Friday, February 29, 2008

Who's Lovin' Lost?

I just loved this week's episode of Lost. For awhile now I've thought that time travel or an alternate time continuum would be a piece of the puzzle in the Lost story. Very fun and interesting! I was reminded of Audrey Niffenegger's book The Time Traveler's Wife, and my favorite, Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. Both books explore time travel and related issues in an interesting way.

The story just keeps getting more interesting, doesn't it??


Twice a year I got to a children's clothing consignment sale where I try to purchase any clothing and accessories that my kids need for the upcoming season. Today we got there bright and early, right after they opened, and boy did we hit the jackpot! Although we didn't find many of the clothing items that we were looking for, guess what I did get?

Yes, I got a nice Leap Pad AND a Quantum Pad, plus 7 of the activity books/cartridges to go with them! I got a couple things that will be perfect for my third grader, and several more that will be great for my young kids.

We've never had these before, so I didn't know that much about them. Fortunately my friend Amy was with me at the sale and she was able to assure me that I was getting a very good deal. As it turned out, as I've looked up prices on the internet, I see that if I had purchased all of these items individually it would have cost around $150. My price? $30!!

I think these will be great for creating some learning centers for my younger kids to do some independent activities. I'm very excited!!

Other good finds:
A baseball bat for my 9 year old who will soon be playing baseball on a team for the first time ever.

Connect Four, which I've been wanting to get for a long time and was actually going to pay full price for pretty soon.

Guess Who game--a fun one I remember from my own childhood.

And quite a few clothing items and accessories. Yay!

Warning! Danger!

Warning!! The new Flavor Blasted Goldfish are extremely addicting. They are so good that it is entirely possible that you can suddenly find yourself eating most of an entire bag of them all by yourself....thus undoing the two days of walking that you might have managed to do this week.

They are veeeeeerrrrrryyyyyy yummy...just be careful!

(slinking off to find some carrot sticks.....)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Another Tip for the Reluctant Mathematician

Amazingly, in 15 years of parenthood, it's just been this year that we've used an abacus to help with math. In the past I guess my kids just learned fine with the Base 10 blocks that we have, or other handy around-the-house manipulatives (cheerios, pretzel sticks, mini marshmallows, etc.).

With my reluctant mathematician, though, these things weren't working too well. So I pulled out our handy dandy Melissa and Doug abacus. (you can find these online, or at parent-teacher type stores. They are very well made, and not expensive.)

This abacus comes in super handy for just about any kind of math we do. It helps my son see for himself how addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division work, and also how they are interrelated. One big plus (that I would have done well to appreciate in my earlier years) is that there are not removable parts. Major helpful when your house is already strewn with parts and pieces of all manner of educational (and otherwise) items.

Leap Day Prizes!

Garden Goose is hosting some Leap Day fun over at her blog. If you don't know her, not only does she have a cool blog, but she also is involved with an etsy shop, has a garden market where you can buy stuff, AND puts out the very cool Small Town Living magazine that's FREE online.

What I'm interested in winning for Leap Day is this book:

Go visit Garden Goose to get in on the fun! :)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Two Whole Days

Of what? Exercise! That's what.

You see....I got some yoga pants. And they aren't the kind of vanity knit that helps push things back into good places and allow you to continue to pretend like things aren't that bad. No sirree. They are the kind that just lets your bad bulges flop around in all their glory and badness. The kind that say, "Don't you go trying to wear yoga pants when we can all SEE that you have never, ever set foot in a yoga class in your entire life!"

And so, between the yoga pants and the knit tunic shirt, the truth is hard to deny.

And then my husband came home after going to the doctor and found out that he gained 8 pounds.

So, yesterday we hit the road, going for a walk at the cemetery down the street. Just an ordinary, almost-middle-aged-overweight couple out for a walk.

How did I get here??

Today he was at work, but I went to walk on my own. I have a little window of time in the early mornings, if I want to take advantage of it. If the weather, and my resolve, hold, maybe I can stick with it. Because I sure don't have time to go to the fitness center any more. And my kids laugh at me when I do my rebounder routine at home. :)

A Little Tip To Help The Reluctant Mathematician

My 9 year old son is easily intimidated by math. When he opens his math workbook each day, he usually looks stricken with confusion and frustration, even though 90% of what is on the page is a review of the previous day. He cries. He carries on. He is sure that he cannot manage to understand what on earth he is supposed to it.

In short, it's a little maddening. (is that supposed to have one D or two? oh well. this is about math. Not spelling. or grammar.)

My friend Sooz mentioned an idea to me that she thought might help with Jake's math-a-phobia. A simple dry erase board.

Here's how it works. Basically, just get a smallish dry erase board. The one we started out with was from my office, and it's about 12"x24". Rather than doing the math problems on the workbook page, we do them on the board. This does a lot of good things for my kiddo:

-He's only looking at one math problem. Not the entire page's worth. I think that a lot of his problem is just feeling overwhelmed by all those numbers.

-We can make the numbers bigger, and have a lot more space to work out the problem. Much better than trying to do all of that figurin' in such a small space

-I can help him easier if the number are bigger and we have more space to work. He's not confused about what I'm pointing at or which problem we're working on.

We've been using the dry erase board for a couple weeks now, and math is going much, much better. He actually told me, "When we do math like this, it's really fun!"

Since I needed my dry erase board back in my office, today we purchased a smaller one. It's the size of a piece of paper, so have the feel of an old fashioned slate. We were able to get one with a colored frame that he was excited about, so that made it extra fun. Our board can also have magnets so we can stick it on the fridge when we're not using it, plus it's magnetic itself, and came with a few strong magnets to use with it. The pen has a built in eraser which is another plus.

If your kiddo is struggling with math, why not put a modern spin on the old fashioned slate idea and see if it works for you? (Because, really, isn't $5 a bargain compared to having your kiddo cry over math every day?!)

Investing In Our Children

One of the things I love about homeschooling is that the children have enough time to come up with their own interesting things to do. Not everyone has the slow pace of life that my family enjoys, but for us, having large periods of time that are not scheduled is a really great thing. I get to enjoy seeing my children put on shows (which usually feature costumes, singing, dance routines, and their own plays that they wrote, directed, and act in), see them play "town" (where they make their own money, jobs, rules, etc.), make up games, create things, and a lot more.

Today we were at Walmart to get some groceries, and my 3rd and 5th grader reminded me that they needed more fabric. And duct tape. And a few other things. They love to make their own costumes and clothes. We have an old sewing machine that was given to us by a friend years ago, and sometimes they can use it, but oftentimes they just hand sew. They have made some pretty cool stuff, too. My daughter (11 years old) makes clothes for her American Girl Kaya doll, and my 9 year old son has made some excellent loin cloths for himself and his brothers to dress up as Indians in. :) Today he needed more white fleece material, plus some leopard print fleece, in order to make more Indian clothes. My daughter found some silky pink fabric that she fell in love with, and believed she needed two yards of that. One thing led to another and before I knew it we were looking at patterns, and then purchasing one, plus all the fabric and notions so that she can sew more clothes for Kaya. (Although I'm not much of a seamstress, my mom used to sew for our family all the time when I was a kid, so I do actually know how to read the back of the patterns and figure out what we need to buy. Thanks Mom!)

I was working with a budget for this week's groceries, as usual. I saw these fabric purchases adding up. But I saw how inspired they were getting, and I knew that I didn't want to say, "sorry....we are only going to spend $X on this right now." I did put a few limits on things (what they REALLY got excited about was a new sewing machine!), but overall we were able to get what they wanted.

Now that the groceries have been brought in and put away, they are already at work creating. My 9 year old just came in to show me his leopard print outfit (loin cloth and arm bands--it looks very good!).

Know what? We got everything we needed, plus I was able to invest in my children's creativity and enthusiasm. We never know what that might develop into in their lives, plus it makes for some sweet memories. And, know what? I only went $4 over my budget. :) No prob!

Great Homeschool Videos

I'm having fun adding widgets to my new sidebar. The new way that the layout works in blogger makes it very easy to make up all the lists you like. Today I added a list for homeschool/educational links we enjoy here. One of our favorites is Great Homeschool Videos. They have a really nice collection of fun, interesting, and educational youtube videos that we have really enjoyed. They are always adding stuff, and I have often been able to incorporate their videos into something that we are learning, or expanding it into a bigger learning opportunity. Check it out here.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Staying Out of the Rut, and Keeping the Spark Alive

My fireman hubby works a lot, and when he's home we've got six kids clamoring for his attention. His little girl wants a date with her daddy. The little boys want to wrestle with him. Every now and then the teenager comes out of his cave to talk, too. :) Somehow my husband manages to hang out, wrestle, and spend time with all the kids, plus pay a lot of attention to me too.

When we were poor college students back when we first met and were dating we never ran out of fun stuff to do. I can remember going puddle jumping in the rain, taking a walking picnic as we ate food out of a care package my mom sent to me (I'm pretty sure the box include rice crispy treats. Thanks, Mom!), jumping in piles of leaves, and a zillion other totally free and fun things that occupied our time together. This quality in our relationship was one of the things that made me think we could survive getting married when we were still poor college students. If we could be happy and have fun on no money, we were pretty well set for life!

Well, as time has gone on, we've gotten into a little bit of a rut. Our usual routines includes watching a movie after the kids have been put to bed. This started back when we had a bunch of littles and needed a way to feel like we were doing something like a date, without having to hire a sitter. Now that our oldest is 15 and the youngest is almost 5, we're pretty stinkin' spoiled because we can drop everything and head out the door and let the oldest one handle the childcare issues for awhile. The trickier part now is that we live someplace that has very little (possibly nothing) to do as far as entertainment, eating out, parks, or anything else that would be conducive to a date night. We often drive farther away in order to do some more interesting stuff, but it would be a whole lot nicer to have some fresh stuff to do near home. Frankly, we can use some fresh ideas for a happy medium so that we can have some fun, special times together without having to drive all over tarnation or spend a fortune to make it happen.

I found out about this fun site that has a bunch of romantic ideas that we can definitely use. A lot of the ideas are really simple ways that you can increase the specialness of an ordinary event, like holding hands while you're at a restaurant. Some of it is a new idea, but a lot of it is stuff that it just helps to be reminded of every now and then.

Another idea I can definitely use is to simply write an I love you letter. My husband and I used to write letters to each other daily, back before the internet, when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Now we don't do that, but I could easily send something to his work to surprise him, or tuck a note into his bag that he takes to work with him. I've mentioned before how much I appreciate the concept of telling people how much they mean to you, and it seems to me that a spouse is a pretty important person to do that with. Yes?

What do you do to keep the spark alive and keep things fresh in your marriage?

Exciting Possibilities

Yesterday I was invited to speak at an upcoming online homeschool conference! Although my business isn't directly related to homeschooling, I am finding that a whole lot of homeschool moms are interested in my books and products. I have had people ask me before if I would consider getting a booth at a homeschool convention, but I felt like the expense and time involved wouldn't be something I would want to do right now. I have done a few booths at events and have found that it takes a ton of energy and is quite exhausting. Yes, I sell stuff, but I'm not convinced that it's worth it to me.

This opportunity, though, is perfect. I can record my sessions ahead of time and set up a web page that will serve as a display where people can check out the stuff that I have to offer. Now I just have to figure out what to speak about. True--I rarely run out of things to say. :) I've just never done a specific talk about healthy eating before, and doing the speaking without an audience to interact with sounds kind of....blah! I may go for an interview format instead of flying solo. I'm still thinking it through....

There is a lot of good business stuff brewing right now, so it seems like this might be a very good year of growth for us. Yay!

Time for another battle....

To my longtime readers...

You've been with me through The Potty Wars.

You've been with me through day and night weaning.

You've been with me as I've gotten kids to sleep in their own beds.

Now, the time has come. It is time for my youngest child....

to learn how to wipe his own butt.

I've been wiping butts (and noses, and chins, and faces) for fifteen-and-a-half years now. The youngest kid in our tribe is about to turn five. It's past due. Time to end this once and for all.

I made some attempts to sell him on wiping his own butt by the time her turned four (oh, about 11 months ago), and then when that didn't fly, the deal was that he had to learn to wipe his own butt before school started last August. (you don't want to have to ask your teacher to come wipe your butt, do you? He simply vowed to never, even poop while at school. I suspect that he has been successful with this resolution.)

Well, I'm done. I'm ready for this to be over.

So today while he's perched on the pot, he calls to me to come help him with the aforementioned wiping. I went in and handed him some toilet paper. He objects.

Kid: But I want yooooooooou to do it!

Me: Nope. It's time for you to wipe your own butt. You're almost five, for goodness sake. You can do this yourself.

Kid: (sighs. rolls eyes. knows I am right but doesn't want to admit it.)

Me: (hands him some toilet paper)

Kid: (refuses to take it)

Me: (trying to be jovial) C'mon buddy. What are you? A man, or a mouse?!

Kid: (sensing which answer will lead to which conclusion) A mouse.

Me: (takes one square of toilet paper and folds it neatly until it is about the size of a quarter) Here you go. Use this to wipe your little mouse butt.

Kid: (smiles) I don't have a mouse butt! I have a human butt!

Me: Ok then. Here's a human butt amount of toilet paper. Get crackin'. (pun intended)

Kid: (wipes butt. does just fine. tells me that he's still rather have me do the deed for him. too bad.)

Only 303 Days Til Christmas!

One of my goals/hopes for Christmas 2008 is to help keep it simple by making some things easier, and by being able to save money.

I hate to shop, and don't live very near any malls or cool stores. I usually do most of my holiday shopping online, which is a simplifier for me, but then I never get to take advantage of all those amazing Black Friday deals (you know--the day after Thanksgiving!) that people get in line for before the sun's even up, so it usually ends up costing me more than it might have if I'd gone to the store in person.. I've considered it a few times, because some of those deals are absolutely amazing!, but have never had the desire to race up and down the aisles of stores, loading TVs and the hottest toys of the year into my carts, while dodging the stink eyes of less fortunate shoppers. I've got better things to do a 5:30am. You know?

Well, I have found a web site that I dearly hope to make a part of my Christmas shopping next time around. Black Friday is a site that brings all the deals of Black Friday -AND- Cyber Monday to us through their web site!

To put it simply, this site makes it possible for shoppers to save money by taking advantage of Black Friday deals without having to suffer the miseries of doing your shopping in person. You can register for email alerts to keep you up-to-date on the latest sales and specials being offered at the stores you're interested in. They've got it all here--Toys R Us, Wal Mart, KB Toys, Circuit City, Office Depot, Best Buy, Target, and a whole lot more.

It's super easy to make sure that you don't miss out on using this resource. Just enter your email address in the sign up box on their home page, and they'll take care of the rest. I just did, so now I can feel oh-so-very-organized and thrifty, because I've taken the first step in making next Christmas a little easier.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Embarrassing Moments?

Several days ago The Pioneer Woman had a contest at her blog, asking people to tell what their most embarrassing moment was. She had thousands (really) of responses, and I've had the page up for all these days, reading a few of the comments every here and there when I needed a laugh. She opened the contest at 5pm, and I'm only up to 5:50pm. There's a lot of material here. Definitely enough to write a book.

As I read through the stories, there were a lot of them in common. Many potty accidents and surprise menstruation. Lots of farting at inopportune times. Tons of women accidentally exiting the restroom with their skirt tucked up into their pantyhose, or with toilet paper stringing along behind them like an unfortunate birthday party decoration. Thankfully, I don't have any of these on my "record."

When I try to think of embarrassing moments, I can think of things that a lot of people would have found embarrassing, but don't really feel that way to me. I guess I was probably embarrassed about some things when they happened, but either I have a great ability to laugh at myself and put things into perspective, or I have a very strong tendency to block out unpleasant memories.

There was the time when I was a high school senior and I purchased what I thought was an absolutely awesome dress for my Christian school's version of the prom. (The danceless prom, I guess you could say, LOL) I was so thrilled with my choice, and wanted to really make a splash at the event, that I wouldn't even tell my closest friends what the dress looked like. It probably only took 2 weeks before I was sitting in art class with my friend Marla, when she told me about the awesome dress she had purchased for the big night. As she described it, it became quite obvious that she had managed to buy THE SAME DRESS! All I remember about this was being about to fall over with shock, telling her, and then the two of us deciding that neither of us wanted to take back the dress we had bought. The dresses were back with white trim. So, we agreed to accessorize differently. I went with black pantyhose, she went with white. LOL Marla was attending with my brother as her date, and the four of us were part of a larger group of kids that were hanging out that night. We played it up with lots of pictures of the two of us sporting identical dresses and had a good time with it. :) ( just went hunting through my old photo albums in my cedar chest to find it. it's there alright. Unfortunately, it's not a clear enough picture that you can really appreciate it fully.)

Once I went swimming with a guy I was dating, and when I came up out of the water and was talking to him, he had to tell me that I had a big line of snot hanging out of my nose. Oy vey! That's a painful one. That's what you get when you blow out of your nose when you swim under water, I guess. Go ahead and learn from my mistake, will ya? I never swim now without constantly making sure that there's no snot viewable to the general public. (He had a great, goofy sense of humor, so it was really not a big deal. We laughed and he got to pick on me about it.)

I have already shared two of my best funny stories from childhood--Farm Fresh Eggs, and Four Foot Eleven. Both were awkward situations, but man-oh-man I have gotten a TON of laugh mileage out of those over the years. Well worth the embarrassment at the time!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

An Uneventful Night

Thankfully, we had an uneventful night here. Nobody threw up, cried, got up, or changed their sleeping locations. It was just a good night's sleep. Boy was I glad! My husband was at work, and it does often seem like the worst sicknesses happen when he is away and I am stuck dealing with all of it on my own.

Now we are expecting some snow and ice, so the schools have closed early and I went out to the store where I purchased the last two bags of rock salt. We should now have ice-free steps and deck, and we have plenty of food, family, and fun inside to keep us cozy for the duration. :)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

They're Dropping Like Flies.....

Not only is the 9 year old still not feeling well.

My 6 year old came home from school with a fever, and put himself down for a nap. He is still quite warm and not feeling well.

And my 7 year old is also getting warm and not feeling well.

Yee haw! I sure hope I'm not next. I'm drinking my healthy lemonade with Berry Well in it, and will be taking another Ultra Immune capsule tonite before I go to bed. Please, Lord, not me!!

The Eclipse is Starting!

Who's going to be watching it tonite?

Since I've got better things to do with my time, I won't be sitting by my back door watching the eclipse happen over the next three hours. Instead, I'm going to set my timer and then will round up the older kids to take a peek every 15 minutes or so, until we go to bed.

Astronomy is on my list of things we're going to study this year. We have such beautiful, clear skies out here, and we can see so many stars, it would really be nice to know more about what we're seeing on a regular basis. I figured it would be most fun to work through our Classical Astronomy book once the weather is warmer and we can enjoy hanging around outside at night.

Another Option for Homeschoolers

I get asked about homeschooling pretty often. Since I'm in the unique position of having some of my children enrolled in school, and some of my children being homeschooled, I probably have more opportunities to talk to regular moms who don't have any idea how a person gets started with homeschooling or how to make sure you're doing all of the things you need to do to educate a child.

Pretty commonly I have mothers tell me that they are interested in homeschooling for various reasons, but they aren't confident that they would know how to teach, what to teach, or if they can handle high school courses. (Moms seem to even worry about this when their potential homeschoolers are in kindergarten. :) )

I found out about an interesting option for homeschooling. It's St Gabriel's Catholic Academy, which is an internet-based homeschool option. This school offers complete course selection for preschool through 12th grade, with very reasonable tuition rates of about $1000 per student. Amazingly, this price INCLUDES the child's textbooks, DVDs, CDs, grading, progress reports, and oversight by their academic counselors! Honestly--that's a lot of good stuff for that price. I know that a lot of the women I talked to would especially feel happy to have the teacher oversight that St. Gabriel's provides, and honestly, for the total beginner that does not have a lot of opinions about educational philosophy, to spare yourself the pain and agony of sifting through dozens of homeschool websites and catalogs trying to figure out exactly WHICH math/handwriting/science/history/Bible/grammar curriculum will be right for YOUR kids. THAT stuff is the stuff that makes homeschool mommies everywhere want to run and hide in the corner, me included. If you don't know what you want--why not start with something like this, and tweak from there?

I was glad to see that St. Gabriel's offers a lot of flexibility. You can change courses for a small fee if you find that it isn't a good fit for your child, or you can drop a class for free if you need to. The educational philosophy of the academy seems very reasonable to me. They have a nice emphasis on children learning at their own pace, and supporting parents in their role as well.

For those of us not Catholic, you might be curious if St. Gabriel's offers teaching that is compatible with your own beliefs. I did not see anything in the statement of faith that would not be acceptable to every professing Christian that I know, regardless of their doctrinal beliefs or denomination.

Lunar Eclipse Wed. Night!

I subscribe to an astronomy newsletter (you can sign up for it here) and today for this news that I wanted to share with you. We'll be watching (I hope we don't have a cloudy night!!). Will you??:

Total Lunar Eclipse - February 21
It's eclipse time again! If you were reading the Update last summer, you'll remember the eclipse report from August, and all the wonderful pictures sent in by Update readers. On the night of Wednesday, February 20, there will be another total eclipse of the Moon favoring North and South America and also western Europe and Africa.

As we've seen in previous eclipse coverage, a lunar eclipse occurs when the Full Moon lines up with the Earth and the Sun in such a way that the Moon passes behind the Earth and into its shadow.

The first stage of an eclipse is the penumbral stage, when the Moon passes through the Earth's "penumbra" or partial shadow. This stage is not very noticable since only a subtle darkening of the Moon occurs.

The next stage is the partial stage, when the Moon begins to enter the "umbra" or full shadow of the Earth. At this point, the curved shadow of the Earth can be seen to "take a bite" out of the Moon's face.

Totality begins when the Moon fully enters the Earth's umbra. During totality, the Moon can look very dark. At other times, a ruddy glow can be seen on the Moon's surface, as red sunlight filtered through the Earth's atmosphere shines onto the Moon, giving it a reddish-orange color.

This total eclipse is very well placed for observers in North America. The penumbral stage will begin at 7:34 PM eastern standard time (EST), and everyone east of the Mississippi will be able to see the entire eclipse. The partial stage will begin at 8:42 PM EST, and the Moon will be slowly gobbled up by the Earth's shadow until totality begins at 10:00 PM EST. This time around, totality will only last until 10:51 PM EST since the Moon is only grazing through the edge of the Earth's shadow. After totality, partial eclipse will past until 12:09 AM EST as the Moon leaves the Earth's umbra.

Observers in western North America will see this eclipse at earlier local times. The Moon will rise in the penumbral stage as seen from west Texas through Alberta. People on the west coast in northern California and Oregon will see the Moon rising in partial eclipse.

The eclipse will be visible over Europe and Africa and western Asia, but this will be more for night owls and early birds! Totality begins at 3:00 AM on Thursday morning in the United Kingdom, and even later at points east. The Moon will be setting at various stages of eclipse as seen from as far east as Afganistan! So if you or a missionary friend is in that part of the world, be sure to wake up and check out this eclipse before sunrise on Thursday morning, February 21!

Be sure to catch this one folks, this is the last total lunar eclipse visible over North America until 2010! As before, if you have a nice view of this eclipse, please send along a detailed report. We're looking for colorful descriptions folks, so please, tell us a story! Also, please share any nice pix of this eclipse and we'll include them in the next Update. I'm expecting solid clouds over Cleveland, so this is the most our family might see!

On Today's Agenda: Stomach Flu!

My husband was not feeling too well last week, and today our 9 year old is now down with the creeping crud. All the joys of a stomach flu are his....and mine to help clean up. Happy Wednesday! We were supposed to be going with my preschool son's class to a children's museum tomorrow, but it looks like we may have to miss it. Not too many people want to shlepp around for hours on the day after their stomach revolted, do they? (Notice how optimistic I am that this will only be for today. Impressive, no?)

New Baby!

Did you hear the good news? Wood and Dutch over at Sweet Juniper welcomed their new son into the world yesterday! Go check it out here.

In other baby news, two of our friends that were here Saturday night told me that they are hoping to get pregnant this spring. For one couple it will be their first child, and for the other couple it will be their second child. It's fun to know younger couples that are just getting started on the adventure of parenthood. :)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Fun Weekend Happenings

We enjoyed a fun weekend here. Saturday night we had 8 of our friends from church here to make homemade pizzas, watch Tim Hawkins, play Dutch Blitz, and to play Guitar Hero. I also made Pioneer Woman's Best Chocolate Sheet Cake Ever, which is now going to be a regular attender in my hospitality repertoire. It's really easy to make, and everybody oohs and aaahs over it.

I managed to defend my honor by winning Dutch Blitz and several rounds of Guitar Hero. :) Can't have people coming over and beating me at my own games, now, can I?

One of the coolest things on Saturday night was the moon glow. Did you see it? We went outside around 10pm (eastern time) and when you looked up at the moon, you could also see a beautiful white circle of light around it in the distance. (pretty far away--not right up close to the moon) I've heard about that before, but never saw it in person. It was really kind of magical. Those of us that were still here partying on went outside to look at it, and ended up staying outside, building a camp fire, and popping popcorn over the fire. It was really pretty special.

What did you do this weekend?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Adventures With Teenagers

OK, first the back story:

My husband and I got cell phones awhile back, after doing without them for a few years. (yes! it's true! You can truly survive without cell phones in the 21st century. Who knew?!) Then after several months of the two of us having phones, my husband decided to take advantage of a free phone offer if we added another one to our account. We gave this one to our 15 year old son to use. It has come in very handy so that we can know when to pick him up from school activities, find him when we are in a large, crowded place, or if I'm just too lazy to walk down the stairs to tell him to do his chores. Most, if not all, of his friends, are on this same cell phone plan, so they can all talk to each other without it using up any of our minutes. Plus we have minute rollover, and we never use all the ones we have. So, so far, so good.

About a week ago he comes to me, delighted!, because he has discovered that he can do text messaging on his phone. I told him that I know he can text message, but we do not have that service on our plan, so he should not send text messages or they will cost us lots of money. (I know it probably wouldn't cost very much to add text to our service, but really, honestly, we just don't care about texting. I have no interest in it and don't need it.)

He had sent the first text message and then checked our account balance through his phone (which, I believe, requires the company to send him a text message, which we would then be paying for). For several days he would check (after texting), and find that no additional charges had been placed on our account. So he's been texting. Quite a bit. And today was his day of reckoning. Because he found that SURPRISE!!!! there were now some charges for the texting. As in, like over $100 worth.

Ha! Aren't teenagers fun?!

Like the good kid that he is, he came to me to tell me what had happened. He apologized and told me he would work for us to pay off his debt. Ironically, I had just trained him on how to do some business work for me and he had already been doing that, so he was well on his way to making his first $10. (it is now up to $20, I think, so he's actually doing pretty well)

So now I have an indentured servant! My businesses are getting busier all the time and I have been badly in need of an assistant, so now at least I've got him doing quite a few tasks that will be a help. Plus, I'm having him clean obscure areas of the house that really needed attention, but simply won't ever be likely to reach my top 10 list of things to try to get done in a day.

Honestly, he's a good kid, and I know he'll learn from this. If a $100 mistake is the worst thing he does, I'll consider myself very relieved.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

What's for Dinner?

Out of the mouth of babes:

4 year old: Mom....what's for dinner?? Leftovers?

me:, I don't think it'll be leftovers......

4 year old: Please don't say casserole. And please don't say chili. Ok? Please don't say that we're having those things......

No casserole. No chili. Got it.

I still don't know what we're having, though.

Monday, February 11, 2008

On Tonite's Agenda

Making Dinner! (or, What The Heck?! I Have To Feed These People AGAIN?!)

Putting people to bed (aka Whack-a-Mole)

Climbing Mt. Neverrest (aka folding lots and lots of laundry)

Trying to go to bed early (aka HAHAHAHAHAHAHA)

If It Wasn't So Outrageous, It Might Be Funny

It has been many weeks since I contacted DHL's Office of the President to try to resolve my shipping disaster with them. I received an email from a customer service person telling me that she would contact me within 24 hours to discuss my situation.

And then she didn't contact me.

And then FINALLY, after MONTHS of aggravation, someone was able to determine that I had, indeed, had the entire process bungled, and they sent me a refund check for almost $400 that they had overcharged me.

And TODAY I get an email from the customer service person. She was writing to tell me that she had checked with her research department and determined that I was not going to be issued a refund. Also, she wanted to let me know that DHL values my business and hopes I will give them another opportunity to let them give me a positive shipping experience.


I wrote her back to let her know how disappointing it was that DHL is clearly SO completely disorganized and incompetent. She has done nothing but confirm for me that there is nothing positive to be had by dealing with DHL. I can assure you that DHL will NEVER get any business from me in the future, as long as there is any way to avoid it.

What a bunch of nonsense.

And So, the Firemen Were Fed and Everyone Was Happy

All of the kids got involved with the project of preparing for and taking the lunch to the firefighters. Little boys cleaned out the Burb and helped load up. Then we drove out to the boonies and made a little assembly line, preparing to feed the guys tailgate style.

It was super windy and very cold, but the kids were real troopers. At the front of the line I had one little kiddo handing out spoons and holding one of the back doors open. Inside the back of the Burb we had crock posts full of chili, bowls, and a ladle. After the men got their chili, I had another child holding a basket full of little baggies of oyster crackers and sharp cheddar cheese (and keeping the other door open, thanks to the wind), and the next two kids held containers with individually wrapped pieces of The Pioneer Woman's "Best Chocolate Sheet Cake Ever." One container was with nuts, one without. Although the cake is very yummy, it was also less than half the thickness that I would normally consider to be cake, so we called 'em brownies as we handed them out. They were easier to pass off that way. :)

I learned from the guys that at training events like this they are usually only fed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, which I guess is because there are so many guys, and they are usually in a somewhat remote location with no electricity available. They were really thrilled to get a hearty, hot meal, and they thanked us again and again. It was so nice to be able to do that for them.

After we served the lunch we got to hang out and watch the training, which featured lots of smoke, a little fire (that we could see), and many firefighters in full gear doing many things that we may or may not have understood. I will say that my husband was looking very handsome in his gear... :)

From there we went home to make the soup to take to our friends from church with a newborn baby. I got to hold the little sweetie--so small! Her parents were tired but happy with their third little one (in under 3 years!) and they seemed to enjoy telling me about their wonderful home birth.

Sunday our friends came to visit and that was very fun. We had tomato bisque soup and pulled pork sandwiches, courtesy of my husband, the manly chef. We watched our Tim Hawkins DVD and laughed our heads off (it's even funny after having watched it before). Good times!

Today it's back to the grind. I'm still trying to get on top of some things that I've fallen behind, trying not to drop any plates. It ain't easy, I can tell you!!

Good school day today, for the most part. My first grader was home today because he wasn't feeling well. He ended up joining us for some of our school stuff and he seemed to really like it. Keeps my wheels turning.....

Rainy Day in Fiji

An online friend of mine is a missionary in Fiji. This video shows her adorable children enjoying their backyard mud slide!

This movie actually made me cry this morning. I think it was just the beauty of the children having such pure delight, and the fact that their mom caught it all on camera....

Watch it!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Need a Laugh? Look No Further....

(or is that Farther??)

Pioneer Woman had a contest at her blog the other day, and the entrants had to tell about their most embarrassing moment. There were almost 3000 entries, and there's some mighty fine laughing to be had if you go check it out here.

Friday, February 08, 2008

You Can Find Me In The Kitchen

I have a couple busy days of fancy footwork in the kitchen coming up, starting now.

Tomorrow my husband will be leading a training burn for his fire department, which means they will be using a donated house to burn, and then they do drills to practice rescuing and other things that are best practiced with real fire conditions. These hungry firemen will need lunch, and when my husband asked me to pick up some bologna and cheese to make lunches for these guys, I just couldn't let it go down that way. Cold, nutrition-free sandwiches for a bunch of hungry, tired, cold men? I don't think so! So I volunteered to make a bunch of chili and Pioneer Woman's Best Chocolate Sheet Cake Ever. And my husband was delighted.

So today I took three kids off to the grocery store, both to purchase our two weeks worth of household groceries, AND the groceries for the firemen. It took 3 carts to get out of there with everything.

Now I've got 3 pounds of ground beef and a pound of sausage in the crock pot, along with a chopped onion and two chopped bell peppers. That can cook while I do more important things, like blogging...and making cake!

The cake is about to get underway so that it has time to cool tonite. In order to keep things simple for the guys, and to work with the situation they'll have out at the burn site, I will be cutting the cake into pieces and individually wrapping each one. I'll also be making little snack-size ziploc bags of oyster crackers and sharp cheddar cheese, so that they can get a grab-n-go meal since they won't have tons of time for eating. I'm excited about the project. In the past there have been older ladies that were wives and mothers of firemen that did these sorts of things. However, a lot of these ladies are getting quite old or are in poor health, and a couple of them have died recently. So, I guess it's time for a younger gal to step up to the plate. I think it will be fun for my kids to help with this, see where the burn is, and have an opportunity to serve.

In addition to this exciting project, I also volunteered to take a meal to a family from church that has a new baby tomorrow. I was planning on making my Tomato Bisque Soup for them, and also planned to serve that for lunch on Sunday when some friends of ours come to visit. So I'll make all of that tomorrow so it'll be done for one and all. After we serve lunch to the firemen we'll be heading to drop off the soup to that family, plus take my oldest son for an eye exam, plus visit the library in that town. (about 30 minutes from here)

Sunday we'll have soup in the crock pot, as well as Pulled Pork Sandwiches that my husband wants to make. So, again, both of our crock pots will be employed. Thankfully, I decided to take the easy road by purchasing a ready-made veggie tray today, so that'll be ready for Sunday as well.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Adventures in Cooking

So I may or may not have mentioned here that I am trying (mildly) to come up with more Very Well Loved Recipes in order to revolutionize my outlook on cooking. I would like to have a trusty supply of recipes that my family enjoys so much that I don't even mind making it. Up until now my children have sometimes been so picky and unhappy at meals that I have considered the virtues of tossing each one a sleeve of Saltines and sending them out into the backyard to munch as they play. (and drop crumbs)

But, you know, man does not live on Saltines alone, and neither should small, growing children.

My Tomato Bisque Soup is already on our Very Well Loved list, and lately I've turned to The Pioneer Woman to help me find some new favorites.

Last Saturday night I had the Olive-Cheese Bread for a ladies' craft night that I was going to. It was very easy to make, especially since I chopped things up using my food processor. Everyone liked the bread very much, but personally, next time I will make it with mozzarella cheese instead of Monterey Jack. To me, the jack just didn't have the pizazz that I like in cheese. The nice thing about making this is that when you cut your big loaf of bread in half, for a lot of situations you will only need one half for what you're doing right now, and the other half canjust slide right back into the plastic bag it came from, and go live in the freezer for sometime in the future. I love having stuff ready in the freezer, so every time I see that Olive Cheese Bread in there I feel a happy little glow. :)

Recently I used leftover spaghetti to make PW's Chicken Spaghetti. It was also quite easy to make (way easier the way I do it, as compared to the way PW does it) and everyone (except my ultra-picky eater daughter) really liked it. Some things that I did differently:

-I always buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts and cook a whole bunch of 'em at once in my crock pot. Then I freeze the pieces of chicken and just grab what I need when I want to make something using it. So, for this recipe I just thawed out approximately 2 cups worth of pre-cooked chicken.

-I used one can cream of chicken, and one can cream of broccoli instead of the cream of mushroom that she recommends.

-I left out the pimientos and peppers.

-The spaghetti was plain old leftovers, not cooked in chicken broth

-I was too lazy to chop up an onion

Otherwise, it's the very same idea. Mix all the stuff together. Put it in a 9x13 pan. Throw some more cheese on top. Bake. Enjoy!

Next time I make this I plan to tweak it a little more. I really prefer to make my own cream soups, because then I can have stuff without MSG and all that garbage. Also, this casserole would be great, and a more complete meal, if you had chopped broccoli or some peas thrown into it.

My teenage son said that the cheese on top was overkill (but hey--I kinda like cheese overkill) so his suggestion was to top this casserole with french fried onions, or chinese noodles. I think the onions would be very good. Add some cheese on there and it would be even better!

In short, the chicken spaghetti recipe is a keeper.

Last night I made Twice Baked Potatoes, which I have done many times in the past, though not recently. I like the way TBP look, and I guess that makes them nice for a meal where you are trying to be impressive. Personally, though, I was reminded that it would be a lot more expedient to just make mashed potatoes and put lots of good stuff in there, like the sour cream, etc. (which is always do anyhow) My kids had a bit of a hard time with the TBP, but can always chow down mashed potatoes like nobody's business.

If you have any family-pleasin' recipes, do tell! I would like to have 14 dinner recipes that everybody flips over, by the end of this year. Think I can do it??

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Eeeeew-weeeeEEE! Or, Why It is Very Stinky to Keep Chickens in your Bathtub

So we got through the night, with my raining and blowing outside that was very noisy, and a 4 year old waking up crying and screaming because he had a stuffy nose, and an 11 year old waking me up to ask, "What's that noise?!" when there was so much noise from the wind and rain that, really, it was anybody's guess which noise was bothering her.

And then, a phone call from my husband around 2am. He was at work, waiting to be called out with his fire dept. to help with the various emergencies that always erupt from violent weather. He just wanted to make sure we really were downstairs, because tornadoes were touching down nearby. Goodie!

Morning came very early after such a sleepless night. And then I got to deal with the amazing STINK of the bathroom, courtesy of our four chickens. I did not realize they poop so much in their sleep. W-O-W! At least they did stay in the tub, though.

I escorted my four house guests outside, fed them, and then got to work cleaning out the bathtub. While getting 3 kids ready to go to school. And making breakfast. And a few other things. No worries, though! It's all done, the stink is gone, and the chickens live to see another day.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Let it never be said that I don't care for animals....


Because right now there are four chickens in my bathtub.


Because we are expecting 85 MPH winds tonite, and I just didn't have the heart to make them weather the storm in their little chicken coop.

Chickens sleep like the dead, so I knew they wouldn't be any trouble in here. I carried each one in after they were already asleep. They are still a little dazed about their change in accomodations, but haven't left the tub and I don't expect they will. I'll be up before they will in the morning, so I'll just put 'em out dark and early.

All of the human inhabitants of my house will be sleeping downstairs (mostly below ground level) tonite, just to be on the safe side. The storm is supposed to hit around 3am, and I'd just rather not try to relocate all of us at that hour.

Lots of bad storms and tornados all over the USA tonite. Pray!

Friday, February 01, 2008

Ooooh Lookie!

Finally, my blog is pretty again. Yay! Will be working on the sidebar, etc. as I have time. (did I mention that I've been sick this week too??)

Guys--This is What To Get Your Best Gal on Valentines Day