Sunday, June 28, 2009

Smoothie Summer

We've been living on smoothies this summer -- we make them about 3-4 times a week!

This is how we make them:

- 8-10 ice cubes
- 1 banana
- 10 frozen strawberries
- 1 cup milk (or slightly more)
- 1/4 cup sugar

All mixed together in a blender.

I varied it by using a mixture of frozen blueberries/strawberries/raspberries, but everyone agreed the original recipe was better.

I tried being daring and found a recipe on-line for a "Cherry Coke Smoothie." YUM, did that sound good!

It was not.

We will continue to stick with the tried and true.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Today was Cooking Day!

As you've probably noticed, I am in a constant quest for better organizing my time, home, meals, children, and life in general.

I recently re-read (well, re-skimmed) a popular book called Side-Tracked Home Executives: From Pigpen to Paradise.

Mostly, it irritated me.

It irritated me for several reasons, but the main one was this:

The core of their plan is to have a weekly schedule. For example, one day should be Errand Day, when you run all the errands for the week (including any your husband needs done). Another day is Heavy Cleaning Day, where you clean for 4-6 hours.

Why does this bug me? Because they do not spend a single sentence discussing what to do with, or how to manage, your children when you are doing these six hours of cleaning (or several hours of errand-running.) At least one of the authors had three children under the age of six when she discovered and began implementing this plan ... and yet, she says nothing (that I can see) about how she went about pulling it off.

Well gee, Pam and Peggy, I know I need to clean. If I knew how to clean for hours and hours in spite of my kids, I wouldn't be reading your stupid book!

What does all this complaining have to do with Cooking Day, you ask?

Well, one thing they said was to have one day a week be Baking Day, and to only agree to make cookies for the PTA -- or whatever -- if it fits into your Baking Day schedule.

I liked that idea. And then I had a sudden, brief flash of genius of how to do it: Why, use the principles from Managers of Their Homes, of course!

So, this morning I set the timer for 35 minutes while I cooked with Rachael, while Benjamin and Becca played together in another room. Then, 35 minutes cooking with Becca while Rachael and Benjamin played together, then 35 minutes cooking with Ben while Rachael and Rebecca played together.

It was very cool. I felt very smart. Nobody was fighting over who got to measure the sugar or who got to stir. Nobody was getting in each other's way. Nobody got bored with baking before we were done. Everybody (believe it or not) enjoyed their limited time with one sibling.

Here's what we made:
- Two pans of lasagna
- A double batch of Peanut Butter and Jelly Muffins, from The Sneaky Chef.
- A double batch of Cocoa Chocolate Chip pancakes, also from The Sneaky Chef.

I actually was hoping to make more, but I'm still pretty pleased. Keep in mind that this was all accomplished before lunch. I do still have to make dinner for tonight though. I'll quickly do that by myself when I'm done typing this.

I hadn't planned this, but we had the muffins for lunch. They were pretty cool; there's a blob of jam "hidden" inside the muffin. Since they have also have peanut butter, sweet potatoes, carrots, wheat germ, and wheat flour, it was probably the healthiest lunch we've had for a while.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Rachael's favorite books

For her 8th birthday, Rachael was given the first three books in The Magic Tree House series. And now, about ten minutes ago, she finished reading Book 10 and just ran into the room to get Book 11.

These are the first actual books that Rachael is reading (other than a few picture books she read a few months ago.) It's also the first time she is reading on her own initiative.

Fortunately, there are ... what? ... thirty or forty books in the series, so that will keep her going for a while.

By the way, you can go to their website, and download a Passport Book. Then, for every book you read, you can answer three questions on-line to get a passport to add to the designated spot in your book.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

I finally discovered Tori Amos!

Ever since college I've been a fan of Kate Bush. Wonderful, Hugely-Underappreciated-in-America Kate Bush, who is an amazing songwriter, musician, producer, dancer, choregrapher, and all-around Brilliant Genius.

Sometime in the 90's, when I used to spend a lot more time in my car, I heard a song called "Cornflake Girl" on the radio. I thought, "Oh wow, does Kate Bush have something new out?"

No, turned out it was someone named Tori Amos.

Who's that?

Was she someone I should like? Or should she tick me off for daring to try to copy Kate the Billiant Genius? Was she just another in a somewhat tired line of 90's female artists, like Sheryl Crow, Joan Osborne, Sarah McClaughlin, Courtney Love, and Alanis Morisette?

It was a question that, believe it or not, sort of dimly lingered in the back of my mind for over a decade. I kept thinking I was going to "research" Tori Amos, and then never did. I later realized she did a song called "Crucify," which had never particularly impressed me. Eh, I thought, probably just a lame wannabe.

And then, two nights ago, I happened to stumble on Tori Amos on VH1 Storytellers. I watched it. I watched it twice. I did searches to read the lyrics.

And ...

Oh Yes. No one else can be Kate, but Tori is Quite Amazing.

The one thing I think she does have over Kate is that she is a better piano player. Also, she scores an extra point for being a redhead (and quite a quirky one at that).

Watch "Precious Things" to see what I mean.

(Warning: When I graduated college, my roommate Sara said to me, "Of all the many many things you always listened to, the only one I really couldn't tolerate was Kate Bush." Yes, she is quite an acquired taste, and I think Tori could be as well.)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Mixed-up Kids

A few weeks ago, Rachael and Benjamin decided to dress up as each other:

Rachael, as Benjamin, is wearing only a T-shit and is holding a car.
Benjamin, as Rachael, is wearing Rachael's dress, Hannah Montana wig, and Hannah Montana microphone.

Then everybody got into the act!
Here's Benjamin as Rachael, Rebecca as Benjamin, and Rachael as Becca.

Here's Rebecca as Benjamin, in the Official Position of a Little Boy Playing.
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Rob's latest project

My husband could live to be 200 years old and never run out of thngs to do. Last year he made this.
Right now he is building steps on the hill in the backyard. It's a big job. He spent at least about 12 hours on it just this weekend.

Here's a picture of Rachael.

[Good grief, I just received a comment from an old friend -- who has never even met my children -- correctly pointing out that it is not Rachael, but Rebecca. Not good, Jen ...]

There was one of Benjamin too, but he was, um, naked, so I won't post that one. :)

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Thursday, June 11, 2009


I apologize. I really do.

But I so, so, so love it when I feel like I've had a productive day. So please, let me talk just one more time about how helpful Managers of Their Homes was today.

We had not been doing the "MOTH schedule" for a few weeks (intentionally) because we had VBS and dance rehearsals and doctor visits and some other things. But today we got back on it, and again I am just struck by how much we accomplished.

It is 6:15 pm as I type this. This is what we did today:

- Washed all bedsheets in the house and got them all back on all the beds;

- Rachael did one math worksheet and one phonics worksheet

- Rachael and I did both All About Spelling and Easy Grammar together

- Rachael read her American Girl magazine

- The girls and I read two books that we had done Five in a Row unit studies with earlier this year (Gramma's Walk and Miss Rhumphius)

- The girls and I later finished reading The Doll House by Rumer Godden (I liked it more than they did; perhaps they'll like it a bit better when they're older)

- The girls put away two loads of clean laundry

- The kids and I went to the pool for about two hours

- Rebecca and I worked with Perler beads (aka "fuse beads")

- Rebecca, Benjamin, and I played Candy Land (well, uh ... our version of it ...)

- The girls and I made a noodle kugel for dinner (yes, I know that's a strange dinner, but it's like that Bill Cosby routine: "Eggs! Eggs are in kugel! And cottage cheese! And wheat!")

- The girls and I made Monkey Bread -- It's ready to be put in the oven first thing in the morning

- The girls and made pineapple upside-down cake (from scratch -- ooh!) I'll put that in the oven while we're eating dinner

- I read a Mother Goose book to Benjamin before his nap

- I washed a load of towels (although I have not put them away yet)

Not to mention that I also took a 30-minute nap, and got to play the piano for about 10 minutes.

And don't forget, I don't even wake up very early -- usually around 7:30 pm.

After dinner, I'm hoping to whip up some homemade play-doh with the kids -- ya know, the kind where you add Kool Aid to give it color (and a nice smell). I've never done that with Benjamin yet. We'll see. I would love to work out after the kids are in bed, but I think that may be asking too much.

Yes, I feel good. Today was definitely a good day.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Crazy crazy busy week

I wrote last year about how exhausting the week of VBS was. Well, this year was even worse!

I dropped the girls off at church every morning at 9:00 (which, frankly, was somewhat of a challenge in itself). Then I had a little over two and a half hours to run around with Benjamin doing things like:

* Car emmissions
* Grocery shopping
* Benjamin's pediatrician check-up
* Library (twice)
* Laundry
* Returning things to Kohl's (twice)
* Dropping off some resumes at wedding venues (I am a pianist, if you didn't know)

Okay, then pick girls back up at noon, make everybody lunch, home for the rest of the day ....

Except Wednesday.

Oh, and Thursday.

On Wednesday both girls had their dance dress rehearsals at Georgia Tech. Rebecca's was at 2:00 pm, and Rachael's was at 5:00 pm.

So ... on Wednesday, when I went to pick the girls up at church at noon, I packed Rebecca's costume and hair bows, brought a cooler with lunches for everybody, we ate lunch at the church playground, then drove straight to Tech, had Rebecca change, sat through her rehearsal, had her change back, we all drove home, then Rachael got her hair and costume ready, her friend's mother came and picked her up, and she went to her rehearsal, then they went to the Varsity for dinner, and Rachel got home at bedtime.


Then on Thursday I had to come home and make brownies to bring to the VBS evening cookout, and then we had to go to the VBS evening cookout, and ... well, now it's Friday and everything over. Except that the girls' dance recitals are tomorrow, and Rachael's is in the morning and Rebecca's is in the evening, so ... well, it's not quite over yet, is it?

I get the impression that some parents live like that all the time. Thank goodness we don't.

Meanwhile, here is Rebecca at her rehearsal:

She looked a little like Cindy Brady, I thought.

Here she is with another girl in her dance class.

Rachael instantly made friends with the other girl's older sister, who she had never met before.

And of course Benjamin wanted to get it on all this too.
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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The ten year old "school advocate" at our pool

Last night at our pool, I was greeted by a little girl in our neighborhood who just finished fifth grade and is very friendly. She talked to me for quite a while -- about dance classes and softball practice, about how she has to make her bed every morning before she is allowed to watch TV, about how her little sister is more messy than she is.

It occurred to me while we were chatting that I feel more comfortable and "in my element," so to speak, talking with a ten year old girl than talking with an adult. I'm not quite sure what that says about me, but there it is.

Anyway, this little girl (who attends public school) also talked to me about homeschooling. This didn't surprise me, because I remember her bringing that up before. Last summer, for example, when she was nine, she had said to me, "Aren't you worried that they won't be able to get good job when they're adults?"

I don't remember what my response was.

Last night she said to me, "I think you should send them to school. They would make a lot of friends, they would get a better education, and you would have more time to go shopping and things."

"Well," I said, matching her level of seriousness, "even if they went to school, I would still have Benjamin home with me."

"Yes," she said, "but it would be easier taking one child with you than three."

"That's true," I said.

Then she said, "What if you do send them to school one day? Would they start at the grade that other kids their age are in, or would they start at kindergarten?"

"Oh," I said, "I doubt the school would put them in kindergarten if they were eight or nine years old. Maybe they would take a placement test, or maybe we would just put them in the grade they would normally be in at their age."

Since homeschooling "didn't exist" when I was ten years old, it's rather amusing to hear a child's thoughts on it. I wonder why it is so interesting to her. I wonder if it makes us seem odd -- or fascinating. Or maybe she simply feels it's important that she talk me out of it.

Either which way, I like her, and I hope to have another pool visit with her again.

Monday, June 1, 2009

My sweet Becca

There's just something about my little Becca ....

While we were celebrating Benjamin's third birthday outside,
the girls ran off with the digital camera, and Rachael took several pictures of Rebecca.

Coming down the slide, wearing her "party clothes"!

Ta-Da! Made it down the slide!

Making a wish on a dandelion ...

Interestingly, I just realized that I posted something very similar almost exactly a year ago, and called that post "Pretty Pretty Becca."
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