With school for both kids, swimming, soccer, and tutoring, there is little room for spontaneity in our lives. Most of the time, I have to plan to be spontaneous. Our lives go something like this, wake up, eat, get ready for school, drop Monster off at school, drop Sunshine off at school, pick up Sunshine from school, eat lunch, nap for Sunshine, get Monster from school, do homework, go to swim lessons, eat dinner, play a bit, read, bed. Sunshine doesn't have school on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so those days are usually taken with playgroup and errand running. This Tuesday, I was truly spontaneous. Not even home from my tiny walk to drop off Monster, I decided to call my mom and see what she was doing that day. She happened to be free, so Sunshine and I just got in the car when we got home and went to visit my parents. It was wonderful. It was great to relax and have fun with family. Sunshine loves playing with Nana and Papa. She's got Papa wrapped around her finger. We didn't do anything super exciting, just hung out. We bought a pair of shoes (rainbow sparkles) and then went to lunch. It was such a relaxing day. It was wonderful seeing Sunshine interact with her grandparents. All the work that I had to get done somehow doesn't seem near as important as seeing the joy on my daughter and parents' faces when playing. I am so glad I decided to take a break from routine and be spontaneous.
It's pumpkin time! This year we planted pumpkins. Horrible year for crops, but we did get one pumpkin that turned out perfectly! Sunshine couldn't wait to pick it off the vine, so we bought one at the store. We decided to do a science experiment with the store bought one. The experiment was super easy. Cut off the top, stick in soil. Water. Watch. Since we only did this on Tuesday, there's nothing growing yet. We have high hopes though! Another thing we did with the store bought pumpkin was pull some of the seeds out to roast. We've had horrible luck with pumpkin seeds in the past. This round, they turned out great. At least Sunshine and I thought they turned out great. Monster and Husband didn't like them so much. Sunshine and I liked them so much I almost want to buy another little pumpkin just to roast the seeds! What I did was let the seeds dry for 3 days on wax paper. Then, I sprayed them with canola oil. After that, I tossed them in salt. I roasted them in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, flipping them after 10. We've got another pumpkin on the vine that should be ready by Halloween! So excited about all the wonders of autumn!
It's funny the things you remember from childhood. I remember my grandmother's hands. There was really nothing extraordinary about her hands. In fact, I recall thinking they weren't pretty in the least. I have my grandmother's hands. It's funny because my mother doesn't even remember her mother's hands. Her hands don't look like her mom's. Yet, mine do. Recently, a friend of mine lost her grandmother. She managed to capture a picture of four generations of hands. It's funny how you can already see similarities. My friend's hands look like her mother's. Her daughter's look like hers.
My kids' hands don't look like mine. Monster has strong hands. Ever since he was a baby, his hands have been strong. They are comforting hands, like his father's. Sunshine has my mom's hands. She has long fingers, not quite delicate, but not strong like her brother's. Sadly, I'm pretty sure my daughter will not be able to do a picture with four generations of hands, but I'd like to get one with her hands and my mom's. Then she can remember.
I'm really trying to stick to at least one new recipe a week, but with our packed activity schedules, it will more likely be every other week. I do have a couple that I have tried, pass and fail.
My kids love oatmeal. In fact, that's what they consider cereal. They don't eat dry cereal. When I saw a pin for Apple Pie Breakfast, I was sure my kids would love it. Luckily, I'm an early riser. This takes 2-4 in the crock pot. I woke up at 5 am, and got it all ready. It smelled wonderful. The kids were so excited about it. And then they took their first bites. No go. Sunshine, who is the picky one, at least picked the apples out of it and ate those. Monster wouldn't even do that. Pretty sure it was the steel cut oats they didn't like since I use regular oats and put all kinds of fruit in it normally. There's one more pin that got deleted.
A recipe that went over really well was Mexican Pizza. The great thing about this is that I was able to change it up to meet the tastes of all family members. Monster and Sunshine shared one and Husband and I each got our own. There was a layer of refried beans and then a layer of ground chicken. After that, we changed it up to meet the needs of our family. Kids got mozzarella cheese because they don't like melted cheddar, no sauce, and olives and tomatoes. Husband and I did cheddar cheese and sauce. I got tomatoes, he did olives. We completely forgot about the scallions that I had in the fridge for this meal. We'll do that next time. Sunshine was the only critic. Next time, we'll leave out the chicken layer for her. Everyone else loved it.
Another night, I Hawaiian Luau chicken. Along with it, I decided to try crock pot mashed potatoes. We ended up with chicken and a last minute thrown together side dish. The potatoes were supposed to take 4 hours on high. I was also supposed to use 5lbs, which I didn't. After 6 hours on high, the potatoes still weren't very soft. Even though we couldn't have them with that meal, I finished cooking them (7 hours on high) and saved them so we could at least try them out. That didn't work though. No one in my family wanted to give them a shot. I was going to fry them up into potato pancakes, but then completely forgot. So, I had to toss them. I'll try this again, making sure I give them longer to cook!
Swim nights are difficult to find things to make for dinner. By the time we get home, we can't have anything that takes too long if I actually want to get the kids in bed at a decent time. Last several rounds of swim lessons, I gave up and just had junk for dinner, and by junk, I mean processed popcorn chicken and fish sticks. I'm making a real effort this time around to get back into crock pot meals for swim nights. Since we love Mexican food in this house, I decided to try Mexican chicken in the crock pot. The directions were to put the chicken and enchilada sauce in the crock pot and cook on low for 4-6 hours then top with cheese and cook on low another half hour. That's not how this turned out. It was so runny that if I tried to melt cheese on it, it would just sit in liquid. The flavor was good. However, if I had to do this again, I wouldn't bother with the crock pot and just bake the chicken using this recipe.
A couple of weeks ago, I decided to try a wrap with Laughing Cow and cucumber. The actual "recipe" calls for turkey, but I can do without lunch meat. I'm not the biggest fan. This was awesome. Seriously great. I used the herbed Laughing Cow, which gave it a nice flavor. Since then, I've also used regular Laughing Cow, which is still good, but the herbed is better.
Even though my family rarely ever eats red meat, I decided to try beef roast in the crock pot. I was the only one who liked this because I am the only one who loves salt. And even for me, it was a bit on the salty side. Husband watches his salt intake, so I rarely ever use salt in anything. When the kids bit into this, they were spitting it out telling me it was way too salty. Husband agreed with them. Aside from the saltiness, the flavor was good. Not sure how to tweak this to make it less salty, so I'll probably have to delete this one, too.
Last night was supposed to be Pizza/Movie night, but Monster has handwriting tutoring now on Sundays, so there's less time to make the pizzas. I had pinned a recipe for pepperoni pizza quesadillas, so I figured that would be a quick fix to the pizza issue. Since I was with Monster, Husband was left to make these. When I got home, he told me we should never make these again. The recipe calls for a cast iron skillet, which we don't have. I didn't think it would make the much of a difference, but, apparently, it does. The food itself turned out to be a big hit. They tasted great. They were just more of a hassle to make than actual pizza, at least for Husband (and I'm not allowed to fry things since I may burn down the house).
I've got two new recipes on deck for this week and hopefully some sweet treats also. Happy Eating!
My first 5K that I ran the whole way is down. It was an amazing event. The amount of people and energy is like nothing I've ever seen. I've walked 5K's before, but never one of this magnitude. I am honored that I was able to be part of such an incredible event. I am also honored that was able to do this with three of the most amazing women I know. Thank you to everyone who donated to the cause. Thank you for donating hope.
I have a temper and get angry quickly. However, I also rarely get offended so my angry burns out quickly. I also don't get offended by silly e-cards, until last night.
This just happened to come at the wrong time. Lately, I've been hearing a lot more people say how easy it is to be a stay at home mom. Let me tell you, if it's easy, you're not doing it right. If it's easy, you're that parent who lets their kids do whatever they want and never disciplines. If it's easy, you most likely use the television as a babysitter. It may seem easy to people who only see their children on the weekends and a couple of hours each day, but it's not easy. Not if you're actually raising your children. Let me clarify, I'm not saying working moms have it easy. They don't. In fact, I don't know how working moms can juggle kids' activities without a network of people around to help out. Then there are my single friends who work full time and have kids to raise. They are my heroes because I wouldn't be able to do it without help. What I'm talking about are all those people who think stay at home moms have it so easy. Those people who hold full time jobs and think they are better than stay at home moms because they do "more" every day than we do. I promise you, stay at home moms do more in a day than most people do in a week. My issue is with the people who want to have a slew of kids and then can't wait to get back to work because there is no way they could stay at home all day with their children, yet put stay at home moms down for their choice not to go back to work. I know someone who told me, while I was pregnant with Monster and working, that she couldn't believe another friend of ours actually took time off of work and wasted her degree to be a mom. The person who said this, has 4 kids and a nanny. My response, mind you before I even had children, was why do you have kids if you don't want anything to do with raising them? I've said this before, I'm not naive. People have to work and leave their children. It's how this country is built. I'm not putting those people down. But don't, for one minute, ever think that I'm wasting my time or my college degree because I chose to work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with no vacation time or pay. Just because you have a job and are a mom, don't for one moment think you are better or smarter than I am. Chances are, I have more education and world experience than you. Chances also are, that since I never leave my job, I'm tired and cranky and could possibly come after you with a baseball bat next time you mention how easy my job is and how hard you have it. I don't go around telling you how easy it must be to only see your kids when you're putting them to bed and dragging them around on errands on the weekends. Until you walk in someone's shoes, shut up.
***edited to add: people's life decisions are no concern of mine, until they start putting down my choices and what I do. Everyone has it hard in one way or another. I would rather keep my own problems than deal someone else's. Did I judge the person who didn't want to waste her degree, yes, but only because she was so rude about it. And I didn't judge her for her choice to go back to work. I judged her for her anger at the person who didn't. I'm sure there is more to her story, but she didn't need to be rude.***
Being as I used to be an Intervention Specialist, I fully support education for all children, regardless of learning issues. The problem lies in what is considered left behind. Before discovering Monster is gifted, I went by the standard that all children have a right to education at their level, and trying to work their way to the correct grade level. Now, I'm re-evaluating my definition. There were a couple of things wrong with my other definition from a teacher perspective anyway. First, not all children will achieve at their grade/standard level. It's just a fact. I fully believe that there needs to be interventions in place to help children achieve. The part I've recently added to this is that there needs to be interventions in place to help children achieve at their level. Be that lower or higher. A lot of behavior issues in classrooms come from children who are either lost or bored. Not by any fault of the teachers, there are standards to meet. Teachers have to teach to the "majority". Unfortunately, my son is not in the majority.
At a very young age, we realized that Monster was different. He had different interests. He strived to learn all he could about everything he could, and he retained it. That was the craziest part...the retention. He could recall the minute details of something and apply that information to a different area. Once Monster started reading, there was no stopping his quest for knowledge. So why is it that I feel like my child is "left behind"? Even though Monster is advanced in many areas, he has fine motor issues. He was in private occupational therapy for a while and is now working with a private handwriting tutor, who is awesome! But why did I have to search this out on my own? Since letter formation and finger strength are Monster's only "weaknesses", he qualifies for nothing. He doesn't get help for an area in which he's behind, but he also doesn't get challenged in areas in which he's advanced. I'm really very fortunate to have the knowledge that I do have in the education field to help supplement his education on his level. I'm also very fortunate that we have the financial ability to get him help in an area that I know nothing about.
Teachers do the best they can with the resources they are given, but, in reality, we have too many children "left behind". We have children who can't function at the normal classroom level, for whatever reason, yet everyone is expected to achieve the same way. Teachers have an impossible job today. Not only do they have parents who do not take the time to work with their children, but they have officials at state and federal levels making standards for our children but have never actually been in a classroom. With all of the budget cuts, special needs teachers and therapists have crazy case loads and can't possibly give their students the attention that's needed. Gifted programs have been cut completely. The parents of students in the "minority" are left to seek out help or challenges on our own, and that's those of us who take the time to do so. A a parent who cares, it's frustrating to have my child come home and tell me they didn't learn anything new today. As an educator, it was frustrating to have the children I worked with come to me and tell me they were completely lost in class because the teachers didn't have time to explain things to them. As a parent and an educator, it's frustrating to see the amount of children who are being left behind.
The past two days have been perfect weather for me. Lower 70's during the day and 50's at night. I love autumn.
Yesterday was my first official day home with no children. It was so much lonelier than I anticipated. It started with feeling like I fed Monster to the wolves. I was so concerned about getting Sunshine to her first full day of school on time, that I took Monster a bit early. He didn't know any of the kids waiting outside, so he stood by himself. It broke my heart. I hate thinking of my baby being lonely. When I got Sunshine to school, she got frustrated because she didn't know which room was hers. When I showed her, she was fine, but I could tell she was nervous not knowing where she was. When I got home, it was quiet. Not relaxing quiet, but strange quiet. I'm sure I'll get used to it and start truly enjoying it. Until then, when they're around, I'm going to treasure my time with them.
I don't consider myself a health nut. I drink too much coffee and alcohol, eat gummy bears, and rarely eat an actual meal. Yet, a lot of people think I'm a health nut. To take it a step further, some people even think I'm a "crunchie mama". Maybe for my family and some parts of my life, I am.
I am very lucky to have such a wide range of friends. Through them, I can gather information and make more informed decisions on lifestyle choices. For example, thanks to a friends extensive research, we have cut Red 40 from our diets. In fact, we're trying to cut all artificial colors out of our diets, but we're starting with Red 40. Does this mean I'm super crazy if my kids eat something with food coloring? No, it just means I don't buy it. Every Saturday is Sucker Saturday from our mail lady. I let the kids have the suckers. I'm not as uptight as a lot of people seem to think. The other day, we were at the grocery store, and Sunshine got a sucker from the cashier. She asked me if it was OK for her to eat the Red 40. I try to teach my kids it's all about good choices and moderation. Some people see this as over the top. I see it as teaching my kids the difference between processed and non processed foods. Sunshine is definitely my kid with the sweet tooth, but even she knows what good choices are. She will tell people that Mommy does not let her drink chocolate milk or eat candy if they offer it to her. And then she'll add, "But I do like it, so if you want to give it to me, that OK." Monster is my healthy eater. Even at school, Monster eats he lunch in "proper" order, meaning the granola bar that is in there for "dessert", last. I know this because he doesn't throw anything away and he will sometimes bring home "dessert" and let me know he didn't have time to eat it. I used to be a lot more uptight about what my kids ate. Though I'm a lot more laid back about it now, people are still nervous about feeding my kids. I'm not sure exactly what people think we eat here, but we do have pretty normal meals. I mean, I have frozen chicken nuggets and fish sticks in my freezer, too. Those are my fall backs, but I feed those things to my kids. My kids also eat WAY too much salami. It's the only lunch meat Sunshine will eat. Talk about processed! But, like I said before, it's all about moderation.
Another reason a lot of people think I'm a health nut is because I believe in Essential Oils. I swear by Thieves. I have been using it on the kids for three years now, and, knock on wood, no real illnesses. Last year, all our friends got the stomach flu. All of them. Kids were throwing up in my house, yet all of us stayed well. I diffuse Thieves as well as put it on my children and myself every day. Husband doesn't believe in it, yet he reaps the benefits with the diffuser and no sick kids. I'm getting into essential oils more lately. Figuring out all the different uses. I have cleaned with oils for a couple of years now, but now I'm doing more research on allergies and oils. Allergies are really the only "sicknesses" we have gone to the doctors for in the past year. Monster's allergies are so severe that I'm not completely sold, but, even he is asking me to try so that he doesn't have to keep taking allergy medicine every day. My kids know about oils and treat them like medicine. They don't touch the oils and know that each oil has a special job.
People also think I'm over the top health conscience because I believe in physical activity, at least for my kids. This is where I'm really bad for myself, but great for the kids. My kids don't sit around. On average, I'd say they may watch 2 hours of television a week. Yes, week. Our family time is mostly spent outdoors. We go hiking a lot in the fall. We swim in the summer. We play in the snow in the winter. We do anything we can in the spring. We're not a family who sits around. Unlike a lot of families, we don't consider being "on the go" just running from place to place. We consider it actually moving our bodies, be that bike rides, hikes or whatever else gets us up and moving.
I choose a healthier lifestyle for my family. So, am I a health nut? I don't believe so. But if being healthy makes me a health nut, then I'll