Monday, January 30, 2012

Welcome to the World

So Granddaughter #4 (grandchild #5) was born last week. She's teeny and beautiful. Sadly, she was not born with a nickname, so until she does something interesting, she will be called The New One. This anonymity in blogging can get tough in these situations. It would have been great if she had come out clutching a little business card with her personality traits already printed out. Come to think of it, that might have been handy with my own kids even before I was blogging.

Hi, Mommy and Daddy. My name is Alyssa. I am very smart and very stubborn. Don't bother disagreeing with me; it will get you nowhere. I don't like food. I don't like whichever clothes you want me to wear. I love you very much, but don't expect me to tell you that between the ages of 5 and 21. I'm going to fool you by being a really good baby until I'm 2, and then your lives will never be the same again.

Hi, Mommy and Daddy. I'm Ben. You know all that stuff on Alyssa's card? Except for the very smart part, I'm going to be the exact opposite. I will cry constantly until I learn to walk, and then everything will be fine. Heights don't scare me, just so you know. When's dinner?

But of course, it's never that simple. Now where were we? Oh, yes! The New One. Being a proud grandma and a budding (maybe not quite that far along) amateur photographer. I went Saturday and tried to take pictures. I got about 2 that I actually like. Yeah, budding may be too far along in the growth process. I'm possibly a sprouting amateur photographer.

So there's some work to be done in Photoshop, except I'm not very good at that yet either. Nevertheless, The New One is adorable, and here she is.
See? Way blurry. Still need practice.

I had the bow made by KenzieOlivia Couture

She's going to be beautiful in red!

I had to photoshop the last one a little, and I can see where it's messy. Mostly, I like the picture though.

I can't wait to go back and try again!

I've linked this post to Yeah Write #42. Check it out for more great bloggers.

(UPDATED 2/2/12 to include a link to KenzieOlivia Couture)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

10 Things I CAN Do!

Well, since my last post was all about things I don't know how to do, I figured I'd better post about some things I am able to do so that you don't all think I'm totally incompetent and worthless. After I've been so good to you, I'm shocked that you would make a judgment like that about me anyway! So to prevent this little misunderstanding from totally ruining our relationship, I'm going to share some stuff to prove to you once and for all that I am not worthless. Then I hope you'll just finally shut up about it.

1. I can hula hoop! Now, I can't do any nifty tricks with the hula hoop. I've tried, but I endanger small children and low flying birds every time I practice, so it's best to just leave that alone. BUT! I can keep that hoop going around and around for 30 minutes at a time! Seriously! I do it as my aerobic exercise. Or something in lieu of aerobic exercise. Or in an effort to look like I'm exercising without actually doing any... you know...exercise. Okay, just shut up! I'll bet you can't hula hoop for 30 minutes, so let's quit talking about my lack of exercise.

2. I can decorate a cake.  Now, it doesn't look anything like one of my daughter's masterpieces:
You can see  more of her creations here.

My cakes are simpler and not so professional...and not so pretty...but I do own my own cake decorating tools and everything!

3. I can drive a stick shift.  When my kids learned to drive, their dad insisted they learn to drive stick, so I learned with them. Now that's a real skill right there. I can't even think of anything to make it sound like it's not. I can drive stick, and I can do it well. So there!

4. I can take pictures with a camera that's not set to automatic. I know how to set the aperture and shutter speed to get a correct exposure. So far this has not guaranteed amazing pictures, but I'm working on that. I need to get back to posting about my adventures in learning photography as soon as I find time to have some adventures in learning photography. Here are some of my pictures:

Grandpa and The Athlete

5.  I crochet. I have made several blankets for several babies. I made a sweater set before granddaughter #1 was born. Little booties seem to be beyond me unless we happen to get a baby with two different sized feet. When my daughter was engaged, we sat and watched The Green Mile on TV, and I crocheted her a whole set of pot holders during the movie. As I finished each one, I tossed it across the room to her like a Frisbee. I made this blanket for granddaughter #2, The Model:

6. I sing. I have to say that very quietly because I know so many really good singers that I'm embarrassed to seem like I'm trying to put myself in their company. Let's just say that some people have told me I'm a good singer, and I sang in a wedding once. Let's move on.

7. I can sew. I don't sew often, but I can follow a fairly simple pattern. I made this Dorothy costume for Alyssa for Halloween a few years back.

Pay no attention to the woman in the green makeup.

8. I can recite a poem from memory. A poem I learned in the sixth grade no less! For those who might not realize it, it has been 40 years since I was in the sixth grade. Wow...I guess I hadn't realized it either. 40 years??? Well, now I'm depressed. I'll cheer myself up by reciting my poem: "Jabberywocky" by Lewis Carroll. " 'Twas brillig and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe, all mimsy were the borogroves and the momewraths outgrabe."  I have just lit the Blogger spell check on fire! I feel much better now.

Here's Christopher Lee reading "Jabberwocky." You need to listen to it.

9. I can pick things up with my toes. Okay, I know I'm stretching it here. I'm getting a little desperate! But anyway, I can pick things up with my toes. I've always had very nimble toes.

10. I make the World's Greatest Pie Crust! I know this because The Hillbilly tells me so. He doesn't like anyone else's pie crust now that he's had mine. He brags about my pie crust to other people, sometimes to complete strangers. It's light; it's flaky; it's yummy. It's my mom's recipe, so I'm not the only person who makes the World's Greatest Pie Crust because my mom does too, obviously. And maybe my sister. The baby sister, not the other one. The other one doesn't make pie. I'm not sure why not. Anyway, this is not a cooking blog, or I'd give you the recipe. Just take my word for it; it's awesome.

And number 11 just for good measure: I know how to appropriately use semicolons!

So there you are! My special, amazing skills. What are your greatest talents? How hard is it for you to come up with 10? Because this list took me an amazing amount of time!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

10 Things I Have Never Learned to Do.

 I started to call this post "10 Things I Never Learned to Do," but that sounded so final.  "10 Things I Have Never Learned to Do" seems to leave the possibility that I could still learn them someday. I probably won't, but I'm just sayin'.

So in no particular order, here they are.

1. Whistle-- I can whistle a tune, or I used to be able to, but I could never do that piercing, attention-getting through-the-teeth whistle. I really want to. Last summer I even watched a You Tube video and practiced a few days. I got to where I could actually make a noise!

2. Do a cartwheel -- I hated tumbling in gym class because I COULD NOT do it! Somehow I got all turned around and couldn't figure out where I was supposed to go. It might have been fun to be able to do that. We'll never know.

3. Knit -- I can crochet, and I've made lots of cool things including Christmas stockings and baby blankets. Knitting just looks impossible. There's no little hooky thingy to hang onto the yarn with. I'm fairly certain it is, in fact, impossible.

4. Play the guitar -- My boy Ben plays the guitar. I don't. I'm pretty sure that he doesn't know that I tried to learn at one point before he was born. I quit because it hurt my fingers. I can pick out a tune on the piano though.

5. French braid -- My poor little girl never had her hair French braided because her incompetent mommy could never figure it out. I tried; honest I did. The results were quite frightening and nothing a young child should be subjected to. So we went with the pony tails.


6. Dive -- See #2 above. Much the same thing. I can swim...a little. I don't drown anyway. And man can I float! I can float all day. I can float in my sleep. I have got the floating thing down, baby!!  But the diving thing? Not so much.

7.  Ski -- I went skiing exactly one time. First off, I have asthma, and the air is cold and my nose is running and I just generally can't breathe. Then comes the car ride home from the mountain during which all of my muscles stiffen with the absolute firmness of concrete and I have to be removed from the car with a ... okay I don't know. Just insert some sort of mechanical device right there. And then the next day parts of my body that I didn't even know I had, turn in their resignation and/or go on strike whichever metaphor strikes your fancy. What I learned from that expedition was that I will never ski again. Don't even bring it up.

8. Juggle -- It is becoming apparent from this list that I am somewhat coordinationally challenged. I made that word up, but feel free to use it if you like it. You're welcome.

9. Paint anything without dripping. -- I'm talking, walls, furniture, whatever. If I paint it, you will find drip marks in the paint when I am done. That is all.

10. Belly dance -- I haven't given up on this one. I have instructional DVDs and everything. I've just been waiting for the boy to move out so I'd have uninterrupted private time to practice. I'll keep you posted.

Be sure to check out my list of 10 things I CAN do, just so you don't think I'm completely helpless.

So what have you not learned to do yet? Is there any chance you might still learn to do it someday? What's holding you back? Let's all get started learning something new in the new year! Now where did I put that DVD?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Isolation and Social Networking

This post is another blast from the past. Back in my Xanga days, I wrote this post. I find that it still holds true today. The fact that you're here makes me think you tend to agree with me. What do you think? Is social networking really social, or is it a substitute for making actual connections with people?

From August 7, 2009
Last week a gentleman on television was talking about the benefits of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. He pointed out that "isolation is punishment." In prisons, if they want to punish a prisoner they put him in isolation.

Man is a social being, and as the Lord said, "it is not good for man to be alone." Some folks are concerned that face-to-face social interaction is being displaced by virtual social networks and criticize these interactions as not only inferior but counterfeit, not "real" interaction at all.

The problem with that attitude is that if not for these Internet networks, many people would be sentenced to isolation. Many older people who are unable to drive themselves make use of social networks to relieve their isolation. What about those with disabilities that make face-to-face communication difficult or even impossible? They are able to interact comfortably with others through this medium.

And then there are those of us with "social anxiety." We used to call it just plain shyness. Those of you who don't suffer from it tend not to understand it. And unfortunately, some outgoing people are judgmental of the shy; they have a "just get over it" attitude. If only it were that easy.

So as a shy person, I am thankful for outlets such as Facebook. In a crowd you will ordinarily see me standing off to the side or near someone I know very well, typically a family member. I seldom if ever join a conversation in progress. Those of us with social anxiety tend to think we would be unwelcome, so we don't intrude on a group. The reality that we WOULD be welcomed doesn't matter because shyness is completely irrational. Those with social anxiety feel isolated, realize that the isolation is of their own making, and can't do anything about it.

BUT...there is Facebook. On FB, I'm not shy. I jump into conversations with only a little thought as to whether I might actually be unwelcome. After all, if the discussion weren't open to everyone, it wouldn't be on FB. On FB and Xanga, I am myself, the way my close friends and family know me. I am the REAL me. Because of this, I am able to get to know my friends better and, wonder of wonders, to make new friends. Through Xanga and FB I have come to love people whom I've never met and know that they love me too.

Now I know that any of you reading this are obviously not critical of social networks. After all, you're here. But when you hear others fretting about Americans' lack of "real" social interaction, tell them for me that this is as real as it gets!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

I wish I may, I wish I might...

A reader asks, "May and might. I never know the correct word to use.
May I help you? I know that one BUT I might go to the store? or I may go to the store?"

Readers, I am about to let you in on one of the deep dark secrets of grammar that your English teacher never told you: There's not always a right answer.

It's true! You probably always suspected it, and now you know. The "right" answer depends on whom you ask.  I researched this a little, looking in various grammar books and web sites, because I wanted to be sure I give you my best possible answer because I just love you that much. Also because you actually care about this unlike some of the coerced guests in my classroom. So here it is.

Pay attention, class.
Traditionally, there is a subtle difference between may and might. Both are used to express the possibility of something happening, but may implies that something is quite likely, while might implies only possibility. In other words something that may happen is more likely to occur than something the might happen.
  • Students may read a short story in class tomorrow.
  • Tourists  might fly to the moon in my lifetime.
BUT, in actual usage, that distinction is not always observed. I daresay in everyday speech it is seldom observed. Most of the sources I checked agree that you will be correct no matter which one you use.

Several sources point out that when speaking in the past tense you must use "might have" rather than :may have".
  • She might have gone to the principal's office.
So basically, in my opinion, don't worry about it. There's a very subtle difference between the two that is quickly becoming archaic and falling out of everyday usage. English is, after all, a living language and is constantly undergoing change, sort of like my waistline. 

I hope you found that useful. If I've left anything unclear please let me know, and I'll attempt to clear it up. Feel free to ask me any of your other English-teacher-type questions. But don't ask me your math questions unless you're a first grader. Just sayin'.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

It's Time for...MORE Spending Time with The Princess!

But first, a perennial favorite: English Class Pop Quiz!  One of these sentences is incorrect; the other two are fine. Which is the incorrect sentence?  Suzy and I are going shopping. This is a weekly event for Suzy and I. You're welcome to come with Suzy and me if you like.

More Spending Time with The Princess

I'm sure you all remember this post where I shared some of the many conversations that The Princess has taken part in.  The Princess is my oldest grandchild and a precocious little darling. As I had to point out to my daughter today, The Princess will soon be six years old.

The Princess has never known life without a DVR. She was watching her mother cook dinner and had to walk away for a minute. "Mom!" she said, "Can you pause for me? So I don't miss anything." 

Another time there was this conversation:
‎"Mom what is salt made from?"
"Salt isn't made from's just salt. It comes from the ocean and the ground." 
" gross."  

And this: ‎"Mom I'm a magician. I can turn this frog into a princess. (makes 'magic' noise)....ta da! An invisible princess!"

The Princess is learning new, bigger words, and the results are often quite entertaining:
"Mom, I saw a volcano, and it was interrupting."
"Daddy's car smells like cherries cuz of the air confessioner."
"Look, I can shake really fast like I'm enviborating." 
The lyrics to the "Mattress Discounters" radio jingle: "Have a good night's sleep for less...mattress disgoddess!" 

The Princess is very concerned with the future which prompted this discussion:
‎"Mom are the Beatles real?"
"Oh no! I don't want to be one of the Beatles when I grow up!"
"Um...don't worry. You won't be."
"Good cuz I wanna be a doctor." 
"So I can help people with diarrhea." 

Once again, I don't think we'll top that one today. But there will be more another day; you can be sure!

English Class Pop Quiz answer: The incorrect sentence is, This is a weekly event for Suzy and I. Now who can tell me why? 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Review: Baby Signs

When my granddaughter The Princess was born, her mother decided she would try using Baby Signs. For those who don't know, Baby Signs is a system that parents can use to teach their infants to communicate using sign language. The system is not the same as the sign language used by the deaf; it is simplified for babies. {The newest edition does include information on American Sign Language and using it with baby.}  Alyssa purchased the book Baby Signs by Linda Acredolo, Susan Goodwyn and Doug Abrams. The idea of communicating by signs made perfect sense; after all, don't most babies learn to wave bye-bye before they learn to say bye-bye?

Alyssa started using a few simple signs when The Princess was about 6 months old. She used signs for "eat," "more," "all done,", "bye bye" and "milk." The Princess began signing back at about 9 months of age and was able to communicate about her eating and drinking needs. There was no more baby crying while parents tried to figure out what she wanted. She TOLD them what she wanted. I learned the signs too, so whenever I took care of her, I knew what she wanted. Honestly, it was awesome! Life was so much less frustrating for everyone concerned, especially The Princess.

Over time, she learned the signs to tell us when her diaper was uncomfortable, when her tummy hurt, and when she wanted to look at a book. By the time she was 18 months, she had over 60 signs, many of which she had made up herself and taught to her parents. :-)  Around a year old, she made her first sentence. Daddy was trying to give her a bottle, but she wanted to nurse. She signed, "Mommy milk please." She had signs for bath, drink, more, no more, dog, and bird.  She also had signs for please and thank you.

The Monster hasn't been as easy to teach, but he's catching on. He wasn't ready as early as The Princess having been born a preemie. When Alyssa did start using the signs, he just thought they were hilarious. Finally at about 14 months, he started signing back. I think his first sign was "all done/gone," and he works that one with enthusiasm. He also knows "milk" and "eat."

The book is straightforward and easy to understand. It starts with background information, theory, and research. Next is a section on how and when to introduce your baby to signs. The biggest part of the book is for the signs themselves.

There is some research to show that babies taught with Baby Signs actually begin to speak earlier than other babies, but this wasn't our experience with The Princess. She seemed content to use her signs for a long time. When she did start talking, however, she jumped right in with a very large vocabulary.

In addition to the original book, the Baby Signs company has a whole selection of helpful tools that you can find on their web site.They have also developed a potty training system using Baby Signs that looks very promising although I have not seen it in use. If it's as good as the Baby Signs system it is certainly worth looking at.

How about you? Have you tried Baby Signs? How did it work for you? Did I leave anything out? Are there questions I didn't answer for you? Leave a comment and let me know.

Monday, January 2, 2012

My Wonderful Boy

Well, you all know lots about my Darling Daughter, Alyssa, who posts over at Well, she hasn't blogged lately. Something about being on vacation and spending time with her husband and children or some such nonsense. Anyway, I've written lots about her here on the  blog. I wrote a whole post just about the day of her birth. I wrote another (still my favorite) about how I love to annoy her (it's payback for her teen years).

But that's not what I came here to talk about today. You see, I also have a son. You actually know that because I've mentioned him before. I told you why I decided to put him in disposable diapers (that was when he was a baby, not recently). He's in the pictures on my 2011 in pictures post, including one of him with his birthday cake on his 27th birthday. I wrote an entire post about him moving out. But apparently none of that is enough. Just last night he was telling a friend that I blog about his sister but not about him. Truthfully, I'm not sure he even reads my blog since he never comments on it, unlike his sister who loves me. So, I don't know how he would know what I posted about! But just in case he is stalking my blog without ever commenting, I will now tell you about my wonderful boy.

We will call him Daredevil. You remember this picture, right? So we're clear as to where the name comes from?
Dumb boy My son in Yosemite National Park
So Daredevil has pretty much always been that way. When he was about a year old we found him on top of the piano. He is very outdoorsy and very active. He likes motorcycles. Last November he went skydiving for the first time, and last week he started learning to surf. I'm so happy we live in California with its freeways and mountains and cliffs and oceans and other means of self-destruction.

But Daredevil is truly unique. In addition to being hyperactive, he's artistic and creative. When he was in grade school he was popular because he drew pictures for all the kids. This in lieu of, you know, doing school work or stuff. When he was twelve he got a paper route and saved enough money to buy an electric guitar. He plays guitar, sings, and writes songs. Apparently chicks dig that. Now here's the surprise. When he was in the 8th grade he wanted a pair of pants, but he couldn't find any exactly like what he wanted. So my manly young man had me take him to the fabric store and buy several yards of denim. Then he asked me to show him how to thread the sewing machine. Then he made a pair of cargo pants. With no pattern because part of the challenge was to figure out how to do it on his own. And they fit! And they looked good! Then his history teacher paid him to make him a pair too.

Eventually, he slowed down long enough to figure out that he's smart too.Currently Daredevil is working two jobs, one for the money and one for fun. During the day he does Computer Assisted Drafting for a manufacturing company. At night he helps run a rock-climbing gym. There's a lot of rock-climbing gear a real rock climber needs. One piece of gear one needs is a chalk bag to hold the chalk that keeps your hands dry so you don't slip off the rock and hurtle to your death. So now, in his spare time between working two jobs, Daredevil is starting up his own business making one-of-a-kind designer chalk bags.  Also, he made this shirt for The Monster-- again without a pattern:

More important than anything else, Daredevil is a good man. He's loving and kind. He's affectionate and family oriented (although still single, girls). He loves his nieces and nephews, his sister, cousins, aunts, grandma.  Most of all, he loves his mama.  And she thinks he's pretty special too.

1 Year Old
With his parakeet, Luke

He caught those himself.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Let's Talk Grammar: Sit or Set?

Breaking News...
Five-year-old granddaughter, The Princess, reports that she is elephants. This comes as a complete surprise to everyone since no one else in the family has an elephant allergy. We are thankful that she has let us know about this condition so that we can be on guard against future inadvertent elephant exposure.

But that's not what I came here today to talk about. Today I want to talk about correct verb usage, specfically how to use sit and set.

As I'm sure you all remember, our last grammar lesson was about the difference between lie and lay. You may want to go back and review before we move on to sit and set. Go ahead. We'll wait. I'm used to waiting for my students to get caught up.

There now. We're all caught up, so let's continue. First off, let's come out and admit that you know you were taught this in high school. I mean, the teacher presented the information and gave you the homework assignment. Unfortunately, you had just gotten the new Third Eye Blind album and weren't really paying attention to what you were writing. Now you're an adult and it occurs to you that there's probably a difference between sit and set, but you're not sure what it is. No problem. I'm here to help you, and I won't even give you detention for sloppy work. Because I'm cool like that.

As you recall from our lie and lay lesson, lie never needs a direct object, but lay does. This is the same difference between sit and set. Sit does not require a direct object. You don't sit something, you just sit.
  • I like to sit in the recliner after a hard day at the circus teaching junior high.
Sit is an irregular verb, meaning we don't just add -ed to form the past tense. The past tense of each irregular verb is unique to itself, just because whoever invented English was sadistic that way. The past tense of sit is sat.
  • I sat in the recliner staring at the wall for two hours with a half-eaten chocolate bar in my hand.
Set, on the other hand, does require a direct object. You have to set someone or something. You can set your book on the floor. You can set your cup on the table. You can set that chocolate bar over here by me. Thank you.

Set is also an irregular verb with its own unique way of forming the past tense because setted just sounds stupid. The past tense of set is.....ready for it....set. Talk about your lazy past tense formation.

  • I always set my coffee next to my chocolate bar. I set it there yesterday, and I will set it there tomorrow. Well, how else do you think I get through a day of coralling these maniacs nurturing these young minds?

    So please come sit with me awhile. After we have sat long enough, we can quit texting other people, set our cell phones down, and chat over a cup of coffee and a chocolate bar.

    So how clear is that? Do you need more examples or further explanation? Let me know. And where do you think we should go next? I've already had a request for a lesson on apostrophes, so I'm working on that one. Anything else? I'm here to answer any questions so you can set your mind at ease.