Wet and wild weekend

This weekend we were blessed with a visit from My sister and her family.  Everyone was super excited and there was much squealing and lots of hugs and kisses.  It did however continue to rain, and rain, and rain.  That did not stop the kids.  Rain or shine they were determined to play outside.  They played outside multiple times through heavy down pours and light mist.  Mud pies were made,  holes were dug and we even caught a toad in the back yard!  The kids were thrilled to have discovered out first official critter here in South Carolina.  They continued to have a blast up until I had done the 3rd load of wet laundry, at which time I called it quits. Despite constant begging and pleading to go out, they managed to find things, which were dry, to do.
Sunday morning we woke to Nintendo DS songs and the TV on cartoons but, no rain.  It was beautiful.  The sky was blue and there were only a few clouds in the sky.  We also had this little guy who apparently hid in between the screen door and the sliding door to escape the wet weather.
Sunday afternoon we ventured out into the now dry, ok less wet.  We made a stop at 2 parks here in the Lexington area.  They were a blast for the kids and the grown ups.   We went on several short hikes.  On one such hike we ran across this little guy, a King snake.  It was quite a site, thank goodness they are not poisonous!

The most interesting (ok most annoying) discovery we made this weekend  was the  yellow coating on everything.  Everywhere we looked we saw yellow covering cars, sidewalks, mailboxes, if it was a surface outside it was coated.  When our neighbors sprinklers went off and a yellow stream poured down the gutter we began to really wonder.  It was so yellow it almost appeared as paint.  

It wasn't long before we discovered the source of this yellow powder.  It's pollen. Definitely didn't have this in El Paso.  Today it was dry and they aren't forecasting rain until, well, tomorrow.....maybe we should get the boat out of storage.



Here is a picture of the kids at Lake Murry.  We went out last weekend exploring our new city.  This was one of our stops for stretching our legs, taking a walk and of course skipping stones.


April showers...

It has been raining here since Wednesday.  Nothing new to those of you who were raised in the Midwest.  It's spring after all.  Well, it is new to my kids for sure.  The first two days of rain the kids were so excited to see the rain.  It is understandable considering we hadn't had rain in over 10 weeks in El Paso when we left.  The kids played in the rain, they danced in the rain, they rode their bikes in the rain.  Nothing was going to stop them from playing outside.  Even Ginger is perplexed by the rain as she keeps looking up to see where it is coming from.  (I wonder if dogs can drowned that way?)  I am sure the neighbors thought we were nuts.  We were indeed the only people on the street to be seen.  This morning the rainy weather was apparently getting old as Mark enquired, "Is it still raining?"  When I told him it was raining and it was forecasted to rain until Sunday Emma jumped in and asked, "Why is it raining so much?" 
"Well Emma it is spring and it rains so things will grow." I responded.
"Momma, will it ever stop?"  she asked 
"Yes, it will stop and then all of the flowers, grass and trees will start growing.  Have you ever heard the saying April showers Bring May flowers'?  Well this is the April showers they are talking about." I answered.
"OH. That's what that means!"  she said as if someone had just turned on a light bulb.  Then she continued "But, it's not April mom."


Ginger has a death wish

Ginger, Ginger, Ginger.  Where to begin.  Hmm.  Ginger has an inferiority complex.  She loves to challenge other dogs, especially those who are smaller.  She likes to be the boss.  We have struggled with her from the beginning.  At least most of the time she acknowledges us as the Alpha dogs or pack leaders.  Since the move Ginger has begun to go a little Power crazy.  The first day here she not only figured out how to open the gate and escape but, she attacked  our new neighbors much smaller dog.  Nothing says welcome to the neighborhood quite like your neighbor telling you your dog attacked theirs while you were out.  Not only were we embarrassed but we felt extremely guilty.  Ginger has since then become infamous in our new town. To give you an example just today while taking Emma into her first day of school a new classmate came up to Emma and said, "I know you.  You have a big dog that attacked my friends dog."  Boy was Emma ever surprised.  Not to mention Emma's mom.  Then yesterday the kids and I decided to go for a short bike ride.  We thought it would be a good idea to take Ginger with us.  Not only is she power crazy but she also has A LOT of energy.  While running your dog is not recommended for all dogs, in Ginger's case it is almost a necessity.  It wasn't the most fun I have ever had.  Not only did I have 3 kids on bikes, in a subdivision that has no sidewalks, but I also had a dog.  Every time Ginger saw another dog she decided to try to take off after it.  Never fear I was smart enough to stop everyone and wait until the dog left or was lead away before starting back on our way.  At one corner I was not so lucky.  Ginger pulled me off of the bike and started to drag me across the street before I was able to get the leash released from my wrist.  Now I had Ginger trying to dominate this little Yorkie in the middle of the street while Emma is crying off to the side and the poor woman, who's Yorkie Ginger was trying to eat, screaming at her dog.  After pulling Ginger off and making it home I was pissed!    I was so ready to kill her or at least give her to the pound.  But none of that compares with what happened today.  Today, I had finally decided to block the sweater I finished on the trip here.  The kids were at school.  John was at work.  It was perfect.  I vacuumed the rug. I laid out the sweater and after measuring and remeasuring, pinned the sweater to the rug to keep it in shape while it dried.  My first clue should have been that Ginger was very interested in what I was doing.  But NO! I am clueless.  I blocked off the area where the sweater was so no one would be able to disturb my  master piece as it was drying.  It stayed perfectly blocked for about 8 hours before I heard Ginger wrestling with something.  You guessed it my sweater!!  Pins were everywhere.  The sweater was covered in dog hair.   And Ginger sat there with my newly finished sweater hanging from her mouth.  I consider myself pretty forgiving, but she had just reached my tolerance level.  Out she went.  I didn't even feel guilty that it was raining.  No one but no one messes with my knitting.  Now I have a slightly damp wool sweater which already smelled like wet sheep, but now also smells like wet dog and is covered in dog hair.  I am not a happy person.


The adventures of Drama Princess.

We are finally settling into things here. We have been to the grocery, Target, and Wal-mart. We have registered for school (aways a scary moment for mommy). We are even making some new friends. The street here is full of kids, mostly girls. We do however have a creek just down the street which is all the kids seam to care about these days. "Mom, can we play in the creek?" seams to be the morning battle cry. Well, right after the "I'm hungry!" whine. The boys have been enjoying damming up the creek, making a bridge over the creek and clearing the path to the creek. Mark typically leads the troops down, always in deep discussion with Jack about the things they need to do that day. Emma, as is her life story, always trailing behind her older brothers.

When we last left Drama Princess she had trailed off after her evil brothers towards the creek. When suddenly Emma came moping in doing her pretend cry and sighing heavily.
"Something wrong?" I enquired not knowing where this could lead.
"I, I, I just don't want to talk about it. It is too painful." she says dramatically as she throws herself onto the couch.
Uh-Oh. I sense it is time for another adventure of DRAMA PRINCESS!!
"Ok let me know when you are ready." I say hoping she will move on and knowing she wont.
"Okay, I guess I'll tell you. We were all down at the creek fixing the bridge. Mark and Jack were there and so were Grace's little brothers. I was collecting sticks for the bridge, when all of a sudden I looked a round and noticed that I was the only girl. I was playing with only boys! And it all became so, so very painful for me." she said, as she flips her hair back. Then another big sigh. "Mom, do you have any idea what it is like to have only brothers. I have no girls. Just boys. I have two older brothers and no sisters!" And her head sinks heavily into her hands. Awwww.
Now many of you know that I have 3 sisters but only one brother. Therefore I could not sympathize with her. Emma and I do not always see eye to eye, to say the least. And I do not enjoy her drama princess antics. This makes it very hard for me to understand where she is coming from. Needless to say I don't always have the answer she is looking for (she doesn't seem to care for my usual "suck it up" answer)
"That must be hard." And as I said this I thought of all her brothers do to cater to her.
Biting my tongue to keep any sarcasm out of my voice I said, "Would you like to go play with Grace and Grace?" (neighbor girls down the street)
"Oh momma, that would be wonderful!" she says beaming and wiping off her pretend tears "You are the best momma in the whole wide world! I knew you would understand!"
I was so shocked. Of course my response was, "I know." and off we went to visit Grace and Grace. Thus ends another adventure of Drama Princess.


Sea of boxes.

The past few days have been a blur. We have been knee deep in boxes and white packing paper. The house we are renting is shorter on storage than our El Paso house. Deciding what to keep out and what to store in the garage has been foremost in my mind. Thursday and Friday went relatively smoothly, as far as I can remember. I only remember breaking three, no four, dishes as I unpacked and then repacked much of the kitchen. As we started unpacking, it became quite clear that we could not store everything we wanted in the house. The job then changed to opening boxes, determining what was in said box, and then either unpacking or repacking like items. Then, the next thing I knew I was waking up to do it all over again.
While having someone pack for you is nice on the packing side, it is far from nice on the unpacking side. About 1/2 of the boxes were the contents of one drawer or another dumped into a box. The packing women packed all of the file folders from the filing cabinet upside down in a box. It was a great time unpacking that. As a matter of fact, I still have the contents of the bottom of the box to sort through and re-file. goodie. There are still boxes which I have stacked in a closet, in the living room, in the family room and I am currently using one as a bedside table, very classy. I have multiple items missing. The poles to my laundry hamper, for example, are no where to be found, yet. Why I ask you would you not pack like items together? Mark's quilt is still MIA, and I have the distinct feeling it has been used as cushioning material for something which remains packed.
The kids have enjoyed "finding" their toys again and using the boxes for an assortment of imaginative play. John has the boxes organized in the garage according to size, very efficient. I fear the sea of brown will never end. I am hesitant to unpack it all. Not only because there is no place to put it, but because I know we are only here a short time. In all honesty, I am sure as soon as we get the last box unpacked we will have to move again.



I'd like to thank all the people who made this trip possible. First THANK GOD for allowing me to be free of the front seat of a truck that was overflowing with everything. Next, I would like to thank my husband for stopping in a timely manner when I said, "I still need to use the restroom." and for not saying a word when I drank too much coffee. I would like to thank Ginger for not biting anyone at any of the establishments we stayed at. I would also like to thank my 3 kids Mark, Jack and Emma for not wrestling in public places, picking there noses in the car and for not making me want to kill them at any point in this trip. I would like to thank the video game store attendant who suggested I purchase Sonic vs. Mario Olympic Games. ( the boys loved it) I would like to thank the person who invented wet wipes for without them I would still be sticky. I would like to say "Thanks Mom! I don't know how you survived the trips to Florida with 5 kids?!?!." I would also like to give a shout out to everyone here in the Midwest, "I hope your Happy! We are back!" You may learn to regret it.


On the third day...

Here we are in Alabama! Woohoo! We are only 409 miles from our destination. Yet, the thought of getting back into the car for one more day is terrifying. For the most part the kids have been doing well. Getting them up early has been to our advantage, as they nap off and on. It however, also has its downfall. Just this morning I was trying to get the movie up and running, and of course there was a fight. Today's fight was about who could or couldn't see the TV the best. When I finally got everything where I thought we were good to go, we ended up with a headphone issue. John's comment was, "For one and a half hours of peace and quiet we have to go through 20-30 minutes of hell first."
Today we made it through Louisiana, Mississippi and almost through Alabama. Thank goodness for short states. I actually feel as if we made progress today. We had our earliest start yet. Which unfortunately means we have done this for so many days in a row we have our morning down to a science. We had an early detour to the Battle of Vicksburg site. It was so wonderful. I would have loved to see more however the kids were done after we saw the introductory movie. (which only was 12 minutes long, in which Emma cried because it was about people dieing.) sigh.
The best part of today was that I finished my sweater! Yeah. Working with wool as you are sitting in the sun is HOT. Now I am on to a cute sun dress which is going to be in silk/cotton. Supper excited!
We are camped out at a Holiday Inn Express and it appears we are the only family here. The rest of the residents appear to be businessmen/women. This does indeed make for a difficult stay. I bribed the kids with this...
If at anytime during our stay someone says, "You have such well behaved kids." Tomorrow you can have ice cream. Best of luck to all the competitors.


Cowgirl Talk

We made it out of TEXAS! yeah. We are currently in Monroe, Louisiana. We were able to get an earlier start this morning an make it 4 hours before our first stop. Mainly because mom woke everyone up so early, that we watched the sun rise as we started out this morning. I was not so very popular. Because of the early start we were able to stop a little sooner than yesterday. We searched and searched for some place to let the kids run off a little steam. After stopping at the Louisiana visitors center we were still unsure of what to do. Finally, after calling around we found a Holiday Inn that had an indoor pool. Thanks again to mommies uncanny ability to plan ahead we already had our swimsuits packed. Amazing! After a less than tasteless dinner which took longer than it should have, we were disgruntled, tired and annoyed. So we went off to the pool to have some fun. This Holiday Inn is one of the older style Holidomes for those of you old enough to remember. They stuck clearly in mind because I always wanted to go as a child. The kids got dressed and they were off. John and Mark played ping-pong, Jack and Emma swam and I got to sit with Ginger and Knit. They all took turns switching between ping-pong, swimming, the arcade and shuffleboard. Emma even made some new friends. Shortly after her 11th or 12th time in the pool she ran up to me with this exclamation.
"Momma, Momma, I have this new friend. I don't know her name but, her sister or friend or her cousin, I am not sure which, is here with her. And guess what?"
"What?" I asked.
She replied cheerfully, "They all speak cowgirl!"
"You mean their accent?" I asked, trying to hide my chuckle.
"No Momma!" she replied they don't have an accent, that is just what they speak!


The Middle of No-Where

Here we are at the end of day 1and we find ourselves in Abilene. Our journey covering 1700 miles has started. This morning was hectic and crazy and wildly exciting. The kids were everywhere at once. It seemed as though I would never get the house ready to go, the suitcases packed and everything and everybody loaded into the truck.
Whenever we travel with the boat we have and issue. Sometimes they are minor and sometimes we are on the shoulder of I-75 with 3 kids, a dog and a flat. John has been worried about what and when this next issue would arise. We fortunately it happened before we even left. Which delayed our start by about an hour and a half. This was also the time when the dog ran up the street, the Realtor came for one last run through and the kids decided they were ready for a snack. We finally managed to leave the house at 11:30 MST.
The day was relatively uneventful after that (Thank God!). We passed hours and hours of nothingness. Everything was a lovely brown color and the landscape all was the same. Eventually the oil rigs that are so prevalent here started popping up everywhere. I even saw a old oil rig being used for a kids playground. We drove and drove and drove. Only once did I hear "How much longer 'till we're there?" from Emma. This eventually resulted in an argument between Jack and Emma on where "there" actually was. Good times. When we reached Stanton TX (The Wind Capital of the World) large wind farms popped up everywhere. We have often seen the blades of these driving through El Paso, as they are manufactured in Juarez. The kids were unimpressed. But it was windy.
We kept in touch with a few of you and thanks to those of you who kept in touch with us. Jack spoke with Grammy this evening and when she asked "what town are you in?" He replied, "The middle of nowhere." Hence the title of this post. With a successful start to the morning we hope to finally make it out of Texas tomorrow. I'll let you know.


And so it goes...

For some reason or another I am reminded of the Billy Joel song, "And So It Goes."  I am not sure why but the lyrics which go something or other like this...

"And every time I've held a rose
It seems I only felt the thorns
And so it goes, and so it goes
And so will you soon I suppose."

Perhaps the melancholy nature of the song it what has stuck with me through the years.  But for what ever reason, I've had this song in my head the last 24 hours.  I wasn't planning on feeling any sense of loss when leaving El Paso.  Indeed, this will be my last post from here.  They are packing today.  Yesterday, I was stunned and astonished at the reaction of the people I saw for the last time.  Tears were shed, hugs were given and I was left with the astonishing revelation that we have truly touched those around us.  I was left speechless, with no sarcastic comments to lighten the mood, every-time someone told me how much we were going to be missed. The teachers cried and told me what great kids we had.  The principal of the school told me that the school was suffering a great loss because our children no longer blessed the halls.  She said that we had been the topic of conversation in the teachers lounge for weeks.  We were told by teachers, who have yet to teach our children, that they wish they had gotten a chance to teach them.  The children were all given parties, many pictures were taken and notes passed.  Emma even came home with bags full of presents from friends she has grown to love.  So, it came as a huge surprise to me when I found tears in my eyes.  Despite my lack of love for the town, it seems I have come to love the people around me. We have made a greater impact here than we would have ever imagined.  We will be leaving on Sunday morning...
And so it goes, and so it goes.
And so will we soon I suppose.."



Since we are moving (only 5 more days) I decided it was "clean out the fridge and pantry night". So, it was man-wich for dinner.  I know one of my healthier fares.  Hey, we also had salad and fruit and they were on whole grain buns.  (Mommy guilt, happens all the time).  We all sat down and started eating.  In what seemed like the blink of an eye Mark said,"Can I have another man-wich?"   I looked at his plate to be sure he had started in on the other healthier aspects of dinner, and sure enough it was all gone.  Mark then helped himself to another sandwich, excuse me Man-wich, some more fruit and another handful of carrots.  We all talked, joked and laughed.  Before I knew it Mark was getting another sandwich!  I said, "Maybe you should take a half first?"  To which he replied, "But, I am hungry."  In the skeptical way moms have, I gave him a look that implied if he didn't eat it all for dinner he would be eating it all at another time.  He said, "What! I AM hungry"  Okay, three sandwiches down.  And wouldn't you know it he got up a forth time!  Four sandwiches!!  Amazed I said, "Are you really going to eat another sandwich?"  "Yes I am.  And Mom.  They are MAN-wiches.  For us growing men!"  It is clear that Mark's appetite will soon cost more than our monthly mortgage payment.  Wouldn't you know he still had room for a bag of popcorn only 2 hours later.


The three R's

Sometimes I think I am just too nice.  Tuesday I judged the 4 and 5th grade science fair.  It appears that teachers talk, and so Wednesday Mark came home with a message from Ms. Brito.
Which went something along the lines of...

Dear Mrs. Hoog, 
We are having the Middle School Book-Fest on Friday and I am looking for judges.  If  you are available it would be a great help if you could help judge this event.  Please email me if you have any questions.
Ms. Brito.

Dear Ms. Brito
I will be able to come in.  When do you need me?
Mrs. Hoog

Dear Mrs. Hoog,
The book-fest will begin at 8:30 in the Gym.  I will provide all of the materials you will need. 
Thanks for volunteering.
Ms. Brito.

I wasn't actually sure I "volunteered"  but I went anyway.  Let me preface this by explaining what a "Book-fest"  is.   In attempt to elevate Language Arts to a high level, with an importance such as science and math,  the book-fest was created.  It it very much like a science fair for books.  The kids are given an assignment to read a book.  Then after they have read the book they have a series of papers to write.  A summery, A critique, an author biography, Literary elements, The historical and social issues and a view of how this book relates to their life are the elements of the book that are to be displayed on their board.  Then the judge, that would be me, listens to their explanation of the the book and any other information they feel is necessary for us to understand the book.  

Ms. Brito, being one of my favorite teachers at St. Patricks,  really sets the kids up to succeed.  (so a teacher friend tells me)  She did everything in her power to help the kids with this assignment.  And to my amazement it was still difficult for them to have all required elements.  
I don't know if this is a gender, age-related or cultural discrepancy but at least one out of every 5 student didn't have all of the elements they needed!

As with the science fair I have complied my top ten list.
1. Somethings never change.  (Middle school girls are just as giggly as ever)
2. *WARNING* always question when a child does a book report on a book that has been made into a movie.
3.  Middle school girls LOVE  Twilight
4.  Just because you can speak English does not mean you can write in English.  You would be stunned at how many times the word when was spelled "wen"
5.  Schools need to teach kids how to use spell check. 
6.  Listen up KIDOS  a summery is not the re-telling of the book!  (I actually had a student tell me the entire story of The Wonderful Wizard of OZ. He was the only student I was able to judge in that thirty minute interval!)
7. One of the questions the judges were required to ask was, "Which character did you identify with most?"  at least 10 kids said, "NONE"  Hello?!?!  not one characteristic in all the characters had anything in common with you!
8.  The kids that love to read are obvious.  Their excitement radiates off of them.
9.  Some kids think they can get away with anything.  Despite the fact that I am not your teacher,  I do know you read that book, but it wasn't in 7th grade.
10.  Reading, Writing and Reason are not always present in the average middle schooler.


Stash Organization

I have been wanting to organize my fabric stash since we left Columbus.  I have had 3 bins of fabric, maybe 4 bins of fabric stuffed into 3 bins, for at least 3 years.  Every-time I need a particular color or print I dig out all 3 bins, dig and dig and dig until my entire bedroom is covered in scraps of fabric.  Once I even went to be to find a fat quarter had snuck under my pillow.  I have fabric everywhere,  I think it multiplies.  I am not an impulse buyer of fabric.  I buy what I need for a project, maybe a little more than I need "just in case." Seldom do I buy fabric or yarn just because I like it.  I need a purpose for said item. 
  Wednesday I set out to organize my fabric stash, yarn will just have to wait.  I pulled out the fabric bins and started sorting.  I sorted by colors with piles of  fabric mounding nicely.  After an hour I my piles were not looking so much like piles.  Perhaps they were once piles, now it looked more like a rainbow where the colors had run together.  I took a look at what I had and I had 2 garbage bags of unusable scraps. TWO.  Why did I continue to save piles of scraps no bigger than 2 inches!  I have no idea.  Maybe if I was into applique I could have justified this.  Since the applique process and I do not get along, I have no clue what I was doing with that many tiny scraps.  Ok, so those went out to the actual garbage and not back into the bins.  I felt so wasteful.  It was as if I would be taken into fabric police headquarters because I had wasted fabric.  "Surly that scrap there could be used for something?"  I found I had to keep telling myself, "you don't really need a scrap of black that is that small."  But, I might.  Right?  No.  No you don't.  So on went the sorting.
 I had remnants from every quilting project I have ever done.  WOW.  Now that surprised me.  I kept on task and managed to sort all 3 bins.  Now instead of 3 large bins I have 9 small bins.  I went to put them into my craft closet and they didn't fit!!  Hey, now.  I took 2 garbage bags out I should have the room.  I should have the room and enough room to add more fabric.  This was not the outcome I had envisioned.  This could be the reason I am not big on organization.  Did I truly organize, or did I just shuffle fabric in some random way?  Is stash organization just an illusion?  Is it an oxymoron? I am not sure.  The only thing I know is I should have never thrown out those scraps!  It seems as if I must have angered the fabric gods after all. 


The Things I've Learned.

Today I judged my first science fair and I have to say it was quite overwhelming.  I was given the fifth grade class a total of about 20 students.  I believe I may initially been as nervous as they were.  I asked a lot of question and got a lot of answers.  Some were logical and sincere others were wacky and down right insane. I believe I even may have learned a few things along the way and I thought I would share them with you.  
1. If you water a flower with coffee, tea or coke it will die.
2. Water can float on top of other water.
3. Fresh squeezed orange juice has more vitamin C than store bought.  
4. Humans have more bacteria in their mouths than do dogs or cats.
5. You can get charcoal to change colors.
6. You can make an electromagnet.
7. There is a huge difference between a research project and a science project. Apparently some fifth graders are still a little fuzzy on which is which.
8.  Having your parent help you with your science experiment does not guarantee you will understand it.
9.  Just because a report is 20% of your project doesn't mean you have to do it.
10.  After completing high school and/or college, parents can still write a fabulous fifth grade science report. 


Back row from left to right: Coach Chava, Eloy, Pancho, Eugenio, Victor, Alejandro, Edwardo, Hector, Cristian, Joshua
Front row: Antonio, Sebastian, Giovanni, Jacobo, Brandon, Mark, Richardo, Andrew

Congratulations to Elite U-12 boys for winning the Copa Monarca Tournament.
This was Marks last tournament here in El Paso.  It was great to leave on such a positive memory.  Mark has had his ups and downs with the soccer teams in El Paso and was pleasantly surprised to be give the team trophy for their first place finish.  He received many well wishes and even some requests that he stay here and live until the end of the season.  Great Job Elite!



I was asked to judge the science fair for grades 4 and 5.  The science fair is tomorrow, so I decided to ask my kids for advice on judging.  Here is my list of do's and don'ts.
1. Pay attention to the kid speaking.
2. (Following the thought process of #1)  Don't ask dumb questions.  Apparently it annoys kids if you ask them questions about what they just so clearly explained to you.
3.  Dress nice. (to quote Emma, "Not like you usually do.")
4.  Ask them if they got help from the their mom and dad (This way you know if they cheated and had their parents do it for them)
5.  Make sure you have a clip board to write down notes so you know who has the coolest experiment.
6. If the kids stutter or stop don't try to finish their sentences or put words in their mouth.
7.  Give them time to think of the answer.
And finally.
8.  Be Patient.  Science fairs are Hard.