Friday, January 30, 2009

Estimation Station

During my one-year stint as a second grade teacher several years ago, one of the students' favorite things was the Estimation Jar. One student would bring the jar in full of goodies: M&Ms, Skittles, marshmallows. Inevitably some would bring the jar stuffed with less popular items like paperclips or cotton balls...probably at the prompting of a sugar-conscious mama. On Day 1 of our estimation game, each student would submit their guess on the quantity of items in the jar. The estimates would be posted in a visible place so as to build anticipation for the next day. On Day 2, I would reach in and grab a handful of whatever was in the jar. We would count just that handful and then return it to the jar. After seeing a partial count, students were permitted to revise their estimate. Finally, we would count the items...and then devour the contents (unless of course we were stuck with paperclips or cotton balls). Whoever had the closest estimate got to take the jar home to fill for the next week.

Motivated by an online math class I'm taking to maintain my teaching certificate, I decided to bring the Estimation Jar into our house. It's not quite as fun since the jar doesn't actually go home with someone who gets to surprise the class with the special contents. However, the kids were quite intrigued this morning when they came to breakfast to find a jar full of M&Ms sharing the table. And it became, of course, the first task on our school schedule for today.

There was a pretty wide range of guesstimates: 65, 99, and 250. My favorite was the Princess's guess, though. I said, "Audrey, how many M&Ms do you think are in the jar?"

"Ummm...a bunch!"

Well said. I think she may have a chance at winning this one.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Must See PupE

Usually after all school work is complete, media tickets are cashed in for precious minutes on the computer, TV, or video games. Yesterday, however, no such requests were made. Instead, the kids spent their afternoon watching their new puppy sleeping. I guess a cute little snoozing pup trumps Star Wars on the Wii.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


After basketball yesterday, Mark and I went our separate ways: Alex had a birthday party to go to, so I took her (and Jacob to whom I owed some ice cream for completing his reading chart) while Mark took the others. When I returned home, Mark said, "Too bad you didn't have your phone with you. I would have adopted a puppy."

Since when do I remember my phone? And what does my remembering my phone have to do with my husband adopting a puppy?

He explained that if I had had my phone, he would have been able to reach me to ask me which puppy I wanted.

Since when do I care what kind of puppy so long as it's a puppy?

Honestly, I just thought he was giving me a hard time for forgetting my phone; in fact, he did at one point say, "That'll teach you not to forget your phone." So I didn't expect him to really load everyone back in the car to head to PetSmart. And I didn't really think he'd actually go through with a puppy adoption. But my wonderful husband did.

And now Max is officially a member of our family. He is the sweetest puppy and so good with the kids. He's about 9 weeks old. What kind of dog is he? you ask. We have no idea, and the nice people with the Humane Society really didn't know either. Whatever he is, he has a sweet, gentle disposition and is extremely affectionate. The kids love him...especially Michael who will sit with him for an hour playing or letting him snooze on his lap.

He seems to be a pretty good dog too. He only carried on for a few minutes last night in his crate, and he didn't mess in it. The carpet, of course, is a different story, but we're working on it. I guess I've had a long enough break from cleaning up poop since Audrey was potty trained that I can handle some puppy accidents.

Friday, January 23, 2009

My Celebrity Moment

I got to know more about my friend Annie at Having a Ball through an "interview" she did with a blogger friend. She in turn gave me some questions:

Q: What were your favorite things about being an English teacher? Least favorite?
A: I love teenagers. The kids were a favorite part of teaching. And I think I've established I love curriculum and planning, so that was fun as well. My least favorite parts? Well, I was really young when I taught and looked even younger; I was mistaken daily for a student. As a result, it was often difficult for me to establish control in my classroom. Of course it didn't help that they gave me, the rookie, the gangster classes (I guess no one else wanted them). I had one kid who sauntered in to class wearing his house arrest ankle thingy. Those two gangster classes were good times. I absolutely loved teaching my honors classes, though.

Q. What inspires you most?
A. My children inspire me most often. They inspire my writing because they give me good content. More importantly, they inspire me to be a better mother. I have good kids. And I'm not just a biased mom; my kids are fun, loving, generally respectful, and they have such good hearts. I'm not always the loving mother I want to be. But when I look at them and what an absolute blessing they are, that incredible realization inspires me to give a little more and do a better job of showing them how much I treasure each of them.

Q. How did you meet TravelDaddy and what are some of your TravelDaddy coping mechanisms?
A. I wish I could remember the exact moment I met TravelDaddy, but I was in third grade, and he was a big fifth grader. I doubt he had much to do with me back then. I went to missionary kid boarding school with Mark. We were actually pretty good friends in high school, though we never dated. Later in college, I dated one of his roommates. When the roommate and I broke up, Mark and I started dating. I tease him that our first date was just a pity date after Roomie's and my break-up, but he denies it!

As for my TravelDaddy coping mechanisms, well, I'm a planner, so I plan. My biggest difficulty when he's gone is feeding my family because when he's here, he's the cook. And he's the kind of cook who can take a look in the pantry or fridge an hour before dinner and cook up something from nothing. I cannot do that. I have to plan a menu, go the store, and get exactly what I need. I'm not good at straying from the plan or from the recipe.

Q. What led you to homeschooling?
A. I began researching homeschooling when Baby #1 was still in utero. However, once Baby #1 was ready for Kindergarten, Baby #4 was days from entering the world. We had just built a house, moved, and helped throw my in-laws a 50th anniversary bash. I felt overwhelmed. So I put Baby #1 in public school. I found that to be a complete pain as well...I had to wake up Babies #2, 3, and New Baby #4 to take Baby #1 to school, and I had to wake Baby #4 up again to go pick Baby #1 up in the afternoon (I don't know if I could bring myself to ever do the bus thing). And I guiltily pulled Baby #1 out of school to go on our annual after-Labor-Day family vacation. So at Thanksgiving, we pulled Baby #1 out of school, and we haven't looked back since.

Honestly, convenience and non-crowded vacations and outings are a HUGE plus for us for homeschooling. Mark doesn't like me to say that because it sounds shallow, but it's true. Of course, I do LOVE teaching them. I love it that they can work at their own pace (I have two who are ahead and 1 who needs to go a little slower). I love that we can go on field trips to match each unit. I love teaching them what I want to teach them when I want to teach them. I love that I don't have to worry about politics in my mentioning God or prayer.

Q. What is your dream vacation?
A. Before I die, I will vacation in Italy, and I will go on a REAL African safari. When I was little, we went to the game reserve in Ivory Coast every year. We saw some cool things...lots of baboons, wild boar, antelope, hippos. But never any lions or elephants. One year we rented a safari truck with a driver, and he was determined to show us some elephants. We spent the day tracking elephant spores, but we never found the elephants.

Close seconds are Australia, New Zealand, and somewhere in South America.

Sign of the Times

You know you're living in the 21st century when you wake up to find your three-year-old watching The Little Mermaid on Big Sister's iPod.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Inaugural Thoughts

Yesterday when I turned on the TV and the kids saw Barack Obama taking the oath, Michael reacted with a loud, "Boooooo!" Knowing, shamefully, that his reaction was based purely on tidbits of opinion he has gleaned from his mom and dad's conversations over the past year or so, I paused the ceremony to discuss with the kids the respect we are to have for our country's leader. No matter who he is. No matter how much we disagree with him. God has placed this man in a huge position of authority, and we are to honor the position and the person in that position.

Our former president deserves our respect and honor as well, I think, now more than ever. I didn't agree with everything he did during his eight years, but I respect him deeply for the man he was. He stood by his principles no matter what the opinion polls showed. And the gracious respect he extended toward Obama during transition has been, even according to learned historians, unmatched in history. Did you know some past presidents refused to even talk to the incoming president? Then of course there was the Trash-the-White-House-Clinton transition in 2001. But George Bush? He treated Obama with decency and respect, and I think, in light of how Bush has been treated by the Democrats, this goes a long way to show you the kind of man he is. As I watched Bush deliver his witty, heart-felt, genuinely warm speech last night at his Welcome Home celebration in Texas, I had to admire the grace and dignity with which he left office. I hope his legacy will be wrapped in that same grace and dignity.

As for our new president, I hope that despite all of the strong opinions my children have heard my husband and me issue, we will be successful in teaching them that we must support our leaders. I know I will support President Obama...and with much more respect and honor than was extended to our former president by those on the "other" side.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Today's Adventures

It feels like the North Pole here in Hotlanta, much to my dismay, but we ventured out anyway. Our first stop was Book Club, and the kids' reports on presidents went very well. Audrey began the hour with her report on George Washington. She proudly--and a bit shyly--made her way to the podium where she perched on a chair so she could see above the podium. And she delivered her presentation: "George Washington was the first president of the United States." It was adorable. Alex and Michael also did well presenting William Henry Harrison and Andrew Jackson.

And then...hold on to your hats...Jacob gave his report as well! He has never done anything like this before. Never gotten up in front of a crowd. Never had all eyes focused on him. Never talked by himself to a crowd. I'm so proud of him!

After Book Club we headed to INK. I groaned when we pulled up because there were two school buses parked outside. But they were eating lunch when we got inside, and after they finished eating, they left so we had the whole place to ourselves. As usual, the kids had a great time, although next time I'll have to find a friend to come along for Alex. I think she's outgrowing this museum a bit, and a friend would make it a bit more entertaining for her. Seems she still enjoyed today's adventures, though.

Tales from the Flat Side

I PROMISE. I am NOT going to write about flour everyday for the rest of the my life. I'm like a little kid--I will tire of my new toy. (I am not to tire completely, though, because I promised my husband that if I made this investment in our health, I would not give it up after a few tries.) So just this one last post for awhile about my wheat berries and mill and flour...

I purposely put Tacos on the menu this week because I wanted to try my hand at making my own tortillas. As I mentioned to a curious Facebook friend, I don't belong in the little tortilla-making room at On the Border...yet. This is my first try, though; I may get there. Before I explain what I did wrong today, let me start at the beginning.

On Tuesday I decided I wanted a tortilla press. This is America, right? Any store should carry a simple gadget like a tortilla press. Experience has taught me, though, that while dragging along 4 little people, it is wisest to call ahead. I called ahead to I don't know how many places. Some had discontinued them. Others didn't have them at all. Finally, a kind Bed, Bath, and Beyond guy checked all inventory in all stores in the Greater Atlanta area and found one location that had 38 of them to get rid of before discontinuing the product. I did have to travel a ways, but I finally got my hands on a tortilla press.

And that brings us to today. I did not add enough water, I think, to my dough. And I divided the dough up too much, making each tortilla a mini-tortilla. And my press that I drove across the world to obtain did not do a good job pressing. So it was an interesting dinner. Some of the tortillas I rolled out after pressing them so that they were rollable with the fillings. Others just weren't, so I presented the idea of Taco Sandwiches. And they bought it; the kids LOVED them! Alex said, "These are the best tortillas ever! They're way better than the kind you buy!" Yes, Alex is a people pleaser and will often say things just to be nice. But when it comes to food? She is so picky that she always has an honest opinion. So that was a true compliment.

I will keep my promise and not report on how the tortilla-making goes tomorrow when I serve leftovers. IF I were to blog it, however, I'm hoping my title would be Tales from the FlatTER Side.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Rising to the Occasion

I'd be lying if I said I'm not at least a little proud that my first 5 loaves turned out perfectly. Well, nearly perfectly. They could have stayed in the oven another 5 minutes. I'm used to cakes and brownies where a clean toothpick tells you they're done. Having to tell the doneness by tapping on the baked good, well, that's going to take a little getting used to. Nevertheless, first batch is done. I'm completely satisfied with how it turned out. And I certainly won't fail to mention that it's pretty yummy, especially with my homemade strawberry-blackberry jam!

Alex asked me if I'm "going pioneer on [her]". No fear, my darling girl--your 21st century toys and electronics are yours for the keeping. However, I did warn my husband to be careful or I'll be taking over the kitchen. 'Course man can't live by bread alone, so I guess I'm he's safe.

Good Eats 2

Dear Alton Brown,

I'm a big fan of your show Good Eats. A couple years ago, you did a fantastic episode on the Chocolate Chip Cookie. I'm a big fan of chocolate chip cookies. The episode changed my life. Well, not really, but it did provide for me the best chocolate chip cookie recipe ever. In case you've forgotten, here it is:

The Chewy
2 sticks unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups bread flour
1 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
1/4 c. sugar
1 1/4 brown sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk (this is important for the "chewy" part)
2 T. milk
1 1/2 t. vanilla
2 c. semisweet chocolate chips

In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients. Cream butter and sugars. Add egg and yolk, milk, and vanilla. Add flour mixture. Remove from mixer and stir in chocolate chips. Bake at 375 for 14 minutes.

Over the years, I've done a little experimenting with the Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe. Not because it's not completely acceptable as is, but just because that's kinda fun, plus I like to "Healthy-Up" my recipes a bit. Makes me feel a little less guilty about stuffing my face and 4 little faces full of cookies. Usually I just add a handful of oatmeal.

Anyway, in case you haven't heard, I just acquired a fancy-schmancy mill. So I ground some soft wheat berries to take the place of the bread flour which you suggest in your recipe. It was lovely indeed. However, I've been on this quest to find healthier sugar as well. So I totally altered your recipe in the sweetener department. Instead of 1/4 cup sugar and 1 1/4 cups brown sugar, I used the following: 1/4 cup honey, 1/4 cup Sucanat, 1/2 cup evaporated cane juice, and 1/2 cup brown sugar.

Obviously, I should have either lessened the amount of honey or increased the amount of flour. Even though my dough spent the night in the refrigerator, my cookies flattened out completely within minutes of entering the oven...too runny. Rather than try to add more flour or throw out the dough, I dumped it all in an 8x10 baking dish and tossed it in the oven. And waited. And waited. I peeked in a few times, and I noticed that my cookie dough was taking on a very dark brown color. But I didn't smell anything burning. So I left it in and waited some more. I waited until the middle didn't jiggle anymore. And then, because I was worried this dough may forever be part of the pan if I didn't take it out, I turned off the oven and set the strange brown stuff out to cool.

Then I tasted it. And here's where I say, Move over, Good Eats, here comes something better! Alton, I'm sure you can easily tell me exactly what happened in the oven that turned my chocolate chip cookie dough into brownies. I don't know what happened, and I really don't care. But let me tell you that what I made were the most delicious brownies ever! So, while I can't promise you that I can duplicate this creation of mine, I thought it would be prudent to warn you that there is some competition out there.

Chocolatey regards,
A Fan

Fun with a T

I'll admit it, although I don't think I have to: Sometimes I'm a little starved for adult interaction! Homeschooling means I'm with my little people 24/7, and a traveling husband means that my little people are often my only company. Though certainly not a replacement for real interaction with grown-ups, the Blog World has satisfied some of my need to interact with people who remember when Reagan was president. I've met some wonderful people in Blog World. One of those people is Annie at Having a Ball. She is funny, sweet, kind, compassionate. And competitive. She kinda has to be...her husband coaches basketball. But I like a good competition, so I was game when she threw down the challenge of playing with the alphabet. I was game, that is, until she sent me my letter: T. I was hoping for A, you know, because there's Audrey and Alex, and Animals, and All Around more things I like in life that begin with the letter A. So I've been pondering this one for awhile and finally come up with it:

The Trinity - First and foremost, I am thankful for The Trinity, for The Three-in-one because without The Trinity, there would be none of the things that complete this list. God created it all; Jesus Christ paid the ultimate sacrifice so I could be covered with grace; and the Holy Spirit is my daily guide through the awesome times, the terrible times, and all those moments in between.

Teaching - Teaching and all things school is my passion. I loved being in school. I would continue in school if I had the time, and I now live out my school life vicariously through my children as I teach them.

my Three gentlemen - How boring and mundane (and quiet!) life would be without my two boys! And without my man, I couldn't claim to be the luckiest woman in the world. (And let this be a lesson to me to take more pictures of my knight in shining armor!)
my Two princesses - Complete opposites, my two girls bring deep conversations on the one hand and lots of frills and sparkles on the other hand. I love 'em!

Tiny Toes and TipToes - I'm beginning to miss those Tiny Toes, although the Princess is so petite, hers still qualify as Tiny. Don't you just love the little foot dimples? And both my girls often walk on their TipToes. In fact, when Alex was about 4, the doc told me to get her to stop or she may require surgery on her Achilles later on in life. Turned out to be a habit that was impossible to break without nagging her every second of the day. So I just left it, and she doesn't do it as often now.

Tea - I love tea. I like it iced...or as we southerners say, "Sweet tea" (add at least 2 extra syllables in that). I also love hot tea. I drink hot green tea daily because I like it and because it's so healthy.

Triple chocolate cake - You knew I'd throw in chocolate somewhere, didn't you? A three-layer cake with ganache filling and chocolate fudge frosting? I'm sure in Heaven, this will stand in for a regular dinner entree.

Thunderstorms in Africa - I used to sit on our screened in porch in Africa and just soak up an African thunderstorm with all my senses. It's an awesome sight to see a storm roll in, to see the ominous clouds get closer and closer until the whole sky is one, gigantic black cloud; the claps of thunder echo as they roll across the sky, and the sound of the rain on the tin roof is hypnotic; the smell of the dry earth drinking in the first rain is so distinctive.

Tropical weather - Every year at this time I tell my husband I want to move to Florida. I am just not a cold weather type of gal, and I don't care how many people hear my wimpy whining about it. I've heard so many people say they would never want to live in a climate that does not cycle through 4 seasons. Not me. Give me one season: hot.

Television - I know some people think the TV is evil. And some of it is; we certainly monitor what the kids watch. But I enjoy relaxing in front of the TV or doing chores or work with the TV on. I like to catch up on my news while I'm making lunch or dinner, and I like the background noise in the evening, especially if Mark is gone. I even set it on the timer and fall asleep to it when he's gone. Some of my faves? Chuck, Psych, Monk, The Mentalist. Obviously, I like the crime shows that aren't too serious!

So...those are the 10 things which fit me to a T. Do you want a letter? Let me know in your comments.

Monday, January 12, 2009

No Pajama Days

One of the benefits of homeschooling is that if one has no outside engagements, one has the option of spending the entire day in one's pajamas if one so chooses. This week holds no Pajama Days for us!

School kept us busy today until we had to head out for Alex and Michael's basketball practices. While Alex's back seems to be just fine now, Michael's goofiness has yet to wear off. I had to have a talk with him afterwards about his collapsing on the gym floor for no apparent reason...must be the shininess of the cool floor. The other two kids and I got our exercise walking the upstairs track which overlooks the basketball courts. Except for the Princess who sat her duff down on a folding chair on the side of the track and "played" Alex's DS. As for Jacob, he sprinted at least as many laps as I walked. Oh, to possess an ounce of that energy!

Tomorrow is the first day of a new homeschool co-op we just joined. This co-op has the appearances of being completely different from any co-op of which I've been a part in the past. This one is organized so well that it really is a day of "real" school for the kids. None of this come if I feel like it or let my kid sit out of class with me if he doesn't feel like participating. This is mandatory participation, and the kids are in "real" classes. Alex and Michael are taking Art, Anatomy, and P.E. Jacob is taking Botany and P.E. I've tried to get Audrey all excited about "school" because she has been a little out of sorts lately about going to her class at church. For co-op, I specifically asked to be an assistant in First Grade, knowing how uncomfortable Jacob is with new experiences. When I signed up, I had no idea my littlest one would be going through the same thing. So we shall see how she reacts when I try to shove her through an unfamiliar doorway tomorrow.

Wednesday dawns the beginning of a new semester of AWANA. I'm not a big fan of AWANA. Wait. Let me rephrase that. I'm a big fan of AWANA for my kids. I'm not a big fan of AWANA for me. Thankfully, I have resigned my Director/Teacher position, and while I still feel a bit of guilt over someone else having to pick up the slack, it was best for my sanity. By Wednesday night, I've spent 3 days with my children, usually by myself, and the last thing I want to do is teach 50 other children who belong to someone else. Unfortunately, I am still a verse listener/Kindergarten class discipliner. But baby steps towards relinquishing some responsibility.

Book Club also resumes on Thursday. The kids will be presenting reports on past presidents. Our family will represent the shortest president (in service, not height!), one who gave a very important speech, and one who chased a would-be assassin away with a cane. They've been working hard on their reports, even Jacob, so maybe, just maybe, he'll gain the courage to present.

Thursday afternoon we're going to take a field trip to INK, which is a children's museum set up like a community. There is a vet's office, a grocery store, a restaurant, a doctor's office, a classroom, and a dentist's office, and everything is hands-on. The kids love it, which is a good thing because I purchased a membership to the Atlanta children's museum, and it's reciprocal at INK. My goal for this year, if nothing else, is to wear that membership out in order to completely get my money's worth!

I suppose Friday could be a Pajama Day because we have no planned outings; however, one never knows when Spontaneity will strike on a boring Friday night. So no PJs on Friday. I rarely take advantage of Pajama Days anyhow, but it is nice to know they're an option. And crazy weeks like this one do at least make me that much more thankful to crawl into bed in my PJs at the end of the day!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

And so the season begins...

Alex and Michael had this season's first basketball game today. It was a bit of a humbling fun experience, just like last year. Remember the Michael Dimension? I think he may have focused a bit better today, but...

...he still covered his ears in anticipation of the buzzer for the countdown of the last minute of each 6 minute period,

...he was still goofy on the sidelines,

...and he crashed to the floor on a couple of occasions for no particular reason.

Although he does seem to have so much fun, we plan to work with him on focusing and being a bit more aggressive because the other players are like mini-Michael Jordans, and he needs to keep up. My husband commented on the fact that if he just committed to the game a bit of the aggression with which he pummels his brother, he'd be able to keep up with his teammates.

As for Alex, she started out an all-star: She scored the first basket and was keeping the team afloat. But then she apparently hurt her back because she, by choice, sat out for the last 4 1/2 game periods. Later as I watched her bounce effortlessly and painlessly about the house, I was torn between my desire to nurture her and a desire to somehow make her tougher. For some reason, I settled for sharing with her the heroic tale of Kerri Strugg helping her team win gold by struggling through a vault on a twisted ankle. She gave me a blank stare. At any rate, we're going to do a lot of stretching this week so her back is in tip top shape for her game on Saturday.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Annual Non-Resolutions

In the Blog World, I stalk follow DeeDee over at Fiddledeedee. She makes me laugh. Everyday. And I need lots of laughter to stay healthy. Speaking of healthy (did you like that segue?), today DeeDee is encouraging her readers to offer their insights about health and weight loss. Because I'm so wise in this area, I thought I would share what is going on in our family. I've always been one to set New Year's Resolutions. Because I'm a big fan of new beginnings. However, in so doing...altogether now: I'm just setting myself up for failure.

So this year I've merely mentioned in casual conversation that as a Goal for 2009, I want our family to get healthier. I haven't made any lists about how to achieve this goal. And I haven't done anything drastic like empty my pantry into the trash. I also haven't outlawed all sweets. I've done all of these things before, and about 4 days into it, I end up making a late-night, 50 mile round-trip run to my favorite Italian restaurant for a giant piece of their 7-layer chocolate mousse cake. It's never pretty (the situation, not the cake--which is positively, fabulously, divinely pretty).

Now while I haven't made any actual lists, I do have a few ideas in my head. I'm taking this getting healthy thing in baby steps. There are just a few changes we've made or will make in this house toward healthier living. One is that we are cutting back on refined sugar. As much as possible, I'm replacing the white stuff with alternatives like honey, raw sugar, or Sucanat. Secondly, we're trying to cook with as many of the 10 power foods from the Sonoma Diet as possible. Those 10 foods are broccoli, tomatoes, grapes, blueberries, strawberries, almonds, extra virgin olive oil, whole wheat, spinach, and bell peppers. All foods I like. That's why I like the Sonoma Diet. Some diets want you to start the day with a Mango-Celery-Tofu shake, and I'm just not about that at all.

The biggest change we're making in this family is that we are taking one more giant leap toward becoming Homeschoolers of Stereotype (I think the only step left is to add some long skirts to my closet) (no offense): I'm going to start milling my own wheat for bread and other baking. I know...if you are personally acquainted with me, you can probably pull a few choice words from your hat that I've had to say about this in the past. But I've had a change of heart, plus when we stayed with our friends in Missouri, she made fresh bread for us, and it was really good. And easy. At least she made it look easy. So...I now have 90 pounds of wheat berries in 2 big buckets in my pantry. And I have a mill and mixer on the way. I already have a Kitchen Aid, but this mixer is all-powerful; this baby will mix enough dough for 5-7 loaves at a time.

I suppose I should address the topic of exercise as well. Although I wish to forget that it is an important component to a healthier me. I actually have been pretty consistent with hopping on the treadmill for my 30 minutes. Not everyday, though, if my schedule doesn't allow.

So those are our baby steps. We may add some more things (or take things out, whatever the case may be) as new reform becomes habit. Most importantly, I'm not beating myself up when I miss a day of exercise or sneak in a piece of leftover Almond Roca. Not that I'm confessing here or anything. And just as a reminder of all that's good and sweet, my two favorite kitchen books, ironically, stand side-by-side on my counter (ignore the bottle of brandy propping up the books; let's just say it goes well with the power foods):

Monday, January 5, 2009

Dear Toothfairy

The girl knows the true identity of the Toothfairy, but she still humors delights me with letters like these:

Dear Toothfairy,

How are you? If you don't mind with the stock market and all could I please have a quarter for my sister Audrey? She is not old enough to lose a tooth. I do not want her to feel left out. Safe flying and don't get a ticket.

Alexandra Nicole P_

P.S. I am sorry about all the blood.

Our Little Robot

Audrey says the funniest things. Often times, she will quip in a monotone voice, "I. Am. A. Robot." Her newest thing as she doles out hugs and kisses is to say, "I'm a kissing machine!" or "I'm a hugging machine!" This morning I asked her for a hug, and she said, "I am a hugging machine, and I'm out of batteries!"

After determining that her batteries go in her back, I replaced her batteries so she could once again be a functioning hugging machine.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Six States in Seven Days

After traveling through Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois, we began our trip home...via Missouri. Dear friends of ours live in Missouri, the kind of friends you really miss when you're home, the kind of friends you wish lived closer. It's great to have the opportunity to see friends like that and to pick up right where you left off.

We enjoyed our couple of days in Hannibal, Missouri, birthplace to Mark Twain. The kids had a great time playing with their four kids, and we brought in the New Year with an evening of games and fellowship.

Our trip back began with a beautiful sunrise over the Mississippi River, a sight to behold from our friends' kitchen window. Although we were able to drag our tired kids out of bed and into the car, Audrey was not very willing: When I picked her up out of bed, she cried, "I want to sleep!" I told her she could go back to sleep in the car. "But I want to sleep up there!" she protested. Who wouldn't rather sleep in bed?
Determined to make good time, my dear husband heard nothing of slowing down to see the Arches at less than 80 miles per hour, but I was able to snap a few pictures, much to the amusement of Missourian travelers whose cars I dodged with my camera.

Children's Museum

Unfortunately, I spent all of Sunday night and early in to Monday morning hanging over the toilet, thus securing a spot on my sister-in-law's couch for the duration of the day. Thankfully, we suspect food poisoning. Probably that Chicago-style pizza...another reason to stick to southern-style-New York-style pizza. I say thankfully because the flu would have meant 4 little people coming down sick about the time we left Chicago, and, well, I prefer my road trips vomit-free. Anyway, because I was out of commission, Daddy and Uncle Joel got the privelege of spending the afternoon with the kids at the Children's Museum. Along with the rest of the children of Illinois. Oh, how we miss the typical homeschool crowds during vacation time!