Monday, December 29, 2008

Back from Hibernation

I’m back and ready to blog.

Sorry for the mini-blackout.

Stay tuned for updates on the home front, some new life perspectives, and general discussions.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Holiday Letter – Informative or Impersonal

My project for this weekend is to work on our holiday cards.

I have been sending out holiday cards to family and friends since Justin and I got married just about ten years ago. At the beginning, I didn’t have many cards to address and send out. Each one had its own personal touch with a small individualized note for the recipient to savor, knowing just how much we cared.

Things are a little different now. We now send out approximately 75 holiday cards to family and friends near and far. The military lifestyle ensures that we get a new address and some additional friends every few years. Because of that, I have gone from sending ten personalized cards, to sending 75 cards with a single spaced, 9 pt. font, form letter stuffed inside a card with a winter landscape on the front.

I have mixed feelings about the evolution of my holiday card giving. Everyone loves a personalized message from the sender. It’s always nice to read “Dear Justin and Jaynelle, Our family missed your annual Memorial Day at the Miller’s party…” I am a realist, though, and know that not everyone has time to write out 75 personalized messages, me included.

To be honest, it’s the thought that counts, right?. A simple card with just a signature lets me know that the sender was thinking of me this holiday season. A few simple lines written inside might even step it up a notch. I do have to say, though, I am equally delighted to get “informational” form letters from friends and family during the holiday season. They give me a small glimpse into the sender’s year, all on a single sheet of paper (I have had to shorten my letter a bit over the years. No one appreciates a two page, front and back, 1.5 spaced holiday letter with .5” margins, even if it is action packed…so I’ve been told). A simple form letter gets me caught up quickly and in the “know” on what is going on in the lives of family and friends whom we might not see or hear from on a regular basis.

As usual, this year's holiday letter will be filled to the brim. I’m sure I will have to weed out the “not so exciting” parts so as not to run over my one-page limit. I’ll ask each family member what information they want included about themselves, giving everyone their own paragraph. I have always included a family photo in our cards. I guess it's because I'm a visual person and like receiving photos myself. In more recent years, I have started to include the kids’ “school” photos in the holiday letters (they each have their portrait taken near their birthday in place of actual school photos). I’ve found it makes it easier for me to remember who I’ve sent photos to if I send them all at the same time.

So what do you think?

If you have a minute, please fill out the polls in the upper right of your screen. I'm interested to see what people think.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Saving on Gift Giving during the Holidays

According to today’s standards, I come from a big family. I have three younger sisters scattered throughout the country, each of them has a significant other, one sister has two children, and who can forget Mom and Dad. When you add it all up there are 15 of us in all. After celebrating Christmas at my parents’ house one year after Jolie was born, we decided that once everyone had children (probably 2-3 per couple), we were going to be forking out a ton of money on gifts throughout the year.

My sisters and I came up with a solution. We have decided to set financial limits and to divide up the gift giving. (Okay, so actually I’m the one who needed to create some parameters and everyone just agreed with my plan.)

For the holidays, we choose names to divide up the gift giving. Each sister chooses another sister and has a $50 gift limit; each guy chooses another guy and has a $25 gift limit, and we each choose a child (I get my sister’s kids because I have the most children…and I’m the oldest, I guess) and have a $25 gift limit. For Mom and Dad, some years we sisters all go together to purchase a larger gift and some years we each purchase an individual gift, it just depends.

Now, I understand that gift giving isn’t all about the cost, it’s about the thought. With each of us sisters in a different profession, making different salaries, it is just easier to set a limit and divide up the gifts so that no one sibling is overwhelmed with the cost that can be associated with the holidays. The kids will each have two gifts (one from an aunt and one from Grandma and Grandpa), which is more than enough in my opinion. We know that each holiday season we will average about $150 on the 3-5 gifts we’ll give to our extended family.

For the past few years we have been celebrating the Holidays during Thanksgiving, when we all gather at a cabin in the Smokey Mountains of North Carolina. We have been heading to the mountains for Thanksgiving since I was eight years old. There was a chunk of time in which my immediate family missed our annual trip to the mountains because we lived across the country. Now that we are back on the east coast, we are able to participate again. Because we are all in the same place at the same time, we have been decorating a small tree and opening gifts on Thanksgiving. It works out especially well for the kids and Grandma and Grandpa. Mom and Dad get the chance to see the smiles on the kids’ faces as they open their gifts…a win-win for everyone.

So how do you handle gift giving for your extended family during the holidays? I’d love to hear how other families make it through the holidays financially intact.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Simple Way to Green your Holiday Gift Giving

All of those packages under the tree, the menorah, or the kinara, wrapped up in colorful paper, are just that…wrapped in paper. According to, during the time between Thanksgiving and New Years, Americans throw away about 25% more trash than they do during the rest of the year. This extra waste is estimated to create about five million tons of trash, with about four tons of that waste coming from wrapping paper and shopping bags.

Traditional paper gift wrapping is, as you know, a paper product. Soft wood trees are cut, milled, bleached, and dyed, forming what you see down the “wrapping” aisle at your favorite big box store. This process can adversely affect our environment unnecessarily, especially since there are alternatives that can be used instead of new paper gift wrapping.

So how can you help to decrease some of the waste associated with the holidays and help to green up the gift giving process? Reduce, Reuse and Recycle…your gift wrapping, that is.

Reduce – Rather than wrapping all of those little bundles with new paper wrappings, why not use reusable cloth bags. Wrapsacks are wonderful alternatives to traditional wrapping paper and they can be tracked online adding to the gift giving fun.

Reuse – If you do choose to use traditional wrapping paper, try saving and reusing that paper for another holiday or event. You might also try wrapping gifts with newspaper (the funnies might be fun) or letting the kids decorate brown paper bags from the grocery store and wrap your gifts with a little extra love.

Recycle – Be sure to have a recycling bag or bin handy to catch all of those paper wrappings and packaging to recycle. Check with your local recycling center to find out whether or not they accept traditional wrapping paper.

The EPA has a great list of ways to reduce holiday waste; everything from recycling trees to purchasing rechargeable batteries.

Please join me in reducing or eliminating the amount of new, traditional paper gift wrap that finds its way into our nation’s landfills by reducing, reusing, and recycling.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Sugaring Hair Removal

I recently found a wonderful recipe for Sugaring on Pioneer Thinking, a website providing information about natural and simple living. I feel this recipe works as well if not better than many of the commercial versions currently on the market and is much cheaper too.

  • 1 cup sugar
  • Juice from half a lemon
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • A drizzle of Molasses (optional)
  • Something to spread the mixture with (i.e. tongue depressor, popsicle stick, etc.)
  • Cotton fabric (I use old strips from a previous sugaring kit, but any cotton fabric strips will do)
Make sure the area you plan to sugar is clean and dry and has at least 1/8 to 1/4 inch of hair growth.

Microwave - Mix lemon, sugar, and honey in a bowl. Microwave on high for about 2-3 minutes until it bubbles into a smooth consistency.

Stove – Mix ingredients in a medium saucepan and heat on medium-low until the mixture bubbles into a smooth consistency, stirring often.

Let the mixture cool until it can be safely touched.

Spread a thin layer of mixture on the desired area. Cover the area with a strip of fabric. Rub the strip in the opposite way of hair growth about three times. Grab the end of the fabric and pull it off very quickly against the direction of the hair growth. If the mixture gets too hard to spread, reheat the mixture slightly.

This recipe stores for a long time. I keep mine in a covered container in the refrigerator and reheat when needed.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Birthday Time Again

Six years ago today…no, I won’t put you through that.

Today my baby girl turned 6. She is becoming a wonderful young lady. She makes me smile every day.

I love you, Jolie. I look forward to watching you become the woman you will someday be.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Polie Bear Time

Jolie has started her own blog. The blog will be based on her written and illustrated stories, as well as her artwork and photography. She is very excited about her blog and has already added (or rather I added) two of her stories. I'm sure there will be many more to come. I hope you will check them out.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

One Step Closer to Home

We now feel a little closer to our “someday” home. We received and put our new Washington license plates on the van.

We are Washington State residents. Yes, I know we live in Florida, all the way across the country from Washington (don’t remind me), but we enjoyed Washington so much when we were stationed there (both sides of the Cascade Mountains) that we changed our residency from Florida to Washington several years ago and plan to eventually retire from the Navy and settle in the Evergreen State.

We are pretty serious about this plan…

We are registered Washington State voters
We have two vehicles registered in the state of Washington
We have Washington college funds for each of the kids
We are saving to buy our “someday” land

As of today, when I grow up I want to be a farmer. You know how it is when you’re growing up…your career plans change over time, but for a while now I've wanted to be a farmer (my Grandfather would be Grandma told me so).

I’d like to have some land; raise Angora goats (for fiber), Great Pyrenees (for breeding and herding), and chickens (for eggs); grow some pumpkins (to sell); and have a nice big garden. I don’t think that’s a terrible dream. I’m saving my pennies to make it happen.

All you Washingtonians be looking for us in about 9 and a half years. We’re trying to get there sooner, but if all else fails, we’ll get there eventually.

One Week Down and All’s Well

Lincoln is doing wonderfully.

He has only had two accidents (knock on wood) and they were caught in mid-action and redirected.

He loves playing with Chester…a little too much sometimes. He has figured out that he can grab Chester’s collar and pull him around while they are playing. Chester is doing a good job of getting him back, especially when Lincoln’s lying down.

The kids are enjoying having a bigger dog around. I think they each have a scratch to prove it. Lincoln might only be about 30 lbs., but his swipe packs a pretty hefty punch.

He's a great addition to the family.

Friday, November 7, 2008

A New Addition to the Family


The Miller family has grown by one.

I’m surprised I was able to keep it a secret from so many of you for so long. I wanted to wait to tell everyone until he made his arrival.

Actually, he was sort of a surprise to us as well. I guess I never imagined that it could happen so quickly, considering how long it took last time.

We would like for formally introduce you to…

(Abe) Lincoln Miller

We got him Wednesday from a local breeder. Lincoln is a Great Pyrenees. The Great Pyrenees are in the same family with the Newfoundlands and Saint Bernards. He’s just about three months old and currently weighs 30 lbs. He will be about 120 lbs. when he is full-grown.

It’s kind of a funny story of how he came to us. I was reading through our daily FreeCycle posts online and saw a listing for an 11-month-old Cairn terrier puppy. Chester is half Cairn terrier (darn those breeders!) so I thought he might be a great addition to our family. I emailed the owner asking about the puppy’s gender, color, whether or not it got along with other animals and children…all of the responsible questions I thought. Well, two days later I saw in that day’s postings that the puppy had been picked up. I guess I asked too many questions and the people just wanted to get rid of a dog, not find him a good home.

While I sulked, I decided to look up Great Pyrenees breeders in our state.

[You have to understand that we have had a Great Pyrenees before. We got Ekimo when Jake was about five months old and he was about two months old. The two of them grew up together. He had what the vets considered doggy Irritable Bowl Syndrome or Inflamitory Bowl Syndrome. He got very sick just before Jensen was born and unfortunately had to be put down. Losing him was devastating. He had been part of our family for six years.]

I found a breeder and was admiring her dogs. Justin walked up behind me and said that I should call them. I was just looking, so I said I didn’t want to…so he did. He found that the breeder had a 4 month old male and a 3 month old male and female available as well as five day old puppies that would be available near Christmas. I was just looking for more information, but Justin was hooked. We had to really talk it over because this addition was going to be a big one for us. Adding another animal means that we no longer qualify for military housing (you can only have two pets in housing). It also means that it will be very difficult for us to find someone who will rent to us with three animals, to include a large breed dog, so we will need to purchase a home at our next duty station.

We went for a run and thought about it. By the time we were home we already had his name picked out. I called her back and Justin wanted to know if we could come and get him that day. He needed his health certificate done, so we had to wait until Wednesday.

Eventually I would like to breed Great Pyrenees dogs when we have our land in Washington after Justin retires. I figure I can grow Great Pyrenees and Angora goats side by side and it will be wonderful. I don’t think I’ll breed Lincoln. He will just be ours to love.

He is doing well thus far. He, Chester and DC are getting along well. I wonder if he looks at Chester as a giant chew toy sometimes (Lincoln is already three times Chester’s weight). DC was sure to hiss and bat at him right away to show him who was boss and he hasn’t given her a second thought. The kids love having him around. I’m not sure, though, if they enjoyed today’s poop roundup in the back yard. Lincoln is a much bigger dog if you catch my drift.

I was on puppy detail the last two nights, so I think Justin is planning to take over tonight since he doesn’t have to work in the morning. Lincoln is used to sleeping outside, so his first night inside he was a bit restless. He slept outside half the night last night (only because I was tired of fighting to keep him in) and he pawed at the door at about 2am to come back in for the rest of the night. We’ll see what tonight holds for us.

Though getting Lincoln was a bit of a spontaneous decision, we have yet to second guess ourselves. He is an amazing addition to the family and will be loved forever.

Teaching the Water Cycle and Water Pollution

The first Wednesday of the month we gather with other homeschoolers for Roots & Shoots. This month I was in charge of leading the group and chose to focus on the water cycle and water pollution.

Being me, I stressed over the presentation for weeks. I had lots of great ideas…have the kids test water samples…teach them about our watershed…go on a fieldtrip to the water treatment facility, but none of them came to fruition.

I did find several nice water projects for us to do as a group, but the timing was off and the kids in our group were a bit young. Although we didn’t participate in that one, I think I will have my kids participate in some of the other projects offered by The Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education throughout the year because they look very interesting and engaging.

After utilizing the adrenaline associated with procrastination, I found several fabulous activities to do with the kids. Because I like multi-sensory presentations, I tried to mix up the demonstration a bit.

We started by discussing the water cycle. I was surprised that some of the kids didn’t know about the water cycle, so I explained and then showed them a picture and read the captions from one of the books I displayed on the front table. I then had them color a picture of the water cycle. I had two different sheets, one for the older kids that was a bit more detailed and one for the younger kids that was simpler. From there I had them gather in a circle and taught them a song to help them remember the water cycle. I thought it was a cute song. My kids have been singing it around the house for the past few days. We then transitioned into a game that walks the kids through the water cycle. I think it would have worked better had we had more kids (we only had eight and that included Jensen) and if they had bee a bit older.

I was also surprised that the kids couldn’t explain what water pollution. The two nine year olds knew, but the six and seven year olds (five of them) had trouble with it. I read them A River Ran Wild by Lynne Cherry. I thought it was a wonderful story that followed the life of a river from its discovery by a Native American tribe to the pollution of the Industrial Revolution to the cleaning of the river. The kids’ eyes grew wide as they learned about companies polluting the river with chemicals and dyes. We had a great discussion about the book, which led us into our experiment.

I created two models, one represented a landfill and the other represented someone’s yard. We talked about harmful things that some people throw into the trash (i.e. motor oil, medicines, etc.). Then I showed them how when it rains, the water washes some of the contaminants into our lakes and streams. The same went for the pesticide model. The kids saw how the water washed the fertilizer into the pond at the bottom of the hill. I think both models had an effect on the kids. The moms were pleased with it, so I was happy that all of my stressing had paid off.

I found a great reading list of books covering water conservation and water science. The list includes books of all levels for students and adults.

I got the idea for the landfill and fertilizer runoff models from Water: A Resource in Crisis by Eileen Lucas. If anyone is interested in recreating them, here’s how –

Materials (per model) –

Rectangular plastic food storage container (mine was about 11”x7”)
Pea gravel (about 4 cups)
Small saucer
Cotton ball
Food coloring

Place the saucer at one end of the plastic container. Stack pea gravel three-fourths of the way up the opposite side of the container. Lay a piece of foil from the edge of the container and up the sides down to the saucer, completely covering the gravel and slightly overlapping the saucer. Add additional gravel over the foil, not covering the saucer. You should now have a “hill” on one side of the container with a “pond” at the other end. Pull the cotton ball apart slightly and drop several drops of food coloring onto it (I used red for the landfill and green for the fertilizer). Place the cotton ball on top of the “hill” and cover with a bit more gravel. Pour water on the top of the “hill” to symbolize rain and watch the runoff that collects in the “pond.”

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Costumes for Halloween

My kids are dresser-uppers. If given the choice, they would play dress-up and make-believe all day long. Some days I have a princess, a Jedi and a superhero sitting at the table with me for lunch. Because of their love of dress-up, I don’t mind spending a little more on Halloween costumes. Unlike some families, our costumes don’t get packed away during the first week of November. Rather, our costumes get added to the dress-up bins, which are currently overflowing.

This year I allowed the kids to spend up to $25 on a costume. Some may find his excessive. Technically, I could classify our Halloween costumes as an educational purchase because they are used so often and for what I feel is an educational purpose. There is a great deal of research showing how pretend play is very important for all aspects of development in young children.

Jake dressed up as Anakin Skywalker. He would specify that this particular Anakin is from the new Clone Wars (animated) movie, not any of the other Star Wars movies. He decided to buy the matching light saber with his allowance money because his costume cost $25.

Jolie chose to be a black cat. She got a bodysuit from an older homeschool friend and I spent $6 on some black ears and a black tail for her. I used some eyeliner to make her whiskers and some lipstick to make her pink nose. (Good choice, Jolie!)

Jensen went with Spiderman…then Indiana Jones. I bought him the Spiderman costume for Halloween, spending $20. We got him an Indiana hat and whip for his birthday. He decided at the last minute to switch from Spiderman to Indiana Jones.

I don’t mind spending a little more on costumes at Halloween time because my kids will wear them until they can’t be worn any longer.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

When is Your Baby No Longer a Baby?

My baby turned three today.

Last week we told him that his birthday was coming, so every day this week he’s woken up and asked, “Am I three yet?”

Today, when he started stretching in my bed, I ran in and told him happy birthday. He asked, “Am I three today?” “Yes, today you are three.” “I am three now! I am big!”

As I do each birthday with each of the kids, today I reminisced about what was happening on the day of their birth. I was out and about today, so I would just glance at my watch and think, “Three years ago right now I was…” Usually, I will pipe up and tell the kids what was happening on the day they were born, giving them moment-by-moment commentary (i.e. “...right now I was emailing Daddy to tell him that I was heading to the hospital).

Do all mothers do that? I know my parents have called at 1:53am some years to say happy birthday. My mom has told me my pre-birth story several times (not necessarily my birth story…I’ll have to ask her about that). I know that when the kids are older I will tell them their pre-birth, birth, and post-birth stories.

Because my memory isn’t like it used to be, I decided to write down all of my prenatal thoughts, feelings, and appointments while I was pregnant with Jensen. I had a calendar that I wrote special moments on when I was pregnant with Jake and Jolie, but nothing that recorded my thoughts. I thought the journal would be a nice memento for Jensen. I’m not sure that he’ll appreciate it. I hope some day he will.

I have done a pretty good job of keeping up with all three baby books. They are five-year baby books, so I only have one left to keep up with (although I didn’t write down Jolie’s weight and height last year, so I’ll have to ask the Dr. at her next appointment so I can finish up the book).

Jensen requested green frosting on his cake. Since we are trying to limit our “unnatural” food colorings, I went out and bought natural food colorings (and spent a bundle on them). Yellow and blue usually makes green, but when using natural food colorings, it turns out sort of yellow-brown. Jensen didn’t seem to notice, although Jake and Jolie did (“that’s not green!”).

He helped us sing happy birthday and blew out his candles on cue. I didn’t even have time to take the traditional pre-blow picture (I hate the delay on my digital camera). He was pleased with his new scooter and Indiana Jones hat and whip (I didn’t really think that one through…he’s going to take someone’s eye out with that thing).

He’s a happy BIG boy now. I asked him if he felt three now, and he said he did. Just because he feels big, doesn’t mean I think he’s big. He’ll always be my baby…I sure hope he doesn’t mind.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Isn't Clothing Optional?

Jensen is our token nudist. If given the option, he would never wear clothing. I don’t think it has anything to do with his dislike of the texture of clothing, but rather the freedom of not wearing any. Jolie, on the other hand, had certain textures that she wouldn’t wear and was very particular about the seams and tags in her clothing. Regardless, she always found something that worked (though she may have worn it for a week straight because it felt good) and was rarely naked.

I spent a majority of the day today trying to keep Jensen clothed while we were at a homeschool costume party. He started out in jammies (which he chooses to wear most of the day, everyday), and then transitioned into his Spiderman costume, followed by undies. What? Undies?

Yup. I walked in to the party after a doctor’s appointment (I’m fine, just some fluid in my ear caused by a sinus infection that was causing some dizziness, nausea and headaches…I’ll be fine by the end of the week) to find him running around the backyard in his Buzz Lightyear glow-in-the-dark undies.

Luckily, most of the mommies didn’t protest too loudly. They either understood my struggle, or were just being nice, quietly cursing my child under their breath. All I can say is at least he was wearing underwear. As soon as we got home he lost those too.

He did finally put on a shirt at the costume party, so it looked like he was wearing a dress, satisfying everyone.

Unless we are attending an important function, I usually let my kids wear what they please. Jensen can be found wearing rain boots (Jake's old holey rain boots at that) all year long with a cape as an accessory; Jolie will wear any shirt with a jean skirt as long as she can pair them with colorful socks; and Jake is usually wearing differing shades of the same color. I feel that by choosing their own clothes, they are being allowed to express themselves. I don’t remember my mom ever dictating what I had to wear unless we were going somewhere where formal clothes were necessary, and even then we weren’t restricted much.

I know that Jensen will outgrow his nakedness in time. For now, be prepared to experience a little nakedness if you’re making a trip to our place. Outside the house undies are required, but at home, clothing is optional if you are Jensen.

Super Husband Strikes Again

Saturday morning, Justin participated in his first Adventure Race. The race was a triathlon, consisting of kayaking, trekking and mountain biking.

We drove over Friday night and stayed on the local military base, ate pizza at 10pm and went to bed after midnight…not necessarily the best way to gear up for a race. We woke up early and ate Waffle House for breakfast (again, not the best way to start a race).

There were separate staging areas for the bikes and the kayaks, so we got the bike set before heading over to the kayak area and the start of the race. This was his first adventure race and triathlon of any sort, so we were unsure how the transitions would work, so we over-prepared, not sure what to expect.

The race consisted of a 1.5 mile paddle in the kayak, 2 mile run, 10 mile bike ride, 2 mile run and ended with a 1.5 mile paddle. The racers jumped out of their kayaks at the end and ran the final quarter of a mile to the finish line.

He had a great time, and we had a blast watching him. Ask him, and a grin will spread across his face as he tells you all about the race. He is eagerly awaiting his next adventure race. We bought him a racing bike with the thought of triathlons in his future, but now that he’s had his first taste of adventure racing, I’m not sure that he will want to participate in a standard triathlon. He seems to enjoy trees flying by his face and sharp turns around ravines. Our next purchase will be a kayak. Hopefully Santa will bring him one.

Believe it or not, he hadn’t prepared at all for the race. It was his first time really riding his new bike and he’d never used the kayak before that we borrowed from our neighbor. He was just hoping to finish. Now he’s looking to improve upon his time and improve in the standings. He finished fifth in his age group, 18th over all with a time of 2:29. I’m sure that he’ll be practicing before next year.

We’re proud of him and can’t wait to cheer him on at his next race.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Special Fieldtrip

On Monday I asked the kids if they were interested in attending a fieldtrip on Tuesday morning. We would probably have to miss PE that day, so I wanted them to discuss it and decide if they were interested. They came to a consensus and we decided we would go ahead and go on the fieldtrip. I invited some of our homeschool friends to go with us on the fieldtrip and after a short family discussion, they too were excited to go. We decided to meet up the next morning to drive to our destination.

So where were we going, you ask? We went to hear Michelle Obama speak.

It was important to me that the kids attended the event because they were interested, not because we forced them. In 2004, they were too young to decide whether or not they would go and hear John Kerry speak in Tacoma. They went because we took them along with us. In February it was Jake who wanted to go and see Obama speak in Virginia Beach. We stood outside for hours in the cold that night, but Jake was steadfast. He wanted to hear Barack Obama speak, so he didn’t complain about the cold and stood next to me, eagerly awaiting stepping into the Convention Center and hearing Mr. Obama’s speech. He would have loved to shake Mr. Obama’s hand that night, but it wasn’t meant to be. We were too far from the stage, but we where there nonetheless.

Tuesday was much the same. Jolie and Jake stood nicely in line with our friends and me, wrapping our way through the line and into the Civic Center, eagerly awaiting hearing from the woman who could possibly be the next First Lady. Jensen wasn’t a big fan of standing in line, even though all he had to do was sit in the sling while I carried him. He was fine once we got moving and sat nicely in his seat throughout much of the event, which was nice of him.

We discussed the day’s experience on our way home that day. The kids said they had a good time. Jake really wanted to shake Mrs. Obama’s hand, but that would have been hard from the nosebleed section. I’m not exactly sure what they took from her speech. The speech wasn’t what was important to me. I was most concerned with exposing the kids to the event. They saw a group of people gather together because they believe in a common cause. I wanted them to know that it is important and acceptable to stand up for what you believe in.

The kids also saw protestors standing outside the Civic Center. Their presence gave us another topic to discuss while we stood in line. Some of the comments on their signs were a bit above the comprehension of a 9 and almost 6 year old, but the concept of protesting was there, and gave us a great topic to discuss.

Whether or not we vote for the same person on Election Day (or through early voting or by absentee ballot), I feel exposing kids to the election process is important. Getting them involved early and allowing them to explore their thoughts and beliefs and the associating political views that go along with them, I feel, will benefit them in the long run. So take your child with you on voting day. Let them see you being involved in the political system. Let your voice be heard.

Pumpkin Cake Roll

Have I mentioned just how much I love pumpkin? I love pumpkin. When I got my most recent copy of Taste of Home Healthy Cooking magazine (I always read it cover to cover, marking recipes that I want to try, which is usually just about every page) I saw a recipe for a Pumpkin Cake Roll that I just had to try. Knowing my parents were going to be here last weekend I thought I would give it a try.

I know I shouldn’t try new recipes when company is coming, but I just can’t help myself. I’m glad I did. It was wonderful! Everyone loved it. My mom suggested that I make it for Thanksgiving. I’m sure it will go well with my mom’s pumpkin pies and my sister’s pumpkin cake. Pumpkin anyone?

Because of its yummy-ness factor, I thought I would share. I made a slight adjustment (as usual) to the recipe to make it my own. Have I mentioned that I love the smell of nutmeg? Well, I do, so I added a few dashes of nutmeg to the batter. I find myself walking by the spice cabinet and opening it just to smell the nutmeg. I can’t wait to try to make eggnog.

The roll is just like a slice of pumpkin cheesecake pie. I hope you enjoy!

Pumpkin Cake Roll
From Healthy Cooking

PREP 25 min.
COOK 10 min.
TOTAL 35 min.

· 3 eggs
· 3/4 cup sugar
· 2/3 cup canned pumpkin
· 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
· 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
· 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
· 1 teaspoon baking powder
· 1 teaspoon ground ginger
· 1/2 teaspoon salt
· 1 tablespoon plus 1 cup confectioners' sugar, divided
· 6 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese, cubed
· 1 teaspoon butter
· 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Line a 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan with waxed paper. Coat the paper with cooking spray; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs for 3 minutes. Gradually add sugar; beat for 2 minutes or until mixture becomes thick and lemon-colored. Beat in pumpkin and extract. Combine the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, ginger and salt; fold into pumpkin mixture. Spread batter evenly into prepared pan.

Bake at 375° for 10-15 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched (do not overbake). Cool for 5 minutes. Invert onto a kitchen towel dusted with 1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar. Gently peel off waxed paper. Roll up cake in the towel jelly-roll style, starting with a short side. Cool completely on a wire rack.

For filling, in a small mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter, vanilla and remaining confectioners' sugar until fluffy.

Unroll cake; spread filling evenly over cake to within 1/2 in. of edges. Roll up again. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour before serving. Yield: 12 servings.

Nutrition Facts
· One serving: 1 slice
· Calories: 182
· Fat: 5 g
· Saturated Fat: 3 g
· Cholesterol: 64 mg
· Sodium: 212 mg
· Carbohydrate: 31 g
· Fiber: 1 g
· Protein: 4 g
· Diabetic Exch: 2 starch, 1/2 fat.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

International Day

One of our homeschooling groups (yes, we are involved in more than one) had an International Day event on Friday. The idea was for each family to research a Middle Eastern country and present information about the country to the rest of the group. The idea was great, but not many people signed up to do research on a country, so the “international-ness” of the day kind of fizzled out.

I have to admit that I did not sign up to research a country. We have a lot on our plates right now, and we’re having enough trouble completing all of our usual housework and schoolwork without adding to it. I usually jump right into events such as this, but I’m bushed right now.

Well, the event morphed into a presentation put on by one of our homeschooling moms about Middle Eastern belly dancing. It was GREAT! She taught the kids the history of belly dancing, when it came to the US (which was during the World’s Fair in Chicago in the 1800s), and showed us an Egyptian and a Turkish dance. It was wonderful.

I was so proud of my kids for sitting nicely through the show, participating in different segments of the presentation (I did too!), and thanking the mom for the show. Most of the other kids were playing with toys and running around the room (which was in the library), so seeing my kids behaving so well (which they usually do) was awesome. I was sure to tell them how proud I was of them on our way home. Positive reinforcement encourages further positive behavior.

Not knowing what food item to bring to International Day (yes, we were asked to bring food from a country, not necessarily a Middle Eastern country, but food nonetheless to share), I racked my brain Friday morning for a dessert item from another country that I could bring. I usually try to bring a dessert when asked to bring something to an event…any event. I love dessert and it is usually what I am most comfortable making. After ruling out most of my standard dessert choices (where do brownies come from anyway?), I settled on Challah. Although not necessarily a regional food, it was an ethnic food and Israel is in the Middle East (score!).

To make a long story short, Challah is egg bread and I forgot to add the eggs until I had started the bread rising and saw the eggs on the counter. So I tore apart the dough, shoved it all back into the mixer with the kneading hook, and thought positive thoughts. Believe it or not, the dough came together nicely and I think it might have been my best Challah to date. The homeschoolers loved it and it made fabulous French toast on Saturday.

I’d love to see us have another International Day. Maybe we could choose a European country or an Asian country to represent next time and hopefully I won’t be so busy and will be able to more fully participate.

International Day is a great idea for a homeschooling group. Do you have any events that your homeschooling group has created? I’d love to hear about them.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Got Absentee Ballot?

I did.

I voted.

Did you?

Family Fun

We enjoyed the long weekend with my sisters and parents. It was nice to get to see everyone, even if just for a few days. We are all spread out across the country, so it isn’t often that we are all in the same place at the same time.

Here are some photos to commemorate our visit.