Thursday, July 2, 2015

Smooth Sailing

My wonderful crazy husband has always dreamed of living on a sailboat. He grew up on the North Carolina coast and the ocean is his life force. I believe we all have some part of nature that feeds our soul. For some, it is the mountains, others the forest, maybe even the plains. If we deny this part of ourselves, it can have some sad consequences. It is hard when a family of five has possibly five different types of landscapes or natural forces which make them happy.

We've lived in the Midwest for almost 16 years now and it has taken its toll on Rob. Even with yearly visits to the ocean, it is not enough. Last year one of our neighbors (also from NC) bought a small sailboat and they sailed together on a manmade lake less than an hour from our home.

This spring, the same neighbor and Rob bought a old cabin sailboat together so we could take the entire family on the lake (the other boat had room for three of us at a time). This is supposed to be a sucker boat for our family.   You know, like a sucker kid that suckers you into having more. It might work because the kids are really enjoying the boat. Parker has really taken to sailing while Dema preferred the small fast boat we used last year, but he does like swimming in the lake. Josie would rarely even get on the little boat last year, but she had fun on the cabin boat as long as we don't heel too hard. I'm hoping weekends at the lake will keep Rob happier for a while until we figure out if living aboard a boat is ever in our future.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Hail Mary

We enrolled Dema in a private Catholic school two years ago. Best decision at the time. He had a life changing fourth grade teacher and he continues to love his school. We are not Catholic, but I spent a lot of time in Catholic Churches over the years because many of my friend were/are Catholic. There are things that bother me from time to time, but they are far outweighed by the positives. The ways the school and the kids attending the school give back to the community make me very happy and Dema really enjoys them. The kids help regularly at local soup kitchens, adult daycare facilities, rake leaves for people in need, etc. As far as I know, there is no judgement or attempts to convert people, just good deeds for the community. Dema has never felt like an outsider for not being Catholic.

The kids also say a Hail Mary prayer when someone gets hurt on the playground or they hear an emergency vehicle. This last thing really speaks to me. We used to live in the DC area (pre-kids) and most days we would see an accident and the rubber necking that follows. This always bothered me and I would take a moment to empathize with those affected by the crash and hope they were okay before going about the rest of my life. When my mom was dying in the hospital thirteen years ago, I remember thinking how is everyone just going about their normal lives when someone is dying?!. Of course, this is a silly selfish thought, but there it is. We all go about our lives every day and people die all the time. I try to think of them from time to time. The people I see driving down the road or in the store...what are they going through? Are they taking care of someone who is sick or worse? I take my father to all his doctor appointments and I look at those people in the waiting room and try to empathize, if only for a brief second. This is why I really like the kids saying Hail Mary. It takes the them outside themselves just for a minute to keep others in their thoughts and send positive energy for those who need it.

Hail Mary, full of grace.
Our Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb,
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Tics - Ordinary OCD

Dema's OCD tends to be more pronounced during times of transition and uncertainty. Often he displays some sort of tic. Sometimes it might be a hand gesture or shrug, other times it is throat clearing or other noise. I don't know if others notice it, but his most recent tic is hard to ignore. It is something between a voice warm-up for singing and a quiet screech.

Transitioning to summer from his school schedule is a little tricky. Add on an extra adult living at our house (loooonnnggg story), contemplating selling the house, and other life changes and Dema's coping mechanisms multiply. I don't think I could even count how many times a day he makes the sound. It makes me a little sad, but it gets him through the day and it just becomes a part of his quirks. Then as quickly as it came, the tic will be gone, possibly to be replaced with something else or maybe his anxiety level with come down and I won't even notice the tics. We take one day at a time.

Dema read and approved of this post. I asked him to write a guest post soon about OCD or anything else he'd like to write about so stay tuned.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Fun with Film - Crushing on Community

In our little college town, we have some special artistic outlets. C-U boasts an incredible music scene, thriving community theater, and even some film. The Pens to Lens project is in its third year of encouraging young people to write, act in, and sometimes direct short films. Dema had the opportunity to act in Image (above) and Parker was in Race You to Russia (below) for Pens to Lens 2014. Both kids had a wonderful experience and learned a lot. I was fortunate enough to see a lot of the behind the scenes moments and talk with the generous adults (directors, crew, etc) who make this project possible by donating their time, energy, and equipment to inspire the next generation of creative minds.

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.