Sunday, February 26, 2012

Selective Independitis

Do your children ever show symptoms of Selective Independitis? 

OK, I made that up.  I'm just noticing that sometimes my children are completely dependent on me for survival, showing no signs of capable behavior.  Other times they surprise me with how much they can do without any supervision at all.

Take this week for example.  Usually I make my kids breakfast in the mornings.  One morning I was running late for a meeting and I asked Katherine if she could please make her own bowl of cereal.  I kid you not-- this is how she responded:

"I don't know how."

When I pressed her for more information (With which part do you need further instruction--the cereal or the milk?) she came up with a list of rational arguments that makes me think she might take after her Granddaddy and become a lawyer. 

"Well, first of all, you keep the bowls up too high out of my reach.  I'd have to drag a chair over and that's not very safe.  Then the milk is up high too.  When the gallon jug is really full, it is hard to pour and I might spill it over the counter.  It would be so much faster and easier if you did it for me."

Sigh.  Sometimes I am not a good parent.  According to current articles, completing difficult tasks builds self esteem in children.  These same articles admonish parents: Don't do it for them--just check and help.  Great predictors of a happy future are perseverance and resiliency.  A good parent would have taken the time to properly teach Katherine how to fix her own breakfast.  I was a parent in a hurry.  And she was right.  It was easier to do it myself.

"Here are your Cheerios, honey.  And here's a side of freshly sliced bananas."

Today this same child wanders in to find my head buried in our filing cabinet where I am searching for tax information. 

"Mom, can we bake a cake from scratch?" she asks.

"Hmmm, sure sometime," I respond, distracted.

"How about right now?"

"Now I'm in the middle of something."

"Well can I do it myself?"

"OK, thanks." I nod at her, as I successfully find the car tax paperwork.  It was under CAR instead of TAX. Who would have thought??

After more digging around in the filing cabinet, I finally find all the important paperwork I need for our taxes.  That's when I become aware of sounds coming from the kitchen.

"Katherine, what are you doing?"

"Making a cake."

"A cake??"

"Well, you said I could."

And so she was.  She found a recipe, gathered the ingredients and read the directions.  She had the oven preheated, the dry ingredients mixed and was in the middle of melting butter and cocoa in a saucepan when I came in.  She got the cake in the oven all by herself and made the icing from scratch too.  Now, here's the funny thing.  Paul, Jack and I all gave up dessert for Lent while Katherine chose a different goal.  Not only did Katherine make the whole cake independently, I guess she also gets to eat it independently.  After she cleans up the gigantic mess she made, of course.  Look at my stove!

"Mom, thanks for letting me make my own cake," she says, licking her lips.  "It's delicious." 

Yes, I let my daughter take over the kitchen for the afternoon to make a cake that I can't even eat.  Sometimes I am a very good parent. 

Recipe for Katherine's Chocolate Lent Cake
Cooking Spray
2 t. all-purpose flour
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 t. baking soda
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. salt
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup half and half
1 t. vanilla
2 eggs

6 T butter
1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
2 t. vanilla
optional 1/4 cup toasted pecans

1. Preheat oven to 375
2. Coat 9 x 13 baking pan with cooking spray; dust with 2 t. flour.
3. Combine flour through salt.  Stir with whisk.
4. Combine water, butter and cocoa in small saucepan, stirring frequently until mixture boils.
5. Remove from heat, pour into flour mixture.  Beat with mixer until well blended. 
6. Add half and half, vanilla and eggs, beat well.
7. Pour batter into pan and bake for 22 minutes until wooden pick comes out clean.
8. To make icing, bring butter, milk and cocoa to a boil.  Remove from heat and stir in sugar and vanilla. 
9. Spread icing over hot cake.  Cool Completely.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Pay Me!

The author of this week's post is by a guest blogger: Katherine 

                                                             Pay Me!!!
Imagine a world full of happy, cheerful, little children. Isn’t it a wonderful thought? Well soon that thought could be reality! If children were to get paid for getting good report cards, they would be so happy.  Plus, kids need the money and the motivation.  And shouldn’t kids get sort of reward for all the hard work they have been doing? I think so.
Getting paid for a good report card provides lots of motivation. Kids like to earn money, and they like to spend money. If they try super hard to get good report cards, their school work will be better. If the school work of a child is improved, they can eventually get in to a great college. If a child gets in to a great college, they will end up getting a great job and be happy.
Kids really need and want the money they would get paid for a good report card. Adults already get paid for doing their jobs.  Why not try paying the kid for once? Kids also need to buy presents for their relatives in the holiday season, and getting paid for good report cards would give them the money to do that.  On top of all that, kids could use their report card money to just buy stuff in general.  Hurray!
Kids work just as hard as adults. In fact, adults actually get the advantage. Adults are older, and more mature than children. They are able to work easier and faster. It’s just not fair to all those kids out there!!!
Kids should be rewarded for all the hard work they do. If kids all get great report cards, they should get paid a little. Maybe 2 dollars for every A, and 1 dollar for every B. That seems fair to me, and it’s a way to motivate kids and give money. Kids really deserve some money every now and then.
Were you persuaded? 
Coincidentally, I received both children's report cards shortly after this essay was written. 
Katherine earned 8 A's and 3 B's.  Jack earned 5 A's and 2 B's. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Photo Op

I love taking pictures.   Every year I enjoy piecing together a scrapbook of our memories.  Usually the pictures from January are snow-filled adventures.  With the lack of snow this year, I realized my camera was getting dusty.  So here are some pictures from an ordinary weekend at our house. 

Friday night: Family movie night.  We watched Prince of Persia but I don't recommend it.  It was long with not enough plot and too many "action" scenes:  people jumping off buildings and chasing each other.  The best part snuggling up in our pjs and making fun of the filming.  "Oh look, more jumping off buildings." "Oh, look, more chasing." 

At one point, our DVD player froze and we wasted too much time fiddling around trying to make it work.  We finally gave up and skipped one scene altogether.  Apparently, it was a pivotal peak in the action.  So, if you already suffered through Prince of Persia, let me know what happened in scene 19.  Um, never mind.  I don't actually care.
Saturday: No snow yet, but this weekend we had a real cold snap with lots of wind.  The perfect excuse to stay inside and eat a lot of cookies.  Katherine sold 315 boxes of Girl Scout cookies this year and they have arrived.  We spent part of the weekend sorting orders for delivery. 

One of Jack's Christmas presents this year was a puzzle.  The front of the box looked like this:

When we dumped the 1000 pieces out onto the kitchen table, we soon realized the puzzle did not match the box.  At all.  Hmmm.  It appears to be some sort of Mediterranean scene with colorful houses, cliffs and water.  After diligent perseverance, Jack celebrated by putting in the final 997th piece.  Along the way it seems that a few pieces were knocked to the floor.  Maybe they'll turn up.  Maybe Tatum ate them. 

Sunday: February 14 is fast approaching and Katherine loves holidays.  She invited some friends over for a Valentine themed cookie exchange and party.  She cleaned up the basement, baked cookies and decorated with red streamers.  Look at all the cookies!

 Bonus: At Sunday morning's church service, they made an announcement about a few leftover Christmas flowers up for grabs.  As we all know, Katherine loves useful, free stuff!  See our new festive Valentine's poinsettias in the background of the next picture.

Some weekends are extraordinary.  Some weekends are just extra ordinary.   This weekend I reminded myself that I don't have to wait for the big events in life to pull out my camera.  Life is always a photo op.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

We Want A Snow Day!

Just another rainy Thursday.  It is mid-February and we are having a mild winter.  Don't get me wrong, I LIKE mild winters.  60 degree days in January are just my style.  I don't like frigid temperatures.  Snow means scraping my windshield.  Snow means wet clothes and cold fingers.  Snow means my hallway is littered with piles of boots, mittens and odd socks. 

And yet.  A snow day would be nice.  An unexpected day off where we can sleep in, suspend our regular schedule and stay home to play.  Our school has two "extra" days built in for weather.  My kids reeeeally want to take advantage of them.  Since the climate is not cooperating, they are taking matters into their own hands. 

Do you practice any snow-bringing rituals in your house?  When the weather forecast talks of snow, my kids both sleep with a spoon under their pillow.  They also have been known to turn their pajamas inside out and throw ice cubes out the window.  (Katherine told me the old way was to flush ice cubes down the toilet but nowadays that wastes water when you flush.  Even Jack Frost is going green!)  At school, the third grade teacher teaches her students a Snow Dance.  They all sing together:


You get the idea.  But it’s really the dance that’s key:  during the snow-chicky-wa-wa, you do the Egyptian dance move, and switch sides for each new line of the song.  I'm picturing a class full of 8 year olds channelling their inner Steve Martin.   Now, Ms. B tells her students to be careful with this powerful dance--a few years ago the whole class did it and we got Snowmageddon and didn't go to school for two weeks.  Then we had to make up time in the summer and that school year lasted until about the 4th of July.  So, if you try it, use it wisely. ;)

Yes, I'm ready for a little winter weather.  The world seems peaceful and pristine waking up to a freshly fallen snow.  The shock of cold air hits my lungs; the blinding light of the sun reflects off a shimmering white blanket.  As the world awakes, the neighborhood camaraderie begins:  shoveling, waving, snowball fights.   A snowman, a snow couch, sledding together.  Later, a bonfire in the cul-de-sac, hot chocolate with marshmallows. 

I can appreciate the advantages of a good snow as long as it doesn't disrupt my schedule for too long.  Just in case... I wonder if Ms. B knows of a Melting Dance too.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Secrets Revealed

Everyone has secrets.  Today I have some confessions to make.
Years ago my grandfather had an a coworker "Harry" who would get drunk at work.  He showed up sober every morning but somehow during the day he would find access to alcohol.  No one could figure out where he was getting it.  Finally, my grandfather asked him where he hid his secret stash.  Harry leaned in real close and whispered, "Can you keep a secret?"
"Yes," Grandpa whispered back, leaning in closer. 
"Well, so can I," Harry responded.  Then he leaned back, crossed his arms and said no more.

Keeping a secret can be a heavy burden so I have decided to come clean and confess about my own secret stash:

Sometimes I buy peanut M & Ms and I do not share them with my family.

Even worse--it's premeditated.  That's right.  I plan my trip to the grocery store when no one is around.  Then I furtively sneak the brilliant gold bag into the house.  Note: Bright yellow is an unfortunate color choice to try to camouflage.

For a long time, I hid my secret stash in the flour canister on the kitchen counter.  Then, one day, I was discovered.  No one was really looking for flour.  It was a fluke.  I knew I had to be smarter.  So when I changed the location of my secret stash, I loaded up the flour canister with DumDum lollipops.  A decoy secret stash--what a clever move on my part.  Meanwhile, the peanut M & Ms were in a little-used cabinet full of serving pieces.  That is, until one day preparing for dinner guests when Jack was helping me set the table.  "We should use our fancy salad bowl," Jack said, reaching into the cabinet.

"Noooo!" was all I had time to say before he pulled it out and my rainbow colored candy showered all over the kitchen floor. 

Busted again.  Now you may think I am just confessing because I was caught.  That may be partly the case.  Here's my real confession:  I have no plans to reform.  In fact, I have an ingenious new idea for the perfect hiding place. 

Wanna know where it is?  Well, can you keep a secret?

So can I.