Thursday, July 28, 2011

Expanding our food choices

Trying Edamane
We have two distinctive camps in this house in regards to food, the try it once Thing and the no way you can't make me Thing. Thing One will try anything once and the stranger the better, she has tried live squid and claims she liked it. The issue with this is once she tries it she will never try it again if she doesn't like it that first time.  This is tough because there are lots of ways to prepare things and maybe one way won't work but another will. The good side of the try it once is she has ended up liking some things I never would have expected and at least she is putting herself out there and trying it once. Over in the, no way you can't make me camp, Thing Two is firmly a believer in; if it smells funny, looks funny, I'm cranky, you are trying to slip something by me, or someone else says anything about it being healthy it is not going to get past my little lips.  I have presented it 20 times, tried it 8 different ways; pleaded, prodded and threatened to sing, but to no avail, this kid will not try it. On top of that if he eats something begrudgingly and then finds out he likes it prepared in a different way by someone else (daycare's green beans, for example) he will never again eat it at home. ARRGGGH

This general craziness to get vegetables into the Things diet more prompted me to do something I never thought I would do. We started pureeing veg and slipping it into sauces. Yep, I became that mom.  I could not have another dinner with complaints and ewws and resorted to letting them live on broccoli and carrots and slipping the rest in.  This was not ideal in my mind, but something surprising has occurred.  A few months break from the constant  'try it' push has actually created a little flexibility in the Things; and a desperation for other veg has created more persistence in me.  Onions, peppers and celery have always been much complained about in this house. For some reason they are the root of the evil vegetable insurgence that is being fought in this house. 

I use these three vegetables in almost everything and had finally hit the point where the Things could starve, once a week I was eating something I wanted to eat. This was not to say I wouldn't make a meal that they liked already, it just means I would be adding a few extras.  I started with a great cookbook, No Whine with Dinner by Liz Weiss and Janice Newell Bissex. Through this cookbook the Things and I have found some recipes we can both agree one. A favorite of the Things is Hot Diggity Dog Cornbread Casserole, page 129. I make this recipe gluten free and leave out the corn, what I do add is shredded carrots and the broccoli shred from the store, along with onion, pepper and celery.  i also substitute the chicken sausage for the hot dogs. This makes the recipe a little chunkier as there is more veg and I add extra cheese to offset that.  What is used for garnish varies, hubs likes ketchup and mustard, Thing One likes sour cream, I like sour cream and salsa, and Thing Two likes it plain.  I really like this recipe because it is so flexible and somehow the vegetable part gets accepted with no complaints. 

In an extreme hurry one night with next to nothing in the fridge I made a really ugly version of a scramble that has become a vegetable infused meal of at least acceptable proportions.  I take onions, peppers, celery, and anything else that I can find and dice finely and get it going with a bit of olive oil in a skillet.  I then add in salt, pepper, dill, and usually oregano and let the onions get translucent.  Then I throw in whatever precooked meat I can find; this is usually turkey sandwich meat or ham diced.  After the meat gets a little warmed up I add in a mixed bag of whole eggs and fake eggs to make 5 eggs total. I let the eggs start to set up on the bottom scramble it all up and add a handful of cheese.  That with sour cream and salsa to garnish and a fruit drink(ton of fruit, applesauce, apple juice, Greek yogurt) and dinner is served

I know the food fights aren't over by a long shot, but somehow two times a month I dont' have to hear complaints or eww noises from the peanut gallery and it makes me happy. I am going to take on school lunch next.  I am thinking of having a school lunch sample pot luck to get some ideas and learn what other are up to.

What are you doing to get your eaters more adventurous? How are you expanding their palate and their veggie happiness?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Monday Inspiration

Waking from my Benadryl haze this morning to realize it was once again a Monday and I had to go to work wasn’t exactly top on my bucket list. It is particularly disappointing to think that over a 30 year work career, taking into account vacations and the like, we will all experience 1440 Mondays. That is a lot of Mondays. A lot of days where we wake up none to enthused and drag our butts to our cubes to stare out at the sky and dream of other places. It isn’t that I don’t like my job at all, for a job it isn’t bad really, it is just that it isn’t a weekend playing around.

So on Mondays like these, where I begrudgingly go to work to stare at a screen for 9 hours I look for inspiration in my daily grind. What do I find….

I love watching the sun rise on the drive into work, watching the sky turn pinky on the edges of the mountains, seeing the yellow streaks of the sun rise above the grey mountain skyline. In those moments driving in I feel at piece and centered.

Someone telling me ‘good morning’, ‘how was your weekend’; it is nice to see people at work you enjoy talking too. I like a lot of the people I work with and I think I am really lucky that most of the people I deal with are good people who enjoy what they do. I try hard to focus on those people that are positive, make me think and really are invested in what they do. On tough Mondays, I work hard to stay away from the haters; it can be tough but really worth it on days like these.

Lotion and Lunch smells. I know this is a weird one, but I am a smell person and the smell of a citrus lotion or someone’s lunch can totally cheer me up. Smelling some amazing lunch and then hearing about their weekend making that lunch just give me a smile. Allergies are prevalent in our house so there aren’t a lot of smelly things and smelling my eucalyptus work lotion or the girl a few cubes over citrus lotion is just a treat. It seems like a lot, work smells are a lot better than the odder unknown stinky home smells.

My walks, I take walks most days at work. I do this to get a break, refocus, clear my head and generally just get outside. On the weekends I can find it difficult to get out and just enjoy a wander on my own that doesn’t feel like work. This is something I truly enjoy doing and it is a nice break in my day. I am lucky enough to work downtown and have walking loops through the North End, a great funky downtown neighborhood, or I can wander downtown with cute shops and good people watching.

A break into adulthood, sometimes after a trying or very kid busy weekend I crave a little adult interaction. At work, no one will tug on my sleeve, interrupt me constantly, or hug me while dripping wet. I love my crazy Things, but we all need a break and there are times that I am excited by the opportunity for that break at work.

I frequently try and find the silver lining, or the learning opportunity; but Mondays can be a struggle. What are your inspirations to pull on your big girl panties and get through it all? How do you manage those manic Mondays?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Teaching Community

A discussion I so often seem to have with people is how to teach your kids a sense of community, how do you teach a sense of belonging and responsibility for the world and people around you. I have no answers here but am on the constant look out for ideas. . Somehow the experiment of parenthood has lead me to constantly just throw stuff out there and hope that therapy will be a lot cheaper in the future and the Things don't become total prats.

There are a lot of things I think about when I think about community and teaching community. I think about service, 4-H drilled into me service to others in your community and beyond and that is something I still strongly believe in.  Besides service what else? Community is the people and places around you, you need to know where you live, who you live around and where your place is in the larger world.  I want to raise compassionate, empathetic adults who want to be a part of things and make things better, without feeling like they need something in return. 

How to TEACH these things stumps me sometimes..ok all the time.  We continue to throw things out there, remind the Things of what is done for them and what they do for others, and make sure they feel a place in the world is theirs and they have the ability to improve it.

There are some things other people do that I think make a huge impact on the Things life and have for years. After a lot of churm the Things ended up at a daycare that throughout the off school times of year do community service projects.  This summer they have been making blankets for the Women's and Children's Association and had the chance to drop off the blankets and see what their good work has done. In the past they have made blocks for the Ronald McDonald house, had a St. Jude Trike a thon, and cleaned up a nature walk. These things that daycare does make me so proud that the kids go there, these people that are already managing the chaos of a daycare center, make the time and the effort to do something to give back and teach their students the same.  Our extended family of friends is another way the things are learning community. The Things know when someone is sick or a baby is born, mom will cook and we have babysat friends kids, or made get well cards and done other things for this community we have developed. It is not just doing things for these people that in my mind is developing a community, through BBQs, football games, birthday parties we all intermingle and the Things get to see that. They get to see people of all ages and types, who may have different views, talk and interact, put aside differences and pass the plate. These moments are not necessarily times when anyone acknowledges teaching is occurring, but when 10 kids get together of varying ages and have to figure out something to do a community develops and the Things only learn and gain positive insights from that. 

What is happening at home to develop community you ask?  I am pretty seriously involved at the Things school, which for them is an important community, and we remind them without the addition of volunteers their school would not be what it is.  As part of the larger school community to we talk about the roles people have and the Things placement in that school community. We also do some other volunteer work here and there, this year I got the chance to volunteer at the local children's hospital fundraiser, this is the hospital Thing One spent 3 weeks in the NICU at.  Beyond that we are really working to teach the things about their community and all that goes on in it.  We are doing our summer park tour, learning about all the parks and art in the area.  We go to the local farmers market and at least look at what is grown and made where we live, even if Thing Two refuses to try it. The Things know most of the neighbors in our court and are encouraged to play at the park or with the kids around the corner.  In trying to teach the things to feel ownership and some control in their community we have tried a number of ideas at home with varied success. We have encouraged new ideas regarding punishments and rewards, we have had 'you' pick the activities day, when we get stuck on a project we ask the Things what they might do to fix it.  There is a limit to all this though and there are times when they tell me what they think and I don't do it, and that needs to be ok, but again that is learning your place in the community.  I hope by grounding them in their surroundings and showing the investment their community is making in them, they in turn will make the investment in the community and people around them for the rest of their lives.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Dogs Lessons to be Learned

I loved the book, Everything I ever learned about life I learned in kindergarten, though right now I think in our house it is everything I ever learned about life I learned from my dog.  Be a good dog and treats and attention will come to you. It is fine to get excited, but don’t go crazy with the pushing and shoving and jumping or the fun will end. When you do something you aren’t suppose to, show you’re sorry, tucking tail and showing the big eyes can lessen the punishment.  Though complaining can sometimes work, there is always a time to stop barking and live with the situation you are in. If you don’t behave you will be in the kennel.   Life is cyclical there will be young and hyper dogs needing to learn the rules and old dogs that teach the rules, young dogs listen to the old ones.  Share your treats or all you will get is harassed by the other dogs.  It is fine if you found the stick, but don’t think it is only your stick and that you alone can keep and play with the stick.  Love and attention are plentiful, but everyone needs a break from giving constant belly loves.  We all need to run around and play, but when in the house that is not the time, go outside.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Book Review: Free-Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy

I just finished reading Lenore Skenazy's book Free-Range Kids and it gave me a lot to think about.  I may not consider myself a worrier,  but I don't know if I would say I am totally free range either. After reading this book though I think I want to work at being a little more free range and at encouraging that independence in the Things.

The book is laid out really well and makes you think alot about your own fears and how they are transferring on to your kids.  The commandments at the beginning of the book are a great start to the ideas and huge positives to kids. I really like that the information is backed up by facts and figures. It makes me realize how the media is making us more over scared parents than we really need to be.  The end of each chapter has great real life notes from individuals and steps to encourage you to be a little more free range, which I really like. The safe or not chapter was really funny to me as most of the things mentioned I thought at the time they were in the media were a bit cookoo, but I was disappointed she didn't cover kids getting hit my cars. The kids and cars thing is a HUGE fear of mine and I could have used some statistics to peel me off the wall on that one.  Generally I think this is a great read for any parent and is a nice, lighten up and enjoy your kids sort of thing.

Reading a book like this makes you feel silly about a few fears, and made me think how generally unprepared we have made the Things.  Though I have picked them up from school and we walked home, I don't think they have done it enough to not get lost.  I don't know that they could get themselves to the grocery store. I do let them go to the park and to a friends house in the neighborhood so I don't think they would get lost, but I am not sure. I am thinking I might start taking them around on their bikes more and actually leave out little neighborhood.  We live in bubble, about a long country block, surrounded by very busy streets and this is part of my concern about letting the kids go beyond our bubble.  I think I need to let them go a little more free range though, because even though my fear is about them and cars, once we teach them the skills of crossing the street it is the same on a busy as a quiet street.  The other thing I think after reading this is I need to let them roam the neighborhood more, usually I say you can go to the park or a friends, but don't mess about in the neighborhood. I wonder if more messing about in the neighborhood would give them more confidence to explore the world in general more.

The other thing I took to hear was that you are the person that knows your child best and their abilities.  What I struggle with in this statement is that the older one is a little less prepared and aware of the world around her than the younger. When crossing the street in the neighborhood, I no longer tell the Things, stop wait look both ways,  Thing Two naturally does it, Thing Ones just wanders out there. I need to work more with Thing One on developing that independent spirit and awareness and I think because Two picked it up so easily, I haven't focused on really teaching the skill assuming it would just occur.  Also, I don't know what they are like when I am not there, maybe Thing One does fine and I just need to take a deep breath and let life occur.  As a parent sometimes our kids amaze us with their abilities when they are not with us and I guess I just need to have the faith to let that happen.

How Free Range or your kids and how much do you trust their preparedness and responsibility?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Weekends Away

As I write this I am looking out the sliding glass door in our living room and keep seeing the dogs run by, and Thing Two run by, hose in hand.  I have to laugh and feel bad for the dogs at the same time, there isn't really a whole lot of hiding places in our yard from Thing Two and a hose, thankfully we have a place they can hide not far from here.

My folks live about an hour outside of town up in the mountains on a river, the scenery is beautiful, but it is good for other reasons too. This place allows us to let the Things and dogs experience things they wouldn't have the chance to as easily here in town.  Generally the animals and the kids have the run of the back area of the house along with a river to explore and plenty of other amusements.  I am always amazed how long the Things can go without telling me they are bored when we are up there.  The dogs spend thier days playing in the river, running in the property and lazing under the deck out of the heat. Up there the dogs and kids seem to find things to do, imaginations to distract them, and adventures to have.

The space lets the dogs escape the kids a lot easier, and lets the kids do stuff I would never let them do here.  The most current example of kid freedom is Thing Twos sling shot obsession. I am not sure if it was Popi purchasing him a sling shot or the sling shot in Angry Birds, but Thing Two is obsessed. We have gotten him a few targets and remind him not to shoot people or animals and off he goes. I hear nothing but sling shot pings for hours some times.  Thing One has a crafting itch that can be a bit messy, but at my parents she can indulge throughly because my mom has a designated craft space. Thing One has free run of all the supplies and paints, and my mom is infinetly patient letting her go to it, and then helps her clean up.  Both these activities could be tough at our house, I would never feel comfortable with Thing Two playing with a sling shot in our yard and we don't have a ccraft specific area where Thing One can craft out of the way and uninterrupted. 

The best part about this little home away from home, besides it being really close, is the river and surrounding land.  The river is currently running a bit high, but the Things were able to go float this weekend. It is a short float, about an hour, but perfect for the Things.  They easily get bored as it is not a raft but a float and the hour gives them a chance to look at their surroundings and torture each other with splashing just enough.  The river when running slower also provides a great place for exploring.  Fish, muscles and frogs are frequent visitors to the plastic buckets we have around.  Usually by late summer the river is low enough that life jackets aren't really required when jsut exploring and the kids can walk all the way across without having to swim a stoke.  They also have the constant concern and companionship of my parents dog Liza, a large over protective Newfoundland dog.  Last summer on a little bank of sand near the house Thing One found what she called a butterfly wing grave yard. I have no idea what occured with these butterflies, but there were a ton of wings Thing One promptly scooped up a bunch and was crafting with them by nightfall.  Also a joy to Thing One is the high rushes in the watershed section of the poperty. The grass is so high Thing One can plunge in and be lost in it all. This freedom to explore relativly unincumbered by adults is what I totally appreciate about going up there.  I am as always a worried about them, but I know  exploring is an important part of growing up and the occationally injury of river dunk are as important as the classroom sometimes.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Raising Thinkers, that still have trust

We constantly talk in the house about what people tell us, what we see on TV, and what it all means to us on a day to day level. Do the people on the cereal commercial really tell us the truth? Do our friends really know the answer to that? Are you telling someone accurate information, facts verses just what you think it true?

Raising a thinker and a questioner that can ask questions and be skeptical, but still show trust and respect can be a really tough line to walk. Sometimes it is the kid who sets the path to questioning; Thing Two questions a lot and is very skeptical about what anyone says. Teaching him to question and ask for the background information, but not come off as disrespectful or rude can be difficult. Reminding him that most people are not telling him falsehoods intentionally and that if you question it in a way that isn’t respectful people can become frustrated has been a challenge. Telling him that sometimes it is better to come back home and ask the questions instead of asking the questions of the adult they are suppose to be showing respect to is always an option. On the other side, Thing One trusts people and doesn’t tend to question as much what people say, she will frequently believe or pretend to believe because she finds it easier. With her the focus is on having the confidence to ask the questions and know the difference believing the information you are told and asking a questions to verify that information. Insert, it is not nice to roll your eyes in front of an adult if you think they are full of it. To me it is really important to raise thinkers, thinkers that don’t just believe what they are told, but also trust people and are respectful to the adults around them.

How did we start the Things off with questioning and looking at things with a critical eye, commercials. Commercials are a great way to talk about what information is coming into their lives on a daily basis and what may or may not be true. Just because the kids on the commercial fly up into the air after they ate that thing, does that mean you will? Just because that toy made a perfect spiral and looped through the hoop does that mean it will do it when you play with it? These first questions and discussions formed a great foundation to talk about other information coming into their lives. When a friend at daycare tells you that someone is going to burn down your school because it was vandalized (true situation), is that true, how do they know that, what makes that information accurate? As the Things have gotten older we have encouraged them to check the facts when we can, but have also balanced that with the idea of information from a trusted source. There are people that consistently give you accurate information, and you can trust them and should. When sources are friends or people we don’t always believe ask some questions; can you look up the thing that was stated and what does it say, do you believe what is said and why do you believe it.

We explained some time back that the Internet was really a lot of people talking, just in type, and that they can say anything. Just because something is written down doesn’t mean it’s true. Trying to explain the concept that people and sometimes writing isn’t the facts of a situation can be difficult. At this point we are really explaining it in the way of fiction verses a nonfiction book. A book that is fiction is just a good story, but probably not a lot of facts. A nonfiction book is facts, and most of the time those facts can be found in other books that are referenced in the back.

This is still a growing concept in our house and we are just starting to talk about the ideas that sometimes the facts are bent to explain a particular reason or purposes, but these concepts still have a long way to go. I assume we will not stop any of these discussions any time soon and that the Things will continue to try and develop a strong bull shit meter and ask questions in a way that is appreciative of the people around them. Don’t think some of this hasn’t already bit me in the butt though, I get questioned more than I would like and have spent time checking a fact on the Internet when I wasn’t sure. I like that they question and hope we are teaching them to continue to question, as tough as it sometimes can be.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Hanging in Boise...

During the week our house revolves around just getting everything done, and making sure everyone gets to where they need to go. Though we spend time together the more relaxed quality time is the time we have on the weekends. We also tend not to travel out of town too much on three day weekends, too many others have the same idea. What do we do then on those long weekends? Enjoy where we live. There are so many great things to do and places to go here in Boise that we can always find something.

A friend recently started a travel blog, Tundra Rat Travel Blog, and I am getting to Boise before he does. UPDATE: He beat me to it and just posted his Boise post a few hours ago, it is great and I highly recommend it. I am sure if and when he does Boise though it will be a little more adult centric, and this more family oriented travel notes on Boise, Idaho.

There are tons of things to do in Boise, especially in the summer. 
If you are in town on a Saturday between April and October, Capital City Public Market in Downtown Boise is always a must attend. There is great fresh produce and flowers, along with amazing food booths, local wine, and craft booths. The great thing about Market is it encapsulates so much of Boise into one location. 
There are plenty of parks, and I covered that in an earlier post but it deserves a mention here, especially since four other great things are located in the parks. Julia Davis park is one of the largest in Boise and contains the Idaho History Museum, Boise Art Museum, and Zoo Boise.  The Zoo, though small is enjoyable,  and the giraffe slide is an all time favorite of every kid that has ever been.  In the summer Zoo Boise has a butterflies in Bloom exhibit, it is a true treat to get to see all the butterflies. Zoo Boise is a member of the AZA reciprocal program, so if you are a member at your home town zoo you may get free admission into Zoo Boise.  The Boise Art Museum is another treat, currently the exhibit is about shoes and both the Things are anxious to visit it. There is a great kids museum experience in the back of the zoo out of the way that the Things always beg to go play in.  The Boise Art Museum hosts an amazing open air art fair every year in early Septemper, Art in the Park, there is a great mix of fine art and craft vendors.  The Idaho State History Museum is another good museum, a particular treat is the History Comes to Life exhibit they do. Once a year, with the help of tons of volunteers there are games, people in period clothes, live demonstrations and the dioramas upstairs come to life.  A few other parks that can save you on a hot day are Hill Park and Settlers Park, they have super fun water play areas that kids are drawn to from the moment they see all that water spraying all over the place.
The Discovery Center of Idaho is located near Anne Morrison park, a long block from Julia Davis. The Discovery Center is a kids science museum, for you Bay Area folks think the Exploritorium, there are tons of hands-on exhibits and staff around to answer those pesky questions us parents can't.  They also are members of the ASTC Reciprocal Museum group, so check to see if your local membership covers admissions here.  The current exhibit is Gyrations and The Things spent about an hour just in the front room playing and trying out all the different exhibits.
The Idaho Botanical Garden, the Old Penitentiary, and the Birds of Prey Center are other great places to visit.  All these places do wonderful events throughout the year and have plenty of helpful volunteers around year round to answer questions and help with anything. The Botanical Garden and Old Pen are right near each other at the north east part of town.  The Birds of Prey is located a ways out south of Boise.  I have to say the Birds of Prey is an amazing place and definitely worth the drive out there.  If you can try to catch a concert at the Botanical Garden, it can be a great adult escape on a kid heavy day. 
Bown Crossing is another section of town to visit. Located in East Boise and home to Powell's Sweet Shoppe, this is a fun everyone can be a kid candy store.  The Bown area has a great outside market on Sundays in the summer, one of my favorite vendors there is Funky Monkez, they make unusual creative sock monkeys, there is also a great Etsy group that is usually there.
One last thing I always recommend if you are here in the summer is Idaho Shakespeare Festival.  This is an outdoor amphitheater that is a great place to bring dinner and a drink of choice and sit and see a great show while the sun sets. We tend to go as a date night, but they do have family nights throughout the season.  There is a cafe on site, but I find a picnic so much more fun. Make sure to get grass seats, the first rows are all grass and you can rent low chairs to watch the show with.  The Hubs favorite part of any show is the green show put on my the Fool Squad about a 1/2 hour before any show starts. 
A cruise by Boise State University to see the blue field is a must for any football fan.  Being in town in the fall or winter, I would defiantly recommend trying to catch a game, football and either men's or women's basketball.


People make assumptions a lot of the time when they first see Boise or when they are in route. That Boise is this small town with nothing real interesting and that the food will be meat and potatoes with out a lot of deviation.  They are wrong, Boise has a great food scene.
We are breakfast people particularly when we travel, so when we 'staycation' there is at least one breakfast morning.  Goldy's is a downtown institution and there is a reason, they make great food with good atmophere, but Jo Mama's and The Griddle are two other great breakfast places with lots of variety and very family friendly. 
The current downtown favorite of The Things for lunch is Boise Fry Company.  It is a place where you order your burger on the side, and pick from a variety or potatoes, including purple.  They have tons of different types of ketchup like dips and speciality salts. For those that don't eat meat, there's a quinoa salad.
The Market has tons of food vendors with varied cultures. There are crepes, vegetarian sambuca, and my personal favorite a pizza place that has gluten free pizza crust. 
There are a few local old school drive ins that always are a treat, Fancy Freeze and the West Side Drive in.  West Side has a lot on the menu besides the classic fair and Fancy Freeze specialized in great soft serve ice cream treats, the Boston milkshake is a treat I was crazy about during pregnancy with Thing One. 
A few other Boise favorites that the kiddos love, Stan's and Donnie Macs.  Stan's is off Vista and is a hot dog and burger place that makes great custard and has a sauce called Bronco Sauce that makes a hot dog so much more.  Donnie Macs is a trailer park theme where you can eat in a car on a lift and the kids can have spagettios in a can with Cheetos. 
For slightly less kid centric fair that is still kick back Bardenay and Red Feather are always great. Bardenay makes their own rum and has lots of drink options to check out, my favorite is the iguana bana.  Red Feather  has great drinks and does a lot of small plate items, we really like when they have the risotto.
Delsa's has amazing homemade ice cream that is a definite stop when you are up on the bench.

Now that I am hungry and anxious to go explore we are off.  This just covered a few basics about Boise, fun stuff to do and food ideas. There is great music, tons of events and always things going on in the outlying communities. If you come to visit I hope you enjoy yourself and see how great the city is, for those that live in it and those that visit.