Friday, May 27, 2011

Chocolate totally helps.

I know, I KNOW. This is not a Friday Wine Goodness post. Partly because I wrote one last week on my own blog, and also partly because this has been one weird week, people. Why not continue the trend?

Instead of wine, today I'm going to talk about chocolate. Specifically, how to make the easiest chocolate cake in the history of civilization.

No. I don't think that is an overstatement.

I like to bake, really I do, when I have time. I'm not terribly good at it, I'm better at cooking, because with cooking you can kind of just throw a bunch of random stuff together that sounds good, and it usually works out okay. But with baking, you have to measure, and measure means math, and "It was my understanding there would be no math" is pretty much my Life Statement.

But this, this is easy. Lucinda Scala Quinn, of my favorite recipe book Mad Hungry: Feeding Men and Boys, includes this cake in her repertoire: Busy Day Chocolate Cake. If a renowned chef, caterer, and Friend of Martha makes an easy cake, well, so should you.

The entire recipe is posted here at MarthaStewart.com, but I will put it here for all of you, too. (Warning: clicking around over at Martha's place can make you feel both exhilaratingly motivated and creative or a completely incapable failure. Is kind of a bipolar place.)

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, (spooned and leveled)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 cup cold water

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In an 8-inch square baking pan, whisk together all-purpose flour, sugar, unsweetened cocoa powder, baking soda, and coarse salt.

  2. Make a well in center of flour mixture and add vegetable oil, pure vanilla extract, white vinegar, and cold water. Whisk until well combined. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack.


You guys, I don't even put frosting on this cake, it's so moist and yummy. Just plate it up with a scoop of ice cream and you're good to go.

And, while vegan cooking is not really part of my priority list, because it has no dairy this cake doesn't have to be refrigerated. It can just sit covered in plastic wrap on your counter for days, if it lasts that long.

So there you go. Yesterday I was feeling blue, disorganized, and creeped out by the weather. Today, I'm feeling better. Chocolate cake helps. So does wine, but I'll leave that for another day.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

I'm getting tired of the sirens.

So, I had this post all ready to go about how I don't have time to run all my errands and stay organized and be on top of everything in my life, really a very whiny post. And then today I spent over an hour in the basement of our school trying to calm the kids as a tornado whooshed nearby. Sometimes a little perspective is a good thing.

So, I'm going to direct you here, instead, to my regular blog, where I posted about today's tornado warning events. And the little reminders that a day like today gives you~each day is a blessing. Live it to the fullest.

Also hug somebody who needs it. Anybody.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tenderfoot.

My oldest is now a Boy Scout. In February, he crossed over from Cub Scouts into Boy Scouts, and he loves it. He's a very structured, reward-driven kid, and the click, click, click, ding! of Boy Scouts really appeals to him. Once you do these five things, you get this award. Do these ten things, you get this badge. It's goal oriented, organized, and he can't get enough.

On Monday night, he earned his Tenderfoot badge, at his first Boy Scout Court of Honor. It was a high occasion for our family, as my dad was very involved in scouting and my brother is an Eagle Scout. But my eight year old has a baseball game at the same time, so while I was at scouts, my husband was at baseball. I think my dad was surprised that they didn't skip the baseball game so that brother and daddy could see Drew get his Tenderfoot badge. It's a one time thing, baseball games are 12 to a season. But I can't tell them, or show them for that matter, that one boy's thing is more important than the other. Plus, my husband is an assistant coach for the team, he's not just cheering from the stands. He made a commitment to help for the season.

It wasn't this hard for my parents, I think, this balance of supporting their activities, because they had one boy and one girl, with very different interests and schedules. But I think with two kids the same sex and only two years apart, it's a lot harder to make sure they both know that we support them. I feel I have to work hard to make sure the balance is there. Maybe that's just me.

Who knows what will happen with my youngest and scouts. He's not as goal oriented or reward-driven. The phrase "we don't need no stinkin' badges" would apply to him.

But this one. This one is happy as a clam.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Parenting for Dummies: How not to drop your child at baseball practice.

Last week while we were all standing around chatting at soccer practice, one of the moms noticed a boy sitting alone under the shade of a tree, crying. None of us knew him, or had even seen him before. She watched for a minute to see what he would do, or if anyone else moved toward him as if to claim him, but when nobody did, she approached him quietly. "Are you okay, buddy? Do you need some help?"
Turns out his mom had dropped him off for baseball practice, but at the wrong school. There wasn't even any baseball practice going on at this location, only soccer. He didn't have a phone, he didn't see his coach or any of his friends, and he was lost. A third grader, alone and with no idea what to do next.
So we called the number he knew for his mom, but got no answer. I called the baseball recreation league (it was still open,) thinking they would be able to pull up his record and maybe have some additional emergency contact numbers, a coach's name and number, or hell, just know at which school he was supposed to be, and one of us could have driven him there (where then the coach could have reached mom.) They indeed did pull up his record, but the only number listed was the same one he had given us, and the system couldn't pull up the team without knowing the name of the coach. (Don't get me started on how antiquated their database is if it's unable to be searched by multiple strings.)
At that point, the recreation league said they appreciated our help, but they had to call the police. So they did, and within just a few minutes two very nice officers were chatting with the boy and showing him around their cool car and cool gadgets and finally mom pulled up, apologetic and very upset, having received voice messages from my friend, the rec league, and finally, the police. All was good.

There's a couple of issues here. I could almost see, as hectic as all of our lives can be, how one could drop the wrong kid in the wrong place or at the wrong time - often practice locations change at the last minute around here due to muddy fields or rainout games or whatever. I have dropped my kids off at practice before, and then kept on going, with errands to run or another kid to deliver somewhere else. But I have never done so without laying an eyeball on the coach or at least another parent, an ADULT, that I know. This particular school is set up so that you cannot even see the baseball diamond from the parking lot, this woman had no idea whether there was someone there her kid knew, she just let him get out of the car on the fly, and then kept on going to the next thing, not planning to return until an hour and a half later, assuming everything would be fine. Secondly, she left a nine year old boy alone at the wrong school who didn't know his coaches name, couldn't name any other teammates, and didn't know his father's cellphone number, only moms.
If you're gonna be a Free-Range Parent, and I do consider myself one, you have to have a backup plan. You have to actually talk through some emergency management scenarios. It doesn't have to be a scary conversation, you're not trying to instill fear, you're trying to instill confidence. My kids know not only my cell phone number, but also their dad's. They know their grandparent's first and last names (who live locally and often help with dropping off and picking up.) They know the first and last names of their coaches, and several other kids and parents on each team they play on. My nine year old carries a phone in which is programmed every adult I could think of who would help him in a pinch. I have the cell phone numbers of all of their coaches, and about half the other moms on each team they play on. You have to be able to communicate.
But most of all, you have to have the right expectations. You have to know what your kid can handle, should some crazy emergency come up. What if the weather suddenly changed during a practice? (This is Kansas, after all.) What if you have to use the bathroom? What if another child gets hurt, or God forbid, what if the adult coach gets hurt and no other adults are around?
My point is I can't see my kids getting stuck in any of those crazy situations, but we talk about them just the same.
I could say I didn't judge that mom for her ditzy error, but I totally did. All of us standing there did. We could see how something like that could happen, but yet, we couldn't really imagine it happening, because you just can't be that lax, and not have a backup plan.
I say all this, as someone who lost a child at DisneyLand once, for what is still the five most terrifying moments of my entire life. My oldest was six at the time, got distracted by a dude on a unicycle, while the rest of us kept walking thinking he was right behind me. And then he looked up and we were gone.
Five panicked, backtracking minutes later my cellphone rang, a Colorado area code number I didn't recognize. It was a woman, a mom, who noticed my son looking around for someone to help him, and her Mommy Radar went off. He gave her my number, and I was still on the phone with her as my husband found them. We had told him, if something happens while we are here, you find someone with a uniform that says DisneyLand, or a namebadge, or a security officer. This woman spotted him and acted, just as my friend did up at soccer practice, as mommies do.

It takes a village, people, that's not a lie. But there's a big difference between Free Range Parenting and negligence, and sometimes that difference is being a space cadet with no plan. Don't just think your kid will know what to do in a crisis - know, because you've talked about it.

And for Pete's sake, answer your damn phone! Even if you don't know the number, when your kids are out of your sight, just answer it.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Are You Overrun With Shoes?

Ever since I was in college and worked at a shoe store I've had a love affair with shoes. Once I had kids, I transferred that love to buying them shoes instead of buying shoes for myself. They have smaller feet and their shoes look much cuter than mine.

Consequently, our entry was always strewn with shoes. It was always messy and sometimes impossible to find mates for each pair without a major excavation dig.

A couple of months ago, while shopping at IKEA, I noticed some black plastic shoe caddies that were designed to hang on the wall. They were UGLY. But I saw potential. They came in a pack of three, and I happen to have three kids. I bought them, brought them home and went shopping for paint.

I found some dark chocolate brown spray paint for plastic and asked my husband to paint the caddies. With the new brown exterior, they look much better and each of my kids has his or her own caddy to put all their shoes into when they come in from outside.

Our entry is much less cluttered!

Monday, May 16, 2011

My Apples

My kids are well-aware of my love for photography. They've been the subjects of my compositions more often than they would like to be, but they put up with me anyway.

My (almost-7-year-old) son started using one of our old cameras several months ago, taking various shots of whatever seemed photo-worthy to him. He's spent hours carrying the camera around, mimicking some of the things he's heard me say or do.

A few weeks ago, I bought a background set, and my husband had bought me a light kit at Christmas time, so I had my little portrait studio set up so I could practice. The next night, my son had his little sister posing for him as he conducted his own photo shoot. He was telling her how to sit or stand and fussing with the lights while muttering to himself. (I have to say that I don't mutter to myself when I'm shooting, so at least we have a little different styles!)

Just last week I was setting up for a photo session when I needed to use the restroom. I left my camera on the floor and left little D (almost 3) in the room with it. When I returned, my camera had 48 new photos on the card.


This is my favorite of her self-portraits.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Motherhood

Lo those many years ago, when I was working in Seattle and thinking about having a baby, my dear friend Cindy gave me this article.  Every now and then, I pull it out, uncrinkle it, and read it again.  I got it out today so I could share it with my son's teacher, who will be having her first child any day now.  In honor of the lovely Mother's Day we just celebrated, I thought I'd share it with the rest of you, too.

Motherhood:  It Will Change Your Life
by Dale Hanson Bourke


Time is running out for my friend. We are sitting at lunch when she casually 
mentions that she and her husband are thinking
 of “starting a family.” What she means is that her 
biological clock has begun its countdown and she 
is considering the prospect of motherhood.

“We’re taking a survey,” she says, half jokingly. 
“Do you think I should have a baby?”

“It will change your life,” I say carefully.

“I know,” she says. “No more sleeping in on Saturdays, 
no more spontaneous vacations…”

But that is not what I mean at all.

I look at my friend, trying to decide what to tell her.  
I want her to know what she will never learn in childbirth
 classes. I want to tell her that the physical wounds of
 childbirth heal, but that becoming a mother will leave
 her with an emotional wound so raw that she will be forever
 vulnerable.

I consider warning her that she will never read
 a newspaper again without asking “What if that had been my
 child?” That every plane crash, every fire will haunt her.  
That when she sees pictures of starving children, she will
 look at the mothers and wonder if anything could be worse
 than watching your child die.

I look at her carefully manicured nails and stylish suit 
and think she should know that no matter how sophisticated 
she is, becoming a mother will immediately reduce her to the 
primitive level. That a slightly urgent call of “Mom!” will
 cause her to drop her best crystal without a moment’s
 hesitation.

I feel I should warn her that no matter how many years she
 has invested in her career, she will be professionally
 derailed by motherhood. She might successfully arrange for 
child care, but one day she will be waiting to go into an
 important business meeting, and she will think about her
 baby’s sweet smell.  She will have to use every ounce of
 discipline to keep from running home, just to make sure he 
is all right.

I want my friend to know that everyday routine decisions
 will no longer be routine. That a visit to McDonald’s and a 
five year old boy’s desire to go to the men’s room rather
 than the women’s room will become a major dilemma. That
 right there, in the midst of clattering trays and screaming 
children, issues of independence and gender identity will be
 weighed against the prospect that danger may be lurking in 
the rest room.
I want her to know that however decisive she may be at the
 office, she will second-guess herself constantly as a mother.  
Looking at my attractive friend, I want to assure her that
 eventually she will shed the pounds of pregnancy, but will
 never feel the same about herself. That her life, now so 
important, will be of less value to her once she has a child.
  That she would give it up in a moment to save her offspring, 
but will also begin to hope for more years, not so much to
 accomplish her own dreams, but to watch her child accomplish his.

I want her to know that a cesarean scar or stretch marks
 will become badges of honor.
My friend’s relationship with her husband will change, but 
not in the ways she thinks.  I wish she could understand how
 much more you can love a man who is always careful to powder
 the baby or who never hesitates to play with his son. I think
 she should know that she will fall in love with her husband
 again for reasons she would never have imagined.
I wish my modern friend could sense the bond she will feel
 with other women throughout history who have tried desperately
to stop war and prejudice and drunk driving.
I want to describe to my friend the exhilaration of seeing
 your son learn to hit a baseball. I want to capture for her 
the laugh of a baby who is touching the soft fur of a dog for
 the first time. I want her to taste the joy that is so real
 that it hurts.

My friend’s quizzical look makes me realize that tears have 
formed in my eyes.
“You’ll never regret it.” I finally say.

Friday, May 6, 2011

bathtub paints

Since I'm not a foodie!  I thought I'd mix it up and share a crafty friday with you. 


I saw this totally fun & easy project to do with your kiddos here.  Shaving cream bathtub paint.   Below is what you need & how to make it.

What you'll need:
foaming shaving cream
container
paint brushes

How to make it:
1. squirt some foaming shaving cream in each of the 6 compartments of your muffin tin
2. add food colouring to each one to make whatever colours you want - I did rainbow colours. Mix them up well.
3. give to your kiddo in the tub and let them have a blast!

Go here to read all about it & see photos.  I'm thinking we'll have to try this soon.  Enjoy your weekend!   

Thursday, May 5, 2011

hello, baby!

my oldest son received this book as a gift when his baby brother & sister were born almost 2 years ago.  (my oldest daughter got a sisters book) I love reading this to my kids and talking about the animals.

do you have this book?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

who are you?

i take all 4 kids (6yrs & 21month) to super target for grocery (& more) shopping with me during the week and all is well.  my older kids push the cart, help with the little kids, grab the items i need, my little kids walk next to me are helpful and if i'm not careful will put 10 of an item in my cart when i only need 1 or 2.  (they are just learning after all)

we typically finish our groceries and have time to look at toys and other stuff and assuming the cashier isn't using snail speed we leave happy and i feel like we accomplished all and i thank them all for being so good. for being who they normally are.

so why is it...when on the weekends we try to do the same but daddy is along do i forget my list & my children act up, all of a sudden no little kid wants to walk or ride in a cart, they want daddy to carry them or cry when he leaves their sight.  why does one of  my big kids want to ride in the cart then pout when i ask her to walk, or why does my other big kid ask every 2 seconds if they can look at toys, when he knows our routine.  why was i so embarrassed by these kids that i was saying i'll come back tomorrow and get the rest of our stuff, it's easier when i have them alone... i left with the feeling who are you and what have you done with my children?

sadly, i admit i found slight comfort in seeing an 8ish yr old boy tormenting his 6ish yr old sister in the produce area.

do your kids leave you wondering who they are when their routine is broken?

Monday, May 2, 2011

better

thank you all for your kind words on my struggling post. i keep reminding myself it's really juggling. juggling all the aspects of a family of 6.  juggling all the sickness that we are hoping has left us until never next year.  juggling the lack of sleep (since i stopped breast feeding last fall, i've only had a handful of nights that my once fabulous sleepers both slept thru the night) juggling the school routine when they only go 2 days a week or sometimes 3.  juggling living where i work / work where i live. juggling the addition of swim lessons and soon t-ball. juggling the thought of potty training later this summer or early fall.

i've started my new 3 day a week schedule, which is definitely a challenge to say the least.  but i so enjoy more time with my kids alone. now if only we'd actually have spring weather.  of course more days of just me brought this recent conversation with my sweet 6 yr old daughter while i was getting ready:

"mommy, when is grandma coming?"
"she's not coming today, it's mommy day!"
sad look comes over her face
"i thought you wanted more mommy days?"
"no, i wanted more grandma days"

this from the child who said she didn't like when i worked and wanted more time with me. sigh...i guess she's moved on.  kids gotta love them.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Electric reads

I love to read. I love the feeling of a book in my palm, pen in hand and the smell of printed, delicious words. When Randy asked if I would want a Kindle, I really had to think about it. Now, you know we love technology, so that wasn't the issue as much as the sensory love I have for books.

His motivation may have been the overflowing basket of books on my end table - sometimes I nibble instead of ravage - or perhaps the knowledge that this is where books are headed. I downloaded the Kindle app first and started playing with it, and I liked it. Then I downloaded it on the computer and when it synced my spot from my phone I fell in love. I could read in different places, on different devices and it would automatically move me! I can highlight, annotate, and share those notes. I can lend a book to a friend. I know I can't sit in Barnes and Noble and read any book for free, but I can try sample chapters.

I've always been a reader, voracious at times, and now I am electric...and I love it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Harsh lessons


Drew and Owen are both tech kids. They love technology, and that makes sense considering who their parents are. We also want to make sure we create healthy limits for all our intakes around here. So we have rules about screen time - which is it cannot start until after seven, even if they are up and in their beds at six - and it cannot start again until six at night and is off at seven.

Pokemon is the latest favorite right now, and they push boundaries in the name of battles. "I'm in the middle of a battle, mommy!" which means they can't save it and if they turn it off in the middle of a battle, they will lose all the progress they made. However, when the rules are clear and there are working clocks all over the house, one does not need to wait until mom tells him to turn off the device.

So we are learning some hard lessons around here about responsibilities and trust. The other came the other morning when Drew lied to me about playing his DS in bed. I asked what he was doing as he lay prostrate on his bed. "Reading." he responded, even though there were no books in sight. We talked a bit more about the day and I asked what he was reading. Grasping for any book remotely close, but careful not to move too much, Drew was caught in a lie. He lunged for a book and I slid the DS out from under his belly.

His face ashened and his eyes welled. He knew he just lost his DS. The answer to the why? "I thought you'd take it away." and I most certainly would. You broke the rule, however, because you lied the time the DS is away is much longer. Sneaking is a form of lying, dude. And the truth is, lying will catch up with the liar.

And he cried, and reached for hugs, and cried some more.
I'm glad, though, that he is learning these lessons now in the safety of our house, and not somewhere else. Though they hurt, he will be all the better for it.

Monday, April 25, 2011

ten fevers in eight months

It is the bane of our existence. It rears its ugly head and refuses to back down for three days - always. It sent us to the doctor asking for answers and leaving with blood tests that come back clear. It makes the doctor shrug and agree that, "it is strange' but not strange enough.

Owen is my 4.5 year old fever magnet. A virus brushes against him in the store? Owen invites it home. These stray viruses he collects like snow globes. He doesn't like being sick, except for the extra screen time, but he continually and perpetually brings them home. And truth be told, I will take every virus happily if it truly is him MO and just "strange."

It costs us in time, daycare, work, commitments, but these are merely inconveniences on the grand scale of life. My friends assure me that he will be healthier because of this, and I hope so and know so as I think about Drew and his school record.

But when I am in the month of April and have taken five half days and one full day, It is hard to keep in all in the balances, and I continue to wish summer here soon.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

On being thorough.

Today my youngest son and I visited a new pediatrician. Specifically, a behavior pediatrician. I like our regular doctor, he's a nice kid, (I can totally say that, he's at least ten years younger than me) but he's a generalist, and we're reaching the point where we really needed someone more specifically familiar with the issues we are facing, primarily ADHD. (The pediatrician we had for years, who was my pediatrician as a child and had seen absolutely everything, retired last year.)

So we made an appointment with this new doctor, and because of a cancellation, got in almost immediately. And this morning, my son and I spent two hours with her in her office, going over everything that's happened in the last year, what worked and what didn't and why, and came up with a plan for moving forward.

First of all, I have never in my life sat down with a doctor for two hours straight. I've seen therapists where you know you have 50 minutes, so you do feel like you at least have their attention for that period of time, but most of the time when you see a doctor, they have one hand on the doorknob the entire time. This doctor was relaxed, ready to hear our entire story start to finish, talked me both me and my son (although I let him play on my phone for most of the time, partly to keep him busy and partly so he'd not be overly focused on the negative aspects of the conversation that needed to be said.)

I was really impressed with this doctor. I felt like she listened, offered ideas, and together we arrived at a decision with which I am very comfortable. I guess my take away here is this: trust your instincts, and get another doctor when you feel you need one. Again, I like our regular pediatrician, he's very nice, very laid back, the boys like him. We will continue to see him for our regular pediatric needs - sick visits and physicals. But as a generalist, and one with only a few years of experience at that, he just doesn't have the depth of knowledge that we needed here.

Here's the funny thing: the new doctor? Who is super thorough? Her name is Dr. Therou.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Reaquaint yourself with Roald Dahl.

I have a collection of books from my childhood, in a box my mother gave me when she cleaned out her basement. Some were beloved storybooks, some were random teen angsty junior novels (Sweet Valley High, anyone?) and a few were more mature, but still beloved, classics - Anne of Green Gables, Black Beauty, Are You There God, It's Me Margaret, Flowers in the Attic...oh wait. Skip that last one.

One of my favorites is Roald Dahl. He wrote for children, but he doesn't talk down to them. You get the distinct feeling that he's like an eccentric uncle who expects you to understand more about the world, and you want to try and please him. My favorite was a collection of short stories called The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More. Very mature, but still fit right in with the early teen precocious reader that I was. I didn't need the beefy, superhuman heroes of comic books. I needed antiheroes, real people who managed to win, in their little corner of life.

So when I started pulling out classics for my kids, we found we love Fantastic Mr. Fox, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory of course, James and The Giant Peach, too. All stories of an underdog coming out on top, in less than perfect ways. And just recently, I dug out The BFG.
(Instead of linking 10 times, here's Roald Dahl's page at Amazon. Much easier! Also, most of these are easy to find at your public library.)

The BFG stands for Big Friendly Giant. Sophie, an orphan, befriends the big oaf who inadvertently kidnaps her, and together they search for ways to make his life better. It's not unlike another favorite, Where The Wild Things Are. Children confront their fears, and find the things they fear have fears of their own. Everyone wins.

It may be a few more years before I dig out The Bitch, however. Ahem.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Just another manic Monday.

People, I am only one person. I can get one kid to one soccer practice at 5:15pm, and I can get the other to his soccer practice at 5:30, only a few miles away. But then both practices are over at 6:45, and I have to feed them, change one from his soccer practice clothes into a scout uniform, and then be in three places at 7pm.
P.S. - my husband is traveling. He's not here, not there, not anywhere.

Um, yeaahhhh. No. Not gonna happen.

I need help.

I'm lucky in that my mom is just down the street, so I can rope her into my chauffeuring rodeo. She'll pick up my youngest from soccer and take him home and feed him while my oldest son and I eat drive-thru and change clothes in the car and head to his scout meeting. But it means that my cub scout committee/den leader meeting doesn't happen. Is it that big of a deal? No. Is it hard to let go and admit I can't do it all?

Yes.

Dumb, I know. But I hate letting people down. Other people have changed their schedules in order to fit in that meeting, and yet it's the one I am choosing to jettison. Yes, I can get all the information I need on email later. No, I can't enjoy the other adults in person.

But it's hard to have to let go. It's hard to let people down. But as much as I enjoy those adults at the cub scout meeting, my kids come first. Where they have to be and when comes first. That's the order in which I chose what has to go. My things have to wait.

Of course, that's why I don't have time to work out anymore, which is making my clothes not fit as comfortably. And why blogging takes place at night, from bed, in the laptop a mere minutes before I pass out for another day. And why my google reader have over 1000 unread posts.

But that's my commitment to my kids right now. Someday they won't be here for me to drive around to practice, soon they'll be able to get themselves there and won't need me. At least not as a chauffeur. I can live with that.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Super-Easy Calzones

photo credit: tvol
If you're looking for a Friday-night winner, this one gets BIG POINTS from my kids.  And it's easy, so I like it, too.  Rolling out the dough is a little time consuming, but other than that:  easy as pie.

Ingredients:

  • Frozen pizza dough (I find that 1 lb usually makes 4 calzones)
  • Contadina pizza sauce (or your fav)
  • Shredded mozzarella
  • Favorite toppings: my kids like italian sausage & pepperoni; you could use anything you like on pizza

Take the dough out of the fridge in the morning so it has several hours to thaw.  It will grow a little, so take it out of the bag!

When you're ready:  Preheat the oven to 450.

Slice the dough into 4 equal pieces.  Sprinkle counter with flour and roll each piece out into a circle.  Place the circle of dough onto a cookie sheet before you add anything else or you will have a mess on your hands.  Trust me, this is the voice of experience.

Spoon a layer of sauce onto half of the dough circle.  Leave a margin around the edge with no sauce.  Add toppings - sausage, green pepper, whatever you like.  Don't make it TOO full!  Sprinkle mozzarella over the toppings, and close the calzone into a semicircle.  Fold the edges together and use a fork to seal the dough together and create the edge.

Bake for about 15 - 20 minutes.  Voila!

Serve with salad and enjoy your Friday night!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

So Ready for Summer!

For more Wordless Wednesday, check here and at 5 Minutes for Mom.w

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

I didn't have any expectations when I opened the first page of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.  I'd heard of it, sure, but I didn't know a thing about it.

And that name.  It's just weird.  I wasn't sure what to make of it.

The book begins with a letter.

Hmmm, I thought.  I still wasn't intrigued.

But then I read the letter.  And the next one.  And the next.  And all through the book I found myself being drawn into these lives.  I saw the places, I felt the feelings.  Like many good books, it took me to a place I'd never been and made me feel as if I'd been there and would welcome a return.

The story centers around Julie Ashton, a London-based writer who leaves the city to visit Geurnsey farmers who've been writing to her.  As she gets to know these strangers who've endured Germany's occupation, she learns about them, and she learns about herself.  I admit:  the story pulled me in.

Although this isn't the kind of book I tend to gravitate towards (East of Eden, A Fine Balance), I really enjoyed it.  Thumbs up, friends.  Give it a read!

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Docking Station

If your child is a toddler, you may--and I repeat may--not yet have entered the age of the iPod.  However, I have seen many a wee one tap tap tapping away at some sort of iPod game, so I'm guessing we've got a few young owners out there.

Here's the thing:  when they're toddlers, you can hand them the iPod when it's convenient for you, and take it back when it's not.

One day, they'll be older.  Wiser.  Smarter.  And, boy, will they want their Rights!

Here's my tip of the day, in hopes that other parents may experience the same peaceful atmosphere we have after implementing this rule.  And avoid that difficult time before-the-rule.

First:  buy a docking station.  They're everywhere.  We got one at Bed Bath and Beyond but look around.  They even have wireless chargers now--just set your iPod on this baby and it charges right up!

The Rule?  Get off the bus, come on in, and dock your stuff people.  Cell phone, iPod, whatever it is you're carrying, plug it in.  Right there.  Right now.  Do not check it unless you ask.  If you ask, we will usually say 'yes.'  If your homework is done.  At least, mostly.

The Other Rule?  Leave it there all night.  No checking after 9:00.  It can wait, I promise.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

good bedtime reading

Every night we read to our kids as part of our bedtime routine.  A couple of my favorites to read with my younger ones are Good Night Gorilla & Pajama Time. 
My 20 month old twins just love it.  My little E is the most into it, he loves to find the banana with each turn of the page, and gets excited to see the all black pages with just the wife's eye balls. Just the other night my little A noticed the yawning gorilla so we now do an exaggerated yawn.  So much fun and different things to notice each time in the last 6 years since we got this book.


Pajama Time is such a fun book too.  One that was given to my older kids from their nanny (a now 2nd grade teacher.)  I sing it to a tune and we do movements and then I love the "Hop into bed.  Turn out the lights...."  After this book is over we say good night to our books as we put them away.  I turn out the lights and then place them in their cribs.

Reading is one of my favorite bonding times.   Have fun reading to your kids.

Monday, March 21, 2011

struggling

I'm struggling! There I said it. It's true. I usually don't feel this way for more than a week but this time it's been for a couple months.  I'm struggling with being the mom I want to be. I'm struggling with being the owner of a growing business! I'm struggling with being the wife I want to be, with running my household the way I'd like, with the amount of sleep I want to get, the fact that one to four of my kids has been sick since Feb. 1 or with the fact that spring isn't coming soon enough. Mostly, I'm struggling with the fact that I'm struggling.

I can't seem to remember Thursday is media for my kids and I should send along their library books to return and pick out a new one. While they've never complained, I'm now writing it in my calendar.  I also can't seem to remember it's my week to blog here, sorry for the delay. 

I've been feeling this way for a while, but it seems to have come to fruitation and now I must resolve it.  I need to find the work life balance that I'm seeking.  My husband even does the majority of the cleaning, dishes, baths and some laundry. 

I'm torn between being a mom and building a business.  I started my business so I could spend more time with my kids!  Will there ever be true balance?

I admit I am struggling and it is so hard for me to say.  Does anyone else feel this way? 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Bear Snores On

This is my youngest son's favorite book. There is a great cadence to the text and Owen picks up quickly and starts to "read" along. Of course, his favorite is when the "Bear Snores On!"

It is a fast, sweet read that shows the value of community.


New York state of mind


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

rounding up the details

I don't travel much for work, but each year I help chaperone a journalism trip to New York. Of course it takes me out of four days of school, which means it isn't easy to arrange childcare because Randy works nights. Last year his parents kindly came up to help. This year my mom came to watch the boys.

It is always so hard to get excited about the trip because of all the details. People keep asking if I am excited, and I am, deep down, but until we have all the kids safely strapped into their seats, I don't think about it. With sub plans, copies, rosters, seating charts, and then daily details to fill in for the household stuff, I just don't have the time, or take the time to think about it. This year we have conferences the night before we leave, so considering if the trip will be fun or not isn't at the top of my list.

I look forward to learning at the conference and looking for the perfect gift for each of the boys back home. I love the energy of New York, and am excited to check out another new area. So yes, I am excited, but man, getting all the details lined up before I go takes up all the brainwave power I have.

Monday, March 14, 2011

firsts

The biggies are the ones we prepare for - the first time they smile, giggle, roll over, rock on all fours, crawl, walk, cut a tooth, lose a tooth, go to school, sleep over, or go on a trip. What I find, though, is the small firsts are the ones that make me catch my breath. The first time he gets his own snack. The first time he makes his own bed. The first time he walks into the school by himself.

These small firsts make me smile with pride at my boy growing up, but as soon as I smile I grab at my chest - he is growing up. He pours his own milk, makes his own toast, and cleans his room (sometimes) without asking or assistance. He walks Duncan down to the corner and back.

I love my little dude, but he will not be little for much longer - in fact, he would grimace if he ever thought I called him little, but then he will smile, give me a hug, and snuggle into my side to listen to a story - so I still have that for another blink of an eye.

It makes me want to pay attention more to the small, little details of Drew and Owen's lives. I want to notice the first time they solve a riddle, the first time they hit the ball, kick the goal, or hold another's hand. I want to pay attention to their heart firsts, and allow the big firsts to roll on up on the heels of all the little waves of firsts that precede.

Friday, March 11, 2011

That Infamous No-Knead Bread Recipe everyone's been going on and on about

You know the recipe I'm talking about. You must know about it. According to urban legend out there on the web, it's the most emailed recipe out there. I can believe it because I've had it sent to me no less than five times. And at least two people have actively campaigned to try to get me to try and make it. What's that? You say you don't know which recipe I'm talking about? Why, no-knead bread. Bread that's supposed to taste exactly like the fabulous kind you tried in Europe with cheese and wine. Bread that you can never find in the US unless you go to a super duper bakery and pay big bucks for it (I can only find it for $10+ at my local bakery).

I think it was the New York Times that published the recipe that first began the frenzy. I received a version of the recipe via a facebook post by a friend in upstate New York that convinced me to finally try it. It was a great explanation of the process and step by step recipe published at Mother Earth News. You can find the recipe and directions here. I'll reproduce them here step by step, with photos of my first attempt. See, when I thought about doing this and blogging about it, I figured that whether it was a success or a complete flop, it would still be entertaining.

Here goes.

The idea is you take four basic ingredients -- active dry yeast, warm water, all-purpose flour, and salt -- add some interesting flour for dusting (I used yellow cornmeal), and you get a rustic loaf of bread -- crunchy, thick crust encasing a moist, chewy, yeasty, and slightly sweet inside. Lovely. Other than the ingredients, you need some kind of big, heavy, dutch oven that will retain moisture. I used my Pampered Chef Deep Covered Baker. (No, I am not a consultant, I just have a lot of friends who are. So I have a lot of the stuff.)

Start by dissolving 1/4 tsp yeast in 1 1/2 cups of warm water in a large bowl. (Yes, that's my Pampered Chef Classic Batter Bowl.)


Add the flour and salt, stirring until blended.


Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough rest at least 8 hours, preferably 12-18 hours at warm room temperature. (I let mine rest for about 20 hours and my indoor house temperature during Michigan winter was warm enough.)


The dough is ready when it's surface is dotted with bubbles.




Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it.


Sprinkle the dough with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice.


Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let it rest for about 15 minutes.


Using just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to the work surface or to your fingers, gently shape it into a ball. Generously coat a clean dish towel with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal. (Again, I used cornmeal. And my laptop to see the recipe.)


Put the seam side of the dough down on the towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal.


Cover with another towel and let rise for about 1 to 2 hours. (I let it rise for 2 hours.) When it's ready, the dough will have doubled in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

At least 20 minutes before the dough is ready, heat oven to 475 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot in the oven as it heats.


When the dough it ready, carefully remove the pot from the oven and lift off the lid. Slide your hand under the towel and turn the dough over into the pot, seam side up. the dough will lose its shape a bit in the process, but that's OK. give the pan a firm shake or two to help distribute the dough evenly, but don't worry if it's not perfect; it will straighten out as it bakes.


Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid...


...and bake another 15 to 20 minutes (I baked it another 15 minutes), until the loaf is beautifully browned. Remove the bread from the Dutch oven and let it cool on a rack for at least 1 hour before slicing.


Then, you can slice it and enjoy it :-)






This was by far the easiest experience I have ever had making yeast bread, including using a bread machine. And this was my first attempt. I'd say give it a try; you won't regret it. I sure didn't.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Your kid can change the world

We've begun our foray into the college world. My oldest is a teenager with ADD and an aversion to academics. Yet, she wants to go to college and study. She used to want to be a Broadway actress. Now she wants to study special education.

I remember her first day of "real" school, the first day of preschool where she came to the classroom and the teacher said hello and told her where to hang her backpack and tuck away her lunch box. It felt strange. My baby was only four years old; clearly she wasn't ready for a classroom yet. When I asked how my daughter had done on the entrance exam, the teacher who had conducted the exam skirted the question, saying something about every student developing at different paces. I went to work and cried, because my baby was starting school, and because I didn't know what her future held.

By the time she was in second grade, it was clearly event that she was not going to be the class valedictorian. I had run out of circumstantial explanations for her classroom performance. The teachers called for more than a parent-teacher conference. I tried to be rational and mature.

I came home from that first assessment meeting and cried. I couldn't get my thoughts straight. I just kept trying to come up with a way to understand it all. She seemed perfectly nice and sweet. Why was it so hard for her to just follow her teacher's directions? Pay attention for one minute during ballet class? Sit and read a book with me without being frustrated after 15 seconds? Notice that the ball was coming for her and kick it during a soccer game, instead of letting it sail past while her teammates yelled at her?

One morning before school, when she was in third grade, we were both particularly on edge. She stated flatly that she didn't want to go to school anymore. She was crying. And I was crying. And the school bus was coming. And I didn't have the luxury of missing work that day or driving her to school that day. I turned her towards me and said (roughly):
"Grace, there are two kinds of people in this world. There are people who use up the world and all it has, leaving it to waste. And then there are people who decide to give what they have and change the world and make it a better place. You have something to give to the world, but if you don't go to school and try, you'll never be able to make the world a better place. So go to school now!"
And then I pushed her out the front door, into the snow-covered day, running for the bus. She was still upset. So was I. I really hoped the words I had just spoken held some validity.

There has been a lot of tumultuous water under the bridge between that snowy and tearful morning and now. A couple weeks ago, we went to Michigan State for the day. It was our first official trip to a college. I wasn't sure what to expect. I told Grace to dress a little better than average and behave as if it were a job interview. We arrived in time to grab bad Mexican in the Union for lunch and then trudged up two floors to find about fifty families waiting quietly for a welcome presentation by an admissions counselor.

She started with this video:



And as it played, I felt myself start to cry. I held it back because I was pretty sure Grace would die of embarrassment if her mother started bawling in front of all these people. By this point in her life, I've figured out how to hold back my tears in until I'm in private.

It's the idea that my kid could change the world. She's not a kid anymore; she's going to go off into the world and make her own way. Make her own decisions. Influence her environment the way she wants to.

Hopefully the words I gave to her half her life ago were not just wishful thinking. Maybe, just maybe, it's possible that one person can change the world for the better. That if one girl makes up her mind to do good, she will do good.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Friday wine goodness: Carnival Time

As I mentioned yesterday, it's time to get in a carnival mindset, because it's Mardi Gras time.

Here's a little something I didn't mention: When searching for pictures of Mardi Gras, google verrrrry carefully. Like, make sure the kids aren't around, unless you want to spend the rest of the afternoon explaining that Mardi Gras is not really just about boob flashing and beads.

Tonight is our elementary school's PTO Carnival fundraiser. I guess they set the timing of this event to coincide with Mardi Gras. This is...not my favorite event ever. First of all, I've already discussed my cookie baking failure today over at We're Not In Kansas Anymore, Toto. Second of all, I just really don't like school carnivals. I have some claustrophobia issues, so I don't like big crowds of people. And then I have issues with losing track of my kids in a building that has multiple exits and no security (since it's an evening event, not a school hours event.)
THEY HAVE A PIXIE STRAW MAKING MACHINE, PEOPLE. How is that ever a good thing?


But I digress.

So, tonight is the carnival. There is no wine at this carnival, since it's a school district sponsored event, but don't you know they'd make a ton more money if there was wine? Or at least a keg? But no. Just sugary bake sale items. And giant pixie straws.

You know who does have their own wine? Carnival Cruise Lines. But they only sell it on the ships. I could use a cruise right about now. Could you?
image found here.

I wish I had my own wine. Maybe someday I will. It will be called Mommy's Little Helper. Or maybe Mommy's Time Out.

Oh Wait.

Nevermind. Anything will do.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Mardi Gras is upon us.

I work at a church, so around these parts, the oncoming Spring season means we're getting ready for the season of Lent. Lent is the 40 days leading up to Easter. Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, the day people go to noon services during their lunch hour and return to the office with a greasy, ashy cross drawn on their forehead and attempt to spend the rest of their afternoon in meetings pretending people aren't staring at them.

But the party girl in me can't help but also be thinking that this is the time of Mardi Gras, leading up to Fat Tuesday, the day before Lent begins. The day before we begin to withhold pleasure for 40 days on the road to being a more studious, prayerful Christian, we party like rock stars for one more day. And we eat cake.

image links to the Carnival New Orleans blog, where it lives. Click it! It's fun.

Because I am all about cake, and I am all about celebrating before depravation. It's the same as partying on New Year's Even and making New Year's resolutions when you think about it, only there are more rituals and rules that going along with the whole thing. But let's get back to the cake, shall we?

Because I grew up in a Methodist household and not a Catholic one, (and a fair-weather one at that, at the time,) I didn't know anything about King cakes and Fat Tuesday and ash crosses on foreheads until I was out of college and in the workforce. I went to lunch one day and returned to find almost all my officemates had this crazy, nasty looking black soot spread above their eyebrows. But it was at that same time I first learned about King cakes, and the babies and the coins and wow, this celebrating your religion thing is kind of fun, huh? Who knew.

So now I teach my kids about Mardi Gras, and King cakes, and the meaning of Ash Wednesday, and the meaning of the season of Lent. And it dovetails nicely with our plans to visit New Orleans on a mission trip this summer, to participate in rebuilding from Katrina. Yes, there is still so much to be done.

How do you celebrate the Spring season?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Spring begins to show.



my little Saucer Magnolia, sometimes called a Tulip Tree, is getting ready to bloom in a couple more weeks. I'm hoping it doesn't get snapped by one more bad freeze.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Running Away.

When I was a kid, I remember my little brother stomping around the house in his cowboy boots and pajamas, angry about something. He announced he was going to run away. My mother, ever the calm presence, said, "Well. Okay. Let me help you pack."

I was a little taken aback by that, as was he. But she very calmly pulled out a little suitcase and laid it on his bed, and laid in a clean pair of pajamas and Underoos (I think he was in a pajamas only stage, I guess? It was a long time ago.) She asked if he would like to take a snack, he might get hungry while walking. He nodded, still angry but a little confused, and so she dropped some cookies into a zip bag and laid them into the suitcase. She zipped it up, walked him to the front door and handed him his suitcase to carry (not a rollaway, we didn't have those in the seventies, you know,) kissed him on the head and said she would miss him indeed. He walked out the front door and down the sidewalk, his two little arms lifting his suitcase up, getting tired almost as soon as he was out the door.

At this point, I was a little beside myself, that my mother would let her six year old son walk out the front door to run away, much less help him pack. She didn't even try to convince him to stay! But then I heard her go to phone and call the neighbor down the street and tell her what was going on. And then I understood.

Sure enough, the neighbor leaned out her front door and invited him in to share some milk and cookies. He stayed for a couple of hours, watching cartoons on her TV while she piddled around the house, and then she announced that they would be having brussel sprouts for dinner. My brother didn't like brussel sprouts (and rightly so, they are food of the devil, as far as I'm concerned.) Ooh, that's too bad, the neighbor responded. I hear they're having spaghetti, down at your house.

And so he came trudging back up the walk shortly before my dad got home from work, and never a word was spoken in our house about the entire episode.

I often wonder how my mother knew how to deal with that situation, I guess I should ask her. Not only to allow him to follow through on his threat, but to never bring it up and try to drive home a lesson in it, allowing his little ego to stay intact (at least until he was an adult and we all teased him about it.) As a parent, I planned for how I would carry out the exact same technique with my own two stubborn boys, but oddly, the moment has never come.

Instead, sometimes I'm the one dreaming of running away. Sometimes my frustration with working and mothering and being a spouse and a housekeeper and a cook and a chauffeur get to me, and I can't seem to care about any of it anymore.

Sometimes when I get on the highway to go somewhere, I wonder what would happen if I just keep on driving instead of taking my exit. But I never seem to have enough gas in the tank to get very far, or any cookies should I get hungry.

And so I sigh a big sigh, and turn around and go home, knowing tomorrow will be a better day.

Or at least planning to stash some snacks in the car for next time.

Friday, February 25, 2011

How Do You Get A Picky Eater to Eat Healthier?

My oldest child has always been a picky eater. As a baby she refused to nurse, preferring the fast flow of a bottle to working for her meal. (Although an aggressive nurse contributed to the problem.) When she started solid foods (at 4 months as was recommended such a short time ago) she had a distinct preference for oatmeal cereal over rice and definite opinions about each flavor of baby food she was presented.

By the time she was a toddler she could put a spoonful of meat and vegetables (mixed together in a casserole) in her mouth, swish her tongue around a little, put her fingers in her mouth and hand you the one green bean in the mix. She went on food jags for weeks at a time, forsaking nearly all other foods in favor of grapes or frozen peas. I was thankful the jags were always something healthy but as a new mom I worried about her nutrition, probably too much.

I've found that the more focus you put on food, the picker the eater becomes. With my son I was less worried about what he ate and he eats a much wider variety of healthy foods than his older sister. And with my littlest one I hardly have time to worry at all and she eats the best of anyone in the family.

Over the last few years I've tried to increase my oldest's repertoire of healthy foods (she has no problem with eating crap). We have had some success and she is also more willing to try new things or even "old" things again.

One of the things we've done (for the whole family) is to pick out a new item from the fresh produce department for the whole family to try. Everyone must at least try a bite if they have never tried it before or if it has been a while since they tried it and didn't care for it. The bite must be a true bite and not a nibble. We must also be willing to try a second bite if the food can be modified in some way (sprinkle of pepper for example).

Confession: I too am a picky eater. Or, at least I used to be. Through these experiments I have added a lot more healthy foods to my food repertoire as well.

We've tried things like hummus, plantain, pomegranate, kiwi, avocado, asparagus, plums, cherries, nectarines, honeydew melon, zucchini and more. Perhaps not the most exotic (though we have tried some unusual things too) but what is accessible in our stores and what looks interesting. We may revisit some of the ones we tried and didn't care for, in the interest that tastes change over time.

I also make only one meal for the whole family. If anyone chooses to not eat, that is his/her choice and there will be only one alternative: fresh fruit or vegetables.

So far, these are the strategies that work for us...what have you tried?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Scary Monsters Banished!

There is that saying that a picture is worth 1000 words. I've heard also that it takes actually 4000 words to equal the impact of one image.

When your kids are scared of monsters, this book speaks volumes.

Go Away, Big Green Monster by Ed Emberley helped my oldest child when she was having bad dreams about monsters.

The book is interactive, as each page is turned the monster appears, then as the child tells him to "GO AWAY" each page turned makes another part of the monster disappear.

My daughter loved that. We borrowed the book, and read it over and over each time we did. Makes me wish we'd bought it. As my youngest is still 2 1/2 I still may invest in this book because it is just that invaluable for helping kids through the scary monster faze.

What books have helped your kids through fears?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

How Do You Beat Cabin Fever?

Those of us who live in the Midwest are very familiar with the drastic dips in temperature that winter can bring. Sometimes the cold snaps or bad weather keep us cooped up indoors for days and even the laziest of us (cough, cough...me) starts to get a little nutty.

My husband and I bought an inflatable jumper several years ago when we were preparing for a birthday party for our two older kids. It seemed like a good investment to have at the summer birthday parties...the use over the years would offset the cost. It wasn't a huge jumper, probably 10 foot square or smaller. The laughs were on us at first because the biggest of the kids (including nephews) were terrified of the thing for the first year we had it. We tried everything to get the kids to jump in it but an unfortunate premature deflation accident while the kids were inside the jumper had pretty much confirmed they wouldn't set foot inside.

Once they got past their fears they enjoyed the jumper, and we added the younger siblings. We came upon a frigid winter with two squirrely kids and my husband thought that we should set the jumper up inside the house. Our home is not large, but the living room is ::JUST BARELY:: large enough to set the jumper up in it without the kids bouncing and knocking things over.

We have set up the inflatable jumper in our living room several times in the winter months to get some of the pent up energy out of our kids. There is always at least one bump from someone exiting too wildly or jumping on top of someone else, but when it's too cold or frozen outside to play, this is the next best thing.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Why We're Raising Scouts

We're raising scouts in our house. I was a Girl Scout in elementary school and enjoyed the meetings and the friends and the activities. My older daughter asked to be a Daisy scout as soon as she heard talk of it at school her 1st grade year. Daisy scouts usually start in Kindergarten but there were no troops forming when M was in Kindergarten.

My son started asking about Boy Scouts shortly after M started attending Daisy scout meetings. He wanted to know if there was a group like that for boys.

When your kids want to be a part of something that will foster qualities you want your kids to develop, it's hard to say no, so we make every effort to attend all the activities the Brownies and Tiger Scouts set up.

My daughter has, through scouting, toured a water-reclamation plant and a bakery, helped clean up her school, watched a women's basketball game and a baseball game, and she's learned countless lessons on how to relate to the world around her.

My son is new to scouting, but already has participated in a food drive (which my other kids also participated in) and toured or watched video tours about places like a newspaper or a truck manufacturer. He helped make a cake and bought another boy's cake in an auction to raise money for the church where his meetings are held. He's learned that the effort put forth to try to sell popcorn and reaped the benefits of that effort. (For him? Earning a marshmallow crossbow shooter.)

But besides all of these experiences I see my kids gaining confidence and camaraderie. I see my kids earn new ranks, new badges, new try-its or whatever the cloth mementoes are called but the mementoes are irrelevant. It's the pride I see when they are recognized for their efforts that makes me want to continue. They accomplish and are proud of those accomplishments.

As they should be.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Great Gracie Chase

I just love this book!  When I read with my kids, The Great Gracie Chase one of my go-to favorites.  It's a sweet story that's easy to read, with just a touch of mischief.  How can you resists a little mischief?

If you haven't read it with your kids yet, I definitely recommend Gracie!


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Water and snow and rocks, oh my!


Isn't that amazing?

For more Wordless Wednesday, click here or visit 5Minutes for Mom.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Keep Your Kids Shoes in Check

Shoes should not be a problem at our house.

I'm the only girl here, which means our equation is:
# of shoes mom owns = # of shoes all 4 boys own + a few more if we're counting flip flops

I mean flip flops don't really count, do they?

Nonetheless, we have shoe issues.  Each boys owns 1 pair of tennis shoes, 1 pair of loafer-type shoes, and 1 pair of boots.  Plus, they each have eighty-five pairs of sporting goods shoes since apparently every sport requires a different type of cleat.  And basketball shoes, which, thankfully, require no cleats.  Also, they need some sort of cool sandal to wear to the sporting event, because you would never want to show up in your game shoes, ready to go.  Duh.

If your house even slightly resembles mine, you will recognize this frequent conversation.

5  minutes before it's time to leave:

Kid:  "Mom, where are my shoes?"

Me:  "Are they in the shoe closet?"

Kid:  "No.  Mooom, where are they?  I need them."

Me:  "Gee, honey, I haven't worn them lately."

I am actually considering just recording this whole thing and hitting "play" when it starts, so I can leave the room and get a much needed diet Pepsi.

To help our growing offspring get a clue in life--and get themselves organized--we got crafty.

First, we ripped the old bifold doors off of the "shoe (and coat) closet."




Then, we ripped out the nasty old linoleum, and started working.



We could've just stuck with a nice new linoleum, but I find that setting tile is a wonderful way to enrich your marriage.  Try it sometime, you'll see.


Next, we drew dimensions, cut and painted wood, and got out one of my very favorite tools, the nail blaster.  (Pretty sure that's not the official name, but I think you know what I mean.)


The final touch was adding those baskets.  The SHOE baskets.  The ones you PUT YOUR SHOES IN the minute you take them off.  Theoretically.  

The good news:  We have the "Where are my shoes" conversation about 90% less often.  

The bad news:  Have you ever smelled a basket of boys' shoes?