Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I missed that chapter

When Baby #4 and I went to visit the doctor one week after her birth, he asked me how it was going.

"Well, it's so much easier with my fourth," I said. "At least I kind of know what I'm doing."

Back with the first child, I read all the books about how to get a baby to sleep. I learned all about getting a baby on a good schedule as early as possible. I knew how to be tough and let a baby cry, if necessary, to teach her how to soothe herself to sleep.

I was making some progress with the newborn. Then, we hit five weeks. She had been more of a spitter than my others since birth. But as I anxiously awaited the end of the crabby stage that always hits at 6 weeks, she was getting fussier than ever.

We had made progress reaching four- and five-hour stretches of sleep, but seemed to be going backward. The spitting was turning into puking after every feeding.

At 3 months, I expected a growth spurt. I wasn't ready for a week-long, round-the-clock, every-two-hour demand for nursing.

And now that we've hit four months, I've basically thrown away all of the books. Because they didn't write a chapter about this.

Instead of doubling her birth weight at the 4-month visit, Babycake weighed in at 11 pounds, 7 ounces this month. The doctor actually gave me a little worried look because she had dropped down to the 15th percentile for weight. And his very conservative "breastmilk until 6 months approach" changed to, "let's try to get her to eat cereal three times a day." Starting now.

We're not sure why she's spitting up so much of what she's consuming. It could be an allergy to something in my diet. Or she might grow out of it after we get her going on the cereal.

Until then, I've stopped worrying about the books and everything I learned with the other kids. She doesn't have a sleep schedule. She is up basically every two hours all night long. She doesn't nap well. And I think she's spitting up so much of what she consumes that's she simply hungry.

She's a super sweet, smiley baby when she's fed and her tummy doesn't hurt. She's started laughing out loud. She makes spitting noises at us to get our attention. She rolls up on her sides and scoots on her back to try to get what she wants. She's reaching all of her milestones.

But when she cries, I hold her. When she chews her hand, I feed her. Even if it hasn't been three hours. Even when the books say not to.

And that's OK. Because I did learn one thing from being a mom of three other kids. I will blink, and she will be 9 years old. This time will be over before I know it.

I feel like I have no book knowledge on how to help her or what to do next. I'm going purely on that mommy gut instinct at this point, and thankfully, that's one thing I have now that I couldn't get from a book.

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Monday, March 29, 2010

What they have in common

OK, my bloggy friends. You know me too well! Either that or my quiz was way too easy. Whatever the case, you came very close to getting the correct answer to my question.

On Friday evening, I was looking at those three things in my kitchen and it made me feel so happy. It reminded me of a time not that many years ago when I felt like I had walked through a desert. I was feeling wiped out, in need of refreshment and lonely.

The three things reminded me of how blessed I am right now to be doing life with a lot of great people. They reminded me of community.

The daisies were a gift from my secret sister at our home school co-op. I wasn't sure if I would want to get involved in a co-op with so much happening in our lives this first year of home school, but I thought it might be good for the kids.

I didn't realize how good it would be for me! Home school can be isolating, so it's nice to be doing it with other families. But the amazing thing is how much this group of families really likes being together.

When co-op ends at 1:30 on Fridays, we all end up hanging around for another hour or more to talk and let the kids play. After every field trip, several of the moms immediately start uploading their photos of the adventure to Facebook. The first time I saw this happen I told my husband, "Wow! These women are just. like. me!" =]

Two of them even have blogs, so you know how much I like them. In fact, three of the families have started attending our church, and one other family already went there. So, now not only do we see each other at co-op, but we see many of these people at Awana and small group and church and after church at lunch. I love doing life together.


The next photo was of a bag of friendship bread starter, although I loved the guesses that it was some kind of milk I was going to feed the baby. That was a very creative guess!

The boys have two friends from their old school who are brothers. There has always been something special about these two groups of two brothers that made them have the most fun together.

We haven't seen them as much now that we are doing school at home, and the friends are still on a school-day schedule. But on Friday, their mom invited our boys over for an extended playdate that lasted until bed time.

When I dropped off the boys, it seemed like the younger two had both grown a foot and were catching up with their third-grade brothers. But the boys picked up right where they had left off and ran out to the trampoline where they later started a "war" of the big brothers vs. the (not so) little brothers.

The other mom brought the boys home and dropped off the bag of friendship bread starter. I have NEVER made friendship bread! Can you believe it? So, I was excited to learn about how to do it, and I'm impatiently counting down the 10 days until we get to eat it.

And the starter just reminded me how thankful I am for friends from the past who make an effort to keep that relationship going even when it takes a little extra work. And it reminded me that even though we aren't part of the school community that used to be such a big part of our lives, we are still able to do life with those people.


The third picture was a huge pan of pulled pork.

I have mentioned before that the women in my church are amazing cooks and they are always there with a meal if someone is in need. We have been the recipients of many of these awesome meals over the last few months.

While I was gone all day on Friday, my husband cooked a ton of pulled pork in his convection cooker. When I got home, he asked me who needed a meal so we could share it with some other families.

I thought it was awesome that my husband was cooking meals for people without even being asked. And it made me realize how nice it is to be part of a community of people who look out for each other in this way. We really appreciate all of the meals that have come into our home, but we definitely prefer to be on the giving end!

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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Three things

These three things were in my kitchen on Friday.

They all have something in common.

Any ideas what they are?

And what they remind me of?

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

How we use the computer

Because this was our first year of doing school at home, I wasn't sure how much we would use the computer in our day-to-day school work.

But by Christmastime, I discovered the computer was a great tool to help with some of our subjects. In fact, we were using it so much that we purchased a new computer to use exclusively for home school.

It helps break up the day and motivate the kids because they love computer time. I also try to organize our day so that one child can do an activity on the computer while I am helping another child with one of his subjects.

Here are some of the ways we use the computer. These are great for kids whether they do school at home or not.


The kids love using Spelling City, which is a free web site, to review their spelling words. I let them practice their words on the computer several times a week, and then I ask them to write their words on paper the other days.

Spelling City saves me a lot of time because I don't have to give the boys their spelling words. I can type them in, and then the computer reads them and gives them a sentence for each word. They also can click to ask the computer to review only the words they missed.

The web site includes games they can play with their spelling words. Since we do other activities as part of our curriculum, we don't use the games.


We use Sheppard Software Geography games to supplement our map work during school. The free web site has mapping games by continent, as well as games to review the United States and capitals.

The games start out with a tutorial level and then get gradually more difficult working up to "cartographer". The kids love playing the mapping games, and so do I! We usually do these one to two times a week.


We use Mavis Beacon for our typing software. I guess typing is actually called "keyboarding" these days, but you know what I mean.

We love this software. It teaches the keystrokes gradually and then rewards the user after a few lessons by allowing them to play a game. It scores the user by the number of errors and typing speed. The games are really fun and a great reward for completing assignments.

The boys do typing twice a week and often ask to do it after school. I'm impressed with how much their typing skills have improved.


The kids also use the computer twice a week to work on Spanish. We use Rosetta Stone for Spanish. It's an expensive program, but we really like how it is set up.

It uses a unique approach to teaching a language. It starts with the words and phrases one would use most often if the user suddenly landed in another country. The program doesn't say the word in English, then in Spanish. Instead, it asks the user to match the word spoken to a picture.

For each level, a user must master word recognition, grammar, speaking and writing the words. I like the fact that even my 5-year-old, who can't read the words, can still use the program for many of the sections because it only requires her to listen and match the pictures.


We also use the computer each day to review songs we use for certain parts of our curriculum. Some of the things we sing include the books of the Bible, states and capitals and lots and lots of grammar songs. In fact, we sing more than a dozen grammar jingles each day to remind us of how to use nouns, verbs, prepositions, pronouns and more.

We often sing the songs together, but we also have a microphone and headset on the computer. This has helped tremendously to allow the kids to do their computer work without disturbing others in the family.

I would love to hear from you! Do you use your computer for any educational games? Do you have any web sites or software to recommend?

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Lost: Ab Aeterno

We all know up to this point that Lost is a story of Faith vs. Science. Free will vs. Destiny. Good vs. Evil. Black vs. White.

But the big question that we STILL haven't answered after last night's episode, Ab Aeterno, (which means from eternity in Latin) is: Which side is good and which side is evil?

Or perhaps it's not so cut and dry. Maybe the whole show is making the statement that as with world religion, politics or any other belief, it's up to each person to decide. Would it be better to live in a perfect place, such as the Garden of Eden, where there is no sin, no work, no hardship, no death, but at the same time, no choice about how to live?

Or is it better to have free will, even if our ability to make choices means living in a sinful world, full of happy and sad, good and evil, work and play, aging, disease and eventually death? Would it really be worth it to live forever if it meant living forever without the ones you love?

Last night, we got some major clues about the characteristics of our two dominating forces: Jacob and the Man in Black. It also was awesome to finally find out the story of never-aging Richard; his ship, The Black Rock, and why it is stranded in the middle of an island; and what happened to the rest of the statue standing guard at the edge of the island.

It was weird to find out that Richard, who always seemed to be such a dominating force on the island, has actually been walking around for 140 years without any clue about why he is really there, what his mission is and even WHAT the island is all about. He has been blindly following Jacob, but seems too weak to ever question the reason for his existence.

Richard seems to be part of a bigger allegory about the choices people make in life. While some ask questions, do research and demand proof, others follow, motivated by a faith in something they don't completely understand.


Here are some of the interesting things we learned about Jacob:

He has chosen not only candidates to replace him, but other people to play out key roles in his mission. He finds Ilana, wrapped in bandages in what looks like a military hospital, and gives her the job of protecting the six candidates. He gives Richard the job of being his intermediary and influencing people for him. I guess that makes Richard his "preacher".

Jacob admits that he "brings" people to the island, but it seems his only purpose in doing so is to prove a point. The Man in Black believe that everyone is corruptible and it's in their very nature to sin. But Jacob wants to "prove him wrong."

He describes part of his mission on the island as keeping evil harnessed there. According to Jacob, the island is like a bottle with evil swirling around inside. But HE is the cork that keeps that evil from spreading to the rest of the world. So, is he really protecting the world from evil? Or is he trying to protect the island from the rest of the world?

Both he and the Man in Black throw out phrases that make them sound very Biblical and Christ-like. " No one comes in unless I invite them in," Jacob says as he pours Richard a glass of wine.

While the Man in Black takes a very active role in approaching people and trying to lure them to his side, Jacob says he doesn't believe he should step in.

"I wanted them to help themselves," he said. " know the meaning of right and wrong without me telling them."

But just when I was starting to really think Jacob might be the all-mighty force that is running the show, we learn there is a limit to his power. He can give eternal life, but he can't forgive sin? Well, sorry. But that doesn't sound very God-like to me.


Here are the great insights we got into the character of the Man in Black:

He admits to Richard that he is the black smoke and that Jacob has taken over his body. If that is the case, then whose body does the Man in Black have? And in what form would Jacob be if he didn't have MIB's "humanity".

While MIB seems to be the most likely candidate to be "Satan" as he roams around wiping out everyone in sight in the form of The Smoke Monster, he also sounded a lot like Christ with some of his phrases last night.

"I need to know you love me... you'll do anything I ask," he bargained with Richard before releasing him from his shackles, much as Jesus asked Peter if he really loved him.

"It's good to see you out of those chains," he said later.

When he's in the form of Smokey, the Man in Black seems to kill most people indiscriminately. But with others, he takes the time to stop and look in their eyes, as if judging whether their lives are worth living. When he paused in front of Richard in the bottom of the ship, it sounded like he was taking snapshots of his face.

Much like Locke was able to stare into the eyes of The Smoke Monster, Isabelle said she was able to look back into the eyes of "the devil" and "all I saw was evil." But, did she mean she looked into the black smoke? Or was she looking into the eyes of Jacob or the MIB?

The Man in Black tells Richard that Jacob is actually the devil. Jacob is the one who took Isabelle, and Jacob is the one who needs to be destroyed.

MIB gives Richard the dagger that Sayid had used to try to kill Smokey in the form of Locke. Apparently, the sword also works to kill Jacob. However, just like Sayid's failed attempt, he couldn't kill Jacob because he let him speak to him first.

MIB says he can't blame Richard by being taken in by Jacob because he can be "very convincing".

Finally, we find out that at least according to Isabelle, MIB is the bad guy. She uses Hurley to tell Richard, just as he was about to change sides and joins MIB's team, that he has to stop him or everyone will go to hell.


Of course, the other big question from last night is whether the island is literally hell, as Richard believes, or if it's only a figurative hell because it's a place where people lose their choices in life and aren't allowed to leave.

I would be greatly disappointed to find out I had invested so many years in watching this show only to find out all the characters are actually dead and in hell. Instead, I think the characters are saying that "hell" is a place where you can't be with the ones you love.

But again, maybe those on the island COULD be with the ones they love, if only they had enough faith to believe. Isabelle told Richard that even though she is dead, "we are already together."

What did I miss? What did you think??

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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Our trip to the dairy farm, aka, I might have to give up drinking milk

When I heard our next field trip was scheduled for a dairy farm where we might see a cow giving birth, I could almost picture it. We would hike out to the big red barn in our overalls and farmer boots and find the mama cow lying in a bed of straw, surrounded by three farm hands ready to help her with her delivery.

Well, the red barn part was correct.

Actually, we pushed our strollers and coraled our kids into the big red barn, where we took seats with another 100 or so tourists on the concrete bleachers. Behind a curved glass wall, two big pregnant cows were lying in the straw in an elevated room.

The yellow light on a big stoplight outside the barn was shining — the sign a birth was about to take place. It actually was illuminating the word "hooves". And hooves it was.

A pair of white hooves were sticking out of the black mama who had been struggling with the birth for a while. Giving birth is such a natural process that 94 percent of the cows are able to do it with no assistance. Out of the 90 calves born on this dairy farm each day, we had stumbled upon one of the 6 percent who was having trouble.

 "CAN WE GET AN EPIDURAL OVER HERE!" I wanted to shout. But a big sign under the maternity unit clearly informed us to be quiet.

"Shhhhh," the signs said. "They can see you."

From what I heard later, two farm hands pulled and tugged the baby calf's legs to help with the delivery. The whole process was hitting a little too close to home for me and my newborn and we might have had to step out of the room. And this is coming from a woman who had four C-sections.

Even the soundproof wall wasn't enough to muffle the moans of Bessie's delivery pains, the kids informed me.

The new moms got to spend about an hour cleaning up their newborn calves. Then the 70-pound babies were taken to a calf nursery next door, where they were lovingly fed a specially-formulated mixture of colostrum produced by the animals on this 30,000-cow farm. Good-bye, mama. Hello, bottle.

The mother would be taken back to the recovery barn until she was well enough to join the other cows in their daily stroll to the milking parlor. This is the highlight of a cow's day here on the dairy farm. They line up in long queues anxiously awaiting their turn on the rotating platform like a bunch of high school students lining up for The Demon at Great America.

Seventy-two cows can fit on the carousel at once. Farm hands attach big metal milkers to each cow after checking her for any signs of infection.

It's clear they like the 8-minute ride and the milking process because they are chewing their cud, a sign of contentment, according to the tour guide. We also watched as many of the 1,200 pound beasts tried to sneak off the carousel and cut in line to get right back on when no one was looking. Cheaters.

During her three trips to the milking parlor each day, an average cow produces about 10 gallons of milk. The 24-hour-a-day operation produces enough milk to serve everyone in the Chicago area for a year.

The carousel had to be better than life back in the barn. Oh yeah, the tour guide told us the cows are perfectly content in their "free roam" barns where they get to choose their own sand bed and chew a mixture of scientifically-formulated corn and other grains grown on the farmland surrounding the dairy farm. The corn stalks are shredded into a powder, compacted into huge bales and then brought to the cows in their stalls. No need to worry about roaming around in the pasture here, ladies.

The workers also clean out their stalls several times a day, sucking up the sand in a giant vacuum and then separating the manure and liquids. The sand is cleaned and the manure goes into an enormous tank where it produces enough methane gas to provide power for operations on the farm.

I'm just not sure how pleasant any place can be when shared with thousands of other pregnant women. OK, not EVERYONE is pregnant. The cows do get three months of recovery time before they are artificially inseminated again. No boy cows here on the dairy farm. They are sold to the beef farms as calves.

After about seven or eight years of constant pregnancy and milking, the ladies are ready to retire. It's not exactly the life outdoors they had been waiting for. Umm, let's just say, hamburger, leather purses and lipstick are in their future... not the kind they will enjoy, but the ones they will become.

The mega dairy farm really was a neat place to visit. The kids in our homeschool group had a great time touring the exhibits and watching the babies being born. We also sampled some amazing fresh chocolate milk, ice cream and grilled-cheese sandwiches made on site at the cafe.

But, I will admit, this lactating mama snuggled up close with her new baby afterward. And I won't look at a glass of milk the same way again.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Lost: Recon and lots of questions

Once again, last night's episode of Lost has me so puzzled that I don't even want to try to write a coherent recap. Instead, I have lots of questions on my mind from this episode and others and I want to find out if anyone has any ideas.


My first question actually comes from earlier in Season 6. This was right after it was starting to become clear that the New Locke was not really John Locke. The being inhabiting Locke's body uses the phrase, "Don't tell me what I can't do!" Now, why would he use those words if he is no longer John Locke?

The more self-confident FLocke doesn't act like Locke in other ways, so why would he use that phrase, which was so familiar to the angry Locke?


The big question from the episode "Recon" is WHO is Fake Locke's mother? FLocke tells Kate that he had a crazy mother, which caused him to have many problems he is still trying to work his way through. My only guess is that his crazy mother will be named Rebekah, after the mother of Jacob and Esau in the Bible.

Jacob and the Man in Black have often been compared to the Biblical story of the twin brothers, Jacob and Esau. Esau was born first, but Jacob was holding onto his heel as they were born. The two were in constant conflict. Esau was the hairy, rugged hunter type, loved by his father, while Jacob was the preppy, country club boy, loved by his mother.

As the older brother, Esau was entitled to his father's birthright, but he sold it to his younger brother in exchange for a bowl of stew. Just before his father's death, Esau was entitled to a blessing from his father, but Jacob disguised himself as Esau and tricked his father into blessing him instead.

After mistakenly giving Jacob power over his older brother, Isaac (their father) could only say, "By your sword you shall live, but your brother you shall serve; yet it shall be that when you are aggrieved, you may cast off his yoke from upon your neck." Hmmm. Very interesting.

Jacob goes on to become the father of the nation of Israel while Esau is the father of the nation of Edom. Their people would be in conflict for generations. Sooooo, with all of these similarities between Jacob and Esau in the Bible, I would say Man in Black's mom has to be someone along the lines of Rebekah, who he might have described as crazy for helping Jacob steal his father's blessing.


My next question has to do with last night's episode when FLocke offered his hand to Kate after they had their little nicey-nice conversation. Kate didn't take his hand. If she had, do you think she would have become possessed like Sayid and Claire?

I also was nervous when Widmore extended his hand to Sawyer. However, Sawyer shook his hand and seemed to turn out OK. Then, Kate seemed very hesistant to touch Claire when she hugged her. Obviously, she would be hesitant to hug Crazy Claire right after she had tried to kill her. But I also wondered if anyone in Zombie land has the power to gain control over someone else by touching them.


When FLocke sends Sawyer on the mission to investigate what is happening on the other island, he tells Sawyer it is because he is "the best liar he has ever known."

This leads me to believe that, like Jacob, FLocke has known the Losties prior to their time on the island. We are led to believe that only Jacob has been influencing them — pushing them — toward the island. But if FLocke also knows them so well, has he also been trying to control them?


We also saw Sawyer still hungry to hunt down Anthony Cooper, the man responsible for the death of his mother and father. But here's my question. The con man, known as Sawyer, was also John Locke's father.

In the Locke-centric episode earlier this season, we heard that Locke was on good terms with his father because Helen mentioned inviting him to their wedding. So, what does that mean? Was he still a con man, but he just had not conned Locke?


My last question has to do with Kate. Could she not see she had entered the CrazyTown Land of the Zombies when she saw Claire with that boar's head in the baby basket? And hello? Wasn't Sayid's dazed expression a dead giveaway that no one was home?? Run, girl! Run!!!


So, not only is James Ford well read, but he also loves Little House on the Prairie. He watched the show as a child and is watching it again as an adult.

In last night's episode, he is watching an episode in which Laura tells her father that she would be devastated if anything ever happened to him and her mother. Pa tells her that if you live your life worrying about the future, life will be over before you know it. He tells her that people aren't really gone once thay die, and that you hold on to their good memories until you see them again.

This obviously reminds Sawyer of his own life and he decides to apologize to Charlotte for kicking her out of his apartment earlier.

Isn't Sawyer a little like all of us? We love to watch the perfect world of Little House on the Prairie. The Ingalls family faces unbelievable osbacles, but love always brings them together in the end. We all wish life could really be like that, but for most people, it isn't. Instead, it makes us feel good to imagine.

I'm just hoping the writers weren't trying to use Little House on the Prairie to send a bigger message about the meaning of the entire show... Basically, that life isn't TV and we should all just get on with reality. =]

Let me know if you have answers to any of my questions or if you have any other ideas.

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

My real-life imaginary friend

When I started homeschooling last fall, I started reading the blog of another homeschool mom in the area. She had invited homeschoolers to read her blog on a Yahoo! newsgroup I had joined.

At that time, I was entering my third trimester, and I discovered this woman, a mom of four, also was in her third trimester of pregnancy. I had been feeling desperately out of place in a world of 20-something pregnant women, and was relieved to figure out we were about the same age. When I found out her scheduled C-section was almost exactly one month before mine, it gave me a sense of comfort to read about someone's life that was so similar to mine.

So, I left a comment on her blog, something like this:

"Hello. You don't know me, but I'm your new best friend. Would you like to start meeting me for playdates and then maybe we could go for coffee and if that works out perhaps our families could vacation together. Oh, and do you like camping, because we really like camping, and since our babies are going to be only one month apart perhaps they could become best friends, too, and they could grow up together and then they could go to some kind of homeschool prom together and eventually get married, but I do need to warn you that as the mother of the bride I get to pick out my dress BEFORE YOU!"

OK. I didn't really write that. But I did write something mentioning our similarities, and she was nice enough to stop by my blog. Before long, we were starting to become imaginary blogging friends.

Many times, my husband would see me laughing at my computer and ask me what was up. "Oh, it's nothing... just that pregnant homeschool lady I don't know."

I could instantly relate to her insomnia during pregnancy, her demented nesting, her attempts at keeping the kids happy while feeling like a beached whale. I was excited to hear the news of her son's birth, and loved updates on his weight gain and milestones. I was even a teeny bit worried when she went on vacation without telling me and didn't update her blog for more than a week!

She learned things about me that even some of my non-blog-reading family members don't know because I tend to talk about strange things on my blog that I don't mention in real life. You know... stuff like my intimidation with my imaginary Wii personal trainer, my adventures in preschool and my struggles with wanting to feel successful.

We eventually figured out through our blogs that we have some mutual friends. Then, we learned we only live a few miles from each other. Eventually, we even became friends on Facebook, and you know what a HUGE step that is when you go from being mere blogging buddies to actual FACEBOOK friends!

Well, today, my imaginary friend posted on Facebook in her hilarious way that it would be "criminal" to stay inside today, one of the first 60-degree sunny days of the year. She was inviting everyone to an impromptu playdate at the park.

Well, hmmm. Maybe we should go?

I have to admit, I did have that momentary question of whether I was about to ruin a perfectly good imaginary friendship by meeting her in real life.

Who knows? She could turn out to be one of those homeschooling moms with tons of kids who is still having babies in her 40s and who is self-absorbed enough to actually write a blog about her life. Oh, wait... so just like me??

I told the kids to get ready to go to the park because we were going to meet some friends.

"But who mom?"

"Oh, it's just a friend of mine who I've never met. Someone from my blog."

The funny thing is, they have heard so much about my blog friends that they didn't even seem to think that statement was really that strange.

It was really fun to meet my imaginary friend in real life, and I don't think I scared her too much. In fact, I think she even gets my sarcastic sense of humor enough to read an entire blog post about our pretend friendship and laugh about it.

I'm so glad we got to meet! Oh, and don't forget to Facebook me next time you're heading to the park!

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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Just pretend the sun is a yellow soccer ball

I'm not sure how I made it through school without ever really studying the solar system. Or maybe I simply misplaced all of the planetary facts that had accumulated in my brain. Whatever the case, one of our favorite subjects this year at home school is Astronomy. I am definitely learning as much as the kids on this one.

Last week, we had a fun project where we made a scale model of the solar system. This wasn't one of those models where you blow up balloons to different sizes to represent each planet. No, we actually tried to show the size of the planets and the distance between them, to scale.

We started with a soccer ball, which represented the sun. We placed it on the sidewalk in front of our house.

Next we added Mercury. Relative to the size of the sun, we used a tiny round sprinkle. That's right, compared to the soccer-ball size of the sun, Mercury would be about the size of a single grain of sand.

Next, we had to calculate the distance from the sun to Mercury. According to the sizes of the planets we had used, one yard would equal 3.6 million miles. And Mercury is about 36 million miles from the sun, or in our model 10 yards. Isn't that amazing?!

My oldest son is standing next to the sun, while my other son is standing next to the tiny sprinkle, Mercury. (Sorry about the poor photo conditions, but we can't really control the weather this far out in outer space.)

That seemed pretty far. But we were only getting started. Next, we came to Venus, which would be about the size of a red hot. It is 67 million miles from the sun, or about 18 yards in our model.

Earth also is the size of a red hot, and at 93 million miles, or 26 yards for us, the weather conditions are perfect to sustain life on the planet.

Then, we measured the distance to Mars, which would be about the size of a round sprinkle or large grain of sand in our model. We had to measure 40 yards from the sun to represent 143 million miles.

After that comes the asteroid belt. Did you know there is a lot of scientific evidence that the asteroid belt was once a planet? It actually rotates around the sun between Mars and Jupiter, as if it were a planet that exploded. All of those little asteroids, some of which are as big as the state of Texas, are represented by grains of sugar.

The asteroid belt is 280 million miles from the sun, or 77 yards in our model.

After that came Jupiter and Saturn, each of which could be represented by a large marble. We used two rocks for ours. Jupiter is 484 million miles from the sun, or 134 yards, and Saturn is 888 million miles from the sun, or 246 yards. You can barely see my older son who is standing way back by the soccer ball.

We were starting to run out of room, so we dropped Uranus and Neptune on our way to Pluto. Both planets would be about the size of a pinto bean in comparison to the soccer-ball sun. Uranus is 1.78 billion miles from the sun (495 yards in our model) and Neptune is 2.796 billion miles away (776 yards).

Our block is about .25 of a mile long. We would have had to go all the way around it and back to our house to approximate the distance from the sun to Pluto, which would be more than .5 miles to scale. Pluto is 3.673 billion miles from the sun.

The tiny planet (or non-planet) would be about the size of a small sprinkle. Here's my son holding Pluto.

And here are both boys holding Pluto only half the distance it would really be from the sun, way, way back there. Boy it's cold out here on Pluto! Fortunately, for us, though, there's a park right across the street.

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

My day at preschool aka, could we get a little more glue over here?

As promised, it's finally time for me to tell you about my experience going to preschool with my daughter.

I must admit that I sometimes get a little nervous when I'm around little kids or dogs. When I was a little kid, I had a bad experience with a dog and I think it traumatized me for life. When I was a little kid, I also had a bad experience with a little kid, and well, I've been afraid of little kids ever since.

I also was scared I would stick out in the preschool class given the fact that I'm at least 2.5 feet taller than all the other kids, I no longer own any Mary Janes, and I will never again wear leggings during this lifetime outside the privacy of my own home.

But fortunately, I had my brave, self-confident preschooler to guide me through the long hallway to the preschool class and tell me what to do.

We got to class with our big piece of posterboard and despite the fact the class had a substitute teacher that day, she immediately knew I was THE Mom.

We washed our hands and when I wasn't looking, my daughter correctly spotted our last name on a magnet on the chalkboard and placed it under her emotion for the day. The kids have just started recognizing their last names, rather than their first.

I looked up to see she had placed us on Excited, and that made me feel very Happy. But we only had one last name magnet, so I decided it was best for me to feel Excited, too.

As we were hanging up our coats, one of the boys announced that Aidan* was wearing sandals.

"But we won't be going outside today so his socks won't get wet," the boy said in a very loud voice.

I looked around to find the culprit. Sure enough. There was a little boy wearing socks with sandals. I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt that he must be having an allergic reaction to his tennis shoes or perhaps he had a sweaty foot problem. But then I remembered all of the times my boys insisted on wearing socks with their sandals in preschool and realized he might not have grown out of his strong-willed toddler years just yet.

Soon, it was time for our circle time. My daughter and I excitedly walked to the corner of the room and excitedly sat down on a little plaid sofa while all of the other kids sat in a circle on the floor in front of us.

The Substitute told the children that she was recovering from a case of laryngitis. She asked all of the children to say the word laryngitis, and amazingly, they all said it perfectly. Her doctor had instructed her to speak very softly, she said, so the kids would need to be very quiet and listen carefully to her speak.

I had a sneaking suspicion she was making this up. But whatever the case, I thought it was an excellent story, and one I planned to use in home school instead of my usual tactic of using my harsh, mean voice when my boys were running around during math time.

It was time for us to explain the photos on the "All About Me" poster we had so lovingly and painstakingly made together. My daughter immediately skipped to the middle photo on the bottom row and explained that this was the one in which she and her brothers are dressed like INDIANS! Then, she was done.

My thoughts were racing: What about all of the other photos?!? What about your baby picutre?!? What about our fabulous trip to Rio de Janeiro?!? And what about DisneyLand?!? And haven't I told you a hundred times to say NATIVE AMERICANS?!?

But then I remembered that kids don't even develop a memory until they are about 4 years old, so how could she possibly be expected to recite the details of more than half of the photos. I guided her through the explanations we had rehearsed of the other photos and was relieved to be done with our presentation.

"We usually have questions," the teacher's aide said.


The hands shot up and I have to say that my daughter handled herself like she was the press secretary at a news conference.

"Yes, Olivia," she said, pointing at a blond girl to the left.

"What is your favorite color?"

Whew! An easy one. As if the pink posterboard and the purple outfit weren't a dead giveaway.

My daughter scanned the children.

"Yes. Ally?"

"What is your favorite fruit?"

"Strawberries," she answered calmly.

WHY didn't I THINK of putting a strawberry sticker on the poster?!?

Finally, we had time for one more question from Aidan.

"What is you favo-ite yo-ga?"

"Excuse me," I asked, hoping the kid wasn't inquiring about her favorite Yoga move.



"Yogurt?" Yes, that was it. "What is your favorite yogurt?"

"Vanilla," my daughter calmly answered, which I thought was really good since the true answer is: "Well, I love strawberry and blueberry yogurt, but my mom is so cheap she will only buy the big jumbo container of vanilla."

Next, it was time for everyone to bring out a secret item from their backpack for the letter of the day, R.

All of the girls brought rabbits and all of the boys brought racecars, except for one very creative little boy who brought a Red Robot. Oh, and Aidan. He brought a rocket. The same little boy who had called him on the sandals also argued that his vehicle wasn't a rocket at all.

The teachers and I looked at the blaster on the back and defended him, "Oh, yes. It's a rocket." But inside, I think we all had the same thought: "That thing is totally a hovercraft."

OK... It was finally time for us to go to our first station. This is where we had to color pictures of various weather conditions and draw a line connecting them to a child playing outside in the same type of weather. We got ours done in no time and carefully colored our pictures using identical color choices.

We then spent the next five minutes trying to convince a little boy that although it can be windy in winter, the picture of the wind would best go with the kid flying a kite, rather than the picture of a girl playing in the snow. "But I already used that one," he kept telling us as we tried to convince him to change his line. We finally gave up and left the teacher's aide to argue with him.

Next, we went to the other station where we had to use squares of various sizes and colors to create a mosaic-type picture. The teacher said only three children could work at this station at once because the class only had three glue sticks left.

To say they even had three glue sticks was a bit of an exaggeration, since all that was left was a tiny bit of blue glue stuck to the very top of the inside twisty part.

Without thinking, I said, "Boy, honey, I think we should have brought some glue sticks to school today."

"Oh, the glue sticks will be arriving this afternoon!" The Substitute reassured me. I'm sure she was afraid I might be thinking: "With the hundreds of dollars I spend each month on tuition, you people can't even afford GLUE STICKS?!?", but I wasn't thinking that at all. Nope. Not even for one second.

(I might have been thinking, "Yeah, and you have laryngitis, too," but I wasn't. I just thought that would be kind of funny to write.)

Finally, it was time to have some free play. We joined a table where we got to build with some little blocks that were sort of like Legos, but not Legos because they were nearly impossible to get the tiny bricks apart. All of the kids were building tall towers with their bricks. And one little girl showed me a secret trick to pull them apart.

I decided this would be a good time to use my years of training as a Toy Lady and suggested we build our towers in patterns. Then, I realized we COULD put the bricks together in directions other than UP.

I built a little base for mine and then started placing the bricks in alternating directions.

"What IS that?!?" one of the kids asked. Soon, a few more kids had gathered around to see the square tower I had created.

I decided to try something more complicated and built a rainbow, then a frog. Nearly the whole class had now gathered around us.

"Can I play with that?!"

"Will you build one for me?!" kids asked. Soon, I was whipping out brick structures faster than a balloon-sculpting artist at a kids' carnival.

Despite my tall stature and my lack of fashion, I was becoming popular!** Now, I WAS excited! I wondered if all of the other moms were this popular when they visited, and I decided that they probably were. It was finally time for me to go, and I have to say that I wished I could come back another day.

But it was time for home school. And time for me to use a few of the phrases I had learned that morning in preschool, which means that I learned a few things myself in the land of 4- and 5-year-olds.

* The names in this post have been changed to protect the innocent.

** If you were able to make it through all of my sarcasm, then I thank you very much for reading.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Lost: Dr. Linus

On last night's episode of Lost, Dr. Linus, I finally felt like we were starting to get some answers. I don't exactly know what the answers meant, but this was, in my opinion, the best episode so far in Season 6.

The episode starts with Dr. Ben Linus, the history teacher, explaining to his class what had happened on the island. The island of Elba, that is.

Napoleon Bonaparte had been exiled to Elba. He was given a small army of followers and everything he needed to live a comfortable life there. But he was frustrated because he had lost his power.

"He might as well have been dead," Linus explains before the bell rings and class is dismissed.

Hmmm... Sound like anyone we know?


We finally get to see into the inner character of Ben Linus. It felt strange to actually feel sorry for him, as he cared for his elderly father and then later when he said he would follow Locke because "he's the only one who will have me."

And then I actually got to cheer him on as once again, he gets to choose whether to save his beloved Alex or let her go down in flames. This time, in his parallel life, he makes the right choice and sacrifices his desire for power to help her get ahead.

Once again, we see a character in the alternate reality — if they had never been pulled to the island — living a life that isn't perfect, but in which he or she is free from the demons that haunt them in their other life.

How ironic that he donned a gas mask to kill his father on the island, but he is changing his father's oxygen tank to help him live in his other world.

Adding even more irony in the parallel universe, instead of trying to steal Ben's power and become the leader instead of him, John Locke is now raising his hand to become the first person to be his follower.


Twice during this episode, the characters seemed to drop a hint about the overall meaning of the show.

First, the aging Roger tells Ben that perhaps if they hadn't left the Dharma initiative, he might have had a better chance to become something special in life.

"Who knows what you would have become?" Roger says. A-hahahaha! Who knows? Yes! We DO know what he would become, and trust me, Roger, he's better off as a bored history teacher stuck in detention.

This was the first time the island had been mentioned in the alternate reality, and it was an amazing moment to hear that it really did exist for these characters even in their parallel world. They had visited, but had the power to leave and continue their lives as normal.

Later in the episode, Lapidus is explaining that he had been scheduled to be the pilot of flight 815. He missed the flight because his alarm clock didn't go off that morning.

"Imagine how different my life would be if that alarm would have gone off," Lapidus said.

Ben responds: "The island still got you in the end, didn't it?"

What does that mean? Does it mean that with or without the island the characters would still face the same struggles? Whether Ben allows Alex to be killed or chooses to give her a chance at college in the alternate reality, he still struggles with his own love for this girl who seems like a daughter to him, but really isn't. And he fights his own frustration that he wants to be a leader, but is powerless to take control.


We also learn more about Richard. He says he was given a "gift" by Jacob. Just as Jack, Kate, Sawyer, the Kwons and Sayid were touched by Jacob, so was he.

"Jacob touched me and when Jacob touches you, it's considered a gift," Richard said. "It's not a gift at all... it's a curse."

Richard's gift, apparently, is not only eternal youth, but eternal life. He says he can't kill himself and tries to get Jack to do the job for him. But even as the two wait for the fuse to blow on a stick of dynamite, he isn't allowed to die.

We get more clues that Richard did come to the island on the strange ship, known as the black rock. I can't wait to find out what his role was on that ship. I wonder if he was touched before he came to the island or after his ship landed there. I'm guessing it was in his previous life.

Richard is angry because he had placed his trust in Jacob and, like Ben, he had devoted his life to serving him, but he was really never told why.

Richard reveals that he has spent his entire life — "longer than you can possibly imagine" — following Jacob because Jacob promised that he had a plan. Then, Jacob died.

"I just found out my entire life had no purpose," he said.

I'm guessing, however, that Jacob is going to make a comeback. And why do I have a feeling it will be three days after his death?!? The child that was taunting Fake Locke, said he "broke the rules" by killing "him" (which I assume means Jacob), so I think Jacob is going to break the rules by coming back to life. If he can grant eternal life to Richard, then I think he can give the same power to himself.

Or perhaps it's his spirit that goes on living and will take residence in the "winning" candidate who is chosen to take his place as protector/ruler of the island?


Ilana also gives a hint at her connection to Jacob. She says Jacob was "the closest thing to a father that she ever had."

Does that mean that Ilana was on the island earlier? Does it mean that she also doesn't age? Or does it mean that Jacob was part of her life off-island? Whatever the case, perhaps she has some resentment toward Jacob for dying since she was willing to forgive Ben and take him in at the end of the show.


And finally we get to the part where Jack is suddenly buying into his own destiny. He is willing to play with dynamite to prove that he really is one of the chosen "candidates". If Jacob won't let Richard die, then surely he can't die either.

We learn there are "six" candidates left, and one will be chose to replace Jacob.

I'm betting the six candidates are the Oceanic Six. I think it's interesting there also are six significant numbers and the six names on the roof of the cave were given those numbers.

If you add the six numbers together, you get 108, which is significant in some way. So, somehow just as the numbers add up to 108, I'm guessing the six candidates are parts of the whole. But what does that mean?


And finally! We haven't heard anything from Charles Widmore, Penny or Desmond in so long, I was starting to fear the writers had forgotten them!

When the periscope on the submarine popped up, I thought for sure they were going to zero in on Ben and kill him right there. However, it sounds like they might be planning to do something even worse.

When the guy asks Widmore if they should continue with the plan despite the fact there were people on the beach, didn't it sound like they were going to blow up the island? Did Jacob's death somehow allow Charles Widmore to finally find the island on his radar?

What a great tease for next week!

OK... so what did I miss? Thoughts??

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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A perfectly precious mother-daughter moment

Monday was the day my daughter and I have been anxiously awaiting since preschool started six months ago.

Finally, it was her turn to be "Star of the Week". And that meant it was my turn to make the "All About Me" poster. This is the kind of experience that I would have planned and pulled off with all the perfectionism of a scrapbooking queen with my first born.

This time around, I was just hoping it would go better than my turn shopping for the preschool snack and my unfortunate incident involving a lemon poundcake and cinnamon-apple rice cakes.

So, I cleared the schedule for the weekend and got ready to have a precious mother-daughter moment where we would spend quality time looking through five years' worth of photos together, reminisce about wonderful moments and discuss all of her favorite things that we would put on the poster.

Friday afternoon, a friend offered to have the three big kids over for a playdate to give me a break because my husband had been out of town the past week. So, I used that time to go to the grocery store and pick up a large piece of bright pink posterboard. I was so close to the electronics section, that I took a quick stroll through the Wii games just to see if they carried the Just Dance game.

Although I've faithfully been keeping up with my 30-day challenge on Wii Active, at least one out of every four days, I thought a dance game might be the perfect way to get some exercise and have fun with the kids.

After dinner, we put in Just Dance and immediatly got sucked in. We stomped our way through "Cotton-Eyed Joe", boogied through "Who Let the Dogs Out" and had a little Hammer-time to "U Can't Touch This". By the time we had finished, we were all sweating, panting and needing a big glass of water, and I realized I had just burned off far more calories than I ever had jogging around my imaginary track on Wii Active.

I started playing out the conversation in my mind when I had to break this news to my imaginary trainer. How on earth was I going to expain to her that I'm ditching her and her jumping lunches and bicep curls so I can hang out with my imaginary MC Hammer friend?

I also came to a revelation. Just Dance could be my ticket to perfect the dance moves to every popular dance tune from the 80s, 90s and 00s. Now, not only would I be able to lip sync to my favorite songs, but I also could pull out some impressive dance moves to wow friends and relatives.

You know how valuable this skill can be if you are ever in a situation where someone suddenly puts on dance music, say in a shopping mall or a... well, I can't think of any other examples, since it's been about 15 years since I actually attended a party where someone played dance music. However, I am now determined to have my routines down pat, just in case the need ever arrises.

Saturday morning I had a few hours before I had to take the boys to karate. I had also purchased my 5-lb. roll of ground beef while I was at the grocery store and decided to see if I could make some freezer meals while the kids were busy playing.

I must have still been bee-bopping to Groove is in the Heart, because I got in a really good rhythm and whipped up my meatloaf, hamburger patties, taco meat, ground beef packets and a chili cornbread bake for the freezer.

This is when things started to take a turn for the worse. I thought I would share my success with all of my friends on Facebook by posting a link to my blog post on my bulk-cooking experience. Within minutes, people started commenting on how crazy it is that my family could actually eat eight — count them EIGHT — meals out of 5 lbs. of ground beef. I guess it turns out that a lot of families, with their big growing teen-age boys, can eat that big honkin' 5 lb pack of meat in about two meals.

This is when I spent the next two hours chastisizing myself in my head over WHY I EVER post stupid stuff on Facebook and WHY I don't realize BEFORE I post it that it's going to sound stupid and WHY don't I just CANCEL my stupid Facebook account because my 212 imaginary friends — many of whom I haven't talked to since I was 7 years old and half of whom I don't even LIKE — are now at home making fun of me for stretching FIVE measly stupid pounds of ground beef to make EIGHT, count them EIGHT, freezer meals.

We came home from karate a few hours later, and I noticed that it was an absolutely gorgeous day. It was probably about 50 degrees, but with the sun shining brightly, it felt like it was 70. The baby, miraculously enough, had survived the car ride home WITHOUT falling asleep, so I told the kids to change their clothes so we could go for a walk outside.

This announcement caused one of my children to fall on the floor and break into hysterical crying. After about 30 minutes of reasoning with him about how we have waited through SIX MONTHS of arctic temps for this very day when he could ride his bike while mom went on a walk, and then 30 minutes of wrestling my anger because he wasn't responding the way I've tried to teach him for the last SEVEN YEARS, we were all pretty much rolled up on the floor in a ball crying.

We went on the walk with no one speaking to each other, and then I realized when we came home and  he went straight to bed and fell asleep in the middle of the afternoon that the poor guy was just exhausted from our Dance-Dance Marathon, followed by his karate class.

Well, I was in no mood after that to find the photos and have a magical moment with my princess daughter, so I tackled laundry and dinner and put the kids to bed early.

When we got home from church on Sunday, I had the chance to hang out with a friend who popped by, and I realized that with my husband out of town I must not have talked to many adults in the last week because I jabbered away nonstop until she had to pretend she received a phone call that her house was on fire so she could escape. (OK, I'm making up the part about the phone call and the house fire.)

Finally, it was time to bake some chocolate chip cookies for a church function that evening.

At 3 p.m., I was ready to locate and print all of the photos from my daughter's wonderful, beautiful life. I figured out how to transfer the photos from my laptop to my compact photo printer. That's when I realized I was out of ink.

But much to my dismay, I actually had ANOTHER ink cartridge. I quickly shoved it into the printer and then after an hour of failed printing attempts and research on the Internet, I realized I was supposed to remove something from the print cartridge before putting it in.

Now, the print cartridge wouldn't come out.

Good-bye, sweet photo printer.

That's when I had a light bulb moment. I don't even NEED a photo printer because I could just upload the photos to the CVS web site and within one hour, I could run over to the store that is three blocks from my house and get the photos! SCORE!

I picked up the photos at 5:15. And at 6 p.m. we needed to be across town for a big party sponsored by our church at one of those places with the indoor inflatables.

When we got home from that place at 8:30 p.m., you can only imagine how much energy my children had.

So, I put the kids to bed and pasted the photos on the pink posterboard as quickly as possible.

The next morning I quizzed my daughter on all of the significant events of her life so she could explain our choices to the class when I went to school with her.

And THAT, my friends, is what a perfectly precious mother-daughter moment sometimes looks like at our house.

But stay tuned... because we did have a delightful time going to preschool together Monday morning. AND I'm not even being sarcastic! More about that later...

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Monday, March 8, 2010

My new accessory

Little Babycake has gotten big enough now that I often carry her around draped over one arm. When I'm around strangers, someone inevitably looks at me, gasps and says, "I thought that was a baby doll!"

So here she is: My latest accessory. I have my purse, my diaper bag and my baby doll:

Check out the smile on the doll baby:

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Sunday, March 7, 2010

Lost: Sundown

OK. So, it's taken me four days to write my post about this week's episode of Lost: Sundown.

This episode really gave me the creeps. I wanted to watch it a second time before writing my post, and I needed some extra time to process its spookiness.

If the previous episode was analogous to Alice in Wonderland, then Sundown could be compared to Poltergeist, mixed with Alien, with a splash of The Exorcist and a hint of Star Wars with all of its references to The Dark Side.

Fake Locke is described as Evil Incarnate in this episode and starts to build his army of Losties who are willing to join forces with him. I know I've been questioning whether Locke is really the bad guy, but if he's not??? Well, why does he keep KILLING EVERYONE?!?

My quick recap: Locke is SATAN and Claire, Sayid and Sawyer are POSSESSED!

 Without rehashing the whole episode, here are a few things that stuck out to me.


The on-island part of the episode begins with Sayid confronting Dogen about all of the ways Dogen tortured and even murdered Sayid. Dogen says that for every man there is a scale. On one side is good and the other side is evil.

The machine Dogen used to torture Sayid told him how his scale was tipped. He says that Sayid's scaled was tipped "the wrong way".

We are led to assume the "wrong way" would be toward evil, but I thought it was interesting that Dogen didn't expressly say that. Maybe his choice of words was just another red herring to confuse us about who is good and who is bad. Or maybe it really meant something.


The next point that really struck me was after Sayid attempted to murder Fake Locke, who I think should be called the Locke-ness Monster.

Locke tells Sayid that if he comes over to his side and delivers a message for him he can have "anything in the whole world". This reminded me of the Biblical passage in which Satan tempted Jesus, who had fasted for 40 days, by offering to give him rule over the whole world.

Sayid apparently believes Locke can reunite him with his beloved Nadia. But what exactly does that mean since she is dead?


Sayid returns to the temple. I noticed the peace and tranquility as Dogen stared out at the lake, but in the background it was starting to rain, as if the tropical garden was no longer protected. Paradise was being spoiled by the rain and would soon be ruined by something much worse.

Sayid tells the Others that they are now free to leave the Temple because Jacob is dead. So, they were allowed to live in the temple, surrounded by its lush forest, protected from harm. But in return, they had lost their freedom. Was this supposed to be an analogy to the Garden of Eden, where Adam and Eve lived in peace, but chose to exercise their free will by doing the one thing they were instructed not to do and therefore being banished from the garden?


Sayid's mission inside the temple is to kill Dogen. Once he does this, Lennon asks him, "Don't you know what you've done?" Lennon says that Dogen was the only thing keeping "him" out.

So, although I don't understand it, we seem to be seeing some sort of chain of command. The Monster could not cross the ring of ash as long as Jacob was alive. Dogen also had enough power to keep him from entering. Once both were out of the way, the Monster had free rein of the island.

And on a side note, why is it that the character named Lennon looks so much like the real John Lennon?!?  Is that just to mess with our minds so we'll sit around and speculate about whether the Beatles never would have existed if one of them had been pushed to live on the island?


We also learn that both Jacob and the Monster drive a hard bargain to get people on their side. Jacob promised Dogen that he would heal his son, but in return Dogen would have to live on the island and never see him again. Ben, who worked for Jacob, had made a similar promise to Juliet to get her to stay on the island by offering her sister healing from cancer.

Now, the Monster is offering Claire, Sayid and Sawyer the deepest longing of their heart to come to his side.


We got two puzzling references to Jin in this episode. When Locke asks Claire to deliver a message to the Others for him, Claire asks him why he doesn't have either Sawyer or Jin do it? Does that mean Jin has gone to his side?

We also see Jin in the parallel reality when he is locked in the freezer by Keamy. I can't wait to find out what that was all about.

I realize I didn't even touch on the other events that happened off of the island and the inference that Sayid can't escape his inherently evil tendency to kill people, regardless of his circumstances. It was weird to see Keamy as a mobster businessman instead of the leader of a mercenary team. Either way, I'm glad Sayid killed Keamy before Keamy killed him.

So, what did you think about this episode? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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Saturday, March 6, 2010

5 pounds hamburger + 1 hour = 8 meals + 1 happy mom

I've been thinking about doing some bulk cooking for a long time. Years, as a matter of fact. Maybe even a decade.

I have a "once a month" cookbook. I read about it on blogs. But I always feel so overwhelmed at the idea of spending an entire day in the kitchen, that I give up before I begin.

But last week, when I was making my meal plan for the month, I stumbled upon an idea to cook 12 pounds of ground beef all at once and freeze it to make a dozen meals. Finally, this made sense to me AND it seemed doable.

I decided to start with 5 pounds of ground beef. I bought this bad boy:

This is really the most economical way to buy hamburger meat in the store where I normally shop. But I hate buying this big package because, quite frankly, I can't stand dealing with raw meat.

I don't like the smell. I don't like handling it. So, when I buy this big package, I usually ask my husband to cut it into 1 lb. portions and freeze it for me.

But cooking it all at once made it seem more manageable.

This is how I made it into eight meals in one hour.

1. I divided the roll of hamburger into five 1-lb. sections. I put two pounds in a bowl, one pound in a small pan to cook and two pounds in a large pan to brown the ground beef.

2. I added the ingredients in this recipe to make mini meatloaves and hamburgers. I just doubled the recipe. I figured that meatloaf is basically the same thing as hamburgers. It's just cooked a different way.

3. One recipe was supposed to make eight servings. By doubling it, I determined I would have 16 servings. I made five mini meatloaves, which would make one meal for our family. I formed the rest into 10 hamburger patties, which would make two more meals for our family of five.

4. I put the mini meatloaves and hamburger patties on plates and put them in the freezer while I did everything else. This made it easier for me to put them in storage bags later because they would hard and didn't mush together.

5. I also used my large scoop and this hamburger shaper to make the hamburgers. This is my secret tip to avoid touching the raw meat as much as possible.

Meanwhile, all of that other hamburger was done browning.

6. I drained all of the grease and put it back in the pans. I added taco seasoning to the smaller pan. I froze this in two .5 pound portions. I realize this isn't much meat and might not work for many larger families. But we never eat an entire pound of taco meat at a meal. Two of our children don't like taco meat and I'm lucky to get them to eat a spoonful of meat. Instead, they load up on cheese and sour cream. So, we can stretch one pound of taco meat to make two meals.

7. I divided the other two pounds from the larger pan into three portions. Most recipes call for 1 lb. of ground beef. But you can really stretch your meat by using less than that.

8. I put two of those portions in ziplock bags and labeled them for the freezer. I plan to use one for either hamburger soup or chili. The other one I will use as a topping for homemade pizza. (That's two more dinners.)

9. I used the final portion to pre-make chili cornbread squares. I made the recipe in a small square disposable pan. I covered it with cling wrap, then a layer of aluminum foil and finally put the whole pan in a 1-gallon freezer bag. I hate freezer burn, so this is my 3-layer protection plan, which always works for me.

It took me just over one hour to do all of this. I was able to clean all of the dishes at once and clean up all of that raw-meat mess, which I don't like.

I also was happy that I was able to stretch the ground beef to make more recipes than I usually would if I opened 1 lb. packages. And I could freeze the mini meatloaves and hamburger patties in portions that were just right for our family. We won't waste nearly as much food this way.

I realize that many families would eat much more meat than this at each meal, and that's fine! It's easy to double or triple the amount of meat used and still get a lot of bulk cooking done in a short period of time.

It Worked for Me! I'm linking this post to Works for Me Wednesday at Rocks in My Dryer.

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