Monday, January 25, 2010

I found a use for the empty Snowman Cookie Box

In all honesty, I should admit that I have several empty boxes. But not to worry, I also have several full ones.

Unofortunately, this first box- in all honesty, this was NOT the first box. More like the 3rd or fourth.anyway, we had another death in the family. This time our pet Bearded Dragon, Beardie. He was a good lizard. Not much trouble. Didn't eat much towards the end. Didn't move much either. Finally, he just went stiff. Shane and I discovered him first. I thought it better to let the kids get a good night's sleep. Then let them discover him in the morning. Shane thought it best to get it over with. All four kids slept in our room that night. OK. Maybe I was thinking about me, not the kids. But I seriously thought they would cope better on a full nights rest.
 We looked for something to package him up in that night, but could not find a suitable coffin for him. Then I thought of the boxes. We cut a little fleece blanket for him. Lit a candle. Read some edited prayers for the deceased and went to bed. In the morning they went out bury him in the woods. Next to the other 3 lizards we've lost. Real estate is getting scarce out there. The last one we lost to a hunger strike. We're not sure what her " cause" was as she also gave up talking. And apparently drinking because she looked really dehydrated. We even had Father Joe give her a special blessing when he was here for house blessings. So far she was the only lizard who was baptized before she died. We told the kids that was what she was waiting for, as we found her dead later that night.

So, our track record for keeping pets alive is not stellar. I'm wondering when the pet store will stop selling them to us. Although, really. These are things considered pests in some places. They might even try to exterminate them. And we spend lots of money to get special cages, have lights and terrain to mimic their particular habitat, dust their crickets with calcium, sometimes tear off the legs to make them easier to catch-the crickets-, hand warm the little worms so they will wiggle to get the stalkers attention. And then we are crushed when all our efforts fail and the poor things die. Shane said it was worth the risk. Kids need to go through it. I suppose so. But three times in as many months seems a little extreme.

I did feel better when the store told us baby geckos are prone to  dying. I wish we had known that before. Shane had told the kids the crested gecko was the last pet this year. Never dreaming we would lose two in two weeks. Needless to say, he is already telling the kids to research what we should fill the empty cage with. I'm thinking maybe a turtle.

In other news, Kateri pulled off a stunning outifit, combining her love for ballet, shooting things, and sparkly shoes in one look.  She was actually on her way to her performance rehearsal. Shane made me tame her hair a bit before he took her. It sort of worked.
And speaking of hair, Pippin decided to take the matter of his bangs into his own hands. I will buzz the rest soon. When I get some time.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Best Odyssey and Captain Gavin

I've added the link for The Best Odyssey. Gavin's a great writer- and sailor, and even chef on occasions-updates are always fun to read and of course the pictures are amazing. If you do read some posts he does ocassionally swear, like a sailor. We were there for this trip. Shane was there for this and this ,  and this one. And this one sounded, well, awful. But I guess not all trips are sandy beaches, fair weather, and a bottle of rum. But they do make good stories.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Let it Snow

Well, not really snow. Not with our very clement weather. However, I did want to introduce, if you have not already discovered them, Trader Joe's Snowmen Cookies.
They are super tasty, super cute, nice and buttery goodness. And they come in a really cute box that I am saving for putting special things in. It was too cute to throw away after I, I mean We, ate all the cokies. I was a little bummed that I did not find them until the end of the season. I went back the next week and they were gone, not to return until next December. I even asked and the guy suggested the Windmill cookies  as a substitute. They were not the same at all.

So I was really happy and surprised when Shane walked in from work bearing the colorful box. He had stopped at the Samammish Trader Joe's and found one. Along with some black truffle flat bread and other tasty treats. I put them in the pantry to save for after dinner and he went out to get the other bag of groceries. Which contained this:

Minus the three kids. He said he couldn't fit any more in his basket. I pointed out they do have carts there. But I suppose its good not to be too greedy.
We were all pretty happy. Plus he picked up some dark chocolate covered pomegranite seeds. He definitely knows the way to my heart. Maybe they can last until December. Or maybe just until Lent starts.
Anyway, if you can find the Snowmen, I highly recommend picking some up. If not, drop me a note. We're always up for a tea party. Or coffee. Regular, or decaf.

Speaking of other tasty things, we were, weren't we? This morning I had to get Audrey up early to finish her math and kitchen chore. I thought that would be more memorable than stay up  past bed time to do it. Mondays are a little busy. But I convinced her to jump out of bed for Dutch Babies. My kids love them- except Kateri- and since they are basically scrambled eggs with lots of butter and sugar, its  nice way to give them protein in the morning. They are really tasty with powdered sugar and some lemon.

Dutch Babies 1 8x8 pan- I double this for a 9x13

Place 1/2 stick butter in glass pan. Put in oven to preheat to 425.

While butter is melting beat with a mixer or in blender
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup flour
3 eggs

When batter is smooth and slighty fluffy, pour into pan and bake for 10-12 min.

A big pan serves us for breakfast, plus a snack after lunch for me.

After I loaded the pictures this morning I found lots of these:

What? I didn't mention  we have yet another critter to feed?
This one is an eyelashed-crested-gecko. Her name is Dawn, named after the nice lady at the pet store who sold her to us. We bought her the day the kids found their leopard gecko had expired. It really helped to distract them and after the funeral they hardly cried. Maybe its getting to be old hat. This kind is supposed to be hardier. I have to say she is a little cuter and since she is super sticky, a little more fun to watch play around. However she does jump and we have had a few scares thinking we lost her. Which is why the kids are not supposed to take her out of the cage. Which they obviously did for this photo shoot. And video.

And of course you cannot house them with the other gecko, the one that has not died yet, so Shane picked out a nice fancy cage and all kinds of ornamentations for her. I'll put a picture up of our reptilian zoo, which used to be Cyril's bedroom.  After I clean out the cages.

As for my spellcheck, a nice lady gave me some advice. However  we don't useGoogle or Chrome, I would be so excommunicated. But I'm sure IE has it. I'll just have to ask Shane. I do like the nice pictures on Bing. Its fun to try and figure out where they before I click to find out. So hopefully, the misspellings will end soon.

Monday, January 18, 2010

My Next Act of Heresy

This was not one of my resolutions, but it seemed like a good idea. We actually had switched accidentally to decaf for awhile. Neither of us noticed. When we started on our new routine, I thought it might be good to go back to regular beans. But then, as I am supposed to drink and extra 54 oz of water a day for my medication, meaning I also had to get rid of the excess water every day, I thought it might be good to not have caffeine messing with my hydration and decided after my first cup of regular, I'd switch to decaf the rest of the day. I used to laugh at decaf coffee. It was neutered. Like vodka without the alcohol. But I used to be able to spell too.

I decided to start using my crockpot more too. It is nice to throw some things in in the morning, and have dinner ready when Shane gets home. Especially on days when we have activities during the day. On Mondays the big kids have art lessons at 9:00. Right from there we go to the horse lady's house where Audrey and Cyril help take care of 5 miniature horses and Kateri and Pippin chase chickens. Which means we don't even get to math and reading until 2:00. So it is extra nice to throw a chicken and some spices in at 7:00am and have it all done around 3pm. Today was my first time doing a whole chicken. I used some black beans, canned tomatoes, onions, green onions, and some taco seasonings. Then I picked all the meat off and we had it in bowls with sour cream and cheddar cheese and toasted tortillas. It was pretty tasty, though Cyril was bummed there was no crispy skin.

This was a beef brisket. It was good, though a little on the spicy side. I only used 3/4 of the pepper, but it was just fine. I'm glad I didn't  try for the two the recipe called for. It was pretty tasty, espicially with the fresh cilantro. I might like to try another cut of meat next time, maybe pork. I couldn't find the right sized brisket so had to get one that was packaged for corned beef. I didn't add the spice pack it came with, but the meat  come out a different texture than I was expecting. The sauce was really tasty though.

I would like to try more recipes. Let me know if you have any you've tried and liked.

And I do apologize, I'm still trying to locate the spell check

Friday, January 15, 2010

Some Changes

We made some New Year's Resolutions, and so far we are doing very well. We decided it would work better if we had some resolutions that involved the other person so to help us be more accountable and to have a partner and support team. Sounds like marriage to me.
We chose for our theme "self-mastery" or not being a slave to your passions and instead doing what you really do want to do/acheive/become.

Our main resolution, which I think makes all the other ones work, is to get up early. A thing which I was brought up to beleive to be a sacreleige. We just don't do it. And I didn't. For the last 12 yrs. Although I always had "the baby didn't sleep well or had to nurse 50 times last night" as an excuse. Which I still think is totally valid. But in my case it was also a lot of laziness.

Since I can't use those exact excuses anymore, though I did try to come up with new ones, I, or we, have decided getting up early is crucial in making any changes we want to this year.

So now our days, for the most part go like this:

4:15 Shane gets up, says prayers, and works out
5:30 I get up and pack his lunch and make coffee
5:45 he leaves
I say my morning prayers, shower, unload the dishwasher, put on a load of laundry, have breakfast

7:00 turn on all the lizards lights and feed them. Get the kids up and feed them breakfast. Have my second cup of coffee.

8:00 we start math and reading with the big kids. Sometimes we finish by 9:00. Audrey does her French. Sometimes Cyril does too, but I'm wary of him abusing the record/play back feature on the program. He is a little boy who likes to make gross noises. Especially if he can play them back.

10:00-10:30 sort laundry , assign random chores- I need to make a regular schedule

10:30 everyone is ready for lunch and maybe more coffee. Pippin says he needs his sugar coffee so he won't be tired. I wonder what I am teaching my kids. I load and start the dishwasher.

After lunch the kids can play and I get in a little exercise, then unload the dishwasher. And if I'm really fast get to check email and blogs. Shane usually gets home around 4, depending on traffic and meetings.

5:00 dinner then clean up and baths. Then read/play until bed time. I load the dishwasher and turn it on for the second time
8:00 Kids in bed.
M, W, F Shane and I do an ab workout. Tue and Thur we each do a French lesson. We're thinking of doing it more often but for now we have comitted to 2x a week.
9:00 or close to it, we go to bed.

Shane, very wisely, also made some rewards for keeping on track. Each week we have checked off all our boxes- it really is fun to do that part- we can watch a movie or show on Saturday evening. And if we are good for an entire month, we can go on a little date. The rewards definitely keep me motivated. Oh, and Shane has some work stuff and I get to read The 8th Habit, which so far is pretty useful.

Thinking through how to make it work for us also helped in motivating the kids. The first two weeks we did stars for getting up and going to bed nicely. Stars for doing school work and house work  well. Etc. When they earned a certain number - 100, collectively- they got the new marble set Papa had gotten them. And each week they did their school work cheerfully, they also got a movie or game time on Saturday.- We also stopped any shows, computer games for the kids on the week days. One exception was  a BBC production on Yellowstone, which we all watched for 15min  an evening. It is actually part of their curriculum. We want to go there in the fall and would like the kids to learn/reseach all about the park first.

So that is our day. The first Saturday felt strange, not having such a rigid schedule and the morning felt lazy. WE slepped in until almost 7. But we do a workout Sat and Sun so it doesn't feel too unproductive.

Like getting up early, having a schedule was also something I resisted. I hated having even a doctor or dentist appointment to make my "schedule" less agile. I called it "agile". I'm available for whatever opportunity comes along that day. Which usually ended up being really productive things like reading Isaac Asimov and eating Snickers ice cream bars while the kids played in the kitty pool.
Shane called it refusing to grow up and actually have a plan for my days/life.

So here we are 12 yrs later. And we have a plan. And I did read some Orson Scott Card recently. But in moderation and without the icecream. It was too cold.
I found  I actually like having a schedule. I get so much more done and have so much more time. It's great feeling like I can accomplish things and am even thinking of adding on some new things next month, And I like earning rewards.

Oh, and does anyone know where spellcheck went? I can't find it. Which, for being a spelling snob before, I totally deserve. As do I my recent and prolific grammar mistakes. I finally came to rely on the spellchecker. And now its gone.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Hallmark of a Homeschooler

I stopped by QFC on my way home from a hair appointment. It was nice to shop alone . But I'm so used to being inquisitioned until I don't even know what I came for, that I was still able to forget some of the items I had stopped to pick up.

At the checkout the nice lady we see quite often, asked where the kids were. I said they were at home with Auntie.

"You homeschool, right?"

"Yes, we do."

"I can always tell when kids are homeschooled. My roommate's brother was homeschooled, and it just shows."

I wondered what the give away was. Cyril did go through that phase of tucking all his shirts in. Including sweatshirts. And Kateri's hair usually looks unkepmt. But she has really crazy hair. Their shoes usually match, and they don't wear tennis shoes. Cyril does get holes in his knees often, but I just got him 6 new pairs of jeans. They usually interact and converse with the baggers, so I think they come off as socially adept.

The lady smiled,

"They are always so nice. Like my roommate's brother. He's 21 now, and he's just the nicest kid. They just seem like realy great kids."

I was glad that was her impression of homeschooled kids. Hopfully I won't ruin that for her. I did cut Cyril's hair and we've been working on Kateri's. And Cyril's sweatsuit doesn't fit anymore. I think we're ok.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Then and Now

I was reflecting back on the last year, especially as it pertained to kids and school and Cyril, and I was amazed at how different things are this year. We were sitting down doing phonogram dictation, after we'd already finished math, and there he was getting 100%, sitting nicely in his chair, holding his pencil properly, and being 100% cooperative. That last one was the major accomplishment. I think just being really "ready" made a huge difference. I remember last year most of our attempts would end in tears, sometimes for both of us. We made very little progress. This year, he is cruising through the lessons, retaining everything, and it is actually very enjoyable. Although he still likes math better. It is very wonderful to have thought this day would never come and, and now here it is.  He's growing up. And not just acedemically. I've been thinking more about the next 9 years and what we want to have accomplished and be working on by then. I think the recent progress and the new routines- more about that later- have given us the knowledge that the sky's the limit. I'm excited to take on the New Year, with all our Resolutions, and to enjoy all the opportunities it affords. I will write down what we are doing, but on of my resolutions is to get the kids up early and now is the time.
Iguana cake by Grandma Trudy. We passed on the live ones though Cyril was willing to give up his entire room for its habitat. We got him to go with a remote controlled helicopter instead.
Biting off way more than he can chew. He loves seafood, but even this was way too much. The rest will be dinner for him tonight. And the other kids as well.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Christ Is Baptized

Today is the  feast of the Baptism of Our Lord, or Theophany, and Cyril's birthday. It's amazing to think it was 9 years ago, and I still remember all the details of that day.
We had been waiting from him to arrive since Dec 28th, thinking maybe he'd be early and we'd have a Nativity baby. We didn't. Then we thought he might share my brother Kevin's birthday on the 30th. He didn't. We thought he at least might come in time to be a millenium baby and for a 2000 tax deduction.Nope. I finally gave up waiting and just carried on. And on. Shane brought home a new trick to try every day. So and so said his wife drank this tea. Mexican did the trick  for so and so's wife. I tried them all. Actually, the Mexican might have done the trick. It was a Saturday and we had gone down to visit my parents and eat at the restaurant we frequented when we were dating. A Mexican restaurant called Maya's on Rainier. We ate and visited and my lower back started to ache. My  mom gave me a hot wated bottle which felt great. So great she let me keep it for the ride home, or actually to Costco, and then home. Once we were home we debated going to Vespers that evening. But we decided to go in the morning instead. Finally at 8:30 the contractions started. Not a gradual warming up first. Serious 'you're in labor' contractions. Shane called the midwife and I went to take a shower. A little later we got a call from Heike saying she was paged but she was in Kentucky. They were supposed to have paged Allie. So we called again and requested they call Allie. Allie called and Shane filled her in on all the details. I said I wanted to push. Allie said go ahead, she was on her way.

It was so nice to be at home and not have the stupid belt to monitor contractions. Like you need a machine to tell you you just got hit by a Mack truck. With Audrey, Shane would watch the monitor and tell me 'ok here comes a contraction' until I made it very clear I already knew and didn't need/want to be told. It must be hard for the husbands to not really have anything to do. Shane has learned to just do what I ask him to- rub my lower back and catch the baby, then bring me something to eat. And I have learned to be more thoughtful of my words since then.  And also to not have our babies in the hospital.
My water had still not broken by the time Allie arrived. Finally she offered to break it. I said sure. A few contractions later, at precisely 10:30 pm  Cyril arrived, fist first like Superman. Our own little revelation from above. Allie said had it not been for his flying stance he probably would have arrived before she did. Audrey woke up just before he was born, and Grandma Trudy had come to help already and was there to meet him.
It was a sleepy time for everyone and after a tasty and necessary snack, we all cozied in the bed and went to sleep.

Cyril was a very good baby. Fat and happy. He never missed a meal or snack and soon earned himself the nick name "Chubbs". We sang about him being more chubby than the chububim and beyond comparison more squishy than the seraphim. Or something like that. Occasionally he still gets called Chubbs.

It is amazing to see him grow, to watch him learn about and pursue the things he is passionate about. And to facilitate in his maturing and growing experiences. Which lately has involved pets. Since losing our first gecko, we have  acquired two leopard geckos and a Bearded Dragon. For his birthday he asked for an iguana. As his room already smells like a pet store we figured 'why not'. He doesn't know yet but after we get our school work done we are going to the pet store to get the habitat and iguana. Tonight he asked to go out for seafood so we will have dinner along with Grandma and Grandpa and one of Grandma's wonderful cakes. Because every feast day deserves a feast.