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Preview: The Peanut Butter and Jelly Chronicles

The Peanut Butter and Jelly Chronicles



At a stage in my life where routine rules my day and I methodically create PB&J sandwiches in assembly line style, I struggle to find time to take notice of, ponder and share the intricacies of life.



Updated: 2016-01-16T22:58:02.358-06:00

 



Clearing Out the "Edit Posts" List

2008-08-26T13:48:20.884-05:00

I have sat down and started about 5 blog posts over the past 2 weeks, but none have managed to flourish into completion. Being a bit disappointed in myself for not maintaining my personal goal of at least one post per week, I am going ahead and posting this complete stream of consciousness entry.So what were those other posts going to be about? Here is the low-down...Baby Whale tried to nurse boats in Australia....brought back many memories of nursing our children. I found it very sad that this little newborn was so desperately trying to latch-on and aren't all newborns as clueless about their surroundings? Put just about anything in front of them and they will suck it; just ask any new parent's finger if this is true.Mother Gorilla mourns dead baby .... The mother did not want to give up the corpse of her dead baby that died from a suspected heart defect. Many people doubt whether animals have any parental feelings beyond instinct, but perhaps humans are too far removed from parental instinct. It is especially evident when there are so many instances of child neglect, like this recent story about an 11-month-old that died of starvation and dehydration.The last news story that I started to post about was (surprisingly) not about animals, but about The Recent Immunization Debate that seems to be going on day-in and day-out over at MSNBC.Lax vaccinations causes whooping cough outbreak -- linkVaccines cause autism -- linkVaccines are not linked to autism -- link (the above to articles are older but referenced heavily)Aug. 21- Non-vaccinating causes more measles -- linkAug. 22- Non-vaccinated kids pose a health risk to everyone -- linkAug. 25- Our kids shouldn't play together -- linkWhere do I even start with this one? I, for one, am cautiously suspicious of vaccinations, but our children have had the shots on the infant/toddler schedule. They have not had any of the school age booster shots.I imagine that if I had been more informed about the dangers of the shots and the actual effectiveness (or should I say ineffectiveness) of immunizations, we may have chosen a different route, but either way, there is no reason for parents to be in such an uproar and battling it out over this.Don't we all do the best we can to take responsibility and make intelligent decisions for our children? Are any of us so confident in our daily choices that we want to force our decisions onto other parents?This is simply a great way for MSNBC to maintain their readership. Get everyone to take a side then maintain this perpetual debate.So those are the thoughts and perspectives that have been swimming around in my head recently and now that they are out of the way, I can now post about what has been occupying my time since last Monday.....But now I am out of time again and I need to get up and chase my naked 2-year-old!I'll be back later, I'm determined![...]



"Easy" Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

2008-08-13T08:14:19.861-05:00

I have never posted a recipe before, but this is an easy favorite of mine. Cooler weather will hopefully be arriving soon and soup is great when it's cold outside.

"Easy" Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

  • 46 oz can of tomato juice
  • 2 cups (1 pint) heavy whipping cream*
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter*
  • 5-6 tomatoes
  • 3-5 cloves of garlic (add this to suit your preference)
  • Fresh Basil
  • salt and pepper to taste
* This is what the original recipe calls for. I have only made it like this two times and it was, of course, delicious, but lets get real folks, how much milk-fat does one family need?! I usually substitute half-and-half for the cream and margarine for the butter. (I once tried it with fat-free half-and-half, but it was not very good. Fat-free is mostly corn syrup.)

1. Peel and seed the tomatoes. (There is a learning curve on peeling and seeding tomatoes, but once you get it, it's not a big deal. Here is an instructional video just in case.)

2. Simmer together tomatoes, tomato juice, butter and garlic for about an hour and a half. (I often throw this into the crockpot and cook on high for 3-4 hours. That way I don't have to monitor it and I can instead monitor the children!)

3. Remove heat and allow soup to cool. Put mixture into a blender, add 6-7 leaves of fresh basil and blend together. (This is where a hand-held blender comes in quiet handy. I use mine to blend the soup right in the cooking pot. You still should wait until it has cooled a bit because scalding hot soup splattered up your arm is not pleasant.)

4. Return soup to pot and add cream, simmer for an additional 30 minutes. (Again, you can put this together in a crockpot on low for about an hour and not have to worry about it.)

5. Serve and enjoy.

Looking over the recipe now, I realize that perhaps it is not as easy as I thought. Maybe I have just made it so many times that it seems to require little effort. Hopefully you will give it a try and let me know in the comments how it works out.

BTW - ALL of our kids, even our very pickiest eater, eat and enjoy this soup. I usually add crackers or bread to thicken-up our toddler's bowl. He isn't all that great at spooning liquids.



A Wedding, a Bit of Confusion and the Summer is Over

2008-08-11T20:42:22.665-05:00

I suppose the summer is drawing to a close. The public schools have started back and I am just beginning to see a tinge of red in a few leaves on the Bradford Pear tree that waves to our bedroom window each day. We rounded out our very busy summer with an annual New Hampshire visit. This year we journeyed in August so that our trip would coincide with my sister-in-law's wedding. Stacey Elizabeth Holland married Christopher Joseph on Saturday, August 2, 2008 on Bear Island in Meredith, NH. What a beautiful bride and a beautiful wedding!But, I must admit that the ceremony's procedure created a bit of temporary confusion in our four-year-old's mind - Let me explain....Setting: The lake side home of Barney and Bettyanne Holland, bright flowers adorn every walkway and the weather is pleasantly warm and sunny. Sunshine filters through the pines and the water sparkles.Scene: Standing on a prominent rock, about 3-feet over the guests are the groom and his best man. The wedding music plays as the wedding party walks down a path. First, toddler Henry is lead by his daddy and brings flowers to the mother of the bride and of the groom. Next appear the two lovely flower girls, Elora Holland and her cousin Erin. They are followed by two young ring bearers, 7-year-old Corbin and 4-year-old Jacob. The boys took their job of carrying the rings very seriously. Corby told them that if they dropped the rings, Aunt Stacey would not be able to get married. We were so happy that all of our children could participate in their aunt's wedding!Next appears the matron of honor holding a beautiful bouquet of flowers. (Yes, I was the matron of honor but I still can't get over the word matron. It just sounds so....well, you can imagine!.) Last, the radiant bride is escorted by her father and the wedding begins. The rock we were standing on was very large, probably more than 100 square feet of surface area, so there was plenty of room to stand on, but I must admit that during the ceremony I was mostly concentrating on not falling. The rock was pretty uneven and you know I just had to wear those cute little bronze heels instead of hiking boots which would have given me a lot more traction! Despite my balancing act, I still got a little emotional when Stacey echoed "Where you go, I will go. Where you stay, I will stay." Even now the words move me.Back to the wedding: The ceremony is complete and the bride and groom kiss. He escorts her down the rock.Here is the tricky part.The best man (Chris' friend Dave) turns and takes the matron of honor's arm (that's me) and he escorts her down the rock and follows the bride and groom. The guests are excited, but as the wedding party departs they quiet. Just at that moment the four-year-old exclaims, rather loud for all to hear - "Did Mommy just marry another man?!?"Poor Jacob! Could he have really thought I was getting married too! Needless to say, there were many helpful and somewhat snickering family members to help clear-up his confusion.Despite my failed attempt to acquire a second husband (darn-it), we really enjoyed our little vacation. It was a great way to close a busy summer of swim-team and home repairs. Now it's on to soccer and school.[...]



A Very Busy Summer So Far

2008-06-08T17:20:51.443-05:00

It's been well over a month since my last post, but we have been very busy and we remain extremely so!

In early May we spent a wonderful week meeting and visiting with my father's side of the family in Destin, Florida. The beach was beautiful and the kids loved playing in the ocean, but none of that compared to the precious time we were able to spend with family from all over the country. Who would have guessed that so many people who had never met would have so much in common and be so much alike! In the end we all went our separate ways, but I hope our reunion becomes a regular event because we miss everyone dearly.

As soon as we returned home we jumped back into Corbin's baseball season with a game the day after our drive. Uncle V. arrived a few days later for a week long stay and Elora's dance recital. The recital went very well and I was impressed by many of the dancers' abilities. This is our first year participating in the evening performance, so there were even adult dancers in some of the classes.

After our company departed for Pennsylvania, with dance class wrapped-up and baseball coming to a close we moved into the summer swim team season. This year we have two swimmers, but unfortunately the practice daily at two different times! Needless to say, I typically spend all of my weekday mornings at the pool.

While the kids focus on their sports and activities, Corby and I are working hard to fix-up our rental house in order to sell it.

People warned us that renters will trash your house but we were not prepared for some of the strange and destructive things they did to our property. Were these people crazy? I think they were trying to re-mulch our flower beds with cigarette butts and cat litter! Gross!!

We have spent every spare hour painting over nail polish marks on the walls and ripping-up pet stained and smelly carpet. We did get quotes from handymen and painters, but needless to say, nothing saves money like doing it yourself....yay.

On top of all of this, Corby committed himself way back, early in the spring, to a Shakespeare on the Mountain theater production, and because his performances start next weekend, practices are almost every night.

This all stand to reason why the PB&J Chronicles have been a little quiet, but I hope to squeeze in some blogging time this summer so keep checking for updates!



The Mosquito That Rings In Your Ear

2008-04-29T22:41:34.270-05:00

A particular news story has been ringing in my ears this week, perhaps you have also heard about The Mosquito.

A new device dubbed The Mosquito is being reported as a revolutionary teen loitering deterrent. This small box with a $1500 price tag is designed to be affixed to a location and emit a high frequency sound that is supposedly heard only by teenagers. Its makers at kidsbegone.com claim that this sound is merely annoying and drives the young, would-be vagrants to a "quieter" location.

Curious as to what this "mosquito buzzing in your ear" may actually sound like, I did a quick Google search and found a few links that are supposedly the same sound amplified by the device.
When I played the Mp3 at a low volume, I was unable to hear the sound, but after cranking the dial up I was indeed able to hear a high pitched ringing sound, that in no way resembled the sound of an insect. Imagine instead the high pitched ring that resonates in your ears after spending hours at a loud concert or perhaps after being too close to fireworks on Fourth of July.

Interested in whether my husband could hear the sound, I played it a few times more. My daughter, who is nine, could hear the sound at a very low volume as could my seven year old son, our four year old even came into the room to ask us to please "turn off the alarm".

The kids all complained that the sound was too loud and, to my shock and surprise, they said that it hurt their ears.

I understand the frustration of businesses and property managers when teenagers decide that their stoop is a great new hang-out, but using a method of control that is indiscriminate in who it drives away is a terrible idea. More importantly, we have no research into what prolonged exposure may do to young children, who are definitely able to hear this sound. Fortunately, there are other people who share this view and are taking action.

This new invention also offers us a opportunity to consider how adults and teens are interacting.

I find it a bit disconcerting that adults would prefer the anonymous communication provided by a technological sound box as opposed to an actual conversation with teenagers or their parents. I have no doubt that teens can be difficult to reason with, but perhaps they would be better suited for adulthood if we actually began to teach them to interact with adults in a mature manner when they are young.

Our society seems to view adolescence as a complete vacation from reality, authority, and responsibility. Now, thanks to this new automated dog whistle, we can add human communication to that list!!!

If you would like to listen to those high-pitched frequencies, here is a link and an article explaining a bit of the science here, but be aware that prolonged listening can aggravate your ears.




No One Said It Was Going To Be Easy

2008-03-27T07:31:53.436-05:00

Today, while reading a post about new parenting over at Cafe Asteria, I found it interesting how quickly new parents become seasoned veterans in their own right. A few months of parenting may not entitle you to write a book or give parenting advice on a daytime talk show, but after one week with an infant, there are quite a few tasks that you begin to master to perfection.

Trial and error, and repetition, and repetition, and repetition, and repetition, slowly evolve the uneasy and inexperienced parents into trained diapering and swaddling machines. The nervous insecurities melt away into confidence and proficiency. What a wonderful feeling!

But, here's the rub...

As soon as you acquire your black-belt in midnight feeding, it is time for your baby to sleep through the night. And just when you earn your Olympic gold medal in changing a diaper on your lap in a car, it is time to potty train. You can even memorize all of the names and numbers of the Thomas the Tank engines, much to your toddler's pleasure, but in a few years it won't even matter because he will have moved onto something different.

It becomes more and more difficult to maintain that wonderful feeling of knowing exactly what to do to care for a child, because the older they get, the more complicated that job becomes.

Moms and dads struggle to stay on top of the ever changing parenting terrain by learning new tricks, adapting old techniques and forgetting some skills all together. We fight the early childhood battle of "just keeping them alive" and later move into the vast gladiator arena of trying to "teach them to be good people without screwing them up".

Parents must constantly gauge and assess their children in order to figure out what to do next. We read books and research. We ask questions and try new things. We attempt to manipulate any available aspect in life for their benefit, but it never feels like enough.

For me, that wonderful "good parent" feeling is nothing more than a distant memory, only replaced with uneasiness and doubt.

I look back on the infant era of colic and projectile spit-up and think "those were the good ol' days". Back then you knew where you stood with a child. If they were fed and asleep, you knew you had done your duty and you deserved a pat on the back.

Now when I go to bed every night I wonder, what strange and perplexing problem I will have to adapt to in the morning? What disturbing, unexplainable thing will I find broken, smelly or altogether missing? What questions will they ask me about life and what questions will I have to ask them? What if they don't tell the truth or if I catch them in a lie?

Each day brings new challenges, but perhaps what is even more worrisome than my infinitely imagined scenarios, is the idea that what if tomorrow is the day that I won't be able to figure out what to do?



You Know You're a Parent When...

2008-03-19T08:54:31.034-05:00

...you find yourself questioning a four-year-old as to why he was stashing two weeks worth of apple cores behind the couch.



You Know You're a Parent When...

2008-11-13T00:20:11.040-06:00

...nothing says good mornin' like a size 10 foot in your face!

(image)



The Grieving and Acceptance of My Health

2008-02-22T07:43:45.072-06:00

Yesterday, I was prescribed a medication that I will most likely have to take for the rest of my life. This morning I took that first pill and it went down quickly and easily, but my acceptance of this health condition has been a much harder thing to swallow.After going to my general practitioner last fall with complaints about heart palpitations, I was tested and it was revealed that I most likely had hypothyroidism, an endocrine disorder. Since then I believe that my feelings about this illness have progressed through the Kubler-Ross five stages of grief.DenialAngerBargainingDepressionAcceptanceDenial - When it was first suggested that I may have a thyroid problem, I was completely unconvinced. The author and patient advocate Mary J. Shomon wrote that most people have a vague idea that the thyroid is somewhere in your neck and that,"...when malfunctioning, [it] makes you gain weight and develop a goiter."I just couldn't accept that I was being diagnosed with the same illness that relegates people to a 300 pound body where they are so weak they have to ride the electric cart at the grocery store! I decided that the blood test must be wrong, or maybe I was just having an off day. When my doctor suggested I start taking a hormone replacement (the standard treatment) I flat out refused and he agreed that since my numbers weren't that bad, I could come back in four months and be tested again.I knew the test results just had to be different then.Anger-During that period of waiting, I began to research the causes of hypothyroidism and I began to get MAD.It seems that just about everything in the world, and more specifically things man made, have been linked to endocrine malfunction. Cosmetics, household cleaners, artificial flavors in food, food emulsifiers that enhance processing, wireless frequencies from cellphones and computers, fluoride and other chemicals in the tap water, all of these things have been shown to harm thyroid function.I believed that I had been wronged and I wanted someone to pay.Bargaining - I then decided that I was going to take control and fix myself.I thought that if I could change my diet or start the right exercise routine, than perhaps I could make this all go away. I started trying to lose weight (which is supposedly very difficult for someone who is hypo). I was able to bring my weight down from 160 to 145. I just knew that I was going to make everything better.I would cure myself of hypothyroidism.Depression - Last week, on Monday, I returned to my doctor for a new blood test. The nurse called me on Wednesday to tell my that my numbers were MUCH WORSE. I could hardly think on the phone when she told me that I would have to go on medication. I think that she sensed I was stunned and said she would schedule a consultation in one week and I could discuss my prescription with my doctor.So, for the past week I have been mopey and dismal. Frequently suggesting to my husband that I was probably not going live into old age. Asking him bleak questions about whether he was prepared to raise our children alone.I knew in the back of my mind that these assertions were unfounded, but my feeling was just one of general loss. I suppose I was mourning my youth and the more disturbing realization that I only have a limited amount of control over my health.Acceptance - Tuesday, the day before my doctor appointement I decided to quit whining and empower myself. I started reading websites and forums that discussed living with a thyroid condition (instead of just looking for a cause or a quick fix as I was before). I bought a book and read until 1 am. I prepared myself with questions to ask my doctor about the medication and outlook.I am very thankful to have a wonderful general practitioner who was willing to spend 15-20 minutes discussing things with me yesterday. He answered all o[...]



I Hate the Cat, I Hate the Dog....Oh wait, they're o.k. now

2008-11-13T00:20:11.338-06:00

As I was walking through the bedroom this morning, I was awoken from my morning stupor by the cold, wet sensation of cat, hair-ball puke slipping under my barefoot. I was surprised at how calm I remained as I scraped the offensive goop from between my toes and dutifully returned to clean the carpet.It then dawned on me that I have finally stopped hating our pets."Hating your pets? How could you!?", you may ask, but it was not always that way and I now believe that I have come full circle.When Corby and I were a child-free couple, we had many cats. One summer, after a litter of kittens were born, we housed seven cats. Over the years we gave a few away and some ran away, but we always had 2 or 3 at least. The cats were our children, until I became pregnant for the first time.While pregnant, I was surprised at how quickly our beloved cats went from fluffy balls of love to the most disgusting things in the world. The cat hair, cat puke, cat litter and the occasional "your laundry basket looks just like my litter box" accident all offended me to the point of wanting to get rid of all of the cats.After Elora was born, things seemed to settle down a bit. I think that cats can sense stress and really don't like the sound of a baby crying, so generally they all gave me a wide berth. The only remaining annoyance was that all those cozy, soft baby blankets looked just as cozy and soft to all of the cats. Countless times I would find a stack of newly washed baby items (we had no washer and dryer, so we used a laundromat) covered in cat hair, and that usually sent me over the edge.About four years later, living in a new house with a fenced yard, we decided to get an adorable puppy for our two children. Things were good for a while until I became pregnant with our third child. No one tells you that while pregnant you have a increased sensitivity to odor. I didn't even want to be in the same room with our dog now, who had grown to a hefty 70 pounds. It didn't help that our 1200 square foot house was beginning to seem a bit cramped.After Jacob was born, the amount of dog hair shed around the house quickly became the bane of my existence. Dog hair gravitates and adheres to snuggly, terrycloth baby sleepers especially as the baby squirms and crawls across the floor. I must admit that I am not the best house-keeper in the world, but the amount of hair our dog could produce was no match for our vacuum, in fact, we went through two vacuums during this time.I eventually trained our very smart, obedient dog, who had in many ways become the neglected step-child of the family, to not go into certain rooms of the house. Things were better because the hair wasn't everywhere, but when I became pregnant with our fourth child, I seriously thought that we should consider making the dog an "outside pet".Finally, a year and a half ago, we finally upgraded our house to one double the size. We now have about 2200 sq.ft. and a large fenced back yard. The dog stays in the kitchen and entry hall even though there are no gates to keep him out of the other rooms (I think that he has incurred my wrath over the years enough to know that it is better to stay under the radar). We have only one cat now, because when we moved our other cat decided to run away and return to our old house. We retrieved her once, but she ran away again and we couldn't find her thereafter.The pet situation has settled down now, but I guess it was never really a "pet situation" at all. I mean, the rest of the family always maintained a loving, fair relationship with all of the animals in the house. I suppose it was my crazy prenatal or postpartum hormones that made me so animal intolerant.If you take a minute to think about it, there is probably a primal explanation.I imagine that in primitive societies, animals posed a seri[...]



You Know You're a Parent When...

2008-11-13T00:20:11.994-06:00

You are painfully aware of the futility of trying to maintain or repair ANYTHING in a room shared by young boys.

(image) This torn wallpaper is actually worse behind the dresser! I probably would have taken it a lot harder had I been the one to decorate this room, but it came this way when we bought our house. It will serve until the boys are old enough to want to change it.
(image) Notice that this ceiling fan is not only missing a blade, but it's light globe is also long gone.(image) We should have known better than to put the boys' bunk-bed under the fan, but the room is pretty square and it was going to be within reach where ever we put it. The popcorn ceiling is also a daily casualty of the bunk-bed. Those little white buggers are all over the place; you would think it was snowing indoors!

Postscript: One of our three sons is solely responsible for the wallpaper, ceiling fan blade and the ceiling popcorn removal (breaking the light globe was a joint effort). Those of you who know our boys can probably guess which one has done all of this damage, those of you who don't know our sons can refer to this post to draw your own conclusion.




Take These Broken Dreams!

2008-01-24T14:32:55.798-06:00

Christmas, a Florida vacation and then the flu, I certainly have not been able to keep-up with everything with so much disruption in life. So, it came as no surprise to me when strange movies began to appear in the mailbox as a result of a long, neglected Netflix Que.

Haven't we all done this before?

I am sure at some point in my Netflix organizing, I had a good reason to put The Secret of My Success in my que, but I can't seem to remember why!

Watching a few of these golden oldies from the eighties got me to thinking about how our culture used to view the corporate business world as compared to today.

Secret of My Success, Trading Places, Working Girl, Wall Street, Baby Boom, just to name a few, are all examples of the idealism in which we once viewed the suit-and-tie, corporate boardroom lifestyle. Hollywood told us that anyone could make a fortune in the business world with just a little common sense and an assumed identity!

Do they even make movies like this anymore? I am hard pressed to think of any modern movies that similarly create the illusion of a "Get Rich Quick" corporate world.

What kind of fortune making schemes do Americans aspire to today? My best guess is that young people have transferred their adoration of the yuppie business world, to an adoration of celebrity life. Movies released over the past decade often revolve around the lives of celebrities, some fictionalized, for example: Notting Hill, Almost Famous, Americas Sweethearts, and American Dreamz. Not to mention television reality shows like American Idol.

In both of these cases, whether it is in a corporate office or on a stage, singing in front of thousands, the general theme is that fame and fortune can be easily acquired.

Isn't that the whole underlying idea that appeals to us lazy Americans?

Americans want it all, but they shouldn't have to work too hard or sacrifice anything.


Here is my list of 80's Businessman Get Rich Quick & Easy Movies
  1. Wall Street
  2. Trading Places
  3. Risky Business
  4. Working Girl
  5. Secret of My Success
  6. Baby Boom
  7. Big Business
  8. Big
  9. Mr. Mom (Teri Garr is a mom turned tuna fish advertising genius)
Please let me know if I forgot any!!



Back to Life, Back to Reality

2008-11-13T00:20:12.630-06:00

We are all trying to get back into our normal routine this morning after spending last week in Florida, camping and visiting Disney World. We all had a wonderful vacation; thank-you to Grandma and Grandpa Holland for the perfect Christmas gift!Eight of us shared a campsite in the Disney park at their Fort Wilderness and we visited 3 of their 4 theme parks: Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom. The weather was beautiful, the crowds were light, the lines were short and the food was delicious (just ask my bathroom scale!).Now I am beginning the difficult task of getting everything back into functioning order here at home. The kids have resumed their schoolwork this morning and there is swim practice and theater later this afternoon. There was very little downtime during our holiday break and this morning I have had to hit the ground running despite feeling a little groggy and hungover from the excess of fun and relaxation.Here are some pictures from our visit. Enjoy!Corby and the kids ride to the swimming pool with GrandmaWe were surprised by how much Henry loved the Disney CharactersGrandpa and Elora riding the bus back to camp for the little boys' naptime.The boys wait for the Epcot fireworks showI think the little boys ended up riding this over 10 times.All the kids loved Thunder Mountain Railroad, although Jacob did not want to ride it again because it was too wild. (click this photo for a better look at Jacob's expression!)[...]



The Case of The Smelly Trash Cans

2008-01-04T15:50:20.372-06:00

During the course of an average day at home with four young children, there are often strange mysteries that arise. Parents must often tap into crime-solving skills residually learned from watching the X-files, Law & Order and perhaps even the Spielberg classic Young Sherlock Holmes.Each day I am left wondering:Where did this come from? Who started this fight? How is this getting so dirty? Why does this keep getting moved? What is this thing?One of my proudest moments as a mommy sleuth involved a cellphone that had been missing for a few days (long enough to lose its charge) and a curious light left on in a closet. With no adult explanation for why the coat closet light was on, I knew that something was not quite right. After digging way back under a nest of jackets I discovered a three-year-old's cache of stolen items to rival any pirate's buried treasure, cell phone included.While I do spend most of my time trying to deduce who, what, when, where and how, there are rare times when I get to witness a criminal in the act. Last night was one of those nights.A few days ago, my suspicions had been aroused when I noticed that our bathrooms were particularly pungent. Now, don't get me wrong, I am not a great house keeper and with so many little boys in the house, there is usually a urine smell that underscores the overall odor of the two bathrooms that the kids use. But this smell was particularly strong, so I checked for the usual culprit, urine soaked underwear left on the floor after an accident. I found no such thing - Hmmmm, curious.I noticed the following day that the trash can seemed out of place, but only a bit. Very suspicious.Last night I was really clued in when I found the bathroom trash far from its cubby next to the toilet, in fact, it was in the middle of the floor. Upon further investigation, I discovered that there was pee (and a whole lot of it) filling the trash. AH-HA!My oldest son was getting ready for his bath and I immediately went into my line of questions.Me - "Have you been peeing in the trash can?"Corbin - "I don't think so. Maybe when I wasn't paying attention." (Corbin has a very short attention span, and I sometimes find him in the bathroom, totally engrossed in something, with his pants down, oblivious as to why he even went in there!)Me - "This isn't a little bit of pee. This isn't an accident. I don't think you could have done this without paying attention."While questioning my first suspect I had little time to pay much attention to our second oldest boy who had trotted into the bathroom to get undressed for his bath. In mid-interrogation, with the smoking-gun trashcan right in front of me, Jacob walked right up to it and calmly began to pee in the trash like it was the most natural thing in the world.Caught in the act!!!Looking back, I can relate to the gratification felt by wildlife biologists who spend years studying animals and then finally witnessing something never seen before. "Researchers have long speculated about the wild gorilla's mating habits, but now for the first time in history, scientists have seen...."This morning, Jacob proudly exclaimed, "Mom! Mom! I went to the bathroom and I didn't use the trashcan!" I am so proud.So, The Case of The Smelly Trash Cans has been closed (yes, trashcan is plural, this was happening in more than one). But despite getting a full confession, I never was able to ascertain a motive. Why was Jacob peeing in the trashcans? We may never know.[...]



Sweeney Todd at Monaco Pictures

2007-12-22T09:32:05.942-06:00

There is a brutal, uncomfortable cold making its way around our house. Henry has already had it and I am on my second day of stuffiness. Corby is just beginning to feel sick. We almost canceled plans we had made to go out last night, but at the last minute we decided to go ahead and see a movie.

We have been wanting to visit the new Monaco Pictures at Bridge Street in Huntsville, so we decided to go "all out" and paid online for the VIP balcony seats ($12 per ticket+$2 online fee). It was neat ordering on their website because their balcony seats are numbered and assigned just like in a playhouse. We choose AA4 and AA5.

Though this was the first time I had ever been to Bridge Street, I really didn't get to walk around much because, as usual, we were running a bit late for the movie. I could see the lit Carousel and bridge from where we parked, but I didn't see much else. I will go back for shopping some other time.

Monaco Pictures was definitely a unique theater experience. Downstairs in the lobby was a restaurant with a huge bar that glows red from underneath. An outside seating area included two fire places surrounded by modern, IKEA style sofas. A huge staircase winds toward the door, and upstairs is the Prive VIP area.

We made our way upstairs where we found another lit bar (this time blue) surrounded by more lounge-type furniture. We each ordered a drink, popcorn and Corby was a bit hungry so he ordered an appetizer-like chicken dish. All of this is allowed in the theater, even the alcohol (all of the upstairs seats are for ages 21 years and older) and since we were a bit late we went right in.

The seats in the balcony give you a large amount of leg room and the leather rockers are much wider than normal movie seats. Because we didn't quite know how to pick our seats, we were seated with a little wooden table between us, but if we had planned it right, we could have sat with a movable armrest in between us that would convert our seats into a love seat.

Overall, we had a great time. We saw Sweeney Todd, which we both loved, but would certainly not recommend to everyone.

After all was said and done, we ended-up spending around $60, which is actually about twice what we usually spend for a night at the movies. Next time we will try the "cheap seats"at $9 each, my guess is they will be just as good.



Long time, no blog!

2008-11-13T00:20:13.192-06:00

It has been such a long time since I last blogged! I must admit, feel a little guilty for petering out during the school year, but we have been very busy. Starting today, the kids are officially "off" from school for Christmas and I have a little more time than usual. Also, all of the kids' activities are on holiday hiatus, so that means no swim practice, dance class, theater, chess club, scout meetings or soccer. Hooray!I still have much to do to get ready for Christmas and our upcoming trip to Florida. I have to report that (again) our family yearbooks will not be finished in time for gift giving, but I assure you that I am still working on them and will make sure everyone who wants one gets one. (For those of you who are wondering what the yearbooks are, just imagine a year-in-review magazine featuring just our family.)A few topics to note:Elora and Corbin did very well in their first scholastic team chess tournament this school year. Corbin's primary team (K-3) finished in third place overall and Elora won every single one of her games, despite it being her first year in the elementary bracket (4-6) plus she played first board.The boys had their first theatrical performance last weekend and I must say that they did a great job. The director was a little nervous about what the outcome would be, seeing that Jacob tried to play duck-duck-goose on stage during the dress rehearsal, but fortunately he pulled through for the actual performance.Corbin as Sniffwhiskers and Jacob as Tripalong in The Mouse That Didn't Believe in Santa ClauseCorby and I were able to attend the annual Margarita Ball at the VBCC this November. This is a charity event that collects Toy-for-Tots in exchange for a night of dancing, food and free margaritas. Since we almost never get to spend a night out together, this was a real treat. Thanks to those who made it possible with tickets and babysitting!Before leaving for our night on the townA brief Holiday warning:For those of you visiting us for Christmas, I just wanted to warn you that our Christmas tree experienced a near topple, multiple items volleyed into it (mostly shoes by Jacob) and a near fire (Corbin playing with the lights) all in the first week of putting it up. It has since had three strands of lights go out (I was able to replace two with solid blue strands we had on hand, but the third is still out), and the bottom branches are sagging nearly to the floor. Yes, Christmas is still on as planned, but you will have to excuse the half-lit monstrosity in the corner. It is still standing, but it does look the worse for wear.Lastly, I have received a few comments that I perhaps should lay off the political blogs, and I apologize for sometimes voicing my opinion so loudly. I am thinking about starting a separate blog for such ideas. In all likelihood, it would just sit idle most of the time, but when that disgruntled political mood stuck me, I would have a place to release it! Does anyone have any comments or suggestions? What do you think?Corbin and Jacob riding the Ron Paul float in the Madison Christmas Parade.[...]



Gaming: It's Mental Candy That Rots Lives

2007-10-08T20:07:12.895-05:00

When I was in fifth grade, I remember being envious of the little girl down the street who had a Nintendo. I would fervently try to be her friend in hopes of being invited over so that I could try-out her games. I didn't get to play often, and my brother and sisters and I spent most of the afternoons playing four-square or hide-and-seek.About a year later, my father bought us an 8-bit Sega. I have many memories of playing Hang On and Astro Warrior. We played from the moment we woke-up until it was bedtime. Deep-down I knew that it wasn't healthy to spend so much time playing and I always felt a little remorse when the sun set and I realized I hadn't been outside all day.During adolescence I played less and less, but if ever I had a homework assignment I was avoiding or a paper I didn't want to write, there was always some sort of video game to distract me. I was able to submerge the guilt of many failing grades by simply immersing myself in some sort of game.In college I discovered online gaming and my husband and I admittedly played side-by-side in virtual worlds. I knew it had to stop after our first child was born, and although I was able to quit without too many relapses, it was years later before our house was completely game free.This history explains why we now maintain our home as a game-free zone.Although we do have a computer, we do not have a gaming console in our house, and even though the children have asked for gameboys, they have been told that we don't ever want them in our house.Recent news reveals the various dangers of gaming when taken to an extreme. Just last week a 10-year-old boy killed himself by jumping out of his 19th floor apartment window because his parents grounded him from playing computer games, another 10-year-old killed a 3-year-old after mimicking a violent game he played excessively. Not to exclude adults who play too much, this summer two babies in Nevada almost starved to death due to lack of care while their parents both obsessively played a computer game.I am sure that these stories are not as rare as one might think. It makes you wonder why the American Medical Association recently rejected a proposal to recognize video game addiction as a psychiatric condition.When our children ask "Why can't we play video games?" I explain to them that they are a waste of time and there are better things to spend time on. But my husband usually adds that video games are "too fun" which is really the most dangerous thing about them.The pure fun of playing these games creates a pleasurable disconnect with reality that makes any pain or discomfort felt in the real world irrelevant, just like alcohol or narcotics. Thankfully people are figuring this out for themselves despite an official addition designation. There are countless websites that offer support for gamers and family members. Hopefully, our society is not far from a general awareness that might someday save a life in more ways than one.Helpful Links:www.smithandjones.nl, Amsterdam clinic with a gaming addiction program.www.gamerwidow.com, for partners of gaming addicts.www.olganon.com, On-line Gamers Anonymous forum.www.netaddiction.com, includes online tests for Internet and gaming addiction.www.addictionrecov.org, Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery.[...]



Am I the Only One Concerned?

2007-09-29T19:14:57.514-05:00

For some reason I can't seem to shake my concerns about the current status of our democracy.

I just started reading the letters of correspondence between John Adams and his wife Abigail during the American Revolution. I am impressed by the degree of thoughtfulness toward life and purpose that these two individuals express. They seem to be continually concerned about the well being their community and society. They discuss the prospects and education of their children along with the future of a nation.

While studying the development of the Constitution, it was interesting to discover how widely discussed and considered it was by even the most common and poor Americans. When it was first published, every newspaper printed the extensive document and everyone read it. Our country, as a whole, began an open dialogue discussing opinions and possibilities that related the framework for the new nation. One historian said that there never was, or will there ever be again, a time when a nation was so aware of the value of a human being, individual rights and the laws that protect them.

So what do we have now? Is this what our founding fathers intended?

Most people do not even know what their rights are nor do they care if they are taken away. As long as the population remains in a general state of comfort; the nation is pacified by whatever leaders do to maintain that comfortable state. Most of us know that the government is corrupt and incompetent. A recent Gallup poll found that trust in the federal government is now lower than it was during Watergate.

I think that most of us do not find this surprising, but shouldn't we be shocked and appalled?

Please watch this video about voting by Texas lawmakers.

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Why do we tolerate such a digression of our democracy? Could it be that we have all been lulled into complacency? Perhaps the satisfaction from buying a new pair of jeans or finding that Pottery Barn lamp on sale for 30%-off has put us to sleep. Or maybe we are living dreamily awaiting the release of a much anticipated movie or computer game.

I wonder if it even matters to people that our leaders are liars. Does it matter that they knowingly break laws? Do you personally care that dishonesty is the rule rather than the exception? I am curious to know, comment please!



Teaching the Constitution - maybe I need to rethink this

2007-09-21T22:33:01.714-05:00

The past few weeks we have been studying the American Revolution. The kids and I just finished off a 6 part PBS series called Liberty which, in its last part, discussed the Constitution.

I must admit that I am not as familiar with this document as I should be, but after browsing the internet I managed to find the complete text.

Then I entered the twilight zone.

I found a strange string of articles that seemed to point to the US Constitution as being somewhat controversial.

It even seems that law enforcement officers are informed that quoting the Constitution is reason to believe someone is a terrorist! The following law enforcement brochure informs officers that:
If you encounter any of the following call the Joint Terrorism task force.
The brochure goes on to list various terrorist warning signs. Included among the terrorist characteristics are making reference to the Constitution and defending the Constitution. Here is the front and back of the police handout.

I am sure that this is just a rough outline for officers to follow and they would use common sense when choosing who was actually a terrorist threat, right?

But after seeing this video shot earlier this week of a woman being arrested for reading the second amendment in front of the capital building, I am beginning to rethink my assumption.

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If you watch the video you will notice that the women being arrested are not Arabs, skin-heads or hippies. Nor do they even look threatening--more like grandmas actually! They appear to be wearing cheerfully pink "red-hat society"-like clothes.

Oh, well, I guess this is their fault for not keeping their old lady traps shut! They just need to shut-up and start loving this war like everyone else!

Perhaps I should not teach the kids about the US Constitution, it seems that the knowledge of such a document may be dangerous to them.

Or maybe I just shouldn't bother teaching it to them because the Constitution is about as useful as a piece of toilet paper these days.



Food For Thought

2007-09-13T16:04:25.006-05:00

Sorry I haven't posted in a while, things have been very busy around here. I came across this poem today and wanted to share it and perhaps provide everyone with a little food for thought.

When the American imperialists came for the Muslims,
I remained silent;
I was not a Muslim.

When they tortured innocent foreigners,
I remained silent;
I wasn't a foreigner.

When they locked up a defense attorney representing Muslims,
I remained silent;
I wasn't a defense attorney.

When they arrested a man for simply telling Dick Cheney that he disagreed with his policies,
I remained silent;
I have never spoken with the Vice President.

When they shattered a reporter's elbow for asking too many questions,
I remained silent;
I wasn't a reporter.

When they said an entertainer should be killed because she questioned 9/11,
I remained silent;
I wasn't an entertainer.

When they arrested people for insisting that the President follow the Constitution,
I did not speak out.
I wasn't there.

When they broke a minister's leg because he wanted to speak at a public event,
I remained silent;
I wasn't a minister.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

Inspired by the poem by Martin Niemöller:

"When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn't a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out."

When I copied this poem, the links copied too. Some of the websites are admittedly far from mainstream, but I left the links as the original author had them.




You Know You're a Parent When...

2008-11-13T00:20:13.609-06:00

...every morning you get to watch a tiny, crispy-bearded, bald guy eat breakfast.

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(Actually, you really know you are a parent when you are the one who has to clean it up!)



Breastfeeding...Where's the profit in that?

2008-11-13T00:20:13.890-06:00

The Washington Post reports today that our government department of Health and Human Services, in 2004, caved in to lobby pressure and changed ads promoting breastfeeding. The formula manufacturers were "grateful" for intervention which stopped health officials from "scaring expectant mothers into breast-feeding."The original print ads displayed asthma inhalers and insulin syringes topped with a bottle nipple; bluntly insinuating when you feed formula to an infant, you are feeding them asthma and diabetes. These ads were never shown in the United States, but here is an international ad with similar imagery.The pressure from formula companies caused the U.S. health organization to abandon the scary, shocking ads for softer, less assaulting suggestions that plainly inform parents of breastfeeding benefits. The Human Health and Services department was informed beforehand that these ads would be ineffectual, but they spent our money on them anyway. Current reports show that the number of breastfeeding mothers is decreasing.Is anyone surprised? After all, infant formulas are manufactured by the pharmaceutical industry and big drug companies are known for their powerful influence and generous spending in Washington.I imagine pharmaceutical companies would not only lose money from the decrease in formula sales, but later on, sales would be lost by the fewer number of people taking diabetes and allergy medication.Why do we allow these companies to make decisions about our health?I am sure we would not let a company who makes money per every high school drop-out decide how we educate our children. Doesn't it seem just as logical that an industry that makes money from sick people should not be pulling the strings in our government health offices?Everyone should take an interest in our government's soft promotion of breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is more than the premiere bonding experience for mother and baby, it is the only way newly born human beings were intended to be nourished.All mothers should breastfeed, plain and simple.If a mother's health or physical limitations prevent her from doing so, fortunately formula is available as an artificial substitution. Keep in mind that this substance is a man-made chemical solution that is industrially manufactured. This should not be a mother's first choice for her baby.In our society it seems acceptable for mothers to opt out of breastfeeding because it is an inconvenience.If cooking dinner for the kids become too much of an inconvenience are we going to insert feeding tubes with a liquid supplement into each of their bellies? I'm sure they would all "turn out just fine", but really, it's just not an option!Some parents believe that because their own mothers used formula and they turned out o.k., then that is what they should do too.I guess that makes sense for some, but I was never able to look at any of our newborn children and maintain the philosophy of only trying to provide what is "good enough".[...]



You Know You're a Parent When...

2007-08-30T18:44:43.946-05:00

You find yourself cleaning an excessive amount of glue from your preschooler's forehead, resulting from his six-year-old big brother's plan to glue his head to his desk.

The funny thing is, the four-year-old "victim" was completely compliant because he thought that this was a pretty neat idea, too.

(Another great day of homeschooling!)



Diaperless Parenting - Are you trying to make me feel bad?

2007-08-28T23:39:43.621-05:00

Yesterday was a homeschooling challenge for our family. I had a dental appointment at 8:00am and struggled with a very numb mouth for the remainder of the day. We all worked hard to stay on schedule, but the kids were understandably distracted a bit by their mom's sagging lip and unintelligible speech."Tomorrow will be better," I vowed. But, I am only more aware of my parenting short comings today after reading that I should have potty trained my toddler over a year ago! That's right folks, the latest and greatest coup de grâce in the "Who's the best mommy?" death match is diaperless parenting!Reports reveal that there is... a growing “diaper-free” movement founded on the belief that babies are born with an instinctive ability to signal when they have to answer nature’s call. Parents who practice the so-called “elimination communication” learn to read their children’s body language to help them recognize the need, and they mimic the sounds that a child associates with the bathroom.Wow, I really have fallen short on this one. I wouldn't even know what grunt to begin with!Although I pride myself in trying to interpret and anticipate the needs of my children, I will be the first to admit that I am no where near passing this parenting test. With the daily challenge of just keeping up with the location of each of our children, I have very little time for maintaining a constant "poop-watch" vigil for anticipatory grunts and body language.I'd be lying to say that I never notice the signals of the secret language of poops, but seeing that this communication is usually very subtle, I regrettably concede that I am much more in tune with the not-so-secret odor of poops.There are days when we are so busy that even the odor goes unnoticed for a while! (But as you can imagine, that's not often.)After reading a bit about this potty training idea, I began to wonder why this story is considered newsworthy?I seriously doubt that this technique is really an option for most parents. The experts and doctors both seem to agree that there is no scientific or medical basis for the belief that infants are even able to be potty-trained.I guess they need something to report on... but come to think of it, aren't we still at war?Don't we face an environmental crisis with global warming? Not to mention the our dwindling energy resources, rampant government corruption and an economy that continues to teeter on the brink!I would imagine that these things would all be great topics for the aspiring investigative reporter, but I guess most people think it is more interesting to read about a 12-week-old infant pooping on a potty.Actually, it is pretty interesting![...]



My Secret Obsession: Etsy

2008-11-13T00:20:14.132-06:00

The Chronicles have suffered this week because I have developed a minor obsession.

This past week I have spent all of my internet "free-time" visiting and revisiting one website. This website is an eclectic artists' market, www.Etsy.com.

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Have you heard of it?

My sister introduced me to it a few months ago, but I had only glanced at it a few times until this week. This website showcases handmade items from all over the world. The depth of creativity realized in this one site can be overwhelming, but the site designers have devised a lot of interesting ways to showcase each artist's work.

The only thing that seems to be lacking from Etsy is an advanced search filter, but the items are so much fun to browse, it doesn't really matter much.

I must admit that viewing the ideas of so many thriving artists has stirred my own creativity. My long neglected art training seems hard to ignore and I find myself wanting to rediscover those forgotten skills.

Because time is so scarce, and my days are so busy, I know it will be a challenge to squeeze anything new in, but I am going to try. Even if it only means carrying along a tiny sketchbook so I can scratch out a few drawings while waiting for soccer practice to finish, swim practice to let out or dance class to end.