Saturday, October 27, 2012

Halloween Pancakes

I've made some not so stellar parenting choices this week, so one night, I decided it was time to balance out my "not so awesome" with some "super awesome" and make the girls Halloween pancakes for dinner.  It's incredibly easy to do, but the kids were amazed.  The easiest technique is to use a cheap condiment squeeze bottle like you'd see at a hotdog stand (I bought mine for a $1 at the grocery store), but you could also manage with an old ketchup or mustard bottle you've washed out.  You draw the darker design on the griddle first and let it cook for a little bit before you fill in around it.   The only slightly tricky part is that all words need to be in mirror image.....written right to left with all the letters backward. 

The girls had great fun deciding whether to eat a pumpkin, spiderweb, bat or ghost next!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Let's Talk R's

I somehow manage to stir up drama in the most unlikely ways.  Yesterday, it was because I posted a link on facebook to the open letter John Franklin Stephens wrote to Ann Coulter.  The letter is a very well written explanation of why we should not be using "retard" as an insult and thinking it's a funny joke.

Along with the link, I included an anecdote about myself.  When I was a kid, my friends and I thought those jokes were funny.  I also had a friend whose brother had severe cerebral palsy.  Believe it or not, we were all so self-centered that we would visit with this boy and then make jokes about "the short bus" not 30 minutes later.  I am fortunate that this friend's mother took the time to confront us.  It didn't take much.  She quietly said, "Jason rides the short bus".  I will never forget the hurt I saw in her eyes and heard in her voice.  I was ashamed of myself, and I should've been.  I instantly saw how wrong I had been.  I became aware that day of how hurtful those jokes were.  I wish I could say I never said anything like that again, but that's not true.  My teenaged self still slipped up at times, but from that point forward, the "joke" always came with an underlying discomfort.  I always remembered my friend's mom and her brother, and eventually the mindless, hurtful "jokes" lost their space in my brain and stopped coming out of my mouth. 

It never occurred to me that posting this link would start any sort of drama.  I was rather shocked when someone responded something to the effect of "kids need to just have thicker skin, you can't let everything get to you".   I wish I could provide the exact quote, but this person chose to delete their posts.  Well, I couldn't let such a comment stand, but the goal was never to make people angry, it was to educate those who still truly don't understand how hurtful the word "retard" can be.  I also have multiple friends who have disabled children and I felt they deserved my support in this somewhat public forum.  So I responded in as non-confrontational a manner as I could manage, pointing out that the burden is not on bullied kids and adults to get over it.  The burden is on people who are being bullies to be respectful.  It would be fabulous if words never hurt people, but that's not reality.  Reality is that those words burrow their way into people's minds and hearts and fester, sometimes for a lifetime.  Furthermore, some of the intellectually disabled people who are targeted by these "jokes" are incapable of the speech to defend themselves, or the social skills to understand why some people can be mean.  It's an incredibly low blow to ridicule someone who cannot defend themselves. 

I was even more shocked when this person responded to one of my friends, implying that if you just have high enough standards for kids with autism, they can perform the same as neuro-typical kids.  Some children may be capable of that, but I know several who work their butts off everyday in school and speech therapy and occupational therapy and social skills practice and they just aren't there yet.  Their parents are not holding them to low expectations, their parents are working hard every day to help their kids meet society's expectations.   Some kids appear to be fairly typical, but teachers and coaches aren't at home every night.  They don't always see how much mental work it takes for those kids to meet typical expectations.  If they can get to that point, that is fabulous.  If they can't or aren't there yet, it should never be assumed they or their parents just aren't trying hard enough. 

I was disappointed to wake up this morning and discover these posts had been deleted (completely disjointing the conversation that had occurred).  If someone has a conversation like this and feels they are right and have nothing to be ashamed of, their words should stand.  If someone has a conversation like this and realizes they were perhaps too harsh or judgmental, they should offer an apology, not pretend the conversation never happened.

At the end of the day, name calling in its entirety is unnecessary.  It's not as if there is no other way to make your point than calling people names.  Why be hurtful for no reason at all?  Is it really worth a few laughs? 

I'm standing by the facebook post I made yesterday.  The word "retard" is completely unnecessary, we should stop using it.  The word "respect" is one we should all keep close to the forefront of our mind and strive for every day.   And if ever we "regret" what we've said, a sincere apology can go a long way towards fixing our mistake. 

Those are my three R's for today.  We'll never be perfect, but each morning is a new day and a new chance to practice compassion for ourselves and those around us.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

"First" Camp Out

I keep meaning to post about the girls joining Girl Scouts and I just haven't gotten around to it.  A friend started the troop for several kindergarten-aged girls we know.  The moms all know each other, but the girls are just starting to become friends.  I agreed to be the assistant troop leader and am learning a lot about Girl Scouts and how things are run in our area and I'm liking it a lot more than I thought I would. 

Once I knew Sedona was going to be in a troop, I tried to find a troop for Sierra that would be a good fit for her.  She has participated in some Girl Scout camps/activities as a "Juliette" (a "troop" with just one girl), but I really wanted her with a group.  We just weren't able to find her a troop I was happy with though, so we tacked her on to the Daisy troop.  It takes a little more work to find ways the Daisy activities can help her earn badges, but it's a lot easier on me to just have one troop to work with and she still gets to meet other Brownies at bigger events. 

So!  Last Friday we had our first camp out.  My girls have had a fair bit of experience tent camping
(baby Sierra on her first camping trip)

This was a first for most of the troop though, so we started with a backyard camp out.  To say the least, they had a lot of fun.

The troop leader's oldest daughter (who is a Cadette) came along to help out, teach songs and play games.  That's her playing chase with everyone when we first arrived.
Sierra helped with teaching the songs that she knew
Once it got dark, one of the moms gave each girl a giant glow stick and we got a fire going:
More songs around the campfire:
I've learned a lot of new things since I started helping out with the troop.  Including that Daisies are not allowed to roast marshmallows.  Apparently it has been decided a group of hyper 5 year olds with flaming sticks isn't such a great idea.  I imagine there have been actual injuries to back this up.  In lieu of regular s'mores, we did mexican s'mores.  Tortillas with mini chocolate chips and mini marshmallows.  They're rolled up, wrapped in foil, and put over the fire.  We'll stick to roasting marshmallows on family trips, but I have to admit this was a fabulous way to do it with a whole group of kindergartners.
This is Sierra a split second before she fusses at me to turn off the flash on my camera (Sedona's in the blue shirt in the background, it was too dark to see and I thought I had her in the frame too)
Remove a group of kids from all electronics and clocks, let them run around like crazy, sing songs at the top of their lungs, and tell stories around a campfire and they decide it's time for bed around 9 o'clock.  Secora and I headed home and Josh stayed overnight with the girls. 

In the morning, they woke up ready for more singing.  This time they got the two dads who were there to play along:

Pancakes and bacon were on the menu for breakfast, then it was time to pack up and head home.  My girls had a blast, they are already asking when we can do a two night camp out!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Twos Are Upon Us

Two year olds are a practice in patience.  As they say, this ain't my first rodeo, I'm well aware it's the threes and fours that are really trying.  But no parenting challenge tests your patience quite like a toddler's first forays into independence. 

Earlier this week, Secora figured out how to get over the baby gate that has kept her away from the bedrooms and bathrooms for the last year.  We spent the rest of the day disagreeing over which side of the gate she should stay on.

Another day, she bit one sister and drew blood, then pulled a handful of hair out on the other sister.  When I firmly told her "no!" and put her in time-out, the other girls turned on me. "Momma! It's mean to yell at a baby!"

One morning as I tried to dress her, she yelled, "shirt!", took her onesie away from me and tried to put it on herself.  To say the least, it wasn't going well.  I told her, "you need help with that."  She summoned all her two-ness, looked me in the eye, held up one finger and said, "NO.  BACK."

You read that right.  My 23 month old stared me down, wagged her finger at me and told me to back up off her business.

One day she took off her diaper, threw it in the trash can and brought me a changing pad and container of wipes and said, "change!"

She's pushed a dining room chair into the kitchen and used it to get into anything and everything on the counters or in the drawers or sink so often that I'm considering using a bungee cord to tie all the chairs to the table.

She pulled the A/C intake vent out of the wall.  She didn't open the cover or remove the filter, pulled the entire thing out of the wall. 

In the midst of all of this, she is sleeping less.  Just when I could really use a 2 hour break from redirecting and saying "no, no" and cleaning up the latest thing she's gotten into, she's decided 30-45 minutes is quite enough of a rest, thank you very much. 

I haven't always been patient this week, but I sure have gotten a lot of practice.  But even with hours and hours of frustration, 10 seconds can make the whole week worth it:


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Handmade Charging Station

Check out the charging station Josh made! 
That extra plug hanging over the front is for the camera Sierra just got for her birthday, we just hadn't run it through the box yet when I took the picture. There are also some strings hanging down from the fabric that were trimmed after I took the pictures, I jumped the gun a little bit!
Underneath, there is space to keep the USB hub we bought
Then all of the plugs run through a hole on the top so we can charge all of our electronics without having a messy nest of cords on the counter to dig through. 

Pretty neat, huh?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts

About a week ago, I bought one of the 2 pound bags of fresh brussels sprouts at Sam's (much cheaper than buying them in the regular grocery stores here) and before I knew it, the "use by" date snuck up on me.  One of my favorite sprouts recipes is this one that uses classic fall flavors, but I wanted to try something different this time. I browsed the internet and came across a promising caramelized brussels sprouts recipe, but it looked too bland, so I used the basic idea and made several changes.

Carmelized Brussels Sprouts
Serves 8 as a side dish

2 pounds fresh brussels sprouts, washed and trimmed
2 slices thick cut bacon (or 3-4 slices regular bacon), chopped
1/4 onion, chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/4c brown sugar
optional: extra oil

1. Slice brussels sprouts so you have narrow shred.
2. Cook bacon over medium-high heat.
3. Just before bacon is done, add onion and cook until softened.
4. Add garlic.  You should have some bacon grease still visible in the pan at this point, if not, add a little extra oil.
5. Add sliced brussels sprouts and saute for about 4-5 minutes.
6. Add brown sugar and saute until sugar is dissolved and coating brussels sprouts.  Do not overcook once you add the sugar!

I like brussels sprouts, so me liking this isn't saying much.  However, Sierra, who does not like any vegetables at all and is an extremely picky eater, tried it and said, "hey, these actually have a pretty good flavor.  I mean, I wouldn't eat it everyday or nuthin', but it's not too bad."  It may sound mediocre, but believe me, that is a ringing endorsement!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Eight Years Old

A certain young lady is turning 8 years old today!  You know what that means, time for a trip down memory lane!
Itty bitty newborn Sierra, back when we thought we knew what sleep deprivation was.
All babies like to be swaddled?  False!  We quickly learned swaddling was most definitely NOT what helped her sleep.  Space helped her sleep.
9 month old Sierra with her 99 year old great-great grandma. 
Trick-or-treating is hard work when you're 2, if you're not careful, a quick snuggle will turn into bedtime.
By 2007, Sierra was 3 years old, a new big sister and a flower girl in a friend's wedding.
2008.  First library card.  Clearly an exciting day.
Nearly 5 years old and having a blast on an extended road trip, including this stop at the Georgia Music Hall of Fame.
At 6, she welcomed another baby sister to the world.  She chose to attend the delivery and held Secora's hand through her newborn exam, then helped dress her for the first time.
Enjoying Disney World last year.
Just a couple weeks ago, lounging in the sun. 

Sierra is growing up way too fast.  She reads full length chapter books on her own.  Like 400 and 500 page books.  She's starting to speak Spanish to me occasionally.  She can add and subtract any positive numbers, she knows her multiplication facts (though they're still a little slow to come at times), and has a natural grasp of fractions.  She's made great strides on music theory recently.  She knows the major scales and how they relate to each other in the circle of fifths.  She can name enharmonic equivalents and she's getting better about remembering the stem rules when she writes notes on a staff.  She's really starting to take responsibility for her own education.  She does a fair amount of her work on her own, even choosing to work ahead at times.  Every week when we go to the library, she's looking through the non-fiction section for information about some topic she's decided she wants to know more about.  She is excelling at theater.  She loves the people and the stage, and they love her!  She's gaining more self awareness.  She still has her moments (just like all of us!) but there have been more instances lately where she gets cranky and she's able to recognize it and see if her two big triggers (illness and tiredness) are at fault.   she's getting a little more adventurous with eating.  She's still a big meat eater: brisket, chicken, pork chops.  Any hunk of meat is sure to get eaten (right after she names what animal and what part of the animal it came from).  She's trying new things a little more willingly now though.  Yesterday she even enjoyed a brussel sprout!

She got to enjoy a 24 hour party with her oldest friend, Holly, last weekend.  Having known each other through infancy, toddler hood, preschool and now the early elementary years, there have been times where the little kid fits shone through and we kind of cringed and worried they weren't going to stay friends.  This weekend laid those doubts to rest though.  They got along SO well and both of them were SO well behaved.  It was really good to see.  They enjoyed cupcakes, crafts, nail painting, a trip to the movies, pizza, waffles, more crafts, running around outside, and a "sleep" over.  They had an absolute blast.  Today is Sierra's day to pick what we eat for every meal, get her way most of the time and visit with the grandparents.  I'm going to try to make her some strawberry soup, her favorite food from our trip to Disney World last year.  I found a recipe online and am crossing my fingers that it works out. 

Happy happy birthday to my sweet little girl that isn't so little any more. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

On Never Saying Never

There is a homeschool page I follow on facebook that routinely posts questions from readers so everyone can chime in and discuss the topic.  It's a great tool for reaching a lot of people.  For instance, I once asked what math curriculum people transitioned to from Right Start.  None of my local homeschool friends use Right Start, so this wasn't a topic I could discuss with anyone I know in real life. 

Yesterday, a seemingly innocuous question was posed: When would you throw in the homeschooling towel?  Seems pretty simple.  I was shocked at how many answers were posted with a very judgmental tone to them.  Everything from a basic "absolutely never" to an insistence that both parents would have to be completely mentally incapacitated or dead before the kids would go to public school.  One person listed every difficult medical situation their family has dealt with and an insinuation that if they could keep homeschooling through that, no one else could possibly have a good reason to stop.   There was a lot of language suggesting that if you send your kids to school, you just don't care enough, just didn't try hard enough, and are sending them out to a situation that will absolutely (no ifs, ands or buts about it!) corrupt them.

To be fair, there were a lot of respectful answers as well.  Quite a few were from people who said they couldn't foresee a reason THEY would stop homeschooling, but each family has to decide for themselves.

This "Oh! NEVER!" mentality is so troubling to me though.  I see this sort of thing in childbirth and breastfeeding circles as well.  I feel it's shortsighted and overestimates the control we have over life.  Unfortunately, it also often comes with a heaping helping of judgment against other mothers: "Oh, you should NEVER have an epidural"  "Home birth is NEVER safer than a hospital birth" "It's ALWAYS bad to induce labor" "I just can't believe ANYONE would EVER formula feed" "Ugh, I would NEVER breastfeed, that's just icky".  And on and on it goes. 

If there's one thing you learn when working with young families, it's that the VAST majority of moms are doing their absolute best.  I would say I could count the number I've met who weren't doing their best on one hand, but honestly, I can't think of a single one.  I've worked with rich moms, poor moms, drug addicted moms, won't take a tylenol moms, over-40 moms, 15-year-old moms, adoptive moms, birth moms, well moms, sick moms.  You name it, I've probably come across it at least once.  Is everyone's best the same?  No, of course not.  Their life situations are hugely different.  But they are doing whatever their best is. 

Because this truth is always at the forefront of my mind, I simply can't say never.  I can think of lots of reasons a family might choose to start or stop homeschooling, have an elective c-section or a home birth, breastfeed or formula feed.  I don't live in their house.  I don't walk in their shoes.  I can't know what is right for them.  I sometimes feel sad for the kids, and the family as a whole, when options are limited due to physical or mental illness, lack of economic opportunities, family history, or a host of other factors.  But that judgment that accompanies "never" has no place in supporting families.  I think we probably all think our way is the right way.  If we didn't, we wouldn't choose it.  It can be darn near impossible to avoid seeing a different way as the "wrong" way.  I try to allow myself the thought and then allow it to pass (along with repeating my mantra of "not my choices, not my choices, not my choices").  If nothing else, a large public forum where many parents have likely made the choice you're horrified by, is not the place to make your stand for "never".

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


Someone on a local homeschool email list posted several weeks ago about a bunch of apples that were going to be available for 50 cents a pound.  I signed up one bushel. 
Then we spent a few evenings turning them all into applesauce.  We made it the same way we usually do, except this time we tried out our kitchen aid food grinder.  I'm not sure why we never thought of using it before, but it worked great and was easier than the food processor.
Now the apples are almost gone and we have 16 pints of applesauce and 8 pints of spiced applesauce in the pantry. 
Fall is definitely on the way!  Is anyone else doing any fall canning?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Grandpa Time

We've had a busy week around here!  Josh's dad came to visit.  Grandpa is a big kid at heart and one of those rare adults who doesn't just watch from the sidelines, he really plays along.  So, of course the girls had a blast.  We had to go through a little "grandparent detox" when he left, but it was because they were so exhausted from having so much fun. 

Grandpa started off on the right foot by demonstrating his balloon animal making skills.  I can't stand balloons, so they pretty much only get them on their birthdays, this was a huge treat.
Later, he helped add some very necessary structural reinforcements to their playhouse.  He even let them help where they could.
Meanwhile, Secora and I (and later, the big girls too) lounged on the trampoline....."Hey mom, whatcha doin'?  Can I see inside the camera?"
I love Sedona's hair
As much as she wants to be big and grown-up, it doesn't take much to get to Sierra's carefree, little kid side
On another day, we went to the park for a picnic:
Turns out when you just hold the shutter release while a child swings, you can catch some pretty funny faces

Secora stayed closer to the ground, but she's recently discovered she likes the swings like Sierra
Of course we had to spend some time on the slides
And Grandpa had to video record a kid's eye view of the playground
Happy baby!
Extremely happy baby!
Pretty girl, growing up
Still a happy baby
Sierra and Grandpa played volleyball for a little bit.  I tried to join in, but the sand was burning my feet!
Everyone was hot, so we headed over to the splash pad.  Of course, the biggest kid couldn't let the little kids have all the fun

Best of all, everyone had so much fun, Secora decided she just might oughta try it out.  I've never been able to get her to play at the splash pad, so this was a neat turn of events

On the last day, we hung out near the house

Grandpa stayed to watch Sierra's improv class at the theater, then he had to leave to head back home.

There was also plenty of fun where I just didn't have the camera out.  Trips for ice cream, bowling and arcade games, shopping, breakfast at IHOP without parents around to say no to anything, and plenty of other things I'm probably forgetting.   And all of this in only 4 days! 

The day after his dad left, Josh had to go out of town for work, so my mom came to stay with us for the night while he was gone.  We tried to get back to our school routine, but plenty of things got put off.  The great thing about homeschooling is we had time to do all of these great things and this week we're just picking up again where we left off (complete with rare blog posts...I'm trying to pick up the pace a bit!).


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