he prefers to be called.  Her class was a LOT busier than my youngest's had been.

I had originally thought, because we had the same bus route that we'd have the same bus driver, and she'd said at the end of last year they'd be changing the pick up spot, so I called her to ask where that would be-- and discovered that we have a completely different driver!  So I got the new driver's # and called and left a message.  She called me just as I was getting ready to read bedtime stories to the boys and it turns out that my boys will be picked up right in front of our house, like they've always been.  (Score!)

Both of my boys have let me know they've had a wonderful summer and greatly enjoyed it--
but they're ready to go back to school tomorrow (:

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Future Potential Home Invaders Beware

The family came over to our house this evening.  First, they headed out into my mosquito infested backyard (My mower blade broke and it took me a week to track down a replacement blade...and the yard needed mowed a week ago, before another week of rain!), and aimed at targets with the pellet guns.

Then we were playing games and just visiting.  One of my favorite parts was when I stood in the kitchen working on the final stage of dinner and could hear two simultaneous conversations going on.  At the dining room table, Mark and the two oldest kids were going through the instructions for a zombie board game and rolling dice and counting their weapons.  And in the living room, Mom, Heather and the two youngest kids were going through the instructions for -another- zombie board game.

Then we had wonderful conversation over delicious bacon wrapped chicken.  After dinner, we all headed out to the front yard and they cut bamboo for the kids to play with.  Then my 9 year old brought out his knife collection to show it off.  My dad got him a buck knife to practice throwing.  While he practice trying to hit the tree with it, I remembered we have actual throwing knives in the living room.  When I brought those out, everyone gave them a try (:  The four year old managed to get one into the tree on his final try, as did my youngest son.  My older son was trying a little too hard and needs to work on relaxing for his aim, but he's got a really good spin.  My older niece did -really- well.  She managed to get a total of 6 knives in the tree over several different practices.  And Mark's sister, Heather did as well.  Mark did too and his Dad was comic relief (lol).  His first time, 'showing us how it's done' he threw all 5 knives at the exact same time.  The second time, he faced US and threw them behind his back.  And the third, he brought one of my kitchen knives out as a joke (;

That's when I realized that any future potential home invaders should probably just skip our house.  At any given time, there are 7 knives in the living room, 2 blocks full of knives in the kitchen, my oldest has a dozen is his room, there are 2 swords and 3 katanas in the shed in the backyard, and 2 large saber type swords in our bedroom.  Then there's the assorted variety of scissors in the kitchen, dining room, living room and bed rooms.  I can assert there are over 2 dozen, divided between craft related, sewing and paper.  And that doesn't even get into exacto knives.  Nor any of the saws, etc. that are in various locations throughout the yard.

We have a very sharp stocked home... forget home invaders!  Perhaps we really are prepping for that zombie invasion!

If you're ready for a zombie apocalypse, then you're ready for any emergency.