Friday, June 30, 2006

The Joys of Vacation Bible School

My children just completed a week of Vacation Bible School, and this particular VBS brought back incredibly strong memories of my own VBS years.

I never really thought about it before, but most of the programs that churches do now are programs that are purchased as a whole, just like a boxed homeschool curriculum. The program that our church used this year was "Arctic Edge." I wasn't really impressed with it the first time I heard the songs, but they grew on me, and I ended up really liking the program as a whole. Unfortunately though, our church was one of many in the area who used that particular program. I do understand why most churches choose the boxed route. It's definitely easier, especially when considering how many children come to ours!

The one we just finished, however, was a program that the church had organized on its own. They determined everything, from the stories to the crafts to the songs. And it was SO MUCH FUN! Sass wasn't comfortable being left completely on her own, so Skeeter and I just stayed at the church, somewhere in the background, to make her feel a little more at ease. As a result, we really participated (and helped) in the VBS experience too.

The program was based on The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, which my children absolutely love. We've read the book, listened to the book as a dramatic audio, and seen the film. They LOVE it. So, of course, the children loved the program. The decorations weren't elaborate, but what they did have was very impressive, a huge castle facade that must have taken them hours and hours. It was relatively small too, probably only about 35 children or so, which is a far cry from the 150 or so who come to ours.

But what I loved most was the parents program. Most of the programs that our children have done are nothing more than a song and then awards presentation. This was a real program. The children sang and danced, and I loved watching every moment of it. And my children thoroughly enjoyed performing. The church gave each child a professionally made CD with the songs, and we all sang them all the way home AND during our nighttime clean-up.

I've already started a thank you note to the minister to let him know how much we appreciated all of their hard work, and I'm pretty certain that Sass and Spyder will be there next year!

Thursday, June 29, 2006

I am a Snapdragon

I am a

What Flower
Are You?

"Mischief is your middle name, but your first is friend. You are quite the prankster that loves to make other people laugh."

Creative cooking

I've been in a most interesting discussion on one of my yahoogroups recently. The topic has turned to food budgets and menus, and it seems that I do things quite differently than most!

Our food budget is $50 a week for our family of four. It's sometimes a little tight, but most of the time it's not terribly difficult to hold it to that amount. One of the easiest ways to do it is making a variety of stir-fry meals. Everyone in the family loves rice, so I just change what we put on top. :o)

I usually mix-and-match:

yellow squash
bell/sweet peppers
onion (scallions are best for me)

depending on what I'm making. Here is one of my favorites, from



2 whole chicken breasts, skinned, boned & cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 c. peanut butter
1/2 c. water
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. brown sugar
2 tbsp. peanut or vegetable oil
2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
3 to 4 c. sliced broccoli or spinach

In a small bowl, blend peanut butter, water, soy sauce and sugar; set aside. In a wok or large skillet, heat oil over high heat. Add garlic and pepper; stir-fry 30 seconds. Add chicken, stir-fry until firm and white, about 5 minutes. Add broccoli or spinach, stir-fry until bright green, about 3 minutes. Stir in peanut butter mixture. Cook, stirring constantly until sauce is smooth, about 3 minutes. Serves 4.


I add more veggies than just broccoli though -- usually carrots, a little bit of onion, and water chestnuts -- and the chicken is hit or miss, depending on whether we have it and whether I want to bother cooking it. LOL!

If I'm making a Mexican-y stir-fry, I add corn and black beans, at the end, just to warm them up a little bit. Instead of the peanut butter, soy, etc, I add Mexican spices like cumin and cayenne.

If I'm making Moroccan-y, I use the basic veggies (broccoli, carrots, asparagus, etc) and add Moroccan spices like ginger, cinnamon, etc and maybe throw in some almonds and raisins.

I'm using the same basic items for each meal, but just changing the combinations and spices makes something that's new. It's the easiest way for me to use up things in the refrigerator and pantry while not having the same boring old thing week after week!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Books and more books

I've just been turned onto Joan Carris' "Let's Read" website. Oh, I think I'm in a heaven for book lovers! Her site is absolutely filled with recommendations for a variety of ages, all with a nice synopsis.

The opening says it all:

"Welcome! This site is all about the joy of reading. My goal when writing and recommending books is the same: I want children to have so much fun reading that when they finish a book they will want to read another."

I can't wait to give some of her recommendations a try!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Postal woes

I am not crazy!!

I've been complaining about our mail delivery for a while now. We've had no problems with mail delivery EVER until a couple of months ago. I found out that I wasn't getting mail that I should have. Packages that were shipped mysteriously showed up on my porch. We routinely have a couple of days a week with NO mail at all. That just doesn't happen to us! The last straw was when I got a call from my bank asking my correct address! Our statement had gotten sent back as "no such street."

We've changed carriers, and I didn't realize it. I don't always see our mail lady. The mailbox isn't on the house; it's at the end of the driveway, so I only really saw her a couple of times a month. I found out yesterday about the new carrier, who has been delivering for about -- you guessed it -- two months.

Luckily, the important bills -- the mortgage, the electricity, the gas, etc -- are all automatic drafts, so I don't have to worry about not getting them. I wonder how many OTHER things have been sent back though, and no one bothered contacting me about it.

Maybe the mail lady will get better. I certainly hope so. But right now, she's definitely OFF my Christmas cookie list!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Tired Day

Today was such a tired kind of day. No one wanted to get up. And even after I'd gotten the children up, they snuggled up on the couch and went back to sleep. (See photo in previous post. LOL!)

We had friends over today, and I think the tired troubles had hit them as well. The children bickered off and on the whole time, and that NEVER happens with these particular friends. It's absolutely amazing how well they usually get along, but not today! There were arguments over dress up shoes, the Flying Turtle, running in the house, the color of the bubble container, water guns, etc, etc, etc.

Spyder went to art class at the library in the afternoon, and he ended up being so tired (and hungry, he later said) that he hated his drawing. He had a peanut butter sandwich and a glass of chocolate milk after art class, and Sass and I went to her room for her to perform a talent show. I sat on the bed with the rest of the audience -- her stuffed animals -- and the next moment, I was waking up to the doorbell ringing, with Sass asleep right there beside me!

Right now, we have nothing specifically scheduled for tomorrow, so I hope that we will all be a bit more rested!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

I love thrifting!

Today I had an unexpected hour to myself, so I headed to the thrift store! I had not been in ages. I just haven't had the time, and I just don't like going with both children. The thrift stores here are all HUGE, and I don't feel comfortable searching the racks the way I like and not keeping my eyes on them.

My hour at Amvets was wonderful (and somewhat therapeutic). I didn't have any great, fantastic, unbelievable finds today, but I found some good things that we can use, as well as some things for friends.

The children and I went yard saling this past weekend, for the first time in over a year, and we all had such a fantastic time! We found loads of things then, some that we needed, and some that were just for fun. I found a rock tumbler for Spyder that had been on my "want" list for a while. I just couldn't make myself spend the $60 for a decent one. We took it to my dad (the official family tinkerer) to see if it actually worked, since it was about 30 years old. The drum was pretty worn, so it didn't turn well. BUT -- my dad to the rescue -- my old rock tumbler (28 years old, and we completely wore out the motor) was still at their house, with an extra drum. A little bit of tinkering (Daddy's specialty), and VOILA! A working rock tumbler for a whopping $2.

I really need to make time for thrifting, in its various forms, more often. You never know what you can find!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Another current favorite CD

Since yesterday was all about the new-to-me Dan Zanes, today it's time to mention how much the entire family adores the soundtrack to the latest Curious George film.

The work that Jack Johnson has done for the soundtrack is far, far better than I ever expected from a simple little family film soundtrack. Truly, it was so good in the film that Skeeter and I looked at each other while were were in the theater and said, "We've got to get this." I bought it a few months ago, and it's been in the player off and on since.

The entire CD is folksy but fun, and I listen to it quite a lot, even when the children aren't. :o) Last week we went to a craft time at the library, and the lead artist played this CD. We were sitting beside the CD table when she turned it on for working time, and Sass said, "Hey, it's Curious George!" The woman was really surprised that Sass (at age 4) knew exactly what it was just from the opening bars of the first song.

Sass's favorite song is "Upside Down," the opening song that she identified immediately. Spyder's is "The 3 Rs." I don't know if I have a favorite because I love the entire thing!

Monday, June 19, 2006

I am so witty!

I must be exhausted.

I neglected to do the reminders for this week, so I'm doing them now. Tomorrow is trash day, and I just put a reminder on Skeeter's computer. The first thing he'll see in the morning is:

It's Trash Day, move your can!

I'm getting a bigger laugh out of that than I should. :o)

Dan Zanes

Tremendous thanks to Alkelda from Saints and Spinners for her post on Dan Zanes.

Until recently, we were watching The Disney Channel in the morning. Dan Zanes has (had?) a video that was played between the shows, and I had no idea who he was. Either they never showed his name, or I missed it every stinkin' time. I searched the Disney website with absolutely no luck.

I've just spent far too much time on his website, and it seems as if all of his songs will be great for the whole family. We love listening to music that everyone can enjoy. Lately our favorites have come from Putumayo, specifically the "Sing Along" CD. (You've never really heard "Old MacDonald" until you've heard Rufus Thomas' version.) Oddly enough, Dan Zanes and Friends are ON that CD, and I never even thought to look them up!

Oh yeah, and I think he's a shopper after my own heart. Just have a look at the lyrics for "Thrift Shop."

Thanks again, Alkelda!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Days without television

Ah, how I love the sound of silence!

Spyder has had a serious television addiction lately, one which required intervention. Skeeter and I have a television in our bedroom, mostly as an incentive for me to fold the laundry, a most mindless task that I detest. That's pretty much the only time that either Skeeter or I use the bedroom television. Spyder had started sneaking into the bedroom and watching The Disney Channel on the sly, but particularly after he had been told "No television" in the living room.

As a result, we got rid of the cable in the bedroom. Oh, the wailing and gnashing of teeth! Sass wasn't bothered by it at all, but Spyder . . . well, let's just say that it's certainly not coming back.

During a recent study of children's programming, The Disney Channel was cited has having the least violent content. That may be true, but many of the programs directed at the elementary/pre-teen group seem to romanticize or play down the consequences to disrespectful behavior. Most of the shows that come to mind -- Lizzie McGuire, Raven, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, Phil of the Future -- all feature children who are disrespectful to their parents, as well as siblings who are disrespectful to one another. Of course, everything is resolved in one single 30 minute episode. Parents forgive and forget because, obviously, the child knew more about what to do than the parent. Siblings forgive each other and stick together when the going gets rough. But things don't happen that way in real life. There are lasting consequences for our actions that simply aren't seen in television shows.

And I really wonder if this is only meant for comic effect or if much of this is intentional, to undermine parental authority. After all, if the parents (particularly fathers) are portrayed as buffoons, why in the world should the child believe that the parents' opinion and judgement is valid? When a parent does exercise judgement that goes against the child's wishes, doesn't programming like that only increase the child's feeling of "Oh my parents just don't get it!?!" Does that allow the child to give the brand's opinion (and, oh yes, The Disney Channel IS a brand) more weight than the parent's opinion? Thus, when the children ARE outside of parental eyes, wouldn't the Brand be chosen over the Parent?

Questions exactly like these have been floating around my brain for quite some time, and I think I've been hesitant to face them. I have become a television rebel, and I'm anxious to see where this takes us on our journey as a family.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Small but significant

Since my "Insomniac" post, I've been forcing myself to go to bed at a more decent hour. It's been difficult, and I fuss and wiggle for a while before falling asleep. I wasn't really doing myself any favors by staying up that late though, even if the library got loads of donations out of it. :o)

Ever since the insomnia had set in -- and I'd been getting up late with extra grumbles -- I'd stopped doing my One Year Bible readings. It had been about two months! YIKES! Instead of starting where I'd left off, I decided to leave the guilt behind and just jump in where I should be. I'm in Proverbs at the moment, and -- WOW! -- I couldn't have ever chosen a better place to start! I found myself nodding my head at everything I read! There were so many things that I read that applied directly to me.

I'm still astounded at the amount of encouragement and support that I got from a 15 minute read. It helped my whole day go better, and it was just yet another insight as to how often I see God's hands in my life.