Thursday, October 20, 2011

Maddox is One!

I almost can't believe that we survived the first year.  It's been a rough one, that's for sure!  That being said, we are so blessed to have Maddox Cole as child #4.  He's a delight to be around, and is full of contradictions.  He can be the most mellow child in the world... until you make him mad.  Then you'd better watch out.  He looks and acts so much like Ben it's uncanny.  Our family wouldn't have been complete without him.  Even though it's been overwhelming at times, I'm glad we are having this adventure!

The best thing about this party is that I didn't plan it.  In fact, all I did was decorate the cake.  I didn't even have to bake it - Olivia did that.  From scratch, no less!  We had decided on a balloon party theme, so Kelsey and Olivia made Maddox a birthday banner with the letters cut out in the shape of balloons.

It says "Happy Birthday Maddox", and I love how Maddox ended up in the bottom right-hand corner of the picture.  He was caught in the act of stealing the remotes off the back of the couch.  Again.  (What is it with babies and remotes??)  They also blew up a bunch of balloons and wrote all over them.  Maddox popped a few before the party, during the party, etc.  I'm not sure how since I couldn't catch him in the act.  Laying on them perhaps?

As for games, the girls took a poll to see what we'd play.  The verdict was Duck, Duck, Goose and Hide & Go Seek.  Maddox enjoyed Duck, Duck, Goose until it got out of hand.  Ben started cheating, and the kids got rowdy... Then it scared him, so we stopped and moved on to Hide & Go Seek.  He hid with me or Ben, of course.  He's not very good at staying quiet in the hiding spots.  We hid in the pantry and he started knocking on the door.  Oh well.

Then, of course, we moved on to the good stuff.  Presents and his first cake experience.  We took pictures which, of course, speak for themselves.

After the festivities we were sitting around watching something on TV, and I happened to glance over and catch Maddox using the toy wheelbarrow in an unexpected way...

Why not?  It looks sturdy enough.

Happy Birthday, little man!  We love you!

Mystery History Theater 2011

One of the cool things our homeschool group does every year is a "Mystery History Theater".  Each participant selects a character from history, dresses up as that person, then gives a 2-minute monologue (from memory!) about that person's life and accomplishments.  The audience members, armed with a pencils and a multiple-choice "test" sheets then select which person they think the student is portraying.

This was our first year participating.  Or, rather, Olivia's first year.

Can you tell who she is just by looking?  No?  How about a couple of hints?
  • Born July 24, 1897 in Atchison, Kansas
  • As a teenager was very interested in science and was determined to go into a male-dominated career field
  • Set her first world record at the age of 25
  • Broke additional world records in her 30's
  • At 33 married George Palmer Putnam, but had no children
  • Mysteriously disappeared at the age of 39 and was never heard from again
And if you can't get it from those obscure facts (Olivia was determined to fool people), then it might help you to know that the record she broke at the age of 25 was going up 14,000 feet in an airplane.  She was also the first woman to cross the Atlantic in a solo flight, and she disappeared while attempting to fly around the world.  Ironically, she saw her first airplane at the age of 10 at the Iowa State Fair and refused to fly in it because it looked too old and was held together with "rusty wire".

Who is she?  What's YOUR guess?

The Birthday Song

I know I haven't even gotten around to posting about Maddox's birthday on Monday, yet.  I'm planning on getting to it today (I hope).  But I wanted to post this really funny video separately, because even though she is singing to Maddox, Kelsey did a bang-up job and deserves her own spotlight for a moment.

If you have problems viewing the video on the blog, I finally created a YouTube account and uploaded it there.  You can view it on YouTube by clicking here.

(Be sure to scroll down and pause the music player before watching this!)

Smart Aleck

Mom: Kelsey, when you're done with your breakfast, I'd like you to get dressed and brush your teeth.

Kelsey: I am dressed.  If I wasn't dressed, then I would be naked.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Mormon-Christan Debate

There has been a lot of debate going on in the media and among my friends and family on Facebook about whether or nor Mormons are Christian.  Other than reposting a few good links, I have mostly kept my mouth shut because this is an old debate and it's pretty much all been said.  However, this morning I saw that my brother-in-law had written a note about his beliefs and a friend of a friend of his took the opportunity to "Bible Bash" him on the doctrine of salvation.  It has led me to write this note in hopes that we can let go of some of high emotion and negativity around this debate.

I should start by saying that I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka "Mormon").  I consider myself to be a Christian.  I don't care what you consider me to be.  Salvation is a personal thing.  No one can get saved for me.  I have to accept Christ as my Lord and Savior on my own, and I have done so.  This stale argument that Mormons aren't Christians centers primarily around the tenet stated in the 3rd Article of Faith of my church: "We believe that through the atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel."

I make no apologies for this.  I believe that Christ clearly taught in the New Testament that he expected his followers to try to live a good life.  Mormons are not the only Christian religion who share in that belief.  And just so we are clear, what are these "laws and ordinances" mentioned here?

The "laws" of the gospel are found all over the Bible: the 10 Commandments are a good place to start.  But let's not forget Jesus' Sermon on the Mount and the two greatest commandments: love God and love your neighbor as yourself.  Mormons also have a law of health that we strive to follow which includes abstaining from alcohol, tobacco, coffee, tea, and harmful drugs.  We are not the only church that believes God asks us to live these commandments.  He didn't call them the 10 Suggestions, after all.  Will we be perfect?  Of course not!  That's why we can't earn our salvation - it is by grace we are saved.  Only Christ can cleanse us of our sins.  But we believe that we show our devotion to Christ by striving and making a sincere effort to keep the commandments.

The "ordinances" of the gospel are basic things, like baptism.  To put it simply, an ordinance is a physical ceremony that demonstrates a personal commitment to Christ.  We believe that an ordinance must be performed by one who has the authority from God to perform it.  For example, you can't be baptized by just any old Tom, Dick, or Harry.  I believe that Christ stated baptism was necessary for salvation when He said, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." (John 3:5)  You may or may not share this belief.  I'm okay with that, and I respect it.

I'm not posting this note to encourage people to debate with me.  I already know how you feel and I've heard all the scriptures your going to use.  I read the Bible, too, you know.  King James Version, in fact.  The point of this is to address this question: "Why does it matter to you whether Mormons are Christian"?

If you are entering the debate because you are a conservative Christian and you are afraid of a "Mormon" such as Mitt Romney being President of the United States, then don't vote for him.  However, I would also ask you this: Wouldn't you like to have a president that prays, reads the scriptures, and loves Jesus?  Wouldn't you like to have a president that doesn't drink, cheat on his wife, and is honest?  Wouldn't you like to have a president that honors the family unit and has conservative values?  What's wrong with that?  You don't need to fear that he will use his position to try to pass "pro-Mormon" legislation.  Another one of our Articles of Faith states this: "We claim the privilege of worshipping the Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may."

If you are entering the debate because you are truly concerned for the welfare of all those "Mormon" souls out there, then I thank you.  Perhaps you are particularly concerned because someone you love has joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  But I would like to kindly remind you that conversion never happened through debate, only through the Holy Spirit.  Please stop treating us like we are Samaritans and trying to brow-beat us into submission.  It's not going to change my mind, and it's not very Christian-like behavior.  Christ loved the sinner and the Samaritan, remember?

Any person who has sincerely studied the LDS church will tell you that the Mormons are not a cult.  People join the church and then leave the church without huge repercussions.  I'm sure it happens all the time.  As a member, I am sad when it happens, but we believe very strongly in an individual's right to choose for themselves.  We call it "agency" or "free will".  We are not a group to be feared.  We are not seeking to control you or anyone you love.  We are an asset to your community.  We contribute to your society in a positive way.  This is true in the United States and all over the world where members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reside.

If you disagree, that is your right.  If you have a question, I will answer it to the best of my ability.  But if you post a comment to this note bashing and criticizing my church or trying to tell me what I believe, then I also have the right to delete it.  I'm striving for a spirit of goodwill here, and I won't allow a negative debate to clutter up the comments.  I will not engage in your debate.  I've been there, done that and it's a useless exercise in futility.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Ego Boost?

This morning we were talking about going to church, and Connor said, "Jesus is my friend."

(This is where I start feeling like I've done a great job with my children.)

I replied, "Oh, I'm so glad, Connor.  Jesus is my friend, too."

"No he's not," Connor stated.  "He doesn't want you.  He wants me."

Oh, yeah... that's what I like to hear on a Sunday morning.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Big Decisions

Lately it seems like I keep having to tell people that I'm not a flake.  However, if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck... right?

Well, maybe.  Several weeks ago I told you guys that we were going to put Kelsey back in public school, which we did about 4 weeks ago.  All week I have really been struggling with trying to decide whether to leave her in or take her out and homeschool again.  I have been really stressing out because she was struggling with some of the work and I felt like we must be way behind because we hadn't covered some of that stuff yet.  I felt like I had failed her in some way as a homeschool mom, and questioned my ability to homeschool at all.

On top of all that, I felt like Kelsey's going to school was creating more stress in our lives than before.  She was bouncing off the walls all night, begging for play-dates every day when she got home from school, and I was just as overwhelmed with the kids and house as I had been before she went.

Tuesday night I reached out to my homeschool support group for some advice on how to handle this situation, and got back some great responses - not one of which were trying to convince me to homeschool Kelsey again.  However, there was one response that really struck me and was exactly what I needed to hear.  It said this:
"Now that you are faced with standards that you didn't create, it's inevitable that you will have some fears of inadequacy.  Try not to let those fears rule your decision making process.  I truly believe that where fear resides- all other forms of grace, peace and love CANNOT abide as well.  Take a deep breath and know that you are doing the best you can- and that is all you can do."

This gave me the awareness I needed to stop letting my fears "rule my decision making process".  Since then I have spent some time crying and talking and crying and talking.  I'm sure Ben was really, really tired of both.  But being the awesome husband he is, he just listened and tried not to let his eyes glaze over too much.  And I got to the point where I could just take it a day at a time.

Today I had an epiphany.  It happened when I saw this:

We had decided to keep Kelsey out of school for a few days to teach her the material she had not yet covered so she wouldn't feel so behind in class.  While we were taking a break, Kelsey asked me if she could dig up some dirt because she wanted to see what was in it.  I gave her permission and told her where to dig.  A few minutes later, I saw her and Connor outside.  That's when I remembered the biggest reason I'm homeschooling in the first place.  Kelsey is exploring her environment.  She's teaching her brother to explore.  The reading and math?  It's important.  And she's going to do it all - even if it's not on the Edmond Schools schedule.  We are, after all, following the Oklahoma State PASS skills.

But exploring?  Digging?  Creating? 

That's why we started in the first place.  And although we are still going to just take it a year at a time... we're going back to being crazy homeschoolers.  All of us.  Even if it makes me look like a flake.  Quack.

Going Native

Well, he's got a lot against him.  Born in South Carolina, raised in Oklahoma... he had to go redneck sometime.

The funny thing is, I'm pretty sure I saw I guy dressed like this walking down the street in Jersey City once.  Only that guy had on a cowboy hat and his boots actually fit. (Those are Olivia's boots he's wearing.)

Though I guess it's an improvement over how he was dressed earlier.

And he wasn't alone, either.

In my defense, they both had clothes on at some point, but had gotten their clothes wet.

They were playing outside while I was pulling a few weeds.  I have a sneaky suspicion I neglected my yard this summer.  This is the biggest one I pulled.

They dubbed it the "Christmas Tree".

Career Goals

Olivia decided today that she wanted to be an animal photographer.  She thought Trixie would be a good place to start.  I gave my consent, and then found this series of pictures on my camera - in this order.

A picture is worth a thousand words...

Kid Logic

I was trying out a healthier cinnamon roll idea that I had.  I made white-wheat rolls, and put a teaspoonful of filling on the inside of every one.  When I took them out Olivia said, "Now we just have to put the icing on and they'll be perfect!"

I replied, "No, we're not putting icing on these - that's too much sugar."

Olivia's logical response: "But we have to put on the icing - it cancels out the wheat!"

Monday, October 10, 2011


Saturday we got together with our new friends from Vietnam, Mai and Khanh (Kim).  It was the first time that Mai had a chance to come to our house, since she was studying for a test last time Khanh came over.  Both Khanh and Mai wanted to cook a special Vietnamese food for us, called Phở(If you want to know how to pronounce it properly or more about it, check out the entry on Wikipedia here.)

Since they needed ingredients not found at our local grocery store, we took a trip to the Asian market in Oklahoma City.  Then we came home and Mai and Khanh started cooking.
Mai (left) and Khanh (right)
The phở takes about three hours to cook, so while we were waiting, Mai also took some time to get to know our family better.  She loves babies, so she really enjoyed Maddox.  Unfortunately, Maddox was cranky and tired and wouldn't take his nap, so he wasn't at his best.
Maddox & Mai
Mai also got to meet another member of our family: Trixie.  Khanh had already met Trixie and knew what a friendly, lovable dog she is.  However, Mai was a little afraid of her at first, despite the fact that she kept rolling onto her back to get her belly scratched.

By the end of the night, they were fast friends.

Kelsey gave Mai a picture she had drawn for her several weeks ago.  Olivia had drawn a picture for Khanh at the same time, but Khanh received hers when she came to visit a couple of weeks ago.

Shortly after Khanh and Mai began cooking, they asked me if I had any chopsticks.  Unfortunately, I didn't.  Ben was out at the store, so we asked him to try to find some, but to no avail.  As a result, Khanh and Mai had to eat phở with a fork and spoon for the first time in their lives.  I can only imagine how strange it must have felt to them!

Dinner was delicious!  I probably loved it the most, but Ben said it was really good, and even Olivia and Connor loved the noodles part.  Kelsey wouldn't try more than a nibble.  Picky eaters sure do miss out on great food!

While we were waiting for the soup to cook, I showed Mai and Khanh how to make one of their American favorites: chocolate chip cookies.  I even pulled out some molasses cookies to bake, too.  I'm glad I did, because Mai especially loved them, and she had never tried them before.  After dinner we had ice cream sandwiches on the cookies - another of our new favorites.  They can be a little messy, but they are so worth it!

We had such a good time with our new friends!  We sent them home with cookies (and promises to make more if they wanted them), and they left the Phở leftovers with us.  Leftovers don't get any better than that!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Jalapenos & "Flatbread" Sandwiches

I have a secret love.  It's kind of a new thing for me.  You see, I've been a sissy all my life when it comes to hot and spicy foods.  Jalapenos are as tough as I can get, and even that's a new development.  It all started when my neighbor made stuffed jalapenos and brought them to my house.  Ever since then, I have loved, loved, loved stuffed jalapenos.  But I don't make them often.  They're really not that healthy.  However, we were having a "family fun night" last Friday to relax and enjoy each other since things have been so hectic around here lately.  Since I had just gotten jalapenos in my co-op basket the day before, guess what I made?

First you slice the jalapenos in half and scrape out the seeds.  (It's a good idea to wear gloves for this part.)  Then I fill each half of jalapeno with neufatel cheese, since it's "1/3 less fat than cream cheese".

Then I wrap each stuffed jalapeno with a slice of bacon and place it on a foil-lined cookie sheet.  You can see how concerned I am with the "fat" at this point, right?  (My neighbor actually makes hers with turkey bacon, in case you're interested in trying it.)

Bake it at 375 for about 20 minutes or so till the bacon is done and the peppers are crisp-tender and voila!  Deliciousness that explodes in your mouth.  Admit it - you're a little jealous.  These look delicious, don't they?  They were.

Since this treat was really only something that Ben and I would enjoy, I decided to try something new for dinner that the kids would like, too: flatbread sandwiches.  They sell these things at restaurants all over the place - how hard can it be?

I decided from the beginning that I wasn't going to try to recreate Middle Eastern or Mediterranean flat bread.  That seemed too much like work at 4pm on Friday afternoon.  However, I could make my usual yummy bread dough, and just roll it out flat, right?  So I did!  Then I baked it at 350 or so till it looked done.

See how thin it is?

Using my electric knife, I trimmed the ends off and cut it into sandwich sized sections.  The I sliced each section in half through the middle so I could make a sandwich out of it.

By the time I remembered to take a picture of the sandwiches, this was all that was left! 

These are definitely going on our menu again.

Cleaning Out the eClutter

Recently I've been trying to figure out how to simplify my life.  One way I can do that is by reducing the number of blogs I author.  A couple of years ago I started this one about cooking, and then a couple of months ago I started this one about our school work this year.  I started this one when I was going to start doing more Red Cross training earlier this year, and this one when our family bake sale started getting really popular.  I even started this one last year when I was struggling with postpartum depression. 

I already knew that some of these blogs were not ones that I would keep up with, but now I am making it official.  I'm not going to be adding any more to the cooking blog, or the CPR training blog, or the homeschool blog, or even the depression/food addiction blog.  And I'm not going to be starting any more new ones.  I'm starting to feel guilty about all the cyberspace I'm wasting...  The only blog I'll be updating (besides this one, of course) is the one about the bake sale blog, and that's because we have some business by "word of mouth" and I'd like to direct people I don't know to a website for information without having to divulge too much of my personal life.

That means, my friends, that anything I feel like blogging about is going on this blog, and no where else. 

Consider yourself warned.

Going for a Ride

Last Thursday night at church the ladies had a "Swap & Shop".  These things are the best ever.  Basically, we all clean out our closets and households and donate the things we want to get rid of.  They put it all out at the church, and we get to go through and pick out what we want - no charge.  And the best part is that you don't have to donate to be able to pick things out.  Which is great, considering I never got my stuff to the church - still sitting in a bag in my bedroom... *sigh*

Anyhow, I came home with this cute little wagon Thursday night.  Friday I noticed Connor and Maddox playing with it in a way I had never considered:

I thought it was too small to ride in!  Apparently, I was wrong.  If you squat just so...

 I think this is about when Maddox realized this trip might not have been one of his best ideas.  Check out his face.

   This, my friends, is what you call a "milk gut".

It almost looks like they are enjoying themselves, doesn't it?

 Until you get a good look at Maddox's face, that is.

These two keep me busy, that's for sure!