Friday, February 28, 2014

Lunch Notes, The Clark Years

I've posted about lunch notes before … how I was really good about sending them with Dora every day in K/1, kind of lost steam a bit with Theo … then took a break for a few years until Clark started Kindergarten. Even last year, notes were sporadic. But this year has brought a need for routine, and lunch notes are a part of that. Last year, Clark was petrified of buying anything in the lunch line, so I used to send a bottle of water every day (taking up valuable real estate in the lunch box!) This year, we worked on encouraging him to buy milk with lunch. The routine took some work … I met him in the cafeteria every day for a few weeks until he was confident enough to do it on his own. I don't know why the habit caused so much stress for both Clark and myself. I happened to catch the therapist outside the lunch room one day and was expressing my … embarrassment? frustration? anxiety? … that we had to go through this every day, to which she replied,

"You're giving your child what he needs. What's wrong with that?"

That has become my mantra over the last few months, dealing with Clark and his quirks. Whenever I get flustered and think, "How come (this kid) can do (that), but it's so hard for my kid?" I think of her words.

Anyhow … back on topic. Once he finally got the hang of buying milk on his own, lunch notes started out as a daily reminder, and turned into something he really looked forward to every day. If I happened to forget, I would see the Charlie Brown walk heading towards me at pick-up time. I've started snapping a picture of morning lunch notes as a little archive of this year in first grade.

By the way … not only does Clark now buy milk every day (and chocolate on Friday!) he will actually buy his lunch once a month! One small step for most kids, one giant leap for Clark.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Baking Monday – Chocolate Cupcake Assortment

There's a little archive of leftover frosting in the back corner of my fridge. In an effort to reclaim some of my food containers, I decided to find a way to use it all up this week. I made half a batch of chocolate cupcakes and gave them an assortment of toppings.

Vanilla buttercream with sprinkles ...

Chocolate buttercream with crushed cookies ...

Chocolate mint with green sprinkles ...

… and peanut butter with peanuts.

Something for everyone! 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Valentines 2014

Valentine's Day came and went without much fanfare over here this year. The kids had the day off of school, so it should have been filled with fun activities, but both older kids had OOTM meetings (at alternating times of the day) which kept us close to home instead. Clark helped me bake an apple pie for Jeff followed by an afternoon of board games. We hadn't planned ahead for dinner, and our search for a non-counter service restaurant without a wait landed us at Ground Round for our family meal. Fancy, no, but enjoyable, yes. As for the creative stuff … this was the first year that Dora did not have to make a class full of cards, but she painted a handful while we had the supplies out that we then sent to our family.

It's a challenge to get a 10-year-old boy excited about making valentines for his classmates, so I approved this theme, with the only requirements being that everyone is smiling and all the weapons be shaped like hearts. He did good. (And yes, he and Dora have both recently read the trilogy … not so sure I would have allowed it, but Dad gave them the okay.)

Clark's valentines … have a story. We've been doing this brand of valentine since Dora was a preschooler: pick a picture/character/theme, print it on white paper and color them in. We usually decide on watercolor because it's quickest. This year, Clark wanted cards that looked like Penny. I usually stretch card making over a few days (more opportunities to catch child in a cooperative mood) but a home project had me busy last week, and we ended up with only two evenings to finish cards before the class party. At card making time, he was not at his best, and getting really frustrated because the paint was not going where he wanted it to go. I was giving him a little pep talk and pointed out that many famous paintings are free-form, and pulled out a book on Paul Klee to show him some examples. This got him totally energized, and he zipped through the rest of his cards saying, "It's abstract! Good art doesn't have to be in the lines!" Yes! A win for Mom!!!

The next day at school pick-up time, his classroom aide flagged me down to tell me a story. Come time to exchange cards, she spotted Clark in the corner with his head down (a familiar pose Jeff and I refer to as "the Charlie Brown") and she asked him what was wrong. He responded "I've made the worst mistake of my life." (Oh, the drama!!) He went on to lament that he was worried that his cards were no good. She convinced him to show her the valentines and suggested they take them around to some other teachers to see what they thought. They visited the two kindergarten teachers, who of course, gushed over his work. He skipped back to the classroom, happily handed out his cards, and reportedly got several complements from his classmates.

Two thoughts: First, I am so thankful for his classroom teachers this year. They SO get him and know how to get the best effort out of him. Second, I praised Clark up and down for telling someone about his problem and reinforced that as a good way to help himself out when he's feeling frustrated. A happy end to the day!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Winter That Kicked My Butt

This spring, I'm going to eat lunch outside. Read on the back porch, take the dog for long walks, get Clark off training wheels, and bribe the kids with ice cream so they'll go geocaching with me. But all these plans are fantasy for now, as we're currently getting more snow on top of the snow that we've had for weeks. (Twenty-one inches in the backyard … Clark measured.)

And yes, we've had our fair share of fun. But really, this winter can just end already. It's not the snow days – I actually prefer those days, because we get a free pass from all the running around – it's the parade of cold, grey days ... weeks and weeks of them. The bitter, biting, minus zero days. Walking the dog at 7 am and feeling my nose hairs freeze. All things that make me just want to curl up under a blanket and eat cupcakes. The low motivation does not play well with the fact our household also happens to be crazy busy right now. 

Jeff's regular job has ramped up, so the last two months have him working nights and weekends (!!!), which I know is the norm for lots of families, but it's new for us. Plus he's teaching a class for the first time this semester, so if he's not doing work-work, he's doing class work. If he's not doing either of those works, he's coaching two Odyssey of the Mind teams. Oh! I forgot to mention that it's OOTM season which means my dining room is full of balsa wood, paint, cardboard and duct tape from January until March. No dining room table means I can't even break out a good puzzle to make the blahs go away.

Early dismissal today rather than a snow day, since our district is dangerously close to adding days to the school year because of all the snow. Which means that during the worst bit of weather today, I had to go pick up the kids from school (x2). The car couldn't get up our hill, so I backed right back into the driveway and did the back and forth on foot instead (x2).

Counting my blessings but at the same time counting down the days. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Baking Monday – Cowboy Cookies

These are my favorite cookies! They are my aunt's specialty, and even though I have her recipe, I swear mine never taste as good. But last week's batch turned out pretty close.

The multi chips are a must! There are many cowboy cookie recipes floating around out there … I tried another one once that was a big fat fail … but this one is my favorite. Why are they called cowboy cookies? This was the best description I could find: "Cowboy cookies are the original Powerbar. History states, cowboys used to make them for riding the trails. They were a quick, easy way to get a lot of nutrients and they kept well for travel." Yee-hah!

Cowboy Cookies

1 cup sugar
1.25 cup brown sugar
1 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups sifted flour
1 tsp baking soda
.5 tsp salt
.5 tsp baking powder
3 cups quick-cooking oats
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup milk chocolate chips
1 cup white chocolate chips

• Cream butter and sugar
• Mix in eggs then vanilla
• Sift flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder into mixture and combine
• Add oats
• Add chips
• Use either one scant large scoop or two mini scoops for each cookie
• Bake at 350 until light brown (about 15 min)

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Baby Cookies (with Kid Help)

I made baby cookies for a shower a few weeks ago – simple and sweet!

The kids helped me decorate leftovers.

Clark went with minimal piping but heavy on the sprinkles.

Theo filled the entire surface with icing.

Final work – pretty and delicious!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Baking Monday – Chocolate Mocha Shortbread

No eggs in the house = shortbread today! I made two recipes last week that took four eggs each (pb brownies and colossal cookies, yum) plus weekend waffles, so there were no more left for Baking Monday day. Happily, shortbread is one of my favorites, so no worries. Add a little scoop of coffee and cocoa and they are even better! I would cut back on the butter just a little bit next time – these were slightly on the greasy side – but super yummy. The original recipe suggests sandwiching these with Nutella, sounds like a good idea.