Thursday, January 31, 2008


We have a little natural stream that runs through our yard, and ever since we have lived here, I have been the troll under the bridge, harassing the neighbor kids who come to fish in it. It's not that I don't want them to play in the stream; I would be fine with that, if that was all there was to it, but the nature of little boys and creeks I know firsthand from my own brothers. They start out playing and then discover the aquatic life, and rarely are they cut from the cloth of naturalists; they invariably want to catch and imprison the poor little crayfish and salamanders. I watched scores of turtles, crayfish, and salamanders die in buckets, thanks to my brothers.

So with this stream, or at least, my own little part of this stream, I have been vigilant in protecting the little creatures who make up its delicate little ecosystem. This past summer we had so many different kinds of snakes, and toads, crayfish, and salamanders living in it, and my boys, having been schooled in proper ettiquette of playing in Mommy's Creek, loved playing in it for hours at a time.

Yesterday the boys stayed home from school, mostly because of stuffed up heads, so they went out to play in the creek. A little while later, they came in and told me that they had found several dead salamanders and crayfish, and that the water was cloudy, and a bit bubbly. I went out to look for myself and was shocked. I found at least two dozen little red salamanders dead in our section of the creek, and almost as many little crayfish. The water wasn't particularly cloudy at this point, but it might have been when they were down in it earlier.

We got out and headed around the block, to another section of the same creek, to ascertain the extent of the damage. It was the same story the whole way down; more little salamanders, and more crayfish, dead, and not a fish to be seen. What was going on? I wondered. It had just rained the night before, so why all the little dead animals? I wondered if someone had drained something toxic into the water upstream.

It wouldn't be the first time. The last time I had found gasoline in the water, I called the local EPA people, who came out and basically told they could do nothing, without concrete evidence that pointed to a specific individual. Nice to see my tax dollars at work, promoting apathy.

When we got back home, we took one more look in our creek to see if there were any creatures who had survived. We found one huge old crayfish, about half the size of a lobster, who was still trying to hang on. We took him in the house and set him up in a big bowl of freshwater aquarium water and gravel, hoping the cleaner water might revive him. The Bohemian named him "Cray" and was quite upset about the mass carnage, but was holding it together for Cray's sake.

Today, after school we came home and checked on Cray, who, sadly, did not manage to revive from whatever it was that poisoned him. When my husband got home, we buried Cray in a little grave in the backyard (dug by my little Bohemian, replete with headstone), and said a few words. Then my youngest son and I hugged each other and cried; for Cray, and for all of the little salamanders and crayfish whose lives were swept away by stupid, thoughtless people. An entire little ecosystem, destroyed by people who never even considered they might be there, much less, might be crucial to the health of our little corner of this world.

There are no happy thoughts to end this with - people are THE scourge and plague of this beautiful planet. I read that the majority of amphibians,having lived on earth for 350 million years, are rapidly disappearing, thanks to people, and their insistence on developing every square inch of the planet, leaving nothing for any other species to inhabit.

If this upsets you, think about what you put on your lawn to make it nice and green; fertilizer is a number 1 source of pollution in streams. Where do you rinse your grease and oil from your driveway to? How many chemicals do you spray around your house, never considering the impact it makes on your tiny, but equally, if not more so, crucial neighbors?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Cautionary Tales

I was inspired by Flutter's post to relate a few off-color gems of my own.

this is the Deadly Trio:

Story One
I went to the movies once with my friend Ms. Q, and she had to run into the "little girls' room" before she settled in and commenced to a 32 oz, Diet Coke and a bucket of popcorn (carcinogenic salt, optional). While she was in there, I decided to play a little prank on her. Remembering that she was wearing a particular pair of tennis shoes, I ducked around the corner from the door, so she wouldn't see me until she had passed me by. I waited until I saw her tell-tale shoes, and then I jumped out at her.


It wasn't her, but some poor lady, who just happened to be wearing the same type of shoes.


I was mortified, and apologized profusely, trying to explain to her why I had just jumped out at her. I don't really know if she understood - she took off pretty quickly.

So where was Ms. Q, in all this? She exited the ladies room through the other door, and was standing around, wondering where the heck I had gotten to.

But wait kids, there's more.

Story Two
On another occasion, again at the movie theatre, Ms. Q, Bea, and myself had decided to hit the "head" before making the 20 minute plus drive home. We walked into an empty restroom and entered our respective stalls. Being the olympic pee champion, I was finished first and waited by the sinks, for the others to finish. While I was standing there, someone let loose an incredibly loud and fruity bit of flatulence.

"Oh my god, Ms. Q! Are you all right?" I asked her teasingly.

There was a long pause, and then:

"Hey! That wasn't me!" Ms. Q defended.

"Oy! Bea! What died?" I laughingly inquired of our only other stallmate.

Again, there was a pause, and Bea answered,

"It wasn't me!"

It was then we realized that we were not alone in the restroom, and that in one of the other stalls was some poor woman, just trying to do her business, who was now too horrified to ever leave her stall.

Out of pity for her state, we exited as quickly as we could.

I know - we are vile creatures, and will no doubt, be paying a heavy karmic debt someday.
But god, did we laugh our heads off afterwards!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Work of Play

Note ~ I posted this late Tuesday, in anticipation of Julie's Hump Day Hmmmm. That still counts, doesn't it? You can find the other contributors here:'ve talked about my sister before; how she makes such beautiful dolls and how she imbued the world for me with magic from early on, but not, I think, about another gift that she gave me.

As the oldest, my sister naturally went to school first. One of her favorite games during that time was to play School, where she was the teacher and my brothers and I were the students. Of course we were quite a naughty and disruptive class, my older brother invariably being sent to the principal for disciplinary measures, and my younger brother continually falling off the front seat of the old antique schoolhouse desk, but I think, for me, more than a little of what she was play-teaching actually sank in.

I don't remember ever actually learning how to read, as a child. When I went to kindergarten it was assumed that none of us could read, so the teacher started from scratch with the ABCs and the basic colors, etc. She must not have been a particularly perceptive teacher, because she told my parents that she thought I might be a little on the retarded side, because I was quiet and rarely talked during class. Honestly, all I remember of the woman was her massive thighs, tightly clad in support hose, so they had a distinctive swish when she walked or sat, which (I don't know why) fascinated me.

What she didn't know would most certainly fill a book; she certainly never discovered that the reason I said very little in class was due to being bored out of my mind. I wasn't interested in learning the ABCs because my sister had already taught me them, as well as how to read, and if you know me, then you know I was born knowing my colors, or at least acquired the knowledge shortly afterwards! I don't recall the teacher ever really teaching us much more than separate words in kindergarten, but when I went to first grade, I knew how to read, and not just a smattering, or laboriously. I can remember feeling extremely irritated when other kids were called on to read, because of how badly they would read! I was invariably somewhere else in the book, having lost all patience with listening to another kid stumble and grope through "See Dick. See Dick run. Run Dick, run. Oh, oh, oh. Dick runs fast." For crying out loud - it's a worse plot than a soap opera and just as predictable! How hard can it be to read the same three words?

In the past few years, with the struggle I've had with my youngest son's reading, I have turned to my first and best teacher many times, for advice and ideas of how to jump start his interest. When that breakthrough finally happened last week, she was there celebrating it as well, saying,

"It's so telling what book geeks you and I are that we get so excited over our kids's the BEST feeling when they finally get it!"

It is indeed the best feeling Cin! So if I never said it before, then I want to say to my first and best teacher, my sister, Thank You - it has made all the difference, for not only me, but for my kids as well!

Monday, January 28, 2008


I was so proud of how good Friday's post looked, and feeling like I was getting back into the groove (pause for a little funky dance step, a la Madonna, in Desperately Seeking Hooters, uh Susan - it's a long story, and I just tripped over my bathrobe. I know it's 1:30 - don't judge me, dammit!) and then my little cold revealed it's dark and chunky underbelly.


I have been languishing on the couch - dying, I'm sure - for most of the weekend. You would think that not only would I have been nominated for some kind of Oscar, for my interpretation of Camille or La Dame Aux Les Camellias as a modern housewife, but that I would, at the very least, be feeling better. I even got the hubster to do the housework and make dinner - now that should clinch the nomination!

Alas! I am yet upon my couch, dying slowly, as an ocean of snotuli slowly oozes from my head.

I know, I'm breaking your heart.

Wait- step back- I have to sneeze again...
I'm going back to bed kids - see you tomorrow.

Friday, January 25, 2008


I picked up the guys from carpoop yesterday and the Bohemian said to me,

"Guess what Mom? I finished the first Spiderwick book today, and it was really good! I can't wait to read the next one!"

I was driving at the time, or I would have jumped up and down like a pubescent girl with a crush. Oh. My. God, Debbie! (*not really talking to a particular Debbie - it's Valley Girl Speak) As it was, there was a bit of swerving as I craned my head around and exclaimed,

"Oh honey, I am SO proud of you! Let's go buy the rest of the series this weekend!"

When we got home, and homework had been done, the Bohemian, our resident Edward Scissorhands, made a "Seeing Stone", like the one in the book that helps the kids see the goblins, etc. All by himself, he made it, and damn if it doesn't look exactly like the one on the front of the book!

I love that kid! and I am so relieved that we are finally turning the corner with the reading. It's been a long, uphill battle with this one; especially trying to NOT make it a battle.

These are the wonder books that helped turn the corner for my little Bohemian:

Granted, I have been reading The Hobbit to them both, this past week as well, and we did see a trailer for the Spiderwick Chronicles film that's coming out, so those may have also played a part.

I was having an email conversation yesterday with Jodi over at Slow Panic, about getting kids, namely, little boys, to be prolific readers, and this what I wrote to her, concerning my personal philosophy as to how to bring that about. I haven't received her permission to publish her side of the conversation, so you'll have to divine what she said! (Note* If I get permission, I'll amend this.)

"We have tried everything under the sun with my youngest, and most of it hasn't been working. When we take him to the book store (so he can pick out what he wants, he picks either picture books or giant tomes that I know he can't read, so what's the point? The Spiderwick books have a lot of pictures, so its a good bridge from picture books to chapter books. Personally? I liked the Lemony Snicket Series Of Unfortunate Incidences, but I couldn't get either of my guys to read them. The Captain Underpants books, by Dave Pilkey, are good too, and little boys love them for the toilet humor (and the Flip-o-rama, of course!)

I know reading fluently is a developmental thing, but man, it's been an uphill battle at times. I guess just keep at it - we do prohibit TV on weeknights to encourage more reading (now if I could just get my husband to turn off the TV and read!), and reading aloud to them goes in that time. I try to read the stuff they might not read alone, like Harry Potter. Doing the voice of Hagrid, though, is quite the dialectic challenge - I think it's a cockney or scottish accent - but blimey- it's all "'Ere now Arry, wot's up wiff yer mum?" kind of talking."

"My eldest son, The Professor, is 10 and a great reader (we lucked out - other than reading to him, it just clicked for him at about 8). My other son, The Bohemian, is 8 and a half and is a much more physically oriented person (read: future jock), but is really creative - we call him Edward Scissorhands, if that tells you anything! BUT, he hasn't clicked with the reading just yet. It took him a long time to be able to sit still just to read to, which was really frustrating, so there were intervals that we just didn't, rather than fight about it.

My husband is one of those people who turn on the TV when he walks in the door, and I am the kind of person who chooses vacations based on their unplugged value. I have had to convince the Hubster (over many years)that constant TV DOES get in the way of the kids' ability to focus, to do homework, and to find the impetus to read. We watch TV after the kids are in bed (I love the DVR!), and the boys can watch a program in the morning before I get up. They like to watch History Channel shows, like Engineering An Empire, and Ancient Almanac, so we DVR the stuff they want. They are not allowed computer time, except on the weekends, and it's based on a combination of factors: school performance/attitude that week/willingness to perform light chores (putting away clothes, cleaning their room/messes, occasionally vacumning, setting the table, etc.) If they had been extra good/helpful that week, I might let them have extra computer time on a Friday afternoon, but generally, their time is on Saturday and Sunday mornings, until noon. If they were not helpful, that's it - no computer, and maybe no TV either.

I know - I'm a mean old mom! But having those ground rules and sticking by them has given them incentive to perform their responsibilities, with the reward at the end of the week, and they have lots of time to just go outside and play, or draw, or whatever, because they have no expectation of being plugged in during the week. I see so many kids at school, whose only point of reference is what they've seen on TV, in both their conversation/connections, as well as in their play, and it's so sad to me. I can't help but wonder how much more they could acheive if they were unplugged just part of the time.

Sorry for the sermon - you asked me, and I'm afraid it's a pet rant of mine, so I ran down to the store and back with it! As an artist, creativity is vitally important to me, so nurturing it is something I put a lead foot down about in our house, and the sports fan husband has to DVR his stuff and watch it later.

And again, I am running on at the mouth - I do hope I have not stepped on your toes - ultimately what I think doesn't matter -You have to do what you feel is best; I'm just happy to opine at length, as you can see!"

I just finished updating a profile on bloglog, where I said I don't proffer my opinions about parenting and politics, because I'm not a big fan of soapboxes, so of course I had to go and stick my foot in my mouth, right?!

Hey, It's my blog and I can opine at length, if I want to!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Sniffle, Sniffle, Sniffle

Yep, that's right - the Tapdancer is sick as a dog, which is bound to stir things up, in an all cat household.

And just like mothers everywhere, I am not allowed to be sick. Oh, I still feel like shizzell, but as far as the menfolk are concerned, it doesn't register. Dinner had better be on time, even if Honey Bunny isn't (Oy! Don't get me started!).

It's been that kind of week, really. The kind of week that starts out with the tease of snow and all we got was rain, though in Raleigh they had a bit of ice and all the idiots with SUVs went spinning around on the Beltline and 540, because they think 4 wheel drive means it's Ok to drive fast on ice. I told you - they're, statistically speaking, idiots.

The kind of week, where I locked myself out of the house Tuesday morning, and had to break a window to get back in (I tried to call the aforementioned HB at work, for a rescue, but you KNOW how that went. That's right - he was unavailable. Story of my F***ing married life.) Before I broke the window I went up the street to a neighbor's house to use the phone, and was accosted by her tiny, vicious dachsund/pit bull-looking little creatures, who assured me, quite vocally, that they were going to bite the hell out of my ankles, because they were bad-asses. They didn't, but it was touch and go there for a minute. And from the safety of Thursday morning and my own house, may I just say, those were some Fug-Lee damn dawgs!! But she was very sweet, letting in the crazy, wandering lady, wearing slippers, to use the phone, so ok, nice doggies! Sorry I called you Fug-Lee!

On the bright side (because there HAS to be some good, come on), I've been reading The Hobbit to the boys this past week, and we are almost finished - just three chapters left - and they are so into it, we might have to start the Fellowship of The Ring (once I get my voice back, hack, hack hack!). Anything to get my youngest into reading - he's been a slow starter. I gave him the Spiderwyck series to read a while back, but he wasn't interested. I made him go sit and read yesterday, until dinner, because he and his brother needed some separate time, and guess what? "Mom, I read five chapters! I didn't even know I had read that many." Oh Happy Day! Dare I hope the hump has been passed, and he will take his place among the rest of the voracious readers in the family? Cross your fingers....

OK, I'm am now going to go drink some Gypsy Cold Care and have some lovely NY rye toast, that my mommy brought me from Buffalo, and be a giant baby,...until it's time to pick up the kids, anyway.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


There was a lovely atmospheric mist this morning, so I took a few shots of my favorite grove of trees on the way home.

Since our last trip to Raven Rock, where I took some shots and played with them in Photoshop, I've been wanting to try some more pictures, using the same colored pencil filter.

It's fascinating to me that all these colors are there in a photograph - we tend to take them for granted, and indeed, sometimes they are more washed out and not as dramatic in a regular photo, but those beautiful blues and purples in the trees are there, nonetheless.

Ms. Q and I both just love this effect! So much so, she thinks I should have them printed on high-end paper and have them matted and framed - they would look good as a vignette in the hallway...! I tried it with several different types of compositions, but trees do the best with this filter (the shed is wooden, so it applies as well). It doesn't do the mist much justice, but the trees have a definitive wintery feel, what with the cool blues and purples, and the way the light behind is made to look almost like snow (that might be the mist) I also like that the recent rains have given the grass a nice green tinge.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A Tail And Two Bunnies

My sister gave me these adorable little bunnies she made for my birthday earlier this month. (I especially love the carrot pinafore!) I set them up to pose for a few shots and Scrawny had to get into the action (he loves small stuffed animals, don'tcha know?!). Right after I took this picture he absconded with the boy bunny, who I like to call Mr. James Parsnip. He was rescued and Scrawny left in high dudgeon. But it made for a good title!

Here, Miss Carotene Bunny poses in an introspective moment. I wonder how hard it must be for her, to live indoors, especially among the Furry Herd.
I knew it - she longs to be outside, to hop and scamper with the other bunnies. I think she may be pining just a bit. (But doesn't it show off the back of her nicely?!)
Ah, there's that sweet and winning smile I've grown to love! She really is a cutie! Afraid that Scrawny might come back and try for seconds, I put the bunnies under the protection of Morella, the mushroom-gathering woodland fairy who watches over my mantel. They seem to be getting along fine, though James was a bit leery at first.
To see more of the wonderful dolls my sister makes go check out her gallery over at
Etsy: The Fairies' Nest
She's been hard at work, making some really wonderful dolls for Valentine's Day!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Stuff To Do In Carpoop

It's true - I do hate carpool. So much so, that I have to revile it's very name. Why not just send them on the bus, you say? Well, I don't know what busdrivers in your part of the world are like, but here they are a scary breed of homicidal trailer dwellers, and there's no way in greek hades I'm putting my children in the care of one of them. Still, it is kind of a drag to be in that line, twiddling your thumbs. I take my lunch with me, a book to read (or the latest Smithsonian), some research data to crunch, sometimes my new camera.

Yesterday, it was supposed to be a wintry mix here, but it was even less of a snow event than Bossy's wad of snow she had earlier this week - it just rained. But while I was sitting there, snarfing a turkey sandwich from Arby's (hold the mayo), I was looking out of my windshield at the front schoolyard, and not noticing the outside, as much as I was noticing the windshield, and the groovy patterns that the rain was making. It looked alomst like something you could do in Photoshop, the patterened blur, so I whipped out my lovely new camera (thank you again and again, my dearest husband!) and took a few shots of it.

What do you think?

Maybe it's lame, taking pictures of buses pulling up, through my windshield. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I guess - I loved the impressionistic blur of it.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Furry Herd

Today I'm off to school to shake up the new third grade teacher. The really incredible teacher we had at the beginning of the year had to leave abruptly (something terrible had to have happened - she wasn't the kind to skip out.) and the Bohemian's class was adrift for about a month, with substitutes, until they hired the new teacher, who started right before Christmas vacation.

I usually take January off from volunteering; after doing the whole Christmas holidays shuffle that little moms do (I'm mean really- if I wasn't here, Christmas would suck outloud. The husband, lovely man that he is, just doesn't understand how to make magic happen. That is my speciality - making magic.), I'm usually pretty shot and not really wanting to go rub elbows with all the sick little tykes in the worst cold and flu month (tempting,...but, Hell No!). Considering I volunteer in three different classes, every week, during the rest of the school year, I think I can take one month off. But with this third grade class, I just don't have the heart to abandon them for that month.

They have been so adrift, so disjointed for that last month of school before Christmas, that the kids with learning, or focusing issues were frying right before my eyes, and it didn't seem like there was anyone who understood what these kids had been going through. So in an effort to maintain some semblence of continuity for them, I'm still coming every Thursday during January to help out in class.

I'm not so sure the new teacher is really that happy about it. I'm sure its hard to come into a class in the middle of the year, but is that a reason to extinguish all semblence of humor in life? I'm deeply afraid, that in their frantic scraping of the teacher barrel, mid-year, they came up with an old-school, grump of a teacher. She about had a conniption last week, when the kids and I put glitter on our heads (just a teensy bit, mind you - nothing to the amount that was on the floor, and it wasn't my idea to use loose glitter to create a snow look on a picture - I'm all about the kind suspended in glue). We had to make these Snow-ems; snow poems, that frankly, weren't poetry at all, (which vexed me greatly) and then decorate it with the insanity of loose glitter. So we did - and put a bit in our hair, to get the feel and look of snow; you know, for inspiration. Evidently it was perilously close to mutiny, because she lectured them about it after I left. (I'm thinking of a name that starts with B - can you guess it?)

It's no big news to me that creativity is a dead language in public school - but it's why I go and volunteer. If I can inspire one kid in a class to think outside of the box, to get excited about learning, then its worth the grumpy teacher looks.

Most of the teachers we've had have been wonderfully balanced between disciplined work and making work seem like play, and I knew our luck was going to run out eventually. Well, eventually was this year, evidently.

But enough grousing...I have digressed completely from where I was headed. (Such a change for me - NOT!)

For today's visual appeal, I have put up a few pictures of some of the Furry Herd, as we like to call them. If you didn't know, we run the local chapter of the Temple of Bast - also known as a cat haven - rescuing strays and living in a perpetual fluffdom of fur.

Let me introduce you to them:

This is Princess Feathertail, Feather for short. We like to call her our Norwegian Forest Cat, because she fits the description to a T in the cat book. She showed up a few years ago, a matted fur-covered bag of bones. We took her in, and the next year she gave us a litter of kittens, which was a shock, as we had thought she was spayed, based on her behavior prior to getting knocked up. She is very scraggly in the summer, but in the winter, she gets gloriously fluffy. She is very sweet to her people, and her children, but she's a bit of a diva with the other girl cats (they call it something else, I'm sure - the B word again, perchance?)
This is Rikki, one of the sons of Feather. He is the alpha male, and yes, he is neutered. He is also the cat who fractured his jaw this past fall, but he is mended and doing fine. He has the longest tail I've ever seen on a cat, but he knows he's hot - it's such a turn-off!
My particular favorite is Jezebel , whose proper name is Jezebel Maya Jungle Cat. I actually paid money for this one, which is rare, but I was supposed to be getting a lynx point siamese - yeah, I know - not so much. She's more like a torby-siamese, but Bea calls it Fudge Ripple. Regardless, she is my baby. And she isn't really cross-eyed; she just makes that face (so shut up Bea!).
This is Pooh Bear, aka Poodle, another of the Sons of Feather (it sounds like a horror movie, and sometimes, it even seems like one!). He is not an alpha male, and he's nuttier than peanut butter, to boot. He is currently chewing all the hair off of his tail, so his fine plumey tail is in a pretty sad state. He can be affectionate, but it usually entails trying to trip you in the hallway, in the dark. There are others, but they weren't around to have their pictures taken. With winter upon us, and the camellias blooming, it shouldn't be long before Miss Puff begins her flower-hunting season. Now if only I can catch her at it, that would be a great picture! I also left out Jasper, though she was featured with the Bohemian just a few days ago, and Squeak (it was supposed to be a Color Purple reference), and the ever-needy Scrawny Joe McAllister (maybe you've heard of him? He jumped off the Tallascratchy Bridge? They wrote a song about it!) But fear not - they are all hamasauri and love to pose for the camera, so they're bound to show up in here at some point.

So now you have something to look forward to, kinda, maybe,...ok, not really, but run with me here.

Ciao-a-bunga doodles!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


I was taking pictures this past week, on a particularly windy day, where the weather was "a moving and a shaking", and the clouds were tearing across the sky, while the wind rattled my loose shutters and played an impromptu concert on my windchimes. And this is what came to mind. Say what you will - this song always puts me in a positive frame of mind, which really doesn't have that much to do with the lyrics, if you were thinking it was some father/daughter love fest --- Neyahhh, not so much. But it is great to listen to underwater, when one is submerging, tubwise, and going interior. Not exactly like Calgon, but you're getting warm. Cloudbusting, by Kate Bush, from The Hounds of Love

I still dream of Organon.
I wake up cryin'.
You're making rain,
And you're just in reach,
When you and sleep escape me.

You're like my yo-yo
That glowed in the dark.
What made it special
Made it dangerous,
So I bury it
And forget.

But every time it rains,
You're here in my head,
Like the sun coming out--
Ooh, I just know that something good is gonna happen.
And I don't know when,
But just saying it could even make it happen.

On top of the world,
Looking over the edge,
You could see them coming.
You looked too small
In their big, black car,
To be a threat to the men in power.

I hid my yo-yo
In the garden.
I can't hide you
From the government.
Oh, God, Daddy--
I won't forget.

'Cause every time it rains,
You're here in my head,
Like the sun coming out--
Ooh, I just know that something good is gonna happen.
And I don't know when,
But just saying it could even make it happen.

It's you and me, Daddy.

It's you and me... Daddy---

It's you and me... Daddy---

E-yeah yeah yeah yeah yo-ohhhhhhhhhh

And every time it rains
You're here in my head
Like the sun coming out.
Your son's coming out.
Ooh, I just know that something good is gonna happen.
And I don't know when,
But just saying it could even make it happen.

Ooo-ohh, just saying it could even make it happen.

I'm Cloudbusting Daddy.

Your son's coming out.
Your son's coming out.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

What Blogging Looked Like A Hundred Years Ago

This is one of the ways I spend my spare time.
I have collected every single article written by Sarah Agnes Darling, and am currently in the process of transcribing them.
Because, dry as they are, they provide a glimpse into the life of my family, and their extended relatives, some of whom I never knew were related until I started collecting this stuff.
There are articles like this for every little town in that area, none of which have been indexed or put into a searchable format. If you want them, you have to go through all the microfilm and photo-copy the pages you need. That's why its taken me 4 years to get it all (Thanks Mom!) (She's faster than I am at getting them, though it still takes her years to read a census page, but I am grateful, nonetheless.)

It occurred to me today, as I was working on the year 1911, that this is the precursor to blogs. They were written mostly by women and had to do with their kids, life around them, and the social scene, such as it was. OK, so they didn't have all the bells, whistles, and gadgets we have to spruce up a page; some of them, like Ag, are downright terse, but take a look - its uncannily like a blog page in content.

A Couple of Early Bloggers? Nah, but we can pretend they are! (Elizabeth Snyder and daughter?)

Kaneville, January 13th, 1908
(Reported by Sarah Agnes Darling)

We are having beautiful winter weather for this time of year.
Mr. and Mrs. J.V. Toy, of Oil City, spent Sunday with the latter’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Ross Gahring.
Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Gahring will soon move to this place and live in the house Mrs. Sara Moyer recently vacated.
Mrs. Maud Kirkwood, Donald McKissick, and Baby Harper are on the sick list. Charles McKissick and J.E. Cunningham were quite ill during the past week, but are both able to be around again
Mrs. Catherine Thompson spent last Friday afternoon with Mrs. Jacob Toy.
Floyd Darling entertained five of his young friends on Friday evening. The games were Donkey and Flinch.
Carl Kirkwood, Ethel and Lester Toy have the chickenpox.
Miss Becca Cherry called on Mrs. S.A. Darling Saturday afternoon.

Kaneville, January 21st, 1908
(Reported by Sarah Agnes Darling)

Rev. Swanson, of Diamond, held services in the U.B. church on Sunday morning at 11 o’clock.
Mrs. S.A. Moyar and Mrs. A.J. Kirkwood spent last Sunday here and attended preaching at Cherrytree on Sunday evening.
Mrs. William Toy and Mrs. S.A. Darling spent Sunday at Dempseytown with Mr. and Mrs. William Hill.
Mr. and Mrs. Frank Neely were called to Breedtown on Friday by the death of the latter’s father, Edward Hancox.
About seventeen friends spent a very pleasant time on Monday evening at the home of Mrs. William Toy. They were gathered to celebrate the 16th anniversary of John A. Toy’s birthday. At 11 o’clock a dainty lunch was served and the games were Pedro and Flinch.

Kaneville, January 28th, 1908
(Reported by Sarah Agnes Darling)

Quite a number around here are sick with the grippe.
About sixty-five members and visitors attended the Kaneville Aid Society meeting at Mrs. Mary Kirkwood’s last Thursday. The money taken in amounted to 8.50. The Aid Society will take dinner with Mrs. Susan Thompson on Feb. 6th. All are cordially invited to attend.
Mrs. Barbara Long, of Oil City, spent Sunday with her sister, Mrs. William Toy.
Mrs. S.A. Darling and son, Floyd, spent Sunday in Rouseville with Mr. and Mrs. William Darling and Grandma Darling. Grandma is 89 years old and quite lively for her age.
Mr. and Mrs. Harry Hunter, of Rouseville, spent a day recently with the latter’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. J.F. Neely.
Mrs. Sara Cunningham and Miss May Kirkwood spent Saturday with Mrs. Jennie Cunningham, of Oil City.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Take A Picture, It'll Last Longer

It was such a nice day on Saturday, that the Bohemian and I took our cameras out to shoot a few pictures in the backyard. I love to see what two different perspectives can yield, especially when one of those perspectives is a kid's eye view (a little taller than a worm's eye view, but much, much shorter than a bird's eye view - I think I may have started to sound a bit like Monty Python's Miss Anne Elk - "ahem! Ah-hem! That is my theory and what it tis.").

Here the Bohemian is attempting to photograph the ever-alluring Jasper, aka Chubby Anne. She is an ancient and somewhat moth-eaten looking torby cat (tortoise shell tabby for non-cat people), which may sound like she's some sort of breed, but really, she is straight from the streets of the Emerald City, down east of here. I found her on my birthday, 17 years ago, and as my then-boyfriend, now-husband hadn't given me a present, she was my present (much to his dismay, but did it make him go shopping for any of the later birthdays? Oh Hell No!).
This is what he took a picture of:
And this one as well. Its so easy to tell that a little boy took this shot - say "cheese!" brown-eye! Oy! Little boys...! (Psst! I actually think this is a hilarious shot, but don't tell the Bohemian - he needs absolutely NO encouragement from the peanut gallery, I assure you!) The Bohemian and his muse pose for me. I don't know why, but this old decrepit cat has starred in more paintings than any of my other cats. I think it must be her scrappy attitude - that and her penchant for tapestried chairs - that makes her irresistable to both photograph and paint.
Speaking of paint - I finally located the masking tape, so I am off to the studio to paint today. (I know you would like to picture a vast and airy retreat as my studio - believe me - so would I! Alas, my "studio" is really the part of the dining room usually used as a foyer, which isn't far enough removed from the rest of the world, but at least I can leave my stuff lying around there.) Hopefully, I can get some momentum going now - at least until it's carpoop time - sigh...!

Friday, January 11, 2008


I was trying out the new camera last week, while waiting in carpoop (I spelled it that way on purpose, people!), and took this shot. The Professor asked me like a million times (OK, so it was only about 1000 times - what. ever. Get off of my damn poetic license, will ya?) if I had downloaded it onto the computer, so he could see it.

This is not normal behavior for him. He is usually too cool to be bothering with the goings-on of mere mortals (and yes, he really does talk that way - its all part of his plan to become ruler of the universe. As long as I get a taken care of in my old age, I'm jiggy with it.).

So, curious to know what I had inadvertantly photographed that was of such vital interest to him, I downloaded the pictures and took a closer look.

Ahhhh! It all comes clear, once I blow this picture up a bit, but shhhh! Don't tell him I showed this to you - I might not get that hot male nurse when I'm old and decrepit.

In the background is the object of his obsession with this picture - do I really need to say more? I do have my geriatric years to consider here, you know.

At least he has good taste - and what a snappy dresser! I wonder if those boots come in my size?

I especially love the conflicted look of embarrassment and pleasure on the Professor's face - he knows exactly what is going to show up in the background of this picture. Mercifully, his younger brother is such a hamasaurus, he's oblivious to the potential blackmail fodder going on behind him.

I know - I am in Huge trouble!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Family Dynamics, Part V

As I am going to be busy painting today, I thought I would put up an excerpt from the family history I've been writing. This kind of compilation can be very dry and dull, which is why I have worked hard to find and include as much anecdotal material as possible. I know - I am a very dull girl!

Glass Negative Photos supplied courtesy of Drake Well Museum

Jacob Toy (1826 – 1912), the son of William Toy and Mary Ann Bowser, and his wife, Catherine Goldinger (1828), were both born in Armstrong County, but in the late 1850s they moved to Venango County, PA. Jacob worked as a carpenter, building some of the early derricks along Oil Creek. Nevada Feely’s journal suggests he was nicknamed “Bull Wheel”; whether it was for his strength or because he was in some way involved with the actual bull wheel of an oil rig, is unknown. The 1900 census lists him as a manufacturer of Bull Wheels, so perhaps that is where the name began. The early oil prospectors had little ready–made technology or experts among them, other than salt well drillers, blacksmiths, carpenters, and the tools of their trades. His wife, Catherine, worked as a seamstress to earn extra money, and was an invalid in her later years. They lived in Cornplanter Township initially, and then moved to Cherrytree Township, just above Rouseville, PA, in an area known as Kaneville. Jacob bought a house and land along the Little Cherry Run, also known as Kane’s Run, in 1894 from a man named C.G. Dempsey. The nearby town of Petroleum Center, along Oil Creek, was known as “The wickedest place east of the Mississippi”.

Catherine Goldinger was the daughter of Major John Goldinger and Hannah McKallip. Hannah’s parents were Archibald McKallip (born 1774 - d. 1842) and Catherine Kipp (b.1779 - d.1844), who was born on the present site of Gettysburg, in Adams Co. Archibald was born aboard ship to Henry McKallip and his wife, of whom little is known, other than they were Scotch- Irish. Archibald taught school in Westmoreland and in Armstrong Co. near Apollo. He and his wife are buried in Elder’s Ridge Cemetery, in Indiana County.

Jacob Toy and Catherine Goldinger had 7 children:
1) Mary Jane Toy, born 1852 in Armstrong Co. She died about 1922 in Simcoe Canada. She married George Downs (born 1845 in Simcoe(?) Canada) sometime around 1869. They had 1 known child, Pearl Downs, but another child is listed in the 1870 census – a Mary Downs, who was two months old at the time of the census. George Downs reported his occupation on the census as carpenter, so presumably he was working in the oil industry. When and why they moved back to Canada is presently unknown, although I wonder if the family story of the man who bit off the ear of a traveling show strongman and had to leave the country might not be referring to George Downs.

2) William Matthew Toy, born 1853/54 in Armstrong Co. Died June 27, 1904 from injuries sustained in a fall from an oil derrick. He was a carpenter alongside his father in the oil business. Very little is known of him, because of his untimely demise, though his sister, Sarah Agnes describes him as a dutiful son, a good husband, and a loving father. He married Rachel Klotz ( 1857 -1924), the daughter of Jonathan Klotz (1826-1903) and Catherine McIntyre (b. Apr. 1825-1900). William and Rachel had 9 children. Rachel's mother, Catherine McIntyre Klotz, was remembered vividly by her grandson, Jacob Vance Toy as quite a personality. Born in Armstrong County, PA, to Andrew McIntyre and his wife, Elizabeth, she was the second child of five. Catherine was listed in the 1850 Census as being unable to read or write, though her husband was not only literate; he helped to found a school in Perry township, where they lived. She was known as a midwife, smoked a corncob pipe, and drove her buggy unassisted and unchaperoned by menfolk. In later years she made the circuit among her three daughters helping them quilt, preserve, and stock for winter. Her grandson, Jake Toy, remembers being awakened by her at times, to go and gather herbs by the light of the moon.

3) John Toy, born 1858. Died 1872 in Venango Co. Aged 14 years. It is believed he was involved in racing horses at the time of his death.

4) Sarah Agnes Toy, born 1861 in Venango Co. Died 1955. She married James E. Darling (born 1861- died 1891) in 1890. James was an experienced well shooter, but on September 24, 1891, according to an article in the Venango Citizens’ Press, while he and another man, A.S Ferry, were engaged in blowing out stumps using nitroglycerin, he was killed instantly. They had 1 child, Floyd Darling (born 1891- died 1929). “Ag” inherited her father’s farm as payment for caring for him and her mother in their later years. She is reputed to have worn hip boots to clean out her creek and once fired a pistol to frighten off some boys who were throwing rocks back into it. She supplied both bantam (“banty”) chicken eggs and herbal medicinals (Digitalis for Minnie B.) to the family. She also wrote a column for the Venango Citizens Press, starting about 1904, about the local “News” in Kaneville (see excerpts from The Venango Citizens Press). I have written more about "Ag" in this post.

5) Hannah Toy, born April, 1864 in Venango Co. She married Orla Loomis Siple (b. Dec. 7, 1867 in Ohio – died Jan. 13, 1947) in 1889. Sometime prior to 1900 she and her husband moved to Summerland, Santa Barbara, California. In the 1900 census Orla is listed as a helper for an oil company; in 1910 his job is described as “laborer”, and by 1920 he is working as a farmer. The 1900 census lists three children: Naomi (b. Sept. 1891), Dolores (b. June 1893), and Alvilda (b. March 1899). Naomi married Gordon R. Littlefield May 29, 1909, in Summerland, Ca. They had two children, listed in the 1920 census: Gordon (b. 1918) and Thelma (b. 1919) Littlefield. It appears that Gordon died sometime between 1912 and 1920, as Naomi is living again with her parents in the 1920 census. Alvilda, or Alwilda, as her name appears in the 1930 census, married Theodore James Reed (b. Nov. 1893 CA), the son of Theodore L. Reed (b. Apr. 1855 NJ) and Louisa Maria Henkel (b. June 1858 GER), and they had 2 children.

6) Alvilda Toy, born? It is believed she died in infancy. There is little known of this child, except for her name; Hannah Toy Siple named one of her children this same name and it is possible that her daughter is the only Alvilda in the family.

7) Jacob Toy, born? He is believed to have died in infancy.

The names of the two infants who died were provided by Kathy Kulling Holmgren from a book of family history written by her grandmother, Nevada Feely Toy. It is believe that Nevada received the information from Agnes Darling, with whom she was known to have been close.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

A Picture Paints A Thousand Words

At long last! The Burnt Umber is here! And I'm gone! See you tomorrow - maybe.

Monday, January 7, 2008

A Monday in January

Yawn....! January really ought to be a month of hibernation. We had the fiery re-entry back into school last week, and still, this morning, I was unprepared for the alarm clock, and the having to get up in the early AM. The kids were already up - they get up at dawn, like their father, but me? I'm a vampire from so far back, even having kids hasn't made me much of an early riser. The hubster was telling me the other morning that one day last week was the latest sunrise of the year - no wonder I don't want to get up in January - neither does the sun, apparently!

I had a great birthday weekend - slept in, played all weekend, and still got the Christmas tree down and out of the house on Sunday, so that can be checked off the list.

Bea gave me a tube of the much-sought after burnt umber, along with a gift certificate to the grooviest art supply store in Raleigh (Askew-Taylor, FYI), and made me an awesome cake! She also took me out last night, as part of our continuing series of Sunday Denial - isn't she the best? Her birthday is coming up in about three months, so I better get busy planning...!

The Big Gorilla Man gave me a fabulous new camera for my birthday, but he had to give it to me early, as I was throwing a bit (!!) of a tantrum on Christmas Eve. So you could say, part of his gift to me is just putting up with my bullshit. He has been an awfully good husband lately - I don't know the where and why of it, but I am grateful - Christmas and my birthday, hard on it's heels, isn't my best time of year ever, really, so I'm just happy to be through with it for another year with minimal stress and/or freakouts.

On Sunday we headed out to Raven Rock Park again, for a nice little hike. The weather is so pretty, its a crime to be indoors! I took my trusty new camera and had a lot of fun taking pictures at the park. We took a different trail this time and the boys loved discovering new terrain. There was a lot of quartz on this trail; some of it quite large, though most of it wasn't of the crystalline quality. Here are the intrepid explorers: I lagged behind a lot on the hike, looking for oddities to photograph. I was struck by this log composition; the intricate branches in the background, the moss and the very graphic rings and cut-out of the log were wonderful. I can almost see some of my sister's little fairy dolls peeping out of this!
Down by the Cape Fear River, we followed the trail along to it's point of no return. Of course, I had to tell the guys that this was "The End Of The Trail", like it was time to go or something. Only the Big Fella got it, but then he's sharp like that.
I started playing with these in photoshop, mostly just cropping or punching up the color/contrast, but when I got to this one I had a bit of fun. They looked like a trio of women dancing, these trees, but when I was looking at the picture it didn't have the drama I had seen in the woods. So I was messing around and decided to try them as a colored pencil look - voila! Now they have drama! Winter is definitely the time of year to shoot tree branches.
My drive-by shootings were the usual hit-or-miss, but upon looking at them, I was struck by how barren and poor it looked alongside highway 401 - you would have thought I was scoping for a location to film a depression-era film. Because they're drive-bys, some of them are a bit blurry, but wow - you just don't realize how close abject poverty is to your own doorstep. Some of these are just old houses on farms, where the family has built another, newer house nearby, but some of them, like this last picture, is strongly reminiscent of 1930s era Dust Bowl pictures, only in color. The fate of the little farmer breaks my heart - I try and buy locally as much as I can, but the bleeding Walmarts and Superstores just roll over us all, destroying the little Mom and Pop businesses, and decimating the little farms, all in favor of a damn concrete warehouse that supports slave labor in third world countries, and reduces our little hard-working farmers to this. And this is an economically strong area; but only if you're from somewhere else and educated.

Sigh...don't let me get started....I'm trying to stay up this month.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Queen For A Day

It's my birthday, I can do what I want!

*note: This is my rendition of Queen Elizabeth II, as done by Robin Williams.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

I was rifling through my fifty-odd million picture boxes today, and came across these two pictures. They are so similar in appearance I had to put them up together.

The first picture is me, at about two. (This is also my picture in Flickr!) The analytical fingers are my favorite part of this.

But look at this one! I think the Bohemian is also about two here, and when I saw this, I was struck by how much we look alike in these shots. People usually say he resembles the Big Gorilla Man, and a lot of the time, he does, but not in this picture! What a cutie!

I know, I know; self-indulgent piffle- here- now- in the New Year, when I should be all motivated or something.

Well, um...,I think I might be on a different calendar than the rest of the world, 'cuz I am a hibernator in the month of January. Its not that I don't do things this month, I just don't do big things this month.

This is the month I put our house back to rights, and hope for snow, so the kids and maybe HunnyBunny can all stay home together. Its becomes an impromptu, almost illegal vacation, and we hunker down, drink hot chocolate, and maybe play a few games we got over Christmas. The planning for this year's Big Things comes later; maybe February. But right now, I am SO NOT planning a blasted thing!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Priceless Holiday Moments

Ah, the holidays have come and gone, with relatively (pun intended) little friction, which is a rarity for both sides of the family, so it was a blessing indeed. I haven't been in to post much of anything because we have been on the run for the last week; we held two dinner parties, went to several family gatherings here, and finished off with a run up to Richmond for Christmas with the inlaws. Whew! I need a vacation from the vacation! I did get a new camera for Christmas/Birthday from my darling husband, so I spent lots of time breaking it in (thank you honey!)

While we were at my mother's house, the boys got into a little scuffle over a ridiculous inflatable hammer. Evidently, the Bohemian used the large hammer to exact a little sibling adjustment on his older brother, the Professor, who really has been teetering dangerously on the edge of teendom, as far as his attitude goes. Ever the champion of the underdog, I let him work his older brother over, while I took pictures!

The conflict is underway at this point, and is about to enter the porch, much to the amusement of the rest of the family. Notice how the Bohemian is in full swing here, while the Professor gauges whether he can come in and kill his brother without censure. hmmm..

Why is he covering his eyes? To make it look like he is an innocent bystander perhaps? I don't know, but I love this picture! It speaks volumes about these two. (notice that the Bohemian is winding up for the swing..."make my day, baby!")
This show of agression by a younger brother is obviously pushing the Professor over the edge of caution. He feels compelled to enter the fray and put the offender in his place. The Bohemian is still jubliant; cocky even, as he is still holding the hammer at the ready. Watch out Big brother!
Oops! Too late, the Bohemian realizes he should have kept his brother from entering the porch. He tries to force the Professor back to the door, but alas! The Professor is inside now and the Bohemian is in big trouble. (Can you believe they were going on like this while I was shooting it? Hello!!! Your mother is watching AND taking footage to condemn you both with. Obviously they are in the throes of passion at this point - "Camera, Schmamera, I'm going to kick your a**!) Ah! The Professor gets the Bohemian into a headlock and exacts his revenge. (and he's never even watched wrestling - what a natural, eh?) I love the blind rage pictured here - the sheer, unadulterated anger of an eldest child who has been publicly thwacked by his younger brother. Oh the indignity! Oh the injustice! Oh are they going to be in trouble!
At this point I had to go separate them, so as to avoid any trips to the hospital. (I was kind of worried they were going to pop the hammer too, and it wasn't theirs to pop, so...)

The sweet moments of Christmas - Joy and Goodwill to all men, except when there's a blow-up hammer to wreak some vengeance with. Good times!

There were other moments that were more idyllic; ie, they weren't monsters ALL the time! Actually the hammer incident was the only real fight they had, and it was so much fun to photograph, how could I intervene right away?

But look: here is proof they were good some of the time:

The Bohemian scrunches down to give me a better shot of him with his new RC truck. I especially love the "Penny Brite" look in his eyes. Such a mischeivous child, but at least he's not dull, right?

The Professor contemplates a composition of his own making, wearing his signature black sweat hoodie. Inexpressibly cool at all times, it is very difficult for him to be seen with the rest of us (and he's only 10, for crying out loud!)
All right, that is the end of the holiday picture posts. Now that its January, and a new year is upon us, I am moving along.

Of course, I still need to take down the tree and move all the furniture back to its normal places, but with all that still ahead of me, I'm bound to come up with some good postings - anything to extend the season of procrastination, I say!

It could be a dark month ahead; I turn 45 this Friday (sigh). Most of the time I don't feel like I'm even 40, but there is always that time of yearly reckoning, called Birthday, where all rational bets are off. I might just have to wallow a teeny bit, in order to make the adjustment. There might be a need for a box of fine chocolates, a little bubbly, and a Pride and Predjudice marathon, in order to realign my planets and whatnot. There definitely needs to be a tube of burnt umber in my near future - I am twitching mentally, wanting to get back to the painting, and its always good for my mental state, to be painting, but my burnt umber was a dried rock of a tube, and its been one thing and another, up to now, keeping me from getting a tube, much less, even having the time to paint. But no more! I am vowing to be done with Christmas clean-up and ready for the January Hunker-down, with my easel, by next week. So there, you grumpy January blues - see where that leaves you!