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