Archive for July, 2010

On E-mailing My Blog

I missed the memo on the fact that I can e-mail a post to my blog. This will be great when I am away to access e-mail on the iPhone. It is so difficult to post on WordPress when the screen is that small.

We have had a fun, low key weekend around here. Just hanging out as a family, visiting the parks and the pool. Potentially bad weather came through last night, but was pretty mild by the time it reached us. I think they got hammered in the Twin Cities again.

James fell down the basement steps today and has the largest goose-egg I’ve ever seen on his noggin, but otherwise seems fine. We gave him tiny freeze pops to take his mind off of it, but, truth be told, we were probably more shaken up than he was. It is possible that he fell down the entire length of steps. We’re not sure. No one was standing there… otherwise we probably wouldn’t have let him fall down the basement steps. I think his big brother learned a lot about paying attention and the effect that “accidents” can have on your emotions.

Hope everyone else had a great weekend. There is still some daylight left to enjoy today, if I don’t get sucked in to watching the last season of The Bachelorette…

Sent from my iPad


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On Oatmeal Cookies

Oatmeal cookies are my favorite cookies, with Ginger snaps running a very close second. My father in law took me to Weavers, an Amish grocery store outside of Augusta. He buys the most delicious butter there. I found a huge bag of old fashioned rolled oats for a great price and a bulk bag of strawberry craisins. The makings of some great oatmeal strawberry-craisin cookies. Delicious!

Here is my recipe. The dry ingredients can be stored in a jar for up to six months and I would definitely recommend mixing up a second batch to store because the cookies don’t last long!

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup of strawberry craisins
2 cups quick-cooking oats
Additional Ingredients:
3/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

To prepare cookies right away: In a mixing bowl, cream the butter. Beat in egg and vanilla. Add all dry ingredients and craisins. Mix well. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls 2 in. apart onto greased baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees F for 9-11 minutes or lightly browned. Slightly under-baking cookies will ensure crispy edges and a soft, chewy center. Cool for 2 minutes before removing to wire racks.

For creating cookie mix to store:
In a bowl, combine the first five ingredients; set aside. In a 1-qt. glass container, layer brown sugar, sugar, raisins and oats, packing well between each layer. Top with reserved flour mixture. Cover and store in a cool dry place for up to 6 months.

To prepare cookies: In a mixing bowl, cream the butter. Beat in egg and vanilla. Add cookie mix and mix well. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls 2 in. apart onto greased baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees F for 9-11 minutes or lightly browned. Slightly under-baking cookies will ensure crispy edges and a soft, chewy center. Cool for 2 minutes before removing to wire racks.

Enjoy and don’t make these cookies if you’re on a diet!

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My daughter is not the picture of grace. I say this all the time. She trips and stumbles often. Hits her head, stubs her toes, scrapes her legs, and just generally does not balance well. She did not go up or down stairs for a long time, long after she learned to walk, it seemed like she didn’t have the pelvic floor muscle strength to walk up the stairs without holding someone’s hand. Shortly after she turned 2 she learned to climb out of her crib. I still think there must have been some supernatural forces involved because she could not even climb up onto the couch. I asked her to demonstrate how she escaped from the crib and she feebly put her leg up and whined, “I can’t!” And I believed her… yet she would wind up on the floor with a thump shortly  after bedtime at night. So we moved her to a bed. Now, she climbs into her old crib with her baby brother and can’t get out without my assistance.

Her friend Ivy has always been a climber. She was standing on kitchen chairs at the counter to help with cooking while I watched, thinking, ‘I could never let my daughter stand on a chair like that! She’d fall!’ But, I digress on the topic.

I have tried to figure out where she got her clumsiness from. I’m not a prima ballerina, but I was involved in sports most of my life and even spent considerable time on the 3-meter diving board “falling off” on purpose. Riley is not clumsy, he is impressively fluid in movement. Its kind of sickening, really. When Natalie was young, I didn’t let her climb on things or climb stairs. I guess I was afraid she would fall. The question is, did I protect her from falling because she was born with poor coordination? Or did I conribute to her poor coordination by preventing her from practicing her balance?

Recently at a workshop I sat next to a Phy Ed teacher. She told me that coordination skills are basically cemented by the age of four. This made me worry, but I jokingly remarked that my daughter was in trouble because she is already three! The Phy Ed teacher seriously recommended that I start working with her…

Enter a baby boy, brimming with independence and spunk. Woefully coordinated and strong. He began “standing” on my lap at a very young age. He stood up in his high chair before I thought about strapping him in and learned to walk and run within weeks of each other. He loves sitting on little chairs and climbing on top of his sisters tricycle. He can a scale the steps like an expert spelunker and just today stood up backwards in his stroller seat to see if his sister had any grapes left. But what I notice about him is that he is definitely more coordinated than his sister. When I sit him on the couch or my bed, he is aware of the edges and backs away if he gets too close. He naturally attempts to climb down feet first and, despite the fact that he isn’t allowed to play on the stairs by himself, has already shown awareness of a possible fall and can climb down a few steps independently. I figure he is going to climb, so I better teach him how to safely get down. It’s amazing to watch him!

So is it nature or nurture? Were my kids born with unique talents or have I relaxed with the second one enough to know that he probably won’t be seriously hurt from climbing on a small chair? What do you think?

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On Dave Ramsey and his stupid plan

If you haven’t heard of Dave Ramsey, you probably aren’t friends with Jessie or Cara – or their husbands, really (must be a John thing). Anyway, I’ll catch you up to speed.  Dave Ramsey wrote a book called The Total Money Makeover. In his book he teaches you the path to financial freedom. First, you have to assess your debt. Then, you save $1000 as fast as you can because you’re going to be using all available money to pay down your debt. That is baby step one. Baby step two is called the Debt Snowball.  You need to create a budget and stick to it  You list all of your debts in ascending order, from smallest amount to largest, regardless of interest rate. Any money leftover each month is applied to debt #1. All other debts are kept up with minimum payments as part of your budget. When debt #1is paid off, you apply the amount you had been paying to debt #1 to debt #2 plus the minimum payment that you had been paying. So, as you see, as you go down the line of debts, you are paying more and more each month to those bigger debts until they are all paid off. This applies to all debt except for the mortgage. Then, steps 3-7 involve building a proper emergency fund, retirement savings, college funds for the kids, paying off the mortgage and finally, building wealth like crazy.

Last year we saved up enough money to pay off one of the cars. It was quite a victory! Then I read Dave Ramsey’s book and started The Total Money Makeover in February of this year. We have lived on a tight budget and done without many things, but the success has been worth it, for sure.

Without getting into too much personal detail, let me tell you that we live our lives like typical American middle class people – to the fullest extent our paychecks will allow. We didn’t have any credit card debt (except for a no-interest Sears card that I was making monthly payments on) but we had student loan debt, car loans and some other pesky little loans adding up to, well a lot more than I’d care to admit. And I considered myself pretty fiscally responsible! The important thing is to take responsibility for it. And with some knowledge and our hard work staying within a very tight budget, I am so pleased that by the end of the summer, we should be down to about $5000 on a student loan, if all of the stars align. Part of our success on getting through this stage so quickly was that my grandparents gave us a vehicle that they could no longer drive, allowing us to sell the car that we still owed money on and pay off a big loan.

So, yes I called the plan stupid, not because the plan is actually stupid, but because it has forced us to “live like no one else” sometimes eating the crusty old stuff at the back of the cupboard and buying bulk supplies of hamburger helper when it’s on sale. We have used Coke rewards points to keep up with out Diet Coke habits, haven’t purchased alcohol for the house, and scoured the dollar menu when afforded the chance to go out to eat. At first it’s kind of fun and a little romantic to work together to find free things to do as a family and walking or biking as much as possible to save gas. Then, as you are traveling out of town for the weekend wondering how $80 is gong to get you there and back, as well as entertainment while visiting, and you opt for a couple of McDoubles instead of Jimmy Johns or something else more wonderful, it just gets old. 

  The plan is not stupid, it’s brilliant and it works… But it is incredibly difficult and requires discipline. So, I have an admission to make. You all know I’m a techie. Gotta have the newest technology. So I am typing this entry from my new iPad. That is NOT part of Dave Ramsey’s plan. I fell off the wagon and let Riley get me one for our anniversary. I felt so bad I considered calling Dave and letting him know that I’m a failure, that I couldn’t do it. Then, I remembered that I have already paid off almost $10,000 of debt and have our 2009 car for sale in exchange for a 1998 gas guzzler and I realized that I deserved a little reward for my work so far and for living off of $90 per week for 2 solid months and for avoiding expensive fun and unnecessary trips. I’m back on the wagon and, if the stars continue to align, we may be on baby step three by next year! 

Dave Ramsey says, ” Live like no one else, so that later you can live like no one else.” I’ll keep dreaming of those days while I type blog posts from my contraband iPad… 

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On Becoming American

I came across this quiz on the internet. You can test your knowledge to see if you know enough about America to become a citizen. I took the quiz a few times and passed each time to be an American citizen. How well did you pay attention in school?

Click the picture below to take this 10-question Quiz:

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