Monday, January 31, 2011

Norah had candy in that cup she is holding, an M&M for every word she spelled correctly when we practiced her spelling list. Avril was going straight for the candy... thus the hand in the face. (Note: I didn't think the scene would get so ugly so fast or else I wouldn't have been taking pictures when I should have been preventing an incident.)

Right now, Avril's not being home schooled in any official capacity like Norah is, but Avril's definitely a student in "the school of hard knocks." Lately, she will do things that really test her sister's self-restraint such as sending Norah's delicate Lego creations to the ground with one swoop of her little arm, expecting Norah to do nothing but smile with her because the Legos made a really cool sound as they crashed all over the wood floor...

After this, Avril seems totally surprised to find herself flat on the floor along with the Legos, staring up at the ceiling. But, Norah doesn't seem surprised in the least to find Mommy standing in the doorway with that look on her face... again.

Ah, life.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Norah is enjoying chess. She and her dad will often play before she goes to bed. It's fun to have a kid old enough to play games like this with. Every season of our children's lives offer new things to enjoy and to give thanks to the Lord for.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Spicy Black Bean Soup

(It was so good that I forgot to take a picture before I dug in.)

What you will need:
1 lb. Bag of dried black beans
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 jalapenos, seeded and diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 3/4 cups of vegetable broth
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon corn starch
salt and pepper (lots)

Corn tortillas
Olive oil
Red Onion
Sour Cream (or plain yogurt)

To prepare the soup:

Rinse your beans off in a strainer. Put them in a big pot and "quick soak" them. You do this by covering them with cold water by two inches. Bring them to a boil and cook them for two minutes. Remove them from the heat, put a lid on the pot and let them sit in the hot water for an hour.

After that, add more water to the pot, if necessary, so that the beans are covered by two inches of water again.

Throw in your onion and jalapeno.

Bring the beans to a boil and then turn the heat down enough to let them simmer rapidly for forty minutes. Set your timer.

When the timer goes off, add your broth, garlic and cumin. Then taste the broth and keep adding salt and pepper till it suits your taste.

Cook for twenty more minutes until the beans are soft.

Use that twenty minutes to set your table, chop up your fresh toppings, etc.

When the timer goes off again, transfer two cups of soup to a blender and add the cornstarch. Puree this and put it back into the pot. (This will thicken the soup). Stir and let the soup cook for another two or three minutes.

Add the lime juice, stir and serve the soup in bowls topped with chopped avocado, diced red onion, sour cream and fresh toasted tortillas strips. (See how to make corn tortilla strips below).

How to make tortillas strips:

Take a stack of half a dozen corn tortillas and cut them into strips with a pizza cutter. Use a deep bowl and toss them with a tablespoon or so of olive oil till they are all coated lightly. Cook them at 350 degrees on a baking sheet until they are crisping on the edges, the edges are turning up and turning gold.

(These are so good and they make the soup really fun, especially for the kids.)

Friday, January 28, 2011

Norah drew a picture and did a narration after I read her the story of The Turtle and the Hare and we put it in her notebook. See below. You can double click on the photos of the words to make them large enough to read with ease.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Sweet and Sour Chicken

Prepare yourselves, ladies. This recipe may ruin take out for you forever. It's so good, yet it's good for you. When you are done with your meal, you will feel like you ate something fresh (rather than a cup of MSG). I should also warn you that when you make something that tastes this authentic in your own kitchen, you may be so proud of your new womanly arts that your huge head will never fit into that cute cap you knitted for yourself ever again.

1 or 2 cups of white rice
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Approx. 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast (cut into equal sized chunks, so they will be done at the same time)
1 red and 1 yellow bell pepper, diced large
1/2 lb. fresh green beans, edges trimmed and cut into bite sized pieces
(Cutting the green beans is more important then you think it is at first. I didn't do this and I wish I had because the green beans stay pretty firm and they are too long, so I had to put one end into my mouth, keep my mouth open and push and push until the whole bean went in. It was very unpleasant.)
Approx. 6 scallions, chopped
2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
3 garlic cloves, minced

Start cooking the rice.

Whisk together the cornstarch, sugar, soy sauce and vinegar in a small measuring cup. Set this aside.

Heat oil on high in a large skillet. Add your chicken, peppers and green beans at once. Stir and cook about five minutes.

Add scallions, ginger and garlic and stir and cook until chicken is done (approx. five more minutes.)

Get the rice into the bowls.

Whisk your soy sauce mixture again and then add it to the pan. Stir and cook until the mixture thickens and coats everything, about three minutes.

Remove this from heat. Serve your sweet and sour chicken and veggies over the rice.

Licking the bowl is optional.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Avril thinks that I leave the space between my legs and the kitchen sink for her. She wedges her way in there and will stay put until I finish washing all the dishes.

Monday, January 24, 2011

I've started on my second book this year The Adventures and Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I'm about a quarter of the way through it and one of the stories was very familiar to me, actually. I was really surprised and confused by this and after a lot of thought, I figured out that I must have been in a strange mood the day I was assigned that story in high school English class, because I did the strangest thing, I read it!

There were times when I can remember being determined to learn in spite of the fact that I was in school and that day must have been one of them. Most of the time, I could make good grades just by listening to what the teacher's said I needed to know for the test. It's only now that I'm well out of school that I understand the value of learning for learning's sake... But, I digress. Back to Holmes.

He is clever. I can see why he was such a celebrated character when he was new to everyone. However, it's hard to believe he was ever original, since by now, Holmes has been repeated so much on modern television and movies that he is very familiar to most of us, even if we didn't read any of the stories in high school English. For example, I used to think House: a genius, obsessive, unsocial, drug addict, with only one true friend who he holds anything that resembles affection for, was a pretty original character, but now I see that House is just Holmes in a hospital setting.

The book's good and like the television shows that have Holmes-like characters, it's addictive. I can't wait to put the kids to bed, read the next chapter and see how he manages to solve the next mystery.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Last night ended up being one of the best nights of my life. It started out poorly. I was feeling down, dealing with conflict all day and the last thing I wanted to do was sing, but I put on my headphones anyway so I could listen to worship music in front of the fire and if anything, bring God "a sacrifice of praise."

Avril crawled into my lap, seeming to sense my mood, and after "asking" to be covered with a blanket (meaning that she pointed to a blanket and grunted with emphasis), she looked at me in the eyes and smiled for long time, until I couldn't help but smile back at her. I gave her some kisses and we giggled and played and that's when I had time to grab my camera and take the picture above.

Then she laid her head against my shoulder so that her ear was right up to one of the headphones on my ears and she could hear the worship songs, too. I rocked her like that for over an hour, to the beat of the music and we listened together and I kissed her hair and smelled her and cried for joy and allowed my sweet daughter's love for me and the words of songs like this one to minister to my heart in the midst of this trial.

I wondered then if God the Father ever took joy in me like I took joy in Avril, if He ever buried His face in my hair and breathed in deep and smiled for joy when I spent time in His presence.

And then I knew it. Somehow I was sure that God had a father's heart toward me, that He has a father's heart toward us all and that is why He created the family to begin with, to show us His heart for us. And, in the midst of this mess I was aware that my Father God was rocking His sweet girl and He was blessed by her love, as I was rocking my sweet girl and her love was blessing me.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Broccoli and Cauliflower Stir-fry
(This may look tasteless, but it's awesome.)

1 or 2 cups of white rice, depending on how much your family needs
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 heaping tablespoons of minced garlic
3/4 lb. fresh broccoli florets
3/4 lb. fresh cauliflower florets
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
crushed red-pepper
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup soy sauce

Cook the rice. Get your table ready.

In a large skillet, heat oil over high heat. Add garlic and let it cook for a few seconds until you can smell it throughout the kitchen.

Add broccoli, cauliflower, diced red pepper and few pinches of the crushed red-pepper. Stir this constantly. Cook it for about five minutes.

Add the broth and stir everything around. Cook this for about three more minutes.

Finally, add the soy sauce, stir and cook for another minute or so.

Serve this over the rice right away (with hot sauce. Yum.)

Friday, January 21, 2011

I never understood why a home school mom would even need this book until I had a second child. With my first kid, I did half the book's activities with my kid in a single day. But, with Avril and Norah to handle at once, it's pretty easy to get through an entire day without doing anything that could be called productive with the baby. So, now I understand the great appeal of Slow and Steady: Get me Ready. It's got weekly activities (like putting coins in a slot) that prepare your little ones for more formal learning later on. So, I may not do a ton of stuff with Avril like I did with Norah, but this way I know she will still be prepared when the time comes.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Here's an informal clip of Norah reciting a poem for her dad before bed one night this week. Enjoy!

The Caterpillar
Christina G. Rossetti

Brown and furry
Caterpillar in a hurry
Take your walk
To a shady leaf or stalk

May no toad spy you
May the little birds pass by you
Spin and die
To live again
A butterfly

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

I found this book at a thrift store for .69 cents a few days ago. (It's every home school mom's dream to find an Usborne book for less than a dollar.) Within a few hours of bringing it home, Norah had read it and was arguing with her dad about the rules of chess.

I pulled our chess set out of storage and let her arrange it herself. She told me "the white queen needs to be on a white square and a white square needs to be on the right hand side of each player..." She already knew how to talk chess!

I have no idea how to play chess. I was just your typical public school honor roll student. So, I am making her read the book out loud to me for "reading practice." But, really, this way, I can learn how to play as she reads and I will, hopefully, be ready to challenge her once we've gotten through the book together.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

As you may well know by now, I am resolved to add more fruits and vegetables to our diet this year. I've started doing this by focusing on smoothies. (It's amazing how much fresh spinach you can "hide" in one of these.) I've been trying several different combinations, but I'm only sharing the ones we really like here on my blog. This smoothie pictured above was a hit with me and both of the kids, so it won a place here today. Here's the recipe.

Peach, Berry and Spinach

1 cup frozen peace slices
1/2 cup frozen blackberries
1 cup packed fresh spinach leaves
1 1/2 cups white grape juice

Blend and enjoy.

Avril (Aka: Baby Bird) will eat these new smoothies on one condition and one condition only. She must be spoon fed. She will sit or stand with her mouth open as wide as possible and she will stay this way as long as it takes for Mom to give her what she wants. She refuses to sip her own smoothie out of a cup. (I suspect it has something to do with the cup being too cold to hold.) And, since I've become a total pushover upon the birth of my second child, I go along with this for now. It's worth it to me because it means she's eating things like fresh spinach and blackberries. I'll put my foot down and fight the sippy battle once I know she's nice and hooked on the smoothies.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Children are a gift from the Lord, they are a reward from him.
-Psalm 127:3

God has been bringing this verse to mind the last few days. I'll catch my heart thrilling at the sight of Avril running and squealing as Norah chases her down our hallway or I will find myself locking eyes and laughing hysterically with Dwayne at something the girls say or do. A moment after this happens, the Holy Spirit will whisper something like this to my heart, "These girls are your reward. They were made to bless you. In following me, you are saved from many things, Veronica, one of which is the inability to enjoy your children." Then my heart will fill with quiet praise to God for letting me see my kids as the particular blessing they were made to be to no one else but me (cause I'm their Mommy.)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

I've decided that I'm going to read one book every month of this year. That's twelve books, so I think I can manage that. I'm starting with "To Kill a Mockingbird." I can't tell you how many times I was supposed to have read this book in school and again in college. I majored in English, actually. I am sure I even wrote papers and added thoughtful remarks to class discussions on this book, but like most everything I've ever been forced to learn on someone else's time table, it didn't stick.

On my own terms, I am already half way through this book and I have to say, it's significantly better than any of the books in the Twilight series, the last books I can remember reading. I hear all you intelligent people scoffing. "Of course it's better. It won a Pulitzer." But, really, some books the academic community celebrates are like All Bran in my mind's mouth. I have nothing to prove, no one to impress, so I have felt free to enjoy books like those in the Twilight saga with all my heart and even stand in line with the twelve-year-olds to see the movies at midnight. But, with that in mind, naturally, I wondered if I'd like this book or if it would require willpower just to get through it.

But, as I am reading, I find myself constantly checking the book's cover. It looks and even feels like a regular paperback, but you can just tell it "weighs" so much more. No wonder it won a Pulitzer. It's the kind of book that can change one reader's life at a time until it changes the whole world.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Here's my first attempt at fitting more fruits and vegetables into our diet, one of my resolutions for this year. My taste buds were on guard at first because of the color of this smoothie, but I really liked it and so did Norah. This recipe is a keeper.

Green Machine

1 cup packed fresh spinach leaves
1 1/4 cups white grape juice
1/2 avocado
1 Granny Smith apple, pealed and chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 cup ice

Blend and enjoy.

Friday, January 14, 2011

I didn't even realize some of the things that I was doing on a regular basis at the end of 2010 were resolutions that I had made at the beginning of that year. So, I hope that making more resolutions for 2011 (and revisiting them from time to time) can be just as effective as it was last year.

My Resolutions for 2011.

Let Norah play outside
I'll start this right away. We still have a ton of untouched snow in the yard.

Read through the entire Bible.
I've started using this plan. But, I may "cheat" and use my Bible on CD to just listen to the whole thing from Genesis through to Revelation.

Hold Dwayne's hand
I heard somewhere that you can't fight and hold hands at the same time. Supposedly, holding hands makes you produce "friendly" hormones. Dwayne and I aren't fighting or anything, but it occurred to me that we stopped holding hands on a regular basis a long time ago. And, I'm thinking that holding hands may lead us from friendly feelings to even friendlier ones and that's something we need to do on a regular basis, too.

At the beginning of last year, I felt like God wanted me to learn to listen when I was in prayer. But, this year, I feel like He is urging me to ask. There are some particular needs that I am hoping God will meet this year.

I want to read one good book each month. I am starting with "To Kill a Mockingbird." I am already halfway through.

Eat fruit and vegetables
I need to make an effort to put more fruits and vegetables on our plates at mealtimes and in between.

No late night eating.
It's a well known fact that I have thyroid problems, but making a batch of cinnamon rolls and a pot of coffee after dinner doesn't help keep the weight off my backside. Even people with healthy thyroids gain weight with bad habits. So, when I am craving something warm and filling in the evening, I think I will try and make a hot cup of tea instead, etc.

Be consistent in the garden.
Once things thaw out in the spring, I'll try and spend a few minutes out in the yard every morning before I make breakfast.

Stop talking in bed.
I stopped complaining last year, mostly. This year, I'm going to try to stop talking in bed. Dwayne's been mumbling about this for as long as we've been sleeping next to each other. I usually wait until he is falling asleep to talk to him about important things. But, he always gets annoyed and begs me to talk to him about these kinds of things before we go to bed, so this year, I am going to try to remember to do that.

Go to be early.
Dwayne has also been asking me to help him get to bed sooner. I'm a night owl and he tends to wait on me before going to bed. This resolution may interfere with the one before it, though. If I do try and talk to Dwayne about "heavy" things before we head to bed, this may keep us up later. Perhaps I could just stop talking to my husband altogether and that would solve both my problems.

I may add a thing or two (or take something away from) this list. But, this is a start.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

My resolutions for last year.

Let's see how well I did.

Let Norah play outside
Norah played outside at least four times as much as she did the year before. But, still, I could really improve on this. If I make a list of resolutions for 2011, this will stay on top.

Keep a garden.
I added several perennials to my flower bed early in the season, but I still ended the summer with a bed full of weeds. My word for 2011 will be "consistency." I've learned through trial and error that it's more effective to spend ten minutes every morning in the flower garden than a whole day once every two weeks. And, we ended up planting vegetables, enjoying lots of fresh peppers, cucumbers and tons of tomatoes. I even learned how to can my own tomatoes this year.

Listen to Scripture.
I did well with this. Listening to and reading the Bible have become such a habit that I can't even believe I was in a place where I had to put it on a list at the beginning of last year.

This is another thing that I did well with and another thing I can't believe I ever had to resolve to do. Glory to God for the difference a year can make. Ask anyone who knows me. Praying is like breathing for me now.

I squeezed in two quilted pillow cases and a baby blanket before the year's end, basically.

Collect books and music.
Purchasing new music has become another regular thing. To me, it's worth the money I spend because I buy worship music and end up wearing the songs out, listening and singing to them so often. And, to date, I have every home school book that I need. If I had a bigger budget, I'd "need" more books, naturally. But, as it is, I can afford what I must have, absolutely, and the rest I can find at one of the local libraries.

Call my friends.
I spend a lot more time on the phone now with those friends who I know prefer to talk that way, but I still would rather email. I am constantly emailing friends.

Keep my room clean.
I gave my room one thorough cleaning last year. That's it. Just one. But, I've started using FlyLady's daily plans as a guide and that should take me through my entire house on a regular basis next year.

Attend more home school group activities.

his is another thing I can't believe I ever had to resolve to do. By "forcing" myself to get out there, I have built some really strong friendships this year and now I crave time with my homeschooling friends and their kids.

Teach Norah to swim.
I did as well as I could have with this. While on vacation, we swam like fish in the hotel pools and I took Norah to a week of free swim lessons at the Y this year. But, I think it's just part of living so far north. Norah hasn't been under water (besides in the bath tub) in months. Looks like will have to wait till the summer for any more swim practice. And, I'm not working at the YMCA anymore, so we don't even have free access to an indoor pool.

Lighten Dwayne's load around the house.
I've stopped complaining about what isn't done around the house entirely. And, not complaining about something specific has lead to not complaining in general. If you don't believe this, you can ask Dwayne. But, knowing him, he probably hasn't noticed... Oops. I think that was a complaint.

Read to Avril.
If I had a nickle for every time I read "Brown Bear, Brown Bear..." this year, I'd be a wealthy woman. But, I'd like to do more with Avril next year. I'm not sure what "more" will look like. I'll let you know when I have a clue.

Talk to Norah.
We're always together. Norah's always talking. I'm always listening (sort of). But, her words usually just fill up the air in between us and our conversations, if you can call them that, rarely stir either of our hearts. It does happen, though, and when it does, it's awesome, but I feel like it should happen more often. (Or maybe I've just seen one too many Gilmore Girls.) Perhaps I will prayerfully "attack" our need to connect more with a plan of some kind next year. I'll let you know if I come up with something.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Monday, January 10, 2011

Here's a picture of my kids in true form. My dad called a few days ago to reason with me, saying he understands that I might not write something everyday, but the least I could do is post a new photo. I promised I'd try, for his sake. From his perspective, a blog should be nothing more than an online photo album with longer captions and I'm sure that he thinks the poetry is totally useless, so I'm kind of surprised he hasn't complained sooner than this. I've been nursing my husband through a nasty fever the past few days, so I have had even less time than usual. But, luckily, I haven't heard anything more about fish dying. The guilt I feel is almost unbearable, you just don't know... Poor fish.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

"Hi. My name is Veronica and I'm a home schooling mom."

Norah lost another tooth the other day. And, this feels more like a confession than a narration, but the tooth fairy brought her flash cards... the kind with animal photos and facts on them.

Now before you judge me too hard, you should know that she loved them and by the time she had gotten out of bed that morning, she had memorized most of the facts on them.

Later that day, she even told me how ladybugs mate.

But, later that day she also told me that she was bummed she didn't get "cash... like my friends do or another Amazing Hamster or something fun."

To this, I told her that she has a lot more baby teeth. (But, I also wondered what I'm supposed do with the two other decks of science flash cards still in my closet.)

And, after my husband found out about the flashcards and proceeded to shame and mock me for a few hours, I began conceding that he may have a point.

I may have a problem...


But, that's a first step toward change, right?

"Hi. My name is Veronica and I'm a home schooling mom."

Friday, January 7, 2011

Dwayne thinks the fish are dying and the birds are falling out of the sky because I wasn't blogging for a few days. But, I am sure it's just a coincidence... right?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Give me audacity.
I need it to stand
in these robes
you've adorned for me.

Your enemy mocks me,
tells me I'm homely.
And some of your children
like I'm in Joseph's colors, scorn me.

But, you are good and right
to work this way.
So greatly your glory
is offset by clay.

So dress me.
Make me a spectacle
to powers that be.
Display your wisdom
through my simplicity.

I know I'm dark,
but you call me lovely.
So I'll stand for you.
I'll even fight,
if you'll teach me.

Only allow me to reflect your glory
and give me audacity.

- Veronica Boulden

Monday, January 3, 2011

How often are we
like that Pharisee
who thank God
for all we are
and see others
for what they are not
and remain unclean?

I wish it were easier
to be both humble and holy.
But, when the choice is
one or the other,
Jesus says it's better if we

Are like that tax collector
standing before God
without pride
aware only of our need
with sin so easy to see
but none the less
heading home

-Veronica Boulden

Sunday, January 2, 2011

While I was waiting for my friend to call me and tell me she was in labor, I had to do something with all my nervous energy. So, when I came upon this piece of fabric two days ago, I was inspired to make a baby blanket for Ebenezer at the last minute.

I have had this fabric for years and years, since before my kids were even born. I can't remember what I intended to do with it in the first place, if anything specific. I may have just bought it because it was so cute. (Don't laugh. I know a lot of seamstresses who have a hard time not buying adorable fabric, even if they have no idea when or how they will ever use it.)

Knowing my friend and her husband, it struck me as the perfect pattern for their little one. As I was making the blanket, I thought the only thing that might improve the print for them would be shotguns in the mix of outdoor gear. (My friend's husband is a NRA Instructor). And, that was really funny, because when my friend's husband studied the pattern after I gave them the blanket, he said the exact same thing in jest!

I had almost everything I needed for this project at the outset. I happened to have a piece of dark green flannel left over from a previous quilting project. It was large enough and a perfect color match for the back of the blanket. I also already had matching thread. The only thing I ended up needing to purchase was satin binding for the edges.

I washed the fabrics, dried them and ironed them out straight again. I used an old baby blanket of Norah's as a "pattern." I laid it out on top of the two fabrics and cut around the edges. Then, I put the two backsides together and stitched a zig zag stitch about half an inch in. Below, you can see the front side of the blanket, the soft, stretchy cotton and you can see the backside of the blanket, the softest side of the flannel piece.

Next, I laid the blanket into the binding and pinned and pinned and then pinned some more.

I watched this video to learn how to miter the corners. It was a really tedious process at times, especially with slippery satin.

Next, I got the idea of adding a few ribbon tags to the backside of the blanket. Babies love to suck on ribbon tags, don't they? But, I had already been to the fabric store for the satin binding and the clock was ticking, this baby was going to be born any minute! So, instead of going out again to buy ribbon, I went around the house, looking frantically for things that would work as tags in place of ribbon.

I did have some red and green stripped ribbon left over from our Christmas crafts this year. Remember our snow man ornament? I slipped two pieces of that under the unfinished seams and pinned them into place. Next, I found an old, red robe I can't fit into anymore. I used a section of that robe's straps as two more tags. Finally, I found a toy-sized canvas purse in Norah's dress up collection. It had red straps, so I used one of the straps for tags as well. Once everything was pinned in place, I used a zig zag stitch to finish and hold the binding (and the tags) onto the blanket.

And, while I thought I was making a gift for him, this photo of newborn Ebenezer sleeping under my handiwork ended up being a gift to my heart.