Sunday, May 30, 2010

Memorial Day

It's been years since my husband has had the day off for Memorial Day. Years. And since we homeschool, it's not a holiday for the rest of us, either. So I've always sort of struggled with this day - do we take the day off (we don't really need to), do I spend it as a regular school day or take extra time to learn about the "why" of this holiday. I think I've done all of the above, most of the time.

Since it has been and will be wet and rainy for (ever) a long time, I don't think we'll venture out to any cemeteries, at least not on foot. In the past, looking for war memorials was one way to bring home what war ends up being for most soldiers. Remember, I was a young child during Vietnam and what I remember about that war were the protests and people dying. However, my Dad and Stepdad served in Korea, and taught me respect for military and being thankful for the brave people who serve. As a result, I teach my kids all these things.

My boys are fascinated by the history of the wars we've fought in, as well as battles in other countries. It's a boy/guy thing I guess, as my Dad was the same way. I suppose that's what gives so many boys/men the bravery/nerve to go into battle the way they do. Yes, I know women serve on the front line as well but I'm talking about my sons at the moment. Anyway, I wish (oh, how I wish) my Dad had lived to see my sons, to share stories with them, to talk about war planes and hear of his stateside experiences (he never saw combat, praise God). My Stepdad visited with my sons a few times but not enough. He did fight in battles but hesitated to talk about them, which is understandable. Good, strong, brave men, George and Richard were. Perhaps that's who I'll talk about tomorrow with my kids - their maternal grandfathers. Though Dad and Richard were both humble and probably wouldn't want all that attention. Oh, man, I better stop writing about them, the tears are flowing.

Boy, this post sure deviated from the original idea. It can't be helped - Memorial Day means more than just honoring our brave. For me, it also means remembering two wonderful men in my life. I will always miss them.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Cooking With Carmen

My 9 year old, Carmen, has recently started asking to learn how to cook. That's what I was waiting for. We decided to start with some recipes in Mollie Katzen's "Honest Pretzels" cookbook and so far, we have baked banana bread twice and "not-from-a-box" macaroni and cheese for dinner last week.

She was especially excited to actually make dinner. She loves my macaroni and cheese recipe (made with Velveeta) but this recipe calls for sharp cheddar. I hate Velveeta and was glad to use another kind of cheese and we added some white cheddar as well for extra flavor. We also used mini penne mixed with mini wheels, instead of (boring) elbow macaroni noodles. My kids have never eaten macaroni "from a box", and the male family members aren't really mac & cheese fans but they ate it and I made sure they thanked Carmen for making dinner. Carmen and I thought it was yummy. She was so proud and I was equally proud of her.

The banana bread recipe uses yogurt (this cookbook is mostly vegetarian and health-conscious) and just 1/2 cup of butter. It was very good the first time we made it and, tonight, we added walnuts for variety. We'll find out tomorrow morning if we like it with nuts.

What I love about working with Carmen in the kitchen is that she has no fear of trying to do something. She'll just go ahead and do it or ask if she can try something once. Like when I was chopping the walnuts, she asked if she could try cutting one. I handed her the knife and she made just one cut, but that was enough for her to see if she could do it. She has no hang-ups (yet, like her mother) and is eager to learn. I love it.

It takes longer to do everything but it is so worth it. Instead of her just helping, I make it truly a teaching time. I make sure she is doing most of the work. I try to explain everything we are doing and why we are doing it. She asks a million questions. Well, she does that all day long anyway, why should cooking be any different? Sometimes, she stops talking long enough to actually hear my answer. We need to work on her listening skills!

This is all foreign territory for me. My mother taught me absolutely nothing about cooking so I learned what I know by experience (or out of hunger), lots and lots of reading and, mostly, from my husband. I still rely on him for quite a bit. Mostly for things I know really matter to him, like when his steak is done. So I understand how important it is for kids to become confident in the kitchen early on. I want them to be able to learn and teach themselves new things, to be able to take care of themselves well and to have fun. I have so many hang ups in the kitchen that I lack confidence. But I find that when I'm teaching Carmen, I don't feel that way. It's either a good act or perhaps, at 47, I do know my way around the kitchen (don't laugh, Todd!)

Saturday, May 15, 2010


Two weeks ago, on Monday, May 3rd, I was walking into the kitchen when I noticed my whole family looking at me. My husband was sitting at the kitchen table and he said, "Surprises are best left to the very last moment (a direct quote from the Brit sitcom "As Time Goes By"). I suddenly felt disoriented, like I was floating. I looked at each face and couldn't figure out what was going on. "What?" I said, rather alarmed. I honestly don't remember much about what was said after that but here's the (ahem) short story. They had planned a two-day trip (beginning Tuesday) to Leavenworth, Washington, for us to celebrate my birthday/Mother's Day. And they kept it so under wraps that I was TOTALLY clueless! They were so excited, the kids had all packed their clothes and even had helped out (more than usual) with laundry and dishes (I just thought they were finally learning more responsibility - silly me!) I was in shock, so much that I wasn't all that thrilled to begin with. It's, after all, a financial strain on our already strained finances. I had told everyone not to spend a dime on me for this birthday (May 8th) and Alec almost gave it away, now that I recall, but I just wrote it off to his being silly Alec. I was happy but worried. I discovered a lot about myself through this trip. I felt I didn't deserve it. I was so used to being in control of things that it was near impossible to believe that everyone had planned this without me. Honestly, I was in a daze all afternoon. It took me a full day to warm up to the idea. I tried to tell my family how much I appreciated all they did but that I wasn't used to surprises like this. Now I know just how uptight I really am. And I don't like that about myself. I'm also more of a control freak than I thought. Ugh!

But, fortunately, my family loves me anyway and we had a very nice time. It rained, then snowed on us during the 6 hour drive into the mountains of north-central Washington. Gosh, it was beautiful. Leavenworth is a town that reinvented itself back in the 1970's into a Bavarian-themed, snow-capped village. The mountain view is amazing - Wedge Mountain looms straight up behind the town. We love the view from our favorite hotel. I can lay in bed and look out the window at "The Mountain". I love it.

After check-in, we had dinner at one of our favorite restaurants. After dinner, we played racquetball at the court in the hotel, had coffee and hot chocolate in our room and went to bed. It's too bad the kids don't sleep well on the first night out and Carmen was exceptionally grumpy. But we got through it and woke up in time for the awesome breakfast this place serves. The breakfast room is on the fourth floor and has awesome views on three sides. Our hotel is also Bavarian-themed and the owner plays an Alpine horn from the balcony twice a day. A good photo op. We played golf across the street at the hotel's putting green, ate lunch in our room and then the kids swam in the pool. Dinner was at another favorite of ours, called Cafe Mozart. It's very nice with decor themed around Mozart and the era he lived in. The waitress actually remembered us from last year and seated us at the same table. After dinner, Chad and I played ping pong and listened to the nightly piano player in the lobby. Chad got to play a bit of piano, too, that night. The next day in the breakfast room, a lady came over to our table and told Chad how much she enjoyed his playing and encouraged him to continue learning. He beamed! Later, he asked if he could play on the piano in the breakfast room, just one song. Chad really had the best time on this trip. After we checked out, we headed over to a park on a little island on a lake that was created years ago by a lumber company that used to be there. Then it was time to go home.

I smile when I think of how, before the trip, my 9 year old daughter kept saying, "We planned everything, Mommy!" I'm ashamed at how I kept thinking, "If only!" I guess since I'm the Mom, I'm so used to being the one to make sure everyone has enough underwear and we've brought the right food and I've got my make-up, etc., that letting go is not something I easily do. I realize now that I have to work on loosening up, not worrying so much, and, most of all, allowing others to do something nice for me. I wrote thank you notes to each of my family members yesterday. I wanted something in writing for them to remember - not the stressed out Mom they saw at the beginning of the trip. How I wish I could go back and act the way I really wanted to! I was never angry, just in shock. That's the best way to describe it. I did have a really nice time and that's all we've talked about. So, hopefully, that's what the kids will remember. And I am so proud of them all, especially my husband. I'm proud and impressed that he went to so much trouble for me. What a guy! He really wanted me to have a good time - and I did. I just needed more than 24 hours to adjust to my "Surprise!"

Saturday, May 8, 2010


With love, Kate

P.S. Happy Birthday To Me!