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.

Heroes' Salute

Thank you Anheuser-Busch for your generosity. For the past several years, Anheuser-Busch has offered military families free tickets to their theme parks in appreciation of their service to their country. Active duty, activated reserve and National Guard families qualify for the Here’s to the Heroes program.

We have graciously accepted the tickets three times, each time heading to SeaWorld in Orlando. Tickets can also be used at SeaWorld San Diego, or San Antonio, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay or Williamsburg, Sesame Place, Water Country USA, or Adventure Island. The tickets are not valid at Discovery Cove or Aquatica.

The appreciation of men and women in uniform is particularly moving during the Shamu Show, where the trainers point out past and present military members and thank them for their service. The gesture was truly genuine and grately appreciated.

Although it was hot and humid, we had a great time. We saw our three favorite shows, Shamu, the dolphins, and the Clyde and Seamore Show. Jake and Justin rode Journey to Atlantis and Jolie and I rode the Shamu Express. Poor Jensen wasn’t tall enough to ride anything except the carousel, so we were sure to take a ride just before finishing for the day.

Thank you again, Anheuser-Busch, for reaching out to military families across the country with your generosity.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Learning While Feeding the Hungry

For all of you interested in helping out those less fortunate and learning something in the process, you need to check out FreeRice. FreeRice works to provide education to everyone for free and to help end world hunger by providing free rice to people that are hungry.

Here’s how it works. On the FreeRice website you choose the subject you would like to brush up on. The subjects available are Art (famous paintings), Chemistry (chemical symbols – basic and full list), English (grammar; vocabulary), Geography (identify countries; world capitals), Language learning (French; German; Italian; Spanish), and Math (multiplication). Then you choose the level you want to start on, and you're off. FreeRice will donate 20 grains of rice through the UN World Food Program for each question you answer correctly.

I hope you’ll check out the FreeRice website too and help to feed hungry people while learning a little something while you’re at it.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Relaxing Weekend

We’ve had a nice weekend.

Friday night was our pizza-and-a-movie night. I made homemade pizza and breadsticks and we watched The Bee Movie. We try to watch a movie and have pizza every Friday. The ritual sort of gets us in the mood for the weekend. Poor Jensen doesn’t think you can eat pizza unless you are sitting on the floor watching a movie.

Saturday, Jolie and I started the day off at the salon. We had a semi-girls’ day out. We hadn’t had our hair cut since early May when Jolie donated her hair to Locks of Love, so I figured it was about time. Jolie just got her hair trimmed this time. She is planning to donate her hair again as soon as her hair is long enough.

I, on the other hand, wanted a change. So I went drastic. I chopped a whole three inches off! Okay, so not really a drastic change, but I couldn’t make up my mind. I hate getting haircuts. I usually get antsy about twice a hairstyle just is no longer working for me. It’s either too long; too short; not enough layers; too many layers…you get the picture. When it’s too long, I cut it and for a time it’s too short. When it’s all one length, I get some layers and they just don’t lay right. So I thought I would look online for a new “do.” Can you believe that I didn’t find one online that I was completely happy with? So, as usual, I went to the salon unprepared. The stylist was great. She worked with me and cut my hair exactly how I asked her to. Just not quite as short as I had asked. I guess you can always take more off but you can’t glue it back on.

Here are some before and after photos –

The rest of Saturday was spent around the house. We took the kids to the neighborhood park. The kids climbed on the equipment and swung on the swings. Do you know that I haven’t swung on swings since a few days before Jensen was born? I was trying everything to go into labor and thought that playing tag with Jake and Jolie and then swinging at the park might do the trick. Unfortunately, no. I didn’t remember how relaxing it is to swing. I just closed my eyes, leaned back, and felt the wind in my newly cut hair. I can’t remember the last time I felt that relaxed. It was great. The park adventure was followed by a refreshing run. Dinner consisted of Dumplings (‘n Chicken for the non-vegetarians), rolls and corn, yum! Jolie and I made ice cream while Justin and Jake built a model rocket. I also started some cajun boiled peanuts in the crock-pot, double yum!

Sunday was a lounging sort of day. We had a nice breakfast (pancakes, scrambled eggs, and sausage) followed by “home church.” Then a little left over pizza, and because we can’t have pizza without a movie, we watched a documentary on George Washington and Ben Franklin. The kids played for a while while I made pita bread for dinner (thank you King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion) and Justin did some research.

We had Greek salads with pita bread and tazhiki sauce for dinner and because Jake wowed Justin by knowing one of the political commentators on “Meet the Press” this morning, we splurged and went out for ice cream. We finished the night off with a blast from the past, the movie Mrs. Doubtfire. Jensen has decided that he wants to dress up like Mrs. Doubtfire for Halloween instead of Spiderman. How do you dress a nearly three-year-old up like Mrs. Doubtfire? That would be a sight!

So I rambled on and on just to tell you that this was a wonderfully relaxing weekend. I don’t think I really got much done, but it was great nonetheless.

Back to the real world tomorrow…though I think we might take the week off of school. I’m trying to complete six weeks of school and follow it with one week off (except during holidays), that way we’ll end up schooling year round. We’ve completed seven weeks thus far, so this week might just be a “catch up” week. Jake has a few history projects he needs to get caught up on, and I’d like to go through and make sure I’ve documented all of our “achievements” thus far for the year (i.e. fieldtrips, projects, community events, etc.). This week is definitely a down week at the Miller house. Woohoo!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Are You Registered To Vote?

I'm not going to tell you who to vote for. That is up to you. You need to do your own research to be an informed voter.

But in order to vote, you must be registered. Time is running out. The election is just around the corner...only 33 days left.

So check out the Declare Yourself website. They have information right on their page to help you get registered.

If I'm not persuasive enough, watch this video. Maybe it will urge you to get registered so your voice can be heard on election day.

[NOTE: There is some adult language in the video, so you may want to wait till the kiddoes are in bed to watch it.]

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


We spent Saturday afternoon participating in a local Chalk4Peace event. Our Roots & Shoots group gathered at the local natural foods store and chalked peaceful drawings all over the natural foods store's sidewalk.

Chalk4Peace is a worldwide effort meant to spread the idea of peace through creative expression in the medium of chalk. The event started in 2003 in Arlington, VA as a weekend sidewalk event and quickly spread; now spanning several continents.

Saturday was a beautiful day for the event. The kids were a bit hot, so the shade from the building came in handy from time to time, giving them a chance to cool down in between their drawings.

The whole family participated, drawing what peace meant to each of us. Justin drew an American flag with a peace symbol; I drew several well-known peace symbols; Jakob wrote down each branch of the US military; Jolie drew some peace signs and hearts; and Jensen wanted Batman drawn in his square.

A local newspaper reporter was also there to document the event. The article was published in yesterday’s paper and can also be found online. I’m not pleased with my “quote,” but I’ll survive(I don’t think I usually talk in run on sentences like that, do I?).

The kids had fun and thought it was neat to have their photo in the newspaper.

It would be great to see more groups participating in events such as Chalk4Peace. I hope that our Roots & Shoots group will continue to be active in similar events.