Summer Reading Challenge

In order to prevent the dreaded “I forgot everything I learned at school because it’s summer break” phenomenon I’ve been hearing so much about, my soon to be first-grader and I decided to come up with a weekly reading challenge.  Each week we’ll go to the library, where she can pick five books relating to the themes that we have decided on, and every other week she’ll do a project relating to one of her choices.  In case y’all would like in on it, I decided to share:

 

L and I came up with this project together, and are basing it off of a similar library project that she did at school at the beginning of the year.  Change this up to your heart’s content and make it something that you’ll all enjoy!

 

Happy Summer Reading!

Things I Learned in Kindergarten

L’s last day of kindergarten is today, and the experience is very bittersweet for me.  On one hand, I am so freaking excited about having her home all day, every day, that I can’t stand it.  On the other hand, how is it that the year is already over? And that as of tomorrow she will be a FIRST GRADER?

Back in August, it felt like this day would never come.  I was a nervous wreck on the first day of school, anxious and emotional.  I couldn’t wait until summertime and for kindergarten to be over  – and now it is.  And I’m going to miss it.  Kindergarten was a pivotal time for all of us, not just for L.

Here’s what I learned in kindergarten this year:

  • My babies can survive without me with them every second of the day
  • I can survive without them every second of the day
  • It’s okay to trust other adults with the care and stewardship of my children (during school hours at least)
  • (Most of) the teachers and staff care almost as much as we do about seeing our kids safe, happy, and successful
  • I can no longer be the sole administrator of my child’s social life
  • “Phineas and Ferb” is actually a pretty funny show
  • Potty talk is something that I have learned to tolerate (to a degree)
  • Sight words are a big deal
  • So is counting to 100
  • Rules taught in the classroom can also be enforced at home.  My favorite?  “Sit on your pockets and show me your five”.  They also work with three-year-olds.
  • You’re never too old to love the Book Fair, and the posters are still awesome
  • Riding the bus isn’t as scary as I thought it was
  • I can’t force my kid to eat vegetables just because I put it in her lunchbox
  • PE is MUCH cooler than it was when I was a kid
  • Never underestimate the importance of sending money on Spirit Shop days
  • Five year olds can become quite fluent in sarcasm
  • Watching your baby become an independent kid isn’t as hard as you think it will be

First Day of School

Last Day of School

Learning to Let Go, Revisited (aka “I Can’t Fight This Feeling Anymore”)

A couple of weeks ago I had an epiphany, in which I decided that I was too uptight.  Too neurotic.  Too anxious.  So, in an attempt to eradicate these character flaws, I decided to “let things go”.  I stopped chasing after the kids, picking up toys in their wake.  I let mail pile up. I threw out my cleaning schedule.  I even, as ridiculous as it sounds, tried to schedule days where I purposely didn’t make the bed.

But then I realized, that all of this “letting go” was having the exact opposite effect that I had intended! I was actually becoming more stressed, more neurotic, and more anxious!  Today, as I was busy vacuuming and dusting the house, I found myself singing.  And smiling.  And, glory be to God, HAPPY!   I was cleaning in that slightly anal, slightly perfectionist way I have and found myself loving every minute of it.  All of this time I’d been trying to become laid back, I was fighting against my own nature.  Giving into these neurotic tendencies actually feels really….good.  Comfortable.  Why fight it anymore? Why try to become something that I’m not?  I’ve been so concerned about teaching my daughters my anxious habits that I didn’t realize that in my attempts to become a laid back person,  I was teaching them something worse: I was teaching them that it’s not okay to be yourself.  And that’s not anything that I would ever want them to learn from me.

So today, I have cleaned my house.  And in a minute, I’ll re-print my cleaning schedule.  And maybe, if I get crazy tonight, I’ll reorganize my recipe binder.  And I’ll be happy.

Searching for Super Recipes: Peanut Butter-Nutella Cookies

The title should say it all.  These were so ridiculous, so decadent, that frankly I don’t know why I didn’t make these sooner.

It started out as a simple peanut butter cookie recipe that I got from Parents magazine a few years ago.  It’s got to be the easiest, most kid-friendly cookie recipe imaginable.

And then I added Nutella to it, and my mind was blown.

Here’s what you’ll need:

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

1/2 cup Nutella

1 cup sugar, plus 1/3 cup

1 egg

 

Here’s what you’ll do:

*Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Farenheit (just in case any of you crazy Celsius people are out there)

1) Pour one cup of sugar into a medium-sized bowl.  Pour the remainder onto a small plate.

2) Add the peanut butter and Nutella

3) Add one egg

4) Mix it together, until it looks like this:

5) Scoop out spoonfuls of the mixture and gently roll them in the extra sugar until you make a ball.  Note – this will be extremely sticky!

6) Place the balls on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper

7) Take a fork and dip it into the extra sugar.  One at a time, press it onto the cookie balls – first in one direction, then in another.  You’ll probably need to re-dip the fork after each cookie.

8) Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden brown on the bottom and gooey.

9) Let stand for five minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool (or before transferring directly into your mouth)

This is all that I have left, because I stupidly forgot to take a picture yesterday after I baked them.  I’m lucky that I even had these!

Let know if you try it!

Pinterest Project of the Week: Cookie Cutter Bird Feeders

I’m back and ready to blog! I was in Austin for most of last week, so I’m quite behind on my projects/recipes/products.  Not to fear, though, because I started full swing this week and will be doing PLENTY of posting! Aren’t you excited? 🙂

This week the girls and I tried a project that was Pinned from the Prudent Baby blog.  Now, I love Prudent Baby.  It is everything that I aspire to be, craft-speaking.  They have the most gorgeous patterns for when I actually figure out how to sew….sigh.  One day.

Thankfully today’s craft required very little time or skill, which is right up my alley.  You can find their full (and I’m sure, better) instructions here: http://prudentbaby.com/2012/04/baby-kid/cookie-cutter-bird-feeder/

Here’s what you’ll need:

-Approximately 3/4 cup birdseed (whatever is available and cheap)

-1/4 cup water

-1 small envelope Knox gelatine (available on the baking aisle)

-Twine, yarn, or string

-Cookie cutters

 

Here’s what you’ll do:

1. Mix together the envelope of gelatine with 1/4 cup of water.  Bring it to a simmer of medium-low heat while stirring.

2. Remove from heat and let cool for a minute.

3. Stir in the birdseed, adding a little more if there is still some liquid at the bottom.

4. Lay your cookie cutters on wax paper and fill about halfway with the birdseed mixture.

 

5. Cut your yarn, tie a knot in the end, and press it into the birdseed.

6. Fill the cookie cutter the rest of the way with birdseed, covering the yarn.

7. Allow it to dry overnight, turning every once in awhile.

8. Remove it from the cookie cutters and hang in a nearby tree, then watch as you get feathery visitors!

 

The “hands on” time of this project was about ten minutes, and clean up was minimal.  Win win!

*If you’d like to see what else I’m doing on Pinterest, check me out here! http://pinterest.com/jsmamabear/ .

 

The Kindness of Strangers

I’ve just returned home from spending four days at the hospital with my mom, who is recovering from major surgery.  During that time I was amazed – utterly amazed – at how rude, insensitive, and unconcerned some people can be towards those in need.   But even more so, I was awed and gratified to see the sheer kindness that we received from total strangers.

Take the volunteer who runs the Corner Café on the surgical floor, where my dad and I waited during my mom’s procedure.  She nurtured us with food and frequent use of the endearment “honey”, which was the exact sort of comfort that we needed during a stressful time.   Or Savannah, the night nurse that my mom referred to as an “angel in the night”, who took such amazing, warm, loving care of my mom that we felt that we’d known her our whole lives.  Or Jorge, the day nurse on Saturday who went above and beyond to attend to my mom’s every single need, to offer smiles, encouragement, and the pleasure of being treated like a human being.  Or the clinical assistants who stopped to chit chat while they took vital signs.  Or the sweet housekeeper, Angela, who offered to pray for healing and suggested that we move across the hall because a room with a view had just become available(and the one we were in was gray, depressing, and facing a dirty brick wall).  Or the people I met in the elevator on the way down to the cafeteria who just looked into my tired eyes and smiled.

This, however, is in strict contrast to some other encounters.  We dealt with insensitivity, lack of concern, and downright cruelty at the hands of some of our nurses (in my book, making a patient wait forty-five minutes to receive their medication is cruel).  And the signs that we would see on the hall in other patient’s doorways, rude signs that screamed “CLOSE the door when you leave!”; “ASK before you turn the light on!”, etc. When Savannah came to say goodbye to us when her shift ended, she said, “Thank you for being so nice to me.”  I asked, dumbfounded, “Are people normally not nice?”   She smiled and said, “You would be surprised.  The nice ones are few and far between.”   Now, I understand that when people are in the hospital that they are exhausted, stressed, and in pain.  And their family members may not be doing much better.  But I saw first hand just how hard most of those nurses and clinical assistants work – twelve hour shifts with a 30 minute break, which they mayor may not get?  They deserve a little slack.

So what have I learned from this crazy, stressful, teachable time ?  I’ve learned that any small kindness is noticed by the person that receives it.  That people yearn to be humanized, recognized, looked in the eye.  I love that line from  “As Good as it Gets”, when Greg Kinnear says, “If you look at someone long enough, you discover their humanity”.  And it’s SO true.   So please, go out there today and discover someone’s humanity.  I guarantee that it will not go unnoticed.

Searching for Super Recipes: Mexican Lasagna

What? Could it be? ANOTHER weekly feature?  Why yes! Yes it is!

I’m always searching for vegetarian recipes that actually taste good (which, to the novice, can be difficult).  Luckily two of my favorite Canadians introduced me to these ridiculously good cookbooks that, while not vegetarian per se, can very easily be adapted to be meat-free.   One of them is “Eat, Shrink, and Be Merry” by Janet & Greta Podleski, which is where I found today’s recipe.  Who knew that Canadians were such foodies?

Mexican Lasagna

Ingredients:

1 cup diced red onions

1 cup diced green bell pepper

2 tsp minced garlic

1 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup diced tomatoes

1/2 cup frozen corn

1 1/2 tsp chili powder

1 tsp ground cumin

2 cups tomato puree

1 cup medium salsa

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

2 tbsp minced fresh cilantro

4 large or 8 small whole wheat tortillas

1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

1/4 cup chopped green onions

1 cup light sour cream

1. Preheat oven to 375.  Spray a 9 x 13-inch casserole dish with cooking spray and set aside.

2. In a large pot or skillet, cook onions, green pepper, and garlic over medium-high heat until tender.

3. Add black beans, tomatoes, corn, chili powder, and cumin.  Cook and stir for 2 more minutes.  Add tomato puree, salsa, and black pepper.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low.  Cover and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Stir in cilantro and remove from heat.

4. To assemble lasagna, spread 1/3 sauce mixture over bottom of casserole dish.  Top with 1/2 the tortillas, overlapping and cutting them as necessary to fit.  Top with 1/3 sauce mixture, followed by 1/2 the cheese.  Cover cheese with remaining tortillas, followed by remaining sauce.  Sprinkle remaining cheese over sauce and top with green onions.

5.  Cover with foil and bake for 35 minutes.  Uncover and bake 10 more minutes.  Let lasagna stand for at least 10 minutes before slicing for easier serving.  Top each piece with a dollop of sour cream.

This is super healthy, super low-fat, and super yummy!