Wednesday, August 20, 2014

song and dance

Sarah loves her ballet class. Even before she started taking it though, she and Natalie have had an interest in ballet. So far, we've attended performances of The Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty, and a Nativity ballet. Welll, we've attended Sarah's performances too, of course, but you know what I mean. 

Nelson and I sometimes joke that male ballet dancers are very secure in their manhood (they better be, because in some of those costumes, their manhood is pretty much on display for all to see). But they seriously are some strong dudes, lifting ballerinas on one arm while doing crazy arm flourishs with the other and never missing a step in their fancy footwork. It's really some impressive stuff.

A young man we know who plays football was informed by his coach that ballet would do wonders for his game. Upon hearing this, Sarah immediately quipped, "That's why male ballet dancers are so strong! They're all football players!" 

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Natalie will never simply say the name of a TV show she's watching or asking to watch. She sings the title in tune with the show's theme song. 

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Tying together singing and ballet--Sarah's class on Tuesday was practicing a new dance. This dance was set to Frozen's "Let It Go." 

The girls have watched Frozen approximately 57 times (or so it seems). And they sing "Let It Go" a lot. 

A lot a lot. 

Baby E can also sing a snippet of "Let It Go." The words aren't quite clear (definitely baby talk), but the tune comes through. He bellows "Let it go!" at random points throughout the day (pretty much on pitch, no less). 

Ordinarily Natalie, Baby E, and I hang out in the playroom of the center where Sarah has ballet class. But when the first strains of "Let It Go" began to play, both children immediately perked up. They knew that song! They went out to where the girls were dancing. 

Natalie tried to sing along and grew very frustrated when the teacher kept stopping the CD to teach new steps or go over the previous part again (the nerve, right?). 

Finally the students had enough of the routine down that the song could play out a bit more. It got to the chorus and not only does Baby E sing along at the top of his lungs, he starts twirling with the dancers.

It was completely hilarious and utterly adorable. 

(The song was playing at Wal-Mart last night too. I swear it's omnipresent.) 

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Back before we'd ever seen Frozen but when all those parody versions of "Let It Go" were all over the interwebs, I stumbled across a really funny one by Arthur Darvill. For those not in the know, he played companion Rory Williams on Doctor Who. He sang imploringly to Whovians, "Let it go, let it go, I'm not on Doctor Who anymore..." It was brilliant, the lyrics spot-on.

But Darvill messed up partway through and said something he shouldn't have. Since the girls weren't familiar with the song yet, when Natalie tried to sing it she included Darvill's bit of language (she thought it was just part of the song). I told her that he shouldn't have said that and she shouldn't either. 

She didn't quite get what I meant. She asked, in all sincerity, if Darvill should have sung "Let it come" instead. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Day 1


We started school today! One fourth-grader and one kindergartner and one busy toddler. And we all survived. 

I can't say the day got off to the best start. My alarm clock malfunctioned, so I overslept. Then as I fumbled around with it after I finally did wake up, I knocked a glass off my nightstand.

Yes, the glass broke.

Yes, I nicked my hand.

Yes, it was my left (dominant) hand. 

Sigh. What a way to kick off the year, right?

But after that less than ideal beginning, things improved. Natalie was beside herself with excitement over doing "real" school. Sarah did all of her work without complaint (well, she complained once, but she got over it quickly. She declared by the end of the day that "Fourth grade is fun!"). 

Here's hoping the year continues to go well!

Some first-day pictures...

Natalie and Sarah were watching an art video on the laptop. Baby E was digging for a toy.

Sarah reading her science text.


Natalie was all done by this point. Kindergarten has much less work than fourth grade!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

oh captain my captain

I don't normally write or comment on news items.

But the death of Robin Williams has hit me hard. So I want to try to process a bit, if I may. (It's my blog, so I guess permission is implied. You also have permission to skip this post if you're more into the lighthearted.) 

Depression is a terrible, oppressive thing. A weight bearing down on you, keeping you trapped, making you feel stuck and helpless and hopeless. I hope the conversation surrounding Williams' depression does lead someone to reach out and get help. Even one. 

But it isn't always that simple. 

I get the posts begging people to ask for help if they need it. I do. I get the posts reminding people that they would rather have a 3 a.m. phone call than attend a funeral. I get the people who really do want to be there for family and friends who may be hurting and in despair.

But it isn't always that simple. 

When you are stuck, when you are lost in the darkness, when everything feels hard and terrible and hopeless, is it really likely you're going to "reach out"? If getting off the couch is difficult, how much more difficult is it to pick up a phone? Start a conversation? Or do something really impossible like talk to a doctor? 

I love a tweet I saw in response to people saying "Reach out!" She replied with the fact that reaching out was nearly impossible when one is in the throes of depression. Others have to make the effort to reach in

She gets it.

But even then, it's not always that simple. Sometimes people try to reach in. Sometimes they want more than anything to help. But sometimes they botch it and makes things worse. People say really idiotic things about depression (and other mental illnesses) sometimes.

And sometimes, even though they don't do anything wrong, it still doesn't help. Depression isn't logical. You can't reason someone out of it. And you can't always fix it, anymore than you can fix someone's diabetes.  It's not that simple.

An episode of Doctor Who actually dealt with it as well as anything I've ever seen. The Doctor and Amy Pond travel back in time to visit Vincent Van Gogh. It gives an honest portrayal of the demons Van Gogh faced. The Doctor and Amy end up being able to show Vincent how beloved he and his art became. Van Gogh is visibly shocked and moved and of course thrilled. 

And Amy is thrilled. She is convinced that when she and the Doctor return to the future, there will be more Van Gogh paintings in the museums. They will have prevented his tragic suicide. They've "fixed" him.

She's wrong. Van Gogh killed himself just the same. And now Amy's crushed. And she goes to the opposite extreme, saying they made no difference at all.

And the Doctor tells her it's not that simple. No, you can't logic someone out of depression. But you can make a difference. Sometimes it's enough. Sometimes it isn't. Sometimes it has nothing to do with you at all.

It's still worth it to try. It's always worth it to try. People need you to try.

After all, the fact that you can't "fix" someone's cancer doesn't stop you from being there and supporting loved ones when they face it. It may not even stop you from saying something stupid and insensitive (although hopefully we can learn from past mistakes and stop speaking in cliches and trite platitudes). But you make the effort, right?

This is no different. 

And if you're the one suffering? I'll echo the sentiments of so many others: please, please seek help. I know it seems impossible and even pointless. I know that. But I stayed stuck a whole lot longer than necessary, and I don't wish that on anyone. There is help, and there are people who care--people who do want to help, who would love to help. Even imperfectly.

We can all bumble along together while we figure it out.

This ended up being a very different post than what I had in mind when I started writing. I really intended to go an entirely different direction. Oh, well. 

Some articles about depression I liked: Ann Voskamp

Anne Lamott (I hope this one works. It's a Facebook link, but I'm assuming it's a public Facebook page. I hope it works--I liked the real, rawness of it).

http://www.muddledmother.org/2014/08/robin-williams-suicide-what-only-those.html?m=1

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Twitter tales

I haven't posted any Friday Phrases ficlets here recently. Except for the last two Fridays, I wasn't posting them on Twitter either. In the words of Adrian Monk, here's what happened:

The Friday of the Fourth of July, the prompt was "The quandary of the inebriated mariner" (aka "What shall we do with a drunken sailor?"). This prompt made me laugh very hard. It made me sing the song ("Hooray and up she rises!") over and over. It made me think of "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" ("Water, water everywhere..."). 

It did not inspire ficlets. 

Then we all got sick. 

Then I forgot.  

But! I am back it. Here are two weeks' worth of Friday Phrases offerings. 

From this past Friday (prompt: The sky is falling): 

Her personal universe collapsed around her, and she screamed inwardly in rage & grief...and smiled at him and said, "I'm fine, thanks." 

He felt like Chicken Little, warning of some far-fetched impending doom. And when it all began, he wished he'd been just as wrong. 

Operation Get Out Now was a last-ditch emergency plan. It would never be needed
It went into effect with a text: "The sky's falling."

They called it the Poison Sky as it rained down its death, disease, and destruction on all of humanity. If only they'd listened...

From the Friday before that (prompt: reflection):

Everyone said she was beautiful, kind, funny, smart. She didn't see it. She only saw her flaws, magnified through the lying glass. 

She no longer recognized herself. Childhood dreams and innocence were long gone. Only brokenness remained--shards of a past strewn about. (This one actually got a "very nice!" from the Friday Phrases Twitter account, which tickled me to no end.) 

That's all for now. Anybody have a favorite?

Monday, August 4, 2014

school daze

Not really--we're not starting school yet. Public schools have all started here, but I'm just not feeling any need to start this early.

But when we do start school, Natalie will be in kindergarten, and Sarah will be in fourth grade, and Baby E will be...Baby E. 

His mother and I have been discussing options for keeping him occupied while I'm doing lessons. So today was something of a trial run for one idea. 

Baby E really likes play dough!


Sarah is intent on what she's doing. Natalie is hamming it up for the camera!

Now they're both posing.

I waffle between being nervous about the upcoming year and feeling pretty sure it's going to go well. I guess we'll see. I'll try to post updates throughout the year as to what we're doing and how it's going.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Blueberry biscuit/scone hybrid

I'm not quite sure what to call our breakfast today other than "yummy." It really isn't anything with a proper name.

I started out intending to make biscuits. We have some homemade jam that Baby E's parents gave us. I have a link to Alton Brown's biscuit recipe saved on my iPod so I can get to it easily in the kitchen. I opened it up then stopped to ponder. The site gives other recipes from that episode, and suddenly I remembered he had made scones that show as well. 

Hmm, scones. That had possibilities. 

The recipe called for dried fruit, which I didn't have. But I remembered the blueberry biscuits my dad used to buy when I was a kid, and I did have some frozen blueberries. 

Sarah wanted to help, so I taught her how to cut the butter and coconut oil into the flour. She also helped stir the milk and egg into the flour. 

Most people roll and cut both biscuits and scones. I honestly don't have the counter space for that. So I do drop biscuits. Today it was drop scones, which isn't even a thing. 

The result wasn't very pretty, but it was tasty. 

Terrible picture, I know. It was taken with my iPod. I am no food photographer!

Funny story: Baby E would NOT eat the waffle his parents sent this morning. He totally gobbled up a scone. ;) 

Alton Brown's recipe can be found here

Money Saving Mom also has a scone recipe I've been wanting to try. (I might skip the glaze.) Maybe later this week.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Old Mother Hubbard

Actually, the cupboard isn't totally bare, which was a very good thing this week. We'd have been in much worse shape if it had been.

Frugal living bloggers often will write about their "eat from the pantry" challenges. For a specified period of time, one is only allowed to buy fresh produce and possibly dairy. Everything else must come from what you already have. For those with a good stockpile, the challenge is made much easier. They can use up their excess, make room for more stuff, save the money they would have spent grocery shopping for some goal, and so forth. 

I don't have a great stockpile. I'm not particularly good at that whole stockpiling thing anyway, but we had a power outage a couple of weeks ago that took out a good portion of our fridge. Thankfully, the chicken in the freezer came through unscathed. 

Several major bills came due this week. When all was said and done, I had $25 to spend on groceries for the week. 

Yep, eat from the pantry challenge time. 

So what did we eat this week?

1. Lentil and rice tacos 
2. Curry chicken pot pie
3. Macaroni and cheese (from the box--don't judge. Two boxes are under a dollar, and I had a headache that night anyway, so Nelson was cooking.) 
4. Cincinnati chili (to come--part of the $25 went to buying ground beef, a can of tomato sauce, and a can of kidney beans. I have all the other ingredients on hand.) 

Most of these meals yield leftovers for at least one more meal (well, all of them do for us--your mileage may vary). 

Breakfast most mornings has been pancakes--cheap and easy, and I always have flour and baking powder. For lunch, it's been mostly sandwiches or tortilla wraps. The girls like peanut butter, and another part of the $25 went to sandwich meat and cheese. 

I also made two gallons of chicken stock from the chicken bones, and that is now in the freezer. Some of it may be used to make potato soup later--I still have a few potatoes. And my last batch of potato soup never got eaten because of the power outage killing it. :-p 

Not a gourmet menu, but it keeps us all fed and happy. And I was pleasantly surprised that Nelson was able to get everything we absolutely needed for under $24--plus a bag of potato chips for a fun treat. (Yes, we made the "all that and a bag of chips!" joke. Who could resist?)

In order to keep this post from just being me all pleased with myself, I'll share a couple of recipes. Maybe that will help someone else in the future if they hit a tight week (although I know tastes vary widely, so maybe everyone else will hate all of these recipes!).

However, with my picky crew, Cincinnati chili is one of the few dishes that everyone loves and eats without complaint. I got the recipe I used from one of the few cookbooks I actually like called I'll Have What They're Having. It's all about regional cuisine from around the country. It gives stories behind the food as well as a recipe, and it makes for a fabulous, fun read. I've read through it several times, but it falls open to the Cincinnati chili recipe automatically now. ;)

Cincinnati chili
1 large onion, chopped (I can't eat onions and Nelson won't, so I sub onion powder)
1.5 lbs. ground beef
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ground allspice
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cumin (I have been known to add a bit more--I love cumin)
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1 15-oz. can tomato sauce
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce (unfortunately, I have to skip this. I miss it)
1 tbsp. cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 lb. dried spaghetti

Note: Don't go into it thinking it's going to taste like your normal Southwestern chili. With its spices, it's quite a different flavor. But it's delicious.

Saute onion, garlic, ground beef, and chili powder until meat is no longer pink. Add all other ingredients (except spaghetti), reduce heat to low, and simmer uncovered for 1.5 hours. Remove from heat. Cook spaghetti according to package directions.

Here's where this dish is perfect for my family: it's completely customizable when it comes to serving!

Two-way chili: chili over spaghetti noodles (how Natalie often eats hers)
Three-way chili: chili over spaghetti noodles, topped with shredded cheddar (this is Nelson's)
Four-way chili: chili over noodles, topped with shredded cheese and chopped onions (no one here does this)
Five-way chili: chili, spaghetti, cheese, onions, and kidney beans.

The book says that spaghetti topped with chili, cheese, and kidney beans cannot legitimately be called four-way in Cincinnati itself, but that's how Sarah and I like ours. We're just rebels. Or maybe some Cincinnati natives can tell us that the book is wrong. ;)

Curry chicken pot pie (this recipe started life as an Alton Brown recipe, but I've modified it for my crew)
3 tbsp. butter
3 tbsp. flour
1.5 cups chicken stock (can use packaged broth if you don't have homemade stock)
1/2 cup whole milk
2 cups cooked chicken (shredded, chopped, whatever)
3-4 cups mixed vegetables (whatever blend your family likes. The recipe calls for 4 cups, but I just use 3, sometimes 2. Can't get away with too many veggies around here)
1 tsp. curry powder
2 tsp. dried parsley
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
onion and garlic powder to taste (I never measure)
1 batch Alton's biscuit recipe (I use coconut oil instead of shortening)

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Whisk in flour to make a roux. Add milk and stock to pan and let cook a couple of minutes to thicken.

Combine chicken, veggies, and spices in a baking dish (recipe recommends 9 x 13, but I've messed with the recipe enough that I've gotten away with slightly smaller sizes. I have these weird rectangular pans that I'm not really sure what size they are, but they're not quite 9 x 13). Pour sauce evenly over over all. Top with spoonfuls of biscuit dough. Bake at 375 for about 40 minutes.

Obviously, you have to like curry for this recipe to be a hit with your family. For us, it's a different flavor from most things we eat, and it makes a nice change.

Once I accidentally used just turmeric instead of curry. It made the casserole very pretty. :) And we still liked it.

If you would like the original recipe, you can find it here.

Sorry this post is so long!!