Thursday, March 31

Morning adventures

Tis the last day of March. It's going out like a lamb today: nice and sunny and forecast to be about 80 degrees. I've got myself and Holly in shorts, but Alex refused shorts and dressed in long sleeves.

Here's Holly with a flashlight.

Alex picking out a movie.

I happened to glance at the window, and was startled to see this through the blinds.

Closer examination revealed this.

That's not something you see every day.

Anyway, this morning I made blueberry/banana muffins to tempt the munchkins, who are still suffering from sick tummies after their flu.

Blueberry-banana muffins

3/4ths cup milk
1/4th cup oil
1 egg
1 overripe mashed banana
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup blueberries

Whisk together milk, oil, and egg. Beat in banana. Add flour, sugar, salt and baking powder, stir just until blended. Fold in blueberries. Bake in greased or papered muffin tins for 20-25 minutes at 400 degrees.

The recipe didn't call for a banana, but I had a stinky black one sitting on the counter, and I was determined to use it in SOMETHING. The muffins came out very flavorful and sweet. Unfortunately the munchkins disdained the blueberries in them on principle. We're in that picky stage where neither of them wants to eat, and they don't feel good, so they don't want to eat because of that, either.

I've been trying to make crockpot yogurt like Little Bit of Life did, but when I got to the stage where you add plain yogurt as a starter, I didn't really have enough plain yogurt. I added it anyway and let it sit overnight. This morning it's still the consistency of milk, but the longer it stands, the more it's starting to taste like yogurt.

I turned the crockpot back on for 20 minutes, then turned it off, just to keep it a little bit warm. Making yogurt is like a giant petri dish, anyway, and petri dishes have to stay at about body temperature.

It's certainly growing some kind of culture, because this morning at 6:30, it still tasted like milk, whereas at 8:30 it tasted like yogurt and has more and more thick chunks in it. I'm just going to leave it covered and check it periodically. If nothing else, I can use it to fortify smoothies.

Later: Finally made it into a vanilla smoothie at 10, so this was after 14 hours of sitting covered. I ladled two cups into the blender, added half a cup of sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Best. Vanilla. Yogurt. Drink. Ever.

The rest has been relegated to the fridge, because I don't want it to start separating, which is what I read happens eventually.

Note from later: Turns out my yogurt stayed runny because my crockpot didn't stay hot enough for long enough. Found this out after a lot of research.

Tuesday, March 29

Tuesday blog roundup

Today, I noticed that I have 198 posts on my blog. Two more and I break 200! I sat down to blog about something and drew a complete and utter blank. Kids still a little under the weather. Tired from working yesterday. Staring labor in the face here in a few weeks. Who wants to blog about that?

So I'm going to blog about what other people are blogging about! I follow an oddball mishmash of stuff, so here, without further ado, is what people are talking about on my blogroll:

Over at Razzberry Corner, her guineas are finally laying. Nancy Medina has painted some poppies and talks a little about animal rescue, while Bakerella, who is finally feeling better, shows off her gorgeous cake pedestals.

Food in Jars is advertising a goody giveaway, while over on his art blog, Stape delves a little into the career of L. Gerome. I Live in an Antbed offers tips on traveling with many children crammed into a car, and Bee Haven Acres brags about a different species of newborn kid (triplets!)

The Joys of Home Educating reviews some homemade soap today. Patrice at Everyday Ruralty interviews a lady who lives off the grid, and My Watercolor Diary has a new painting of a Yorkshire countryside.

And Cake Wrecks.

Monday, March 28

God's will for me today

It's been kind of a rough weekend. The kids came down with the stomach flu Friday. Today's Monday and we're still dealing with the remains of it.

When your kids have the flu like that, the whole house starts feeling (and smelling) unclean. I needed to clean house like crazy, but I was in that Monday morning slump and just couldn't seem to muster the energy. So I was sitting and reading blogs to try to get a jump on the day.

Like Mother, Like Daughter updated with a post called Competence vs. Perfectionism. There are lots of good thoughts in it, but the one that really spoke to me was this one:

What would you think if I told you that you could find out right now what His will is? That it's a "problem" of a day, not years? His will for you, specifically? (And I'm not going to trick you by saying that God's will for you turns out to be "love everyone," or "work for world peace," or "lock and load"!)

It's not really a secret, and it's so simple that it seems like it couldn't possibly be true. It's just this:

Trying to do all the stuff you have to do, today, with a loving heart.

Not all the stuff you could possibly do.

The stuff you have to do.

Knowing what that stuff might be is couldn't be simpler, and counts as the most lovely prayer and also remedy for the distraction of other people's priorities: In God's presence, think of your obligations; the people to whom you are obligated.

...Don't be like Mrs. Jellyby, whose eyes could see no closer than Africa! “It must be very good of Mrs Jellyby to take such pains about a scheme for the benefit of natives — and yet — Peepy and the housekeeping!”

I didn't want to be like Mrs. Jellyby, so I jumped up and cleaned house. Trying to do it cheerfully, because today, cleaning house is God's will for me. And so is cleaning up other detritus from small, unwell children.

Chicken soup for dinner, I think.

Wednesday, March 23

Fun with rain

It's been raining a lot in SoCal lately. Nice, warm, spring rains. Well, the ones we got over the weekend were a little excessive. I knew something bad was coming, because Saturday evening, the sky looked like this:

Just this weird, blank, yellowish light, instead of the usual red or pink. You know the adage about "red sky at night, sailors' delight, red sky at morning, sailors take warning"? When you get that morning red sky, chances are your sunset the night before looked like this.

Anyway, it rained all day Sunday. The kids loved it.

They went out and laughed at the sound of raindrops pattering on their hoods. I let them catch raindrops in various cups and things, until they were cold and tired and came in of their own accord.

Monday morning: flooded.

Flooded sidewalk

But it was lovely and warm, so we went out and swept water off the walk.

Alex bailed with a plastic container.

And mama went out and swept water, too, to have a pretense just to get her feet wet in the nice clean rainwater. Of course, it didn't stay clean once we all got into it and stirred it up, but it was fun to play in just the same. We swept enough off that it was dry by that afternoon.

And today: more rain! Alex is hoping it floods again.

Monday, March 21

Age is relative

My husband and I have been discussing this idea lately: age is relative.

When you're a kid, the entire hierarchy of you and your friends is based on how old you are, how old they are, your relative physical size and what your parents let you do (long bike rides, which movies are allowed, etc.)

But when you grow up, that line vanishes. Every adult looks pretty much the same age until they start to really wrinkle up, which hits different people for different reasons. Age in years doesn't mean much anymore. Age in accomplishments does. Because a lot of the time, accomplishments = maturity.

We've been joking that instead of age, there should be levels or ranks, like in games. Being single and in work or college is rank 1. Getting married is rank 2. And each kid you have is another rank up after that. (I'm sure people could come up with a really elaborate life-scoring system and it would be a hoot.)

But it's one of those things that you can't measure by stuff. We know lots of people with great jobs and lots of stuff who have only attained rank 1 or 2 of the Maturity Scale. And we know lots of people who don't have as much stuff who rank 4 or 5 on the Maturity Scale.

We were lamenting how some of our friends are so hung up on money that they aren't bothering to have kids. And they're already our age (early 30s). I've read a lot of places that statistically, if a woman works and has all that stress, she's pretty much sterile by the time she's 40. And that's when our money-centric society says that it's time to have kids.

And tossing that on the Maturity Scale, you wind up with these adults who have all this money, yet missed all the valuable rank-ups in Maturity.

Of course, it's an imperfect illustration, because I know people who have several kids who are so immature it's positively frightening. We ponder those people and try to figure out where they went wrong, so we don't copy their mistakes.

But as young adults, my husband and I are constantly baffled how nobody our age is having babies. We make friends with people our age and get lectured on how we need to use more birth control. And we look at them and think that maybe they should be using less.

So I find myself seeking the friendship of older women, because they can relate to me having young kids, and I can relate to them because they made it through this (sanity intact!). My husband has a harder time finding man-friends who want to play the games he does, and yet shares any interest in Life-Rank-Ups.

Heck, if anybody knows of a church in town that has small groups that play Dungeons and Dragons and other roleplaying games, I'd be there like a shot. Because I think that's where we're going to find like-minded people.

Sunday, March 20

Videos of small childrens

I discovered that I had these little videos of Alex and Holly on Flickr. I thought I had lost them forever, so I was delighted to run across them.

Holly couldn't even crawl yet. :-)

Saturday, March 19

Silver linings

It's just a cloudy Saturday, waiting for the big storm to hit this afternoon.

I've been making bread and a pound cake all morning (and feeding various people lunch in between), and being on my feet has me tired. We shall see how well the pound cake turns out. I've never made one before, but it smells wonderful.

This is the sort of thing the munchkins do while I'm busy in the kitchen.

Me being busy in the kitchen must be so "normal" that they get all happy. I was listening to Donna Otto's podcast, the one about a Peaceful Home. One of the things she talks about is how as the momma, I am the thermostat of the home. If I want peace in my home, first I need to be peaceful myself, through Bible reading and things like that. So I've endeavored to do that, and I've noticed that the tone of our home has been pretty non-stressful.

Which was good yesterday, because my husband embarked on a salvage operation of an old PC that is nonetheless more powerful than both of ours put together. He spent the whole day reinstalling Windows on the thing, only to have it go into the Restart Cycle of Death, which never actually gets back into Windows, and finally ends at a black screen of nothing. We have no idea why it did it.

Anyway, that sort of thing is kind of stressful, and I think I managed to keep the household from exploding by just trying to set my thermostat to "peaceful".

That's an acacia tree, like what the Ark of the Covenant is made out of. Click to enlarge it and look at the bizarre little leaves.

And here's Holly with a dandelion puff in each hand.

Last but not least, here's a lizard who was trapped in a bucket at Mom's. Nobody wanted to pick him up except me. I love lizards.

Wednesday, March 16

On homeschooling

Over on the Pioneer Woman homeschooling blog, they've been doing a series where people write in tough homeschooling questions. Then folks leave comments and answer the question.

It's been very educational, because you get new homeschoolers, veteran homeschoolers, public school teachers, single people, from all walks of life and lots of different countries.

Anyway, today there was a post called, "Do homeschoolers experience true socialization and academics?" The socialization question crops up about every other question, it seems like, but the phrasing of this one made me curious. Seems this lady wanted to homeschool her son, but some friend sent her a snotty email about it. Here's the snotty email:

As far as homeschooling, I’m not a fan. I think it’s important for kids to have their social lives with friends they go to school with, to create bonds and learn how to deal with confrontation on their own when they are with their friends on a regular basis. I’m not saying they can’t “be socialized” with home schooling I just think its not a “true” socialization (my opinion).

In addition, I feel that unless I went to school to become a teacher and even a Phd I can’t give them the true academic experience and support they need. Just like the saying goes that it takes a village to raise a child, well it takes one to educate them as well. To be taught by one person, is to be taught with one view and one method not allowing them the chance to adapt to different learning atmospheres or to hear their peers views.’
(Reproduced without permission, full post available here.)

This was like waving a red flag in front of a bull for me. Not just the topic, but the condescending “oh you poor idiot” tone.

I was homeschooled from second grade through high school, and I have five younger siblings. We never suffered from “lack of socialization”. In fact, we sit around and laugh about how my brother always hung out with various repairmen who came to fix stuff over the years. We all had classes outside our homeschool, ranging from various instruments to art.

I feel that personally I was the least “social” of the entire clan, because as a teenager I started a website devoted to a videogame I was fond of. I ran it for the next ten years, offering a place where kids could submit artwork and stories, and naturally I socialized a lot online. Eventually I got married to one of my longtime online friends, so I figure that even if the rest of the website was a waste of time, it at least let me meet him.

I did have a job teaching art for five or six years, and finally had to quit when I got pregnant with my second child, because I just couldn’t juggle my family and my work anymore. And you want socialization, try working with the public!

As for my academic achievements, I’m pretty well educated and got accepted into college with no problems. But I feel that I have something that most other people don’t get from a “standard” education: I still know how to learn. I’m always shocked that people don’t just hop on the internet and look stuff up that they’re curious about.

My mom always felt that she was unequal to the task of teaching us, so she educated herself as she educated us. (After all, you start out in preschool with your kid, and shapes, letters and numbers are pretty easy to teach.) It’s a shame that you have to actually go to a school somewhere and sit through years of classes to get a piece of paper that declares that you have a degree. My mom should have two or three Master’s degrees in all kinds of topics. After 20 years in school, she should have!

Now, I know that there are many great public schools and school experiences out there. I know there are homeschools that are really awful and give the rest a bad name. But I happen to live in California, and California happens to have a reputation for having the worst schools in the entire country, with very high drug rates and very low test scores. That doesn’t exactly make me want to ship my kids off to participate.

My husband was also bullied mercilessly, growing up in various schools. His father was in the air force, so they moved every two years. My husband changed schools over and over, and as the odd one out, was always a target. He doesn’t have a lot of fond memories of schools, and as such supports homeschooling our kids.

I’ve chased a lot of rabbits in this post, and I guess I didn’t really address the snotty email as well as I could have. But I just laugh at that lady’s narrow-minded opinion. I’ve been through the homeschooling process, and had many friends in public school, so I’ve observed both sides. And if you want to homeschool, then do it. And I recommend reading the comments on that blogpost, because they answer it much better than I’m doing. :-)

Monday, March 14


I've conducted two experiments lately.

First, over on Pioneer Woman's photography blog, they had an article about "giving up your flash for Lent". I read it, and read the basic tutorial on setting your camera to manual and adjusting your shutter and aperture settings yourself.

I took a lot of really dark pictures, but I did get a couple that I liked.

Like this one. (I even froze the dirt falling out of her little hand!)

Unfortunately, I'm not savvy enough to understand the strange hieroglyphics on my camera's screen. I need to study the manual a few more times. And that leads us to ...

Second Experiment: winging ice cream.

My mom has the best ice cream cookbook. We actually trade it back and forth all the time, but at the moment, she has it. There's some really nice non-cooked egg-full vanilla ice cream recipes, if you're using homegrown eggs and are pretty confident that they're fresh.

But there was another one that used just half and half and whipping cream, with no eggs. I figured that such a thing would be simple to find on our health-conscious egg-hating internet.


Every non-egg recipe I found contained something like sweetened condensed milk, or cream cheese, or any number of other super-rich ingredients. I just wanted something with sugar, half and half, and whipping cream. Finally I gave up in exasperation. I had a half pint of whipping cream and a quart of half and half. I figured if I mixed that with enough sugar and vanilla, it'd start tasting like ice cream eventually.

My recipe:

2 cups sugar
2 Tablespoons vanilla extract
1 half pint whipping cream
1 quart half and half
1 cup milk

I creamed the sugar, vanilla and whipping cream until it was stiff, that being the fun of using whipping cream. Then I poured in half and half while running the hand mixer, until the mixing bowl was so full that I was starting to splatter my countertop. Then I poured the rest into the ice cream drum, along with all the rest of the half and half and the milk, jammed the hand mixer down in the drum as far as it would go, and ran it until the mixture frothed.

I had read that you want to stir it until the sugar dissolves or it'll make huge grainy ice crystals, so I stirred it for a while with a wooden spoon until it didn't sound grainy anymore. Then I stuck it in the machine and ran it according to the manufacturer's directions. Because all recipes say that.

It was deemed a success by all and sundry. It was nice and rich, and I didn't miss the eggs at all. I'm hoping that it will stay fluffy as it freezes, but generally my ice cream sets up like a brick and requires ten minutes of defrosting before you can chip any off it. Ah well.

Saturday, March 12

The Princess and the Frog

Last year, Disney did a non-CG cartoon called the Princess and the Frog. I finally watched it on Netflix instant last night, just out of curiosity. I'd heard it was actually a good movie.

It starts out with all the really annoying Disney tropes: handsome prince with a silly fat butler, creepy voodoo bad guy with an even creepier shadow, two little girls who wish on a star and want to be princesses, etc. etc. We've seen all this in Disney before, but I kept watching because A) the music was good and B) I loved the black-ccents on the main characters.

Then the tropes started getting subverted and I just kept watching out of fascination. The fat butler turns into a bad guy. The whole "getting turned into a frog thing" doesn't work the way either party expects it to.

The whole "wish upon a star" thing becomes, "It's okay to wish, but if you want it to come true, you'd better follow it up with a dang lot of hard work." Which, coming from Disney, is an impressive moral, much better than Hakuna Matata or "the world owes me a living" which Goofy sang for decades.

I only had two problems with the movie: first, there were too many musical numbers. They could have cut five or six of them and the movie still would have run long.

Second, the bad guy was so creepy he kind of gave ME the cold shudders.

And at the end, his demons drag him to Hell. Alex claimed it didn't bother him, but I don't think I'll let him watch it again, just because of that scene. Maybe when he's, you know, ten or eleven.

Anyway, it was actually an impressive offering, coming out of Disney's dark ages of Let's Rewrite History. I hope they continue with the animated movies that have, you know, plots that somewhat surprise the parents. But do the bad guys really have to be so freaking scary?

Thursday, March 10

Alex's fourth birthday

Today is Alex's fourth birthday!

He woke up this morning to find a brand new scooter waiting for him.

He hasn't quite figured out how to ride it yet, but he's got the general idea.

His grandma and cousins came over, and after a lot of playing, we did candles and cake.

Lighting candles ...

Singing happy birthday ...

And blowing out the candles.

I royally flopped the icing, so it was like this pool of pink sweet stuff that just oozed all over the cake (I had run out of butter). But the kids didn't mind.

All in all, just a nice, low-key birthday. Next up, new baby will have Birthday 0 in April, then Holly turns 2 in May. What a spring!

Tuesday, March 8

Monday night hijinks

Just some Monday-night hijinks.

Sunday, March 6

Good ol' March

Yesterday was such an incredibly gorgeous day. It was just over 70 degrees, and sunny with a breeze. The kids ran in and out all day, and I got to sun myself as much as I liked. (I'm so disgustingly white. I wish I had a splash of Mexican or some other brown flavor in me, so I wasn't so white in the spring. I look like, like, a grub, or a cave cricket, or something.)

Anyway, today we got up and it's gray and cloudy. There's a big storm up north, and we might get a few sprinkles today.

As always in the spring, I think of my favorite passage from this little book called the Song of the Cardinal, by Gene Stratton Porter. Imagine my delight when I found it as a free ebook! So now I can post this excerpt from it without having to beg my mom's copy.

Up in the land of the Limberlost, old Mother Nature, with
strident muttering, had set about her annual house cleaning.
With her efficient broom, the March wind, she was sweeping every
nook and cranny clean. With her scrub-bucket overflowing with
April showers, she was washing the face of all creation, and if
these measures failed to produce cleanliness to her satisfaction,
she gave a final polish with storms of hail.

Free ebook here

Wednesday, March 2

Wednesday words of weight "loss"

I'm participating in Patrice's words of weight "loss" again this week, again with a spin toward gaining weight, since I'm almost eight months pregnant.

1. As a child, were you underweight, overweight, or average?

Average, I suppose. I've always been on the small size, so according to those hilariously inaccurate weight scales at the mall, I'm 20 pounds underweight. I'm only my proper weight when I'm pregnant.

2. Do you have an exercise machine? (ie-treadmill)

Nope. We used to have one, and there was something wrong with it, so you could only make the conveyor belt move by pushing it with your feet. Walk on that thing for five minutes and your heart feels like it's going to explode. We got rid of it eventually, after the cats had claimed it as a giant tilted bed.

3. Would you prefer a stationery bike or a real one?

A real bike, man! This is Southern CA. Even in our worst weather, it's never too bad for a bike ride. Unfortunately we don't have anywhere to put one at the moment, so we lack bikes. My husband had one when we got married, but someone stole it.

4. What's the strangest diet you ever heard of?

Probably the "all-coffee" diet, but I know there's lots like that, where you eat only one thing for months. I think there used to be one to purge you, like all cod-liver oil, and then they found out cod-liver oil is toxic in large amounts. Whoops.

5. Please finish this sentence: I will be kind to myself this week by...

I'll answer this one in pictures.

A chocolate cream cheese cupcake. We didn't even frost them. They were that good.

This is technically a picture of apricot cobbler, but I made peach cobbler with some of the thousands of peaches I froze last summer, and it looked exactly like this.

Boy was it good. I ate the majority myself, standing secretly in the kitchen with a spoon, "evening up the edges". We all know how dangerous that is.

Tuesday, March 1

Spring walk

Today's March 1st! It's gloriously warm outside (about 60 degrees), and mildly overcast. Supposedly a storm is coming in tomorrow, but today, it's wonderful.

I'd been reading an article about being a Preschool dropout, how this lady pulled her kid out of preschool because he hated it so much. The comments were all mostly, "Little kids shouldn't be in preschool anyway! Let 'em play outside!"

So I took the munchkins out on a Spring walk around our apartment complex today, to see if we could find spring. Here's what we found.

Right in our next-door-neighbor's flowerbed:

Alex picks a flower. He also borrowed my camera and snapped a picture.

Alex's picture:

Holly had a little more trouble picking a flower. They had tough stems that resisted picking.

There were very few flowers after this, so we went out to the office that always has very nice landscaping. All the fall flowers (what is a "fall flower"? Must be a California thing) like the pansies and snapdragons were in full bloom, which means they're slated to be ripped out in a few weeks and replaced with "spring flowers". They each picked a pansy.

Then we went and tagged trees along a big grassy strip. They still have their flowers, you see.

Then we came home and put their flowers in a vase, and had lunch. It was a very nice walk. Maybe next time we'll go further and look for more blooming things.

Article on being a Preschool Dropout


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