Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A Happy Fourth

As a parent, I feel this pressure to make childhood magical and have elaborate holiday celebrations in order to make memories.  It is a social media trap that I find myself falling for again and again.  To avoid this obvious defeating pitfall, I should ditch the social media scene altogether except I do enjoy keeping tabs on friends in distant lands.  In the meantime, I need to remind myself that 1) I am my own person. 2) I don't see the whole picture. 3) Childhood is magical regardless of my efforts.

Take for example the 4th of July.  I had almost convinced myself that I needed to make special holiday pancakes along with an elaborate picnic dinner complete with pie.  In actuality, my kids wanted me available for fun.  Honesty, doing something as simple as eating outside was enough of a change from our everyday routine to make it special.  So, that is what I did.  Breakfast was our normal baked oatmeal.  Dinner (which was actually a lunch since the weather was forecasted to turn nasty later) consisted of grilled hamburgers/hotdogs, chips, a fruit salad, and raw veggies.  I did however, make a pie.  A very lovely blueberry and cream pie.

This kids had a wonderful time.  We ate outside and then set off some really mild fireworks.  We went to bed before official fireworks even started and weren't even disturbed.  It was enough.  I was enough.

Blueberries and Cream Pie
adapted from Bakerlady

Recipe for once single pie crust (I adapt this one from SmittenKitchen)

3 cups blueberries
3.5 ounces honey
1.5 ounces all-purpose, gluten-free flour
2 eggs
4 ounces sour cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Streusel Topping
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar (sucanat)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
1/4 cup butter, melted
3 ounces all-purpose, gluten-free flour

Roll out pie crust into a 12-inch circle.  Transfer to a pie pan.  Trim, fold, and crimp edges.  Chill for 30 minutes in freezer or refrigerator.

While crust is firming up, mix together the filling (honey, flour, eggs, sour cream, and vanilla).  Put the blueberries on the bottom of the crust and pour the filling over the blueberries and spread it out.

For the streusel, mix together the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and flour.  Pour the melted butter into the bowl and mix everything together.  Crumble the topping over the pie.

Bake the pie at 350 for 50-55 minutes.  Let pie cool completely.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Sewing: Kid clothes

I have been taking great satisfaction out of making clothes for my kids that actually fit them.  Having pants that fall off their bum (because they are no longer in diapers and are so skinny in comparison to their height) turns out to be a huge pet peeve of mine.  Who knew?  So I have been practicing my sewing skills and learning new ones by sewing up some pants that fit.

This below outfit I made in March/April.  It is the Field Trip Cargo Pants and Raglan T-shirt pattern from Oliver + S.  I omitted the cargo pockets because I thought they would add unnecessary bulk.  Also, the pattern doesn't include any closure to the pockets, and I didn't want them to just be flapping.  And while other people have developed different solutions to the pocket dilemma, I just didn't want to spend the effort troubleshooting.  In any case, I *love* how they turned out.  Finn loves to wear them.  I also doubled the fabric on the knee patch area--a really simple solution since it is a separate pattern piece.  The fabric is a medium weight twill that has a really soft nap.  On some of the seams, my machine really struggled.  However, I had read on another blog to hammer denim fabric to make it easier to sew.  I gave it a try on the parts that were rather thick, and it worked like a charm.  I also used a denim needle.

The shirt is a super easy sew and also turned out really well.  I had enough fabric to make another short-sleeve shirt version with the opposite colors (green body, gray sleeves).

Cost breakdown:

Pattern: Field Trip Cargo Pant and Raglan T-shirt = gift
Kaufman Montauk Twill in charcoal: 2.5 yards @$8.98/yard = 22.45
Kaufman Laguna Stretch Jersey Knit in heather pepper: 1 yard @6.98/yard
Kaufman Laguna Stretch Jersey Knit in grass: 1 yard @6.98/yard
No-roll elastic: $0.55 for 3/4 of a yard.

Total: $36.96 for 2 shirts and a pair of pants.

The shirts were a lot cheaper than what I could buy for similar quality.  The pants were about the same as those I could buy (e.g. Land's End Iron Knee pants).  Also, I think I have enough of the twill left over to make some pants for Enna, so that makes the price a bit more reasonable.

I also decided in a fit of insanity to make all of the kids' shorts this summer.  Again, part of that was to get the right fit for both Enna and Finn.  Finn can still fit into his 2T shorts of 3 years ago, but they were getting a bit short.  Enna was fitting into a size 12mo but those were a bit short too.  I used both the Sunny Day short pattern from Oliver + S which is a free download and also purchased the Sketchbook short pattern for something a bit more grown up for Finn.  (That pattern includes pockets and a faux fly.)  For both kids I used the pattern size that corresponded with their measurements for waist and hip but then added extra length. I don't have any formal, posed pictures, but below are pictures of them in action.  Finn is wearing the Sketchbook shorts and Enna is wearing the Sunny day shorts sewn in a knit.

Cost breakdown:

     Sunny Day Shorts = free
     Sketchbook shorts = $15.95 (made without the pleat)

    Kaufman Carolina Gingham in orange: 1.5 yards @$6.95/yard = $10.43
    Kaufman Interweave Chambray in khaki: 1.5 yards @$8.98/yard = $13.47
    Kaufman Chambray Union Indigo: 1.5 yards @ $7.98/yard = $11.97
    Interlock in heather grey: 1 yard @$7.98.
    Valori Wells Quill Interlock in purple: 0.5 yards @ ?/yard = $7.49

Elastic: about $6.00
Number of shorts made: 11

Total: $73.29 or $6.66/shorts

The price per pair will decrease as I make more since I included the price of the pattern in the total.  Could I find similarly priced shorts at Target?  Yes.  But these fit.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Endings and Beginnings

Mid-May, Finn graduated from preschool.  The preschool he attended was a 5-day, half-day, pre-kindergarten, Christian preschool (descriptive enough for you?).  I was so worried when he started.  I worried about his ability to focus, make friends, behave appropriately, cope with all the sensory inputs, etc.  In the end, he did so well!  I was so happy with his progress. 

My wish would be for an almost identical situation for him for Kindergarten: half-day, small class size, motivated parents, fabulous teachers, etc.  Unfortunately, that is impossible.  The public elementary school for which we are zoned is the worst in the area.  It is a Title 1 school that serves a lot of poor minorities.  It very much has an inner-city feel.  While I think other children might do fine (there are some great teachers!),  I really felt that Finn would not.  In fact, every time I thought of him going there, I felt physically ill.  I looked into attending other public schools, but we didn't fit any of the exemptions.  Another option was a charter school that everyone raves about where students are picked via lottery.  We signed up, but we did not make it this year.  That left private or homeschool.  Private was outrageously expensive, and honestly, I had impressions that our money would be better spent elsewhere.  Homeschool it is.

I have been thinking of homeschooling for a while even though my kids were too young until just now.  There are a lot of benefits: working with your child's preferred learning style, working at his pace, freedom of schedule, quicker lessons, more playtime, etc.  However, I was concerned mainly with my ability to teach effectively and to have patience.  Also, I won't lie, I was really looking forward to having a big chunk of time to myself, free of kids (or at least one).  As an introvert, I really do need some time alone to recharge, and I rarely get that with my kids.  

Despite my worries, we have been doing pretty well.  We took a whole whopping week off, but then Finn wanted to have stuff to do.  Scheduled, structured stuff.  So, we started homeschooling at the beginning of June.  I ended up using the curriculum Bookshark.  If you are familiar with homeschool curriculum at all, you may have heard of Sonlight.  Bookshark is the secular sibling.  Same company, same curriculum but without the religious/missionary books included.  Sonlight/Bookshark is all about books.  The kids learn about science/history/LA through reading stories.  What I liked about them is 1) all the books.  I felt that Finn would learn more through the reading of stories than textbooks.  2) multiple options to pick from in other subjects.  For math you pick between Horizons, Singapore, or Saxon and for phonics Handwriting Without Tears or A Reason for Handwriting.  Everything then comes together with an instructor guide and a schedule.  It makes for very little work on my part.

I am surprised at how much we get through in very little time.  We cover all of our material (which is pretty substantial) in about 2 hours (or less), 4 days a week--basically the time it took just driving Finn to and from preschool.  Now that we have started swim lessons for the summer (4 days a week in the morning), we are doing about half the work (30-45min).  We squeeze it in between breakfast and getting dressed for swimming.  That way, we still have our afternoons free which seems to be what Finn prefers.  

It is fun to see what he remembers from our very short lessons.  The other day, he mentioned that Egypt is so hot, you could cook an egg outside!  (A tidbit that he remembered from the kid encyclopedia we had read a week before.)  He excitedly showed me a picture from the front of a National Geographic because it had the same columns that were on ancient Greece buildings.  (Another point from the kid encyclopedia.)  It is nice to be able to reinforce ideas that we have talked about during our lessons throughout the day/week/month.  We have had a lot of thunderstorms lately, and we have been discussing weather during science--lots of opportunities to repeat information from our books.

Am I going to do this forever?  (Or for 13 years?)  I don't know.  I am just taking it one year at a time.  All I know is that it was the best decision for this year.  Who knows where we will be in a year from now?  I would like to see Finn interact more with kids his age.  So far we are limited to church, swim lessons, and the occasional playdate we can schedule.    

Just for fun, beginning and ending pictures for preschool.  I can't believe how much they both changed in a year!  Where are my babies?!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

May Happenings

May has treated us well.  The weather has been really nice, and I am really enjoying my children at their current ages.  It makes a huge difference to be more mobile.  Enna is potty trained and now sleeps in a big bed.  We more or less get sleep at night.  Life is good.

We have a historical site near us where the docents don historical garb and show visitors life in Colonial America.  For May Day, they had special activities planned: a outdoor performance of The Tortoise and the Hare, people spinning wool, some historically appropriate vendors, hair wreath making, maypole dancing, etc.  We came at the end which worked out well.  It wasn't overly crowded, and we got to participate in the Maypole Dance.  The weather was perfect and everyone was entertained.

We also went camping for the second time.  We decided to ventured out a bit further than before by traveling to Harper's Ferry--a 2-3 hour drive from our home.  It is a quaint historical town near the intersection of two rivers: Shenandoah and Potomac and and three states: Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia.  It was really the perfect trip because it hit Finn's Trifecta: Trains, Biking, and Camping.  There were a number of trains, tunnels, and tracks which brought delight to both kids.  Also, there is a canal path that runs from DC all the way to Pittsburgh, PA and part of the path is right there at Harper's Ferry.

I decided a while ago that I want to be a family that bikes.  It seemed like it would be a great way for us to get outside and be active together despite having younger children.  It meant investing in some substantial gear, but it has been worth it.  I have loved our family bike rides, and I love this mode of exploring new places.  On our ride at Harper's Ferry, I kept brainstorming other places that would be fun to visit and also bike friendly.  Our current set-up is a child seat on my bike for Enna and a trailer bike attached to Mr. F.'s bike.  I admit, I get the better end of the deal.  While I have to deal with the occasional kick to the backside and the added weight, Mr. F. has to cope with the completely unpredictable pedaling and lurching from Finn on the trailer bike.  It can be a bit amusing to ride behind them and see it all in action.

For camping, we went to the The Treehouse Camp.  I have to admit, the place was not like I had pictured in my mind based on their website.  I was thinking of something a bit more rural and secluded.  And while it is located in a wooded area, that wooded area is smack dab in the middle of a residential and farm community.  In the end though, it was great, and I would have no regrets going back.  We didn't stay in one of the tree houses, although they looked fun.  Instead, we tried out our family tent for the first time.  It was fun to wake up in the morning and hear the birds sining.  It felt like camping in an arboretum.

I don't think anyone sleeps well with kids in tents.  (If you do, please don't tell me.)  While Finn has gotten better about falling asleep with it still being a bit light, Enna will not.  And he can't really fall asleep while Enna is insisting that she doesn't want to sleep yet.  So that means a really late bedtime with a normal wakeup.  The kids run around on a 3 hour deficit which by day two, means things get really hairy, really quickly.  Once asleep, they are fine except for the complete lack of motor control by the children which makes them toss and turn and whack you in the face or other body parts.  Needless to say, two nights, is my max at this point.

We brought the kids' bikes for them to use around camp and also visited a local playground.  I wanted to explore more of the town of Harper's Ferry or do some hiking on the Appalachian trail, but we ran out of time and sanity.  I am trying to decide on our next camping location which probably won't be until fall because trying to sleep when it is hot and humid is my idea of purgatory.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Finn at Five

It seems fitting that Finn's birthday write up should be as equally delayed as Enna's.  Equality among siblings and all that.

At five, Finn still needs lots of snuggles, which is great because Enna is not much of a snuggler at all (unless her brother is snuggling and then she suddenly develops a strong need for them.)  He loves projects and making things.  More than anything, he wants to be involved.  That could include helping me clean, or cook, or garden.  He loves to learn.  He enjoys filling out worksheets, reading, and practicing writing.  This bodes well for our next adventure: homeschooling.  He asks a billion questions a day with much repetition.  I try to be patient but, it is a work in progress.  He struggles a bit with anxiety.  I know the current topic of study at preschool due to his anxious questions regarding crabs or lobsters (last week) or bees and spiny caterpillars (this week.)  He shows great concern about anything that could potentially cause hurt.

In general, he is a fantastic older brother.  He loves playing with Enna and thinks up many games for them to play together.  And yes, he does enjoy being able to boss another person around.

He is tall and skinny.  Lately he experienced a growth spurt where he grew half an inch in just a couple of weeks.  I know this because I measured him for clothes and then a couple of weeks later we measured him again for a project and whoa......the mark was in a completely different spot.  That could explain how he can pack away a significant amount of food and why he suddenly started waking us up multiple times a night.

He is a boy that needs lots of love and patience, and I try my hardest to give it to him.  Sometimes I am successful, and sometimes I am not.

For his birthday, we celebrated by making paper crowns, eating waffles with chocolate syrup for breakfast, and having a special dinner of bean and cheese quesadillas, cauliflower, and most importantly chocolate cake for dessert.  We also took in some chocolate cookies to his preschool class.  And what happened after all this chocolatey indulgence?  He had a bit of an upset stomach the next day.  It is a hard lesson to learn: that one can have too much of a good thing.  For gifts, he received a pedal bike, a number of books, a small lego set, a remote-controlled train, a monster bowling set, and a trip to the zoo.  It really was a wonderful birthday.

More pictures can be found on my flickr page.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Fictional Personality Typing: Anne of Green Gables

After reading MotherSytles and thinking obsessively about my personality type and those of my acquaintances, my mind wandered into the realm of fictional characters.  Anne of Green Gables for instance.  I have always felt that I could be Anne in real life, baring the unfortunate lack of red hair.  In any case, I believe she is a kindred spirit, my fictional soul mate.  Perhaps I have felt this way because we have similar personalities?  I decided to do a little fictional personality typing.

I: I think we can all agree that Anne is an introvert.  She takes long, solitary walks.  She immerses herself into books.  She always is described as just having a few close friends.  These characteristics are classically introvert.

N: Anne is not into the mundane and the nitty gritty.  She is the type of person to get swept away by the chariot race in Ben Hur and ignore geometry.  She needs places that have "scope for the imagination."  She will make a fine plum pudding sauce, but forget to put the cheesecloth on top because of her day dreaming.  She is also more inclined to see the big picture: cow in the cabbage patch.  And not the details: not her cow, Dolly.

F: Anne is definitely an F.  She is a sympathizer.  She makes decisions based on her feelings and of those around her.  There is a section in Anne of Avonlea where Anne, Jane and Gilbert talk about discipline:

"I could never whip a child," said Anne with equal decision. "I don't believe in it at all. Miss Stacy never whipped any of us and she had perfect order; and Mr. Phillips was always whipping and he had no order at all. No, if I can't get along without whipping I shall not try to teach school. There are better ways of managing. I shall try to win my pupils' affections and then they will want to do what I tell them."

Anne also likes to "fly on the wings of anticipation" and wallow in the depths of despair.  She has a hard time keeping composure when teased about her hair and, out of the blue, breaks her slate over Gilbert's head.

P or J:  Now this is the tricky letter.  This letter has to do with how to one likes their outer world structured.  The problem here is the lack of data from the novels.  A J likes organized day-to-day living, structure, smooth-running household, etc.  P is spontaneous, process- and experience-oriented, relaxed about clutter, disorder, chaos, relaxed about plans going awry, etc.  Among the internet, most people have classified Anne as a P.  I tend to differ, but of course I have an ulterior motive here (my thesis being that she is my personality twin.)

When we look at Anne as an adult, we see that she has help running a household from Susan and things run smoothly.  (Smoothly enough that it doesn't warrant a comment in the novels.)  Is this because of Anne or Susan?  In the earlier years, a couple of instances are mentioned in the books about Anne running late due to distraction.  (I.e. getting Mr. Hammond his lunch and so he gets himself into a rage and dies.)  These appear to be isolated events however, and not a character trait.  We do know she does chores on a regular basis (her inclination or Marilla's, we don't know.)  She always is able to keep herself more or less on task in terms of school work, employment, etc.  These points lead me to say she is more likely to be a J than a P.  (Most likely she falls someplace in the middle of the J and P spectrum.)

So there you have it.  Proof (ha!) that Anne is an INFJ just like myself.  No wonder I feel so connected!

Turns out, fictional personality typing is totally a thing.  A brief internet search has found the following INFJs:

Christina (Divergent)
Obi-Wan Kenobi (Star Wars)
Remus Lupin (Harry Potter)
Hermione Granger (HP)--(I actually don't agree with this one.  I think she would be more S than N.)
Jane Eyre
Kermit the Frog
Galadriel (LOTR)
Frodo Baggins (LOTR)
Albus Dumbledore (HP)
Yoda (SW)
Harry Potter
Nancy Drew--(Maybe this is another reason I read so many Nancy Drew novels as a child?!)
Elizabeth Bennett
Indiana Jones

Of course you can find a number of other sites having those same characters typed as something else (see chart below).  It is a fun, albeit rather pointless, pastime.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

MotherStyles: Using Personality Type to Discover Your Parenting Strengths

I previously viewed personality typing as something moderately interesting and perhaps vaguely useful, similar to having one's colors done (supposedly, I am a Winter, but I have never actually used that information.)  However, when Amy over at Sunlit pages mentioned that she no longer feels guilty about not holding non-family birthday parties and that this book will validate any mother, I knew I needed to check it out pronto.  I too, am plagued by guilt over our lack of birthday celebrations, along with a slew of other parenting decisions I make every single day.  What parent doesn't need validation?

Of course there are limits to personality typing and it wasn't spot on about everything, but parts of the book were like glimpses into my soul.  Other people thought that way?  This is a thing?

Turns out I am a INFJ: Introvert, Intuition, Feeling, Judging.  Each letter corresponds the following questions: Where to I get my energy? (I)  What information to I attend to most? (N)  How do I make judgements/decisions? (F) And how do I like my outer world structured? (J)   I knew I was an introvert.  But the other letters were more illuminating.  Also, the interaction between the different letters gives even more insight, which is covered in the book.

When I have taken similar type tests before, it was difficult to determine where I fell.  (My scores for N and S are very close, for example.)  In previous exams, I felt the questions were more geared towards a professional setting and that influenced how I answered them.  For example, I would feel like I should be more rational in my decision making versus being influenced by feelings, etc.  The questions in MotherStyles, however, were based on everyday decisions/actions that I make in response to my family, and so it was easier to tease out my natural inclination.


A number of the introvert struggles rang a bell with me: Struggling with handling large family or large groups of people.  Finding the energy to maintain the pace of active young children and adolescents.  Responding to "on the spot" to questions.

Introverts can also be drained if they are also an N by keeping on top of all the Sensing (S) details of caring for children.  Also, If Judging (J) drains the battery too due to the chaos of children and family life.

This means I am basically drained of all energy all the time.

I felt like I had a number of Sensing strengths but all of the struggles of the Intuitive.  Ie: living in the here-and-now, keeping things simple, not starting a project because I can't get it all done, etc.  I am pretty evenly split between the two groups.  What clarified things for me were the tips at the end of the section.  For sensing moms, "taking care of me" meant feeding the senses as too much dullness and sameness is draining.  You can take care of yourself by getting more sensory experiences.  For the Intuitive, "me time" meant giving myself a break from reality by watching a movie, reading fiction or pursing a new interest.  That was a bell ringing loud and clear for me, since that is exactly how I recharge.

I had to laugh at one section where it talks about not wanting to start a part of a project you can't finish.  Mr. F. had recently given me a "you are crazy" look when I went off about not wanting to clean just the toilets when the whole bathroom needed to be cleaned, but I didn't have the time for that large of a project.

The strengths and weaknesses of the Feeling mom hit home: being responsive to my children's needs and struggling with multiple wants and constant demands.  Also struggling with separating my feelings from those of my children's.  I have a hard time remaining cool and rational when my children are spewing fire, so to speak.

I was pretty clear cut on my I and J.  I have strong preferences towards those.  I would love to be spontaneous (P), but I am not.  I really am a lot less anxious if I know what is going on.

According to the book, some types are less frequent in the population that others.  INFJ is one of those.  That can make one feel even more of an "oddball."

There is just a lot of information in this book.  It really is illuminating.  There are some people (E), who are energized by having kids!  This is mind-blowing to me as I find parenting to be so exhausting and draining All The Time.  But, now I know that it is a function of personality.  Some people just love all the details (S) and the chaos (P) and the interaction (E).  And it feeds their soul while it conversely drains mine.  The book also mentions working harmoniously with the different personality types in your own family.  My kids are a bit too young, but I can still see preferences starting to make themselves known.

I feel like everyone should read this book and then let me know what their personality type is.  I found myself guessing some of the personality types of my friends.  There is one mother (a mother of 8) who is so reasonable and unruffled when disciplining/raising her children that it makes me think she must have a strong T preference.  Another mother I know is always volunteering to take children for the day etc., and is completely unfazed by the ensuing chaos.  I am pretty sure she would be an E.

Finally, (I know.  This is a killer of a post), I love the tips, permissions, etc that the author gives.  You can embrace who you are.  You can say "no" to things that will over-extend you and negatively influence your family.  You can actively protect the activities that will recharge you.  I feel like I have been given some concrete data which shows that 1) people are different and 2) that differences are o.k. and 3) you can act on said data and not feel (as) guilty.    


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