Showing posts from June, 2016

Cooking with Elizabeth: sort of spicy spinach chicken Alfredo with penne

A friend suggested posting good recipes when I didn't know what to write about, so I decided to take her up on it. Last night, as I was cooking, I looked at my pot and thought of all those fast-forward videos that show up everywhere showing you how to cook meals. This was because I have the same pot! Since I had the correct pot, I thought, "Hey, I'll share this recipe with everyone." But I don't know how they do that fast-forward video-thing, so you get still pictures. (And MY still pictures,.. even better, huh?) At at that point in the game, I wasn't even sure it would be a good recipe since I was totally making it up. I took pictures anyway. 
Here we go. Imagine me cutting up some chicken breast and throwing it in my cool blue pot. Oh, throw in some chopped garlic, too. A lot of it. And I heated up some olive oil before throwing in all that stuff. Clearly, I'm really good at this, huh? Here we are so far:

OK, first lesson learned. You can't take a …

They walk among us

Everywhere you go, you come across them, whether you know it or not. They are school teachers. Swim teachers and life guards. Math tutors and scholarship recipients. Moms raising children. Interns at the Smithsonian and children's hospitals. Camp counselors. Students TA's on international student trips. IT workers. Artists and musicians. Pre-med students in exclusive undergraduate programs. Researchers at botanic gardens. Babysitters. Dog walkers. They are on your children's sport teams, scout programs, music schools, and dance ensembles. You probably come in contact with a few every single day.

They are...

[Cue ominous music]


[Cue frightened screams]

Yes, it's true. homeschoolers walk among us and you probably aren't aware of it. Contrary to what you might think, they are excellent at blending in to surrounding society. If you want to be safe and identify them, stop looking for foil being worn on the head. Stop looking for the unwashed person starin…

Ladies who lunch

I very dear friend of mine is a sort-of honorary grandmother around here. One of the wonderful things she does for us is to every so often come and take a child or two out to lunch. G. and L. have watched older siblings go to lunch with our friend for a very long time and have been asking and asking when they will get to go. Well, today was the day! They dressed up and were ready to leave hours before she was due to get here. F i n a l l y (to them) she arrived. I was able to get a picture before they all headed out the door.

You can be amazed at the general cooperativeness for the picture taking... it also show just how excited the girls were to go that they would agree to something they would normally balk at.

I have some other news from the morning and another item to be filed under the heading of siblings and play is good therapy. Nefertiti has quickly become a favorite around here because of her liking of attention. I was sitting in my bedroom trying to quietly sip my morning cup…

How to schedule your homeschool year

Yeah, that title makes it look as though I know what I'm doing, and after 18 years, you would think I did, huh? I've done different things over the years, but much of it involved doing a more traditional nine month school schedule with the summer months off. Well, actually, what I planned was a nine month traditional schedule with a very light schedule in the summer, thinking if we didn't quit completely those first few days back wouldn't be quite so torturous. What really happens is that the "lighter" schedule last all of a few days and then we totally let things slide and fully embrace a non-academic summer.

This schedule isn't bad, and I know that the children and I can use the mental break, but here is what has always bothered me about it. By the middle of summer, the idea of completely structure-less days have lost their shine a bit and people could use a little mental stimulation. This usually happens long about the time I am knee deep in books plan…

A broken and messy people

There have been more than a few instances in the past week, when I have been reading something, and just have to shake my head at our collective inability to stop pretending that any of us even remotely has things together. The majority of these posts have to do with adoption and adoptive parenting. Some others have to do with parenting in general. I think this is because parenting, and particularly adoptive parenting brings us face to face with our own shortcomings. It is very humbling work.

The story line goes something like this. A parent writes a post sharing something hard, something not perfect about themselves or their relationship to their child. It can be a little raw; a little soul bearing. And suddenly, you see it everywhere. Comments abound with phrases such as, "I thought I was the only one!" The relief that follows when someone learns they are not the only one to struggle is immense.

The flip side of this is the type of post which encourages parents, particular…

Beach pictures

I have sat here and stared at the computer for longer than I should have hoping for some inspiration as to what to write today. And I've got nothin'. Then I remembered that there were some pictures on the camera from when J. and TM took the littles to the beach a week or so ago. So you get beach pictures.

L. and H. (who had decided for some reason she didn't want to put on a swimming suit.)
L. and G.
TM took these pictures and I also discovered that he had taken some other non-people shots that look pretty good to me. So now I will share those and upgrade the quality of photographs on the blog significantly.

Facing northward

Facing southward... yes, that's Chicago. We live in a very urban area remember.
It's a smallish sand beach, so he must have been over on the edge to take this picture.

Cats: An annotated reading list

J. and I had a wonderful time last night. We ended up going out with very good friends to a nearly-new seafood restaurant in Chicago and ate our weight in crab, lobster, mussels, etc. It was very good and the company even better. Our friends even brought some champagne along. (It was BYOB.) We had such a good time that we ended up closing down the place. Yes, they turned the lights out as soon as we exited through the door. It was a great way to celebrate 25 years, especially since these friends have been a part of our lives for 20 of them. (Thanks, P Family!)

In other news, Nefertiti is settling in. All three animals have the run of the house now and Kenzie has stopped barking at the new cat and the new cat has stopped hissing (it's an impressive hiss) at all four-legged residents. She is also showing herself to be a true lap cat. If you sit down for any length of time, there is a good chance she will end up in your lap and purr. Just what I hoped for. Her name, though seems to b…

25 years

Today J. and I are celebrating our 25th anniversary. Kind of one of those big milestones, huh? Twenty-five years ago, J. and I had just graduated from graduate school on the same day a week earlier (from different schools at either end of the Chicago area), and thinking since family were all in town already, we would have the wedding a week later.

It wasn't a small wedding. We met when we were both doing youth ministry and dated in a veritable fish bowl of junior and senior high youth. When that many young people feel a part of your story, you can't not invite them to the wedding, so we did. I'm not sure J. or I either remember much of the wedding or the following reception itself, except that we stood for what turned out to be several hours in a receiving line. Everyone told us it was lovely and they had a wonderful time.

But as nice as the wedding was, it was truly window dressing. (Those who are planning weddings right now, realize that, right? That you probably won'…

It was fun until it wasn't

I finally broke down and bought something that I've been wanting for a long time. (It's always nice to do one fun thing with the tax refund.) Managing our picture book collection has been an ongoing struggle, especially without those nice forward-facing bookshelves designed specifically for picture books. Well, I finally solved the problem by buying the actual bookcases. They arrived yesterday and I spent some time putting them together. 
I am exceedingly happy with them. I guessed at the size we needed and am happy to report that I guessed right. Our books are divided into seasons and I rotate them through. When I was reorganizing the school room, I did some purging and resorting to make sure the amounts were about the for all seasons. This means that if the summer books fit (which they do), these shelves will work all year 'round. 
Here they are. 

I put them on the third floor landing.

Someday, when I find one, I think a nice beanbag chair would work here as well.

Now h…

Happy 13th Birthday, D.!

Today is D.'s 13th birthday, though we celebrated it last Saturday. H. and K. started church camp yesterday and both were a little upset at the thought of missing a birthday celebration.

Strawberry pie for dessert and TM holding the '13' candles.
Gift opening
A book! I love R.'s reaction.
Other than books, D. asked for many decks of cards. To do magic tricks with, you know. 
What was going on on the other side of the room.
Y. worked very hard and made D. a crown.
And some picture from church camp drop-off.

And the non-campers spending some time looking at fish and bugs in the lake.
Today, we started off D.'s real birthday with donuts and (my plan, at least) a movie at the theater because I thought the summer dollar movies were on Mondays and Tuesdays. Thus, we loaded up everyone with the promise of a movie. But...

we got to the theater and I had read the webpage wrong. Movies are on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. No movie today. Which is why at approximately 10:20 …

Just a normal sort of day

Not much going on around here...

J. took some little people to a nearby street fair this morning while I taught. L. got to try doing silks at the circus arts tent.

M. has been making life size children puppets, a boy and a  girl, for a show. These puppets are now done (I think) and we keep finding them sitting around. It is more than a little disturbing to walk into a room and find a child you weren't expecting to see and at the same realize that it's not really a child. It takes a moment for all the information to meet in your brain and I think nearly all of us have been startled by them.

And to top it off, P. and I drove a ways west to bring home our newest family member. Meet Nefertiti... whom we found through a Doberman rescue.

Cutest Doberman you've even seen, huh?
She reportedly adores people and loves to sit on laps.

If that's the case, then she will become my own personal therapy cat.
That last picture is deceiving. This girl is weighing in at a hefty 14 pounds…

Pushing and loving

There is a tension that is a constant companion when parenting children with more than your average number of challenges. That would be the ongoing challenge of balancing the desire to help your child achieve all that they are capable of and accepting your child just as they are. I find it to be such a fine line that I am continually veering off the edge on one side or another, given the situation at any moment of the day.

I have a pretty continual running dialogue in my head over what is best at that moment. If I just push a tiny bit harder will I encourage her to get past the hard and do it? Am I asking too much? If we give up on this now are we stopping just short of a new skill? Shouldn't I just accept my children as they are and be patient about what the future holds for them? These are the types of questions that echo in my head. And usually the answer is I have no idea; I'm really just making this up as I go along and relying heavily on my gut instincts.

Sometimes the d…

Promised pictures

All the birthday people were celebrated last night. I sometimes forget how unusual it is to have three children all share the same birthday until we are on round 3 of singing Happy Birthday. Here are some pictures.

L. clutching the present she specifically asked for.
A Cubs hat.
Here's why I have better pictures of L., G. was on the couch surrounded by many sisters. And look! Kenzie was able to come to the party and not have to be excused. We're still getting used to having a calm dog.
G. who was a little excited about the Shopkins. 
Both girls asked for Shopkins and they received them with great enthusiasm. I really don't get Shopkins, but when is it practically the only your children ask for, it's what you get. And now some other girls in the house also think that Shopkins are the exact thing they need for our next gift-giving occasion. I still don't get them.