Friday, September 28, 2012

I'm Going To Stop Showering

Ok, so I'm not really going to stop showering.  But I'm thinking about it?  Why?  Well, because as I'm sure I'm not the only person in the world, my perception of myself doesn't seem to match that of the rest of the world.

On days where I'm feeling sloppy and icky and everything else, that's when someone will say to me, "Wow!  You look great.  Have you lost weight?"

The day I spent open to close volunteering at the carnival at the wee ones' school?  When I was spending hours at the customer service desk answering questions and running credit cards and whatever else came up, that's when a friend's husband comes up and tells me that he's impressed.  I look really "elegant" that day.  Go figure.

Or maybe I'm having a really bad hair day.  That's when someone will say that my hair looks amazing.

This is what my hair looks like on what I consider to be a good day.  It's not a "pretty" day all around, but my hair is behaving.  Nothing is sticking out in weird places.  There are no parts that are half curly and half not.  I don't have any wings around my head.  It isn't super poofy.  It's behaving.

Me on a relatively good hair day

This is not the day I get the compliments.  I get compliments on the day when I vlog quickly before I go walking with my friends.  What do I not do before I go walking?  Those are the mornings where I didn't shower and panic trying to fluff my hair into some semblance of normalcy before turning on the camera.  And I get the compliments then.  And when I go to meet my friends?  I get compliments from them on how awesome my hair looks.

Me on a bad hair day - according to me

I have a bad hair day, but no one else thinks so

So apparently my solution is to just stop showering, right?  I wonder if it would help if I stopped brushing my teeth, too....

Thursday, September 27, 2012

How I Met My Husband

Oh I love stories of true love and how people met the loves of their lives.  And ok, who doesn't love a bad date story, too?  This week's #VlogMom prompt comes from Alissa Enders of Clever Compass.  She's a romantic.

She wants to know: How did you meet your spouse/partner?

It's a good question, no?  I know you have to have some great stories.  So... learn how I met my husband, and then tell me how you met yours!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Love Of Lists: It's Genetic

I wrote a couple weeks ago about how my morning routine had driven me to the brink.  I wasn't a good mom that day, but by later that day, I had recovered.  I came up with a plan to help make my morning smoother and help the wee ones take responsibility for what they need to do to get out the door - or suffer the consequences.

Much like I know that I get so much more done when I have a to do list, I know the wee ones do, too.  So I made them one in the morning that listed not just what they had to do, but by when it had to be complete.  They're still young enough that they need that coaching, and I'm happy to coach.  I'm just not happy saying "Let's go!  Let's go!  You need to move faster!" nonstop for an hour plus every morning.

So I'm not.

To do list for the wee ones on the portable whiteboard

I made the list on a magnetic whiteboard (I love the no whining logo on it - $1 section at Target!) that the wee ones can erase each morning as they finish their tasks.  I give each task plenty of time - does it really take five minutes to put your shoes on? - because I want them to feel like they're successful at what they're doing, not that they're stressed out by what's coming next.

The first morning, Mister Man had eaten three bites of breakfast by 7:45, the appointed end time for breakfast.  I told him to get up and move to his next task.  He looked at me blankly, but did as I directed.  By the time he got to teeth brushed at 8am, he was ahead of schedule again, so he was able to sit down for a few more minutes where - amazingly - he actually ate half his breakfast, something he hadn't been able to accomplish in 30 minutes earlier.  They were on time for the bus, and it was awesome, even if breakfast wasn't fully eaten.

The second morning, breakfast was still a challenge, but Mister Man had eaten a little more and got ahead enough that he had time to finish all of it before he had to brush his teeth.  And he was proud of what he was doing and accomplishing.  I wasn't hustling anyone along, and I could feel my blood pressure decreasing.  Phew.

It's now been almost two weeks, and the vast majority of the time, Mister Man is putting his dishes in the dishwasher long before 7:45.  He knows what he has to do, as does Little Miss, and he's doing it by himself and taking responsibility for it.  He's decided that he loves lists, too - especially the crossing things off it part.

I still have some attitude each morning when I tell him he needs to start on his routine and get dressed at 7:10.  He whines that he hasn't had enough time to play, as both the wee ones are early birds and up before me.  There wouldn't be enough time to play if he did it 24/7 though, and I know that.  We're working on the whining because that grates on my nerves, but we've made so much progress with our mornings and everyone is happier.

Now if only I could keep it this way through the teen years....

What are your secrets for getting through the morning effectively?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tomato Tart - Tasty Tuesday!

I am not a pie lover.  Shh, don't tell anyone.  Most pies are ok, but it's rare that I'll voluntarily choose to eat pie.  That said, I love making and eating my apple pie (which is really a crisp).  And peach pie is one of my favorites, but I'd rather go savory.  I'm much more of a quiche girl, which really is just pie as a meal instead of pie as a dessert.  So does it surprise you to learn that I made a tomato tart last week and ate almost all of it by myself over the course of three days?

I didn't think so.  But hey, tomato tart.  That's healthy.  Ish.  Kind of.  Ok, more so than French silk pie, right?  Help me justify.  I need to, because it was that good.  And I'll probably do the same again.

Slice of tomato pie from Honest & Truly recipe

Is it the prettiest pie you've ever seen?  No, but if you'll recall, this was the pie dough I made last week when I had my migraine.  And that food processor pie dough is pretty darn tasty.  Even if it wasn't so pretty this time around.

Tomato Tart

1 pie crust, my recipe, your recipe, or another method
6 large ripe tomatoes with lots of flavor, preferably something heirloom
3 cloves garlic
2 T extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
1 1/2 c bread crumbs (again, I've used Panko for 15 years, and it's still my favorite - and no one's paying me to say that... yet!)
1 T herbes de Provence
1 1/4 c Parmesan cheese, shredded (shred your own, it melts better and tastes better) - and I just might have not even measured this and just put on enough until I liked it.

Start by preparing your tomatoes.  You can go ahead and put  your crust into the pie pan or tart pan, but then stick it back in the fridge so it stays nice and cold.  You want to peel, seed, and dice your tomatoes.  It's not nearly as hard as it sounds.

To peel your  tomatoes, you need to quickly blanch them.  Get a pot of water simmering on the stove.  Then cut a shallow X on the bottom of each tomato.

A shallow X in the bottom of my tomato

Have an ice bath ready for the tomatoes for when they are done blanching.  Easiest way?  Get a decent size bowl, fill it with a bunch of ice from your freezer.  Add water, swishing the bowl as you do so to ensure that the ice doesn't freeze into a giant block and instead stays separate cubes.

Ice bath ready to help peel those tomatoes

Now your're ready to blanch the tomatoes.  Using a slotted spoon, carefully place a couple tomatoes into the water.  Let them sit for less than a minute before you fish them out.  Immediately place them in the ice bath.  I get into a rhythm with this where I will have two tomatoes in the ice bath, two tomatoes in the water, and two tomatoes being peeled and the timing of it works for me.  Figure out what works for you.

Once the tomatoes have cooled for a couple minutes, pull one from the ice bath.  You'll notice that the skin around where you had made your shallow X is peeling back by itself.

Once you've blanched the tomato, the peel starts to come off by itself

Simply take the skin, and pull it back. You'll be amazed by how easy it is to peel.  This also works for other fruits like peaches and the like, when you need to peel those.

Now the tomatoes are ready to seed and dice.  You want as much liquid out of the tomatoes as possible.  To do this, the first step is seeding.  Cut the tomato into pieces.  For a medium size tomato, six is usually enough.  For a larger tomato, I may need 8 or even 10 to ensure that each seed membrane is accessible to me.  Pick up a slice, run your thumb on the edge of the seeds, and they all pop out.  Do this for each tomato.

Tomatoes are now ready to be diced, with no seeds remaining

Go ahead and dice them.  You want them about a quarter inch square, but exactness isn't important.  Once they're diced, I like to wait a little to get the more water out.  I'll put them in a colander and let the juices seep out for another twenty minutes or so.  Although the breadcrumbs help keep the tart from being soggy, the more juice you remove up front, the better.  While you're waiting is a good time to go ahead and mince your garlic cloves.

Now you're ready to put it all together.  Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Mix the breadcrumbs with the herbes de Provence and 1/4 cup of your Parmesan cheese.  Place this in the bottom of your pie crust, evenly covering the surface.

Step 1 of assembling Tomato Tart

Now that your tomatoes have released their juices, go ahead and place them into a small bowl.  Add the olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper to your tomatoes.  Stir it up and taste to make sure the salt and pepper is at a good level for you, remembering that you're still going to be adding a ton of Parmesan, so the salt can be a little light.

Place the tomatoes gently onto the bread crumbs, ensuring it is in an even layer.  Place the rest of your shredded Parmesan atop the tomatoes.  Place the tart into your 400 degree oven, and bake it until slightly browned, around 45 minutes or so.

Tomato pie, ready to eat

This is great while still hot, or you can serve it room temperature.  Trust me, it's awesome either way.  This works wonderfully as an appetizer, or you can be like me and eat it for your meals.  Yes, it makes an awesome breakfast.  Just sayin'.

Enjoy this and more with Blessed With Grace and Tempt My Tummy Tuesday.  Rachel from A Southern Fairytale has an awesome Mouthwatering Monday linkup that I participate in, too.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Who Needs Spring?

Mister Man turned to me this weekend as we took a walk through our neighborhood.  Mom?  What season is your favorite?

A discussion ensued.  I enumerated the benefits of all the seasons from snow and hot cocoa to relaxing days at the pool to football and leaf piles to green and warming weather.

He looked at me as though I were insane.  Really, Mom?  You like spring?  Why?

Well, I replied thoughtfully (because that's what we do as moms in all situations), I like spring partly because you can see all the beautiful flowers blooming.

Flowers? he scoffed.  Who even likes flowers?

Well, kiddo, I smiled down at his indignant head (yay, he isn't yet 9 and I still have time to smile down at him before he begins to tower over me), there are lots of people who like flowers.

How do you know? he demanded skeptically.

People buy flowers all the time, Mister Man.

He shook his head in disgust.  Really?  Then, Mom, people get ripped off all the time.  All they're good for is sneezing.  Sheesh.  Some people....

Remind me not to buy him flowers anytime soon.  Oh my stubborn boy who sees the world in black and white instead of shades of grey.  My child who beats to his own drummer and heeds his own clarion call.  How could I ever resist him?

Mister Man wrapped in a towel, grinning

In the interest of full disclosure, this was part of the From Left to Write book club where we write posts inspired by the books we read rather than reviews of the books.  I did receive a copy of this book as part of the book club.  That said, all opinions remain my own.

The book we read this month was "The Bloodletter's Daughter" by first time novelist Linda Lafferty. 

Cover art for The Bloodletter's Daughter

Friday, September 21, 2012

Reunions. Ugh. Should I Go?

This week's #VlogMom prompt comes from Rajean Blomquist at B Cause I Said So.  She has her 30th high school reunion next week, so she wants to know about ours.  She wants to know if we have gone to any and why or why not.  And then... there are the reunion stories.  That's the best part, right?

So I have my 15th college reunion next month.  I still haven't decided if I'm going to more than the football game (which I would do anyway, since I already have season tickets).  But really... I just want your best reunion stories.  I know they're out there!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

BlogHer Book Club: Daring Greatly

I heard Brene Brown speak a couple years ago at a blog conference.  She stuck with me - and not just because she has such a unique name.  She had a commanding presence, and she has a powerful viewpoint, one that continued in her just-released book Daring Greatly.

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead cover

We spend so much of our lives trying to proves to others and to ourselves that we can do it all, that we can be everything, that we are strong.  And we aren't, always.  Nor should we be, which is the main point of her book.  Daring Greatly dares us to embrace our vulnerability, to admit where we aren't as strong as the face we put to the world.

Using 12 years of research, Dr. Brown makes the case that our vulnerability is actually what makes us strong - when we acknowledge it.  Vulnerability is what allows us to live our lives, from experiencing the deepest pain to soaring with the highest joy and everywhere in between.  Without allowing vulnerability in our lives, we aren't really living our lives as fully as we ought.

This is a powerful book.  It isn't really a self-help book, but it's visionary.  The book is footnoted throughout with Dr. Brown's and other research, but she also puts her own self and life across the chapters, giving us examples of exactly what she's talking about and making it that much more real.

Life isn't a guarantee, much as we want one.  In this book, Dr. Brown encourages us to go with the lack of guarantee and take on that feeling of vulnerability to live more fully and - ideally - more happily.  I dare you to do it.

Brene Brown is also doing a book tour this fall.  If you can, don't miss the opportunity to see her in person. It's worth it!  Want to keep the conversation going?  On BlogHer, we're talking about her book for the next month.  This week, we're talking about vulnerability hangovers.  Have you ever had one?  Do you even know what that is?

In the interest of full disclosure, this was part of a compensated campaign as part of the BlogHer Book Club.  That said, all opinions remain my own.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Food Processor Pie Crust - Tasty Tuesday!

I had grand plans for this week's Tasty Tuesday.  I was going to make one of my favorite late summer dishes that I hadn't made in forever that most people haven't had before.  Have you ever enjoyed Tomato Pie?

I didn't think so.

Unfortunately, I've been down with a migraine since Sunday, so I haven't been able to make all of this.  I made the pie crust last night, but today the thought of food is just not appleaing.  So next week will be the conclusion of Tomato Pie.  This week, I bring you the incredibly easy Food Processor Pie Crust - with my secret ingredient to a flaky crust.

Food Processor Pie Crust

2 c flour
1 T sugar, optional (if I am making a sweet pie, I'll add the full 1T; if a savory pie, I'll add just a little)
pinch salt
3/4 c butter, chilled
1/4 c shortening, chilled
1/4 c ice water - less 2 T
2 T vodka (that would be the secret ingredient)

This makes two pie crusts.  For prep, you need to chill your butter, shortening, vodka, and water.  I measure my water into a measuring cup, remove just a little and add ice cubes to keep it cold.  You also need to cut off two longish sheets of plastic wrap to wrap the dough in at the end.

Place the flour, sugar, and salt into the bowl of your food processor.  Make sure your butter and your shortening are well chilled.  If your fats aren't cold, they won't have pockets in the dough, and it won't be as flaky.  Trust me on this one.  Cut your butter and shortening into pieces, and toss them into the bowl, too.

Cold butter and shortening cut into pie crust

Pulse five or six times, until the mixture has pea sized clumps, some smaller some larger.  It's important not to overmix this, as you want the dough to have those clumps of fat I mentioned earlier that will make steam pockets when it's baked and create the nice, flaky layers.

Pie crust ready for liquid to be added

Now is when you want to add the liquid.  The vodka goes in first, and ideally you have this chilled, too.  Why vodka?  Well, mixing water and flour makes gluten which makes for a touch pie crust.  Using alcohol - and a fairly flavorless one with vodka - reduces the water and creates lessgluten nd ergo a more tender crust.  Ta da!

While you are pulsing, add the vodka.  Next will go the water.  I'll be honest that I measure my water, less a little from what I need and put ice cubes in the measuring cup with it tokeep the water extra cold.  Depending on the humidity, you may or may not need all your water, so watch carefully as  you are adding water.  As soon as you see the dough come together, stop.  Don't add any more water, and don't mix it any more.

You can test if there is enough liquid by picking up a small handful of dough and squeezing it.  If it stays together, you're good to go.  If it falls apart, you need more water.  You want to err on the side of slightly more than slightly less water, as you can't add water when rolling it out, but you can add flour.  This was my biggest mistake when I first started making pie crusts - I was too afraid I would add too much water and so never put in enough.

At this point, carefully remove the dough from the food processor, and place half onto one sheet of plastic wrap and the other half on the other sheet.  Using the plastic wrap to cover it, carefully press the dough into two disks.  Make sure they're sealed in the plastic wrap, and place them in the fridge for 8 to 24 hours.  Once they have fully rested, you can roll them out for pie.  If I am making a double crust pie, I will make one of my disks slightly larger than the other.  If not, I keep them the same size.

Can you see the fat pieces in the dough?  That's good pie dough right there!

Enjoy this and more with Blessed With Grace and Tempt My Tummy Tuesday.  Rachel from A Southern Fairytale has an awesome Mouthwatering Monday linkup that I participate in, too.

Monday, September 17, 2012

It's Time To Purge

I hate garage sales.  In theory, I love them.  Put out all your stuff and watch it disappear while you make money.  And if you need or want something, you can get it cheap.  In practice, it never seems like that.  It's a pain in the neck from pulling all the items out to haggling with people who want your brand new but never used items that cost you $100, but they only want to pay $0.25.  Or less.

I was going to do a garage sale this summer.  I have so many items that I'm not using anymore that really need to go, from the baby items of the wee ones that I'd never parted with (I still have my pack 'n play and high chair) to all my riding things (I've finally given up on the idea of ever seriously riding again, so it's time for my tack trunk to find a new home) and beyond.  My mom had a garage sale, and I brought a bunch of stuff over there.  I'm amazed by how much went during that time, but I was surprised at how little money I made from it.  I'm pretty sure items walked off by themselves or my sister and her brother in law "accidentally" kept the money for themselves when I was running the wee ones home from summer school and the like.

I was going to have my own garage sale after that since I already had everything priced.  Then the heat wave hit.  There was no way I was going to sit outside in 100 degree heat and 95 percent humidity for hours on end with no shade to save me.  Call me a wimp.  I'm fine with that.

And so my garage has sat full of items that I can't quite bear to part with for nothing all summer.  And I hate it.  Then the brilliant Melissa introduced me to a Facebook group in our area that is a buy/sell/trade group.  It's like Craigslist, but you see pictures of everything, you know it's people in your area, and you can see who is buying a lot of stuff and who is offering for things and never showing up (yes, that happens - and I've already been on the receiving end of this one).

I'm in heaven.  While this group was in my area technically, the people who are primarily active in it tend to be further from where I live, so it was hard to make arrangements.  I was crushed.  Then I searched and found another group near me that has people who are right by me doing the same thing.  I rejoiced internally.

Every day, I've been taking a half hour or so to photograph items that need to leave my home and upload them into an album in Facebook on the group.  I describe the item and its condition and how much I want for it.  And generally within minutes, I start getting responses from people who are interested in one thing or another.  Not all my items are ones people want, and it's crazy to me what people do and don't want.

But it's Awe.Some.

This morning, I have people coming to pick up what feels like half my basement from things I listed yesterday.  And I am still getting messages from people asking me to let them know if the sales fall through.

It feels so good to purge, and I love that my items are going to a new home.  We take care of our belongings, but I'm still amazed by how many toys we've had for up to eight years still have all their pieces.  The fact that many of my items are in really good condition helps - but I had four offers on my very well loved mini jumper that I listed on a lark, figuring I'd have to throw it out.

Someone wants every last bit of dress up clothing that I have, bought and given as gifts in the mistaken notion that Little Miss would be a girly girl.  Although friends of ours have worn the clothes, Little Miss has mostly ignored them as they sat in the basement.  That gold dress on the right?  It is a really nice one and has matching cloth heels, and the selling price of $15 isn't questioned.

Dress up clothes ready to go to a new home

And another grandmother who watches her two grandchildren is making her second trek to my house in just a few minutes.  She wants to get toys for them to play with when they're at her house, and I'll be collecting close to $100 from her for all her new treasures - yet we both feel like we're getting a great deal, which is what this is all about.

Resale items ready to be picked up

Another woman is coming tomorrow morning and wants all my board books, plus any Dr. Seuss or Sesame Street books I can find.  Oh, and she also wants my angelfish rocker.  Sweet.

Board books and angelfish go quickly on sale sites

I've done garage sales.  I've tried consignment sales.  Nothing is working anywhere near this well.  With the consignment sale, I sold way more items, but after the seller fee and the percentage kept by the consignment sale, I didn't make that much.  Today?  I'm going to collect 100 percent of the proceeds, and the work was way less.

It can be frustrating sometimes.  I had two women who were going to buy all my 2T, 4T and 5T girl clothes and my 5T and 7 boy clothes.  That's a ton of stuff that I'm happy to have go to a new home.  At first they were coming one Wednesday and one Thursday.  Then both Friday.  Then they decided I was too far to drive and canceled entirely.  Then they offered to meet me halfway (which I was happy to do since they were buying so much), and I haven't heard from them since.  But that seems to be the rarity, and I know now to avoid that particular buyer.

Best of all, these Facebook groups aren't just by me.  I searched a few other areas, and each one I searched had a Facebook group like this.  As one of my sellers told me - and I agree completely - this is way better than Craigslist.

So what are you waiting for, or are you already doing this?  Tell me how you purge your house of unwanted items when it's time.

Friday, September 14, 2012

My Friends Are Brilliant

Like most of you, I tend to commit myself to a lot.  There is so much that I love to do and so many opportunities out that that it's hard to say no.  I've gotten better at it, and when a friend of mine approached me a few weeks ago to ask if I was interested in joining her new club she was forming, my instant reaction was, "No, I've got enough on my plate."

Then she explained it further.  And I was so in.

The woman is brilliant.  Four of us get together once a week at a house, rotating through the four of us, and we work.  We fix and we ... complain for two and a half hours.

The four members of the club, proud on our first day of work

You know those projects that you don't do because ohhhh they are overwhelming or you don't know where you start or you just don't know enough to do it right?  That's where we come in.  Four people working for two and a half hours can get so much more done that you'd imagine.

The first week, we reorganized a friend's office.  We got rid of a ton of books on the shelves that shouldn't be there.  We went through the photos to decide what stays and goes.  We cleaned all the shelves.  We took charge of the tangle of cords and got them organized and put away.  By the time we left, it looked really put together.

This morning, we were at the second house.  While my friend who has an art history master's degree - among other artist credentials - went with her upstairs to help choose paint colors and decor, my other friend and I got to work in the kitchen.  We recovered four of her kitchen chairs and cleaned the wood on them.  Neither of us had ever done anything like that before, but with directions we did it.  It went so much faster having help because removing the cushions and putting them back on is just not a one person job.

Reupholstering is a two person job!

And we also figured out how to remove some mold from the edges of the windows of my friends too well sealed house.  Australian tea tree oil - which I love for all sorts of magical properties - apparently has another use, as well.  It kills mold naturally.  You know I'm going out to buy another bottle of this.

Use a Q-tip dipped in Australian tea tree oil to kill and remove mold

By the time we left, my friend was thrilled that she knew what she was doing with a decor - and in realizing, thanks to my artsy friend, that she had a theme in her house already - and that she had gorgeous new kitchen chairs that "had never been so clean ever and that her windows were now mold free.  And we left feeling pretty good about ourselves, too.  We got a lot done, and we're all ready to tackle the day after this.

Next week is my house.  We're going after the jungle that was once a garden in my backyard.  If the weather doesn't cooperate, we're organizing my bathroom cabinets.  Next up is going through my closet to get rid of items that don't belong there.  My basement is up next, particularly the room that used to contain the gift closet and now is just overrun.

I.  Can't.  Wait.

This was the best idea ever, and I'm thrilled to be part of this club.  Because my friends are brilliant - even though I was the only one who knew what the word "slake" meant.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

I'm Afraid Of Dying. And Cockroaches.

I love blogging, partly because writing and posting - and vlogging - makes me think.  It makes me reflect on things that I might otherwise blithly smile and nod at before moving on.  This week, Lee Reyes-Fournier from Couple Dumb has a great question for our #VlogMom prompt.

Name your three fears...

And so I did.  It took a lot of reflection, because I'm generally not a fearful person - the creaking noises I head downstairs as I was changing for bed last Friday when my husband wasn't home at 11:30pm the exception that proves the rule, of course.

My fears?  They're pretty irrational.  But thinking more about it, isn't that what fears are?  So take a look, and then tell me what you're afraid of!

Oh, and excuse the way I look this time?  I haven't slept well all week (yay headaches that won't go away).

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Childhood Traditions: We Climb Trees

Fall has arrived, as I admitted to myself on Monday.  The days are still decent though - the chill of Chicago winters has yet to arrive, thankfully - and we're spending as much time as possible outside.  The wee ones love to ride their bikes and go for walks with us and more.

Each morning as we wait for the bus to arrive, Little Miss immediately runs for the tree in our front yard and scales it.  She's my monkey, my athlete, my gymnast, my strong little girl who has no fear.  Mister Man has always held back.  As much as he wants to climb the tree, he can't.

I've been convinced for a long time that his "can't" is more a "won't" than anything else.  I know that he lacks core strength and that his coordination isn't the same as other kids' abilities, thank you autism, but we've been working at it, and I'm seeing a difference in a lot of things from his ability to now do a pushup when he really wants to the ability to do a bridge up (trust me, this is incredibly difficult if you have low core and shoulder strength).

He will run to the tree and grab the climbing brand and his feet will peddle uselessly against the trunk, unable to gain enough purchase to stay.  He quickly drops back down, unable to use his arms and shoulders to lever himself up and over that branch.  He's been frustrated by it, not just because of his failure to climb, but because his almost two years younger sister has been climbing this tree for two plus years now.

Little Miss halfway up the tree with her backpack on

I love that he never gives up.

And last weekend, he asked for my help for the first time in a long time.  I explained again that he needs to bend his elbows so that he has a chance to use his strength to pull himself up.  He has a tendency to not realize what his arms and body can do and what they are doing, so he will hand walk his hands further up the tree, never bending his arms and pulling his body towards the tree, not realizing that this tactic is doomed to failure.

Nodding, he grabbed the branch and used his feet to get his body horizontal.  With my hands touching and supporting him - letting him know I was there were he to fall, but not pushing him at all - he remembered to bend his arms when I pointed it out.  And he pulled himself into the tree for the first time.  You have no idea how bright that smile was.

I helped him down after awhile, and he practiced it another few times, the last couple without my help to prove to him that he really was doing it all on his own.  And then he stayed up there to read a book, finding the most comfortable branch to hang out on.

Mister Man proud of himself climbing the tree for the first time

He now runs to that tree each time we have a few spare minutes and scampers up it.  Or tries.  He was shocked the other morning after it had rained that the tree was too slippery to climb.  And I watch him struggle into that tree, knowing that he can do it and that he's figuring out that he needs to have faith in himself to accomplish more than he ever dreamed.

And that?  That right there is all I want from him in life.  Happy, challenged, with faith in himself.  It isn't a big dream, but it's the one I have for my children.  What is your dream for your child?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Peach Blueberry Crisp - Tasty Tuesday!

Mister Man and my husband had their first Cub Scout den meeting of the year last night.  They headed out for Mister Man's occupational therapy then straight to the meeting... at a pizza restaurant.  Little Miss and I were left at home to fend for ourselves.

You know that means we have to do something special, right?  Our local sushi restaurant is closed on Mondays, so that was out.  We decided to make something special for dessert.  She first tried to explain a muffin that had chocolate on top and jam in the center.  I couldn't figure it out until it finally dawned on me that she was talking about my cherry bliss bites.  The only problem?  I can't really make them dairy free for her.

Her next idea was a crisp, which I readily agreed sounded delicious.  I had peaches that needed to be used, so we decided to make a peach crisp - and while I can and did make this dairy free, the recipe I'm sharing is with butter instead.  To make it dairy free with a yummy and surprising twist, sub out mayonnaise for the butter.  Trust me on that one.

While I had peaches, I didn't have quite enough to fill the dish.  I augmented with frozen blueberries, and oh was that a good choice.  Each time I make something with this combination, blueberry and peach goes together far better than I think it will.

Peach blueberry crisp with whipped cream
Yes, this is my dish.  Obviously.  It's topped with whipped cream.  Yum.

Peach Blueberry Crisp

5 peaches, cut into ten to twelve slices, then cut in half vertically to make bit size pieces (enough for 3-4 cups)
2 cups blueberries
1/4 plus 2 T cornstarch
1 t nutmeg, freshly grated
3/4 c flour
1 c oats
2/3 c brown sugar
1 t cinnamon
1 t salt
1/3 c butter, melted

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Place the cut peaches and blueberries into a baking dish.  I used a smaller casserole that once belonged to my grandmother - talk about the ultimate comfort food!  You can leave the skins on or remove them.  I like to keep them on when I'm using fresh peaches, but frozen or jarred peaches usually have them removed, and that's fine.  And yes, you can use frozen or jarred (good jarred, please) when peaches aren't in season.

Place the cornstarch and 1/2 t nutmeg atop the fruit, and gently stir until it is all mixed together.

In another bowl, add the flour, brown sugar, oats, cinnamon, salt, and the rest of the nutmeg.  Stir to fully combine.  Add the melted butter and mix with a spatula until it comes together and creates pea or so size chunks.  You don't want to overstir, but ensure you get all the flour and sugar incorporated.

Little Miss stirring the topping for the Peach Blueberry Crisp

Carefully pour the topping over the fruit.  Use the spatula to ensure all the fruit is hidden by the topping without pushing it down into the fruit.

Little Miss with her very own peach blueberry crisp

Place the crisp into the oven, and bake for 35 minutes, until the top is a beautiful golden brown.  Little Miss and I debated making individual servings in ramekins or a larger crisp.  We decided on the larger crisp, but if you make ramekins, bake them for 25 minutes instead.

Baked Peach Blueberry Crisp ready to enjoy

Serve with ice cream or whipped cream while still warm.  Or let it cool off and enjoy it at room temperature for breakfast the next day.  Not that I or my husband would ever do that.  Ahem.

Enjoy this and more with Blessed With Grace and Tempt My Tummy Tuesday.  Rachel from A Southern Fairytale has an awesome Mouthwatering Monday linkup that I participate in, too.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Summer Is Over

So it dawned on me this morning.  Summer is officially over.

This was the first weekend where we had some free time that we didn't spend at the pool.  Although the wee ones have been in school going on four weeks now, I was still taking them to the pool some weeknights after they'd finished homework.

Last Monday, the pool closed.  We actually closed it down, which was bittersweet.  By 5pm, the lifeguards had started to remove the trash cans from around the pool area.  The ice cream and other foods that  they couldn't store went on sale for $1 apiece.  And by 6pm when the pool closed, the only chairs not stacked up and removed were the ones where we and a few other die hards stored our towels and gear.

Summer is over - and we're cold

On Saturday, I attended my first Northwestern home game of the year.  It was a 7pm game, so we knew it would be chillier than our normal first games, and it was - especially once it started raining at 9:45.  I stuck it out until the clock hit :00  I was ready for football.  And I can even give you proof.

How girls get ready for football

For some reason, it still didn't sink in that summer was really over until Little Miss came downstairs voluntarily wearing jeans and a long sleeve shirt.  Wait, what?

Don't ask me why, but that's what sealed it for me that summer is truly over.  I have my windows open, letting the fresh air in.  And at 11:30, I don't need to close them because it's so humid outside or it's too hot.  I'm enjoying the fresh air while I'm wearing my own jeans and long sleeve shirt.

I like fall.  I enjoy football and the smell of burning leaves and even the cooler weather.  It's the change and the feeling of loss of summer that wrenches my heart just a little bit.  Summer speaks to me of freedom and joy and discovery.  And I miss that.

So how about you?  Has it sunk in that summer is over (for those of you with children NOT in school thanks to the teacher strike, don't answer that and I apologize in advance)?  What are you most looking forward to this fall?

Friday, September 7, 2012

I Was Not A Good Mom This Morning

I'll fully admit that I was not a good mom this morning. That said, I could have been much worse. I didn't yell. I didn't touch a child. There were no emotional or physical scars left. But I'm still angry and irritated - albeit perhaps somewhat irrationally so, as the wee ones are only 7 and 8. But... it's reality.

And this?  This was the breakfast table at 8:30 after the wee ones had boarded the bus for school.  On the plus side, I didn't have to make myself breakfast because there was plenty sitting right here.

Bowl of yogurt, milk and vitamins that didn't get eaten

 I didn't get a full night's sleep because I woke up from an utterly bizarre dream at 4am. That isn't an excuse, but I know myself, and I get crabby when I don't have sufficient sleep. Compounded with things that don't go as they could, my temper can flare, and getting the wee ones ready for the bus has been a struggle all week.

 At 7:10 this morning - an hour and ten minutes before their bus was scheduled to arrive to pick them up for school - I headed into Mister Man's room, where I found both the wee ones in their pjs, quietly playing. As they spotted me, the whining began that they hadn't had enough time to play. I'm used to it. I get the same whining every morning, no matter what. But, Mooooom, Mister Man whined in his best two year old voice, I was just about to start a game.  Sorry, Kiddo.  It's time for school, so I need you to get dressed.

Little Miss began picking up her Puffles and gave me a hug before heading to her room to change.  Mister Man chose to crawl under his covers to hide.  I explained that I wasn't playing that game and they needed to get dressed and come down for breakfast just like they have done for the past six years. (My emphasis now, not then.)  I got breakfast orders and headed downstairs to make breakfasts and lunches for everyone except me.

I didn't hear noises that sounded like anyone getting dressed.  In fact, the noises sounded like Star Wars Fighter Pods being connected and unconnected.  I sighed and continued on my way, deciding that maybe today was the day for natural consequences.  If they weren't down by the time I finished with breakfasts and lunches and was ready to head upstairs to get myself dressed, I would send them down and they could eat what they got to by 8am - still leaving them nearly a half hour to eat.

As I boiled water in a kettle to help keep the Thermos warm for the honey chicken Mister Man was getting in his lunch, I heard a new noise, one that included giggling.  The wee ones were not coming down to breakfast - which was now sitting on the kitchen table getting warm (for Mister Man) and cold (for Little Miss) - but instead were playing with the nightlight in the hallway, changing its colors.  My blood pressure started to rise.

By the time I finished with lunches and set the lunches and snacks for school on the steps for them to pack into backpacks, there was still nary a child in sight, although I had explained that breakfast was ready and sitting on the table.  I climbed the stairs to find the wee ones wrestling in the hallway, presumably over control of the nightlight, atop the sheets I had just washed and folded but not yet put away.  They decided to go eat breakfast.

While I was getting dressed, the wee ones called to me.  Meow - who is not allowed near the table when anyone is eating because I don't like begging, nor do I want to encourage him to think people food is his food and yes, everyone in the house knows the rule - had managed to knock Little Miss's milk over with his tail.  I closed my eyes and continued getting dressed, deciding benign neglect at this point was better than blowing my top.

By the time I finished getting dressed - note, no makeup or hair or even teeth brushed for me yet, as that happens after the wee ones are off to school - and headed downstairs, I was doing deep breathing exercises.  It was now 8am, and I had milk to clean up.  Mister Man was sitting at the table reading a magazine (another no-no) and hadn't touched his breakfast.  Neither child had socks on.  Mister Man didn't have his glasses.

I reiterated what still needed to be done: lunches and snacks into backpacks, breakfasts eaten, vitamins taken, teeth brushed, socks on, glasses on, shoes on.  Oh, and that they didn't have much time left.  Little Miss - knowing this wasn't going to end well - quickly got up and put her dishes away and headed on to her next tasks.  Mister Man gave the verbal agreement and continued with his magazine.

When the bus pulled into our driveway at 8:20am, Little Miss was ready... except for her unbrushed hair.  She managed to escape out the door before I could catch her and so now is at school looking like she has a pet rat who sleeps in her hair.  Mister Man had to be sent upstairs while the bus waited (thank goodness this isn't the regular bus that waits for no one) for his glasses.  And socks.  And I'm pretty sure his reading log never got filled out.

And they were off to school.  I'm still angry that the cat was apparently on the kitchen table and knocked over milk.  And that Mister Man chose to read a magazine at the table instead of eating his breakfast.  And that they were wrestling on my clean sheets.  And that they were playing instead of getting ready for school as they'd been asked to do and as they know they have to do every morning.  And that Mister Man was throwing attitude at me about getting ready - from the time I explained that he needed to get dressed until the time he stomped back down the stairs with his glasses and socks.

But I didn't yell.  I didn't threaten them with anything.  I didn't say anything mean to them.  And obviously I didn't physically touch them.  That feels like such a hollow victory.

I'm not sure why getting ready has been so difficult this week.  I'm not sure if it's the "extra time" we now have since the bus comes 20 minutes later than the time we used have to get out the door.  I'm not sure if they simply need more sleep.  I'm really not sure what it is.  Yesterday, I resorted to spoon feeding Mister Man his breakfast like he was a baby because he was taking so long.  He didn't like it.  Neither did I.  Today I went a different route of benign neglect that still wasn't being the good mom I want to be.

So on Monday, we're going to try something different.  This weekend, I'm going to sit down with them and explain what I was unhappy with and why today.  And we're going to talk about what needs to happen at what time.  Both the wee ones have small whiteboards, and I'm going to use them as checklists for the wee ones because I can't keep reminding them to move move move every five minutes.  I'll leave them outside their rooms at night, and they can carry them with them as they get ready in the morning.

The wee ones' chores to do each morning

Something has to change.  And as the parent, it has to be me.  I will raise independent and responsible children one way or the other.  How do you ensure that you get everyone out the door in the morning?

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