Friday, October 26, 2012

Family Traditions: Pumpkin Patch

A favorite fall tradition is going to the pumpkin patch to get pumpkins for carving. Carving pumpkins is much more elaborate in my husband's family than it ever was in mine (I'll be sure to post pictures later), and it's a tradition we've picked up in our little family together. We're visiting my husband's family this weekend, so it's the perfect time to pick out and carve some pumpkins.

Step One: Hitch a Ride to the Pumpkin Patch

 Step Two: Survey the Field

Step Three: Pick the Perfect Pumpkin

Step Four: Take Pictures

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

What Would You Do?: Building Self-Esteem

Here's the scenario:

Playgroup. Three girls are your daughter's age (3 years old) and have been friends since they were old enough to play with other kids. You have noticed that your daughter is often left out of this group and she plays by herself or with a younger girl who is left out because of her age. Then one day at playgroup you look up just in time to see one girl point at your daughter and say, "We're not going to play with her!" And the other two follow suit.

What do you do? (Besides cry in the car on the way home even though your daughter doesn't.)

She has told me that some of the other girls aren't nice to her. I've asked her if she still wants to go to playgroup and she says yes. I've told her to play with the kids who are nice to her. But it breaks my heart. I know I can't stop other kids from being mean to her or excluding her, but what do I do to help her face these situations which come all too early?

I saw a quote recently that said something about filling up your child's bucket of self-esteem so full that no matter how many holes the world pokes in it, it will never be empty. But how do you do that?

Friday, October 19, 2012

Question of the Day: Motherhood

Someone asked me this question yesterday:

Is motherhood everything you expected it to be?

Which made me realize that either I didn't know what I expected it to be, or I forget what my expectations were.

I know I didn't expect to be a full time stay at home mom. With all my education and work toward getting a job, I thought I'd be working at least part time. But now that I'm in the midst of it, I'm incredibly grateful that I do not have to work and get to spend my days with my children, at least while they are small.

I don't know what I expected, but I never knew that my house would be so messy so much of the time. With kids this small, the clutter and the laundry simply never ends.

I couldn't have imagined how tired I'd be much of the time because staying up late to have fun with friends and roommates, or even to finish an assignment, doesn't even begin to introduce a body to the kind of exhaustion that comes with being woken up at night to take care of a baby.

I also couldn't imagine the intensity of my love for my children, or the amount of worrying I would do.

Motherhood is more exhausting, joyous, stressful, and amazing than I ever could have expected. You simply can't know until you do it.

What did you expect motherhood to be?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

What I'm Reading: Philippa Gregory

I just finished reading The Kingmaker's Daughter by Philippa Gregory. She has written many books, most of them are historical novels based on the lives of past British royalty. I've also read The Other Boleyn Girl (which was turned into movie) and The Lady of the Rivers.

Philippa Gregory is a historian and her books are well-researched. So they contain enough history to make me feel like I'm learning something. But they are entertaining enough to keep my tired mind's attention (unlike the history of Elizabeth I that I've been in the middle of reading for quite some time now). And they feature strong women, even if these women often find themselves powerless in a man's world. They make me grateful to live today and to know that my husband isn't considering getting rid of me because I've only given him daughters.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Pumpkin Season

I love anything made with pumpkin. It makes everything moist and delicious. And it's often paired with cinnamon and ginger and other warm spices that I love.

My passion for pumpkin started with making homemade pumpkin puree for baby food when my first daughter was a baby. It turned into making pumpkin muffins for her as a picky toddler who would eat little else. And it’s continued in the rest of my cooking. In the fall I make homemade pumpkin puree and freeze it. And every time I go to the store, I buy a few cans of pumpkin to stock up for the rest of the year. I had one can left when the holiday baking displays started popping up.

I used to make pumpkin muffins from scratch for my daughter, but when I was expecting my second child, I started making an easier recipe. She likes them just as much and they’re a little healthier, so I’ve kept it up even as I have more time. Here it is, take notes because it’s complicated:

15 oz. can of pumpkin (I’ve tried a few brands and I like Libby’s best)
1 box spice cake mix (any brand will work, but Duncan Hines is recommended)

Combine ingredients. Bake at 350. It will take about 10 minutes for mini muffins and 15 – 20 minutes for regular muffins. Test doneness with a toothpick. You can add chocolate chips if you’d like. Mini chips means you can use less but still have chocolate in every bite.

I’ve seen this method used with chocolate cake mix, but spice cake keeps it more pumpkiny, which I like.

Here are a few of my other favorite pumpkin recipes:

Homemade Pumpkin Puree Tutorial (this is what started it all for me)

Pumpkin Gingersnaps (not just my favorite pumpkin cookie, my favorite cookie period)

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies (most pumpkin chocolate chip cookies are cakey, these are chewy and reminiscent of a regular chocolate chip cookie)

Pumpkin Alfredo (a savory way to use up that last bit of pumpkin you didn't use in the cookies)

And there are ever more delicious pumpkin recipes to try out. I loved pumpkin breads and pumpkin pancakes, but have yet to try one that stands out above the rest. I made the Pumpkin Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake yesterday, and everyone loved it. To keep track of all the pumpkin recipes I want to eventually try, I have a Pumpkin Board on Pinterest.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Kid Kitchen Craft: Soap Clouds

A few months ago I saw a post on one of my favorite blogs about making Soap Clouds. Click on the link for more details, but basically you microwave a bar of Ivory soap and it turns into a big mass of soap. I wanted to do it with my daughter sometime and decided to do it today while her three cousins were visiting.

It was a hit for all the kids from age three to age eleven. They thought it was so cool to watch the soap get bigger and bigger in the microwave. The downside was with how small my microwave is, I stopped it before it got as big as it probably could have. And when I took it out, it deflated right away. I don't know if that was because my soap was old or because I stopped it early. The soap that was still on the waxed paper was hot, so be careful!

We put the soap cloud in a bowl and the girls smashed it into little crumbles. Then we mixed it with a little warm water and they molded their own soaps. The cousins said they couldn't wait to get home and make more. And guess what Grandma? You use the right kind of soap, so watch your stash, it might be raided for some kitchen crafts.

Next time I do it with my three year old, I would probably just let her take the soap cloud into the tub and play with it.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


With baby #1 I was completely neurotic. I read every book and article and knew exactly what she should be doing at every stage. I worried that I was doing something wrong if she wasn't sleeping through the night by such and such an age. I was meticulous about introducing solids and always knew what she was allowed to eat and when.

With baby #2, I'm only slightly neurotic. (I still occasionally check to make sure she's still breathing while she sleeps, but not as much as I did with #1.) I have no idea what the books say she should be doing. Sometimes I look in #1's scrapbook to compare when they got their first tooth or started sitting up, but as a point of interest, not because I'm worried that #2 isn't on track. I don't worry about what the books say she should be doing and adapt my mothering to what works for her and keeps me the most sane.

I've still tried to be careful about introducing new foods because food allergies run in the family. She had a reaction to cantaloupe and so I won't be giving it to her again till it's in season again (I'm trying to move our family toward eating seasonally, but that's another story).

But with #2, even the best of intentions are sometimes altered by #1. There are a few things I don't want my baby to eat until she's one year old. Cow's milk, honey, and chocolate. The other day #2 (who isn't quite 10 months old) was crying while I changed the laundry. Suddenly, she was happy without me having to intervene. The reason: #1 was sharing her honey graham crackers and milk. And in keeping with my more relaxed attitude, I just said oh well and asked #1 not to share those things again. But she probably will. And the baby will survive. Plus I think it's more important that my daughters learn to share and play together nicely.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Reminder to Myself

The next time I spend a few days extremely tired and wondering if I'm coming down with something: slow down. Take a nap, stop trying to get a bunch of stuff done and go a million places. Because you are probably right and you will get sick. 

And then you will have to spend a few days in an incredibly messy house and not able to do anything beyond getting your girl crackers and changing your baby's diaper. (And to be honest, one of those days was spent crying every time I had to get up to do those simple things, partly due to the high fever I had and partly due to the fact that I stepped on Legos every time I got up.) 

There ought to be a rule that moms of young kids cannot get sick, but we get sick anyway. So take care of yourself so that you can keep taking care of others.

P.S. My husband stayed home today and with his help I was able to rest more and definitely feel like I'm on the mend now. I also drank a ton of warm wassail which felt amazing on my throat even if it did seem incongruous with the 80 degree day we had yesterday.