Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Feel Like I'm a Slug

(you should hear the music of Bad Company playing to this title)
Its the post holidays blahs, probably Seasonal Affective Disorder, but I feel bloated and bleak. Days of eating rich foods and lots of cookies are catching up with me. The scale was kind, I'm still in my normal range, but it feels like its time to get back on track. This purpose of this post is really just to encourage myself, but I'd love to hear any comments or suggestions.

I need to get back into my exercise routine. I do exercise videotapes in the morning. It used to be every morning but lately its dropped from 3 times a week to twice a week. I love my Pilates tape, I think its done more to shape and strengthen me than any of the weight workouts and tapes I've used over the past decade or more. I'd really love to start a walking program but it seems too logistically difficult for me. Right now I'm pretty satisfied with dancing around the living room.

I think I may need to revamp my 'nutritional program' i.e. what I eat. Generally, I'm pretty healthy, but I have slips. I find its easy to regulate my weight when I stick to my tried and true lunch -- 8 oz cup of lowfat yogurt and rice cake with a slice of processed cheese food. It usually fills me up, especially since I'm constantly interrupted by the kids. It usually requires me to eat some sort of snack in the afternoon, but thats okay. I think its probably better for me to eat several times a day -- I'm figuring I'm pre-diabetic though I have not been diagnosed such and my blood tests have always put me in the normal range. Both sides of my family have adult onset diabetes and if I eat too much sugar I get shaky (and have a strong urge to eat protein). Maybe everyone is like this, but I wonder if my body doesn't regulate sugar well. Who knows, but it seems harmless for me to take steps to avoid this fate. My mother (who is not diabetic) also wonders if there is a diabetic personality as her brother and my father who both have adult onset diabetes are a bit volatile. Since I am also that way, it seems I should work on curtailing this trait.

Anyway, I babble, but I'm basically trolling for comments here...

Dinner Ennui

Yes, its true, the magic of cooking dinner has somehow faded after nearly 10 years of cooking dinner for my family... I'm looking for some suggestions to rekindle the passion, but first, some parameters:

-- I am lazy -- this means I prefer pantry stable items like canned beans, jarred sauces, etc. I only grocery shop once a week, so fresh meat is not used often. I keep frozen chicken breasts in the freezer and have been known to cook ground beef and freeze it.

-- I have young children. This makes cooking a bit difficult. The best recipes seem to be those that bake for awhile or crockpot dishes -- I seem to have a hard time spending the last half hour before dinner cooking, but if I can spend the half hour earlier in the evening and then let the dish bake for awhile, its easier.

-- I prefer lower fat dishes, so I avoid those with lots of fattening ingredients in them like canned soups and cheese and sour cream.

Oh, heck, maybe I just hate cooking dinner, but I'm hoping if any of you out there could offer a recipe, cookbook or link that I might find something to perk me up.

Mama, I Did It!

My 2 1/4 year-old said this to me this morning, her longest sentence yet. She was playing with a Christmas toy that she's played with before, so I'm not sure the significance of what she did, but the sentence alone is resonating in my mind. I did it! What joy, what pleasure, to do something and then be able to tell others.

As a second-born, I don't always notice when Gabrielle hits a milestone, there are too many other things that distract me. Truthfully, its just not as exciting as with the first-born when you think 'wow, look what she did!' in amazement. With Gabrielle, I know she's going to do these things. However, she's not as verbal as her sister was, though she's much more mechanical. Actually, she's probably only a few months behind where her sister was verbally. Its nice to hear the sentences because I recall Suzanne telling me to 'stay inside' and 'sit on couch' when she was a bit younger and she wanted to go for an evening walk with her dad only and not with mom in tow.

I did it. It reminds me of the last line in Leo the Late Bloomer when Leo says triumphantly to his mother, "I made it." It makes me a bit sad because the culture not only seems not to value late bloomers, it seems driven to try to hasten their development. To me, this could be a recipe for disaster, but I am probably being overly dramatic. I just know that I hate being pushed and I can't imagine being 2 or 3 or 4 and being pushed to do something I didn't want to do or didn't feel ready to do.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Musical Legacy for Children

I was driving the car when a Tom Jones song came on the Oldies station on the radio. I remember hearing that song often as a child while my mother cleaned.

Blood, Sweat and Tears; Earth, Wind and Fire; Cat Stevens, Elvis, the Beatles (the pre-psychedelic years), Neil Diamond, John Denver, Simon & Garfunkel, and, unfortunately, Roger Whittaker -- this was the music of my childhood, the soundtrack to the clip show of my youth.

Our parents' music choice is reflected in our knowledge of pop culture. I remember once making a joke about a dish I'd made that had sage and rosemary in it, all it was missing was parsley and thyme. A friend of mine looked blank and another friend explained it was a reference to a Simon & Garfunkel song. She shrugged it off, her parents are younger than mine and didn't listen to S&G, they were fans of the Doors and probably other groups with which I'm generally unfamiliar. My husband's parents are older than mine, we hear a lot of big band music when we're visiting.

I'm wondering about the musical legacy I'm leaving my children. Billy Idol, Madonna and the Bodeans are in our stereo, along with children's music (Music Together, Barney, Raffi). They Might Be Giants is frequently played in the car. Sometimes we listen to Classical music in the car as I find it soothing in traffic and it sometimes helps the girls drift off to sleep. My hubby is a Jersey boy which makes him a Bruce Springsteen fan. A BIG Springsteen fan -- he's even from the same county as the Boss. Even thinks some of the songs on Tracks are good.

Lately we've been listening to Springsteen's album, The Rising, a good album but if you don't know the background of it, don't go looking into it (its disturbing, all about reactions to the 9/11 attacks). My kids love it. They LOVE it. The 2 year-old, who doesn't say much, constantly demands the Rising. "Rye-sing, Rye-sing" she shrieks in the car and at home. Luckily, we have a CD burner, so we're able to have copies in both locations. Then, my DH finds a video on the internet, shot during the tour in Barcelona. Oh, a concert video, I say (I'm not a fan of live music and couldn't care less about concert footage). "Yeah, a concert video" hubby says and roll his eyes like I just don't get it. "Its a SPRINGSTEEN concert video." Bruce jumps onto the piano at the end and I think hubby is going to explode. I just don't get it.

But what about my dear daughters? Do they get it? Will they get it? At what price? Should I stop this? I've got Classical Kids CD's to teach them about great composers -- Beethoven, Bach, Vivaldi, Mozart... (I realize purists might disdain these CDs as dumbing down the music).

Rye-sing, RYE-sing! At least you can dance to it.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

My New House

I've mentioned before that we are house-hunting. We aren't in a rush because we're fine in our current house, but it would be nice to have a bit more room and a better layout.

Our house is an unusual split level with the entrance on the living room level -- and thats all that is on that level, the living room. Upstairs from there are the bedrooms. Downstairs from the living room is an oversized walk-through dining room that leads to the kitchen (which has an eat-in area with a table). No hallway, just right into the dining room. Downstairs from there is a quarter-sized basement and a utility/workroom. Small but cozy.

Well, the dining room was driving me out of my mind, a huge room ringed with toys with a large table smack-dab in the middle, half of which was used for whatever junk I was putting on it. Of course it was a playroom, but we also ate dinner there. Well, as I was considering that the house would probably show better as a family room than as a dining room, it occurred to me that I'd rather live with it as a family room than as a dining room. So, we changed the light fixture, moved the table out and a couch in. Voila! A large, sunny, delightful family room. I am well pleased. I love my new house -- but we're still looking...

Learning Log -- December

Not too much to report this month. Suzanne (4 1/2) has been very interested in doing art projects and has asked for one almost every day-- she's painted, she's colored, she's painted and colored. I don't give her projects, I just ask her what she wants. I'm sort of anti-projects to the extent that I think its nice to let her choose what she wants without showing and telling her what to do, but I'm also lazy and don't feel like going to the trouble of setting up a project in which she may or may not be interested. Though she does enjoy that kind of art as well, but she gets that at Sunday school and library story time. One piece of note -- she received a stuffed dog and named it Fetch. She decided to make a house for Fetch. Luckily I'm a sloppy pack-rat who keeps boxes and paper towel tubes and sundry items on hand in case they are needed, but frankly, I like the look of empty boxes cluttering up my hallways... I showed her various boxes and she made some choices and started coloring Fetch's house. After that, she wanted to make a blanket under which Fetch would sleep. Now, while I don't set up activities for her, I'm always reading preschool activity books so I have ideas floating around in my head. One of these ideas is for weaving paper and I suggested to Suzanne that she could do that and thats how she made Fetch's blanket.

We've read books -- lots of Magic School Bus Books. I'm a member of the Scholastic Book Club so we always have new books coming into the house. I figured the MSB books were a good buy because she loves them and the library copies are all pretty worn. However, I don't really enjoy reading them, they exhaust me. As to other books, I enjoyed Squirrel and John Muir by Emily McCully, but I don't know that Suzanne got much out of it. Beautiful watercolors of Yosemite. Another book we enjoyed is Frida, about the artist, its a bit intense but Suzanne liked it.

My 2 year old, Gabrielle, has been enjoying the video Richard Scarry's ABCs and she seems to be picking up some letters. I'm a big believer in learning by video. Suzanne learned the ABC song from I don't know where, but she was watching lots of PBS (bad Mommy) and I think Barney may have had something to do with it.

Which reminds me, we all enjoy Mister Roger's Neighborhood. Its calm and soft and soothing and has wonderful piano music in the background throughout. Its pretty interesting as there is often a short video detailing how something is produced in a factory (it was toilets today, but we've seen apple juice, fig bars, paper bags...). If not that, then they might examine music or artwork. The land of make-believe might be a bit much for adults, but I think the kids really like it because much of their world is their own make-believe.

We've been listening to Classical Kids CDs, when Gabrielle is not screaming for Bruce Springsteen (more on that in a future post). I really like these, they overlay a story onto the music of a particular composer. We especially like Mozart's Magic Fantasy based on his opera The Magic Flute. We've been listening a lot to the Christmas album put out by Classical Kids, it has a lot of Christmas lore on it and explains the genesis of some of the songs and traditions.

Finally, just a bit of truth in advertising -- these Learning Logs encapsule about 15 minutes or less of each day. While our home life is fairly pleasant, it isn't all sunniness and sitting around reading. I'm no paragon of patience, I lose my temper constantly and yell a lot. But there are these little moments in the day, and thats what I choose to write about. But there will be a future post on my parenting style, which I've dubbed Old Testament parenting.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention playing Dominoes, playing with stickers (great for fine motor development) and all things ballet (DVDs, books).

Friday, December 17, 2004

Encouraging Children

No, I'm not talking about how I encourage my children, this is a story of how my 4 1/2 year old was trying to encourage me.

It started when I was cleaning up the pieces of a magnetic puzzle we keep on our refrigerator. I decided to put the puzzle together but it took some thinking because the images weren't all oriented in the same direction. After I finished she told me, 'I knew you could do it' (I tell her this when I've denied her assistance with some task and she does it on her own). I thanked her for encouraging me. She asked what encouragement means [excuse me, no I don't want to install software from CrazyWinnings...gosh, you'd think the marketers would come up with a more palatable title for their website] and I bumbled out some definition and examples. She must have gotten the general idea that 'you can do it' is encouraging.

Later that day when I was on the computer, Suzanne kept popping by saying 'you can do it, mama.' Well, I could do it, if you'd stop interrupting me...

[P.S. No porn pop-ups since our last installation of super adware zapper, but we still get some ads. Can I tell you how glad I am to see that they're for mortgage refinancing? BTW, no one commented on my film reference to Japanese steel...I'm disappointed.]

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Locked in a Battle of Good and Evil

Its happened, the hard-core porn pictures are now popping up in some of the ads. We've put various shields and defenses on the computer and are constantly working on adding new ones. Apparently, the dark forces have also stepped up their battles. My DH told me a few days ago there was a bare-breast ad when he was about to shut the computer down at night. I thought, well, its nighttime, so maybe there is some sort of decency to this nastiness. Nope, its 9am and there is porn popping up (I don't know, is it porn, looks like stuff from Penthouse. Is Penthouse porn?). Porn doesn't freak me out, when I was interning at a prosecutor's office, there was a computer seized by the feds and we got to see the kinds of stuff that fall below 'contemporary community standards,' really sad, pathetic stuff, not exciting, not erotic. Makes you wonder about the people in it -- how poor, abused, drugged are these poor pathetic souls who are photographed in sexual acts with animals (below community standards, remember)? Sad.

Usually, I see the ad header on the bottom of my screen and I can just right click it and close it without it opening.

No, now its popping up and I can't close it. These girls look like they could be in junior high. I'm telling you, this is how a Republican president gets re-elected. People are sick of this and they are looking to blame someone. It gets all twisted somehow. Porn on the computer leads to outrage about gay marriage. Improbable? Unfortunately not. People like me don't pay much attention to politics. We're not interested, we figure they are all liars anyway, we just want to be left alone to live and love and blog. Porn starts popping up on our computer, in our home, and we wonder what happened to values, to decency. Well, we all know how the reds rode values to victory.

Now, where can I get Japanese steel?

Light in the Darkness

I've been feeling cranky recently about the crassness of Christmas and my DSL Hell, but I am so lifted by everyone's helpful comments and suggestions. Thank you all -- just knowing that someone is out there listening and willing to offer help and/or support makes a big difference to me. It restores my faith in people.

My DH is on the task of figuring out the new set-up. Right now, I'm busy trying to learn legislative monitoring -- its fun and interesting and exciting, but its about all my brain can handle which is why I'm moaning about my e-mail problems and not rolling up my sleeves and figuring it out. That and internet shopping -- I refuse to go to the malls, I don't even want to be out on the streets. Its ironic in this season of 'good will towards men' , but nothing makes me hate my fellow man more than driving around the crowded, crazy streets filled with people and cars in a holiday stress frenzy. I'd rather be a hermit and read the comments on my blog! I must confess that I did go to the mall once, for the Clinique bonus gift at Lord and Taylor (awesome lipstick colors and I'm loving this thick, rich body butter lotion -- heavy but not greasy). Anyway....where was I? Yes, ranting about commercialization and consumerism (buy Clinique). Ha, its like a pop-up.

I've been feeling like my struggles with the internet are a parable for my life. My children are like pop-ups, I'll be cruising along with a task or on the phone, and up they pop, demanding my attention and often, the phone. No, sweetie, you can't talk on the phone its not your Daddy its our new young priest (don't want to get the poor guy de-frocked before he's even ordained).

Anyway, I was feeling really stressed the other day, wondering if Paxil might be in my near future, when I figured out that just keeping AOL for a couple of months might alleviate some of that stress, so I'm still on the AOL accounts and will be for a couple of months. The msn and verizon accounts are also active, I just don't have the patience to open them.

Monday, December 13, 2004


I can't believe this -- not only do I get tons of annoying pop-ups (one in particular,, opens about six windows each time it comes up), further evidence that MSN hates me is that its blocking the stuff I do want to receive -- e-mails from my hubby and the yahoo groups in which I'm a member. Its a world gone mad -- soft porn pops up unwanted on my screen, but e-mails from my husband are put in the junk folder? Head to the hills, society is going down the tubes.

Friday, December 10, 2004

DSL Hell

For Christmas, my hubby got us DSL and I just installed it yesterday. As with everything, there is a painful learning curve. The nice thing about DSL is that its fast and presumably people can reach me by phone even while I'm blogging (of course, I don't want to be interrupted even by my children, why I'd want to take a phone call is beyond me...)

Anyway, we got DSL through Verizon and it comes with MSN. We plan to close our AOL account by the end of the month so I'm currently trying to set up new e-mail accounts. Of course, I'm confused as to whether I should be setting up verizon accounts or msn, or both. On top of that, just as I figure out one thing, I start to get errors. For instance, I set up our primary e-mail account (for those of you who use that, the name is the same but its now and/or -- I've set up both). Okay, fine, now for the other accounts, such as where I get my digests for the homeschooling yahoo groups in which I'm a member. Can't do it, it won't let me, I go through the whole set up and get an error message. I don't know claims to have internal errors. I have internal errors, get over it.

Well, I set up for my blog e-mail and comment notices. This should be a smooth switch, if you want to e-mail me and don't know my other accounts, just go to my profile and click on e-mail and that should work.

The biggest pain -- these brightly colored, fast moving pop-up ads. I try to turn them off, but it doesn't seem to work. The nice thing about DSL, apparently, is that even when I'm not on-line, I can get the annoying pop-ups. I try virus scan and spyware scan but Internet Explorer has it in for me. I don't even know why thats on our machine, I don't use it to my knowledge, though it seems I might need it in the background to do something (sort of like a husband, but like a husband, I'm finding it more annoying than useful).

Anyway, this whole DSL experience is the best preventative for divorce and remarriage. Remarriage is probably like upgrading your system, you think it will be better and faster and you'll get more use out of it. Sure, it starts out bright and fast and then you realize its more trouble than its worth and you really liked how the old system worked better.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Finishing Genesis

I started reading the book of Genesis three years ago when I took a Bible study on the Pentateuch, the books of Moses. I missed the first meeting and the lesson about how the Israelites came to be in Egypt. I decided to get the whole story and started with the beginning of Genesis (redundancy is funny). Recently, I picked up where I left off so long ago, with the death of Rachel, and I finished the book in a few weeks.

Funny aside -- I had a friend at work who is Jewish and I recall him telling me about the play Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat. Being a Biblically illiterate Christian, I kept wondering why he was interested in the story of Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus. Ohhh...different Joseph.

As you may know, Joseph was one of the sons of Jacob (Israel) and was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers for he was his father's favorite. What did I learn from Joseph's story?
  • If God chooses to prosper you, you will prosper regardless of where you are -- even in jail.
  • Bad things can happen to those God chooses to prosper, e.g. they can be thrown into jail for no wrongdoing on their part (e.g. the false accusations of the boss's lustful wife).
  • People are fickle (pharoah restores the cupbearer but executes the baker).
  • You must be patient (Joseph waited two more years in prison because the cupbearer forgot him despite his promise).
  • Strange things happen and we don't know why but the Lord God is sovereign.
  • Be glad in your prosperity and in your ability to help others and always realize it is because what God has done for you and not what you have done for yourself.

The story of Joseph is in Genesis Chapters 39 - 50.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

The Magic School Bus books

The Magic School Bus is a series of books and a television show that addresses science in a story format. This is important to me as I find science textbooks and non-fiction writing to be deadly dull (and my father is still upset about the C+ I earned in Earth Science as a high school freshman. Did I mention I got an A in phyics? No, he doesn't care about that.) Anyway, science stories are far more appealing to me. The MSB is set in a school classroom with a very enthusiastic teacher who is always taking her kids on fantastical fieldtrips to learn about science subjects on a bus that is able to do all sorts of amazing things -- so there is a strong dose of fantasy with regard to the trips they take. I'm not thrilled about the school setting, being a homeschooler, and some of the kids are a bit snotty, but its not too bad. The science covered in each book is interesting and digestible, at least to me.

There are several kinds of Magic School Bus books -- I believe the originals were simply books by Joanna Cole. Later, a series of television shows were made and there are some MSB books based on episodes of the show and not written by Joanna Cole. Being an anti-television snob, I automatically assumed I'd prefer the Joanna Cole books, those being 'pure' and not an adaptation of a TV show. Well, I actually prefer the adaptation book. The original Magic School Bus books are very distracting to me -- there is the text of the story, dialogue and thought bubbles within the illustrations, and 'school reports' on the sidelines. There is a lot to look at and read on each page and thats very unsettling to me. I think it might be appealing to the more kinesthetic learner because it allows the eye to jump all around the page whereas such a learner might find the more traditional picture book a bit boring. In the adaptation books, there is a lot less going on -- there is text and fewer thought/dialogue bubbles but there aren't reports sprinkled throughout, simply one report at the back of the book after the end of the story.

The MSB is expanding with different kinds of books. There are chapter books which we have not read because I think they might be too much for us. There are also readers which are simpler than the original series. The stories might be a bit too simple, but there are lots of little fact reports that give it some substance. I think my favorites are the TV adaptation books.

We have not seen any of the TV shows or videos. I don't think our PBS affliates carry the shows, I wouldn't mind seeing some, but I suspect Suzanne might be a bit young.

Learning Log -- Thanksgiving and Volcanoes

We read a number of books about Thanksgiving, which I really enjoyed. One of the reasons I want to homeschool is the purely selfish reason that I want to learn all of these things again, many of them for the first time. When I have more time, I plan to update this post by listing the books we read about Thanksgiving.

Suzanne loves Reading Rainbow which is a half-hour show that comes on once a week. The last episode we saw was about volcanoes and was set in Hawaii. The episode showed volcanoes and discussed how they occur and what causes and eruption and how the lava over many years eventually becomes fertile soil. Suzanne became interested in volcanoes as a result of this and asked that I get some books from the library. The first book I got was about Pompeii and my husband chuckled at me, thinking it a rather gruesome subject for a child. Hey, he won't be laughing when she tells his parents all about Mount Vesuvius. I plan to update this with a book list.

The girls have also been playing with construction paper, crayons, scissors and glue. Suzanne, now 4 1/2 is quite adept with the scissors. Its nice to see her fine motor skills developing, it reassures me that someday, when she is ready, she will have the muscle control to write letters. Kids are interesting, Suzanne amazes me with her reading, but unlike the other children her age, she does not write letters of the alphabet (and I don't ask her). Sometimes I worry, but I'm either so full of faith that children will learn and progress when they are ready or I'm extremely lazy and cannot be bothered with working with her on her skills. I'll take the former explanation.

I do worry about my unschooling style but I remind myself that its not really for me that we are taking this approach, it seems like it suits Suzanne best. If I ask Suzanne questions or try to get her to do something she doesn't want to do, she resists. Though I notice she'll answer questions from other people -- a clue to the potential for power plays with mommy. I'll simply frame this as her independent nature.