Friday, January 28, 2011

Perfect Start

My husband bought me a juicer for Christmas and we love it!  We start most days with a fresh glass of juice.  I vary the ingredients but usually I begin with about 5 apples, 5 carrots, a lemon and about an inch of ginger root.  This morning I added 4 leaves of kale and 2 leaves of collard greens as well.  These calcium rich greens give it a bone building boost.  Even with the addition of greens it tastes delicious.  The kids love it too and the best part is that it doesn't cost $8.00 for 12 ounces like it does in the grocery store.  
Do you have a favorite way to start the morning?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Today is Only What You Make of It

This morning my son woke up on the wrong side of the bed.  Right from the start he was crabby. He was also late, so instead of playing before school he had to rush around. "This is just the worst day ever!"  He said, burying his head into the couch cushions.  I didn't want him to go to school in a bad mood, but I didn't really know what to say.  He gets so caught up in a particular moment of displeasure.  He cannot see beyond the disappointment into the brighter future.  He fully lives each moment as it comes along as a single unconnected entity.  As his mom I know it's silly. If this is truly his "worst day ever" he will lead quite a charmed (and also uneventful) life.  But how do I make him grasp the insignificance of his sadness compared to the pain in the world?..... and should I try?

I don't know.  But I did know that if he went to school with a sour attitude his day wouldn't improve much.  So I scooped him up into my arms and sat him on my lap at the kitchen table.  He ate breakfast and I told him, "Buddy your day will only be what you make it.  You can stop this crabbiness right now and have a great day.  It's up to you not anyone else."  He didn't say anything.  I got up to make his lunch.  Pretty soon I heard him laughing with his sister.  Then he gave her a hug and told her he was sorry for being mean.

We had to run through the snow together to not miss the bus, but he climbed those steps with a smile not a frown.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

"You Cannot Gain Until You Lose" --Buddha

My students (who are also happily my daughters)
This last Fall, my students began to get serious about their training. They had worked hard and improved a lot. They went into the competitive season thinking they were going to trounce their competitors. All their effort would surely pay off on competition day, right?  Well things don't always work out as planned.  They skated well, but their competition skated better and we were beaten badly.
It was time to go back and figure out what went wrong. We analyzed video, refined technique, worked on speed, and spent more time on the ice than we thought possible. They were determined to be on top the next time.  
Over the weekend they had the chance to compete again.  This time their scores reflected their determination and they came in first and second. We happily celebrated.  But I also thought about the Buddha's saying (which I had just learned of), "One cannot gain until first he loses everything".  I realized that they needed to lose.  They needed to understand what was lacking and have the determination to make it to number 1.  Sometimes as  parents and coaches we try to shelter kids from losses, but maybe kids need to feel the pain of losing to become successful.    


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Good Report

Today I had to help my son take his science experiment into school.  On the way out I saw the principal of the school.  She stopped me.  She wanted to tell me what my son did the other day.  She said, at the end of the day when everyone was racing to get out the door, my son stopped to help a friend pick up his papers which had fallen all over the floor.  She said, "He was so nice to do that."  I thanked her for letting me know. Then I remembered, I had picked him up from school that afternoon and he was quite a bit later than normal coming out of the school.  I didn't bother asking him why he was late and it never came up.  He said he had a great day but that was all.  Why didn't he mention his wonderful deed?  To him, it wasn't anything special.  He just helped a friend in need. That's just what friends do.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

No Computer Day

Yesterday, the kids had the day off from school.  I'm sure they had imagined spending a large portion of the day playing computer and video games, but to their chagrin we instituted a "NO COMPUTER DAY".  Despite major protestations, I held firm.  Even I turned off my computer for the day.  At first they didn't seem to know what to do with themselves.  They ran around being silly chasing each other for a while.  Then one of them decided to bring their big set of wooden blocks downstairs.  I thought they would build a tower and that would be that.  What started out as a simple square, transformed into a project of sibling unity.  They divided their project into sections so each person could be in charge of something.  They grabbed the Lego box and their imaginations went wild.  Alyssa the naturalist, created a forest.  Science officer Jessica, created a scanning tower and Ryan took care of all the defense systems.  It took them all afternoon but they were proud of the masterpiece they created together.  Not so bad for a day with no computer.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Country # 45 Chile!

Alyssa cutting the Sopaipillia dough 
Our 45th culinary adventure was Chile.  It was fabulous!  I had never tasted anything quite like these dishes. I want to thank our friends Juraj Vlahovic and Mitzi Chiple for finding the recipes for us. The  Pastel de Choclo, a Chilean version of Shepherd's Pie, was excellent.  The Sopaipillias were amazing.  It was the first time I had ever had them.  Preparing them was an experience in itself. The recipe seemed easy enough.  Just flour, cooked squash, butter, some baking soda and salt.  The squash was where the difficulty started.  It called for Zapallo squash which I found out is native to South America and similar to Hubbard squash.
I found a Hubbard squash about the same size as my head.  I figured my brand new Japanese knives would make quick work of peeling and chopping it.  I was very wrong.  Instead I battled the squash for 30 minutes before finally tossing it into the pan. After adding the flour and butter, I was surprised by how smooth and elastic the dough was.  Alyssa and I rolled it out and had fun cutting it into rounds with the top of a cup.
We fried them in a deep skillet for a couple of minutes until they were golden brown.  The result was well worth all the effort.  We ate them as soon as they came out of the pan. They were delicious dipped in a tomato sauce.  They were so good that I am cooking the rest of them tonight this time with a sweet sauce.

Check out  for more details on our feast.


Thursday, January 6, 2011

Motivational Help

When my daughters were little we used a sticker chart for motivation. We put a nice new sticker under their name each time they picked up their toys, or when they spoke up to adults instead of freezing in shyness.  Surprisingly, this worked well for quite a while. They were happy to do something a little difficult to earn a special sticker.  One time at a Christmas party they went around hand in hand to each table. They said "Hi" to everyone. (Most of the guests were retired couples living in our downtown apartment building and they were thrilled to be approached by two little girls in their Christmas finery.)  The girls spoke to so many people that we filled up their whole page with stickers.  They were so proud of themselves.  We were proud of them too.  

Fast forward to today.  Now they are teenagers.(Well one is 12 but that's close enough!)  In the age of i-pods, i-pads and I-everything, a simple sticky piece of paper with a princess on it doesn't quite do it. I was in a quandary.  How do I motivate them to practice piano, work on extra algebra problems or do their chores on time? Nagging didn't work, that frustrated all of us.... and nothing was accomplished by asking nicely.  I decided to implement Sticker Chart 2.011 (it's the updated version).  I can't say it's working perfectly. There are still a few bugs I'm trying to fix, but we are headed in the right direction.  Of course we don't use stickers and it's not posted on the refrigerator. They helped me design the new system. We made a simple spread sheet with all the items they need to complete in a week and I award points if they are done.  At the end of the week, if they have enough points we can all go out to a movie, go out to dinner, or do some other family friendly activity.  They also have the option to save their points, and use them instead on a family vacation of their choosing.  There is one catch, we made up 10 levels.  Each level requires more work to earn points than the last.  For example 1/2 hour of piano practice earns 10 points in the 1st level but you need 45 minutes in the 2nd level to earn 10 points.  Here's where sibling rivalry comes in handy.  They want to beat each other to the highest level.  We've had this in place now for 3 weeks and they are already accomplishing more than before. With no nagging!  YEAH!  Hopefully our progress will continue.  Now I just need to motivate myself to work on those sit-ups.


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

So Many Books...

Almost more than he can hold
Libraries are amazing to me.  There is something special about being surrounded by books.  Old or new, it doesn't matter.  I always start looking in the new books section, then I meander to the older collections.  By the time I reach the last shelf, I usually have chosen more books than I can carry which is also quite a bit more than I can read in three weeks.  But at this point my thirst for the knowledge hidden inside these precious pages overcomes me and I check them out anyway.
My kids are the same.  My daughters grab as many  YA novels and biographies as they can find.  My son never really wants to go to the library, but his eyes light up when he sits among the stacks of brightly colored picture books...and then he wants to bring them all home.
I wonder what it would have been like to visit the Great Library of Alexandria, Egypt....I think papyrus scrolls were lighter than books.


Monday, January 3, 2011

A Morning Blessing

A morning blessing

Why should a simple flower give so much pleasure?  I awoke this morning to a burst of orange coming from my hibiscus, lighting my spirit like the sunrise.  I smiled.  I took a moment to infuse its beauty into my soul. Then I started my day getting the kids ready for school.  The craziness after a long break had begun again, but nature's little blessing helped keep everything in perspective.


Saturday, January 1, 2011

Delicious Danish New Year

We ended 2010 with a Danish Food Fest.  I made Roast Duck with Red Wine and Prunes, Braised Red Cabbage, and Rice Pudding with Warm Cherry Sauce.
It was my first time ever roasting a duck.  This presented a few problems.  It  is a lot like making a tiny turkey.  I didn't realize until it was slightly too late that the fatty skin should be pricked to let the fat drain as it cooks.   I found out later this helps make the skin crispy. I ended up overcooking it a little but the wine/prune sauce took care of any dryness.  My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed the meal.  The kids were a little more picky.  Ryan tried one bite of duck and decided it was not for him (he's not really a meat eater unless it's steak).  Jessica has problems with any long stringy cooked veggie so her cabbage was carefully pushed to the far reaches of her plate.  Poor Alyssa, my usual kitchen helper, wasn't feeling good so she didn't eat anything and just went to bed.  The rice pudding, which in Denmark is called ris a l'amande, went over much better.  All in all we enjoyed our culinary trip through a traditional Danish feast.  Check out for more details on the recipes.


Happy 2011!

Photo by Alyssa
Wow, I can't believe how fast 2010 went.  It seems that as I get older time speeds up.  I remember as a kid I used to think a whole year was a really long time.  It is still the same number...365 days...  why does it seem so short now?
Happy New Year