Sunday, January 31, 2010
No gum. And a trash can was passed around for gum deposits. I get that rule too. You don't want silly kids amusing themselves by sticking ABC gum to multi-million dollar works of art. Of course, if some rascally kid was really bent on defacing a Picasso, he might just stow away a fresh stick of gum in his pocket and chew it later. Anyway. I'm just sayin'. You can't address every potential problem with a rule.
There was no running permitted either. I get that one too. I just didn't appreciate the rude guard telling me and my grown-up friend not to run. We weren't running. Our kids were perhaps walking really fast, but we were definitely not running.
And then there were the photography rules. I had to sign a rule list in order to obtain a tag which gave me permission to take photographs. I ended up not taking any because the use of the flash was prohibited, and it wasn't all that bright in the museum. The rules did not apply outside the museum, however, so I was able to capture the giant horse with a few of our many children.
Rules aside, the museum experience was more fascinating to some than others. All of the kids enjoyed the dramatic play we were treated to in the theater at the beginning of our tour. The da Vinci exhibit itself, however, held my boys' attention for a nanosecond. I couldn't blame them. Years ago, I was very unimpressed by the Mona Lisa; I don't think it met my expectations. Audrey was enthralled for a few moments over the headset she got to wear which narrated information about each item in the exhibit. Alex, though, of course soaked up all of the information. I know she paid a lot more attention than I did. But then, I'm usually just there for the socialization.
Yes, this was another opportunity for me to get socialized...Nazi pools, nazi museums...restrictive as they may be, I always have a great time because I get to hang with the other moms. I suppose it would be a cheaper socialization opportunity if I just invited all my friends to my house to hang out. But then there would be the mess. Of course, I could always impose my own Nazi list of rules...
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Oh, and I've been busy too. Today was our typical crazy Tuesday with Bright Futures and homeschool co-op. And I spent most of yesterday in the kitchen. That's right, the kitchen. I've said before it's not like the kitchen and I are strangers or anything. But we're not exactly soulmates either. That's why as soon as my mouse hit the send button on an email to the Bright Futures director in which I volunteered to make a meal for 20 people, I wished it was the Olden Days and I could reach into the mailbox, retrieve my letter, and burn it. It didn't help that my Personal Chef would be away this week. At least if he's here I know I have a go-to consultant if I Flop something or if I Freak Out in an unreasonable sort of way about anything culinary.
But I was on my own. And I selected a recipe I have made enough times to know it works and is good. My personal chef has even given it his taste of approval, so I know it's good. This recipe of mine is actually courtesy of The Pampered Chef, and I will share it at the end of this post. It is called Pasta Roll-Ups, but I call it Fake Lasagna. It's pretty easy to make. Of course, I've never made 4 pans of it at one time.
First you make some spaghetti sauce. Or if you're cooking for 20, you take some frozen leftover spaghetti sauce out of the freezer and then add more to that.
Spread a layer of spaghetti sauce on the bottom of each pan.
Then you make two thousand three hundred and two lasagna noodles. And you make the ricotta cheese. Then spend hours rolling a tablespoon full of the ricotta cheese glob up in each lasagna noodle.
Place each rolled up, stuffed noodle in the one-layer-of-sauce-covered pan.
Spoon more sauce over the roll-ups. Then sprinkle cheese over top. (I had given up taking pictures by this point, plus my hands were covered in Pasta Sticky.)
My menu also included French bread,
And for dessert--this is where the kitchen and I actually do have a love affair--I made Can't Leave Alone Bars (which may be its actual name, but is more likely the given name my friend from whom I got the recipe dubbed it). Very easy. So delicious. Recipe to follow the Fake Lasagna recipe.
So after I made all this stuff yesterday, I wrestled with both our interior kitchen fridge and our exterior garage fridge and finally fit it all in. Then I carted it downtown ATL in laundry baskets. Because I'm classy like that.
All of the kids were extremely grateful that I had brought lunch, but I wondered why they were not mid-breakfast like they usually are when I walk in the door. That's when the director asked, "Did you bring the muffins for breakfast?"
Suddenly I had a vague recollection of mentioning something crazy and off-the-wall like me not only bringing in lunch but also breakfast.
The kids learned a valuable lesson: One can survive without breakfast. And I learned that
1 pkg. (18 1/4 oz.) white cake mix (although yellow worked just fine too!)
In a bowl, combine the dry cake mix, eggs, and oil. With floured hands, press two-thirds of the mixture into a greased 13x9 pan. Set remaining cake mixture aside.
In a microwave safe bowl, combine the milk, chocolate chips, and butter. Microwave, uncovered, on high for 45 seconds. Stir. Microwave additional time periods, stirring after each time, until chocolate and butter are melted and all blends together. Stir until smooth. Pour over crust.
Drop teaspoonfuls of remaining cake mixture over top.
Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool before cutting.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
In an effort to quell the Control Freak in me, I left the kitchen while she worked. I came in upon her request after all ingredients had been mixed together. She wanted me to taste the batter.
"Are you sure you added enough sugar?" I asked.
She nodded and then offered, "It's kind of salty, isn't it?"
Very keen taster, this one. She described it better than I did--too salty, not necessarily, as I described, just not sweet enough. I verbally went through the recipe with her. And discovered that we needed to review again the fact that a capital T means tablespoon while a little t means teaspoon. Yes, salt can be good but not in tablespoons in a single cookie recipe.
(I've always wondered why Jesus tells us to be the salt of the earth. I get that salt adds necessary flavor, but you really can get too much salt. Of course, maybe this characteristic of salt is just to remind us not to be overbearing and obnoxious. Like the Jehovah's Witnesses that interrupted our school day this morning. Of course, they sent the sweet, little old lady to whom I could be nothing but nice. And I finally researched JW's after she left. Their literature looks so much like Christian literature, I've always been curious about the differences. Google it. Interesting stuff.)
So what was I talking about? Right. The Cookie Badge and the salty cookies. We washed the salty cookie batter down the drain and started over. The next batch turned out cookies flatter than unleavened bread (in sticking with the Bible theme). This new problem was mine; I had taken the original recipe and substituted butter for shortening because, as I've said before, I have a problem with feeding my children lard. Turns out you really must use lard to make the cookies turn out.
So...we used a completely different version of the recipe. By this time, we had gone through I don't know how many eggs, sugar, baking soda, and baking powder. But this batch finally turned out. I inserted my Control Freak a lot in this last batch, but I'm going to pass the poor girl on her badge because the flatter-than-pancake cookies were my fault. She made them according to the recipe; I just took too many liberties with the recipe.
Plus she and her siblings are being so sweet. I'm not sure why this homecoming is different from any of TravelDaddy's other returns, but they have planned a full party for him. Our dining room is decked out with handmade decorations, and these cookies will be center-table.
Of course there might be a little something in it for them as well: We aren't sure exactly when TravelDaddy will get home because he may catch an earlier flight. "If Daddy gets home while we're having school," Jacob asked me tonight, "can we stop school so we can have our party?"
4. If you land on a vent, you go to jail.
Friday, January 15, 2010
If you know me well, you may understand why I did so grudgingly. You see, even in the summer, I like my pool water to feel like pee. 87-90 degrees is perfect for pool water. Even on a balmy July afternoon. Unfortunately, I have encountered very few who share my enthusiasm for tepid water. That is why when someone says their pool is heated, I remain a little skeptical.
Going swimming in January wouldn't be a problem for me with regard to my three swimmers. All I have to do is be physically present poolside as their Guardian. But the little one, well, she presents a problem. I thought about bringing a big bag of candy and bribing her to sit on the side of the pool with me while the others splashed and frolicked and played in the water and I sat and gabbed with the grown-ups. But that would have been very Bad Mommy of me.
So I grudgingly--again--put on my swimsuit. Good thing because when I registered, the lady asked me if I had my suit on. I replied in the affirmative.
"May I see it?" she asked.
"Excuse me?" I replied.
"May I see it?" she pushed.
"Uuumm. OK," I said as I pulled up my sweater and my shirt to reveal the suit. Do I win the Miss America crown now? I suppose they want to make sure moms are not just, uh, coming to the pool to socialize (who would do that anyway?); however, they do have lifeguards present, plus if my kid was drowning, I wouldn't stand on the side of the pool complaining that I couldn't save my kid because I'm not properly garbed.
That wasn't the only annoying thing that happened when I signed in. I live about 15 minutes from the aquatic center. The center itself is part of a park which belongs to the county, not my county but a neighboring one. After asking me to model my swimsuit, she asked to see my driver's license. I wanted to remind her that my family and I simply want to swim, not adopt a child, but I remembered my manners in the presence of my children and showed her my license. Turns out she was just searching for my hometown so she could know that I am not a resident of the center's county. Which means I got the privelege of paying DOUBLE! So instead of $20 I had to pay $40. With four very expectant children standing beside me gawking excitedly at the huge slide on the other side of the glass wall, I wasn't going to turn around and go home. I forked over the cash.
And once inside it was nicely warm. My three older ones had a blast. My youngest not so much. Part of the problem was that she had to wear an obnoxious lifevest. I had her normal wings on but was kindly informed by one of the lifeguards that those were not permitted. Why was I not surprised?
I waded in with her for a few minutes before she informed me she was done. One thing I had anticipated was that there would be no food or drink inside. I was surprised then to see a picnic area with vending machines. Of course the Princess was hungry after her brief moments in the pool, but all I had was a $5. I asked my friends if they had change. When none of them did, I announced that I was going to go up front to ask for some change. After all, I paid them a small fortune for a couple hours in their pool; a handful of quarters was the least they could do. That's when my friend pointed to the sign on the vending machine. We are unable to provide change at the front desk. Again, why was I not surprised ?
This is a brilliant idea. I know it is because the gifts we spent a fortune on this past Christmas received a few glorious moments of attention on Christmas morning. But the gigantic box my new chair came in?
It has been a train,
Thursday, January 14, 2010
We like having both services available because, really, if you ignore the flashiness, the worship in the contemporary service is outstanding. Then again, the worship in the more traditional service is pretty good too. We prefer the pastor of the blended service even over the main pastor who preaches in the contemporary.
To get the Perfect Church, then, if we could have both worship leaders lead using the contemporary format minus the smoke and lights followed by the blended service pastor's preaching....well, I'm not naive enough to think there is such thing as a Perfect Church. That will only happen when we are all one church in Heaven. But this perfect combination has been a topic of discussion for my husband and me nonetheless. I suppose at the very least we could make it a board game called The Perfect Church. Of course with the inherent subjectiveness about such a topic, there could never be a winner.
The one thing about the blended service that makes it a little less than a perfect match is the fact that there is very little diversity. And I'm not talking ethnic diversity here; there is some of that. I'm talking about Hair Color Diversity; there is very little of that. The hair color is mostly...white. NOT that I have anything against the old folks. It's just that this fact makes it a little bit more of a challenge to form new friendships with people our age who have children our children's age.
Wednesday night I found myself once again in a room mostly full of, uh, more seasoned people. There were three choices for adult classes: a class on God's promises, one about marriage, and one about parenting. I almost always choose the one about parenting because, well, that's where I always feel I fall short. But, really, how many of these classes do I need? NOT that I'm anywhere near a perfect parent at this point, but after awhile, they all tend to impart the same advice and wisdom. So why am I not getting it? In pondering this question and these classes, I had an epiphany. Not an extraordinary one because it's something that really ought to be obvious to a Christian: No matter how many self-help books I read or study on marriage and parenting, I will never become a more Godly wife OR mother unless I focus on my relationship with God, on who I am in Christ. So I opted for the class entitled God's Enduring Promises.
Apparently no one my age has had the same epiphany. Or maybe they just haven't read as many self-help books on marriage and parenting because there was not too much middle-aged youth represented in the room. But you know what? There is always time for forming new friendships with my peers. And who says I can't develop friendships with the older folks? And who knows? Maybe those older folks, being wiser and all that, will offer me parenting and marriage advice...a three-for-one class!
For some reason, that suggestion always cures the snacking hunger.
This morning about 10 minutes after breakfast, Audrey wanted to know if there was anything to eat.
"You just ate," I reprimanded.
"But I'm still hungry," she countered, a little on the whiny side.
"I've got some carrots," I offered with little conviction.
Her eyes lit up. "O-tay!" she said.
"Ooooo-kaaaay," I said (to myself).
So my How-to-Get-Out-of-Making-Them-a-Snack Plan backfired. But I'm OK with that.
"Mommy." It was a statement but said in such a way as to obtain permission to digress from the work at hand.
"When I'm away from my babies for just 10 minutes, Belle watches them. She puts on shows for them to watch."
"You know," I suggested hopefully, "you could tell Belle she could read stories to the babies. Because reading books is so much more fun than watching TV."
"Oh, yeah," she said thoughtfully, "they read books. And watch shows."
"What do they watch?" I asked.
"The babies watch Dora. Belle watches the news."
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
But Normal is good. Normal means that we're waking up around the same time each morning (so long as I lay off the Snooze button). It means that our school days take on a rhythm, one that becomes so familiar even to the kids that each beat flows smoothly into the other.
Normal means that at 8:00 on Tuesday mornings we tumble into the car with full backpacks, and we load the CD player with whatever new digital adventure we wish to share, and we head downtown to spend an hour and a half with some kids who truly need others to spend some quality time with them.
Normal means that after Bright Futures, we find some drive-thru so our bellies will be full as we head to co-op. And at co-op, even with a new semester of new classes, the underlying rhythm has already been established, and the kids just know what to do.
And finally, Normal means that we once again become accustomed to the absence of TravelDaddy. He is never truly absent, though. And I don't mean just in the cheesy way that he is always in our hearts, but he is after all just a phone call away.
There are, of course, always variations which weave their way into our normalcy. For example, yesterday we did not pull into a drive-thru after Bright Futures. We did not do that because my children have discovered that when it comes to setting family traditions, I am a mom on a mission. So when they ask if we can go to Applebees, and I say, "No, I don't want to spend the money", all they have to say is,
"But, Mom, it's Tradition. We always go to Applebees on the first day of co-op."
And they know that once our meal has ended and they ask if they can have the Chocolate Chip Cookie Sundae and I say, "No, I don't want to spend the extra money", all they have to say is,
"But, Mom, it's Tradition. We always share a Chocolate Chip Cookie Sundae when we come to Applebees to celebrate the first day of co-op."
So really I suppose the argument could be made that even though certain things cause the Normal to vary a bit, since those variations are what we always do, they're still Normal.
Sunday, January 10, 2010
And it didn't take long in the frigid temps to begin to accumulate. The fact that, by Canadian standards, the accumulation was nothing to brag about did not stop the kids from sweeping the driveway to gather enough snow for a couple of pitiful little snowballs to chuck at each other.
I promised them that there would be more in the morning as the forecast called for 1-2 inches in our area. After 30+ years of living, you would think I would know better than to trust a forecast because the next morning, I awoke to find Michael sitting in the dining room staring forlornly out the window.
For more Winter photos, visit I Should Be Folding Laundry.
Friday, January 8, 2010
Over the last couple of years, I have kept my eye on Sue Patrick's Workbox System. I like the theory behind the system, especially for my hands-on learner. However, I haven't wanted to fork over the money for the system, plus since our house has been perpetually For Sale, I didn't want to further clutter our home with workboxes.
So, with 5 years of tweaking experience and now 3 children who are reading fluently, I have finally found the system that works for us. We'll call it Kathleen's Two-Dimensional Workbox System. Here's how it works:
- Check the work he did today for accuracy. Anything that needs to be reviewed the next day because of errors, I mark on my Mommy's Daily Schedule in the slot marked "Jacob".
- I then fill in the workbox on his Workbox Sheet for that subject so that he knows what he must accomplish in that subject the next day.
- For any subjects he will do with me the next day, I simply write "(with Mom)" in the box.
- I cross out any subjects he will not need to do the next day.
- I giggle when I find things like "cool dood" written across the top of any of his papers.
- I place his completed Workbox Sheet plus any papers he will need the next day in his folder and put it and his books on his bookshelf.
I begin the next day by doing a couple of subjects with the boys together. Currently, I am doing Math Made Meaningful 3 with the both of them so they will gain a better understanding of what exactly they are doing when they multiply and divide. After math, we work on Four Square Writing, a book I picked up at The School Box. Although I am a writing teacher, and although I had some high school students who could write no better than a second grader, I have a difficult time teaching them from square one, so this program helps me teach them to organize and add detail to their writing.
After my time with the boys, I will meet one-on-one with each child while the others go to their folders, get their books, and go to work, crossing out each workbox as each task is completed.
I had a similar system going the first part of this year, and its near-success told me I was on to something; however, for my visual/kinesthetic learner, the simple checklist I provided still left a lot of room for error of omission (either that, or he just used "I didn't see it on my list" as a very convenient excuse). This visual two dimensional box system came to me while I was lying on the massage table of a one Dr. Quack. And it's working beautifully so far. There have only been two small details missed this week.
So, one down, 22 more to go. Crossing my fingers that the kids' great attitudes and my enthusiasm will not waver. If you need me, I'll be filling in workboxes and admiring my clean pantry.