Saturday, May 30, 2009

Shark Dissection

Ben had his last marine biology class this past week. They got to dissect a three foot shark. Lo and behold, when they got to the insides, they found six baby sharks.

I know this photo is really blurry. One of the other students in the class took it with a cell phone.

Here's a nice crisp view of the babies. Ben got to deliver those himself.

He is one happy future marine biologist right now.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Testing 1,2,3

It's time for end of the year tests.

At the end of the school year we take a standardized test to make sure we are on track and the kids are where they need to be academically.

Usually, I give them the test at home, but this year I wanted Ben to start taking it in a group setting with a different administrator. It won't be long before he has to start taking college entrance tests and he needs the experience of taking a test somewhere besides home.

The group doing the testing needed another tester so they could divide the group into junior high and high school and test them separately. I volunteered to test the junior high group and sent in my application and diploma to receive my official tester number.

It's not a difficult thing to do. They tell you the exact words to say for every portion of the test. You are not allowed to leave out a word or add a word. It's like being handed a script.

The main issue is that these are homeschooled kids who aren't used to having to be really quiet during a test. Some would hum, or tap their pencils, or tap their feet against the tables. One girl asked to go to the bathroom every single day during the tests. One girl told me every day as soon as she was done with her test. It doesn't matter when they are through. They still have to sit quietly and wait for everyone else to finish, and try not to distract anyone who is still working on their test.

We should have the scores back in six to eight weeks. Ben thinks he did very well. He's not concerned at all. He said it was really easy.

I hope he's right.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Memorial Day 2009

Ben's scout troop placed flags on all the graves at the local cemetery.

Here in Hawaii, they also place a small lei around each flag which is a beautiful thing to do.

And, as is becoming increasingly common, Ben was stopped and interviewed by a local reporter about his thoughts on Memorial Day and what it means to him to have a father who is deployed.

My kids are media magnets.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Cute 'N Creepy

Katie and I were walking home from the playground today. As we started up the steps to go in the front door I looked down and gave a startled, "EW!!!"

There was a headless bird sitting on our stoop.

Katie stepped back outside to see what I was looking at.

"Where is its head?" she whispered in horror.

"I don't know," I whispered back. "Go get the camera"

We all have our priorities.

She brought the camera back and it hadn't moved. It was just headlessly standing there right next to us.

As I got closer to take the picture, I could see its little chest moving in and out as it was breathing.

The horror. The horror.

We were talking in normal tones about it now, and I even reached out and pushed the pink bottle of bubbles away to see if that caused any reaction. It never moved. It just stood there on its creepy little legs - completely upright but with no head.

Then it suddenly whipped its head out from under its wing (or wherever it was keeping it) and actually sat there and looked at us for a minute like it had no idea where we suddenly sprang from.

Then he flew away to join his zombie brethren.
He's lucky a cat didn't come by. With such crappy situational awareness, he would have been toast.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Banana Nut Bread

We have a great Banana Nut Bread recipe. The girls love to make it when we have some bananas that have gotten so brown and soft that no one will eat them. We try to get to them before the fruit flies swarm in.

First you need three over-ripe bananas.

Squish the heck out of them.

Daintily gather together your implements of cooking.

Dissolve 1 teaspoon of baking soda into 4 tablespoons of buttermilk.

Take time to stop and smell the orchids.

Take care not to get your hair caught in the beaters.

Crack three eggs into a mixing bowl.

See if you can make it look like a face.

Or a body with two heads.

Beat the eggs into submission and add 1 1/2 cups of sugar, 1/2 cup of oil, the buttermilk with the soda dissolved in it, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Mix well.

Add two cups of plain flour, the mashed bananas, and 1 cup of chopped nuts.

When everything is blended well, add 1 teaspoon of vanilla.

Pour into a well greased loaf pan.
Bake at 325 degrees for 50-60 minutes.

Eat it really fast before anyone can take a picture of it.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Sock It To Me Salsa

Ben LOVES salsa. Boy, does that boy love salsa. He likes it spicy too. He seems to think spicy food is challenging him. Daring him, in fact. And he can not back down from a dare because then the salsa would win.

He eats so much salsa that I decided we should start making our own. We could make larger batches of it as well as use organic ingredients and cut out preservatives and unnecessary fillers.

We used this great recipe from the Muir Glen site:


2 cans (14.5 oz each) Muir Glen® organic fire roasted or plain diced tomatoes, well drained
1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt (kosher or sea salt)
1 to 2 fresh jalapeƱo or serrano chiles, seeded, finely chopped

Preparation Directions
1. In medium bowl, stir together all ingredients.
2. Serve with tortilla chips as desired.

Ben made the salsa himself. He had already chopped the onion, jalapenos, cilantro, and garlic before I got home.

He even opened the cans by himself. Ah, self sufficiency. At least I know he won't starve when he goes off to college if he can open a can of soup.

Since he's not so in love with chopping things by hand, he rough chopped everything enough that it would fit into a blender, poured in the juice from the tomatoes and gave it a few quick pulses. It looks more like guacamole than salsa, but keep in mind the tomatoes are not in here yet. He likes the tomatoes to be somewhat chunky, so he leaves them out of the blender.

Then he added all the green stuff to the remaining tomatoes in the bowl. I know, it's still not pretty.

Just on a side note: you really do want to use the Muir Glen fire roasted tomatoes in this. That's what makes this such a better recipe than the others we've tried.

It was about this time that I noticed the salsa was still a lot greener than usual. I double checked the recipe and asked him how many jalapenos he used. "Five or six," he told me.

Now, if you'll notice the recipe calls for 1 to 2.

"How much cilantro did you use?"
"I don't know......a handful," he said.

"How much garlic?"

"Six cloves."

The recipe calls for two cloves.

This salsa is best after it sits overnight in the fridge, but of course we wanted to go ahead and sample it.

"My eyes are watering," said Ben.

"My throat is burning," said I.

"You're welcome," grinned Ben.

Squids Will Be Squids

The latest from Ben:

Today at Marine Biology class, we dissected a squid! I don't know where our teacher got them, it looks like she just bought them at any old store. They were a good foot long and smelled very fishy (or squidy). First we labeled the outside, then we cut them open. Did you know a squid has three hearts?

Squids don't have spines since they're invertebrates, but they do have a little bone called the pen, which is shaped like a quill. We then took the pen, dipped it in the squid's ink sack and wrote our names on our papers; that was pretty cool!

When we were done, our teacher told us to remove the pen and the beak and then put the rest of the squid on the counter. She then cooked them and ate them for dinner.

My science class is so cool!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Aunties and Uncles

When I was growing up in the deep south, we were taught manners. We said "yes, ma'am" and "no, sir", and "please" and "thank you". If I had ever said, "Yeah" to a teacher I quite possibly would have been expelled.

No one would have questioned it.

I kid you not - true story - I once had a teacher threaten to break my arm because I shrugged my shoulders at her instead of saying, "I don't know." (Oh, if only we knew then what we know now about law suits. My family could have been wealthy.)

I'm not bitter.

All teachers were addressed as Mr./Mrs./Miss and their last name. Teachers did not have first names or if they did, we certainly never used them. That was a sign of total disrespect and none of us ever dared to cross that line and find out what the punishment would be.

When I was in college, my tenth grade English teacher was in my creative writing course working on her masters. She told all the students to treat her as any other student and call her "Carol".

I couldn't do it.

Now often, there were adults in our lives who weren't related to us, but were friends of the family. These people were often given the title of Mr./Mrs./Miss and their first name. It was a way of bestowing honorary Aunt and Uncle titles on them. It showed that they were your parent's best friends, or someone you saw at church all the time, or your dance instructor (who was totally cool and not at all like a school teacher) and they were just too close to you to keep the formality of the last name between you.

When we had our own kids, we followed the same rules of addressing adults that we had been taught. We never thought anything about it.

Then Kerry joined the Army and we left the deep south.

We met Yankees.

We discovered that Yankees do not like to be dubbed honorary aunts and uncles. They like the formality (they call it respect) of being addressed by their last names. We found this very odd, but came across it more and more as we moved around the country. We finally came to realize that most people outside of the south do not like children calling them by their first names, even when Mr./Mrs./Miss is in front of it.

Now, we have moved to Hawaii.

We have to learn a new system.

In Hawaii, adults are dubbed "Aunties and Uncles"..........even if they don't know you. Auntie is just another word for "Ma'am" or "Hey, Lady!" I was at church one day and a young boy near me was chanting at me, "Auntie! Auntie! Auntie!" I had no idea he was talking to me. When Emily was introduced to her new Sunday School teacher she was told, "Call me Auntie Kim, everyone does." ", thank you," was Emily's reply (she has since adopted the new system).

Now that more of the kids know me, I've become "Auntie Amy" but still those who don't know me just holler, "Auntie!" They holler because they think I'm deaf since I don't respond the first few times they try to get my attention.

The new system takes some getting used to.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Stuffed Crust Pizza!

Today the kids and I were at the PX and we decided to stop at the food court for lunch.

None of us are major pizza fans. We will eat it, it just isn't our preferred meal. Usually when we eat at the food court we eat Chinese or Subway. The good thing is that everyone can go where they want so we don't all have to eat the same thing.

Today however, the main thought was "We're hungry, which line is shortest?" The pizza place had the shortest line so we decided we would try it out since we hadn't eaten there before.

While we waited in line, we looked over the menu to decide what we wanted.

Katie said, "I want sausage and pepperoni with a cheese-stuffed crust."

"I don't think they have stuffed crust here," I told her.

"A few minutes later, as we inched forward in line, she again said, "I want sausage and pepperoni with the stuffed crust."

Again I told her, "They don't have that here, honey."

We all kept discussing what we were going to order and Katie piped up, "Make sure mine has the stuffed crust!"

"Katie," I said. "Look at me. Look in my eyes. They do not have stuffed crust. They do not have stuffed crust. They do not have stuffed crust! Do you understand?"

Ben looked at me, "Can I have stuffed crust then?"

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A Trip to the Beach

Going to the beach - even if it's just for a few hours - requires a lot of stuff. Sometimes it seems like we're moving instead of just taking a morning to have an outing with friends. We have to pack up the back of the car with everything we might possibly need:

A folding chair for me, straw mats for the kids.


Boogie Boards.


Snorkel gear.


Water bottles.

More sunscreen.

Mosquito repellent.


Sand buckets and toys.

By the time we haul it all to the car and then haul it all to the beach, we're almost too exhausted to swim.

That's actually not true. The girls all had a really good time finding hermit crabs on the beach, making sand castles, and boogie boarding in the waves.

The boys all sat in a tree and ignored the ocean, the adults, and their little sisters.
They did come down long enough to eat lunch.

Monday, May 11, 2009

18 Years Baby!

Eighteen years ago today, I married the most amazing man I've ever known.............

This would be so much more romantic if we were on the same continent.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Fast Food Breakfast

This morning I had to drop Ben off at a car wash to support his boy scout troop. It was early and there was a Burger King right next to the car wash so I decided to go to the drive through and grab some breakfast.

I ordered two breakfast shots for Katie. Breakfast shots are like breakfast biscuits except smaller and on a little hamburger bun instead of a biscuit. It comes with egg and cheese on it, except Katie doesn't like egg or cheese so I always have to make a "special order" for her.

"I'll take two sausage breakfast shots but I don't want egg or cheese on them, just the sausage and the bun." Past experience has taught me to be extremely clear about what I want. Otherwise I wind up with a freaked out daughter throwing a fit because there is cheese on her sandwich and it's glued to the bun and can't be scraped off.

"You want breakfast shots?" The lady doing the asking has a strong accent and we are having trouble understanding each other.

"Yes. Two sausage breakfast shots with no egg and no cheese."

"Two of them?"

"Yes. Two. Sausage. No egg. No cheese."

"Do you want sausage, ham, or bacon?"


"Anything else?"

"I don't want egg or cheese on those. Just sausage."

"You don't want egg or cheese? Hold on. Let me tell them." She turns around and yells to someone else, "Don't put egg or cheese on those."

In exchange for my clear instructions I received four sausage breakfast shots. With egg.

Rehearsals, Rehearsals, Rehearsals

The kids have...............


...and rehearsed....

....and rehearsed....

And the show is finally TOMORROW!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Okay, This Was Just Cool

This is Ben and Kevin. Kevin was Ben's youth pastor when we lived in Kansas. Now Kevin is moving here and is trying to start a youth group here similar to the one in Kansas.

The folks who hired Kevin asked him if he knew any teens who would be willing to be filmed talking about what it's like to be a teen in a military family and what it would mean to have a strong program for youth at the post chapel.

Kevin said, "Why, as a matter of fact, I do."

Kevin came over yesterday to scout out good locations around our neighborhood to do the interview. Then he came back today with a real cameraman and a real camera and a person who had come up with interview questions. He was probably sort of the director too, but he didn't say "cut" or "roll 'em" and he didn't clack together a black and white board at the beginning of each take.

Ben and Kevin started off doing push ups so they would look nice and muscular for the cameras.

Ben had to get all "miked up". There was a battery pack that was hidden in his pocket and microphone ran up inside his shirt and clipped on at the neck.

They did a few interview questions outside. I had the giggles terribly because Ben is never so still and so serious when he talks. It was like watching a different person.

They took some video of him walking out the door of the house so they can have some interesting shots of teen life on a military base. Apparently coming out of a door is something all teens in a military family can relate to.

They also did some scenes of Ben walking down the street. Again, a common experience to help reach other teens.

They actually decided to do the main portions of the interview in my house, which I had not expected, or prepared for. They really liked the fireplace as a background.

It is rather snazzy.

Ben was asked numerous questions about experiences unique to teens growing up in a military family and how his youth groups have impacted his life.

It will all be edited down into a two minute video to be shown to people who may be encouraged to help support a youth group on post.

I was thrilled for Ben to have this opportunity and proud of him for doing it.

I just thought it was going to be done outside.

The whole time I was thinking, "Dang, I wish I'd steam cleaned that carpet to get the dog smell out."

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Saved By Maternal Instinct

Today, I came home from having coffee with a friend to find my laundry room flooded. The utility sink (into which the washing machine usually drains) was full of water and had apparently overflowed all over the room.

I reached into the sink to find out what was clogging it up and found a sponge blocking the drain.

My darling son, whom I love, I really do, uses this sink daily. He is the only person in the house who uses this sink. He swears he did not leave a sponge in the sink.

We started mopping up the floor with towels when I suddenly realized that I was cleaning up the wet mess all by myself.

I stomped in here and found my darling son, who most likely caused this giant soggy mess, checking his email!

Sometimes maternal instinct is the only thing that keeps me from throttling him.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Bread Baking 101

I haven't made bread from scratch in over a year. Yes, I know the stuff we buy from the grocery store is unhealthy - even the whole wheat kind. But I just never could get my groove on last year.

This year the girls have really been pestering me to teach them to make bread, so I decided to get all the ingredients together with my groove.

Katie loves to grind the wheat into flour. That's her favorite part of any recipe that calls for flour. She's always the one to pour the wheat into the grinder. Please don't tell me you buy your flour from the store. You know they take all the healthy stuff out of the flour so it will last longer on the shelf, right? You know they take all the healthy stuff they removed from the flour and feed it to farm animals because it's got all those nutrients in it and makes the livestock really healthy, right? You know they blow bleach through the flour to make it white, right?


Emily added the yeast. One thing about yeast is you need warm water to activate it. If your water is too cold it won't activate the yeast; if your water is too hot, it kills the yeast. These are the lessons I am trying to impart to my daughters.

Once you get all the oil and honey mixed in you have to let it sit and "sponge" for a bit. When you first leave it sitting, it looks like this.

After it sits undisturbed for thirty minutes, it has all these little bubbles in it. That's what "sponging" does.

Then comes the best part. I hate to knead the dough. I really do. I think it is one of the most rotten chores a person can do.

My girls love it.

I might as well have handed them play-doh they were so happy. Eventually they will discover this is a chore, and therefore not fun.

But for now, I'm riding that pony as far as it will go.

Our bread did not turn out quite as fluffy as it should have. We are going to have to adjust our recipe each time until we discover what is the best combination of ingredients for this humidity level and height above sea level and all that. I'd explain how, but it involves lots of calculus and trigonometry and higher math, and would be too complicated to explain in a short time.

Just trust me.

And don't buy your flour from the store.