Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Okay, an edit for hubby's sanity

Hubby insisted that I post a "day in the life" so you can see that there really isn't any educational neglect going on. The kids really do learn a LOT even though I'm not teaching them a lot.

I've changed our names for this blog. Rosie is my youngest, at 7. Her next older sister is Christie, 10. Next up is Kate, 12. John, age 15, isn't home much, he's our only public schooled student right now. My oldest at home is Blair, age 17. I do have a grown, married, wonderful son, Marty (27), and his wonderful wife Raye, WAYYYYY on the other side of the continent.

6:00AM What luck! (and what a great alarm clock!) It just happens to be one of my 6AM days! So, I won't put off blogging this particular day. There are ginger cookies for breakfast today, and they only take 20 minutes to bake, so John can have some before he heads off to the bus. Perhaps with enough butter and cinnamon sugar on them he might even eat one. One of my favorite trick-myself-into-making-breakfast tricks is to stir together the dry ingredients for muffins or cookies in one bowl and the wet ingredients in another. I refrigerate the wet stuff and leave the dry stuff on the counter with the muffin tins or cookie sheets already pan-sprayed. In the morning, I just combine the two bowls' contents and scoop out batter into the tins. Not nearly as dangerous as really cooking in the AM.

6:45AM Cookies done and cleaned up after. Can I go back to bed now? No, no, I'm fine. I'll hop in the shower before hubby gets up to leave the bathroom available for him to get ready for work. Kids aren't up yet, except John, who leaves for the bus at 7:05. While I'm in the shower, I think about a dear friend who I want to encourage via email today and what I can say to her that will bless her.

7:18AM Out of the shower, hair more-or-less done, makeup on and readyish for the day. Another couple cups of coffee and I'll be coherent. Hubby wants to know if I made juice with the cookies. No, but I made him a quick cup of cocoa. It's chilly here today! YAY!

7:40AM Ah, that last cup of coffee downed, and the girls are starting to stir. I remind them to do their before breakfast chores (make bed, brush hair and teeth, put away PJs and bedtime books) and come up for food. Hubby decides to work at home today because he's not feeling tip top.

8:15AM Girls all fed and cleaned up after, they are doing their morning chores. I sit down to check the email. I have four books from my Amazon site to ship and one eBay sale. YAY! Prep all that shipping stuff and run it out to the mailbox.

9:00AM Done with shipping, email and other business-related work for the morning. I sit down with a cup of coffee (just one more?) to make the menus and shopping list for the week.

9:10AM Yikes. Forgot the laundry. Fold a load, washer to dryer, dirty to washer. Back to the menus. Rose is practicing the piano while Blair works with Kate on her costume for the Fall Festival at church tonight. Christie is having floor time with the guinea pigs after doing a quick clean of their cage.

9:30AM I have a basic idea of menus for the week and have written most of the ingredients I need for them, so it's off to start lunch. We're having steamed cauliflower and broccoli, chilled, with a yogurt dressing. Blair starts working with Christie on costume. Rose bakes sardine-wheat germ cookies for the neighbor's cat who just had kittens. Kate does "PE" on the trampoline.

10:15AM Blair works with Rose on her costume. Christie does "PE" on the Gazelle, Kate makes a "Sorry, no candy" sign for the front door. I check the grocery list against what's in the pantry, subtracting what we have and adding staples we need.

10:35AM We have a snack of leftover muffins and Emergen-C. Rose asks how to count "less than zero," so we have an impromptu lesson on negative numbers while Christie listens in. Kate finishes snack and goes to get a jump on her afternoon chores. Blair showers.

10:45AM All cleaned up from snack now, the kids run downstairs and grab their schoolwork they did at bedtime last night. They love working at night when it's quiet. I take a look at math papers, creatively written stories, their "Books I've Read" lists, and ideas for a science scavenger hunt.

11:10AM I compile the scavenger hunt list and send them packing. All four girls go and check off interesting things they find on their lists, collect leaves and rocks, and sketch birds they see. While it's quiet, I catch up on my home business and sort through my in box. If I can get the filing ready to do, Blair will do it during her afternoon chore time. It's also payday, so I check the account to make sure our automatic bill payments are set up and working.

12:15PM The girls come back ravenous from their adventure. We sit down to lunch and polish off the veggies. A couple of them go in search of more food (it's not lunch without a sandwich, they insist) while I help Christie do dishes. Another cha-cha-cha with the laundry and we're off to finish off the afternoon chore list. Today is "small room" day. We pick up, sweep and mop or vacuum, dust, and organize the entry way, schoolroom, laundry room, halls and stairs.

1:45PM I locate the leftover breakfast cookies and make some cardamom tea for the girls' snack. The chores are all done and we are ready to play! Blair plays on the Wii, which looks more like PE than games to me, swinging a bat, tennis racket and golf club and throwing punches. I determine the next set of plants I want to grow and hybrid in my game of "Plant Tycoon." Kate is downstairs on her computer, writing her plan and plot summary for Nanowrimo. All the kids will participate this year and it will probably take a huge chunk of our time each day.

2:15PM Blair wanders off to work on my computer, the only one with internet access. She is a forum administrator of a website for fans of a certain author's books. She also frequents a forum for young writers, and is quite active there, sharing lots of plot ideas and editing tips. Kate has gone with Rose to visit the new kittens in the neighborhood and bring a treat to the new mama cat. Christie works on her Nanowrimo plot on her computer downstairs. More laundry for me!

2:35PM Kate came home alone after dropping Rose off at her friend's. She wants to play on the Wii, and all her chores are done, so I consent. She likes to play Animal Crossing, Harvest Moon and Wii Sports, but will occasionally play Lego Star Wars or Spiderman. I gather up the contents of the hermit crab cage (but not the crabs themselves!) to wash and boil and return to their aquarium. Then sit to rest my knees with a cup of tea.

3:38PM John is home from school now, ready for a bite to eat before he goes off to work mowing lawns in the neighborhood. We've had such a horrible drought that his income was near zero all summer. But now that the autumn rains have started, there are a few jobs here and there and he's glad to have them! He saves his money to spend at the local magic store where he is learning tricks very quickly and making quite a name for himself. He has applied to be a demonstrator at the mall this holiday season for the shop. Blair is done online and gets to work filing. Kate's friends are also home from school, and she goes out to the backyard to jump on the trampoline and visit with them. Hubby pokes his head out to say he is going to shower now.

4:15PM Well, we had planned to go to the Fall Festival at church, but Rose has come down with a runny nose and looks pale. John says he'd rather not go anyway, and Christie didn't like the costume she worked out with Blair. So, we'll stay home and have a fun night in.

4:45PM I just walked in the door from Wal Mart. I picked up Meet The Robinsons, a movie we enjoyed this summer. We'll eat some Taco Bell, watch a movie and pop some popcorn later. Rose is looking a little worse and doesn't feel like moving from the couch. I made her a bed on the couch where she's comfy cozy. Christie asked me to teach her how to crochet, so I showed her how to make a slip knot and single crochet. That should keep her busy a long time.

6:15PM Dinner is over and cleaned up, we watched Jeopardy, which is one thing we do every single day as a family, and it's time to start our movie. I just did a quick check and one of my eBay auctions ending tonight is up over $500. Hello, Christmas Money!

7:30PM Taking a short break from the movie to pop the popcorn. Rose fell asleep on the couch during the movie, and I don't think I'll wake her to put her to bed. Christie is practicing her crocheting while she watches the movie, but now that there's popcorn she'll have to take a break!

8:30PM Movie over, popcorn gone and vacuumed up. The kids say their goodnights and go to their rooms to read, do schoolwork, talk or play quietly. We turn the computers off when the sun goes down, so that's not an option for them at night. But I hear some nice, quiet music playing and no arguing, which is really nice for a change! At 9:30 I'll holler down a "lights out" and head for bed myself, but for now, hubby wants to watch another movie.

11:17PM That's enough day for one day for me. I'm ready for bed. Oops - tomorrow is Christie's portrait, and I want to get to Wal Mart early to pick up candy and costumes at half price while they last. I'd better go make sure Christie's pretty dress is clean and pressed before I turn in. Good night!

No fair, they get COOKIES for breakfast!

I've always wanted to be the "cool mom on the block." You know, the one where all the kids hang out. My mother was that mom. When someone's kid ran away from home, they'd call our house and my mother would be sitting at the kitchen table with them, listening to their troubles over cookies and milk. I don't envy her, though, because it got harder to send them back home once the kids got to be teenagers!

In my childhood mind, I imagined the "cool mom on the block" as someone who always had freshly baked cookies laying around. Not just for dessert and snack, though - all the time, even at breakfast.

I found this great cookie recipe and tweaked it for my family. We had cookies for breakfast this morning and it was easy. I loved them! The ginger warmed me up from the inside, perfect for a cool morning! The kids, well, let's just say they are more fond of their cold cereal than the exotic idea of cookies at 7AM!

Here's my recipe:

Breakfast Ginger Cookies

The night before, mix in one bowl 1 cup of pastry flour, 1 1/2 cups rolled oats, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, pinch salt. Cover that and leave it on the counter. In another bowl, mix up 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger, 1 egg, 2/3 cup milk, 1 tablespoon oil and 3 tablespoons cooking maple syrup. Cover that and leave it in the fridge overnight. Line your cookie sheet with parchment so it's all ready to go, and go to bed!

In the AM, preheat the oven to 375°. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients just until mixed. Drop the batter in 2-tablespoon-lumps onto a cookie sheet and bake for 25 minutes. This batch made 1 dozen.

Snack today was a yummy dip with fresh-tasting basil. I didn't plan quite far enough in advance for this recipe. It would have been much better chilled until it thickened a little. But it's a grownup dish, unless your kids like green food.

Basil Satin Dip

Bring a pot of water about six inches deep to boil and toss in 10.5 ounces of reduced fat tofu. Take off the heat and let it sit there for two minutes, then pour off the water and sit the tofu on a couple paper towels to drain a little. (This blanching process takes a lot of the soy flavor out of the tofu.) Toss into a blender with a tablespoon of miso (I like light miso, but it's a flavor choice, try red, too), 2 teaspoons of tahini, 1 teaspoon of grainy mustard (I don't like the really hot stuff, but something along the lines of Grey Poupon is delicious) 1/4 cup fresh, washed and blotted dry basil leaves, 1 teaspoon dried thyme, 1 clove garlic. Blend that until it's smooth and satiny. Ooh, with whole wheat crackers...Yum!

And, here I go again with the purple veggies. This was more interesting-looking than just weird though, it was more a two-tone dish, so the purple cauliflower didn't look quite so strange with the green broccoli. Hubby even ate this, which is high praise for a recipe containing a cruciferous veggie.

Broc and Cauli Salad

Cut a head of cauliflower and a pound of broccoli into florets. Peel and chop the stems of the broccoli. Steam for 7 or 8 minutes and drain. While it's steaming, finely mince a clove of garlic and a couple scallions. In a small pan on medium high heat, swirl a teaspoon of oil until fragrant. Add a teaspoon coriander, the garlic and scallions. Saute, stirring for 2 minutes or so until fragrant. The seeds might jump around a bit, and that's fine. Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool down a bit before adding 2 teaspoon minced fresh dill (or 1 teaspoon dried) and 1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt. Pat the veggies dry, add the dressing and toss. Chill for about an hour (or longer) to let the flavors marry.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Stuffed Bell Peppers

I'm not normally a fan of stuffed peppers. We have corn allergies here, and polenta just never did anything for me. But tonight for dinner we had these lovely peppers:

I chose a mixture of red and yellow mostly because I could only find two red peppers that were fresh enough, and supplemented with yellow to make up the rest I needed.

Here's what I did:
I cored and seeded 4 large bell peppers and sliced them in half. I sliced from top to bottom so they'd be long and flat rather than across the "equator" because I thought that shape would be easier for the kids to handle. I parboiled the halves in boiling water for 3 minutes and drained them. I minced a garlic clove and let it "sit" open to air while I prepped more.

In a small saucepan, I mixed together 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth, 1 bay leaf and 1 cup couscous. That came to a boil and I turned it off while I chopped and dropped these in the pan: 1 grated carrot, 1/2 cup finely chopped arugula, 2 minced green onions, 8 chopped green olives, 1/4 cup salsa (I just love Muir Glen mild.) I stirred it all around and by now the couscous had soaked up all the broth, so I tossed out the bay leaf, mixed in the garlic and loaded up the pepper halves with this concoction. Last, I topped each pepper with a slice of mozzarella (because the kids will eat just about anything with cheese on it.)

Very simple, easy, and delicious! Once oldest daughter got over me "ruining" the peppers by cooking them, she even enjoyed them!

For my friend Shandy, or, When Homeschooling Fails

So, you want real, huh? Okay, how's this: I am a big family, Christian, homeschooling failure.

Now, before you giggle and shake your head and think I'm "down on myself," let's consider the evidence:

*Are all my children walking with the Lord? No.
*Are my children obedient? No. Some are more than others, but for the most obedient among them it's just lip service with bad attitude acted out in private.
*Are our days filled with learning adventures? No. Most days we barely get the minimum of chores done, and perhaps a little reading on the side. But it's not me reading aloud, it's them reading to themselves. Math? Sure, I'll take a look at what they've done and help them over a learning "hump" if they have one. Science? Look! Is that a cardinal? Science...check.
*Do we have daily devotions? No. You read that right, NO. Not every day. Not even most days.
*I haven't baked bread in months. Middle child will make it in the bread machine if she has to.
*Do we eat dinner together? No. Well, we are usually in the same house, but not even the same room, and most of the time the TV is on for the adults while the kids eat at the table.
*I've even had to give up my favorite saying, "Lord willing, none of these children will ever darken the door of a public school," since my next-to-oldest student decided I was not qualified to teach him anything and rejected my authority outright. Gee, here I thought that because the teachers want him in honors classes that that was proof I was doing okay. But no, son informs me, he is naturally genius and my teaching only held him back from becoming all he could have been.

Oh. Sorry 'bout that, chief.

My life looks nothing like the families in The Old Schoolhouse or The Teaching Home magazine. I've tried so hard to be that family, but through a combination of laziness, depression, circumstances, pain and sheer exhaustion, failed miserably. I can get up at 6AM and make breakfast about three days in a row before I crash and sleep in till 9. I can stay up till 11 with hubby watching the gunk on TV (99% of which I would really do better without) for about four nights before I crash and fall asleep in my chair at 7. And I can cook good, healthy, balanced meals for about six days in a row before I'm ready to eat McDonalds three times in a row just to avoid the injury factor.

I'm a hardhearted, selfish person who hates to admit to being wrong (and I am, a LOT) and has to have things done her way.

Honest enough for you?

But, there's hope for me.

Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

And some days that's all I have to hang onto.

Mmmmm Yummy Meals, Mommy!

I never claimed to be much of a cook. But I can read a mean recipe. I'm also a horrid klutz in the kitchen, burning or cutting myself during almost every meal preparation attempt. For these and financial reasons (do you think it's right that "real" foods - fresh fruits and veggies - are so much more expensive than overprocessed junk like boxed mac and cheese? I sure don't) I've been taking the slacker approach to meals lately. It's been fun, tossing something in the oven and walking away without searching for the first aid kit. But alas, our health is declining and waist size increasing, so it's once again time for some real food.

One of the keys to feeding our rather large crew on the smallest possible budget is frequent, small meals. That means, unfortunately, mom's in the kitchen every other day almost nonstop. But, that other day is easier.

Breakfast was a pretty good oven pancake. It was just a couple eggs, a dash of milk and a cup of flour (I mixed up a little pastry flour, a little regular flour and a pinch of flaxseed meal) tossed in the oven to puff for 20 minutes at 450°. This option is great because I don't have to stand over the stove and flip pancakes! We topped them with a syrup I made by putting fresh raspberries, frozen wild blueberries and a little apple juice in the blender. When I heated it up, it thickened just a little and was SO good.

While that was in the oven, I stirred together the muffins for morning snack. We had them with ginger tea at 10 when I got back from Walgreens (where I purchased gauze, medical tape, burn cream and bandaids, for the burns I received while making the stupid oven pancake.) Oh, they were so good!

Lunch was Mochi Soup and Potato Pie. Now, mochi is just rice starch, made from rice and water, nothing funky there. I didn't make the mochi myself, but bought a cake at the health food store and grated it into the soup. The soup got thick and yummy very quickly without the addition of milk. And I want to warn you: the Potato Pie looks very strange because I used purple potatoes! When I bought the potatoes, I didn't remember what I wanted to use them for, and got these cute little purple potatoes. They don't really "go" with the green of the dill and parsley, though, unless you're into green and purple. They didn't taste purple at all, just like regular potatoes!

While the soup was simmering happily and the Potato Pie was baking its little heart out, I toasted a cup almonds in a dry saute pan until they got really fragrant. I moved them off the heat and tossed in a few teaspoons of tamari soy sauce and minced fresh oregano. The kids can nibble on those for snack this afternoon when the munchies hit. Well, all except youngest who's allergic to almonds and middle who has braces, that is.

We aren't a family of soup eaters. It's taken me 17 years to get my oldest girl interested in anything liquid and warm (other than hot cocoa), but the kids all liked this Mochi Soup recipe and I sure like having veggies on the table at lunch rather than the PB & honey of late.

A note on ingredients: I use only freshly home-milled whole wheat flour, extra-virgin olive oil, grade B for cooking maple syrup and sea salt unless I say specifically otherwise in a recipe. Lemongrass is a wonderfully aromatic herb I find in the produce section at the store by the other fresh herbs. I like to snip it with scissors to use it in tea or cooking because it's a little too woody for my knives. As for veggies, frozen is better than canned if fresh is out of season. I don't like buying fresh veggies out of season because of the price and the negative impact I have heard they have on the environment and economy. We use cow's milk, mostly for cooking, because we have allergies to many other milk alternatives but we very rarely will just drink a glass of milk.

Here are my recipes:

Bran Muffins (makes 12)
Start out by making two cups of lemongrass tea. Combine 3/4C all bran cereal, 1/2C rolled oats, 1C brewed lemongrass tea and 1/2C milk. Let that sit for a minute to soften up while you grate a one-inch knob of ginger onto a piece of cheesecloth. Now, to the cereal, add 1C pastry flour 1t baking powder and 1t baking soda. In another small bowl, combine 2T oil and 1/4C maple syrup. Take the ginger and twist the cheesecloth around and around and around, and squeeze the juice into the small bowl. Toss the ginger pulp. Stir the liquids in the small bowl well then pour over the bran mixture. Add 1/2C chopped dates, 1/2C grated carrot, 1t minced lemongrass. Bake for 20 minutes at 400°. Oh, that other cup of lemongrass tea? Drink it with a tiny drizzle of honey while you wait for the muffins to cook.

Mochi Soup (made enough to feed 8 of us)
In a 3 quart pot, combine 8C vegetable stock, 1C corn kernels, 1C green beans cut into one-inch lengths, 2 minced shallots and bring it all to a nice, rolling boil. Reduce the heat to medium, cover loosely and simmer 15 minutes. Grate in 6 mochi cakes and simmer another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. I served this with a sprinkling of fresh dill on top.

Dilly Potato Pie (made about 8 half-cup servings)
Start out by mincing a clove of garlic. Let it sit out in the air until you need it. (It increases the health benefits to let garlic air a bit.) Clean your potatoes, either scrubbing or peeling (I'm a scrubber, myself.) Cut them into 2-inch chunks and steam them until they are soft, about 10 minutes. Take a masher to them and pulverize them to your preferred level of mash. Chop half a small onion (we're not big onion eaters) and add that and the garlic to the potatoes. Chop up 1 1/2C watercress, 1/4C parsley (I like Italian, but curly works too), 1T fresh dill and toss those in with the potatoes. Stir together 3 eggs, 1/4C milk, 2t oil and a pinch of salt, and add to potatoes. Now plop those ole taters in a casserole dish (2 quart worked for me) and bake it for 30 minutes at 350°. I served these with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. My kids will eat darned near anything covered in Parmesan.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Great Seasonal Clothes Swap

Oh, how the kids LOVE the Great Swap. It's like Christmas! Of course, it's a full-day event, with the organization before and laundry after, and the fashion show all during. It takes place twice a year, all over the whole house! Each child has their own "dressing room" and sorts in there, modeling the clothes they try on with great flourish (for my inspection and their sisters' oooohs and aaaaahhhs).

Having four girls but only one boy, my son is usually exempt from the Great Swap. He always wears the same thing - T shirts and jeans - no matter what the weather. He adds a hoodie in spring and fall and a jacket in the winter (although we haven't needed our jackets since moving to the south at ALL.) And at school he wears a uniform, making his entire wardrobing a very simple process.

The night before the Great Swap, I do ALL the kids' laundry and they wear something to bed that they will keep for the next season. We empty out closets and post "area cards" in the dressing rooms. Area cards say things like "I can wear these," "These are too small, "These are too big," "Yuck," "Try these on," "For my closet," etc. When I had pre-readers, I'd make drawings on the cards so they could do most of the sorting themselves.

Each child here has two totes. One "NOW," one "SOON." "NOW" is full of clothes they can wear now, (yes, a wordsmith I am with the labelmaker,) the right size regardless of season. "SOON" is full of clothes that will be the right size for them eventually. The only things they may keep in their totes are the clothes they truly love. If big sister passes down something little sister doesn't like, she passes it down and down and down until someone grabs it. If no one grabs it, it goes to Goodwill.

The morning of the Great Swap, I put the contents of the "NOW" boxes in the "Try these on" and the clean laundry and clothes from their closets in the "For my closet" area in each dressing room. The same one-in-one-out rule applies to our totes as does to our closets. If you grab something new, something old goes. In their closet, the girls each have room for five play outfits, one church outfit, one extra-grungy and two PJs. Everything else goes in the totes. The totes' lids have to snap shut. All excess goes to Goodwill.

When this season's outfits are chosen, I add dots to the labels to identify the owner. Oldest girl=1 dot, son=2 dots, next oldest=3 dots and down the list. Then all that's left is wash and hang it all!

We're particularly blessed that the garage where the totes live is one door from the girls' basement bedroom! They are NOT allowed to get into the totes unsupervised, but if something rips or becomes unwearable, getting out a new outfit doesn't require a trip to the attic or worse.

Although I would dearly love to live in a place where the Grand Seasonal Clothing Swap is done on Memorial and Labor Day weekends, it never quite turns out that way. Here it is, the end of September, and our weather is still in the 90's. As I pass the totes in the garage, I lovingly look at all the "SOON" labels staring at me and thinking, "Yes, please!"

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Escherichia coli

I was shocked, amazed, stunned (and kinda grossed out) when I discovered that my sweet mother-in-law had contracted a case of E. coli while traveling earlier this year. She had symptoms for more than three months, but her regular physician had been unable to determine the cause of her digestive problems, exhaustion and other telltale signs.

But even more disturbing is the misinformation I've encountered since. Amazing how little people know, even people who should know, about this particular bacteria. So, consider this my attempt to educate if you care. Ignore me if you don't care, I'm getting used to it.

E. coli lives in your lower intestines. Mine, too. Everyone's, and most mammalian animals', too. It's not a big, bad bug at all, but helps us digest our food and create vitamin K, which is essential to proper blood clotting.

Not all strains of E. coli cause illness. There are a few that cause food poisoning symptoms, which are usually contracted from eating unwashed produce or contaminated meat. One strain can even cause life threatening complications. That is the strain that showed up in the great spinach panic of 2006 that had us all leery of bagged salads. But did you know that same strain has been found in house flies and fruit flies?

E. coli isn't common as an airborne bacteria except at some farms and petting zoos. So, you can kiss the kids when you have it, and they won't get sick, unless you have the bacteria on your lips at the time.

Since the bacteria likes the warm, dark, moist intestine and dies out when exposed to extremes of temperature and dryness, most cases of E. coli poisoning come from eating food which has been contaminated by infected feces. No delicate way to put it, folks, if you're going to eat produce, wash it first, and if it's meat, be sure it's cooked thoroughly. E. coli does grow at refrigerator temperatures, but reheating refrigerated food kills off live bacteria making it safe once again.

Treatment of E. coli that persists more than two weeks involves antibiotics appropriate to the particular strain of bacteria causing the problem. Unfortunately, penicillin and cephalosporin are almost useless against E. coli poisoning, because of their overuse. E. coli are quickly becoming antibiotic resistant, and in an August, 2007 article in Science, adaptative mutations are increasing at a much higher rate than previously thought. Research is being conducted in the UK on a "superbug" E. coli that is resistant to all but a handful of antibiotics.

An interesting note for us treat-it-with-whole-foods types: There is some evidence that the tannins in cranberries actually change the shape of the bacteria, the cell membrane and the attaching ability of the bacteria, making it more difficult for the bacteria to multiply and make us sick. No, not the yummy mostly sugar cran-drinks, but real, tart, cranberries and undiluted juice. Now, that's a good mutation!

Some good ways to avoid getting ill:

1) Wash your hands. 15-20 seconds in hot water. Regular soap works just as well as antibacterial soaps and might help slow the antibiotic resistant mutations we are currently seeing. After you wash your hands in a public restroom, use a paper towel to touch surfaces until you are free of the restroom. This includes faucet and door handles.

2) Ordering food well done is a good first step, but if a restaurant worker then touches your cooked food with dirty hands, the doneness of your steak won't matter. Only eat where you trust.

3) If you MUST fly on an airplane, hit all hard surfaces around your seat with an alcohol wipe as soon as you get on board. If you can, avoid using the restroom on a plane.

4) Heated public pools and spas. Don't. Just don't.

5) When going to a movie, get there early and wipe down the hard surfaces of the seat, and armrest with an alcohol wipe. Let's think this through for a minute. You're out shopping and hubby feels tired, so you take a break in the theatre. While there, he runs to the restroom with a digestive upset. But, he doesn't want to miss too much of the movie, so he doesn't wash up as thoroughly as he should. How often do you think the ushers clean those armrests? If you said "never", you are right.

6) Homeschool. No fooling. It's a good way to keep your family healthy! Not only are your children getting more exercise, fresh air and sunshine, but they aren't exposed as often to ill kids in close quarters. You can better help them make good nutrition choices and teach proper handwashing technique at home, too.

7) Stay away from doctors. Well, okay, maybe not entirely. But at least be extra-vigilant about washing while you are there and after you leave. And gently remind the doctors and nurses to wash before touching you!

Some signs of E. coli toxicity include: urinary tract infection (especially in women and the elderly), flatulence, non-bloody diarrhea, and possibly a slight fever. Sometimes there are no symptoms at all. Most cases resolve without antibiotics after 5-10 days. If you have symptoms for longer than this time, a simple test can rule out E. coli. In some individuals, such as the very young, old or immunocompromised, E. coli can cause a syndrome that includes kidney failure.

Okay, I'm climbing down from the soapbox now. And I'm gonna go wash my hands.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


It makes me crazy when I'm reading along, once a day, every day, then suddenly my blogger STOPS. Without warning, the author will suddenly disappear for a week, sometimes two. What could be more important than blogging? Was s/he abducted to Mars? Is there crime afoot? Don't you love me anymore?

In my case, something far less (?) sinister was brewing. My beloved G4 Mac had a nervous breakdown. Something about all the Plant Tycoon I've been playing lately, no doubt. Fresh out of warranty, the logic board decides to go south. But then, if it's broken, perhaps it chose to go north. No, if it's logic-less it WOULD go south. Pardon. Aaaaaaaaaanyway, we picked up a new, warrantied G5. Whew. Blazin' fast. And even skinnier than the G4, larger screen, smaller (and quieter) keyboard, BOY do my Fabled Reptans look gorgeous on this thing!

I've been making do with hubby's PC laptop he brings home from work each day, but that thing is stupid. Everything takes forever, the commands are senseless, and the wording of things is SO 1990 (run? Run? There's a command called RUN? What IS this, DOS!??)

Back in the 80's I was a software techie type, teaching people how to work DOS and a buggy little program called NOMAD. But that was stone knives and bearskins. I used to look down my nose at people who had those new Macintosh things because everything was behind an icon curtain and they couldn't tell the computer what to do and get it done. Well, the shoe is on the other foot now. (The boot disk is in the other drive now? Hm. I need new lingo.) PCs are stupid, requiring far too much hands-on by the user. You want to open this program. Are you SURE? Okay, how do you want me to open it? Do you want me to keep it somewhere? Where? No, you can't put it there, try again. Nope, try again. Okay, there is okay, but...Please!! With the Mac, I drop a doc on my desktop and double click it. It opens. I drop an app in my hard drive and it files itself.

And the wireless capability of that notebook was a joke. For pity sake, I run a Wifi in my house, and the Wii 50 yards away has no trouble reading it. My little Nintendo DS Lite has no trouble 75 yards away in the back yard! But this PC, sitting less than a foot away from the router would drop its connection over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and, you get it.

So, I'm back. My frustration level is beginning to drop, I'm able to get to my online life again without threatening to toss a computer out the window, and life is good. (Eternal life is better.)

Tomorrow I'll write something about a health crisis in our extended family: E. coli.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Wounded Animal Syndrome

Teenaged son was doing fair to middlin' on his attitude today. That is, until he was working in the yard cutting back some decorative grass. He sliced almost the whole fat pad off his left middle fingertip. He came in bleeding, moaning, screaming, yelling and me!

Of course, it was my fault. Everything always is with him, I'm getting used to it. But this time he was aggressively angry to the point of hysteria. I call it Wounded Animal Syndrome. You know, like the stories of normally peaceful animals who go berserk when they are injured and attack people? The boy is far from peaceful, but being human, I tend to attribute a bit more logic and reason to him than a wild animal.

Whoa. Not so today.

Once we got it bandaged, stopped the bleeding and got an Advil in him to help with the pain, he seemed to calm down quite a bit. What really helped, though, was me doing his chores for the rest of the day, and letting him watch a movie.

But we will be using this experience (sooner rather than later so it's fresh in his memory) to show him another reason he's just not ready to drive. Imagine you and this child touch bumpers at a red light and he bangs his jaw on the steering wheel. You do not want to engage him after such an incident. The police arriving at a scene like that would not react well, neither would the traffic court judge when the matter is brought before him.

I know he's anxious to get behind the wheel. I know the imaginary freedom a driver's license represents and the fearsome responsibility it actually holds. And this is my promise to you, dear reader, that I will do everything in my power to make sure my offspring are emotionally stable and trained before turning them loose on the highways of our nation.