Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Photos and updates from the never-ending winter in Iowa


Becca is eager to help Leila work on her quilting and her book, including stepping on all quilt blocks laid out on the floor, pounding on keys at the computer and negotiating for turning on "Phineas and Ferb" with hand signs, shrugs, and grunts whenever the computer is on.

She also is the first to put on her winter clothes hoping that someone will take her outside to play.  She always knows where her shoes and coat are and most days dresses herself in them or grunts for help so that she is ready to go outside at all times.  Plus it is cold in our house. . . 

She also wants to do all of the same things as the big kids including finger and head painting.  Emily showed her how to write on herself and often she has marker scribbled up and down her legs and belly if she can find a marker.  We try to keep them hidden, but you know how it is. 

Kate probably will be more than ready for school next year.  Colleen sits her down and teaches her much of what she has learned each day, especially wisdom from "Life Skills" like the dangers of playing with sharp stuff.  Kate wants badly to submit drawings to the friend and will write her name on anything she can.

I put this up to show Emily's belly writing handiwork.  Kate and Becca seem to have perpetual belly smiles.

Colleen thrives at school.  She usually holds class after school for her little sisters and teaches them writing and drawing from school.  Our friend Doug sat down with her when he was here last summer and practiced drawing with her and it has made a lasting impact.  She often practices drawing eyes and shading, just like her practice with Doug.  She will regularly tell us about all that she learned during her art lessons with Doug and how that has made her drawing so much better.  

Colleen sees the world in black and white.  She regularly talks to us about how she is going to just grow up to be a mom and that she doesn't need to go to college because she will just end up taking care of kids at home. I don't know where she gets this stuff because Leila and I have always pushed higher ed and both of us are college grads.  Leila does stay home, but wow.

Colleen begged to take piano lessons at the beginning of the year.  She is the most eager to practice and loves to make up her own songs to stories.  She played me a long song the other day that was a musical version of "Goldilocks and the three bears" complete with a theme for each bear and Goldilocks and a scale progression for their trip upstairs and a pounding discordant escape at the end.  She has been begging to start the violin and I hope that it goes as well.

I will write more about the rest of the girls as soon as I find the camera to take some pictures of them.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Do you wish you kept taking piano lessons?

Aleah is my reluctant piano student. She swears she will never regret quitting piano lessons.  I have discussed with her there are a lot of people out there that wish they had kept taking lessons.  Are you one of them?  Do you have a story to tell her that will keep her playing piano?

So embarrassing

A week or two ago now, Leila was at her quilt guild meeting and I was home with the girls.  We were watching Phineas and Ferb on Netflix.  Becca was wandering through the kitchen.  Suddenly, the lights in the living room and the computer/library room went out.

I installed three ceiling fans in those rooms a few years ago.  Instead of pull cords, each fan is controlled by a remote control.  My first thought was that Becca was playing with the remote control, but it was high up on the shelf, out of her reach.  I tried turning them on and off with the remote, but it didn't work.

Next, I went downstairs while the girls watched TV in the dark to check to see if we had flipped a breaker switch - one of the joys of living in an old house that has been rewired when convenient ever since 1906 by not so professional handymen.  None seemed to be flipped and it seemed like the library was on a different breaker from the living room, plus the outlets were on the same switch and should be out as well.

I tried poking around and following cords to see if there was a problem, but I had a hard time tracking which cord from which junction box in the basement ceiling went to the lights in the living room.  I decided to call Mike - my neighbor and the previous owner of the house.  He did a lot of updates to the electric, plumbing, added a kitchen, finished the basement, added the built-ins, and on and on.  Whenever I am stuck, Mike knows how to fix it.  Mike said he would come right over.  Mike knew which junction boxes went where and pretty soon we had them open, but were confused by the eight wires that went into one box that should only have had four.  We opened the light switches and reconnected the wires.  Nothing.

Then we started taking down the ceiling fans to see what could be the problem there.  I had a crazy theory that a mouse had chewed through the wires and disconnected the fans.  No evidence of a mouse, only my less than stellar installation of the ceiling fans.  After dismantling the second ceiling fan, Mike suggested that we go get a light from his house and connect it to where the ceiling fan was to see, just to be sure, that there wasn't a problem with the fan.  The light turned on.

It was a problem with the fan, and it got worse.  Mike asked if we had changed the batteries in the remote control recently.  I had not.  I changed the batteries, pointed it at the remaining ceiling fan and the light turned on.

By now it was almost 11:00.  The kids were in bed.  Leila was in bed.  Mike was tired and went home.  I was alone with three junction boxes to hook back up, all my light switches take apart, two ceiling fans to reinstall and totally and completely embarrassed that I had turned our house upside-down and pulled Mike into the chaos for a burnt out battery in the remote control.