Monday, November 24, 2014

the eyes have it

Natalie is in kindergarten this year. We've been working on learning to read. It hasn't been going overly well. But I did finally realize that at least part of the problem was that she couldn't quite see those letters on the page. When I would ask her about a particular sound, she'd say some random thing. "No, look at the page," I'd encourage her. And suddenly she'd have the book practically up to her nose to see just what that letter on the page actually was.

So Nelson took her to the eye doctor. Sure enough, the poor kid has quite the astigmatism.

She comes by it honestly. Every time I go to an eye doctor, I have to sit through hearing about just how unusually strong my astigmatism is. Doctors tend to go on and on about it. Apparently Natalie's is about as bad.

Genetics can really stink sometimes.

Making glasses astigmatism that strong means a long wait. But today we were finally able to pick them up. She's extremely excited about them. She's also excited about being able to see the computer and the letters in books more clearly. I'm pretty excited about that too.

Natalie in her new glasses

Sunday, November 9, 2014

blueberry biscuits

 I need to go grocery shopping. I won't give you the whole list of what I need, but I will say I've run out of eggs. 

This makes breakfast difficult. Most of our favorites require at least one egg. 

Thankfully, these blueberry biscuits do not. 

I'll never be a food photographer, will I? 
I guess I depend on berries a lot for breakfast. Strawberry soup. Blueberry pancakes, muffins, biscuits, or scones. Berries of all sorts thrown into smoothies. We like berries. We liked these biscuits too.

The recipe:
2 cups flour (I think I used about 1/2 cup all-purpose, and 1.5 cups white wheat)
2 tsp. baking powder
maybe 1/2 tsp salt (I didn't measure very well)
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter 
1 cup milk (I used vanilla almond milk)
3/4 cup frozen blueberries (I may have used slightly more)

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Cut butter into the flour using a pastry blender (or two forks. Or a food processor). Once the mixture resembles those course crumbles you need for biscuits, toss in the blueberries and mix in the milk. You want a soft dough that pulls away from the side of the bowl.

If you roll and cut biscuits, do that. Roll out on floured surface to about 1/2 inch thickness and cut with a biscuit cutter. I do drop biscuits instead. Drop by spoonfuls on a greased baking sheet.

Bake at 450 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

The recipe said the yield was 10 biscuits, but I got 12.

P.S. I started writing this post on Friday. Thankfully, I've been to the grocery store since then. Pickings were getting quite slim.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

strawberry soup

Soup for breakfast? Yes, please!

This is ridiculously easy. And pretty. And yummy. If you make it the night before, it can chill in the fridge overnight. I'll confess that I didn't do that. I just made it up in the morning. 

2.5-3 cups strawberries (I didn't measure. If you're making it the morning of, frozen berries work best.)
2 cups vanilla almond milk (or regular milk)
1 cup strawberry-flavored kefir (or cream)
0.5 cups vanilla-flavored yogurt (or plain yogurt)

If you have an immersion blender, combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and blend. If you don't have a stick blender, you can use a regular blender. You may have to work in batches though. 


Monday, October 20, 2014

bacon cheeseburger pasta

I'm not a gourmet chef. I'm a schlep-it-all-in-the-pan and get-the-food-on-the-table sort of cook.

I'm certainly not a food photographer.

And I don't Pinterest.

But I know a lot of people do Pinterest. And I know a recipe needs a picture before it can be pinned.

So...voila! Bacon cheeseburger pasta!

I'd already stowed the leftovers in the fridge before I remembered to take a pic--see slightly "frosty" look the container has?

This is an easy recipe, and everyone ate it (yay!). I saw the original recipe in a magazine years ago, but I've long since lost it. I just recreated it tonight.

Bacon Cheeseburger Pasta
1 lb. ground beef
4 slices bacon
1 15-oz. can tomato sauce
8 oz. spaghetti, cooked
1 cup shredded cheddar (or whatever cheese you like) seasonings (more on that in a minute)

Brown ground beef in a skillet. Drain. Cook bacon until crisp, drain off grease, and crumble into beef. Season however you like your hamburgers seasoned. Tonight I used salt, pepper, garlic, onion powder, cumin, and a chipotle barbecue spice rub I have. But use what you have and like. Add tomato sauce and spaghetti noodles. Allow to simmer for 5-10 minutes. Add cheese and allow to melt.

That's it. Pretty simple.

(I would have LOVED to add sauteed mushrooms to this. My family would kill me for that. But if yours won't, give it a whirl--and send me some! I'm sure sauteed onions would be great too--but don't send me that.)

Monday, October 13, 2014

it's fall, y'all

We were sick.

Then it rained. And rained. For days.

But our reward for surviving all of that? Today!

Today with its absolutely perfect weather.

I wish I had a better camera. Because it's gorgeous here, and the iPod doesn't do it justice. But here's my best effort to share. (I'll try to post more pics as we move further into the fall season and the colors come out more.)

The shade of blue the sky turns in autumn is one of my favorite colors on earth

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Sarah's artwork

Sarah got an art set for her birthday. She was eager to try it out today. 

She wanted me to share her first picture using the set. 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

dawning of a new decade

I have a ten-year-old.

Pause. Deep breath. Let me let that sink in for a minute.

I have a ten-year-old.

Yeah, it doesn't sound any less weird.

Part of me can't imagine that she could possibly, in any universe, be ten. She was four just ten minutes ago, I swear. Two just a couple of minutes before that. So she was only a baby about half an hour ago, right? Right?!

Okay, so no, I guess not.

And yet another part of me feels she always been here, always been a part of my life, always been a part of me. It's hard to put into words exactly.

We had cake and gifts at my parents' house yesterday. We were planning to go to the Apple Festival today, but she's sick. She's currently sleeping on the couch. (The only good thing about her being sick--she sleeps pretty much constantly when she feels bad. And that seems to help her recover quickly. I'm hoping that will be the case this time.)

Since I don't have fun Apple Festival pictures to post, I'll just post a few other photos of my girl who is now a decade old (nope, not getting any less weird).

Oct. 4, 2004

Sept., 2006

July, 2008

December, 2010

Oct., 2012

Oct. 3, 2014
Happy birthday, Sarah! (And feel better soon!)

Saturday, August 30, 2014

water, water everywhere...

We've had some hot weather the last few days. Our deck is a lovely way to be outside while being at least a little sheltered from the sun.

And water play is always a hit in the summer.

A little tip I picked up from my days teaching preschool: grab some paintbrushes, a bucket of water, and paint the driveway, sidewalk, or (in our case) deck with water. There's no mess, the kids enjoy it, and the worst-case scenario is that everyone gets wet.

Baby E didn't really paint much, but he LOVED stirring the paintbrush vigorously in the water.

The deck is very wet now.

Eventually we traded the water and the deck for sidewalk chalk on the driveway. This did not last long; it was too hot.

This is a wet spot. Baby E dumped an entire container of water from the deck. Sarah wanted to try the chalk in there to see if the colors would be brighter.

Sarah, the good little sci-fi fan, encouraging extra-terrestrial visits

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!" 


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. 


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.) 


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).

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!!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Natalie's story

Natalie asked for the iPad and keyboard and and said she wanted to write a story. I opened a Google Doc for her, and away she went.

Here are the results:

ijsrsfjidlskdjfijurtimfnmvvvv,mdkln    ffnfnfnmnsfm       jwhcfjkwhfkjhfjdh                 bjbfjdsbhrbngfdbcbsfbncdnmnvnhgg  nmfhjgjtrh bdh jdhkfhrehewuguyrwgurguyrhufhuuy8vrtgytgy9fhutytyisjjdijeiouroeruourtyeyriyeyiqyriiujdfkiskzkdjiujtijhrfryfreyuhfhhnfjefrjthrhgjf       uryyduifyrifyyiurytfegfhgfieootk1jcjjhfnnjh23446t87988888890bvcxbvndbnbcjxbvcbvnfcnbhffnbddnbvhjbdfhdvsghvvvvvvsmas,x,x,x,,lmkkkxmx,,,,,nfjghietpppuipdoodmcmmckvkjjfhfjkrhrjumccmjhurirjjgnnvnvmvmvjvvvkhdgjhdjkfhgghdjhgjhnjdkghbxzvchxhfegjhfguhfhjhghhdygwqjwgdhjgyggfgygrgeUGyfyrftftewffdyet6ytdtdyetfhgcfuufgddgffgeutrreyfgdftcerfgfgetyrgerrtfgffdgfgdyfgcuytfrugeryctrfyuutftdtygfdjslskkjjjfwed hjgs jvfgydgcvgvdwghthtjghjdrey6gruyetgfhufgyrtgrhufmchhheudyecgfduyg yjc ghdgdchgdugdgcycgggggjhgjghjyruevGH yeuqrgfyugyuefyestgfytystfgdygydfcgyerry6rgfeyftdgftcftyfdtddgcfvc dtyffffgvgfgfggfgfhfhdhdushsjeuueyuxj vxk diohaelehd;QLOErhq3yt ggfhffh jet87576kvjfihjgbjhvbjfhigghhfhfuhufffuurguigigidhhuegh,ddm                   dhatfghgyu4gtuydufygfuywgryq3gryfev4trftevwfrteyft4reuye           bfhdguuyr4gt54gt  gyrtu45uti6utg5t6u45yfrtggt42yr437ytrhugtjhgufhguhjvhiukfhfuhfjhrtjhgfgrjfduifrfjjoooooooooooooohsdfghwfhegfhdgfgfywr      hgrgfygrweyurgsyrgyetvygrseytytgw     jfbhgjcbfyjhjgytyyfyfyftyfeytfytfytfeyrwhrjegruyeuyrutuyrtgyrgtgurytuetyteuytuytyurytrtuytytryryyyyytrnhgghghhijhgruytrygdsfdhfydfgrsyete6r6t6ututrrt6utru46twyerhfdhfvdvdfbhfhfhdfhfdfgdgtuyyyyygutgrgfgffggfrruuty858888855uygtuyty8lyi5yityiittttterkhehtihhfhuyiuyhyrujhrujhrjhrjhh

For laughs, I had her dictate her story into Dragon. This is what it transcribed:

Hello red's with polilla Ignat Haystak Banky Pinhey with he went to find you I have Eric Horning give or do I have a play day with a growing friendship Ritlin Roing just signed up Oparei Kweli Kabia Fanck Lichenstein Banditz Bonz Undergaro Omori Neengalum Seph time do I have a recording. Or do I have a Rocklanding growing up Nick and Ifeel Eurobeat to redyube Reow Tilbe Dhiri Hafte to Bolillo almost be the same age as me.

It has very little to do with what she actually said (it's a crap dictation program, really). Her actual words had to do with Baby E growing up to be a scientist. 

But you know what I think? Even in gibberish, her stories are better than 50 Shades of Grey. So there. 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

baby talk

I thought I'd already posted this, but here sits in my drafts folder. Oops. Posting now!

We love our baby-sitting charge, Baby E (although it isn't going to be long before I need a different online nickname for the little guy--he's not really a baby anymore). He adds a great deal of fun, laughter, and delight to our days.

Some amusing highlights from this week:

It's Fun Fest, one of the girls' favorite weeks of the year. On Monday, we headed to the Kids Central activities. We met up with a friend. While Natalie and Baby E were playing in a tent filled with toys, Sarah was trying to master the monkey bars on the playground next to us.
When it was time to go, I called out, "Sarah!"

Baby E spent the rest of the time bellowing, "Eh-wa!" every time he thought she got too far away. Even here at home now, he'll call, "Eh-wa!" in that same sing-song voice to summon her.

He's learning to say a few other words, and Sarah is quite determined that he will learn to say "Da-da."

He thwarts her at every turn. She says over and over: "Say Da-da! Say Da-da!" And every single time he responds with, "Ma-ma! Ma-ma!"

You can't tell me he doesn't know exactly what he's doing. Cheeky kid. :)

Wednesday found us back at Kids Central. It was the day of the Splash Dance. They close off street and bring in a fire truck and spray the hoses. Sarah loved it. Natalie...not so much. Baby E...not even remotely.

I didn't go out into the street with him. I knew fire hoses would be way too intense for our little man. But even off to the side on the grass, we got misted. And being misted was enough to make poor Baby E one miserable little dude. He burrowed into my chest, wailing. (He doesn't like the local splash pad either. Apparently he loved the ocean when on vacation, but sprinklers and hoses don't do it for him. At all.) 

Maybe next year he'll have a better time. And maybe by then, he'll be saying "Da-da" for Sarah. ;)

Thursday, July 10, 2014

so many books, so little time

I love books. My favorite genre is mystery (sometimes with a little romance thrown in). I don't like graphic violence or hard-core gore; I prefer just the old-fashioned "whodunnit" type of detective story. I like trying to put together all the clues.

But I also read other things--fiction and nonfiction. I got to thinking about my reading habits today as I was organing books on the Kindle. 

I love my Kindle. I love being able to carry around hundreds of books at a time in one lightweight little device. I love the daily freebies. (Nelson would love not having to buy yet another bookshelf, but that hasn't actually born out in reality--I still love real books too. And some things I strongly prefer in the "real book" format. So, yeah--sorry, dear!) 

So here is a breakdown of what it currently on my Kindle, so that you can all psychoanalyze my reading habits. ;)

Fiction: 533 books
Christian: 252 books 
Health, beauty, and fitness: 202 books 
Food and recipes: 180 books 
Business, money, and finance: 151 books
Home and family: 141 books 
Writing and blogging: 128 books 
Time management and organization: 107 books 
Books for Sarah and Natalie: 91 (I have more on the iPad; some children's books won't work on the actual Kindle because of the graphics and whatnot)
Homeschooling and other education: 74 books 

Whew! I'm glad I don't have to store or tote around all those!

Now, some books may show up in more than one category. Some fiction books are also Christian. Some businnes books also cover time management. And so on.

I try to switch it up and read from all the various categories, but I'll admit that I haven't even opened the food and recipes folder in ages. The business and money one is pretty neglected as well. 

Fiction, health, and writing probably see the most action. Go figure. about you? What are your favorite types of books? How might your folders break down? 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

you say po-tay-to, I say po-tah-to

After the trials of fixing supper last night, I was at least able to offer eggs and hash browns. Natalie was excited about the idea of hash browns while I was cooking. However, once the hash browns were actually on her plate, she had a different reaction. "You said hash browns! These are potatoes!" she said, sounding quite affronted by the whole thing.

Poor kid, with her horrible deceptive mother.

Today, she offered to help me with my "dirty work" (her term for house cleaning chores). I'm going to give her that one. ;)

On the subject of "dirty work," I really should have taken before and after pictures of my pantry today. It's all organized! Alas, a camera never actually occurs to me. So just imagine that it was a kind of a jumbled mess before and it's all neat and tidy now, okay? ;)

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

when Plan A fails, go to Plan B...I mean, Plan C...I mean...oh, never mind

Some days trying to cook supper really isn't worth the effort.

Today was one of those days.

I had a plan. Spaghetti and salad. I had lots of good salad ingredients. Something for everyone (and in this house, that's no mean feat!).

But I took the meat for the spaghetti sauce out of the fridge and knew immediately that Plan B was in order. The package had leaked, the meat didn't look right, and it smelled even worse. Gross.

Okay. Toss the meat; regroup. I had bacon, eggs, and some frozen hash browns. Breakfast for supper would save the day!

I hadn't actually bought the bacon. It had been given to us. But I pulled it from the fridge and looked at the date. November 19, 2013.

Um. That's really not any better than the meat. Yeesh.

Sighing, grumbling, and generally being put out with life, I tossed the bacon too.

Okay, eggs are protein, I have cheese, I have hash browns. We're still going to make this breakfast/supper hybrid thing work.

And it did, sort of. Not to brag or anything, but I make really good scrambled eggs. I don't always like eating anyone else's, truth be known. And this batch came out really pretty and perfect.

Only...Nelson had been feeling rotten all day and finally succumbed. (Whatever Natalie had at the beginning of the week hit him, and he's in bed with a fever.) He wasn't interested in supper at all. Sarah ate happily, but Natalie didn't eat much either. My beautiful eggs went largely unappreciated.

I like hash browns an awful lot though, so I probably ate more than my fair share. In that sense, I guess it's good that I didn't have to share, right? (Trying to find the silver lining here.)

If someone wants to take over supper preparations at my house, you are welcome to it. I think I'm done.

Monday, June 30, 2014

book review: behind the mask

I love the daily Kindle freebies. But the books are something of a gamble. Some of the books you snag for free are downright awful. Some are fabulous gems. Most fall somewhere in the middle.

I had been on a streak of mediocre to terrible as far as Kindle reading went. And then I started reading Behind the Mask by Elizabeth D. Michaels.

I knew from the start that it was going to be good. It began like a historical mystery, with a little bit of romance thrown in. That happens to be my favorite genre, so I was excited to find a new author who was actually good.

I guess I should have paid a bit more attention to the book description. The mystery only lasted through the first part of the book. Once it wrapped up, I thought the book over. It wasn't. Not even close.

Turns out the book was a saga. Seven hundred and ninety-two pages worth of saga. With a sequel to come. Wowza.

That's okay, though--it was a good saga. I'll probably get the sequel and read it too.

I'll admit that the twists didn't actually surprise me (I've read too many mysteries over the years--not many surprises left).  But since it was a saga rather than a straight-up mystery, it's more about the characters' journey anyway, so I'm not too bothered by that. I liked the characters enough to stay engaged throughout the whole thing.

It's available in paperback as well as Kindle (although the e-edition is certainly easier to tote around!).

If you're a fan of historical fiction, give it a try. (Amazon does offer the Kindle version in segments, although it ends up being more expensive overall to purchase it that way. However, it will let you try a part of it first to see if you like it before you commit to the whole thing. It's a nice option. Or you can just request a free sample--not sure how big of a sample they'll send, but it is free and at least gives you a preview.)

Disclaimer: The link is an affiliate link. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Twitter tales

 Friday Phrases gives a prompt each week for people to post "micro-fiction" on Twitter. You can use the prompt or not (so far I've always used it). When I click through the #FP hashtag, I find it fascinating how different the stories all are. Some are light and humorous; some are dark and haunting. I'm often amazed at what people can fit into so few words. Being rather verbose by nature, I often find it hard to condense my thoughts down enough to fit into a tweet, but I think it's good for me to have to do so. And I pick up new followers each week I participate, and my tweets are being retweeted and favorited. I'll admit that those things make me smile. :)

Here are some of my Twitter tales:

She seemed so sweet and innocent at first, needing his help and protection. She robbed him blind. He forgave the theft but not the lies. (prompt: at first blush)

She wished she could go back, make different choices. But it was too late. She'd dug her own grave and had no way to claw back out now. (prompt: grave digging)

She scowled at the scenery whizzing by. He was excited about a new start; she already missed home. She'd make sure this never worked. (prompt: through the glass)

He watched through the glass. She never let up, bad cop all the way. He should go in, rein her in.
 He didn't move. This was too fun. (prompt: through the glass)

She'd seen it all through that dirty window.
She could never forget.
But he wouldn't either, and that's why she was still running. (prompt: through the glass)

If you find these interesting, let me know. I'll try to share here each week, for non-Twitter family and friends.

If you get a chance and are on Twitter, check out #FP. The creativity of the participants is really astounding!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

I get by with a little help from my friends...

So I talked a bit about faith communities in the previous post--about how we spur each other on (or sometimes carry each other along--I need the latter a fair amount if I'm honest). Sometimes we need someone quite literally to take our hands and guide us along the way. Other times it's more metaphorical.

A few weeks ago, I was the lucky recipient of a more symbolic hand-holding.

On Twitter, the hashtag #amwriting is a fun one to visit.  You can swap advice and tips, share a bit of your current project, or vent a little. On this particular occasion, I was most interested in the first and third of those things. It wasn't exactly going well. I had reread my work thus far several times, trying to get an idea of how the next scene should play out. I had turned on my favorite writing music. But nothing was coming to me.

Finally, in exasperation, I tweeted, "At the moment, #amstuck feels more apt than #amwriting." 

I think that is my most popular tweet to date. It was retweeted and favorited by several writers who could relate to the feeling. And I picked up several fellow writers as followers. lovely online pal (whom I'll call Campy) immediately responded. She offered to be a cheerleader, beta reader--whatever I needed, whatever would help. I didn't even know what would help at that point, but I appreciated her willingness to step in.

She then came up with the idea of doing a writing sprint together. We'd both set a timer, set our writing play list, and just write for that amount of time. Whatever came out. 

It honestly wasn't terribly different from what I'd been doing (or trying to do, rather) up to that point. And worked. There was something so powerful about knowing someone was out there, writing with me. I started typing...and I kept going. I ended up with over 800 words when all was said and done. And I know it had everything to do with the power of knowing someone was out there, doing it with me. 

The power of community--of being in this thing together. I love it. (Thanks again, Campy!)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

stumbling in the dark

*resurrects blog again* (How many lives has this thing had anyway?)

Sorry. I've been busy with lots of other types of writing, which is good, but I didn't really mean to neglect this for so long. But then, I never do. So...oops.

Anyway...recapping the last several months would be ridiculous. Most of it is on Facebook or other social networks for those interested. I'll just pick up from here.

This was my Sunday.

A local church in town does kind of a "Narnia experience" type thing. They do one each month and cover each of the seven books. For the first one, in May, Nelson took Sarah to a local park where they ate the "beaver's supper" (fried fish and tea) and recreated the battle with water balloons. Book 2 was my turn. We crossed a river, ate a meal of shared sandwiches, and gave the children time to play in the river. There is also a discussion time.

Everything was going, um, swimmingly...until the leader announced that we would be staying there on the river bank until it got dark.

Wait, what? I knew I had to cross a river. No one mentioned I had to cross a river in the dark.

I'm not the most sure-footed of people (a childhood nickname of mine was Grace, and I can assure you it was completely sarcastic), and I don't see well at night. I hadn't minded the first river crossing (although I had stumbled a couple of times) because it was broad daylight, and I could see. But I didn't like this idea of going back across in the dark.

But they had bussed us there as a group, so it wasn't like I could bail early. I was stuck.

The leader made an analogy of a faith walk just before we started back across. We had to trust that he knew the way, even in the dark. Quite frankly, I trusted him to do just fine. It was myself I wasn't too sure about!

We started out. Sarah clung to me at first, but I think she finally decided she'd do better on her own. She and her walking stick moved on ahead of me a bit. I trudged behind, fumbling for safe rocks to plant my feet on and clinging to my walking stick.

I made it about halfway and panicked. I wasn't quite hyperventilating, but I sure came close.

Then a very kind and gracious lady from behind me stepped up and grabbed my hand. She proceeded to hold my hand the rest of the way, patiently keeping me upright and on the right path. Sadly, it was too dark to see her properly, and I was too busy trying to breathe and other such things to find out her name.

But we made it. God bless her.

And the area was truly beautiful at night. There were hundreds of lightening bugs, and they lit the trees behind us as we walked up the hill away from the river. Sarah said they made the trees look like crystal--she was rather awestruck.

 I pondered the leader's words about walking by faith even we can't see the path very well. If the river at night is a tangible example of that sort of faith, I clearly fail. Thankfully, though, even in matters of faith and spirituality there are people who can come alongside of us and hold us upright when we stumble. That is what the church is all about. We walk that path together.

Friday, February 7, 2014

technically speaking, part 2

My laptop is still on the fritz, and the part Nelson ordered for it hasn't come yet.  Stealing time on the iPad is something of an iffy proposition, because I share it with the girls and they use it for school a fair amount.  This adds up to not getting as much writing done as I'd like this week.

But an interesting thing happened yesterday.  Although I still use and swear by a paper planner (much to my techie husband's chagrin), I do all of my writing on a computer.  I have since college.  Even before the the technology snafus of the previous post, I was in a bit of a writing slump.  Call it writer's block or whatever, but nothing was flowing all that well.  I was stuck. 

Writing gurus often recommend mixing things up to get the juices flowing again.  Sometimes that might include a change of scenery, but for me a change of medium did the trick.  Since I was on the outs with technology, I went old-school and grabbed pen and paper.  

And I became unblocked.  I wrote a quick blurb for pay for Textbroker, which I typed up this morning.  I outlined an idea that I might pitch to Relevant.  And I got some work done on my fiction.  

Apparently technology isn't always all that's it cracked up to be.  I'll still probably do most of my writing on the computer once everything's working again, but I'm definitely open to changing it up more often.  
Getting unstuck is nice.

And pen and paper doesn't quit working on me.  

Friday, January 31, 2014

technically speaking

We all depend on technology, even though we really shouldn't.  We all know how fickle and unreliable it is.  We even joke: "Technology is great--when it works!"

Given that difficulties are just the nature of the technological beast, I usually laugh them off.  A quick eye roll, a message to Nelson if I can't fix it myself--no big deal.  

But the past 24 hours have piled frustration on top of frustration.  I am about to the point of chucking every last piece of tech we own right out the door.  

It started with school yesterday morning.  The printer wouldn't print Natalie's activity.  First it just sat silently.  Then it made grinding noises.  But nothing actually printed.

Still, it turned out there was just paper jammed in it, so--no big deal, right? 

Then one of Sarah's school lessons was on a website that used Java.  The most recent Java update apparently has the interwebs in full freak out mode.  Firefox wouldn't let the plug-in work--at all.  We tried I.E. (and I haven't used I.E. in years)--still no go.  Finally we managed to get I.E. to make an exception and run the plug-in for that website.  Fine.  Until the same problem arose on another website in a later lesson.  I.E. had a fit again.

Grumble, grumble. 

Then I sat down to write last night--and my laptop died completely.  Either the power cord or the power socket has given up the ghost.  

My phone needed more minutes, so Nelson said he would add them to my account for me.  But when I turned on my phone this morning, it still showed no minutes.  Figuring that maybe Nelson had just forgotten, I went to the website to take care of it myself.  But the website wouldn't let me, and it showed that my account HAD been updated with new minutes.  I tried resetting the phone again--nope, still nothing.  Back to the website--still showing minutes.   

Are you kidding me?  

To top things off, Natalie dropped the iPad on my nose this morning.  It hurts.

I'm thinking I might become a Luddite.