Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Routine Post

Today I discovered something about routines: I love them. As a mom of 5 kids under 7, my life depends on them. This is only a slight exaggeration.

Here's what has happened: my husband has changed from an early morning shift to an evening shift at work. This means not only more sleep for him, but also a complete do-over of the familiar familial routines. Here's a snapshot of my brain:

Here's a rough translation of a two second spurt of thought static from the morning:
Instead of having Daddy home for lunch and supper, he is home for breakfast and lunch. We'll make breakfast smaller and lunch bigger, call it dinner and have a lighter meal in the evening. That's better for summer anyway. Who wants to eat in the heat of the day? Oh and since he's home during the morning, we'll have to adjust the school schedule so that we don't interfere with family time. All our cuddly Daddy times of readings and prayers will have to take place upon waking up instead of upon settling down. Things I do that depend on two adults being available will have to be shifted from the afternoons to the mornings. Yes, and let's not even think about what is going to happen to my errands. I don't want to cry. I'm really happy about this change. Let's just not think about that for now.
Because every single family routine was affected by the change, I found myself having to think about everything through the entire morning. It was mentally exhausting! So much of my attention was absorbed with trying to be sure I remembered to do this or that vitally important but relatively mindless family function (like diapering, tossing in a few loads of laundry, getting those kids who are potty-training to the potty) that I had no time to think clearly about anything else. The only thing I didn't have to think about was coffee. My husband kept me well plied.

Did I ever tell you I was married to a smart man? He's a very, very smart man.

Having the morning disrupted today has shown me how much I grind out in my daily grind. Putting tasks into routines helps me get them out of the way. All of the time and mental effort of a routine is spent establishing that routine in the first place. By applying my thought and effort up front (it takes about two weeks to get a routine rolling) I never need to apply effort again: it's automatic. The real glory is that by using routines for routine things I'm free to apply planning and effort to more important tasks.

I hope I'm getting smarter as I get older. In this instance, I just may have. When I was a young woman I hated routines and avoided them thinking they would squelch my spirit and make of me a slave. Instead, with experience I've found routines do the exact opposite. They set me free.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Because it's Monday and you need more coffee...

After a brief, shining moment, the week is back, and it wants revenge for all the fun you had without it over the weekend. Distract it with this and maybe it will forgive you and play nice.

Cool New Link for Autism--Mouse Skills Broken Down

Update: Due to legal issues between the parties, the link to the switch activities is temporarily disabled--and just in time for the new school year, too. I will keep checking for a resolution and will search for alternatives! Thank you to Dave for pointing out the broken link.

I've a new on-line resource for those of you homeschooling or supplementing the public schooling of your child with Autism. 

Introducing mouse skills to children with sensory issues can be a real struggle. There are double clicks, clicks and drags, roller ball rolls, right clicking, not to mention what happens when you move the mouse around. Then if you turn your gaze slightly to one side there is also the visually and auditorily tempting display of all those tappity squares and rectangles (keys) on the keyboard. In a child with sensory deficits too many choices at the wrong time can lead to confusion, an overload, a tantrum or a freeze. This lesson is designed to eliminate as many sensory elements as possible and then reintroduce them in a controlled manner. Without modification this lesson would be great for teaching a toddler mouse skills, if you were so inclined.

The primary goals are to introduce and develop computer mouse skills. Secondarily, language and social skills are reinforced.

Go to this link, and find the "Cause and Effect" section. Here you will find activities that break down the mouse skills individually by deactivating functions of the mouse and keyboard. The activities are downloadable. They are not arranged by skill level, so you will have to preview and analyze each lesson in order to introduce only one new mouse skill at a time as you progress.

My son, Simon, and I began with the activities described as "for switch videos" or "for switch and touch-screen videos." In these activities you can choose from a touch screen or a mouse format. These are very simple activities that allow only one "switch" to be active. For the duration of the activity the keyboard will be inactive as well as all options on the mouse except for the left options. The mouse display icon will move across the screen in response to mouse movement, but this does not affect the lesson. As long as the left button is clicked, it does not matter where the mouse icon is on the screen.

We began the lesson with Simon and I alone. He was seated on my lap; both of us were facing the computer screen. The mouse was to the right. The keyboard was to the left. As we progressed through the lesson, we  introduced Simon's brother and sisters into the activity and called it a "family dance." Simon was our DJ! We chose the Madagascar "Move It" switch and touch screen activity.

Set up
1. Simon was on my lap with the mouse in easy reach.
2. To limit the visual input near the mouse button, our chair was against the right hand wall. When the other children joined us later in the lesson, they occupied the space on our left to avoid visually interfering with the mouse button or screen.
3. The lesson was already downloaded and set up to run. I had run through it to test it.

Introduce the skill
1. I demonstrated the skill to be learned by clicking the button while saying, "Click!" The song and cartoon playing is it's own immediate reward.
2. As each new animal appeared, I named the animal. When all appeared together, I categorized them by saying, "Zoo animals!"

Guided Practice
1. To prompt Simon to take his turn, I said, "Simon, click!" (using a cheerful tone. I repeated the tone and delivery as exactly as possible each time in order to limit the addition of any new auditory cues)
2. I gently nudged his elbow to prompt his hand towards the mouse and repeated, "Simon, click!"
(If this does not occur or if nudging from the elbow is not enough of a prompt, try moving his hand from underneath and placing it on the mouse while repeating the command to click. If necessary, push his finger down on the button while asking the child to click. It is important to arrange these cues in such a way that the child "sees" himself performing the required action as much as possible. If your hand is in the dominant position, the child will "see" you as the actor, not himself. Whenever possible, try to keep your hand out of the child's line of sight.)
3. Once he clicked the button we repeated the naming of the animals using the same tone and delivery each time.

Independent Practice/Skill Development

As Simon became more comfortable with the task we asked the other kids to join us. The children were eager to listen to the dance and watch the slideshow. They prompted Simon to click verbally and through pointing. Simon smiled when they were obviously pleased with him after he clicked the mouse. He watched them dance and watched the screen. He needed no prompting to repeat the song several times. He was very quick to click the mouse after the other kids joined in the activity!


Simon was able to maintain the entire activity for about 20 minutes even though the last 7 or 8 minutes was loud and boisterous with the other children dancing around. I should have ended the activity with an "All Done?" signal of some sort and then allowed him to continue if he wished. This type of formality and recognizable structure is very important to a person who has difficulty negotiating social interactions. It allows him to relax as it eliminates sudden and unexpected changes. Instead our activity ended without a formal acknowledgement of a transition: when he asked to get down I allowed him to go. He hung around for a few seconds, bouncing a bit, and then he left the room to run up and down the hall. The bouncing and the running indicate that he was slightly overstimulated but he dealt with it in appropriate ways and without a tantrum. The other children continued the activity, and Simon even continued to participate from the hallway by mimicking portions of the song! We were happy he found a way to continue to interact with the family while dealing with his needs.

Overall, it was a success. I hope this helps you in designing some "lessons" of your own!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

History Lesson!

With that graph in mind, I pulled together a few sites for you. Exam season is coming.

After this one, you'll never forget the Mesopotamians again!

I just like it because of that goat.

If you know the Presidents, you can keep track of the American History timeline. Use the Animaniacs to get them memorized. You never know when you'll need to know what you know.

If none of these suit your taste or needs, here is a link to a gazillion more.

Yeah, so maybe the next stop should be math--for the names of numbers more than 999,999,999,999. We may need those names if the only thing we want to emulate from President Bushie is the money problems.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Early Spring...

I walk beneath a leafless tree
and it explodes with birds
Spring winds rush in
Amen! Amen! Amen!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Babies: Coming Mother's Day

"A visually stunning and joyful new film that simultaneously chronicles the lives of four of the world’s newest human inhabitants - in Mongolia, Namibia, San Francisco, and Tokyo, respectively -- from first breath to first steps, on a journey at once universal and amazingly original."

This looks to be an amazing film that will show how we much we are all alike. A baby is a baby is a baby, after all. They all manufacture cute. They all spring variously textured leaks. And they all engender the best and most precious in us...the desire to give our lives over to another person: the desire to love.

Of course it will be released on Mother's Day. When else?

Wifey Wednesday: Watch That Mouth! ...and links to helpful marriage links

My best advice for a solid marriage? Watch your mouth. By that I mean you should:

1. Be as polite to your spouse as you would to a customer at work
(be even more polite if you find yourself broke and/or fired frequently)
Good manners are the grease that keeps the heat out of social friction. You are subject to the most friction at home since home is where people are the closest--that's the best place to use your manners. Besides, shouldn't you treat the ones you love better than you treat strangers? It isn't a coincidence that the divorce rate was lower when courtesy was more common.
2. Never talk badly about your spouse to your family or friends

They don't love this person, you do. They don't get to temper their judgement by seeing how sweet he looks when he sleeps, so they're much slower to forgive. Don't blame them if they decide to despise him if you are constantly telling them to.

3. Pray when you're pissed.

That may sound crass, but maybe it'll help you to remember to do this. Pray for the best for your spouse when you are thinking your worst about him. Things will clear up much faster that way.

Some links on marriage from this blog

Find other links here

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Here's where that "Center enough to irritate everyone" comes into play...

I am not one of those who think our current healthcare system works just fine. I think tying insurance to employment was a mistake in the first place--and that mistake is a half-century old. I think that HMOs were another big mistake. Bear in mind, I think our system does work, but I know from firsthand experience that it is too expensive, too cumbersome, and too specialized to work well.

When I was a young girl, my mother filled out insurance forms for reimbursement. It was a long and tedious process. Although we were ex-military and were able to use our Retired Air Force military IDs to access the military medical system, we only used that for vaccines, allergy shots, urgent, or emergency care--they were good at that kind of medicine. The private sector performed better for the day-to-day care, hence all the insurance forms papering our dining room table every time someone had an appointment. Because my mother had to pay up front and be reimbursed later, she questioned procedures and therefore doctors didn't order as many tests. She was invested in healthcare in a way that I never had to be.

I had HMOs. Once I landed my first job with benefits, I stopped being a watchful consumer of my medical care. I avoided doctors like the plague when I was younger and uninsured. With the HMO, I had only a small co-pay for an office visit, a slightly larger one for urgent care, and an almost painful one for an emergency room visit. Almost.

Unlike my uninsured days, I now went to the doctor with every cold or flu. If she wanted to rule out pneumonia with a lung X-ray, I had no objections. I probably wouldn't see a bill for that anyway and the only paperwork I ever had to work with was filling out my change of address forms whenever I moved.

Econ 101 says that an increase in demand drives up prices. My demand increased. I'm sure others were demanding more, too. Why not? It was monetarily painless, after all.

Healthcare was painless in other ways, too. Because I never filled out forms, my doctor had to hire staff to do that. Because I never argued over procedures, my doctor and his office battled it out with my insurance company. After awhile, they worked things out or they negotiated a set number of procedures that were okay in certain circumstances and the charges for those. Over time and with everyone doing that, I think things have gotten a bit out of hand.

Meanwhile, those who have not had the opportunity or the gumption to get those jobs with the benefits (those self-insured by choice or by circumstance) have had to deal with the up tick in prices caused by all of us using the system more frequently.

So, here we are. We've got a massive new healthcare bill with already record spending deficits and no real way to pay for it. No one is talking to anyone else: shouting and name-calling, yes, but no real dialogue. Not a single GOP member voted for the bill and Attorney Generals in several states are lining up to see who's going to file the first challenge to the bill when it is signed today.

Worse and worser, for some stupid reason, this couldn't just be about healthcare. Instead, heavy-duty life issues were incorporated into it so that many people who would have supported this (read the USCCB and other pro-life Christian groups) couldn't support it, despite what a few dozen wayward nuns and Nancy Pelosi have had to say about it.

I'm thinking what we need here is an administration who recognizes that it had better start wooing not only the press but the people and the other party as well. So far, the press is on board. Maybe Mrs. Clinton can share a few tricks of her husband's: he was a master at wooing was he not? Since we are still arguing despite the bill being ready to sign, I'm thinking that bullying and name-calling in the blogosphere wasn't the best plan.

Life issues and money issues have been my two objections all along. Because I've raised them here and there, I've been called a bigot and I've been told my son should die rather than burden the system. I've been compared to Palin, too (and let me just make it very clear, despite the glasses, the brown hair, the jogging, and the special-needs son, the resemblance is merely surface level. I'm no quitter). I could just chalk this up to tolerance and compassion from the Left, but that's too snarky. I'll say instead that ignorance and bigotry are not exclusive to the Right. Most racists I've encountered have been Conservative, but most Eugenicists have been Liberal.

How about we ditch the extremists of both parties and start talking in the middle here?

Not that anyone cares what I think, but I do think the bill has gotten so entangled with issues and partisanship and rancor it is going to be tangled up in so many suits it will be strangled to a long-suffering death. I'm thinking no one has won this one. I really hope it's not too late to call for a do-over. Sticks and stones have broken a bone or two. Is there a doctor in the House? How about the Senate?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Because it's Monday and you need more coffee...

After a brief, shining moment, the week is back, and it wants revenge for all the fun you had without it over the weekend!

Distract it with this and maybe it will forgive you and play nice.

P.S. Always read those post scripts.

Friday, March 19, 2010

I Haz Cheesecake...sort of. Really all I've got is a gluten-free pie crust

I've officially made a cheesecake from cheese to finish. The recipe I've created tastes great, but is a bit too light and frothy in texture. I'm going to have to try again. Oh woe to my family to have to eat up all the experiments...

Here's one good thing: I figured out a Gluten-Free Rice Crispy Crust. I can share that one.

Gluten-Free Rice Crispy Crust
1 1/2 cups crushed rice crispies
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup melted goat milk butter or (bleah, ick, yuck!) margarine

Combine ingredients. Press 2/3 of the mixture on the bottom of a 9 inch square baking pan or a pie pan. Chill. Reserve 1/3 as a crumbly topping to decorate the filling of your choice.
The Dairy Section of the Kitchen

Because it's not perfect, you'll have to email me for this cheesecake recipe, if you want to play around with it. It's akin to a custard pie and would be good with berries or a meringue on top. I'm actually going to try out that end of this recipe's spectrum later on, but for now a cheesecake is the prey I'm after.

Also, I discovered I've gotten a bit carried away with my 40 Bags in 40 Days exercise. I've given away my pie and cake tins. What was I thinking?!

The cheesecake in a casserole dish. White on white is so appetizing, no?

Oh yeah, teflon coating...

For those of you who were "with me" all throughout the St. Patrick's Day day long cook fest, here's some pictures of the fun. Who's idea was it to cook all day long and only have soup and bread to show for it? At least there was dessert.

Oddly shaped soda bread and Gluten-Free Shortbread
Ninja Throwing Stars--neither the prettiest of breads
or the safest of cookies

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Hang in there!

A few weeks into Lent and your intentions may not be translating into actions. Don't let your pride get in the way of perfecting yourself. You will never be perfect. It's that simple. You will always have to be humble enough to see that there is more work yet to be done. Mother Teresa reminded us that "God doesn't require us to succeed; he only requires that you try." Yearn for God, but you will not become God. If you think you should be perfect, you never will even come close. If you've fallen, forgive yourself, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and join the rest of us who are striving to become who we were made to be. It is a dusty work.

I'll be hitting the Confessional soon myself--of that I'm certain.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Wifey Wednesday--Her Inner Control Freak

To See Other Wifey Wednesday Posts

I am a planner. I plan my week, my day. I plan long range as well and I'm happy to report that six years out is starting to shape up and fall in line. Speaking of lines, at the DMV I plan escape routes in the event that a fire breaks out. All this foresight and planning gives me a nice little sense of power and control. My poor husband. That phrase always follows the words power and control in my mind.

I like to think I am in charge, but God, in His wisdom and in His ability to swing a solid 2 x 4 when haughtily ignored, frequently reminds me otherwise. In His further wisdom, He has provided me with a male of the species to contend with, er, I mean rather, to spend my life with. He has also generously provided the males of the species with a need to be leaders. Yes, my husband needs to be a leader and he does not need my leadership. Yeah, that's right, we get to struggle over this! Oh yay.

Because of who I am, I want to be the leader in the family. Because of who my husband is and who my children are, he needs to be leader. Guess who wins in the struggle of wants vs. needs? Yeah, that's right, it ain't me in this one. Yay.

Having grown up in a military family I know a little something about leadership: it is better to have a mediocre leader in charge than to have two leaders in charge. While two leaders battle each other, the real enemy picks off the troops. That's a sobering analogy when you apply it to your family.

Men can overlook the details to gain perspective on the big picture. They're brains are wired that way. (Really you should look into fetal development and MRI studies of problem solving between the genders, fascinating stuff.) Basically, men are linear thinkers. For example: given Child A and Child B and desiring outcome C and not D, we shall allow A and B to work towards C, rewarding all evidence of C and ignoring or reprimanding all instances of D. Discipline is pretty cut and dried.

We women see details upon details and in doing so can lose sight of the big picture. For example: given Child A (he was born first and feels a very strong sense of purpose and sense of self) and Child B (she's a middle child and I really feel she has that Middle Child Syndrome everyone talks about. She really does sometimes compete much harder for the privileges and status of the older child while wanting to maintain the cuddly coddling of the younger child. This Middle Child Syndrome of hers has been complicated by the birth of two more children, thus placing her in an actual older child position in the family--really we must make allowances for her bad behavior while she adjusts to this new situation and above all we must watch for signs of droopy self-esteem which probably stemmed from being named a letter and not a name in the first place, I mean talk about identity issues!)...I forgot the point I was trying to make here.

...um. Oh yeah.

Back to that point. My husband needs to be admired and needs to apply his God given gifts of logic, planning, and self-control to be in a position of decision making of the family. I need to be cherished and need to apply my God-given gifts of communication, nurturing, understanding, and planning to influence my husband's logical decision-making process.

I am the Corporal in this Army. Not only am I in charge of my band of troops, I am in there mucking it out on the day-to-day basis. I report to the Major what has happened, who was responsible when it didn't happen as planned, and let the Major know how I think the plan needs to change in light of what's happening. As Corporal, I get dirty and sometimes take friendly fire if a Cheerios food fight erupts at breakfast while I'm blogging. I've got the details of this army down and I could probably run the army if I had to, but that's not my job. My job is to be the Corporal: that's the officer the troops trust, complain to, seek out and turn to. The Corporal gets in on the day by day everydayness. To run the army, I'd have to step back emotionally and rationally divvy out resources and duties. I could do that. Sure I could.

But I'd rather be Mom.

So to quote my favorite move line ever, "Let me tell you something, Toula. The man is the head, but the woman is the neck. And she can turn the head any way she wants." Maria Portokalos may have been the Momma and not the head, but she was one smart momma!

Happy Saint Patrick's Day

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Getting out from under... Part I

A short time ago, I posted a little hint about the grand plan in the works to get ourselves out from under a mortgage. With national debt levels hitting the stratosphere, that debt being purchased by a rival world power, banks going belly up, and all the rest of the mess, my Econ 101-honed instincts have tingled like a spidey sense. I'm no Peter Parker of Wall Street, but I can almost see inflation creeping up the side of the Federal Reserve Building.

When and if the dollar goes under, I don't want to be carting buckets full of them to the bank to make monthly payments. Yeah, I know, it can't happen here. We're too big to fail. I know. I know. Zimbabwe used to be the breadbasket of Africa, too. It took only one administration to starve them out. It looks like it'll take at least two over here.

Call me a teabagger, but I'm uneasy. I've been uneasy since the Clinton Administration's fiscal responsibility was tossed out with the bathwater under Bush and has since been merrily and completely mucked up with the mantra "Bush's fault" this go-round.

So, even if I am a dumb hick red state extremist because I say so, I don't like debt. I think too much of it is irresponsible. So now what?

Well, even if I'm wrong about everything, getting our family financially in the black won't hurt, so we're downsizing. We're already pretty fiscally responsible (and pretty Green, too, by the way) by recycling, buying used whenever feasible--yes, even down to the dryer because we only use that when it rains or snows--and not consuming for the sake of stuff. We've taken a few wrong turns here and there, but we've generally been going in the black direction, even when swimming in red ink.

Red Ink--Blue State
As a pigheaded youth I married wrong and then I got sick. That one bad choice and one bad circumstance left me debt riddled and starting over in my early twenties. I moved to the land of golden opportunity and cheap tuition (California in the early 90s) and worked at whatever job I could scrounge up, happily relying on my bachelor's degree that I had also worked hard and paid for (and off) to scrabble into a position that I hated but had benefits. I stood that job as long as I could and as long as it took to save enough money to be able to get my teaching degree while working part time.

As a teacher, I lived frugally. I was taking out the maximum in retirement and living as poorly as a college student on her own dime (again). Some of the other young teachers invested in enviable shoes and great hair. I let mine grow out and clomped around in sensible shoes from Wal-Mart. Yeah, it was good for the soul, I'm sure.

Meanwhile, I was working up a down payment for my first home. Meanerwhile I was courting long distance and planning on marrying the man I should have married in the first place. He had debt issues, too. By the time we tied the knot, we had our 10 % down on a house just shy of $100,000 in the early days of the California market climb. Our house only had two bedrooms and the siding was shot and the realtor really wanted to "work with us" and get us that third bedroom and second bath, but we had my husband's debt load to pay off and no kids to house yet, so we opted for much less than we qualified for. That house was about half of what the banks was begging to "give" us.

Then the real estate bubble hit very hard. In about two years we had doubled our money in equity, so we refinanced and fixed the siding. Two years after that and six years ago this spring, my Econ 101 spidey sense started to tingle, so we sold our house, took our money and ran. California was too expensive to reinvest in and was spending money wildly, so we ran all the way to the Panhandle of Texas where we could pay cash outright for a house.

We were set and we were mortgage free the first time around, but we forgot to factor in some things: neighbors, pushers, and the meth epidemic.

end of Part I

Monday, March 15, 2010

Because it's Monday and you need more coffee...

After a brief, shining moment, the week is back, and it wants revenge for all the fun you had without it over the weekend!

Distract it with this and maybe it will forgive you and play nice...

Yeah, in your dreams, bird.  You're an American!

Because it's Monday and you need more coffee...

After a brief, shining moment, the week is back, and it wants revenge for all the fun you had without it over the weekend!

Distract it with this and maybe it will forgive you and play nice.

funny pictures of dogs with captions

see more dog and puppy pictures

...and she looks like such a good girl. Tsk, tsk, tsk...

Friday, March 12, 2010

Oven Jambalaya and Adopting a Lousiana Heritage

My biological stepfather introduced me to Jambalaya, but before I share the recipe I'd better untangle the relationship we had.

I was adopted as an infant. When I was 18, my birth mother tracked me down and we began a slow process of getting to know one another. She was married to a man named Royal Peter. He was my biological stepfather; not related to me at all really, except by marriage and by an accident of birth, and through the efforts of two families to get to know each other after 18 years of never having met before. He's been gone now for years, and one of the many ways he influenced me was through food.

When I met him I was of the mind that if I had to cook the food, it wasn't worth eating. I was right about that! I disdained all things feminine and wanted to prove my point to the point that I was actually proud of being a horrible cook. He was a Louisianne and French enough in his outlook that he considered food a heritage. That idea eventually intrigued me enough to start experimenting with my own cultural heritage--Southern cooking, among others. In a way, he planted a seed that is still growing. I love the creativity of cooking and I really love the silence that descends as the first bite of something incredible hits the taste buds and takes control of the brain for a split second before the, "Oh! Wow!" or "Mmmm!" noises begin.

My first exposure to Jambalaya came during a conversation about an impending lunch. I was working on my biological family's ranch at the time. I was outdoors and about a mile from any buildings and by some quirk of necessity and planning I had no transportation. He was the one sent to get me for lunch.

Since it was early spring I was working on sprinklers. Since it was California it was early February. Since it was early February it was nearly Mardi Gras. Since it was nearly Mardi Gras, Roy was missing Louisiana. If he was missing Louisiana, he was going to talk about it. Being hungry he was going to talk about food, too. Since it took me a bit to work myself to a stopping point and since it was a one-person job, he leaned against the bumper of his truck to chat. That's the round about way he got on the subject of food storage in the steamy state.

He said that the week started with roasts on Sunday, sausage and beans on Tuesday, chicken on Wednesday, fish or shrimp on Friday, and leftovers on the days in between. On Saturday, anything leftover from the week that hadn't turned (or had hardly turned), got put into a jumble in a pot, spiced to perfection, and was called Jambalaya. The conversation and the remains of the job took about 20 minutes from start to finish. I could almost taste the talk. He was so descriptive in that Southern gentlemanly way of his, and I was such a foodie even then when I didn't know it yet, I could smell and see all the dishes he described. I've been hunting through Jambalaya recipes looking for him ever since.

So nowadays, whenever I stir the colors of rice and beans, when I smell bay leaf and cayenne I am there again with him in his cowboy hat, big buckle, and boots leaning against the bumper of his truck, his arms crossed and his eyes far away.

Here's our latest conversation:

Oven Jambalaya

3 cups water
1 1/2 cup uncooked regular rice
1 can corn (drained)
1 can diced tomatoes
1 small can diced peppers
1 small onion diced
1 package kielbasa or Italian sausage sliced into half inch disks*
1/2 pound cooked ground beef or breakfast sausage*
1/2 pound cooked chicken shredded or diced*
1/2 pound fresh shrimp peeled and deveined*
2 tsp chili powder
2 cloves garlic crushed
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp thyme
2 bay leaves
dash of cayenne pepper (to taste)
salt and pepper to taste

Combine ingredients in a lightly greased baking dish, cover and bake at 375 degrees for 1 hour. Yields 8 servings.

*The meats for Jambalaya are both interchangeable and optional. When I made this the first time, the meats I had on hand were kielbasa and beef hot dogs. I sliced them up and put them in the dish. Mmmm! I recommend making a Jambalaya in the traditional way whenever you have a bit of this and a bit of that leftover to make a jumble in the pot. Throw in leftover veggies, too, especially leftover okra!

Serves with cornbread muffins and a green salad anytime!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Halfway There!

Just in case you are getting a little tired of the sackcloth and ashes, here's a story about another 40 days...

"How long can you tread water?"

Monday, March 8, 2010

Because it's Monday and you need more coffee...

After a brief, shining moment, the week is back, and it wants revenge for all the fun you had without it over the weekend!

Distract it with this and maybe it will forgive you and play nice.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The fun we're having...

Here's a picture of the new kids on the block....

The twins are named Faster and Slower because one is quicker to demand his fair share of everything. Faster also came out first.

This white eared one is Faster.

I don't think Slower has figured out she's a goat yet--what a ham!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Hitch in Your Get-Along

Wow, you think, you are a marital diva. You've weathered the storm. For months now, you and your dear hubby have been chugging along, getting along. All is well.

Then it hits--the hitch in your get-along.

Sure, months ago some well meaning mentor may have warned you this was inevitable, but you were unprepared. Surely you and he have solved every last marital problem?


So, before despairing and thinking, "Oh woe! Oh weep! Oh moan!" Think again. Did you forget something? You are married to a human, and worse! You are both of the same species. Neither one of you has any hope of getting it right every single time.

Here's a few things to do while you are weathering the glitch:
1. Don't dredge the past
2. Don't despair
3. Don't lose your head, use your head
1. Don't dredge the past
    Old habits are hard to overcome. If he's slipped up or you've slipped up, can you give yourself the common decency of remembering that learning and changing is a process? A slip up can be just that. If it isn't something serious, like an affair or a return to an addiction, a relapse into bad behavior is probably just a momentary weakness and not an indication of a refusal to love, honor and cherish.

2. Don't despair
    If you can manage #1 and if you can remember to pray, this one might not be as hard as it sounds. Despair is an emotion: a profoundly negative and unhelpful one. Although it is incredibly hard not to let emotions get control of you and your mental life, it may help to consider that if you are feeling despair, you are most likely not seeing things very clearly. Also, you must remember that an emotion is not the most important element of your reaction, as much as that emotion wants you to think it is the boss. Sometimes you just have to ignore yourself and get going. Despair is not an emotion with a divine source, it is a sinister, undermining, weakening emotion that you are better off not entertaining. If you find yourself having despairing thoughts, say, "I know better than this. I really do" and then allow yourself or even force yourself to think of something else. You've got reason for a reason. Use it when your emotions are not helping.

3. Don't lose your head, use your head
    Well, fine and dandy. Maybe he has treated you this way before and maybe you really are thinking he is hopeless and this is a horrible way to live and the usual interior rumblings of an unhappy woman (let us do keep these types of thoughts to ourselves now shall we?) Does that really mean you now have free reign to behave badly in return? Can you let go and be a banshee because he's been a jerk? Are you still 9 years old and think you can walk away from responsibility for your own actions with a "Well, he started it!" attitude? Do you recognize a rhetorical question when you see one? Or five? Or seven?

The sweetest revenge is sweetness. If he's hunkering down to jerkiness, respond with kindness, smile sweetly and think, "Oh yeah? I'm being a much better person than you!" Pretend you don't notice and carry on as if you were the nicest gal ever. Pretty soon, he'll come around. I've never had this one fail me. The trick is to not have one scintilla of sarcasm in your manner, not a dollop of ill will, or even a whiff of irritation. Consider it an exercise of wills. Yours versus yours. Just trust me on this one, he'll be dazzled.

Meanwhile, back at the split-level ranch house, can you remember that history repeating itself has a good side? Yes, you've been here before and you are sick and tired of the same old stuff coming up again. You hate feeling this way and you never ever thought you would have to again. Yeah, that sucks. But, guess what? You guys felt like this and got over it once before. Or two times. Or maybe even half a dozen times before. You guys can get over this glitch because you've gotten over glitches before. It's a habit now.

Now that's worth something.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


My youngest is either a writer or a thief. Maybe both. All morning she has been sneaking the pens and pencils from under the nose of her busy and not very watchful big brother and stockpiling them next to her sister's bed.

What does it mean when a toddler already knows how to frame someone else for the crime?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Because it's Monday and you need more coffee (or in Nancy's case, chocolate!)...

After a brief, shining moment, the week is back, and it wants revenge for all the fun you had without it over the weekend!

Distract it with this and maybe it will forgive you and play nice.

Nancy. I can hear you laughing from here. Oh yes, this one is for you! Have a great week!