Thursday, December 24, 2009

...and to all a Good Night!

Things have been non-stop around here. Now that #3 is sleeping, #1 & #2 are in bed, and #4 is nursing as I type, I am taking a few minutes to share some of our highlights of the season (thus far) and things I'm grateful for.

Generous friends at church with beautiful toys to pass on

Generous landlords (and dear friends, like parents to us really) who allowed us to have kittens for Christmas! (Welcome, Izzy & Louis!)

Church friends with mechanic shops open on Saturdays to diagnose a problem with our car the day before leaving for St. George.

Car problems which turn out to be unidentifiable. Can't pay for a problem you can't find! (The van made it here and seems to be running just fine.)

The chance to be with my sister and her beautiful family for Christmas. Seriously, aren't sisters (and family?!) just awesome?!

A generous stranger who chose me as someone to receive an envelope with a substantial amount of cash and a beautiful printed card with the quote from Mother Theresa's orphanage wall.

Stay tuned for pictures! We've been busy playing at the park with cousins, building gingerbread houses, goofing off, making cookies, baking, listening to beautiful cello music (courtesy of my lovely and gifted sister), and thoroughly enjoying being on a break from school and work and being with family!

Friday, December 4, 2009

After the bickering reached a high point I looked over at the clock and realized none of us had eaten a SNACK or LUNCH and it was well past time for BOTH!!

No wonder we were having so many issues!

Food and a park trip later, things settled down and the rest of the day went much more smoothly.

Lesson learned. Don't forget to eat! Don't forget to feed your children!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Here's another great book to add to your library list!

Sally and the Purple Socks by Lisze Bechtold

Booklist Review:

Sally the duck is thrilled with her new purple socks. They fit perfectly, and she wears them constantly until they oddly begin to get too big. She uses them as scarf and cap to wear while she gardens, but when they continue to grow, she turns them into curtains, then blankets, a carpet; and, finally, when they block traffic in front of her house, she makes them into a circus tent and invites all her neighbors over to have some fun. All goes well until rain shrinks the socks, leaving Sally with her “lovely, soft, cozy, warm, luxurious purple socks,” which fit perfectly again. This is similar in concept to books such as Tomie dePaola’s Strega Nona (1975) and Jay Williams’ One Big Wish (1980), in which things grow and get out of control. The quirky, playful, and ultimately warm illustrations, coupled with the simple text and a plot with just the right amount of suspense, make the book spot-on for sharing with young audiences. Preschool-Grade 2. --Randall Enos

ARRRGGH!!

All my saran wrap gone. Someone needed it to build a popsicle stick house?! Apparently it didn't pan out because the evidence is gone. Remember a few days ago? I don't like this part of parenting. I'm trying to channel some kind of inner peace and have some perspective. It's hard. Really hard.

It's not all about the saran wrap. I haven't gone loco over just that. It's a combination of everything happening this morning...

Set up the Christmas tree (first chance...we're usually early birds!), watched and tried to contain things as the girls unraveled the Christmas decorations boxes, and the girls have been at each other this morning!

Judas Priest!! Not my usual exclamation but when I think this to myself, I hear Grandma's voice saying it as only she does and it eases the stress, a little.

And now back to the grind...after a good venting.

Within me is a peacefulness that cannot be disturbed...I can do hard things...This feeling is temporary...I am not this feeling, I am not this feeling, I am not this feeling!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

These are great books to add to your reading collections! For now we just keep checking them out from the library multiple times, but I look forward to slowly adding these to our own library.

I'm including the reviews that Amazon provides to save you some time and save myself the brain-work of summarizing them for you!


School Library Journal Review:
Sophie's family needs a new couch. After a full day of searching, they finally find one that is just right. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, it comes with an odd-looking creature that just sits in the middle of the cushion. Resembling one of Jim Henson's Muppets, the creature, readers learn, suffers from upholsterosis and on doctor's orders that they get him out more, the family takes the sofa and the newcomer on a cross-country journey. Slonim's very funny picture book will appeal to children with a taste for the zany. Told from Sophie's point of view, the understated text is often at hilarious juxtaposition with the illustrations. The colorful artwork will appeal to fans of David Shannon's work as will the tongue-in-cheek storytelling.

Hilda Must Be Dancing by Karma Wilson
This one is an old favorite we were excited to find on the shelves at the library again.

Amazon.com Review:
Finding a suitable sort of self-expression can be a challenge. Sometimes what seems so right for one individual is so very, very wrong for everyone around her. Take Hilda Hippo, for example. There's nothing Hilda loves more than dancing. But whether she's tangoing, square dancing, boogying to disco, doing the flamenco, rumba, or samba, Hilda makes a lot of noise:
KA-BUMP! KA-BUMP!

CRASH! CRASH! SMASH!

THUMPITY-BUMP! THUMPITY-BUMP!

BOOM! BANG! BASH!

Her friends in the jungle try to subtly guide Hilda down other creative paths, but knitting and singing just don't do it for our hefty heroine. Is there anything else Hilda can do that won't make bananas fall from the trees and clouds of dust fill the air?

Rollicking rhymes and dynamic, jungle-hued illustrations make Karma Wilson (Bear Snores On, A Frog in the Bog) and Suzanne Watts' picture book collaboration a must for every foot-stomping, tutu-swishing reader. Irresistible! (Ages 3 to 7) --Emilie Coulter --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Mary and the Mouse, The Mouse and Mary by Beverly Donofrio
The review below has some negative things to say about the book, but trust, this is still a very charming and fun read.


Booklist Review:
Little Mary lives in a big house with her mother, father, brother, and sister. And behind the dining-room wall, a little mouse lives with her mother, father, brother, and sister. Though the little mouse has been warned about people, and Mary has been warned about mice, they secretly wave to each other after dinner. Years later, Mary is grown, has a daughter named Maria and lives in a new house. Coincidentally, the little mouse lives in the same house with her daughter, Mouse Mouse. In its little girl–little mouse concept, the story is reminiscent of Jim Aylesworth's Two Terrible Frights (1987), but this develops differently. Since it takes two generations before a girl and a mouse actually speak to each other, the time frame is unusually long for a picture book, which makes this a bit static. Still, the telling is clean, the parallel structure of the tale is pleasing, and McClintock's warm, precisely drawn ink, gouache, and watercolor artwork will fascinate children and adults alike. Phelan, Carolyn

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Okay...

I've had it up to HERE with buying toilet paper, dish soap, and toothpaste!

These things should last three times (or more!) longer than they do in my house (lately...). It's already annoying enough to have to buy something just so you can throw it away (speaking especially of toilet paper...), but to buy it and then have it used for something other than its purpose...

Why? Why? Why?

I know, I know....this too shall pass. I am not this feeling (although I usually disagree with that in the moment...). This feeling is temporary. And my favorite, I can do hard things!

Tell me please, someday they'll buy their own, right? Maybe I should use their piggy bank money to replenish? Or do I simply scold and leave it alone, accepting that they're kids and this is how it is for now? Granted, it is just toiletries...really. In the grand spectrum of parental frustrations and hardships, there are many more higher on the list.

Today I threatened to give them toilet paper, dish soap, and toothpaste for Christmas...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Toothies

My three-year old is now the only kid in the house with a full set of teeth!!

Becca has two bottom teeth and a top tooth just broke the gums two days ago. I can see three very distinct bumps on the top too, so she'll have all four top teeth in no time at all. That explains some of the crankiness I've been seeing!

Autumn is missing a top middle tooth (as of a month ago?).

And last but not least...

Heidi lost her first tooth this morning! She came in and said it came out during the night. We thought she must've swallowed it, but she found it in her bed later. She's so excited.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I've been thinking. Shocking I know. But in all seriousness, a lot of people near & dear to me as well as mere acquaintances or complete strangers have been telling me lately that I am superwoman. Sometimes it's in reference to me having four kids but lately it's been in reference to the fact that I am homeschooling them.

I have to say on both counts, that I am not superwoman. And today it hit -- the best way to describe this. Yes, I'm doing something different than many others and it is hard for some to fathom and others just seem to think it's super-human or beyond them. But I am no different from you. I simply have chosen a different normal. Granted, once I made my decision, there was a period of adjustment. But aren't all big decisions like that? And once I crossed over that hump, it became my routine and my lifestyle. My new normal. Does that make sense?

And just as we all encounter challenges in the day-to-day aspects of our lives, I encounter challenges in homeschooling. But just as you meet those challenges head-on and find a way to work through them, so do I. It's not extraordinary. It's life. And isn't it wonderful?!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

She likes to sneak into my room to look for things. My room is the fall-out zone for things that have yet to be sorted. The girls have been playing "baby" with Esther lately and Heidi keeps trying to take Becca's binkies for their playtime. I told her she can't have them and so now she has been on the hunt for a bag of old binkies that Becca didn't like.

I told her to stay out of my room and she told me she would if I gave her the bag of binkies!! I countered that I wouldn't even consider giving her the binkies unless she stopped sneaking into my room.

She was pushing in the books on the living room bookshelf today and I told her to stop and asked why she would do that. Her reply? "I was making a code."

Earlier this week? We have been using goal charts for their schoolwork and other goals around the house each week. The system is this: if they have all greens and three or less yellows by Friday after school, they can pick something from the treasure box. Any reds? No treasure box. This was actually Heidi's idea and it has helped tremendously with her motivation to do her lessons. But anyway...one day she opted out of doing something correctly because she knew she could get three yellows and still get treasure box. Later that same day, she figured one more yellow wouldn't hurt. And by evening, I heard her saying to Autumn, "Want to clean our room and put things in the wrong places and get a yellow? Wanna do that? We can get three yellows."

Oh my dear, dear, Heidi. She loves to be in charge. She loves to do things her way. And she loves to have a choice in the matter, however small it is. I love imagining all the great things that she will do as she grows and matures! I believe she will be destined for great things.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Dear Neighbor one street over (I believe that's where you are),

Despite what you think, it is not okay for you to blast your music in your backyard and have a party which makes me feel like there is a party in my front yard.

It is also not okay to do this twice over a two month period of time.


Yours Truly,
Mother of Four YOUNG children

P.S. - And yes, that was me that called the cops. Both times. You're welcome.

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Dear Neighbor NEXT DOOR,

I know your mother just turned 61. I understand you want to celebrate. I understand you want to do something special and you don't usually do this.

That does not change the fact that your DJ is playing music in your backyard, adjacent to MY backyard and my children CANNOT SLEEP. Rent a space. Blast the music INSIDE. Figure something else OUT.

Yours Truly,
Mother of Four SLEEP DEPRIVED, YOUNG children

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Dear Neighbor one street over with whom I share a backyard wall,

I understand it is someone's birthday. Probably a 40th from the black balloons I see. I understand you love karaoke.

I do not.

Please, go somewhere else or keep it in your house. You have NEIGHBORS and this is NOT an apartment complex. Be courteous. Are you shocked? Do you really think I am the ONLY one bothered by this? Ask around. You'll see your loudness is not appreciated.

Yours Truly,
Mother of Four YOUNG children, one of which has a cold and is having difficulty breathing/sleeping and I'm sure YOUR NOISE DOES NOT HELP.

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I know, I know. Welcome to Los Angeles and all surrounding cities?

Well I quit! The bear has come out of hibernation and if you cross me again I will BITE YOUR HEAD OFF. Got it?

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On a more serious and less raging sidenote, any suggestions? Is my only recourse really to call the cops? I have talked to one of the three of these neighbors and they turned it down for a bit but what can I really ask? What I want to say is "Um, could you please send everyone home?" Yeah...for some reason I don't think that would get me very far...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Esther's outfit choices are always fun. Always.
Socks on her feet and socks on her hands.
Fairy wings on her back.
Can you see the tutu sticking out of the leotard?


My day has been non-stop but very, very good. How about yours?

This is all very random, but this is what's on my mind right now, so this is what you get. :D I realized partway in that the pictures are fitting because they're random too!

The girls put this on their windowsill and Autumn said it made her feel safe. I guess I'd think twice too before coming in their window if I saw a giant cockroach with a yellow Halloween skeleton in its clutches.

My throat is hurting. Not because of yelling. I think I've just been talking too much today! The girls are going a mile a minute and when I keep up with them I wonder what we all sound like to someone on the outside listening in. It's a wonder I haven't lost my voice.


Yesterday Becca woke up from a nap and I was in the middle of a very intense lesson with Heidi. I asked Autumn to get a bottle of water and some fruit puffs and after that she got Becca up from her nap and here is the "set-up" she had ready for her. She's sandwiched by our fire-proof box and her basket of her toys. She can sit up on her own and catches herself now when she loses her balance but her big sisters are extra attentive.

Becca had a fever late Sunday to early Tuesday. I never did take her temperature because I could tell it was high enough to keep an eye on but low enough that we didn't need to go in. Last night I noticed she had a rash. After doing some research today (and Rae's invaluable memories of Savvy being sick last year), I am relieved to know she has roseola. I am relieved to know what it is, to know that only one sister may catch it (or have unknowningly shared it in the first place), that Eric & I are in the clear for catching it, that we haven't been anywhere to share it since it started, and that she won't need to go to the doctor. I am also extremely grateful that aside from some mild fussiness and clinginess, Becca is not having a really hard time. All good things.

Esther wearing two of my socks.

We tried a new playdough recipe today and love it. It's a pretty basic salt dough recipe that is made on the stove. I usually steer clear of those and prefer the quick ones that just require mixing. I'm glad I tried this one out though! The mix-only versions tend to be a lot grainier and harder on the hands. This was nice and smooth and didn't smell funny either. We made five different colors and then made the uppercase alphabet as part of Heidi's writing practice today. We put each letter on wax paper so we could move it into place in our alphabet and that worked well because after we were done we were able to easily make a lot of words. Autumn was singing the song from Leapfrog's Talking Words Factory - "First you add the 'b', then you add the 'at', put them all together and then you have..." and then she'd pause and wait for Heidi to fill in the blank. After that they used the same wax paper to make "candies" (like saltwater taffy). And after the playdough had been cleaned up for a few hours, they asked for it again and unwrapped all the candies and made cakes. They asked me to save them for Eric to see when he comes home tonight. I think we sure got some good mileage out of this dough already! And I hear it lasts forever (if your kids don't squish it all together making nasty colors and then you throw it away because you can't stand the sight of it...). Maybe this batch'll last till their cousins come for Thanksgiving. :)

Playdough cakes the girls made

I've noticed a new trend with Becca at naptime. I give her a binky/pacifier/whatever! at naptime and she takes it, pulls it out of her mouth, rolls over onto her side and pops her thumb into her mouth. And then she drops the binky out of the crib after I leave. Hah! I was really hoping she'd prefer the binky over her fingers. This from the voice of experience. You can't cut off fingers! I have three other finger suckers and Autumn still struggles if she's got a blanket close by. I don't even want to TALK about Heidi yet. My dentist grandpa said as long as they stop by the time they're five it won't cause any damage. Don't do the math on my older two.

The girls made good use of some of our toilet paper. I especially love the look on Sulley.


It's funny to look at how my perspective has changed over the years. When I had Autumn I always said, "Oh, I'm not giving her a pacifier! I don't want to get up in the middle of the night to put it back in her mouth." The funny thing about that is that I never thought to myself, "I just won't give her one at night!" Not until my sister-in-law (Anna, you are awesome!) had her first kid and told me how they were doing the whole pacifier thing. Just don't give it to them at night! Oh. Duh. Why didn't I think of that? Not to mention she rarely gave her daughter a pacifier and as she got older, Anna was so awesome about weaning her from it gradually. By two it was gone. Just like that.

So now I really, really wish I had been that smart. But...also, I have to cut myself some slack and say that it seems that some kids want to suck on fingers, some on pacificiers, and some on nothing at all. I have nephews (several!) who didn't want fingers or pacifiers. I have a niece who loves her pacifier. Another niece who didn't want one and doesn't suck a finger. And then another nephew who wanted a pacifier for a short time. I'm starting to wonder if there's really anything we as parents can do to make them prefer one over the other! Anyone want to put in there two-cents here?

Such a cutie!


This closet was a disaster before tonight. It's still not done but it's a lot closer now than it was before. Games, craft supplies for the girls, paper, coloring books, crayons, and the bottom two shelves will hopefully have enough room for towels, sheets, and pillowcases.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Becca decided today that if I'm giving her water, she wants a cup. Not a bottle. Not a sippy. A cup. That'll make the transition easier for me :) but what about the simple, "here, drink this" when they're old enough to do it on their own? She must know, inherently, that as the youngest of four she'll be vying for my attention. In that case, of course a cup would be the most logical choice. :D

Esther prefers water over juice. If I forget at the dinner table on a juice night, she is quick to remind me! After having a sister (you know who you are dearie!) who drank juice almost more than she ate food, and a daughter who must take after her aunt, I thought all kids preferred juice to water. She is also our resident vegetarian.

The girls are playing in their room and Esther wants to know "who" she is. Autumn is "Susan", Heidi is "Lucy". Esther is happy that she gets to be Edmund and comes running out to tell me. And then she asks who Becca is. I guess Becca will have to settle being "Peter". (They're not playing Narnia though...just using the names...) I think they're still a little young to enjoy Little Women but it sure would make it easier for them to have gender-appropriate names. Not that they care. Not today anyway!

Plotting

I start to think someone is plotting against me when I hear the same ice-cream truck melodies for 10 minutes straight every night.

Or is it just California?

A neighbor and church friend one street over says there are THREE ice cream trucks that frequent our neighborhood.

And while we're on the subject of anomalies to California...

I had no idea DONUTS (or doughnuts, if you prefer) were SO popular here. We can find a donut shop every few blocks.

Seriously.

There's Winchell's (which we happen to love), Christy's, Donut King, Crown Donuts, Master Fresh Donut, ABC Donut, Donut Hole, Krispy Kreme, The Donut Man, Sunny Donut, Jax's Donuts No. 11 (I think we'll have to go here while my nephew Jaxon is visiting), Boston Donuts, Us Donuts (& Yogurt), Baker's Dozen Donuts, Pronto Donuts, Jean's Donut Shop (sorry Jean, no clue if they're any good! Come visit us and we'll take you there to find out!), Yum Yum Donuts, and Donuts Express -- most within an 8 minute drive from here, all within a 13 mile radius from here.

What is UP with that?

Today (and several days over the past few weeks), Esther came up to me and said:

E: "Do you know what Dobby doos (that's does for 3-year-old-speak) to the closet door?"
me: "Yes Esther. Please don't show me."
E: "He doos this."

And then she proceeds to BANG HER HEAD ON THE WALL and say "Bad Dobby. Bad Dobby."

And then she walks away and says, "That's so silly."

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In other fun stuff, our toilet is a "high efficiency/low flow" toilet. In regular english that means, flushing is not very effective unless you hold down the handle. Yesterday I realized if the girls would sing the ABC's, it would be just the right amount of time.

Today this is what I heard from Esther down the hall:

"A, B, C, D, Scooby Dooby Doo, where are you..."

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And I keep not saying this, waiting for some pictures. I guess I should just say it and share pictures later.

BECCA IS CRAWLING!!

It is SO cute. And at this point she isn't mischievous yet so we can deal with it. It's been fun to watch her get to the point where she could actually start crawling. Autumn & Heidi both did an army crawling, pulling themselves along by their arms and not even bothering with their legs until they were stronger. Esther rolled until one day she got up and crawled.

I kept reading and hearing about how babies rock back and forth on all fours when they're close to crawling but never got to see that until this time around.

I think it's one of the funniest things to watch.

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I have one more picture to upload, but for now - here are pictures from Grandpa, Mom & Dad's visit to be here for Autumn's baptism. I am amazed that I have a child old enough for that!





Autumn wearing her dress made especially for the occasion by my wonderful friend from church (Vicki is awesome!)


Becca visiting with her great-grandpa. She is named after his mother, Anna Rebecca Rogers. I am ecstatic that the name was still available for me when she came around! We have had a Rebecca and two Rae's named after "Grandma Rae" but NOONE has been given her entire name. She loved her name and always wished people called her by it, but alas, she was destined to be called "Rae". (When she was born, they were worried her grandmothers, Anna & Rebecca, would feel like one was a favorite if she was called by that name and so...she was called Rae!) It also worked perfectly with our naming tradition of our girls. They each have an aunt's name as one of their two names.


Monday, November 2, 2009

I just threw a tantrum.

Feeling embarrassed but still seething.

I need to find my marbles.

My happy thoughts.
(from HOOK, you know? If you haven't seen it, it's a must.)

I've pulled myself together enough to finish what we were doing.

And just when I was ready to say fine, watch a cartoon! (don't get me wrong, that's not unusual but I was trying not to use the TV today...), Heidi said "Can you get out the button factory?"

Oh how I love it when my children have creative moments and urges.

So, the moment has passed. My throat hurts, the kids are happy, and I think it's time to figure out what I'm making for dinner and have a quieter and loving evening from here on out.

FYI:
The button factory = buttons + paper + glue (and anything else that sounds fun!)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Yummy Recipes

I have a stack of recipes that are clipped to my fridge right now that I've been using quite regularly. Good stuff! I have made all of these more than once and they are now part of our regular recipes we love to pull from. (Okay, not ALL of them, a few I only made once but we'll definitely be making them again!) Some of these even replace recipes I've been using for years. And THAT'S saying something! Happy cooking everybody!!!

(from Rachel, with my notes)
Whole
Wheat Bread

Makes 4-5 loaves

5 C very warm water

5 C whole-wheat flour
1 C sugar -OR- 1/2 C honey (I use honey usually but today I used sugar and it turned out fine)
1/2 C oil
1 1/2 Tbsp. salt
1 Tbsp. dough enhancer (if you can't find this, just make sure you double or triple the vital gluten.)
2 Tbsp. vital gluten (I usually do 1 Tbsp dough enhancer and 4 of the vital gluten. When I run out of the dough enhancer I'll try just using the amount of gluten per cup of flour in the recipe that the gluten bag suggests.)

Mix all above ingredients together in a mixer. (Make sure you have a pretty hefty mixer! Mine has a bowl bigger than the Kitchen Aid bowls and still climbs up the mixing paddle and dough hook quite a bit. I usually keep my hand there to push it back.)
Add: Sprinkle 3 Tbsp instant yeast -OR- 6 Tbsp. active dry yeast over mixture
Gradually add more wheat flour (approx. 5-7 more cups) one cup at a time until dough pulls away from sides of bowl. Knead dough in mixer 6 additional minutes. Remove from mixer and shape dough into 4 or 5 loaves. Put in greased pans and let rise for 20-60 minutes, depending on room temperature and how light you like your bread. (Seems to take 30 minutes where I live.)
Bake at 325 for 30 minutes. (Maybe an extra five....just tap 'em to make sure they sound right...)

Fast and Easy Pizza Dough - My Kitchen Cafe

Aunt Katie's Oatmeal Pancakes
- The Sisters' Cafe

Bread Machine Bagels - Whole Wheat Cookbook (make sure you at least double this! 5 is not enough!) Not the only recipe on this link. Scroll down or do CTRL-F and type in "Bread Machine Bagels"

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup - My Kitchen Cafe

100% Whole Wheat Bread (Bread Machine) - Recipezaar

Homemade Hoisin Sauce - Sandra Lee

One Bowl Apple Cake - Maya*Made

Italian Bread Bowls - My Kitchen Cafe

Tender Grilled Salmon
- My Kitchen Cafe

Garlic Bread Recipe (Bread Machine) - razzledazzlerecipes

Salmon Cakes with Lemon Aioli
- The Sisters Cafe
You can do these with canned salmon too. You can definitely taste a difference, but it's still good! And when you add the lemon aioli sauce, even better.

Homemade Yellow Cake Mix
- SuzanneMcMinn

The Best Sloppy Joes - My Kitchen Cafe

Homemade Whole Wheat Hamburger Buns - Heavenly Homemakers

Dairy Free Chocolate Frosting - Recipe Book Online

Easy Non-dairy Chocolate Cake - cooks.com
My birthday cake this year. This is DELICIOUS. Very rich. Eat one piece and it won't be long before you're back for another. This cake grows on you!! (In more ways than one, hah! So punny....)

Chocolate Chip Cake - My Kitchen Cafe

Chicken and White Bean Stew
- My Kitchen Cafe

Dairy-Free (or OOPS, we don't have any EGGS!) Chocolate Chip Cookies - about.com
You'll want to pause the video (unless you'd rather watch the recipe than read it) and then scroll down to the recipe. Anyone will like these. There's no need to apologize and say they're "dairy free". They're just yummy.

Granola Bars
(from Heidi)

2 c quick oats

1 c flour

3/4 c brown sugar (we do 1/2 c)

1/2 t salt

1/2 t cinnamon

1/2 c nuts and/or coconut (optional)

1/2 c chocolate chips (optional)

3/4 c raisins or craisins (optional)

To be more healthy do 1/2 c wheat germ (I do just a couple dashes from the jar) and throw in some powdered milk (1/4 to 1/3 c) for extra calcium.

Mix in big bowl, in another bowl combine:

1/2 c oil (I do 1/3 if I do peanut butter)

1/2 c honey (I do 1/3 sometimes)

1 egg (do 2 if it looks too dry)

2 t vanilla (or 1 t vanilla, 1 t almond extract)

1/3 to 1/2 cup peanut butter (optional)

Combine wet and dry, batter will be thick (like cookie dough) and spread in greased 9×13 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes until edges are golden. Cool completely, turn onto cutting board and slice into bars or squares. These freeze well if wrapped individually and are great quick breakfast.

We like 1/2 c cranberries, 1/2 c chopped almonds, 1/2 c coconut with 1 t vanilla & 1 t almond. The kids like 1/2 c peanut butter and 1/2 c chocolate chips. It’s a very flexible recipe, play around with it. Do NOT overbake, you want soft and chewy still. I’ve not tried wheat flour but I’m sure you can do it and skip the wheat germ.

Whole Wheat Muffins
(from Heidi)

Freezer Muffins/Bread

3 c flour (can do some wheat, add wheat germ, etc)

1 t salt

1 T cinnamon (or pumpkin spice of doing apple or pumpkin)

1/2 t baking powder

1 t baking soda

Mix in large bowl. In another bowl combine:

2 eggs (we do 2T ground flax & 6T cold water mixed well)

1 c oil (can do half apple sauce)

2 c sugar (We do 1 1/2 cups but could do less. Also could try half sugar/half honey?)

2 c “mix” (see below)

1 T vanilla (or half vanilla, half almond, half orange extract, etc)

1 c nuts (optional)

1/2 cup oats (optional addition, may need more moisture if you add oats)

Mix wet and dry, bake as 2 loaves at 325 degrees for 1 hour or bake as 2 dozen muffins at 375 for 15 minutes.

“Mix” can be:

apples (diced or grated) or applesauce

bananas

blueberries

carrots grated

coconut

orange or lemon juice (1/2 cup)

peaches

pears

pineapple

pumpkin (I do 1 cup pumpkin & 1 cup applesauce)

raisins or craisins (I do only 1 cup)

zuchini grated

You get the idea.

Wrap muffins in sets of two or loaf in plastic wrap then in foil, stores well in freezer. Defrost in fridge. Makes great easy breakfasts or fast snacks. Can also be used for mini-muffins. If you are very careful about not over mixing the batter you can divide it in half after you combine the wet & dry and stir in two different additions. Half with lemon & coconut, half with banana. But again, be gentle so you don’t mix too much. These freeze so well that we often do a huge batch of pumpkin then a huge batch of banana. Also fun is to make a little streusel topping for them – mix a bit of flour, brown sugar, dash of cinnamon and then grate in some cold butter. Mix up, sprinkle on top. Yummy!

Every combination we do of these turns out a bit different with moisture, rise, etc. It’s a big experiment but always yummy. If you are planning to freeze them then you may want to do full oil – the applesauce/oil ones are drier and seem to not freeze and defrost as well.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Herbed Chicken Pasta with Fresh Cheese
(adapted from Cooking Pleasures magazine)

Using leftover grilled chicken or deli rotisserie chicken makes this a quick-to-fix meal. The only cooking necessary is to boil the pasta. It's tossed hot with the other ingredients, slightly melting the cheeses to create a light, creamy sauce.

2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
6 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (more if you use whole wheat pasta which seems to soak up the liquids a little more)
1 cup packed torn fresh basil (I've used dried before) and/or fresh dill
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
1/2 - 3/4 C cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 C thinly sliced red onion
1 C small fresh mozzarella balls, halved, or cubed mozzarella (3/4")
1/2 C crumbled soft goat cheese
8 oz rotini

Whisk vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper in large bowl; slowly whisk in oil. Stir in 1/2 cup of the basil/dill. Gently stir in chicken and all remaining ingredients except pasta and remaining basil/dill.

Cook pasta; drain.

Toss hot pasta with chicken mixture and remaining 1/2 cup basil/dill.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Remember THIS? How the baby product marketers want us to think we can't do it without them? How:

These tips treat parents as if we were the 2-year-olds, so wet behind the ears that we need an expert to tell us which games to play, which toys to buy, what to say to our kids and what to feed them. This talking down to parents is big business; the "mom market" has reached $1.7 trillion in annual revenue, according to the book "Parenting, Inc.," with $700 million spent on zero-to-age-2 toys alone. That's a lot of pull toys.

Excuse me. Push and pull toys.

The whole gestalt is enough to convince us moms that today's children -- unlike all those who came before them -- do not have their trajectory pretty well mapped out simply by being born human: cry, crawl, toddle, walk, grow up, breed and cry some more. No, this generation won't make it without a whole lot of help from specialists, safety gear and Internet searches. But why? Are our children more vulnerable -- and we less competent -- than any previous generation in history?

Well, I'm done. It's time for me to remember that most of the time, I am right on when it comes to following my instincts regarding my babies, my kids.

Here's what I've been stewing over lately...

Becca is 7 months old and I started giving her solids a little before 6 months. She's not interested. I've spent a little over a month stressed that she doesn't want them.

I'm done.

She is the chunkiest of my kids and I can see that she is healthy and happy.

Because she is due for a doctor's appointment soon and I don't know her exact weight or where she sits on her growth curve (other than my guesstimate from looking at her!), I found myself googling the situation for some "expert" advice (really just to add to my own gut instinct) and found this:

When we start solid foods at the 4 to 6 month age, we are doing so to help teach babies the skills that they need to eat. They still obtain the vast majority of their calories and nutrition from breast or formula feedings!
(Good reminder. I actually made note of this a few weeks ago while reading the label on a rice cereal box...one serving was only 50 calories!)
Even after she starts solids, she will get most of her calories and nutrients from what she drinks.

As long as she is happy and growing, you can relax. Feeding will progress naturally. There is no need to force her. If she is healthy, she will let you know if she is hungry and needing to eat.
Thank you, Dr. Greene, for reaffirming what I already knew. Thank you for being a doctor and showing me that not all doctors are alarmists or stuck on "schedules" and that we're doing just fine. Thank you for the reminder that this is not a race and that our children come equipped to get us the message that they want solids and they know when!

Juxtaposition

(an act or instance of placing close together or side by side, esp. for comparison or contrast)

+Apple cake is baking in the oven. It smells heavenly and makes it feel like fall here even if the weather does not.

-Three kids are in the bathroom using towels to clean up water from all over the bathroom floor. Heidi says Esther did it. Esther says Heidi did it. Autumn cleans and leaves the blame behind.

+Becca is napping. Sweet peace. Not quiet though. But still, I am thankful for the time to get things done while she sleeps.

-Ants are raiding my backyard. We seemed to rouse a lively nest from the cracks of our cement patio while rinsing off chalk drawings. I hope they don't try to take up residence in our house again. I'm not ready to do battle again, but I will. Oh I will.

+Halloween is only a few days away and we're all dressing up this year. It's going to be fun. I love my costume this year. Simple, yet a very fun idea. And very appropriate.

-My living room looks like a tornado hit.

+My kitchen is taking shape.

-Eric was gone till 11pm last night, after leaving at 10am.

+Tonight he'll be home earlier.

And that, my friends, has been my day - juxtaposed.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Today I:

made granola (More like muesli this time around...oh well. Muesli's good too even if it wasn't what I was aiming for.)
made granola bars
made cookies
made garlic bread
helped the girls clean their room (yikes! that place can get scary!)
did 3 loads of laundry (not folded though)

And that was on top of the normal get dressed, get everyone else dressed, make dinner, clean up regular daily messes and all that good stuff!

Now I'm going to see if I can muster up enough energy to fold laundry, tidy the living room and dining room, and wash a few dishes (all while watching some of my TV shows). I think realistically, I'm not leaving the living room and the dishes will have to wait till tomorrow. That's okay. They always do. They're very accommodating that way.

Hope y'all had a good Monday too!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

...a few more gems.


Becca keeping busy while we all cleaned the girls' room.





This is what I did for Esther to keep her out of my hair for a bit.


That's rice.


She spent at least 45 minutes happily occupied.


She loves spaghetti!



Note the stick-on earrings.

...and here's what I've got.
I know the quality's not the best.
I'll try harder to pull the good camera down...or get a phone with a better camera, hah hah!

I do not draw.
This week Heidi asked me to draw.
Here's what I came up with.

Can you tell what they are?


Becca recently discovered how FUN cups are in the tub. She doesn't use them to play with the water. She just loves to hold them. And if I take them away after the bath -- boy howdy, am I in trouble! We've added some cups to her toy basket in the living room now.


Found her eating her toes today.


This is how she kept busy when I was sorting books to go on our living room bookcases.


Doing her math work. In a hat. She wore the same hat to the library. I didn't even notice till we were halfway there.



I made her headband and the flower and love how she looks with them on!

Go see my post on our homeschooling blog if you're in the mood for a "quiz" of sorts.

We went for a walk and found lots of interesting plants. We're ready to do some research but would love it if some of you share what you know!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Becca

Autumn took these with her birthday camera. If you've already seen them on her blog you'll get to enjoy them a second time around now. :)



Wednesday, October 14, 2009

LATELY --

We've found our schooling groove and I find it easy(!) to stay away from the computer for HUGE junks of my day. This is HUGE for me. I am more "present" for the girls and involved in all they're doing.

To clarify, it's not that I sit at the computer all day. I don't play computer games. I don't surf the web. It's more the knowing that every time I sit down, there will be a new email or a new blog post from someone (or a new Facebook status, but does anyone else feel like I do? Who wants to sit there scrolling through status after status until you reach the "Oh yeah, I remember this one." point? I love how RSS feeds like Google Reader just lay it out for you - "Here, you haven't seen this.") But when I do succumb to that curiosity, before I know it, 20 or 30 minutes have passed and wait, WHAT? Who cut who's hair?? (That actually did happen recently but I wasn't at my computer...hah hah.) When I give myself specific times during the day to be at the computer and ignore the urges to "check" other times, I'm finding I enjoy it more! And I enjoy my girls more. And I get more done. I think it's a win-win situation here. But I'm not saying I tell myself, "at 3:17pm you have precisely 15 minutes to be at the computer...". I'm talking about thinking, "after the dishes are done-some lessons are done-and the girls are taking their break I can go check some things for a bit...".

Here's some of what we've been up to:

AUTUMN turned EIGHT last week (pictures to come) and got a camera for her birthday. Sometimes when they are supposed to be sleeping I hear them taking pictures in their room. They haven't learned to destroy the evidence yet.

HEIDI turned SIX two weeks ago (and yes, pictures to come on that too...). She is very eager about EVERYTHING. I know she plays LEGO Star Wars better than I do and I think she plays Mario Galaxy better too! I continue to find candy wrappers around the house and always know she's found yet another of my stashes. That kid is good. Too good. Sneaky little sneak.

ESTHER is still three. Very three. We have yet to hit the terrible two's in our house. It's always been the trying threes. But they are also the terrific threes. She is so goofy. She constantly asks me to take her picture, says "CHEESE" with her eyes scrunched shut and her face lifted in the air, and then runs over to see the picture. We're still working on mastering the whole "bathroom" thing but we'll get there.

BECCA will be SEVEN MONTHS this Saturday! She has mastered rolling and turning to get around. She loves to be on her belly and will turn 180 degrees to get a toy or something else of interest (and even roll a bit if the turning wasn't enough). She's not too fast yet. I don't mind. Neither does she. She eats rice cereal, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, squash, and bananas now. She tried some green beans last night and made the FUNNIEST face ever. She loves to smile, loves her sisters, and momma and daddy. She wakes up at night to eat which has been interesting. She slept through the night early on and then at about 4 1/2 months she started waking up once a night. The times are random and she always goes right back to sleep...I wonder what exactly is going on but realize there are so many factors involved (hunger, teething, learning new things, at one point new location...) and to be honest I don't really mind! It's such a rare thing to get her all to myself these days that I cherish the nighttime quiet we share. And I have to say there are few things cuter than a baby who is SO hungry, they try to latch onto any part of your skin (face, arm, neck...) while you're still carrying them from their bed to go feed them!

ERIC is busier than he's ever been. He's adjusted to the commute and listens to music, movies, and tv shows on his ipod on the way in. Between teaching group & private lessons, working part time in the music admissions office, regular doctorate level classes, an institute class, and opera rehearsals (Albert Herring by Benjamin Britten), I am amazed he fits in time to do things at home (dishes!, tickling kids, folding laundry, and even relaxing with the wife!). We enjoy the time off more than ever before.

ABBY, yes, me -- I am busy as a bee. When I'm not teaching, cleaning, or planning music for primary, I read books (just finished The Graveyard Book -- a fun read I do recommend; currently reading Musicophilia, The Female Brain, In Defense of Food, and The Fingerprint), play my piano (someday I will be able to play Rhapsody in Blue in its entirety. It makes me feel powerful even stumbling through it. I think my head might explode if I were actually able to play it all CORRECTLY!), and plan (school for me someday, how to organize the house best, what to do tomorrow, how did I do today, what to eat....did you know planning could be so all-encompassing? And fun? I think I might be addicted...although I will say in my defense that I am FLEXIBLE and have learned the value of adjusting my plans as the days, months, and years go by. A necessity for everyone, I believe.).

That's all folks!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Autumn put a lot of thought into her birthday cake. Her requests started with
- pink frosting with a white cake
- flamingo on top, white frosting, and a white cake
(I somehow missed that flamingos are now her favorite animal. Now guess her favorite color.)
- flamingo on top, blue frosting (for water), and a white cake

In the end I talked her into doing a coconut cake since white cakes tend to not have a lot of flavor.



Notice the wet hair? She's in her pajamas. Heidi celebrated right after breakfast but Autumn had to wait until right before bedtime. She was mighty patient.





A bundle of energy.
(And I think my expression in the background is because I didn't like the cake. The batter was DELICIOUS but the cake didn't work out the same. Everyone else loved it though...)













Autumn is a joy to have in our family. She is FULL of life, a great big sister and helper to her mom, and so excited in ALL she does!

Happy Birthday Autumn!
We love you!!