Sunday, November 28, 2010

Apples and chocolate sand

I've been thinking about gratitude. I'm not one for thank you notes, but I do think letting people know that you appreciate them is important. We've been using the Thanksgiving holiday as a lesson in thankfulness for the kids, and I know the more they see the adults in their life expressing their thanks, appreciation and gratitude the easier it will be for them to integrate that into their everyday lives.

This time of year brings people to ask "what are you thankful for?" of each other and ourselves. Some of the answers are very pat and broad, and clearly what "should" be said. I think gratitude loses it's meaning or impact. I'd like to be more specific and clear about my thanks for big and small things, material and intangibles, for myself and as an example. Since it is easier to write (for me at least) I figured I'd start here. I am grateful for so much that I'm sure I won't manage to get it all "on paper", but I'll try to touch on some of them over the next few weeks.

I have a wonderful friend, A, who is a gift in and of herself. I could write an entire post (and them some) on how my life is enhanced by my relationship with her. But for now, I'll focus on her mother and father in law, who are two of the most thoughtful people I have met. The in laws brought me a gift of a huge box of apples last week. So you say, apples, so what? They have a 10 lb bag at Costco for 6 cents! Nope, not these apples. These are McIntosh apples that came from their own tree in upstate New York. The tree and fruit have never been treated in any way, and the harvests are varied. At the end of the summer, they brought some apples for my friend and she made some applesauce. I mentioned how great fresh apples would be and that my kids love applesauce. Well, they remembered this and stored as many apples as they could and drove them down here last week.

I set to work, making apple crisp (made with coconut flour - yum!), apple muffins (almond flour), apple bread (with the last of our regular flour), and applesauce. We used my tiny food processor for a batch of applesauce and the kids ate it all in one sitting. So I borrowed my friends food grinder and strainer to go on my kitchenaid mixer and set about making big batches of sauce. I think I froze 20 big jars of sauce and I have another 15 small ones in the fridge (it wasn't worth canning since we eat it so fast - we have already eaten 3-4 jars).

The gift of the apples was wonderful, but the gift of having my kids see how apples become sauce and getting to help me make it is so much more. I get to pull a jar out of the freezer and remember how the kitchen smelled of hot apples and cinnamon; that will warm me up on a chilly afternoon in February. Having a fresh homemade dessert that was "good for us" on Thanksgiving and being able to give loaves of apple bread to other people who deserved our thanks was lovely. The actual gifts people give lead to other gifts in our lives. And we in turn bestow gift on other people. It just feel good.

It didn't stop there. Peanut really loves the sand in M's (A's son) sandbox. She calls it chocolate sand because it is so dark and soft. Well, the in laws heard this as well, and yep - a huge load of sand came with the apples. The kids helped mix the sand in and then got to play around in it for a bit. I think Peanut didn't realize what she was getting until the third or fourth bucket of sand went into the sandbox - then she got really excited about it. So once again, a gift of thoughtfulness that will get to be shared and enjoyed by my kids and their friends. Thank you G and L for spending the time and energy to collect and load up apples and sand and drive it all the way here so my Peanut and Pumpkin could enjoy such treats!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Universe Knows...

I get this daily email from Enjoy Parenting called The Daily Groove. It's a short pertinent thought about parenting that usually brightens my day. I say usually, because sometimes it makes me sad, or frustrated, or annoyed, but today was perfect. It is about transcending worry, and if you have been following along you know I have been worrying :) a bit. So here it is for you to enjoy -
You can subscribe to the Groove as well, and get these fabulous tidbitd delivered directly to you daily as well!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Seasonal Table

We've been focusing on fall, harvest, and Thanksgiving (consumerism be damned - I won't give in to the store Christmas displays) and have had some fun with our "seasonal table". I just started the table a month or two ago and it has been working out wonderfully. The plan is to have various items, both natural and man made, that signify the seasons laying out so the kids can explore them. I got some wooden bowls at the thrift store to help contain the "treasures" and just generally small things, as well as to encourage some collections. Everything is on the coffee table, so it is accessible for regular play and rearranging.

We've had our pumpkins and gourds out for a while, and I wanted to add a little something new so we did a nature hunt on Sunday. The kids went into the yard with a bag and collected interesting stuff. They arranged and rearranged in their own little bowls and the big bowl for what seemed like hours that afternoon. It's fun to watch - don't mind the runny noses in the pics - we did get right to it once we came inside! No time for wiping noses :)

I've also been on the hunt for Thanksgiving and harvest books that are not created by some random government council or discuss happily our stealing of land. I found some dealing with specific crops, and some nice "Giving Thanks" kinds of books. We added them to the living room display as well. I'd really love to get a small bookshelf that faces the books out like they have at preschool. That way I can keep them neat, but the kids can still see them. Happy fall!!!


Peanut has been in her new preschool now for a week and a half. It seems like it was the right move, and she is enjoying herself, but sometimes it's hard to know. I feel like I have been second guessing myself so much lately - like most of my decision making has been faulty. We had the master bathroom remodeling where I definitely chose the wrong contractor for the job. Then we had the preschool that I was all excited about that turned out to be glorified daycare with letter and number drills. Then we had a fence installed and it turns out I couldn't have made a worse decision about the company to take on that job. So I am feeling a little uneasy with most everything. That makes figuring out how to best nurture my kids a bit of a struggle. I think I know what I am doing and then question everything.

Peanut is alternately garrulous and exuberant or silent and watchful. Most days if we are home or with folks we know really well, she talks and plays and otherwise acts like a three year old. If anything is amiss she will completely clam up. She takes an unbelievably long time (not hours - days or weeks) to warm up to new people and situations, and it can be so frustrating to be the one trying to help coax her to join in or even just say "hello" or "thank you". Honey is pretty quiet and can take some time to get to know so I know she comes by it honestly. He and I have talked a lot about the ways we can help her interact more easily as well as how my perception of her level of enjoyment may be off. He feels fine as an observer, whereas I feel strange just hanging out on the sidelines and not getting into the action. A huge part of choosing to do preschool was that it gives Peanut more opportunities to deal with new situations and people in a safe way. The more positive experiences the better in my way of thinking. But of course, I wonder, should I stick close and help? Should I walk away and let the chips fall? What kind or amount of support would be best? It's all a judgement call, and as I've said, I'm currently questioning mine.

Peanut has begun answering "I don't know" to almost every question, regardless of the kind of question. We could be asking what she liked most about the day, or what she might do with her baby doll, or where she'd like to put her shoes. When we do ask a question with a "right" answer, she still answers that she doesn't know but looks right at the place, color, number, name, picture, whatever, that shows the she does know. We've talked a lot about how it is OK to have lots of ideas and share them with other people, and that everyone has concerns that their thoughts or answers are wrong or silly. We've discussed that thinking about things and coming up with different answers is fine - sometimes thinking of the "wrong" answer helps you get to the "right" one. We've talked about her wants and needs being important - important enough to say out loud.

While I am worried about how Peanut stands back in new situations (or really in any slightly different situation) that does not compare to the worry I have about the "I don't know" thing. Yeah, if this continues and we do decide to send her to public kindergarten, the class size and curriculum guidelines leave little time for a teacher to help my kid engage. I suspect she will be written off rather quickly. But this feeling that she doesn't know or that her thought are not worthy of sharing or that she is sure she is wrong, makes me so sad. I worry that I caused this by being so impatient and frustrated when Pumpkin was born. I worry that I am saying "I don't know" too much. I worry that I have blown off too many of her ideas and now she just gives the standard answer. I worry that she somehow has learned that respect for women's ideas in this world is minimal. I worry about what to do, how to do it, and whether to do anything at all.

I worry. And I know that is not helping. I know that every person is their own person and the illusion of control or influence is often just that. As a parent, I feel like some action is required here, and I'm just not comfortably clear on what that is yet. As much as I'd like to swoop in like some super hero, I think I have to take a back seat here and trust that the answers will come. This is the most difficult part of parenting by far. To sit by while your child struggles is never on your to-do list, but to allow them to grow sometimes I think it has to be.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Worth the raking

As you drive down our street, there are pristine lawns looking freshly mowed and raked. Then you come to our house, where you barely know there is grass in the front yard. We have an extraordinary amount of leaves that fall as you rake so it really feels like little or no progress is being made. Honey and I have both taken rakes and leaf blowers to the front yard twice, but it continues to look like a forest floor.

There are lots of reasons that this is really OK with me though. One, we are not retired - we are really busy, active people who just don't have a ton of time for raking leaves every day. Two is that while I am a stay at home mom, contrary to popular belief, that does not mean I am actually at home. And if I am, I can pretty much guarantee that having a preschooler and a toddler playing by the street in the front yard while I try to rake is not on my top ten. Three is that when we do rake and get a huge pile of leaves, the joy of the kids playing in them is incomparable.
And four, is that those two trees in our front yard are beyond gorgeous. I can see them from the living room window and I wouldn't trade the few days of amazing yellows out there for any easier lawn care. So drive by and scoff, but check out those beautiful trees!

Success With Knitting!

Many years ago, my grandmother tried to teach me to knit. It was quite unsuccessful, and I didn't really even consider picking up knitting needles for like 30 years or something. As many other crafty and artsy things that I'd just try with reckless abandon, I *knew* that I just couldn't knit.

Well, one of the mamas in our Holistic Moms Network chapter started a knitting group, and I dove in. With a little help from them and from some books one of the girls loaned me, I was able to cast on and knit! It was pretty easy really, and I made sure to knit a row or two every day until i could meet up with my girls again so I wouldn't forget how. I decided to teach myself how to purl and bind off, following the directions from a book (Stitch n' Bitch - my favorite so far), and finished my first knitting project! I had no inclination to actually make anything, I just bought some cheap yarn and needles to use for practice.

Turns out I made a sweet little blanket that is a perfect fit for Peanuts little doll named "Tiny". She and I are both really happy with how it turned out. I'm working on the matching pillow :) and have already been asked to make bigger blankets for the other "girls". Looks like I have a new hobby!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

New School!

First day of the new preschool - I think we made the right decision :)

My Little Cookers

Both kids love to help in the kitchen. They both have little aprons now and look so cute and professional! Last week, we tried a recipe for almond flour cookies that could be rolled an cut into shapes. I wanted to test drive it before the holidays, as I go to a cookie exchange each year and at least one of the longtime guests is now gluten free. These came out pretty nicely - we ate them plain but they can be frosted and decorated. Not too sweet and nicely nutty. They were a bit crumbly, but I think maybe some finer ground almond flour may work better. They were also supposed to sit in the freezer for an hour before rolling and cutting, but these sat overnight as life happened in between :) as usual! So maybe a little too much condensation from the freeze and thaw worked against us as well.

Not only do they love to cook for real, but it seems that our play kitchen area is *the place* to be lately. They are constantly making tea, coffee, chicken, pizza, cake, soup, and all kinds of tasty vittles in there. Pumpkin sits at the table and yells "eat!" and Peanut cooks up a storm. I love that they can happily play together and I can be out of sight for a bit at a time. It is quite a lovely break and I enjoy hearing their conversations and peeking into their imaginations!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Holiday Mash Ups

Halloween was last Sunday. It is Friday, and we took a short outing to Target for a birthday gift this afternoon. We found the things we needed, and took the obligatory stroll down the "girl" aisle. Peanut (and Pumpkin really), love to see the baby dolls. They both hold them, carry and talk to different ones, and point out all of the cool things the babies have - like sequined diapers, or do - like play peek a boo with a cheshire cat like expression. We've of course moved on to having another aisle we must visit - the Princess aisle - where the kids can see all of their favorite movie princesses with their sparkly gowns and perfect coifs, and they can buy clothes "just like them mommy!".

Well, our little trips are always fun since the kids know that whatever they play with usually wants to go back "with its friends" so "someone else can play with it too". Thank goodness we started that early, otherwise that store would be an absolute nightmare. Anyway, the point of all of this is that after our usual rounds, we went down to the Halloween section as I figured there might be some fun things on sale that I could snag for decorations next year. Um, yeah. There were a ton of costumes left, and little else - but what I couldn't miss if I tried was the CHRISTMAS STUFF WAS OUT IN FULL FORCE!!!! Really. We not even really close to Thanksgiving people. What the heck?

OK, so the funniest part - well there are two funny parts. First, there is one aisle completely dedicated to Hanukkah. There were festive blue and silver wall and window decals, star garlands, make your own menorah, countdown to Hanukkah calendar, and all kinds of other junk. I saw a few boxes of candles, which you actually need for the celebration, but everything else was just random nonsense to try to force the holiday to compete with Christmas. For anyone not in the know, Hanukkah is quite a minor Jewish holiday and it's significance has only increased due to the fact that it is around the same time as Christmas. The second funny thing was that there were many people shopping in the Christmas aisle! I don't know about you, but I already have all my stuff for Hanukkah, Christmas, and Solstice for that matter from last year, and I am sure not buying any new shwag full price before freaking Thanksgiving. Humph.

Next year, I am expecting to see an aisle for Solstice and Kwanzaa too. I can't wait to see the plastic sun lamps, commemorative mirrors, and such they will come up with. Oy!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Still a Festive Halloween

We did have a fun Halloween weekend, aside from the sadness of the cat. I had done a little table scape of gourds and such that the kids loved. Pumpkin especially would grab the items and scream "gourd!" as he cheerfully banged them on the table and floor.

Pumpkin was sick Friday night and Saturday, so we moved our HMN Holistic Halloween and harvest Party to my co-leaders house at the last minute. She took it all in stride and was really chill about doing it all that day. Thank goodness for good friends!
We baked and did some crafts (what else is new?!) for the season. Pumpkin pecan muffins were *really* good! Coconut flour made them gluten free, and chocolate chips made them scrumptious.

Everyone loves to color pumpkins. We glued, painted, colored, carved and scooped out our pumpkins. Both kids loved the seeds too.

Here is my Cinderella - I finished that dress Friday night. It turned out too big in the bodice and too long, but that's what you get for doing on the fly fittings on a three year old.

I love the underskirt - she looks very regal.
It was interesting to see the princess thing unfold. We saw several little girls with the Disney outfits and Peanut was quite smitten by them. She loved her dress though. One of her friends at the party had a pink princess dress her mom had made for her, and Peanut was so excited for them to be the pink and blue princesses. The other little girl told me right away that she was wearing a princess dress but she was a princess all the time no matter what she was wearing. Yep - so's Peanut! That's why I love these HMN people!