Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Neglectful Parent, Happy child

Today, at home:
The three year old gathered nails of various sizes, a hammer, a screwdriver and screws, safety goggles, and asked if he could do some "banging and working, like a factory man" on our friend Andy's amplifier. Uh... NO! (but I'll help you in a moment, find something you can hammer). Not wanting to wait for me to get off the phone he went outside, found some scrap wood, and set up a little work bench in the shady corner of the deck. Bang, bang, bang, and away he goes.
This morning, at the park:
The nine year old really wanted to check out the free kid's art van project being hosted by the local arts' center, but he was worried about going halfway across this little park by himself, being that far away from me. It's nice to have kids that know to stay close, not to just wander off. I can't chase in three directions at once. But he is NINE. And the art tables were in sight of the play structure where the little kids were playing. It was SAFE!
Yesterday, at Fred Meyer:
I let the nine year old take the three year old into the men's restroom at the grocery store, without a supervising adult. I stood guard right outside, with the baby. Men and boys came and went, and my two were still inside, spending a long time carefully washing their hands, taking turns with the air dryer and tearing off paper towels. Things I always rush them through. Things they like to do. I could hear their voices, happy and good. A man and his little son went in, and I heard my little boy's cheerful voice chattering away. My boys came out, the nine year old proud I had let him go, and hadn't made him come to the women's room with me (as is usual), the three year old excited that he'd had "a nice talking" with a grown up Daddy in there. Hmm.
Yesterday, at home:
The nine year old made lunch for everyone (as he does at least a couple times a week). He chose mac and cheese- from the box with the bunny on it- and cut cucumbers, and strawberries. This is a non-event, almost, he is so used to the routine of cooking, so careful about the stove and knives and boiling hot water and steam.

I think it is interesting that the older boy is, while hardly timid by nature, clearly worried about "stranger danger" and safety rules, and has always been so, while the younger one is more worried about the possibility of not being allowed to do everything his much older brother is, and finds rules a detail not worth piffling with. Partly this is personality, partly birth order and spacing, I think, partly my emphasis on making the world safe enough for my first born and the fact that I've spent the second child's life just trying to catch him as he falls from cliffs I didn't even know existed before he figured out how to fall off of them!

I am conflicted. I want to raise adults who are fearless and bold, who will follow their hearts and change the world, who will speak their minds and know themselves to be true. I want them to grow strong and free in the light that surrounds them now, so that they can take their place in the world still bathed in the light of God and Love. But I worry- is my concern that I do everything possible to ensure that they REACH adulthood compromising the quality, not just of their childhoods, but of their adult hoods?

Monday, June 29, 2009

This is what I'm eating, right this very minute. The last bit of homemade pistachio ice cream, which was rich and wonderful with the chocolate ice cream for our Turkish dinner party last week, but is beyond wonderful, beyond anything you can imagine, with fresh juicy organic strawberries.

Ping! (Strawberry Jam)

Is there any lovelier sound than the "Ping! Ping!" of jars sealing after their hot water bath? I think not. This is my first attempt at canning jam, since the boys only just decided they LIKE jam. Some of the strawberries we picked over the weekend skipped the freezer and turned themselves into jam.
I made 6 pints plus a little more, with 13 cups of strawberries, crushed with the potato masher, 5 cups of sugar (instead of 8, because I ran out, oops!) and three boxes of low-sugar pectin (instead of two, since they were all passed their expiration date). It doesn't go bad, though, I don't think, and I put in the third box since maybe the potency was affected, and since I didn't have nearly enough sugar for the recipe. I figured either way it would be okay- if it was syrupy we could always eat it with ice cream, or pancakes, if it was too firm it could be good filling for strawberry oatmeal bars or something. I processed them for 5 minutes, and everything sealed up fine. And the extra little jar I made for a tester turned out perfectly, amazingly. Not too sweet- it tastes just like strawberries, not sugar. The boys ate it for lunch. With spoons. Really.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Our Weekend, A-L (no, not Z- it wasn't THAT busy!)

We took a little trip over the mountains to Seattle. I guess its been raining over there quite a bit- everywhere we went people kept asking if we were enjoying the sunshine. That's just not a question people ask each other overBold here. It would be like asking random strangers if they were enjoying being alive or breathing air. Because the air is nearly always sunny here. And enjoyable.

In fact one of my favorite things about going to the west side of the state is the greater chance that my kids will get to actually use their raincoats and rain boots. Well, they do use their rain gear- rubber boots are awesome for little boys (no straps, no laces!), and Avery wears his raincoat as a costume for his Evil Scientist persona. But, you know, they've actually had rain gear that has NEVER been used to keep water off of their bodies.

But no, it didn't rain.
They didn't wear their rain gear.

Here's what did happen, though:

A) I thought of an awesome photo project- pictures of people driving or riding in cars! Except I'm not sure how you'd do it. Pictures I take from cars always look like they were taken from behind a pane of smeary moving glass. But maybe, if I put the thought out there, maybe somebody else will do this project, and I will buy the book and be really happy.

B) We rediscovered why Newman's Own Ginger O's are the perfect road trip cookie. I can't explain it, they just are. Try it for your self sometime.

C) We went straight to our favorite U-Pick strawberry field:Dues Berry Farm north of Everett. They were flooded this winter and thought they'd lost all the berries, but to their surprise strawberries are there. The great thing is, they don't use pesticides or anything, and the strawberries were only $1 a pound. The bummer is, they weren't expecting berries, so they didn't weed or anything, and we picked pretty hard among thistles and something else, something allergy-inducing to get 18 pounds of tiny berries, which just isn't that much. And really expensive when you take into consideration the $35 in gas to get there.... Anyway, we still love the farm, and next year is their 100th year! so we're happy about that. And the strawberries are awesomely delicious. Even if I was sneezing so much the rest of the evening that I got a nosebleed, which hasn't happened in forever.

D) We went out to eat at a Mexican restaurant, which we'd vowed never to do over there, given how many delicious, authentic Mexican restaurants there are here, and how few delicious restaurants of any other kind there are here. Except Rusillos, and a few others... not that we eat out very often anyway. Three kids, no money... easier, cheaper, and usually more delicious to stay home. But this restaurant, El Rey, in Lake Stevens is very yummy and authentic.

E) Rented Bolt on DVD. Because even though my parents finally have digital cable, there's still nothing on. Bolt was cute. A little scary, but cute. About an hour too long for Miles, though.

F) Ansel rolled over. Again, and again and again. And started scooting forward. Directly to the edge of wherever he was (bed, lounge pad, other bed, rug). No, baby, no! Don't grow so fast!

G) I thought of another book to write. I'll call it Neglectful Parent, Happy Child.* Don't you just want to buy it already? (I have a theory about self-help books- I think sometimes people are just looking for the easy way out, they're hoping to spend $20 to have an "expert" tell them that what they're doing is fine, or that doing nothing but watching TV and being self-absorbed is great. And, you know, I could cash in on some of that crazy, lazy stuff.)
No, really, I had the idea for this book because of the raspberries- I didn't even cut out the old canes last fall, and this year there are SO MANY raspberries they're coming out our ears. I dashed out to pick a bowl full before we left for Seattle, and an hour later everyone else came out, and we ALL picked for another half an hour. At least. And Avery is happy to do grown up things by himself- make lunch, mow the lawn, start a load of laundry, fix the doorknob, Miles happily plays with his little cars or tree house toys for hours, without me, and makes up little songs to sing, and Ansel finally rolled over all by himself when I was not even in the room. You see? A little neglect is, apparently, good for children. And raspberries. Believe me, I'm an expert. * I guess there are some people who already live this, without my telling them how. Can you imagine? Parenting without an expert opinion like mine?! Well, they call it raising Free Range Kids, and their trust in their own children and the universe at large is lovely. Not so much where I can let myself go, at least not all the way, but nice. Trusting. And at least it adds some perspective to the decisions we make all the time as parents: when can my child go to the public restroom by himself, walk to a friend's house, go to the library alone? Check it out. Tell me what you think. Where do you draw those lines, and when do you redraw them?

H) We went on another letterboxing adventure, in these cool old woods, and spent quite a bit of time tromping around, finding the THREE! stamps that made a picture. It was fun. Muddy and woodsy and all things good. Except for the nettles. And something scared or hurt the baby, who screamed and screamed and screamed and cried and cried and cried. He who NEVER does that, hardly ever really fusses about anything. Poor little one. He seems fine now, though, so hopefully nothing permanent!

I) More berry picking, at Biringer Farms this time. 54 pounds total. They were having a little strawberry festival. The boys played with Grandma while we picked. Played, watched a church group puppet show and ate pulled pork sandwiches and somehow got orange and strawberry soda-colored mustaches. I don't know how....

J) REI. One of our favorite stores. Avery is in awe of the climbing mountain they have, and is already begging to go back so he can climb. Instead the boys got new Keens (on sale! these ones, matching! the last pairs in their sizes!!), checked out all of the tents, over and over again, tried all the water filters, tried out their new shoes (and their old ones, too, just to see) on the hiking boot test-trail thingy in the middle of the shoe department. And we got a new buckle for the baby back-pack. Which Ansel will be able to go in pretty soon, I guess. Weird, him getting so big and growing up so much. I'm starting to feel nostalgic for his baby days, and he's still only 4 months old. What does that mean?

K) Home. The boys all slept over the mountains and across the desert. They woke up as we were pulling into town. Hours after we'd PLANNED to be home. Granola and strawberries for supper, at 9 o'clock.

L) And I should be thinking other less productive thoughts, but I can't wait for May to come around again (May seems to be my fertile month, as evidenced by the boys all being born within a two week span in late winter....)

Thursday, June 25, 2009


Our pie cherry harvest is in. We have a bowl full. Enough for cherry muffins in the morning. They're beautiful and just sweet enough to eat, but delicious and glowy red cooked. If only wishing were enough to make it grow faster and produce more! 'Cause around here, life is a bowl of cherries. Just one small bowl a year! For five of us.
We'll eat them for breakfast in the form of:
Tart Cherry Muffins melt 8T. butter, beat in 1c. sugar, 2T. almond paste (for homey recipes it's just almonds ground in the food processor til smooth with an equal amount of sugar) then 2 eggs. In another bowl stir together 1c. whole wheat flour, 2c. all purpose flour, 1T. baking powder, 1t. baking soda, 1/2t. salt, and then beat the dry mixture into the butter mixture in three allotments, alternating with 1 1/2c. vanilla yogurt. Stir in 1 1/2c. chopped sour cherries. Bake in a sprayed standard muffin tin at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes, less if using a mini-muffin tin.

Construction 3

Here is the structure now. Phase three- floor attached with hole for trap door.

Looking up through the trap door from below.

Who Are You Trying To Impress?

Who are you trying to impress?
Are there visitors that get you in a frenzy, cleaning the house top to bottom, biting your nails hoping the children don't say anything untoward, bringing pretty but impractical or uncomfortable dresses up from the back of the closet, searching out complicated, impressive recipes?
Does an upcoming dinner party get you panicky, hoping everything comes together, praying that everything looks right, that the children don't spill or break anything?
Do you work harder preparing for a visit from a distant friend or seldom seen relative than for your own husband and children?
Do you throw toys in a basket and shut off rooms when your neighbor pops over but let your husband come home at the end of a long day to trip over toys and laundry not yet put away?
Do you refuse your friend's offer to help wash up the dishes only to later refuse the time to play a game with your children while you clean up on your own?
Who are you trying to impress?

It began to seem a little uncomfortable to me, some time ago, to put so much energy into trying to impress others. I mean, I like our friends, I want them to be happy and comfortable at our house, in our company, but if I had to choose, wouldn't I rather my family feel comfortable and happy at our house? If I only ever really clean the house when there's company coming, isn't that kind of dishonest? If I wear pajamas and spit-up shirts unless we leave the house or someone comes over, isn't that kind of weird? It began to feel important to me that I shouldn't be putting more effort into impressing others than I was putting into impressing my own family.

I don't mean to say my husband comes every evening to a freshly pressed wife with high heels and a lipstick smile. I'm no Stepford Wife, to be sure.

But I am mindful of the impression I am making on my family. Do I want my children to think that getting dressed is too hard a task to accomplish on a normal day? Do I want them to have the impression that the way we live and keep our house isn't good enough for others? Do I want my husband to think he has to work all day and then come home to more work? Do I want him to have the impression that I value him like a box of mac and cheese, but value a dinner guest like a crown roast?

I haven't got any of it really figured out. I'm still thinking about it.
Sometimes he comes home and trips on the fleet of toy cars, sometimes we have toast and cheese for supper. Sometimes I want my husband to know how hard it is, keeping a home and children, homeschooling and doing so much by hand. I almost always want him to come home and jump right in, because it never ends here at home, and while I don't want him to have the impression that he is responsible for EVERYTHING, I do want him to have the impression that he is important to us in everything we do. I don't want him to have the impression that the work I do isn't demanding, but neither do I want him to think that I don't feel grateful for the opportunity to be at home, to do this work.

Sometimes we have elaborate supper parties, sometimes I even clean up before hand. I love cooking and planning parties, and it is fun to share food and festivities with friends. I don't want our friends feeling uncomfortable, that everything is just so, that we've gone too far out of our way, that they can't make themselves at home or that the broken dish is a big deal, but at the same time I don't want them to have the impression that they're not special to us, that we don't value them the light they bring to our lives, that they aren't worth a little extra effort.

The last couple of supper parties we've had and the last couple of week+ long bouts of company that we've had have all been really fun, mellow and comfortable. I've tidied up, found recipes, cooked, but also shared the responsibility, and let our guests help, make themselves at home, and be comfortable and useful. It's gone really well, certainly for us, and I'm pretty sure for our guests as well. But still, there's the question, lingering around.

Who are you trying to impress?
How do you balance the whom and how and what of the impressions you're making?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

How To:: Remove Gum From Hair

When your 3 year old drops his gum on the baby's head and tries to pick it but somehow smashes it in a little more, then tries to rub it off... what do you do?
In all of the years I've been a parent I've only once had to deal with this- and I just chopped a little bit of hair off- the boy had just given himself a lovely little haircut so I figured another chunk missing wouldn't really be noticeable. But the baby?! He hardly has any hair as it is! I wouldn't be able to cut it if I wanted to, it's so short. After a few moments of panic, a few attempts to tease it off his head, a few exasperated sighs and one under the breath "Oh, Miles, what next?"I found the solution.
Oil, it turns out, is the key.
I poured a little bit of the Weleda Calendula Baby Oil that I love so much on his head, let it sit a few seconds, then gently brushed the gum out with an old toothbrush. Good as new.
I think any oil would work- olive oil, canola, the usual kitchen staples. But almond oil with calendula and chamomile makes removing gum from your baby's head seem luxurious, almost spa-like. Guaranteed.

edited to say: And the next day, when you put the baby back down in the exact same bouncy chair without remembering it's still got gum all over it, and then later you pick up the baby and he smells curiously minty and his poor head is curiously gum-covered once again, know that a washcloth with a little oil poured on it, and rubbed gently over the baby's head will remove the gum with far less mess than pouring oil on his head and using a toothbrush. Really. But please, just clean the chair, right? We don't want to this every day, do we?

Letterboxing (In Less Than 20 Steps)

We just recently learned about letterboxing, and have been waiting for an opportunity to try it out. Today, with a suddenly empty afternoon ahead of us and nappable time abandoned, we decided to give it a go. Here's how it went:
1) Check this map for locations near us and the clues.
2) Drive to the craft store to find the cutest tiny notebooks, one for each boy.
3) Realize I've forgotten the paper with the clues written carefully down.
4) Drive home, get the clues.
5) Drive to a particular park-like area on the other side of town. In rush hour.
6) Realize I've forgotten the bag with our stamps and ink at home.
7) Decide not to go back for it.
8) Try to talk the kids into a trip to Dairy Queen instead.
9) Get denied. In no uncertain terms. We have a mission, Mom. Jeesh.
10) Follow the clues, one by one, til we come to the spot where the box is hidden. Guarded by an army, navy, and air force of vicious blood thirsty mosquitoes.
11) Fight through like the men that we are. Find the box.
12) Run, screaming, like the children that we are, with the box, halfway across the park-like place trying to get away from the swarms of mosquitoes covering our bodies. Biting us through our clothing.
13) Give up. Stop. Drop to the wet grass and dump everything out. Quickly stamp our books with the hidden stamp and the hidden book (with our thumbs, since we haven't got our stamps, and they are at least a personal reflection of who we are, right?). Dump everything back into the box, swatting mosquitoes all the while.
14) Send the 9 year old soldier back to the front lines, so that he can hide the box back in it's exact same location.
15) RUN! to the car, pile in as quickly as possible.
16)Realize as we're driving home that there are no less than 10 mosquitoes in the car anyway. Biting our ankles as we go. Why do they love ankles so?
17) Drive home.
18) Realize that in the flurry of the stamping and attcking you wrote the wrong date in the hidden book. DO NOT GO BACK TO FIX IT. Sorry, girl scout troop. I was only 4 days off.
19) Count mosquito bites. Give up after 20. On one kid.
Amazingly the baby seems to have only gotten one bite. The rest of us are covered in swollen itchy welts. In the 8 years I've lived here I've never once been bitten by a mosquito in town. Until this spring. They're awful. AWFUL! This isn't Alaska after all. It's supposed to be one of the perks of living in the desert, for crying out loud.

Letterboxing, though, seems to be super fun. We're excited to go again, to find all the hidden little places around here, and to hide our own boxes. It's like a scavenger hunt. Like geo-caching for kids. No GPS required. Though we do want a GPS unit, and to try geo-caching too. If, you know, you have a unit you want to give to a poor deserving family. So we can take it far, far away from where the mosquitoes live.

Window Cleaner

This is the mirror in the upstairs bathroom of my house. I think it's quite cute, except for the damage all the way around the edges. I hear that comes from ammonia, which is in lots of commercial window cleaners. Which is one reason why I don't use store-bought window spray. Uh, that, coupled with the fact that I'm too cheap to buy something I can make for almost-free, and the fact that mostly the boys clean the windows in the house (which might also explain why the windows are all smudgey except for a wavy bit of clean right along the bottom).
Anyway, my neighbor and I were talking about homemade cleaners. I shared my recipe for laundry detergent, and she told me about the window cleaner her Aunt always made. And the next day she brought me a bottle of it and a recipe card. How nice is that?
What's even better is how well it works. Without ammonia. For hardly any money. Here you go:
Lady Lee Window Cleaner
In a gallon jug pour 3T. Prell shampoo (or any cheap shampoo- VO5 works fine, I'm sure Suave or something would do just as well and it's always on sale for 99c a bottle) and 1pint rubbing alcohol. Fill with water, then pour into a spray bottle. Don't add more shampoo than called for.
I know it isn't as "green" as plain vinegar window wash, but I've never been impressed with vinegar for windows- it does fine, I guess, but not better than soap and water, and this solution is no-rinse and works really well. And smells better than vinegar, to me at least. And it's cheap. Like me.
*Okay, okay, I suppose I SHOULD have cleaned the mirror before taking a picture of it, but I didn't. Get over it.

Monday, June 22, 2009


Just a little boy-cuteness, in case that's what you needed right this minute.

Construction 2

Triangles for strength and stability.
Concrete footings poured and cured.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Turkish Dinner Party

We had some wonderful friends over for supper and had a great time. Originally it was to be a casual picnic in the park, but I kept thinking I wanted to do Turkish food, particularly this soup that Papa really loves, so we moved plans to our house. Then I kept adding things that I wanted to make, or try. In the end it was kind of a feast, really fun and colorful, with grownups sitting around the table, eating and talking, while children ran and played, ate, fussed, talked, chased each other all around.
It was such a lovely evening and I had so much fun planning and cooking that when everyone left and I looked at the kitchen full of dirty dishes and actually smiled at the piles- cleaning up after just reminds me of how nicely everything turned out, and how much fun we had with our friends, how nice our town is, how cozy our house and delicious our life. Ah!
Here's our menu. The only thing I would do differently is adding in another vegetable- sauteed spinach or carrots or something.
Karkade turns out the way of making hibiscus punch that I thought I invented is pretty close to the Middle Eastern version, called karkade. Easy enough.
Elma Cayi (Apple Mint Iced Tea) I couldn't tell from looking around online if this is even really an authentic Turkish drink or not, but I made up a version and it was yummy, light and refreshing. If this first day of summer had been hot and, well, summery, it would have really hit the spot. Over a grated apple, 4 tea bags and 4 stalks of mint pour 8c. boiling water, let steep several minutes, then strain, pressing on the apple and mint to press out the last drops of water. Stir in 1c. honey, and pour into a large pitcher with 4c. ice. Stir to melt, pour over ice to drink.
Hummus our friends brought this, and it was delicious, but here's my recipe: 2c. of garbanzo beans, 1/2c. tahini, 1/4c. lemon juice, 1/4c. extra virgin olive oil, 1t. salt, 1 garlic clove, 1t. cumin in the bowl of a food processor and process til smooth. Add bean liquor or water as needed. sprinkle with paprika.
Pita Bread mix 1/2c. warm water, 1T. yeast, 1T. sugar in a small bowl and let sit til foamy, then mix in 2c. water and 4T. olive oil. Mix 2c. whole wheat flour, 4c. all purpose flour, 1T. salt in a large bowl, then add the water mixture and knead til smooth and elastic, yet still quite soft. Cover, in an oiled bowl, til double, knead lightly and divide into 16 balls, cover and let rise. Preheat oven to 500 degrees, with a pizza stone if you have one, and roll the dough balls out to 1/4" thick, bake on the stone for 3-5 minutes, til puffy and lightly browned.
I've never made pitas that consistently "pocket", which never much bothered me, but the boys suddenly love pocket bread, so I guess I'll be trying to figure that out. I hear The Frugal Gourmet's recipe is fool-proof, which is about how I need all my basic recipes. Hopefully the library has his cookbooks.
Ezo Gelen Corbasi (Red Lentil Soup) In a big pot heat 2T olive oil, 2T. paprika, 2T. mint til bubbly and fragrant, then add 1 1/2c. red lentils, 1/4c. rice, 1/4c. bulgur, and stir to coat. Cook 1 minute, then add 1 minced onion, 3 minced carrots, 1 chopped tomato, 2T. tomato paste, salt and pepper to taste, and 6c. stock (beef or chicken or veggie, or even water is fine). Bring to a simmer and cook til rice is soft and lentils are mushy, about 45 minutes. When ready to serve heat 4T. butter, 1t. paprika, 1t. dried mint in a small saucepan til melted and fragrant, remove from heat, add 2T. lemon juice, and drizzle over the top of the soup, either in a tureen or individual bowls.
Tossed Green Salad our friends brought this, too. It was yummy and nice to have some fresh, local, crisp and tasty veggies.
Lamb and Vegetable Kabob but we grilled them. Yum.
Yogurt Mint Sauce 2c. yogurt, greek style is best but plain is fine, 2T. dried mint. That's it. With the leftovers you can make that Turkish Yogurt drink by blending the minty yogurt with water and a dash of salt, and serving over ice. Or dip veggies and pita in it, either way, it's good.
Filo Sesame Cigars this was simple- just sheets of filo dough with butter brushed on, sprinkled with sugar, cinnamon, and sesame seeds. I would make them again, since they're so easy, but I think honey and crushed pistachios would be good, or cardamom like Andy suggested. And I would just do one sheet of filo per roll, instead of two, so they'd be thinner (more cigarette than cigar).
Pistachio Gelato Inspired by Saveur magazine, here. In a food processor finely grind 2c.pistachios, then process in 1c. sugar and 2c.cream. Try not to eat this mixture all with a spoon standing in front of the food processor. In a large pot heat 4c. milk to just below a simmer. Whisk together 2c. milk, 1c. sugar, and 6T. cornstarch, then whisk into the heated milk, add the pistachio cream, and continually whisk over med heat til thickened and cornstarch taste has gone. Pour into a bowl and cover, pressing plastic wrap directly onto surface. Chill. Freeze according to directions of your ice cream freezer.
Really Rich Chocolate Gelato This is directly from Saveur magazine, right here. I doubled it and added cream, but it was the same otherwise. 4c.milk, 2c. cream, 11/2c. sugar, 11/2c. cocoa powder, 4T. cornstarch.
Egg based ice cream have always been my favorite, but these two cornstarch recipes knocked my socks off. I'm going to experiment a lot more this summer, I think. The cornstarch makes a nice thick, smooth base that freezes up quickly and nicely, and ice cream that is smooth and thick without the trouble of making an egg-custard.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Radio Wonderground

Is our favorite! We used to listen to Northwest Public Radio ALL the time (like, turn the radio on at 7 am and don't turn it off until bedtime), but for some reason lately our reception isn't good on the kitchen radio, which is where I always listen to the news- out of the kids' ears and attentions. Besides, only having classical music all day would be lovely, if they played a bigger, more diverse selection of classical music. I mean, really, is there a reason to hear "Pomp and Circumstance" any time other than graduation season? Really.
So now we listen to Wonderground Radio, streamed through the computer, when we need to change it up. This station plays a mix of "kid" music and grown-up music, folk and rock, indie, jazz, blues, but it's all appropriate for children and not so saccharine sweet or "cute" that the grown ups can't take it with wanting shred stuffed animals with their teeth. If you know what I mean. And best of all, in the evenings, they play wind down music, perfect for background sound for baths and quiet play, evening chores and teeth brushing.
Check it out!

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Oh my! My friend Lisa Russell just wrote about sleep, and her family's completely joyful lack of a bedtime. I completely admire her seemingly laid back approach to parenting, home schooling, life. She works hard, but keeps a great sense of humor, and is the kind of parent I always wanted to be. But I'm not. That kind of parent. Calm, mellow, quiet, cheerful. And I tried to respond in the comments section, but my comment was turning into an essay, so I decided to be nice and move it over here. Because really, our bedtime is foundational to the happiness and goodness of our family, and I just can't keep it to a handful of words.

When we had just one child he went to sleep whenever he wanted. Which was never. Really. Papa would get home from work when he could, we'd eat supper, read stories, hang out, have a bath, hang out, read more stories, go to bed, talk and talk and talk until eventually we all fell asleep (usually parents first!). Variations of a theme, including working on peace/political campaigns and the only child sleeping under desks, behind signs, and in his play tent in the corner of a campaign office. Somehow or another we ended up with two children (then three) and tried to keep up the same lifestyle, same crazy busy life, same erratic hours, but it just didn't work.

Neither of the boys sleep past 7am unless they're sick, no matter how late they've been up or how tired they are. When Avery was 6 or 7 I got so tired of backtalk I sent him to bed every day for a week at 8 o'clock. And the results were amazing! Suddenly my child had an appetite, his old sweet demeanor, energy to play outside and run around for hours, attention for his schoolwork.* It was really a clear and immediate change. By the end of the week I was convinced that "bedtimers" knew what they were doing, and we happily joined their ranks!

Our family works so much better with a consistent bedtime, because it lends itself to a consistent rhythm to the whole day. Papa knows the boys will be in bed at 8, so he makes a bigger effort to come home for supper by 7. We eat together most of the time, then get ready for bed and he helps them to sleep. It's early enough that he doesn't fall asleep with them too often (or if he does, he wakes up with time still to do computer work or watch a show before he really goes to bed). If he's not home I lead them through the bedtime routine, and they go to sleep on their own. Those nights, when Papa does finally get home, he has a quiet, peaceful house to come home to, to relax in, he can eat supper without being climbed over, we have a chance to talk together without interruption of little people, and we might even watch The Daily Show together! Those weeks when he's working late every day the boys' bedtime is even MORE important to me- it's my only time alone, to think and plan and organize for the next day. The boys don't wake up any earlier with an earlier bedtime, but they are well rested and cheerful in the mornings, ready to jump into the day. If it were only up to me I'd send them to bed at 7, because I think they can use even a little more sleep than what they get now, but I know the possibility of getting Papa home an hour earlier each day is NOT likely, and the children don't get much time with him as it is.

And we do make exceptions. We're not the strictest bedtimers there are. Right now is So You Think You Can Dance season, so we stay up to watch that. We might have a picnic in the park for supper and play late, or have friends over who stay past bedtime, but for the most part bedtime is 8 o'clock, and we can all count on it. I can schedule school time knowing that we'll all be up, ready, and willing to work at 8, which means we can be done with schoolwork by lunch time, we can fit in a morning walk, then play time and activities in the afternoon. I like having a plan for the day, and the kids do too. I also like having the ultimate punishment at my disposal- before we had a "bedtime" I couldn't ever send them to bed early for misbehaviour, and now I can (even if I don't very often). It's nice to have a Hail Mary pass, or Ace in the Hole, or whatever metaphor works best.

Whenever I hear parents talking about not getting enough personal time, getting sick of their kids' bad behaviour, wanting to create a better rhythm for their days, struggling to get everyone going in the mornings, having to wake their kids up, not having time with their spouses, the very first thing I think of is look at BEDTIME**. It's my best advice to struggling parents. Not a particular hour for every family, but a consistent routine and consistent bedtime for each person in each family.

*I know Lisa isn't talking about her kids being sleep deprived, she's letting them more or less choose their own hours, and they get the sleep they need, but I couldn't ever figure out how to keep them from waking early AND staying up late. And her family doesn't need to get up early, where ours does, and her family has to eat awfully late in order to eat together- they're just kind of on a later schedule than a lot of families. They're on restaurant schedule, after all.

**BTW- I am pro-family bed, attachment parenting, all that good stuff. But I have recently realized that attachment parenting doesn't have to mean "attached to Mama 24 hours a day". It can also mean attached to Papa and the big brothers. Attachment Family if you will. Avery puts Miles to bed when Papa isn't home (and they get sweet sleepy bonding time together), Papa puts both big boys to bed when he is home (and gets to share that sleepy end of the day talk and cuddling), instead of me getting everyone to sleep on my own (and then trying to sleep in the mad hot jumble of limbs and dreams and blankets) like before the Bedtime Revolution.

White Beans

White beans are in my menu rotation every 4th week. I make a whole crock pot full, over night, and in the morning they're ready to be divided up into neat 2 c. portions for the freezer, and turned into some of our favorite meals.
Like Chicken White Bean Chili. Jennifer has a great recipe. Here's how I do it, give or take: 4c cooked navy beans, 1 large onion chopped, 1 large can chopped green chiles, 2 garlic cloves, crushed, 2c cooked chicken, chopped, 1T. cumin, 1t. California chile powder, 1t. smoked paprika, 1/2t. crushed red pepper, 1t. oregano, salt and pepper to taste, chicken broth just to the top of everything, cook in the crock pot low heat 8hrs. Serve with sour cream, grated cheese, chopped tomatoes, cornbread. Of course this is another recipe I double (at least) and freeze.

White Stripes Bean Salad. (Not quite Salad Nicoise) This is what we're having for supper tonight. Make the dressing first. Whisk together 3/4c. olive oil, 1/2c. lemon juice, 1/4c. honey, 1 minced shallot, 1 minced garlic clove, 2T. minced basil, 1T. minced thyme, 2t. minced oregano, 1t. dijon mustard, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover a flattish serving dish with washed, torn lettuce (or arugula or watercress if little children won't fuss), tossed with 1/4c. of the dressing, then make "stripes" of the rest of the ingredients, nestled in the greens. 4c. white beans, 2 can solid tuna, 1 red onion, sliced, 1/2c. black olives, 3 medium tomatoes cut in eighths (or cherry tomatoes), 6 hard boiled eggs chilled and cut in quarters, 1lb new potatoes, cooked and tossed with 1/4c. of the dressing and chilled(or use a pasta, like bow-ties). Drizzle the rest of the dressing over everything, and sprinkle 2T. capers over it all. Pretend you're French. Sit at a little ironwork table and read a fashion magazine while eating this salad.
It seems like a lot of work for a salad, but you don't need to do anything else for supper, except maybe put out a baguette you biked home with from the bakery, and some wine. And you can do everything in advance. In fact, the cooking stuff you HAVE to do in advance, so it'll all chill, and the chopping you might as well do while you're cooking, so by the time supper comes around it's as easy as anything to compose your lovely salad, sit down to your lovely table, and enjoy your lovely self.

White Bean Dip. In the bowl of your food processor dump 2c. white beans, 1 crushed garlic clove, the juice of 1 lemon, salt, pepper, and olive oil to taste (3 T. maybe to start). Process til it's as smooth as you want. You can easily change the flavor up with fresh herbs or roasted red peppers. Thin as wanted with reserved bean liquor or water.

Cassoulet. I've only made once the authentic way- it was delicious, but also about $40, and thus way out of my price range for a single supper, and a lot of work, and thus out of my range as the mother of three young children. I mostly cook by instinct and memory now. But it was delicious, so if you've the inclination, or a cheap source for goose or duck, this is a mouth-watering recipe and article. I do love Saveur magazine!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Black Beans

Does anything indoors smell better than a pot of beans simmering away? Well, maybe (cinnamon rolls, roasting turkey) but I do love the smell of the house on bean day!

I've taken lately to soaking beans all day, and cooking them in the crock pot all night. That way they're ready in the morning to cool down before I portion them out (2c- about the same as a can of beans) and freeze them, and there's still time to reset the crock pot with the beans that I'm cooking with that day. Plus, the house smells full and yummy all night, so everyone sleeps really well and the boys wake up HUNGRY! and eat a good breakfast.

Lately I've been cooking beans on rotation: Black beans, Navy beans, Garbanzo beans, Pinto beans. I used to just cook black beans or white beans, freezing the extra, but I make hummus all the time and it seemed silly to keep buying those little cans when it is so easy and frugal to cook a big pot and freeze can-sized portions. And then the boys started asking for pinto beans, and refried beans like they get at Mexican restaurants, and I, being the indulgent Mama that I am, decided to add them in to my rotation too.

BLACK BEANS- We often just eat them right out of the crock pot, with a little sofrito-ish sauce (onion, garlic, tomato, green peppers, maybe some chorizo) mixed in, served with rice and sprinkled with cilantro and lime juice.

Black Bean Confetti Salad-in a salad bowl whisk the juice of 1 lime, 3 T. olive oil, 1T. honey, 1t. cumin, 1/2t. California chile powder, 1/2t. salt, 1/4t. cayenne, 1/4t. garlic powder. Then dump in 2 c. black beans, cooked, 1c. corn kernels, 1c. sweet onion, diced, 1c. red or mixed bell pepper, diced, 1c. cilantro, chopped, stir it all up, cover and chill. We like this salad for summer suppers with a big pile of lettuce, some chopped tomatoes, avocado, shrimp sometimes, salsa, sour cream. It's also yummy as quesadilla filling with melty cheese, as a dip for tortilla chips, or a side dish for grilled chicken or fish.

Vegetarian Black Bean Chili- Dump all together in a crock pot: 4c. cooked black beans, 1 large onion, chopped, 2 cloves garlic, minced, 2-3c. mixed bell pepper (or 1 160z. bag of frozen stir-fry peppers), chopped, 2c. corn kernels, 3c. tomatoes, chopped (or 1 28oz. can), 1T. olive oil, 1T. cumin, 1T. chile powder, 1t. paprika, 1/2t. cayenne, 1/4t. cinnamon, salt and pepper to taste. Add water just to the top of the pile, cover, and cook on low 8 hours. To serve ladle into bowls, top with chopped cilantro, chopped tomatoes, grated cheese, avocado, sour cream, salsa.

I always make a bunch of chili and freeze half. Then we eat supper and still have leftovers for lunches. Or I might use the leftovers to make Chili Pie- pour leftover chili in a baking dish, top with cornbread batter (I use organic masa harina so no GMO issues and more nutritious) and bake. Serve with all the usual chili toppings.

Black Bean Dip- Couldn't be any easier! In a food processor put 2c. cooked black beans, 1t. chile powder, 1t. cumin, 1t. onion powder, salt, pepper, cayenne to taste. Process til it's as smooth as you like. This is a great alternative to refried beans, an easy healthy dip for veggie sticks and tortilla chips, a good base for nachos and burritos. You can mix in grated cheese, sour cream, or salsa if you want to.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Project::Magnetic Chore Chart

After some fiddling around with different methods, different kinds of chore charts, we've arrived here, at the side of the fridge in the kitchen hall:

Both charts are simple- just 12x12 pieces of card stock, divided into a "To Do Today" column and a "Done!" column. There are a bunch of chore tags to the side- the focus area of the day (Living/Dining, Bedrooms, Family Room, Bathrooms, Kitchen, Garden, Outside) that we all work on, and specific chores or responsibilities (pjs on, empty hamper, set the table, clear the table, etc.).

It's working pretty well. Avery still tries to find things NOT on his chart to do, which is nice, and sometimes tries to negotiate out of the thins on his chart, which is maybe not as nice, and Miles is happy to see what his jobs are without needing help to read. He likes being able to see with his own eyes that he has jobs that are just his to do, but he also likes knowing that he and his brother have some jobs in common, too.
Anyway, another project down, and another tag moved to the DONE! side of my own mental chore chart. Hooray!

Thursday, June 11, 2009


One of Avery's scale drawings, showing phase one of the construction project. In Waldorf schools the 3rd grade class often culminates in a building project- a house or shed, something like that. Throughout this year Avery's learned about the history of shelter and geographical considerations in construction, the process of designing and building. Friends of ours had a house built, and Avery's watched the process with great interest and even helped with some hammering and things.
When we were looking for a house to buy he REALLY wanted one with a tree house, but that didn't work out. And while we have several trees, none of them are really suitable for a tree house. Next best option: a raised platform, a simple structure that will be adaptable and expandable.
This corner of the yard held a trampoline before we moved in, and there hasn't been grass there for years. Perfect for a fort. The top part will be a platform, with a railing around. Avery would like a ladder and trap door, a zip line, Miles wants a slide and a steering wheel. I'd like to enclose the bottom for a little play house, or make a giant metal-pipe-banging-chime thing. We'll see. That's the beauty of a simple structure- it can become what we want it to be. First things first, though- Concrete footings, a floor up there, a railing and a ladder.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Organization::Library Thing

Oh, my! I LOVE Library thing! I only just started, but here's the deal: you input all of your books, add your own tags (toddlers, mama-aya, nature, borrowed, loaned....) and comments (loaned to so and so, chapter 3 great for plant cycle lesson....) and you have the option to rate books, give away books you don't want, write reviews and view other reviews, compare your library with others, all kinds of fun, I mean, organizational tools.
I've been trying for a long time to figure out how to organize all our books- not nearly enough shelf space to do it neatly and categorically, and, really, lots of books are good for more than one category, right? So I'm just starting out, but this will work, I think. I'm tagging books with subject and age-group tags, so, for instance, when I'm looking for books to fill out a lesson on animals in winter I'll be able to search my library by preschool and elementary groups as well as season (winter) and subject (animals). The math books I just loaned, well, I'll know who to look for when I want them back, and the stack of science books I've borrowed, well, I'll know who to avoid until I'm finished with them! Just kidding... if you want them back now I'm happy to return them.

Yakima Day Trip >>Toppenish

Toppenish Washington is a dusty little cowboy town on the Yakama Nation Indian Reservation. They're most famous for the murals all over town, and they hold a "Mural in a Day" festival every year. This year it coincided with a car show, much to Avery and Grandpa Dave's happiness. The guys, checking out the cool rides.

The Mural in a Day Festival. There are 70 some murals in this little town, and you can take a horse drawn trolley ride to visit the murals or stop by the visitor's center and pick up a free walking tour. Each option takes about an hour.
The newest mural, being painted.

One of my favorite murals. "All Aboard" by Bill Ross.

The Northern Pacific Railway Museum turned out to be a great visit. The guys enjoyed checking out all of the old equipment and even taking an imprompto trip on an old train, touring the engine they're renovating now, and exploring all the nooks and crannies full of railroad memorabilia. The train museum puts on a Rail and Western Art Show in August, the Whistlestop! bluegrass festival in late August, haunted train rides in October, and a Santa train and model train displays in December.
Avery working the switch.

The train they took on a little joy ride.

The Yakama Nation Museum and Cultural Center is right in Toppenish, and is a great museum of Native American history and life. There are many different cultural events, a restaurant, RV Park, and Casino. The museum itself is a valuable resource and the displays are quite engaging. It is open Mon-Sat 8-5, Sun 9-5, and fees are $5 for adults, $3 for children and seniors, $1 for children 10 and under, or $12 for families.
The American Hop Museum in Wapato, the town between Toppenish and Yakima, is another interesting visit. Hops are big business in the Yakima Valley, with 75% of the nation's hops grown right here. Hops are used in making beer, and are one of the earliest crops grown by European Colonists in America. Admission is $3. I don't think I'd take little kids, unless they were particularly curious and well behaved, or information about hops was somehow important to them, but it is an interesting museum for agricultural history buffs, and beer lovers.
More our pace is the Folklore soda factory and shop, right downtown at 9 N B St. Call ahead and schedule a tour of the factory and arrange to come on a bottling day. (509) 865-4772

In the fall, winter, and spring the Toppenish National Wildlife Sanctuary is a nice place to view wintering ducks and geese.
And Toppenish and Wapato are both so close it's easy to do these things one at a time, and really savor a simpler field trip, instead of making a day out of it.

Yakima Day Trip >>Goldendale

If you're ever in Central Washington wondering what to do on a yet another sun drenched day, consider going here: The Goldendale Observatory State Park. There is a 24.5 inch telescope, one of the largest public telescopes in the country. During the summer programs run from 2-5 and 8-midnight Wed-Sun, and admission is by donation! It's about an hour and 20 minutes to Goldendale from Yakima.
Goldendale Observatory State Park

Avery acting as a gnomon for the Human Sundial.
Just down the road a few more miles is the famous Maryhill Museum, home of Rodin's The Thinker as well as a huge permanent collection, tons of interesting and varied travelling exhibitions, workshops, and festivals. The museum is open every day from Mar 15- Nov 15, from 9-5. Admission is $7, seniors are $6, children 6-16 are only $2. The sculpture garden, picnic grounds, and parking are free, and it's just a few minutes down the road from Goldendale, overlooking the Columbia Gorge.

Avery, Columbia River, barge, big rock.
To make your day trip complete stop by Washington's Stonehenge, a full-size replica of Britain's Stonehenge (but intact), built as a memorial to soldiers lost in World War 1.

Grandpa Dave, trying not to lose his cap to the wind.
On your way back to Yakima stop at our favorite little gem, an unexpected surprise as you drive through the forest, 12 miles north of Goldendale: St. John's Bakery, a lovely little Greek Bakery, coffee shop, restaurant, and religious gift shop. They're open Mon -Sat 9-6. You can arrange visits to the Monastery, and Orthodox Christian families are allowed to stay overnight with prior permission. In any case you can munch koulourakia all the way home while you look for some of the wild horses on the Yakama Nation and try, just try, to smooth your windswept hair.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Yakima Valley Trolley

We've been having fun with the Relatives from Iowa. The Rising Star's father and stepmother are visiting- they rode the train (Amtrack) from the Midwest and have, oddly enough, spent quite a bit of their vacation with us riding trains, too! Today, after a visit to the Yakima Farmer's Market, Papa's office, and our favorite bakery, Essencia, we went to the historic Yakima Valley Trolley at South Third Avenue and West Pine Street near downtown Yakima. For $15 we purchased a family pack of tickets, enjoyed some good conversation about old trains and trolleys, took a ride on the trolley, and got some fun pictures. We've gone on the trolley before- at Christmas time they have Santa Claus and candy canes- but the relatives hadn't, and we always enjoy ourselves.

Grandpa Dave.



We were excited to hear about some of the goals for the trolley organization- they have the wire now to replace the copper wire stolen by meth addicts a few years ago, but they expect it will take tile the end of the summer before the have all the permits and can get the Yakima-Selah run going again. That would be a lovely little trip. We can't wait.
There's also some planning happening to secure funding and approval to extend the run up to Franklin Park and the Yakima Valley Museum (and the Soda Fountain!) and all the way into downtown to the Convention Center (and the hotels!). That would be delightful, and really tie together a nice package for tourism and our town's history. How fun for the folklife festival and other events that would be!
We also found out that the trolleys can be chartered for just $110 an hour, year round. I'm thinking that sounds like a fun birthday party activity for three boys I know who all have practically the same birthday! What do you think?
This afternoon they're at our friend's retirement party at the Historic Rosedell Mansion Bed and Breakfast, just down the street. It's the only B & B in the neighborhood, and we've been quite pleased to watch the progress as the new owners have worked hard, restoring and caring for their showpiece home.

Friday, June 5, 2009


Not the best picture, but there he is- Avery finishing his first running race! It was a really fun kids marathon organized by the Yakima Hardcore Runners Club. The kids had to run 25 miles over the past couple of months, and today they ran the last 1.2 miles as a race, and all the kids got ribbons and t-shirts and goodie bags! Avery is quite pleased with his ribbon and pedometer.
What fun!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Summer Plans

Alarm Clocks? no time for them!
Beach Jetty Island, Ona Beach, Hood Canal, tide pools, beach glass, shells
Balls soccer, tennis, rubber band, beach
Cook Out barbecues in the backyard, campfire cooking, solar oven s'mores
Camp Mt. St. Helens, Cooper Lake, Bumping Lake, San Juan Islands, Oregon Coast
Can (rhubarb, asparagus) strawberry jam, cherries, pickled green beans, peaches, cucumber pickles, tomatoes, ketchup, apricots, plums, blueberry jam, fruit syrups, pears, applesauce, pickled beets, salsa
Castles sand, sticks, stones
Combine Demolition Derby in Lind, WA
Compost what can I say?
Construct a play platform in the backyard for Avery's 3rd grade building project
Draw alphabet and number wall cards for the fall
Garden there's weeding and pruning, harvesting, and admiring to do
Grass to cut, to weed whack, to water, to sit on, sleep in, and roll all over
Floorcloth for the dining room floor- I'm tired of picking food out of the carpet
Organise books using LibraryThing
Paint the kitchen (and then tile the back splash and floor, reface the cabinets, rebuild the shelves over the stove, and replace the counters)Who am I kidding? Paint!
Play and play and play
Party like they'll only be 9 and 3 this one summer- bubble party, science party, craft party....
Practice Avery's guitar, Miles' inside voice, Ansel's everything, my patience, Aaron's relaxing
Radial Travel how many places can we go in a day from right here? Make a wheel map!
Swim Franklin Pool, lakes, swimming holes, Naches River
Sew quilt, skirts and tops, branches and birds, school organization bags, bedroom curtains
Swing the best $20 ever spent- nothing to do but watch them fly!
Splash water spray parks, beach, sprinklers
Scrapbook hmmm... everything since 2004....
Summer House the weekend use of which we won at a church auction last fall
U-Pick there's all kinds of things to pick- cherries, apricots, peaches, plums, blueberries, apples, raspberries, strawberries, pears....
Unpack the garage- it's been two years and it would be nice to have the space for a workshop area, a dart board, and the freezer
Write my book idea, their pen pals, preschool curriculum for fall
Whittle Avery is old enough to start, I think... i think...
Walk and walk and walk. Cowiche Canyon, the Greenway, Naches Peak Loop, Boulder Cave
Worry less
Wonder more!