Saturday, November 26, 2011

Twelve Hours in Cell Phone Pictures, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Nov. 26, 2011

Choosing What 3D IMAX movie to see.

Some of Luke's favorites!


Beautiful and deadly.

So peaceful.


Prey? Just kidding. Cute boys. ;-)


Wanting to climb; having to stand in line instead.

We were supposed to be exercising.

Film rides are "way awesome."


Yes there is a monkey in that tree.


Cajun foliage. ;-) 

Luke loves the fish.

This is for the birds!

Hate x infinity.


The Spot!

The Spot!

A little bite of heaven.

Friends <3

Meltdown: A Self Portrait

Teaching Luke jokes he shouldn't know... ;-) (Just kidding...he'll just never be able to tell them correctly!)

"Hey Mom, I"m talking on my SHELL phone!"


No, really, I'm a ROCKSTAR.

"Can we please have one?" "No."

But I'm really cute! ("No.")

"But I really want one." ("No.")

Reading another Hurricane Ike book

Chillaxin' (still hate that word)

Snacktime (bedtime to rapidly follow)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Adventures in Cooking: Braised Beef Short Ribs

For about 97 years now, I've wanted to try to make braised beef short ribs. Last night, I did. 




It took FOREVER. I won't lie to you. In fact, I was about to gnaw my arm off my torso before these ribs were finished cooking. That was largely due to mind-numbing, scintillating, aromatic nirvana that was the smell drifting from the oven. And it's hard to deal with FOREVER after you get off of work, go to the grocery store, come home, change clothes and THEN start prepping dinner. I had purchased all the ingredients for the dish a day earlier, but I'd forgotten an all-important component...something to sop up all the incredible juices. So I stopped to get bread. Cheddar bread. Cheddar sourdough bread. Heaven on a baking stone. 

This is an Ina Garten, aka, the Barefoot Contessa, concoction. I didn't alter it in the LEAST (shocker for me), but I did give Ina proper attribution. 

Beef Short Ribs


  • 6 beef short ribs, trimmed of fat
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 1 small fennel, fronds, stems, and core removed, large-diced
  • 1 leek, cleaned and large-diced, white part only
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion (2 onions)
  • 4 cups large-diced celery (6 large stalks)
  • 2 carrots, peeled and large-diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 (750-ml) bottle Cotes du Rhone or other dry red wine
  • Fresh rosemary sprigs
  • Fresh thyme sprigs
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 6 cups beef stock


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the short ribs on a sheet pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper,

and roast for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven. 

Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven and add the fennel, leek, onion, celery and carrots and cook over medium-low heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes.

Add the tomato paste and wine, bring to a boil and cook over high heat until the liquid is reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Tie the rosemary and thyme together with kitchen twine and add to the pot.

Place the roasted ribs on top of the vegetables in the Dutch oven and add the brown sugar and beef stock. Bring to a simmer over high heat. Cover the Dutch oven and bake for 2 hours or until the meat is very tender.

Carefully remove the short ribs from the pot and set aside. Discard the herbs and skim the excess fat. Cook the vegetables and sauce over medium heat for 20 minutes, until reduced. Put the ribs back into the pot and heat through. Serve with the vegetables and sauce. (And in this case, rice and cheddar bread!)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Gimme an A!!! (For ADMISSION)

Today my son was REadmitted to the Special Education department in Tyler Independent School District. 


I'm guessing not too many parents would be "thrilled" their child was in Special Ed. But you see, he lost in eligibility for Special Ed back in 2010, when the testing under what is called the "autism bundle" showed that he no longer met ACADEMIC criteria to fall under the umbrella of Special Ed. It never takes away his diagnosis of autism, but for educational purposes, he no longer qualified for Special Ed and the services it offered.

That was a good thing.

After all, we WANT Curt to be at a level that he doesn't need support services from his school.

And there's NO DENYING Curt is an exceptionally smart kid (if I do say so myself).

But last year, he struggled with reading comprehension and the TAKS test. His awesome teacher and the awesome autism team leader suggested that the district re-evaluate my Bugface so that whatever he struggled with, we caught early and corrected. Since I'm all about early intervention (it got us where we are today, hands down!) we jumped right on that.

The autism team/diagnostician/speech therapist/occupational therapist completed observation and testing so we met today in an ARD committee - a fun little group that convenes every time there is a change in Curt's (and child with special needs' ) educational status. ARD stands for "Admission, Review, Dismissal," which is what the committee is charged with every time it meets. Today we were there for the "A" - admission.

The results of all the observation and testing showed that Curt was, indeed, eligible for Special Ed again. Now keep in mind that even when not under the auspices of Special Ed, Curt still had considerations under 504. And really, when it comes down to it, 504 covered most of his needs. But now he will get official occupational therapy support (I say "official" because any school district worth their salt will help accommodate a child with special needs despite a federal mandate) to help meet  his considerable sensory integration needs. In addition, a reading resource teacher will come to his classroom twice a week to help him with the reading comprehension in his daily lessons.

So yeah, I'm THRILLED.

I'm also thrilled his teachers and the staff at Rice Elementary want to give him the MOST support they can. With a few minor exceptions, we have been truly blessed at the educators who have been in Curt's life since he started school at age 3...Mrs. Smith, Mrs. Kelly, Mrs. Donna, Mrs. Sharon, Mrs. Roork, Mrs. Cooley, Mrs. Pope, Mrs. Hughes and Mrs. Marten. Plus Mrs. Rinewalt, Mrs. Deshotel, Mrs. Katie (Oh I know I'm going to forget someone and that would be horrible).

So gimme an A for "admission!"

Psalm 139:14 (NIV)

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
   your works are wonderful,    I know that full well.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Thing About Charlie

Anyone who has EVER watched a Charlie Brown cartoon knows that in pretty much every single episode (and in many, many, many of the comic strips), Charlie is duped by Lucy's provocative request to kick the football while she holds it for him.

And in every single episode (and in many, many, many of the comic strips), Lucy YANKS that football right out from under the naive and trusting Charlie.

And he falls flat on his back.

I imagine he had the wind knocked right out of him.  

Every. Single. Time.

That sweet Charlie, so trusting, was taken advantage of by someone who dangled a promise in front of him and yanked it away, time and time again. No remorse, no regret, she just kept taunting him over and over. 

But let's face it: he let her. He enabled her heartless, rotten behavior (because you have to be pretty heartless and rotten to take advantage of someone like that).

The thing about Charlie is, he believed in the GOOD in people. He believed in their REDEMPTION. And so poor Charlie is probably destined to have that football yanked out from under him time and time again.

And that's all I have to say about that.

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving

It all started with the Peanuts holiday classic, "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving."

Of course we've watched it, over and over and over and over, each  year since the boys were old enough to sit through a 30 minute cartoon.

But in 2008, Curt wanted to do more than watch.

"I want to have a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving feast," he declared.  "I want to have popcorn and pretzels and jelly beans and mashed potatoes and toast."

So we invited friends from the neighborhood, friends from church and friends from his class at school.
We set out long folding tables, Charlie-style, with bowls of popcorn, trays of toast, baskets of pretzels sticks and cups filled with jelly beans. There was a vat of mashed potatoes and enough juice boxes (not in the original cartoon, but hey, something had to give) for a small army.

And lots of friends came.

They feasted on jellybeans.

They feasted on popcorn.

They feasted on everything else that day included in the video.

And BOY OH BOY did they have fun.

We moved from Sour Lake to Tyler a few weeks later.

We didn't have a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Feast in 2009, but last year, in 2010, Leadership Tyler Class 24 got together, under the direction of Curt and Luke's dad, Brian, to put together a community-wide Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Feast. 

This year, the Feast has been revived.

The 2011 Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Feast will be 2 p.m. Nov. 19 at the East Texas Food Bank, 3201 Robertson. Drinks, popcorn, jelly beans, pretzels, toast and ice cream will be provided! A showing of the "Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Special" will follow. Sponsors include Brookshire's, Sweet Gourmet, Jason's Deli and Popcorn Junction. The food bank and LT24, a community service group, are organizing the event. The event is free to the public. Attendees are asked to donate a jar of peanut butter to the East Texas Food Bank. Children must be accompanied by an adult.

In the video, Lucy asks Chuck, "Isn't it peculiar, Charlie Brown, how some traditions just slowly fade away?"

But this is a tradition sure to stick around.

Besides, I'll hold your hand under the table. 

Photos from the original Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Feast courtesy of Silvia McClain, Special Times Photography.