Friday, May 30, 2008

Gas prices...


I had to pay $4 a gallon for gas today. I am usually pretty good about buying gas at one of 3 places nearby that tend to have better than average prices. Today, though, better than average for mid-grade gasoline was just over $4 a gallon! That really, really hurt.

My car is a 1996 Maxima that has been a workhorse for us. But, to keep from knocking, it really needs premium, but survives reasonably well on mid-grade. It seems like yesterday that everyone was freaking out when gas was fast approaching $2 a gallon. Boy, howdy!

I am working hard to minimize any trips, combine errands, etc. to save gas. We're backing out of DS11s therapy group for the summer to keep from driving over 1 hour each way. We're working on some therapy and play group time closer to home to save on driving.

My car gets around 30 mpg, so I am doing fairly well in that respect, but gas prices certainly hurt, especially in the summer when I'm not teaching. Add in bored and fussy kids and I will be working overtime to keep them occupied and happy close to home this summer.

Another frugal gift success!

At our recent graduation, two of our very talented young ladies sang a beautiful rendition of Stephen Curtis Chapman's song, "Fingerprints of God." They did such a lovely job and I am so impressed with them. They are both rising sophomores. It took a lot of nerve to get up and sing in front of a full auditorium of people and I wanted to do a little something to let them know how much their involvement added to our celebration.

So, I began looking around the internet for an idea. I came across some cute ideas: little paper bag scrapbooks, altered items, etc. I loved the idea for the little books, but even though I am married to the official school photographer, I have lots of pictures of one of the girls, but not many of the other, so I couldn't really figure out a way to make it equally special for the girls. However, I never shelve a good idea and may make an album for my friend, Karen. We see her once a year and take loads of pictures of each other's kids. Maybe an album of her kids as a keepsake. Hmmm. I need to raid hubby's computer to check for pics.

I settled on making an altered CD cover and turning it into a permanent, decorative greeting card. I wanted the front to be pretty enough to display and the words to be inside as a reminder to them of how wonderful they are.

I created it on my computer, so I didn't have to purchase stickers, paper, doo-dads, etc. I used a free paper that I downloaded some time ago. It is a nice pink paper with a larger, fuschia daisy with a yellow center. Since the file was for 12 x 12 inch paper, I centered the flower on the smaller document and was thrilled to find that it filled the space completely and ran off of the edges. It made for a beautiful decorative cover (and appropriately girly). For the 3 additional pages (inside cover, inside back cover, and back cover), I lowered the opacity to around 57% which makes the picture look like it is covered with vellum and made to look pale and soft. On top of that, I added words in a calligraphy font in a nice, warm brown.

The left side when it is open says, "In appreciation. __________&__________ performance of "Fingerprints of God" by Stephen Curtis Chapman at FCA Graduation. May 22, 2008. I deleted the names on purpose, I didn't ask the girls to fill in the blank!

The right side says, "God put a song in your heart and you were a blessing to me." Underneath is Psalm 9:2 written out.

The back cover is plain except for two lines at the bottom: "Crafted with love for _________."
My name is underneath.

Still having camera issues (likely user error, but....). I will post photos when I get a chance.

I am tickled with these. They look so cool, but were really so very simple and inexpensive.
I think I will make more when I need to give a gift card. It will look so much more substantial and cool.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

End of the Year Teacher Gifts

This year has been wild and crazy for us. Most years, I take a little bit of time to come up with an inexpensive gift for my kiddo's teachers. This year, I was so caught up in the details of life, that I didn't get around to doing anything.

I couldn't leave it at that. My kids have had wonderful experiences this school year and their teachers have been voted teacher of the year for the elementary and middle grades, respectively. They have really been a blessing in our lives and I am proud to call them colleagues.

Yet, I needed to do something significant and nice, without being pricey (or require too much running around in the car). So, this is what I came up with....

A student (who I adore) has asked me to help her to make a scrapbook of her family to give to her step-mom as a gift. It's a beautiful expression of love and we have had such fun looking at pictures and papers. We've laughed a lot and enjoyed each other's company. Of course, I seldom get to do crafty things with girls, so I have really eaten up this activity.

Anyway, my student inspired me and I picked up some chipboard cut outs of flowers, glitter glue, and notecards. I used brightly colored scrapbook paper that I had left over from another project and some scrapbook adhesive. I layered the chipboard flowers, glued them together, had hubby drill through the centers to put decorative brads through them.

I layered the ingredients and voila (!) one of a kind cards. Each one will read, "Thanks so much for helping my child to blossom this year." Then, I will add a personal comment. I am excited that they turned out so well, and look so substantial and decorative.

I will post pics when my camera is recharged. All in all, I had fun and created 6 gifts for less than $1 apiece. Of course, I will have to pay postage, but it still will cost less than I have spent in the past. The best part, I think, is that it is a personal gift. They are not all alike. It took time and creativity, and very little money. It's so much nicer than the typical impersonal, everyone bring $5 for the generic end of the year gift.

Monday, May 26, 2008

A surprise from the Youth Birding Competition

I forgot to blog this at the time, but about a week ago, a package was delivered by UPS for hubby. Inside it was a note from Tim Keyes, with the Georgia Youth Birding Competition. The note said that they had received more donations than they had anticipated this year and so he had a prize for each member of our team, the Chaotic Kestrels, as they were 3rd place statewide in their age range.

Both DS9 and his friend received a very nice pair of binoculars donated by Eagle Optics (which makes excellent optics and lenses) for them to use as they continue birding. These are easily on par with the pair that hubby uses as a Master Birder for Audubon Atlanta. The binoculars usually sell for significantly more than I am willing to pay for a child to use (hubby found DS9s at Radio Shack last year on sale for for $14 and they really pretty good). They are thrilled (of course) and are making plans to practice for next year's competition.

I am so thrilled that both boys are enjoying this. There is no better use for my tax money than this program which shows children about our wonderful natural resources and to be good stewards for future generations. All told, each boy received, a lovely ceremony and meal at the end of the event, a training day, a t-shirt, a book on Georgia birds, a chance to meet the author (DS9 has taken classes from him) to get the book autographed, and now some fancy-dancy binoculars. I am SO very impressed with this program and how it is shaping these children into the next generation of nature lovers, amazed by God's creation.

A productive (if slow) weekend.

Long weekends are heavenly! It's going to be tough to go back into school for the last couple of days of wrapping up the end of the year.

Even though my knee is still sore and fussy, I have managed to hang several loads of clothes out into the sunshine. The breezes are soft and it has been nice to watch the butterflies flutter around my plants.

I tied up my climbing yellow rose to the side of the porch step railings. I want to train it up to the top and maybe put a piece of lattice to help it continue up higher. The blooms (this is the first year it has bloomed and the first one opened this morning) are softly scented and I can't wait until they are up at eye level and perfuming the air. This will help to block the view of the air conditioner, lawn mower, etc. from the doorway.

My butterfly bush is blooming profusely. It started out 2 years ago as a tiny, sad looking plant in a small pot. It is now huge and taking over it's corner of the yard. The blooms are vivid, dark purple and so striking! I brought 3 of them in and put them in a milky white vase on my kitchen island (where we eat most meals). They remind me of purple fireworks launching from the vase. It makes me smile.

Hubby and the boys planted my Mother's Day gifts now that we know where we wanted to put them. First was a soft pink rose that is right next to the driveway. I will see (and smell) it every time I open my car door. It's lovely and it draws attention away from the electrical meter. It's a very vigorous looking bush and is blooming already.

The second rose is a "knockout" variety that will bloom from spring to frost. These were bred to do well in our Southern climate with humidity, heat, and drought. It is in a deep red with crayon yellow centers. It's a simple blossom without a lot of petals. It went out at the end of our long driveway with the two we planted last year. They don't get lots of care, but we do enjoy seeing these roses when we pull into our driveway. One day, I hope to have enough to smother the embankment and have a huge mass of color to mark the end of the drive. On the other side of the driveway, we have a sign with our house number posted. Immediately behind it is an old English style of pink rose which will one day be covered with blooms to frame our house marker.

Finally, they planted coleus in a pot for me to place at the bottom of our flag pole. DS11 wanted the coleus so badly for me because of all of the shade around here. Our yard is a long, narrow swath in the front and the back of the house. We are hemmed in by wonderful woods and wildlife. But, I don't have much room for my veggies or flowering plants, so I wedge them in where I can!

Last night, Hubby took the boys fishing and today they are on a "guys only" outing. I have enjoyed the quiet time to piddle around my house and yard. I even got to sit down and read a little bit--a rare treat for me! Most of the year, I read primarily student works. Enjoyable, but not the same kind of reading that I would do purely for pleasure.

All in all, a good weekend.

Happy Memorial Day!

Okay, I personally think that Americans, as a rule, are too quick to turn any holiday into an excuse for a barbeque and kegger without bothering to remember the significance of the date. Isn't it kind of pathetic when a day to remember our fallen war heroes is confused with drunken revelry? Or worse, when we prefer the drunken revelry to remembering those who purchased our freedoms at such a high price.

I am lucky. My Dad served proudly in Viet Nam. He volunteered at 17 (with parental permission) while many in his generation, were trying to weasel out of being drafted. He served his country for 11 years in the U.S. Navy (Go Navy!). He is to this day, one of the most loyal, patriotic, God-fearing men that I have ever met. I am so blessed that he is still with us and is a wonderful grandfather to my boys.

But, there are so many whose fathers didn't get to come home. We must remember them, lest their sacrifices (and those of their wives, children, families, etc.) be totally in vain. Also, remembering those who have come back less than whole (physically and/or mentally) because their sacrifices are no less profound.

Plus, what about our brave military members who are currently serving in harms way? Do we send them a message that their sacrifices don't matter to us?

Yes, I would love it if they could all come home and we could have peace on Earth and all hold hands and sing songs. But, that ain't reality, folks. Americans used to be known as folks who were "in it to win it" and not weak willed folks who ran from sacrifice. We've fallen down a few notches in recent generations.

So, hug a veteran today. Hug a war widow today. Hug a kid who plans to enlist soon and NEVER, never forget that our freedoms come with a cost. As the saying goes, "only 2 people have ever offerred to die for you: Jesus Christ and the U.S. soldier (airman, seaman, etc.)."

Saturday, May 24, 2008

It's over--woo hoo!

Yep. It's official. The 2007-2008 school year is officially over (for the kids at least). I, for one, am thrilled!

It has taken me two days to recover from the end of "festivities." Elementary Honors Day was Tuesday, Middle and High School Honors Day was on Wednesday. DS10 received honors for being on the Straight A Honor Roll, highest GPA in both science and language arts (ahem, I wonder who he gets that from??? Could it be his Biology and English teaching Mom, perhaps???). DS11 received a medal and award from the DARE program. He wrote an award winning essay! He even read it aloud; I nearly fainted! He was excited that he was getting the honor, but said that he wouldn't read the essay, but that Officer Morris Pike of the Griffin, GA Police Department could read it for him. At the last minute, he decided to read it aloud (complete with microphone). When we asked him why he chose to do that he replied, "because my Daddy asked me to." Never underestimate the power of a comment to a child. Hubby mentioned in passing that he thought kiddo could do it. He never thought another word about it and was just trying to be positive. Boy howdy, did it work!

Nearly every teacher and staff member in attendance went nuts! They all know how hard it was for him to read that paper. You could hear the nervous warble in his otherwise (aspie) monotone voice. It took so much out of him. He was exhausted immediately afterward.

The best thing, you ask? Watching Officer Pike, who had worked on patrol from 7 pm the previous night to 7 am that morning and came to our ceremony was rubbing and patting his back, encouraging him every step of the way. You could see him whisper, "way to go, buddy. You're doing it" over and over again. That is a good man.

Not everyone is capable of being so kind and open to an autistic child. Frankly, they have moments when they are not really easy to deal with at all, much less to someone they don't know well. They don't like meeting strangers (at least mine isn't thrilled with it) and they don't open up and trust easily at all. Officer Pike worked pretty darn hard to reach my child, even though it ain't easy and there really wasn't anything in it for him.

Wow. I can see God working so clearly in this.

Graduation was stressful. In the absence of our headmaster, I was elected to play the role of emcee. Everything went fine. I didn't make any overly obvious mistakes. But, I was being so careful to make sure that I didn't mess things up, that I was an exhausted wreck for a couple of days. I am just now starting to feel relaxed again. But, all in all, it was a joyous celebration and a happy time.

Now, I am preparing to open my arms (and heart) to the class of 2009! They have been dubbed the "Macho class" by the previous seniors. I think I will take one of my student's advice and make them the "Macho Nachos" and decorate my classroom in sombreros, images of nachos. We will take a couple of field trips to the local Mexican restaurant for lunch. It's so much fun when we can find a theme to embrace. I can't wait!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Time to order a round of therapy!

Today, after pitching a fit because I asked him to pick up the garbage off the floor of his room, DS11 promptly told me that he was going to stay at Granny's house because he hates me and his dad because, get this, we make him "do stuff." I guess he'd rather be left alone. Me too.

Of course, he didn't take into account that I was actually vacuuming said room because he didn't feel well and that he generally has to do it. Yep. I am a major, egg sucking sow of a mom.

Anyway, right on the heels of this episode, I was helping DS10 maneuver the vacuum into his room and DS11 yells, "hey, Daddy's home!" and throws open the front door.

I lunge around the corner saying, "wait! It's way too early for Daddy to be home" only to walk right into the new neighbors.

Let me set the scene for you. I am bra-less in an oversized t-shirt and shorts that I only wear to clean around the house. No shoes. My left leg is still obviously swollen, discolored, and sore--hence the shorts that don't touch my lower leg at all. Note that I omitted the phrase: wearing my wig. Ahem.

What a first impression I made! Not to mention that the entry area of my home is simply a dumping ground because not much cleaning has happened since I hurt my leg.

I think a nice round of therapy for all adults involved is in order! Woo Hoo!!!

They indicated that they would see me again soon. I didn't have the heart to tell them that they wouldn't recognize me when they did! Muhaha! Hair is such an amazing transformative tool.

Later, I tried explaining to the boys to give me a moment to get hair on, etc. (you know, the basics) before doors are flung open to strangers. DS10 didn't quite understand what I was concerned about. So, I tried to explain that Mommy wasn't wearing her hair, clothing that covered up her nasty leg, or a bra. To this my little angel makes a puking sound and says, "Now, I am going to be sick!"

I am richly blessed.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

God's Will?

Today, while grateful that DS11 got a clean bill of health from the doctor after his episode last night. It does appear to be related to lowered pulse on rising, possibly due to the fact that he is so tall for his age and growing in big spurts. Everything else checked out okay: neurology, blood glucose, iron levels, etc. I am so grateful. But, I will still keep an eye on him. Plus, the doctor insists that he increase his water intake as that will help the blood to be easier to move around his big body.

When scary things happen, I know that the Bible teaches us not to worry. It's all in God's hands--and I do truly believe that. It's hard not to worry when I don't even know what God's plan is for all of this. I pray for wisdom and guidance and protection and for lots and lots of other things, people, etc. However, I wonder if God is trying to talk to me and I am just not picking up on it. Pretty silly, huh?

Case in point, issues in the extended family can be scary sometimes. Perhaps someone is showing bad judgment, has addiction or mental health issues. It's scary. It's certainly not fixable by any easy or quick human means. Prayers go up. But, I sometimes wonder if I am supposed to DO something. Sometimes, I know: a call, a card, a small gift, time together, an email, etc., but other times, I wonder, am I missing something. Maybe the "thing" that I am supposed to be doing is just patiently waiting--but would somebody please hurry up and tell me?????

When attitudes and situations get a little hairy, I start to wonder how things fit in God's plan. Of course, knowing that God has a plan is pretty significant in and of itsself. Maybe I am not supposed to know the plan. Maybe I couldn't wrap my little mind around the vastness of the plan, perfectly crafted by the God of the Universe? What do you think?

Update on Georgia Youth Birding Competition

For those of you who know us, you'll recall that hubby and DS10 participate in the GYBC in the spring (this is the second year they have participated). DS10 and his best friend make up the team, "Chaotic Kestrels." DS11 has always been welcome to participate, but declines. They always have a blast and saw more birds this year than last year. Everyone comes home exhausted and happy, usually with a t-shirt and autographed birding book that is specific to Georgia (freebies from the contest). It's probably one of the best uses of my tax dollars in action that I have ever seen as it educates children, promotes conservation and responsible hunting practices, and keeps kids busy! Plus, future generations will benefit from what these kids have learned as they teach their kids and grandkids. It's one of very few governmental programs that I can simply find no down side to.

Well, the official rankings were announced yesterday afternoon and the Chaotic Kestrels earned 3d place in their division, state wide! Woo Hoo!!! They even identified 7 birds in addition to the number they found last year--all new species for them. I am so proud.

The Saga Continues

Last night, while dealing with some family issues, DS11 lost muscle control as I watched. He had complained periodically about "fizzing out" when he stood up suddenly or stretched enthusiastically. He described it as seeing "static" and odd stuff which blurred his vision momentarily. It sounded an awful lot like the medical condition of low blood pressure upon rising (which a friend of mine has). She has never needed medical attention for it, but her doctor knows about it. So, I took my cues from her.

This is different. Even DS11s facial muscles went limp. His hands, arms. legs, eyelids, and lips were flopping. We're going to the doctor as soon as they open. We have a regularly scheduled appointment with the ENT later today. I hope to get this sorted out, as it is a bit scary!

But, it does keep the crazy family stuff that can come up occasionally in perspective!

Sunday, May 4, 2008


Well, brother is finally home and resting comfortably, but terribly sore (as was to be expected). The girls are both okay and resting at their homes. One is in a fair amount more pain than the other, but both will be fine in a few days (thank God!).

Of course, I wonder how the drunk driver feels knowing the chaos and pain that he caused, but I realize that so many people are so possessed by alcohol that they won't feel anything. It's high time that society actually creates punishments for these kinds of offenses that will actually get these people off of the streets where they can't hurt anyone.

I do realize that we are richly blessed that none of these kids were seriously hurt. I can only imagine sitting at graduation knowing that my brother couldn't be there on stage with his class and that there were two girls that wouldn't be onstage to graduate in '09 and '10 respectively. It is painful to think about. Scary stuff.

Crochet update

Amid all of the chaos that is life right now, I am making progress on the baby blanket front. I completed the two blankets for my colleagues pretty quickly. Then, hubby came home thrilled to report that a colleague of his just had twin grandsons and he'd like to send a gift. So, I mixed some light blue baby thread with the variegated that I have left over from the original blankets. The first one turned out beautifully and I am about half way through the second one. I just LOVE this pattern. It works up so quickly! Now, I want to try it out with pink and variegated, yellow and variegated, etc. Fun, fun, fun!

I also wondered if I couldn't make a mix of neutral colors and enlarge it into a couch throw or something. The texture might be really cool in the right yarns...

Ooh! A scarf--I just thought of that one!

Either way, inexpensive gifts that are mega-cute!

A Wild Weekend

Friday night, I chaperoned the Disco Prom Extravaganza for our school. Everyone cleaned up well and a good time seemed to be had by all.

Saturday night, my little brother (19 and a senior in high school and prom attendee) went to the movies with two friends and was in a car accident. A drunk driver pulled out in front of him and there wasn't anything he could do. The two girls who were riding with him were taken to the hospital and later released (on crutches). My brother is still in the hospital, being kept overnight for observation after he hit his head. The initial CAT scan looked good, but the docs weren't convinced that he was okay since he was having some problems answering questions and responding to verbal commands. We'll see what they say in the morning.

Friday night began the Georgia Youth Birding Competition that DS10 is participating in for a second time. So, he went with his teammate's Dad to get started while we did the prom thing (hubby does the school's photography events, also). Then, both dads took kids off for a whirlwind round of the state to catalog bird sightings. All went well and plans were made for next year's event.

DS11 went for a follow up doctor's appointment post surgery and the doctor found more inflammation than he wanted to see, so we go back again next Wednesday.

I can't wait to see what tomorrow (today) will bring...

If anyone actually reads this post, please say a prayer for these 3 kids who were in the accident. They were all pretty shaken up.

Hug your loved ones! Keep crusading against drunk drivers.