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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The First Running of The Mattatha 500

Mattatha is the name of the street where we live. Today, it was the site of the inaugural running of The Mattatha 500. Chase and Sam did their best A.J. Foyt and Rick Mears impersonations, and Ava was the pit chief...

This is the first time I've posted video. Can't get the audio to work, but the video footage sure adds a new dimension...

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Mac N' Cheese, Please

Kristin has been with her Mom in Florida since Saturday. I've taken off work to spend some time with the kids. We miss her a lot, but we're holding our own. For example, I'm happy to say that I've been feeding the kids a pretty healthy diet...fresh fruits, carrots, raw cheese (from the Amish at the local Farmer's Market), almonds, etc. 

That said, as the kids and I were heading back from the local GM dealer (I had one of the front hubs replaced because the bearing was going out) today, I asked them what they wanted for dinner. Mac n' cheese was the most popular response. 

As we were making this classic dish, I noticed a box of pudding in the cabinet. Since we already had the milk and measuring cups out, we decided to make some pudding, too. It's fun to see how much the kids liked joining in on the food preparation action. (I wish I had captured on video some of little details of the four Arnold cooks in the kitchen. Kristin would've been proud!)

So, here was our final menu: a little salad to begin, shells and cheese as the main course (Sam, Chase and Ava all had two helpings), ginger ale and instant vanilla pudding with vanilla wafers and banana slices. 

They loved the meal...go figure. Grandaddy even joined us. Everyone had a big smile on their face at the beginning of (well, actually, they weren't too fond of the salad part), during and after the meal. It's probably good if this menu is only served occasionally, though...

I wasn't sure how to spell mac n' cheese. So, before writing this post, I did a quick Google search and inadvertently stumbled upon this article likening mac n' cheese to a cigarette. I was drawn into the debate, which left me feeling a bit guilty afterwards. Not guilty enough to forget this memorable evening and meal any time soon, though.

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Monday, May 25, 2009

Grandpa Arnold, Andy Weiss and Memorial Day

It turns out that I was writing my drive-in blog entry below the same time Kristin was in Florida writing her annual Memorial Day entry. She must've hit "publish post" right before I did, so my post appeared at the top as the newest one. In her newest post, which I hope you'll read, she linked to her 2008 MD post (click "Andy"). The 2008 MD post talks a lot about my brother-in-law, Andy Weiss, and my Grandpa Arnold. It's been two years or so since Andy was killed in Iraq, and grandpa, a WWII vet, passed away a few weeks ago. I'm remembering both of them today. 

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Three Lessons I Learned at the Drive-In

I can't remember the last time I went to see a movie at a drive-in theatre. It might have been with my Uncle Joe and Aunt Myrna (in Lafayette, IN at the drive-in on State Road 26), but I'm not sure. Geez...I was probably 10 or so. No wonder I can't remember. I feel really old at times.

There's actually a drive-in outside Bloomington – Starlite Drive-In Movie Theatre. For one reason or another, we hadn't gone there in the four years we've lived here...until this past Friday night.

Since Kristin and Gi Gi (that's what the kids call Kristin's mom) were getting ready to leave at 4:30 a.m. Saturday morning to go to Florida for a week of R&R, Friday night was my best bet for taking Sammie out on the date I'd promised her. Kristin suggested that I take Sam and Chase. So, Ava was crying as we were packing our lawn chairs, drinks, candy and popcorn. Of course, I caved in and said she could come ... against my better judgement. 

We parked next to the Newlands for Ben Stiller's Night at the Museum 2. I think the kids had a great time. I had a so-so time. The movie was weak, and Ava was driving me crazy -- before (walking out of my sight), during (talking loudly) and after (whining) the movie. This line from an email Kristin sent me from Florida the next day made me feel a little better: "Cindy said Ava was good and that it probably just seemed loud to you because you're the dad. Said she was so cute."

Here are the three lessons I learned:
1. Six, four and two is not a good age mix for one parent at a drive-in theatre. 
2. I need to keep working on the way I respond to the kiddos during stressful situations. I also need to remember that Sam, Chase and Ava are six, four and two, respectively. It's funny how easily I forget their ages, and talk to them like they are adults.
3. Drive-ins can be a lot of fun. One family brought Chinese food, another brought an inflatable felt a little like a tailgate party. I'd love to go at least a few more times this summer.

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Little Things Can Mean A Lot

When our flight landed Saturday, the flight attendant made her announcement welcoming us to Atlanta and thanking us for choosing Delta airlines, she added something to the effect of, "And we are honored to have a serviceman on board with us today, please take a moment and show your appreciation for his service to our country."

The relatively quiet crowd came to life as we applauded the young man. I couldn't even see the back of the guy's head, but it made me happy to be able to do such a little thing.  Dare I admit that I got all teary?  I think I'm becoming a sap in my old age.

We don't see a lot of men and women in uniform in Bloomington, although there is a National Guard post here. Last year, I noticed some military guys for a few days in a row downtown.  I stopped in a little place for lunch one day and a group of them were eating together. There were too many of them to buy all their lunches, but I did treat them to a table full of iced teas and was able to say thanks in person on my way out.  I told them my life was peaceful and protected and I felt safe because of the sacrifices that they and their families make.  It was easier for me to buy the drinks from a distance than to speak to them in person.  I was really nervous.

I told Brian about it when I got home asking him if he thought that was dumb or if he would've appreciated it when he was called up.  He said it was a good thing to do.  I'm not saying this to toot my own horn, but rather to say that I believe little acts of appreciation and kindness can mean a lot.  Maybe you think there's nothing you can do that would matter, but you'd be wrong. Some people put flags on graves.  Some people put their hand over their hearts when the National Anthem is sung.  (Some people actually know all the words and sing out loud on the high notes!) I've even seen short notes of thanks passed on Facebook in the last couple of days.

On Memorial Day, we are given a day off to honor and remember those who have given their lives for our freedoms.  People like sweet Andy.  I hope Brian and I will leave a legacy to our children about honoring, even in the smallest ways, those who serve right now -- today -- the ones who don't get off their job on Memorial Day because they are protecting my family in this moment in time. Maybe you have some good ideas about how to do that.  I'd love for you to share.

In the meantime, for whoever is reading this and has served our country, I invite you to come over for a glass of tea on us!


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

When In Rome, Do As You Normally Do

I wrote several months ago about the minor differences in Brian's eating habits from mine.

It's been more than a little funny to me here.  Brian had pizza the first night we were here and has ordered two hamburgers at least. One of the natives took us to a tapas restaurant called Txapela one night. 

Our paper placemat had pictures of each of the 50 appetizer-sized choices.  But a separate menu in six languages explained each choice.

Here's what Brian ordered:

Xistorra de Navarra
Xoric confitat a la sidra
Brie fos
Bunoi de bacalla amb allioli suau
Hamburguesa amb formatge i mostassa

Doesn't that sound exotic?  When it came it was the equivalent of  two different kids of hot dogs, grilled cheese, fried fish and a hamburger.

I love it!


Monday, May 18, 2009

Riddle #4

Can you guess which famous restaurant this is in Barcelona?

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Answer to Riddle #3

Comfortable shoes are too hard for me to find in my size to chance purchasing all I would need here, but I like how you people think!

Today, I'm wearing my 9th and final pair of shoes. I suppose I COULD have survived on fewer, but really, I'm not camping or anything, so why rough it?


Friday, May 15, 2009

More Things I've Noticed in Spain

They smoke a lot here.  Doesn't anyone get lung cancer in Spain?

You can only adjust the temp in your hotel room by 2 degrees.  Good idea, I guess, but I don't like it.

The olive trees take up to 60 years to produce the first olive. 

This is how the pickpockets were described to us:  "Zey use zer intelligenz, not vi-o-lenz, so do not be frightened."

The trees line the city streets and it makes everything seem cozier.

Tipping is not expected here. It's only given if you are very, very happy and the littlest amount is acceptable.

Of all the places he's visited in the world, Brian still says he loves America best.  I'm still deciding....


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Riddle #3

How many pairs of shoes should a girl take on a 10 day trip to Spain?


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Things I've Noticed in Spain

You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world, but a world lives in you. 
– Frederick Buechner, Telling the Truth

For the first time, I got a glimpse into Brian's world as a working man.  (I never believed him when he said it was hard to be away as he called from a five star hotel.) It's the Arnold custom to stand on the front porch and wave frantically, screaming "Byyyyyyyyyyyye.  I love you!" to whoever is leaving us.  My precious babies did this for us when we left Sunday to go Spain and my heart sank.  Everything I hold precious was right there, getting smaller in the rearview mirror.  I know they are well taken care of and our trip will be a memorable time in our relationship, but still......still.

Off to Spain.  We are staying at a five star hotel built for the '92 Olympics.  I remarked to Brian that it's the grandest hotel I've ever stayed in.  When he just shrugged, it occurred to me that my favorite five star hotel is whatever five star hotel I'm occupying at the moment!  I often judge a hotel by it's bathroom.  I felt a little like Crocodile Dundee when I discovered this:

I understand what it's for, but still can't bring myself to use it.  

I wondered, as I lay poolside today, if there was anyone in Barcelona longing for an exotic vacation in the United States.  Even if they were, I doubt Bloomington would be in their dreams.  I saw these things I thought were floating in the pool.  Turns out they are metal and sit just under the surface.  I want one!  I guess I should get a pool first.

I know Diet Coke is a huge hit in the U.S., but I wondered if this were the label everywhere, if it wouldn't fly off the shelves!  Has a nice ring to it, don't you think?

In case you can't read it, it says, "Coca-Cola light."

In this hotel, they are particularly conscious about conserving energy.  The escalator to the mezzanine, for instance, doesn't move until you take the first step and stops as soon as the last person gets off.  The place to put your key is not on the door.  See this? It's under a row of buttons on a wall to the right of the of which is the buzzer for your room.  No plain ol' door knockin' here! (I know that doesn't save energy, I just thought it was cool.) Also, before you can turn on the lights in your room, you have to put your key into another outlet inside the door.  So when you take the key out to leave your room, the lights automatically shut off 60 seconds later.  I learned this when everything went black in the bathroom -- good thing I have a general idea of where everything important is in there.

The best thing I've discovered so far is their "chocolate caliente."  It was the most creamy, luscious thing I've ever put in my mouth.  It tasted like my grandma's chocolate pie in an espresso cup!  

Lastly, I'm absolutely reeling from reading "The Shack."  Read it, read it read it! Ron, Betsy, Tracy, Honor, Adam, Eric, it, so we can talk about it.  I have every third page dog-eared with something that touched me.  Absolutely fascinating, thought-provoking and, and...and, well READ IT!


Saturday, May 9, 2009

Derby 135 (Or, First Lessons in Losing)

Last Saturday, we celebrated the Kentucky Derby in our own special way. Much like last year, we each grabbed a hat and tons of snacks and spent a couple hours in Grandaddy's room watching the festivities. For the record, there were no tears this time.

(I love when he dresses himself.)

We divided the 20 horses among the five of us, so we each had pretty good odds. Chase remembered winning last year and I took the prize this year.

After the race, Sammie disappeared, so I went looking for her.  I found her all scrunched up on the couch crying because she didn't win.

Well, well, well, isn't this a good teaching moment?  

Besides the fact that hardly ANYONE wins when gambling is involved, I tried to explain that in life, we'll lose more often than we win. That lots of people will finish before we do. And that most of the time when we win, it's because of many, many hours of hard work and dedication and not because we dropped a dollar in a hat and crossed our fingers. 

And, we can't win at everything.  There's simply not enough time to master everything, so we need to choose carefully the races we're in.  Are they worth winning? Worth training for?  Am I training for a futile competition of whose children are more polite or whose house is cleanest? (Oh, sorry, this is about Sam.)  

Paul wrote it like this to the church in Corinth:

"You've all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You're after one that's gold eternally." (The Message)

Yes. That's exactly what I meant.  

Did you learn anything new on Derby day?


Friday, May 8, 2009

Teacher Let the Monkeys Out

This is Sammie taking her final Sing, Spell, Read & Write test! I'll let you guess her score.

I can hardly believe it. Sammie is finished with Kindergarten. She had her art show last week and took her final test this week.  We were supposed to have three days left, but she begged to do it all in one day.  She worked really hard and here we are! 

Grandaddy treated us to a celebration at Dairy Queen. (He'll snag any excuse to get ice cream.) We captured a few of the moments, though we wish you could've joined us in person.

So many choices, it was hard for this crew to decide!

Like another red-headed friend of mine, little Ava loves her some DQ!

Sammie was making this face because I "hugged her too tight!"  I'm so proud of her!

Turns out, it was a little chilly for ice cream.  You probably can't tell Chase is shivering, which doesn't seem to hinder the eating part at all.

This is me sucking up to our Principal.  His diplomas are conditional!


Thursday, May 7, 2009

Move Over, Rembrandt

Sammie had her art show last week -- the culmination of a years' worth of projects with her homeschool art and literacy co-op. 

I'll show Sammie's favorite first: pottery.  These two pieces are placed on top of their introduction to weaving.

Since we don't have family in town, we were so thankful for friends who stopped by to support Samantha's creativity.  Here she's telling how they did print making. It was my personal favorite.
And an art show is not complete without the still life.

This is Sam's explanation of the piece above: "He had us look at a sculpture and then try to draw it. It was really brown." I hope that's enough so that YOU get it, because I didn't really get it.

Very proud family.


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

How Many?

How many Arnolds does it take to light a grill?

If Brian hadn't been on a last-minute run to the store, I'm pretty sure it would've been an even four!