Friday, December 31, 2010

foody friday for a New Year

I am guilty of putting on Holiday pounds - more so since we have moved to Minnesota - I blame it on the cold. I start to hibernate around Thanksgiving - durn turkey - and then wake up in a mad dash around March.

I have been trying to be more pro active this season, but alas, I have still put on a pound or five. In addition to moving more and signing up for a running race, I have been looking at LaaLoosh for months. I have tried a couple of her recipes, and they are awesome - AWESOME! So, as you ring in the New Year this eve, I encourage you to take in a few of her recipes and try them out for the New Year.

Cheers!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Jeanette Walls brilliance



Oh my, is she. Between The Glass Castle and Half Broke Horses she has me mesmerized. The first is her memoir about growing up with her parents. The second is told from Lily's perspective, Jeannette's maternal grandmother. Both treat hardships and set backs with hope and perseverance, and still gives a raw, realistic view of the challenges these families faced.

Rosemary, Lily's daughter, is a free spirit lost in the practicality of Lily's life, and yet Lily's gumption is admirable and inspiring. The pairing of these books adds such an enriching understanding of families and how each generation affects the next. It offers a study of human nature, the will to survive, and the fragility of emotions.

Both are available on Kindle here and here.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

genuine thanks

Though we say it, make calls, and email, I haven't taught the boys to write true, genuine thank you cards - and after listening to this interview, I realized that it is such an important piece of our family culture that I want to foster. It was even part of our wedding vows - to not take each other for granted and be grateful for each other every day of our lives.

To be sincere.

I wonder if this is a quality that is being choked out with our busy world...and in our desire to get closer to a simple life that is enriched with the beauty of the natural world and enhanced with the wonders of our modern world, I know sincerity is a quality we want instilled in our family values.

So this week we will sit down together at dinner and fill out our thank you cards together and I just might take Kralik's lead and try to write one each day - what a way to create the kind of world we want to live in instead of accepting the one that has been given.

I like creating.
I like sincerity.
I like where this is pointing us.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Aftermath

It is Monday, the first weekday after Christmas, and the guests are gone, the presents open, with remnants of wrapping here and there, and the snow blows off the trees, visible with a peak of sunshine. It is the first work day after Christmas for Randy, and a week of break for the boys and I - don't worry, there is work to be done around the house as well.

What a beautiful holiday this Christmas was. The boys loved every rip of paper. Their oohs and aaahhhs could not be beat this year - they are at that age where the magic is real, the love is pouring and infectious. It was a gorgeous day - gorgeous.

Now, as I schedule this week with play dates and work. As I start to clean up and get back into a routine, the realization of the want, need, and desire for a bit of Christmas to carry forward and fill the days to come with that togetherness feeling, that love, that way that we all say "Merry Christmas" to the person behind the meat counter or the person we pass on the street. It is the warmth within the cool temperatures that, yearly, I crave.

As I close this year and open the next there will be fewer desires for less weight, or more organization (though both would be nice), but instead, I am looking for a greeting, a way to see all people that says, "Merry Christmas" all year round. One that is intentional with eye contact and smiles. One that surpasses the idiocy of my little frustrations and stresses. One that meets people and warms them. A way to say, "hey, I see you and you matter because isn't this a beautiful time of the year?" at any time during the year.

Indeed, I am in the aftermath of the holiday - the holding week between what is and what will be - and I hope to carry this residual love through out the year, because it was a gorgeous, gorgeous day and I'd love to experience a gorgeous, gorgeous year.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!


From my family to yours...I hope you're having a warm and wonderful holiday season.
Here's to a joy-filled 2011 for all of us!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Holidays!

Wishing everyone a safe and wonderful holiday season! I have so much to be thankful for! Just look at my fun xmas photo out takes.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Simplifying the Season



We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. In the name of simplifying this year, I did less. I did less Christmas baking. I did less Christmas blogging. I did less less Christmas cards and letters. I did less, and already I am feeling more.

I am present for the boys' excitement as we head toward Christmas eve and the arrival of their aunt and uncle. I am present to read all the cards and letters we are receiving, and I love them, absolutely love them. Because it has been less hectic, I was able to get the boxes out to my family on time this year, which is a Christmas miracle in its own right.

But through it, there has been a battle within. Am I letting others down? Am I disappointing my friends? Happily, Randy has been incredibly supportive and loving. He has reminded me that, indeed, I am not letting anyone down by taking care of our family - which is good to hear.

I have to say, as I listen to the boys assure me they are not "shaking" the gifts and merely checking the tags, my heart is in the right place. We are here, in the present - and that is such a gift the eve before Christmas Eve.

Much love to you and yours from us - Merry Christmas!

The Brocks:
Randy, Julie, Drew (7) and Owen (4)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Peace.

In my imagination, there is a lovely, wintery, holiday-themed photo right....



HERE.



In reality, the camera, where the aforementioned holiday photo is stored, is in our car, three floors down from our roadside hotel for the night. I am in my nightie, watching my teenager fall asleep and listening to the last wimpers of protest come from my toddler as she tries to settle into her portable crib in another new place. Our family has been on the road for three days now, logging 1100 miles so far on our trek from Michigan to my hometown in Florida. We have a little over 200 more miles to go today.

It's a photo of the lovely gingerbread men we made during the weekend, the ones we brought on the road with us and have been munching on along the way.

While trying to salvage the situation, I even tried to fudge it, searching for some appropriate photo in my library already. 8000 photos, not a one fits the bill. Fudge.

I suppose it is all a reminder to me that the events of our daily lives are rarely picture-picture, but they are always worth being present for.

Happy Holidays to All. May goodness and kindness be yours, and may you pass it on to every soul you meet during this season.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Pageant Magic.

Thirty kids. Thirty costumes. Thirty sets of nervous families.
Two set changes.
Only four rehearsals.


Magic.
These are the reasons I love my job.

* yes that's the back of my ponytail. I photograph much better from the back, I tell you.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Have a Wonderful Holiday Season!

From our home to yours...warmest wishes for the season.

xoxo
Heather and family

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Winter Traditions to Keep You Warm!

Living in the winter wonderland that is the Midwest, most of us are hunkered down with blankets and fires, trying to avoid the blustery wind outside.

Kids, however, don't feel the cold at all!  They can't wait for the snow.  When the flakes are just beginning to fall, they're outside as quickly as possible, ready for anything, especially a good snowball fight.



But when they finally come inside, we're all ready for a little warmth.  Here are a few ideas that don't involve kids running wild through the living room (although that can be fun, too):

  1. Enjoy a movie together.  Whether you go for something traditional, like It's a Wonderful Life, or something more humorous, like Elf, doesn't really matter.  Just be sure to set the scene--have popcorn and drinks and lots of togetherness.  Make the movie an event, not just a thing to pass the time.
  2. Read aloud.  Light a fire, make some cider, and choose a wonderful book--you can go for a classic, a kid favorite, a holiday story.  Again, the 'what' doesn't matter; it only matters that you do it together.
  3. Bake and decorate cookies.  Duh.
  4. For little kids: homemade playdoh.  This is easy, fun, and just a little messy. It's a great way to spend time together and have fun, while you're nice and warm inside1
Homemade Playdoh Recipe, courtesy of Mrs. Murphy, my neighbor from 10 years ago!
2 c flour
1 c salt
4 t cream of tartar
2 c water
2 T oil

Mix all ingredients in a pan.  Cook on low for 2 - 3 minutes, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat & stir in food color.  Pour out onto waxed  paper and knead until ready (add more flour as needed).

Have fun!



Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Now That's a Happy Pup


If that isn't a Wordless Wednesday, I don't know what is! Check out more photos here and here.

The Hunt

We took them out to find a tree.


First, we went to this farm.
Seriously, this cow is about to give birth NOW!

We got a saw...


We threw some snowballs.


We took the obligatory "we cut our tree down here" photo.
But no luck.  No tree for the weary.


We left the first farm and headed to another.
Horses!  Of course we'll find one here.


We found one all right.
We just didn't exactly cut it ourselves.


But, still, we took a photo in front of the lovely pre-cut trees, after we spent an hour tromping through the fields of smaller ones.

So, hey, it LOOKS like we cut our own, and in the end, 
isn't that what really matters?!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Salt Dough Christmas Ornaments: Gifts & Indoor Entertainment in One

When it's dark around 5:00, and cold and blustery outside, I find that having a few indoor activities for kids is a good idea.  Math may not be my strong suit, but even I can do this one:
Energetic kids + nothing to do = no good can come of this.

photo credit: Erin B.
Despite my complete lack of craft skills, I enjoyed making ornaments to give as gifts when I was a kid.  Now my kids enjoy it, too.  If you find yourself in need of indoor entertainment, you can take advantage of this idea and cross a few small gifts off your list at the same time.

There are lots of Salt-Dough Ornament recipes on the Internet.  Basically, you need:

1/2 c salt
1 c flour
1/2 c water

Beyond ingredients, one of the best descriptions I found for how to make salt dough ornaments was here, at katy's blog.  She also has beautiful photos and great tips for baking and decorating the ornaments.

Cheap, easy, fun:  it's the perfect indoor winter activity!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Good Grief.

Last week, I received one of those phone calls that was not unexpected but yet was still a shock: a family member, sick from cancer and in hospice care only a short time, had passed away. And so I crawled back out of bed at 10:30 p.m., and started a load of laundry, then cracked open the laptop and began sending the emails that would extricate us from our various activities and responsibilities over the weekend. And then I lay awake most of the night, staring at the ceiling, contemplating how I would tell my boys in the morning that their uncle, only a few years older than me and their dad, was gone.

I wrote about this a couple of years ago for SavvySource, when my grandfather passed away. But he was 93 years old, had been ill and fragile for years, and my kids didn't really know him that well, other than as that old guy we went to visit sometimes in the nursing home. But it's different when the person who has passed is younger.

One thing I can tell you when a situation like this comes up, is don't be afraid to talk about it with kids. Tell them what you know, and then just sit back and listen. Let them ask questions, and have simple, easy answers. Second, be in contact with teachers, neighbors, friends who may be around when your child is grieving. Kids can act out at school, fall off on homework, other things that teachers won't understand if they don't know the root cause. I had a long conversation with the counselor at my boys' elementary school, and she had some good resources, like the book Lifetimes, and Maria Shriver's book What's Heaven. Lifetimes is more about the lifecycle of nature, which is a very non-emotional approach. Shriver's book is specifically about a little girl and her mom having a conversation about her grandmother who had died, and is not only more emotional, but is based on Judeo-Christian concepts of Heaven and God.

I think the best thing I did was to tell my kids what was going to happen. That we were going to the airport, getting on a plane, and going to visit their cousins and their grandparents. That there would be two different funerals, one in a church, and one in a cemetery. That lots of people would be sad and maybe even crying. That they would meet lots of people for the first time. That it would be hard and exhausting, but that they would get to spend a lot of time playing the Wii and distracting their cousins from their sadness.

Now we are back to work, to school, to our own lives. But my oldest came home from school with a giant sympathy card that his class had made, to help him feel better. It did. Sometimes it's the little things that get you through.









Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Is a Stress-Free Christmas Even Possible?

One of the clear indications that I am getting older is the sheer velocity of the passing of time. I'm pretty sure it was just July yesterday and now I'm told it's almost Thanksgiving which means that Christmas is pretty much tomorrow. Aaaaaaaaahhhhhhhrrrrrrgggg!

Is there anyone who doesn't experience stress over the December holidays? (I'm generalizing...I don't know enough about religions other than Christianity to know if people who believe in other religions experience stress at the end of the year holidays.) I suppose you have to be older than 20 and probably have to have kids for it to be truly stressful but I remember being stressed even as a teen worrying about what I would buy my family (and the boyfriend...is THAT not the cruelest form of torture to try to figure out what to buy a boy you've been dating for a few months?).

My kids get those toy catalogs out of the mailbox and mark 98 percent of the catalog as "want." I know that's part of being a kid, though I don't remember the volume of toy catalogs as a kid. The toys are more expensive now too, right? Or am I just old and cheap? My son circles $100+ Lego play sets and thinks it's fine to ask for all of them.

We've always told our kids they can ask Santa to bring them 3 things. It helps them narrow down all those wants and really think about what they want the most. Sometimes Santa gets off inexpensively. Sometimes not. So far, Santa has always brought all three things for the kids. The number 3 comes from the 3 gifts the wise men brought for Baby Jesus. I've tried to explain that to the kids but I don't think they really care. Did I mention they're kids?

Other kids send Santa a huge list. My kids know that too. I think. But I've asked them (told them) to think of the other kids and remember Santa has only a limited amount of room in his sleigh. They know that they wouldn't want to take toys from other kids.

I think they get it. At least a little bit. They are so lucky. Santa should send more gifts to the kids who don't have as much. Santa is magic but still has limitations.

Thank you Santa, for the gifts you've given my family.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Skilled

My parenting skills ebb and flow, like much of the things in my life. In one week I might fluctuate every other day between calm, in-charge Mommy and screaming, irrational Mommy. Other weeks I am on top of my game and confident. The next I will be nutty all week. Then there are days that throw it all in the mix.


My kids have to be confused by it all. Heck, I'M confused by it all. Consistency is key in discipline, relationships, maybe even in life. I'm reading and re-reading Love and Logic, (okay so I've never read the original...yet but I'm reading the early years and what to say when kids leave you speechless). The techniques work wonders for my kids if I remember to employ them.

When my kids fight (and they have been fighting often lately) in the car I've started telling them they'll need to pay me to listen to it and start naming ways they can pay me. If they argue at home, I simply leave whatever room they are arguing in. It's amazing how quickly the dispute is resolved without mom observing.

Why don't I use this stuff all the time? I suppose I need to practice more. Maybe by the time they have their own kids I'll have it down...but I doubt it.

Maybe I need one of those shock collars that some people use to prevent their dogs from barking. It could give me a jolt to remind me that yelling at my kids never works as well as being calm and confident.

Friday, November 12, 2010

isn't it funny

i had this whole post planned for today about the importance of thought and reform. i had this whole post planned for education and love. i had this whole whole post about kids and reading and advocating.

but now i blog from my phone in the waiting room to see if owen's four fever in seven weeks means anything. i sit in the waiting room in the wake of my grandfather's death last night. i sit in the mix of my bad mechanics and phone typing with the judgment of others looming as my son plays a ds and i am seemingly texting...

isn't it funny what life doles out in the middle of a great post?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A day

I was posed the question, what would you do with an entire day without commitments, without others, without pressure?

My logical side said, Clean the house, get the junk out, decorate the bare walls, paint the boys' rooms, get my life in order.

My playful side said, with a glint in her eye, oooohhhhhhhhh, if it was in the winter, I'd fly to Colorado and snowboard all day long. Run after run of sheer dry powdery bliss. Or maybe I'd go to the scrapbook store, find a new inspiration and create, create, create. If it was sunny outside and warm, I'd go for a run and then a coffee in the sunshine while reading the paper. I'd go listen to the water move in the creek. I'd go see a movie, just because. I'd go for a hike, explore a new downtown. I'd be...

I'd be.

I'm looking for time to do both the logical and the playful because I'm drowning in a sea of too much. While I come up for air and look around, I wonder if there is a way to work both into a week? Right now, it seems like all or nothing and really, my mind is believing it so...I wish for a little play and logic in each day, but it seems like my organizational skills cannot produce more hours in a day...which lends itself to another question...

what gives?

So now I ponder that question as I fix a toy, answer a homework problem, make dinner, clean up after dinner, pack lunches for the next day, grade papers, get the gym bag ready for tomorrow morning, run errands, make a grocery list, and, uh, breathe.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Reduce

It is the word of the month. We are working on reducing our "stuff" especially with the onslaught of new stuff coming. The boys are trying to make sense of all their books and toys, who needs what and wants what. The logic and reasoning of a seven and four year old makes me smile in so many moments.

We are trying to reduce the amount of time we spend out and away from our home and center. Granted, we have three weekends in a row that are booked with friends, but at least it is in our home.

We are trying to reduce our spending, reduce our consumption, reduce our waste, and reduce our complacency with a world that pushes busy and efficient. Frankly, I'm tired because of both.

It is 65 degrees out today...in November. If we don't drop our worldly commitments of schedule and errands to breathe that in, we are missing something beautiful - and I want to reduce the amount of missed moments as well.
Simply slow down is my mantra this month, and it is amazing how often I have to say it.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Friday Wine Goodness: It's time for Beaujolais Nouveau


Years ago, before I started developing a taste for wine, I would only drink pink wines. You know, the white zinfandels and rosés that are like $4 a bottle. Slowly I was introduced to better wines, and developed a different palate, one that wasn't all about added sugar and headaches. But I was afraid of deep reds, they were too thick and my imagination is too wild - it felt like drinking blood.

The first red wine I fell in love with was a Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau. It wasn't heavy like most of the reds I had tried (which I now love, but that is a taste that develops over time for many people.) It comes out in November, and is not the kind of wine that should be stored and kept, it should be drank immediately. It does not get better with age - it gets skunky.

The Beaujolais Nouveau is fermented only for a few weeks, as opposed to months or seasons like most other wines. It is thinner and sweeter than most reds, and is best served slightly chilled, but not as chilled as most white wines. The easiest thing to do is to put the bottle in the fridge about ten minutes before you intend to open and drink it. It is not the kind of wine that does well by itself at Happy Hour - it goes better with a meal, in my opinion.

This year's Beaujolais Nouveau should hit stores in about two weeks. The Georges Duboeuf website says November 18th. Pick up one and try it, maybe offer it at your Thanksgiving table. They are a fun way to show off your confidence and knowledge of different types of wines, and because they are usually priced around $10-15 a bottle (sometimes cheaper) you won't break the bank.

* Click here for some fun Beaujolais facts.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Oh, those mommy instincts.

Yesterday I had kind of a weird day. It started with my out-of-town aunt calling, just as I stepped into the shower, to ask me to please go pick up my grandmother and take her to the emergency room. Which I did, of course, and she's fine and feeling much better now that she has some antibiotics. But after we were back in the car and headed to the pharmacy to fill her prescriptions, I took kind of a hard left at a stoplight, trying to get through the intersection while the light was still on yellow. (I am a "yellow means go faster" type of driver, just so you know.) And as we skidded through the intersection, I threw out my right arm gently against my grandmother, as if the G-force and her seatbelt wasn't enough to hold her in her seat.

"You can't help that, can you?" she said to me. I thought about it for a second. "Nope," I replied, "although normally the only thing sitting in that seat is my purse."

I have only a few times driven a car with a child sitting in the front seat. When I was in college and a nanny, I had an older model car without an airbag, and I usually put the car carrier of the infant in my care in the front seat, backward of course, so that I could reach her and put that damn pacifier back in her mouth every time she spit it out as we drove around town on errands. This was how the child's mother showed me how to do it the first time she strapped the baby into my car, and this was back before it was suggested so plainly that children should always be in the back seat, before passenger airbags were standard. My ten year old has ridden in my front seat exactly twice: once when coming home from a freezing boy scout camp outing, where I allowed him to sit in the front seat so that he could use the butt warmer; and the other when I was taking a twin mattress to someone and had all the seats down in the back of the van.

My grandmother said, "I did that, too. I always put my arm out to hold your aunt or your dad in, but we didn't have seat belts then." It didn't always help. In about 1950, my grandmother and my aunt were in a car accident so bad it was amazing to many people around them that both survived.

So where does that instinct come from? What other instincts do you have that don't seem to come from experience?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Election Day! Civics and Kids

Across the US today, people are standing in lines at polling stations to do their civic duty and vote. There are elections at all levels of government except President - federal, state, and local. Schools across the country have been holding mock elections to teach the electoral collage process to students. But at our school, another lesson in civic duty is being learned. Our school's fifth grade class will soon visit Exchange City.

I visited Exchange City when I was in 5th grade - I loved it. The program has been going strong in Kansas City for over 30 years. I'm so excited for my son to finally get his turn to go. Students visit in a day long field trip where they each get a job, a paycheck, pay taxes, bills and sometimes fines (like speeding tickets, or in their case, running tickets.) Jobs consist of things like Bank Manager, Police Officer, Postal Carrier, Radio Station DJ, or even the City Judge.

The City Judge is the only position which must campaign to be elected for this office at school in the weeks prior to the field trip. The kids who choose to run make posters, and create slogans. It prepares them for the concepts of running for student council office in the next few years, once they get to middle school and high school. (Kids go to middle school starting in sixth grade where I live.) All other jobs require students to make a resume, apply for a first, second and third choice job and explain why they are qualified, and get references from two adults (not family.) There's a lot of work before the big day of the field trip itself.

It's an excellent program. I remember I learned so much that day. I had no idea how my parents' jobs and paychecks were affected by taxes and bills, it was eye opening. I had no idea how you have to budget your money, and how fines can eat up so much of a paycheck (I, was, er, ticketed several times for running and yelling, I remember. I think I ran out of money to buy snacks and candy at the store - although we did have sack lunches.)

Other cities have similar programs, though they may not all be attended through school field trips. Check for such a program in your area. Exchange City Kansas City also has a summer camp program - although the 2011 information isn't up yet.

Teaching kids about elections and how we vote in the US is crucial to their understanding of government and civics. But teaching them how to function in society and business is even more important. Things you can do at home to help keep your kids in the know:
  • Have a conversation with your school age kids about money, how what you earn affects the family, how bills are paid, etc.
  • Give allowance, either in exchange for chores or just because, and teach them to save for things they want like Lego sets and video games.
  • Dave Ramsey, financial guru, radio host and author of Financial Peace University, has programs for kids to learn how to save and use money to avoid debt. He also has teen programs. (They are Christian based programs.)
  • Check out Kids.gov, the official kids portal for the federal government
And finally, if your kids' school takes a field trip related to civics and or business such as Exchange City, make an effort to go along as a chaperone, so you can discuss later. The best thing we can teach our kids is how to be involved, by showing them.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Boys and hygiene: like oil and water. Lots and lots of oil.

Remember when your little ones were so excited for that evening ritual of bathtime? When they couldn't wait to finish dinner so everyone could all run upstairs and strip off their clothes and climb in that big, bubbly hot, toy-filled tub of joy and splash around for a while, getting clean in the process?

Well, it ends. Especially with boys. They no longer long to be clean. They no longer care. They are too busy playing Nerf gun wars in the backyard or building intricate lego sets to be bothered with bathing, putting on clean socks, or for that matter, pajamas. Sometimes they sleep in their clothes. Nowadays all I hear when I suggest it's time for the bath or shower is whining. Now that my kids are a little more self-sufficient, (or at least I thought they were) I find myself saying things like, "when was the last time you used shampoo?" and "dude, you are ripe."

And what do I hear back from them? "Um, do I need to change my underwear?"

YES! This is a question that needs to be asked?

My friends with teens tell me it changes again soon, the pendulum swings back again, and then you cannot get them OUT of the shower.

I look forward to that. I think.

Friday, October 29, 2010

happy halloween!

my two animals, the house cat + leopard {shown above at their class party} and the giraffe + bumble bee wish you all a happy halloween!

what will you be doing?

my bff made these for her son's class {both her daughters classes last year} they are oranges carved with strawberries and grapes inside for a fun, festive and healthy treat. 
30 took her 6 hours!! {can we say wonder woman}  i'm going to try to do 4 this weekend. we'll see. i'm not nearly as patient nor precise.  wish me luck.  do you have any fun halloween treats you make?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Twins

As the mom of twins and as the mom of two sets of twins, I am fascinated with the twin bond.  Their unique closeness is outstanding, something to be celebrated.  While each one of my children (just like singletons) is unique and their own person, they are also part of a special entity at such an early age.

I never refer to them as "the twins" and while they share a birthday celebration they get their own cake and are never given one gift to share.  They have always shared a room and when they say, "Mom, we want our own room" they will get one.  I will keep them in the same classroom until they tell me otherwise or it becomes detrimental to their learning.  My older kids rarely choose to go somewhere without the other, which I find endearing.  When they are away alone they are always thinking/talking about the other.
It surprises me when we constantly have people telling us "they should be separated more"  "they should be in different classes" "they should have separate rooms"  After my initail shock, I wonder why? why does it bother them so much?  How are they a twin expert?  While these are the responses I should give, I usually either give a half smile and walk away or say "when you have twins, you can separate them as you'd like" 

How would you handle this situation?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Riding in cars with kids...

I take my kids everywhere with me, if I want to go somewhere that is. I'm a work at home mom remember.  So they've grown up in the car. Not really but you know what I mean. 

Now that we live in the middle of nowhere, we are in the car for longer stretches of time in order to run errands.  Many times as we drive around the metro area, I see the dvd players playing.  Is it just me, but I'm not a fan of the car dvd players?

Don't get me wrong, we have a portable dvd player that we use on airplanes or car rides over 2 hours.  But I'm not a fan of dvd players that are on from the time a kid gets into the car until they get out.  Why? why does it have to be on? So we can talk on the phone, so we don't  have to interact with them, why???

This one time last year, we were heading to my parents lake house prior to our road trip to Sioux Falls, SD.  I let them watch a dvd since it was in the car, ready if needed for backup on our road trip.   I thought. okay special treat.  Uusally, we always point out cars, semi's, animals, scenery, etc while in the car.  I started to do this and was annoyed at all they were missing in our 40 minute trip to my parents.  Plus, I was sad I missed their interaction and usual silliness.

Missed learning opportunites.  Missed life experiences.  On a recent trip home from the zoo, if I'd had a dvd player going, we wouldn't have these...
{photo's courtesy of Avery 5 yrs old}
Just curious if I'm the only one who feels this way and is wondering what do you do in the car with your kids?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Paper Mâché Ghosts

I believe that one of the many reasons that I have a houseful of boys is because God knew that crafts were not my strong suit.  On more than one occasion, I have had to apologize to a classroom full of kids because, as Room Parent, I planned a lousy craft.  It's not that I don't try, I do, really I do.  But the year we were making snowmen by gluing pom poms onto popsicle sticks?  The popsicle sticks we had donated were coated and the glue wouldn't stick.  That's the kind of craft luck I bump into on a regular basis.

But now I'm feeling brave.  When my brother was little, he made the cutest little ghost out of paper mache. (He made this at school, mind you.  I'm not sure why I'm considering attempting it at home.)  The thing is, my mother STILL has that paper mâché ghost.  And, people, she's moved something like 20 times since then.  She even sold the old-fashioned typewriter we loved--at a Garage Sale for 10 cents!  But the ghost, he's still haunting her halls at Halloween.

So I've been thinking about how fun (fun?) this project could be for my boys.  As best I can tell, we blow up a balloon, cover the table with newspaper/plastic wrap, and get busy dipping strips of paper into paper mâché paste.  Dry overnight, repeat.  Dry again, paint.

Should we try it?  Have you?  If we get brave, I'll come back and post the results.  In the meantime, I'll take any crafty paper mâché tips you have to offer.

Pumpkin Seeds: Roast 'Em!

As you prepare to carve your Halloween masterpiece, don't forget to save the seeds.


I know, yuck!


But it's a great snack the kids (and you) can enjoy for a day or two.

I ago for the the classic roasted pumpkin seed, myself:  just clean, salt, and bake.  But if you're more creative (the kind of person who thinks of adding candy corn to popcorn, for example), or adventuresome, there are lots of other choices.

Go Spicy!
In addition to a little salt, sprinkle chili powder and garlic powder on your seeds.

Go Sweet!
What about skipping the salt altogether?  For a sweeter seed, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.

Get Crazy!
Just open your spice cupboard and think about the flavors you like.  Mix and match, or make a few different batches.

Whatever you choose to add, Roasted Pumpkin Seeds are a great fall treat.  Heat a little cider, light a fire, and you're practically guaranteed a happy day!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Monday, October 18, 2010

Whose Brainstorm was Driving Permits at 14?

As a parent, I'm all for giving kids responsibility.  Teach them to cook, to clean, to make their beds, and sure, mow the lawn, too--good ideas.  I'm also big on practice--the more we do something, the better we (potentially) get at it.

But, really?  My kid will begin learning to drive before he even turns 15?  Yep, kids in Michigan begin driver training at 14 yrs, 9mos.

I'm thinking of moving to New Jersey.  Those poor kids can't get a real license until they turn 18, so who cares when they start practicing?  The first time they'll be behind the wheel by themselves, they'll be on their way to register to vote.  I'll bet the candidate who suggests changing that law will win in a youth-generated landslide!

Parent supervision, more practice, lots of hours, blah, blah.  I understand the rationale, people.  It's the practical application I'm having trouble with.

Because, see, it's my kid.

And I simply cannot fathom that he will be old enough to get into a car and drive it.  I'm still getting used to him riding shotgun.  Where has the time gone?

photo credit:  Ray Devlin

Friday, October 15, 2010

Fall inspired popcorn, fresh from the kettle

Once fall rolls around and the temperatures stay low all day, it just feels right to pop popcorn. I've never liked air poppers, so I pop ours in a large saucepan or kettle over an open burner on the range. If I'm looking for an easy dinner, I can always pair it with grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup, with some grapes on the side -- YUM!

As easy as popcorn is, I discovered a couple ways to make it even better. Around Halloween, I make the popcorn with melted butter and salt, but I also add candy corn into the mix. It's just enough sweet to make the popcorn seem like a dessert and just enough salty to take the sickening sweet out of the candy corn. Another snack I add the popcorn is dried cranberries. This is certainly more nutritious than the candy corn and it still adds a little sweet without overpowering the natural taste of the popcorn. I've even added candy corn and cranberries in the same bowl which works just fine.

Another trick for popcorn that I learned, (and it's an invaluable trick for me!), is to have a very large plastic bowl with a sealable top. Once the popcorn is popped, I transfer it to the bowl, add whatever else is going into the mix and then shake away. When I add all these extras, even if it's just butter and salt, it makes mixing up the popcorn a cinch. It works when the popcorn is still too hot to touch, too. And plus, if we don't eat the popcorn all in one sitting, the sealed top allows us to keep it fresh up to a day after it was popped.

Every year, my oldest daughter wants to have a Halloween party on Halloween itself. The teens can sit there watching scary movies and noshing on candy and soda if I provide it. But I've found that if I give them something a little more nutritious (and tasty), they'll be just as happy. And they won't be as hopped up as they would have been otherwise. So fall-inspired popcorn is my remedy. The only drawback is that we always seem to have that clichéd moment when something scary happens in the movies and the popcorn bowl ends up being thrown upwards, sending the popcorn flying all over the den :-)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Happy Children's Day!


Children's Day in Brazil is October 12th, so our girls got gifts and ice cream cake last night. They look happy, no?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

My two cents on bullying

All this talk in the media about bullying and kids who are berated for being gay has gotten my attention. A lot has changed since I was a teenager. No one would have dared admit being gay or lesbian. Forget transgender -- we didn't every know what transgender meant, much less not tease someone who identified this way. My oldest daughter is a junior in high school. It was about her 8th grade year that we started noticing the kids coming out. By 10th grade, everyone knew what everyone was. Her various friends identify in every way you can imagine: lesbian, gay, bi, transgender, you name it. I've really never worried about it too much; we live in a pretty liberal town after all.

But our pretty liberal town made national headlines a couple weeks back though, and it wasn't for football. It was because a student at University of Michigan, the student body president, an openly gay man, was being harassed by a public official of the state of Michigan. The student, after months of being harassed, finally filed in local court to have a restraining order brought against the official. The university moved to have the official, an alum of the law school no less, banned from university property. Here's a video of Anderson Cooper interviewing the official, followed by a video of Anderson interviewing the student:







Wow. It's like something straight out of my adolescence. I remember all the things me and my peers said casually, never even thinking about what the effect of our words might be:

"He's so gay and he's trying to get everyone else to be gay too!"

or

"Don't be so gay!"

or

"I think she's a lesbian, you know? I'd stay away from her in the locker room.
She's probably trying to get other girls to go lesbian too!"

Yikes. I'm glad to put those days behind me. I'm glad my friends who eventually came out don't hold my words against me today.

But we're not teenagers anymore, we're parents. So let's talk about parenting. Let's talk about our role in this whole thing. How do you raise a kid not to be a bully? How do make sure your kid isn't bullied? These are the immediate questions that come to our mind, right? How do I make sure my kid is ok?

I think these questions are the first ones we want to address. But once I've established that my kid isn't a bully or being bullied, I don't think I'm done parenting on this issue. I think I have to go one step further. I think I have to teach my children how to stop the bullying, how to stand up for their friends, how to make this whole ugly chapter end. Here's a start of what I did with my oldest daughter.

When she was in middle school, the insults started. She'd come home and report on what was going at school. She'd tell stories that included things like this:

"I mean, all the kids we're calling him gay, of course he got mad!"

or

"So then, things got really ugly. All the girls were in the bathroom and so-and-so
accused her of being a lesbian. She was really mad."

or

"She's a tranny, everyone knows it! It's just the truth,
so what difference does it make if we say it?"

Whew.

My instinctual reaction as a parent in this situation was to question whether it's legitimate for the kids to call someone gay or a lesbian or a transgendered person. I mean, there's no need to insult someone just because you want to be mean. But pretty quickly I realized there was something much more important to teach my daughter. Why is it an insult to say someone is a gay or a lesbian or a transgendered person? If it's true, should the person still be insulted or embarrassed or scared? I realized the important thing I needed to teach my daughter is that gay or lesbian or transgender or bi is nothing to be ashamed of. The very nature of these words as insults should be something my child finds odd. These words just describe the differences between people.

Think of it this way. I would faint if I heard of all the kids in the bathroom accusing a girl of being half-black. Or if they cornered a boy and threatened to ruin his reputation by revealing that his mother was Jewish or Hispanic. My immediate reaction would be to teach my child that discrimination against someone based on their ethnic heritage is dead wrong. We have to get to the point where discrimination based on sexual orientation and identity shocks us in the same way. I'm not saying racial discrimination doesn't exist or doesn't matter, I'm just saying that we are quicker to identify it as wrong. The N-word is still more offensive than "fag," as evidenced by the fact that I can include the word fag in this post, but not the N-word.

Yes, teach your children to trust you and to have a positive self esteem; this will help them not become the victim of bullying.

Yes, teach your children compassion and a healthy sense of humility; this will help them understand that being a bully is wrong.

Beyond this, teach them to stand up to bullies and to support others when they are being discriminated against. If we are able to have our children learn this while they are young, maybe they will grow up in a world where bullying is archaic and old-fashioned.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Where do you like it?


Are you in the know? I'm guessing since most parents of little'uns and school-age kids are Gen X-ers that many readers of the blog are on facebook. Which means that you're privy to the latest trends in savvy cyber-movements. Like how last year during breast cancer awareness month (October), we gals all told the world what color the bra was that we were wearing. It was clever, with each woman just putting a single word on her facebook status, like "black" or "pink," and then not letting out the secret of what it was. After a few days, everyone (including the men) picked up on it and the initiative got enough attention to merit national reporting. If you haven't noticed it yet, this year we're telling everyone where we like to put our purse by using a sentence in the form of "I like it [locative prepositional phrase]," for instance, "I like it on the staircase," or "I like it on the floor, in the cushy carpeting in front of my fireplace." Provocative, no? All this titillating cleverness used in order to bring awareness to breast cancer.

I didn't participate in the "color of your bra" campaign and I won't post anything like "I like it somewhere" this month. I'm not willing to risk my image in that way. And I'm not sure it does any good.

There's something about the whole thing that I can't put my finger on...

Last week my oldest daughter's best friend asked via her facebook status "what's with all these 'I like it in the...' statuses?" Two comments later she got her answer, to which she replied, "I'm already informed enough about breast cancer." BINGO. That's what gets to me about the whole thing. I feel like I've been flooded with good feelings and smiles about being "aware" of breast cancer. Yet I do nothing to help find a cure. I do nothing to make a difference at all.

My ex-husband's mother had breast cancer 20 years ago. She survived. Now she's got stage 4 lung cancer. It's not so tragic for me at this point in my life, but it's the way I first became "aware" of breast cancer. She's my oldest daughter's grandmother, so it still indirectly affects me long after my divorce from her son.

One of my sisters-in-law just got a mammogram with a suspicious lump. She's 44. She's going to have a piece of it biopsied shortly. Now I'm even more aware.

On the general cancer front, a friend just got news last week that her husband's colon cancer has metastasized and now it's in his lung. More surgery, more chemo, more heartache. He's 40. And last Thursday night, a cousin who I've known my whole life lost his battle with cancer. He was 70. A co-worker's partner has had most of his right calf removed and he's still not out of the woods.

If you're like me, none of this is so remarkable. Cancer is everywhere around us. Some people win the battle, some people don't. Still, it keeps coming and we still don't have a great way of fighting it. The treatment is still, kill a lot of cells and hopefully the cancerous ones won't survive. And hopefully no new ones will learn how to grow, go forth and multiply.

I think I've become apathetic towards cancer "awareness." The pink ribbons make me feel good and cozy, even though I'm not doing anything. I don't even know who Susan "race for the cure" what's-her-face is. Since no one REALLY close to me has suffered from cancer yet, I carry around a sense of naive immunity, like it will never affect me directly since it hasn't yet. It's a rather irrational line of thinking, yet it keeps me from having to face an ugly truth: Cancer is with us and the situation is bad.

So this October, I'm trying to find something out about the whole cause, the campaign to raise money to find a cure for breast cancer. Feeling good inside when I see pink spatulas on sale at Meijer is not going to cut it, I don't think. For any readers out there who are passionate about this thing, please give me more info, something I can sink my teeth into. Because really, I fear I'm am the middle-aged version of my daughter's best friend: trying to smile and get past the month without facing the ugly truth, trying to convince people that "I'm already informed enough about breast cancer."

Friday, October 8, 2010

Friday Wine Goodness is back! Meredith Brooks style.


I have a tendency to purchase wine based on fun labels and names. I must not be alone, because wine marketers have figured that out over the past several years. If you go browse the brands in the $8-12 range at World Market, you can find a good hour worth of entertainment.

Maybe that's just me.

Anyway, I'm pretty adventurous as far as reds go. I rarely come across a red I don't like, and when I do, it is because it's too peppery or spicy and overwhelming, which is why I've learned to stay away from Spanish reds. So I really like the trend of Australian wines that are not only easy on the pocketbook, usually quite tasty, and display that Aussie sense of whimsy and humor that says, "Hey! We're not saving women and children here, folks, we're making booze." Unlike the Europeans, of course.

Plus, screwtops. Hello.

The Bitch Grenache is really very nice considering how cheap it is. Consider the Robert Parker recommendation:

"90 points from Robert Parker's Wine Advocate: "Bitch Grenache is sourced from 40- to 60-year-old vines from the Ebenezer sub-region of the Barossa. With the price of Cotes du Rhone soaring due to the weak dollar, I am hard pressed to think of a better value in full-flavored Grenache. The 2006 Bitch Grenache received no oak treatment. Medium ruby-colored, it presents an alluring bouquet of earth, smoke, rhubarb, cherry, and strawberry. Supple, sweet, and tasty, this wine totally over-delivers for its humble price and is an exceptional value."

That's a lot of wine-speak for me, frankly, just to say it's yummy.

And let's just mention how much fun it is to show up to the Friday afternoon Mommies on the Culdesac Round-up with a bottle of this stuff. The perfect antidote to a long week.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Mean people suck.

There's been a lot in the news lately about a rash of child suicides over bullying, mostly regarding being gay. I don't want to discount the horror of that kind of hateful harassment, but there's not always a discernable reason for why a child gets bullied. All educators, therapists, parents and survivors can agree on is that the kids being bullied are seen as different somehow, and that the kids doing the bullying also have some insecurities they are trying to hide.

For bullying to have finally become portrayed as wrong, and sometimes even criminal is a step I never thought would happen in my lifetime. The bullies that chose me when I was a child were ignored by teachers and administrators, the problem was always with me, and how I must be taunting them by standing out, by getting their attention. A bully then was just an aggressive kid, and if I could only learn to shrink back into the shadows and not be so weird and glaringly annoying, one teacher actually told me, maybe they wouldn't notice me anymore. Maybe if I just ignored them, instead of getting angry and fighting back, they would find me less entertaining and would move on to someone else.

Not so much.

Because it wasn't about stopping the bullying, according to those teachers and administrators. Bullies will be bullies, just like boys will be boys and play in the mud, according to the system then, there just wasn't much you could do about mean kids. It was not about stopping the hate, or redirecting the behavior of the kids being aggressively mean. It was every kid for herself, just get away from their laserbeam, and someone else can become their victim.

I am hopeful that my children will not know the feeling of inescapable doom* that comes with seeing a particular kid walking toward them in the hall, when no one else is around to bear witness. So far, they've been luckier than I in that way. I am pleased to see their elementary school establish anti-bullying guidelines, internal communication/marketing campaigns, and special small group discussions with the counselor which are positioned as an honor to be invited to participate. I am not so pleased that the kids that I know to be bullies are not necessarily participating in these programs. And I know that the programs are not enough. It is not enough until the parents of the mean kids are called out (if they exist), that attention is focused on the insecurities of those children, and solving their problems. It is not enough for educators and counselors to focus action steps of avoidance and reporting toward victims, rather than bullies themselves.

But it is a start. A step in the right direction. I believe the most important thing I can do as a parent to avoid my children becoming a target is listen to them, without judgment. To know who the problem kids are on the bus, in the classrooms, and in the hallways, and to help them devise realistic solutions to dealing with these kids. I can be present up at the school, volunteering, building rapport with teachers and administrators. It is not every child for themselves anymore.

Department of Education Anti-bullying programs

* My elementary school bully grew up to become a school psychologist. Now that's irony, folks.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Sometimes the only antidote to a long day is a snuggle.


Also, how much do I love to new iPhone4 and it's take pictures from the front option so you an see what you're shooting? SO MUCH.
(I'm not so good at the wordless part, clearly.)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Cloth Diapers Review: Guest Post!

Guest post! From someone who still has a baby! *sob* Ahem. Meet my super-girl friend Karen.

******
I am a cloth diapering mom. No, I’m not a crunchy environmentalist and my child does not have sensitive skin… I have a full time job, a house, a husband, a child, and a dog to care for... And I am willing to do whatever I can to save money. I did some research before my kiddo was born and found a comprehensive diaper calculator at www.punkinbutt.com. It showed disposables vs. cloth as $2300 vs. $800 over the course of 2 ½ years. And since with each additional child, the savings grow exponentially, I was pretty much sold.

Cloth diapers are not what they used to be. It's not like the old days with folding flats in thirds, diaper pins, and plastic pants. Those things are still around but there is no way I would’ve cloth diapered if that’s all there was. The ones I use are much more like the disposables. For the majority of my stash, the diaper and the cover are all in one piece and they fasten with Velcro or snaps. Some require covers but I can chose ones that pull on like pants or ones that go on like the diaper. I have every color of the rainbow. Some are size specific and some will grow with my child. The possibilities are endless….

I was new to the whole thing so I did a lot of experimenting at first. I needed to see what would work for us and what wouldn’t. I found that Fuzzi Bunz One-Size work for us the majority of the time. At night, however, they leak (just not enough absorbency for that length of time), so we’ve been using disposables while we feel out what will work.

Happybottomus, a local cloth diaper and natural baby store in the Kansas City area, has been the source of the majority of my knowledge, as well as my diapers and accessories. They are FABULOUS and have the best customer service of any store I’ve ever patronized. Any questions or problems I have, they are right there to help me out.

When we began our search for an overnight diaper, the owner at Happybottomus recommended we try Good Mama’s diapers with a Thirsty’s Duo Wrap as a cover. These worked great except the elastic on the covers were causing little irritations on my little one’s legs if she wore them for more than a few hours at a time. When I visited the store the next time, I explained my problem. After some brainstorming the owner not only suggested two alternative covers - a Sugar Peas Windpro Fleece and a Woollybottoms Hybrid Soaker.

The Thirsty’s Duo Wrap is easy to use and works well. We have NO night time leaks, it’s easy to wash, and dries very quickly when laid flat to dry. The only problem we run into is the irritations on my kiddo’s hammy thighs. We tried adjusting the fit but it would’ve leaked if we had it any looser. We still use it, just for shorter periods of time.

The Sugar Peas Windpro Fleece works just as well as and is the simplest to care for: It’s just washed and dried it with the rest of the diapers. We have no night time leaks but a little moisture has been known to seep out during our first nursing session of the morning… but with my little wiggle worm and a 9-10 hour old diaper, I am not displeased.

The Woollybottoms Hybrid Soaker works well, too. It pulls on & off like a pair of fluffy shorts and I was pleasantly surprised by the comfort and leak protection. It was also surprisingly easy to care for. I just soak it in a special water solution every 10-14 days or so (unless it is visibly soiled) and then lay it flat to dry. Once it’s dry, I massage lanolin onto the inside surface. Although it sounds like a lot of work, it’s really not…. It is by far my favorite of the three.

Overall, I am pleased with my decision to cloth diaper. The amount of work that goes into it is minimal and all the different styles, colors, and designs make it so much fun. And since I still use disposables from time to time, I am extremely aware of the money I am saving by doing so.


*Happybottomus provided several diaper products for us to sample and review, worth about $50. We thank them for their generosity and guidance. If you live in the Kansas City area, visit their new location in Overland Park opening next week, by the Whole Foods store at 91st & Metcalf.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Modern Family.

A few weeks ago I was shopping at my local Target store. I was in a hurry, running in to grab a birthday present for a party my son was going to, on the way to the party (natch.) There was a young family shopping in the toy section, a black mom, a school age boy, a toddler girl, and a white dad. The dad especially stood out, not just because he was white and the rest of his family was not, but because he was covered in tattoos and had some interesting piercings, whereas the mom didn’t seem quite so alternative. (Given my penchant for people watching, I’d say she has an office job, whereas he might be in the music industry, or a bouncer.) Both kids were dressed normally, with light brown skin. The girl had a pretty little afro the color of brown sugar, but the boy’s hair was darker.

At any rate, they had been shopping for back to school stuff, I could tell as I quickly ran past their cart, and for some reason had migrated over to the toys (danger, danger, Will Robinson!) This is when the toddler girl started to lose her mind, over a doll she wanted. She began to wail, sharply, “MY DOLLY I WANT THAT DOLLY GIMME THAT DOLLY I WAAAAAANT IIITTTTTTT!”
The mom sighed and gave the dad That Look. And so the dad picked her up out of the cart, and did what most of us would do. He walked out of the store with a screaming, thrashing child, going back out to the car.

I went through the checkout not thinking anything else about it. But as I hit the parking lot, I realized there was some kind of disturbance, and it was this dad. A woman had stopped him, along with a Target employee retrieving stray shopping carts, and was trying to intervene as he was trying to strap his screaming, thrashing daughter into her carseat. He finally got the girl buckled in and turned around to the woman, apologizing, pulling his i.d. out of his wallet and trying to explain. “I know what it looks like,” he said as the girl continued screaming “NOOOOO” at the top of her lungs, “but I promise this is my child!”

The woman was so upset she was crying. She had pulled her phone out of her purse and was getting ready to dial, presumably 911. I said, “No! I saw them in the store. She threw a tantrum and melted down. I saw him with his wife, who is still inside shopping. They are fine. It’s fine.”

The woman looked at me, unsure, but put her phone back in her purse. He approached her to show her his i.d., I don’t know why, it was all he could think of to do, I suppose. The woman turned away from him toward me, thanked me and started walking into the store, she didn’t speak to him again or acknowledge his driver’s license. The teenager collecting carts went back to his texting.

Exasperated, the dad turned and looked at me. He was near tears. I smiled at him and continued to my car.

I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

So many times I have left a cart full of groceries in the middle of the frozen food section of the grocery store and taken my screaming, thrashing child out to the car, giving up on shopping. So many times I have forcefully strapped a bucking bronco of a toddler into a car seat, red faced and screaming, and then quickly driven away. Has anyone ever thought I was taking a child out of a store that wasn’t mine?

Probably not. My kids look just like me, blond and blue eyed. Well actually, they look like their father, but still, close enough. I’m sure if one was to study this little family long enough, say in a picture, you would be able to make out features of these children that resembled the dad, despite the ethnic differences.

Here is where I’ve arrived after pondering this for a few weeks. I probably would have done the same thing that woman did, given the information she had at the time. I am not a fan of stereotyping based on race. However, I think it’s better to offend someone and be safe than sorry. Sometimes we have to make quick decision in a parking lot to keep children safe, it is indeed our responsibility as human beings to do so. And that may involve stereotyping.

I don’t know what it was that concerned the woman most, that the child was so upset, that they did not appear to be related, or that he was covered in tattoos and piercings. But I think it may have been that the family vehicle he was struggling to strap the child into was an older model white cargo van.

Totally not making that up. A white cargo van. I mean I AM SORRY, but be more self-aware than that, people.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Cheesy Cauliflower Soup

I will put the disclaimer at the top here: 2 of my 3 kids refused to eat this. Granted, my son was sick so he may have eaten it if he was feeling better. Our toddler, who eats pretty much anything, LOVED it. My husband and I commented how tasty it was to one another.

My Aunt found a version of this recipe in our local paper and made it. She received rave reviews so I asked for the recipe. My cousin sent it to me in Cliff Notes version and I made it my own wrong way.

Here's what I did:

Ingredients:
1/2 cup minced onion
1/4 cup butter
4 cups milk
1 tsp salt
1 med head of cauliflower
1/2 lb. Velveeta
dash pepper
2 cubes chicken bullion
1 T minced garlic
1/4 cup finely chopped carrots

I grabbed my trusty Pampered Chef Microwave steamer/cooker thingie ...let me see if I can find a link...Okay, it's like this but bigger and doesn't have the long handle. My mom and dad gave it to me for a wedding shower present. Love it!

Back to the recipe...I chopped up my head of cauliflower, added the butter, minced garlic, minced onion, carrots and about 1/4 cup of the milk and threw it in the Micro steamer and cooked (nuked) until the veggies were soft. Once they were soft, I used a fork to mash up the cauliflower and mixed it all together well.

While the veggies were cooking I added the remaining ingredients to a large pot on my stove and stirred continuously (well, sort of) until the cheese was melted and the bullion dissolved.

Finally I combined the veggie mixture from the micro cooker in the pot on the stove and mixed well.

You will be surprised how tasty this soup is...though if you don't like cheese you'll probably want to skip it...but who doesn't like cheese?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Change of Plans

This is the time of week that I was going to write about a fun craft/game idea I had and implemented with my older daughter's Brownie troop but instead of having time to write that I spent the week tending to my feverish son, keeping him home from school Monday-Thursday with little hope that he will be able to attend on Friday, which incidentally is the end of the quarter. My boy needs more help with his schoolwork than my daughter does, so when he misses school it is more detrimental than it might be otherwise.

But I can't change it. He needs to stay home if he is sick. I don't appreciate when other parents send their sick kids to school so that mine might catch their illness, so I won't do it to others. It is frustrating though. I don't like seeing my kids sick and his sickness is one of those borderline sicknesses where his fever is just hovering at the low-grade end and disappears while the ibuprofen is working, returning like clockwork every 5-6 hours. So he feels great and fine for 4-5 hours at a time then crashes hard again.

His little sister doesn't understand that her usually boisterous all the time big brother doesn't feel well and that's why he is home. She wrestles him and picks at him until he's shouting at her to stop. Then she cries, confused at why he doesn't want to play. Then, an hour later he wants to play because the medicine is working. When it's nap time I know that my son is not feeling well because he consents to, and actually takes a nap. His little sister is again confused. This is a novelty that her brother is home and napping with her. She fights sleep in favor of trying to illicit her brother's giggles at her antics. Nap time has taken longer this week.

Despite the disruption to the routine we have managed to get some good cuddle time, I made some homemade soup, my two little kids have played together more than they have before (which was still quite often). My older daughter has been jealous that her brother gets to stay home and she has to go to school but I remind her that the break is coming. I also told her she could stay home if she took a nap. That clinched her desire to go to school!

I'm taking the Boy to the doctor today to see if perhaps he has an ear infection or something of the sort that would garner him some antibiotics and a prompter recovery. I almost hope that is the case just so he doesn't keep relapsing.

Besides, I bribed my kids to be good in school this quarter with a trip to the indoor water park in Owatonna, MN, and I want him to be healthy so he can enjoy his reward next week!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Helping Jar

Lately my kids (yes, all of them...even the 2-year-old) have spent a lot of time fighting just for the sport of it. I know a certain amount of disagreement and disharmony is normal with siblings but this has been reaching the point of being nearly unbearable. I hear "he/she hit me" "he/she looked at me" "he/she touched me/kicked me/stepped on me/pinched me/whateverelseakidcandotoanotherkid." I told my big kids a few times to just get it over with and hit one another until they bled. They refused of course and probably not the best thing to say to your kids but sometimes I think they need to be shocked into realizing what they are doing. "Go ahead and stand up and hit one another! Don't stop until you're both bleeding! Come on! Do it! You don't like one another anyway!"

"We like each other Mommy!" Doesn't seem like it to me.

I read something last week that sparked an idea. One woman made a "Brothers" bank. For us, it will be a "Family" bank or something like that. The idea is that whenever we catch the kids doing something nice for one another we put some money in a jar. The jar is banked for a long time and when the kids turn in their money they decide on something TOGETHER that we will do with the money.

My kids decided we needed a HUGE jar. It's a gigantic plastic jar that held 2 1/2 lbs of pretzels. I told the kids it would take a very long time to fill that jar if they didn't work extra hard to be helpful and nice to one another but they weren't swayed. I also told them that the jar, when filled, could potentially hold $1000 and could get us a nice vacation, membership at the Y, or any number of fun and exciting rewards.

My son immediately was willing to help his big sister. Whenever she asked him for help, he did it. My oldest, Miss M, will be more of a challenge. I hope she will come around. It will be fun to pay a few coins (I didn't set any amount...just coins...any coins) for my kids to be helpful to one another.

Fingers crossed that it works.