The craziest thing happened today. Or rather, I should say, my oldest has been driving me crazy this week and finally, today, I figured out how to fix it.
My middle two kids have been in camp all week but camp for my oldest doesn't start for another week and so he has been home since school ended. Bored. Which is bad for me, bad for him and bad for me again.
I found myself telling him over and over to go find something to do, without my brain comprehending that a 6 year old has no idea what that means. None. Not a clue.
And then, as Josh was leaving to work this morning, and I stood by the door all sad and frowny because I was going to have to deal with Bored again today, he had a stroke of genius. Why don't you make him a schedule and write it down for him?
Brilliant. Although I do have to say, I was kind of annoyed that I didn't think of this great parenting idea myself. I mean, really, I am the queen of schedules that I don't follow, lists that I don't complete and diet plans that I can't stick to. But I am excellent at making those lists - especially for other people.
This should have been obvious to me. But I guess my brain has not been working at full speed since school ended and all of a sudden, when lunchtime rolled around, everyone looked at me. I was just going to have to some yogurt, but no, no one wanted to join me. They wanted a real lunch.
Anyway, I am way off topic here.
The point was that it took all of 30 seconds to make this kid a schedule and boy, did it work out well! He loved it, he checked the clock every once in a while to make sure he was on track and he stuck to it. In fact, he did not even complain when he read the schedule and realized that I had him down for three summer homework sessions a day!
I guess it really is all about structure for these kids. I forget that sometimes and I have to be better at remembering how important that is for to them.
Anyway, here is a peak at his schedule:
9-10am: play in the backyard (before it gets too hot)
10-10:15am - come inside, drink, have a snack and relax with mommy
10:15-10:30am - Hebrew reading summer work with mommy
10:30-11:15am - computer time
11:15-11:45 - math sumer work
11:45-12:15 pm - Wii Fit games
12:15-12:30pm - lunch with mommy
12:30-1:00 - quiet English summer homework reading
1-1:30pm - TV
1:30-2pm - board games with mommy
2-2:10pm - snack with mommy
2:10-3pm: free play/lego time with music
3pm - pick up other kids at camp
3:15pm-bedtime - play, fight, play outside, argue, play, fight some more with siblings
8:30pm - Mommy goes looking for a drink. Preferably on ice.
And there ya have it. Who knew reclaiming my sanity would be this simple?
Baking chocolate chip cookies hasn't been on the top of my list lately, what with the clean eating and everything. But the kids really needed an afternoon activity and with the rain, we couldn't play in the backyard.
Our go-to activity is generally baking, but I have been trying to hold them off because I don't want to eat it.
So we made these cookies instead.
Do you like our playdough cookies?
We used rolling pins, cookies cutters and we made chocolate chips to top them off.
And best of all, we didn't have to put the oven on and heat up the whole house.
And even better, after a some negotiating, the kids accepted apples for dessert - with chocolate chips on the side.
My kids don't really eat pasta. I know, I can hear you gasping from here. I can't even begin to count the number of times people have asked me, so what in the world do your kids eat then?
Actually, if I had a nickel for every time I'm asked that, we could be eating steak every night. But I digress.
I have been feeling extra lazy this week and so we have had scrambled eggs for dinner for a few nights in a row. I had been feeling vaguely guilty about it and so when I thought about defrosting some ground meat last night for meatballs and spaghetti, I forced myself to get up off the couch and take some out of the freezer.
In the light of day, however, the prospect of standing there and making the sauce and rolling the meatballs was beyond me. Even getting a pot for the pasta seemed like a lot of work on this rainy day that had my bed calling my name.
But I needed to make dinner and I knew I couldn't try and pass off cream cheese sandwiches for dinner because, well mostly because that's what the kids had for lunch but also, I really don't like when my six-year-old rolls his eyes at me. It makes me narrow my eyes back at him and that's not a very nice thing to do.
Standing in the kitchen with the ground meat looking at me, I pulled out the big frying pan and made taco meat. You can check out taco night here
. Tonight, though, will not be taco night because that involves cutting many vegetables and also having tacos in the house.
Tonight will be taco spaghetti night. Which brings me back to my original story - my kids don't love pasta. Two of them will eat elbows if there's really nothing else, one will eat spaghetti if there is cheese on it and the other won't touch it at all - except for angel hair pasta and only if it's covered in meatballs and sauce. I can usually get all of them to at least eat a few bites of angel hair pasta if it has meat sauce on it. Only problem is, angel hair pasta is a huge pain the neck. Huge. Because when angel hair pasta is poured into a colander and drained, it gets lost. Angel hair pasta is so thin, it slips right through the holes in the colander - and gets stuck. If it slipped right through, I'd be okay. I might lose a few pieces down the drain, but I would be okay with that. It's the pieces that slip through and then get stuck that really get me. They're impossible to get out no matter which way you turn the colander and no matter how many ways you try to push it through with a fork.
So I hesistated. I looked at the box of pasta for a while and then I thought, maybe I can line the colander with a paper towel and drain the pasta like that. So I did. And you know what? It worked. Not one piece of angel hair pasta escaped. I have beaten the pasta and I'm proud of it.
Just call me the lazy-person's problem solver.
Here's another couple of projects my kids brought home from school before Shavuot. It's customary to decorate the house with flowers before Shavuot, and since I neglected to purchase any flowers this year, these worked perfectly.
My first grader came home with sand art made in a baby food jar. Simple enough for him to do all by himself, which I really likes. And it was topped off by a few simple and yet not-so-easy-to-make-for-a-six-year-old-tissue-paper-flowers. A really good skill for him to have and one that I think he's mastered, so good for him!
My three year old came home with a similiar flower project. Her project had quite a few more steps - they painted wood sticks to use in forming the flowers and the nursery class did a lot more coloring rather than cutting. However, the major difference that I can see was that the nursery did not use colored sand to make the base of their flower project - they made colored sugar! So much fun!
You can see below that the kids layered the colored sugar in clear plastic drinking cups. It's a little hard to see, but after layering the sand, the kids inserted their popsicle stick and button flowers into the sugar. The next step was to squeeze a rather thick layer of glue over the colored sugar to seal it in. Green glitter was used to cover the glue and create grass.
I have never made colored sugar before but it sounded like so much fun. Not having any sugar in the house these days (that clean eating thing again) I couldn't play around with the idea. But I did do a little investigating and here's the how to on the colored sugar:
Pour some sugar into a resealable bag.
Add two drops of food coloring. You can always add more later to make a darker color.
And then shake it some more.
The sugar should be pretty now.
Open the bag to let the sugar dry out a little before crafting with it.
You can also use this sugar to decorate cookies - just remember that there is some not-too-good-for-you food coloring in it so use at your own discretion.
Repeat with other colors.
This sounds like so much fun - I totally plan to do this with the girls in the summer!
My three year brought this home from school the other day - and it's too cute. And too perfect for my house. We don't have pets. My kids don't like animals that are alive or that can touch them, lick them or look at them. So this little guy was almost too good to be true.
The little artist explained that her class painted milk jugs with orange paint, glued on the various pieces of the chicken's head and then planted the flower with oil.
Yeah, soil, mommy.
Her name's Chicken.
I think I always enjoy the simple projects the best - especially when the kids can do most of it themselves and then feel good about themselves.
A few things we learned about Chicken:
1. She is painted with washable paint so when you leave her to do her chicken thing on the front steps and it rains, she will start to, how do you say, get the runs.
2. Her eyes are stickers and when you touch them too much, they fall off. Also when you put them in your sister's hair, they don't stick back onto Chicken too easily.
Other than that, and the fact that Chicken now lives indoors and suns herself through a window, she is a lovely pet.
It's been a while. And I am not even sure where I have been or what I have been doing. No, that's not entirely true. I have been spending a lot of time immersing myself in the world of clean eating and trying to understand what is or is not permissible in this way of life. See? I didn't say diet, I said way of life. Cause it kind of needs to be. And yet, it's so so so so hard.
So far, I have been clean eating for several weeks now and have lost a measly pound. One pound. Pathetic. But I will say that I feel clearheaded and awake and alive - something that I have not felt in a very long time. I don't wake up with a headache anymore, I go through my day without that fuzzy feeling. It's been weeks since I have fallen asleep while putting the baby down for a nap or while getting the kids to bed at night. I used to fall asleep like that all the time. As in Every. Single. Day. And now, now I'm having my smoothie for breakfast, eating fruits, vegetables, quinoa, greek yogurt, almonds, salmon and other things like that all day long. And drinking tons of water. And still, it's just so darn hard.
I really wanted to have some chocolate ice cream last night. So I had some. Only a spoonfull, but I was still so mad at myself afterwards. It almost feels like you can't win.
But - I do have one skirt that fits now that did not fit at the end of April. So maybe it's not about the pounds per se, maybe it's just that smaller clothes fit, so something must be going right - even if the scale just won't budge at all.
Anyway, I did have a point here. It's coming up on a year since my grandmother passed away and a couple of my super-creative cousins have rallied the rest of us lazy relatives, and now we (they :) are putting together a book of recollections about my grandmother. Everyone was supposed to have had their submissions in by May 20th. I wrote mine, just forgot to send it in. No really. I did. It's been in my gmail drafts for ages.
It's about a nut cake (food. what else?) that my grandmother was famous for. I used to make it often years ago, but now that clean eating has swept through this house, I am thinking that anything with 3 sticks of margarine is no longer welcome here. So I won't be making this and taking pictures. But I also wouldn't refuse a piece should someone perhaps bake it and stop by with a piece. Just saying.
Here's the recipe, along with my (late) submission:
Food makes powerful memories.
This past Mother's Day, while driving, it hit me, probably for the first time, that I had no grandmothers left to call that day. This was it. A chapter of my life was over, a chapter that was still open last Mother's Day.
Last Mother's Day, I was lucky, I had it made. My mother, my aunt and my grandmother came to my house for brunch. I didn't go the regular route with lasagna or baked ziti. I made some weird stuff - focacia bread pizza, mushroom fritattas and pretend lemonade margaritas - and true to Bobby's Judy's style, she tasted everything without hesitation - because everything I always did was golden. I could do no wrong and whatever I decided to wear or cook or bake or make was amazing and exactly the right choice*.
I am having trouble remembering even one time that Bobby Judy came to visit without bringing food.
Especially tuna fish, which she apparently used her magic wand to make because I have never before and never since tasted such good tuna fish.
Bobby Judy did not leave me many recipes; she liked to cook from recipes in her head and really stopped experimenting or even making her usual for the last many years because she felt that steamed vegetables, cottage cheese and rice cakes were the way to go, just like the Start Fresh lady said. And if the Start Fresh lady said it, then well, you know, that was it.
To this day, I cannot steam cauliflower without feeling like I am back in her apartment.
But there is one recipe that I do have - one that we made together when I was young and one that I have made countless times since, anytime I need a fancy cake. It's easy, it's quick and it tastes like Bobby Judy's house and smells like her housecoats. What more can you ask for?
Bobby Judy's Nut Cake:
5 cups flour
2 egg yolks
2 ounces of yeast
5 tablespoons sugar
3 sticks of margarine
4 egg whites
1/2 pound of ground nuts
juice of one lemon
1 cup sugar
1 grated lemon peel
For the dough: Mix all the ingredients together in the bowl of a standing mixer. Mix on low until all the ingredients come together to form a ball of dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least an hour, or overnight.
For the filling: Beat the four egg whites until they make a snow. Fold in the rest of the ingredients.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Allow the dough to come to room temperature.
On a flour covered counter top, roll out the dough into a large rectangle.
Lay the dough on a clean dish towel.
Spread the filling on top of the dough.
Use the dish towel to roll up the dough and filling, jelly roll style.
Transfer to a parchment lined rimmed cookie sheet and bake for 1 hour or until golden brown. Allow the cake to cool and wrap it in foil to keep it fresh.
Best if stored in a Ziploc bag.
Does not need to be refrigerated.
*Except once. Early on in my marriage, I showed up at her house wearing a beret and she said, "yoy, that's an unattractive hat, it doesn't show off your beautiful face?" Was I insulted? Maybe a little. But she immediately ushered me out the door to a fancy hat store on "the avenue" so who was I to complain?