Sustainably Single Parenting

Making the most of life's journey alongside my three!!!

A Wonderful Christmastime December 26, 2012

Christmas Day went better than expected. I’d stayed up until 5:30am on Christmas morning assembling the girls’ dollhouse.

The dollhouse has an elevator! It is taller than our Christmas tree. Hopefully they'll let me play with them!

The dollhouse has an elevator! It is taller than our Christmas tree. Hopefully they’ll let me play with them!

I’m sure that it would’ve taken less time if I’d a) had an electric screwdriver b) had gotten more than three hours of sleep the night before and didn’t have such a hard time comprehending the instructions c) had time and space to start working on the dollhouse before Christmas Eve and/or d) had a husband helping. It took me six hours, two calloused hands, and one more sleepless night to get it done, but I did it! I was proud of myself, but I was totally drained on Christmas.

I must have stared at these directions for 2 of the six hours it took me to assemble the dollhouse

I must have stared at these instructions for 2 of the six hours it took me to assemble the dollhouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Christmas Eve we’d attempted to make sugar cookies for Santa. The girls always love helping me in the kitchen so I let them pour ingredients and do some mixing. Just as I was about to scoop the flour I noticed mealybugs. Great. Another all day project of cleaning the cupboards is ahead, but at that moment I just tossed the bag and used an unopened box of gluten free flour instead.

 

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The recipe I was using for the cookies didn’t call for gluten free flour. Sometimes the gluten free all-purpose flour is interchangeable with regular all-purpose flour, but for this recipe the dough was not holding together enough to be rolled and cut into cutesy Christmas shapes. I opted to add chocolate baking powder to half of our dough and convinced the girls that Santa would love our uniquely layered cookies. They were easier and faster than decorating  shaped cookies, they got the job done, and the girls gloated that they were probably the only children in the world who’d left Santa the type of cookies we’d made. Probably so. They tasted a bit chalky.

 

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On Christmas morning the girls divvied up the gifts. I’d only written their names on a few of them. They opened and oohed and ahhed and thanked the gift givers. I told them that some of their gifts were donations from people in the community. I want them to understand that people can do great things for those they don’t even know. They were quite pleased, and they’ve vowed to help me go through their toys so that we can give things that they no longer play with to less fortunate children.

 

Santa stuffed stockings and left fairy costumes

Santa stuffed stockings and left fairy costumes

Santa and his reindeer enjoyed our cookies and carrots

Santa and his reindeer enjoyed our cookies and carrots

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I decided early in the day that I wasn’t going to make the Christmas feast I’d intended to make. The turkey and homemade everything else can wait. I was far too exhausted and needed to rest my feet. I spent a good portion of Christmas lying down. The girls played with their new toys and enjoyed themselves without much need for my help.

 

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My mother and sister know that I rely on maps and printed directions. Their gifts should keep my eyes on the road and the girls' tantrums under control!

My mother and sister know that I rely on maps and printed directions. Their gifts should keep my eyes on the road and the girls’ tantrums under control!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My mother and sister and the girls got me presents. I was also given numerous gift cards from classmates, my landlord, donors to my support group, and friends. The girls made me their presents at school; I absolutely love them!

 

Terra made a Christmas tree out of her hand prints!

Terra made a Christmas tree out of her hand prints!

Amara made me an ornament with our family on it!

Amara made me an ornament with our family on it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before bed we played several games of Uno. Amara is surprisingly good already and Terra (she played with her cards face up on the table so that I could help her make choices) won twice! It was a lot of fun. I didn’t have much time to stress and think about what I was missing. I tried to just enjoy my daughters’ joy. Seeing them happy and carefree and being able to relax for a moment was the greatest part of Christmas.

 

[Insert popular lyrics from classic rock song about school here] September 17, 2012

Lately I wonder if sending them to school is actually more consuming than keeping them home. I no longer have the option to keep them home, as life goes, but I think now about all of the people with the financial stability to stay at home, but still choose to send their little ones off to school. True, it gives you a few hours to tidy up the house and prep for dinner. You may even be able to get some shopping done, or blogging, or have the chance to contact that long forgotten friend, exercise!

Still. I hold tight to the pride of educating my children, I miss homeschooling them (and I sincerely miss sleeping in)!

Getting ready for school entails:

Having the girls bathed, hair braided, and in bed by no later than 10pm: I wish I could get them to bed by 8pm, but that just doesn’t happen around here yet. I have to be awake by 5am and I typically wait until 6am to wake them. Back when we stayed at home they’d sleep a good 10-12 hours straight, but those were the old days. I have to braid their hair because if I fail to we all suffer in the mornings. The girls do not like having their curls detangled and I don’t like the hassle. If it has been braided I simply have to undo the braids and give them a headband or redo the braids with hair ties and barrettes.

Having their lunches packed (and sometimes breakfast, and sometimes snack – depending on what their school is serving): My daughters don’t have allergies, but they’ve been on a fairly strict diet since they were babies and I don’t intend to let their school attendance ruin that. Every week the chef makes me a copy of the upcoming week’s lunch schedule. I look it over and decide which items they will be allowed to eat and which items I will be substituting. I try not to be too picky, but we do not eat much gluten, we limit sugar, and we stay away from nitrates in our home. We eat organic and local foods whenever possible, and I don’t want school to become associated with juice boxes, high fructose corn syrup, and starchy noodles.

I cannot simply plan their breakfast, lunch, and snack, but I have to prepare for dinner as well. If I’m allowing them to have gluten for breakfast that means they will not be having it for lunch or snack or dinner. I do this with my own packed school lunch as well. It is consuming, but I am satisfied in knowing that I’m sending them to school with healthy choices.

Having their homework done: Don’t teachers know that sending a three and five year old home with an assignment means the parents are being given an assignment? As if I don’t have enough homework of my own to do. I know, I know, it’s teaching them responsibility, and goodness forbid we don’t get a sticker on the homework chart!

Having their backpacks packed: Packing backpacks is simple enough, but I have to make sure to wash the linen every weekend so that their washed fitted sheets and blankets are ready to be taken (in labeled, plastic storage bags, of course). I put their backpacks in the trunk before waking them.

Having their clothes picked out: It’s bad enough that one of them is going to scream and cry no matter what reassurances I give her about possible upcoming enjoyment. If clothes are not laid out on the couch in the correct order of wearing (underwear, shirt, pants, socks, accessories) we are going to be late and I am going to miss my train to MY school. So far so good. I have the girls pick out their school clothes right after they brush their teeth the night before we need them. If they refuse to do so then I get to choose everything they’re wearing the next day, and they aren’t allowed to complain.

Having a mother who has had enough sleep to get up in the morning and make the magic happen again: We’re working on that…good night!

 

Gluten Free Crepes with Fruit Paste July 30, 2012

Our latest favorite breakfast is gluten free crepes topped with a homemade fruit paste and a side of fresh squeezed orange juice. The meal tastes fantastic, it’s fairly quick to make, and the girls help every step of the way.

The crepe recipe is an adaptation of Chef Antonia Lofaso’s, which was featured in the July edition of Parents magazine. The fruit paste is an adaptation of something my husband used to make. He never wrote down a recipe, but it tastes like I’m making it the same. Feel free to experiment with different fruit combinations!

Crepe Recipe

3 eggs

1 cup whole milk

1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup all-purpose gluten free flour

2 Tbs. sugar

¼ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. cinnamon

½ cup powdered sugar (for sprinkling on finished crepes)

Coconut Oil

**Whisk the eggs, milk, and vanilla in a large bowl. Whisk in the gluten free flour, sugar, salt, and cinnamon. Coat your skillet with coconut oil and set over low-medium heat. Pour ¼ cup of the batter into the skillet, swirling it to make an even layer. Cook for one minute on each side (the crepe should be lightly browned). Transfer from the skillet to a plate. Sprinkle the crepe with powdered sugar and top with fruit paste.**

Fruit Paste Recipe

1 cup chopped strawberries

½ cup blueberries

1 ounce cream cheese

1 Tbs. butter

**Put all of the ingredients into a covered pot and set over low heat for 20 minutes. Whisk the mixture every four minutes or so. Take the pot off of the heat when the paste meets your desired consistency.**

While the fruit paste is cooking we like to make fresh orange juice. I do not have a juicer so we cut the oranges in half, put a strainer over the glasses and squeeze the oranges to bits. The girls love proving their strength while doing this part, though getting messy and snacking on the ingredients is probably their favorite.

I make sure to model a positive demeanor by not overreacting to spills, offering options instead of dolling out demands, and doing my best to make cooking a fun and safe experience. I not only get to encourage their appreciation for and knowledge of cooking (teaching them about standard measurements and sanitation after handling eggs, showing them all the yummy goodness they’re capable of creating), but cooking also gives them a chance to practice kindness and patience. The girls have to take turns pouring ingredients, share the fallen flour and powdered sugar, wait for the food to cook thoroughly before they can eat, and remember to thank one another for contributing.

We all enjoy the meal so much more knowing that everyone worked together to create it. I hope your family enjoys this wonderful crepe recipe!