Tuesday, February 23, 2010

vegas or bust... (or plan B... but either way...)

we leave tomorrow!
although chuck and i are not exactly "Vegas people" we are "get away for a few days" kinda people, and this trip is coming at a great time...
for those of you who don't know, we are heading to Las Vegas for a children's ministry conference (for real!) at the Church of South Las Vegas.  seems like an odd place to hold such a conference, but the itinerary really looks great and they've given us great accommodations!  we are staying at Southpoint, leaving bwi tomorrow and returning home on sunday.  my incredibly generous mother in law is arriving today to stay with the kids for the duration for our trip.  i really think they'll have a great time with her, and i know that chuck and i will enjoy a few days away.  he has been really busy lately.  this week is his school's science fair, which he and another teacher are running this year.  on top of that, he's been taking online grad classes which require paper after paper after paper.  he's wondering if he'll be able to slow himself down enough to relax.  i think he'll be fine...

i've had a few friends give me some pointers as to what we should see while in Vegas.  thankfully, we don't need to spend a lot of money to have a good time, and it sounds like there is lots to do just by "seeing the sights."   even better, the forecast predicts weather in the mid to upper 60s and that sounds great right about now.  i've decided to enjoy this for all it's worth... especially since it comes right around the same time as my birthday.  but even for all the fun stuff that goes along with the trip, at this point, all the down time in the airport and on the plane is what sounds the most appealing.  all that time to SIT and do nothing... unless i feel like it.  what a luxury.

btw, i'll have more to say later, but the book i just read was really very good.  check it out if you get the chance...

have a great week, everyone!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

keeping on

blogging has presented me with mixed feelings lately.  i'd love to whine about it... but as i've long since vowed not to use my blog as my own personal pity party (that gets old really fast) i'm going to brush past it.

there.  i'm done.

today marks Day 11 of being snowed in with chuck and the kids.  with the exception of last friday night when we ate at arby's and sunday when we made it to church, we have been in this house.  i am not tired of chuck.  i am not tired of my kids.  actually, i have rather enjoyed it - like an unexpected vacation.  however, just like at the end of any vacation, i am ready to get back to my ordered, structured life.  the kids miss school and are ready for a change of scenery.  as i type this, they are doing school, because, even though we don't homeschool, we are firm believers that we, as their parents, are responsible for our children's education.  i'll leave it at that.  for now.

rather than feel trapped in my own home, i've tried to see this as an opportunity to focus inward for a change.  no, i have not gone crazy working on home projects (although chuck did get 2 walls spackled and painted!)... but i did get to spend some extra time in the kitchen and have tried several new recipes and have a few meals in the freezer as a result.  that's a good feeling.

focusing on the inside of my house has allowed me to really get a closer look at my children, as well.  sometimes, the everyday pace of life doesn't provide as many opportunities to be intentional about parenting.  two blizzards in one week, however, does!  here is what i have learned.

patrick, at 8 years old, is balancing the illusive line between being a young child and a young man.  i had been noticing a difference in his attitude (patrick has never been blatantly disobedient, so parenting him can be challenging if we are not looking for the subtle stuff...) and chuck and i agreed that it was time he be held to a higher level of expectations.  the mom in me has a hard time with this - seeing him be pushed, at times, into manhood (boy, get your coat on and get out here and help me shovel!) but i trust his father and agree that i want patrick to turn into a man like chuck rather than a woman like me.  the result is an aspiring young man who is starting to think more about others than he does about himself.  

having 7 year old chloe at home with me has been very eye opening as well.  typically, she is my child who flies under the radar - never bothering us with problems because she does not enjoy being the center of attention.  ironically, though, she seems to have the best sense of humor and is so dry that she can put either one of us in our place without even cracking a smile.  i love that about her.  even more, i love that when, on occasion, she throws out a sarcastic comment at the wrong time, she'll quickly say, "i've gone too far, huh?"  man, i love her.  she and i were talking this past week and i asked her what bothers her the most.  she told me she gets freaked out being in the same room with any arguing.  she gets nervous when someone in her class is being corrected by the teacher or if her friends are fighting.  in fact, she told me that she'd rather be on stage in front of a hundreds of people than be present during a disagreement.  i've always known that she is the peace keeper in the family, but it's been interesting to discover that one reason for this is that she'd rather give in than cause conflict.  i can certainly identify with this part of her personality, but i am trying to teach her that sometimes it's ok to disagree.  

lucy is embracing 5 and is so good at it!  as always, she loves life and wants to experience every last bit of it.  however, she seems to really be trying to grow up a bit.  the older she gets, the more sensitive and less silly she becomes.  this is a problem when her 4 year old brother knows every last button to push to set her off.  we've been teaching her that allowing him to make her cry makes him her boss because she's giving him power.  it's a hard lesson to learn... but she's getting there.  one surprising aspect of lucy's personality is how when the house gets a little too chaotic (emotionally) she runs around trying to clean up.  as fun-loving as she is, she loves to see things in their place.  whenever i catch her doing this, she tells me she's practicing to be a mom.  i don't know how to feel about that... especially if she thinks that's all i do!

4 year old tucker is growing up fast.  having been raised by us and grandma has had its blessings and challenges because he has learned where to run and hide!  as he is growing out of toddler-hood and into childhood, he is learning that he is responsible for his choices... which means that he will have to sit at the table for an hour and a half to eat dinner, he can get himself dressed, and he will not win in a verbal battle with his parents.  by far, tucker has been our most strong-willed child - so, at times, we've had to step up our parenting intensity a bit.  it's been good, though, because he's starting to self-correct and just avoid the bad choices altogether.  he is still fascinated by numbers and spends most of his time trying to figure out who's number (age) is bigger and how many more years it will take him to get to another perosn's number.  by far, though, tucker's most exciting bit of progress is that he is now reading!  we're working our way through the Victory Drill Book and other short vowel story books, and he is working on mastering his first ring of sight words.  we're so proud of him, and reading has been a great way to help him grow up.  

chuck and i have really enjoyed the time we've had together as a family and as a couple for the past week and a half.  i decided to resist the temptation to get sick of being stuck with my family... and i'm glad i did.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Tuesday's Tip - kinda...

this year for christmas, my mother gave this to everyone in her extended family.  using her apple publisher, she made a book Granny - her and her sisters' grandmother.  the book contained pictures and memories and, most importantly, recipes.  granny was known for her amazing cooking... and mom didn't want anyone to forget.

i thought this was a really great idea, because, in a day and age, where life seems to only be about progress, i think it is very important to preserve memories.  not everyone is a scrapbooker or an on-line photo-book-maker.  but there are other ways to keep memories alive.  it may be through simple photographs.  maybe it's a box of memorabilia.  it could be a quilt or a shadow box.  most simply, it can be in the form of stories told and retold.  no matter how they are preserved, memories deserve a place in our lives and should be revisited often.

one of my mother's favorite ways to revisit Granny's memory is by making her Sour Beef and Dumplings.  i recently mentioned this on facebook and had a few requests for her recipe.  i have to admit, i've never made it.  for now, mom is the one to keep this memory alive.  but one day, i imagine it will be my turn... and i'll be ready.

Granny's Sour Beef and Dumplings

4 lbs lean beef cubes
1 tbsp pickling spice tied in a cloth
1 large onion, chopped
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp sugar

Place all the above ingredients in 1/2 and 1/2 vinegar and water to cover.  Soak overnight in the refrigerator.

Cook until meat is tender.  Thicken with 6 - 8 ginger snaps dissolved in cold water.
Taste:  if too sour, add water
           if too sweet, add vinegar
           if too thin, add ginger snaps

Peel 5 lbs of fresh potatoes and push through a sieve or ricer. (you can also mash them by hand).  Let cool completely.
Add 1 1/2 cups bread crumbs
        1 tbsp salt
        1 cup flour
        4 beaten eggs
Work together with hands.
Toast 4 slices of bread and cut into cubes.  Roll dumplings into large ball with some bread cubes in the center.
Bring large pot of water to boil (do NOT salt water).  Drop dumplings into boiling water.  Once they come to the top, boil 5 minutes and then remove.

Some of my mom's comments...
as a younger girl, i always thought this was such an ordeal to make.  mostly, it takes planning since you have to soak the meat and  you need cheese cloth for the spices.  i learned to always have cheese cloth in my kitchen drawer, pickling spice and ginger snaps in the cupboard, and i cook mine in the crockpot.  it's a great aroma to come home to after church on sunday...