Monthly Archives: September 2008

Monthly Movie Roundup: Regarding Henry Wins September

Starting today, I hope to implement a new feature that will take place on the last day of each month (unless the last day is a Sunday). Christian and I have a Netflix membership and generally watch one or two movies a week. We try to watch a variety of genres, so each month I hope to list the movies we watched and rank them based on how much I liked them.

This month we watched a lot of movies, partly because we love to and partly because Netflix has such a quick turnaround. We also took advantage of the “Watch Instantly” feature on Netflix. You can’t watch a lot of new movies online, but they have a lot of documentaries and movies from the 80s. It’s a good choice for a lazy Saturday afternoon. In the end, we watched six movies and about 10 episodes of House (which I didn’t include in my rankings because it’s automatically my favorite show ever).

Without further ado, here are this month’s movies, ranked from worst to best, with a short commentary on each.

6. I, Robot
I thought I would like this movie more than I did. I really like Will Smith, and the premise of the show was interesting, but honestly, we had just watched I Am Legend and it seemed really similar, only not as good. Sometimes Will Smith was really cheesy, and I guess I’m just not a big fan of robots. I rarely get bored during movies, but by the end of this one, I was more interested in playing with the dog than seeing if Will escaped the robot attacks.

5. Into the Wild
A good friend of ours recommended this movie mostly because of what it shows about relationships. The movie is based on a book about a true story of a young man who leaves his entire life behind to go “into the wild” in Alaska. The movie actually spends most of the time focusing on how he gets to Alaska, which was interesting, but made the story even more heartbreaking. It’s hard to say that I didn’t like it, because it was a true story, but I guess in the end it just left me feeling completely hopeless. That said, the cinematography was amazing, and the landscape shots are breathtaking.

4. Hellboy
Even Christian was surprised to learn that I really love superhero movies. I liked all the Spiderman movies, the Batman movies, the X-men movies… you know, superhero movies. Hellboy is kind of a superhero movie, but it’s got a little more drama and passion than most. The only reason this movie is ranked number 4 out of is because we watched some really good movies this month. Overall, this was a really fun movie, minus some of the super creepy parts.

3. The Kite Runner
I read the book this movie is based on several years ago, and ever since I heard they were making a movie, I wanted to see it. Christian thought it was going to be a chick flick, which is almost laughable. It follows a young boy who lives in Afghanistan as he leaves the country in the wake of the Russian invasion in the 70s. He eventually goes back to “redeem” himself to someone he hurt deeply. What is promoted as the theme of the movie is that “there is a way to be good again.” Theologically, I disagree, but the story is beautifully told and well-acted.

2. Once
Probably one of the strangest movies I’ve seen in a while. It’s ticketed as a musical, which I thought was odd, but it truly is. There isn’t really much of a plot, but I appreciated the lack of sexual overtones and the amazing music that is performed over the course of the film. When it was over, I immediately downloaded the soundtrack on iTunes, and I’ve listened to it over and over again since then. If you like music, people with foreign accents and movies that are kind of abstract, check this one out.

1. Regarding Henry
We were browsing the Netflix site looking for something to “watch instantly” when Christian exclaimed, “Oh my gosh, Regarding Henry!” It looked like a girly movie, so I was surprised he was familiar with it. Turns out it was one of his favorite movies growing up. That meant we had to watch it, which was not a burden at all. This is an incredible movie that stars Harrison Ford (in a very non-Han-Solo-like-role). It’s probably one of the sweetest movies I’ve ever seen, even though it was definitely made in the 1980s. You could probably even find this one at the library, so you could get some incredible entertainment for free. Do it.

I’ve already got some more episodes of House and the movie Beowulf for us to watch next, but leave a comment with suggestions for movies that you think Christian and I should watch next month!

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Mom’s Chicken, Broccoli and Cheese Casserole

Whenever I think of comfort food, I think delicious, but fattening. So I love it when there’s a comfort food that actually isn’t too terrible for you.

My mom used to make this all the time, and it remains a family favorite. You can use ingredients you probably already have in your pantry, and you don’t even have to make a mess in your kitchen.

Chicken, broccoli and cheese casserole

2 chicken breasts
10 oz. broccoli, cut into small pieces
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup fat free mayonnaise
1 can low-sodium, fat free cream of mushroom soup
2 cups brown rice

Cook chicken on stove in salt and pepper. Dice.

Steam broccoli in microwave until tender.

Mix mayonnaise, cream of mushroom and cheese together in large bowl.

Combine all ingredients in 8×8 baking dish. Cook at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until cheese begins to bubble. Serve over rice (and add Texas Pete hot sauce if you dare).

It’s a little late tonight to cook dinner, but maybe this will give you inspiration for tomorrow.

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This Week In Links: The Jeopardy Analogy Edition

I’ve spent the week combing the tubes of the Internet, and once again I’ve got five great sites that you should check out in your free time this weekend. My favorite has got to be the first one. Reading analogies by high schoolers makes my day, and as you will be able to tell once you read it, my favorite is number 4. But, to quote my old friend Levar Burton, you don’t have to take my word for it.

[You just might wet your pants] 56 Worst/Best Analogies of High School Students

[Got a lot of free time?] Netflix Origami

[Save money, make people happy] 28 Gift Ideas that Save Money for the Recipient

[Recipe of the Week] Chile Relleno Casserole

[Stuff to Ponder] The Psychological and Emotional Attachment to What We Have and What We Want

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Friday Fitness Diary: The Wait-for-the-Whistle Edition

The first day of boot camp, our instructor (“E.”) told us we had to wait for the whistle before we started doing whatever it is we were supposed to do. It only took one time of not doing that to learn that we really wanted to wait for the whistle. One time, we had to do sprints. Another time, we had to do push-ups. After this happened several times in one day, every time E. would say “Alright, let’s go” someone would inevitably whisper loudly, “Wait for the whistle!” This has now become our mantra every time we’re about to run sprints or do circuit training. It’s good for discipline, I guess, but it wreaks havoc on your nerves.

I’ve been tracking my weight daily and my eating almost daily at The Daily Plate. They have a handy graph of your weight loss (or gain, as the case may be), so I took a screenshot (conveniently leaving out the actual numbers, of course). As you can see, my progress looks kind of like a crazy rollercoaster.


I’m not sure what’s up with this fluctuation, but I’m taking comfort in the fact that I haven’t gained weight. And in the last few days, I’ve definitely stayed more closely around the same weight (the vertical distance between intersections is one pound). And in the last three days, I’ve hit two of the lowest points so far.

Additionally, I feel like my pants are looser, so it could be that I’m gaining muscle and losing fat, which would be wonderful. I also read recently that sometimes when you first start a workout regimen, your weight stays about the same or you even gain weight, but after several weeks you start to lose weight fairly quickly. I’m hoping this is what’s going on.

Surprisingly, I’m kind of getting used to waking up at 5 a.m. to go to the gym. I think when boot camp is over I may still go in the mornings (but perhaps not quite so early). As long as I get to bed by 10 or so the night before, I can even stay awake all day without any problems.

As far as what I’ve actually done since last Friday, boot camp has pretty much been it. I did go to the gym for about 40 minutes on Tuesday, because E. gave us homework to go to the gym one other time besides boot camp. I only did abs and upper body, because my legs have been really sore from all the running we’ve been doing. I’m hoping next week to work out two times in addition to boot camp, just doing arms and abs.

What kinds of workouts have you guys been up to this week? Leave me a comment and let me know!

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How To Be an Excellent Babysitter (and How to Know If You Found One)

When most people think of babysitting, an image of a slightly awkward 16-year-old girl comes to mind. She may change a diaper or two while she’s watching the kids, but she spends most of the time on the phone with her friends.

In case you were wondering, that is not what excellent babysitters are made of.

Most babysitters, though, aren’t quite so terrible. Hundreds of thousands of parents entrust their precious children to such people every day.

But what goes into being an excellent babysitter? How can you be an awesome babysitter who deserves what you’re paid? How can you be sure the person watching your kids can be trusted?

An excellent babysitter loves kids.
This may seemingly disqualify those of you who aren’t sure if you love kids. If that’s the case, do what you can to find out if you love kids. Volunteer in the nursery at your church. If you find out that most kids drive you crazy, maybe you should find another source of income. If you find toddlers OK, but middle schoolers a pain, then only say yes to parents who have toddlers. Really loving to spend time with kids will ensure that most of your problems while babysitting are minor. And parents and their kids can tell if you hate kids (it’s like a sixth sense).

An excellent babysitter listens to what the parents say before they leave.
Some parents leave a detailed note that makes you wonder how long they’re planning to be gone. Others jot down a few things. Some don’t leave anything but their phone numbers. Regardless of what is written down, listen to what they say. And be thinking as they’re talking about anything that leaves you confused. One of the questions I now ask frequently before parents leave is, “Does your child have a special item he sleeps with?” and then (if yes) “Is the item already in the child’s bed?” I’ve had to call parents too many times asking where Susie’s “lovey” is, only to find it in the dryer or stuffed in the oven of a toy kitchen. It makes bedtime more complicated than it has to be.

An excellent babysitter is at least as consistent with the child as the parents are.
Some parents may not be very disciplined with their kids. There are a plethora of parenting techniques, and as you, the babysitter, are probably not a parent, it’s best not to have strict judgments on what’s right and what’s not. But say, for example, the parents are trying to teach their child to say, “Yes, ma’am.” If, once the parents are gone, the child keeps saying “Yeah” or “Uh-huh,” it’s safe to prompt the child with a kind “Yes, ma’am!” Not only does this help the parents out, but the child immediately learns that just because Mom and Dad are gone, doesn’t mean the rules have changed. A child who thinks the rules are different is a force to be reckoned with.

An excellent babysitter is creative and takes initiative.
Most children, if given the option, would watch television all day long. Some parents may let their kids watch TV while they get things done around the house, but they’re not getting paid to watch their kids. You are. If the parents say they can watch a particular show for a certain amount of time, then go ahead and let the kids watch it. But for the most part, you should be trying to entertain the child in other ways. Going for a walk, reading books, doing arts and crafts, playing with neighborhood friends and playing games outside are all activities most children will love. If they seem hesitant at first suggestion, don’t give up. Turn off the TV, say “That’s all for now” and immediately engage the child in whatever activity you’ve chosen. The child will be way better off developmentally, and the parents will be thrilled when their kids tell them about all the fun things you did with them.

An excellent babysitter goes beyond expectations.
The kids are in bed, the parents won’t be home for two more hours, and Top Chef is coming on next. The turn of events seems obvious. But before you watch gourmet cooks battle it out to the death, check the sink for dirty dishes and wash them. And then pick up any toys the kids left out. Most parents pay a flat rate per hour, so you’re getting paid just as much to play hide-and-seek as you are to watch TV. Do what you can to really earn those extra dollars.

Following these principles will most certainly make you an excellent babysitter, and you’ll reap plenty of benefits. Not only will the parents be more likely to call you next time, but they’ll also recommend you to their friends. Most of the babysitting jobs I have gotten over the last year have stemmed from one family who I babysat for the first time four years ago. I don’t babysit for that family much anymore, but if it weren’t for them, I’d hardly babysit at all.

And finally, while you should always be professional, don’t look at babysitting as just a job. You’re forming relationships with kids and setting an example for them. You’re also serving the parents when you do the best that you can. That yields eternal rewards, and it’s a responsibility that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Feel free to share any babysitting horror stories, or any other tips you might have on how to be an excellent babysitter.

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Put Numbers In Your Cell Phone In Case Of Emergencies

If you found me through Shannon’s blog, welcome! I hope you’ll click through my meager archives and find more helpful ideas for living simply. If you like what you read, you can subscribe to my feed. Thanks for visiting!

I don’t know how many people these days have a cell phone, but I’m guessing more people have them than don’t. I got my first cell phone for my eighteenth birthday, and I was thrilled. My youngest sister got her cell phone at age 13. Seriously?

Anyway, having a cell phone is, obviously, convenient, especially if you’re often away from your home. In college, my cell phone was my only phone, so I had it with me at all times.

Aside from using my cell phone to, er, call people, I also use it as a conglomerate for all those important numbers that are hard to find when you really need them. Even if you’re at home all day with your kids, keeping all those numbers in one place where they won’t get spilled on or erased can keep anxiety low in a high-pressure situation.

Some of the numbers that might be handy to have in your cell phone include:

  • your bank
  • your credit card company
  • your computer manufacturer
  • your auto mechanic
  • your doctor
  • a locksmith
  • your landlord
  • your telephone/internet provider

These are all numbers that can be found somewhere, but sometimes you just don’t have time to look for them. I first put my computer manufacturer’s number in my phone a couple years ago because I was having problems and had to keep calling them. I put my bank’s number in my phone after an experience when I was out of town and my debit card didn’t work.

Keeping those numbers in one place – and easily callable – definitely works for me.

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How To Take Advantage of a Holding Pattern

God often gives us seasons in our life when we experience what is commonly known as a holding pattern. I’m in one myself right now as I look for a job. While I know moms with multiple kids probably never feel like they’re in a holding pattern, there may be others who in a certain area of life find themselves waiting for the next thing.

As I’ve been in this particular holding pattern for almost two months now, I have wasted a lot of time and have also had very productive days. But you don’t have a job, you may point out. True, but there are other things I’ve found to do that have kept me from feeling useless and have (I hope) honored God, served others and helped myself.

Memorize Scripture.
It’s surprising how little time it actually takes to memorize Scripture, if the time is concentrated. While I’ve found trying to memorize verses over the course of a day isn’t very effective for me, spending ten or twenty minutes where that’s all I do can help me memorize several verses all at once. Not only does this help you spend time wisely in the moment, but memorizing Scripture has eternal benefits.

Read.
I’m in the middle of a couple theological books and a few works of fiction. When I was in middle school and high school, I was a voracious reader. Until I went to the library a few weeks ago and checked out some books, I had forgotten what an appetite I have. Last week I had an afternoon with nothing to do and read an entire book! It’s certainly a better use of time than watching TV or piddling around online (both of which I have also done in the last week).

Find an alternative source of income.
Other blogs have more wisdom on ways to do this than I do, but since I’ve been out of work I have babysat and also done some freelance work editing. God has used babysitting to help me pay my bills, which has been a huge blessing. I’m also in the process of becoming a guide for ChaCha, which would provide even more income.

Look for ways to serve others.
Because I’m living at home with my family right now, I have lots of opportunities to do this. On days when I’m not babysitting, I try to find at least one thing I can do around the house to help my mom. One day last week I cleaned the bathroom. Another day I did all the dirty laundry I could find. I also try to cook dinner once a week or so. In doing these things, not only do I serve my family and honor God, but I also feel like I’m accomplishing something worthwhile.

Exercise.
There have been times in the past couple weeks when not having a job has really discouraged me, and when I’m down, exercising is the last thing I want to do. But consistently going to the gym has not only kept me healthy (which is good, because at the moment my health insurance is pretty terrible), but it also has kept me energetic and given me something to focus on.

These are just a few of the ways I’ve tried to take advantage of the time God has given me over the last couple of months. What are some ways you take advantange of seemingly “empty” periods of time?

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