Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Truth/Lies...Accuracy, Honesty...Love

Welcome to the February 2013 Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival: Honesty This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival hosted by Authentic Parenting and Living Peacefully with Children. This month our participants have written about authenticity through honesty. We hope you enjoy this month's posts and consider joining us next month when we share about Self-Expression and Conformity. ***  

I've lied a few times.  It hasn't ever felt good.  I can still think of the last time I really lied, the word "NO!" blurting out of my mouth faster than I had time to even process the question and think about the potential repercussions...and then feeling silly for having answered with a blurt instead of a simple and honest 'yes', feeling guilty and weak for never righting that lie.  

I don't lie to my kids.  It's really important to me that I make accurate statements, that my truth is portrayed as my truth and not THE truth, that I don't put words into other people's mouths and that I let my kids know when I plain and simple just don't know the answer.

They've been asking about fibbing.  We like a song from They Might Be Giants called 'Fibber Island', and the kids started asking what it meant.  We'd talked about lying (intentional deceit), tall tales (stories with exaggerations), pretend, imagination, fairy tales and fantasy, but we hadn't discussed fibbing.  Shoot.  How was I going to do this?  

I actually think lying is not a big deal.  It's a symptom of a greater problem, a disconnect, a desire to please a parent or whoever.  The fear of rejection for telling their truth, the fear of displeasing is greater than the desire to share one's own truth, and there grows the lie.  If we can address the fear, if there's no fear of love withdrawal or fear of repercussion, emotional trauma, rejection, physical harm, then there's no reason to lie.  My kids tell on themselves all the time; my mom thinks it's really funny, but I keep telling her they have no fear of my reaction, they never wonder if I'll love them less (even if I get angry), they never fear getting hit, they just know that I'll want to know so that we can take care of whatever the thing was, like drawing on the wall, putting stickers on the chairs, biting the other one, stepping on Dragon's hand, whatever it was.  One of my favorite parenting people, Scott Noelle, from explains it much better than I did or can.  I understand it can be tricky to know if a statement is a lie, but that's not what this post is about.

I've really tried to help instill in my children a desire to discern between accurate statements and statements that are not accurate.  I don't like the word 'truth', and it really bothers me when I hear kids other kids, "That's not the truth!" or something like that.  When one of my kids says something that's inaccurate, it goes something like this: Cloud might say "Rainbow's favorite color isn't pink, mine is"; I'll have Rainbow address the inaccuracy, let him know what is accurate, and if he chooses to keep on with it, I let her know she's said her piece, she doesn't need to change his mind, she doesn't need to listen to him, she doesn't need to engage, and I support her during the process (I mean, they're only 3 and 4 years old...)  My hope is that they will continue to think about what they hear and make a conscious decision about whether or not they will believe it, accept it.  

And when it comes to Truth...that's where the world turns gray for me.  To me, each person has her own truth.  It's like perception.  It's like that classic example about five people seeing a car accident and each of them having a different story about how it was caused and what the details were.  I wasn't able to really verbalize how I felt about this until I read "The Voice of Knowledge" by Don Miguel Ruiz.  After that book, I felt so settled, so calm.  I could look at a person and feel comfortable knowing that person had their truth, and that I didn't have to agree, I didn't have to like, I didn't have to argue about someone else's story--it's their story, and they are the main characters in their own books.  If I didn't like a story, I didn't have to be a part of that, I didn't have to lend my energy to it.  I found myself much less drained, way more emotionally charged, and much happier.  And I let my kids know that my truth doesn't have to be their truth, that their truths are important, they are their truths, and their truths can change and grow as they do.

I encourage my children to judge their actions for themselves based on how good their actions make them feel.  Rainbow told me sometimes she doesn't want to share her truth, she just wants it to be secret, so she just says something that's wrong.  I told her that was lying, because she was intentionally trying to get someone to believe something that she knew was wrong, and I asked her how she felt about it.  She said it didn't feel good, but she just wanted to keep some stuff a secret.  I asked her how she felt about secrets and she said, "Kind of awkward."  I told her secrets were important, special, and that everyone has them.  I told her she should feel comfortable keeping some stuff to herself and figure out a way to politely decline giving out any or all of the information asked of her.  She really lit up (happily) when I said that, and I felt like I had a real rock star parenting moment.  I view honesty as being really important when looking on the inside so that we're happy with what comes through to the outside.  If I'm honest with myself about x, y and z, and I know that I want to keep z a secret, then I can say x and y and honestly say I don't want to talk about anything else.  If it comes from my heart, then I have much less reason to give in and talk about z or get persuaded into talking about it, or just blurt it out without thinking about it--and I'll have no reason to lie about it.  One hope I have for my kids is just saying, straight up, when they don't feel like talking about something.  It's something I've learned to do as an adult that I wish I'd known how to do as a kid.

APBC - Authentic ParentingVisit Living Peacefully with Children and Authentic Parenting to find out how you can participate in next month's Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival!   Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

Friday, February 15, 2013

Picky, Picky...Pick, Pick, Pick

Welcome to the 30 Days of Change Blog Carnival hosted by Living Peacefully With Children and Hybrid Rasta Mama. In celebration of the New Year and forgotten resolutions , we're sharing the results of our 30 day commitment to addressing one habit the we either needed to eliminate, reframe, or include in our life. We hope you are inspired and energized to make one positive change in your own habits.

One of the first things I told my son Dragon when he was born was that I hoped he realized what he'd gotten into when he picked me, because I pick, pick, pick.  He might never get used to me pick, pick, picking, but he was at least fairly warned.

I started biting my nails when I was really young--really too young to remember.  When I joined the Army my nails were too nasty to put in my mouth, so I started picking my cuticles.  I HATE hangnails.  My nails started growing, which made my picking a little (a LOT) easier.  So I started cutting them, and filing them, because if there were any rough edges, I'd find myself picking, biting, scraping, rubbing, anything to get a smooth edge.  I didn't enjoy having to take care of my nails.  Didn't I just used to keep them short by biting them as they'd grow?  Jeesh, this was getting complicated.  Somehow in my laziness in clipping and having longer nails I started picking the skin off my lips.  I don't even remember when that started.  I'd peel the skin right off until my lips bled.  Yum.  My daughter Rainbow is now biting her nails at the ripe old age of almost five, and I'm terrified.  I really want to help her find ways to release that energy in a positive and constructive way.  I want her to believe what I tell her about picking like I never believed my mother.  I want her to feel confident in herself to take care of herself, in her beauty, in her life...of course.

So...before I even heard about this blog carnival topic, before Rainbow really got a grasp on biting her nails right off of her fingertips, I had decided to stop picking.  For myself.  Because I wanted to.  Because it had been long enough.  Because I wanted to address the underlying emotions.  Because I deserved it, darnit.

What do I deserve?  I often say, "Everyone has their vice" even though I don't like using superlatives.  I used to enjoy a cigarette here and there, I tried to be an alcoholic when I got back from being deployed to Iraq, but failed miserably.  Vice.  What's a vice?  Let's break it down: calls it "a failing or imperfection in character, conduct".  Hmmm...I like to think of all of us as perfect in our where and now and what, so I don't like this.  I don't like self-deprecation, only occasionally in humor (haha!!), and using the word 'vice' to me now seems like self-deprecating talk.  I guess I'm thinking more 'bad habit' than 'vice', then. So "Everyone has their bad habit" sounds funny, but I wanted mine, clung to it, defended it, hid it, bent the truth about it.  I used to get mad at my partner because he still enjoys a cigarette and he really can get rip-roaring drunk-ito and not have a care in the world.  So when I get antsy, nervous-y, restless, I start picking.  When I think uncomfortable thoughts, I pick.  When I watch intense, suspenseful, and scary things, I pick.  There are other times, too.  But the point is, I wanted my escape.  To me picking was like someone having a smoke.  My partner would say, "Your lips!" or my mom would say, "Picking!" or whatever, and I would just get SO irritated!  I was NOT telling them not to pick, drink, smoke, whatever.  I just wanted to pick in peace.

I don't know what changed, but something did.  Maybe it was a post I read a while back, and I can't even remember who wrote it or what it was about, but there was a quick line thrown in about deserving to live in an organized space.  And I thought, "You know, I spend all this time on keeping the kids' stuff tidy, and my stuff is always last to get attention.  I know I ought to model it, but I can't do that if I can't even get it to the point that it's all put away in the first place!  And I DO deserve to live in a tidy place, as do my children."  After that, I started thinking of all the good things I deserve, that all people deserve.  I don't love this word 'deserve', but it's the best I have right now.  Because I'm human, because humans have a need for some level of tidiness or organization (this level does vary individual to individual), I deserved it in my life.  So I started massive cleaning, throwing away, putting things where they belong, finding a home for things, organizing...and then I realized that that same concept applies to my whole life.  And BINGO!, in November and December, it just sort of clicked that I deserved to have clean, healthy hands that aren't bleeding at the cuticles, and smooth, pretty lips that aren't bleeding and scabbed, and I deserve to know what's bothering me and I deserve to put the time into myself to figure out what is going on and change it.

Which brings me to the actual journey of my 30 Days of Change.  I asked friends to ask me, if they saw me picking, what I was feeling.  I didn't want them to punch me or tell me not to do it or remind me I was doing it, just say, "Hey, what are you feeling right now?" I did such a great job stopping that I haven't come to a situation where that has happened or could happen yet.  A couple of weeks into the journey I broke a nail, legitimately, pretty low.  I chewed it off, and then picked a little, and I intentionally chose to give myself grace, a bit of a break, a guilt-free sort of good-bye to this old habit.  I chewed, picked...and didn't really enjoy the picking  I'd come pretty quickly to enjoy the smoothness that not picking had allowed to develop on my fingers and lips.  Then I started picking my lips last week.  I'm not sure what kicked it off, but I watched an intense TV show that made it worse.  And the one rough bit led to me wanting to smooth it out, creating another rough bit, and again I gave myself grace.  But then I got angry, like I was just trying to justify a little bit of picking, and I could end up doing that for the rest of my life!  So I kicked my butt into gear and decided I could have grace and be gentle (with the actual picking) in so much as I didn't hurt myself (no pulling off skin, but rubbing over spots while thinking and processing was ok).  When I'm nervous and when I have rough spots, I pick--the rough spots are spots on my body, but I think figuratively I could say I get nervous in my rough spots.  So...when I feel the need, I lightly rub my lips and try to figure out my source of nervousness.  Interestingly, breastfeeding is a time I get nervous, and as soon as I remind myself that I am doing something, I calm down and lose the urge to destroy myself for being unproductive.

I don't expect to have completely kicked a 30+year old habit in one month, but I have bid it farewell, and if I chance upon meeting it again, I'll greet it and send it on its way, try to figure out what I'm nervous about (I tap, and this helps me focus a lot), and address that.  And maybe not picking and having open, honest, and loving conversations with Rainbow will help her kick it out of her life, as well.

Please take a moment to visit the blogs of our other 30 Days of Change Blog Carnival participants. The links in this list will be updated by the end of the day.
  • Finishing off 2012 depressed and negative, Survivor decided to start 2013 off with positive actions and attitudes. In her blog Surviving Mexico, watch as she discovers how to overcome the disasters and find the adventures in living again.
  • Mrs Green from Little Green Blog spent her month not just meditating, but prioritizing it in her life ...
  • In The LoCo Locavore Takes OVER, our family went completely local for 30 days... IN JANUARY. Read about how we fared on our local fare. Spoiler alert! We didn't starve. You can also find Wide Awake, Half Asleep on Facebook.
  • Mari from Honey on the Bum relates how she came to the conclusion that she should stop picking apart her body, and figuratively, her life, and briefly discusses some challenges on the way.
  • Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares how she made two changes; stepping outside of her "comfort food shopping zone" and starting a food storage program. You can also find Jennifer on Facebook.
  • Mercedes at Project Procrastinot demonstrates new sticktoitiveness when she joined the Ultimate Blog Challenge in January. You can also find Project Procrastinot on Facebook.
  • Maintaining a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy can be overwhelming. Join with Shannon at GrowingSlower as she takes back control of her health during her second pregnancy, all while parenting a toddler!You can also find Growing Slower on Facebook.
  • At Living Peacefully with Children, Mandy has been working on making time every day just to breathe and be.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Valentine's Day Fun

This week has really been a week full of Valentine's fun.  I made up a game!!  I'm really excited about it.  I can see many future applications for this game idea.  This is what we did this week.  I cut out several different sizes of hearts, then traced each smaller heart in each next biggest heart (explaining things like this is not my strong point, I'm doing my best here.)  I wrote the message on it, one letter per piece, and then I cut each heart (except for the smallest one) into to pieces, except for the largest one, which I cut into four.  

I tried to make the pieces fun shapes rather than just a half a heart.

Then I hid the pieces, the kids searched for them, assembled them, and we had a treat!

Another thing we did this year, which may become tradition, is we made pocky sticks from scratch.  We used this recipe, but we modified it a bit.  I didn't have unsalted butter, but I love salt, so I just used the butter we had.  I didn't have ground cardamom and was too lazy to ground some from pods, and which part of the pod do you ground anyway, and I didn't feel like googling that... so I'm super curious about what that would add, but they were delicious without.  I followed the recipe for the sticks, but didn't use the recipe for the coating.  Instead we used almond bark flavored four ways: hazelnut extract (didn't come through), strawberry jam (Cloud's favorite), lemon extract (one of Rainbow's favorites), and chocolate chips, although I don't like sweet chocolate, so I took most of it out for the kids and made my own coating with dark chocolate chips and a bunch of salt, and it was amazing.  So I guess technically we had five dunkies.  The kids liked mine, too.  :)

We didn't exactly make only thin snakes.  And we didn't measure them to be about five inches.  I just filled one tray with snakes and we filled another with hearts (the kids thought this was FANTASTIC for Valentine's Day) and odd shapes.  

I salted half the sheet to see which we'd like better, so that's what those little white sprinkles on the silicone sheet are.  I saw a tip on another website to use a pizza cutter very lightly on the top to make those denty marks, but our sticks were so thin that they actually broke, even though I barely pressed and it didn't seem like it'd break them.  I actually doubled the batch and for the third and fourth cookie sheets of snakes I made them MUCH bigger, salted all of them, and should have done the pizza cutter thing, because they were very sturdy.

Melted a LOT of almond bark.

Forks were helpful in getting the coating on to the thinner ones.  The strawberry jam/almond bark combination was the best consistency.  The chocolate was second best.  The ones with extract got thick.

These were a huge hit with the kids.  We don't have much sugar, but I wanted to do something homemade for them that was special, that they'd remember, that would replace the commercial candy and stuff that yells at them every time we go to the grocery store.  They didn't even ask for any Valentine's Day candy.  They really seemed to be satisfied with this project.  And they're hopeful we'll do it again next year.  A couple of days after we did this we went over to some friends' house and they are gluten-free, so we picked up a bag of gluten-free pretzels, warmed up the dunkies in the microwave, and had a little dunky party.  It was really fun for the kids to be able to share these yummies with their friends.

We also did several homeschool activities.  Rainbow liked this activity, inspired by this activity best.  I just punched two holes in a heart cut from construction paper, wrote a number on the heart (1-10), slid a pipe cleaner through, twirled it at the top to keep it in, and put a bowl of beads with them on the tray.  I did count out the beads beforehand and told her if she did the activity correctly she wouldn't have any beads left, but I don't think she would have cared if I hadn't.

I found so many activities and printed and cut and put together, and Cloud just wanted to play with the geometric fractions puzzles we have.  After he was done with it as a puzzle, he started to play stacky, and then color stacky (he named the games himself.)  He had a great time.  

The night before I had soaked the red polymer water beads in water.  They were ready for scooping by morning.  We used the ice trays from Ikea and some scoops I found at Goodwill.  

Later in the day I put the beads in the bath and let the kids get naked and play with them, really get into the gelly texture of them. 

 I told them how the beads are used to water plants, and they decided they wanted to do an experiment to see if they could get seeds to sprout.  So we put some beads and some adzuki beans in some snack baggies and hung them up on the cork board.  We'll be watching to see if they sprout! 

We also put some in a glass that has a monkey on it, measure the beads against the monkey, and the kids are going to watch to see how long it takes them to shrink and to see how much they will shrink.  

Later in the day we read a really nice Valentine's book called "Valentine's Day" about a classroom of kids who make cards for a friend who lives in Japan (maybe she moved there after the whole class had known her already?), they share cards with each other and then they receive a package from Japan with origami cards from the friend.  It was very sweet.

Then we did an activity inspired by Lawteedah.  We sang a song to the tune of "Did You Ever See a Lassie?", but it was "Did You Ever See a Valentine?", we found a bear my mom had sent to me many years before for one of my deployed Valentine's Days, and put it on our pink scarf and bounced the bear around while singing the song.  The kids started giggling so hard!  I forget sometimes that it's not the activities that they want, it's the interaction.  I was laughing, too, and decided to have some fun with it.  We also bounced around an elephant with hearts on it.  Then Cloud bounced it too hard and I said, "UH OH!  Ouch!!" and they were just laughing and laughing, and we did it over and over, adding other stuffed animals.  After it got to where they couldn't even bounce it once, I just picked up the bear and threw it at the ceiling and sang, "Did you ever see a Valentine, hit the ceiling, hit the ceiling?  Did you ever see a Valentine hit the ceiling like that?"  And it just got more fun from there.  Rainbow told me to make song with the shark and the couch, so I sang, "Did you ever see a sharky hit the couchy and say 'ouchy!'" and so on.  We went through several rounds and ouchies before that lost its magic.  

Tomorrow morning I'll be trying some soaked pancakes that are pink.  I'll post if it works.  I'm going to use this idea since I don't have a heart pancake shaper, nor do I intend to get one.  I do have a heart-shaped cookie cutter, just picked one up the other day, so I can easily switch out a white for a red heart center and vice versa.  We're going to surprise Scotch with a special dinner:  homemade bread, homemade heart-shaped ravioli with a sausage and cheese filling, and salad with blackberry vinaigrette.  We also start ballet lessons tomorrow, from a friend, for both kids... it's a busy Valentine week!  We'll need a few down days next week to re-connect.  :)  

I hope you have a wonderfully deliciously full-of-love week this week and every week.  

Peek-a-boo, I love you!

Welcome to the Festival of Food Carnival. In celebration of Valentine's Day, we're sharing recipe ideas for "love foods" or foods to share with loved ones. Hosted by Diary of a First Child and Hybrid Rasta Mama, you're welcome to join us next time, or if you have a previously published recipe you'd like to share, add it to the linky below. ******

Well, I've misplaced my heart-shaped cookie cutter, so my pumpkin one will have to do.  This meal can change as the seasons and holidays do, as your cookie cutters permit.

My kids love what we call Peek-a-boo eggs, and they're made with love in several ways.  I choose the best ingredients I can, they're made for any meal (the kids are involved with meal-planning and they can choose so-called breakfast foods for dinner, if they want), and the kids help make them.  It's a simple recipe,  very similar to one-eyed jacks, but we put a fun little twist on them.

First the kids put butter on both sides of a piece of bread.  For several reasons I'm not going to go into here, I think butter is a healthy fat.  :)

Then they use a cookie-cutter that doesn't have too many corners and skinny bits (pumpkins, hearts, and ghosts work well; snowflakes do not) to cut out the center of the bread.

Both the outline and the cut-out bit go into a heated pan (medium heat works well for us, we like our eggs over-easy.)  Rainbow and Cloud have both been cooking near a hot stove for quite some time, so they place the bits in the pan and I'm not too concerned, although I'm still vigilant.  If Cloud starts to get rambunctious or if they start bickering, their involvement in the cooking part ends.

Each of them, for their own bread, cracks an egg and hands it to me.  I open the egg and put it into the center of the outline.  After a few moments we salt and pepper the egg.  It cooks for a bit.  Then the kids flip the outline-with-egg piece (with my help), and they use tongs to flip the cut-out bit.  Tongs are something we use regularly as part of our homeschool-preschool activities, fulfilling part of the manipulatives category, and I've found them and the kids' proficiency in using them to be quite helpful in the kitchen.  

Wow.  This picture really does not want to move to the center for me.  Oh, well.

Then the outline-and-egg bit goes onto a plate, the cut-out bit gets some jam, and the cut-out bit goes on top of the egg, like the egg is hiding.  Rainbow thinks it's great when a bit of the egg can be seen from under the cut-out.  After putting the meal on the plate, I just take care of the cast iron real quick.


We don't eat much sugar, so the jam is considered a special treat, and we only use about a teaspoon of jam. The kids love this meal, they love how involved they can be in its making, and they hate to jeopardize their involvement by fighting or being crazy around the stove.  I like using sprouted bread--I'm not sure if it's that much healthier, but we don't get hungry as quickly after eating it as we do when we eat regular flour bread and I don't get heartburn.  I think feeling that much better must mean something.  I love how excited the kids get when we make this meal.  We find locally-made and no-sugar-added jam.  We find the local-est eggs with the darkest yolks possible.  :)  I try.  I also have a budget and have never met the chickens to give me my eggs.

This meal drips love, explodes with love, leaks love in our house.  One time I quickly made myself a fried egg and ate some bread with it; the kids were so disappointed...I won't be doing that again.  I like participating, feeling their excitement, and sitting at the table, waiting for the inevitable, "Peek-a-boo!  I love you!"

Please take a moment to visit the blogs of our other Festival of Food participants. The links in this list will be live by the end of the day, as participants are all in different time zones.
Stay connected! Be sure to "Like" the Festival of Food Carnival Facebook page.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

That's Not My Specialty

Ok.  Really.  I don't know what my specialty is.  I'm definitely working on it.  And I'm working dang hard as a mother and housekeeper and lady-friend-partner.  :)

That's not the point of this post, though.  The point is what isn't my specialty.  See, a couple of years ago a friend of mine became a vegetarian.  I had some stimulating discussions with her, and one devil's advocate point I brought up in response to her statement that she didn't kill it herself, so she didn't think it was fair to eat it, was that she also didn't drill for oil, pipe it to a refinery, refine it, or ship it to gas stations, but she did use it, and a lot of destruction of life happened on the way.  The reason I brought up that is that she feels guilty about driving, about using fossil fuels, but she uses them anyway, and they're not even nourishing her body.  To her credit, she uses as little as she can get away with, buying locally and stuff like that.  But she still uses them.  I'm not holding judgment for her, it's just a simple fact.

I also don't kill the animals I eat.  I'm lucky enough to be in a situation where I know my cow and my pig, but we still hire a butcher to come kill them, hang them, chop them up, wrap them, and freeze them.  None of those things are my specialty.  I've watched them kill the cows, drag them into a line, skin them, pull out their innards, all that stuff.  It's hard work, and it may not appear to be, but it's specialized work.

Here's a thought:  Do you only listen to music written and performed by yourself?  Do you only hang art on your walls that you created?  Do you only read books you wrote?  Probably not.  Long, long ago, and this is put very simply, we were smart enough to put ourselves into a position where each individual in the group did not have to put their time into the procurement of food, so there was time left over in the day to branch out.  Sometime around when that happened specializing happened as well.  There was enough food for everyone, so some people...made bowls.  And clothing.  And art.  And musical instruments.  And others started focusing on remembering...they remembered stories...ways to heal...the lay of the land.  Eventually the arts were developed enough that a child could know that being an artist was an option for occupation, and that child could get her food from the food people and her clothes from clothes people and so on.  Like I said, this is really rudimentary stuff here, but the point is, we started specializing.

Fast forward a long time, and we have people that specialize in, among other things, drilling for oil, refining it, and getting it to our gas stations.  Whether we like it or not, we use them, and even while we try to find ways, in every aspect of our lives, to become less dependent on, and maybe eventually independent from fossil fuels, we are still using them.  We also have people that butcher, cut and wrap our animals.  My partner and I care for them the best we can while they are alive.  I'm really glad we have people that have specialized in that.  I'm glad we have people that have explored the arts.  I don't like all art, I don't like all music, but I'm glad it's there, and I have such a wide variety from which I can choose.  I'm glad I don't have to make my clothes, and in that line, I'm really glad my partner doesn't have to make his clothes.  He can go off and build some airplanes.  I don't know what my specialty is yet.  But I guess I know what it's not, and I'm pretty comfortable with that right now.  :)

Also--if we all had to kill our own food in order to be able to eat it, there would be so much waste.  A half a cow and a pig feeds my family of five for a year.  We don't raise our chickens, and we do eat a lot of chicken, but we're working on that.  But if I had to kill everything I ate...if we all did...nah.  I'd rather, if I had to kill it, share it, and let someone else do it next time.  And in the meantime, between my turns to kill an animal that will nourish my body and the bodies of my family and friends, I'd be working on figuring out my specialty.

Any thoughts on this?


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

I Wanted a Picture of It...

But I'll just have to describe it. I'm sure it'll come across.

I'm cooking a top round as part of tonight's meal. I only needed a bit of beef broth, but had an entire quart of broth that I had made for tomorrow's meal. It was in the fridge, so the fat had floated to the top and I had a nice, thick fat cap. I've cracked fat caps and tried to pour out some liquid before and it's been a miserable failure. Today I decided to cut in a triangle shape on each side, just a little one, like a church key in a can of juice, and hold in the fat cap while pouring out the broth.


Then I had to go wipe a three-year-old butt, and while I was washing my hands he went out and explored the fat cap--before I could get a picture of it! Guess I'll just have to update this post with a picture the next time I do it, because I will do it again.  I'll even do it with my homemade coconut milk.  Mmmm...  

Friday, January 25, 2013

Sincere and Credible

Welcome to the January 2013 Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival: Authenticity This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival hosted by Authentic Parenting and Living Peacefully with Children. This month our participants have written about authenticity through character, emotions, and establishing authentic communication with their children. We hope you enjoy this month's posts and consider joining us next month when we share about Honesty. ***  

I'm new to blogging and newer to blog Carnivals. This particular topic intrigued me because while I consider myself authentic, I never really thought about what that means for parenting. In my personal life, while on one hand what you see is the real me, on the other hand I don't show everything, fearing some judgment and negative repercussions from even my closest of friends for sharing my deep down goodies. I don't pretend things I don't believe, I don't display traits that aren't mine, but I don't show or say everything. It's like holding back of all my truth rather than lying--but I'm just splitting hairs here.

 So what does this mean for me in my parenting? I mean, I'm parenting...I'm doing it my way... I have no idea. I looked up 'authenticity' in the dictionary to help inspire me, and there were three main categories of definitions: being genuine (this has to do with things, so I'm disregarding it), sincerity (for people) and having credibility (in speech). So, again, what does that mean to me regarding parenting? We'll start with sincerity. This takes me directly to what I mentioned in the first paragraph. I am sincere in my words and my actions towards my kids, however I do not hold back. I'm full-blown me, in all of my love, all of my opinions, ideas, emotions, actions, everything. I fear no repercussions, negativity, judgment. When I'm happy and goofy, I'm all the way happy and goofy, I don't hold back, I sing songs about poop, I dance funny little dances...and when I'm angry, I own my anger, I raise my voice, I say what I'm angry about, and I use any and all of the tools in my toolbox to calm myself down and best my best 'me'. I also provide them a space in which they can emote safely, without fear of negativity or punishment from me. I tell them all my crazy ideas, I impart my wisdom (ha!) from experience and trial and error, I try new things. So I'm really much more sincere in my parenting than I am in my day to day.

 On to credibility. I get a lot of flak from my partner about this one. I wasn't raised exactly like I'm raising my kids. I had an incredible childhood, but it lacked emotional depth and it did involve some shaming and blaming, so those are the areas I'm working on most as a parent. I read A LOT--and my partner doesn't like this. He doesn't have experience in his life with gentle discipline or positive parenting, but he also doesn't have lofty goals of doing it differently than his parents did. He'd like to take it a day at a time with no parenting tools, even though he's the first of his friends to have children, doesn't remember his childhood much, and first touched a baby when he touched our first child. I, on the other hand, want the research that shows how detrimental it is for a child to cry alone, to be spanked, to be shamed, blamed, rewarded, punished, and in general treated in a way I don't want to be treated. I want the research that illustrates all of that AND the tools to help me in case I find myself in a situation where I feel violent toward the tiny humans that I have chosen to share my house with. So I read, I ask my friends for advice, I listen, I watch, and I learn, learn, learn. I only have three kids, and they're very young, so I don't really feel I have credibility in the practical applications of what I've learned, but I'm comfortable in my discerning, I'm happy in my parenting, I have amazing kids, and that, to me, is all the credibility I need to continue parenting the way I have been with the foundation I've built. So does that make me an authentic parent? I think so. Now...I think it's time to start applying all of that to my personal life. APBC - Authentic ParentingVisit Living Peacefully with Children and Authentic Parenting to find out how you can participate in next month's Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival!   Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants: (This list will be live and updated by afternoon January 25 with all the carnival links.)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Refreshing Cultured Root Cellar Beverage

Welcome to the Festival of Food Carnival. In celebration of autumn and Halloween, we're sharing recipe ideas for healthy treats, or anything you would enjoy this time of year. Hosted by Diary of a First Child and Hybrid Rasta Mama, you're welcome to join us next time, or if you have a previously published recipe you'd like to share, add it to the linky below.

My favorite recipe for health is particularly significant for me at this time of year. I consider it a wonderfully healthful drink any time of the year, but after the sweets of the holidays and hearing about detoxes here and cleanses there, I know my daily drink of beet kvass is just the tonic I need to keep me on the healthy side and to remind me to stay away from those leftover sweet treats and the lingering longing for them...

Beet kvass.  A few years ago I'd never even heard of it. Now it's an almost daily part of life. I got the recipe from Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, originally heard about it from Sarah's instructional video at The Healthy Home Economist.  I peel and then chop one large beet, two medium-sized ones or three small ones into roughly inch-by-inch cubes.  I put them in a quart-sized glass jar with 3/4 of a tablespoon of sea salt (this is less than the recipe calls for, but I prefer it a little less salty), 1/8 cup of whey (strained from soured raw milk) and then fill the jar almost to the top with filtered water, leaving an inch or so of space.  After letting it sit covered on my counter for a few days (living in the Pacific Northwest makes all of my culturing and fermenting take quite a bit longer) I've got a slightly effervescent beverage I love to drink first thing in the morning.  After it's cultured, it should be stored in the refrigerator.  The same beets can be used again with more whey, salt and filtered water for a second round.

This time of year, traditionally, was acknowledged as a time of scarcity.  Beets are a root vegetable that keep well in root cellars and cool, dry places, and would still be available with proper storage.  Drinking beet kvass in winter, and every morning (just a couple ounces), reminds my body that eating used to be season-dependent, whereas now it's become grocery store-dependent.  I know, intellectually, that this drink is mildly detoxifying, which is why it's considered a safe daily tonic rather than a drink that's part of a more rigorous cleanse.  Throughout the rest of the day, I remember having had my couple of ounces of kvass in the morning, and that's sometimes enough to keep me from reaching for a cookie or a second helping of a meal that tasted good but for which I'm no longer hungry.  It's a daily reminder that I started off on a good note and I should really take the time throughout the rest of the day to put that same, positive energy into my body, my being, my day.

Knowing I'm making my own drink out of a seasonally available vegetable helps me feel connected to the land, to the farmers who provide those not-so-sexy root goodies, to my ideals of of eating as locally and as intentionally as I can.  My partner does not share these goals and my kids don't really like the drink very much, so it's just a little thing I make for myself, that I do for myself, and I really enjoy the making of it, what it means to me, and really, mostly, the flavor of it.  It's such a beautiful color, so deep.  Here are a couple of photos in which I try to capture its depth.  If only I could share the flavor with you.  :)

*********** Please take a moment to visit the blogs of our other Festival of Food participants. The links in this list will be live by the end of the day, as participants are all in different time zones.
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Caring for the Cast Iron

I've gotten into a good groove in how I care for my cast iron, and I just wanted to share it.  One thing I do is cook  foods in it that help cure it.  I make ghee in it, I sometimes make bacon in it, stuff like that.  After I'm done cooking in it, I wipe it down with a wet 100% cotton washcloth (cotton won't melt), water only, right after I'm done cooking (I try to serve immediately when cooking out of the cast iron.)  If it requires more than that, then I put water in it and let it sit on the hot burner.  After the meal I empty it, and go over it with a wet washcloth.  It's best when I can take care of it before eating because the burner is still hot, and I can just put it back on after oiling it.

So to oil it, I keep a cheese cloth with oil on it wadded up in a small-ish magnetic containers.  I got mine at Ikea, I've seen them in many places.  Mine has a see-through lid--that's not important at all.

Here I have pictured paper towel because I'm out of cheesecloth.  

The container fits nicely on the end of the stove, and sticks on because it's magnetic.  

I use sunflower oil, but I also really like ghee and coconut oil for curing.  I give it a good wipe down, even a little on the rim and a bit on the outside of the pan.  Then I put it back on the hot burner or turn the burner on to low and let it sit for a while, maybe thirty minutes, maybe less.  I really like the woodstove method.  It doesn't burn up electricity, and I can let it sit curing for longer.  This is obviously not an option during the summer, but our summers are short.  

I just set it right on top after oiling it.  I leave the pot holder on it anytime it's hot, just as a reminder.  I've burned myself a couple of time, and it's no fun, but not a big deal with honey...honey.  :)  Notice the difference in color between the part we cook in and the handle.  The handle is not cured.  The little pan on the trivet on the right just has water in it to act as a humidifier--I have to refill it once a day, it works beautifully, but has nothing to do with the cast iron.

If I'm going to be using the oven, then I wipe the pan down real quick with the oily cheesecloth, pop the pan in the oven (no pot holder), turn on the oven to preheat, and set the timer for 7 minutes.  That way I don't forget about it and burn the oil, but it gives it another chance to cure.  

It took us a little while to get into this groove.  There were a few times we burnt food onto the pot and had to clean it with steel wool.  That takes off a lot of the good stuff, too, though, so then it's like starting from scratch.  Once I found oils I liked (not canola, not olive) it went a lot more smoothly.  

I hope this has helped.  I read a lot of tips before starting to cure mine, but it still took some trial and error.  I like re-usable things, so when I started oiling the pan from the cheesecloth in that little container on the stove, that bit went much faster.  When it gets dry, I just oil the pan and sop it up with the cheesecloth again.  I hope you're enjoying your pan as much as I am mine, and if you have any tips or comments, please share.  Good day!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Snowperson Activity

Yesterday I grew a brain and decided to photocopy one of the activities I made for the kids so I can let them do it again without going through the work of drawing it again!!

So here it is.

I made three copies, we all made snow people together.  We used watered-down tempera paint and a sponge for the snow.  Rainbow cut the circles out herself.

Four holes for pipe cleaner arms and scarf.

Cloud wanted pink snow...of course.  :)

Googly eyes, buttons in the middle, and a drawn on mouth.  

This was so much fun.  I cut Cloud's circles and accessories, but he did the rest by himself.  Rainbow loves how they're blowing in the wind.  She asked me to make a snowman for Dragon.  So they can meet.  And be friends.  My pleasure, love.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Traveling with Children

You've probably all played the license plate game or the ABC game.  I have, countless times.  I don't recall ever getting bored with them.  I DO recall being able to read.  My family does a lot of traveling by car.  We visit relatives in New Mexico at least twice a year.  We drive, during the winter months, through Los Angeles so that we don't have to deal with the Moab weather, and we visit friends and family there and near there.  We do as much night driving as we can, but obviously it's not possible only to drive at night.  Since Rainbow is four (and not yet reading because I want her to develop that skill at her own pace) and the others are younger, I've had to search for other ways to entertain them.  I refuse to use any digital devices (like DVD players or digital game consoles), though I hold no judgment for those who do use them.  I remember driving from Michigan to Mexico happily as a child without them, though, and I know my kids, partner and I can do the same.  Since the kids don't read yet, though, the license plate game and ABC game are not nearly as fun.  So I've come up with a list of things that have really helped us over the years.  If you have more ideas, leave a comment.  I'd love to read what you have to say.

The Trip Clip  This is a new one for us.  I was looking, initially, for a customizable shopping list, and found one here.  Exploring the site I found it's mostly activities for being out and about.  Several versions of Bingo, VW Bug counting by color (boxes can be colored in, no writing or reading skills necessary), a packing list, driving directions and many other activities were available for printing that were age appropriate and fun!  So we bought five activities and have used them all and plan to buy more as the kids get older.

Photo album with pictures of people you're going to visit or that your kids will meet for the first time.  This is great, because kids can flip through, talk about memories, and ask for your memories.  You can tell stories about people they've never met before, and those stories can be used as ice breakers for kids who are hesitant to make new acquaintances.

Board you can draw on with water, like H2-Whoa.  This thing is awesome.  It's got four little drawing utensils that you fill with water, and two sides to draw on, so when one side is drying, the other is available.  When one little utensil runs out of water, there are three more!  The drawings don't last long, but the fun does.  Ah, the ephemeral nature of art...

Magnadoodle  Ours has lasted and lasted and lasted.  After four years it has a small dent which prevents that area from taking the doodle, but it still erases easily enough for the littles to do it themselves, and they still have a blast with it.

Finger puppets  I don't love finger puppets.  Or even puppets.  But these little things don't take up much space and they're GREAT for when you just have a little bit of time left, you really don't want to stop, no one has to pee, no one is particularly hungry.  If you don't want to act anything out with the puppets, you can just put some music on and have the puppets dance silly dances to the music, bonk into each other on your fingers while they're dancing.  On that same note, you can make stuffed animals dance silly little dances, and that's pretty amusing, too.

New snacks  I try to find at least one kind of snack each time that the kids haven't had before...or haven't had in a long time.  My rule for the car concerning food is that it has to be able to be vacuumed up and water only unless it's a strictly supervised treat like a milkshake.  I'm a control freak about this.

Tiny notebooks  Isn't anything tiny kinda cool?  If you can find tiny markers or pens or something to accompany these, even better.  My kids can go through a tiny 80 page notebook in about two sittings.

Mess-free markers  They really don't make a mess.  It's the paper that makes the color.  Pretty neat, even though you have to buy the special paper.  The special paper is exactly what makes it just for traveling (great for car AND grandma's house) and keeps it novel.

I Spy and Searching Books  This trip I realized I need to keep it simple.  When the book is too complicated and detailed, then all I get are a lot of requests to find it, find it, find it!

Night light stuffed animal  We got, for this last trip (which included as much night driving as we could fit in) a light-up stuffed animal.  We now LOVE this turtle that makes soft colors of stars on the ceiling when a button is pressed.  Rainbow was able to reach it for Dragon and keep it going.  It turns off after a while, so when Dragon would wake up and it'd be really dark, she could reach over and turn it on and he'd calm down and be in a state of wonder almost immediately.  There are three color options to mix it up a bit, and all of the kids love everything about this little guy.

Magazines  I have a couple of different subscriptions to magazines I know my kids like, but I don't let them read them as they come in.  I save them, put them in a baggie, and then bust them out for trips.  All new, all wonderful.

"No laughing, and no having fun!"   This is one of my favorite games for anytime, and it works like a charm in the car, too.  It's kind of like saying the word 'poop'--it just works.  I like to remind the kids, after we start this game and the mood is up, that we're in the car in order to get someplace they want to be, and that helps a lot, too.

Magnetic dressing doll  My kids like these so much I'm going to invest in another one before our next trip (that makes this sound expensive, and they are NOT).  It's a hinged tin container with magnetic clothes that fit on people.  There are many, many variations, and a search on showed there are a bunch of different concepts like building airplanes and robots, which really excites me.  I can really only get into dressing girls for so long... "Yeah, what an interesting outfit, honey.  How about you put another one together?"

Lacing boards  There are so many different versions of these that can be bought, like animals or shapes, and they're pretty easy to make, too.  Get some heavy cardstock, make an outline of a picture, leave it blank, color it in, or have your kids color it in!  Then punch around the outside and use a shoelace for the string.  They store nicely in baggies and they don't take up much space.

Map  When in a document protector, dry erase markers or crayons can be used to trace the route.  The maps could be of the entire trip, like you'd see on a google map with directions put in.  It could be of just one state at a time.  It could be much more detailed.  My kids end up tracing rivers and mountain ranges and putting grassy areas in deserts and all sorts of stuff.  This one can be messy, so it's best (for us, at least) when they're calm, well-fed, and not fussy.  When they're feeling a little crazy, we give them laminated maps to look at and play with.

Help look for exits or gas stations  Although neither child reads, they now recognize symbols and they can match numbers and letters.  So if they really want to get out and run around, I'll pick a rest stop that's about 20 miles away and ask for their help looking for the blue signs, for the exit number, for the restroom symbol.  Both big kids love to help with stuff like this.  I guess it's a kind of backseat driving.  It's fun.

Scratch off books  These can be messy, especially if your child is more prone to scratching off every bit of the black surface than actually drawing.  But most of it goes into the carseat and it can be vacuumed out.  We've had the same two books for a couple of years.  Each car trip the kids like to go back over old drawings and elaborate on them.  It still amazes me.  Most of the black is gone, however, so we'll be getting a couple more of these soon, too.

My Quiet Book  These are nice for restaurants and times when your child is in a new situation where they should be quiet.  I don't like putting my kids in places where they have to be quiet because they're children.  I really try to make 'yes' environments for them, but sometimes they just need to be quiet.  For instance, this last trip to New Mexico included going to Christmas Eve Mass.  The in-laws' church is very different from the one we attend, and my kids usually go to nursery and to the youth program at our church, so they're not sitting in the service having to be...quiet.  I was chiding myself as I stood at the back of the church holding Dragon while Rainbow and Cloud tried to figure out the best ways to climb over and around and under the pews, jumping on the kneeling bench and all in all being the normal kids they are.  They did calm down when everyone got silent, but I was nervous in the beginning, wishing I had remembered the Quiet Book.

Car yoga  Rainbow loves doing yoga, and the last couple of trips I challenged her to try to figure out ways she could stretch her body and calm her mind while still in the carseat.  She did Cat on Her Back/Cow on Her Back, Butterfly, Reach for the Sky, and made up some fun, goofy ones, like Paint the Windows and Reach for the Lights (the lights on the ceiling of our car have switches the kids love to play with when they're not buckled in, so they get really giggly trying to reach them from their carseats.)

Scented pillow  Before we left on our trip, we were gathering our toys and books and activities that we'd be taking with us, and I found a scent pillow we had made for the fall season.  We'd sewn three sides of a rectangle shape for a pillow, stuffed it with some old t-shirt bits in which we had rolled up some whole cloves, allspice berries and green cardamon pods, we finished sewing it up, then smashed it in order to release more scent.  We use the pillows when we need a little change.  We took the pillows with us, but I forgot about them and we intend to make some more for the next trip that are seasonally appropriate.  We'll be using lavender and other things we come across at farmer's markets and fairs.

I hope these are helpful to you.  A fun car trip is REALLY fun.  A bad one... well, makes you wonder if you'll ever want to get in the car again.  Better to keep the option of car tips in the future wide open.  :)