Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Listen to Your Mama

I know my children very well. That's not to say I don't know some things about them, we do not inhabit the same mind, after all. Thankfully. But, I've spent a huge amount of their lives with them, and I *do* know their reading preferences.

Dominic only likes comedy. He prefers it mixed with action, like in the Ranger's Apprentice and Brotherband series by John Flanagan (we really like the audiobooks for these, by the way, available on audible), but comedy is where it's at for him. He's also a huge fan of Anne McCaffrey, adventure with some comedy thrown in.

Xavier likes dystopian societies. He likes them for the first couple books, then ends up throwing the last one across the room, a boy after my own heart. (Have you ever noticed that many dystopian series come in trilogies?) He and Gabriel both have a love/hate relationship with emotional books.

Gabriel likes adventure books, things by Tom Clancy and Clive Cussler are favorite authors, with Sherlock Holmes being high on his list of series as well.

But, even though I've been teaching my children for 8 years, they still don't trust me. Maybe it's because I occasionally make them read things I know they'll dislike but that I think are important. Most recently, this was Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cr. I knew Xavier would hate it; he's just so incredibly empathetic that it would hurt him. It did. After he read it, however, I had him write about why he did or didn't like it, and why it's an important book to read even when you don't like it. He was on board with this and gave excellent reasons for both parts of the essay.

Still, I knew when I assigned "To Kill a Mockingbird" that he'd love it. Gabriel loved it. It is still one of my favorite all time books, and it fits Xavier's reading personality perfectly. Plus, I think it's an important book to read.

He balked. He drew the reading of that book out for three weeks, reading a few pages here and there, until I told him I wanted him to finish it this week. He still had more than half the book left to read when I left for work yesterday at 1:00. This was the text I received 2 hours later.

Yep. I know my kids.

*Affiliate links contained in this post. If you choose to purchase a book by clicking on one of the links, I will receive a small percentage of the sale price.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Darwin Chicken

Last night, I made stir fry for dinner and went ahead and cut up the chicken for tonight's dinner. Although this is a recipe I've been eating since I was a kid, it's relatively new to our family, since I had forgotten about it. There's no need for a real recipe, but at the end of this post, I'll tell you how it's made. First, the story of how it got its name 

Our family loves playing with words. For some reason, a couple members of our family enjoy mispronouncing words. I don't know why, I just know they do. Jalapeño is one word that is almost never pronounced correctly, even though we all know the correct way to do so.  Instead, everyone says ja-lop-en-yo. Tonight, when I said I was making ja-lop-en-yo chicken for supper, Gabriel thought I said Galapagos chicken. This prompted Xavier to rename the meal Darwin Chicken. It is now the official name or this meal. 

Typically, we eat this with fry bread, and I've been trying out a few different recipes for gluten-free fry bread. I've liked both the ones I've tried. 

So, to make Darwin Chicken, there's a formula you follow. Use the amount of chicken breast you need for your family. For every 2 pounds of chicken, I use one jar of diced jalapeños. Cube the chicken and marinated the chicken in the jalapeño juice for at least three hours. Toss in flour and fry. Don't overcrowd the pan, since it actually takes longer to cook that way. 

I hope your family enjoys this recipe. Do you have any recipes you'd like to suggest for us?

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Anne McCaffrey

I first read an Anne McCaffrey book when I was 12. I know this because the book set my parents subsequently bought for me were inscribed for my 13th birthday. I have loved Anne McCaffrey ever since.

I introduced my own children to Anne McCaffrey's worlds at much younger ages. I don't know how old Gabriel was the first time he read about Pern, but Dominic has been listening to the audiobooks for at least 2 years. He is 11.

This semester, we decided that a unit study of the Pern books was in order. Dominic and Xavier had been relistening to the Pern books in chronological order, but we decided to read them in the order McCaffrey wrote them in, as she suggested.

One of the things I do when creating a unit study is to pull vocabulary words from the books, in addition to quotes, historical and scientific references, and more. Although I have been reading Anne McCaffrey's works for 25 years, I never realized until now how rich the language is in her books. And, because I have been writing down quotes I enjoy, I have also acquired a greater appreciation for her turn of phrase. Here are just a few quotes I've found from the first two books in our study, Dragonflight and Dragonquest.

Talking about Lessa
She was used to waiting. Perversity, endurance, and guile were her other weapons, loaded with the inexhaustible patience of vengeful dedication.
Many of my favorite quotes come from Masterharper Robinton:
Gratitude is an ill fitting tunic that can chafe and smell if worn too long.
Silly people waste time assigning or assuming guilt
Life at the mountaintop Weyrs assumed a glamor all out of proportion to reality...

Fantastic descriptions run rampant in Anne McCaffrey's books:
The black maws of the individual wears, set in the face of the inner wall, were voiceless mouths, greeting hime all astonished.

And Mastersmith Fandarel, well known for his love of efficiency certainly has his times as well:

Ah, but a man can sleep anytime. A laugh restores the soul.

And, I think that last quote is my current favorite. "A laugh restores the soul."

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Regime Change

Earlier today, Dominic set himself up in the hallway with a chair and his schoolwork. He handed me some hall passes (that he signed so they could not be forged), and showed me his badge. Then, he promptly began asking his brothers for their hall pass every time they walked through the hallway.

This prompted Gabriel to run through the house gleefully shouting, "Can't catch me, copper," and "You'll never take me alive!" 

Since then, Dominic has threatened to slap Gabriel with his glove to challenge him to a duel. He has misused his power to move about the house freely, and generally had a blast being the self-designated hall monitor.

Maybe I should have Gary bring him home a safety vest.

(What do you think of his new hair cut? It's a HUGE change for us.)

Monday, December 22, 2014

How and Why Our Family Celebrates Christmas

Our first and favorite Santa.
Gabriel was never afraid of Santa.
A family favorite
The year Gabriel thought being funny was the most important thing.

Gabriel was growing up.
The only evidence we have that Xavier has glasses
The last Santa picture, unless they take pity on me.
How we like to celebrate Christmas
When Gary and I got married, one of the things we had to decide was whether we would celebrate Christmas. Neither of us are or were Christians. I had explored Wicca, but did not wish to follow that path. I had a desire to explore Judaism, but had not done so. As a result, we had neither a religious reason to celebrate Christmas, nor a religious reason not to celebrate Christmas. Since both our families, one Catholic, one Protestant, celebrated Christmas, we decided it made sense to celebrate Christmas. But our Christmas has always been a secular one.

When the boys were little, Christmas was largely about giving and receiving gifts, spending time together, and relaxing. As time has gone by, it has become all about spending time together. We do not celebrate the religious aspects of Christmas. For us, it is a time to celebrate our family and friends. We take the time the government gives us away from jobs and school to spend together.

In recent years, we have talked more and more of changing our celebration to one of the winter solstice. I suspect this will happen next year. But, it is just a day on the calendar. We start our celebration early, and run it as long as our schedule will allow it. So, what do we do?

We game. We game. We game. We bake, and eat, and game. We drink hot chocolate and vanilla, hot apple cider, and eggnog, and we game.

For the last eight years or so, a large portion of our winter season has been devoted to gaming. For several years, most of our evenings were devoted to tae kwon do, so the return to gaming has been that much sweeter.

This year, we are excited for this holiday season. Gary was deployed last year, and it was a pretty depressing Christmas. We are all so happy to have him home this year. Next year, Gabriel will return home from college just in time for Christmas, which, having experienced this phenomenon with Gary, I'm sure will will make the holidays that much more joyful.

PS. In case you're not a long time reader of our blog, I want to point out that we celebrate the winter solstice, Chanukah, Christmas, and New Year's Day. We love winter holidays.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Happy Winter Solstice

This sunrise brought to you by my work as a barista.

I am not a morning person. This fact was well established by the time I was in middle school. But, I love sunrises. There is something special about a sunrise, about a new day, the possibilities inherent in the dawn. The same is true for the winter solstice.

Winter solstice signals the returning of the light. It brings with it rebirth for the earth. Slowly, throughout the winter, the earth is renewed to bring forth spring. Winter is the promise of things to come. One of those things is the returning light of longer days. For this reason, I love winter solstice. 

On this winter solstice, I have a message for the parents. Let go of the past. Realize that the mistakes you have made with your children were mistakes. You made the best choices with the information you had. Sometimes, part of the information is in darkness. Forgive yourself for not having all the information. Move on. Embrace the new day. Embrace the returning of the light to the earth. Allow it into your heart, and let it back out in joy and love.

Happy Winter Solstice! Much love, light, and joy to you this winter season.


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