Thursday, March 26, 2009

Austin Dance Instruction - teaching to the test.

Is it too much to ask to find a dance class that DOESN'T spend the last 4 MONTHS of the class season preparing for the end of season recital?! Giselle's class hasn't done bar exercises since December. They haven't reviewed the foot and arm positions since before Christmas. It's been at least that long since they've practices demi and grand plies. And I know this because I'm sitting there watching the 45 min class every week. Since the beginning of the year all they've done is learn the recital dance bit by bit and now that it's just a month away they spend the whole class doing the whole routine over and over and over. All this for 5 minute routines that all of the classes will perform for all the parents at a performing arts center ($45 performance fee per family) while wearing $58 costumes that won't ever be worn again by anybody (all new costumes every year for all new routines every year at every dance academy in town so it's no use trying to re-sell them on Craigslist).
The dance academies are teaching to the test, just like every public school in the US is currently doing up until the annual assessment tests every spring. I don't care if she passes the test, I care that she's learned what she needs to know to move on to the next level; whether we're talking about ballet or math. Either she knows it or she doesn't and no fancy performance with flashy costumes and lights and loud music is going to hide the fact that these little girls still can't do a grand plie without sticking their bottoms out.

What I would be OK with:
- I would be VERY OK with no performance at all! Just have the parents come in on the last day of class and watch the girls show off everything that they've learned over the past 9 months. No extra money needed for a performance hall or costumes, no time taken away from regular class and learning what they should be learning.

- I would be OK with each level of each dance class performing the same routine every year so that the costumes could be reused year after year after year for a $15 rental fee. Every year Beginning Ballet does a scene from The Nutcracker, Ballet 1 does a scene from Swan Lake, Tap 2 does a scene from Cabaret, Jazz does a scene from West Side Story, etc. It would be much easier for the dance academies to keep track of and it would be much easier for the parents' wallets.

- I would be OK with them practicing the routine once at the beginning of class and once at the end with them spending the rest of class actually learning the basics of the class.

I'm not happy about the thought of changing dance schools again but after just 2 years I'm already tired of this over-blown, over-produced, over-priced recital thing every year. I'm going to see if I can find a ballet class in town that actually teaches the girls ballet all 9 months long without a fancy recital at the end so that we can actually get our money's worth. Forget this "all fluff and no substance" stuff!

And I'm well aware that we could just not "do" the recital to save money but she'd still be 'wasting' every class for 4 months learning the recital routine instead of learning and practicing and perfecting basic ballet.

NOT in MY Backyard

It hailed yesterday
in NW Austin which is where it ALWAYS hails. It rarely hails here in Oak Hill, yesterday was another of those days when it didn't hail here. The kids are bummed, Joe and I are not.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

breakfast all around

today's breakfast

Joe - bacon and fried eggs (over easy)
Dog - a banana and a raw chicken thigh and 2 shredded carrots
Giselle - home-made sausage, egg & cheese breakfast tacos
Paul - home-made strawberry yogurt
Me - probably some green juice but I haven't made it yet.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

grillin & chillin

Paul's been begging me to grill again SOON so I told him on Thursday that we'd do it on Saturday night. He was pretty mad while leaving the park yesterday because, while he was happy to be going to our usual Friday night Asian buffet, he was unhappy that it wasn't the night to grill yet. So today at the market I made a point to get some meat from Finca Pura Vida. I told Gayla that we were grilling tonight and I had nothing thawed out. She reached into the freezer and pulled out a 2.25 pound pork steak. A half inch thick, with the 'eye' bone in it, it was magnificent looking.
So this afternoon around 4:30 I filled the grill with mesquite charcoal and set it ablaze. In addition to the grilled pork steak we roasted some potatoes in the coals (science experiment), roasted some white spring onions, and tried roasting some Italian heirloom broccoli. The pork was a little bit more done than I like it to be but everyone else had seconds. Everyone wanted more potatoes, next time we'll roast 2 for each person. The broccoli was not a success and the onions could have used some more time roasting.
Now the kids are roasting marshmallows over the coals that we dumped all the dinner scraps on top of (another science experiment). Joe had to run an errand so he told the kids to each have a marshmallow for him.
Time for a beer for me!
Oh, and we ate outdoors on the deck at the round table - a fun intimate dinner for four, five if you include the dog that stood by anxiously waiting for the smallest scap to fall from the table.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

La Popular is not popular here any more!

Our favorite chocolate, La Popular Mexican Chocolate Para Mesa, is now being manufactured by a different company and the recipe has been changed. It's now GROSS!

What started out with just 3 simple ingredients - Cocoa beans, cane sugar and cinnamon - is now made with 4 ingredients - Sugar, chocolate liquor, cinnamon, soy lecitin (emulsifier). The whole mouth-feel has changed from being a dry chocolate block that tasted very pure to being a greasy fake-tasting mess in my mouth. I am so disappointed about this.

Here's the nutritional breakdown of the 2 "different" bars
OLD recipe - Cocoa beans, cane sugar, and cinnamon
9 oz = 255 grams, serving size 1 square (16 g), servings per container 16, calories per serving 70, calories from fat 15, total fat 2g, sodium 0mg, total carbohydrate 12g, sugars 9g, protein less than 1g, iron 2%.
NEW recipe - Sugar, chocolate liquor, cinnamon, soy lecitin (emulsifier)
9 oz = 255 grams, serving size 1 square (21 g), servings per container about 12, calories per serving 100, calories from fat 30, total fat 3.5g, saturated fat 2g, trans fat 0g, sodium 0mg, total carbohydrate 16g, dietary fiber 2g, sugars 14g, protein 1g, iron 4%.

I'll be driving all over town to buy up the rest of the old stock where it's still available. The kids are very upset - "You mean they aren't making it this way anymore? What will we eat for chocolate that doesn't taste gross?"

Claudia and my sisters aren't going to be happy about this either - they all use it in their coffee every morning since I turned them on to it.

Maybe, just maybe, this is the import version for America and I'll still be able to get the original version from Claudia's family!

Monday, March 16, 2009

give me a break!

So now Levi Johnston says that he needs to mature some more before he considers marriage!

Mr Johnston, I think that you needed to have this conversation with yourself BEFORE you had unprotected sex with Bristol Palin! If you're not mature enough to face the consequences of your actions then you shouldn't do the action in the first place. Be a man and own up to your responsibilities and marry the girl who gave birth to your child!

It's not just me!

I'll have you know that it's not just me that finds it unnecessary for my 7 year-old daughter to watch a 'wholesome' TV show about a boy-crazy 15 year old girl. Yes, I'm talking about Hannah Montana.

It's been on a few times when she's gone to her Brownie troop meeting (a fact that I'm not very pleased with) but they have never watched it here at our house. I've watched the show several times myself and I do think that it's a pretty tame show (especially when compared to DeGrassi or The Secret Life of the American Teenager). I've also watched The Witches of Waverly Place which is another pretty tame show. I actually enjoy watching both shows, Hannah & Witches. But you know what? THEY ARE ABOUT TEENAGE GIRLS AND MY DAUGHTER IS NOT A TEENAGER!!!! She's not even CLOSE to being a teenager! She's a little kid and as such I will do my best to provide her with viewing material that helps to preserve her innocence, instead of encouraging the boy-crazy, status-seeking, adult-disrespecting, teen-rebellion mentality perpetuated by these TV shows.
My daughter likes Care Bears, Pokemon, Jane & the Dragon, Miss Spider's Sunny Patch, The Backyardigans, Sid the Science Kid, Wow Wow Wubzy, and such. Shows about kindness and consideration and compassion and honor and adventure and imagination and truth and friendship - these are the things I want my children to learn from television. And I'm NOT the only one!

Sunday, March 15, 2009


One of the luxuries we have as home schoolers is that we can have sleep-overs on school nights, not just on weekends. Of course, it's only possible with other home schoolers but fortunately we have those friends available. Tonight the home schooled girl from across the street is spending the night - their first time together. Lights out at 9:30, all giggling will be over by 10:30, breakfast at 8 (waffles with jelly), goodbyes at 9, school at 10.

Paul wasn't happy about having to go to sleep alone this evening. Usually he's pretty beat by bedtime when Giselle's spending the night elsewhere or has a friend over, but this time he didn't have that active of a day to make him wiped out. But he finally gave it up and fell asleep around 9.

Night light issues - Giselle doesn't use one but the other girl does. We've had this problem before with other girls. Good thing I put up the purple velvet black-out curtains for the night. We don't have curtain rods for them yet so I just tucked them over the compression rod that the hot-pink sheers are hanging on.

10:20 - Time to check on the girls again!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

warning - personal opinion post

I'm thumbing through the latest Target catalog and I came across the latest Barbie offering. In addition to the Barbie 50th Anniversary Doll (which looks just fine although her bikini bottom is pretty low cut for a doll that is targeted to little girls aged 3 years and up), Mattel has now come out with Barbie Totally Stylin' Tattoo Doll. In blonde and brunette. I had always hoped that Barbie would somehow never fully drop into the ranks of The Bratz; unfortunately that day has come.

Yes oh yes, in this day and age of equality for all (ie, everything goes) there SHOULD be a doll for the kids of moms with tats. But you know what? I don't know of any mom who looks like 'regular' Barbie so why should they make one that reflects the tatted moms? How about they make some Barbies that look like most of the moms out there? Size 12, sweat-pants wearing, messy hair mom? Or Size 4, business-suit wearing, perfect hair and makeup mom? Or size 10, Capri-wearing, average, everyday mom? Or parapelegic mom in a wheelchair? Or frazzled, taking-care-of-two-kids-alone-with-a-job-because-Ken-ran-off-with-a-newer-model-Barbie Barbie? I guess that tattoo Barbie could be thought of as practice for the girls - they can spend the next 10 years figuring out with their Barbie where exactly they're going to get that first tattoo.

I KNOW that Barbie doesn't set the styles, that she's only a reflection of the current attitudes and styles. What a sad reflection this is of our current society. What's next? Girls-Gone-Wild Barbie that comes with her own 'personal massager'? Or will it be Anorexic Barbie that comes with some fake vomit, a toilet and some laxatives?


Paul's tooth came out last night - he pulled it out himself - and he is now the proud owner of a braided buffalo-leather bracelet.
We spent the day at an indoor inflatable playhouse place with many of our park day friends since it was too cold and wet to go to the real park.
We're late for The Market so I'm ending this now.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The 'S' word

BTW, I was talking to some other moms the other Wednesday night at church and they also were unhappy with the use of the word "stupid" in the Christmas play. These 2 had even written individual complaints about it! I almost cheered when I heard them say that! If you recall, I went off about this back before the play back in December - Grumpy Mom. I feel good about this and I like that!

Tamale Dinner

Thomas' brother Dan is in town for the week and, in our efforts to get as many of my family members to move to Texas as possible, we had him over for a tamale dinner last night followed by Joe's guided tour of Austin in one of the convertible Cadillacs. Joe's comment before bed was along the lines of "I think we just convinced another one to make the move!"

We had the usual assortment of Oaxacan tamales from Tamaleo (pork and chicken and black bean) and some of the Costa Rican ones that Gayla made at Christmas (pork) and a few standard hot pork tamales that you can get anywhere (HEB). I also had boiled up 2 pounds of shrimp the night before, made a batch of sauteed mixed veggies, and cooked up some pork cutlets with adobo seasoning. The boys brought a 6 of Shiner Bock and we were set for a feast.
We all wish that Gayla had made a whole lot more of those Costa Rican tamales! And I'm really glad that HEB lowered the everyday price on the Goya brand Salsa Verde that we use all the time!


This week Giselle mastered adding and subtracting mixed fractions with unlike denominators! Gosh it was so awesome to teach her this because I perfected them too. I remember having a hard time with them when I was a kid but I realize now that no one ever taught me the 'tricks' to mastering all math problems. Well, I've taught Giselle how all math is inter-related and gotten her to truly understand how everything really comes down to addition and subtraction of ten numbers - 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 & 9 - and remembering Place Value! We spent Monday and Tuesday 'getting' subtracting the unlike denominators so when she tried adding them today she said "Oh, this is pretty easy once you get the hang of it!"
This is one of the pages we worked on yesterday
and this is the one we did today

Don't tell her but the one that we did today will be her test on Friday, but she won't get any tips (helpful reminders) from me during the test.

I also want to plug a wonderful math blog that I read - I have found so many tips and games and websites by reading this blog and I want to pass on the love of math to others.

Next Friday we start our knitting class together. It's during the morning so it won't interfere with Park Day. It's part of the Christian Living extra-curricular classes that our church offers. There's another homeschool family at church and I'm trying to get the mom and her daughter (Giselle's age) to take the class with us. We'll be making a shawl and we're both pretty excited about it; Paul's looking forward to hanging out in the nursery with his favorite Sunday School teachers.

Sunday, March 08, 2009


G - "I am NOT going to bed while the sun is still out!"
P - "What in the world? It's not even dark out!"
P - "I don't wanna to go to bed! I could even stay up later than this!"
P - "But I only have to do my workbook for school tomorrow so I don't have to go to bed this early."
G - "Paul's not gettin ready, he doesn't get Pokemon cards tonight!"
P - "That's sparkles on your face, you didn't wash off the makeup before like Mama told you to!"
N - "Could y'all PLEASE put y'all's dirty clothes in the laundry basket!"
G - "Paul's botherin me while I'm tryin to get ready."
N - "Paul, get out here and sit in the middle of the living room floor until she's done gettin ready for bed! 5 - 4"
P - "I'm comin, I'm comin!"
P - "What's takin Giselle so long to get ready?"
G - "I'm ready, can I watch TV while I wait for Paul to be done?"
P - "Giselle, you're naughty."
G - "Mama, can I play on your Green Patch while I wait for Paul?" it's a facebook thing.
N - "Can I let the dog out again yet?"
N - "Sorry, y'all used up all your time. It's 7:23 and now I'm only readin one chapter."
G - "But MAMA, I was ready on time why don't I get to hear the story? It's always Paul's fault that we don't get to read Peter Pan!"

started at 7:07, ended at 7:23


What crazy person at our church scheduled the kid's choir to sing at the 8:45 am service on the morning of "Spring Forward"? The kids had to be there at 8:20 which meant that we had to get up at 7:20 which meant that we REALLY had to get up at 6:20! Of course I went to bed at midnight which was REALLY 1am so I wasn't happy to hear my phone alarm go off at 7:20 either. Fortunately I had gotten them to bed before 8 after a very long day so they still got a full night's rest for the most part.

Friday night they went to bed by 8 but since the puppies were going to be at the market we HAD to get up early enough to get there by 9. After the market Giselle went to a friend's house while Paul and I went to another until 6:30. A quick dinner by 7:15 and they were off to bed.

by the way - fabulous weather today for the first day of Daylight Savings!


I made a lasagna for dinner tonight since Giselle's new friend was going to eat dinner with us. At the last minute she got cold feet - she's never eaten at anyone else's house other than hers or her grandparents' houses.
Starting from the bottom of the 8x10 pan (needless to say that all ingredients were organic - whatever that label is worth these days):
1 cup of homemade pasta sauce
3 partially cooked whole wheat lasagna noodles
3 cups of uncooked fresh spinach - torn into manageable-sized pieces
3 partially cooked whole wheat lasagna noodles
2 cups of ricotta mixture (1 -16 oz container whole milk ricotta, 1 egg, 8 oz shredded mozz and Parm cheese, Italian seasoning, 1 TBS garlic puree, salt & pepper)
1/2 cup homemade pasta sauce
3 partially cooked whole wheat lasagna noodles
1 cup diced roasted chicken
2 cups of uncooked fresh spinach - torn into manageable-sized pieces
2 partially cooked whole wheat lasagna noodles
remaining cup of ricotta mixture
2 cups of pasta sauce
4 oz shredded mozz and Parm cheese
cooked at 350 in the toaster oven for 70 min, let sit for 20 min.

Dinner was ready at 6 pm which is earlier than usual for us, especially since it was REALLY only 5 pm.
Now the kids are out back racing radio-controlled cars with Joe while the dog is stuck inside staring out the screen door drooling. After all, those are HER rc cars that they're playing with!

Giselle says that it's too light outside for it to be time to get ready for bed in 5 min. Since we've already eaten dinner, I'm taking this opportunity to get them ready for bed early so that we can finally read some more of Peter Pan AND have the lights out by 7:30!

Friday, March 06, 2009


I spent WAY too long watching someone play all the levels of Cool Spot on YouTube. In 13 parts. Each part was just shy of 10 min long. BUT I saw levels of this game that I never even knew existed since they really aren't written about very much in the instruction book. Needless to say, I'll never be reaching those levels since I have a life and so do my kids; but it was cool to see those levels none-the-less.

I've got to go to bed NOW if I intend on making Joe breakfast in the morning before he has to leave at 8:15! HA!

Oh Charles, Joe bought a new 3 lb bag of bears at Fry's this evening so we're restocked.

Night all!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

In the beginning


Sega Genesis

I still have mine and it works great! If you have old game cartridges and the manuals that go with them and you want to get rid of them please send them to me!

Paul and I were playing Cool Spot this evening while Giselle was out with Joe. Paul would play the first level and then hand me the controller to play the next several levels. We stayed up too late playing, I'm a bit of an old gamer so I have a hard time shutting it down. I'm going to have to hit eBay for some more old Sega Genesis games, maybe I'll even upgrade to... what was it called? the Sega Saturn? That's why I got a Sega back then, you could upgrade it with a plug-in instead of buying a whole new system that your old games wouldn't work on.

Joe's cranking Ace Frehley "Back in the New York Groove" from the solo album now. I'm the one that made him add that to his iTunes. That one's over, now it's "Every time I Think of You" by the Babys (or was this a John Waite solo song?).

Back to searching for Furby and Sega Genesis games.
See ya!

it was inevitable

It was bound to happen someday and tonight was the night. I was up late with the kids playing video games - I was playing and they were watching - and they finally noticed my Furby hiding in the back of the entertainment center behind the TV. Paul asked me "Mama, what's that penguin back there for?" I said "That's not a penguin, that's my Furby!" and I got him out to show the kids. Amazingly enough, since he'd been asleep for several years (about 8 years) his batteries were fine and he woke up immediately and started talking. Of course they fell in love with him and we proceeded to play with him for the next 15 minutes. Now I have to search the Internet to see if they still sell them new or if I have to go bidding for 2 of them on eBay; because of course they both want one of their own (since I'm NOT going to share mine with them!) I haven't told the kids that the Furbys can 'talk' to each other. Somewhere I've got the manual for mine but I have no idea where. I guess I'll download a new one. Wish me luck!
Thank you Al Gore for inventing the Internet so that I can find toys for my kids!

Hey Joe, I can hear you playing The Dream Academy "Life in a Northern Town" all the way up here in the main house even though you've got all the doors closed down in the shop. Love you!

Monday, March 02, 2009

almost forgot!

Oh, Saturday afternoon after The Farmers Market we went directly to a UT Women's Basketball game against Baylor with all the other Girl Scouts in Austin. Giselle rode there with the rest of the troop while Paul and I took the scenic route to the arena in our car. UT lost, although it did become a close game at the end. Afterwards I took Paul & Giselle to eat a Stromboli at The Brick Oven on Red River. While we ate, I read the closed-captioning of the speech that Rush Limbaugh gave to the Nation at CPAC. Wow!! If you didn't catch it, here's the transcript of the speech

Yeah, it was a busy day that day!


3/2 - Today - school day and grocery shopping - both kids got to play at friends' houses while I did the shopping, lucky for them.

3/1 - Sunday - kite festival - we waited 1 hour for our turn to get on the shuttle to go to the festival, it took the shuttle 50 min to make the normally 10 min drive, the wind was close to non-existent so we only got our kites up 3 times, the wait for the shuttle back to our car was another 45 minutes.

2/28 - Saturday - farmers market - it was sunny, 60 degrees and windy with gusts of 35 mph but we had puppies to play with the entire time! Candy the collie had puppies with a great Pyrenees and there are 7 puppies that need new homes. They're 6 weeks old and are fuzzy and fat and adorable and super mellow. They'll be at the market every week until they're all gone so we'll be at the market from 8 am until 1:30 every week until they're all gone.

2/27 - Friday - park day - 90 degrees and sunny, what a fantastic day! Test day went great so we were at the park by 1:30, stayed until 6. Picked up a pizza and watched Toy Story 2.

2/26 - Thursday - made an awesome spinach and chicken and cheese fritata for dinner.

2/25 - Wednesday - played at our friend's house after school but there was no dinner at church since it was Ash Wednesday. Giselle rode her friend's bike - with pedals and with no training wheels - time for a new bike for her. It'll be Paul's turn this week.

2/24 - Tuesday - finally updated the blog but forgot to post about the Shrove Tuesday celebration at church. All the kids decorated their bikes and had a parade and older kids threw candy AT them. Then there was a pancake supper put on by the youth group while some of us adults manned the craft tables - I was at the mask-making table. I got two miniature bags of Target brand gummy bears - there were 8 bears in each bag, that's how miniature they were!

See, I could have drawn this out and made it 7 individual posts but I condensed it down into just this one. You're welcome.