Back in Action!


Hope BraceletIt has been simply ages since my last post. So much has happened; some good, some not so great, but it all kept me from blogging my little heart out as I usually like to do. We had some health scares with my son…the initial reason for my absence. After working through that and getting the all-clear (no relapse – phew), I just got busy living life away from the computer.

It really did feel good not checking email and finding ways to fit in a full-blown photo-shoot each time I cleaned, or made a meal. I loved the lack of pressure…the blogging world continued to thrive, and I was not hurting anyone by checking out for a while.

Of course I missed the daily interactions between my blogging friends. I hope they will forgive me and let me get back into the game. It is strange to just not be there anymore. While I felt it was a much needed break, I did have pangs of guilt and certainly wanted to know what everyone was doing. (To be honest, I did check in on everyone via my phone, I just didn’t actively participate!)

So what, you may be asking, was I doing? I was spending LOTS of time with my kids. I was going out with friends, I was mentally recharging, I was being a Healthy, Working Mom….just not blogging about it. I really felt the blog was taking up what little time I had after work and at the weekends.

You may now have the question, what are you doing back? I understand this fully. I am not going to be back as much as I used to be. I am not going to spend every mealtime checking ingredients, or rushing back and forth to a kiddie event, trying to carve out more time to get my thoughts and ideas on paper. I don’t want to “blog my way through life” as I was doing. I literally blogged in my head as things were happening, rather than enjoying what was going on! Crazy huh? I will be relaying my discoveries related to organic and eco-friendly living, sharing the fun crafts I do with my kids, and letting you know what I made for meals…just not as often.

Superman SammyI have also been drawn back into the world of cancer. While this is a dark subject, it is also something I am looking at proactively. Sammy is cancer-free (thankfully the scare was just that…a scare and not relapse), and I do have more time to give back to others. Sadly, Sammy’s buddy “G” has relapsed (he’s only eight) and awaits a transplant.

My approach to all of this is to do something. I used to blog over at Superman Sammy just to get my angst and woes out. I still check in occasionally to update people. This blog was meant to be my “life after cancer” blog. It still is, but the two will be tied forever by an unseen but painfully real need for me to move forward but never forget. Anyway, I decided to create jewelry to sell in order to raise money to beat cancer to a pulp! We support The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and proceeds will go to them, and also to help me start up a project that I’ve been mulling over in my mind for a while. Sammy had t.shirts made with his name in the superman logo. He has been known as Superman Sammy since diagnosis, and the shirts can be seen all over the town where he goes to school. They were sold to raise money for The Danny Fund, a charity helping families with children suffering catastrophic illnesses. The orange Superman Sammy shirts are famous in our part of the world! The link above takes you to the side-show of Sammy’s infamous day-release from hospital to attend the fundraiser!

Recently, a little girl was diagnosed with a brain tumor and the mom who helped create the Superman Sammy shirts, had one made up for “S”. She sports her wonderful shirt all over the hospital where she also waits for surgeries and a transplant. The shirts seem to bring hope and courage to these young heroes. (I had one made for “G” and his family a while back for the Walk for the Cure.)

So I want to have a shirt made up for the children of CHAM, then Children’s Hospital at Montefiore where Sammy was treated. I want them to see their name in the Superman logo and feel special and recognized for their strength too. So, I’m making jewelry!

Running an Etsy shop is quite hilarious at this point. First of all I have to make the jewelry. I’m fairly good at that aspect of things, and Sammy has also designed the “Chunky Monkey” bracelet set that I wear almost everyday with pride. The funny part comes when I have to take the photographs. I am NOT a photographer and I stink at it. So I am now learning, via the Etsy tutorials no less, how to make my pictures look more “Come and buy me” than “Gosh, what is that?” I kid you not, I really need to work on this. So my newest challenge is born.

I like to learn new things. In fact, I do well when pushed to do something I am not entirely comfortable doing. Once I do get it right, watch out for many shameless plugs for my Etsy Shop, We Were But Stones. It is for a VERY good cause ūüôā Just don’t laugh at the awful photography…it will get better!

Memories Bring Joy


"Memories bring joy"
What an amazing day! I did not do anything spectacular, in fact it was quite a dull day on the surface. But despite the never-ending state testing and laborious task of getting my nails done for a meeting I’m about to attend, for some reason I hate it, I rediscover something exceedingly wonderful.

I read through some blogs as I waited I my car for the downpour of rain to stop. One of them talked about things to do with your family instead of watching tv. The usual list came up: go for a walk, read books, play games etc. An as a family, we really are not big on T.V. anyway.

What I did get from the article was a beautiful reminder of how special my time with my children is. I thought about how much we like to be together, actually enjoying one another’s company. We plan to go out together, exercise together, and family night is virtually sacred.

This day was amazing because I didn’t beat myself up about not being the best mom ( I could do that very easily) but instead, I sat alone reliving all the wonderful moments I’ve enjoyed with my family, playing a movie in my head, seeing the smiles and laughter as if I was actually there.

Who needs yoga, massage or a shrink? Just stop and daydream about your memories for a while. It is mightily refreshing!

The Benefits of Family Schedules


Time to make a volcano!

This week has been one of renewal: I finally went back to an exercise class, I set up my desk to ensure personal space for my writing and blogging. I played outside with the boys instead of insisting that homework take center stage (not that I would condone this often, but we needed to play together). We managed to share more family meals than usual (still not perfect), and I was available to supervise homework while cooking – somehow the planets aligned and it was successful! Best of all, I stopped to watch my kids doing things. I know that may sound strange to you all, but I have been so busy being busy, I sometimes neglected to enjoy the two reasons I am working hard in the first place. For example, I had found some time to blog. During this time, Peanut practiced his baseball skills in the yard. Normally, I would have valued my personal time and just continued blogging, but I did something else instead; I sat at my window and watched my son pitch, catch, hit, repeat…I loved seeing Peanut figure out how to throw the ball different ways. I noticed how tall he had become…the batting practice “thing” was finally the right height for him! I also realized he needed a haircut!

You may be thinking at this point just how bad I am at being a mother. Why on earth would this week seemed so special? I do spend time with the boys, and I notice them a great deal too. Being a working mom makes weekdays a little stressful; I am usually running around like a headless chicken, too busy catching up with housework, coveting a moment to myself, becoming “Mommy on a mission” with panic-stricken eyes if extra homework is assigned. Instead, this week I was much more “Mommy ain’t stressing over it” and yet things got done. The secret to this week: a schedule! Continue reading

Am I on Track with my Own Health?


It is time to check in with myself to see how i am doing with my project, A Better Me. The goals I set were doable:

1. Find a way to drag my butt out to a class of some kind…one that I will enjoy and keep doing.

2. Resume home-cooked meals at night rather than ordering in, cereal or quick-cook pizza

3. Actually take the vitamins I have in the cupboard!

4. Begin a schedule for keeping on top of the housework ‚Äď one that is realistic and includes help from the whole family

5. Drink more water ‚Äď five 8oz glasses. (And while I‚Äôm at it, water the plants that I KNOW are improving the air quality in my house)

6. GO TO BED AT A REASONABLE TIME EVERY NIGHT!!!

Continue reading

Broccoli with Oomph!


My kids actually eat broccoli, but they like it plain and boring. ¬†I like food with a bit more to it so I am trying out this recipe I found on Mrs. Green’s website. ¬†It will serve 4 and takes no longer than 15 minutes. ¬†Perfect for my working mom lifestyle! ¬†As a bonus, broccoli is packed with vitamins:

Nutrients in Broccoli
1.00 cup, raw (91.00 grams)
Nutrient%Daily Value
vitamin C 135.2%, vitamin K 115.5%, folate 14.3%, vitamin A 11.3%, manganese 9.5%, dietary fiber 9.4%, tryptophan 9.3%. potassium 8.2%, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) 8%, vitamin B2 (riboflavin) 6.4%, molybdenum 6%, phosphorus6%, vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) 5.2%, protein 5.1%, magnesium 4.7% calcium 4.2%, vitamin B1 (thiamin) 4%, iron3.6%, vitamin E 3.5%, selenium 3.2%, vitamin B3 (niacin) 2.8%
Calories (30)1%
Studies show that broccoli may help in the pre...

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Broccoli with Orange Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 2 oranges, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • black pepper to taste
  • 2 cups broccoli florets
Directions: 
Sauté garlic in butter for 1 minute. Add orange juice and pepper and boil for 2 minutes. Steam broccoli until crisp tender and serve with sauce.
I may amend the directions and saut√© the broccoli also. ¬†I prefer it’s texture and flavor, although steamed is the healthiest way to cook it.

Protein Breakfast


Breakfast is the most important meal of the day! I’m a firm believer, having seen the effects having no breakfast has on my students. ¬†But I also see ¬†the effects of different types of breakfasts too. ¬†Not being an expert on the subject, I was delighted to find this post which helped me understand more about how powerful food is in terms of fueling our bodies the right way.

The Following is taken from ADDitude, an online magazine/blog for people with ADD and ADHD

Research suggests that a good breakfast helps a child do better in school. A 1998 study, published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, showed that children who ate breakfast regularly had higher reading and math scores, lower levels ofdepression, anxiety, and hyperactivity, better school attendance, improved attention spans, and fewer behavior problems.

For children with ADHD, the menu matters, too. In a 1983 study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, researchers at George Washington University tested three breakfast types (high-carbohydrate, high-protein, and no breakfast at all) on 39 children with ADHD and 44 kids without the condition.

For the hyperactive children, performance on several tests, including a test for attention, was significantly worse with the high-carbohydrate breakfast, as compared with the scores of the children who ate the high-protein breakfast.

Maryanne discussed Steve’s breakfast problems with her doctor, and they developed some strategies. He suggested that Maryanne and Steve get up 15 minutes earlier, to give her more time to prepare breakfast, and advised that Steve take his medication with his meal rather than just after waking up, to delay the appetite suppression.

Finally, they discussed how to get more high-protein foods into her son’s diet. Their list included lean meats and poultry, eggs, unprocessed nuts and seeds, and low-fat milk or milk products, as well as complex carbohydrates, such as whole-grain cereals and bread and fresh fruits.

Here are some easy breakfasts that Maryanne put on Steve’s menu. Most can be eaten in the car on the way to school.

  • Natural peanut butter on whole-grain bread, with a dab of all-fruit jam.
  • Eggs; glass of orange juice. To save time, make hard-boiled or deviled eggs the night before.
  • Slice of whole-grain bread with a little whipped butter or margarine and a dab of all-fruit jam; low-fat milk.
  • Whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk; lean meat from last night‚Äôs dinner (pork chop, chicken); orange sections.
  • Plain yogurt with fresh fruit.
  • Grilled-cheese sandwich made with whole-grain bread and two-percent cheese; glass of orange juice.
  • Homemade instant breakfast shake or sausage patties (see recipes, left sidebar).
  • Mixed nuts; fruit; glass of low-fat milk.
I do not have children with ADHD. ¬†Yet I do try to provide protein as much as possible. ¬†The school mornings are difficult as we already get up at 5:30 in order to commute to school on time. ¬†Cereal is easy and the kids can get it themselves. ¬†Thankfully there are healthier cereal choices that let me feel a little less guilty as I count all the good things the kids are getting through the milk and grains with some fruit added, when I remind the kids to do so. ¬†(They don’t leap to include fruit by choice at breakfast, but thankfully eat plenty of it through the day.)
Weekends are much more relaxed and this working mom can enjoy a family breakfast packed with protein and a sense of smugness! ¬†Today we enjoyed eggs. ¬†My kids love eggs, but are fussy about how they are presented. ¬†Scrambled is the choice du jour and I got ‘cracking’ on a fun favorite. ¬†(Pun intended – sorry folks.)

My eggs: ¬†Please note, I don’t measure anything so I can’t give you specifics.

6 Organic eggs

Organic 2% milk

Coconut oil

Organic ham (Nature’s Promise from Stop and Shop)

Green onions

Organic kale or baby spinach (just a little kale as the kids hate it, but I can get away with more spinach)

Whole wheat toast with butter

I pre-chopped the ham, onions and kale or baby spinach. ¬†I often steam the kale/spinach¬†a little before hand so my kids don’t go all “icky on me”. ¬†Cooking eggs is one of the few times I use my non-stick pan. I add a little coconut oil to the pan. ¬†I beat the eggs and milk together, add to the pan and cook on low, stirring carefully and evenly. ¬† ¬†Adding all the chopped ingredients before the eggs ‘scramble’ helps them integrate into the mix better. ¬†Serve with whole wheat toast and butter.

Hubby also cooks eggs and he has his own version…variety is the spice of life. ¬†We then sit down together to eat, serving orange juice or water and my much needed coffee. ¬†The whole breakfast takes about ten minutes to make, is delicious, and nutritious and brings us together for some quality family time. ¬†Perfect!

Snow Day Activity – Terrarium


The snow has finally arrived in our town. ¬†Peanut and Button were chomping at the bit to go sledding, I had been scrambling to find where I “safely put away” the snow gear, and the kids got bored! ¬†While the snow was really heavy, and given Button has only recently been cleared for snow play by his doctors, I decided to give them an activity to do to take their mind off the excitement of going outside to hurl themselves down hills.

Today became Terrarium Day! ¬†I had been planning on creating one with the children eventually, and now was the perfect time. ¬†A terrarium is a container, usually glass or plastic that recreates an environment or habitat for plants or small creatures. ¬†We made a closed terrarium today, and we began by posing a question to the boys: “Do you think a plant will survive if we close up the container and never water it? ¬†This caused a prolonged debate over what was going to happen to the plant, including Button’s argument that it was cruel to kill a plant just to see what will happen. ¬†I was rather proud that he cared!

We finally formed a hypothesis. ¬†The plant needed water to survive. ¬†Peanut, having already studied the water cycle did think that condensation might lead to some kind of precipitation, but he didn’t quite know why it would happen without water being added. ¬†So I guess the hypothesis was that the plant was going to live…somehow, but no one knew why.

How to build the terrarium:

1.  Select a plastic or glass container Рwe used a plastic tub with a lid that sealed tight.  The container should be transparent.

2. Place pebbles at the bottom of the container Рthis helps drainage.  Course sand could be used too but we had a nice collection of pebbles from the beach that we could use.  Keep pebbles fairly small.

3. Place soil on top Рwe used potting soil that I had in the garage.  We are not going fancy, but there are some special soils if you are growing plants like cactus.

4. Carefully add the plant – you may want to use seeds but we started with a small plant. We used Golden Pothos which is easy to pick up in any garden store. ¬†It is supposed to be pretty hardy too…a bonus!

5. Arrangement and Ornaments – given more time, we might have had a variety of plants, a bigger container and some ornaments to adorn our terrarium. ¬†Given that I threw this activity together in a flash, we had what was on hand (the plant came from a neighbor who was growing the plant in her house), we were going more for the science experiment look then a display. ¬†(That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!)

Some, more advanced and less thrown together terrariums also include a layer of activated charcoal (available from any store selling aquarium supplies, as it helps filter the air.  Also a layer of Spaghnum Moss prevents the soil sinking down into the pebbles.  We had neither but, based on my attempt at this in my classroom, it should still work.
The final result was a sealed container, a little plant looking hopefully up at the boys, almost pleading to make it all work, and two kids just jumping to find out what was going to happen.  We created a quick data collection chart so we can observe the plant and the conditions inside the terrarium over the next week.  We then decided on a good location for our experiment:  the family room windowsill.  Now we just watch and wait.
What kind of learning experiences have you thrown together in a snap which have worked out successfully? ¬†Are there any projects you loved which may take more planning but are totally worth it? ¬†Let’s share some sanity savers for these cold months ahead!

Working Mom = Need for help!


Working Mom’s Tip:

Crazy day got the better of your dinner plans?  You have the fresh pasta with four cheeses, the tomato sauce (gravy to non-English folks I believe) is ready, and then you realize the sweet potatoes just did not make it into your grocery cart yesterday. No problem!  I used organic baby sweet potato tubs (which had been necessary for a while with Button during his illness), and they made a very quick and easy substitution for the pureed baked sweet potato I usually add to the tomato sauce for this dish.  Easy!

Going back to work after the holidays has certainly dented my schedule in terms of blogging, cooking, organizing, project making, exercising, and spending quality time with my family.   There have been so many studies both promoting the benefits working moms have on their families and blaming women in the workplace for a decrease in valuable parenting…yada, yada, yada.

I have no choice, I have to work or we will have to bring our kids up at my in-laws; I love them but we prefer to own our own house.  We would also have to curtail all the activities the kids do, and I may no longer have the option to buy organic food any longer.  So, I work in order to have these choices, I also lose out on many other things.  Thankfully, I love my job.

Let’s take cooking, for example.  You already know I am very happy to cheat my way through quick and easy dinners, providing they are nutritious and healthy.  Yet, even then, our shopping bill is through the roof.  I do intend to work harder at couponing in the near future, once I have mastered other things on my to do list.

Keeping up with the housework is another matter.  I mean well and make a plan, but I already get up at 5:30am, work all day, commute home, do homework, feed the family, walk the dog, and then have to work some more. (As a teacher I am lucky to have the flexibility to bring work home), but sometimes I find myself dragging my butt to the desk to work on lessons, reports, grading, or administrative stuff at 10 o’clock at night.  What dusting?  Cleaning the bathroom…when?  I know the laundry has been sitting there for three days, but there is only so much time in the day!!!

In order to work on getting the family back to normalcy after my son’s illness, I am now creating chores and a family philosophy: Helping out is part of family life.  With trepidation, I began this movement by asking the boys to take charge of the waste paper basket emptying.  This is to be their daily activity, along with a short dog-walk,  and they immediately set to work around the house.  In order to ensure all was carried out correctly,  I offered to give a demo lesson, but Peanut insisted he knew how to do it (why the #^!*@ didn’t he do it before then?) and so I sat back and listened.  It was like a scene from an old Laurel and Hardy movie.  Peanut was directing Button. Button was revolting against the dictatorship. Peanut was struggling with the need to have it done right and the desire to avoid beating up his brother, and I sat in merry amusement as the two finally worked out a system and then got the ball rolling.  They were very quick and successful around rest of the house.

English: Silhouettes of Stan Laurel and Oliver...

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Then came the ten-minute pick-up.  The idea is to have a ten-minute session each day where the boys pick up all their stuff and put it in the correct location.  The problem today, however, was that there was so much junk and unwanted stuff cramming cubbies and closets, that ten minutes was not going to cut it.

I still told the boys that they had to work for ten minutes but could continue for longer if they wanted to, as we were really beginning an organization project rather than just tidying up.  I was so proud of them as, over an hour later, they had sorted out the entire family room, tossed broken toys, placed unwanted items in a donation pile, and created peace and harmony on the shelves.  I let them decide how to do it apart from the odd guiding word when a Pez candy machine took all attention away from the job at hand.

Tomorrow we are going to do the same thing with the bedrooms.  One of the biggest jobs will be to sort through the gazillion books lining not only bookcases, but also stacked high in baskets, under beds, inside drawers, and overflowing into the bathroom; we love to read!  Many of these books need a new home: they are too young for the boys, although I know they want to keep some beloved early childhood books.

Monday, we will move on to the Legos.¬† My, what a task that will be!¬† I think I will save that for another time.¬† I know you only have so many hours in your day too ūüôā

I feel good about enlisting my ‚ÄúPeeps‚ÄĚ and getting some sense of organization and scheduling accomplished.¬† Baby steps allow a busy working mom to feel less overwhelmed with the myriad tasks facing her.¬† Adding a workforce is also key.¬† The boys are going to finally start receiving an allowance, as they will be earning it through additional chores as they come up; the bottom-line chores do not earn anything.

How old were your children when you started chores?  Do you give an allowance regardless of chores?  Do you have any other suggestions to help a busy working mom establish a great routine with her family? 

 

Children


Welcome to Company Coffee Girl Blog Hop.  I am getting to meet some wonderful bloggers through this blog and this is a great way to meet more.  Posts have been about all sorts of things so I decided to spend a moment (the time it takes to have a nice cup of coffee) to think about children.

Children are the greatest people on Earth. They speak from the heart, make no judgment about a person based on physical features, and have a knack of making me smile even at my darkest times.
Children don’t come with a handbook, which can lead to a number of issues with their upbringing and dealings in general. Despite every attempt at reading the Mommy Handbook, Parents Guide to Babies, How to Raise Kids who Love Themselves, etc…you could never find one book that actually gave you an answer to the particular question you had at the time….and there have been many questions!
Children grow and change.  Again…no handbook for this!  Children have their own point of view and you have NO idea where it came from….surely you made YOUR point of view very clear about respecting others and their differing opinions?  Why isn’t the message getting across like YOU want it to?  Why does your child insist on thinking and doing the opposite of what you want?  Oh yes, because you are trying to raise them  to think for themselves!  Now, where is that handbook?
Children are exhausting!  They can run faster and longer and with a much higher pitched squeal than you ever did.  They can function on minimal intake of nutritious food and need less sleep than those books we now store in the garage say they MUST have in order to be human!
Children also love to REALLY need to have the latest and greatest gadgety thingy that has just been advertised, just like all the others that now lay broken in the garage along with the handbooks!
But what children REALLY are cannot be put into words. ¬†The first smile, gummy and drool filled. ¬†The hand that fits so snuggly into yours as you walk along the beach collecting shells. ¬†The excitement of Christmas, the Tooth Fairy, the night before their birthday. ¬†The scraped knee and the knowledge that only YOU can really make it better. ¬†The kiss goodnight, sleep tight, mind the bedbugs don‚Äôt bite! ¬†The words that come from the person who loves you most in the world‚Ķ‚ÄĚI love you Mommy.‚ÄĚ ¬†And the knowledge that this little person means more to you than anything in the world as you utter, ‚ÄúI love you too!‚ÄĚ
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