Monday, January 13, 2014

Christmas 2013

The last couple years, we have celebrated solstice and traveled to North Carolina to see Rob's family on Christmas day. I love traveling on Christmas day because no one is one the roads and even the crazy long drive (14-ish hours) is fun with the whole family, including the dog, in a rental van. This year we had this crazy cough thing and Parker performed in his first adult play, Miracle on 34th Street (8 performances over two weeks around the holidays). We've also had a ton of snow already so the roads would not have been fun, especially through the mountains. We needed to stay home.
My sister and her husband loaned us this adorbs tree. It is over 20 years old and it was perfect. I love a living tree so much better than an artificial one and we have never been into cutting down a real tree. It is kind of Charlie Brown-ish and many of our ornaments were too heavy, but the kids didn't really care.  They even loaned us a special light since the tree didn't get much light in our house. As you can see, we don't do tons of presents. The kids always say they pretty much have everything they need/want.
 Josie does her part as the youngest and gets everyone in the holiday mood.

 Parker opened up his new camera. Josie feigns surprise after opening up the earrings she picked out for herself.
 Parker opened a Dr. Who game from our new favorite hang-out, The Gaming Goat. Josie puts on her bling and Dema opened his book (the second in the Magic Zero series).
 Parker and his new Buddha statue from International Galleries, shopping there always reminds me of my mom.
 Dema bought presents for us this year. His school has a little "store" around Christmas for the kids to pick up gifts for their family. He did an excellent job finding something for each of us and he was so excited. Rob is opening up a coffee mug with Dema's artwork on the side. Dema bought him a book light too.
 Josie saw this coffee at the co-op and recognized our friend, the Prairie Monk, and said we had to buy it for Rob.
 Josie's one request was a unicorn light. I hate buying stuff like this, but it really made her happy.
 Josie showing off her earrings (also from International Galleries) and the headband Dema bought for her at the his school's holiday store.
 Of course, they got a little chocolate as well.
 And maybe a sucker. Josie is super happy after winning a game with her brothers.
 The guys all intent on their game of Timeline (Dema's gift from The Gaming Goat).
 Fun and educational!
 My sister gave me this pot with hard to kill plants for my birthday in November. It is a present that keeps of giving and it bloomed over the holiday.
My sister also came by with a bunch of games and other presents for the kids. The games are from another new game store in town, Dr. G's BrainWorks. They love all the games and the boys are really enjoying the logic puzzle books she bought them. I love logic puzzles too so we've had a great time doing some together. Our awesome neighbors, Vicky and Greg and Margie and Rick all gave the kids sweet gifts too. We are so fortunate to have suck sweet people in our lives. We had an awesome time the day after Christmas at Ricky and Catharine's Boxing Day party and then another party with more great neighbors at Scott and Deborah's house. Except for the coughing, it was a fabulous holiday break at home. We really missed seeing Rob's family and the kids were especially sad about not seeing their cousin, Lillian. They only have one cousin and she has never come to visit us so they were really heartbroken we didn't go, but we'll get down there in the summer.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Parenting Mid-life Crisis

I am going through a parenting mid-life crisis. It probably started a week or so before the school year started. I decided, while Rob was out of town, to put Dema in school. We have always homeschooled. I knew I wanted to homeschool before I gave birth to Parker almost 14 years ago. I love homeschooling.

Parker attended public school for one year, his sixth grade, and it went well. He had not expressed an interest in conventional school, but the middle schools were having an open house and I knew several of his neighborhood friends were going. I thought it would be good for Parker to see what public education was like. He decided to try it. We went week by week. He knew he could quit at any point. He knew we didn't put much stock in grades, but we didn't want him to waste the teachers' time or his own. He enjoyed his year, made lasting friends, learned some things, realized he missed his siblings and being with the family, he decided we were much more efficient with our time at home, thus he decided to homeschool the next two years.

Dema had never expressed an interest in attending conventional school, but I was at the end of my rope. Our best year homeschooling together had been Parker's year at public school. Everything aligned. Josie was older and needed me differently. Dema and Josie could work together better, but I think a huge part of that year's success was no bigger brother for Dema to compare himself to. Parker is four years older than Dema, but he still can't help feeling inadequate next to his brother. Parker is rarely competitive, especially with his siblings, but Dema creates competition and comparisons when they are not needed or healthy.

I decided not to go the public school route with Dema because of his personality. I figured small class size, uniforms, and more structure would make him feel less anxious. We have very fluid days when we homeschool, flexibility is one of the huge benefits, but for a child with OCD it can be a bit torturous. I only had a week to find the right fit for my sweet, sensitive, cerebral boy. Imagine my husband's surprise when I picked him up from the train station and announced that Dema would be attending a Catholic private school. I don't get into religion much on this blog, but I will say that we are not Catholic. We both grew up in different Protestant denominations and we have very different thoughts when it comes to religion.

There are other secular private school options in our area, but for whatever reason, this is the school I was sure would be the best fit for Dema at this point. He is loving fourth grade and his school, even mass and religion class. The kids have all been very welcoming and his teacher has been a perfect fit this year. She has been so respectful of Dema and our family as a whole. I appreciate the caring for community they foster in the kids. Dema is happier and less anxious. Not to say that things are perfect. One of my worries about sending him yo school was that he would be more stressed at home. He has to internalize his anxiety in public and I worried he might explode when he was safely home. This is true, but not to the degree it could be and he seems to genuinely look forward to each day. He could quit at any point, but since we are paying tuition, there is a monetary pressure.

Our formal homeschooling group is going very well for Josie and Parker. This is our second year with this group and it is much more relaxing for all of us this year. I don't know if this is because Dema is doing something different or because it is our second year so we have a better rhythm. It is technically K-1 for Josie and 8th grade for Parker. With high school on the horizon for Parker, I feel the need to go back to my original unschooling tendencies.

Now I want to start a local democratic school. Crazy, but I hope it works out.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Orange Scented Broccoli

I made Orange Scented Broccoli from Appetite for Reduction for the first time the other night. It is quick and easy. We already love broccoli so I don't usually feel the need to do much to it, but I am teaching a short vegan mini-course for our homeschooling group and I wanted to try new recipes which my appeal to my middle school/high school audience. It is hard for me to gage since my kids will eat almost anything. We don't buy orange juice often so they were happy to have some in the house. I didn't zest an orange because I'm lazy so it wasn't as orange-y as it might have been, but a nice addition to brown rice and cubed garlicky tofu.
A few days later I was making brunch. Brunch is a meal we eat often during the week because my eldest and youngest are homeschooled and wake up at different times, while my middle child attends a private school and wakes up first, but has a snack time at school before lunch so doesn't need a huge breakfast. My husband works from home and is not a huge breakfast eater so everyone eats something small when they first wake up and then they are pretty hungry late in the morning. So this particular day I made a normal mix of leftovers, but made an orange sauce to go with it. The sauce had orange juice, mirin, fresh ginger, nutritional yeast, garlic, tamari, red pepper flakes, a few chipotle pepper with adobo sauce, and a dash of blackstrap molasses. The sauce went great with the peas, carrots, seitan, chickpeas, cashews and brown rice. It was lighter than the tahini or nut based sauces I usually make for brunch made from leftovers. A nice change and something I think I'll do from time to time when we have orange juice in the house. I buy organic juice fortified with calcium so I don't mind adding a calcium boost to the meal.

Tonight I threw together something last minute since Parker had offered to cook, but then we found our ingredients were lacking so I took over. It was so good, the family devoured it before I could snap a picture. I wanted to write it down because I don't want to forget to make it again sometime. I made brown rice (for our family of five, I usually pressure cook three cups of dry rice), eight cups of black beans (I soak and cook a bunch of beans on the weekend and use them throughout the week), strained tomatoes, minced garlic, olive oil, diced red onion, crumbed dried hot peppers (gift from our neighbor's garden), diced carrots, and a bit of iodized salt. I was out of cumin so I felt like I needed something to kind of jazz it up so I improvised a vegan queso; cashews, water, better than bouillon, jalapeno peppers, lemon juice, chickpea miso, onion powder, nutritional yeast, tomato paste in the Vitamix then put it in a sauce pan on medium heat and added a bit of Daiya from a forgotten bag in the refrigerator and heated it all up until the Daiya melted. I was doing a few dishes while they were eating and it was gone so quickly that I almost didn't get a change to try it. We now have an table in our kitchen and I love it! I can cook while the kids do homework or I can start cleaning up while they finish dinner.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

We're a Mess Thursday - Organization and the Art of Losing

I like things organized. I mean alphabetized spices, clothes in season order, then color order and all hanging on the hanger the same direction organized. I want everything to have a place, a home, a space to call its own...that also makes sense. You would think my houses would be picture perfect. I am a huge procrastinator. The worst.

My husband spent five years in the Navy. He can iron a shirt better than I ever could, even if I wanted to learn how to iron. He knows how to backpack and survive in the wilderness for days at a time. If there is a zombie apocalypse, my husband is a man you want on your team. He is DDL in The Last of the Mohicans.

He is a huge slob. The worst.

I spend hours, sometimes days, organizing Lego or writing utensils. Rarely is it appreciated by my family. Well, to be fair, the kids usually give me tons of encouragement, but that doesn't keep them from putting the the colored pencils back in non-rainbow order or leaving the cap off the pens.
You would think will a child with OCD that I could at least bond with him on this one, but organizing everything isn't how his OCD works. He puts tons of rules on life, himself, and his surroundings, but color order has never matter to him. In fact, he calls me racist for caring. He is going through a big social justice phase right now.

Anywho, at some point I went through an organizing spree in our living room. The camera charger was either found plugged in the wall or in the drawer of an antique sewing machine which is next to the wall and the outlet. That day, apparently, this bothered my organizing senses and I decided enough was enough. The camera charger was now going to have an honest to goodness home where it was stored and anyone looking for it would know exactly where to go and when we were done with it, we would all know where to put it back. I'm sure I was pretty self-satisfied with the clever, yet obvious, space I ordained for our camera charger.

I haven't seen the bleeping thing since. I have know idea where I decided to put it.

I am looking at my memory-filled camera mocking me as it sits completely dead, and thus locked, next to my desktop. I try to will the pictures to magically download into iPhoto by some strange technological osmosis. It doesn't work. I try to think back to that organizing spree, several months ago now, and figure out what "logical" place my brain picked for the charger. No dice.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Missing Mediterranean Food

 Toasted pita chips and baba ganoush.
 Hummus.
Falafel sandwich.

This lovely food is from the one time (my birthday in November) we ate a new Mediterranean restaurant in town. Soon after this awesome meal, the restaurant burned down. It wasn't even open a month. The fire started in an apartment attached to the building the restaurant was in, but no one was hurt. I am craving inexpensive excellent Mediterranean food. So sad. I hope the owners try again.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Chia Pods

We tried Chia Pods recently and loved them. I found these Chia Pods on sale through our buying club. I was interested since they are nut-free (Dema is attending a private school this year and they have a nut-free policy) and portable. It ends up that Dema isn't super happy with the texture, but he liked the taste. The pods can be a bit hard to eat because chia (like flax) congeals and makes food gel, but you get used to it pretty easily. Dema is going through a picky thing right now. It will pass as long as we don't make a big deal about it. Parker is happy to eat Dema's pods. We bought two flavors; mango and vanilla bean. I love the simple ingredients and no sugar added. The mango tastes like, well, mango. This is great for my mango loving family. The vanilla version is made with real vanilla bean and reminds me of tapioca pudding. The pods are filling and a great snack. You can even save unused portions since they come with a lid. I reuse the containers for crafting beads. The coconut makes these gems high in fat so I don't eat them often, but I don't mind the growing kids eating them somewhat regularly. The kids love the name. We'll be buying them again. I can't wait to try the blueberry.

Monday, September 30, 2013

A Little Bit of This, a Little Bit of That

I love throwing things together. I like to have a well-stocked pantry, refrigerator, and freezer so I can just let the creative juices flow. I have a complete library of cookbooks and am always eying more, but just throwing things together is really my style. Friends have suggested I write things down and create my own cookbook, but that isn't even the slightest bit appealing to me. Even when I have delicious meals, I rarely cook them exactly the same way twice...where is the fun in that?
Udon noodles, kale*, red onions, chickpeas, red curry cube**, water, nutritional yeast, a dash of tamari, and ***Sweet Earth curry seitan

*We stock up on kale when it is in season and then clean, chop, and freeze. I love having kale stashed in the freezer when I haven't had a chance to go to the co-op. Frozen kale is perfect for smoothies.
**These curry cubes (the red and yellow) are my secret ingredient in many dishes these days. The "magic cubes" are not too spicy, but they add a little somethin' somethin' to any savory dish. Love them!
***Often I am disappointed with pre-packaged seitan and it is so easy and inexpensive to make it myself, but Sweet Earth was on sale through our buying club so I bought some. We love the curry version and it is so convenient to get us through our unbelievably busy fall schedule.

Broccoli, diced red onion, roasted garlic, red curry cube, water, red lentils, tri-color quinoa, nutritional yeast, fresh ground pepper, chickpeas, and tahini. Parker's bowl is topped with hot sauce, and onions too. (I usually add nuts like cashews, but I didn't because Dema attends a school where they are nut free and I knew he'd want leftovers for his lunch.)

Both of these soups were complete wins for the kids. They asked for leftovers in their lunches after having several bowls at dinner. Both soups are jam packed with protein and other nutrients to fuel their growing bodies for their active lives.