The Blessing of Birthdays

My morning began with a phone call from Liam’s OT saying our session was cancelled. I rolled over in bed and breathed a sigh of relief because this meant I didn’t have to drag a tired 4 year old out of bed. Today is my birthday and this was my gift from the therapist. As an adult, birthdays have taken on a different meaning and every year I am given a new opportunity to review how special each day is.

Birthdays are big days in this home and as long as I am alive, they always will be. I grew up in a home that treated your birthday like it was the best day in the world and I believed that it always was.  When I turned 16, my mother spent the week prior in the hospital, but she insisted that I was to have my party as it was the first party with my friends since I had turned 7. Of all my life experiences, that 16th birthday party made me feel like I was the most important person in my parents’ life.

When I turned 18, my parents asked me what I wanted to do. My parents had adopted my youngest brother after his 2nd birthday, so this was his first birthday party ever and I was done.  I’d had 17 years of birthdays to celebrate my life, it was his turn.  Our birthdays are 3 days apart and ever since, I’ve shared a party with him. I love it. There is a 15 year gap between our births, and he’s the most important thing that happened to me in 1998.  Our birthdays are a celebration for me of a life I get to cherish and adore because that little boy taught me how to be patient so that I’d be ready when I had my own little ones.

After my mother died, I felt invisible… birthdays were the worst. No one hung banners any more or asked me what kind of cake I wanted. I felt silly having a party for myself and selfish for asking someone to do it for me. It took until my 30th birthday to realize why we really celebrate birthdays: we celebrate the moments we have, not what we want, but what is here right now.

Today; I took out the trash, wiped noses, reminded children to use the potty instead of dancing around, I baked cupcakes, fried chicken and thanked friends for their birthday wishes. And I sent up grateful prayers that I got to have today. Not everyone gets to celebrate their day with another year, let alone surrounded by the ones they love. The older I get, the more grateful I am for my days in life. Each day is another chance to celebrate where we came from, where we are and the hope of tomorrow.

 

 

Work in Progress Wednesday – Finally!

I will tell you about the Tri at a later time, but for now, we’re going to talk sewing. After I got back from the race, I asked to go to my favorite quilt shop in Charm, Ohio. I bought my first jelly roll and can barely wait to get started on a Christmas quilt.

Until then, though, I made myself focus on the table runner I’ve wanted to make for my table to accent the lovely refinishing Matt did on it.  This was the first pattern I’ve used from a magazine and I’m loving it!  It took a few hours to do all the cutting and piecing, but overall, it’s a very simple project! All that’s left is to bind it, but I’m debating on whether or not to do a white binding or a binding that matches the backing?

I didn’t realize how terrified I was over the Tri until I started sewing. With each seam, I felt my fears slip away and I was able to enjoy my time fully. There is something so soothing about fabric, color and creativity.

In light of this, my Christmas list is quickly filling with ideas for handmade gifts.  Next week is my birthday, so I am using that detail to make two trips to fabric stores… there are babies being born, gifts to be made, and clothes to be sewn! So yes, I will have plenty of material for these Work in Progress Wednesday Posts in the coming weeks!

When life gives you lemons… make pancakes!

As you read this post (depending on the time), I am either jumping headlong into my first outdoor triathlon or recovering from it. Either way, I’m sure I’m wishing I was eating these pancakes. These pancakes are the absolute best I’ve ever had.  And based on the number of pancake recipes you’ve seen throughout this blog, I think you understand how many times I’ve played around with the basic pancake recipe.

I will add a little note here: although my pancakes are really brightly colored, yours may not turn out that way. If you are using farm-fresh eggs, they’ll be bright. If your eggs are the run-of-the-mill grocery eggs, those yolks aren’t as bright. There are a lot of eggs in this recipe!

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

  • 5 eggs
  • 16 oz. ricotta cheese
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp Lemon flavoring
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 -1/2 cup milk

Whisk together the eggs, ricotta, sugar, lemon flavoring and zest.  You’ll have a very yellow batter at this point. Mix in half of the flour and thin out with milk. Then, add in the rest of the flour and milk until you have a smooth, pourable consistency. Cook the pancakes on a skillet and serve hot.

Self Care at Natural Parents Network

Self Care and the Introvert (Laura B.)

Self Care and the Introvert

What is it about parenting that brings out all your weaknesses? Your demons? Your fears? I had considered bettering myself prior to having kids; I bought a number of books and would take notes and underline and resolve. But then . . . I was working long hours with a commute, and when it came down to it, I didn’t really have the energy and time to be committed to the changes I wanted for myself.

I’m 31 years old, and yet I have only started to realize who I am. Do you know who you are? Could we sit here and be honest about you? When you become a parent, you never actually lose yourself . . . you may become a different version of yourself, but your core is still the same.

Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, learn more about taking time out for yourself today at my post on Natural Parents Network: Self Care and the Introvert.

Continuing with the kitchen update!

When Matt and I got married, I was under the impression that we would do all these wonderful DIY projects around our little home. Our first project was to install a new sink in our kitchen – we spent the entire time fighting. Oh and I was insulted that instead of letting me “help”, Matt made me sit in the sink to weigh it down so the caulk would stick firmly.

We’ve progressed since then, thankfully.  Now, I’d like to say that we work as a team: I come up with all the crazy ideas and he supplies all the brawn to make the crazy ideas happen. Of course, it isn’t a flawless technique and we do bicker along the way, but in the end we still like each other 🙂 Note that I said “like”.  We will always love one another, but sometimes, the liking part is rough… like when it takes an interminable length of time to complete a project that the muscles make look easy…

Anyway, the backsplash was not planned. I just wanted to see if the tiles would come off… AND THEY DID!!!  Matt had just left the room for a minute and returned to find me popping tiles off the wall with this nifty Japanese crowbar. The words out of his mouth were as follows: “I did not sign up for this!”  Nonetheless, he made a trip to Home Depot after the kids were in bed to get me the adhesive I needed to finish.

Of course, as with all projects, it didn’t go as planned. I assumed it would be something to only take a few hours, but instead, we wound up having to scrap my idea of using liquid nails to stick the boards on the wall and just used teeny little nails to secure them to the wall. I had stained each piece separately and then put 2 or 3 coats of poly on them before arranging them on the wall. Once the boards were all on the wall, I still applied a few more coats.

I love that with all the neutral colors in our kitchen, the backsplash is a bit of unexpected interest in between cabinets and appliances.  To keep things congruent, Matt built me a frame for my white board/pinboard combo.  I had already planned to redo the center wall in the kitchen since Liam starts Pre-K in a few weeks and I want to have a place to display all the artwork he’s sure to be bringing home. The kitchen is still a great work in progress, but bit by little bit I’m really excited to walk in there and see how things are shaping up!

Pretend that there’s no world outside…

Do you remember the Jack Johnson song Banana Pancakes? His album had come out shortly before I got married and while on our honeymoon, Matt and I bought his cd. Yeah… that’s back when we still bought cds.  For the past 7 years, we’ve talked about making banana pancakes and while I have had some successes, this recipe is by far my favorite. The pancake cooks quickly and tastes like banana bread, instead of a pancake. Light and fluffy, this recipe made enough pancakes to feed our family of four with a side of bacon and Greek yogurt.

Banana Pancakes

  • 1 ripe banana, smashed
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 cup milk

Mash the banana and egg together.  Mix in the dry ingredients and slowly stream in the milk until you have a nice consistency. Heat a skillet over medium heat and swish butter over the surface. Pour batter onto the skillet and cook until bubbles form around the edges. Flip each pancake and finish cooking. In between each batch of pancakes, reapply the butter. (The butter is what gives you that delightful crispiness on the edges of the pancakes and in my opinion, you can’t be without it!).  Serve with REAL maple syrup, bacon (our local butcher just started carrying nitrate free bacon… it. is. awesome.) and Greek yogurt.

Of course, while you are making these pancakes, you MUST sing along with Gru’s Minions…

Kitchen table update

About a month ago, I started working on the kitchen cabinets and walls only to realize that the updates made our kitchen table look so much worse.  It’s my great-great grandmother’s so it was definitely in need of an update, but because it’s my great-great grandmother’s… I was nervous. Matt and I talked about it a few times, and then I walked outside to see this:

You’d better believe I screamed.

Two weeks ago, the table had been moved to our basement and sanded. Matt had taken the entire drop leaf table apart and reworked the legs so they could be on the outside of the table instead of in the middle where we were constantly bumping our knees. We talked a lot about what we wanted the end product to look like and I searched Pinterest for hours. Finally, thank goodness for Pottery Barn and their online catalog. We decided to use the same paint for the legs as we were using on the cupboards and woodwork and stained the top to match the backsplash. (Fear not, that’s in an upcoming post.)

Matt finished the table Tuesday morning in time for Liam’s birthday play date. And thankfully, one of my hydrangea bushes is in full bloom… hooray for centerpieces! The only thing I was sad about in this project is that it took forEVER. (And my husband is sad because I pestered him on a near daily basis until he put the table in the kitchen and we both realized the chairs need updated ASAP.)  Because it took so long, Liam had to eat his birthday breakfast on a card table.  To make up for that, I’ve been going nuts with the breakfasts around here.

Coming up this next week while I do my last four workouts before the Holmes County Triathlon, you’ll be reading two new pancake recipes and how to make a wooden backsplash.

Chosen and Loved

Welcome to the July 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Learning About Diversity

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 how they teach their children to embrace and respect the variety of people and cultures that surround us. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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My senior year in high school, my family adopted a sweet little boy from India.

People. I remember the moment I laid eyes on that little boy’s photo. I dreamed about him being a part of my life for months and months before he walked in the door of our home. I cherished each and every moment I got to have with him before I went to college. I loved that he didn’t look like us. People would stare and in an uncharacteristic move of boldness I would start the conversation about how he was adopted. I told people about how my parents were assigned to him and how we waited for 2 whole years before he came home.

In the years following his adoption, my parents did everything they could to educate and immerse themselves in the Indian culture. My mother was full blooded Italian and we always had celebrated that heritage. And in the summer, she would get dark enough that people actually thought that Chandran was genetically hers. As much as I hate stereotypes, I would constantly remind him that “Indian boys” are good at math and soccer. We don’t know anything about his parents, but not only is my little brother good at math, he’s phenomenal at soccer. Perhaps he was predisposed to being good at soccer and math, but perhaps it was my words… regardless, he’s the awesome soccer player his teammates call “Channy” and #littleindianboy in photo tags.

After my mother died, my father enrolled him in the private school I graduated from and life continued on. Then the day came when I picked him up from school and I asked him if any other boys in his class were Indian (there are a few families at that school who are Indian) and he calmly told me he tells people he’s black. I was shocked and confused… why on Earth wouldn’t he want to shout to the world that he was chosen and LOVED because our parents chose India!

I’m half Italian, the other half primarily from the British Isles. No one ever asks me about my heritage. I don’t stand out. I married a man who is half Norwegian, the other half the same general mix as me. Racial issues aren’t really something we have to deal with. No one cares about the color of our skin.

Years later, I have children of my own and I get to explain to them how loved Uncle Chandran was to be chosen from all those other babies in India. I get to explain to them that he has dark skin because that’s how he was made. And although he looks different from us and he didn’t get to have his mama rock him to sleep every night like my babies did in those early years, he’s still the same as us. He has thoughts and feelings and muscles and two feet just like us.

As far as I am concerned, although we look different, we are still the same. I don’t care what you look like, I only care that you are loved. No matter how tan I ever get, I will never come close to matching my brother, but there was a hole in my big sister heart before he came to our family. As a parent, I feel it’s my responsibility to educate my children about the cultures around us. As a mother, I hope that no matter your color or creed that someone in your life loves you like I love my baby brother. As a sister, I hope everyone gets to have someone that feels immense pride over your life not matter how different you are from each other.

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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 July 9 with all the carnival links.)

  • A gift for my daugther — Amanda, a special education teacher for students with multiple exceptionalities, discusses at My Life in a Nutshell how she will enrich her daughter’s life by educating her the amazing gifts her students will bring to the world.
  • The Beauty in Our Differences — Meegs at A New Day writes about her discussions with her daughter about how accepting ourselves and those around us, with all our beautiful differences and similarities, makes the world a better place.
  • Accepting Acceptance and Tolerating Tolerance — Destany at They Are All of Me examines the origins of and reasons behind present day social conformity.
  • Differencessustainablemum discusses what she feels to be the important skills for embracing diversity in her family home.
  • Turning Japanese — Erin Yuki at And Now, for Something Completely Different shares how she teaches her kiddos about Japanese culture, and offers ideas about “semi immersion” language learning.
  • Celebrating Diversity at the International House Cottages — Mommy at Playing for Peace discovers the cultures of the world with her family at local cultural festivals
  • Learning About Diversity by Honoring Your Child’s Multiple Heritages — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama looks at the importance of truly knowing your roots and heritage and how to help children honor their multiple heritages.
  • People. PEOPLE! — Kellie at Our Mindful Life is trying to teach her children to use language that reflects respect for others, even when their language doesn’t seem to them to be disrespectful.
  • Just Call me Clarice Thomas — Lisa at The Squishable Baby knows that learning to understand others produces empathetic children and empathetic families.
  • Diversity of Families — Family can be much more then a blood relation. Jana at Jananas on why friends are so important for her little family of three.
  • Diverse Thoughts Tamed by Mutual Respect — Amy at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work thinks that diversity is indispensable to our vitality, but that all of our many differences require a different sort of perspective, one led by compassion and mutual respect.
  • Just Shut Up! — At Old New Legacy, Becky gives a few poignant examples in her life when listening, communication and friendship have helped her become more accepting of diversity.
  • The World is our Oyster — Mercedes at Project Procrastinot is thankful for the experiences that an expat lifestyle will provide for herself as well as for her children.
  • Children’s black & white views (no pun intended … kind of) — Lauren at Hobo Mama wonders how to guide her kids past a childish me vs. them view of the world without shutting down useful conversation.
  • Raising White Kids in a Multicultural World — Leanna at All Done Monkey offers her two cents on how to raise white children to be self-confident, contributing members of a colorful world. Unity in diversity, anyone?
  • Ramadan Star and Moon Craft — Celebrate Ramadan with this star and moon craft from Stephanie at InCultureParent, made out of recycled materials, including your kid’s art!
  • Race Matters: Discussing History, Discrimination, and Prejudice with Children — At Living Peacefully with Children, Mandy discusses how her family deals with the discrimination against others and how she and her husband are raising children who are making a difference.
  • The Difference is Me – Living as the Rainbow Generation — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle, guest posting at Natural Parents Network, is used to being the odd-one-out but walking an alternative path with children means digging deeper, answering lots of questions and opening to more love.
  • My daughter will never know same-sex marriage is not normal — Doña at Nurtured Mama realizes that the recent Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriage will change the way she talks to her daughter about her own past.
  • Montessori-Inspired Respect for Diversity — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells about her multicultural family and shares Montessori-inspired ideas for encouraging respect for diversity.
  • EveryDay Diversity — Ana at Panda & Ananaso makes diversity a part of everyday living, focusing on raising of compassionate and respectful child.
  • Diversity as Part of Life — Even though Laura at Authentic Parenting thought she had diversity covered, she found out that some things are hard to control.
  • Inequity and Privilege — Jona is unpacking questions raised by a summit addressing inequity in breastfeeding support at Life, Intertwined.
  • 3 Ways to Teach Young Children About Diversity — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama recognizes her family’s place of privilege and shares how she is teaching her little ones about diversity in their suburban community.
  • Teaching diversity: tales from public school — A former public high school teacher and current public school parent, Jessica at Crunchy-Chewy Mama values living in a diverse community.
  • 30 Ideas to Encourage Learning about Diversity While Traveling — Traveling with kids can bring any subject alive. Dionna at Code Name: Mama has come up with a variety of ways you can incorporate diversity education into your family travels (regardless of whether you homeschool). From couch surfing to transformative reading, celebrate diversity on your next trip!
  • Diversity, huh? — Jorje of Momma Jorje doesn’t do anything BIG to teach about diversity; it’s more about the little things.
  • Chosen and Loved — From Laura at Pug in the Kitchen: Color doesn’t matter. Ethnicity doesn’t matter. Love matters.
  • The One With The Bright Skin — Stefanie at Very Very Fine tries to recover from a graceless reponse to her son’s apparent prejudice.

Birthday Boy Book List

Today, my baby boy turned 4 years old.  He sleeps in his own giant bed and chooses his own clothes. He says things like “I didn’t realize that” and “Mama, did you know…?” He knows so much trivia about heavy machinery that I just sit back and smile while I talks. Recently, as we prepare for preschool I’m noticing more and more of his quirks and I get the chance to celebrate who he is even more deeply.

I started reading to Liam when he was still in utero. I could hardly wait to purchase an entire library for him. And I am thrilled to continue to purchase those books for him. So in light of this, I asked him for his favorite books so we can share with you today. (For the record, I bought him another book for his birthday, he sleeps with it at night 🙂

My little guy is all about vehicles and superheroes. He’s been like that since he even could make simple choices, so the bulk of books that occupy his bookcase are well… “boy” books.

The Beginner’s Bible – We read from this one almost every night and I love that because the story is so simple, he always has lots of questions to further the story details.

Little Golden Book – Thor

Scholastic Books – he loves the ones about Legos and Superheros

The Cars Storybook Collection – Obviously this one is a favorite 🙂

A Treasury of Curious George – This was a shower gift for Liam and the book I attribute to his unnaturally long attention span… Thank goodness we have George!

How Machines Work – This was my brother’s book left behind when he moved out of my parent’s home.  He got it in high school. Liam pours over the pages for hours.

Farm – I love everything about this book EXCEPT that you can see the signs along the fields for the seed manufacturers. Makes me crazy.

You Can Name 100 Trucks – This book came from a garage sale and I tell you, it’s almost worn out from chubby toddler fingers combing through the pages every day. Fantastic book!

Anything by Jennifer Sattler! – Of course, we are partial due to the focus on Pugs… but she is still an excellent writer!

Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks and Things That Go – I bought this book for Liam as an activity for while I nursed Sylvi. Each page has so much on it that we used it often as a sort of I Spy book and now, I see him doing the same with his little sister all on his own.

We finished the summer reading program this morning and picked out our prize books.  I’m still debating which books I will add to our own library for the kids from all the books we brought home.  I’ve added one hardbound book each year that each child newly discovered through the program, but this year… there were SO many great books this year!

Have you discovered any new books to read to your children this summer?