"The Muffled Cries For Help From a Daddy of Four Beautiful Little Girls"

Friday, December 28, 2007

Lowes Knows...But I Don't

Blessed joy of joys, for Christmas I received a number of gift cards for Lowes Home Improvement Mecca and Shrine.

Perhaps you (or your husband or your dad or your wacky Mr.-Roper-Like landlord) have discovered fantastic new tools or gadgets by which our lives may be revolutionized.

I like power tools, but I don't know what to get next.

Maybe a router? (I already have a router table; go figure.)
Maybe a jigsaw or scrollsaw? For woodsy, crafty things.
Maybe a soldering iron. For ironing my solders.
What's cool and useful out there?

I just don't know.

If I don't buy a man tool, the giftcard may get sucked up by carpet, countertops, lightbulbs and such. And none of THOSE things will put a follicle of hair on your chest.

Maybe a jackhammer? A testosterone-powered metal bender? Explosives for digging a hole for a pool?
(Great. With the word "explosives," I think I've just been flagged by Homeland Security or CTU.)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

"This Is The Best Christmas Ever!"

That's what the kids said this year.
I do believe they said that last year, too.
And the year before.

Our oldest seemed just as excited to see her sisters open the presents she had bought and wrapped for them as she was about opening her own.
Our youngest wrote a sweet thank you note (all on her own) before the day was over.

They seemed genuinely grateful for each gift, each stocking stuffer...from clothes to books to candy. We didn't go overboard this year. Didn't need to. Grandma and Grandpa took care of that for us. We could've told them not to, but I was happy to accept their Wii, thank you very much.

By the end of the day, we'd eaten a delicious breakfast, read about Joseph, Mary and the Wise Men in Matthew (we visited Luke last night), opened presents, called grandparents, played with presents more, ate steak and shrimp, did a little Dance Dance Revolution, ate soup, made a Birthday Cake for Jesus which we ate on his behalf, and sang some karaoke.

Perhaps the most interesting presents were the four little
rolling suitcases lined up and covered with a blanket.
They looked disturbingly like a coffin,
our daughters were quick to note.

The treat for the afternoon was talking to cousins on Skype on the computer. Essentially, it's a video phone over the internet, much like you are all familiar with from the Jetsons.

Anyway, it was a beautiful day. We know we are blessed and loved. And we have enjoyed this day when we have both given and received blessings and love in so many ways.

My only regret is that no one but our children were present for Cindy's and my ear-splitting karaoke rendition of "We're All In This Together" from High School Musical. Our children hardly cried at all through it. I think they are becoming numb to our obnxiousness.

Merry Christmas to you all!

And yes, I got a cheese ball in my stocking, thanks for asking! Half gone now.

This IS the best Christmas EVER!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Notes To Self

It's Christmas Eve, and I really have no expectation that anyone is reading this. In fact, if you ARE reading this on Christmas Eve, I have pity on you and your miserable life. Certainly you have better things to do, right?

So since I expect no readers today, I'm just making my own personal holiday notes so I can check back a year from now and learn from my mistakes and successes.
Water the tree 48 times a day. Most years (every year) I forget and skip a day or three and the tree gets mange. This year I've been obsessive about the bi-hourly feedings (slight exaggeration), and my live tree is STILL sucking up water! It's a Christmas miracle. I wouldn't be surprised if it starts growing roots and decides to live forever. However, it's already scraping the ceiling, so maybe I'll stop putting the Miracle-Gro in the water.

I must remember to buy my wife's stocking stuffers early in the season and tell her. Every year, she takes it upon herself to fill her own stocking. It's as if there was one (or two or more) Christmases where I'd gotten so wrapped up in her humongously impressive and poignant presents that I'd neglected the sock on the mantle. So now when I go to fill her stocking, there's no room because she beats me to the punch. Do all wives/moms do that?

Don't volunteer to have the whole family read scripture at the Christmas Eve service at church until after I've verified that the children actually have clothes to wear and shoes besides their Crocs. While I'm fine with holey jeans and tattered t-shirts, evidently moms like their daughters not to look like shipwrecked sailors when they're up in front of people.

While I should buy stocking stuffers early, yesterday I learned why I've always waited until the absolute last minute to buy my wife's presents. Well, yes, I AM lazy. But I'm a fickle person and thoughtful present-buyer (I guess that's just another phrase for "lazy"?), but I've just experienced the horror of seeing the PERFECT present yesterday for Cindy... after her presents have already been bought and wrapped and placed under the tree. If only I'd continued my lazy streak, I'd be able to buy the perfect present for her still. I guess I could unwrap the stupid, unsatisfactory, world's-worst-ever presents I already bought and return them and buy the perfect present, but again...there's the lazy factor.
I'm sure I'll remember all this and more in eleven or twelve months.

Merry Christmas Eve.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Our Narcissistic Holiday Blatherings

Here's the annual Family Christmas Letter that you were warned about. I assure you, our feelings will not be hurt if you turn back now. I'm sure you could come up with all kinds of productive things to do with the 3 1/2 hours it would take you to read this.
Oh, and the pictures were right side up in the real letters that are arriving in mailboxes as we speak. But YOU, oh internetters, must turn your monitors sideways to enjoy them.
Have at it.


Merry Christmas!
We hope this finds you and yours relaxing by the fire, sipping hot cocoa and clawing over who gets to read our riveting Christmas letter first.

The biggest news at the Newland house recently is that Cassie (5th grade) and Shelby (3rd grade) went to public school this fall after a successful career of homeschooling. I joke that they got expelled from the Newland Academy, but that's just nonsense, because they were both at the very top of their respective classes before leaving. Both girls are doing a fabulous job at school. We prayed a lot before making the transition, and God has overwhelmed us with His faithfulness! They each have terrific teachers that are perfect for their personalities and an amazing principal. We couldn't be happier! With her class size cut in half, Cindy is enjoying a little more time with Brynne (2nd grade) and Jenna (1st). They are smart little whippersnappers just like their big sisters.

In order to enrich our daughters' educational endeavors, we took a big trip out East in the spring. I know, we keep putting off the visit to world's biggest ball of twine, but with our studies of Lincoln and the Civil War, it just seemed to make better sense to visit Gettysburg, PA; Washington, D.C.; and Ocean City, Maryland. So Ocean City didn't actually fit in with the history theme, but Thrasher's French Fries is considered a historic site on the Boardwalk there. History highlights included Ford's Theater, The Holocaust Museum, Little Round Top at Gettysburg and freeze-dried ice cream at the Air & Space Museum. Cindy and I also got to add a side trip to the Grand Canyon to some business travel. Can’t wait to take the kids next time!

Cassie (11 1/2) is doing great at school in all subjects (even though she's absolutely horrified by missing ONE speeling wurd awl yeer long.) She's still sweet and relatively quiet, but would you believe that she had a 'big' part in the church Christmas musical? We are so incredibly proud of her. She did great; she even had a line that brought some laughs. That's my girl. She's in Bible Bowl again (with Shelby and Brynne) and doing great, already bringing home trophies, ribbons and the scalps of her opponents.

Shelby (9) is loving school too. While I'm sure they teach things like math and writing at this public school of hers, I mostly hear about who she played football with at recess. She played soccer in the fall and has just started Upward Basketball for the winter. So like her jock dad she is. (Shelby just read that over my shoulder. 'I'm NOTHING like you in sports, dad!' Perhaps 'sarcasm' hasn't been on her vocabulary list yet.) She's also a great Bible Bowl competitor on the same team with Cassie. It is absolutely amazing how much Bible knowledge they have!

Brynne (8) continues to hone her mad fashion skillz. And yet she can also tear up the soccer field and basketball court. This was her first summer to go to Mexico with Shelby and me to build homes. She loved it and has now convinced the whole family to come with us next year. She's doing Bible Bowl this year with her big sisters and also getting her hands on some trophy action. As I'm writing this, she's down at the bus stop watching her sisters ride off into the sunrise as she dreams of the day that she too may be shipped off to sweet blessed Public School.

Jenna (6 1/2) tries hard not to be the 'baby' of the family by insisting on growing up. No, she's not wearing lipstick and high heels, but she does keep losing teeth at an alarming rate, and she's learning to read and other such non-baby things. The theme of soccer and basketball continues with her as well, plus she is a self-proclaimed artiste. She finally is old enough to join Mommy's choir at church, so all four girls were in it at the same time; this will happen less frequently than Halley's Comet, so we're making a big deal of it.

Cindy has been crafting, painting, and even sewing in an effort to subsidize her Starbucks habit. Babysitting a few little ones each week allows her to upgrade to Venti. She directed the children's musical again this year and is keeping busy in so many ways, but never too busy to be a great mom and wife, I assure you. She even has enough left over to adopt a couple of college girls who we have enjoyed making part of family at birthday parties and Christmas-cookie-making-time. Cindy’s health is improved as her neuralgia episodes have been fewer and farther between, so thank you to any and all who have prayed for relief in that area.

Those of you who have prayed for miraculous hair regeneration for me, on the other hand, get no thanks. I went and shaved it all off in July for the kids at church camp, and I've kept my head smooth and shiny ever since. With the money saved on shampoo and hair care products, I've gone out and bought a can of Coke. Work is good and Sherwood Oaks continues to be a fantastic place to work and worship.

Well, enough about our family and my hair.

We do pray that 2008 brings bucketfuls of blessings for you and those you love. Thank you to those of you whose own updates we've already received. We look forward to more still coming. And for those of you whose wives don't force you to write these narcissistic blatherings, you have one more thing to be thankful for this blessed Christmas season.

Love and Blessings in the New Year,

Scott & Cindy
and Cassie, Shelby, Brynne and Jenna

Friday, December 21, 2007

Would You Like Vomit With Your Order?

Sometimes our two older children choose to TAKE a lunch to school.
Sometimes they choose to BUY what the lunch ladies have whipped up.

How to decide?
Here was the process today...

Shelby: Dad. Could you help me pack a lunch today?
Dad: Well, I have vomit all over my hands right now.
Shelby: I'll just buy a lunch today.
Oh, by the way, we have a sick child.
Thanks for vomiting on yourself in the living room, Jenna. You got me out of having to pack a lunch. Whew.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

the Dreaded Christmas Letter

You think Halloween is scary?
I can top it. The Day When Your Wife Tells You To Write The Annual Christmas Letter.

I really like to write. Seriously I do. But family Christmas letters have a reputation for being landfill fodder, and the last thing I want to be responsible for is the desolation of this wonderful planet.

So when I write my Christmas letter, I feel the pressure of writing something that will endure. Something that may be framed (which is impractical since it’s two-sided). Something you’ll put in the magazine rack in the bathroom and read over and over. Something that may be quoted or referred to in a footnote in a scientific journal. You get the picture.

That’s why I lose sleep the day before the letter is “due.” Cindy tightened my thumbscrews a couple nights ago, brought the laptop to bed, logged in to my blog and said, “Here. Write it like it’s a blog post, because you KNOW you have no trouble writing clever and engagingly entertaining stuff when you’re blogging.” And you know what? It worked. The words flowed. My muse had appeared. The letter is done. In fact, it should be in the mail right now as you’re reading this.

I’ll probably wait a few days for the masses to receive their letters. Then I might post it here for the rest of you unfortunate internetters whom I’d love 40-cents-postage-worth, but not 41. Sorry, but I still have to feed my children, and ramen noodles ain’t as cheap as they used to be.

Until then, you’ll just have to wait for what is possibly the only family Christmas letter in the nation to mention “scalping.” (If that inspired you to add a last-minute scalping reference to your Christmas letter, be sure to send me a copy.)

Headband/Bookmarks Easy Genius Idea

My Works For Me Wednesday Idea comes from the office next to mine today.

You know those stretchy headbands that are knitted or something? They have lots of holes in the weave and come in all kinds of colors. (I'm a guy. Women out there probably know exactly what I'm talking about. Here's a picture just in case.)

Well, my coworker just showed me how she was using one as a bookmark. She simply opened a book to whatever page and slid the headband around the front cover and the pages and closed the book again.

Then because of the open weave of the headband she was able to slide in a pen or highlighter outside so she had a dual bookmark/pen-holder. (i probably should've taken a picture of it in use, but perhaps you can imagine a book in place of this cutie's head and some pens clipped in the holes of the headband.)

Might make a great stocking stuffer for my daughters who love to read!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

If You're Happy And You Know It...

[the events of the previous post took place back in 2000. So if you were hoping to drop by our home and see "Goliath", you're out of luck. But if you get your time machine working, give me a heads up.]

Growing up with artificial Christmas trees, I didn't really know how to care for real trees when our family went "live" several years ago.

I knew, of course, that you have to water them. But sure enough, I'd skip a day--one lousy day--and the tree would cross its arms, stomp it's feet, and go on a water strike for the rest of the season, dropping its needles just to get back at us.

This Christmas, we've had our tree for more than a week now, and IT'S STILL DRINKING that sweet nectar I'm feeding it from the tap. I get excited about simple things, and the fact that my tree is alive and well is enough to make me rent a billboard so I can tell the world.

So if your tree is dried up like a raisin, and you can't be friends with me anymore because of the jealousy that's consumed your black little heart, I'll be praying for you.

So that's the little thing bringing me joy this moment.

I'm kind of curious what minor detail this holiday season is making YOU giddy with delight.
(Coordinating wrapping paper? A deer on ice in the garage? Reduced-price cream cheese?)

Friday, December 14, 2007

Christmas 2000: The Year of the Sequoia

Sometimes it’s hard to judge just how big a Christmas tree is when it’s closed up like an umbrella and bundled with twine.

I only knew that this was a tall one. We needed tall. We had a high vaulted ceiling.

And we knew that this one had a bad side, but that’s o.k. It was going in a corner.

For some reason, even though we had cut this tree ourselves and had seen it’s shape and size in person, it was hard to put that in perspective with the size and shape of our living room. In the however-many-acre tree farm, the tree seemed relatively small, and compared to the other trees around it, it might have been big but not ginormous.

But when you put a tree in your living room, the points of reference for size are no longer barns, cows and Europe. The points of reference are smaller things like end tables, couches and preschool girls.

So standing there still wrapped in twine in the corner, this tree looked gloriously tall. I could swear it had grown two more feet on the way home.

It was time to cut the string and release the branches. Well, if the tree had grown 2 feet taller on the way home, it evidently had also grown 12 feet WIDER as well. The branches flung out after being relieved of their girdle, and I ran for cover. Try to picture any of those action flicks with explosions where you watch Bruce Willis running toward the camera while a fireball is lapping at his heels, the force of which propels him, blackens his skin and rips his clothes, leaving him breathless and in a heap.

…moments later, I awoke in the opposite corner of the room, skin blackened, clothes torn, breathless, heaped.

I looked across what once had been my living room, and all I saw now was tree. There was no couch, only tree. No carpet, only tree. Where once there had been air to breathe, all that remained now in all directions was tree. Cindy and I laughed for a long time, but it was that nervous kind of laugh like when you accidentally lean against your car and it rolls over a cliff and all you CAN do is laugh because you just can’t believe that you’re watching your car flipping end over end before landing upside down on the rocks below. So we’d just sit together on the couch in the front yard (I’m telling you there WAS no room inside) and laugh and laugh and laugh…and cry.

Friends would drop in, and the first thing they would do was offer their condolences, “That sure is a big tree.”

And we would say, “Here, let me take your coat. If you’ll just press your body up against the wall like this and duck a little, you can shimmy over like this and maneuver your way to the bedroom where the party is because we no longer have a living room…ever since OUR TREE ATE IT.”

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Observations While Bell Ringing

Tuesday was balmy. It was in the 60's, and I was about to go to work shirtless because it was so unseasonably mild...but I didn't want to make all my coworkers unseasonably sick.

Then today the weatherman caught wind that I was going to be outside ringing a bell for the Salvation Army at the local Kroger grocery store, so he decided it should be cold and bitter. He also decided not to tell me to take my gloves.

The nice thing, though, about the icy cold temperature was that it kept me awake. Thanks to this heightened state of alertness, I was able to make several observations about my fellow man, and about the automatic sliding entrance doors at Kroger.

* Nice people who have already given money to charities this season and therefore aren't going to today sometimes feel they need to tell you, just in case you thought they were selfish with their nickels. Really, folks, I'm not making eye contact unless you enter my space (for your sake, not mine). I'm not asking for your money and I'm not even thinking about your money when you walk by. I just ring the bell. I didn't even put money in myself today. *GASP*

* The young guy who was in there for about 30 minutes must not be familiar with this store, because after that long shopping trip, all he came out with was a couple bottles of something. The lady with the crying two year old got a whole cart load in less than 15 minutes.

* The sight of the nice lady with the two young children humored me (not because she had two children; I don't know why you'd think I thought that was the funny part). She had one of those fancy carts with the extra two seats in the front for the kids the sit in, in addition to the regular seat. And yet, none of the three seats was occupied. One child was standing in the front, as if recreating the the warning scene printed on the plastic flip-down seat--the one that's crossed off because it may result in death. The other child was being carried by the mom in much the same manner as you'd carry a greased pig across a grocery store parking lot while pushing an oversized cart with death-wish-child on the front. Not funny to her, but brought a smile to me.

* I almost made a smart alec comment to a lady coming IN carrying a bag of groceries. Because it's the opposite of what everyone else was doing, you know. But I maintained my philosophy of not making eye contact or speaking to anyone unless they approached me so as not to make them feel awkward about not giving. Turns out she WASN'T coming in to stock the shelves with homemade food as I originally thought. She was coming back in to DONATE food at a collection box inside the entrance. Good for her. I like nice people.

* I spent much of the time developing a number of ways to ring a bell with the least amount of effort possible. I finally settled into letting it hang loosely between by knuckles while I simply rocked back and forth a little on my feet. I didn't want my elbow cramping, you know.

* I also spent almost the entire time trying to keep from triggering the sensor on the automatic door every two seconds. I felt bad for the little old ladies with walkers waiting inside for their van from the retirement home. The door opened constantly and I know those ladies had to be almost as cold as I was. Hence, the minimal-movement bell-ringing method I developed by my last two minutes at my post. Of course, once they left, I figured out that it was the LADIES triggering the door, not me, but my experiments helped pass the time faster anyway.

It was a very cold 7 hours out in front of the Kroger. Actually, it was only one hour, but it sure felt like 7.

Oh, if you were one of the customers who saw me today and wondered why I was smiling the whole time, your guess is correct. I WAS imagining everyone in pajamas, picking out the right style for each personality. This was inspired by the college kid actually wearing pajamas.

Toilet = Gift Card

Sometimes it's just so stinkin' hard to find the right gift for someone.

That's when you're tempted just to go out and buy a gift card. Then THEY can buy something.

But how fun is that? Not much.
Well, unless it's a really big gift card that can send someone on a shopping spree to end all shopping sprees. But I know you. You get $5, $10, $25, maybe $50 gift cards. Yes, it's a lot of money for many of us, but it's not like Cousin Enrique can now afford his Alaskan Cruise because of your generosity.

Here's a way to spice up the idea of a gift card, though, because I know you really wanted some more spice when it comes to giving people presents without actually giving them any presents.
If you want to give a gift card from a certain store, pass up the gift cards in the rack and go find something hideous for the price range you wanted to spend. The more horrifyingly inappropriate or unnecessary the better. Wrap it and give it to your loved one with the receipt. Then they can use it almost like a gift card. They simpy return it for cash or store credit and get whatever they wanted all along but were afraid to ask for.
My brother and sister-in-law got me a toilet last year. It may have taken a while for some family members to understand why I had received a toilet. I wasn't remodeling or anything. I'm hoping this becomes a tradition like a white elephant gift exchange...except these actually have value and be returned for real money, unlike that plastic cactus in the Buddha planter.

Great Gift Ideas to Return

* Toilet
* Legging or tights (for a guy)
* Pet Turtles
* Hairspray
* Bill Cosby Sweaters (you know what I'm talking 'bout)
* Cutlery
* Shutters

Merry Christmas!
And friends, be sure to click here and vote for my funny wife (a.k.a. StillHisGirl) for "Funniest Homeschool Blogger." You can only vote once per computer maybe, so have your spouse vote at work, break into your neighbors, whatever it takes!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Leave The Seat Down

I think some of you were starting to worry that I'd forgotten all about selecting a winner from those who had solved the daBlogi Code. And you were right to worry, because I had totally erased it from my RAM.

Well, a very elite few had the brain power (and the time to waste) necessary to solve this puzzle.
Some people left comments. Some emailed.
They acted like they knew the answer, but only one person actually spelled it out so I could know for sure she had the right answer.

So congratulations to Billie who emailed me the answer: "Leave The Seat Down." And if someone else did too, and I overlooked you, I'm so sorry. Sweet talk me and we'll work out a consolation prize.

I know you all expected something more heart-stopping from Leonardo daBlogi like "The world will end in ____" or "Vick will get 23 in o7" or "there's some spinach in your teeth."

But the message is what the message is. Leave The Seat Down. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Our cryptologists are still studying, but it appears that the message appears to have come from MRS. daBlogi instead of Leonardo himself. Who knew?

Billie, you have your choice from the following books:
"Life's Little DEstruction Book" with such hints as "overstay your welcome" and "don't flush."
"Daddy's Boy" by Chris Elliot, with rebuttals by his dad. The humorous story of a bitter son.
"Motherhood Is Stranger Than Fiction" cute cartoons by Mary Chambers.
"Children's Letters To God" like "What does begat mean? Nobody will tell me."

And if any of you losers wish you had won one of the books that Billie doesn't pick, then convince me to have a contest where you're guaranteed to win...like "Most Irrelevant Mentions of Nutella in a Blog." Tim's a shoe-in for that.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

She'll Kiss Your Baby If That's What It'll Take

I don't mean to mislead you.
I'm NOT a nominee for the homeschool blog awards. I'm not really hurt by failing to be nominated. I don't blog about homeschooling a whole lot. In fact, even though my wife has been homeschooling for the last 6 or 7 years, I didn't even discover she's been doing that until a few months ago...I'm THAT involved.
I always thought it was strange that I'd come home for something in the middle of the day and find all the kids still there. Now it all makes sense.
Anyway, a good percentage of the 3 people who visit my blog come here by way of Cindy's blog. So you probably are already aware that she has been nominated in the categories of Funniest Homeschool Blogger and Best Encourager. While she is out on her speaking circuit, holding campaign dinners and fundraisers, and kissing babies, I thought I would lend my support by campaigning right here in the comfort of my comfy plaid armchair.

It should come as no surprise that we're recycling "She's A Bad Mamma Jamma" as her campaign rallying cry/theme song again. I'm working on the yard signs right now and should have them available for ordering by week's end. Buttons, banners, and acrylic nails with her silhouette on them are also forthcoming.

Of course, during this busy homeschool blogger election season, things will be a little crazy around here. I'll be picking up some extra slack here while she's doing her appearances on the morning shows, but it's worth it. The opportunities that this could open up for our future are incredible.

So be sure to click on the nominee button above and vote for "Still His Girl" as the funniest homeschool blog in the known universe (and Best Encourager if she happens to have touched you in that way). And if you don't already know she's the funniest, check out her blog and judge for yourself. Then you can vote for her here.

If any of you around the country want to get in touch with the "Still His Girl" campaign headquarters in your state or region, let me know and we'll hook you up. We know she's probably going to carry Wisconsin and Kansas and Guam, but we could use more help getting the word out in West as well as the portion of the country referred to as the "Ill-Humored Belt."

Most importantly, anyone who has connections with Cindy's BFF Mandisa should work your magic and get her to endorse Cindy or maybe have her perform at the election night result s extravaganza.


Saturday, December 8, 2007

Oops...a Hanukkah Ham?

Heard about this on the news and had to find the photo. Sorry if you've already seen it a hundred times.
Evidently this was at an upscale grocery store in Manhattan. I thought about writing some humorous comments to go with the photo, but really, the picture needs no help. (Unless you are unaware that Jews don't generally eat pork, in which case you probably thought I was humored that ham there costs $6.99/lb.)

Friday, December 7, 2007

Clam Chowder to Die For

This clam chowder really is worth selling your children for or giving up a limb in order to even lick a spoon that once held a small amount of it.

We had friends over last week, and when we were working on the menu, I asked them, "Do you like clam chowder?" The response was kind, since our friends are very polite and accommodating, but between the lines I heard, "I will eat your chowder because my parents raised me right, but if you have anything else that's less disgusting and vile and putrid, perhaps I might enjoy the evening with you even more."

So we also made a cheesy potato soup.

And what did our friend go back and gets seconds of? THE CLAM CHOWDER! No, I'm not lying. Not my style.

So here it is for you to win over your non-chowder-slurping friends as well.

I will be writing it in Man Recipe Format (MRF), and I'm doing it from memory because it's eeeeeeeeeeeasy.
Dump all of the following in a big pot and heat it on the stove:

* 3 Cans of Cream of Potato Soup (condensed, of course. Some fancy stores might actually sell ready to eat soup, but you want the good ol'fashioned thick stuff because You Are A Great Cook.)

* 3 Cans of New England Clam Chowder (the white kind. so help me if you use that red kind, you will lose friends and not influence people. also condensed)

* 1 Can of Cream of Celery Soup (you got it, condensed. I don't know that there's actually any celery in this soup, so don't freak out if you hate celery. I have never noticed celery when I eat the chowder. Just not a fan of celery, but a huuuge fan of this chowder.)

Have you noticed so far that you're just making soup out of soup. We have not sliced a single vegetable or sauteed nothin'. Just the pleasant whirrrrr of the can opener. And yet, your guests will think you've been shelling clams and grinding whole grain chowder since the crack of dawn.

* 2 cans of Minced Clams (these are those flat cans like tuna cans). We drain the water out of one can, but include the water from the other. I don't know that it matters much at all. My mom has even made it without adding the clams. It's legal. I checked.

* 2 to 3 pints of heavy cream or whipping cream. (not WHIPPED cream, silly. And we've done both amounts, just makes it thicker or thinner.)

Just heat it up and ladle away.
Important: We sprinkle a touch of dried parsley flakes and black pepper on the top of each bowl to class it up when serving it. It does look like white vomit otherwise. Maybe that's why some people don't like clam chowder?

I hope you enjoy it as much as we do. We almost always make a meal out of that with cheese and crackers and cheese and maybe some delicious summer sausage...and cheese.

I am going to go eat some leftover chowder right now. (It gets thick in the fridge, so I'll add some milk to thin it down a tad, seeing as how soup should be eaten with a spoon, not a knife.)

more soup recipes to wet your whistle at BooMama's insanely fun little corner of the world.

Buried Under A Nano-Meter of Snow

Don't you love how a child can take a toy out of its cardboard box and play with it for hours?
And I remember a hundred different ways I could play with just a handful of blocks. I could build forts, mountains, trains, bombs, robots...anything. I was that gifted.

I know it's tempting to think our kids need lots of stuff to be happy (and occupied). But it's refreshing sometimes to see how much delight they get out of simple things.

This morning, for instance, our kids awoke to the first snow of the season. Mind you, it had snowed previously, but it had been too warm for it to stick or accumulate.

So today when they looked out and saw the snow on the ground, they were elated. In this part of Indiana, there's never necessarily any guarantee of snow like in some parts farther north. We may get a foot of snow, or we may not get any. So my children know that they have to be thankful for whatever amount they get; this may be it, kiddos.

So they hurried to do all their morning chores so they could play outside before school. By "morning chores" I mean leaving food out on the counter, scattering schoolwork on the floor, leaving beds unmade and teeth unbrushed. But, hey, it's the first snow of the season.

Like I said, my children are thankful for whatever amount of snow they get. When you see the picture below, you'll squint to try to see any snow. Well, it's there I assure you. You just can't see it. Just as an old prospector may have to pan through 5 gazillion screen of rocks and creek water to find a pin-sized nugget o'gold, my girls toiled long and hard to harvest enough snow for some snow balls.
Seriously, do you see any snow, folks? The only snow that I could see was on our sidewalk, not even the driveway, just the sidewalk...and not very much at all. But these industrious children scrape and raked and put it all together and here is what all their hard work resulted in.
There you have a couple dozen snowballs on the front step. With the amount of fun all of our girls were having in this winter wonderland, you'd have thought there were two feet of snow and school was out and reindeer were making snow angels under the persimmon tree.

I can only imagine how much fun they'd have if we were to get TWICE that much snow!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Compass Schmompass

I’ve had a post sitting on my Blackberry just waiting for me to hit send.

But I’ve been waiting.

I’ve been waiting for the release of the Golden Compass in theaters this weekend. I’ve read the first two books in the series, but I think a lot of people are going to be more curious about the movie than the books. I mean, seriously, who reads books anymore?

All along, I’ve assumed I’m going to go to the movie and check it out, so I can have an educated assessment.

But today, I read a Q&A with the director on the MTV website/blog. And I’m rethinking the thoughts I’d already rethought several times.

People aren’t going to have a huge problem with the first movie, most likely. I probably won’t. I didn’t have much of concern with the first book. They’ve toned down the religious references for the purposes of making it as mainstream as possible, trying to offend as few as possible. But the director clearly states that this is only so it will be as profitable as possible so he can make the next two movies and be as true to the books in them as possible. So he’s willing to sell out for the greater good of the production of the whole story. That’s smart business sense, and I don’t blame him. But I don’t have to support where he’s going, because I don’t want to go there myself.

Here’s what Chris Weitz, director of “The Golden Compass” said on the MTV Movies blog. (Can you believe I was at the MTV site?)

It’s true, though, that “The Subtle Knife” and “The Amber Spyglass” tread in territory that is much more controversial than the first book… Well, though I saw it as my duty to build the franchise of “His Dark Materials” on as solid a grounding as I could, it would all be in vain if the second and third films did not have the intellectual depth and the iconoclasm of the second and third books. The whole point, to me, of ensuring that “The Golden Compass” is a financial success is so that we have a solid foundation on which to deliver a faithful, more literal adaptation of the second and third books. This is important: whereas “The Golden Compass” had to be introduced to the public carefully, the religious themes in the second and third books can’t be minimized without destroying the spirit of these books. There is simply no way to adapt them without dealing with Lyra’s destined role, her secret name, and the war in the heavens. I will not be involved with any “watering down” of books two and three, since what I have been working towards the whole time in the first film is to be able to deliver on the second and third films. If I sense that this is not possible, there’s no point my continuing to work on them.

I have come very easily to the conclusion that this trilogy is not for children. The movie is rated PG-13, and I am pleased with this. One of the themes that the author would love for us to understand is that religion enslaves children. Children are forced to believe what their parents teach them. They have no voice, they have no freedom. I want my children to wrestle with what they believe, yes. But not while they’re young. I have to have guide them in so many ways. And the amazing thing is that I believe that in Christ they have so much more freedom than they would have without him, but it’s a different kind of freedom than this world understands. We may feel “forced” to have to forgive and love our enemies because of our “bondage” to scripture, but that frees us up to be better, stronger people who can impact this world in a huge way.

So no movie for my family right now. Maybe when they’re older, and we can pick it up at the library for free!

I may write more later when I get to hear/read more about the movie. I’m not usually a boycotter, and I don’t necessarily want to encourage everyone to skip the movie. By all means, check it out for yourself. It’s not going to brainwash you or steal your salvation.

I was going to go so I could see if it’s something appropriate for my family (assuming not). But now that I’ve read enough about it and am familiar with the whole story from reading it, I already know the answer for my kids and can save myself the $9.00 plus popcorn plus Rasinettes and invest it in some mini-marshmallows and cranberries to string and put on the Christmas tree we’re chopping down today.

Hopefully tomorrow I won’t be blogging about an emergency room visit following a tree-chopping adventure gone bad. Ooh, I should tell you about our first chopping experience soon, we laughed for a long time.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Hamster 911

When we bought our first hamster about 3 years ago, we knew the life span of these dear creatures was about 2 years. Perfect. That way, if the children grow weary of caring for this beast, we'd only have to wait 23 1/2 more months until we we're free of the burden of responsibility. (We specifically avoided the Turkey Buzzard which can live for 117 years and the Giant Tortoise living well past 150.)

Not long ago, I heard a loud banging coming from the hamster cage. As indicated in a previous post, we've moved her into an aquarium (without the water, silly). I listened carefully, assuming at first that she was tapping out a message in Morse Code.

After listening awhile, I finally decoded the message: "Help...i got mi fatt sehlf stuk in tube and i cnt get owt." After shaking my head, I went in to confront the hamster about her poor spelling.

And lo, I beheld this sight:

I didn't have the presence of mind to take a photo like my wife would have. (example of photo-readiness of Wife: "Oh, wait! Put your finger over your splurting artery for second while I get the camera so I can blog about this.")

So I drew the picture for your long-lasting enjoyment. The hamster was walking around on her back legs, banging the unattached plastic tube against the glass of the aquarium. It really was breathtaking, funny and sad all at the same time. But mostly funny.

Well, I got out the Jaws Of Life and pulled the tube apart then puffed air into the rodent to make it more full and fluffy and less cylindrical.

I'm not putting the tube back in until after a little weight loss. Maybe a miniature elyptical machine or a sauna. I'm also checking out hamster girdles online.