Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Oma Surveys the Damage

Oma Hobbit has finally gotten to see her house after the flood of last week. It's not pretty. I was hoping the step up from her garage into her house would have been enough to keep the water out of the living areas of her home, but it was not to be. The water rose even higher than that. All of her carpets and furniture are ruined. Her house is going to have to be gutted and all the flooring and drywall replaced. Everything is covered in a thick coating of oozing mud and dead worms. It's only a matter of time before the mold begins to grow.

A friend of mine saw my mother on Omaha's Action 3 News and sent me the link to a video clip of her being interviewed. I started crying watching my mother tell the reporter that she had lost everything, while choking back tears to speak. Who ever expects to see their mother on the news telling a reporter they've lost everything? It's surreal...for me anyway, and all too real for Oma.

Alas, there is a dichotomy to the situation. Oma has always been too consumed by the pursuit of material possessions. I can definitely see God using this as a means to clean house - literally. Now Oma must throw away all the things she has clung to for so long. All the things she has pursued, all the things she has cherished, hoarded, overspent on, gone in debt for, in a word - idolized, will take their ultimate place in the dump where all material possessions truly belong. I'm sorry that Oma's very house has been ruined, but I'm not so sorry that all of the 'stuff' has been put in its proper place. I only hope that she will learn from this lesson and never elevate things above their place again.

Some people might think I sound like a harsh person. I'm truly not. I would say to such a person, "You don't know Oma." Oma is a hoarder and compulsive shopper on a grand scale. She lives alone, since Opa passed six years ago, in a three bedroom house that is plum full of crapola. Every room is filled. You cannot even use the bedrooms because they are filled to the brim with boxes and bags of useless stuff. In addition to her house, Oma rents two storage sheds to store even more stuff, and yet, she continues to shop. It's sad. I've actually had nightmares over the years of Oma dying, and leaving me to sort through and get rid of all this baggage on my own. I have an older brother, but he has MS and in time will be of no physical use to me in this cleaning-out-the-junk endeavor. I'm not a harsh person; I want my mother to be free of the bondage she is under to material possessions.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Socialization: Homeschooling vs. Schools (outside link)

It was Theodore Roosevelt who said, "To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society."

Many homeschoolers share this sentiment when it comes to public schools, believing that the moral relativism, violence, peer pressure, drugs and promiscuity found inside their gates provide an inadequate setting to properly socialize their children.

Yet 92 percent of superintendents believe that home learners are emotionally unstable, deprived of proper social development and too judgmental of the world around them, according to a California study by researcher Dr. Brian Ray .

(click the link below to finish this fascinating article.)


Thursday, May 10, 2007

Oma Got Flooded

I guess into every life a little rain must fall, or in Oma Hobbit's case a dike or three must burst and flood your entire neighborhood. My poor mother is now homeless...homeless with a house and property that have been destroyed by flood and must still be paid for and restored whilst she lives on social security and the kindness of her friends.

Lo and behold, pretty much no one in her neighborhood had flood insurance. When Oma bought the house four years ago I suggested she get flood insurance, but she said it was too expensive for her, and besides, the city had improved the dikes after the flood of '93 and they would surely never flood again. HA!... that would be why I now see a picture of a fellow boating down the main street into Oma's neighborhood. That's correct, take a right after the second mailbox, go two blocks down and you will arrive at my mother's house. Don't forget your galoshes.

I hate that I'm so far away from Oma, too far to help. I would drive the 1200 miles up to get her, but then she wouldn't be there to get her property cleaned up. She's kinda stuck. I can't go there; she can't come here. What's a family to do? She's hoping for some government assistance, but I told her not to hold her breath. I wish we had the money to help her. Again, no breath holding. All I can do is pray for God's will to be done, and wait for the tears that I know will be coming once she can get back into the neighborhood to see her house early next week.

In an effort to explain to the children, especially little Pippin, how serious Oma's situation is, I turned to pictures. This is the one that brought understading to Pippin. I explained to him that this is Oma's Arby's - the one we ate at the last time we went to visit her. And yes, I did copy these without permission. I'm hoping the folks at the World Herald will forgive me since this is the only way I have any pictoral insight into what's happening with my mother across the miles.

I would also like to mention a hero in the whole situation; Pamida is that hero. If you don't live in a region with Pamida stores then let me tell you they are similar to Wal-Mart only smaller. Anyway, Oma's local Pamida store gave her about four changes of clothing, all the basic toiletries she needs, and some canned food. She feels very grateful and so do I. Oma had to leave home with the clothes on her back and thanks to Pamida she now has enough to get her through. If you live near a Pamida store, go there and buy something!


Monday, May 7, 2007

Mama's Recipe Fakes: Annie's Woodstock Dressing

"The thick, full flavor of this new dressing might take you back to the “summer of love” when “three days of peace and music” in Aug. ‘69 changed our culture forever. With its smooth, luxurious texture and hearty, hip tomato & nutritional-yeast flavor, this tangy dressing with nutty characteristics (but no nuts!) is groovy on spinach salad, pasta, couscous, rice, pork chops, as an embellishment for soups or a sophisticated topper for baked potatoes. Also a delicious non-animal source of vitamin B-12. Dairy-free, No Added Sweetener, Vegan"
I'm a big fan of Annie's Naturals salad dressings. What I'm not a fan of is the inflated price charged by my local grocers for a little 8 oz. bottle of the stuff. Can you believe at my local store an 8 oz. bottle costs $4? - That's $64 per gallon! ( Help! Methinks I've been robbed!) It's only $2.49 on the Annie's web-site. Of course, buying from the web-site will also include a shipping fee, so I just can't seem to win. My only course of action is to try to make it myself. That's just what I've done. Below is my recipe for Annie's Naturals Woodstock Dressing (my favorite for dipping raw veggies in).
1/3 cup warm water
3 pieces of sun dried tomato (not oil packed)
*soak tomatoes in water until slightly softened
1/3 cup EVOO
1/3 cup canola oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
5 T. soy sauce
3 T. nutritional yeast flakes
2 T. tahini
3 large cloves garlic
*add all ingredients, including tomatoes and soaking water, to a blender
*blend all ingredients until tomatoes are pureed and mixture is emulsified
*refrigerate until ready to use
If you're not into making your own dressings, or you would like to purchase something not available locally, I would strongly recommend that you visit the Annie's Naturals web-site where you can purchase items individually or by the case. You get a discount for ordering a case.
In addition to salad dressings, you can purchase Annie's ketchup, mustards ( I love Annie's Organic Dijon Mustard), marinades and flavored oils.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

"Jack and Jill" by Louisa May Alcott

Hhmmm...this is a tough book to review due to the fact that I just flat out didn't like it. I actually couldn't even finish it. I was expecting some sugary sweetness which is customary to the time period in which it was written, however this is just over the top in syrupy sentiment. I genuinely like the genteel manners and speech of this time period, which is why I was so surprised by my not liking this book. It was just page after page of creme puff cliches with a cherry on top!
In addition to the never ending cheesiness, there was the chapter in which the boys of the book decided they would be much better off if they were more like the girls. It is said in this chapter that even the mother of one of the boys (she, a highly respected character in the book) would rather have her son socializing with the civilized girls than roughhousing with the uncouth boys. This is a pet peeve of mine in modern society - the feminization of boys. Boys need to be boys, and girls need to be girls, and all of us can have decent manners without compromising our God-given gender.
Anyway, I was prepared to be charmed by this book, but was woefully disappointed.

Friday, May 4, 2007

"David Copperfield" by Charles Dickens

David Copperfield is considered to be the most autobiographical of all of Dicken's novels. It is by no means a time line of his life, but there are some parallels. I won't get into the similarities here; that has been done by others more knowledgeable than I, and you can find their work with a quick google search. I do, however, want to tell you what a delightful book this is.

I was charmed by David and the host of other characters created by Mr. Dickens. You get to start the book at David's birth and follow him through his life to middle age. I found myself laughing in some parts and crying in others. I was indignant with some characters and ready to throttle some; if they had been real people I would have lost my dignity and blacked their eyes. I feel compelled not to tell more of the story because I don't want to spoil it for anyone who hasn't read it. So I will make this more of a recommendation than a narration.

There you have it...I highly recommend this book. I don't know how I managed to miss reading the classics when I was in my school years; I intend to make up for that now. I also intend that my children not miss out on the 'Great Conversation'. For now only Arwen, Eowyn and Frodo were old enough for it to hold their attention, but it's so good that it will be read aloud again in the Shire once Pippin is old enough. I don't want any of my children to miss this one.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Who Needs Toys?

Several years ago, when Arwen and Eowyn were still small, I read an article by John Rosemond in our local newspaper that said children should only have ten toys each. I also read somewhere recently that it is best not to give your children toys, but give them tools. I can't remember exactly where I read it; I think it was probably in an issue of "No Greater Joy" magazine. Many would balk at this notion. Why, after all, how can Johnny enjoy himself and learn things without toys? I've found that our children enjoy themselves much more without many toys. They're always happiest when making their own fun.
Here I've put a recent picture of Frodo on his homemade tree climbing thingamabob. He used a rope, a belt, a pair of gloves, and let's not forget my Crapemyrtle tree! He was so proud of himself when he got to see the idea he had formed in his head become a reality by the work of his own hands. I wish we had a more sturdy tree for him to climb on, but we just don't have any good climbing trees here at the Shire. Even without good climbing trees he and Pippin find all sorts of things to amuse themselves. It could be boxes one day, or building a fort under a very large bush in our backyard the next. All things accomplished without the aid of toys. Untold hours of enjoyment without the aid of toys. Lots of learning without the aid of toys.
Don't get me wrong, they do have some toys. But, unlike a lot of American children they don't have enough to supply a small orphanage. We've gotten rid of hundreds of toys gifted by well meaning relatives, and will surely get rid of even more since they mostly collect dust while every box that passes the threshold becomes a celebrated boat, airplane or rocket ship. Who needs toys?

The ants go marching one by one...

Hurrah, hurrah, the long awaited ants have finally arrived! Pippin, who would like to be a "bug expert" when he grows up, received an Uncle Milton's Ant Farm for Christmas.

We promptly mailed off the coupon for the ants to stock it with, and have been waiting four months for them to arrive - four long, agonizing months for the little bug expert. Eowyn came in from getting the mail today and announced, "Pippin, you got some mail!"

"Who's it from?" asked Pippin.

"Uncle Milton...?" replied Eowyn, somewhat perplexed.

I was perplexed for a moment too, thinking, "We don't have an Uncle Milton..." But, then it struck me. "It's the ants!" I cried out.

Pippin was beside himself with excitement. He wondered how the ants had made it through the mail in an envelope without getting crushed. I told him they were probably in a plastic tube of some kind. He couldn't wait to open the big yellow envelope and finally lay eyes on his beloved ants. Sure enough they were in a little plastic tube with instructions to place them in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to calm them down before placing them in their new home. In the refrigerator they went and the kitchen timer was set for 15 minutes. Pippin sat watching the timer the whole time, occasionally announcing how much longer until the ants "were done".
Finally the time was up and we carefully shook the tube of ants out into the awaiting ant farm. Now the ant farm and all its inhabitants are spending the day being carried around our home because Pippin doesn't want to part with them. They have sat on the couch to look at books, they have gone to the bathroom, they have gone to Pippin and Frodo's room to play, etc.
Thank you, Uncle Milton, for pursuing your idea and bringing such joy to my little boy, and surely many others through the years.
And, yes, there really is an Uncle Milton. If you want to learn more about him click on the following link to read a brief interview he did in 2006 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Uncle Milton Ant Farms: