Friday, September 19, 2014

Friday Flashback: Meet Big Baby, formerly known as Katie

I was a child of the 80's and if I do say so myself, the 80's had some really awesome toys.  I adored Care Bears; my sisters made me Care Bear pillows and painted Care Bear figurines for my birthdays.  I played with Strawberry Shortcake dolls (I owned Strawberry Shortcake, Lemon Meringue, Angel Cake, Almond Tea, and Plum Pudding.)  I had a sizable collection of My Little Ponies (and also the stable and the pink castle monstrosity).  And of course, any one who was anyone, had a Cabbage Patch Doll.

My Cabbage Patch Doll, though, was extra special.  My mother made it for me for Christmas.  She made it to look just like me as a baby: brown curly hair and dark brown eyes.  The doll even wore my old baby clothes.  She made one for each of my sisters: curly blond hair and blue eyes for M. and straight brown hair and blue eyes for N.  We all fondly remember that Christmas as the Christmas of the Cabbage Patch Doll.  (Not to be confused with the Christmas of the Pound Puppy, another great Christmas and another great toy of the 80's.)

I christened my doll Katie, after my blond-haired and blue-eyed cousin (because of course!)  I dragged Katie around the house, left her on the floor, and loved her thoroughly.  With so much love, Katie's face got horribly dirty, and it never occurred to me (or my mother?!) to clean it.   In fact, when I acquired Katie again last year after years of her being stored at my Parents', I wondered if it was even possible to clean her up, or if she should be (gasp!) tossed.  However, with a little bit of stain treating and a gentle wash, she became as good as new.

Shortly after turning one, Enna started being enamored with babies and stuffed animals.  She would steal other children's play babies at play dates and not want to give them back.  Obviously, Enna needed a baby of her own.  First, I gave her the doll we gave Finn when he was younger.  However, I could tell, she was less than enthusiastic with it.  I then brought out the big guns and gave her Katie.  It was love at first sight.

To distinguish between the two dolls, we called them Little Baby and Big Baby.  Big Baby is almost as tall as Enna herself, and is rather cumbersome.  However, that doesn't stop her!  Big baby nurses with us.  Big Baby needs hugs before bedtime, naps, and leaving the house. (Enna would love it if Big Baby could sleep with her but, I put my foot down.  There is not enough room.)  Enna always makes sure that the gate is closed so that Big Baby doesn't follow and fall down the stairs.  We sure do love that Big Baby.

And look!  It appears that Enna treats her as lovingly as I used to.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The No Nap

Parent puts child down for a nap just like she always has.  Child refuses to sleep.

Parent: Why won't my child sleep!?

Parent, in a panic, starts googling, "19 month old has stopped napping."  She reads the hundreds of forum posts under the exact same title, and finds responses such as:

"My child stopped napping at 15 months!  Some children just don't need much sleep.  He is just like me!"
"Do everything to get them to nap!  Preschoolers even need naps!  Naps are crucial to brain development!"

Parent starts imagining a world where her child never sleeps and has inferior intellect because of it.

After an hour or so, Parent succumbs to the reality of the moment: Her child is not going to sleep today.  She picks up child and catches a whiff of something not so fresh.  She peaks inside the diaper and discovers a smelly, brown surprise.

Mystery of the No Nap solved.......for today.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Ancestral Wormhole

I had this thought at Easter, when we were busting out all the Ukrainian dishes, the perhaps I should take a look at some of our ancestral roots and incorporate some of those traditions into our holidays.  Celebrating a Slavic Easter was fun and all, but it lacked the meaning or history than if I were celebrating in a way that perhaps my progenitors had.  I took a gander on FamilySearch to see what I could discover.

My family has been in this country for a good while.  I had to go back to my great-great's (average birthdate of 1836) to find someplace other than the U.S. of A.  As it turns out, I am 1/16 German, 2/16 Scottish, 2/16 Welsh, 5/16 English, and 6/16 American/Canadian.  (I feel so very white with that sort of list, but it is what it is.)  However, if I thought my family had been around awhile, they have nothing on Mr. F.'s family.  I kept going farther and farther back on his family tree waiting for a birthplace other than the states (or territories, or colonies, or British America) to be mentioned.  It wasn't until that I hit the early 1600's that there started to be another countries listed as birthplace.  (Because, you know, the colonies weren't even founded until 1607 at the earliest so...).  And yeah, I have a line or two like that, but I was finding hard pressed to find a line that wasn't like that on his, the show-off.

So this begs the question, does it even make sense to embrace your roots and celebrate the traditions of your ancestors if said ancestors haven't lived anyplace but here for 400 years?  Mr. F. says this is why he always makes a case for Thanksgiving--it being a true American holiday.  It would be interesting to see if we could discover some family names who came over on the Mayflower or other ships.  This could add some context to the Thanksgiving day dialogue.  Already, I have discovered an Anna Rolfe on Mr. F.'s side.  She was a niece to John Rolf--the man who introduced tobacco to the Virginia company and married Pocahontas.  Or, perhaps a better example, would be a Quaker on my side of the family who came over for religious freedom.  However, I am still dissatisfied.  Isn't there some early colonist tradition that has since gone out of fashion that I could revive?  (Holding witch hunts maybe?  Wearing scarlet letters?)

I can, I think, in good conscience, incorporate my family's British Isle traditions into ours since it has been only a mere 150 years since their departure.  For Christmas, I have the following list:

Scotland: shortbread
German: nutcrackers, gingerbread houses, advent calendar, stollen and platchen on first day of Advent, Christmas tree.  (Basically, everything related to Christmas.  I have this one covered.)
Wales: toffee making Christmas Eve, wassail
England: mince pies, Christmas crackers, christmas pudding

We have a recipe for plum pudding that we grew up making all the time at Christmas.  I will have to pull that out and adapt to make gluten-free.  (I can't see that turning out wrong.  Ha ha ha.)  I am also really interested in the idea of Christmas crackers, mainly because I think it will be fun wearing the paper hats during dinner.

What about you, dear reader?  Do you embrace family traditions?  Do you think there is any value in celebrating your heritage?  At what point does it become moot?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

School Days

Last week, Finn started preschool.  Up to the very day, I was vacillating between being very nervous and very excited.  Nervous because I wondered if three hours in the morning, five days a week would be too much, and was I throwing him to the wolves?  Excited since most of our "altercations" stem from boredom, and the kid just wants things to do.

Enna has some concerns
So far, it has been great.  He showed no hesitation or anxiety about walking in with the other kids to the classroom and leaving me behind.  He comes home in a good mood and has nothing negative to report.  And every day, he wakes up and is excited to start another day at preschool.  We do have some behavior issues in the afternoon though.  We have instances were he lashes out because he is too tired from having to self-regulate at preschool for a long time.  I sort of expected this and am just trying to deal with it the best I can.  Ideally, he would have a bit of quiet time after preschool while Enna naps.....except that Enna has switched to napping during preschool.  Ultimately, this works out the best for me and bedtimes, but not so great for Finn's decompression.    

Of course, after only a week of preschool, Finn has been struck down with a virus.  Nothing too serious thankfully, just congestion and a low-grade fever.  But, it is never fun to have a sick child.  They just look at you and say, "mom, why do I feel so yucky?  Make me feel better."  And there is very little that you, as a parent, can do.

This never happens....except when sick.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The non-30-minute meal

The other night, we had chicken caesar salad wraps for dinner.  For most people, this would be a simple dinner that one could throw together at the last minute.  For us, it is a multi-day, or at the very least, an hour-long process.  Let's compare.

Normal People

Buy rotisserie chicken, lettuce, tortillas, dressing.  If you are feeling fancy, you can make your own dressing and just be out a few minutes.  Debone the chicken, toss the meat with the dressing, and put everything on the table.  BAM!  Dinner done in less than 30 minutes.

Chez Lady Susan

The day before, cook a whole chicken in the crockpot since it is difficult, nay impossible, to find a gluten-free, corn-free, soy-free, low-sodium rotisserie chicken.  Debone it, freeze half for another dish, and save the other half for your dinner tomorrow.  Make broth from the carcass.  (If tonight is your lucky night, you might be able to skip this step just be able to defrost the chicken that you have stored in your freezer.  Win.)

During the afternoon while your child naps and the other plays by himself, mix together the dough for the tortillas.  Heat up the skillet and laboriously roll and cook 9 tortillas that will be eaten in less time than it took to make them.  (However, practice does make perfect, and you are getting pretty skilled at making tortillas in only 30 minutes!  Pat yourself on the back.)

Store-bought dressing is out, so you make your own.  You prefer that anyway.  You check the homemade mayo in the fridge and find it on its way south.  Dump it and start afresh by making new mayonnaise.  Assemble the rest of the ingredients for the dressing and toss with the chicken you defrosted earlier.

About an hour (or a day!) after you started the process, you have dinner ready to put on the table.  Go you!  Try not to look at the mountain of dirty dishes created from having to make everything from scratch that you will have to wash later.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Friday Flashback: This should have been in the manual.

When I turned 16, I thought I would date.  I lay under the misconception that there existed a healthy handful of boys who desperately wanted to date me, but who knew that I couldn't until I had reached the approved age.  These boys were hiding their attraction from me until they could nobly act on it, I knew it.  Once I was sixteen, the floodgates would be released and a flurry of phone calls would greet me; my social calendar would fill up at an alarming rate.

I guess I have always been rather fanciful.

When it became apparent that the boys were not queuing in line to ask me out, my friends and I decided to take matters into our own hands.  I am not entirely convinced this was a good idea.  I don't think one should initiate play when one has no clue the rules of the game.  I guess one could expect a certain amount of "self-evidence" due to general observation, reading of books, exposure to media, etc.  However, it appears that I was missing even that.  

I had a very cliche', secret crush on one of my good friend's older brother.   I was a sophomore, and he was a senior.  Looking back, I think my attraction was based entirely on his rather nice smile and the fact that he could dance.  That, it seemed, was all it took to make my 16-year old heart swoon.  My friend, Diana, also despaired of our dateless existence.  She proposed that we plan a double date.  I could date her brother ("That would be o.k. right?") and she would date her brother's best friend, Matt, who she rather fancied.  I tried to play it cool that she had basically just set me up with my secret crush.  "Yeah," I said, "I could do that."

We decided to keep our date rather casual, pretending that we were just a group of friends hanging out rather than two silly girls desperately gaga over a pair of seniors.  We planned a movie followed by a trip to the local donut joint.  Sounds pretty normal, right?  Change the donut joint to a local diner and you basically have the plot for a Sarah Dessen novel right there.  

This is the point that I tell you that the movie we picked to watch was Dead Poet's Society.

I honestly can not tell you why we thought this was a good choice.  Perhaps because it was universally acknowledged as a brilliant movie?  Because it would appeal to both guys and girls?  Because there was no romantic tension whatsoever?  Who knows.  What I can tell you is this: I can not watch this movie without completely sobbing.  I remember watching this movie in the theater with my family when it first came out. I let out this loud, gut wrenching sob at a key dramatic point that cut the tension for everyone but me and made them chuckle.  Meanwhile, I continued to grab at kleenex and attempted to control my hyperventilating while tears poured down my face.  I have seen this movie dozens of times, and one would think that familiarity and time would lesson it's effects.  Not a chance.  It is one of two movies (the other being Shadowlands) that I watch if I feel in need of complete emotional purging.  (I should also mention that I haven't even watched these movies with Mr. F.  My husband.  A person I should feel pretty safe sobbing my eyes out next to.)  The thing about Dead Poet's Society?  You never get a break.  From the second half of the movie to the moving, chill-inducing end, you have one emotional punch after another.  There is never a chance to recover, to get a hold of yourself, so to speak.  

Right.  Where were we.  

Oh yes.  Two sophomore girls were sitting next to two senior boys that they held mad crushes for watching perhaps one of the saddest movies of all times on their very first date.  Do I even need to tell you what happened?  Diana and I tried discretely to manage and hide our sobs but completely failed.  At the end of the movie when the lights were flicked back on, the two of us had red, swollen, blotchy faces while the guys' were completely dried and held contained amusement.  I don't even remember the rest of the night.  We went to eat donuts.  I guess we talked.  But honestly, all that I remember from that night is the burning embarrassment of being so emotionally exposed in front of two senior boys!   

This memory is brought to you by the recent passing of Robin Williams.  After his death, many people were sharing their favorite movies and quotes.  My favorite movie of his will always be Dead Poet's Society.  However, I can never think of that movie without also feeling again the embarrassment of my first double date.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Thick Trail Mix Oat Bars--Gluten-Free

2 o'clock is snack time at our house (or lunch time if you are Enna and just waking up from nap time.) This is the time that Finn, if he has eaten a decent lunch (which he does most days), gets to eat a treat.  For the longest time, this was a Larabar or a Kind bar, or something equally exorbitant.  I placated myself by saying that it was the one thing I didn't have to make, when I made everything else.  However, when a trip to the store to buy said treats tallied up to the same amount as a week's worth of groceries, frugality won over convenience.

I pieced this recipe together from various sources.  What I was looking for was a thick, chewy oat bar.  I didn't quite want a thick granola bar as those end up being too sweet.  I wanted something like a Bobo's Oat Bar but without the $2.50 price tag.  This is close, but no copycat.  I think the Bobo bar uses a portion, if not all, of steel cut oats.  Also, it is probably mechanically pressed down so that there is less crumbling.  Regardless, I am really pleased with these.  So pleased, that I have made them numerous times.  One of these days, I will start playing around with different flavor combinations.  That is, if I can break myself away from the tart fruit and chocolate combo.  Like the Bobo bar, they are not very sweet.  You can of course vary the sweetness to your liking by increasing/decreasing the honey.

I have also made these dairy free by using Spectrum shortening in place of butter, and coconut milk in place of the regular milk.  They were still tasty, but I really prefer the dairy version better.

Thick Trail Mix Oat Bars


1 cup butter, softened (2 sticks)
6 ounces honey
2 eggs
3 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups rolled oats
6.7 ounces of an all-purpose, gluten-free flour (I use this one)*
2.3 ounces almond flour
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1  cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup raisins


1. Mix together the flour, oats, salt, baking soda, and xanthan gum.

2. Cream butter and honey.  Add the eggs one at a time.  Then add the milk and vanilla.

3. Add in the dry ingredients from step one.  Once incorporated, add in the chocolate chips, cranberries, sunflower seeds, and raisins.

4.  Line a 9x13 inch pan with parchment paper and press in the batter.  It will be really thick.

4. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.  (Over baking will make them dry and more crumbly).  Let cool, remove from pan, and cut into squares. 

*To make this using regular, glutenous flour, use 9 ounces of all-purpose flour and omit the xanthan gum.


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