Friday, August 27, 2010

Lunch and lunch and lunch

I'm finding it increasingly necessary to find ways to organize myself and this household. Left to our own devices, we would be randomly eating, sleeping and living in alternate filth and pure cleanliness. For some time now, I think maybe even before Peanut was born, we have used a weekly menu system for dinners. It totally works for us - the weeks I don't plan dinners and shop specifically with them in mind I spend more money, am more stressed, feel far more disjointed, eat more junk, and go to the store several times to pick up "one more thing". I've found that about once a week I forget to defrost what is on the menu, but overall we stick pretty close to it. As Pumpkin has begun to eat more (and I do mean way more) I have been adjusting the weekly menu to include one vegetarian day and one leftover day to try to stretch our food dollar a bit.

As you know, if you have been following along :) food for Peanut can be challenging, and we have tried some innovative ways to encourage her to eat more. We had been using a lunch box which worked really well for a while. You can read about it all here. When our homeschool preschool coop took a summer break, the lunchbox took a break as well. Around that same time, Pumpkin starting eating a lot, and lunchtime/snack time became a chorus of "more!" "I want some of that" "I'm all done with this - I want some of what he has" and there has been a lot of food swapping, sharing, and generally wasting. In addition, the leftover from dinner have shrunk since I am cooking for four vs. three, so there are not enough for lunches for everyone as there were before. As the summer went on, it became more and more difficult to just have lunch, and grazing took over the day. We went back to the lunchbox, but it failed because Pumpkin had "better food" to eat than Peanut. So I got new lunchboxes - one for each of them. Peanut picked them out, and was really excited when they arrived.

So yesterday, after preparing several lunch options and having them all nixed (after they were each requested) I decided to put an end to it all. I decreed that Honey will get the dinner leftovers for his lunches and the three of us will have our meals and snacks planned. I made up a lunch menu as though I were running a preschool. It's taped up to the wall under our dinner menu, and it looks like I have gone completely crazy.

It's only day one, but I already feel more calm about what is coming out of the fridge to go in the kids mouths. Everyone ate well today - both quantity and relative healthiness. I'm just going to need a way bigger board in the kitchen to keep track of all this!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Adventures in Eating

So Pumpkin is continuing to expand his palate as well as his independence with eating and feeding himself. He is now at the point where he will absolutely refuse to eat if you try to feed him or if you refuse to give him his plate or bowl. This has been fun because we usually give the kids regular dishes and he is a bit more rough and tumble than Peanut was when she was at this stage. I'm glad Pyrex is pretty strong :)

Some of his recent endeavors have included corn on the cob which he loved, and fresh from the garden patty pan squash, which he loved as well - probably more due to my reaction when I saw he had swiped it than anything else.
At this point, his day revolves so significantly around food that he is even playing kitchen for most of the day! He gets up on his little stool and waits for Peanut to bring him play food and drinks (which she happily does!) and he makes all knds of pretend eating sounds. It is really funny. He is definitely not starving!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Decisions, Decisions

It's been quite some time eh? We've been traveling and I've been wrestling with big issues in my head like education, parenting, and generally being a mom, so while many an excellent blog post has been written in my head, none have actually been put to paper. So sorry you have missed out on my current neuroses!

This morning in the shower, I had an epiphany. I decided that in September, Peanut would start up in our Preschool Homeschool Co-op that she participated in last year, and I would no longer consider any other preschool or class options for her right now. I should probably start at the beginning...

I have been thinking A LOT about preschool and education lately, as I have been reading everything by Alfie Kohn that I can get my hands on. I had been considering having Peanut join a public school preschool special education class as one of the peer role models, and while the benefits would be great, the idea of public school was not really appealing to me. I never thought I would be in this position. My entire career has been in public service, much of it in the infant and toddler portion of the public special education system. I have always been a supporter of public education, and I think I still am...I'm just not sure I want to be "that mom" at the PTA meeting who disagrees with literally everything. At this point, I am feeling pretty strongly about limiting the random rewards that schools are famous for - get a certificate for a happy meal for every book you read, candy and snacks provided for remaining quiet in class - and I am feeling even more strongly about the loss of our teachers. We have wonderful teachers who can no longer focus on inspiring curiosity and encouraging learning, but are in a punitive system themselves and are teaching to the test. It is no longer about education, it is about sorting children. Reading groups, grading systems, tracks - it is all sorting. Kids staying quiet to learn...seems really absurd. Shouldn't they be excited and interested and talking with each other? I'm so afraid of the curiosity within my baby being squashed like a bug on the very first day. There is so much more about public school that makes me nervous, but at this point it is all superfluous.

So then I considered Waldorf education, which is really laid back and matches mine and Peanuts style as far as how important (or not) it is to learn letters and numbers by age 3 or whenever it is deemed necessary to learn them in order to "get ahead" (of what or whom I'm not really sure). It would provide an opportunity for her to explore with me and without me in a relaxed atmosphere with lots of art, music, and movement. The teachers are all loving and the mood is accepting of everyone. But really, while it all looks grand, it is an hour drive each way and I am not prepared to do that for a 3 year old who may or may not speak at all during the whole semester.

Then I went back to the idea of public school, and then I saw Consuming Kids. One of the things I dislike about public schools (and have always railed against) is the corporate influences. Soda machines in schools to raise money and lesson plans created by major companies and industries just make my blood boil. The film identifies some schools where they have gone so far as to sell the naming rights to the gym or auditorium in exchange for advertising. They also talked a bit about bus radio which was fairly crazy. Talk about a captive audience, and talk about taking advantage of childhood innocence. And lots of schools went for it before the public outcry was so huge they shut it down. Sheesh. So yeah. We're back on the homeschoolers bus. Which I can honestly say I have never ever ever had any clue that I would be even remotely considering going this route. Even after our co-op experiment started last year, I still assumed that we would be sending the kids to public kindergarten. Now I am not so sure.

We have two years to make that big K decision, so for now I am focusing our energies where they should be. Peanut and Pumpkin (probably starting in January for him) will do our homeschool coop, and we can spend our free time exploring whatever floats their boat. I figure we can pair our "field trips" with what we are already doing in school - as we explore each monthly theme, we will spend some time during the week diving in further so we can all learn and have fun together while broadening her horizons a bit. So during our Visual Arts month, I expect to hit some museums and probably some working art studios. We will likely be harvesting during our harvest theme :) but we also have many festivals and the farmers markets as well as working farms to explore.

Right now, Peanut is focused on princesses - specifically Cinderella. We spent the morning at the library looking for princess books where the princess is not a total floosie, and can actually fend for herself a bit. I think we gave the librarians a bit of a kick, but we did find some good stuff on Pocahontas, Joan of Arc, the real Cinderella (not the one with the blue dress, immaculate hair, and barbie proportions marketed by a certain company), and some stuff on dresses and costumes. I think by following what she loves - ballet and classical music, dancing and beautiful dresses with sparkle, we can tackle some interesting things! We've just got to be original and creative and aim to stay curious.

So now that decisions have been made, you should all hear a bit more from me on a regular basis. And maybe I will stop griding my teeth at night too. At least until the next big decision comes a long.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Farm Fresh

Our garden has been pretty productive, considering that I let it get really weedy for a while there. It's hard to get out into the garden every day when a) it is super hot and muggy, b)your kids won't nap, or not at the same time, or if they do you have like 10 minutes of overlap, and c) if you garden with the kids out in the yard, the 3 year old begs for you to push her in the baby swing, while the 1 year old climbs to the top of the playground. So unless another adult is handy or I slip something into their smoothies, gardening is an early am or late pm proposition.

All that being said, we are eating something from the garden every day, and almost at every meal. We've got tomatoes, cucumbers, turnips, patty pan squash, zucchini, string beans, dill, parsley, chard, carrots, beets, and some radicchio.

Our pumpkin and cantaloupe vines are really taking over and we have lots of fruit on both of them. Here's a shot of a pumpkin vine that has escaped the garden. It's turning the corner and I'm sure it will become a border soon enough! I'm hoping the critters don't eat too much of the fruit, but maybe this one gift will dissuade them from working hard to get the stuff inside the fence.

I just planted the second batch of lettuces, so we should have a nice fall crop as well. One of the things I really love about gardening is that I am always thinking about the next season. I already have plans for how I want the new garden beds to lay out and how I want to rotate the crops. I have ideas about better ways to support and trellis plants, amend the soil, and keep critters at bay. I learned that carrots need much more friable soil than I have given them this year, so next year they will go in a raised bed with really nice loose dirt so they will grow down instead of split. I think these look just like a nice pair of pants!