Wednesday, April 30, 2014

What's What Wednesday

Today was beautiful. The sun was out and the temps were in the high 80's. It would have been a perfect beach day had Ian not been at work until well after 7:00. When you don't have a vehicle to get to said beach, you opt for something a bit more local and since our swimming pool isn't open yet either, we were forced to skip the water altogether. Down the Summer List we ticked... ice cream? Doable. Long walks on green trails? Well, since we live in Washington, also totally doable. Our apartment complex has an incredible walking path circling around the buildings, overgrown with trees, grass and dandy lions. Usually, I forget it exists because it's being flooded with rains.

Today, we seized a taste of summer. It was delicious.

Almost as delicious as these pancakes: Strawberry lemon and whole-wheat to boot. Perfect for a summer breakfast or brunch. You can also switch out the strawberries for blueberries. I just took my favorite whole-wheat pancake recipe and added the lemon and fruit.

What's for Breakfast?  

Strawberry Lemon Whole Wheat Pancakes

1/2 cups whole wheat flour (you can totally use all-purpose if it's what you have on hand)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 cup fresh strawberries, sliced into small pieces

In a big bowl, whisk up your dry ingredients- flour, baking powder, soda and salt. In another bowl, whisk together your wet- oil, egg, milk, honey, lemon juice and zest. Mix your wet and dry ingredients together, careful not to over-mix. It's okay if there's some clumps.
Heat a large pan or griddle over medium heat and oil it up. Then pour some batter on the pan and sprinkle some strawberries on top. Cook for about two minutes, flip over and cook for two minutes more.

Delicious with jam, syrup, honey or whatever you'd like.

What we're learning 

We've been going on lots of nature walks the past few days. This is the easiest of all art projects and is such an awesome learning opportunity. I basically just let Kade free to roam around and pick flowers, leaves and grass. We talked about a fallen pine tree branch- describing each of its parts (branch, pine needles, pine cones, sap) and what they were for. We noticed sticky pollen on some of the flowers and talked about what bees can do with it (Kade thought this was so super cool). Nature is seriously the best classroom. The possibilities are endless and kids never seem to tire of it.

Have your kid pick some grass, flowers, leaves, sticks, whatever neat treasures he can find. Bring them inside at the end of your adventure and let them arrange them on a piece of paper. Talk some more about each item, what color is it? What does it smell like? Are the petals soft? The edges of the leaf rough? Use Washi tape (or any old tape) and stick the treasures to the paper. Ta-da! A super easy project with infinite learning opportunity; my favorite kind.

What's Making Me Smile? 

The obvious signs of summer, preparing for a new baby and watching my big boy grow and grow, taking deep breaths of lilac and scrubbing away sunscreen at the end of an adventure-packed day.

 Hoping you and yours are having an awesome week. Hang in there friends, seek out something beautiful today.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Damned if you do...

I recently read an article about "moms who suck." As I scrolled down, I felt my face get hotter and hotter. Gee, I thought, everyone must totally hate me. Maybe I'm trying too hard. Immediately, I started second-guessing most of my decisions and weighing the real importance of them. This is a thing I do on the regular as a mom and it's a nasty place to have your head stuck. Worrying about your (obviously harmless) parenting skills and second guessing yourself is uncomfortable and it should be; because it shouldn't happen. We do what we feel is best and while it's important to put a lot of thought, care and love into the choices we make for our kids, we shouldn't feel doubtful or self-conscience because of a silly internet article. If something doesn't go well, we should learn from that mistake and choose to do things differently next time. But things like asking people to tone down their language, eating organic food, and get this, being well-dressed should not be things that determine whether I am a good mom. We're all in this together as parents. This is the hardest job on earth.

I don't care if you lost all your baby weight in five hours and I certainly don't care if you feed your kid chicken nuggets for dinner every night. We should support each other, learn what one another's goals are and lift each other up. There is enough negativity in the world, mamas.

I like feeding my kid organic food and have been known to splurge on organic home products. This one is a doozy. If I had a dollar for every time someone rolled their eyes at me for this, I would be stinking rich. Listen, my family does not buy everything organic. First off, that's impossible and second, it's extremely expensive. We do however, buy organic where we feel it's most important. I think it's important that Kade use a soap without any harmful chemicals. I also feel it's important that his dairy and meat products are hormone-free. When we can afford it, we buy the "dirty dozen" organic. It makes me nervous that traditionally-grown blueberries test positive for over 50 chemicals after being washed. If this doesn't freak you out, that's okay. This does not mean that Kade never eats anything unhealthy. He enjoys lots of goodies when at grandmas and yes, we eat fast food (although very rarely) for special cousin dates or when visiting with family from out of state. If you feed your kid Micky Dee's on the regular or have a freezer full of processed food, that cool with me. I shouldn't feel guilty for feeding my kid what I feel is the right food for him because of what you choose for your kid.

I don't like you to swear around my kid. No, seriously. I'm sick of hearing, "He's going to learn it anyway" because he doesn't have to learn to use those words. I honestly believe it's possible to raise a kid who doesn't use disrespectful language. If he learns at a young age that those words aren't necessary, I hope he will carry it with him through adulthood. I'm guilty of swearing- in fact, I used to be a downright sailor and sometimes, I still slip. As I get older, though, I'm learning that those are "filler words." I don't need them, especially because they often make people feel, well, crummy. And I don't want to make people feel crummy. I'd like to lift people up, not stomp them down. If you feel like swearing around your kids, that's totally your choice and I respect that. We should respect each other and the decisions we make- that means please don't swear at my house and I won't ask you to tone down your language in your own home.

If I feed my kid well and use appropriate language, I'm an annoying and overprotective mom. If I feed my kid junk food and swear around them constantly, I'm irresponsible and perverse. We're so quick to throw the ax. Isn't it time we stood up for each other and offered advise and support where it's wanted?

All of us have these things about our parenting- if you put anyone under a magnifying glass, you could find a dozen things that you disagree with. But the thing is, just because we disagree doesn't mean that one of us is wrong. What's right for me may not be right for you. Every family has different needs and desires and goals. If we really want to raise each other up, it's time to stop judging.

We're in this together.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

What's What Wednesday

I am certainly no Martha Stewart. I don't have a fancy camera to take staged elaborate pictures of my meals, I haven't taken any cooking classes and most of my recipes, deceiving little buggers, are super simple and quick. That being said, I have a lot of friends who ask, "How do you do it?" It is true that my boys are spoiled rotten. I'm very fortunate to be able to stay home and care for them. I make a very healthy, delicious home cooked meal every night.  But, looks and especially social media, can be extremely deceiving. Let me let you in on a little secret: I'm a lazy stay at home mom. No, seriously. I have you all fooled.

I'd like to start a weekly post on this blog called "What's What Wednesday." It will likely include a few easy recipes and a fun project or two that me and Kade are working on.


Before I begin, it's important to state a few facts. I am not myself a gourmet chef. I don't (usually) create my own recipes from scratch. All of my recipes were found on the internet, in books or handed down from family members. That being said, it's important to me that I am not guilty of plagiarizing any ideas. Most of my recipes I have altered to my liking- a little less of this or more of that- but I would still like to give the original creator the credit that is due. I will do my best to site where the original recipe came from. If you notice something that hasn't been sited and know where it came from, please let me know so proper credit can be given.


What's For Dinner?

We live in Washington where we are fortunate to have a whole lot of rain. I say fortunate because it's beautiful, keeps things green and it's always soup season. Three-hundred days of the year, baby. I'm a sucker for a good, easy soup. I'm especially keen to a good, easy soup that can be frozen and kept for a rainy day (see what I did there?). If you don't live somewhere with such awesome soup weather, this is a great soup for sick days. Recently, Kade has been struck by a nasty cold and a couple weeks ago, it was Ian with the sniffles. This will soothe the throat and keep the sinus' clear. I found the original recipe on Pinterest but altered it quite a bit to fit my liking. It's made with orzo- super inexpensive when bought in bulk and absolutely packed with iron.

Lemon Orzo Soup

1/2 Onion, coarsely chopped
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2-3 cloves chopped garlic
1 carrot, coarsely grated
Zest and Juice of 1 lemon
6 cups chicken or veggie broth
1 Tablespoon dried basil
1/2 cup orzo
Salt and Pepper to taste

First, put your broth in a pot and start it on medium-high heat. While that's warming up, heat your olive oil in a skillet. Toss in your chopped onion and cook until translucent. Add garlic and cook for about 30 more seconds.
Put your onion and garlic mixture into your warming pot of broth, add your carrot, basil, salt and pepper. Once you've got a boil going on, add the Orzo, lemon juice and zest. Cook until Orzo is soft (about 8-10 minutes).

Seriously, that's it. The entire thing takes about twenty minutes and is seriously so delicious. I made a batch today and put it in the freezer for when Ezra is born. It's an easy meal to quickly heat when you're exhausted and don't know what to make for dinner.

What's For Dessert? 

I originally planned on a homemade roll recipe to go on this post but honestly, I'm pregnant and craving cookies. This is another recipe that's so easy and so delicious. It does require the dough to sit in the fridge for 2 hours before baking, so plan ahead for that. I like to make this recipe on the weekdays and stick the dough in the freezer (it stays good in the freezer for up to 3 months). When the weekend comes, it's easy to slice it up and put it in the oven- no hassle. Ten minutes later, you've got cookies for your Saturday night.

Honey-Cinnamon Cookies, original recipe by Catherine McCord

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
1 large egg

Whisk together your dry ingredients: your flour, soda, salt, cinnamon and ginger. In a separate bowl, combine your wet ingredients: softened butter, brown sugar, honey and egg. Once that's mixed well, add your wet ingredients to your dry, forming a nice soft dough.  Shape the dough into two logs and wrap in plastic wrap. Then, either freeze for up to 3 months or refrigerate for 2 hours. When you're ready to bake, cut the cookies into 1/2 inch slices and bake for 10 to 12 minutes at 400 degrees.

I made both of these recipes today in under an hour while Kade napped. Before I knew it, I was plopped down in front of House reruns with a cup of coffee in my hand.  I told you, I have you all fooled!

What Are We Learning?

Kade is all about books. He is a book worm like no kid I've ever known. He often has me read the same books again and again until he can recite them. He even starts with the authors name, like "Stormy Day by Claire Henley."  This drives me a little crazy- I've been known to recite lines from books that relate to whatever it is we're doing. On the way home from the grocery store last week, I told Ian, "Look! A rainbow! Soon the storm will be over and the sun will shine." He thought I was pretty hilarious and maybe sort of pathetic. Lately, I've followed Kade's lead and have based most of the art projects we do on the books he's been reading. With a little bit of imagination, this is easy and so much fun to do.

Two of his favorites right now are The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carl and Mr.King's Castle by G. Cote. For the caterpillar, we simply painted his fingers and then cut out eyes and a little nose. This is an awesome sensory activity; the paint is cold and wet!

For Mr.King's Castle, I helped Kade cut out lots of shapes and let him glue them onto the paper, creating his own castle. (If you have an older kid, they could cut the shapes by themselves). This project was good for shape recognition and helped him with some kindergarten skills (cutting and pasting).

What's Making Me Smile? 

I feel so blessed to have such amazing friends from all stages of my life. I received the sweetest gifts in the mail from an old friend for baby Ezra. Warm fuzzies all over.

Kade made this all by himself- 100 percent without my help. He calls it a "Baby Sheep." It's the first project he's done where I can actually see what he sees. That's awesome.

Kade's awesome mind. He's been memorizing all of his states and loves to talk about what his body does with food- calcium, iron, etc. But letters are a foreign and hilarious concept to him. It's amazing to see how his brain works.

Let me know what you think about What's What Wednesday, I'm open to some ideas! Hope you're enjoying your week, friends. The weekend is almost here. Do yourself a favor; make a cup of tea, turn on some music and hum hum hum. Life is good.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Mean Mom or "Why we don't play Easter Bunny"

I crawled out of bed early this morning and peeked in on my sleeping Kade; his little breaths moving up and down, his bum tucked into the air, his hair sticking straight out in all directions, he was completely unaware of the beautiful morning he was missing. Light oozed through his bedroom window and birds sang praises. The world was exploding around him and he rested. I stared at him for a while and thought long and hard about this whole Easter thing and how I might be "ruining his childhood."

The Easter Bunny does not come to our house.

The big red man? You won't see him sneaking down this (non-existent) chimney either. I've been told by some raw, honest folks that I'm stealing the magic from Kade. I'm ruining his childhood, making him the target of bullies and, get this, he is going to hate me for it when he is an adult.

A giant bunny did not leave pellets of "poop" in my house this morning. We did not plant a jelly bean and have suckers grow in their place and honestly? Kade knows better. He's lovingly planted actual plants and knows darn well that candy is not a plant. There are no giant bunny footprints leading out of my apartment. I did not hide eggs all over my house because seriously, if a giant bunny did get in, why on earth would he hide eggs?

I don't like lying to my kid. I want a relationship with him that is built on trust, honesty and love. I am not going to force magic into his childhood because I think Kade creates the magic himself. He doesn't need to sit (and probably scream) on the lap of a giant costumed rabbit to be a happy kid, truly experiencing his childhood. When Kade gets older he is going to notice that his friends believe in a rabbit with apparent hypothyroidism. Another thing I've been told is that he is going to ruin it for others. That might be true but vastly accidental. I am so sorry if my kid tells your kid that you have in fact been lying to them since birth.

Let me tell you something about today; it was magical. Kade woke up elated to pull gifts from an Easter basket. He knew very well that the gifts were from Mommy and Daddy and because of that, he thanked us. He was grateful and appreciative and recognized that we had worked hard to do it for him. I think this is important. Gratitude is a lesson that is often difficult for adults to learn but of course it is; we've handed off the credit to imaginary creatures and in return, our kids aren't expected to give out simple thanks. They're spoiled. Last night, we decorated eggs. We didn't decorate eggs so that a rabbit could hide them about our house. We decorated eggs because it's fun and creative and a little bit silly. We were up way past bedtime laughing and having an irreplaceable family moment. And that moment was even more special because it was an honest moment. We weren't filling his head with ideas of the Big Bunny, we were having a genuinely good time in his company.

This morning Kade asked us, "What is Easter?" We gave him the best answer we could muster. We explained that some families play the Easter bunny, we talked about Jesus and we talked about family. We were raw and straight forward. His response was simple. He grinned and nodded and said, "Okay, thanks mama daddy." That is why we don't play Easter or Santa or Tooth Fairy. Because my baby trusts me and he is happy without all the fluff and made up junk.

We celebrate the ordinary and let the extraordinary happen on it's own.

So, today we celebrated. We joined our church family for a pancake breakfast, fellowship, hugs and handshakes. He ran about the grass with his church friends and found Easter eggs and afterwards he thanked the Pastor and his nursery teacher and wished them an exuberant HAPPY EASTER! He played for a long time with his friends and took a peaceful nap. This afternoon, we opened his new paint set and ate candy together.

Over and over today, Ian and I have told Kade how proud we are of him. He has taken this simple day and made it so special, so magical, so full of memories. He is joyful and he is happy.

I hope you all had a wonderful Easter, however you celebrated.