Wordless Wednesday – Hurricane Sandy says hello to Ohio

Yesterday morning, I got to wake my 3 year old up and tell him it snowed while he was sleeping. He’s not a morning person, but he gasped “What?!” and jumped from the couch (rough night… the only place he would finally settle down and sleep… sigh) and ran to the window to look out. He gleefully kicked at the slushy snow and kept yelling to Sylvi to come play. She was less enthused than him, but based on the wicked wind and blowing sleet, I couldn’t really blame her. Hopefully, the next time it snows here, she’ll get the full enthusiasm from us and maybe, just maybe she’ll run squealing through the yard, too.

Flexible

Recently, my husband came home with a brand-new, beautiful, four waffle-iron and all the yuck of my day slipped away. And by yuck, I mean a very poor mama attitude that made poor kiddo attitudes worse. I made a full batch of pumpkin pancakes and poured them over the hot griddle knowing that once the butter and syrup sunk into those fluffy grids, the gloom that had settled over my home would be gone. There is nothing like warm, solid, comforting food to soothe emotions.

And on that note, there is nothing like comfort food to start your day out. Make a full batch and freeze the leftovers to pull out on a day when you need a quick breakfast. Spread cream cheese on them and fold or roll them up for a snack.

Pumpkin Spice Batter

  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. ginger
  • 1/8 tsp. cloves
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 egg
Whisk the ingredients together into a loose batter and either pour them over a hot waffle iron or in spoonfuls onto a hot griddle. The pancakes or waffles keep for 3-4 days in the fridge or a month in the freezer. Top generously with butter and syrup.

The flexibility of home

Today post is just a little update on our schooling at home adventure. I had a plan for this year. I bought a teacher’s planning book, filled it out with lessons, crafts, activities and field trips all the way up to Christmas. Books were on order from the library, no joke, a month in advance of my plan. Three days into my plan, Liam looked at me and very calmly informed me that he was bored. He didn’t want to make another “A” craft and he had already learned everything. Fantastic.

I’ve kind of floundered for the last few weeks with what to do. As much as I love the idea of unschooling like the super cool Hobo Mama, I need a plan. I decided that since he is only three and he does know all his letters and most of their sounds, we are going to use this year to build a foundation in math and science. I wanted to spend some time working on his OT, so he did the first session of a local preschool gym and swim and I loved the chance to sneak in some gross motor skill development. And finally, we are using art to work on his fine motors and tie in with a few seasonal themes.

Right now, we are working on learning days of the week and I’m going with the flow on his weather obsession. We have a huge calendar wall/information center in our kitchen and thankfully, there was enough space to add 3 boards for his weather center, fruit of the Spirit tree and the date. I didn’t make a calendar grid for schooling because of the giant one on the wall… eventually I’ll make a marker so he can see where the current day is in the grand scheme of the month.

The project with super time consuming. As in, 3 days of time spent cutting and gluing and painting… I have two small children in my home, I have accepted that if I want to do a project that is not strictly necessary, it will take up to a month from start to finish. It is what it is. I laminated everything. Some pieces are hot glued to the boards and some are velcroed. 72 total pieces of velcro. I bought mine at Home Depot because they had perfect little squares that were self adhesive for far less than the craft stores.  The check out lady looked at me like I had three heads as I purchased an arm full of velcro at 730 in the morning. I really was trying to be cool about it, but I guess it was odd.

I used the 3M super duper velcro wall hangers, 4 on each board.  The package said it would support weight up to 17 pounds, but I wasn’t messing around… preschoolers and toddlers aren’t very delicate.  When Matt left for work that morning, I had supplies spread out in the kitchen and living room.  When he came home, most of the mess was cleaned up and the boards were on the wall… without needing any of his help.  *Insert moment of self empowerment here*

As luck would have it, my aunt brought over a rain gauge at some point in the planning process, so Liam and I put it in the flower beds next to our front porch and he was ecstatic to discover 1/2 inch of rain in it yesterday.  Every morning, we open the blinds in the living room and assess the weather.  He then tells me what he thinks the weather board should say and we put up the right cards. I downloaded the weather board from Mr. Printable and it comes with about 20 options for descriptions of the weather like dry, humid, freezing, snowy or sunny. The way the weather has been this week, we have gotten to discuss quite a variety already!

We are really just introducing the concept of the days of the week, so that board is getting a lot of review.  I am still working on a storage method for the pieces we aren’t using, but for now, I just have them in a little basket that I keep in the closet (which is this weekend’s organizing project) so little hands won’t spread the months of the year all over the house when bored. I found a few magnetic chore charts on Etsy that I’ll eventually make a decision on and start implementing.  My little guy loves to check things off just like his Mama!

So that’s our school update.  What are you doing in your home? Do you homeschool? Unschool? Public School? Private School?

October Freezer Cooking

This past week was one that I was so grateful for a stocked freezer.  Supper prep for the most part involved walking into the kitchen and asking Liam what he wanted to eat. This past week, I needed the ease of a frozen meal, freshly washed lettuce for salads and fruit for the kids. I’m having to make some adjustments with Liam’s routine again and make sure he’s getting a quiet period during the day so he can rest. That boy… just like his mama. Too much busyness and he is a disaster. Thankfully, I’m learning through his needs that I can say “no” to people and activities if it’s just too much. A lesson I really, really needed!

Anyway.  I grocery shopped on Thursday of last week. It took hours because I did Sam’s Club, Kroger, Target, bulk food store, Wayne’s and our butcher shop. But again, I will only have to go to the grocery in the next month for fresh fruit and vegetables and milk. Totally worth it. I did a whole food menu for the month of suppers and made sure to account for leftovers to be eaten on the weekends and for lunches. I also calculated in for a few meals that will not be eaten at home due to birthdays, the tri and Boo at the Zoo. Friday morning, I got up with my list of meals and did the crock-pot prep meals. I started working at 930 and did not put the last dish in the dishwasher until about 830 that night. BUT, I took time out of working to play with the kids, assist in the potty, color, serve meals, read stories, change diapers, answer questions and hand out snacks. If I hadn’t done those things, I think I could have been done in about 5 hours.

  • Taco Soup (2 batches)
  • Tuscan Mac and Cheese (2 batches)
  • Meatloaf (2 batches, meatloaf made and shaped then frozen)
  • Greek Casserole (4 batches… this was a mistake, should have only been 2, but they are in the freezer for a quick meal when needed)
  • Pizza (2 batches of dough made and then frozen.)
  • Chicken Tikka (ingredients in a bag that will easily dump into the crockpot whenever I’m ready)
  • Chicken Parmesan Meatballs (not prepped and recipe to be shared… eventually)
  • Meatballs (2 batches, one for stroganoff and one for bbq meatballs with orzo)
  • Cheeseburger Mac (meat and seasonings cooked, and in a bag with the cheese and pasta… will take 10 minutes to finish)
  • Dippin Tacos
  • Sloppy Janes with ground turkey (not sure how great this will be… I was tired by the time I got to this recipe, so this could wind up being a pb&j sort of night.)
  • Pot Roast with mashed potatoes (Meat will go in the crockpot and the mashed potatoes are made and ready to bake.)
  • Spicy Apple Glazed meatballs (new recipe that I can’t wait to share!!)
  • Beef Pot Pie (this will be made with the leftover pot roast meat so it’s not even prepped)
  • Confetti Chicken Pasta (new recipe, not freezer friendly)
  • Chicken Alfredo and Rice Casserole (new recipe and I’m not certain how freezer friendly it will be… we’ll see)
  • Grilled Cheese and Tomato soup
  • Panini
  • Falafel (not prepped, but the garbanzos are cooked and waiting in the freezer)
  • Sloppy Lentils (also not prepped, but the lentils are cooked and in the freezer)
  • Bread (4 loaves made and 3 frozen)
To be entirely fair, the beans and lentils were already cooked and in the freezer (which is how I picked those meals) and I baked the bread Wednesday. I also decided to bake the meatballs instead of frying them and I may never go back.  I made 2 pounds of meatballs and then just baked an entire pan full while I continued to work. In the next few months, I won’t do as many freezer meals because of the holidays, but I do plan a turkey for next month and look forward to some fun casseroles or quesadillas with the leftovers!
So my freezer is stocked and I’m free to spend my afternoons playing in the still pleasant weather or baking. Although… now that I’m not training for something, I probably shouldn’t bake so much. I hopped on the WiiFit this morning and it yelled at me for snacking. I wonder who told that nosy thing?!

Wordless Wednesday – Lifetime Indoor Triathlon

Preparing for our first event: Swim

Second event: Bike Ride in a Spin Studio
Final event: Run
Tired, but oh so proud of myself

Sunday morning, Matt and I picked up my friend and training buddy, Brooke and headed to Columbus for the Lifetime Indoor Triathlon. I had done a complete run-through on Monday evening so I knew I could do everything and I knew I was going to be pleased with myself. What I did not know what that upon completion, I would want to go back and do it again… faster. I was unaware that the adrenaline high I’d be riding was almost as intoxicating as giving birth.

I loved everything about this event and fully plan to do it again the next time it is in Columbus. Brooke also told me of a triathlon that will be closer to my home this spring and while the biking and running are outside, the swim is in a pool… I’m not yet over my fear of open water… I’m hoping to conquer that eventually. Maybe. I was and still am very grateful for the health and the support necessary to participate in this event and as I type, am thinking of skipping all the work I really do need to do today and slipping out for a run. Because now that I know I am capable, I want to see what else I can do.

My goal for my next Indoor Tri is to beat my results from this one… even though I am pleased as it was my first ever, I think I can swim farther than 300 yds, bike more than 25.8 miles (on a spin bike, the measurements are different than on a free standing bike, as they are based on the resistance level you set the spin bike at) and run more than 1.3 miles.

Self-esteem and all it’s pretty analogies

Welcome to the October 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Instilling a Healthy Self-Image

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared confessions, wisdom, and goals for helping children love who they are. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

I will never forget the day I realized the voice in my head telling me awful things about my post-baby body wasn’t my own. I remember standing in the mirror tearing down my stretch marks, saggy skin, and lack of shape and realized the words circulating in my brain weren’t my own, but words I had heard my mother speak over her own body year ago. I stood there looking at my body and wondered if I was even really seeing it the way it was, for in my mind’s eye, I was looking at my mother’s scars and skin. The dawning of this realization prompted a phone call to all my friends who had daugthers to ask them to not say anything negative about their bodies in front of their children.

We live in a world where body image is warped by what we see in the media.  When I was growing up, people compared me to Blossom. I hated this. We had the same akward nose and gangly limbs. In time, I grew into my nose and my limbs gained some substance. I notice the same can be said for Blossom’s lead actress, Mayim Bialik, as well. Not to mention she’s still a sucessful actress and incredibly intelligent scholar.

In time, my thoughts on self-esteem have changed. But just because I’ve finally realized I matter, it doesn’t mean I don’t have little lives to build. Dr. Sears has a great list of ways to help your child develop healthy self-esteem. Actually, Dr. Sears specifically mentions that if we want our children to have healthy self-esteem, we need to work on our own. And realize that our parents may have made choices in how they raised us that we shouldn’t repeat. He doesn’t say this so that we can develop bitterness for our parents’ mistakes, but so we can make better choices for our families.

We know a family that is a constant reminder to me that it is my responsibility to change how I  interact with my children. In all the years I’ve known them, I’ve not once heard the parents say anything kind about their children. They are all high-achieving children, with many talents, but their mother is hung up on clothing sizes and too-young engagements. It makes me sad to watch their interactions and yet reminds me how easy it is to start out with good intentions and watch them slowly fade away.

In my eyes, my children are the most beautiful humans on the face of this Earth. They know I think they’re amazing, but they need to think it too. We snuggle and we cuddle and I remind them many, many times a day how much I love them. And I tell them they are smart and handsome and talented and beautiful. As you well know, you are responsible to set the tone in your child’s mind for their life.

Self-esteem is something can either be fragile as a tea cup or diamond strong. The best way to build it is to build a strong relationship with your children. Be honest with them about how you love them. Praise them for their good moments, but be honest enough to correct their errors so they can grow. Spend time with them. Teach your children. Read to your children. Play with your children. Laugh with your children. Cry with your children. If you are real with your children, you can teach them to be real with themselves. And then, when your children can be honest with themselves about how they feel and what they experience, they can put together their self-esteem without fear and with the knowledge that they have your support.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated by afternoon October 9 with all the carnival links.)

  • Why I Walk Around Naked — Meegs at A New Day talks about how she embraces her own body so that her daughter might embrace hers.
  • What I Am Is Not Who I Am — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama discusses her views on the importance of modeling WHO she is for her daughter and not WHAT she sees in the mirror.
  • Carnival of Natural Parenting: Verbs vs. Adjectives — Alisha at Cinnamon & Sassafras tries hard to compliment what her son does, not who he is.
  • The Naked Family — Sam at Love Parenting talks about how nudity and bodily functions are approached in her home.
  • How She’ll See Herself — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis discusses some of the challenges of raising a daughter in our culture and how she’s hoping to overcome them.
  • Self Esteem and all it’s pretty analogies — Musings from Laura at Pug in the Kitchen on what she learned about self-esteem in her own life and how it applies to her parenting.
  • Beautiful — Tree at Mom Grooves writes about giving her daughter the wisdom to appreciate her body and how trying to be a role model taught Tree how to appreciate her own.
  • Do As I Say, Not As I Do: Nurturing A Healthy Body Image — Christy at Eco Journey in the Burbs is changing perceptions about her body so that she may model living life with a positive, healthy body image for her three young daughters.
  • Some{BODY} to LoveKate Wicker has faced her own inner demons when it comes to a poor body image and even a clinical eating disorder, and now she wants to help her daughters to be strong in a world that constantly puts girls at risk for losing their true selves. This is Kate’s love letter to her daughters reminding them to not only accept their bodies but to accept themselves as well in every changing season of life.
  • They Make Creams For That, You Know — Destany at They Are All of Me writes about celebrating her natural beauty traits, especially the ones she passed onto her children.
  • New Shoes for Mama — Kellie of Our Mindful Life, guest posting at Natural Parents Network, is getting some new shoes, even though she is all grown up…
  • Raising boys with bodily integrity — Lauren at Hobo Mama wants her boys to understand their own bodily autonomy — so they’ll respect their own and others’.
  • Sowing seeds of self-love in our children — After struggling to love herself despite growing up in a loving family, Shonnie at Heart-Led Parenting has suggestions for parents who truly want to nurture their children’s self-esteem.
  • Subtle Ways to Build a Healthy Self-Image — Emily at S.A.H.M i AM discusses the little things she and her husband do every day to help their daughter cultivate a healthy self-image.
  • On Barbie and Baby Bikinis: The Sexualization of Young Girls — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger finds it difficult to keep out the influx of messages aimed at her young daughters that being sexy is important.
  • Undistorted — Focusing on the beauty and goodness that her children hold, Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children watches them grow, loved and undistorted.
  • Off The Hook — Arpita at Up, Down and Natural sheds light on the journey of infertility, and how the inability to get pregnant and stay pregnant takes a toll on self image…only if you let it. And that sometimes, it feels fantastic to just let yourself off the hook.
  • Going Beyond Being An Example — Becky at Old New Legacy discusses three suggestions on instilling healthy body image: positivity, family dinners, and productivity.
  • Raising a Confident Kid — aNonymous at Radical Ramblings describes the ways she’s trying to raise a confident daughter and to instil a healthy attitude to appearance and self-image.
  • Instilling a Healthy Self Image — Laura at This Mama’s Madness hopes to promote a healthy self-image in her kids by treating herself and others with respect, honesty, and grace.
  • Stories of our Uniqueness — Casey at Sesame Seed Designs looks for a connection to the past and celebrates the stories our bodies can tell about the present.
  • Helping My Boy Build a Healthy Body Image — Lyndsay at ourfeminist{play}school offers readers a collection of tips and activities that she uses in her journey to helping her 3-year-old son shape a healthy body image.
  • Eat with Joy and Thankfulness: A Letter to my Daughters about Food — Megan at The Boho Mama writes a letter to her daughters about body image and healthy attitudes towards food.
  • Helping Our Children Have Healthy Body Images — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares information about body image, and her now-adult daughter tells how she kept a healthy body image through years of ballet and competitive figure skating.
  • Namaste — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment shares how at barely 6 years old, her daughter has begun to say, “I’m not beautiful.” And while it’s hard to listen to, she also sees it as a sign her daughter is building her self-image in a grassroots kind of way.
  • 3 Activities to Help Instill a Healthy Self-Image in Your Child — Explore the changing ideals of beauty, create positive affirmations, and design a self-image awareness collage. Dionna at Code Name: Mama shares these 3 ideas + a pretty affirmation graphic you can print and slip in your child’s lunchbox.
  • Beautiful, Inside and Out — It took a case of adult-onset acne for Kat of MomeeeZen to find out her parenting efforts have resulted in a daughter that is truly beautiful, inside and out.
  • Mirroring Positive Self Image for Toddlers — Shannon at GrowingSlower reflects on encouraging positive self image in even the youngest members of the family.
  • How I hope to instill a healthy body image in my two girls — Raising daughters with healthy body image in today’s society is no small task, but Xela at The Happy Hippie Homemaker shares how choosing our words carefully and being an example can help our children learn to love their bodies.
  • Self Image has to Come from WithinMomma Jorje shares all of the little things she does to encourage healthy attitudes in her children, but realizes she can’t give them their self images.
  • Protecting the Gift — JW from True Confessions of a Real Mommy wants you to stop thinking you need to boost your child up: they think they are wonderful all on their own.
  • Learning to Love Myself, for my Daughter — Michelle at Ramblings of Mitzy addresses her own poor self-image.
  • Nurturing An Innate Sense of Self — Marisa at Deliberate Parenting shares her efforts to preserve the confidence and healthy sense of self they were born with.
  • Don’t You Love Me, Mommy?: Instilling Self-Esteem in Young Children After New Siblings Arrive — Jade at Seeing Through Jade Glass But Dimly hopes that her daughter will learn to value herself as an individual rather than just Momma’s baby
  • Exercising is FUN — Amy W. at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work talks about modeling for her children that exercising is FUN and good for body and soul.
  • Poor Little Chicken — Kenna at A Million Tiny Things gets her feathers ruffled over her daughter’s clothing anxiety.
  • Loving the skin she’s in — Mama Pie at Downside Up and Outside In struggles with her little berry’s choice not to celebrate herself and her heritage.

 

Visual appeal… for soup

For some reason, when I first started cooking, I was just desprate to figure out a fantastic recipe for Chicken Tortilla soup. And then, I got scared, but I only sort of like Chicken Noodle soup so I quit trying for a while. I’m going to be honest here and tell you that while I was looking for a reliable recipe, I was also looking for a result that looked appealing. I’ve seen a lot of tortilla soups in my search and not one of them, no matter how yummy it sounded, it didn’t look good to me.

As the weather here chills, I find myself wanting to spend my afternoons curled up with the kids, instead of in the kitchen cooking. This recipe is something quick and easy and makes your home smell comforting. I will warn you though, my kids don’t eat soup (I suspect the texture wierds them out a bit in addition to the fact that it takes an awful lot of coordination to get a spoon of liquid from a bowl to your mouth…). Therefore, this is more of a date night or dinner guests sort of meal for us. I made my own tortilla chips from whole wheat tortillas, but they did not keep well at all. Oh well, at least we tried!

Hearty Chicken Tortilla Soup

  • 3 large chicken breasts
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 large green pepper, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, halved and seeded
  • 1 quart tomato puree
  • 1 quart chicken broth
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 Tbsp. cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups black beans (optional)
  • 1 cup corn (optional)
Put all of the ingredients in the slow cooker and set it on low for 4-6 hours.  When the chicken is tender, remove it from the pot and shred.  Set it aside. Remove the bay leaf.  I did not add the black beans and corn, so at this point, I used my immersion blender to carefully puree the onions and peppers into the brother. (You could still do this step if you waited until the very end to add the black beans and corn if you like as well.) Add the chicken back into the pot and stir to mix it through.  Serve with shredded cheese, sour cream and tortilla chips.
*Note: This soup is good for up to 1 week in the fridge or 3 months in the freezer.  If you choose to freeze the soup, leave adaquate headspace or it will expand and blow the top off your container. It’s messy.

Hangry no more!

Our weekends have changed around here. Saturdays are filled with lots of fun Fall activities, bike rides, and family trips. On Sundays we are going to the late service for now so we aren’t home until right before Sylvi’s nap and everyone is hungry. Even though we have a less than 5 minute drive to and from church, somehow we manage to return home with super crabby children and I’m always looking for a quick way to get everyone fed healthily.

Enter my beloved slow cooker. Of late, I’ve managed to get lunch planned the night before and into the slow cooker after breakfast. Because I need to have food on the table by about 1230, I also need something that will cook in 3-4 hours.

If I didn’t get it together in time to think of a good crockpot meal, then it’s scrambled egg sandwiches and fruit. I’m trying to plan ahead so that I won’t find myself with a Hangry family and fast food regrets.
How does you family do meals with Real Food on the busy days?