Thursday, September 29, 2011

Prison Ashtrays

"Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who were mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering."  Hebrews 13:3

My husband went to a trade show the other day for his company and picked us up a bunch of freebies from the various booths.  He came home with breath mints, pens, flashlights, stress balls, and mouse pads, but the most interesting thing he brought home were these: 

They are ashtrays made by inmates from rejected license plates.  Having no personal experience with the prison system in Oklahoma, or anywhere else for that matter, I always kind of thought the myth of prisoners making license plates was just that...  a myth.  But, these ashtrays solidified in my mind that not only do they make license plates, they also create utilitarian items out of the rejects.  

This particular logo was chosen with the retired Marine in mind, and crafted in such a way that the Marine emblem is right at the bottom of the ashtray surrounded by four indentions in which to place your burning death stick. 

Or maybe you're retired from the Army?

This one was also crafted with ex-military in mind.  A medal recipient, no less.  Is that a silver star?  My grandpa was awarded one of those in WWII. 

Ditto for this one.  Notice the holes with which to attach the license plate to your car, and the place for the month sticker. 

My favorite of all was this one, supporting agriculture in my state.  A lovely landscape of rolling fields with a windmill to boot. 

Those aren't the kind of windmills they are putting up out in western Oklahoma.  It will be interesting to see how wind generation progresses. 

Anyway, I was completely amazed with my gifts from the trade show.  For one, I don't smoke and no one in my family smokes.  And two, I had never seen such an item made by inmates before.  What choices and regrets and boredom and heartbroken families must surround each of these ashtrays?

So, we took pictures of them and packed them up for the hub to give away at work. 

And if you find yourself in need of a conversation piece ashtray, look no further than the Department of Corrections booth at your next local trade show. 

Happy Thursday and remember we all have a work to do.     

Monday, September 26, 2011

'It Happens!

Thought I'd share my excitement last Tuesday for any of you who live in the city, or even a small town, who have access to fancy things like a sewer pipe.  I miss those days.  In fact, if it were an option, I would jump on the band wagon again and hook into a mass poo poo removal system.  But as it is, I have a septic system.  Not an aerobic system.  A big old tank (1,000 gallons according to my receipt) outside of my kitchen that loses the grass in the summer time, and had been occasionally belching gas from its contents back into the house for about a year, off and on. 

The smell of rotten eggs always makes me feel welcome at someones house. 

So, last Tuesday, while I was being held hostage by AT&T for a four-hour period in which no one ever intended to show up, but whilst they planned their devilish plan to call me the NEXT day and tell me I'd missed my appointment by not being home, I got bored and decided to dig up the septic tank. 

Please add archaeologist to my résumé.  Ok, so I don't currently have a résumé, but I felt like I was digging up a tomb. 

With hatch located, I decided it would be a good idea to have it pumped.  We've lived here five years, it smelled, and that seemed to be the right thing to do.  Another reason why I should probably have a job instead of sitting around. 

So I called these guys. 

I liked the name.  Plus, one of my old crusty bank examiner cohorts used to use them and he was as tight as the day is long, so I figured I'd get my money's worth.  Turns out they were here before we lived here.  It had been 8 years since they were last out, so I can't take full credit for what we were about to see...

Just in case you ever wondered, like I have, what's really inside of that septic tank, here's what we found:

You know what they say, "'It Happens!"  I might be missing a few letters.  But apparently it happens a lot around here, as the tank was full of "solids".   And we also have a root problem as well.  

So Honey Wagon man got to pumping, 

And cleaned the whole thing out.  Except for the roots.  I was left to kill those myself with copper sulfate. 

It was a learning experience.  Expensive, but I learned a lot.  Ok, maybe not a lot, but I paid someone to take away my solid waste products.  I'm beginning to think it isn't Honey that he's hunting.  Maybe this is all connected to Winnie the Pooh somehow. 

Anyway, there goes my poo down the road. 

And I hope to never see it again. 

As for the Honey Wagon, apparently three years would be a more normal time frame, not eight.  So, I'd better start saving my pennies now!

Hope your week isn't "full of it" and may all your endeavors be as exciting as mine.  I need a support group.   

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Monarch Action - Round 2

Okay, so I started you out last week with Coddling Caterpillars, telling you what to be looking for.  Then I promptly found my first caterpillar late last week, and then lightning took out my router and I've been down ever since, so he's already on his way to metamorphosis as we speak, but I'll try to get you caught back up. 

This is a monarch caterpillar:

Notice my high-tech solution to the no-holes-in-the-lid-of-the-mason-jar problem.  One nail, one lid, and a few whacks with the hammer gets you a holey lid.  Not reusable for canning, obviously, but reusable from year to year with your caterpillars - note the stem of last year's chrysalis stuck there below the caterpillar. 

Anyway, he was quite huge when I found him, but he didn't start out this way.  See pictures of eggs on linked blog above.  Here is a picture for comparison of a tiny baby caterpillar and one that is almost ready to go:

See the tiny one down there under the big one?  Probably a week or so separates them.  They are quick growers. 

Anyway, once you find a caterpillar, stick it into a jar with holes in the lid and feed it fresh milkweed leaves every day or two.  The caterpillars eat a lot, so they also poop a lot.  You'll want to clean the poop out of the bottom of the jar when you put new leaves in, just to keep things clean.  I recommend dumping the contents of the jar out on a paper towel like this:

This is just in case there were eggs on any of the new leaves you brought in that might have hatched.  Leave no leaf unturned.  And watch out for the poop.  In this particular batch, I found the little guy in the previous photo.  Glad I didn't dump him in the trash. 

Now, by this time, the big fat caterpillar I'd found first had made his chrysalis on the jar lid and I found this:

All that is left of his previous body is the skin.  Shed his face clean off.  But we know what the outcome will be, right?  More attractive than a caterpillar.  Yes, I would think so. 

And this is what he looks like now:

Ok, so the lighting wasn't great, but you get the idea.  At this time, he gets his own jar because I don't have anyone else currently threatening to turn themself in to a chrysalis anytime soon.  (See contestants #2 and #3 up above)  You'll want your chrysalis jar to be clean and free of any old leaves, etc., so the new butterfly will have room to expand.  I recommend at quart jar.  Pint jars are technically big enough, but seem a little cramped.  Plus, most have a jelly patterning or something on the sides and it makes it hard to see through.  If the chrysalis forms anywhere but at the top, don't try to move it.  The stem is very important and cannot be broken.  I try not to put more than three chrysali  in any one jar. 

And now...  we wait.

Shouldn't be long though.  Monarchs typically hatch a week to ten days after entering the chrysalis state.  My guy has been in about four days now, so expect a butterfly announcement sometime early next week.  

More developments as they become available.  

Over and out.   

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Devil Strikes Again

"Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them!  But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you!  He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short."  Revelation 12:12

Remember this song? “Devil inside… Devil inside… Every single one of us… the devil inside.”

I think it was by the same guys who sang “Living in the Wild, Wild West… Wild West [bullet ricochet]”. I think it was Escape Club, but I’m too lazy to Google it because then I would inevitably have to watch the entire video on YouTube. And I’m not in an early 90s state of mind today.

Anyway, a couple of nights ago the 6YO locked himself in my bathroom and said “I’m not coming out until you start loving me, and doing things for me, and stop having the devil inside you!! ”

I said I couldn’t hear him with the door closed (the devil made me do it) and so he came out and told me to my face.

He said “I’m the only one with GOD inside of me. The rest of you have the DEVIL inside of you!”

The 6YO has been nursing his broken arm for two weeks now and Mommy has obliged him by helping him in the bathtub on numerous occasions even though it appears he is fully capable of washing himself with just the one arm. Daddy, on the other hand, would not help him on this particular night. Because of this, the entire family was filled with the devil and had turned against my One-Armed Bandit.

The devil made me laugh, which was the wrong thing to do, and I received a tongue lashing. Then I made Daddy come upstairs and face his accuser and the devil made him laugh, too! It was a terrible night as far as my God-filled son was concerned.

But then, the devil left me when I started reading him a book before bed. Funny how he comes and goes.

And all was right with the world.

And God refilled the family.

And we all lived happily ever after.

The End.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Coddling Caterpillars

Ok, so it probably goes against nature in some way that I collect caterpillars off my milkweed vines and coddle them until they hatch into be-u-tiful butterflies, but I do and I'm not ashamed.  In fact, I live under the impression that my hatch-rate is higher if I bring the caterpillars indoors than if I leave them on the vine where spiders might eat them.  Plus, the kids think it is cool! 

If you're not a fan of upsetting nature's cycle, please look away.  But, if you'd like to have a really cool experience in metamorphosis, then listen up. 

This is milkweed:

It is a vine and grows on fences and in pastures and can sometimes be found as a weed in flowerbeds.  It is the most reliable source of monarch activity that I know of.  They lay their eggs and a few days later, little tiny caterpillars emerge. 

The eggs look like this:

Once I've located a few eggs, I start checking the vine everyday to see if I can see any caterpillar action.  This is what the eggs look like after they've hatched:

Kind of hard to see.  Here's another shot:

I think usually the caterpillar eats the egg casing, but in my case, I haven't found any caterpillars yet, so I have to assume they are being eaten by something as soon as they hatch.  But that is quite odd too because monarch caterpillars are said to be bitter because of the milkweed they eat.  I don't know. 

Anyway, this would normally be a good sign of caterpillar action, but so far I've not found any just yet:

I do, however, have a lot of these guys hanging around, threatening to buzz me, or sting me, when I look under the leaves:

And I'm allergic, so I really watch out. 

The monarchs are just now beginning their migration through Oklahoma.  I think I noticed my first one about two weeks ago, but did not notice any eggs on my vines until last week.  Caterpillars will follow, but it could still be a week or so, with temperatures dropping off this week.  It seems the egg-laying activity is dependent somewhat upon the weather. 

I did have this guy working my vines over last week, but alas, he was a boy so no additional eggs. 

So, get your mason jars ready and get some holes poked in the lids because by next week we'll be raising caterpillars, I'm just sure of it.  More on that when I have live specimens! 

Until then, here's a wrap-up of last year's activity.  I think I ended up hatching 15 at home and took at least a dozen more to my kids' classes for them to hatch and let go.  Hopefully this year will be just as exciting! 

Friday, September 2, 2011

An Answered Prayer

"The Lord answered Moses, 'Is the Lord's arm too short?  You will now see whether or not what I say will come true for you.'"  Numbers 11:23

So there we were, minding our own business on a Thursday night, wandering around out in the pasture. The kids were coming home from the neighbors (they are Hmong, but my kids call them Pong), and my 6YO was climbing the fence into the pasture where I was. I had my back to him, but I heard him hit the ground with a distinctive THWACK!!

Then the screaming began.

I turned around to find him already standing and screaming bloody murder.

“What hurts??” I asked.

“I FELL!!” he screamed.

After several rounds of this same conversation, I finally got “MY ARM!! IT FEELS LIKE I BROKE IT!!”

He should know. It hasn’t been six months since he broke his arm at a birthday party.

I helped him to the bench at the backside of our house, but it did not appear he could move either arm. And his left arm just didn’t look right. Kind of bent or something.

So off we went on that long trail of five miles to the nearest ER for our second 2011 visit.

“This isn’t the room we were in last time,” he noticed.

This room had a TV, and all I can say is Thank God for SpongeBob! He didn’t have sound, but was still able to put my son into a trance in which he cared very little about whatever they were doing to his arms. He had ice packs and pillows and still had not moved either arm voluntarily all through the x-rays.

“Please don’t let both his arms be broken.”

And I began to think of all the accommodations he would need to function with two casts.

Then he said to me, through the silence of his SpongeBob trance, “Hey Mommy, look at this!” and he fully extended his right arm.

Hallelujah! I knew then it wasn’t broken. An answered prayer.

Unfortunately, old Lefty did not fare as well (see above photo). Lefty was also the victim back in the Spring when the fracture was in the elbow from a trampoline at the birthday party. Thank God he’s also right-handed.

Today he got his cast… again. And the orthopedist was surprised to see us… again. I can only assume I’m making his car payment… again.

His right arm was giving him some trouble still today, so the doctor bandaged him up in a splint for it as well, but he doesn’t have to wear it all the time. In fact, he only wore it for a few hours this evening. I’ll be putting it back on at bedtime and the doctor expects him to be out of his cast in three to four weeks.

It may be three to four weeks before I fully recover from the experience too!

Thanks be to God for knowing our thoughts before we think them, and occasionally and very obviously giving us proof that we are indeed heard.