Thursday, October 9, 2014

Hitting The Target

This is what the tail-end of a lovely shot looks like. And, yes, that is an umbrella.

Thomas' beautiful swing

It was a good day to be hitting golf balls. Warm, but not too hot. Sunny, with just enough clouds to keep it from being too bright all the time. Thomas had been down with a cold for several days, and this was the first opportunity to get OUT and about, and get a little physical activity.

We met up with Cal at the driving range for this week’s lesson. Thomas and Michael are doing “tandem” lessons at this point, Cal taking turns working with each of them during the course of the session. It works really well, because a full hour is a bit much for Michael’s shorter attention span, and a bit much for anyone to be hitting balls and doing exercises non-stop.

During one of Cal’s spells with Thomas, Michael grabbed the umbrella from the car to use as a parasol during a break in the cloud cover and, in typical Michael style, was using it in way it was not intended. He thought umbrellas only turned inside-out in cartoons, and thought it was hysterically funny that he could make our umbrella do that. (I was not quite as amused, as I can't seem to keep umbrellas in one piece and functional for very long.)

When it was Michael’s turn to get back to the lesson, Cal, like all brilliant teachers, pounced on the opportunity to turn a distraction into a learning moment. He took the umbrella and turned it into a target.

A huge part of Cal’s approach to teaching golf is focusing on the target. “It’s All About Hitting The Targets is his tagline (go check out his wonderful website**’s right there in the top banner and sprinkled about all the pages). Most people assume the target is that little flag waaaaaaay down range that you eventually want to get your ball to and drop into the little hole. But, there are actually other targets on the way to the cup, and Cal works on teaching his students to find those targets and reach them, one by one, until you get to the ultimate goal in as few strokes as possible. 

And, he tries to shift the focus off of the BALL as being a target (the thing you have to hit just right with a golf club). This can be tricky on a driving range, because there’s no flag, just an open field full of abandoned golf balls. And in this case, a tree or two.

The umbrella worked great. It provided a focal point for Michael to work on his chipping. At least I’m pretty sure that’s what he was doing; making the ball pop up and land a short-ish distance away with the goal of landing in the umbrella. I loved watching that moment unfold, and couldn’t help taking a few pictures of both Michael and Thomas.

From distracted to focused in record time...and barefoot

I've never really had any interest in golf, but David enjoys it and wanted the boys to have the opportunity to learn and play. Cal was introduced to us through a mutual friend, and Thomas and Michael started lessons with him about a year ago. It's been a great experience for all of us (including David who got a "clean up your swing" session recently), and I've been working with Cal developing his message and his website.

This is where the ** comes in. I can rightly claim some bragging rights to Cal's website, since I have worked with Cal to develop the content. I consider Cal my first real-live editing client. The design and coding, by the way, are courtesy of my extremely talented friend, Sarah. You can contact her through her own website-in-progress. She is wonderfully creative, and has managed to add some really nifty functionalities to the site. It's not quite perfect yet, but I couldn't help showing it off a little early.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Driving. Oh, My...

He kept saying he was going to get his Learner's Permit as soon as he turned fifteen. He'd been saying it for several months. He went online and studied and took the practice tests, and told me his score each time he took it. He kept counting down the days until he had his Learner's Permit. I finally told him that if he needed me to take him to the DDS, he would need to put it on the family calendar. Which he did.

So, the day after he turned fifteen, I took Thomas to the DDS, and he took the test, and he got his temporary Learner's Permit.

As you can see, he was very happy about that.

And, he quite proudly asked for the keys to he could drive us home. This is him in the driver's seat with his Learner's Permit. Nervous, but ready to go.

Now, Thomas has been practicing his driving skills in safe areas for a few years now, so I knew he could drive. He's comfortable with our vehicle (despite it's size), and he takes the responsibility seriously. But, he'd never driven on busy streets with traffic. He did very well. We got home in one piece with no major incidents. I think I only raised my voice once when pointing out a looming hazard.

Once in the driveway, in park, engine off, he definitely felt the stress relief.

It is an odd thing having your baby drive you around in the family vehicle. But, so far, it is an adjustment we're both making pretty well.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

He Missed His Mommy

The cats (brothers Bagheera and BooBoo) always miss us if we are away more than a few days. When we pulled into the driveway today, there was Baghie trotting over to us, squawking about how neglected he had been in our absence. BooBoo was not as vocal about it.  However, once the unpacking was done and I sat down to put my feet up for a bit, he promptly made himself comfortable in my sandals.

It's nice to be missed ... 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Paper Bug

This morning as I sat down in my usual rocking chair on the deck, I got a little start. On the table to my left was this guy enjoying his breakfast of Seed Catalog. He was close to two inches long, nose to tail. No shrimp for a bug. The kids (and most of the adults) all trotted out to Ooooh and Aaaaaah over him, and he was much appreciated as a specimen. When he moved on to other objects on the table, he was gently removed to another part of the deck where he might have better success finding something tastier than a water bottle cap.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Morning On The Lake

This morning I woke earlier than usual and could not get back into a restful sleep, so I got up and took the kayak out onto the lake for a nice, leisurely paddle. It was a beautiful morning; cool and clear, with just a little bit of high overcast so no direct sun. The far end of the lake from the house is "Duck Poop Island," as the kids call it. Nearest the house is the earthen dam and spillway. Right close to shore is this lovely cluster of water lillies, a new addition to the lake life. As I neared, it became obvious it is a favorite hangout for frogs, dragonflies and other shy creatures. The blossoms are stunning; they remind me of magnolia and dogwood in their prim stiffness.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Duck Poop Island

This is "Duck Poop Island," so named by the boys who enjoy visiting and squishing poopy mud between their toes. It's not actually an island but is almost surrounded by water, between the lake itself and the stream that feeds it. It is a favorite spot of the boys to visit, and beyond is a spot for grander adventures, "Dinosaur Swamp." The boys generally take two-way radios with them when they adventure, as well as snacks. This time they brought along adults with camera phones instead.

Squishy Bear squishing this toes

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Good Morning and Thank You Bad Contractor

This morning I was up around my usual time, padded downstairs in my usual way, and started making coffee with my usual lack of coffee-making talent (if you don't get up before me, you deserve bad coffee). I went to empty the prior pot's used grinds into the trash (which is in the garage to prevent the dogs from feasting), and stopped at the door that opens from the kitchen to the garage. The door has a paned window on the top half so you can see into the garage from the kitchen, and I tend to be sensitive to changes in light or movements in the garage. I didn't even have to look through the glass to notice something was different out there. When I opened the door, I was greeted by a "poof" of swirling debris resembling grey snow, and saw that a portion of the garage (which we just recently finished converting to a hobby room) was covered in the stuff.

Some time during the night or early morning, about a quarter of the garage ceiling collapsed, dumping all of the blow-in insulation it previously held onto the floor and one of the hobby tables.

I quite calmly finished the process of making coffee (okay, not entirely calmly; I did say "what the fuck" out loud) and ensured there was a full pot brewed before I went back upstairs to wake David and quietly inform him, "We have a small problem in the garage." Wasn't that thoughtful of me?

Not surprisingly, David's immediate response exactly echoed mine: "What the fuck?"

A somewhat closer inspection made clear what the problem was. As you can see below, on a section that had not yet collapsed you can see the gap between the drywall and the rafter beams it is supposed to be attached to. That's not good.

Oh, yeah, and did I mention the ceiling fan was hung without being secured to an electrical box attached to a rafter? So, yeah, both of them were dangling another foot-plus into the room.

 Once we started getting into the clean-up and tearing down the portions of drywall that were clearly ready to fall, it became apparent the cause of the collapse: The contractor who hung the ceiling used nails instead of screws, and only placed them every two feet on every second rafter beam. They used blow-in insulation (probably because the space above the garage was originally attic), which over time absorbed moisture from our lovely, humid climate, which added weight to the ceiling. Compounded with the vibration of the garage door being opened and closed several times a day over the course of three decades, and you've got a bunch of ever-loosening nails.

Now, we realized shortly after the bought the house that the original builder had taken some shortcuts (my understanding is that at the time of construction Georgia had few or no actual building codes for residential), and that the sellers had done all of their "upgrades" on the cheap. But, we really did not expect to have the ceiling collapse in the middle of the night. We're just grateful no one was in there when it did.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Seventeenth Century Dinner

Some time last year our family was introduced to an educational program that was an instant hit. "Tales From the Green Valley" is a BBC production that follows a group of historians and archeologists over the course of a year as they live on a restored Seventeenth Century farm in England. Similar to some shows that have been produced in the U.S. (though those were clearly more focused on entertainment than education), the inhabitants of this farm were restricted to using only foods, tools and technology that existed in the 1620's. Unlike their American "counterparts," these Brits are experts in their field and pretty much knew exactly what they were getting into. They stayed an entire year, and the program was was presented in twelve installments, each representing one month of the year.

If you are a history buff, you MUST watch this program (we streamed it from YouTube). If you are a homeschooler, you MUST watch this program. Even if you are only even mildly interested in things that are outside the realm of your everyday life, you MUST watch this program. Just sayin'. (End of commercial)

So, one of the things that most impressed me (not necessarily in a good way) was how much time and energy was expended in producing, processing, and preparing food. It wasn't just the cooking (although that took at least one person most of the day to feed everyone on the farm), it was also the cultivating, harvesting and storing. And in the case of foods they could not raise, gathering funds or goods to trade for foods.

But, to the point of this post. Michael is completely enthralled with this show. Not only did he watch it all the way through all twelve (one hour) episodes the first time, he went on to watch all of the "spin off" shows. Then he went back and re-watched Green Valley. Several times. And then he re-watched all of the spin-offs. Several times.

That was last year. And I thought we had finished this "block of learning" for Michael. But, nope, he recently dug up Green Valley again, and watched the entire series all the way through. Three times in one week. That's how this kid absorbs.

At the end of the third viewing, he announced that "we" needed to go to the store. "Why do we need to go to the store?" I innocently asked (not really innocently, since I know there is always a plan behind every trip to every store with this kid, sometimes involving world domination). He explained that he "needed" to cook a Seventeenth Century dinner for our family (I keep trying to explain the difference between "need" and "want", but, like most adults, Michael realizes that semantically when you want something really, really, really badly, it somehow magically transforms into a need). I insisted that he provide an actual recipe and list of ingredients, which he promptly did. So, off to the grocery we went (which was a much better alternative than growing and raising and trading for all of the ingredients ourselves, thank you very much).

I don't remember the actual name of the dish, but we managed to find all of the ingredients at Kroger, except the rosemary that Michael insisted we use from our garden (good boy). He cooked it himself, as specified in the program's recipe (which, if you know anything about Seventeenth Century recipes, is vague at best and baffling at worst). In true British style, everything was boiled.

Remarkably, it turned out to be really tasty. It looks really plain, and could be a little dry unless you put lots of the "broth" on it. But, you know what? It was good. Plain, simple food. Although a small salad on the side would not be remiss ... if you have that stuff in your garden ;)

(Full Disclosure) This particular recipe called for an accompanying "pudding". If you're an American, or haven't read much Brit literature, let me clarify that British "pudding" has nothing to do with The Jello Corporation. In this particular historic case, as far as I can tell, it is (leftover from slaughter) meat, and herbs, and oats, all stuffed into an animal's digestive organs and boiled in the same pot with your meat and potato/vegetable. Sort of like a sausage, except you actually know what's in it, because you cooked it. In the case of this family dinner, we skipped the pudding part.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

My Precious ...

Homemade onion rings by Michael. 'Nuf said.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Fish Cake

David and Michael managed to catch quite a mess of fish on our recent holiday at Moon Shade Hollow. We brought them home, and they cleaned them up and froze then. We set a date, sent out invitations, and a bunch of friends showed up for our Family Game Night and Fish Fry.

Michael was determined that we MUST have a CAKE for our fish fry. So, he and David went to the grocery and picked up a pre-made cake and some "extras," which Michael quickly put together for his Moon Shade Hollow Fishing Cake.

Needless to say, it was a hit.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Hobby Room Cleanup

This project has been in the "planning and getting there" stages for several months, and we finally got the gumption to get it done. All of Papa Bear's tools and handyman stuff had previously been in the garage (along with piles and piles of "stuff"), and we managed to get it all down to the basement where David built some workbenches. This weekend we managed to get the rest of the "stuff" out of the garage, move the kids' hobby tables into their new places, get the rest of the entertainment center put together (David even fixed the power outlet), and everything basically cleaned up and organized. We even got a little couch in there.

This is primarily going to be the boys' hobby and gaming space, but it will also double as an "indoor/outdoor" entertaining space.

After all of the work was done, we hung out in front of the house with the neighbors for a bit, enjoying our accomplishment and some good company.  We were briefly joined by Darwin and Blaster who both enjoyed a bunch of fresh clover.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Golf Day

Today was a beautiful day for Thomas' golf lesson with Cal. Lessons were somewhat hit-and-miss all winter because of the wet and cold winter weather, so it's been nice for the boys to be able to get back out there. Today we met Cal at the driving range near his place.

Thomas and Cal

Although it wasn't his turn for a lesson, Cal wanted Michael to come along so his clubs could be measured and (if necessary) adjusted. After that was done, Michael hung out and watched.

"Tut, tut, it looks like rain!"

After the lesson, we all went to Bear Creek golf club so Cal could give me a tour of the course. I'm currently editing his website, which has required that I learn a little something about the sport. The tour of the golf course was very helpful. I had no idea that you couldn't see the flag from the tee box on many holes.

First Round at Bear Creek. Where's the flag?!?

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Fish Cleaning

When you catch a mess of fish while camping, there's always a mess of fish cleaning to be done. Thankfully in our family the rule has always been "you catch it, you clean it," so I don't have to do any cleaning...

Michael's largest cat fish. Just the head.

Michael was so exuberant about the whole "catch what you eat" thing, he insisted on frying up one of the smaller fish on the spot.

Chef Mike taking a taste

Good enough to eat with your fingers

Lots of bones ... but very tasty

Friday, April 18, 2014


As much as they love camping, the dogs are always the first in the truck when it's time to go home.

Jenny, Jasmine and Cindy, ready to go

Okay, that's a ferret, not a dog. Not sure how she feels about camping.

Last look at the lake

Boat house cleaned and organized by David

Fare-the-well from boys and dogs

Obligatory crashing nap on the way home

A Mess of Fish

Our camping holiday at Moon Shade Hollow resulted in quite a mess of fish.

This was the largest, caught by David.

It's a "large mouth" bass. Indeed...

Our three fishermen and their bountiful catch.

Michael's largest cat fish.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Camper Napping

The best part of camping ... is napping in the camper.

William catching some downtime

Rufus appreciates his camp naps, too

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Camp Ferret 4/16

Although Cindy has been to Moon Shade Hollow on previous visits, this is the first time she's been "camping".

In the camper ... lots of nooks and crannies to explore

"What's that?!? What's that?!? What's that?!?"

Under the boat is a great place to play hide-and-seek

In the wilds

Ferrets often resemble their owners