Saturday, December 29, 2007

Enjoying the wonderful gifts.

Grandma and Grandpa sent Joshua this really cool game called The Touch. The concept of the game is to pick items out of this strange little orb using your sense of touch only. So you draw a card and the card has a theme, let's say baseball. On one side there is a baseball, bat and glove. On the other side there are educational facts about baseball. During your turn, you have 30 seconds to pull the ball, bat and glove out of the orb. Keith put a napkin over the top of the orb, since it is clear on one side for the opponents to see what you are grabbing, and Joshua kept trying to look over to the clear part.

As you can see, there are many different types of objects to choose from. The two other sets are animal sets; one with farm animals and one with about 30 different types of dinosaurs.
This is a perfect game for Daddy and Joshua. Daddy is a very hands-on learner, and he was flying through this game. I am a visual learner and it was hard for me to play.

Usually when I am cooking dinner, I separate the kids a bit. Two play together just great, once a third is added (it doesn't even matter which one!) chaos ensues and the sibling rivalry gets out of control because they know I am occupied with dinner preparation. So on most nights, the kids rotate sitting up at the bar and either helping cook dinner, or working with art supplies. Tonight, Daniel played with his new crayons. These things are awesome. He stacked them, counted them, colored with them, and put them on his fingers like little finger puppets. Incidentally, he can name just about all of the colors of those crayons. Brown he calls Chocolate Milk. And pink he calls Megan. How cute is that?

Megan is showing off her new bathrobe. The robes didn't make it here in time for Christmas, but I picked them up today from the post office. The timing was excellent, because they softened the blow from the sadness the kids were expressing about the fact that I've already taken down the Christmas tree.

Megan's robe has ballerinas on it and has her name embroidered on the back. The boys have matching train robes with their names on them, too. Notice the sheep pajamas, they fit her perfect. I'll have to work on some for the boys next.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Black Bean Soup

This one came in at 3 pts for a 1 cup serving according to my recipe tracker. This yummy soup comes from my friend Heather here in Kodiak. She gave me this recipe just a few weeks before Megan was born (March 18th, 2004).

10 sun-dried tomatoes (not packed in oil)
1 c. boiling water
1 1/2 c. finely chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp cayenne
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp cumin
1/3 c. water
28 oz of undrained canned tomatoes (I like the petite diced)
32 oz of undrained black beans

1. Cover sun-dried tomatoes with boiling water and set aside.
2. In pot, saute onions, garlic, and cayenne in the oil for about 5 min, stirring frequently.
3. Add cumin, 1/3 c. water and the juice from the tomatoes.
4. Squeeze tomatoes into the pot.
5. Cover and bring to a boil.
6. Lower heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
7. Add black beans and their liquid and continue to simmer stirring occaisionally to prevent sticking.
8. Drain and chop sun-dried tomatoes.
9. Add to soup and cook for 5-10 minutes.
10. Puree half of the soup and return in to the pot.

Potato Soup

Let me just say that I am not even going to plug this into my recipe tracker to check the health statistics on it. It's high on the yummy scale, but low on the healthy scale. By the way - I calculated out that a 1 cup serving size of the squash soup (without the 1/2 and 1/2 - was only 2 points).

Potato Soup - from Katie (a former co-worker in 2004)

2 med baked potatoes (baked, peeled, chopped)
3tsp butter
1 c. diced onion
2 tsp flour
4 c. chicken stock
2 c. water
1/4 c. corn starch
1 1/2 c. instant mashed potatoes
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp basil
1/8 tsp thyme
1 c. half and half

1. Melt butter in soup pot and saute onion until light brown.
2. Add the flour to onions and stir to make a roux.
3. Add stock, water, cornstarch, instant mashed potatoes and spices to the pot, bring to boil.
4. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
5. Add flesh from baked potatoes.
6. Add half and half, bring soup back to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
7. Ladle into bowls and enjoy.

*The recipe does not call for garlic, but I added 1 clove of chopped garlic when the onions were browning. I also like to add lots of broccoli and cheese to this soup - the kids love it even more when it is more than one color.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

By popular request - the recipe for one of the soups last night...


1 med. butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced coarsely
2 c. apples, peeled, cored and diced (I used two medium sized granny smith apples)
1 c. onion, chopped
3 c. chicken broth
1/2 c. half and half
4 tbsp. butter
1/4 c. flour
1 tbsp. curry powder (I added a bit extra)
Salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in soup pot. Add squash, onion, apples and curry. Saute for five minutes with frequent stirring. Do not brown. Add flour and mix well. Cook, with constant stirring for two minutes. Add chicken broth and mix well.
Cover and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes with occasional stirring. Puree in food processor and add back to the pot with the half and half. Milk can be substituted. Bring to serving temperature but do not boil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.

*I ate a bowl of the soup before I added the 1/2 and 1/2 and then tasted a little bit after it was added. I liked it better without the 1/2 and 1/2. So when I make it again, I'll save myself the fat and calories and exclude the dairy. The dairy gives it a creamier texture, but significantly cools off the kick from the curry powder, and I like spicier foods, and I'm lactose intolerant.


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Clean-up time

The kids have kicked me out of their rooms because I keep playing with all their cool new things. So I am forced to clean up the house. We had a full house with some of our wonderful neighbors over for Christmas dinner. We had butternut squash soup, black bean soup and potato soup and salad, bread and fruit with dip. I'm so excited to have tons of soup leftover, since the sky is dark again and it is definately soup weather. Speaking of the dark sky, we celebrated the Winter Solstice last week and we are now gaining minutes of light daily. I added a tracker from Weather Underground to show the sunrise/sunset times, and a second tracker to check the temperature.

And because I mentioned a story last night at dinner and it was deemed "blog-worthy", I thought I better put it on here...
Clearly we've watched the movie Annie one too many times. Megan and Daniel were playing on the floor in the living room and Daniel gave Megan a toy to share. Since we are working on our manners, I waited for a few minutes and than asked Megan, "What to do you say?", she promptly followed up with, "We love you, Mrs. Hannigan" complete with the sing-songy little sassy voice that the orphans have in the movie. I'm in trouble with her. She has such a funny little sense of humor.

Okay, enough fooling around...back to cleaning (okay, maybe after Martha Stewart is over, she's making a fantastic salad).

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The gift-opening festivities

The kids woke up around 8am this morning. Joshua remembered right away that Santa Claus was supposed to come last night. They all went out in the living room and immeadiately went to creating things on the felt board. We let them ravage their stockings while I put breakfast on the table. Our neighbor (Becca) shared with us a recipe for overnight French toast; so no prep in the morning, just toss it in the oven. It came out fabulous.

Daniel was quite funny this year. He was excited about everything. The kids got little car-shaped chocolates in their stockings, and he was digging through everyone else's stockings to get their chocolates out.

Here is a proud Megan holding up her ballerina ornament. We get the kids an ornament every year. She promptly put it on the tree. Notice Meow-meow hiding under the wrapping paper in the background. Yes, our cat's name really is Meow-meow. Keith talked me into getting her about a week after Daniel was born and Megan lovingly called her Meow-meow and it seemed to have stuck. Meow-meow's adoption papers from the shelter suggest her real name is Bella, but she doesn't answer to that.

I've never seen anyone so excited to see a potty! Daniel sat on his little potty in the kids' bathroom for about 30 minutes, fully clothed in his pajamas talking to me while I was in the kitchen making lunch. His favorite thing to say is, "Mom, guess what?", but he doesn't really have anything to tell you, so there is nothing to follow up the "guess what" part.

Joshua is all about legos and Star Wars. So when the two get put together, he's one happy camper. As I type, they are on the floor beside me putting this crazy beast together. There are a lot of small lego parts, so these things only get done when Daniel is napping.

Megan and Daddy took all the little ponies out of the twisty-tie madness they were secured in the container with. Then they played together with the ponies while I un-packaged some of the other toys. Toys these days come so hard to get out of the package!

Daniel loves his new blocks. He's happy to build towers and knock them down. He also got a few new cars and a new carpet to run his cars on.

Megan wanted to know if she could take her nap in the living room beside her ponies.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Joy to the World

Daddy's been out to shovel the snow away from our front door every few hours. There is our snowman out front in our yard. We got a lot of snow today. According to the weather forcast on the Saltonstall's blog, we could get even more snow tonight!

The kids have tummies full of home-made pizza. They've bathed and brushed their teeth. Now they are finishing watching A Charlie Brown Christmas Special. Once the movie is over, we'll read a few Christmas stories, check the NORAD tracker, and head off to bed. The NORAD tracker follows Santa's trip around the world

Here is a message from Daniel... click the play button (arrow).

Merry Christmas Eve!

This year Keith has been after me to give him a list of gift suggestions for Christmas. Honestly, all I really want is for him to help me carve some time out of our lives to just relax. I feel as though my job of being a stay-at-home mom is so much more difficult than when I worked. Not to start the arguement of who works harder - moms at home vs. not at home. I mean it in a way that our whole lifestyle is so different now. The kids are older and more active in different things. They want to get out and do stuff. They don't just sit quietly in the grocery store shopping cart anymore, they want to "help" picked out the apples, and then drop them on the ground a few times to give them a good bruising (the apples, not the kids!). There are days where I am so glad that everything is an adventure, and then there are days that I just want to take a break from being Mom for a little while.

Perhaps it's the holiday season to blame for this longing to find some adult time for myself. I've been lucky in the way of going to parties and out to dinner with friends, and it has shown me how much I miss my fun, adult side. So after the twinkling lights are put away, the torn-off wrapping paper has been dropped off at the recycling center, the left-over cookies have been eaten and the thank-you cards have been sent, Keith's job is to gently remind me to relax. I guess I need to hear that it's okay to head out to the gym after the kids go to bed, the dishes can wait. It would be nice if they were done before I got back, but that's just crazy-talk.

So, I went to the gym yesterday after church. Out of habit I went into the parent/tot room to run on the treadmill (our gym has a room with little horse-stall looking areas to corral the tots while the parents use cardio equipment while watching the kids from a safe distance). Once I saw that I was the only person there, I stayed and ran a couple of miles all by myself, no kids fighting over toys, no MP3 player, just the sound of the wind blowing ice up against the window. It was wonderful.

I felt energized enough to take the kids back to church for the Sunday evening service. The service was a Happy Birthday, Jesus party. The kids had a pretty good time and got cake and ice-cream at the end of the party. It was a little surprising to me because there was a lot of running around from kids inside the sanctuary after the service. I was also surprised that cake and ice-cream were served with the intent to eat in the sanctuary. I guess I'll blame my confusion on all those years of going to Catholic churches in my much younger years. So the kids sat on the floor to eat their goodies, as to not make a mess.
Daniel is so cute sporting his sweater-vest that Grandma sent him. We did have a good time, but we probably won't brave another evening service again until they are older. This one ran too close to bedtime.

We woke up to snow, and lots of it!! This morning was beautiful. It is still a little dark in the picture because it was only 8am. As soon as the snow slowed down a bit, I dressed everyone up and we went outside to play. We made snow angels and a snowman. Then the snow turned to rain so we came back in to get warm. We are expecting more snow tonight. I'm so excited! I don't have anywhere to go for another few days, so bring on the snow!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Countdown to Christmas!

It's getting harder and harder to contain the kids' excitement. The worst one is the big 32-year-old kid; he was trying to suggest that the kids could open a present or two early. I assured him that the kids could wait another couple of days.

During nap time today I worked on making little covers for plain barrettes. Megan has really fine hair, and she gave herself a haircut a month or two ago. Those short hairs are now at a length that they like to stand up on the top of her head. While searching on-line for a way to help the short hairs lay down, I came across a tutorial to make these little barrettes. This one is the prototype, I sewed the felt together with a contrasting thread so that I could see it to make my measurements to finish the other dozen or so that needed cutting and sewing. It's really very easy, just a little felt sleeping bag for the barrette.
The felt on the barrette does the trick. It stays in Megan's hair with all of her dancing and bouncing around. She even woke up from her nap with it still in her hair.

Early this morning I was playing legos with the boys. Megan wanted to watch The Nutcracker again (shocking, I know). I came out in the living room and was watching her dancing with her doll for the longest time before she noticed me. She's so adorable. Notice the plain barrette falling out of her hair - this was before I got crafty. I searched all over for a tiny tu-tu for her doll, and then one day a few weeks ago I was talking to some stranger in Wal-mart (because I am a stay at home mom, so I tend to talk to anyone that is willing to talk back), and she suggested I make one. She told me how to do it and showed me what to use. She made them for her girls when they were little.

Megan and Daniel were on "Daddy Watch". Keith called at lunch time to say he was on his way home. So the kids were waiting to have lunch with him before they had to go down for naps.

Excuse me, little lady, it looks as though your skirt is stuck in your waistband.

Tonight we were going to go out to the Coast Guard base to the children's Christmas party. But the kids voted to stay home and watch Star Wars instead. The old Star Wars movies are so much better than the new ones. Daniel and Joshua were sitting on the floor side by side and when the Death Star explodes near the end of the movie, Daniel turned around and gasped, "oh no, they broke it." Which was funny to us because Joshua has a few Star Wars lego ships that Daniel isn't allowed to play with because he'll break them.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Game night!

Wednesday night I went out to dinner with a friend of mine. She and I had so much fun eating good food and chatting for hours! It was wonderful to not have to share my food with anyone and to eat an entire warm meal - all dressed as an adult. The very next night, we had a new babysitter watch the kids while Keith and I went to a party over at Zach and Beth's house. It was so much fun. The babysitter worked out great, and we will definately be taking advantage of the fact that she lives so close!

Tonight was game night. Usually for game night we have something simple like soup for dinner, but at Joshua's request, I made "BFD" (breakfast for dinner). All the kids love breakfast foods and it is so nice to make something that I know they will all eat. I really have it lucky because none of them are picky eaters, but there is something about eating breakfast at night that really excites them and makes dinner time fun.

While the biscuits were in the oven, I directed a game of Chutes and Ladders. I played the first game with the kids, then left Joshua and Megan to play it again on their own while I worked on dinner 5 feet away from them. Daniel lost interest once he saw me cutting up some fresh fruit. He decided he would rather sit up at the bar and beg for food.
So Keith rescued me from the whining and helped Daniel to play games with the big kids. Daniel looks less than happy. Everyone has to wait while Megan inspects the cards to Candy Land to be certain that the Queen Frostine card has not been lost.
Joshua was pretty proud of himself. He won both Chutes and Ladders and Candy Land. As the winner, he gets to pick the two games for next week's game night.

We love playing games with the kids. We really miss the Anderson family - they moved away this summer, but we got together with them weekly to play different grown-up games. (Boy, we sound pretty boring!)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow....

Our house is a buzz between the snow outside and the full swing of Christmas festivities inside. I love our little house and I'm going to miss it when we move. It gives us a little more privacy than what we would have if we stayed out on the base, yet it also gives us great neighbors. We have a nice little lake on the side of the house (or is it a pond? - I'm geographically challenged.) We plan on testing out our ice-skating skills on the lake this weekend.

We got some snow last night. It is really fine powdery snow. It has the consistency of sifted flour. Not really good snowman making weather. But we persevered by gettting out our summer-time toys and playing with our sand shovels and pails. Megan is making me a pie in the picture below.

Daniel looks like he is up to mischief. He was having a blast scooping up the snow and dumping it out. I could see his little brain refining the concept of cause and effect.

Joshua was enjoying throwing the snow up in the air and watching it fly.

Megan, with the completed "pie". She's just pleased as punch with herself. I'm surprised she's so easy to get along with today. She woke up at 4am and told me she had a bad dream about Santa Claus. I think it was just an excuse to get in bed with me, since Keith had duty. I'm noticing a pattern.

I'm keeping this short because I'm blogging while the water is boiling for part of tonight's dinner. I'm cooking for Keith and the kids, but I'm heading out to dinner with a friend for a "Moms' night out". Tomorrow night Keith and I are going to a Christmas party at our neighbor's house. We figure it's a good time to try out a new babysitter when we are only going to be across the street. I'm sure she'll be wonderful. We've had her over to play with the kids as a mother's helper in the past, but this will be the first time we're leaving her alone with the kids.

The princess and some pajamas

This is Megan begging to watch The Nutcracker again. She puts on a dress and makes herself a crown and veil (her dress up varies between being a ballerina, a princess or a bride) and then asks for The Nutcracker. I let her watch it tonight while I made dinner. I came around the corner and she was trying to get Daniel to dance with her. It was very sweet. After the kids went to bed, I made these adorable pajama pants for Megan. My favorite are the blue pants with the monkeys on them.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Recycling projects (and our weekly homeschool review)

One of the best things about homeschooling is that we get to do things at our own pace. We had good intentions to finish up a few units this past week, but time was not on our side. We decided to take advantage of peacefulness of most of the kids in Kodiak still being in school and not on Christmas vacation, yet. We spent almost 2 hours at the library on Tuesday. Joshua has been learning how to find books on his own. He knew to look in the E (Easy) section for M (author Bill Martin) to find Chicka, Chicka, Boom, Boom. So I sent Joshua off on his own to find some books while Daniel and Megan and I played with the puzzles and dominoes and read many stories.

Joshua's pen-pal sent a him a new pen in the mail this week. Joshua used it to write in his journal.
In our literature unit we completed a lesson based on The Velveteen Rabbit. In the above picture, Joshua is drawing a picture of his Ruffy - his favorite stuffed animal that he has had for a long time.

This week for Math, Joshua studied items that are heavy, light and weigh the same.

Last week's science unit focused on the food pyramid. The lesson was a bit on the light side, as far as teaching him about healthy food choices. On Wednesday I took the kids with me to the commissary to get groceries. Joshua brought along a copy of the food pyramid and identified some items that belong in each of the food groups.

This week's science lesson began a unit about conservation and recycling. We talked about different ways we recycle - passing clothes down through each of the kids and then passing them on to other families, newspapers, cans, eating leftovers. We also talked about conserving our resources - turning off the water when we brush our teeth, getting everything at the grocery store on one day instead of running to the store every day. (Incidentally, I asked Joshua what it meant to "conserve" and he answered, "it's what the waitress does when she brings us our food". ) We read a really cool story about recycling crayons and that if we melted down our broken crayons and made them into new crayons, it would be a great way to recycle. Joshua was all about making new crayons from our old ones, so began our crayon-making experiment.

We sorted the crayons by color, and then mixed some of the like-colored crayons together to make some blended crayons. We baked them in the oven at 250 degrees F for about 10 minutes or so. After they cooled, we popped them out of the aluminum muffin cups. They came out pretty cool. Joshua decided they would make a great Christmas present for his pen-pal. Joshua helped me make a box out of craft sticks to put the crayons in.

Then I turned him lose with the glue and sticks and he created a really cool sculpture. It looks like just a mess sitting on the table, but now that the glue is all dry, it is hanging in Joshua's room and looks great!

We did many Christmas crafts this week, but most of the are presents for our extended family, so no pictures until after Christmas!

We got our Nutcracker video yesterday. We've probably watched it about 5 times since getting it. Megan loves it. At first she was very upset because there wasn't a picture of the actual Nutcracker on the front of the video. During her part of the video, the sound gets really loud for a second or two. I think I'll get the Sunday afternoon DVD to see if it is a better taping of her performance. She likes to watch the video and then she dances around the living room to everyone else's dance.
We are going to take a couple of days next week to finish up some units, so we don't leave anything hanging for after Christmas break.
We tried to watch Happy Feet on movie night, but I couldn't get past the first 10 minutes of it. I found it to be slightly annoying and pretty inappropriate for kids (seriously, the penguins had attitude). So we watched Pete's Dragon instead. That's one of our favorites.
We were playing play-doh a couple of nights ago and Daniel was making circles out of his play-doh. I asked him if he knew what shape it was (he didn't). But Joshua answered and then showed me his shape - he said, "look Mom, I made South America.". : )
I'm just a little disappointed, since in some of the past years, the Coast Guard has issued orders before Christmas. Now it looks like we might not hear anything until mid-February.

Gingerbread House

Let me start by saying this would have been more successful if we actually had more candy in our house! So we had to settle for some red and green sprinkles and marsmallows. The kids didn't notice the lack of decorations for the gingerbread house, they had fun and ate a good amount of marshmallows and icing.
Daniel was all about the marshmallows.

Megan's about to eat more marshmallows.

The finished project.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Dec 2006 - Watching them grow is so much fun!

Keith has been working on sorting and organizing our family photos on the external hard drive. We spent some time laughing at some pictures of the kids. It's amazing how much they've grown in one year. To make up for my lack of pictures all week - I thought I'd share some from our trip this time last year.
Megan is such an intersting person. She's fearless one minute, as seen here following Joshua up the climber. Then the next minute everything makes her cry.

Joshua, Keith and I played mini-golf together. It was fun. Joshua is quite good at it.

Our trip to Sea World was wonderful. We were appreciative of their Hero Salute program, which allowed us free admission to the park. We brought Grandma along with us. Surprisingly, the kids enjoyed a few shows. We really had fun in the children's play area.

Megan dressed herself that day.

There were not many children playing in the water that day. The weather was in the 70's - perfect for us!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Dec 2006 - Fun in Florida

My mom (the kids call her Nana) lives in a retirement community. So instead of staying at her place during our visit, we all stayed together at a hotel on the beach. It was fun swimming in the ocean and collecting shells. We enjoyed dozing in the hammock at Keith's parents house (to clear up confusion - we refer to them as Grandma and Grandpa). It is fun watching the squirrels run around in the trees up above the hammock.

We were invited by Shirley to go to the public libary for story time. It was amazing, there were stories, songs, a puppet show, stamps, cookies and coloring tables. The kids all had such a good time. Here is Megan coloring with Daniel and Joshua (Ruben and Shirley's little boy) in the background. We are so excited to be moving closer to such great friends. Shirley and I worked together as nurse's aides while we were finishing nursing school. Ruben and Keith went to high school together, and Ruben was the best man in our wedding.

Another great outing was the day we drove race cars. Here are Joshua and Grandpa with their serious faces on.

Megan and Grandma getting ready to race.

Poor Daniel, he's too small to race. But we did ride around the track together. I was just real careful about staying away from the other cars so we wouldn't bump too hard. He did enjoy the ride.

We really enjoyed our trip to the zoo. The trip to the zoo was one of the first outings we went on when we got to Florida. Megan was really unsure about the squirrels running around.

Megan playing at the indoor playground at the world's largest McDonalds. This McDonalds actually has a second area to order food from that is not McDonalds food. There are real deli sandwiches and salads with actual vegetables in there. It was a pleasant surprise.

If Daniel were able to speak in full sentences back then I'm sure he would be saying, " Seriously Ronald, can we talk about maybe getting some better food choices?"