Sunday, January 24, 2010

Learning Days

Sheesh - it seems like I wake up one morning and an entire week has passed! How CAN that be? Life is zooming by at an alarming rate and I am running to catch up!

An odd observation, though - ever since losing our home in the fire of June '07, I have felt "unmotivated". I used to be so excited about baking, projects around the house, gardening, and, well, life in general. I just didn't want to start anything, participate in much - just wanted to veg. Until about late November of this year. All of a sudden, it was like an explosion inside of me - I wanted to learn, make, do and "be". Then we went to China, which set me back on my haunches for a bit. Watch out friends - I can feel the motors revving up inside of me - I am ready to rock and roll again!

One of the side effects of this re-discovered energy is that I love to work out on the wii! The littles are only too eager to join in - little rats!
I even made cookies the other night! Well, kind of - I found a good recipe and convinced the teens that "we" needed to make cookies. I offered to clean up the mess when they were done - does that count????

The littles are busy absorbing life.
Apparently no one had ever taken the time to work with our sweet Zabi - she really didn't have a concept of counting or color identification. Her paperwork mentioned that she was resistant to "learning" from adults but would learn things from other children. I believe that that is one piece of correct information - if I try to sit down and teach in a structured, formal setting - I can guarantee myself frustration.
But, if we turn our learning into a game - she soaks up new concepts like a little sponge! I do have a hard time of keeping Chicka from giving Zabi the correct action or response, though!
Over the weekend, we celebrated two birthdays. Hubby's sister and their mom have their special day within a couple of weeks of each other, so we decided to all meet for lunch in Astoria and celebrate. Neither of them were overly pleased when I mentioned to the restaurant staff that they could lead us in a nice, loud round of Happy Birthday! I thought it was a great idea!
Chicka had been begging to go to the beach, so we made time to run down to see the ocean after lunch. It was pretty cold, so we didn't stay long. IBoy volunteered to drive sis-in-law back to town in her car, so he missed out on playing in the sand. Have I mentioned lately how much I LOVE my Rebel XT camera??????

Another heartfelt thanks to Jennifer, a special travel mate to China in '08, who found and purchased the camera at an awesome price to pass along to me! I am no expert, by any means, but when I can get this quality of a photo without doing anything to the photo past turning the camera on, pointing and shooting and not editing afterwards, I am one happy camper!!!!

Sunday, January 17, 2010


We have had a busy week - but I think that is our new normal.

Today, a family with whom we traveled with in China, was able to come down from Bellingham and visit us briefly. What a treat! Of course, we hope to be able to get together with them again!
This is their son, who joined their family the same time as Zabi joined us, and their daughter, previously adopted from Russia. The four kiddos were having a blast playing dress-up.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Letter T

But first, hot off the press, is a photo of our eldest son, his wife and their sweetest little girl! Unfortunately, they live on the Atlantic side and we, the Pacific side of our great US of A. So, we don't see each other in person very often :-(

Thanks to all of you who offered great ideas for tactile ideas to learn letters! We used the cornmeal one today. I think we will try the pudding idea tomorrow! I do hope the amount of pudding on the floor won't be the same as cornmeal on the floor was!

Another fun activity we did recently was to string yarn all over the house and the girls had to climb over and around all sorts of things while holding the yarn - twisty turny throughout the house. They thought it was hilarious! I think I got my exercise stringing it all up and taking it down again!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Two Much Fun!

We have had quite a few "craft times", which are a big hit. They seem to work well when a situation is quickly deteriorating as a redirection. Bath time is always a hit, as is brushing out your sister's hair.

Family Fun had featured these pretzel snowmen in their December issue and Chicka had been asking to make them for over a month. I finally figured out that she really did want to make them, so we gathered the supplies and began our project. The girls had a blast and we all enjoyed eating them!

Monday, January 4, 2010


I happened to receive a GREAT gift for Christmas this year.

A real, live popcorn maker! Just like in the theatres, only smaller - unfortunately, much smaller! That is OK - the taste is so yummy, I am willing to stand there and make 6 batches in a row to satisfy this little family's munch cravings. In fact, I have found the only person who loves to munch popcorn more than me, is Zabi! Chicka would be the least interested, so Zabi, being the dear sister that she is, is only too willing to help out!

I have also found, although this kind of defeats the health benefits, that by adding about 1/2 teaspoon of sugar to the mix, the result is just like fresh kettle corn! We pop in olive oil and don't use any butter on top, and only a smidgeon of salt, so it is still healthy, right?????

The Health Benefits of Popcorn: A Surprising Study

A new study carried out at the University of Scranton showed that popcorn has some surprising health benefits. Popcorn is high in antioxidants, most notably, polyphenols – a group of natural plant chemicals that have a variety of health benefits. Polyphenols are the same group of compounds that give red wine, tea, olive oil, and chocolate their beneficial properties. Not only do they scavenge free radicals and protect against cell damage, they’re being investigated for their anti-cancer properties and heart protective properties. In fact, the researchers found that the polyphenol content of good, old-fashioned popcorn rivals that of many fruits and vegetables.

Another health benefit of popcorn? It’s a whole grain in the same league as oatmeal, barley, brown rice, and millet – grains that are known for their health benefits. All of these grains retain the bran and germ of the plant which is the source of most of the vitamins and minerals - in contrast to refined grains where these vitamin-rich components have been stripped away. Three cups of popcorn is equivalent to a single serving of a whole grain food. Popcorn is also a good source of fiber which helps to increase satiety and give a sense of fullness and satisfaction that lasts for hours. This can be helpful for weight control since popcorn without butter is low in calories.

Read more at Suite101: The Health Benefits of Popcorn: A Tasty Snack That's Actually Good for You

the following was taken from Wikipedia:

Popcorn was first discovered thousands of years ago by the Native Americans. Some tribes believed that the popping noise was that of an angry god who escaped the kernel. The English who came to America in the 16th and 17th centuries learned about popcorn from the Native Americans.

During the Great Depression, popcorn was comparatively cheap at 5-10 cents a bag and became popular. Thus, while other businesses failed, the popcorn business thrived and became a source of income for some struggling farmers. During World War II, sugar rations diminished candy production, causing Americans to eat three times more popcorn than they had before.
Each kernel of popcorn contains a certain amount of moisture and oil. Unlike most other grains, the outer hull of the popcorn kernel is both strong and impervious to moisture, and the starch inside consists almost entirely of a hard, dense type.
As the oil and the water are heated past the boiling point, they turn the moisture in the kernel into a superheated pressurized steam, contained within the moisture-proof hull. Under these conditions, the starch inside the kernel gelatinizes, softening and becoming pliable. The pressure continues to increase until the breaking point of the hull is reached: a pressure of about 135 psi (930 kPa)[7] and a temperature of 180 °C (356 °F). The hull ruptures rapidly, causing a sudden drop in pressure inside the kernel and a corresponding rapid expansion of the steam, which expands the starch and proteins of the endosperm into airy foam. As the foam rapidly cools, the starch and protein polymers set into the familiar crispy puff.
Special varieties are grown to give improved popping yield. Some wild types will pop, but the cultivated strain is Zea mays averta, which is a special kind of flint corn.

Although small quantities can be popped in a stovetop kettle in a home kitchen, commercial sale of freshly popped popcorn employs specially designed popcorn machines, which were invented in Chicago, Illinois by Charles Cretors in 1885. Cretors successfully introduced his invention at the Columbian Exposition in 1893. (At this same world's fair, F.W. Rueckheim introduced the first caramel corn; his brother, Louis, slightly altered the recipe and introduced it as Cracker Jack popcorn in 1896.

Cretors' invention introduced the first patented steam-driven popcorn machine that popped corn in oil. Previously, vendors popped corn by holding a wire basket over an open flame. At best, the result was a hot, dry, unevenly cooked confection. The Cretors' machine popped corn in a mixture of one-third clarified butter, two-thirds lard, and salt. This mixture could withstand the 450 °F (232 °C) temperature needed to pop corn and it did without producing much smoke. A fire under a boiler created steam that drove a small engine; that engine drove the gears, shaft, and agitator that stirred the corn and powered the attention-attracting clown – the Toasty Roasty Man. A wire connected to the top of the cooking pan allowed the operator to disengage the drive mechanism, lift the cover, and dump popped corn into the storage bin beneath. Exhaust from the steam engine was piped to a hollow pan below the corn storage bin and kept freshly popped corn uniformly warm for the first time ever.

A very different method of popcorn-making can still be seen on the streets of some Chinese cities today. The corn is poured into a large cast-iron canister- sometimes called a 'popcorn hammer'- that is then sealed with a heavy lid and slowly turned over a curbside fire in rotisserie fashion. When a pressure gauge on the canister reaches a certain level, it is removed from the fire, a large canvas sack is put over the lid, and the seal is released. With a huge boom, all of the popcorn explodes at once and is poured into the sack.

The girls' eye appointment is approaching, and they are now old enough to do the test with letters instead of animals. So, we have been working on learning V, H, O and T. Today we painted the letters. I think tomorrow that we will do sand or glitter on glue and see how that works out. I guess dough would be another option for another day. Any other suggestions?

Saturday, January 2, 2010


OK. I admit it. I am having WAY too much fun having two four year old daughters! I know that you will groan and say "NO - stop the photos! Please, spare me!". Sorry. Not really - just move on to do something else if you don't want to see them - they are not that great (the photos, I mean), but, gosh, I love my all my chil'in's!

Epiphany 2010

In the early Church, Epiphany was second only to the Easter Vigil as the time to celebrate the Sacrament of Baptism. The blessed water was used to bless the dwelling of the faithful and the initials "C+B+M" meaning 'Christ blesses this house" ("Christus bendicat mansionem") were written over the door. Since the Three Kings were also remembered at the same time, the initial of their names C+B+M. Casper, Balthasar and Melchior were used. Caspar in Slovak is Gasper.

In the United States the Feast of Three Kings is celebrated on the first Sunday after New Years Day. The custom of blessing homes by the priest has somehow slipped away. Below is the prayer for blessing your home that was given by the pastor, Msg. Thomas Banick to the parishioners of St. Mary’s/St. Joseph’s Slovak Church in Wilkes-Barre.

Blessing of the Home and Household on The Epiphany.

(An Epiphany blessing of water and chalk takes place in church to be distributed and taken home. At home, all gather to celebrate the following Blessing of the Home and Household on the Epiphany.)

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Peace be with this house and with all who dwell here.

Blessed be the name of the Lord now and forever.

During these days of the Christmas Season, we keep this feast of Epiphany, celebrating the manifestation of Christ to the Magi, to John in the Jordan River, and to the disciples at the wedding at Cana. Today Christ is made manifest to us. Today this home is a holy place.

Let us listen to the words of the Holy Gospel According to John:

In the Beginning was the word,
and the word was with God,
and the word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things came to be through Him,
and without Him nothing came to be.

And the word became flesh
and made His dwelling among us,
and we saw His Glory,
the Glory of the Father’s only Son,
filled with enduring Love.
The Gospel of the Lord,

Praise to You, Lord Jesus Christ.

Let us pray:

Blessed are You, Lord God of all creation: By the guidance of a star You led the Magi to Your Child, and by the light of faith You bring us to know Christ as Lord, the Messiah, You have sent.

Bless us as we use this chalk to mark our doors in Your honor. May all who come to our house this year rejoice to find Christ living among us; and may we seek and serve, in everyone we meet, Jesus who is Lord.

(The chalk is used to mark the current year and the initials of the Magi- Caspar, Melchior, Balthasar- above or on the doorway: 20+C+M+B+10)

May this home be a dwelling place of goodness, humility and self control, mutual respect and love for one another, hospitality toward all who visit here, and obedience to Your word. Amen.

Friday, January 1, 2010

On the First Night of the New Year . . . . .

. . . . . . . we SLEPT!!!!!!! Maybe it isn't the best habit to set, but more importantly, we SLEPT!!!!!!

I laid down with a girlie on either side of me and we ALL went to sleep! No fussing, no crying, we blissfully SLEPT! Can you tell I am more than a little excited????? Of course there was the downside. I had to be back in town by 7 AM to pick up the teens! Ah well, I am actually looking forward to tonight now!

Little skirmishes have happened, but really these girls don't want to be apart! When one leaves the room to go play somewhere else, the other follows. Chicka went to the closet (she is the fashion queen, you know!) and chose clothes for today for both of them. Matching, of course! She has the habit of choosing her clothes the night before and laying them out. She holds up a skirt or pair of pants to several choices shirts before she makes a decision. Then you have the socks to coordinate, and that is a whole other ball game!