Monday, September 28, 2009

Beef barley soup

He enjoyed himself thoroughly.

[Updated: Rachel's beef barley soup

*(this is an approximate, because I'm terrible about measuring. I'm more of a dash of this and some of that type of cook)

1/3 package dried pearl barley
1 left over roast (1-2 lbs) + any beef stock from the roast
1 chopped onion
2 medium potatoes cubed
3 carrots sliced
1 c frozen green beans or corn
4 cans of tomato sauce
3-5 bay leaves
5 or so bullion cubes
1/4 c Worcester sauce
1 tsp diced garlic
2 tsp dried basil
2 tsp Italian seasoning
water as needed
salt and pepper to taste

Cook pearl barley ahead of time and set aside. (Alternatively you can cook it with the sauce and seasonings but before you add any vegetables) Dump tomato sauce, basil, Italian seasoning, bay leaves, beef stock, garlic, bullion cubes, Worcester sauce, and 6 to 8 cups of water into a large pot and cook on medium heat. While that is warming, saute the onion in butter until translucent and put into the pot. Toss in the potato, carrots, and beans (or any veggie you like). Turn the stove down to low. Chop up the roast and add to the pot along with the barley. Cook with a lid on and stir periodically, and be careful not to let it stick to the bottom. Add more water as needed. Season with salt and pepper.

Get distracted by children. Soup will stick to the bottom. Taste soup. If it doesn't taste burnt, carefully transfer the soup to a new pot and avoid scraping the bottom. Vow to watch and stir more diligently. Cook till the vegetables are softened but not mushy.

Serve piping hot soup with warm bread on a wet or cold day.]

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Cooking has never really been my strong point

Originally uploaded by jbellis
An embarrassing new low occurred while I was boiling some eggs for Melissa. They are one of the few foods that meet my definition of "quick," Melissa's definition of "tasty," and Rachel's definition of "healthy." Melissa eats a lot of hard boiled eggs for breakfast, is what I'm saying.

So I put them on to boil. And then I went back to fixing my bug, until bang! this egg here exploded, knocking the lid off the pot and landing on the floor. The rest of the eggs were all charred and blackened; all the water had boiled off long ago.

Rachel is still miffed about the charification on her pot, but I have two words to that: beef soup. She knows what I mean.

Some people just don't believe in little white lies

There's a man in our ward here with a reputation for speaking his mind. Sometimes you could even say that he's a little tactless. (Rachel asked Grant rhetorically, "What profession do you think he's in?" Yes, he's in IT.) Personally I enjoy it, but then I have a pretty blunt nature myself.

His wife was busy with their new baby this week, so he picked up his daughter from preschool, which happened to be at our house. He saw the pictures of our wedding in the family room, and commented to Rachel, "Wow, you haven't changed a bit!" She was pleased. "Maybe he's just flattering me, though," she told me. "No. He doesn't do flattery."

I didn't have to wait long to be proven correct. I ran into him at church today and he brought up his brief visit again. "Hey, Jonathan! I was over at your house earlier this week picking up Sarah. I saw your wedding pictures. Now I understand how you got such a pretty wife! You used to be pretty good looking yourself!"

Melissa Art

Here are a few samples of Melissa art. Matthew and Melissa produce a prodigious amount of doodles, so I take pictures of their creations, hang them on the fridge for a while, then toss them. Otherwise our house would be overflowing in art in short order!

Grandma walking the cat
The title pretty much sums it up. Grandma is in a red dress because her favorite color is red. The cat is on a leash since she is a mean kitty and scratches.

Goo balls
Inspired by the wacky and highly entertaining game World of Goo. The red balls are balloons that float the goo ball structure up and safely to their destination.

Shark eating a rainbow
There is a king in a colorful kaleidoscope cape, a tree, a happy sun, and a shark eating a rainbow. Hey, don't ask me. I'm just reporting what the artist told me.

The pony and the potty
"Mom! Look at my pony drawing! And see! The pony has to go potty!" That yellow line? Why yes, it's exactly what you think it is. Melissa is never boring.

Gothic Mice?
I never did get a report about this drawing, and since it was several months back it is too late now to know what she was thinking. She drew a few like this in black and white, but she primarily likes color, and lots of it. This is from her elusive "gothic" phase.

Katamari Cousin
This last watercolor is a Katamari cousin from the game We Love Katamari. This is another very fun and completely silly game that Melissa likes (as do I!). We really don't let Melissa play a lot of games, but she does enjoy drawing them. As you can see, her cousin has the antenna thing on his?her? head, but it is unclear which of the cousins is depicted. Here's a picture of some of the cousins, and I leave it to you, gentle reader.

I'll have to try to find some family portraits she's done. They are a hoot. One thing is for certain, Melissa keeps me laughing.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Isaac Development

Isaac has grown so much in the last month!

He has figured out clapping his hands and loves to do so when excited.

His balance has become much more stable and he can stand unsupported for a quite a while.

In the last week he has gone from 2 or 3 baby steps to a dozen or more before he falls to his knees.

He gives baby kisses now. He saw his daddy giving me a kiss, so he gave his daddy a kiss. Yup. Daddy got the first kiss. However, today I received the first spontaneous kiss without him copying anyone. It's kind of a wet, open mouthed kiss on the cheek, but still sweet.

Supplementing the baby

When I took Isaac in for his endocrinology appointment two months back, the doctor wanted to have his vitamin D checked as well when he had the hematocrit and A1C done. Turns out he is on the low side for both D and red blood cells. He's not dangerously low, just kind of marginal. Consequently, we'll be supplementing him with vitamin D and iron drops.

Not sure how he managed to be low on vitamin D.
1. We're in San Antonio
2. It was summer
3. He's pretty fair so you'd think that his skin would absorb UV light easily
4. He goes outside every day for at least 15 minutes of sun and he's sporting a baby farmer's tan.
5. He eats yogurt fortified with D


None of my other kids had this. He's just different, I guess.

Today the pharmacy finally filled the prescriptions ($40 for iron drops!?), and we started him. I mixed it with a bit of yogurt, put in a sippy cup, and he slurped it up.

Hi Andrea!

Watched the General Relief Society Conference tonight, and who did I see but my beautiful sister singing in the choir!

I couldn't help myself; I waved to the screen.

Miss you, Andrea.

At the mall

I was standing in line at the pretzel counter with Matthew and Melissa when the woman next to us leaned over and said sotto voce, "It's so good to see pure, white children!" Totally floored me. I didn't want to smack her down since she meant well, but I didn't want to endorse what sounded to my ears kinda racist, either. So I intelligently replied, "Huh."
I'm still weirded out thinking about it. If we were in a homogenized country like most of Asia I could see meaning nothing more by that than "it's good to see some variety in the landscape." But here in San Antonio? Whites are a minority here, yeah, but not _that_ much of a minority (just under 30% -- I looked it up).


[Rachel adds: Fortunately I don't think her attitude is prevalent here. I have never run across anything like that yet...]

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Interloper

Matthew has a best buddy named Conner, and they walk home from school together every day. Often they spend the afternoons together concocting all manner of games at each other's houses.

Today Conner announced that he was "in love" and pointed out the girl of his affections to Matthew. Matthew was unimpressed and continued to lay out grandiose plans involving cardboard, rubber bands, gum balls, and lots of tape. He stopped in his tracks when he realized Conner was no longer walking beside him. Instead Conner was walking next to his charming, feminine friend and proceeded to walk her part of the way home.

Matthew was miffed.

The walk back to the house he had a little gray storm cloud over his head. Fortunately another boy close to Matthew's age caught up to him and captured his attention with the All Important topic of Halloween costumes. This precipitated a boastful and lively discussion of "things that don't scare me."

When we got to the turn into our neighborhood, Matthew caught sight of Conner again and grudgingly greeted him.

Wonder how long this school yard romance will last...

Sunday, September 20, 2009


  • Got a new Acer Timeline for Rachel. It's a nice piece of hardware, but Rachel hasn't actually used it yet. Maybe we should send it back until her 3 yr old macbook dies entirely. (It's started experiencing the white screen of death, and would cost more to fix than it's worth.)
  • Rachel enrolled Matthew in an after-school art class on Tuesdays. So far he likes it. "My teacher is nice. Art class is fun. We drew with chalk pastels and you can make things 3D."
  • Went to the Texas drivers license bureau (finally). After waiting in line I found out they only took cash or check. Even the Utah DMV takes plastic now! So: failure. It cost $24, and I only had $23. (I went back the next morning with another dollar.)
  • Matthew had a lesson about germs at school. He is fascinated. (I was worried about a reprise of his germaphobia from a couple years ago but this time he is more curious than paranoid.) This is cool since Rachel knows more about germs than almost anyone. Matthew is getting microbiology 101, one question at a time: "The outside of the germ is the membrane..."
  • Things I learned from wikipedia: Adobo is just Spanish for "seasoning." (No doubt this does not come as news to my Spanish-speaking friends.) No wonder the "adobo" mix my mom got doesn't taste Filipino at all.
  • Isaac is a Texas baby: you can wear short sleeved shirts all year here, and that's what he likes. Today, Rachel dressed everyone in long sleeves for pictures. Isaac pulled and worried at his sleeve until he got one arm out entirely. I think he would have gotten the other too, but the road lulled him to sleep.
  • A middle-aged lady came into the restaurant just as we were leaving and asked if she could have a job application. The hostess explained that the manager would be in Monday and talking to him would be best. The lady replied that she didn't really want a job; she just needed to show that she had applied, for unemployment benefits. Points for honesty, I guess. Only, not really.
  • Melissa, as we pass the floral section in the grocery: "Dad, I like you." "I like you too, Melissa." "But I like flowers better."

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

What should a 4 year old know?

I didn't sign Melissa up for preschool this year; instead we joined a preschool co-opt with other mothers. The moms take turns teaching once a week. I did something similar with Matthew when he was three, and he had a ball. I mainly joined so that Melissa could get used to taking turns and have fun being with kids her own age.

Academically, I was a little concerned about my merry miss. She's bright, but she isn't interested the same things Matthew was at her age. Matthew was driven. Just shy of three he wanted to write his name. Since he couldn't hold a pencil well yet, we showed him how to type it. I let him play with the "craptop" and when I'd come back the whole screen would look something like this:

matthewmatthewmatthew matthewmatthew matthewmatthewmatthew matthewmatthewmatthewmatthewmatthew matthewmatthewmatthewmatthew

At 4 1/2 he wanted to read. When he had trouble making many sounds and thus making phonics impossible, we sent him to a speech therapist. After six months with the speech therapist, his reading took off and he practically taught himself. I didn't have to encourage him, he wanted to learn!

Melissa is very different. Verbally she is light years ahead of where Matthew was, but she is happy making up her own fantasy games and doodling. She knows her letters and sounds, but she is content with that. Numbers puzzle her. Counting is a mystery though she recognizes the numbers. She has yet to express any interest in reading or writing.

As I wrote earlier, I was concerned initially. I've done some thinking though, and have decided that eventually she will learn- in her own time. She isn't Matthew. She is Melissa! For now I will just enjoy the differences and teach her through play. She likes arts&crafts, and she loves games. We use M&Ms, raisins, and marshmallows to count and decorate things. We go around the house finding things in 2s, 3s, and 4s. I got her a colorful book of cutting with scissors and games in it. We practice handwriting in different bright colors. (Guess which color is her favorite?) I'm working with her on listening and following simple directions. Lastly we read and tell stories. We go to the library once a week and get a big pile of books; easy readers for Matthew and colorful storybooks for Melissa. Often Melissa likes to make up her own stories to tell back to me.

We're just keepin' it simple, keepin' it fun.

I also came across an article written by a wise homeschooling mom that really resonated with me. She offered her own list of what a 4 year old should know. It's a great article that focuses on what is really important for little ones.

Here's a site that lists basic skills that preschoolers typically master at some point

Here's hoping that this is the right approach with this one!

Sunday, September 13, 2009


  • Matthew likes lettuce on his turkey sandwiches. He calls it "salad." (From the comments on Facebook, this appears to be nearly universal. Who knew?)
  • Melissa sang a song as she cleared the table: "Butter is yellow, butter is squish; when you put it on 'tatoes, it melts like ice..."
  • Matthew came home with A Mark on his folder. ("Is that bad?" I asked Rachel. "Yes.") Apparently when the teacher told him to stop talking, he ... didn't stop talking. Anyone who has guested at our house will be completely and utterly Not Surprised by this.
  • We had renters in our Draper house for a week and they're already breaking their contract. That's quick work there, guys. (Rachel's cousin, Heather, is managing it for us. She dropped by for something and saw the dog, in violation of the no-pets contract they signed. Supposedly, they are now looking for a more pets-friendly house with the dog at Grandma's for the interim.)
  • Laptop keyboards are wrecking my wrists again. Kind of a pain to drag out the kinesis when I'm at home (and keep Isaac off of it). But it's literally more of a pain now, not to.
  • I don't have much talent for Mongolian BBQ. First bowl was mediocre. Second was worse.
  • Isaac gets into something he shouldn't. (E.g. our camera.) I put it where he can't reach it. Rachel considers the new resting place indecorous and puts it back where Isaac can reach it. It's the ciiiiiiiircle of life...
  • Mom sent me some ointment I call "ben gay in a bottle." It's perfect for Matthew's minor bouts of hypochondria. "I have just the right medicine for your tummy hurting, Matthew." "What is it called?" "Placebo."
  • Watched "Coraline" with Rachel (her pick). It's like "Uncanny Valley: the movie." The stylized humans are watchable enough, but the cat is just realistic enough to be disconcerting. Also: being an only child sure looks boring.
  • Carmel apples for dessert. Matthew gave Isaac some while I answered a call of nature. I don't think I've ever seen such a sticky one-year-old. Bathtime ensued.
  • Wednesday morning I left the headlights on in the minivan after driving Matthew to school in the rain. When Rachel had to take Melissa to preschool, the battery was dead. "Looks like one of the kids left the lights on," she said. Yes. Darn kids. I came back and jumped the minivan.
  • Rachel has decided I should teach the kids French. Can't find any French-language TV around, and wanted to charge $25 to ship $40 worth of books. This could get ugly.
  • Matthew: "It's really sad we had to move, huh, Mom?" It's been almost a year, he's made new friends, but in some respects Matthew is a glass-half-empty kind of kid.
  • Rachel got a babysitter Saturday morning. Rachel did FSA paperwork and stuff and I worked on Carnage Blender. I'm not sure why she didn't just have me watch the kids while she was busy but I think it's awesome.
  • The difference between boys and girls: Melissa "made an earth," which involved coloring a sheet of paper blue and folding it into a tube. Matthew saw it, slipped his arm inside the tube, and declared it "a robot arm gun. It covers up your human arm, and shoots."
  • Somehow I thought my FSA year was the same as the calendar year. Nope, it ended in June. That's $500 down the drain.
  • Melissa went shopping with Rachel and had a _great_ time. She came home with her prizes, and showed off one skirt in particular to her brother: "Look, Matthew! It has a heart on it! Do you _love_ it!?" Matthew was a good sport, and agreed that he did, in fact, love it.
  • Isaac doesn't like to watch TV, but he likes to play "close the TV cupboard doors while the bigger kids watch." This is a blessing and a curse.
  • Isaac could totally walk now if he wanted to, but he prefers to play it safe. He's up to four or five steps away from furniture now. On the plus side his head is unbruised more often than not -- not the case when Matthew was learning to walk (at nine months).

Melissa likes to sing

Originally uploaded by jbellis
Melissa "sings" the hymns at church with enthusiasm. She doesn't know the tunes or the words, but she follows along with the congregation as well as she can. Sometimes she makes up her own words.

Today for the "rest hymn" the congregation stood up. Melissa took a hymnal and stood up too, on top of the bench, and sang with gusto. When it was over, she said happily into the sudden quiet, "That was a good song! I did a good job!" Everyone laughed. Melissa does not have an indoor voice yet.

Monday, September 07, 2009


  • A portion of Melissa's blessing on the food, ".....and thank you for all da people, thank you for the things that break up the street (jackhammers?) and thank you for Melissa dresses and Mommy dresses, and Daddy dresses (??) and Matthew dresses (!?!). Thank you for gran'ma; I gran'ma's sunshine! Thank you for the food....pwease bless it. Annd....[Jonathan interjects, In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen] Amen!" We never know what is going to come out of her mouth next!
  • A ditty composed by Jonathan and sung to the tune "Row, row, row your boat" "Burn, burn, burn the meat! That's what husband does! Hope you like your meat charred black, 'cause that's the way it was." I couldn't stay peeved at him for long. Those would have been good fajitas though.
  • Melissa, when told that Isaac could go downstairs backwards now. "Wow! He's a BIG boy now!"
  • Isaac definitely responds to his name, and to Pumpkin.
  • Isaac likes to hand you things, "Da!" and then he holds out his hand to receive them back. When he gets it back, he grins and repeats. This game is highly entertaining for him to play over and over.
  • Melissa makes up songs all the time now about random things that are important to her. A few days ago Jonathan and I were cracking up over some little song she was singing so earnestly. (Wish I'd remembered to write it down!) She even added a few rhyming words in the mix, just like her heroine Frances.

When Husbands and Kids go Grocery Shopping

This is just a portion of the goodies they found. Note the absence of any produce (which was on the list!). Though to be fair, I requested the M&Ms.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

First Grade, Week 1

Matthew has finished his first week of first grade. He seems to be enjoying himself. He's making lots of friends, and he loves to talk. This got him into a bit of trouble one day last week when he didn't stop talking. Everyday I pick him up from school and he and his buddy Conner fill me in on the day while walking home. I relish the comparative quiet during the day time, I do confess. Still Melissa and Isaac manage to keep me from feeling too lonely.

The school work he's bringing home is pretty simple. "Color the circles red, color the triangles purple" "count the number of bumble bees," what is this?! I'm doing that sort of thing right now with Melissa, and she's just 4. It's preschool work! I haven't seen any reading work or handwriting come home yet either. I'm hoping they are just starting out slow and will pick up the pace soon. Currently we're reading and working with Matthew at home though. For instance, we do M&M math at the table. I sit down with Matthew and Melissa (M&M) and a big bag of M&Ms. Melissa works on counting and Matthew on 2 column addition and subtraction. We count and eat lots of M&Ms. My kind of math.

Poke, poke, poke

Took Isaac to a lab for some routine blood tests. It took three pokes by two phlebotomists at three different sites plus some subcutaneous probing to finally get some blood. His veins are very tiny and his baby pudge makes it especially difficult. Isaac was pretty hysterical, and I hated being a party to his torture by holding him down. After the second attempt they asked whether I wanted to try again, and I let them go ahead one last time. Success, but then his vein blew before the phlebotomist was quite done. She's hopeful that she got enough for each of the tests. Here's hoping we don't have to do this again. A quick nurse afterward, and Isaac felt much better.

This experience only increases my respect of the phlebotomists at Primary's last year. Both in the hospital and as an outpatient, they did the job in one quick draw and made it look easy. They were really, really good.