Menu time!

Sunday: Winter Vegetable Stew with cornbread
Monday: Baked Rigatoni with portabello mushrooms
Tuesday:Baked Ravioli
Wednesday:Taco Bake
Friday: Lamb Stew with Roasted Vegatables or Shepherd's Pie...
Saturday: Leftovers


Christmas goodies

So, I apparently have been co-dependent on my extended family in one way I had never realized.

I have never made Christmas cookies. Okay, I've made sugar cookie cutouts but those don't really count. I mean those delicious, buttery, bad for you, only-made-once-a-year kindof goodies. The famed Yule Cake, the delicious fudge, the wonderful assortment of chocolates and brownies and the like - These have just been taken for granted.

This year is the first time we are not with our family over the holidays. And I am craving all kinds of things I wouldn't normally eat.

My mom sent a basket full of goodies with a note that says - don't open until Christmas! What?! I want to open in now, today, yesterday really.

All of this is good news really. I made snowballs! These are buttery, melt in your mouth sugar covered balls of yumminess. And I'd like to say that I made the best ones I've ever tasted. They are moist, yet crunchy, buttery yet soft, sugary yet sugary. Okay, they can't really be too sugary. They were easy to make and everyone was so excited to eat them!

Now comes in the restraint.

Up on stage

Oh my - I had so much fun! What happened to nerves, being scared into standing still, and anxiety? I felt at ease and perfectly peaceful singing in the choir today. I also enjoyed bringing my outgoing, fun Anna with me to the 7AM checkin time. She was so excited to be there - it reminded me of all the years I went with my Dad to play rehearsals and choir practices, happy just to watch and be there.

Now I should put this morning in perspective: There were about 25 of us, off to the side of the stage, singing 4 songs.

As far as what to do? We were told to please let our inside praise show on the outside. Really? You mean no one will look at me funny, like um, could you please not raise your hands and not seem to be overly enjoying this - we are at church, you know? I had full permission to show how I felt and I was excited about that.

This was truly God's work. I am normally shy, reserved and not one to go overboard. But, in private I am really moved by music, especially when praising God. So, it was fun, I was not Angie, but a "choir singer". I was more outgoing, more friendly and happy.

Praise God! He truly shined through me despite myself.


Let us sing

I am surely crazy.

I volunteered to sing at church on Sunday. With the choir. On the stage. In front of people who I do not know (we don't really know anyone at church yet).

But, I have been enjoying wonderful memories. The memory of my Dad singing his warmup "song" before church. I remember just marveling at how beautiful a voice can sound. I didn't know how to make my voice sound like his but I just loved to hear it.

I also remember sitting in the church doing choir practice every week. And then on weekends for special concerts. I certainly did get into a lot of things I probably shouldn't have but I was completely independent. And I enjoyed listening to the choir members banter, the laughing then singing - so wonderful.

Right before I got pregnant with Anna I took some voice lessons. It wasn't long but it sure helped me to think about how to sing. So, although I am no amazing vocalist, I think I'll be a nice addition to the group. I am actually looking forward to it with only a slight nauseous feeling.


Anna's teeth

I took Anna to the orthodontist.

My dentist told me how many orthodontists were putting 8 and 9 year olds in braces when it was not really necessary. They just end up needing them again when they are older. So, Matt & I were fairly skeptical about taking her in. But, her overbite has gotten so severe that her lower teeth are cutting into the roof of her mouth. So, I was getting worried.

And rightly so - the constant presence of her lower teeth on the top of her mouth can wear away the gum tissue and damage the roots of her adult teeth. Yikes! So, after consulting with the orthodontist and the xrays, I feel I have a good understanding of what is going on. No braces for her yet (she really wants them though) but she will be getting a bite plate to protect her mouth. It should be something like a retainer. And she will probably need a couple of her baby teeth pulled in a few years (just like me!). Her lower jaw is just too small for them.

So, there's the update!


Anna earns her Yellow Stripe!

When I was growing up, I begged my mom to enroll me in Karate. (The Karate Kid was just out, and I wanted to do the wax-on, wax-off thing.) For reasons I didn't understand at the time, she flatly refused.

Perspectives change. Pondering the thought of parenting rambunctious boys well-trained in the martial arts certainly doesn't sound appealing to me now. I can see now, with my mothers eyes, little-boy-Matt karate chopping little-brother-Ryan. Dad-Matt sides with his mother.

But we don't have boys. We have girls. And when parents of little girls imagine their martial-arts-trained girls, it seems to be different. I want my girls to be able to defend themselves. Fortunately for me, Anna is interested in this as well. This year we enrolled her in the Taekwon-Do program at her school.

It is the first disciplined activity that Anna really enjoys. We've had her in ballet, tap dancing, and gymnastics -- the quintessential little girl activities -- but she didn't really take to any of them. But she loves Taekwon-Do.

Last Saturday Anna had her first promotion test.

A promotion test is a public event during which each student is examined by one or more blackbelts to see if she displays enough mastery of her current level, and is ready to advance a level. In Anna's case, she was testing to advance from "white belt" to "white belt, yellow stripe."

The belt test took place at a nearby gymnasium. There were well over one hundred kids there, along with three dozen instructors and hundreds of parents. The parents sat quietly in folding chairs lining three of the four walls. Before the fourth wall was a row of tables, with the black belts seated behind them. As soon as I entered the gym, my heart started racing. For some reason, I had expected something small, calm, low-key. Instead, this was an ordeal!

The children were encouraged to warm up, and for nearly thirty minutes I watched Anna stretching, running and practicing. I met her instructor and a few of her fellow classmates. I nervously chatted with a few nearby parents, trying to discover what my child was about to go through.

At 2:3o, after the warmup was completed, the grand master (which, I gather, is someone well beyond the standard black belt) rose from his position at the table and walked to the center of the room. All of the children immediately took notice and quieted. He briefly addressed his students, giving a short (and surprisingly inspiring) speech about fortitude and self-discipline. Then he called the first group of children to the center of the room. This is when I learned about what a promotion test is really like.

He began with the smallest children. They were arranged in two rows in the center of the room, and each child was introduced to the black belt who would be evaluating her or him. Nothing was done in a rush, and to my surprise, very few of the children seemed nervous -- or hyper. They calmly stood in their places, assuming a sort of restful but respectful stance.

The grand master then led them through a long series of organized drills, during which they exercised each of the skills being evaluated: punches, kicks, blocks, stances, and so on. I counted one type of punch, three types of kick, and three types of block. Some of these drills were performed with a partner. In others, the children rotated as they performed the motions: punch forward, rotate ninety degrees, punch, rotate, and so on. I realized later that this allowed the black belts to examine technique from multiple angles.

Anna performed all of her moves admirably. Her dramatic flair is helpful, I think. Her motions are very crisp and deliberate. At one point, her robe came untied, and a helpful red belt had to step in and re-tie it. None of this phased Anna (or anyone else) in the least.

After the drills came the big surprise.

The students formed a line on one side of the gym, and the grand master crouched on a mat at the other end. A moment later, a red belt rushed over to him holding a light brown rectangle about two feet long, eight inches wide, and a half-inch thick. The grand master held it before him in a braced position, and instructed the first child to come. The child ran across the gym, jumping into the air as he approached his master, and flung out his foot before him. As he hit the object, he bounced back and landed on the mat.

At first, I thought the object was some kind of plastic plate to practice kicking, but after the first child made three kicks, the second child sprinted down the floor and put her foot through the rectangle. The loud familiar snap identified it as a board. A seven year old had just kicked through a piece of wood. The crowd went wild.

Over the course of the next thirty minutes I watched child after child take a shot at their boards. Each one got three shots. Anna was at the end of a group of around 40. When it was finally her turn, only three or four children before her had broken the board (though almost all of them had given their board a solid kick).

Anna's first attempt showed her to be a good jump, and a solid kick. But the board didn't yield. My heart was in my throat. There was nothing I wanted more at that moment than to see her snap the board in half.

As she sprinted across the floor, I could see her determination. She jumped into the air, yelled "set" (or whatever the Taekwon-Do yell is), and thrust her foot out. A loud crack split the air, and the crowd cheered. Anna had split her board, and she was absolutely radiant.

After bowing to the board of black belts, she turned back to her grand master, who rewarded her with her broken trophy. Anna glowed. I'm pretty sure I glowed. As a father, it was a chance to relish a moment. I saw my child succeed, and I knew that it was the result of hard work on her part.

And it is cool, I admit, to have a second grader who can kick through a solid piece of wood.

It was a big opportunity for Anna to experience the result of self-discipline and hard work. She earned her new belt, and she seems to be just a little more enthusiastic about taking responsibility on her homework and other tasks. Since then, I have been working hard at something, too. I'm looking for a sign that says, "My daughter can kick a hole in your honor student's desk."

-- Matt


The Nutcracker Ballet

What a night!

What a beautiful, wonderful, memorable night.

Winter Well Being

Anyone wondering how I'm fairing this winter? Anyone?

I am doing pretty well actually. I have found that my well being is greatly affected by several factors:

1. Amount of sun exposure
2. Regular workouts
3. Healthy eating
4. Taking vitamins
5. Adequate sleep
6. Time in prayer/meditation

It seems to take about a day to recover if one of these basic winter needs is not met. So, if there is no sunshine for a few days then I crash. I will recover after a sunny day. If I miss one of my 3 weekly workouts, I crash. It usually takes a few days to recover from that one.

But, as long as I am mindful of these things and stay focused I am doing really well. I have been braving the 15 degree weather and walking to and from school. I do NOT enjoy it, don't get me wrong, but when the sun is out I find I am energized the next day.

Also, spending time praying while I run has been transforming. I find myself focusing on others instead of myself which in turn makes me feel better. I am finding myself volunteering to serve and help others which ends up refueling my spiritual tank as well. For the first time in years I am growing and changing in a way I am pleased with.

Now, I have just got to get some pictures up here!

Menu for the week

Okay - here we go again!

Sunday: Zucchini Crab Cakes with Mashed Red Potatoes

Monday: Risotto with Mashed Sweet Potatoes and sauteed baby portobello mushrooms

Tuesday: Black bean and Brown Rice Burritos with roasted veggies, raw spinach and cheese

Wednesday: Cornmeal Pancakes with sauteed sweet apples and salad

Thursday: Twice Baked Potatoes with Spinach salad (We ended up having calzones two nights last week and so this got moved to this week)

Friday: Pizza Night!

Saturday: Taco Bake (from Simple Colorado Too)


Playing Claire

Katherine decided to play "Claire" today. So, she was Claire and she told me what to do. Claire has been very bossy with Katherine lately so it was fun to see Katherine act out how she thought Claire treated her.

When it was time for nap she said, "I don't take a nap, I'm Claire!"


This Week's menu

Here's what the mostly-vegetarian family will be eating this week:

Sunday: Thai Tofu & Green Bean Curry (with the addition of portebello mushrooms, bean sprouts, celery and broccoli)

Monday: Turkey Meatball/Veggie Subs with roasted vegetables
Tuesday: Calzones (ricotta cheese, mozzarella and sauted vegetables)
Wednesday: Twice Baked Potatoes
Thursday: Leek & Turnip Pie
Friday: PIZZA
Saturday: Meatless lasagna


thanksgiving wrap-up

So, I did not stress out.

I did not panic.

I had a great day! Thanksgiving went so well I think maybe I was actually dreaming and it actually hasn't happened yet. Except there is a Christmas tree up now so it must be over.

And, to update all those anxious readers (and I know from all the comments I get that there must be at least one of you), I just ironed 15 shirts!

So, the decorations have rotated - Thanksgiving/fall away and Christmas out. I am totally loving the prelit, 3 part tree I bought last year. 10 minutes and we had a tree with lights up! And our mini-tree will make a nice addition to the kitchen table. It's starting to feel a lot like Christmas....

Anna's birthday is quickly approaching - she'll be 8 this year. She said today, "I can't wait to be 8, I'll get to do so many more things than I could before." Like what?? Clean up your own dirty underwear off the bathroom floor?

I really like her personality, her outgoingness, her excitement for life and her sensitive heart.

Must get back to the iron!

The Table (Veggie-loving Matt serves the meat - and yes, he did eat a little of it):

The Kid's table:

Movie time!


November comes to a close

Ironing stinks. My goal was to iron all 20 shirts - 3 done. And I'm done. It is too hard to iron with little 2 year old fingers trying to touch the ironing board.

Anna has taken to wearing all the same color. Apparently a character in her favorite book series, A to Z Mysteries, likes to wear all the same color of everything. So, last Thursday was pink, then Friday was pink again (we have a lot of pink) and today was black. She actually looks very cute.

Katherine is done with naps, again. I had been enjoying her taking naps again for the last few weeks. But, now they are off. It's going to take me a while to get used to it.

Claire is reading, reading and then reading some more. She likes to read anything she sees and then just loves to read books to us - I hate it when I have to say no, you can't read me anymore books.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!! We're going to have our Argentinian friends and family over - should be a fun day. I swear I am not going to stress out this year. Okay - so I'm totally going to stress out, but perhaps I'll calm down enough to enjoy the food. Ha!


Christmas shopping

We started our shopping this weekend. It sortof feels too early, but the calm stores, lack of crowds and time to think all made it worth it. We had a neighbor girl watch our girls and headed out for some time by ourselves. It was great! We got a lot of shopping done and had fun just being together. Does an hour and a half together count as a date?

Although we aren't able to spend much money this year, we are truly enjoying working to pick out one or two special things for those we love. It is a true pleasure to give and receive gifts when there are few enough to cherish them. A handful of presents is special and memorable, a storage tub full is just excessive. What a joy hard times can be - family is more special, friends are more important and everything seems valuable.

Well, the girls are enjoying a long awaited bubble bath and I'm off to clean bubbles off every surface within splattering range of the tub.


Alone again - Matt left a few days ago and gets home tomorrow. I just don't handle this alone time too well. I actually felt energized by being in a house with another grown up today. I thought the 6 kids also present would wear me out, but they didn't. I just so enjoyed getting to talk and be with a close friend. It boosted me out of a very low place. I think getting a good dose of sun this morning and a great workout also helped. Oh, and a lot of prayer!

Now, the kids are in bed and I think I'll get back to Biggest Loser - did you know that all the episodes are online, in their entirety? And the commercials are only 30 seconds or less? I watched the pilot last night, now I can't wait to watch the next one.

Even New Moon will have to wait.


Single weekend

Phew - the weekend without Matt is done. He's headed home now. Unfortunately he had to take a cab, but it means that there are 3 clean and happy girls all snuggled in bed instead of a crazy family home late from a long drive to the airport.

We survived the weekend by being really sad for a little while and then moving on to Saturday morning cartoons, Chuck E Cheese for several hours, and then home to run around like crazy from all the sugar and excitement. The girls had one of their favorite meals for dinner - Ramen noodles. Then it was early bedtime for Katherine so we could have a Girls movie night. We watched The King and I and then all headed to Mommy's bed for a "sleep-under".

While we snuggled close, we talked and talked about what it would be like if our house was made out of candy. It was really fantastic to be all cuddled up together in my bed with them. They were warm and cute and snuggly. Around 9:30 Claire fell asleep and Anna began her wiggle-fest, trying earnestly to fall asleep. She was so disappointed that she couldn't get to sleep in my bed.

I put her to bed in her room and then carried Claire into her own bed. I was asleep just a few moments later - all that snuggling really made me sleepy!

The next morning we skipped the early church service because apparently Claire just couldn't walk. Every so often some kid's legs just don't work in the morning. They hobble about clutching to various pieces of furniture in pure agony from the... I don't really know what it's from, just an anonymous pain of some sort. I try not to laugh but it seems a bit far fetched to me.

Once Claire had "recovered", the girls played happily and then we set off for church. Everyone had a good time, I enjoyed it tremendously (although it is never the same without Matt) and everyone was happy on the way home.

We all noticed that the weather has mysteriously changed from the day before. We had gone from icy cold to nice and warm somehow. So, off went the sweaters and we headed to the playground! It was so so lovely outside. The leaves were falling, although they were a bit soggy from all the rain, the sun was shining and people were outside again. We ran into one of Claire's classmates at the playground and I really enjoyed the conversation with her parents, a.k.a grownups.

We came home to have tea and watch the rest of the movie. The girls really liked the movie and Katherine entertained herself pretty well. Anna & Claire then decided to set up stores - Claire set up a bookstore in my room and Anna set up some kind of shop in the living room. I managed to bathe the girls in between their games and everyone stayed happy. They even happily cleaned up the huge huge mess they had made. That is a true blessing. We enjoyed chocolate chip pancakes for dinner and then off to bed.

Now, Matt is home and all is well. God is so good to me.


Parent Teacher conferences

Ahh, the opportunity to gush about my children.

We had both the girls conferences on the same morning. It was nice because Matt could come without missing too much work and the girls could come and hear from their teachers how well they are doing.

I was expecting good things from Anna's conference but was not expecting it in the areas it came from. The teacher praised Anna for her problem solving and ability to express herself clearly. She said how much she liked that Anna thinks about her answer before she gives it. She has even noticed Anna's "thinking face". She also said she uses Anna to help her with her lesson plans. Anna reads over her ideas and then says if she thinks it will work well. Anna was just beaming through the whole conferences. The teacher did point out some areas she needed to improve. She needs to read a little slower, taking time to process things a little longer. She also needs to work on her handwriting. Overall, we were just so proud!

Claire's teachers gushed just as much over her. She is compassionate, considerate and sharing. She doesn't cling to just one friend but is a friend to all. She will sit with anyone at any table. She focuses on her work and really works hard to do a good job. She is becoming quite an artist and is beginning to describe her pictures with words. She participates in class and is raising her hand to ask questions (something her shyness has prohibited her from in the past). She is just so comfortable in the classroom and so so happy. It was great to see her teacher glowing about Claire and how she has come out of her shell and is so much fun.

Matt & I couldn't be prouder of our girls. We just love and adore them beyond words. We want them to not only reflect our parenting, but also God's love and blessings over them.

Our latest adventures

First, the MAM was a hug hit!

MAM 2009

Then we went to the Apple Orchard.

Royal Oak Farm 2009

And then we have been enjoying nice weather and falling leaves. And of course, Matt's birthday!

October 2009



It all started with a $5 bill.

Matt & I are working with cash only around here - this has seriously curtailed our spending and works very well as we try to pay off debt and become unified in money matters. It also means, no cashee, no buyee.

So, I was sure I didn't have any money left and this had made my biweekly walks to Central Street hard. Especially since I walk past the Great Harvest bread store every time. I figured I could check out a few movies at the library for free and then walk quickly past the yummy bread smell. But, when reaching for my library card, I spotted the fiver. A fiver!! I was so excited. Would I choose a scone, loaf of bread, cinnamon roll, cookie? How could I choose?

It happens that a fiver is not enough for a loaf of their bread (hmmm, never noticed that when I just put it on the card) but is enough for a tea cake. Tea cake makes me think tea party. And what to do when 2 of the girls are coming home at noon??

Katherine and I got to work - we made little sandwiches, a veggie bowl, cut up fruit, made tea and sliced the main attraction - a blueberry lemon tea cake. And Katherine set the table with her birthday tea set and silverware (thanks for the birthday money fam!).

And, to make it even more exciting, Anna's best friend and her mom came too! They had so much fun and I got to sit and relax with a friend.

This is after the party dress up play time! Usually, Katherine and Claire are left out - not this time! Thanks go to Anna for sharing her playtime/friend.


Veg update

Well, the month of vegetarian meals continues. We're at about 65% veggie dinners. It has been fun. Matt is super happy and the kids are learning to be happy about it. Ha.

Yesterday, we had cherry turnovers for breakfast (totally NOT healthy), the kids decided not to eat the lunches packed for them and then I made Vegetarian Burritos for dinner. This was not my night to make a kid friendly dinner and I was nervous that they wouldn't eat and would be very unhappy.

Well, as I have heard, hungry people will eat almost anything. And they mostly really liked it. Even Katherine gagged down some of the bean-heavy burritos. She had a grimace on her face the whole time, but she was hungry so, down it went! And, from a grownup perspective, the burritos were really, really good.

As we transition our eating habits, I feel I should emphasize the transitioning part of it all. You can't just sit down and start eating quinoa and barley and lentils and enjoy it. So, a little extra seasonings, a little extra cheese and it's a hit!

Note: homemade beans are totally worth it! Soak overnight and all day on low in the crockpot. That's it.

I have been called

to rescue others from packets of Hot Chocolate.

That stuff is just not very good. It's got hot and steamy going for it and not much else. Certainly not good flavor!

So, I discovered something others have always known, I suppose. It is really easy to make your own hot chocolate on the stove.

2 c. of milk (any kind)
2 T. cocoa (the Hershey's Dark chocolate cocoa is pretty good)
2 T. sugar

Mix in pot on stove. Warm on stove. Drink. Optionally top with marshmallows.

I heat my on high and just stir constantly. Today it took me 2 minutes to make. This is totally scalable too. I have made a huge pot or just a single serving. Yum.

My kids are totally spoiled now, no more mixes here!


Pull around the sisters

Cooking with veggies

So, as many have heard, we are converting from mainly meat eaters, to half time vegetarians. We are still eating small amounts of meat - I'm just trying to plan dinners to be meatless. This is challenging but fun. Certainly no monotony of food here! I am trying something new every night practically.

The kids are up for it I think - I don't like to make the same thing more than once a month so, they are used to a lot of variety.

But, the Spiced Lentils were a bit too far. Vegetarian cooking is challenging when you have 2 kids who don't like beans or lentils, 2 who don't care much for vegetables of any kind and one Mom who doesn't like pasta. But, the Mom is willing to eat anything, the kids are going to adjust and I am getting a lot of use out of my salad shooter!

Tonight was Stuffed Shells. The kids (and parents) loved it! They didn't know that it was a mix of baby eggplant, zucchini, red pepper, ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan and bread crumbs. The Salad shooter basically turned everything into grated mush, I squeezed out the excess water and went from there. They were pretty good and the girls both want them in their school lunch tomorrow! Since I only have one thermos, they'll have to take turns.

Tomorrow we have a meat night (Sloppy Toms) in the crockpot and then Friday is Pizza night!

I miss having people to invite over for dinner, but the kids enjoy getting to completely dominate all dinner conversation at the table. Usually our ears are ringing by the time we start clearing off the table.


Playschool for Katherine

I took Katherine to her first "playschool". The class was so small that they are going to cancel it but, we'll go on a different day so it'll be fine. Today it was just her and the teacher and me. She loved it.

The teacher put paints, paper and brushes in front of her. She very shyly looked at the paints. Then, she very very tentatively put a brush in the paint and drew on the paper. She grinned and then gave me a brush so I could help. After a few minutes of this I think she realized that nobody was going to take it away and she really cheered up. She decided to ditch the brushes and finger paint. She has never finger painted before. It's sad really - I just haven't been up to the mess of 3 girls fingerpainting and am currently out of paints at home. She got very giddy and was laughing and having tons of fun painting her hands and making handprints.

Then it was on to puzzles and books and dolls and other toys. She had so much fun!

We'll go back in a few days to join the other class and share the time with other kids - I hope Katherine enjoys it so much again!

After we had lunch I decided to take my very sleepy girl on a walk. The weather was humid but cool today and she fell asleep within 5 minutes. We had a nice walk, I picked up a coffee and she slept for about an hour in the library. I was able to look around at books without having to watch her constantly. We have a very small local library that is the size of a small store but has an amazing amount of books. I picked up a movie and lots of good books for the kids. We head there about twice a week.

Anna is reading voraciously, about an hour or more a day. She is also doing excellent in school and is more interested in her friends than us. Although she still has a special place in her heart for her sisters. They hug each other before school, all of them. Claire is learning to express herself, loudly. She is also reading and learning so much every day. Katherine is being independent, nicely and not. She does not like confined spaces, too much quiet or playing by herself. And she will not stand to be left out of anything.


Monday, money and missing out

Moms group was today. I am actually not totally wiped out today. It was low key and easy. What a difference from last year for me. I don't know if it is just not having 2 kids home with me or what. We'll see how next week goes when I'm bringing all the kids! (No school for Yom Kippur.)

This is the last week of the month. The "please don't let me spend all the money" week. We started the Magical Super Money Makeover (or something like that) by Dave Ramsey. I tried not to - it just seems to faddish, too "Purpose driven life" for me. But, as the debt was beginning to multiply, we just had to figure out how to handle it.

Turns out it costs money to go to the ER - like maybe my whole deductible!

And I probably should have planned ahead to pay for Matt's Dissertation tuition. Turns out you have to pay whether you write it or not. I don't intend that to sound mean - Matt is working hard on it, just not on paper yet.

And the gift wrap sale is here - ugh. We decided to just give money to the school and not get any of that cr**. Although I should say that there is some very nice, high quality wrapping paper for sale and I would love to hook you up with the school website so you can purchase some! ;)

So, back to Ramsey - he enabled me to finally not overspend my budget this month and to actually have a "budget meeting" with Matt. So, we'll give it a year or so and see where we are at.

Sadly, we are not headed to Colorado for Christmas. I asked Matt to break it to the family, and I'm sure he'll send a nice email sometime but I have got to get it off my mind. For the first time ever in our entire lives, we will not be with our extended family for Christmas. But, we must focus on getting ourselves financially responsible and so, no vacations, no extra spending, no eating out - now you know we are serious. Hopefully it'll be very short term and then we can go back to living it up! (Using only cash of course).

I'll have to expound more another time on the new sensation of using cash, not spending money I don't yet have and watching my bills go down. It is pretty exciting.

I totally need a cheer me up picture now! Looks like it's going to be Katie Mae, 1 year ago.


C Day

I am so proud of her.

She was the teacher of her letter. Since she picked "C", she went first (the teachers did A and B). She had so much fun getting her bag together - filled with things that start with the letter C. And old cell phone, a tiny chair, a CD, a card, etc.

Her teacher said she did great.

Love that girl.


Rough Friday

I feel like I have spent the last 2 days cleaning sheets, mattresses, blankets, etc. I was not prepared for wet beds and did not have the proper protection in place.

The vinegar with baking soda approach was completely unsuccessful. The cat odor cleanup spray seems to have worked. But, where does my child sleep while 2 beds are drying out? Nothing is drying here right now - it's just too humid. The clothes I hung up to dry are starting to mildew.

And then today, after school, we had complete meltdown and I have been screamed at, hit, and told I am hated by both older girls. I would like to let them sleep on peed on beds, fix their own dinner and put themselves to bed.

I know I'm supposed to be above all this, they are just kids, I am in control even if they don't like it. I will not be treated badly so they will spend the whole beautiful afternoon in their rooms and I will joyfully make dinner. But, it still stings a bit.

Blog as therapy.
Tomorrow is Saturday.
God is in control.


Hamburger night

I have tried to start a regular schedule where I make the same thing on certain nights each week.

So, every Friday we're going to have hamburgers and every Saturday we're going to have pizza. You get the idea.

This has totally not worked.

The first Friday is great. The next one is great. The third one is going good - we've got this hamburger thing figured out. But, after that, it just starts to fall apart. I am getting tired of the taste of hamburgers. I don't want to make them anymore. They used to taste so good, now they are just okay. I don't appreciate them or look forward to hamburger night. So, they've gone off the schedule.

I thought about trying to replace it with a spaghetti night but I cannot imagine eating spaghetti every week!

So, I'm back to trying to plan a whole month worth of original meals because someone (namely ME) can't eat the same thing every week and possibly not even more than once a month.


Halloween is coming

Anna wants to be Jasmine for Halloween this year. And we found this for a couple bucks at the thrift store.

Now we just need slippers, a headdress and perhaps a stuffed tiger.

I love Chicago's diversity - even at the thrift shops.


Our new neighbor (2 doors down) is a police officer. And has two kids, 1st and 3rd grade.

My kids are super excited.

I am feeling safer already. Unless she's here because this neighborhood needs it. But, I don't think so. The new kids said they moved here because their old neighborhood wasn't safe and had "gangbangers". And then quickly asked that we please not tell his mom he said that - he wasn't supposed to tell other people that. I'm just thinking, a 6 year old that says "gangbangers"?

They are really sweet and kind, a lovely addition to this great block. We have around 15 kids just in the 6 houses around us. Wow.



Daddy and the girls made watermelon slices.

Except they are actually mini watermelons.
And they are made by filling limes with strawberry jello and then stuffing them with chocolate chips.

They were super yummy and we gobbled them up.


I am reading a book my dad gave me - Replay.

I can hardly put it down. Although there a couple chapters that are a bit crude, the rest is fascinating and wonderfully written. A little fantasy, a little eastern religion and a lot of insight about humanity.

I'm really enjoying it. About the hand it over to my philosopher husband.

Afraid to blog

My raw feelings are a bit much. I am a very moody person. I am possibly manic depressive in the winter.

This is perhaps too much for the world at large.

So, I stick to the safe, lovely family-friendly blog.

You'll have to get to know me to experience the depth of my personality... flaws.

Those who could understand me will probably never know me very well - we're just too shy.


Baba Ganooj

Homemade, from scratch, on the grill.


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I did it! Angie can sew.

So, I made my first dress last summer for Claire. It was hard work and I was so grateful to my mom for holding my hand the whole time.

I'm sure she figured I'd never finish Anna's.

Well, I did! And when my sewing machine broke, I took the dress to Colorado and worked on it there.

I didn't quite get it finished there so I ended up hand-sewing in the zipper. My stitching isn't perfect but, I'm quite pleased. It wasn't quite as hard as I thought. And, I got lots of affirmation from Anna - she loves the dress.

I am actually excited to make something else - of course I really need to get the sewing machine fixed.


Summer birthday

The summer carries on - some days are up, others are down.

I haven't written on our long trip, it is a bit overwhelming to cover 2 weeks with lots of different adventures. We had a great time. It was the first time I can remember a trip to Colorado really being relaxing and rejuvenating. Our girls bonded on this trip. And we even drove!

Since we got back we've been visiting the beach often, enjoying being back at church and had a great week of VBS. Oh, and our dear Katherine turned 2!


Let Sleeping Babies Lie

Sometimes I feel like being a dad is more than I can handle. Taking care of the children? That, I can handle. If that were all there was to parenting, my job would be a breeze. But the hard part of parenting is that other half.

Kids aren't just pets needing food, water, a chew toy, and a warm place to sleep. They are little people -- little people that are going to grow up to be big people. And they don't know how to be big people. It is up to Angie and I to teach them that part. The onus of that role can be overwhelming for many reasons.

For starters, sometimes I don't think I know how to be a big person. I stumble my way through my own life wishing I had clear answers to all of life's questions, clear goals with a clear path to attain them... I rarely have any of those things.

Nonetheless, I do my best to teach my girls what I can, inventing the material (and often the teaching methods) as I go. That seemed to work well for the first three or four years. After all, for those years I was The Daddy (TM), the source of all that is fun, good, and happy. But things have gotten much harder now that Anna and Claire have gotten older. They have (dare I say it?) caught onto the fact that I'm not always 100% sure, 100% right, and 100% consistent. They're like the veliciraptors in Jurassic Park (I can't believe I'm making this reference) testing the fences systematically, looking for any weakness that can be exploited. And when they find those weaknesses, they take full advantage.

But that's what kids are good at, right? Learning? I mean, come on, in their first two years, they learn a foreign language starting from zero while they are simultaneously going through the most rigorous "physical therapy" sessions they will ever encounter: learning to use their entire bodies at once.

So by that count, I certainly can't blame them for the learning thing. But there's the rub. I try to teach them. I try very hard. I try to be consistent and loving and stable and accurate and all of that. And I think I am doing a fairly good job at those things. They still fight with each other, though. They are disrespectful to each other, and even to Angie and I. They say "hate". They stick out tongues. They scream, kick, and pout. (Yes, I know I do those things, too, sometimes... but not in front of the kids.)

What makes it hard, what makes me hate (oops... just said it) being a parent sometimes, isn't per se that they do those things. It's that I view those actions as marks of my own failure. It's that I already poured myself into the task of trying to teach them not to do those things, but I apparently didn't get it right. I run out of ideas. I can't think of another way of saying, "hitting your sister or anybody else is not the correct response when your gum falls out of your mouth." At times, I just run dry.

Lately I've felt like I was going through an extended period of dad burn-out. I still smile with them. I hug them, give them kisses, go to their shows, help them pick out dresses and all the usual daddy stuff. But if I'm honest, way down deep, I don't feel it. I don't enjoy being a parent. That's been the sum of it for the last few weeks. All of that has left me feeling frustrated and powerless. Oh, and grouchy.

And now comes the part about how an hour at Starbucks changed that. No, it doesn't have anything to do with coffee (come on... like caffeinating wasn't the first thing I tried...).

We went shopping after lunch today. For shoes. Yay, my 11th favorite kind of shopping. The girls all needed new shoes, and Angie happened to notice after lunch that we were near her all-time-favoritest-shoe-store-in-the-whole-entire-world (No, I'm not going to tell you the name). I grudgingly acquiesced to her pleas, on behalf of the children of course, and we headed to the store.

Of course, sometime between when our left turn signal turned on and when we actually turned into the parking lot, Katherine (nickname: "I-don't-sleep-in-the-car-EVER") fell into that deep, impermeable reserved-for-toddlers-and-rest-home-patients slumber. She was out like a light.

Shoe shopping potentially interrupted by sleeping toddler, from the mother's perspective: CATASTROPHE.

Shoe shopping potentially interrupted by sleeping toddler, from the father's perspective: OPPORTUNITY.

I eased the sleeping child from her seat, and issued the grand gesture of a father greatly appreciating the chance to escape the shoe store: I nodded toward the adjacent Starbucks. "I'll be in there," I mouthed.

Okay, I admit it. I probably could have shouted "HONEY, I'M A-GOIN' TO STARBUCKS TO GET ME SOME LATTE!," and Katherine wouldn't have so much as snorted. The motioning and mouthing -- those were theatrics. They were to explain to Angie that My first concern is, of course, the well-being of our child who so obviously needs to stay conked out while Daddy gets his coffee fix and lounges in big overstuffed eggplant-colored chair.

I headed off the the shop, bought a drink, and sat down. Katherine fidgeted a bit during the whole checkout experience, but as soon as I sat down, she went completely limp. She was fast asleep, drooling (as I learned later) all over me. She was spread-eagled across my chest and lap, with her head on my shoulder and her nose pressed into my neck. In short, the moment she went limp, I was immobilized.

So I sat.

I sat for a long time.

I sat immobilized for a long time.

I sweated a lot, too, because a limp sleeping toddler emits more heat per hour than the entire Sahara dessert emits in a year. (Some day I will prove that.)

But, as any father will attest, holding a sleeping child when there's just nothing else you can do about it is an existential experience. I found myself thinking about life, about fatherhood, about Anna and Claire when each of them was Katherine's age. A few times, I caught myself thinking, "I'll do better with this one. I'll be more effective." But I knew I had nothing new to offer Katherine over what I'd offered Anna and Claire. Some day, I thought, I'd be telling Katherine, "Don't hit your sister! Don't sass your mom!" Yes, this precious, innocent, pretty-much-perfect-in-every-way girl would some day be a velociraptor detecting every parental inconsistency in my regime.

The convergence of "Anna and Claire the velociraptors" with "Katherine the Innocent" took an odd turn in my mind. I remembered Claire bringing crying Katherine her blanky. I remembered Anna pushing Katherine in the stroller. She wore an expression of pride that rivaled my own. This is my baby sister, and I take good care of her. As I thought, I realized that for the most part, all three of the girls were happy, polite, and loving. I could, without any trouble whatsoever, imagine each of them growing up to lead successful lives with happy, meaningful relationships. Yes, my parenting wasn't (and never will be) perfect. Yes, they will learn how to take advantage of my lapses and omissions. But if I keep working hard to model positive behavior for them, they were going to learn that, too.

Oddly enough, that realization led to one more: I do, in fact, actually enjoy being a parent. Why else would I be sitting at a Starbucks with a giant stream of drool running down my shoulder for all the world to see while remaining basically immobile under a 24 pound squishy space heater? And why would I look forward, on every evening commute home, to opening the front door? Why would I get up early to take a walk with Anna? Or spend a few minutes playing with dolls with Claire?

Sometimes parenting sucks. Sometimes I hate it. But those are just moments. The plain old vanilla fact of the matter, though, is that I am absolutely 100% in love with three little girls and their mom. A few bad moments? Meh. It's a small price to pay.

By the way, can you pass me that latte there? I'd get it myself, but I've got this kid sleeping on my shoulder....


M&M Ladybugs

What fun.

Our LL gave us a book from American Girl about how to make mini sized treats. Anna searched desperately for something we could make with what we have at home.

So, here's a pic of the girls working on their M&M ladybugs. I even made a few. :) All it takes is a couple toothpicks, some melted down chocolate chips and M&Ms.


Cookies and lemonade with a friend today

I told Anna I wanted a picture of her smiling at me. But, I only managed to get one of her telling the other girls what to do.



Our last night in Colorado.

Katherine just loves her family. She has been so free with hugs and talking, everyone is getting a chance to fall in love with her just like we have. My heart is happy.

Anna loves her family so much and has been so emotional on this last day here. I asked her why all the tears about little stuff and she said she just doesn't want to leave. She said later that she wants to go home and wants to stay. This conflict has made her very emotional but I'm proud if her amazing personal insights.

Claire is really happy here and has been getting along so well with her sisters. She is able to play with either one of them and have fun. She knows how to play with Katherine and make her happy and then how to get along with Anna and have a great time.

This vacation has reminded me of how Anna and Claire used to play together before school and friends and emotional breakdowns.

Our trip has been tremendously fun and exciting and really grounding for us all. We are appreciating our family, healing some scrapes and bruises sustained over the last few years and just loving the warm embrace we have received from everyone.

Our future is a bit unsure but God is challenging us (really me) to wait on him and to stop trying to figure every little detail out. He has a plan for us and he has always been faithful.

Pictures will come when we get home.


Vacation time!

I have been offline for a week now.

It is refreshing and yet I have missed my online friends.

I didn't even know that Jon from Jon and Kate was dating! I saw the headlines in the grocery store yesterday. Not that this is meaningful news - cause it is totally not!

We have been exploring the west - first Kansas and then onto Denver. The kids are having so much fun and I think we are too. It is hard being a parent - even the fun times are tinged with whining, crying and the like. But, overall it is just fabulous getting to see all our family and our kids are just loving to spend time with them all.

We can't wait to head down to Colorado Springs next week and see the rest!



Grandpa comes to town

The girls had the best time with their Grandpa. We, of course, missed seeing GranJan but were so happy he could come for Father's Day.

The girls got Grandpa (or "Gramma" as Katherine insisted on calling him) to play Barbies, fill water balloons for hours, sing and sing outdoors and in, tell stories, carry them and buy them gelato. I think he even tolerated playing Hair Salon with Anna for a while. She says, "Boy, you really like your hair short on top." Ha!

Katherine wants Grandpa to come back and has gone looking for him a couple times but the other girls realize we are going to see him in just a month!

People pay for this kind of hair