Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Fall Evenings

There's nothing like a fall evening when mom is working and running late with dinner to really get your creative juices flowing. See what I mean?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Church as Family

Today was the last day our church family will enjoy the presence of our Father Joseph at the altar; he is moving to another church - fortunately one still in town, so perhaps we will still see him and his family now and then. We missed church last week and so were unprepared for this; it wasn't until the end of the liturgy, when the church gave Father Joseph three rousing verses of God Grant You Many Years, and Father John our archpriest started to cry, that we realized what was up. As Husband and I wiped away a few tears of our own, I thought about the beauty of watching this family of ours eat together - or rather, take communion - each week. This Sunday we were up in the balcony: the perfect place to watch the throngs of people gather at the chalice (or chalices, in the case of our rather large church) each week. Some with babies in arms, others with arms crossed firmly across their bodies, they each tilt back their head a bit, bend a knee and receive Christ Himself each week. All from the same tiny spoon, and somehow there is always enough, even when the church is filled with people standing from one side to the other as it was today.

We are still in the midst of joining this family officially, although they have treated us as their own from the first. When we are one day down in the throng, waiting to be given that beautiful, holy food, I will miss - a little - the view from the balcony. The sight of the crowds of people, quietly and gracefully coming forth to taste and see Him, is a balm to my spirit. So have Christians gathered and ate together for so long, and in those moments all of them throughout the ages seem to be there with us, part of that family that will last beyond eternity.

"... Not unto judgment nor condemnation, be my partaking of thy Holy Mysteries, oh Lord, but unto the healing of soul and body. Amen." - St. John Chrysostom

Friday, September 24, 2010

7 Quick Takes Friday

This my first time officially participating in 7 Quick Takes (hosted by Jennifer Fulwiler), so if you're coming here from there, welcome!

1. The first replacement election equipment arrived this week in Houston. All 10,000+ voting machines owned by Harris County were destroyed in a suspicious fire several weeks ago, right after the Harris County Voter Registrar announced his intention to go after several groups allegedly engaged in voter fraud (groups with connections to the likes of Acorn, I might add).

2. This Friday marks the 5 year anniversary of Hurricane Rita, which was our first (and only thus far) hurricane evacuation. Eric Berger at the Chronicle has an excellent post on the storm (as usual), and how, despite the nightmare of the evacuation, Houstonians were probably right to be a little panic-stricken. As he says, 3 days before landfall, "The storm's maximum winds at the time were 175 mph, which roughly corresponds to an F3 tornado. Only this wasn't a tornado but a hurricane spanning hundreds of miles. And the storm was forecast to come ashore to the west of Galveston Island, pushing a massive 20- or 25-foot or greater storm surge across the island, into Galveston Bay and up the Houston Ship Channel. Winds over downtown Houston probably would have exceeded 120 mph. Damage would have been catastrophic. People had every right to be freaking out about the storm. It absolutely was a worst-case scenario for Houston."

3. Last weekend I made jerky for the first time, and as I promised my FB friends, I'm posting the recipe here. The boys are notorious jerky-eaters, so I put a little in their lunch boxes every day. And it's not just them: it's the most-stolen item at lunchtime, especially this week when the word got out that it was homemade. The quick and dirty on the jerky is this: I followed the "cold marinade" method listed here, and dried the jerky in the oven with the door cracked open. I used 3 lbs of buffalo and an eyeball marinade mixture of soy sauce, a dab of honey, apple juice, onion and garlic powders, and black pepper. 24 hours in the marinade and about 8-9 hours in the oven, in part thanks to the fact that I didn't slice it as thin as directed. The boys actually like the thicker strips, as they are easier to bite into. Next, I'm trying turkey.

4. While we're talking about food, I also made a delicious squash cake from The Meaning of Pie, my friend Kelly's excellent food blog. Two still has no idea the cake has squash in it. I did use lightly toasted pecans as a topping, but I skipped them and the raisins in the cake itself. I also skipped the dried squash slices, as I figured this would give me away altogether.

5. The Texas State Fair opens today, and once again I am left without plans to attend. Someday, someday, I will make plans in advance to take the boys to Dallas to gaze upon Big Tex and eat something fried.

6. Speaking of fried, Bettina Siegel has a post today on Frito-Lay awarding cash to school football programs ... for eating their products. That's just what big, beefy high school football players need, isn't it? More salt and fat. Yum, yum.

7. This week has been such a doozy, as is any that begins with backing the minivan into the half-open garage door. God must have increased my patience tenfold to help me get through this week without blowing up like a rocket, and for that I am immensely grateful. Despite the broken window and subsequent $265 charge to replace it, I have done less than my usual share of child-yelling, work-complaining, and all around crabbiness. God is so good, sometimes when we least expect or deserve it. I. am. so. grateful.

Have a wonderful weekend, y'all. And don't forget to check out other quick takes here.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Post in Which We Go to the Principal

One had his first trip to the principal today and, as I like to blog about my children's accomplishments, I thought I'd write about this one, too. Seriously, if he'd knocked someone's lights out, I'd be too busy sitting on him while calling military schools to blog, but this was, well, it was silly. Essentially, he was rude to a classmate twice and, rather than deal with it herself (by, oh, making him sit out for 10 minutes of recess), the substitute teacher for the day called in the big guns. Some choice quotes from One's re-counting of the tale:

"So I told him to be quiet because he can't seem to stop telling poop jokes during math and I get sent to the principal? What's that about?"

"I was on the playground at recess and Ms. A. (one of the administrative staff) came to get me. She looked so serious, I thought her aunt had just died. She barely spoke to me, just led me to the office like a bailiff taking a criminal to the judge."

Who can punish a child who tells such a story - and tells it so well, at that?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Green and Clean

A recent NY Times article discusses whether "green" cleaning products actually do the job of getting things clean; it gives opinions on both sides of the issue, but most of the quotes agree that "green" does not equal "clean".

I have to disagree (me, disagree with NYT? whatwhat?). We switched to green cleaners two years ago and have had some very good luck. Yes, there have been bombs, but lots of what we've tried has worked at least as well as traditional cleaners. And while traditional cleaners, especially bathroom and floor cleaners, tend to make me sick (dizzy, head-achy and the like), none of the green cleaners have done so.

Here is a list of what has worked and some of what hasn't. As you can tell from the comments, I'm 1/2 about how it works and 1/2 about how it smells. I know: I'm weird. I've heard that before ...

It Works:

Meyer's liquid laundry soap: It works and I love the lavender scent. It's just a little pricey, that's all. I'm giving Biocleen laundry liquid a try to see if I love it as much; it was $4 cheaper this weekend at Whole Foods.

Palmolive pure and clear dishsoap: this is my favorite dishwashing liquid. It actually works. And my dishwasher has been broken for over a year, so I should know.

Greenworks liquid laundry detergent: it worked, but it it has a very strong smell. I gave it to my MIL because I hate over-powering laundry smells. Seriously: this was like generic, $5-a-huge-bottle-smelly. Yuck.

Method floor cleaner: I haven't heard my cleaning lady complain, and it has a nice scent. We've used the "squirt and mop" version as well and it worked, too.

Method glass cleaner: smells minty - yum!

Greenworks all-purpose cleaner and Greenworks bathroom cleaner: both work just as well as any others I've tried.

Method wood furniture polish: the only bad thing is you go through this pretty fast, so it's not an economy buy.

Ecover dishwashing powder: works as well as any non-green dishwashing soap I've used. At least, when I had a dishwasher that hadn't had its hoses eaten by rats. Yes, rats. They were thirsty, apparently. Don't ask for more details, please?

Ecover limescale remover: it's not Limeaway, but it works fine.

Bon Ami and castile soap: I love how this cleans the bathrooms, even if you do need to do lots of rinsing afterwards. I buy Dr. Bronner's lavender soap, and it makes the bathroom smell divine.

Simple Green: the old classic. This subs for floor cleaner, counter and bath cleaner, laundry stain remover, you name it. It's also great at cleaning the tiles around the pool (if you have one) and for washing the car. Husband hates the smell, but I always keep a bottle of it around just in case.

Murphy's Oil Soap: perfect for the wood floors. Love, love, love. And it's so gentle, you can wash the dog in it. No joke.

It Doesn't Work:

Seventh Generation dishwashing liquid: yuck is the nicest thing I can think of to say.

Method laundry detergent: we used the unscented kind, and after a few weeks the clothes were a little too smelly. Also, the packaging kept breaking, and I'd have to guesstimate how much to use since the measuring pump was dead. Not good.

Method dishsoap: the soap worked okay, but the bottle was too bulky and you couldn't stop the top from getting disgustingly gunky.

Seventh Generation dish soap: lousy, lousy, lousy. Didn't cut grease at all.

Meyer's dishsoap: I love the lemon scent, and it worked, but we went through this way too fast for the price.

Seventh Generation powdered laundry soap: I liked the lightly scented version, but every few weeks I'd find clumps of undissolved detergent in the machine. Bu-bye.

Seventh Generation liquid laundry soap: it left grease stains on our clothes: grease stains that were not there when the clothes when into the washer. Bu-bu-bye.

There are a few non-green cleaning products I still hang onto. I still use store-brand bleach when needed, and you'll pry my Clorox bleach pen and Oxyclean stain remover from my cold, dead hands. The last two are a must to keep the boys from destroying all of their clothes. And even they aren't enough: I still need to use dishsoap on greasy stains - you know, the stains you see on dark clothing when they come out of the dryer? It's the only thing that really works. Lastly, my cleaning lady would quit if I took away her Tilex Mildew Remover. The cleaning solution I hate the most (what fumes!) but she won't give it up. And I won't give her up, so I still buy it. She's been very patient with me and my green-mania, so I owe her one.

Lastly, my favorite green cleaning thing of all? Vinegar in the washing machine. I've completely eliminated dryer sheets from my shopping list, which is a greatly-desired feat for a mother of two eczema-prone children. I put a cup of vinegar in the fabric softener thingy for every load; some of this runs into the wash water and the rest is left for the rinse cycle. It works so well, and you don't smell the vinegar when the clothes are dry. No, really: I'm not lying.

A long list, I know, but give a few of these a try. Wait: I'm feeling really pompous, so I'd just like to say: try them. the environment you save just might be your own. Ooooh, wasn't that good?!? ::thickwithsarcasm::

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Roasted Chicken and Fall Vegetables

We made a fantastic dinner tonight, perfect for a fall evening. If it happened to be cold here it would have tasted even better. Here's the recipe: it takes a fair amount of prep work but once everything is in the oven, you're done. This was inspired by Husband's perfect brine recipe and David Waltuck's recipe for Roast Chicken with Root Vegetables and Cider from his Staff Meals cookbook.

Brined and Roasted Chicken:

1 3-3.5 lb whole chicken, backbone cut out and flattened slightly
32 oz low sodium chicken broth (Pacific brand is my favorite)
16 oz cold water
16 oz apple juice
1/2 cup kosher salt
splash or 2 of soy sauce
2 bay leaves
1 T dried sage
1/2 good-sized cinnamon stick

To make the brine, heat the chicken broth to a boil, along with the salt, soy sauce, bay leaves, sage and cinnamon stick. While it's heating, fill the sink with several inches of ice water and place a large, clean bowl in it. When the broth mixture is boiling and the salt has dissolved, turn it off, let it sit for 10 minutes, then pour it into the bowl in the sink. Let it cool, and then add the cold water and apple juice. Chill until the brine is 40 degrees (ice cubes instead of water helps to speed this up). Place the brine and the chicken in an extra-large ziploc bag (and then in a large bowl so that all the chicken is covered in brine) and refrigerate for 6 hours.

When it's almost time to pull the chicken out of the 'fridge, take the top rack out of the oven and pre-heat it to 400 degrees. Chop the following vegetables into 1-2 inch pieces, place them on a large baking dish and set aside:

1 large sweet potato, peeled
4 large carrots, peeled
1 of the following: leek, red onion, or yellow onion
6 fingerling potatoes (I found some purple ones today and they looked and tasted great)
2 large Granny Smith apples, peeled
1 head cauliflower

Take the chicken out of the 'fridge and rinse well with cold water. Dry it and place it on top of the oven rack (lightly grease the rack first). Rub olive oil and paprika into the chicken skin, and slide the rack into the oven. Immediately after doing so, place the vegetable dish under the chicken on the bottom rack of the oven.

Roast everything at 400 degrees until the chicken has an internal temperature of 160-165. Sit the veg once or twice during cooking to make sure everything cooks evenly. Take everything out of the oven and let the chicken rest, covered, for 5 minutes. Cut the chicken into eight pieces and serve with the veg on the side.

I wish I'd taken pictures, but it was too good: we served ourselves and ate before I even thought about it. I also had two young "sous chefs" cutting all the veg for me, and I was thinking more about little fingers than I was about the camera at that point of the process. Oh well. You'll have to visualize instead.

A last note on the brine: this brine is really flexible, and can be used for pork roasts and turkey as well as chicken. To use for a turkey, just double the recipe. You can exchange the apple juice for orange juice, cranberry juice, or any combination of the three. You can also change out the spices: some good ideas are star anise, nutmeg, thyme, rosemary, "Provencal" herb mix - you name it. Whatever you would normally season the meat with before cooking can go in the brine instead. I used it with a pork roast last week and it turned out very well. Pork is so lean these days the brine really helps to stop it from drying out in the oven.


Someone to Know: Karen Gaffney

My friend Dena (hey Dena, get a blog so I can link to you! you have cool stuff to say!) told me about this young woman, Karen Gaffney, who swam across Lake Champlain today (between VT and NY), 8.6 miles in 60 degree water. She has Down's Syndrome, which makes such an accomplishment even more remarkable. Given that over 90% of babies who have Down's Syndrome are aborted, it's wonderful to see someone like Karen raising awareness of how much people who have that condition can accomplish - and how much they can add to the lives of the people around them.

Go Karen!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday Links and Such

Here's a few things from the week to make your Friday evening at little more interesting - that is, if your Friday evenings are as exciting as mine are and you spend them in your jammies, watching TV and surfing.

If you're somewhere near Central Texas on October 1-2, there's a fantastic adoption conference in Austin, hosted by Together for Adoption. The Livesays will be there, as will Dr. Karyn Purvis and many, many others. And I will too - at least I'm hoping so. Missy says I should be, so I'm tryin'.

Danielle Bean has an op-ed on Sarah Palin and feminism in The Washington Post that is definitely worth a read. No surprise there: most everything Danielle writes is worth checking out, including her blog.

Kristen at Rage against the Minivan asked this week "what does it mean to be white?" and got lots of interesting answers.

I have a new favorite quote that I found at Amy Block's website: "Sometimes I would like to ask God why He allows poverty, famine and injustice in the world when He could do something about it ... but I'm afraid He might ask me the same question." How great is that?!

New favorite blog? Father Stephen's. Just make sure you have at least 15-20 minutes before you start to read his daily post: it will take you that long to read and then meditate on it. Wonderful stuff. Here's a great quote from today's post: "Christ has promised that we would have life “more abundant.” By this is not meant that we will be rich or have more material things (for these are not the true life). But the Kingdom is an endless abundance that enters our heart and world, shattering the narrowness of opaque minds and opening to us the fullness of life in Christ." [emphasis added]

Another favorite quote, this one stolen from Simcha Fisher. It's by St. Therese of Liseiux. "Why should we defend ourselves when we are misunderstood and misjudged? Let us leave that aside. Let us not say anything. It is so sweet to let others judge us in any way they like. O blessed silence, which gives so much peace to the soul!" I needed to read that this week - oh, my, did I need to read it! And Simcha's post in which she uses that: it's another must-read. It's about whether Mary would have worn pants. No, really, it is, and it's about so much more than that at the same time. Read! Read!

Finally, a sad local story: Murder by the Book assistant manager David Thompson died suddenly this week at the age of 38. You can read about his storybook-like courtship and marriage of his wife, McKenna Jordan, here. It's a fitting story for two people in love with good books - but oh-so-sad in retrospect, as his lovely wife is now a widow at just 27. Great sympathy to her and to all of David's family and friends. May his memory be eternal!

I guess since I got to seven, this almost qualifies as a "7 Quick Takes Friday", as hosted by Jennifer Fulwiler. You can check out all of this week's entries at her blog. Maybe next time I'll be motivated enough to go grab the graphic and list my post there.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Boys and the President

I finally got around to asking One what he thought of President Obama's speech on Tuesday. Here was his description:

"He just used a lot of fancy words and meanderings to tell us to work hard."

Then, after some more reflection, he added: "It doesn't matter what he says. He could make Dune sound boring." He's referring to the book and not the movie, of course.

Two apparently had no reaction at all, because he slept through it all. Oh my, that's so respectful.

I don't think this is partisanship on their part. They are, after all, 10 and 7. I just think watching grown-ups give speeches on TV isn't a 7 or 10 year old thing. Maybe next year the President could only speak to high school students? Just a thought ...

A Big Mistake

The boys are in the living room having their Mandarin lesson and their tutor is asking them "who is this?" in Chinese while pointing to pictures. They are supposed to say "He is ..." and "She is ..." in response. She points and says "who is this?" and the boys all say (in English) "dunno - some NBA player."

It's Michael Jordan, boys.

Once their father finds out I'm fairly sure they'll be sleeping in the garage from now on ...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tired Out

I'm worn out, so tonight it's time for a re-post. I don't have the energy for anything but. From November, 2008:

The Gift of Forgiveness:

Sometimes I think that, in order to understand the amazing nature of the gift God has given us in sending Christ to die for the forgiveness of our sins, you have to know what it feels like to not be forgiven. Not only did Christ’s sacrifice take our sin away and enable us to be in relationship with God, it also took away the crushing weight of the knowledge that we were not forgiven. I’ve learned the hard way, from very personal experience, that when you wrong someone and then own up to it – when you apologize – and forgiveness isn’t forthcoming, the weight is almost too much to bear. You feel that you, personally, cannot be made right – that you are broken by your sin and cannot be mended. The relationship is also broken, for to look into the eyes of someone to whom you have apologized and know that in their heart they can’t find forgiveness inalterably changes a relationship, if it doesn’t destroy it completely. The mistrust that the lack of forgiveness creates – the fact that both of you (the unforgiven and the unforgiving) question each others motives and fail to trust one another – is a heavy burden. So not only do you know that your wrong is bigger than their love for you, but you are forced to forever question their love from that day forward. The pain that the lack of forgiveness creates is so great – how great is our God that He has spared us from it forever!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Deleted Post: Updated

I blogged earlier about some adoption posts that really disturbed me, but on further reflection I've decided it was more condemnation than judgment that motivated me to write it, so I am taking it down. (thanks, Mis).

As much as those posts disturbed me, I think that if I'm that upset, I need to pray for those people and their adoptive children much more than I need to needle them. I am truly sorry for the needling and ask for y'all's forgiveness. No agression or passive-aggression here; I simply spoke (or wrote, rather) without thinking and am in hindsight repenting.

Subject (and comments) closed.

An Audible "Click"

Two likes to read. He reads pretty well for his age. Nevertheless, it is never his chosen activity. When he is asked to read, he reads, and he enjoys himself. We read side-by-side in my bed every night, and he likes his books and telling me about them afterwards. But I have never seen him voluntarily pick up a book and curl up in a corner to read. He is a doer and a mover. He rarely makes it through a favorite movie without getting up in the middle; he usually goes off to make something related to the show, and then comes back in time for the end.

Yesterday, something changed. I don't know if it's permanent: it may be completely specific to the book in question. But I brought him home the first volume of The Spiderwick Chronicles, told him it was the favorite series of all the 2nd graders when his brother was his age ... and he couldn't put it down. The child who proudly announces "I read one chapter!" and runs off to play read four chapters of that book in several hours time. He brought it in the car, he read at the dinner table at the restaurant, he sniffled when told he had to put down the book and get ready for bed, and then he read in my bed until I had to order him to stop. He brought it into his own bed, and blissfully ignored me as I kissed him goodnight, wanting only to get back to "the interesting parts".

Husband and I heard a "click". It may take a thousand more to turn him into a real book-loving reader; he may never get there at all. But we heard the click, and we went to bed happy.

A note on the picture: he's reading on the way to bed, trying to drag Knight with him. His get-up? You'd dress funny too, if you had 2% bodyfat.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Two Years Post-Ike

Two years ago tonight, Hurricane Ike ripped through this part of the world. Here is the post I wrote on September 15, 2008 - my first post after the storm.


BBQ Before MREs:

Well, we made it. No damage to the house, no damage to ourselves - we're still sort of in shock that everything's okay. We had low water pressure for 2 days but now it's back full force (not sure how drinkable, but works in the shower just fine). Still no power, but there are a surprising number of people around us with power so I don't think it will be too long.

No pictures for you - I am at work and my company has 2 words for someone who comes in the building with a camera: industrial spy. So although I've been taking pictures I can't post them until power is back on at the house. And yes, my company powered back up yesterday afternoon. I am eating a hot breakfast sandwich and drinking and icy Diet Coke from the company caf as I write this. The AC is below 60 as usual, and I'm pretty pleased to be here. God bless [insert name of large multi-national corporation here].

Back home all that left to deal with is the backyard, which looks like a swamp; the cool weather should dry things out today quite a bit. We did a lot of pick up Saturday, even during the morning rain. Everyone on the street was out by 10, working and comparing notes. No one's house was severly damaged - we live in big old brick houses for the most part, and they've survived Carla, Alicia and who knows what else. We had 2 huge trees down on our block - one blocked the street and another trapped neighbors in their house. Husband and our next-door neighbor took charge of the first one; between an attorney and an anesthesiologist it was the most expensive tree removal in the history of man. The second one was a huge effort, and our next-door neighbor was again in the thick of it with his farm truck, hauling huge pieces of tree around and generally enjoying himself much more than any man should. Our block has pulled together these past few days, and when we're not working we're in each other's front yards, kids and dogs playing around us as we gossip. At night Husband and I put the boys to bed in the living room and take the radio out on the porch for some air. We listen a little, but spend more time turning it off to talk to one another. Hey, life without TV and computers wasn't half bad.

As for the storm itself: wow. We spend Friday getting things ready, and I've never had a longer day. We had a normal dinner to calm everyone's nerves, and then watched hurricane coverage until 11pm or so to wire ourselves back up. I cleared out the hall closet under the stairs for the boys, and they fell asleep in there around 10. Husband and I curled up with blankets in front of the open closet door, and then the hurricane that most closely resembled a long car trip began. Lambchop was scared and wanted to sleep on us. One stuck his feet in my ear 30 or 40 times. The boys woke up several times and started fighting about who was on who's side of the closet. My ear was buffeted a little more by One's gunboat feet. The power flickered on and off until 2:30 when it finally died, and every time it went off one of the boys would announce "I need to use the potty!" Oscar cried because Lamb was on top of us and he wasn't and that made him jealous. And on and on and on. We were in the studiest part of the house, but the wind still sounded like a train on top of the house. Our attic has an old-fashioned attic fan so it's very open to the outside. The big, heavy attic door kept jumping and banging every minute or so as everything re-pressurized. About 3am or so, when the worst was going on outside, I was pretty scared. I curled up in a ball next to Husband and prayed about that attic door until I fell asleep. The next thing I knew it was 6am and we could walk around the house again. It was still storming but nothing like what went on in the night.

Last night we went for a drive to see what was open, and were surprised to see how much was going on. Our favorite BBQ place, Goode Company, was open and the line was around the building. Someone even brought their Great Dane. Before FEMA could get MREs, ice and water out to their "points of distribution" the Goode family had fired up the smokers and were feeding all comers. Wine bars, Italian restaurants, you name it - in central Houston if you had power last night you were open, taking care of customers and making all of us even prouder of this great community we call home. I've loved this city since I first visited it in 1991. I've grown to love it more over the years; friendly people, good food and stay-out-of-your-way city government seems to sit well with me. But the last few days I've had all the more reason to love this town. People here get up and get it done. They don't wait for Governor Perry, FEMA, or anyone else to do it for them. They clear the streets, fire up the smokers and ovens, and get us all pizza, BBQ and cold beer when we need them. These are great people. This is a great town.

Two more points: Judge Ed Emmett and Mayor Bill White are spectacular leaders. They've been sane and reasonable at every press conference. They don't make promises they can't keep, but they seem to get things done faster than you'd expect. As an old colleague taught me once: undercommit and overdeliver. Yesterday afternoon one reporter was whining about food and ice in the Houston area and Emmett cut her off: let's think a minute, he said. On the one hand we have people whose homes were blown out of existence. On the other we have some people clamoring for ice. Who do you think we're going to help first? Strong leaders - exactly what you expect in this town. I'm not surprised.

Finally, I don't know the worst of what's gone on down in Galveston. I haven't seen a TV since Friday night/early Saturday AM. I know it's unimaginally bad and my heart breaks. Everything I could think of saying sounds trite. Please just pray for the people there. Don't pray for us; we have food and a home and not much to worry about. But the people in Galveston and all along the coast need your prayers. They don't need your pity, because they're tough Texas folk and don't like that sort of thing. They'll get things done for themselves just like we did; they just have a much bigger project ahead than we could ever dream of. Prayers will help.

More Ike posts are here; just scroll down for the beginning of it all.


At the end of the school year, One wrote a composition that was placed in the creative writing competition at our Parish Life Conference held in June. The awards were presented today on the first day back to Sunday School for the new school year. Aaaannnd:

We have a winner!

Here is One, with his second prize in creative writing for fourth grade in the Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America. He was additionally excited because his good buddy, A, won third prize, so he had an extra person to celebrate with.

Way to go, son. We're proud of you.

Friday, September 10, 2010

How Bad Is It?

I looked at Monster for attorney jobs last night - not because I'm interested in leaving my nice, safe, secure job (nor is Husband at all interested in leaving his) but more out of curiosity about what kind of "recovery" was going on out there.

What did I find? How many jobs are out there on one of the biggest job sites around?

Searching only the term "attorney" by city, I found (radius set at 20 miles):

Boise: 0
Portland: 0
Knoxville: 1
Charleston: 1
Kansas City: 1
Austin: 1
New Orleans: 2
San Antonio: 3
Cleveland: 3
Orlando: 3
Miami: 4
Seattle: 5
St. Louis: 6
Phoenix: 7
Pittsburgh: 8
Detroit: 11
San Francisco: 16
Denver: 19
Washington DC: 21
Houston: 21
Atlanta: 22
Boston: 23
Chicago: 23
Dallas: 26
Minneapolis: 46
Los Angeles: 50
New York: 86

So, has Monster become the least-popular job site ever, or are there just. no. jobs?

One Learns to Write Haiku

mountains tall and strong
coated in evergreen woods
all filled with wildlife

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Questions I Ask Myself

"I want to ask big questions." ... "There aren't any answers." ... "Questions I have to ask myself." ... "Always the best kind"

--- Oliver's Travels

Here are some of mine:

1. Why am I so much more likely to agree with parenting and other habits of Catholic mom bloggers, as opposed to Protestant ones, when I am neither? Seriously, I read blogs like Danielle Bean, Jennifer Fulwiler, Bonnie Blue House and Testosterhome, and I think "wow, I should have had more children - this is great!" And then I read blogs where mothers refuse to recognize an autistic child right in front of them and then proceed to mock her on their blog, or mothers who force their pre-schoolers to practice sitting without distractions for 30 minutes every day, and I realize that if I'd read stuff like that before I had kids, I'd probably have six dogs and no children right now.

2. Why do my children refuse to speak any of their newly-learned Chinese to me, but will sing it upstairs to one another while playing? Do they think they're developing a secret language? 'Cause if they do, I want them to know: I can buy Rosetta Stone and learn too, okay?

3. This is one that really has no answer: why can't one school be perfect for my kids? Not that I'm unhappy with our public school: we're not going anywhere! But One received an (inarticulate but undeniable) death threat today from his 10 year old classmate. One's teacher and the school principal and social worker are all involved to solve the problem, which is very reassuring and speaks well of the school. But, but, but .... how awful!

4. Why do so many women delude themselves into thinking that divorce is a great idea? I've been reading Ann Althouse's post (and the comments thereon) about this Motherlode post and thinking about the foolish, navel-gazing Elizabeth Gilbert and her dreadful, awful Eat Pray Love, and I just wonder: why are women so eager to blame the men in their lives for what they think they're missing? Why not blame the weather, or their jobs, or their lack of a wardrobe other women can envy? Because they've been "taught" that, as Ann says, "Women, good. Men, bad." Sad: life-ruiningly sad.

5. How can millions of women listen to Beth Moore? I can't get beyond her awful voice. Isn't that mean of me? And Lost? I never watched it. Does that make me odd? I know other things do, but that in particular?

I know: terribly serious questions, all of them. But I'm trying to avoid eating something sweet and bad for me, so I'd blog about a hernia right now (if I had one). G'night.

Monday, September 6, 2010


From a long weekend spent inside, thanks to One's and my head colds (ack):

Here's Two, pretending to repair something under my bed. The swim goggles mean he needed to do a little welding to get the job done.

One, trying to explain something from Redwall to his dad, and getting this in return: "Remember One, after the Russian's invaded, only the Wolverines stood up to them."

Why can't they play like this together every day?

One, trying to discuss Iron Man II with his dad, and gettting the song Iron Man sung to him by a slightly stir-crazy Husband. In the ensuing conversation, One asks: "Who on earth is Ozzy Osborne?" Thank you, God.

It's not every day Two brushes his teeth, so I took a picture:

And yes, One really does read all those history books I blog about. Here he is, absorbed by the Zulu War:

Even though I spent it with a head full of &^%#, it was a good long weekend.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Movie Recommendation

Husband and I just finished watching this wonderful movie, and I have to recommend it right away. Even if there is no one in your life with autism, even if you have never heard of Dr. Grandin before - just get onto Netflix or Blockbuster, or head to your local library and rent it, pronto. By the end, I was definitely in tears - but they were happy tears, so that shouldn't deter you. Dr. Grandin's story is so compelling, and Claire Danes does a wonderful job in the title role, this is a don't-miss movie.

And if you don't believe me, the movie (from HBO) just won seven Emmy awards last week. Yup. SEVEN.

Friday, September 3, 2010

On the Priesthood

Here are two of my favorite people in the world: Father John Salem and Father Joseph Huneycutt. This is an interview from Fr. Joseph's Ancient Faith Radio program, Orthodixie: Fr. Joseph interviewing his boss, Fr. John.

Give a listen. I promise, you'll like them, too.

Two’s Little Problem

Two has always had a problem with truth. While I can count on one hand the times One has lied to me, that is not the case with Two. He was that five year old, smeared with chocolate from his eyebrows to his chin, who insisted that he did not take the cookies – it must have been his brother. Even when confronted with his chocolate-covered face in the mirror, he would persist in his declarations of false innocence.

Now he lies, not that frequently, but just enough for it to bother me horribly. I’ve tried straight-out punishment, I’ve tried “if you tell mommy the truth, sweetheart, she will not punish you for breaking your brother’s toy.” Nothing works. Finally, I think I know why. At least, I know enough to try something else, and see if that is the solution.

I need to stop yelling at my kids. Period. Never, ever again. Why? Because Two’s lies are his attempt to make me think he’s perfect, and to avoid the punishment he knows that comes with missing the mark. And what part of the punishment does he hate the most? You guessed it: when I raise my voice. Even when I’m not saying anything exceptionally cruel (I’m usually shouting: “what on earth made you do this?” or “do you know how long this will take to clean?”) he will do anything to avoid what he calls “that mean voice”.


So Two’s sin of lying has helped me see my sin of yelling more clearly. And yes, it is a sin. If you have a hard time thinking of it in that way, let me tell you: I would never, ever raise my voice to my husband about the trivial things that cause me to do so with the boys. That, friends, is shameful.

Tony Woodlief writes in his book, Somewhere More Holy, about the two buckets we carry around with us as parents. One contains all the good things we want to pass along to our children, and one contains all our sins – everything that we don’t want them to catch from us. I think in this instance, my yelling – obviously in the latter bucket – has been passed onto Two in a way that is causing him to do anything, even sin himself, to get away from it. This grieves me. No matter how much I like a little hollering to get my point across, I can’t in good conscience continue. If I do, not only does Two suffer “that mean voice” he also gets more and more practice lying to avoid it. That is the very last place I want to take this child.

If you happen to think of it, say a small prayer for me once in a while, as I try to (ahem) moderate my voice. And I’ll let you know if any more fish stories land at my feet, or if this is, after all, the key to keeping Two honest.

Lord have mercy.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Falling in Love Again

My oven and I have been at odds with one another for some time. First the heat came, and it just seemed like too much work to cook in an over-heated kitchen. Then Husband went through a grilling spurt, and food cooked inside seemed to pale in comparison to the delights from the grill. But then it got even hotter, and grilling because impossible, and for weeks we've been subsisting on take out, scrambled eggs, and soup. Finally, last week, my oven and I came to terms with one another, and we are once again in our happy, mutually beneficial relationship (it gives me food, I give it a purpose other than being a dish rack).

Here is my dear one, and what we created together today:

What will these become?

Oh, I see! Potato au gratin with a touch of Dijon mustard:

A vegetable gratin with okra, zucchini, summer squash, onions and tomato. Heavy on the thyme, garlic and olive oil, please:

And an irresistible pear pound cake for dessert:

The pictures don't even tell the whole story: there was some amazing brined and roasted chicken that got cut up and eaten before I could grab the camera. I'm so happy Husband has passed his legendary brining secrets on to me; I may not be worthy yet of the Thanksgiving turkey, but I can make a mean chicken.

Fall is coming, and I can love my oven again.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Pretending to Home School

As y'all may know, I am very much in love with giving the boys extra school work at home. We spent all last school year and this past summer working on Singapore Math*, and recently added books from the Critical Thinking series (the link is to Two's book. One has book E). Here are a few more books I've found that are interesting as add-ons to their school experience. Please feel free to let me know if you have information about any of them; aside from the Jacob's Ladder book, they're all in my Amazon shopping cart, waiting for me to sell enough no-longer-read books to make the purchase of new things palatable.

Jacob's Ladder Reading Comprehension Program, Level 1: This is for Two, who isn't the reader his brother was at this age. I've also heard from some parents who have been at our school longer than we have that the children sometimes struggle with reading comprehension. This has never been an issue for us before, as One did an SRA a day for two years at Montessori. I want to make sure Two is well-prepared in reading comp, so this is what we've chosen. It's one of the many excellent resources created and/or recommended by the Center for Gifted Education at The College of William and Mary.

The Wallchart of World History: Amazon doesn't have a picture of this, but you really should check out Ann Voskamp's post on it (and on many, many other home schooling treasures). It looks like it will keep One busy for days, if not years.

Writing Mysteries in the Classroom: As fantastic a reader as One is, he is a little bit scared about learning to write. I thought this might help take some of the pressure off, by giving him something fun to create while he was learning. I guess I'll find out if that's true, won't I?

Math-a-logic: This is for One, when he needs a change from Singapore. It blends math with logic concepts such as Venn diagrams and analogies, and sounds like an interesting break from fraction division.

Spatial Reasoning A Mathematics Unit for High-Ability Learners in Grades 2–4: This is for Two, the most tactile learner in town. It requires the purchase of several sets of manipulatives, though, so I may be waiting a bit. Although I have located said hard-to-find materials here, here and here. As the title suggests, this is something we can work on for a while, which makes me think it will be worth all the extra flapdoodle.

* a note or two on Singapore Math. These books are from the official website (that I linked to above) and are the best I've found. You can also purchase them at Sonlight, an excellent source for home school (and extra school) materials. I don't buy the textbooks or teacher's editions - just the workbooks - as the math is fairly self-explanatory. Frequently the boys go days without asking for my help on any assigned pages. The best thing to do before starting the program is to have your child take a placement test. Singapore tends to be ahead of other curriculums (such as Everyday Math, which the boys use at school) and you want to start at the right level. I can't say enough good things about these books: they provide a traditional approach to math instruction (something new, then review, drill, drill, drill); I've not found their equal elsewhere.