Brett’s First 5k Race

Running is really becoming a family addiction.  I ran my second marathon on May 4th, and last weekend, Brett ran his first 5k race.  He has been training hard, and he cooked down the road!

Brett after race Bretts timeNext race stop for us is a half marathon, with Brett and I doing the relay (he’ll run the bottom half, and I’ll stick with him,)  and Shandy and Eden probably leaving me in the dust!  Running is such a wonderful way to clear the mind and make your body healthy.  I am glad it’s becoming a family activity.

Do you run races?  Do you run with your family?  Leave me a comment below.


Why I Believe in Dessert

pecan pie

At a women’s conference recently, I listened to the Food Nanny explain how to have home cooked meals for your family most nights of the week.  While that is a situation I currently have well under control, I was interested in the things she said.  Even more so, I appreciated her statement that dessert was important because sweet smells coming out of the kitchen really build family bonds.  I personally am a firm believer in desserts.  Yes, I know we shouldn’t reward/punish/etc., ourselves or our children with food.  But if you divorce food from the pleasure of eating, what culture are you achieving?  After all, humans enjoy food.  Cars don’t savor gasoline — food is more than fuel.  Here are a few reasons I believe in dessert:

1.  Dessert is a great way to convince even reluctant teenagers to socialize with their family.  Even if they aren’t anxious to turn off their video game for an instant, it’s really hard to eat cake and ice cream and hold a game controller.  All members of the family come running to eat dessert, and this leads to (accidental) socialization.

2.  Desserts convince reluctant cooks to step into the kitchen.  Max wasn’t going to learn to cook — until he discovered that his “specialty” was going to be chocolate chip Cowboy Cookies.  Then he was eager to put on his apron.  Many desserts– cookies, cakes and quick breads — are easy ways with an instant reward to lure someone who is reluctant to learn cooking skills into the kitchen.

3.  Making someone’s favorite dessert can cheer them up like nothing else.  After a long, disappointing day at a concerto competition a few weeks ago, Eden and I came home and made homemade doughnuts.  We overdosed on sugar in a way we hadn’t done for a long time.  We felt better.  Our home was a warm, safe haven where we are capable, happy and appreciated.  A favorite dessert can celebrate an achievement or help mourn a loss, and either way, when it is homemade, it rarely leads to the kind of chronic overindulgence that typifies the American diet.  After all, who has time to make homemade doughnuts daily?  But as a splurge toward happiness, it really works.

Do you think dessert is an important part of your family life?  How often do you make dessert for your family?  Please leave me a comment below.

Snacking and the Homeschool Family (How to Feed the Horde)

egg quesadilla

For those of you who, like me, are home with the kids all the time, you know that their appetites are bottomless.  After breakfast, and second breakfast, and lunch, and afternoon snack, and dinner and dessert, you may feel like you never get out of the kitchen!  Although I love to bake, I have nutritional qualms about feeding cookies and sweets for all the snacks my family wants during the week.  This started me working on some snack ideas which are not sweets, but would contribute to a positive nutritious balance to the day’s meals.

While I enjoy a bell pepper or a sweet potato for a snack, that is not something that flies for the kids.  They usually eat either fresh or home-canned fruit (peaches, pears or apricots) for one snack per day.  They complain if that is ALL there is for snack in the house, though.  While snacks like  crackers and peanut butter or popcorn are okay occasionally, I usually prefer to save the peanut butter for lunch (!) and crackers always seem like a waste of money to me.  There are enough cooks in our house to make cookies every day, but that could hardly be said to be nutritious.

Here are some quick foods we have eaten this week for snack.  Try out these “regular” foods at snack time, and see how they leave your horde feeling.

1.  Egg “quesadillas”.  This is not truly a quesadilla, since queso implies cheese.  Instead, I melt a tiny bit of butter in a skillet, add a scrambled egg, and swirl to spread.

scrambled eggAs the egg begins to set on the bottom, top it with a corn tortilla and another tiny pat of butter.  After about 30 seconds to 1 minute, flip the egg over so the tortilla side is down.  Allow to fry for another 30 seconds or so, until the egg is mostly cooked.  Fold in half.

folded egg quesadilla

Allow to brown slightly on each side before serving.  This would also work with a little cheese sprinkled over the egg so that you could have a real “quesadilla.”  We sometimes eat these for breakfast or lunch, 2 or 3 at a time.  Just one makes a nice quick mid-morning snack with a good protein boost to stave off hunger pangs.

2.  Tuna salad.  Lucy loves tuna.  When we make tuna sandwiches, she often asks for some more tuna salad “on the side.”  With this in mind, I mixed up a can of tuna with a little mayo, salt and homemade zucchini relish.  She ate the whole thing with gusto.  Another snack problem solved.

lulu eating tuna

3. Hard boiled eggs or egg salad.  This is another idea we often reserve for lunch, but everyone likes these by themselves or with a slice of bread.

Some other snack ideas I am exploring:  homemade pudding (tapioca, anyone?), fresh bread, homemade tortillas.  Obviously, I must love to cook!  What are some of your favorite ideas for snacky kids?  Please leave a comment below.

Candles in the Dark

I would enjoy winter more, even the snow, if it didn’t include so many dark hours.  This is one way we brought some light into our home this week — after breakfast!

candle and fruit bowl

candles with fruit bowl

Candles and a wood fire — just trying to stay warm until summer!  Hope you’re having a good, warm day and a happy family wherever you are.



Risk Taking 101 for Parents of Homeschoolers

Yes, that is my 9 year old in that picture.  Yes, it is high and steep.  Yes, I am brave (and she is, too.)  Managed risk taking is a skill we value in our family.  Since I took this picture, and began writing this post, so much has happened that saddens me to think about the huge risks we take every day, usually just by doing things we take for granted.  We risk when we get into our automobiles, and yet we rarely think that this could be our last ride.  Parents risk every day when they wave goodbye to their children at the door of the schoolroom.  So if we live with so much risk, why would we encourage our children to be risk takers?

  • Risk takers enjoy life more.  A person who cautiously doesn’t dare to try a new sport, learn a new task or climb a little higher doesn’t get the thrill of achieving his goal and seeing the view from on top.  You cannot achieve if you do not start.  Just because you start, doesn’t guarantee achievement, but non-starters never achieve.
  • Risk takers are high achievers.  Those who have risked and achieved goals in the past have more confidence toward the next challenge.  They are able to reach higher and gain more.
  • Risk takers find fulfillment.  Knowing that you did something you set out to do leads to fulfillment and happiness.

How can we help our children to be risk takers, but in a controlled, managed way?

  • Help your children evaluate the risk.  Is the risk is a tumble down a sandstone hill, as shown in the picture above, or is it a life-threatening chance?  What are the benefits to be gained?  If the benefits outweigh the risks, why not take the chance?  Even very young children can be taught to think in this way, and choose which risks are worth taking.
  • Ask your child about how he feels while taking the risk.  As he climbs higher on the jungle gym, don’t just demand that he descend immediately.  Ask if he feels safe.  Be there to assist if necessary, and help him to be careful, but don’t insist on his complying with your feeling of safety.
  • Sometimes it’s better not to look.  I have a 16 year old that just received his first driver’s license.  While he has driven many hours with me beside him in the car, I am better able to cope with his driving when I am not alongside him.  I am not sure I even make him safer by “co-piloting” the vehicle.  After all, when he cannot rely on me for a second opinion, he is forced to rely on his own sense of caution.  Our children need to be able to feel safe inside their own bodies and with their own decisions, and sometimes this involves a parent turning a blind eye.

While none of us can guarantee safety throughout our lives or our children’s lives, we can live each day to its fullest, living confidently and happily in the present.

Is risk taking something you encourage for your family?  How do you cope with the emotions brought on by letting go? Please leave me a comment below.

Planning a Family Style October Unprocessed

October Unprocessed 2012

Maybe you still remember that we tried to do October Unprocessed for a week last year, and by the end of the week were having such sugar fits that we fell off the wagon big time.  Well, this year we’re up for a new challenge.  We’re trying for the week again, and this time I’m making some good plans to keep our sweet tooth satisfied without sacrificing real food eating.

Here’s our menu plan for the week.  Yes, it is a three-meals-a-day at home meal plan, and I’m hoping to have leftovers for Daddy to take to work.

Monday:  bulgur as hot cereal with honey and  butter (this is a common breakfast around here, no big change), egg salad with homemade mayo on homemade wheat bread (I often make homemade mayo, and the bread is left over from Lucy’s last breadmaking project.)  Dinner will be a challenge, because we will be out of the house most of the day.  I’m thinking some roasted tomato sauce from the freezer with whole wheat pasta and baked delicata squash.

Tuesday:  baked oatmeal with apples using honey as sweetener, egg quesadillas on corn tortillas.  Dinner:  Eden is in charge of dinner, and she will be making a riff on chicken pot pie using fresh vegetables, leftover roast chicken, and topping the mixture with homemade whole wheat biscuits– Yum!

Wednesday:  Polenta as hot cereal and maple syrup for sweetener (another common breakfast, although we usually use sugar syrup made with mapleine — real maple syrup is a splurge for our family.)  Lunch will be leftovers from Monday and Tuesday dinners, and during the day on Wednesday I will be making whole wheat hamburger buns for our meal on Thursday.  Dinner on Wednesday will be Indian spiced lentils and rice with naan.  I need to investigate our yogurt and decide if I can use the kind of yogurt I usually buy, or if I need to make my own for this meal.

Thursday:  Eggs and toast (are you noticing an egg theme?  This is an easily available real food for us. Ours are even local and organic!)  I will grind some peanut butter when I go to the natural foods store today so that we can have our favorite pb&j for lunch tomorrow.  Thursday’s lunch will be leftover lentils and rice.  Brett is making hamburgers for dinner on Thursday, with homemade buns and mayo.  I also think we will be having baked sweet potato fries.

Friday:  Bulgur or cracked wheat cereal again today.  We usually eat more oatmeal than bulgur, but none of us like oatmeal without brown sugar, so we’re skipping it this week.  For lunch we will have a pb&j without the j, using a banana instead for our real foods week.  Dinner will be roasted chicken with mashed potatoes and roasted beets fresh from our garden.

Saturday:  Chicken in a basket for breakfast after my long run (eggs cooked in a hole in the toast, in case you wondered!)  We’ll probably have leftovers or pb& banana again for a quick lunch, because Saturday and Sunday are usually big evening meal days.  I will make pitas in the afternoon, and Shandy and I will work together to make falafel for dinner.

Sunday:  Apple pan dowdy made with honey sweetened apples and whole wheat dough.  Only one main meal on Sunday, probably roasted pumpkin garlic lasagna or butternut squash ravioli.  It will be a ton of work, but so delicious.

Some compromises I’ve decided to make:

  • What happens away from home doesn’t count.  Our family usually eats 3 meals together 7 days a week at home.  If a teenager escapes for a soda, I am going to look the other direction.
  • Coffee is probably processed, and it will have to escape the ban.  Shandy can’t live without it.  However, he has totally weaned himself off of powdered creamer since last year, so that’s one thing we don’t have to worry about — and he says he’ll drink coffee with honey for the duration.
  • Remembering that this is only a week, but the lessons learned can last much longer than that, I will be looking for small changes we can make continuing toward a less processed normal diet.

Are your plans made for October Unprocessed?  Are you excited and a little scared?  Let me know in your comments below.

Summer Must Do: Snow Cones

The kids are taking a bluegrass music workshop that is occupying a LOT of time.  As we drive home in the hot car (no air conditioning this summer in the ‘burb,) we are taking advantage of a little extra fun time.  After all, buying a snow cone is cheaper than fixing the air conditioning, right?



And then again, some of us just dive right into our ice.

I’m hoping it’s the simple things in life that build up to good memories of a happy childhood.  I know they make good memories of happy parenthood.

What are some of the simple, fun things you consider a requirement  during the summer?  Please leave me a comment.


Celebrate your Teenagers: Eden’s First Half Marathon

Eden ran her first half marathon this weekend.  I ran beside her to pace her and encourage her, but mostly I just marveled at the determination and strength of this marvelous young woman who is growing up in my home.

She ran so strong she was able to race me through the finishing chute — and win!  She finished in 2:13, and won her age group.

My experience this weekend makes me want to revisit again everyone who told me (and still tells me) to dread having teenagers.  If I could even count how many people have told me the horrendousness of raising teenagers, and how sorry I am going to be to have 4 in the house at one time!  Although I only have two so far, I really don’t know how families survive without teenagers.  It’s having an extra best friend, an extra pair of hands, and an extra smile around the house.  It’s wonderful.  Whether you are raising little ones or teenagers, work hard together and enjoy your time together.  It is precious.

Do you have teenagers?  How do you respond when someone starts telling you about how difficult it is to raise teenagers?  (My first response is, “Not in my house!”)  Hope you are having a great week as well.

Say “Yes” to Mess

When we built our house seven years ago, one of the stipulations I put on moving was that we would have a giant sand pile for the kids.  Not a sand box, but a pile.  All my childhood, my nearby cousins had a huge sand pile with boulders in their backyard, and I was always jealous of the fun they could have in that sand pile–they made rivers, reservoirs and mountains, cities, towns and roads.  I wanted some of that same experience for my own kids.  We couldn’t bring in boulders, but we put an entire dump truck load of fine, clean sand in the back yard.

Several family members were astonished by the presence of sand in my backyard.  They were surprised that someone as picky about housekeeping as I am (or as they perceive me to be) would want a sand pile.  But I was adamant, and it has been a wonderful addition to my kids’ outdoor time.  Yes, they do have to be stopped at the back door and brushed off, and there probably is a half ton of sand under my living room carpet right now (the other half ton is still out there.)  But innumerable hours have been spent building and playing in the sand.

However, this summer I have hesitated to let my kids turn on the water faucet and play in the sand.  Yes, it was the mess factor.  I remember how much fun they have, and then the changing clothes and hosing off that is involved afterwards.  But today I just sucked it up and let them play in the sand with water.

They made cement.

They dug a pond.  (The technical name for this foamy stuff is “Indian soap.”  Don’t ask how we know.)

And they cleaned up after themselves!  Who knew that seven and nine is old enough to clean up after themselves!  Thank goodness I said yes to the mess.

Is it easy for you to say yes to mess?  What are the messy projects your kids are doing this summer?  Please leave me a comment.

One-on-One — Stealing “Dates” with Kids

I bet you can’t guess what we like to do in the summer time!  The big kids had piano lessons at the same time this week, so Max and I snuck out for an ice cream date all by ourselves.  Eden and I took a similar opportunity last week.  I love to spend some time just one-on-one with my kids.  They are such unique people, and growing up so fast!  Although I love watching them interact with each other, I love being with each of them individually even more.  The conversations we have are valuable, and the silences are priceless.

In our family, we call it a date, and Shandy and I each plan one specific time each month to take one of the kids out, but these stolen moments are nearly sweeter.  Do you plan or steal “alone time” with your kids?  What do you like to do during those times?  Please leave me a comment.