Saturday, July 30, 2011

No fish for dinner

Daddy took the kids out on the boat. Jenna had a new Dora pole and caught lots of little fish.


Charlie was catching a few here and there, too.


Here's Jenna's first fish...look how thrilled she looks...like get that think away from me, Dad!


Here's Charlie's big catch...held as far as possible away from his body.


Amarin helped Jenna catch another one.


But as luck would have it, no fish would be brought home for dinner.

Chicken, anyone?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Schools...my opinion

I read a report the other day online. I wish I could find it again to reference it, but I can't. Basically, it was giving stats about how low our nations schools are compared to so many other countries in the world. I'm not sure from where these stats were gathered, but I'm guessing it's standardized testing of some kind or another. And our nation wasn't just number 4 or 5...we were around number 30 in some areas. OUCH!


The author of the article shared what we, as parents, should be doing to remedy this "situation." He (she?) said that we should be demanding more from the schools, teachers, administrators, etc. Frankly, I couldn't disagree more.


Yes, I do believe that there are some teachers that are in this career because they think it's an easy paycheck...holidays off...weekends off...summers off...union protection. And, yes, there are administrators who really don't care. And schools that don't work at their full potential. And staff that simply need to retire. But I think these scenarios are the exception.


I believe that the majority of school staff are highly dedicated, continually striving to learn new methods to challenge their students. I believe they are often faced with unreasonable expectations...too much material to cover and too much time trying to manage their classroom, leaving even less time to cover this ever increasing amount of material, some of which has NO business being taught in the classrooms in the first place!


I started thinking about decades ago...when there were still one-room schoolhouses...with one teacher who often didn't even attend college...children of varying ages...limited resources...and even shorter school years due to the more demanding need of keeping children home to work the fields, etc.


Compare that with teachers today...needing Master's degrees, endless seminars and inservices and meetings, additional university courses just to keep their teaching certificates.


So why then, when we have "more" now, do students keep falling further and further behind? What have we not addressed? Maybe we should cram more into the tiny little ones at an earlier age. Nope...tried that, too. Doesn't work. Really...why does a 3 year old need to know what a parallelogram is? And why do kindergarten children need to know how to read, and all their numbers to 100? Whatever happened to being a child...graham crackers and chocolate milk snack, going home to eat lunch with mommy, and a nice long nap? Do you know that many European countries do not start their children in formal education until they are 6 or 7 years old? Hmmm...


Here's a thought I've not read about...what about parents? Where are parents in this mix? Ah...now I think we're on to something. Has anyone in any place of authority told parents to step up the plate to improve education? And this does not mean putting your child into a million activities to "boost their brain" or push them so hard they have a nervous breakdown. I'm talking discipline. How about teaching kids some good ole respect for authority? A strong work ethic? Natural consequences? Loving others first? Obedience!!!!!!!


That's what I think the solution is. Let's get back to the basics of parents taking responsibility for their kids, and stop pointing fingers at others. Maybe, if your child is "in trouble" at school, you've missed the mark at parenting. Not always, but has it ever crossed your mind? Maybe it's not little Billy's teacher that being mean...but it's little Billy who has a sassy attitude and doesn't know how to show respect. Maybe it's not little Susie's teacher giving her too much homework, but little Susie is being lazy and chatty during the school day.


So, parents...step up to the plate. You decided to have children, so act like parents and not their friends. You're not your child's friends! Repeat: YOU'RE NOT YOUR CHILD'S FRIENDS! You are their parents. And maybe, just maybe, if parents tried this, we would see not only an improvement in education, but in society overall. What's your take on this?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

2 Years Already?

Yes, siree, it sure has been 2 years. Two years since we met Amarin in Thailand. Two years since we walked up that HOT sidewalk, to the open-air building where he was waiting for us on little mat, trying to stay cool. Two years ago since we saw his adorable smile...a smile that hasn't left his little face. Two years ago since we thoroughly enjoyed his native land of Thailand. Oh my, how we'd love to travel back again.


When we first saw him introduced on a video of waiting children, they said that he could be "a bit of a clown." Yep...they hit that one on the head! And such a huge heart for helping others. He loves to help cook meals, vacuum (seriously - even though it freaked him out the first time I used it around him), care for his little Laura, build with legos, watch airplanes, and fix things. He is our Mr. Fix-it. He wants to be a pilot someday. He has learned how to read and is very happy to be whizzing through his story Bible...all by himself!

So, to celebrate this special day and this special boy, we went out for Thai food...which has become one of our very favorites!

And the spicier, the better. If he can eat it, it's worthy of spicy sauce. He had to sample them all, and even mixed them together. My mouth is on fire just thinking about it!


And guess who works at this particular Thai restaurant? His Thai teacher! Finally, Amarin has shown interest and excitement to learn his native language again. Yeah!!


Remember...Thai food is spicy. We have tell them to tone down the spice or we'd all be combustible. Anyway, as we're sitting at our table, we start sneezing. I'm eating rice and thinking...wow...they must have used a lot of pepper...my throat is burning...and my nose. Laura started coughing...Jamie is sneezing...and the wait staff start laughing. Apparently the cook was chopping hot peppers in the kitchen and they were so spicy that the "spicy" floated out into the restaurant. They had to open the doors to the outside to vent it out before we all choked! Can you tell Laura was impressed?




After we all gained our composure...stopped choking and laughing...we ordered dessert. The infamous sweet sticky rice with fresh mango slices. Heaven on a plate!!



Here's a close-up...but don't use the soy sauce on it!


We love you, Amarin!!

Christmas in July

Yes...a personal and bloggy friend of mine is quite the organized lady. Kristin has some great ideas about veggie growing and preparation, frugal living, and she is very crafty...in a good way!! :)

Right now she is doing some lovely give-aways for Christmas...yes, Christmas.

I told you she's organized!

And she's sharing tips for preparing for Christmas so when it arrives, we can enjoy the birth of our Savior, minus the worldy stresses.

Check out her blog HERE!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Blue Angels

A surprise for the kids today! We were invited over a month ago by Make-A-Wish to see the Blue Angels airshow...but we didn't tell the kids. We wanted it to be a surprise. And surprised they were, especially our airplane-loving Amarin. He's going to be a pilot someday, you know.


We met at the airport, lined up all the family vehicles, and caravaned to the VIP seating area right next to the runway! We actually had to drive across an active runway to get to our viewing area. But before we drove there, we had to wait for other families to arrive. While we waited, a plane put on quite a show for us, making dives and twists and turns. Amazing!


We were very thankful to be under a tent in this HOT weather, though clouds were moving in and that helped. The kids were also very thankful for refreshments! Our friend, Ms. Kelly, came with us. She loves airshows...skydiving...right up her ally!


The planes were at the end of the runway...oooohh...the anticipation!


These men were all equipped to watch the sky. I know they were at least watching the weather because they were the ones we saw motion to stop the airshow when the weather got stormy.


Here's Fat Albert


After an awesome trek down the runway to the opening song of "Topgun,"

the Blue Angels took off, flew way out, and here they come back in formation.


I can't believe the precision of these pilots. They come soooo close to one another.


Yes, it was pretty loud when those planes flew overhead. The boys thought it was cool how the sound traveled so much slower than the actual plane.


Amarin never took his eyes off the sky. He has said for a while that he wants to fly a plane...a plane that does tricks in the air...with the Blue Angels. I don't even know how he learned about the Blue Angels. But he was all into it today!


Breathtaking!



Unfortunately, that was the end of the airshow. A storm moved in, with lightening, and it was not safe for the pilots, nor for us standing by tents with metal poles. We missed the rest of the show, as well as the meet&greet, but what we saw was amazing. We are very grateful to Make-A-Wish and the Blue Angels for arranging this special show for our families.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Our days

It's HOT...HOT...HOT, mixed in with HUMIDITY!!

Hot and humid like we're just not used to up yonder.

But I'm not complaining...I'll take it anyday over the cold, bitter, winter days.

So, we're trying to stay cool and find some fun summer activities, and most of our outdoor time has been in the morning, while finding refuge in our cool basement during the afternoons.


Looks like Milky Way is here to stay. And he's scoring points with my non-cat-loving hubby by hunting chipmunks and mice that destroy our lawn. Yes. He actually had the camera out to take photos of this event. Yuck!


Robot building. This is Jacob's "Scrubby McBristle." He spins around, brushing as he goes. Now if he were only 100 times the size, he could be quite handy!


Amarin's robot is named "Monster Mike." He's ready to deliver a can of cola to you when you're ready. Can't promise you won't pass out from thirst as you wait for this little guy to find you...


Mornings with sidewalk chalk...


and thrill rides down the driveway...


and joining to make it even faster!


Laura's last day of school for this week, and then she has a one week break. I have to say that he bus drivers are THE BEST! Look what one of them made for her...just because Laura is her "little cheeks." They love her cheeks when she smiles! Me, too!


A cool outfit for these hot days and I love the ruffles on the bum!




Tuesday, July 19, 2011

7 is a great number!

Yes, it is good to be 7 years old!

Laura turned 7 today, and last Friday evening we had her birthday party.

Family and friends were there...


and all the kids sang "Happy Birthday."


And then your siblings spit out...I mean, blew out your candles for you!


You received a couple toys...


some "prilly" clothes...to use Jenna's lingo...


and a new lunchbox for school. You just can't get any cuter than Hello Kitty!


And today you were so happy to get on that school bus because I think you knew you would be celebrating your birthday at school! Not many kids with summer birthdays get to do that!


Yes...you were very excited!


We baked little elephant cookies to share with your bus drivers, teachers, therapists, and friends. None came home, so I'm thinking they were a hit!


Happy 7th Birthday to our oldest princess! You just bring so much joy to our family!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

What I'm learning

It has officially been two weeks on this elimination diet.

I'm learning a lot. Some things are encouraging, while others are not.

I've always known that eating healthy was important, but never really gave any diet time enough to show itself fruitful. I'm a little impatient that way and prefer instant gratification.

And I like to eat...as does the whole family.

But...here's a little bit of what I've learned over the past two weeks.

*Diets take time to show the benefit.


*Benefits do happen...be patient.


*Not all the results are going to be what we like to find out...because

it could mean a permanent change in diet.


*Going to a restaurant is not as fun.


*Retaurants rarely have healthy selections for kids...and sometimes not much for adults!


*Going through sugar/snack withdrawl is not fun. And what we went through is NOTHING compared to serious addictions! Made me feel a bit humbled.


*Groceries are now even more expensive because we're buying fresh food.


*How pathetic is it that we have to pay abundantly more for quality food.


*How frustrating is it that preserved, processed food is cheap and what a lot of people need to buy in order to feed their family.


*It's hard to bake a decent dessert without using grains or sugar.


*Not having eaten anything sweet for 2 weeks, my little ones will say anything tastes yummy!


*Charlie has not had ANY hives for 2 weeks.


*Jenna has not had ANY congestion (which she has had since China) until today when I added cornstarch...a no-no...to brownies. Her congestion came back. Corn may be one of her culprits.


*I have had only one minor headache in the morning, while I'd usually have several per week. Bonus since this diet wasn't even meant for me!


*I'm thankful it's berry season and fresh veggie season because we are eating a ton of them and they're easy to find right now.


*Chilled strawberry-rhubarb w/ mint soup is better eaten as a frozen treat.



*Almond biscuits are yummy, and what I'm using for strawberry shortcake for Laura's birthday treat!




Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Gift

I received a fun email from a church/homeschool friend yesterday.

She told me that a man from church, who wished to remain anonymous, had made a little chair and wanted to give it to Jenna Mei.

Really?


Well, we had to head out today to pick it up and Jenna was very excited to get her special gift.

It is the neatest little chair, all wood, and it even folds up to store.

As soon as we got home, she tried it out, sitting in front of her little CD player, listening to her "Jesus songs."


To top it off, we made some icecream (also known as a really thick smoothie), and not to worry, Laura had some, too!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Hollywood's Home

He's home after being gone all week at camp. The buses pulled in, parents poured forth, and kids came piling out, along with a semi full of luggage. Quite an organized operation, I must say!

We drove through some thunderstorms to pick him up, but drove out of the rain so we could wait outside and take photos. In Charlie's exact words..."Thank you, God!"


Parents have to sign the kids off the bus...and here he comes!

And from this point on, it was nonstop stories of camp: kayak races, blobbing, awesome food, campfires, roasting hot dogs, new friends, air-rifles, archery, icecream, chapel time, races, tug-of-war (totally cracks us up that Jacob was the anchor in this game!), mud...oh my goodness, the stories, and I know I'm missing a ton of topics!

And as for "Hollywood?" Well, that was his nickname all week, and apparently some kids never did know his real name.

When I asked him to rate camp 0 to 10, he said, "10, Mom, definitely 10!"

I think he's going back next year, and probably with a little brother at his side!


Even better than the stories, was watching his siblings greet him.
Miss Chatty Jenna had to talk and be sure he got the picture that she colored and mailed to him.


And Charlie has SO missed his biggest brother!

I don't think it gets any better than this!


Later when we got home, he presented us all with little polished rocks cut into various shapes. (Mine just happened to be the biggest, and in the shape of a heart! Just sayin...)

He said that Laura's gift was his favorite and that she would get hers last. So, after he passed out all our gifts, he reached down, picked up his sister, and gave her the biggest, longest, snugglist hug. "Mom, you know she'd choke on the rock, so I saved the biggest hug for her gift."
Yeah...maybe it can get better...

Friday, July 8, 2011

Popcorn Predicament

We love popcorn. It's a special snack, usually denoting that it's time for a movie or some game playing.



HOWEVER...we can't eat it just yet. But I want to be ready when the dr. gives the go ahead to add corn back to our diet.


Here's my predicament. We've always used microwave popcorn. But I'm not using it anymore because it's filled with so many bad, bad things. I know popcorn can actually be a pretty healthy snack if done properly...OK...not raw veggie healthy...but not like a bowl of icecream, either!


So here, bloggy friends, is where you come in to help. How do you cook your popcorn? What device do you use? Airpopper? Metal, twirly pan on the stove? Do share so this deprived grain family will be ready!!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Week One of this Diet

I know now that if I ever have to move to another home, all I'll need is a bed and a kitchen. Why? Because it seems like those are the only places I've spent my time this past week.

This diet of no dairy (except plain yogurt), no grains...AT ALL, and very few fruits is no doubt healthy, but it's not like reaching into the pantry for a quick meal. I'm spending A LOT of time in the kitchen prepping food.


Some of us are eating NOTHING processed. No mac & cheese, no crackers or chips, no sweets of any kind...not even honey or agave. The rest of the family is eating that stuff in great moderation...well, except Jacob, who is probably praising God for a week of camp food. The hardest part for me is not being able to snack in the afternoons on something crunchy...like blue chips or veggie straws. I really, really crave them. I've also been dreaming of a homemade roll with melted butter on it...


That said, the cooking hasn't been as difficult as I thought it would be. We've been trying for a while to eat more healthy. I also grew up with lots of veggies that we grew in our garden so I'm not "afraid" of them. But it's a little challenging to find recipes that don't have some kind of grain. Luckily, I've been introduced to a couple great blogs that have recipes I can use. Here are some of them we've tried...


A bean salad, with artichoke and spices. We can eat all the spices we want!



Chicken salad with red cabbage and green apples, and homemade applesauce...no sugar, but lots of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and a splash of vanilla

Quiche with lots of veggies (including zucchini and cabbage), and fresh berries

You would never know that those veggies were in there.

Lentil salad with carrots and onions, and cucumber sticks for a side


Chicken Stir-fry, with broiled brussel sprouts


Snacks of apples and nuts



OK...this may sound weird, but it's a favorite for breakfast!

Scrambled eggs, first blended with avocado and unsweetened coconut, with berries

How fun is it to eat green eggs? Now where's the ham?

One of my favorites that Jamie made...homemade beef sausage...very spicy and so delicious!

And scrambled eggs with stir-fry veggies mixed in there.


We've also had grainless muesli, smoothies (another way to get in lots of cabbage, spinach, cucumbers, etc. without tasting it!), venison steaks, grilled peppers and onions wrapped in foil, and plain yogurt with fresh berries.


One more week, and we can add in gluten free oats, and brown rice. Have I mentioned that there have been no hives this past week?