Friday, January 30, 2009

A Little Parody

I saw this on my TJEdSecular Yahoo! list and just had to share...

Home Eating a Threat to Public Kitchens?
State Allows Growing Trend of Eating at Home
A Parody by Angela Paul
April 13, 2099
Reunited Press

After much heated debate on the house floor, legislation was passed today to allow a growing number of families to cook meals for their families in their homes. The children must have annual physical examinations to assure proper growth and weight gain. Attempts to require weekly meal plans and monthly kitchen inspections were voted down.

A spokesperson from the National Association of Nutritionists (NANs) condemns this decision. "These children are being denied the rich socialization and diversity that is an essential part of the eating process. Without the proper nutritional background, it is impossible for the average person to feed their own children. We, as child advocates, see this as a step backwards and speak out for the sake of the children who cannot speak for themselves."

Homecooking parents say the benefits of eating at home include increased family unity and the ability to tailor a diet to a particular need. Elizabeth Crocker, a home cook, states, "We started cooking and eating at home when we realized that my son had a severe allergy to eggs. The public kitchens required him to take numerous medications that had serious side effects in order to counteract his allergy. We found that eliminating eggs was a simpler method and our son has thrived since we began doing so."

After this experience, the Crockers decided to home cook for all of their children, and converted their media room into a kitchen. Elizabeth says, "We have experienced so much closeness as we have explored recipes and spent time cooking together and eating together. We have a dining circle with other families where we sometimes share ideas and meals together."

The Crocker children have done well physically under their mother's care, weighing in at optimum weights for their ages and having health records far above average. It should be noted that Mrs. Crocker, while not a professional nutritionist, has a family history rich with nutritionists and home economists. "Surely the success of the Crocker children is due to the background of their mother," responded the spokesman from NANs. "The results they have achieved should not be viewed as normative." Mrs. Crocker counters that her background was actually a hindrance to the nutritional principles she follows. "Our paternal great-grandmother was a home economist, but she prepared most meal from pre-made mixes. In our homecooking we try not to duplicate public-kitchen meals, but to tailor our meals to the needs and preferences of our children."

In a related issue, legislation is in committee that would provide oversight for the emerging homecooking movement. Says the Home Eating Legal Defense Association (HELDA): "We want to provide umbrella kitchens to aid parents in the complicated tasks of feeding their children. Many families lack the expertise of the Crocker family, yet desire to eat at home. As we have seen, the umbrella kitchens meet the needs of all concerned. We are happy to provide this service."

Copyright © Angela Paul, 1999 - 2008.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Mentor Comes out of the Woodwork

Jake has been interested in woodworking for some time. He got a set of tools for the holidays and thus far has cut down a dead tree and repaired a toy with them. He would really like to start designing and creating some projects, but woodworking is not one of Justin or my skills. Don’t get me wrong, I loved shop class and would love to build some great projects with wood, but we are lacking in tools and I’m lacking in time right now.

We brought the kids with us to Justin’s most recent General Surgery appointment with the approval of the surgeon. I mentioned needing to find a babysitter and he said to just bring the crew with us. So we did. Jake was really impressed with a wooden ship that was on a shelf in the doctor’s office. He got it down and showed it to Jake, telling him that he had designed and created it himself. Jake was very impressed and told him about his interest in woodworking. The doctor continued around the room showing Jake all of the items that he had created and told him about the furniture that he made in his shop at home. Needless to say, Jake was impressed.

It was then that an amazing thing happened. The doctor asked Jake if he would like to come to his shop and learn about woodworking. After looking over at Justin and I with a gleam in his eye, he exclaimed that he would love to. The doctor gave us his card with his home number and address on it and encouraged Justin to bring Jake over and that he would teach Jake about safety, design, and woodworking. Jake has been ecstatic the past 36 hours thinking about the possibilities.

I am a firm believer in the importance of mentors. I try everyday to set a good example for my children, but know that there are areas my children are interested in for which I do not have the adequate skills to assist in their development. For Jake that is woodworking and for Jolie that is art. Jolie has found a wonderful art teacher that, though I am paying her for classes, I feel Jolie looks up to as a mentor. Jake will now have the same opportunity.

If we lived closer, I’m sure that the kids would receive lots of mentorship from their grandparents, and aunts and uncles. Being a military family, most of the time we look to each other for mentorship and guidance. I am glad that the doctor was genuinely caring enough to give of himself to benefit my son. I look forward to watching their relationship grow over the next few years. As soon as Justin is feeling better, he is planning to take Jake over for his first “lesson.”

Friday, January 23, 2009

Happy Anniversary to Us

Today Justin and I celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary.

I am so blessed to be married to my best friend. The last ten years have flown by, as I’m sure the next ten, twenty, and fifty years will as well.

Honey, I look forward to what the future holds for us. I will always be “dreaming my dreams with you.”

Thursday, January 22, 2009

When Superman is Broken

You fix him.

My superman has been broken with (another) hernia for the past few months and was partially fixed yesterday. He’ll have another surgery next week to fix the other side.

He is (and I am) excited for him to be on the road to recovery, though it will be about seven weeks or so before he’ll be able to lift more than ten pounds.

He (hopefully) has more adventure races in the near future and needs to recover so he can get back out there. He’s hoping to drag me along on one too. We’ll see how that goes!

Feel better, Superman. I love you.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

An Historic Day

So what were you doing at 12pm ET today?

I'm sure people will be asking that question for years to come. No matter your political affiliation, today was special. Today the first African American was sworn in as President of the United States of America.

So where were we? We were rushing home from art class, trying to get home so we could watch the swearing in on C-SPAN. We heard Vice President Biden take the oath of office while we were rushing home (I promise I was trying to go the speed limit). I was sure we were going to miss watching President Obama say his oath on television, but to my surprise (and extreme enjoyment) there was a wonderful quartet arrangement that preceded his oath. We pulled into the driveway as the musicians were finishing up, and ran in and grabbed seats on the couch.

My kids will look back on today and say that they watched the Presidential Inauguration as a family, lined up on the couch, watching history unfold.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

My Selfish Weekend

I have had a selfish weekend and I don't really feel too bad about it. I don't ever take much time for myself. Every now and again I'll steal a few minutes to relax in the tub, or maybe every few months I'll attend a Mom's Night Out. But this weekend was different.

What did I do, you ask?


Yes, a whole book. And not a little wimpy book, but a big whopper of a book.

Justin and I watched the trailer for the movie that will be coming out and I really wanted to read the book before seeing the movie. Luckily, there wasn't a long wait at the library and it came in on Wednesday while we were there for Lego Club.

So what is the book, you ask?

Angels & Demons by Dan Brown. It was fabulous...all 569 pages of it. Dan Brown is also the author of The Da Vinci Code. I would highly recommend both books to any and everyone.

I started reading it Friday while Justin was on duty (which gave me the whole night after the kids went to sleep to read and read and read). I think I may have slightly neglected the kids on Friday...I did feed them and got them into their beds, but between lunch after our co-op Friday and dinner (which was just leftovers), they basically played nicely together both inside and out(I'm so glad that they get along so well). Saturday was much of the same. I did make a big breakfast for everyone, but got right back to reading while Justin slept after his night on duty and again the kids played. I did take a break to have a nice Date Night with Justin to celebrate our upcoming anniversary, but went right back to reading while he and Jake watched a Civil Rights movie from the History Channel that we got from Netflix and fell asleep on the couch. I finished early this morning, slept a little, got moving today and cleaned the garage. I guess I wasn't completely selfish this weekend...though I did clean the garage so I could get my van back in the garage.

I won't go into my thoughts on the book here. I think it is a book that one would need to read and interpret for themselves, much like The Da Vinci Code. I'm sure it will resonate differently for everyone.

I don't do it often, but having a selfish weekend felt pretty good...almost regenerating. Maybe I'll have another selfish weekend soon....possibly to till and plant my garden. I'm not sure that it counts as selfish, but either way I can't wait.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Brown Rice Pilaf

I have been looking for a nice rice pilaf recipe. The ones in my cookbooks look pretty bland and boring, so I ran straight to and found a nice one.

Justin and I had it for dinner tonight (he worked late, so I made an earlier dinner for the kids). He had seconds and requested the rest for tomorrow’s lunch. Definitely a keeper.

I made some adjustments from the original. Below is my updated version.

Home-Style Brown Rice Pilaf


1 1/2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup uncooked brown rice
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cups chopped onion
1 cup frozen corn
2 carrots, sliced
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 cup chickpeas
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

1. Bring 1-1/2 cups water to boil, add rice. Bring contents back to a boil, cover the pot and simmer for 45-50 minutes, or until rice is tender.
2. Approximately 20 minutes before rice is finished cooking heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in onions and sauté them, stirring frequently until they soften. Add the carrots and celery and continue stirring for 5 minutes.
3. Place corn inside of skillet and cook until heated all the way through, about 5 minutes. Add the chickpeas and cook 1 more minute.
4. Remove the skillet from the heat, stir in pepper and parsley. Spoon the cooked rice into the skillet and stir well. Serve the pilaf hot with soy sauce on the side for added flavor.

Monday, January 12, 2009

A Cultural Experience

We feel that it is important to expose the kids to all types of people, cultures, and religions. Americans are fortunate that our country is a melting pot of diversity. We can all learn so much from people who are different from ourselves. Variety is the spice of life, is it not? If everyone were the same, the world would be such a boring place.

Today, I had the opportunity to branch out and expose the kids to something new. We were invited to join a group of homeschoolers for an African drum performance and a Tibetan bowl demonstration.

The African drum performance was wonderful. The gentlemen went through some African history, touching on the importance of the drums and their link as a sort of ancient telephone, used to communicate with others throughout the village and beyond. The kids learned a West African welcoming song, Funga Alafia, as well as a rhythmic song that we all danced to. They have hardly stopped singing Funga Alafia since we left the get together, and were sure to teach it to Justin when he got home from work.

The Tibetan bowl demonstration was very interesting to me (I’m not sure that the younger kids got as much out of it as was hoped). The local gentleman used different mallets to create different pitches from the many antique bowls. One of my friends was asked to stand in the largest bowl while he created different vibrations and pitches with that and additional bowls. At the end of her time in the bowl, she had gone from having a horrific toothache, to having no pain at all. At the end of the demonstration, the gentleman explained the natural healing powers of the vibrations of the bowls. It is definitely something that I would like to do some more research on.

We were all glad that we had the opportunity to attend and learn something new. The hostess is hoping to hold other cultural events at her home throughout the year. I look forward to her next event and getting the opportunity to expose the kids to yet more culture from this greatly diverse nation of ours.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Updated Allowance Chart

The kids and I have been doing a great job at choosing our chores daily from our envelope chore system. Jensen is even getting in on the fun. I guess it is time to make his envelopes so he can officially join in.

I really like the idea behind Chore Wars. I think that it is nice that a family can tailor the program to suit their needs rather that being a one-size-fits-all site. It was, however, getting to be somewhat of a chore (ironically enough) for me to put everyone’s chores into the site at the end of the day. There were times when I’d forget and have to go back several days to input chore information to ensure that everyone was getting his or her points. The other problem I was having with Chore Wars was that the site would keep a running weekly total for all chores completed during the previous seven days. The kids were having trouble figuring out exactly how many points they had earned from Monday morning to date because there were additional days from the previous week also being added into the total.

In an effort to streamline the process, I decided to do a slight adaptation of the method set forth in America's Cheapest Family Gets You Right On The Money, by Steve and Annette Economides. (I enjoyed the book and recommend it to others as a refresher in getting one's family back on financial track, or as a way to glean a few more tips on how to pinch pennies here and there.) Their program focuses on a point system and the children are awarded an allowance based on the points they have accumulated during the week.

Rather than keeping points for each chore completed, the kids are now scored in four different categories; morning chores, school work, daily chores, and bedtime. If a child completes his or her morning chores (get up, get dressed, make bed, brush teeth and hair, and wash face) on time, they will get one point. Another point is earned if they complete their individual educational goals each day before we start our evening routine. If they complete all of their chosen daily chores, they get another point. Finally, if they are ready for bed and reading quietly at 8pm, they receive their final point.

I finalized the chart last weekend so we could use it this past week, as we got back into our regular routine. I think it was a success. Jake earned $3 (out of $5), Jolie earned $1.10 (out of $2.50) and Jensen earned $.30. The chart is posted on the side of the fridge next to our daily routine so that they can keep track of their responsibilities without me needing to harp on them to get their stuff done. I have put the chart into a plastic paper protector and us a wipe-off marker to keep track of accumulated points.

As usual, if the method isn’t working, I’ll modify it to meet the needs of our family or scrap it completely for a different method. I'm semi-flexible like that.

Next weekend we are planning to sit down on “Pay Day” (Sunday evening) and delegate the kids’ earnings into Savings, Charitable Giving, and Personal funds. We want the kids to learn how to save, how to give, and how to have a little fun with what they work hard to earn. Hopefully learning those skills early will set them up well for life in the real world when they are grown.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

It Must Be A Breed Thing

This morning I tried out a new whole wheat bread recipe that I saw in my Mother Earth News magazine. The recipe comes from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë Francois, and was featured in the magazine. The dough sat in the refrigerator over night and was ready for a section to be cut off and baked today. The bread rested, cooked and then sat on a cooling rack in the middle of my extra large, square kitchen island.

While it cooled, I decided to take a minute to read an article online. Not long later I heard a noise in the other room. Assuming it was the kids playing, I continued reading my article for a minute or so more, only to continue hearing this strange sound.

As I came around the corner of the island, I found an oversized, shaggy white thing devouring my newly baked loaf. My response…GRRRRRRR! Lincoln dropped the bread and ran outside to devour the piece he still had in his mouth.

As you can see, he did a number on the loaf. And yes, that is a piece of grass he had brought in with him from outside. I decided to cut the loaf open before throwing it away, and it looks like it should be a nice, sandwich bread.

Our first Great Pyrenees would do that same thing. He used to steal Amish Friendship bread off the counter when we lived in Washington. It would never fail. One batch would make two loaves and he almost always got away with one of them. That combined with just about anything else he wanted from the counter (we had a really shallow counter top). Ekimo and the cat would some times tag team the mission. DC would jump up and knock things off the counter that he wasn't able reach. He would then tear it open so that the two of them could munch. I can't count the number of bags of bread and buns I had to throw away because they had been demolished by the tag-teaming duo. DC is a bit older now, and somewhat selfish. You'd be hard pressed to find her teaming up with either of the dogs at this point. I wonder if Lincoln will be so kind as to share his next treasure with Chester, the eleven pound terrier mix. I'm sure he'd really appreciate it.

I guess it doesn’t matter where food is kept on the counter…nothing will stop a Great Pyrenees from their prize.

But really, who could stay mad at a face like that?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Our Annual Winter PJ Ritual

For the past ten years, we have each gotten a new set of pjs to celebrate the winter holidays. We usually open them on Christmas Eve, sleep in them, and then open gifts in them the next morning. Each year, the pjs have a colored theme…this year’s color was blue (my favorite)…I believe last year’s color was blue too. I guess I should mix it up a bit next year.

I had been searching online for organic cotton fabric so that I could make the jammie pants. I made them the year Jolie turned two…they were blue flannel camouflage material and came out wonderfully soft. Jake is still squeezing his little self into his four years later (I made them big so he could grow into them). I found quite a few companies that sell organic cotton fabric, but the prices were seemingly pretty high. I was looking at $15-$20 per yard for organic flannel, and $12-15 for knits. Ouch! For the patterns I have, I was going to need 11 yards of fabric to make all five pairs of pants. You do the math.

I decided to give my local fabric shops a call just to see what they had in stock. None of the mom & pop shops had any sort of organic fabric. As a last ditch effort, I decided to check out JoAnn Fabric’s online store. To my surprise, they had organic cotton fabric! It is listed as a “cotton solid” and as a “quilting fabric,” and comes in eight different colors. In the hopes that my local JoAnn store would also carry the organic cotton, I stopped by while I was on that side of town running errands and found that they too carry the fabric. Of course I had my 40% off coupon with me, decided on the New Navy color, and got 11 yards to make the pants. It ended up that the fabric was already on sale ($5.99/yd; regularly $9.99), so I had to use my coupon on something else, which was alright by me. I was pleased that I had found the fabric for less than half the cost of other online companies.

The jammie pants turned out well. Since I didn’t make any of us jammie shirts, I had the kids wear their UU rainbow shirts that they had gotten last year, and we wore our UU principles shirts. The kids were all excited to open their winter pjs. They have each requested me to do an additional load of laundry here and there so that they can wear their pants again the following night.

I like our jammie tradition. Next year we will probably shift our jammie opening to solstice and possibly stay up all night wearing them. I have some other new traditions that I hope to start for next year’s solstice. I’m enjoying reading about other family’s solstice traditions on my UUHomeschoolers Yahoo! group. I look forward to morphing our holiday traditions into some that will be meaningful for our family for years to come.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A Green Dilemma

I am an Earth-hugger through and through.

I was the nine year old that boycotted McDonalds and Burger King when they were serving their burgers in Styrofoam packaging. I was the ‘tween who informed everyone I knew about the danger of CFCs and the hole in the Ozone layer. I was the teenager who searched out the school recycling bins and inquired if each of my classrooms didn’t have one next to the trashcan. I am now the sister who packed up all of the “un”recyclable items during our Thanksgiving vacation and drove them home from North Carolina to ensure that they were in fact recycled. It is no surprise, then, that my kids are the ones who check their unopened toy packaging for evidence of post-consumer recycled content and whether or not the package itself can be recycled.

We try our hardest to make as small a footprint on this world as possible. We recycle, turn the heater down, leave the windows open, combine errands, grow our own vegetables…you get the point. As a family, we are doing what we can to try to make a difference.

In an effort to improve the aesthetics of our home, and hopefully increase our home’s appeal when we try to sell it several years down the road, we decided to give the walls a fresh coat of paint. This facelift was planned in conjunction with the installation of new flooring in our great room (after experiencing hardwood flooring in Washington, carpet just isn’t the same).

Our mini-remodel came upon one big roadblock…cost. Being as eco-friendly as we are, we knew that our best flooring options were bamboo or cork and that our best paint options were no or low VOC paint. After much research, we were humbled by the cost of these eco-friendly options. Bamboo hardwood flooring was priced three times higher than laminate flooring and no VOC paint was twice the cost of traditional paint.

As with many other good VS bad products on the market, I was disheartened by the extreme price difference between the more eco-friendly home improvement products and the more harmful/less helpful products. Whether it is food, cleaning supplies, or now home improvement products, I am upset at the cost difference between the helpful/healthful products and the polluting/contaminating products.

Being the naive person that I am from time to time, it is hard for me to understand why a company would 1) create a product that is harmful to people; and 2) continue to sell it when there are more environmentally friendly and/or healthy options available. I personally would be the first company to want to scrap the old product line in order to provide a more positive product to my customers/consumers. I guess that’s just me.

In the end, because of cost restraints, we decided to go with laminate flooring and traditional paint for our mini-renovation. We are pleased with the flooring, although it isn’t the same as hardwood, but much better than carpet. I enjoy the wall color (Behr’s Brown Teepee); it’s warm and inviting. Had we just needed one gallon of paint, I could have afforded the no VOC variety, but when purchasing 8 gallons at once, the cost was more than we could afford at this time. I’m considering painting Jolie’s room some time this spring, and hope to be able to “spring” for the no VOC paint (I looked at the brand offered by Home Depot…FreshAire…and the colors look wonderful).

I hope that companies will consider cost when marketing new, more environmentally friendly products. Making those products affordable will allow more consumers to purchase eco-friendly alternatives and compel other companies to either transition to “greener” product lines or force them out of business. I guess I can continue to hope that someday, environmentally friendly products will be affordable for all.