Tuesday, August 31, 2010

First Day At The Big K

Before...

and after:

Today was Hubba's first day of kindergarten.

I don't think there has ever been a more excited boy. He was up and dressed with his backpack on, ready to leave with the older kids in the morning - but (im)patiently waited for his afternoon class time to roll around.

When we arrived at the school he was still literally bouncing with excitement. He became frustrated at one point that I was not walking fast enough with his two younger siblings in tow and urged us to "Hurry your feet, guys!"

As we approached his classroom and he saw the crowd of parents and new kindergartners he suddenly became apprehensive. "You come in with me, okay?" he asked.

"I have the little kids, Hubba. You go ahead. You'll be fine," I answered - although every inch of me wanted to follow him in and stay as long as he needed me.

My eyes may have teared up some on the way home.

After school I waited in the appointed spot for the kids to meet up with me. I could tell from across the street, by the way Hubba was walking, that something was wrong. As soon as he got to the car I asked, "How was your first day of kindergarten?"

"I don't know," he answered, sounding like he was ready to cry. Then he let out a sigh and said, "Boooor-ing."

"What happened?" I asked.

And then it all spilled out. "It wasn't even fun! My cheecher wouldn't even let me ride the bus after school! She said I haved to wait and go home wif you! Well, who wants to even go to school if I can't ride the bus? That's dumb!"

I suppressed my laughter and asked if anything positive had happened on his first day.

"Recess was fun. We got to drink juice in paper cups and eat two cookies. That was fun. But nuffing else."

"Nothing?" I pried. "Didn't you do anything exciting in your class? Did you get to sing songs or read stories or anything?"

A sigh. "Only one song." Another sigh. "And we saw a book but we didn't even get to read it. I really don't want to talk about it."

"Well, tell me what was boring," I asked, eyeing him in the rear-view mirror.

He rolled his eyes at me. "Everything, okay? It would take like two days to tell you."

"I've got two days."

"Uggghh! FORGET IT, MOM."

Oh, the miserable, non-fun kindergarten life of a five-year-old boy.

I can't wait to see what's in store for the rest of the year.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Quick Quips

From the mouths of my kids...


"I know I'm getting big p-cuz there is more hairy stuff growing on my arms."

"When I go to school I'll have math tests and exercise. And then I'll tell my cheecher that I have to go to the baf-room."

"Dad, can I play the Wii?"
"You'll have to ask Mom, she's the boss around here."
"Because you're not bigger than her anymore?"

"I can't be friends with girls because girls don't rule the world." (He'll learn.)

"Hey Mom, who's your boyfriend?"
"That would be Dad."
"What?! You married your boyfriend?!"

"When we sing 'Love one another' does that mean Satan, too? 'Cause he's not exactly what I call lovey."

H: "I don't like you."
C: "Well, I don't like you, either!"
H: "But I do still love you."
C: "Well, I still love you, too."

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Redemption

ElemenoB wasn't all too fond of the picture in my First Day of School post and asked to pose for another.

Being the awesome mom that I am, I let her.

I present, for your viewing pleasure, a much more cooperative ElemenoB on the second day of school:

Redemption.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Many Uses of Playdough

photo found at playdoh.com

Last Sunday, as part of my lesson, I gave each of the kids in my class a little baggie containing a glob of playdough and asked them to create a farm animal from it. As I made the playdough at home earlier that morning I remember looking at how white it was and wondering if I should give it a tint of color - perhaps yellow or green? - but I ultimately decided that it would be best to leave it neutral so they wouldn't mold their globs into animals based on a specific color. (It didn't matter, by the way. The boys all made snakes and the girls mostly made cats.)

After a few attempts to eat or at least lick their little globs of dough, I had them put their baggies beneath their chairs.

At the end of the lesson, being the awesome teacher that I am, I let the kids take the playdough home.

Later, I received this email from one of my kids' parents:

So as we were walking home from primary, M. was proudly showing me her "dough." I said, "oh, that's so nice! Playdough!" And she said, "No mom, it's not playdough. It's dough!" I smiled and thought nothing of it.

We got in the door and about 15 minutes into making lunch M. announced that she was supposed to make a pizza with the dough. So I changed my assumptions... you must have given them some dough to make something at home. What a great idea! OK, fine. Go ahead and make a pizza.

I preheated the oven and the kids had a grand old time rolling out the "dough" on a baking sheet. I gave M. sauce to spread, and cheese, and put it in the oven to bake. 10 minutes later I took it out, got the "pizza" off the pan, and put it on M.'s plate, instructing her to share a little bit with her sisters.

I tasted a little glob of crust which had stuck to the pan.

I'm sure you know the rest.... :)

J and I were laughing so hard. I laughed so hard I cried. Anyway... thank you for the playdough! I should have tasted it before we even started.


Maybe I should have gone with purple?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

School Days For Seven of Nine

No, I'm not talking about that Seven of Nine...


I'm talking about these 7 of 9:

Coolister, my senior, who would only give me a quick fake smile and thumbs-up before running to catch the bus in his freshly-ironed shirt.


ElemenoB, the sophomore, who would not pose for a picture at all and just kept saying, "Go away!" So of course I had to keep taking pictures as she made her way down the block. And look what happened!
I captured a photo of Sasquatch!! (Thanks for putting up with me, ElemenoB. I am such a weird mom - wanting to take first day of school pictures and all of that.)


Thumbelina, our freshman! I can't believe I have 3 kids in high school. She almost missed the bus but still posed for a quick snapshot with a cheesy smile.


All-a-Boy, the confident 6th grader.


Cowgirl, our 4th grade sweetie.


Princess, the cute 2nd grader.


And Hubba... well, he doesn't start kindergarten until next week. But don't be fooled by the innocent sleeping face. This precocious little guy is just charging his batteries!


Where does the time go?! I can't believe the summer is gone - or that my kids are so grown up.

These are the things I am musing about today at Four Perspectives.

School Time

(My elementary school crew, minus the kindergartner who doesn't start until next week)

School has begun this week.

As the beginning of each school year approaches I always experience a gamut of urgent, frantic emotions. What did I forget to work with them on over the summer? Does everyone have a functioning backpack? Is it too late to start in on a school-time sleep schedule which gets us to bed earlier than midnight and up in the morning before 7 am? How many pair of matching socks does each child own?

As we eventually become accustomed to our usual school routines I begin to relax again.

This year, though - for some reason it is different. I think it has something to do with the fact that my oldest boy is a senior in high school and my 5-year-old is starting kindergarten. I look at my 17-year-old and remember him in my 5-year-old's shoes and I hope that his dad and I have taught him all that he will need in order to be successful in the important things in life. I look at the young man he has become and my heartstrings feel a little tug. I do not have much more time before he is no longer mine to shape and mold.

There are so many things that I want him to know. There are so many things that I want for all of my kids.

What do I want most for my children? For them to see even half of the potential that I see in them. I want them to have enough self-esteem to be comfortable and social around those they don't know but not so much that no one can stand them. I want for them to really, truly understand that there is an inner beauty, generated by kindness and compassion and loyalty and honesty, that shines far brighter than outward appearances. I want them to love unconditionally, but guardedly.

And that is only the beginning. The list goes on.

Ultimately, I want them to be happy and to learn for themselves where true happiness lies.

As school begins this year I'm not sure who will be receiving the greatest education, actually. Is it my kids who are learning reading, science, languages, math... or is it me who is having to learn to loosen up the apron strings - trust in what we've taught them, give them a bit of slack and then slowly let go?

Where did the summer go?

Where did time go?

*deep breath*

I am ready. Let the schooling begin.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Gourmet Granola

(Hello, beautiful.)

Now that school has started and I am no longer able to laze about all morning it is time to gear myself up for some quick, healthy breakfasts.

Even though I am well-stocked with empty breakfast calories:

(welcome to my pantry)

it doesn't mean I feel good about sending my kids off to school with just that in their bellies every morning.

However, knowing myself, I will be staying in bed until the last possible second and succumbing to the kids' begging to tear into the cereal stash more often than I'd like.

To start off on the right foot, today I am making some granola to be used on such mornings. It's the perfect balance between oatmeal (which the kids weep and wail over) and cold cereal (which the kids almost always prefer).

Come join me in my kitchen, won't you?

First off, the ingredients...

Get yourself a ginormous bowl because it will eventually contain over 20 cups worth of goodness.

Start off by turning on your super-clean oven...

and then mix together all of the dry ingredients. Let's begin with 14 cups of oats. (Oats are awesome but I actually use 6-grain flakes that I buy at our local health food store because they are even awesomer!)

Add a cup of raw pumpkin seeds & 2 generous cups of coconut flakes (also available at any health food store - in fact, pretty much all of this stuff was bought from the dry goods bins at Good Earth. FYI).


Next comes the almonds. I prefer sliced but slivered are tasty, too.

You also need to add some salt. I am never sure what salt does for the recipe but I know that I always add a bit of salt when I'm making cooked cereal, so why not granola? That's enough logic for me.
Now for some sweetness - throw in 2 and 1/2 cups of brown sugar. Does everyone know this trick of packing the brown sugar down by using a smaller measuring cup?




Yeah, you probably already do that. But it makes me feel all helpful and brainy to be sharing my little tips with you, so just go with it.

'Preesh.

Okay, that's it for dry ingredients.

Let's stir the goodness up...

And VOILA! It's beautiful.

Now we need to measure all of the wet ingredients in a separate container. First, the honey. You can coat the measuring cup with a thin layer of cooking spray so that the honey doesn't stick when you're pouring it out later.


Almond extract joins the party.
It's getting pretty! Oh, and here's another tip: you can buy almond extract at the Dollar Tree. You're welcome.

Now we'll add the oil. I prefer olive oil but you can use whatever cooking oil you have in your kitchen. It's all good.


It's like a science experiment! Who can tell me why the extract stays in the middle? Bueller? Bueller?

Sorry... silly 80's joke. Moving on.

We just need to add some water...

Mix up the wet ingredients...
then pour the wet stuff over the dry stuff.
Then stir it all together.
In the course of your stirring, you may happen to notice a lump of brown sugar. If you want brown sugar lumps in your granola then leave it be. But if you're me you won't be able to resist smooshing each and every one that surfaces.

Keep stirring...
Done!

All we have to do now is bake it.

Grab a couple of cookie sheets and distribute the granola over them.


Put 'em in the oven...
mark 'em with a G... (not really) and set your timer for an hour and 15 minutes.

While that's baking you can get your add-ins ready. These are as limitless as your imagination. Our favorite things to add are banana chips:

and dried cranberries.

I broke the banana chips into smaller pieces and stopped with a generous 2 cups worth. We only had a scant cup of dried cranberries, so that's all that's going in.

I would add raisins except that half of our family despises them. When we actually eat the granola they can throw in a handful of raisins if it makes them happy. We're flexible like that.

You can also add dates, dried blueberries, chopped dried apricots... whatever floats your boat!

About every 20 minutes or so
you'll want to take the granola out of the oven
and stir it - focusing mainly on pulling the granola from the sides of the pan into the center because the sides are where it cooks fastest.

The first couple of times that you stir it the granola will seem like it's never going to get dry. Trust me - it's going to happen.

When the timer goes off, stir the granola again. Increase the oven temperature to 250 degrees
and let the granola cook in the oven for 10 more minutes. Once it's done, set your pans on cooling racks (or, in my case, balance both pans precariously upon one cooling rack)
and let it cool completely. This can take anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour or more... depending on how high (or low) you like to run your A/C. Stir the granola every 15 minutes or so as it cools.

Now, my friends, you will notice that the granola smells heavenly and is perfect for eating. Scoop it right up...
and dump it into whatever fancy container you have available to store it in.

(P.S. I love my fancy container.)

Now throw in whatever mix-ins you've decided on.

Then pour yourself a bowl and give it a try.

Quick, easy... and ready for those slow mornings when you can barely get yourself out of bed.

Now you can sleep in for a bit - guilt free.

Yeah, baby.



Gerb's Gourmet Granola

Dry ingredients:
14 cups oats (or 6-grain flakes)
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
(note: can substitute sunflower seeds or another cup of oats for the pumpkin seeds)
2 cups coconut flakes
2 cups sliced or slivered almonds (note: can substitute with your favorite kind of nut)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 1/2 cups brown sugar

Wet ingredients:
1 cup honey
3 Tablespoons almond extract
1/2 cup oil
2/3 cups water

In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, mix wet ingredients. Stir wet mixture into dry mixture. Spread on cookie sheets. Bake at 225 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring every 20 minutes or so. Bake at 250 degrees for an additional 10 minutes. Cool thoroughly. Add any desired mix-ins such as dried fruit. Store in a container with a lid. Makes 6-7 pounds of cereal.