Wednesday, December 31, 2008

1,235lb New Years Present


Nope. I didn't get a 1,235lb New Years present. But someone did. A few years back... ;)

In 1801, citizens of Cheshire, Massachusetts, believing their cheese to be superior, decided to make a giant round of cheddar for President Thomas Jefferson. They delivered it to the Presidential New Year's party in 1802. The tale is captured in A Big Cheese for the White House; The True Tale of a Tremendous Cheddar, a picture book by Candace Fleming. The last several nights, it's been 'LilDude's book of choice.

If you are a homeschooler (or just want to do some lessons at home), this book is "ripe" with content perfect for lessons: cheesemaking, problem solving, math (from years since this occurred to numbers of cows to weight of the cheese), geography (track the cheese's progress from Mass. to Washington, D.C.), history, to characterization. The character of Phineas Dobbs is especially intriguing to 'LilDude. Phineas repeatedly protests, "It can't be done," and later proudly states to President Jefferson, "Cheshire cheese...[is] the best you can serve at your table."

It's a fun book to read. And no better time than New Year! :)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Taco Soup

Taco soup is a staple at our house. I have made it so often, I no longer follow a recipe. (That's BIG for me!) But for the benefit of taco soup "newbies" :), I'll post a recipe, followed by some of the modifications I've made over the years...

This is the kind of inexpensive, nutritious "fast food" we like!


Taco Soup


1 lb ground beef
chopped onions (amount to taste)
1/2 c. taco sauce or 1 pkg taco seasoning or 2-3 t. chili powder (to taste)
2 (16 oz) cans kidney beans (I drain)
2 (16 oz) cans stewed tomatoes
1 (16 oz) can tomato sauce
1 can corn, undrained
1-2 cans creamed corn

Brown beef and onions. Add seasoning of choice. Add beans, tomatoes and sauce, corn. Mix well. Bring to boil, then simmer, covered, 15 minutes.

Optional toppings: grated cheese, tortilla chips (broken from bottom of bag is great for this!), sour cream

Notes: Before I started gardening, this took a lot of canned goods. (I always knew when Taco Soup was on the menu by the number of cans in the dishwasher after dinner.) Now, I use a lot of garden goodies...

I brown the beef with onion, adding chopped green peppers and diced jalapenos from the freezer. I generally use chili powder as the seasoning (least expensive) or homemade Mexican seasoning. I throw in a full quart of canned tomatoes, a pint of homemade tomato sauce and a couple cups of frozen corn. The only canned good I use is the kidney beans. When I'm truly ambitious (not often), I buy kidney beans in bulk, cook them, and freeze. They are significantly cheaper than canned beans.

Raised Winter Beds


A couple of weeks ago, we enjoyed a salad, harvested from our raised beds. (Including a last tomato that was wrapped in newspaper, green, earlier this fall.)



And then it started SNOWING. I went out and harvested anything of any size (mustard, lettuce, spinach, kale), figuring that it would all freeze, turning into a slimy mess. Here's some mustard, peeking out from under the snow, along with a shot of the raised bed, with window cover.



Now that the 14+ inches of snow have melted, I was able to peek into the beds today. Imagine my surprise to discover that it's all survived...including the mustard that was NOT under glass. It's not growing fast, but it survived temperatures into the teens. Makes me hopeful that we'll be able to eat more greens soon!

Monday, December 29, 2008

God's Little Surprises

Been thinkin' about God stuff.

As a kid, I had some vague notion that God could "call" you to something you might not want to do. Hate to do. I could just see some poor missionary getting tied up and thrown onto a jet, kicking and screaming. I suppose that's not too far off...after all, Moses certainly wasn't thrilled with the idea of speaking to Pharoah. And I'm sure Jonah had a few other more appealing options.

Whatever the case, my perspective changed. I still believed that God called people to certain things, but I no longer felt personally threatened. I didn't think God would stick me in the middle of the Amazon if I desperately didn't want to go. Nor did I think I'd be forced to preach to the masses or dig sewage lines in Ethiopia if I was totally opposed to it.

But there was a scenario I didn't consider...

What if God presented an opportunity that had never even occurred to me? Something that I wasn't particularly opposed to, but was entirely "off my radar."

Lately, it seems like callings of this sort keep happening. Lately, I find myself frequently surprised by God. It's all "who woulda thought??" material...

Who woulda thought I'd be taking questions on adoption from people thousands of miles away?

Who woulda thought I'd be earning money in the (gulp) field of mathematics (???!!!???) and LIKING IT????!!!!!! (And who woulda thought that all these jobs would appear at the exact moment that we financially needed it?)

Who woulda thought that I'd be raising step, bio, and adoptive children and learning so much from all of them?

And who woulda thought that God has such a big sense of humor when it comes to puny little me?...

Not long ago, I was pondering yet another God surprise. I wasn't dreading this particular thing. But it was so different from anything that I'd ever considered, that I wanted to be very, very sure that God was actually knocking on my door. "Are you sure it's me you're wanting, God???" I'd already said "yes" to what I thought was a "call" but my human brain was still slapping the idea around, trying to be absolutely sure, sure, sure (definitely my personality) that this was what I was supposed to be doing.

I often carry on conversations with God as I jog up and down my street. On this particular day, I was reflecting on something our pastor had recently shared. He'd arrived at church very early one morning just to see a deer crossing the parking lot. It's not something you see every day at our church. I don't remember his exact thoughts, but he took it as a special moment from God.

So I end my jog and lean against a fence. "God, it sure would be nice if I had some sort of a sign." I close my eyes. Sure would be cool if I got to have a "wildlife moment" too. I open my eyes and shake my head. Naw, that's ridiculous. Even if this is a call from God, God certainly isn't going to put some deer in my path. So I start back to the house.

Out of the corner of my eyes, something moves. I freeze. Along the back edge of our lawn, I see something. I assume it's Kuddles, our furry, black and white cat. But it waddles a little too much for Kuddles. I look closer. It's black and white all right. And furry. With a long, fluffy tail.

SKUNK!!!!!

It's fully daylight. Up until that moment, I'd never seen a skunk at our house in broad daylight. I'd actually only seen skunks a handful of times in the ten plus years we'd lived there.

God and I had a big 'ole laugh that morning.

I try to pay attention to surprise calls from God. But sometimes I wonder how many of them I miss because my life is so filled with one kind of clutter or another.

I'm trying, God. Listening. Looking for surprises. And ready to laugh.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Living Free of Clutter

I just read a thought-provoking article, "Enough is Enough," that talks about how frugality "doesn't mean cutting back or using only lower-cost ingredients. It means the wise use of resources and avoiding excesses." It goes on to talk about how letting go of clutter (of all kinds) opens "space in our lives for something new to happen." In the spirit of welcoming in the New Year, it's a great read.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Six Egg Day!!!!

Unbelievable!!!! Our seven hens managed to lay SIX eggs today! This is a new record! During our sub-freezing temperatures, we were down to about 3 eggs a day. As it's warming up, the production is increasing. And one egg was thin/odd today...so we think one of the chickens is laying for the first time.

Yea, chickens!!!!!! ;)

Burgerville Coupon

Here's a link for the locals...chocolate hazelnut milkshakes or smoothies at Burgerville! Til Jan. 4.

Christmas Present Less is More

Yesterday I experienced momentary panic. 'LilDude, like most young kids, woke me first thing in the morning wanting to open presents. As you might recall, last year we started a new tradition of exchanging names with a $20 spending limit per person. Everyone from the grandparents down to the youngest ('LilDude) only receive $20 worth of gifts for Christmas. That's it. So, like many parents, I started out Christmas with worry... Will this be enough to make my child happy? Will he like his gifts? Will his Christmas be memorable?

We ate breakfast and waited for the rest of the extended family to arrive. As soon as everyone gathered, 'LilDude began. BigSis drew his name and did an amazing job. She filled a giant stocking with all kinds of goodies. Individually wrapped (!!!!) lollypops and packages of gum. She'd creatively "recycled" some items that her secret dorm sister had given her this fall: bubbles, bouncy ball kit. She'd passed on her quarter collection book that 'LilDude has been aching to have. And she'd made a couple of very careful purchases: a Lego kit and a dinosaur drawing set. Everything was individually wrapped, which made for a lot of unwrapping fun. Even then, it took 'LilDude less than 5 minutes to unwrap his presents. Then he had a fabulous time watching everyone else open their gifts; he was VERY excited to watch "his person," Anakin, open his gift. But the emphasis wasn't on kids. Nobody was given more importance than anyone else, present-wise. Everyone enjoyed watching the others open. When it was over, 'LilDude put his Lego set together and has played with it and his dinosaur drawing kit ever since.

When he was done unwrapping, I could see the relief on his face. Calm, happy satisfaction. It was ENOUGH. He didn't need dozens of presents. Expensive presents. More presents than anyone else. He was happy with a little. A little went a very, very long way.

During the day, the emphasis was on family...playing games, eating, walking and playing in the snow. The day was all about people rather than being all about stuff. Thinking of the baby in the manger, that seems appropriate.

At bedtime when I asked 'LilDude if he'd had a good day, he nodded an emphatic yes. "I loved my presents," was one comment. Less was definitely more.

I'll try to remember not to worry next year. ;)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Holiday Pretzel Treats



Lizzi found this easy recipe for Holiday Pretzel Treats. They're pretty, yummy, and easy for kids to make. Now I just need to find fair trade chocolate in these shapes!

Winter Wonderland!!!!

I don't remember snow like this in my lifetime. We're enjoying it!




Can You Identify This Mystery Bird???

A bird keeps returning to our feeder that we can't identify. We're wondering if it's some sort of genetic variation. If you're a bird enthusiast and can enlighten us, we'd love to know what it is.



Monday, December 22, 2008

Books: The Story of Edgar Sawtelle & Twilight

Okay, I confess. I've had a little bit of time. And I've been reading instead of writing. (Hence the lack of recent posts.) I read two best-sellers, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle and Twilight.

Since The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is a newer Oprah book club selection, I waited several months to get it on hold from the library (all the while hearing a lot of hype about it) and only had two weeks to read the 576 pages. So, although it seemed rather slow in places, I kept plodding along, hoping it would get better.

It definitely got better--turned into a mystery, really--which kept me reading. But I also kept reading because I wanted justice for the characters. Without being a total spoiler, let me just say that I was EXTREMELY disappointed by the ending and felt like I'd wasted a lot of time getting to the end. I really should have known... What Oprah book club selection ever ends on a positive note???? None that I've read. Basically, if I want to feel depressed, it's always good to find an Oprah selection. Definitely her genre of choice. Not mine. This Amazon review and the comments that follow sum it up very nicely.

Although vampire books aren't my genre of choice either, I decided to read Twilight to see what Lizzi and her friends are so excited about. I did enjoy reading it. The author writes well, maintains a good balance between action and description, and is extremely good at dialogue and describing the emotions involved in falling in love. But the book also disturbs me. I know it's just a book. I know it's about vampires (hence it's fantastical fiction.) But I find it unnerving that a girl could fall so deeply in love with a guy--mostly based on his looks/aura--that she is willing to give up everything (life!!!) to be with him. The thought really turns my stomach. Yeah, it's romantic. But it's also freaky.

So, anyone else want to share their thoughts on either book? Or have better suggestions for me? ;)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Katy & the Big Snow Lessons


We have been more-or-less snowed in for the last week, plus. Four of the last five school days were canceled. Time for my public school kindergartener to experience some homeschooling. And what better topic than SNOW?!

We started by reading Katy and the Big Snow. Based on an idea in the Five in a Row curriculum, 'LilDude made a list of different places that you'd find in a town, particularly ones that are necessary for the town to function. (Hospital, police, fire, church, store, etc...) He then made a map, placing all the businesses in his imaginary town. He numbered his original list and used this as a map key.

Then, on a large piece of butcher paper, he drew the town, complete with roads, buildings (made of blocks), vehicles (got out all his cars, emergency vehicles, etc...)


We found quite a few snow lessons on the internet as well, including a place to make a snowman by reading some simple directions. On another fun site you can make virtual snowflakes.

We also read:

The Big Snow by Berta & Elmer Hader (Caldecott book)
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats (Caldecott book)
Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin (Caldecott book)
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost, illustrated by Susan Jeffers (we're working on memorizing this one)

It's amazing how many snow-themed books are Caldecott winners. The forecast calls for more snow. Homeschooling, here we come! :)

Leftover beef roast dinner

Have leftover beef roast?

Need a gluten, casein, corn, soy free dinner?

Here's an easy and inexpensive hit...

Roast Beef Gravy & Rice

1 1/4 c. broth & water
(Making broth: I cooked the roast beef in the crockpot with 1 c. added water. After cooking, I strained the juices from the bottom and refrigerated. The next day, I removed the layer of fat from the top.)

Heat the broth in saucepan. If you are slightly short of broth, add a little water. Or, if you simply want more broth, add a little water to extend the recipe.

3/4 c. rice milk
1/4 c. brown rice flour
Use batter shaker or lidded jar to shake rice milk and flour til smooth. Add slowly to boiling broth, whisking until thickened.

1/2 t. salt
Add, to taste.

1-2 c. leftover roast, chopped
Add to gravy and heat.

Serve over cooked brown rice.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

November Food Budget

Finally finished adding in all the receipts from November! Here's our food spending totals:

Groceries (just food):

$252

add $43/month (we buy chicken/beef once a year, so adding a monthly amount)

Total for November food at home: $295 for a family of five (basically 4 adults, 1 child)

Eating out total, November: $51

Keeping track of our expenditures has made some difference in how much we eat out. A couple of times, we decided not to bother, based solely on how it would affect "the numbers." ;)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Back SOOOOOOONNNNNNN!!!!

Been so, so busy! I'll try to get back to writing soon... I especially want to look over our grocery budget from Nov. but I haven't had time to enter everything yet.

In the meantime, happy to report that the kids' Lego Robotics team took first place in the local competition on Saturday. To say the least, we were shocked! It's not been an easy lego year. The night before the competition I think we were all seriously wondering if we should even go to the competition. Perseverance paid off.

This week I'm working, working, working! Praise and thanksgiving that Anakin and I were saved from the car crash that happened inches in front of us on the way home from my job yesterday. It was terrifying to watch. Though shaken, we escaped with nothing more than bad memories. Thankfully, it didn't appear that anyone was hurt although it certainly had all the makings of an injury crash. Anakin nodded when I explained to him that THIS IS THE REASON THAT YOUR 12 YEAR OLD BODY IS NOT ALLOWED TO RIDE IN THE FRONT SEAT. I don't think that argument will come up again anytime soon.

Hopefully will have time to post after this busy week is over.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Birds (Chickens) and the Bees...

Well they had to learn sometime...

Today Anakin and 'LilDude were playing out in the 50+ degree sunshine. (Gorgeous, btw!) 'LilDude observed the rooster "attacking" one of the hens. Jumpin' on her and bitin' her and everything!!!! So he went to "save" the hen.

The rooster went on a slight rampage after 'LilDude. Anakin rescued him. They both ran breathlessly up to the house, "Mom! Come here! Quick!" to tell me about the attack rooster. I explained that when a rooster is interrupted in the process of making baby chickens that he probably isn't very happy and, yes indeedy, he will probably chase you. It was an eye opening moment for all.

Dog Days



I've never considered myself a dog person. Although we had a dog growing up, he was outdoors and I was thought to be allergic, so I never spent much time with him.

Four kids later...

I think Lizzi started asking for a dog about as soon as she could talk. Almost two years ago we finally relented. We found ourselves in the same boat that Obama mentions...although we would have just as soon picked a mutt from the pound, allergies forced us to look at more $$$ dogs. We finally selected a mini labradoodle. For the longest time, I tried to keep her relegated to only certain areas of the house. To me, dogs were still outdoor creatures and not something that just wanders the house.

Well, Sara the dog proves that even I can change.

Sara has gradually taken over the house. I regularly trip over her while making dinner. But I never have to pick any food off the floor. We vacuum more often. But I always have a soft doggie to warm up my legs while I sit on the couch. And...I love this...when one of the kids is sick, Sara is quick to find them and snuggle in while they rest. Tonight, 'LilDude came down with a fever of 102. (Likely thanks to a visit to the pediatrician on Monday for a flu mist. After consulting with a few people, I'm guessing that it's more likely from the germs he picked up on the visit than it is from the actual vaccination.) I just put him to bed with Sara snuggled in to keep him company. Even when 'LilDude isn't sick, she often likes to go to bed with him, if only for a little while. He appreciates not having to go to bed alone.

We love you, Sara!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Meal Plan Monday

My first Meal Plan Monday post!!!!

What's for dinner this week?

Monday: Curried Sweet Potato Chowder (see previous post)

Tuesday: Easy Curry with Rice (More With Less cookbook), broccoli, apples

Wednesday: Meatloaf, Frugal French Fries, Squash and Apple Bake

Thursday: Thanksgiving Dinner @ Mom's. Bring Butternut Squash Casserole.

Friday: Chicken & Veggie Stirfry (More With Less cookbook)

Day 48, Curried Sweet Potato Chowder (93...Free!)


In the days leading up to Thanksgiving, sweet potatoes are usually a pretty good deal. I just picked up 4 for $1.75 (3lbs @ .58/lb) at our local grocery. Not a bad time to stock up. Since sweet potatoes rank #1 among veggies, you really get a lot of nutritional bang for your buck.

The following recipe for Curried Sweet Potato Chowder comes from our church camp. I liked it so much I asked for the recipe. The odd amounts are no doubt the result of reducing a camp recipe to a serving size of 8.

Curried Sweet Potato Chowder

2/3 onion, chopped
1 1/2 T. oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 t. curry powder
4 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 1/8 lbs chicken broth
5/8 lb coconut milk, unsweetened (I used about 2/3rd of a can)
dash ginger, to taste
dash pepper, to taste
dash salt, to taste

In soup pot, cook onion in hot oil over medium heat. Add curry and garlic and cook until onion is tender. Add sweet potatoes, chicken broth, coconut milk and ginger. Bring to boil. Reduce heat. Simmer, covered, 10-15 minutes until sweet potatoes are tender. Cool slightly.

Remove half the mixture from pot and in small batches, place mixture in blender and blend until smooth. Return to soup mixture in pot. Add pepper and salt; heat through.

Serve with peanuts and raisins for toppings, optional.

Day 47, Another Free Online Photo Book! (93...Free!)

On Saturday, I mentioned that I made a free photo book through Snapfish. Today I found another offer. SimpleMom outlines an offer through Inkubook where you can design your own photo book online for free. You just pay postage. See the SimpleMom site for details and promotion code.

And if you're waiting for your toddler/older child to arrive home, consider making an Adoption Welcome Book.

Day 46: Sweet Vegetables Using Butternut Squash (93...Free!)


My favorite international recipes generally come from Extending the Table...A World Community Cookbook. I recently tried one from Indonesia called "Sweet Vegetables." This sweet, creamy vegetable sidedish tasted exotic...and yummy! Coconut milk isn't cheap, but all the vegetables are from home. I'm on a mission to use butternut squash! ;) Here's my version of the dish...

Sweet Vegetables (Indonesia)
from Extending the Table

In a saucepan, bring to boil:

2 c. coconut milk
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c. onion, diced
1 t. ginger root, minced
1/2 t. ground turmeric
2 t. salt
diced jalapeno, to taste

When boiling, add 3 c. cubed butternut squash. You may substitute up to half the squash with green beans. (I used beans directly from the freezer.) Simmer until squash is tender.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Day 45, FIVE egg days! (93...Free!)

The last two days we've gathered FIVE eggs a day (from our seven hens). Friends have mentioned that their chickens are reducing egg production as the days get shorter. It seems that some extra light makes a big difference. We have a timer set on a 40 watt bulb in the chicken mansion to go on at 4 am, off at 7 am. That 3 hours seems to matter. We're also totally free ranging them for a good share of the day. We let 'em out of the coop to wander. They are tame enough that they seem to come back to the coop when we go out there. I love it that they are eating stuff other than purchased chicken feed! ;) They eat a lot!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

My 6-year-old poet!

Today 'LilDude decided that he was going to write a poem. This was all his idea. He gathered his pen and paper and lay down on our cold, concrete front step and looked out at the trees. And wrote.

Day 45, Adoption Welcome Book (93...Free!)

A week or so ago, Snapfish had a coupon offer to get a free 8 x 11" photo book for the price of shipping. The book is regularly $29.99 and shipping is $6.99. I decided to try it.

I made a book to welcome our new family member. The book basically shows "a day in the life of" our family. We plan to take it along and spend time looking at it with him while we're still in China...using it to acquaint him with our home, family, routine, etc... Feel free to use the concept to make your own book to welcome a child into your family. Here's the text I used with notes on the photos I used.

1. It's morning! (shows house photo)
2. Time to wake up! (each family member waking up in bed)
3. Mommy cooks eggs. We eat breakfast. (photos of each action)
4. We feed the chickens. Gather the eggs.(related photos)
5. We feed Sara (dog) and the cats.(related photos)
6. We get ready for the day (photos of brushing hair, shaving, etc...)
7. We go to work and school (school bus, car)
8. At home we work and play. (related photos)
9. Sometimes we play inside. Then we go outside. (outdoor/indoor photos)
10. We play. We work in the garden. (related photos)
11. Grandpa and Grandma visit. We go to Nana and Poppa's. (photos of them)
12. On Sunday we go to church and see our friends. (church, friend photos)
13. We like to go on trips. It's fun to ride in the motorhome. (related photos)
14. We go camping.(related photos)
15. We go to the mountains and the beach.(related photos)
16. But it's nice to come home. (interior home shots)
17. It's fun to swim. And play ball.(related photos)
18. (photos of all siblings)
19. We love you, _________! (family photo)
20. Welcome to the family! (photo of child)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Day 44, Frugal and Gluten Free??? (93...Free!)

Some of us were discussing food budgets on a family forum. One of the things that came up was the high cost of gluten free bread. When we learned that 'LilDude needed a gluten free diet, bread was high on my list of concerns. We've naturally cut waaaaaayyy back on bread...especially sandwiches. But we still need some sandwich bread as well as bread for toast (to go with eggs.)

Gluten free bread is about $5/loaf...a SMALL loaf. It's about the same for gf bread mix. So I bake. About once every 4-6 weeks, I make 4 loaves of gluten free bread using The Gluten-free Gourmet Bakes Bread. My favorite recipe is the "Basic Featherlight Rice Bread." To me, the taste and consistency is closest to that of wheat bread. It's a delicious bread...crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. And it smells delicious when baking.



The bread does not bake up very high. (If it's supposed to, I've never figured it out!) But the size is perfect for 'LilDude. Two slices of this bread make what looks like half of a regular sandwich. If he's really hungry, I make him two sandwiches since they're small.



After the bread cools, I slice it and freeze in zippered bags. I put two piece of bread face-to-face and lay them that way in the bag so I can easily pull out enough for one sandwich at a time.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Day 43, Crockpot Beef Stew (93...Free!)

I usually make beef stew following the recipe that came with my crockpot. It's good, but with some modifications I tried yesterday, it was the best beef stew I've ever made. I was particularly happy with it because pretty much everything came from the garden...always a plus! ;) Here's what I did...

Beef Stew

1 lb stew meat cut into small pieces
1/4 c. flour (gluten free for us)
1 t. salt, or to taste
1/2 t. pepper, or to taste
1 1/2 c. boiling water
1 t. Worcestershire sauce
1 bay leaf
1/2 t. paprika
4 carrots, sliced
4 potatoes, diced
1/2 onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, sliced (with leaves, chopped)
2 t. Kitchen Bouquet (opt.)
1 - 2 c. corn

Place meat in crockpot. Mix in flour, salt, pepper, stirring with meat to coat. Add 1 1/2 c. boiling water and stir. Cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours. (I did this part first thing in the morning.)

After 4-5 hours (around lunch time), add all remaining ingredients EXCEPT corn. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or til veggies are cooked. Add additional (boiling) water toward end of cooking time if you want it more "soupy." Add corn in the last 30 minutes of cooking, enough to heat it up. Green beans are another great addition.

Note: If you can't add ingredients in the middle of the day, it works to do it all day on low heat. I just think it turned out better when I cooked the meat for awhile before adding everything else.

Free Hannah Overton



If you haven't seen this 20/20 show, I highly encourage you to watch it. It's available to watch in 3 parts on YouTube.

It made me feel ill. It could have happened to any parent...particularly a parent of an adoptive child with special needs. To summarize, a child died of salt poisoning and the mother has been convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.

The child clearly had undiagnosed attachment/trauma issues. He also had Pica. The day he died the mom nodded off for a few moments (she'd been in a car accident and was on bedrest with a pregnancy). Soon after she got up, he had a major tantrum and vomited. He seemed cold and she put him in a warm bath, thinking he was getting the flu. 90 minutes later when he still didn't seem okay, they took him to urgent care. At urgent care's doorstep, he went into convulsions and basically went into system failure. They immediately took the parents into questioning and WOULDN'T ALLOW THEM NEAR THE CHILD EVEN AS HE LAY DYING. He died the next day.

She says that he had huge food issues (confirmed by others.) That day, he tantrumed over wanting more soup. He had two bowls of soup that was flavored with a Cajun salt seasoning. In order to end his tantrums, she gave him a sippy cup of water, tinged with a sprinkle of the same salt flavoring in the hopes that he'd stop tantruming. If you know anything about RAD (reactive attachment disorder), you know how bad the "tantrums" might be.

Later they found out he'd been poisoned with salt. Experts say that they believe that when she nodded off to sleep for a moment that he got into the salt and ate a lot of it (because of the Pica.) The prosecution wanted to say that she force-fed him that much salt, which she denies. An expert says that he has investigated multiple cases of foster children with pica ingesting large quantities of salt and poisoning themselves.

They had a videocam in his bedroom for safety reasons...which the prosecution gave as proof that she was a bad parent. (I don't get that...why would videotaping a child to make sure he was SAFE be a BAD thing?) They also tried to show how much a monster she was by showing his bed--a sheet of plywood. But the day before, he'd gone into a rage and smeared feces all over his mattress and sheets. (Another RAD behavior.) They hauled the mattress out to clean it and had him sleep on their floor in a sleeping bag that night. They burned the sheets because they were so badly soiled. All of this the prosecution used to show how "monstrous" they were. By watching the story, it's pretty obvious (if you know anything about RAD) that they were trying the best they could to cope with some pretty severe behaviors. But they desperately LOVED their son and wanted only what was best for him. The mother had no idea that the child was near death. It's beyond me that anyone could think Hannah would purposely force feed him salt. The Pica theory makes sense. And the experts say that even medical professionals don't recognize the symptoms of salt poisoning when they see it.

She is now sentenced to LIFE IN PRISON. Her husband is trying to keep up their five other young children at home. (The youngest born while she was in prison.)

I frankly found it terrifying and unbelievable. BTW, in order for her to get a life sentence she had to be found guilty of one of two things:

1. purposely trying to kill him with salt (not proven at all)
2. purposely withholding medical attention when she knew he was dying.
(Even the expert said that with the rarity of salt poisoning, even most DOCTORS wouldn't be able to identify it. They jumped all over her for not getting help sooner. I'd say 90 minutes is pretty fast for "flu like symptoms", wouldn't you??)

When they interviewed two jurors, neither appeared at all sure of herself.

The whole thing is disturbing and bizarre. Like I said, it could have happened to any parent. Justice was not served.

If you are touched by her story and want to help, go to the Free Hannah Overton website and ask how you can help.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Day 42, 4 Egg Day!!!! (93...Free!)

Can't believe I ever complained about these chickens. Today we got 4 eggs (from our 7 hens!) We started giving them some time outside their chicken mansion yard, so maybe that's making them particularly productive. ;) Whatever the case, we like it!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Day 41, Christmas Cards (93...Free!)

Christmas cards and postage can be expensive. With envelopes, they use a lot of paper. Many get tossed after the holidays. It's time consuming to send them. And sometimes they seem unnecessary...especially for those that you see all the time.

I've been reading A Simple Christmas. One idea in particular caught my eye.

The author, Alice Chapin, describes how a church congregation (or other group that regularly meets) could save money by posting ONE Christmas card from each family on a bulletin board for the ENTIRE congregation rather than individually giving cards to every family. She then suggests using the money saved for a known financial need...either a charitable cause or a "project".

It seems that this could be applied to a lot of groups. For example, a playgroup (that regularly meets in one facility) could post cards in one location and use the money saved to purchase new supplies for the playgroup or to help a struggling local family buy Christmas gifts. Monies could be used to buy books for a library, stock a food pantry, or purchase warm clothing for local homeless.

In the case of some of the more elaborate photo cards, this could add up to quite a bit of money. Let's say that 20 families participated, each posting 1 card and donating the money they would have spent to distribute 19 cards. If each card costs 75 cents, that's:

19 cards/each family doesn't purchase x 75 cents/card x 20 families participating = $285

$285 could do a lot to purchase supplies for a group or to help a local family in need.

Lizzi, my 13yo, wrote a skit to introduce the concept to our congregation. Her 8th grade Sunday School class is raising money to buy warm clothing for homeless teens in our town. If anyone would like to modify the skit to fit their group, it's here for the taking! ;)


(Two kids standing center stage)

1: I wish I could do something to give the homeless kids in _____ a merry Christmas!

2: Me too. But with the economy like it is, I can’t spare anything.

1: I wish there was a way for us to earn money for those kids.

2: Yeah. Well, you know how we give Christmas cards to pretty much everyone in the congregation?

1: Yeah, so?

2: What if each family put one card on this bulletin board, and gave the extra money they saved by doing this to the homeless children in _____?

1: That would work, but I don’t buy Christmas cards! Think the adults could help us? Oh...here comes one now...

(#3 comes walking fast through door, muttering to self about x-mas letter.)

3:Dear Friends and family. This year has gone by without much of anything happening. No….. that won’t work. Dear Loved ones, I hope this Christmas finds you and your family safe. Ugh.. that’s too boring, everyone says that. I’m never going to write a good letter in time!

1: Um, excuse me?

3: No time to talk! What’s a good opening for the perfect letter? Oh, never mind.

2: Do you have a moment?

3: No one has a moment during the holidays!

1: We’re raising money for homeless children in _____, would you like to donate? It only takes a litt-

3: I don’t have time! Let’s see, Jimmy turned 3 this year, I could put that down…..

(3 walks off stage, still writing)
(kids shrug.)

2: Oh! Here comes someone else!

1: Let’s ask them!

(#4 comes in, arms full of envelopes)

1: Wow! That’s a lot of cards!

4: Yes, and I still have to address them all!

2: Would you like to donate your change to give the homeless a merry Christmas?

4: I would love to dear, but I have to get these cards mailed! I have to send one to ________ (list a dozen names known to the group), oh and then there's ____________ (list names until exited off stage),….

2: Whoa.

(#5 comes in, has an order form for cards)

2:What’s that you have?

5: The order form for my Christmas cards

(kids look at each other and grin.)

1: Are you interested in making homeless children happy this year?

5: Yeah, but what can I do?

2: What if we told you that there is a bulletin board up at church where you can put up one Christmas card, and everyone could see it?

1: Then you can donate the money you save to help the children in ______ without a home!

5: Okay!

(#6 comes in, carrying a bag of cards)

6: Hey guys! What’s going on?

5: These kids had a great idea! We can put up one Christmas card at church, and give the money we save to charity!

6: But, I already bought my cards!

1: You can still donate if you’re feeling charitable!

2: Maybe, 10% of what you spent on the cards?

6: Great!

(5+6 walk off, whispering excitedly.)
(1+2 walk up to microphone)

1: At _____ high school alone, over 50 kids have been identified as homeless. We can let them know that someone cares. By giving one card to the congregation, rather than giving individual cards to each family, you can not only save money, but time, stress, and brain cells. Not to mention paper.

2: I mean, _______ doesn’t change from Sunday to Sunday!

1: And _______ has looked the same for the past 15 years!

Starting next Sunday, we will be at the bulletin board to collect your cards and--if you like--your donation. They money you donate will be used to buy warm clothing and supplies for homeless teens in our town.

All: Help us put the Christ back in Christmas!

Day 40, 3 Egg Day! (93...Free!)

It's our first 3 Egg Day!!! We're cluckin with happiness! ;)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Day 39, Storing Tomatoes (93...Free!)


I've got good news and I've got bad news...

The bad news is that we tilled up our green tomatoes. Then I read about how you can save green tomatoes in newspaper for months while they slowly ripen.

The good news is that my parents still had some tomatoes, so I tried it. They are ripening!

The bad news is that they taste (at least so far) like store-bought tomatoes. Not like a garden tomato.

The good news is that at this time of the year, they are my only option. (I'm not buying store tomatoes!) So I'm grateful for them anyway. ;)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Day 38, Cabbage Salad (93...Free!)


In my effort to eat in season, I've been on the lookout for cabbage salad recipes. I want a fall/winter alternative to the traditional green salad since lettuce isn't a winter crop in our area. (Although I'm currently trying to push the limits in my covered, raised bed...I'll let ya know if it works.)

My family is big on Asian flavors so when I saw a recipe on Owlhaven for Asian Salad dressing recommended for use with cabbage, I gave it a try.

I made it yesterday afternoon. 'LilDude and Anakin cruised through the kitchen (this was about an hour before dinner), hoping for something to eat. I popped a piece of cabbage in each of their mouths. They grinned and each sat down to "snack" on a bowlful of this salad. I cut one small cabbage into thin shreds for the recipe and it was gone today. Needless to say, it was a hit.

Please visit Owlhaven to see the original recipe. I tweaked it slightly...

Asian Salad Dressing

* 3 cloves garlic, minced
* 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root (I used 1 t. ground ginger)
* 1/3 cup olive oil (or sesame oil is even better) (I put several large glugs of sesame oil at the bottom of a 1/3c. and then added olive oil til full)
* 1/3 cup white vinegar
* 1/3 cup soy sauce
* 3 tablespoons honey (I used 2 T. agave)
* 1/3 cup water

Mix well in a covered container. Heat slightly in a glass container in the microwave (w/out lid) in order to mix in the honey. I didn't heat it as much as recommended in the original recipe because the agave blended in pretty well without much heat.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Day 37, Eating in Season (93...Free!)

I've been thinking a lot about food. And about a comment that someone recently made...that you save money by what you DON'T buy. We often think of clipping coupons to save money. Or shopping sales. Or getting the best deal. But really, when it comes down to it, we do the best financially if we don't spend...or don't buy.

But you have to buy food, right? Well, unless you're completely self-sufficient you do. But there are still things we can do. We can avoid buying unnecessary items--pre-packaged foods, prepared foods--and things that are...

NOT IN SEASON!

Ever think about how much extra we pay to indulge cravings for apples in early summer? Strawberries and lettuce in winter? Oranges in July? It adds up. And off season foods aren't as good for us anyway. They've likely either traveled thousands of miles (with pesticide residues from out of country, unregulated), or they've sat in storage for months, losing nutritional value. The quality of food depreciates too. I just read an article in this week's paper talking about how apples don't bake well after spending months in cold storage.

I used to dislike the idea of eating in season. I thought I'd get tired of whatever was seasonal. But I'm changing. I enjoy eating from the season. Somehow it makes me feel more in harmony with the earth. In spring, we ate berries til we could eat no more. In summer, corn, beans, tomatoes.

In our household, eating in season often means not having to buy at all. At the moment, we're enjoying apples off our two trees. Butternut squash. Garden carrots and cabbage. Every bit we eat is one bit we don't have to buy.



I know not everyone has a garden. (This is for you, Ans!) But I've noticed that our raised beds and our pots produce a fair amount of food.



Here's my first attempt at CELERY. It's actually done better this fall than it did all summer. Maybe it's a cool weather crop? Whatever the case, it's producing pretty well at the moment. Since celery is one of the dirty dozen, I'm happy that it's finally producing.



We've switched to Fall/Winter crops in our raised beds. I'm currently trying to grow spinach, lettuce, kale, mustard, bok choy. We had our favorite kale salad with the thinnings today.

If you have space for even one backyard pot, it might be worth giving a few seeds a try. 'LilDude and I recommend it. He and I spent the afternoon outside, getting our share of vitamin D. And dinner was worth the effort. Tacos/rice/beans (with canned garden salsa and tomatoes from garage storage), cabbage salad (I'll post that tomorrow), sweet squash, and frozen blueberries. Satisfying sigh. :)

Cost of Food at Home

Someone on the Holt forum posted the "Official USDA Food Plans: Cost of Food at Home at Four Levels, U.S. Average, August 2007." It's quite fascinating. According to that data, the monthly "low-cost plan" (the lowest amount) means we should be spending $899/month for our family to eat at home. (In August 2007, that is.) Ouch.

Day 36, Snacks at School (93...Free!)

We don't eat a lot of in-between meal snacks. It's just not a habit we've ever started. During our homeschooling years we ate breakfast, lunch, dinner. No snacks. Now, with two kids in public school, it's a little different. Especially in kindergarten.

Kindergarteners are expected to take a snack each day. Thankfully, they are not allowed to bring drinks and are instead encouraged to use the water fountain. If drinks were required, I would invest in a BPA free water bottle and send it with water each day.

As far as snacks go, we've been able to send a healthy, gf/cf variety and not break the budget with pre-packaged foods. This year I've sent sliced apples, cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, bananas, dried fruit or nuts, pretzels, crackers, cereal, muffins, popcorn...none in snack packaging. Popcorn leftover from Sunday night snack time is one of the favorites. I usually put the snack in a small tupperware container (I have one with a turn lid) and it's always made it home.

What do you do for school snacks?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Day 35, Grocery Bill (93...Free!)

In an effort to eliminate unnecessary spending, we started recording all our expenditures last month. I've always thought that our food bill was low, but I wasn't sure exactly what it was. Here it is...you can decide if it's low. :)

Groceries**, Oct. 2008
(currently feeding family of 5 at home, including one who is gf/cf)
$323
**includes food only--no household supplies

Meat (2008-09 year)
I'm a little unsure as to how to account for this except to take the total and divide it by 12 months. We buy locally grown, primarily grass fed/free range meat and freeze it. So far this year we've purchased chicken and beef that should last 12 months (or more.) We have a down payment on half a pig that is to be butchered in December, but I don't have totals for that yet.

Chicken (20 birds, 100 lbs)
$225

Beef
$290

225 + 290 = 515 / 12 = $43/month (might be less if meat lasts more than 12 months--the beef certainly may)

So, with the meat addition, our Oct food bill was $366. Or just under $12/day for our family to eat. Not bad.

I tracked "Eating Out" separately. Last month we spent $76 on eating out. This includes pizzas and Chinese food we brought in, and all other restaurant meals. Obviously there weren't many. :) I'm pleased with this number and it's already made a difference in our expenditures this month. On Sunday, family members expressed interest in going out for a sit-down meal. The group included our family plus my parents. I conservatively estimated our cost at more than $50 for the group. When I mentioned that this was 2/3rds of the total "eating out" budget from last month, we agreed to stay home.

I'm very curious to see if the food budget holds steady this month. I would anticipate it being slightly higher during the holidays, but we'll see... We're certainly beating the recent KFC challenge (see the commercial?) to spend $10 or less on a family of 4 for dinner...I thought that smelled a little fishy. Chickeny?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Another Chickie Got the Hint!

Since we had one egg yesterday and one egg this morning, I assumed that one hen was laying. But we just found Egg #3!!!!!!!! Hallelujah! More than one of the Chicken Mansion Mommas got the hint!!!! :)

Seriously, this is FUN. ;)

Day 34, Miracles Continued... (93...Free!)


You've been holding your breath, waiting to find out what was inside THE egg, haven't you??? Well, here it is! Beautiful and currently baking in a gf coffee cake in my oven. :)

And the BEST NEWS??? The Chicken Mansion chickens laid Egg #2 this morning!!!!!!!! Maybe they'll make it a habit? (Only 6,998 to go!!!)

Are you amused by how little it takes to make my day??? LOL. ;)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Day 33, Miracles Never Cease!!!!! (93...Free!)


"Hey, Girls!!!!!!"




"What's that thing in the doorway??? Never seen the likes of that around here!"



Miracles never cease!!!!!


1st Egg!!!

(One down, 6,999 eggs to go in order to finance the
Chicken Mansion.)

Christmas Music!

In college, my roommate and I used to get in trouble with our dormmates for starting to play Christmas music too early. Today I had a lot of sit time and thought it'd be fun to hear a little Christmas music while I worked. I was astounded to find that there are a LOT of stations to choose from.

Enjoy! (or ignore me if the idea of X-mas music this early repulses you!) ;)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Day 32, PB Popcorn Snack! (93...Free!)


We don't eat a lot of dessert around here. Neither do we buy many snacks. But this delicious recipe from More-With-Less is one that we pull out occasionally for our traditional Sunday popcorn "dinner". Enjoy!

Peanut-Butter Popcorn
-from More-With-Less

Pop enough corn to make 2 quarts.
Cook to a rolling boil:

1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. light corn syrup* or honey

Remove from heat and add:

1/2 c. chunky peanut butter
1/2 t. vanilla

Pour over popcorn, stirring to coat.

*I don't like using corn syrup. This is the only recipe I use it for. And, actually, I ran out of the stuff about a year ago and have found that honey works fine.

P.S. This would be a great, inexpensive Christmas treat. Yummers! ;)

Where Do Your Old Electronics Go???

Anyone else catch 60 Minutes this week? If not, you might want to check out "The Electronic Wasteland" reporting on the immense numbers of used electronics--computers, etc--that are being shipped to China where the heavy metals (particularly lead) end up contaminating the country...and the people who live there. The story shows how what is sometimes advertised as "clean recycling" in the U.S. may not actually be...

Beauty of Fall!!!

Enjoyed taking a few photos this week. Just wanted to share...



Friday, November 7, 2008

I AM ALONE!!!!

This mom of soon-to-be-5 is ALONE for 4 hours this morning!!! I don't remember the last time I was ALONE. I hardly know what to do with myself. ;)

Off to attack a long-forgotten work pile...

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Day 31, Sock Exchange (93...Free!)


In the process of organizing photos (I'm only 3 years behind), I ran across a picture from a past Christmas. That year our extended family had a sock exchange. Each person brought one pair of socks to enter in a white elephant game. We had great fun with the variety:

* sock coin purse
* an old, ragged sock (in which someone hid $10)
* organic materials
* fuzzy socks
* socks with toes
* bright, decorated socks of all kinds
* woolen hiking socks

The game portion of the activity was hilarious, good for all ages (including my then 92-year-old Nana)...and everyone left with something that they were really going to use. Just one more idea to have fun with Christmas gifts!

Day 30 Exercise on a Budget (93...Free!)



15+ wheelbarrow loads of leaves. Any questions? ;)

It was a joyful afternoon. 'LilDude had a friend over to play. They played and played and played. A balmy wind was blowing. The boys eventually abandoned their sweatshirts and got filthy dirty leaning off the swing and scraping their backs on the ground. They laughed loud enough to wake the neighbors.

Sara the dog had an equal amount of fun, racing in figure eights through the leaves. After spending a rainy week indoors, she thought she'd died and gone to doggy heaven.

It was a beautiful, leaf-raking afternoon. Joy all around.

We'll sleep good tonight. :)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Bee-bim Bop!


One of our favorite books, Bee-bim Bop!, uses playful rhyme to depict a child and her mother making this Korean dish. It's a cute, cute book with directions for parent and child to make Bee-bim Bop! together. If you need a book idea for the 4-8 crowd, we highly recommend this one! :)



Bee-bim Bop!!!


Mix it! Mix like crazy!
Time for Bee-Bim Bop!


P.S. EVERYONE in our family LOVES this dish. Highly recommended recipe for kids AND husbands. ;) Here's a link with a recipe, but it's better with the story. ;)

Putting the Suitcase Down

All political partisanship aside, the results last night made me tear up several times. To see the excitement amongst the crowds. To hear McCain's gracious concession. To hear Obama speak of hope. To see tears in the eyes of Civil Rights leaders...people who risked their lives for their beliefs. It was a beautiful thing.

As I write, I'm listening to The View. I was curious to see how the opposing sides would comment. I listened to Elizabeth Hasselbeck (who campaigned for McCain) passionately say that this is a victory for America. She alone made me tear up.

But then I heard Whoopi Goldberg say something that made me cry for multiple reasons...
"I always thought of myself as American, but last night I felt like I could put my suitcase down finally. ...People have always said that anybody can be President. ...[But] this is a moment when you realize that you have become the fabric of America."
I rejoice for her. But I am sad for my boys. I am sad that I cannot say to them, "You can be ANYTHING you want to be." I cannot say, "YOU can grow up and be President." Because they can't. 'LilDude, born in another country, a country he lived in for less than six months, is not eligible. How do you ever look a child in the eye and say that? When will the day come that he can "put his suitcase down?"

Feeling teary for his loss and for others' newfound gain.

November Blessing


November Strawberry ?!?!
Just picked this one! ;)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Day 29, No More STUFF!!!! (93...Free!)

The other day, a good friend and I were talking about "stuff." You know, the unwanted items you receive...for birthdays, for shower party favors, for Christmas; everywhere we go, we are handed more stuff. It fills our cabinets, our kids' rooms, our garages, our junk drawers. Today I made a quick stop at a local store and was overwhelmed by the amount of stuff that retailers are thrusting at us, begging us to buy in early November...with CHRISTMAS MUSIC in the background to put us in the mood for holiday buying.

In our family, we're trying to minimize "holiday gift stuff" by setting a $20 limit per person. That really helps. But even with a $20 limit, it's still sometimes hard to know what to give people who really have everything they need.

A few years ago, I turned to the idea of consumables. If I give/receive gifts that can be consumed, we end up with a lot less stuff...and with some pretty fun/creative gifts. Here are a few examples:

1. For one exchange I bought a sheet of cartoon stamps which ended up being one of the most popular items...it was "stolen" several times during the exchange game. Everyone can use stamps and there are a lot of fun ones out there.

2. Kid stocking stuffers
  • character bandaids
  • TicTacs
  • gum
  • TAPE (yes, scotch tape! My young kids LOVED tape and wanted to use it all the time. When they received their own, they could use it whenever they wanted.)
  • art supplies-paper, pens, glitter glue
3. Other "big kid" gifts:
  • Pringles potato chips
  • Other special chips or treats--my husband got SunChips one year and everyone was jealous. I've also bought kids their own boxes of sugar cereal or packs of character "fruit" gummies.
  • Sparkling Cider or other sparkling juices
  • Starbucks bottled drinks (teen gift)
  • scrapbooking supplies
  • camera film
  • stamps (Star Wars and other characters)
  • special hot drink mix (my kids love Russian tea)
  • decadent chocolate
  • lotions
  • bubble bath
As you might imagine, the items I listed are NOT purchased in our household any other time during the year; it wouldn't have nearly the same effect if these items were part of our daily life. But since my kids are "deprived" :) the rest of the year, this stuff is pretty interesting to them.

If you have other ideas, I'd love to add to my lists. :)

Monday, November 3, 2008

Day 28, Book: A Simple Christmas (93...Free!)


Since More With Less is one of my favorite cookbooks, I picked up A Simple Christmas (by the same publisher) after reading the description, "Hundreds of ways to bring Christ and joy back into Christmas in the spirit of More-with-Less." If you're looking for some ideas, there are several used copies on Amazon for less than $1.

Off to read... ;)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Day 27, Chicken MANSION! (93...Free!)

The story had an innocent start...

Let's get a few chickens. Have some free-range eggs. Simple, no?

Ha.

Then the story turned into a tale of riches, untold bazillions spent, and living the good life. No, I'm not referring to Wall Street. I'm referring to THE CHICKEN MANSION.

Our chickens are now living a life of opulence in their new home. I don't even want to think about how much this project cost. Why am I posting it on "93...Free?" Perhaps I can save you from a likewise fate. Next time you start dreaming about chickens, consider the cost of the project from beginning to end. Or, perhaps, check to see if the "builder" has the same budget in mind that you do. ;)


Here's the whole enchilada.


Here's where we'll collect eggs. Eggs??? What eggs??? Chickens in million dollar mansions don't lay eggs. Seriously. They aren't laying eggs yet. The million dollar chickens haven't laid a marble yet. Oh, but their systems work great otherwise. They are pooping up a storm!




Inside shots of la casa rico. They have a heat lamp, their own electrical outlet, and locks on their doors (if you live in a mansion, you need locks!) Me thinks me chickens are living better than me. Ai-yi-yie!!!!!!

Someday, when I come to you and ask, "Where did my 401K disappear to?" and I try to blame it on Wall Street, someone remind me that my 401K is probably sitting in my backyard, covered with chicken you-know-what.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Day 26, Mashed Potatoes for Breakfast?? (93...Free!)

In the spirit of trying to do better with breakfast, I tried a new recipe this morning using leftover mashed potatoes. These hash browns are easy and worth making again. We ate them alongside scrambled eggs. The only difference I'd do next time is attempt to make the onion pieces tinier.

Lizzi and School

Several months ago I did a series of posts (see April archives) about Lizzi and her entry into public school. As you'll recall, she went to public school kindergarten and was then homeschooled in grades 1-7 before returning to public school at the end of her 7th grade year. We deliberately timed her returned in order to prepare for entry into a public high school in another year.

Although I dearly loved homeschooling her (and continue to homeschool Anakin), I haven't regretted Lizzi's decision to return to public school. She is thriving. One thing in particular is worth noting...

After having the same teacher for seven years, Lizzi LOVES having other people teach her. And the best thing? She cares a LOT about working hard for these people and showing them her absolute best. From the beginning, her language arts teacher took notice of Lizzi's writing abilities and worked hard to point out her strengths and challenge her weaknesses. Lizzi is interested in working for this teacher in a way that I haven't experienced. It's not that I, as her former teacher, did anything wrong. It's not that Lizzi, as a homeschooler, was in any way inadequate; to the contrary, she was a very, very good student. But there is something about working for a stranger (or shall we say, a non-Mom) that has inspired her to new heights. For that, I am thankful.

But this also leads me to another reflection...

Lizzi loves her classes and works very, very hard for her teachers. BUT she quickly noticed that her peers do not have nearly the interest in school that she does. In general, she does not perceive them as being passionate about learning in the same way that she is. She believes the difference is homeschooling.

Over the years, the greatest thing I hoped to instill in my children (educationally-speaking) was a desire for knowledge and the tools to gain new understandings. I wanted them to "learn how to learn." You know the doctor adage, "first do no harm?" The greatest harm I figured I could do as a teacher-parent was to extinguish my children's natural love for learning. Thankfully, Lizzi's love for learning seems to have entered public school with her. With any luck, it will continue for the rest of her life.

Oh, the Joys of Public School...

This morning the news was on (my first mistake) while 'LilDude was eating breakfast. As usual, it was all about the election. 'LilDude pipes up, "I'm voting for McCain."

Since he recently declared his vote for Obama, I asked, "So why are you voting for him?"

"Cause Cole said if Obama wins, he'll kill babies."

Eyebrows raised, I ask, "Who is Cole?"

"A first grader."

"So why does he think that?"

"His sister told him."

The joys of public school...

Monday, October 27, 2008

Preparing to be a BIG Brother

Since I know several adoptive families read my blog, I thought some of you might enjoy hearing about what we're doing to prepare 'LilDude for his new role as big brother.

We purposely waited a long time to add to our family. 'LilDude needed time to be the youngest and to soak up all the Mommy time he possibly could. Years ago, our adoption therapist said that she thought that he might be ready by age six or so. Turns out (at least so far...in theory :), that she was right.

'LilDude continues to be thrilled by the idea of a little brother. One thing that I mentioned to him seems to have stuck. In passing, I remarked on the fact that littlebrother will probably think that our family looks strange...all of us, that is, except 'LilDude. I noted that 'LilDude looks like the people that littlebrother is used to being around but that the rest of us might look a little scary to him. 'LilDude caught on to this idea right away...

"He'll be used to black hair like mine?"

"That's right." 'LilDude grins.

Since I brought it up, 'LilDude has mentioned it several times on his own.

Tonight we prepared a mini photo album for 'LilDude to take to school tomorrow. He gets to lead in sharing time on Tuesdays and this is "P" week, so he is taking PICTURES of his brother to share with his class. He carried them to bed so he could look at them again while I read a story aloud.

Day 25, Chix/Turkey Vegetable Soup (93...Free!)

You know the criteria by now...if 'LilDude asks for 3rds, the recipe gets blogged. :) Tonight the kids all enjoyed "Chicken Vegetable Soup" from Simply in Season. 'LilDude had three helpings despite one concern...

"Mom, there's a bug in my soup."

I didn't doubt it since I'd just brought the broccoli and kale in from the garden, but I asked anyway, hoping it was pepper. "How do you know?"

"It has LEGS."

Lizzi consoled him. "That's okay. Bugs are just protein. People in other countries eat bugs all the time."

That satisfied 'LilDude.

I hope you enjoy it, legs or not... ;)



Chicken (Turkey) Vegetable Soup
-modified from Simply in Season

The recipe calls for a 3 lb chicken, cooked, with reserve broth. I just cooked a turkey, so I used that meat & broth.

3 c. carrots, diced
2 c. celery, diced
1-2 medium onions, diced
1 medium parsnip, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced

In large soup pot saute the above in 2 T. olive oil. Add a little water for steam.

1/2 t. ground red pepper
salt/pepper to taste

Add the 2 above ingredients and cook over medium heat until vegetables are tender but not mushy, 15 minutes. Add water to chicken/turkey broth to make 12 cups. Add to soup mixture along with cooked chicken or turkey (cut into bite-sized pieces.)

2 c. broccoli florets
2 c. kale, chopped
1/2 t. dried dill (or 1 1/2 t. fresh)

Add, bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer to blend flavors.

Note: We had leftover rice in the fridge. 'LilDude LOVES rice and added some to his soup. The cold rice helped to cool the hot soup. The kids also added Parmesan cheese or grated cheddar if they wished.

BTW, I don't think I'd ever eaten a parsnip until last year. I really like them. And in a recipe like this, they provide a little sweetness that's not-to-be-missed. Now if I could only figure out how to grow them.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

'LilDude Would Like to Announce...

"I am going to be a big brother!!!!!"





New little brother is 2 1/2 years old. We don't have "LOA" (letter of acceptance from China) yet and won't for several months, so at this point that's all we feel free to say in a wide public forum. Well, that and a couple more things...

* 'LilDude says (and I quote), "I'm excited and I can't wait to go to China to pick him up!" He also said, "Are you going to hold ____ while you wait for me at the bus stop?"

"I might. What do you think about that?"

"Great! Then Terri (the bus driver) is going to say, 'Who is that?'" [Then laughs like he has a terrific secret.]

'LilDude is thrilled to pieces about the whole thing. I couldn't have asked for a more open, accepting reaction.

* The new I - 800 a process is horrendous. But God must have intervened because it wasn't nearly as horrific as anticipated. So thank you to God and our Social Worker who also helped to speed the process along. I think working with China will be a breeze after working through the U.S. process. The U.S. process wasn't very user friendly.

* Prayers are most welcome from anyone who would like to intervene on our little guy's behalf. A speedy process would be in his best interest.

With much excitement...

Off to nest... ;)

~a truly Rich Momma! ;)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Math Lessons

If you are a homeschooler or a classroom teacher, here are some great math lessons to watch...in action! :)

The Eyeballing Game

Here's some cheap entertainment... ;) It's called The Eyeballing Game.

"Some people are bothered by pictures on the wall hanging slightly crooked. Others may not even be aware that something may be amiss.

If you are somebody who is into woodworking or construction, its good to be one of the people who notice when things are crooked. But I suspect the ability to notice that things might be just a little off square, off centre, or not quite straight, varies greatly. I thought it would be fun for people to try to test their abilities to see if things are straight or crooked in a little game.

The game works by showing you a series of geometries that need to be adjusted a little bit to make them right. A square highlights the point that needs to be moved or adjusted. Use the mouse to drag the blue square or arrowhead where you feel it is 'right'. Once you let go of the mouse, the computer evaluates your move, so don't let up on the mouse button until you are sure. The 'correct' geometry is also shown in green. To avoid the need for extra mouse clicks, a mouse button up counts as the move being finished, so be careful."

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Day 24, Christmas Presents (93...Free!)

We started a tradition last year; family members who planned to gather on Christmas Day exchanged names, keeping their selected person a secret. (Well, they tried to keep it a secret. I'm the one who goofed. I was in charge of the drawing and several times I accidentally let a hint or two slip about who had whose names. Anakin and Lizzi decided that they would take over this year so as to not let that happen again! ;)

Last year the drawing included our family of six plus my parents and my sis/bro-in-law--ten total. Each buyer had to spent EXACTLY $20. To the PENNY. Adults and kids alike had a blast trying to figure out how they could milk the most out of $20.

I was somewhat concerned about how 'LilDude (then 5yo) would receive the idea. He was the age closest to what most people equate with TOYS, TOYS, TOYS and Christmas. Lizzi drew his name and was thrilled with the challenge.

She was able to buy a shockingly large amount of gifts with her $20. She bought:

* a StarWars Jedi costume (on sale at Goodwill right before Halloween)
* a new lightsaber
* one of the large Fisher Price dinosaurs (used, Goodwill)
* a dinosaur book (used, Goodwill)
* a new Lego set

'LilDude loved it; in actuality, it was probably the best Christmas he's ever had. I think he was relieved to not be overwhelmed by "stuff" and the expectations that go along with it. (Sometimes just having to thank people can be overwhelming for young children.)

On Christmas, we took time to have each person open their gifts slowly, one at a time. It was fun to see what $20 could buy. And I loved the fact that it wasn't all about the kids. Sometimes I think children are under the impression (perhaps correct!) that Christmas is all about THEM rather than being about the birth of Christ. As a young, teen babysitter I was once asked to babysit several days after Christmas for a family with several kids. I was astounded to arrive and see one very long wall STACKED with toys, many of them still in their original boxes, unopened. The children had received so many gifts that they hadn't even finished taking all the toys out. And when I showed interest in investigating the pile, they didn't care; it was TOO MUCH STUFF. When kids are treated equally, that tends to eliminate the overemphasis on gifts and commercialism, focusing the meaning where it should be. At least it did for us. ;)

The kids are already talking about it and planning for this year. The excitement is much higher than it used to be when they were showered with gifts.

Last year, we only did two things for gifts--this and "family gifts," consisting of several very inexpensive and/or used items that we either purchased or were given to use in a garage game room. This year, we will again only do two things--the $20 gift exchange and family gifts, this time consisting of items we need for our trip overseas.

What are you doing?

Day 23, Crockpot Green Beans and Sausage (93...Free!)


If you didn't catch this crockpot recipe for Green Beans and Sausage several months ago, take a look. Everyone at our house loves it. It's easy, inexpensive, healthy, and yummy.

Kindergarten is Hard Work

'LilDude talks about math...

"I can count to ten hundred. I mean one thousand. I just have to take lots of breaths."

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Duh Moment for Mom

So it seems there was spitting yesterday at recess. In this particular incident, 'LilDude was the recipient of the spit; he didn't spit on anyone. But since there have recently been some moist morsels flying around our house, I took the opportunity to have a conversation with him. Preventative measure, ya know?

Me: Even if the other kids are spitting it is not okay for you to do it too.

He looks at me incredulously and says, "MOM! I am a GOOD KID. I wouldn't DO THAT."
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