Thursday, March 24, 2011

Surprise chicken.

I love me a nice little surprise and in my old age (I say that TOTALLY tongue in cheek so nobody nod in agreement), I've realized there are little surprises every day, you just have to look for them.

Some simultaneously make you laugh and become very concerned about your parenting skillz...

1. Tee was home sick and when I walked upstairs, he was watching Larry the Cable Guy - Only in America. I told him I wasn't sure he needed to be watching this show (I'd never seen it but was pretty sure I'd rather Phineas and Ferb teach him about America, not the cable guy. His reply went something like this...


"Mom, it's totally ok for me to watch. He's only learning to make Moonshine."


Some make you nod in agreement affirming the child talking is indeed the friut of your womb...

2. When I picked Sadie up in carpool, she told me she had to talk about a problem she was having at school.


Seeing the board?

Making friends?

Bullying?

Peer pressure to grow up to become a contestant on Dancing with the Stars?


"Mom, you know how the floor in our classroom is made up of those special tiles? Well, sometimes, when I'm listening to a story, I can't pay attention because all I can think about is the real-bad willies I would get if I accidentally scraped my bottom teeth on those tiles."

And others are surprising that, in fact, even your lame, last minute attempts at a nutritious, well-balanced, but tasty dinner can be redeemed with a little faith and butter....

3. Tonight, I had nothing. Nothing. To. Cook.

Except some plain ol' boring chicken breasts and some broccoli. Yawn. The broccoli, I was ok with because my children could eat roasted broccoli until the cows came home. Which, if the cows actually would come home, at least I would have something interesting for dinner like a nice juicy rib-eye. I digress.

Anyway, somehow, I MADE THE BEST STINKIN' BAKED CHICKEN ON THE PLANET and because I'm a giver, I'm going to share the recipe with you. I'm not actually a giver according to my kids who are always trying to swipe my Diet Coke but tonight, I'm turning over a new leaf.

First off, I need to tell you that there will not be any pictures of the aforementioned chicken breasts. I have decided food is very difficult to photograph unless your name is Pioneer Woman and every time I try to photograph it, the food looks inedible. And I have food photography insecurities. I am unashamed.

Also, I know what your probably thinking; 'best baked chicken' sounds like an oxymoron but this recipe will renew your faith in chicken breasts, 350 degrees, and 30 minutes.

Here goes.

Take chicken breasts and season them with garlic salt and coursely ground pepper. Chill for two hours in refrigerator or don't like I didn't and live life on the edge.

Before baking, brush with melted butter and sprinkle with paprika.

Bake on a cookie sheet at 350 for 30 minutes.

Es todo.

Yum.

The adult people liked it, the little people liked it, and Scout liked it because we had a friend of Sadie's here who didn't understand Hill House Rule #7: Never leave chicken unattended. It is like sending an invitation to Scout to take it from your plate and eat it while your watching in disbelief.

Surprise!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Spring Break ala San Antonio.

So, we had a pretty busy Spring Break over at Casa de Hill.


San Antonio was on our minds and we took off Sunday for the week. I'm sorry, did someone forget to tell me that the entire United States of America had San Antonio on their minds, too? If the world was our oyster, San Antonio was the pearl everyone was dying to grab and apparently, that pearl was going to be had at one of two places; Sea World, Fiesta Texas, or the River Walk. I know that's three but I spent my entire week surrounded by strangers, constantly counting children. 1..2..3..4..5..1..2..3..4..5., and now I'm taking a little latitude with my numbers because if I lose one, or forget one, it's not going to be in a sea of people in tank tops.

And bathing suits.


We saw lots of bathing suits at Sea World and can I just say, for the record, that I am just not ready for bathing suit season to begin. On myself or others - either way. In the words of Darrell, 'Brother, you can't unsee that'.

Can I get an Amen?

Darius was the most patient 17 year old ever to walk the planet - not once the entire time did he get a little irritated with the kids even though they fought almost constantly over who sat by him, who held his hand, and who got to wake him up in the morning. And I can attest from experience that my children do not go gentle into any good morning. It kind of involves jumping, shouting, and ripping warm covers from body. It can ruin your day.

Even in this picture, the evidence is clear. Darius loves himself some Dippin' Dots but any time he'd get some, the other kids would all grab spoons and ask for "just one bite" which would be all fine and good if it wasn't times four. Look. He's the only one with ice cream and they ALL have spoons!


Little turkeys. They totally get that from their daddy.

The only point where I saw a glimps of exasperation from Darius was on the ride home from Fiesta Texas when Sadie, who at that point was sitting in the middle seat with Darius while Tee, Olivia, and Graham sat in the third row poked her head between Trey and my seat and said in her best fake-heartbroken voice, "Y'all, I'm lonely back here."

I thought Dr. Pepper was going to shoot out Darius' nose because, really, lonely was the just about the last thing any of us had been in five days. He, probably most of all.

We made it back with all the children and luggage and a nifty addition of a five foot stuffed chili pepper with a chef's hat that reads 'Freakin' Hot' so all in all, yeah, it was a pretty great trip.

Now, let's see how long I have to dust and how many times am I gonna have to pick that chili pepper up off the floor before the kids forget they've sworn eternal love for it and I can toss it while they're at school. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.


Monday, March 21, 2011

Not quite unsilenced yet.

Yeah, I thought I'd be back in full swing this morning - I was wrong. I'm scrambling to get the house clean, groceries bought, and dogs off my bed so I can make the thing before Trey comes home.

Fat chance.



Anyway, I guess I've got to take care of my actual responsibilities before I can have fun on here and tell you all about our Spring Break. I will say, though, it was mighty exciting. Our restaurant choice for breakfast caught on fire and I officially decided Hell would be having to spend eternity walking around Ripley's Believe it or Not suffering from a non-stop case of the willies.

See you tomorrow!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Bloggers Day of Silence.

We're back from Spring Break and oh, oh, oh, my stars do I have lots to share. The least of which was my husband's terrifying metamorphasis into Clark Griswold beginning with a wake up call at 7:55 Monday morning. "Sea World isn't gonna come to us, people. To have any kind of fun today, we need to be there before the gates open! BEFORE THE GATES OPEN!!! MOVE IT! MOVE IT!!"

But, in honor of our friends on the other side of the ocean, though, I'll be participating in a Bloggers Day of Silence tomorrow hosted by UtterlyEngaged and Ever Ours.



If you feel compelled to help, just click on the banner above and it'll take you where you need to go.

Praying. Praying. Praying for you Japan.

Father in heaven, you are the absolute Sovereign over the shaking of the earth, the rising of the sea, and the raging of the waves. We tremble at your power and bow before your unsearchable judgments and inscrutable ways. We cover our faces and kiss your omnipotent hand. We fall helpless to the floor in prayer and feel how fragile the very ground is beneath our knees.

O God, we humble ourselves under your holy majesty and repent. In a moment—in the twinkling of an eye—we too could be swept away. We are not more deserving of firm ground than our fellowmen in Japan. We too are flesh. We have bodies and homes and cars and family and precious places. We know that if we were treated according to our sins, who could stand? All of it would be gone in a moment. So in this dark hour we turn against our sins, not against you.

And we cry for mercy for Japan. Mercy, Father. Not for what they or we deserve. But mercy.

Have you not encouraged us in this? Have we not heard a hundred times in your Word the riches of your kindness, forbearance, and patience? Do you not a thousand times withhold your judgments, leading your rebellious world toward repentance? Yes, Lord. For your ways are not our ways, and your thoughts are not our thoughts.

Grant, O God, that the wicked will forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts. Grant us, your sinful creatures, to return to you, that you may have compassion. For surely you will abundantly pardon. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord Jesus, your beloved Son, will be saved.

May every heart-breaking loss—millions upon millions of losses—be healed by the wounded hands of the risen Christ. You are not unacquainted with your creatures' pain. You did not spare your own Son, but gave him up for us all.

In Jesus you tasted loss. In Jesus you shared the overwhelming flood of our sorrows and suffering. In Jesus you are a sympathetic Priest in the midst of our pain.

Deal tenderly now, Father, with this fragile people. Woo them. Win them. Save them.

And may the floods they so much dread make blessings break upon their head.

O let them not judge you with feeble sense, but trust you for your grace. And so behind this providence, soon find a smiling face.

In Jesus’ merciful name, Amen.

John Piper

Saturday, March 12, 2011

I'm sitting outside as I write this- enjoying the beautiful sunshine and warm breezes of Spring. 

I'm also enjoying the smell of exhaust and the sound air compressors waiting for my car to be fitted with brand new tires. You know, nothing really says Spring Break more than, "Mrs. Hill, if you keep driving on these tires, it's highly likely that you'll die in a crumpled heap of twisted metal very, very soon."

I think somebody needs a hug. 

Tomorrow, most of us are off to San Antonio for the week. Dea is staying behind to work and study. Seriously, he kills me, and he'll also have our ferocious dogs by his side so don't get any funny ideas. 

Because we're taking my car, we've had to get a few thing fixed which I started telling you about the other day. We took it to our friend Felix and when he called to say it was ready, our conversatíon went like this. 

"Mrs. Hill, your car is ready."

"Great, Felix. Were you able to fix the seat?"

"Well, you see Mrs Hill, it was going to be so 'spensive, and I know you don't want to spend a lot of cash money so I fixed it. The Felix Way. He actually said another word but if I say it on here, I'll get all kinds of hate mail and my husband cannot handle another 'bout of, "Seriously, does everyone really hate me?"

I've had those bouts. I'm not proud. 

Anyway, as it would turn out, the Felix Way is taking a very heave piece of thread and hand-sewing my seat back together in somewhat of a zig-zag pattern. 

"It's very strong for you, Mrs. Hill. I went over it twice."

Trey, though, heard something altogether different. Something more like, "Blah, blah, blah, was going to be too 'spensive...I do it for free!"

And at that moment, Trey's eyes looked at Felix with awe and appreciation, almost like he looked at me once recently when we went to dinner and, when the check came, I pulled out a Groupon and paid for the whole thing. And at that moment, I knew I'd be driving a car with a hand-mended seat for a long, long time. 

And with that useless story, I'm wishing you a great Spring Break!

I'll let you know how San Antonio is treating us!  Considering I think they have some sort of a city ordinance that you have to eat Queso with every meal, my hopes are high. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Spring is here!

The ol' Suburban in in high need of some TLC. Her brakes are talking to me and my children, bless their hearts, have managed to put a tear in the backseat the size of...well...Sadie. Hmmm.

So, this afternoon, Trey and I dropped that bad boy off with Felix, our West Dallas auto efficianado. He assured me he could fix everything - soup to nuts - by Friday.

On the way, we drove by this house and I made Trey stop so I could take a picture. The house has probably been in West Dallas for seventy five years but the little tree is new. And it's blooms confirmed Spring is finally here!



Prayerfully, I'll get my car back before it's leaves turn green.

Monday, March 7, 2011

I like the way they dribble up and down the court.

We spent our weekend as we do most other weekends, relaxing by the side of the pool, sipping teamonade and discussing the political manuverings going on in Wisconson.


We didn't really because,

1. We don't have a pool.

2. It was too cold to sit by a pool even if we had one.

3. Right now, I unfortunately don't know enough about politics in Wisconson to get me a slice of cheese.

4. Teamonade is not Diet Coke so why would I drink it?


Instead, we watched a few sporting events. Olivia had a soccer game at 9 am on Saturday morning which would have been fine if it weren't 40 degrees outside and somehow, even if it's not all that uncomfortable in your backyard, once you hit that soccer field sideline, the winds amp up to about 150 mph. It's a phenomenon we cannot explain.


I watched most of her game through the chainlink fence while sitting in my car with my coffee and two little people who had worn shorts instead of following mommy's instruction to dress warm. I've never been more thankful for their disobedience.


Then Saturday and Sunday afternoons, we watched Graham's basketball team win their playoff game and then go on to win their division championship.


Graham has loved basketball more than anything this season and begs Dea to take him to shoot baskets almost everyday. Which, that sweet 19 year old boy does almost without fail. He's helped him with his shot, his lay-up, and his rebound.

My friend Michelle captured this shot while I was trying to pursuade Sadie that she didn't actually have to go to the bathroom right then.



When he grabs the ball, makes a fastbreak down the entire length of the court, and makes a layup, it's hard to believe this, agile nine year old who's taller than almost his whole class was once an itty-bitty baby, born too early, hooked up to all kinds of tubes and wires in the neonatal intensive care unit at Baylor.


I was sick as a dog for a good part of my pregnancy with a fever we couldn't kick. Finally, one Saturday afternoon in February, my doctor went with his gut and took Graham. After he was born and wisked off to the NICU, Dr. Wright found a clean, tight knot in the ambilical cord. A few more days and Graham could have died.


Now, he's a machine. And a prayer warrior. He remembers to pray for things I've long forgotten and came up several times to me Sunday, before the Championship game, and asked me to pray - that his nerves wouldn't get the best of him. I did, and I told him again about the day he was born. And how God has had his hand on him even before he breathed one breath of air. How perfectly timed his birth was and how the Lord had protected him from harm. How He is the Author and Perfector of his faith, and not one hair can fall from his head without the approval of his Heavenly Father.


And as his little arms were still hugging me tight, I also told him that when this game was over, and our season was finished, and he had played for the glory of the Lord, that we were gonna burn his basketball shoes because, standing that close to him, the smell was making my eyes water.


Thursday, March 3, 2011

I am not the boss of cake.

Hey, guys! Thanks for all of your supportive emails and comments from Tuesday's post. I know there are so many of us walking through this right now and it makes me feel better knowing we're not alone and that efforts are being made across the country on behalf of our kids.


They involve homeschooling college and becoming conscientious objectors so we've got those two going for us.


On another note, yesterday was Sadie's 7th birthday.

She had two requests. A box of rubber gloves and an ice cream cake. She likes to fill the rubber gloves up with water, draw faces on them, and then treat them like babies until they break all over the carpet from over-handling. The ice cream cake she just likes to eat - not mother it or anything.


So, like the fabulous mother that I am, I didn't buy her a box of rubber gloves but instead bought her a craft project that broke 1.23 seconds into box removal. Way to go, Mom! That's what my other children said in unison as Sadie's birthday hopes were dashed to pieces 45 minutes into her day.

So, for sure, I'd redeem myself on the ice cream cake that I would of course go buy from Marble Slab or Cold Stone. Or I'd make it from scratch. Uh huh, that's a GREAT idea. Because I've made so many before? Not so much.

Actually, the flavor was fabulous. It was the design that had a slight flaw. You see, when you try to spread buttercream icing across a frozen layer of ice cream, the butter solidifies and won't stick to the sides creating a cake that is not so easy on the eyes.


Dude! Look at that thing! The great thing was that I had to keep it frozen so I transported it in this beautiful beer cooler which only added to the presentation.



I'm pretty sure Buddy would have voted me off cake island. Especially in my futile attempt to distract from the ugly middle with an Oreo cake-belt which was just further proof that, if you want to hide your middle, a belt is not the answer.

Did I mention how good it tasted? The cake part was the very famous Collins Street Chocolate Cake and it was filled, at Sadie's request, with Blue Bell Cookies and Cream Ice Cream. At least I got one request right.

Anyway, all was made right in her world when her daddy picked her up from school with a brand new box of rubber gloves, and her grandparents took her to Maple and Motor for dinner. Their burgers are a balm for the soul.

Our baby, Sadie has celebrated one more birthday too fast and I'm savoring the fact that she's still over the moon with simple things and full of grace for her momma.


And for this stinky brother.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Robbed.

So, Trey and I are entering a whole new frontier in parenting and lately, have been overwhelmed by the prospect of Darius graduating and heading off to college. What we've seen and experienced has been frustrating and heartbreaking and all the talk about education across the country and across our city has come home to roost.


Darius is an incredibly bright kid full of charm and personality. He's in his school's National Honor Society and will graduate in the top 10% of his class. In Texas, that last bit means he is automatically accepted into any Texas state college. He's received acceptance letters so far from Texas Tech, University of North Texas, University of Texas at Arlington, and Stephen F. Austin State University. University of Texas' acceptance letter is expected any day. He didn't apply to Texas A&M and that is a point of contention between he and I that I will not discuss here. I will let you know, though, that I'm handling it with grace. And I've stopped buying him Ranch Dressing as punishment.


If I could end this story with that paragraph, we'd be thrilled. We'd be over the moon and so excited at the opportunities before him. He's not only graduating but he's also, by all appearances, headed off to a four year university, and therefore, like his brother, watching the trajectory of his life change. Everyone is encouraging him to just take the pick of the litter and celebrate.


Except us. We're having to have very hard conversations with a young man that feel to us like we're ripping the rug out from under him.


From his SAT scores and scores on ACCUPLACER tests - tests designed to measure a student's college readiness - he's no where close. Even with all the good grades, his schooling has not prepared him for the rigors of a college education. We've talked to several experts, and have thrown out what if's like, "What if he's just a poor test taker?" Possible with the SAT, but not to this degree, and not possible with the ACCUPLACER, a test designed to measure very specifically and accurately a student's academic skill in reading, writing, and math.


So, what does he do? Certainly, he could take the opportunites before him and work like he's never worked before to hang on. We've been told the leap would be monumental. Or, he could attend a junior or community college for a year and get the remediation he needs, then, hope he can get into one of the schools he's already been accepted to, with his community college grades. Oy vey.


On top of that, so many people in his academic life are baffled wondering why he wouldn't just take the bird in the hand. Unfortunately, many of those people measure their benchmarks simply by how many of their kids get into a four year university, not by how long they stay there. Their programs are financially incentivized to look at the child's first move upon graduation, not his second or third.

We've told Darius over and over, this is not just a Pinkston problem, or a DISD problem but an education problem across the country. But he feels like he's been robbed. He's played a game all his life and played it very well according to the standards set for him. But, now, he's moving onto the next bracket only to find out his first round has not prepared him. Because I like to cook - I'm going to use a cooking analogy. Let's say you spent years learning to make dinner. You were given the directions and ingredients to make spaghetti. You got really good at spaghetti. Yours was pretty darn good and you've come to believe you're a pretty decent chef. And spaghetti is great. You could eat it every day and survive. But, you want to learn more so you walk into the next room and are asked right off the bat to make a seven course meal consisting of everything from an amuse bouche, to coq a vin, to creme brulee. You'd be toast, literally. Nothing about learning to make spaghetti excellently has prepared you for the next step. It would be a hard slap in the face and that's what Darius is feeling on the cusp of graduation.


Studies are showing that, across the country, only 25% of graduating seniors are truly ready for college. The education system is failing these kids. We know high school sophomores who are probably onlyoperating on at fourth grade reading level. Kids who will be starting high school next fall who can't write a paragraph using a basic proper sentence structure. And a kid graduating this Spring learning that being commended for marginal work does far more harm than good.


This is a national problem, made worse in the inner-city, and we're seeing the impacts firsthand. And it is infuriating for everyone involved - starting with the child.