Sunday, February 24, 2013

So Much to Learn

 Did you ever make plans that sounded brilliant while they were in the planning stages; but the more time that passed, the more you wondered why you bothered in the first place?  Yeah, TeenPact sounded like a terrific idea until I realized I was going to have to drive back and forth to Atlanta in one day - twice in the same week - and then ride a church van back and forth to Atlanta, bringing my total number of trips back and forth to three in one week.

Alas, we survived the week and learned some vital lessons in the process.
1. Delilah, as we affectionately call our GPS, lived up to her name (as a girl who can lead you astray) as I searched to find the Calvin Center, the camp where the TeenPact kids were staying Monday through Thursday.  Apparently Upper Woolsley, Lower Woolsley, and Woolsley Roads are just too confusing for her to keep straight.  We left home at 5:10am which should have given us plenty of time to drop off luggage before traveling to the Capitol. And while we did eventually find the camp, we barely had time to eat lunch at the Capitol and get the kids where they needed to be by 1pm.  We owe no thanks to Delilah.  Did I mention another mom with a car load of boys was following me, making Delilah's errors even more infuriating and humiliating?

2. Just because the parking meter gobbles up dollar bills, law abiding citizens who live 5 hours from Atlanta have little defense against parking citations.  Long story...but the short version is...I can appeal it (Can you just watch video surveillance you have?  I am the lady in the red jacket who at 11:55 fed money into the machine only for your machine to fail to produce a receipt or to credit my three dollars to parking space 268?) but I have to appear in court and the appeal takes 45-60 days.  By then, were I to lose the appeal, the fee on my ticket would have doubled (or more) after spending $80 to drive back and forth to Atlanta.  Nothing like paying $38/hour ($3 in the meter and $35 in fines) to park.  Welcome to Atlanta.  We are so glad you are here!

3.  The girls can indeed wear skirts that hit below their knees without looking completely out of fashion (i.e. like geeks).  I have just one thing to say...thank God for pencil skirts.  While they still groaned at having to accommodate a strict dress code, they certainly looked like they belonged amongst the politicians and lobbyists.
Five of the six kids, scared and nervous, before their first session Monday afternoon.

The famous gold dome
 4.  Some lobbyist tell TeenPact students that the company for whom they work forbids them to talk to anyone from TeenPact. that's a little sketch.  You are forbidden to answer questions like, "Who are you advocating for?" and "What made you want to become a lobbyist?"  Serious trick questions that some 15yo could one day use against you.  Simply reaffirms my belief that lobbyists are just one step above used car salesmen.
Our group on the floor of the Georgia House with Representative Chapman - By this time they are pros at navigating the Capitol and can tell us all about parliamentary procedure in the Georgia Legislature.

5. If the girls return to TeenPact and stay at the residential camp, Patrick may have to be a chaperone.  My girls are not used to receiving such obvious attention from the opposite sex.  As Hannah says, "Around here, everyone knows my dad and it's like I have an electric fence around me that no boy is willing to get near."  Apparently that was not so in Atlanta.  No worries though, Victoria.  Your dad can still scare off the boy with the awful bowl hair cut.

6.  A grande Americano with an extra shot of espresso is all that is needed to keep me fully awake from Macon to Brunswick.  Yeah...Starbucks thinks I moved or was vacationing - 3 drinks credited to my account this week....all from the same store in Macon.

Coming Soon: Love and Marriage: The Greatest Show on Earth

Monday, February 11, 2013

A Recipe Blog?

In all my years of blogging, I don't think I've ever shared a recipe.  And there's a good reason for that.  Generally nothing I make is noteworthy.  I mean, I have some dishes that are family favorites but it just seems so braggadocios to post a picture of what I cook and then expect someone else to want to imitate me.

But these cookies are the exception.  One of Patrick's co-workers made some and they were quite the rage at Care Net.  I didn't bother asking for the different can a chocolate chip cookie be from the recipe on the Toll House bag?

Then I ate one.  And I admit it was superior to any other chocolate chip cookie I'd ever eaten, however I still wasn't motivated enough to ask for the recipe.  But when a friend who lives half a world away posted the recipe on her blog, I knew I had to try these delicacies for myself.

These seem the perfect follow-up to our toffee filled holiday.  Oh...I forgot to tell you about that because I wasn't blogging then.  The girls and I perfected toffee making...and nearly made ourselves sick, on occasion, eating one too many pieces.  Because of the brown butter and brown sugar, these have a definite hint of toffee in every bite.  Perfect...absolutely perfect.

My warning: If you have children who are inclined to snatch bites of dough, DO NOT make these while said children are present.

This is copied directly from my friend's blog.  She made a couple of modifications from the original that she found here.  I didn't have walnuts on hand, so mine are sans nuts.

Brown Butter, Brown Sugar and Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies

4 1/2 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon sea salt (fine)
2 cups unsalted butter
3 cups brown sugar
2 large eggs plus 2 egg yolks
2 Tablespoon full-fat yogurt (but I'm sure lowfat would work fine, too.)
2 teaspoons vanill extract
1 12 oz. package of dark semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 to 11/2 cups chopped walnuts
coarse sea salt for sprinkling

--Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, 175 C.
--Melt butter in a heavy bottom saucepan over medium. Once the butter begins to foam, continue whisking the butter just until it begins to brown  and gives off a nutty aroma. Remove it from the heat and transfer to a mixing bowl right away so that the butter doesn't continue to cook. This extra step of browning the butter is very worth the effort! Think toffee-flavored cookies. Monique provides a great pictorial tutorial for this step. Let the browned butter cool for a few minutes before continuing...
--Mix butter and sugar with an electric mixer until well blended--I use my Bosch. Beat in eggs, yolks, vanilla, and yogurt.
--Add the dry flour, baking powder, salt. When all is well blended, stir (or mix) in chocolate chips and walnuts.
--Chill dough in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours.
--We used a small cookie scoop to size our cookies, but you could roll them into balls. Place dough on a cookie sheet and press down slightly to flatten. I use the back of a flat spatula. Sprinkle the cookies with just a little bit of sea salt.
--Bake the cookies about 10 minutes--our gas oven isn't well regulated so we check them regularly. The edges of the cookies will be firm and the cookies will be golden brown when they are done. Since the recipe calls for all brown sugar, the cookies will be a little but darker (see picture above), but they are chewy, rather than crisp.
--Cool cookies on a wire rack.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Loving What Must Be Done

I spend a lot of time thinking, speculating, even second guessing.  I'm not sure if it's inherent to my personality or if it's something thrust upon each and every mother crazy enough to embark on the home education journey.  Probably the former intensified exponentially by the latter.  In an case, I spend an extraordinary amount of time analyzing my failures as a parent and a teacher.  In some ways I'm pretty sure I've been a better parent than a teacher - evidenced by my children's lack of academic ambition - I haven't heard me talking about filling out college apps to Ivy Leagues schools, have you?

I consoled myself along the way with the thought that raising kids who love the Lord is more important than raising brilliant scholars.  It seemed I had the energy for only one of those endeavors - when in truth I only had the discipline for one (but that's a whole 'nother conversation).   I had this vague philosophy that if I could raise kids who were hard workers, were self disciplined and had a good foundation of the 3 Rs, my job would be complete - or at least be adequate enough not to churn out societal misfits.

As a matter of fact, I championed "self-discipline"...well, sort of.  I was convinced it held the key to so many good things for my kids and for me; yet like a greased watermelon, it was ever elusive (I suppose because I'm so naturally inclined to be lazy).  And it can become a task-master.  I've spent time exercising great amounts of self-discipline while I served others only to become resentful and bitter .  I spent so much time focusing on what I was giving up in order to be self disciplined that I grew to resent the people around me.
Enter the German poet Goethe: 

Cease endlessly striving for what you would like to do and learn to love what must be done.

Wow...why didn't I think of that?  I need to shift my thinking from what I could be doing to learning to love those things that can't be avoided.  That my friends, is a paradigm shift that could be a game changer.

But what does that look like in the midst of cleaning the kitchen, taking out the trash, and sweeping the porch?  And what does that have to do with raising kids or education.   I'll dive into some thoughts on that in the next post. (read that: I'm tired and need to go to bed)

How does that quote strike you?  I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Movin' On Up

Wendy (Hannah's trainer, owner of the horse, and my good friend) and Hannah decided to see if Hannah and Grace could run with the big dogs - or in this case the big (and expensive) horses.  Not only did they hold their own, they were downright pleased with their first try at an American Quarter Horse Show.

If you've been a reader of my blog for very long, you know the riding pictures all begin to look the same.  The only thing that changes is the background.  But now, that doesn't even vary.  The AQHA shows that Hannah will ride in are all in Perry, GA at the same facility where we attend 4-H State and Federation State.  So yeah - same horse, same clothes, same venue.  Note her new number - 327.  Doesn't that seem like a nice, balanced number for the announcer to say, "And first place goes to three twenty seven, Hannah Eades riding Zipping with Chocolet".  It's a far cry better than her Coastal Empire number - 9.
About to ride her English Equitation pattern
Getting last minute instructions from Wendy
Sadly, I don't even have her placings.  Four judges placed the classes, which was good since Grace broke in the English Pleasure class.  But since only one of the four judges saw the error, the other three placed her somewhere in the top 9, with one placing her 4th.  And because there were more than 15 exhibitors in the class, Hannah and Grace both earned a .5 AQHA point.  Yes, that's right...while some people compete for money, saddles, or snazzy belt buckles...Hannah competes for points.
Analyzing the Competition

 Patrick and I needed to tend to responsibilities at church on Sunday, so we planned to head back to Brunswick after the English classes finished up.  By the time we got the horse and tack put away, we finally got on the rode toward home at 11pm. Ugh - that's a long boring ride on Hwy 341 from the heart of Georgia to the coast.   But the adventure wasn't over.  We soon received a frantic call from Hannah inquiring if we'd seen Wendy's wallet.  Turns out it was stolen and Hannah and Wendy were left in Perry with no money, no credit cards, and no identification.  About the time that reality started to sink in, we saw those dreaded blue lights flashing behind us.  My mind quickly went to...can this show get any more expensive?  Wendy just lost $250 cash and gained the headache of canceling her credit cards and replacing her drivers license, and now we're looking at a fine that could easily approach the amount Wendy had stolen.  Mercifully the nice officer from Telfair County issued Patrick a stern warning and nothing else.

Bundling Grace up for the cold weather - poor girl!
Thankfully Sunday started out much better.  Wendy was able to get gas (so they could get home) and Hannah wowed 3 of the 4 judges in the Novice Youth Showmanship class.  She walked away with a 1st, a 3rd, and 4th out of 21 exhibitors - earning 7 AQHA points.  In the Youth 14-18 Showmanship class, she again did well enough to place first  under one judge and earn another 2 points.

I don't have her placing for the two western classes, but she did earn .5 point in Western Horsemanship.  Overall Wendy and Hannah were pleased with Hannah and Grace's performance.  I guess pleased enough to feel like they made the right decision to move on up to stiffer competition.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

For my Niece

Okay, Katie.  Just for you.  I left of in June with Hannah's 4-H State Show.  Victoria had a fabulous time at Camp Broadway in Jacksonville and some delicious smoothies with her Aunt Cynthia.  In July Victoria headed to Honduras with a team from our church.  It was a smidgen difficult to let a 13yo go out of the country without a parent along, but she's the 4th kid, right?  We've relaxed a whole lot.

Hannah worked horse camps with her trainer and saved every dime she made.  In mid-July she found an affordable car to buy, so she was all set to be independent when that Sweet 16 rolled around in September.  Kevin was slaving away at Starbucks while Alyssa stayed at her job at Lai Lais and was a part time nanny for one of the Care Net nurse's kids.

Hannah showed Grace at the State Federation of Saddle Clubs show over Labor Day weekend.  She came down with a bad cold and fever right before the show and I worried about her getting dehydrated or worse.  Of course she'd worked so hard to be there, nothing was going to stop her.  She had a successful show that culminated with a first place in English Pleasure.

School started with Kevin and Alyssa both at the College of Coastal Georgia, Hannah in 10th grade and Victoria in 8th.  Kevin also had been working on his application to Highlands College, knowing the CCGA was nothing more than a place to get some core classes out of his way.  Sadly, we started the school year minus a student who had become a part of our family.  Caitlyn turned 4 over the summer and was enrolled in preK.  It is still a little strange, after four years of having that little squirt under foot, to be without her now.

Not having Caitlyn did open some other doors for us.  Hannah's trainer had knee replacement surgery, so for 6 weeks, 5 days a week we made the 25 min drive to Shady Oaks Stables to feed 20 some horses at 7am.  Between feeding, Hannah's job cleaning stalls and her riding Grace 5 days a week, it seemed that Hannah lived there.  Thankfully by this time Hannah had her driver's license and could go alone some days.

In early October, Alyssa received a fat manilla envelope from the Health Sciences Department at CCGA.  Enclosed was her acceptance letter to the School of Nursing.  Woo hoo!  Graduation is just 4 semesters away!

Christmas came and went with me missing the simplicity of last Christmas...when we "skipped" Christmas and went to Haiti.  Despite my objections, the season flew by and it was time to take Kevin to Birmingham to enroll at Highlands.  I sort of pride myself with being a no nonsense kind of mom...but I was a mess as we packed Kevin's room.  I was trying to hold it together, really I was .  Geez, I didn't want his parting memories of me to be of me crying and sulking around the house.  And I wasn't doing half bad until he picked up a box and said, "You know, this really does feel like I'm leaving my childhood completely behind."  Boo hooing ensued (and I'm misty eyed right now just typing it).

Thankfully I'm through the most severe pain (I hope).  He is happily settled at Cory and Sarah's house ( my brother and sister-in-law) and is now a part of their daily routine.  According to all accounts he's liking school there and, praise the Lord, feels like he's in the right place.

Hannah showed Grace in her first American Quarter Horse Association show last weekend.  Even with much stiffer competition she held her own.  That show deserves its own blog post now that I'm "back in the saddle" here at Imitating Steventen.

So there it is, Katie...your very own whirl wind tour of the latter half of 2012.   I have, no doubt, left off a few things like Victoria's participation in the Miss Golden Isles pageant and her change of dance studio.  She's now taking ballet from Val Salnikov, a take no prisoners sort of ballet teacher.  But what else would you expect from a Russian male ballet instructor?

Hope to see you back here at Imitating Steventon soon.  I've decided that a simple blog post that is complete and published is better than a witty or profound post that never gets typed.  That's my now motto, and I'm stickin' to it!

Friday, February 1, 2013

How Will You Vote?

Seven months.  That's how long it's been since I've published a post, but not for lack of trying.  I have had dozens formulated in my head and three discarded drafts...all brilliant thoughts at one moment, I'm sure, but they just never seemed worthy of having the "publish" button clicked.  I figure I can lament about what should have been, or I can simply ignore the unfinished works and move on.  And based on the somewhat chaotic state of my house, I'm fairly adept at ignoring unfinished tasks.

Not sure if I should begin with filling you in the last seven months or if I should just act like nothing ever happened and tell you about the latest news.  Hmmm....what's your vote?