Sunday, November 29, 2009
1/4 cup melted butter
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup poupon mustard- I like to use Country Dijon by Grey Poupon.
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon curry powder
Mix ingredients together. Cut chicken breasts in half so they are thinner. Place them in a sprayed baking dish. Cover with sauce. Cook at 375 degrees for 40 minutes or until done. Do not over cook. Serve over rice.
Friday, November 27, 2009
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
The book was a very entertaining piece of historical fiction and I'd recommend it to other ladies. But, among the other things I said the book mentioned, it also described how milkweed plants, usually considered garden pests since they so hard to get rid of and so ugly, were used to cure several common ailments back in the old days.
Interesting enough, however, I didn't take the picture on yesterday's post, the picture of the milkweed plant, after reading that book, as you might expect. I just found that photo among some of my oldest picture files on the computer, taken long before my mother in law and I spoke, long before I read the book, long before I started trying my hand at plant identification and long before I knew anything about milkweed. It was taken years ago on one of our trips to the apple orchard. The plant must have struck me as I was passing by, so I clicked a photo of it, saved it on the computer with other pictures, then basically forgot about it, until I happened to see it the other day as I was browsing through old photos. It's pods and fuzzy seeds are unmistakable to me now that I've read the book and now that I know something about them, so when I happened to see the photo, I knew what it was right away.
I wonder. Did I whisper a brief question to myself when I took this picture that God in His perfect timing saw fit to answer through my mother-in-law years later? Knowing myself, I am sure I must have wondered, however briefly, what the plant was called when I took the picture. Seeing the picture now is proof enough for me that I did, even though I honestly can't remember asking such a question.
The Lord's fingerprints are all over my life in little ways like this, coincidence piled upon coincidence. And, though others may not see His hand in this kind of thing, I give him glory that I took a random picture so long ago and after so many years through a book that she flat out insisted I read, my mother-in-law unwittingly helped me identify a plant I took a picture of and more importantly, helped me see the hand of God in my life at the present... and in the past.
God once walked with Adam in the cool of the day in the garden. And, I imagine that Adam must have asked Him what this or that plant was as they passed by. Perhaps God was with me that day in the orchard, in fact, my theology insists that He is, and since things can't be exactly as they were in the beginning, His answer to my question took longer... a lot longer... and it came through my mother.
Thanks, Mom. I am glad you value coincidence as I do. I know you will see God fingerprints all over this one, too!
Monday, November 23, 2009
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Friday, November 20, 2009
I flattered myself a seamstress once. Flattered being the key word.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Here's part of a conversation Dwayne and I had a few days ago. I had just gotten home from work at the Y. He'd been watching the kids while I was gone.
Me- "Norah's been pestering me all day to play her Webkins!"
Dwayne- "Well, she doesn't pester me about it."
Me- "I don't see why not?!"
Dwayne- "Because I turn it on as soon as she asks."
Me- Speechless... until Dwayne and I both busted into laughter.
And, such is the eternal difference between moms and dads. Moms tend to create conflict for themselves by trying to get kids to do something they don't want to do, something that's "good for them." But, dads just avoid that kind of conflict by giving kids what they ask for. "Chocolate cake for breakfast? ...Sure!"
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
There was only one time in my adult life that I wanted to steal something. I was washing my hands at the grocery store bathroom and looked down to see a brand new roll of paper towels under the sink. They were still wrapped in plastic and obviously placed there by a dutiful custodian who noticed that the current roll was running thin. I had seen this kind of thing all the time, but I had never once felt the urge to take anything that didn't below to me. However, this particular day, just minutes before in the same store, I'd spent almost all the money I had left after paying bills, filling my Jeep with gas, etc. to buy groceries and other things for my family (including paper towels) that we needed to get through until the next pay day. But, I was left with only a few dollars in my wallet and I had never been left with so little cash after paying bills, so I was in a brief state of panic. For one moment I thought, "If I just take this roll of paper towels now and hide it in my bag, even though I don't really need it, even though I just bought paper towels, it will be that much longer until I will have to spend all the money I have to provide things like paper towels for myself again." And, I believe that for the first time in that moment I knew at least some of what it feels like to live in a state of want.
I didn't end up taking the paper towels, by the way. I was convinced that that would have been stealing, after all. So, I went home and lived comfortably enough for two weeks with everything I needed. I just had to deal with having less of what I wanted. But, being so seized with the temptation to steal left a real impression on me. I have since pondered with more understanding and compassion the often very obvious connection between poverty and crime, how decent people can be more easily compelled to do things they would never consider otherwise because they don't have basic necessities and can't see any way of getting them without a moral compromise. It is then, I think, that they loose hold of an ability to feel guilt over taking advantage of others who seem to have plenty. They may even rationalize their deeds with arguments like, "Why should they and theirs have so much extra when me and mine don't even have enough?" and that's how they can take what isn't theirs without any hint of shame. In my mind, this doesn't make their actions right, but my brief experience with want (or even the small semblance of it that I experienced that day) makes it easier for me to understand their struggle and the moral dilemmas poverty can often put them in.
With all this in mind, Norah and I read an ancient version of Jack and the Beanstalk a few days ago during her home school lessons. I'd forgotten how the story goes, but was surprised, a little appalled even, that Jack ruthlessly steals from the giant then chops down the beanstalk to make him fall to his death as he chases Jack in an attempt to take back what belongs to him. Later, I found two video adaptations online. The older version was truer to the original text. In it, Jack and his mother are starving, so they take the giant's possessions and kill him and live happily ever after without any apology or attempt to explain away the immorality or injustice in Jack's actions. But another version, a more modern one, shows Jack and his mother are poor, but adds that that is only because the giant drove them from their castle, killing Jack's father and stealing all of their possessions to begin with. So, as Jack takes the giant's possessions, he is only really taking back what rightfully belongs to him. And, as he kills the giant in the end, he is actually just avenging his father's death and setting right the wrongs done to his family long ago. This revisions certainly do the job of making Jack a more palatable hero to our modern consciences, I'll grant you, but that really isn't how the story was told in the original version.
So, I started to wonder, why didn't the original story make any attempt to explain Jack's actions to the audience for which it was intended? Wouldn't they be appalled by Jack's actions, too? If Jack was such an obvious villain, why was his terrible story so celebrated and retold through the ages? My guess, after considering how poverty can warp one's morality or make morality seem like a impractical luxury in itself, is that the original audience, who were very likely villagers in old England, were just like Jack and his mother, so poor that they were, at times, driven to steal in order to survive. And the simple facts that the giant had plenty but was still greedy and hard-hearted was basically all that an audience like that would need to make it easy enough for them to stomach Jack's villainy. I also noticed that the older version in video that I mentioned, the one closer to the original story, was filmed in 1933, during the height of our country's Great Depression when so many people were starving and had no way of making a living. Coincidence? Probably not. The American audience viewing it at the time would have been more inclined to side with Jack as well.
I am still pondering the connections between poverty and crime, asking questions like, "Why is it that most juvenile delinquents come from impoverished areas within our cities?" I figure it can't always be a coincidence. And, I am thankful that here in my warm house with my full belly and with plenty of money in my wallet right now, the lines between right and wrong will continue to remain very distinct for me.
Monday, November 16, 2009
Sunday, November 15, 2009
I can't say enough good about our Y. It's the kind of place I'd pay to go to, but as an employee, I am I'm lucky enough to get a free membership. And, teaching group exercise is so rewarding, I think I'd do work as a volunteer! But, it's just all the more unbelievable that I get paid (and paid well, I think) for what I do.
Norah enjoys being in her classroom. She has made friends with some of the kids who come at the same times we do. And even Avril, who has a hard time warming up to people, is smiling at all the familiar faces and looking right at home in her teachers' arms when I come back to get her.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
I thought it might be fun to photograph some of the milestones Norah and Avril are passing, those rites of passage throughout their childhoods, so that readers, particularly family members, can share in them, too. This picture shows Norah waiting in line to purchase "those twisty cinnamon thingies" from Taco Bell. She's been ordering and paying for items more and more often since she's proven that she can handle it. Don't worry, Dad. When she's standing in line like this, so far away from where I am, I watch her like a hawk until she is back sitting with us again.
Friday, November 13, 2009
But, if you want to ignore established knowledge or manufacture artificial success apart from diligence just so your kids can feel good, that's where you lose me. You can't create another world, one where hard work doesn't matter or one where a successful person doesn't have to do something he doesn't want to do at least some of the time.
And, I know that a number of the founding fathers and leaders throughout history taught themselves to read... Blah, blah, blah. I've heard that argument in favor of unschooling so many times that I could puke. But, let us reason together. These men had to teach themselves to read because the adults who loved them didn't know how. I bet Fredrick Douglas' mom would think modern women are crazy (or worse) for withholding such precious knowledge from their children in favor of this new, unnatural, even unwholesome esteem of ignorance.
You can let your kids drop rocks in a pond all day, it won't make them the next Isaac Newton. Now, I agree that kids can't be the next Newton unless they are free to drops rocks in a pond. And, I home school so that my kids are free to explore, so they won't waste their precious lives in desks and all that. But, do my kids need to drop rocks in ponds all day, every day to be successful in science? Did Newton? I think he may even say, "Certainly not!" I bet he accomplished what he did through diligence and much of it, the old-fashioned, traditional sort.
Even common sense argues that kids will not learn to design video games by playing them all day, every day. Ask the current programmers. Did they get their dream jobs by playing the games or by doing the math? Maybe their answer will be "Both" or "Math," but it certainly won't be "Play" alone.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
There are the uptight ones. I'm one of those who read and plan and read and plan and make lists and teach and teach and teach even before my kid is out of the high chair. We often overdo it, yes, but we mean well. And, then, there are those carefree types who frankly, don't ever seem to be home enough to actually homeschool and who "Don't really care about how their kids do things, just as long as they do them."
At playgroups, you hear a lot from this kind of mom, first, because she's always at playgroup and second, because she seems to have a lot of explaining to do. She says high-minded things like, "I never taught my *Johnny how to hold his pencil. I just allowed him to figure that out naturally, in a way that works for him." Now, that seems so organic and cool and when we more traditional homeschool moms hear that we feel a little insecure because we felt the need to actually buy a curriculum (Gasp!) and for one second, we try not to sit up so darn straight on our park benches. But then, we glance over at Johnny and not to be too ungenerous, since he can't help it, we see him climbing up the slide and sliding down the ladder and then notice he's wearing the clothes he slept in, his hair hasn't been combed in days and he isn't wearing a coat and he's at the park and it's November! And, that's when we uptight moms ponder the merit of a carefree mom's words and wonder whether or not a hands-off approach should be applied to everything.
Take handwriting as an example... When Norah is older, I imagine I can send her off to do copy work and she'll come back several minutes later and I'll be able to simply assess how neat her paper is and tell her "Good Job" or "Do this part over." But, for right now, while she is still learning her strokes, handwriting has more to do with where she starts on the line and in what direction she travels once her pencil moves. What her letters actually end up looking like is less important for now. If I send her away, I guarantee you she'll come back with a row of perfect lower case t's, but if I watch closely, I notice that she starts on the bottom line and goes up, then crosses her t's from right to left. That works for now, but she won't always be forming rows made up of six of the same letter. She'll need to add dozens of other letters to that line to make words and she'll need to be able to do this quickly and that's where the importance of I'm doing comes in.
So, handwriting can be down right painful for us these days, to say the least, so painful that I can see why other type moms avoid it. And, it won't be easier when Norah is older, several years after she's learned her own way of making letters, because, by then, retraining her to do it the correct way will be even more difficult than it is now. So, Norah often has to do more erasing than she does writing these days. Neither one of us enjoy the subject, she, because she starts in the wrong place or goes in the wrong direction so often and I, because it's my job to point out her mistakes. We're both relieved and sigh and push the page away in disgust when she finishes her practice for the day.
I implement a more "natural" strategy as often as it works, but I only do this when the method doesn't really matter in the end... not with handwriting, but take unloading the dishwasher, for example. Norah doesn't do this yet, but I am just using it as an example because I imagine one day she will. And what a glorious day that will be! I really don't think I will care how she unloads the dishwasher, for goodness sake. I'll just be glad she did it! Now that's something she can figure out in a way that "works for her."
However, how she loads the dishwasher is an entirely different matter. There's a science, a fine art even, to how one manages to fit in as many dishes as possible and how to place them in such a way that makes sure they all come out clean and none of them end up with food dried on. (Dwayne's mom is an artful master of dishwasher loading, by the way. She can fit sinkfuls into one load. But, she has a least a few years... Uh hum... more practice than I do at this. Love you, Mom.)
...So it is with handwriting. There is a small, though not entirely insignificant science to it, a fine art, an efficiency. Where you start a letter and which direction you go once you move your pencil really does matter because if you start in the wrong place, you can actually slow down your writing in the end. If you hold your pencil wrong, it makes it harder to write with ease and do things like take notes and write letters in the long run.
And for those parents who defend their lack of diligence with arguments like "He won't he need to use that skill anyway. He'll be typing on a keyboard most of the time," you should know that I just roll my eyes at you when you aren't looking. That is the same bad logic that keeps certain public schools from teaching kids how to add and subtract since "They'll always have a calculator on hand when they need to do that." Isn't that the same sort of idiocy we're trying to avoid by homeschooling our kids in the first place?
So, please, let us homeschoolers not be so arrogant as to assume we can do everything better, particularly those of us who aren't really doing anything at all. And, just because public schools generally stink, doesn't mean they get it all wrong. (There. I said it.) Handwriting, for example, is just one of those that things that doesn't need to be reinvented at home. Your five year old, no matter how clever he is, is not going to be able to figure out a more efficient way of writing the letters of the alphabet than those professionals who have thought about it and taught it for decades already. If saying so means I loose cool points with my homeschool friends, then fine, I'll loose cool points, but I just feel like it needs to be said.
*Johnny and his mom don't really exist. I invented them for the sake of illustration. I was inspired by lots of unique people and infuriating experiences I've encountered during my homeschool journey.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
This post is dedicated to Grandparents: those useless (though dearly beloved) people God just keeps around to populate the earth.
Read on. You'll see what I am talking about in one second.
This is an excerpt from a recent conversation with Norah over lunch. It's a good one, so hold onto your seat and swallow your coffee, otherwise you may end up spitting it all over your computer monitor.
Norah- "Old people don't like the cold weather."
Me- "That's not true. Some older people don't mind it."
Norah- "No, none of them really like it."
Me- "Why do you say that?"
Norah- "Well, Grandmom and Grandad Evans moved away because it was 'too cold' and Grandma Karen and Grandpa Herb don't visit when it's winter. And they all live in places where it's warm all the time... Florida and South Carolina. Old people don't like the cold. They're allergic to it."
I try not to laugh out loud.
A long pause... She's thinking.
"Why are they called 'Grandparents' anyway?"
"I don't know."
"I think they should be called 'Extraparents.'"
"Why do you think that?"
"Well, because they are extra. They are like parents, but not really. They don't have any reason to be alive anymore..."
"Norah!" I almost choke on my sandwich.
She snickers a little, but doesn't really skip a beat. "Well, because you and Daddy are already grown up, you know... But, God let's them stay alive anyway because He wants the world to be full of people. He likes people."
I can't help it anymore. I laugh out loud.
A little later, I reminded Norah of how Dwayne's parents take care of Levi, our old dog, and how my parents keep cats. To this, Norah brightened and said, "Oh yeah." She was visibly relieved to realize that her Grandparents weren't as useless as she first thought.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Monday, November 9, 2009
Saturday, November 7, 2009
for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
As precious as this message was to me, as much as I am sure it was meant just for me and that I am free to keep it and treasure it for myself alone, weeks later now, I can't shake the feeling that it may bless other mothers I know. We get up to make breakfast when we are so tired we could easily roll over and sleep for four more hours. We stand on feet that are already worn and make yet another dinner at the end of a long day. We give up things we need in order to buy the things our children need first. To do these kinds of things faithfully, things many women in this culture deem "small" and just leave undone, to look well after the ways of our household, is no small thing, Mother.
Friday, November 6, 2009
Thursday, November 5, 2009
I was given this poem by an ex-navy co-worker who left after six years in “the hole.” While I cannot say I know what my brother is feeling, I do know his is a thankless job for a crappy employer. Brandt, our hearts and prayers are with you.
Fight through this. You will get through.
Fight through this. You will get through.
With much love from your little brother.
With much love from your little brother.
Now each of us from time to time has gazed upon the sea
and watched the mighty warships pulling out to keep this country free.
And most of us have read a book or heard a lusty tale,
about these men who sail these ships through lightning, wind and hail.
But there's a place within each ship that legend's fail to teach.
It's down below the water-line and it takes a living toll
- - a hot metal living hell, that sailors call the "Hole."
It houses engines run with steam that makes the shafts go round.
A place of fire, noise, and heat that beats your spirits down.
Where boilers like a hellish heart, with blood of angry steam,
are molded gods without remorse, are nightmares in a dream.
Whose threat from the fires roar, is like a living doubt,
that at any moment with such scorn, might escape and crush you out.
Where turbines scream like tortured souls, alone and lost in Hell,
are ordered from above somewhere, they answer every bell.
The men who keep the fires lit and make the engines run,
are strangers to the light and rarely see the sun.
They have no time for man or God, no tolerance for fear,
their aspect pays no living thing a tribute of a tear.
For there's not much that men can do that these men haven't done,
beneath the decks, deep in the hole, to make the engines run.
And every hour of every day they keep the watch in Hell,
for if the fires ever fail their ship's a useless shell.
When ships converge to have a war upon an angry sea,
the men below just grimly smile at what their fate will be.
They're locked below like men fore-doomed, who hear no battle cry,
it's well assumed that if they're hit men below will die.
For every day's a war down there when gauges all read red,
twelve-hundred pounds of heated steam can kill you mighty dead.
So if you ever write their songs or try to tell their tale,
the very words would make you hear a fired furnace's wail.
And people as a general rule don't hear of these men of steel,
so little heard about this place that sailors call the "Hole."
But I can sing about this place and try to make you see,
the hardened life of the men down there, 'cause one of them is me.
I've seen these sweat-soaked heroes fight in superheated air,
to keep their ship alive and right, though no one knows they're there.
And thus they'll fight for ages on till warships sail no more,
amid the boiler's mighty heat and the turbine's hellish roar.
So when you see a ship pull out to meet a war-like foe,
remember faintly if you can, "The Men Who Sail Below."
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Our loving "Grand-neighbor's" brought Norah and Avril each a bag of treats and presents for Halloween. Norah's bag included these Disney princess dry erase books... Awesome! Our neighbor's are becoming terribly good at almost channeling my mind when it comes to gift preferences. But, as Norah was enjoying her new toys today, I was thinking about the princess stories when something struck me so hard I started laughing out loud. We all know and love these stories, but they don't exactly reinforce the best ideals for little girls. Take Ariel, for example, her story may persuade adolescents to ignore their loving father's advice and continue down dangerous paths, swimming with sharks, metaphorically speaking. Girls may go so far as to pursue interests and boys their fathers don't trust or approve of, thinking their dad and everyone who thinks they are acting foolishly will just be proved wrong in the end. Or take Cinderella. Girls will equate love with infatuation or worse, think the way out of an abusive home life is to marry as soon as they find someone willing! But, I think the most dangerous of all is actually Belle. The overwhelming moral of her story is that with enough virtue, love and dedication, a woman can go ahead and agree to live with a man-beast because she can believe that he will, someday, transform into the prince of her dreams. That said, I've allowed my daughter to see most of the princess films and I honestly don't think I will keep her from seeing the ones she hasn't yet. But, her current Disney favorite is The Lion King and this has to be one of the best story lines when compared to the morals the princess stories teach. I was about to go postal if I heard the song "Hakuna Matata" one more time, but now that I think about it, I have a new love for this film. I am thinking that Norah can watch it as much as her little heart desires now, since it won't be giving her so many bad ideas to work through later.
Monday, November 2, 2009
My big girl Norah helped toast her own sandwich, that is... until she almost swung her red-hot toaster around and hit me and the baby with it. Sigh... But, the pictures turned out nice.
This is one child's take from walking two blocks. Just two blocks! When I was a kid, we had to trick-or-treat for miles, up hill, both ways! and we still came home with mostly Smarties and Sweet Tarts!
Sunday, November 1, 2009
We haven't had Pizza Hut in years, literally, so we gave Norah a hearty and genuine "Thanks" for working so hard on her reading because we were able to enjoy a dinner out with her. Obviously, even though her pizza was free, we had to pay for ours, but Norah felt good about herself, about doing something we could all share in, and we felt good about saving our extra money up in order to do this, not eating out too much at other places so we could go out and celebrate with her.