Monday, June 23, 2008

Ellie is on the Move!

Ellie overnight has gained many skills I haven't been keeping up with posting about. Last week I went into her room to get her up from her nap, and she was sitting up in her crib. I had yet to see her accomplish this feat, so I was quite surprised! She isn't crawling yet but is scooting a bit and pulled herself up to standing on the laundry basket Saturday morning. She is standing before crawling?! I didn't know that was a possibility, but I am happy with any new skills she masters that help me not worry that she is too small and skinny. She will be 9 months on Saturday which is unbelievable! I know that some babies skip crawling all together, but I hope that she isn't one of them. What I am not looking forward to is her crawling after me wherever I go crying and tugging at my skirt because she wants to be held. At least now, I can put her down on the area rug with some toys so that she can't see me. She is so bad about seeing me but not being held by me. I am always told wherever we are not to come into the room because Ellie is happy with someone else. That is so terrible! Here are some of her new tricks. (She starts out on her belly, pushes herself into the crawling position, and then always stands on her head for a while. It is too funny.)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Gluten, Egg, Dairy Free Bread That Tastes Good!

This is for you Wendy!

I have been gluten-dairy-egg free cooking for 3 years now and this year I FINALLY found a fool proof really good bread recipe. I make 2 loaves every week. They are small, but taste great and have a wonderful texture. I slice them once they are cool and then store them in the freezer in a ziploc bag. I pop the slices in the toaster to defrost them or toast them depending on what we are using them for. The recipe started out as a Bette Hagman recipe, but I have made it my own over time.

Gluten, Egg, Dairy Free Bread That Tastes Good!

Dry Ingredients:
4 cups GF flour mix (I make my own and keep it on hand for baking- usually it is 6 cups rice flour, 2 cup potato starch, 1 cup tapioca flour. For this bread I have been using 2 1/4 rice flour, 1/2 cup potato starch, 1/2 cup tapioca flour, 1/4 cup sorghum flour, 1/2 cup teff flour. I like the mix of the different flours. The teff is awesome!)
3 tsp Xanthan gum
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup almond meal (I just grind up almonds in the food processor and keep them in a bag in the freezer)
1/2 cup natural sugar (I use sucanat)
2 tsp baking powder

(At this point I usually make up a couple of batches of dry ingredients and store them in a gallon size bag in the freezer to cut down on time.)

1 packet (2 tsp) of plain gelatin
2 1/4 tsp dry yeast granule

Wet Ingredients:
2 cups warm to the touch water
3 Tbs Molasses
1/4 cup Shortening or Margarine (I use organic palm oil shortening)
1 tsp Apple cider vinegar
11 tsp Egg Replacer (I use 1/4 cup that is short a tsp or so) mixed in 2/3 cup very warm water frothed up with a fork

I don't have a Kitchenaid mixer, but you can use it with the paddle attachment, not the bread hook. I use my Cuisinart with the metal blade. Dump in all the dry ingredients and pulse it a few times. Dump in all the wet ingredients. Nothing fancy, just mix it all together for a minute or two. Add water until the mixture is the consistency of thick cake batter. I have made it thinner over time and it rises a little too high. It is very forgiving though. Grease and flour 2 loaf pans and add the batter evenly to both. Cover and put in a warm place until the dough rises to the top of the pan, no higher or else the bread will sink after cooking. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and bake for 50-55 minutes, covering bread pans with foil after the first 10 minutes. Loaves should sound hollow when you thump the bottoms. Let cool on rack before trying to slice them.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Rachel's Birthday Extravaganza

We had a wonderful day from start to finish, honoring our little Rachie. She awoke to a breakfast of chocolate rice crispies (the gluten-free, organic kind!) which she obviously loved, orange juice and lots of excitement. We got ready and headed out to the children's museum for a morning of fun, but unfortunately it is closed on Mondays AND Tuesdays. I didn't realize that, so we headed to the park instead. Bennett and Rachel played in the sand, played on the swings and slides. We met Jeromy for lunch after at the Chinese Buffet, that Rachel requested for lunch. The birthday girl enjoyed Teriyaki chicken skewers, rice, french fries with ketchup, broccoli, sushi, tofu, fruit and jello for dessert. She was a happy one! We got home very late for naps, so I let her sleep in until 5:30 (usually she gets up by 4, but I wanted a happy birthday girl for another late night.)

My parents bought her a big balloon bouquet (she said she wanted pink, purple and hello kitty balloons) and they called before they got here so we could keep Rachel outside. They came with my brother and his girlfriend and hid in the house. My parents insisted on surprising her even though I told them she would be scared. She was pretty overwhelmed, but didn't cry like Bennett did! We had Rachel's request for dinner; hot dogs, tator tots, broccoli slaw salad, and crunchy chips (Fritos). We let the kids play a little after dinner. Bennett loves Motley, my brother's dog, but Rachel is deathly afraid, so we held her most of the time. Ellie is taking after Rachel. She cried and whined everytime she even saw the dog. We need to get a dog to get these girls over their fears!

Presents were a blast to watch her open. She was so excited, but even more excited to keep opening more. It was so hard to get any pictures of her because she wouldn't sit still or look a the camera. She would turn her head toward me, but never be looking. I think I posted the only ones I got her to look at me in. Oh well, it was so much fun. She got her favorite chocolate pie for dessert with strawberry soy ice cream for dessert. It was such a wonderful day and quite a celebration for a little girl.

Breakfast, or dessert, I don't know which had more sugar! And yes, she often wears her sunglasses to breakfast. You never know how sunny it might be when you wake up after a long night.

Overwhelmed after the shock of "SURPRISE!"

The Balloons

The birthday girl.

A new dress from grandma and grandpa.

When my mom asked Rachel what she wanted for her birthday, she told her, "A purse with lots of money in it." How funny is that from a 3 year old?! My mom told my brother what she had said, so he and his girlfriend made her wish come true. She pulled the money out and said, "And there's a ticket in it." She loves tickets that come from the sporting events Jeromy goes to and brings home. I guess I need to explain the difference to her :)

Her new playhouse. The gift from Jeromy and myself. It was a big hit with her.

It was a big hit with Bennett too!

The famous chocolate pie! HAPPY BIRTHDAY RACHEL!!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The World's Largest 3 Year Old?!

For the last year or so, we have lovingly referred to Rachel as, "The World's Largest Two Year Old." People were always shocked to hear that she was only two. She is really tall for her age and speaks as if she is 3 or 4. Today I realized that I think of her as older too. Instead of feeling like I can't believe she is three already (today!) I feel like she is FINALLY three.

However I look at it, she is such a delight to our family. She is so different from me, and I LOVE it! She is always happy, smiling and silly. She sings and talks herself to sleep at night and always wakes up cheerful. She makes sure I always remember to cuddle and hold her during the day, she won't go without it. Our house is so bright because of her. She was such an easy, content baby, slept through the night by 2 months old and didn't eat food until she was a year old. Once she started eating table food, she started growing like crazy! She went from a long, skinny little baby, to the world's largest two year old overnight. It was quite a sight to behold. We were worried you would never grow hair and would have a mullet forever. Thankfully, your hair has grown in quite nicely and getting thicker and longer by the day.

We love you, Rachel, and are so excited to see the graceful, sweet young woman God is growing you to be. We pray you keep your happy, joyful heart through all of life's bumps and bruises. Keep believing that "Jesus is God," and, "Jesus is the Christ." (Two things she tells us all the time!) We can't imagine life without you. Be a good big sister to Ellie and teach her how to be such a blessing to her family like you are. HAPPY BIRTHDAY RACHIE!!!!!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Radish Anyone?

Upon tasting his first radish, Bennett said, "Yuck! It tastes like spicy garbage."

My sentiments exactly!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

New Resolutions

We started on a new schedule this morning that I think worked out really well. I hadn't planned on starting anything new today, I just decided that I needed to stop thinking about doing things and just get started. The only thing that didn't get done was my exercising (or even getting dressed yet!) because I am sick (drag!) and not feeling very well. The new morning routine will be:

Cuddle in bed time after I feed Ellie (this is the MOST important part to a good day!)
Me use the treadmill, stretch and do ab/strength exercises
Breakfast for all
Everyone get dressed and ready for the day
Ellie down for morning nap
Bible reading/memory and worship/prayer time with kids
One on one time with Rachel (Work on counting past 12, number/letter recognition, shapes, she has colors down) while Bennett does writing/puzzles
One on one time with Bennett (Reading-Bob books for now) while Rachel does puzzles/stacking/shape games (while not interrupting Bennett 100 times- we'll have to work more on that!)
B and R play outside together (without fighting!)
Ellie up and nurse
Ellie and mom time outside with B and R
Naps/rest time for Bennett (Bennett's rest- he can read/look at books or sleep for 1 hour in his bed. He sets a little timer and can get up and work on his homeschooling for an hour- it is coloring/letter writing/phonics worksheets etc. He can go outside and play at 3pm)
Rachel and Ellie up by 4 pm
Dinner prep
Jeromy home
Family time
Beddie Bye for the Littles
Relaxing time for mommy and daddy

I wish that doing what I should be doing naturally wouldn't have to be so purposeful, but it does. I have to force myself to be better about working one on one with Bennett and Rachel. Life isn't going to get any more accommodating than it is now, so I need to learn how to fit all I need to be doing within the 24 hours given to me each day (and I spend a large portion of it sleeping!) I haven't fit in housecleaning and errands to the schedule, so it obviously is flexible. It is a start though, and both the kids enjoyed their time with mom "homeschooling." At least for today, I can be satisfied with my accomplishments, except for the staying in my pajamas, but hey, I am sick :( Bennett read the first 3 Bob books today which was really exciting. He memorizes things extremely fast, so I don't think we'll be able to read the same books more than a few times. I also have to remind him not to look at the pictures to help him figure out a word, but I was so proud of him, and he was pretty proud of himself too!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Darfur, Sudan

I just watched a Frontline documentary on the history of the Darfur crisis. Actually, it was on the broader history of genocide since the last part of the 20th century. Rwanda (500,000-1,000,000 dead), Srebrenica Genocide in Bosnia (8,000 men and boys dead), and now Darfur (200,000 to 700,000 dead, millions forced to refugee camps). After Rwanda, "Never Again" became the slogan promising that the world would never stand by and watch a genocide happen again without stepping in to stop it. Obviously, "Never Again," had no power behind the sentiment as the world has stood by idly and watched atrocity spiral out of control since the problems started in Darfur in 2003.

I didn't know much of the information related in the Frontline documentary, and I found it very compelling, so I want to share it with those that might have been in the dark like I was. Here's what I learned.

2003 was the start of the crisis. The Arab dominated Sudanese government set out to squash a rebellion of non-arab people feeling oppressed by the government and felt that the Darfur region was being completely forgot. The most interesting piece of this pretty complex puzzle is that China came on the Sudanese scene once oil was found there and now has a huge presence and interest there. It is their second largest source of oil, offshore is their first. The Chinese has been the largest supplier of weapons to the Sudanese, although Russia has provided their fair share. Check out this link to learn more about how China is greatly contributing to the crisis in Darfur. The Sudanese government began to arm the Arab militia, the Janjaweed, and give them air support as they pillaged, looted and destroyed villages, murdered and raped the non-Arab inhabitants of the villages. The Janjaweed are nomadic, camel people and the lure of land and pasture for their animals was all they needed to begin this rampage.

2004- 4 UN resolutions, they were not heeded or followed up with any consequences. Every month, 6000 deaths. China vetoed resolutions and had their oil installations on their mind. Russia was being blamed for atrocities in Chechnya, and couldn't speak out against a government squealching a rebellion. The US sent people to the region who came back and said YES, it is genocide. I am not sure why murder and rape has to fall under the heading of genocide for it to be really bad. It is like needing to put a crime under the heading "hate crime" for it to be bad. A crime is a crime. Murder and rape is ALWAYS bad, whether or not it is ethnically motivated.

2005- 7 UN Resolutions- including ones that would put troops on the ground and and arms embargos. The Canadian government proposed a resolution saying that you cannot protect the sovereignty of a government when they are abusing their people. It would give the UN the authority to intervene in order to protect the people within a country. (Let me just interject here what a joke the UN is. A bunch of people standing around bureaucrating and arguing the finer points of nation building and protecting. They have no power, nor would they use it if it were necessary. When you have nations like China involved, the UN will remain a joke.)

2006- 8 UN Resolutions- Resolution #1706 was passed increasing the number of African union troops to be sent to Sudan from 7,000 to 20,000. The Chinese agreed not to veto the resolution as long as a clause was included that the Sudanese government would have to agree to the troop increase. Ha! Why even bother? Of course the government said NO.

In 2006 the Dafur crisis that was not taken care of in 2003 was now also the Chad crisis. The Janjeweed attacked 60 villages in Chad in 1 month alone. The refugee camps in Sudan are surrounded by the Janjeweed and even the humanitarian workers are not being protected.

2007- I won't even give lip service to the UN resolutions. A very smart group of people began to brand the summer olympics in beijing the "Genocide Olympics." They went on every news program and talked to every newspaper, making sure they emphasized the words "Beijing" and "Genocide Olympics." This got more done than has gotten done in the previous 3 years. China is trying to buff up their reputation. This is their coming out party after '89's "Tiananmen Square." Do you know that they don't even acknowledge that the massacre ever even happened. You'd think they would talk about it to their people to help keep them in communist line, but nope. Complete denial. This media coverage forced their hand. On July 31, 2007 the UN (sorry, they are the only ones "officially" involved) resolved to send 26,000 troops to Sudan with the mandate to protect the people. The forces must be African and there is to be no disarmament of the Janjeween.

The closing sentiment of the program was that the UN is not the means to prevent genocide. I agree, but I wish the world would decide what is. I agree that the US shouldn't be the world's "police force" but shouldn't we have some brotherly kindness in our heart to the plight of innocent people. Wouldn't we be up in arms if each girl and woman in the next town from us were brutally raped by 20 men each. If every man was murdered in our town and it was burned to the ground, how would we feel knowing that no one was coming to help us. I can't imagine, but the people in the refugee camps know that kind of hopelessness and fear. More than one person interviewed wanted to die. They didn't even care anymore.

Never Again?

Not until Jesus returns.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Pet Peeves

5 Pet Peeves

1) Receipts that are 5 feet long, even if you only buy one thing. (Does anyone take those surveys?)

2) Being asked if I need any batteries at Toys R Us when all I bought was diapers. (Yes, I know they HAVE to ask, but it still bugs me!)

3) After size 2T, they don't make girl's dresses that come with matching bloomers. (What 2 year old girl keeps her legs down?!)

4) Being a light sleeper. (My mom assures me that when all the kids are out of the house, you magically start sleeping like the dead.)

5) People who leave shopping carts in parking spaces. (How lazy can you get?! We live somewhere very windy, and I have seen them blow into parked cars.)

On a brighter note, I used to make waffles every Saturday morning for my family. "Used to" because one day I nearly threw the waffle iron through the window because every batch stuck so bad in the iron I had to peel it out with a spatula and throw it in the garbage. No matter how I tweaked my recipe or oiled the iron, I couldn't get them to stop sticking. I went on "waffle strike" for about 3 or 4 months. This past Saturday, I decided to give it one more try and then throw out my waffle iron if they didn't turn out. When the waffle iron timer went off for the first batch, I opened it and the waffles completely stuck to the top and bottom, splitting in half. I closed the iron and told the fam that my waffle days were over, never to be revisited. I then went on to make waffle pancakes, which Bennett and Rachel LOVED. After about 10 minutes of the waffle iron being closed I opened it to try to get the waffles out, and it all came out in one piece. I was shocked! Then it came to me that the waffle iron wasn't cooking the waffles like it did in the beginning, when it was new, and the outside was getting too brown before the inside had time to cook. That is why it split in half. I rescued the remaining batter from the fate of becoming a gummy pancake, turned the heat down to low on the waffle iron, and presto, PERFECT, NON-STICKING, FULLY COOKED WAFFLES!! I was so excited, mostly because I LOVE waffles. What makes the timing perfect for my entrance back into waffle mastery is that it is also strawberry season. Oh waffles, how I missed the. :)


I noticed the first time I did laundry in our new house that a little water leaked out from under the washing machine. (The stacking washer and dryer came with the house too.) I didn't think too much about it until ALOT of water came out from under the washing machine. Eventually ALL the water came out from under the washing machine, into our kitchen mind you. Thankfully, I thought, we have a home warranty plan that covers drain blockages, (as long as the problem isn't roots in the pipes) so we should be covered. The plumber came out on Friday afternoon and said that the pipe connecting from the washer to the mainline isn't large enough for modern day appliances (our house was built in the 50s). He proposed to replace it with a pipe that would bring it to code and whether the old pipe was just blocked or too small, the problem would be fixed. He said he would get the repairs authorized and would call back to set up a time to fix the problems. (I was so backed up with laundry, I had to go to my mom's on Saturday for 4 hours to do it all!)

Well, I just spent my entire morning on the phone with our home warranty company (AHS) who I feel rivals any health insurance company out there. They of course don't want to pay to fix anything, so they find any exclusion they can dream up (in this case article I.4). Our plumber said that AHS recently rewrote their coverage and exclusion plan, and he didn't realize that there are new buzzwords that he can't say. (In our case, "lack of capacity") I told him (from what I read and could understand in the fine print) what might get our problem fixed, so hopefully he can work something out with them. We are just waiting for now (still without a working washing machine!) for the powers that be to grant us to ability to do laundry.

(This so reminds me our our health insurance company that wouldn't pay my maternity costs for Ellie under the maternity coverage because I had to see two different providers when she ended up being breach. I ended up having to pay it as an office visit which tacked on 20% of the total costs. Okay, if I wasn't pregnant then who was that little person that we had to take home from the hospital. Really, people!)

(A side note that I thought was pretty funny was that our plumber said that you can't tell before you clear a line what is blocking it. He said that plumbers don't have x-ray vision :) If it happened to be roots inside of the pipe, which is not covered by warranties, he was able to call it a structural failure because pipes are supposed to be water tight and impenetrable, not allowing roots to get in. Way to work the system!)

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

A Day in the Kitchen

What did I do ALL day on Saturday?

It was our Sunday to bring snacks to fellowship time at church, so I made chocolate chip cookie bars, gluten free chocolate chip cookie bars for my little ones, and brownies. It was also Jeromy's birthday on Friday, but we were celebrating it with my family on Sunday, and he requested a plain cheesecake with oreo cookie crust. We also had a salad potluck at church so I made a green salad with chicken, garbanzo beans, artichoke hearts, roasted asparagus, pecans and dried cranberries with a honey vinaigrette. It was pretty delicious if I do say so myself. Needless to say, I spent the whole day baking and cooking. Jeromy kept the little ones occupied, so I could cook in peace, and it all turned out pretty well. I have never made a cheesecake before and ran into some problems, like the bowl I was trying to mix it all in was too small and cream cheese splattered the ENTIRE kitchen. Even my feet were splatter painted. I also didn't know how high to fill up the pan, and the cake ended up being really tall. It was a ten pound cheesecake (at least!) Jeromy in the end decided that he likes his mom's cheescake better which he remembered was a no-bake kind and would have taken me a fraction of the time. Oh well, it was his birthday gift, so the labor of love was worth it. I will NOT be spending the day in the kitchen next Saturday (hopefully!)

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Rachel Funnies

"Mommy, my tummy has a headache!" (This was after the hot dog incident of last Tuesday)

"Mommy, what was that noise outside? I think it wan elephant..... no, there are no elephants at our house!" After hearing it again, "Mommy, it WAS an elephant!"

"Did you know that it is really hard to sleep while you are standing up?"

"I ran so fast, it made my leg itch."

This girl is no shortage of funny sayings.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Memorial Day

Okay, I am a week late with a Memorial Day post, but I am about a week late with all of life these days, so blogging shouldn't be spared the distinction as well.

Jeromy invited 28 people over our house (2 weeks after we moved in!) for a Memorial Day BBQ. It was a blessing in disguise, as it forced us to work all weekend to get completely settled in. 2 of the families that were planning to attend weren't able to come at the last minute, so the crowd was much more manageable (although we had a TON of leftovers). We had a wonderful day with beautiful weather. Thunderstorms were forecasted, but it was sunny and 90 degrees. The children played in the sprinklers, and the older children joined us in very interesting conversation. It was a perfect 1st BBQ in our new house.