Category Archives: Parenting

Run mama run

Run Mama Run, Training for a Race with a Family

This morning my husband woke the kids up early, got them dressed, and walked them down to the sidelines to see me run by our hotel during the Disney Princess 1/2 Marathon. I asked him to do this because I knew seeing  the kids would recharge me for the rest of the race, and also because we all were part of the training for this race.

With three kids, training for a race is not as easy as it used to be.  Gone are the days of putting them in the jogger stroller. Giving up running isn’t an option now though, in fact,  it is more important them ever. Parents are children’s first role model. I want my kids to value fitness. For me, exercise is a way to stay healthy, to have energy now and live long to see them grow.

That being said, once I committed to running the race, training for it had to be built into the “family” calendar. I trained with three runs a week- a steady 5k, speed work (hills and sprints), and one long run that increased by one mile each week up to 10 miles (the plan was 13 but I had to cancel it a few times for bad weather). Plus weight training two times a week and two days of rest.

With work and school, appointments and activities, the time to train had to come out of hide, so I had to minimize the time it took me away from the kids. Sometimes it meant running early in the morning, late at night, or during my lunch break at work. I started saving the last half mile of my runs to take the older kids with me, one at a time, for a quarter mile each. They were also great partners for speed work. My husband planned special time during my long runs, which ran over 90 minutes by the end.

No matter how you exercise, whether it is running or swimming or yoga, keep it up for you and your family.

 

image

Joseph’s birth story

I know that every pregnancy and birth is different; still it was hard not to look for patterns with my third.

Andrew came three weeks early, when my water broke during the bar exam. After finishing the exam and driving to the hospital he was making his arrival before I knew what was going on. Unfortunately the wrong end was arriving and due to hospital policy had to be delivered via c/s.

Sophie went past her due date, which messed with my head because I expected her early too. My midwife understood and agreed to break my water. She was born less than two hours later. The very first contraction turned into the last with no breaks.

So with Joseph I tried to have no expectations and just enjoy whatever happened. I gave myself a window of Christmas to Valentine’s Day to go into labor. This is our last baby so I really want to experience a labor where my waters didn’t break first. The good thing about having your water break before labor is you “know” you are in labor. If it didn’t break I was going to have to figure it out.

As my due date approached I was so anxious mentally to have baby Joseph. Physically I was still feeling good, but I was living each day like it was going to be “the day.” Once his due date came and went though I found that I was totally okay with him being post date. I was picking up enough clues to know that things were progressing. I knew the more my body did to prepare, the less work during labor.

I half expected to start labor on Thursday because I had a busy day at work and I had a flat tire on the way there. Later at work I got a call saying the mechanic had crashed my truck. But, Friday morning I woke up still pregnant and had too busy of a day to have to have a baby. There was dance, teacher conference, volunteering at school, a midwife appointment, and gymnastics. I called my midwife to confirm our appointment, because I felt like I was really progressing and wanted to make sure I saw her.

At 10:10 am Sophie and I were dressed for the gym; she in her ballet outfit and me in my running clothes. As I was walking down the stairs I had a cramp that made me sit down. I asked Steve to take her to dance so I could lie down and see if this progressed or fizzled out. Just in case, I started picking up the house. I made the beds and scrubbed the bath tub while trying to time contractions. They seemed irregular because it was hard to tell when they were starting and stopping. I called the midwife and said “I think I’m in labor, but it is still early.” She asked why I thought it was early and I said, “because it just started.” She replied, “yeah but you have fast labors. I am in the shower but I will be right over.” I texted Steve and asked him to come home from ballet. I wrote “not sure if this is it but I need morale support.”

It was about 11:00 when Steve and Sophie got back. Steve suggested I get in the tub. Sophie brought in toys and we were playing ‘my little pony.’ The midwife arrived and I told her I had been trying to time contractions but couldn’t see a pattern. I was really worried I was wasting her time and that this wasn’t labor. She touched my lower back and said “your sacrum is way out. You are totally in labor.” I asked if I still had to time them and she said no. Aunt Liz arrived to take Sophie in the other room to play as the midwife and her assistant began unpacking. The contractions were totally manageable and I was resting in between them. The more they set-up it became real to me that I was in fact in labor. This was about noon. The contractions picked up and became more difficult but I could still handle it. The midwife suggested I get out and try another position to help things progress. As I walked into the bedroom a big contraction hit me and I had work through it there on the floor. When it was over I climbed in bed on my side. Steve laid down too and put his forehead against mine and held my hand. He told me he was happy I was allowing this baby to come into the world this way. This was my favorite moment of labor. The contractions were coming stronger and I wanted to get back in the tub.

I got up and walked back to the tub. We added hot water which felt good, but the contractions were getting closer. I wanted a break so bad. I thought to myself if I were in a hospital this is when I would ask for drugs. Steve was outside the tub but I could tell he wanted to come in. I really wanted him to come in but I couldn’t speak. The midwife suggested he climb in and I was so happy. I started to get nauseous and the midwife assistant waved some peppermint oil under my nose which seemed to clear my mind. My toes were going numb from squatting but I could not move. I told Steve and he turned me around. I was cognizant that I had regained the ability to communicate as I was making these complaints. My back was against Steve’s chest and I had one hand on each side of the tub. With each contraction I was able to open my eyes and look out the window and imagine Joseph in this world. I was getting a break now and knew I was nearing the end. I didn’t feel like pushing but I felt the baby getting lower and started breathing down through contractions. At one point during a contraction I told the midwife, “I can’t do this…I mean I will do this…but I want you to know right now I feel like I can’t.”

At this point I was resting well, almost sleeping, between contractions. The midwife suggested I get out again and I told her I could push. It took me a couple contractions but I climbed out and onto the birthing stool. Without the water the pain hit me and I said I couldn’t do it “for real.” The midwife checked me and I was fully dilated. She asked to break my water. I said, “go for it.” Another contraction later I was getting ready to complain again but the midwife took my hand and put it on the baby’s head. This next part amazes me because I was able to tune everyone and everything out and visualize the baby’s descent. I wanted it be slow. Steve was holding me up as I pushed. The head was out but the shoulders needed another push. I said I needed to wait for the next contraction. I put my hands on my belly and I could still feel the baby’s feet getting ready to jump off. Steve said, “hold on, my legs are going to sleep.” I said, “suck it up” and started pushing the shoulders out. He was out a second later and cradled in my arms. It was 2:58 p.m.

I called for Sophia who rushed in so happy with Aunt Liz. The look on Sophie’s face was priceless. I also called my neighbors Angel and Diane from my cell phone. Joseph’s eyes were open and he was looking around. I kissed his head and told him how much I loved him.  I was just so joyful I could have stayed like that forever. My midwife wanted me to lie down to deliver the placenta so I carried Joseph to my bed. Diane helped me change into a dry top. Sophia stayed by me watching the baby. He immediately started eating.

Steve cut the cord. Sophia said it was gross. The midwives were busy with this and that. There was a party going on in the living room. I kept watching the clock and yelling someone go get Andrew, his bus is coming. Steve and Sophie went to greet him and he ran straight upstairs. He took one look at the baby, then spotted the placenta in the bowl next to me. “That’s cool…is that blood?” he asked. I had to pass the baby over for his newborn exam and used the time to get dressed. I was shocked to learn he was 8lbs 9 oz and 20 inches long, my biggest baby yet. The baby wanted to eat again so as I fed him the midwife assistant fed me leftover spaghetti and mushrooms. Then everything was packed up and cleaned up and the midwives said goodbye. They gave instructions to Steve to not let me go downstairs for three days. Steve looked at me smirking knowing how hard that rule would be (I went down for a midnight snack). Aunt Liz took Andrew and Sophia to gymnastics. Angel and Niki came over to see the baby. I felt so good, not at all like I just had a baby.

Joseph slept through the night. I was up staring at him all night. The second night he was up all night and I was tired. By the third night we had a nice routine. He gets up once or twice a night, eats, and goes back to sleep. He is like Steve in that he likes to be warm, which is a great excuse to snuggle.

His birth was completely different from his siblings. Andrew’s birth was an adventure. Sophia’s birth was  healing. Joseph’s birth was powerful. He completes our family perfectly.

dining out

How Devices Saved Dining Out

Hey older generation, I know what you are thinking when you see my kids staring at a device, but you’re wrong. If you knew, you’d probably be jealous.

I was thinking about this tonight at a grown up dinner party in a crowded restaurant. The boys were playing 3DS and the girls were watching a movie on my iPhone. Dinner was no where in sight but we were all have a great time catching up on family news. I knew there were probably people in the restaurant judging me for giving the kids “devices” rather than engaging them. Here is the thing… without devices I probably would not have dared to take my crew out to eat. They can only do so many tic tac toe games after all. The toys and puzzles we bring are always more interesting once they are in their sibling’s hands. The alternative is to leave them home with a sitter, where they’d probably watch tv anyway. Because of devices I was able to take them with me.  They were out in the world and believe me, interacting with new people and experiencing new things. 

The other thing you might not know is what the kids are watching or playing is pretty cool. They tap bubbles that add up to a certain number, or stack blocks to form a sight word. They aren’t playing that “grand theft auto” game you’ve read about.

Another thing I’d like to point out to the older generation is that I spend a tremendous amount of time interacting with my children. Thanks to the invention of the dishwasher and microwave I can spend more time in the living room playing princess and pirates. I even have a little robot that vacuums the floors, which is a good thing because the floors are often covered with glitter and sequins from our art projects or sand from our visit to the neighborhood beach.

So when the family goes out together for a meal, I can enjoy the evening as an opportunity to take a break from everything and I can savor decadent food, try a new drink, make googly eyes at my husband, and relax in the silence coming from the kids side of the booth. So keep judging older generation. I’ll keep my devices charged up for when we dine out.

cactus

How to eat a cactus

While shopping yesterday the kids talked me into buying a cactus leaf. Actually I said “no way,” so they asked Mike our family friend who claimed he knew how to cook a cactus. On the car ride home he admitted he had no idea but thought google would know.

cactus recipe

While I put the groceries away the kids enjoyed chasing each other around the kitchen with the cactus. I decided to bite the bullet and cook this thing sooner rather than later. While I do not have much experiences with South American cuisine, I believe that chopping a veggie up and sauteing it with oil and salt is fail safe.

peeling cactus

I started by removing the thorns (and nubs where the thorns used to be) with a vegetable peeler. I then washed it in cold water until most of the slime was off. Andrew helped me chop it up into little pieces.

slicing a cactus

I put it in the pan on medium with a teaspoon of palm oil (any oil would work) and a sprinkle of salt. I covered it and left it for 20 minutes. When I came back it had shrunk a lot.

cooked cactus

Everyone tasted it and it got mixed reviews. Mostly it was neutral, kind of like a mushroom. I put them on top of tacos like a garnish.

cactus tacos

 

Considering how little food the cactus leaf made, and how bland it tasted, it was not a time efficient ingredient. I also ended up with a few thorns in my fingers. Overall I still count the meal as a success. The cool thing is that my kids tried this totally weird plant.

Staying Outside of the Vaccine Debate

Who would guess that a few milliliters of serum could cause such a debate. If it wasn’t for Facebook I might not have known how strongly people feel and what a large division there is between the Vax’ers and the Non-Vaxers.

In recent years there has been a growing number of parents who choose not to vaccinate their children against diseases such as rubella, measles, mumps, HPV, polio, and the seasonal flu. They cite studies that indicate a link between vaccines and certain medical disorders, most famously Autism Spectrum Disorder. The medical community meanwhile has stood by the position that not only are vaccines safe, they protect children who would otherwise be at risk. Recently the CDC has stated that diseases we thought irradiated, such as polio, are showing up again. Since 2007 over 1,000 children have died from preventable diseases.

If you are wondering where I stand, we vaccinate our children, but it wasn’t a decision we arrived at quickly or easily. Before I let the pediatrician inject anything into any of my children we research the risks and benefits of each vaccine. In the end we felt in our hearts and minds that the likelihood of contacting a dangerous disease more more probable that a vaccine injury. Also, on a anecdotal note, having been in the Army for so long I have had every possible vaccine ever created, to include anthrax, and I am still ticking.

But this week news is spreading that Jenny McCarthy, a face of the non-vaccination side, “might be wrong.” Her 14 year old son, Evan, was diagnosed early as being on the Spectrum. McCarthy attributed his disorder to vaccines he received. She went on to be a critic of vaccinations and published two books. In 2010 it came out that the diagnosis for ASD might have been hasty, and there could be a different disorder, such as hearing or visual impairment. She stands by the original diagnosis for Autism and claims these rumors are false.

So why does it matter what other parents are doing? Because un-vaccinated children could spread diseases to your children who have not yet been fully immunized (either haven’t received initial or booster shots). Do an image search for measels. It looks really painful. Children don’t get their second MMR until they are 4-6 years old, leaving them vulnerable to this disease. Other children have compromised immune systems and cannot be immunized and must rely on herd immunization. For this reason I understand the anger and frustration at people like Jenny McCarthy, regardless of whether or not her son has Autism.

Despite these concerns, parents have the inherent right to parent as they feel best for their children. Non-vax-ers are not being lazy. Most likely they put a lot of time and energy and soul seeking before choosing to not vaccinate. Their side of the controversy is not without evidence. According to the “National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program statistics reports” the US Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) fund had paid out 2,114 awards totaling $1.7 billion, mailing for people injured by the DTAP vaccine.

So, before you go blast Jenny (calling her an idiot or a menace as I have seen already today), take a moment and emphasize with her. We are all doing the best we can with what we know and what we have experienced.

 

 

Wigilia

First Star, time to start the Wigilia

Wesolych Swiat Bozego Narodzenia. This is how we say Merry Christmas in Polish. Jedzcie, pijcie i popuszczajcie  pasa. This is how we say Eat, drink and loosen your belt. For tomorrow is the Wigilia, a very important holiday for Poles.

Both Steve and I are Polish, but neither of us were raised in households observing Polish traditions. We do however still have older relatives who know the customs and language and we want to pass something along to our children. Together we decided to adopt the Wigilia. Last year was the first time and the kids loved it because they got to open presents on Christmas Eve.

The Wigila (pronounced Vi’gilja) starts as soon as the first star appears on December 24th. There are  a lot of customs about hay and odd numbers and empty seats, but we’ve adopted what we can.

533544_4706547056792_373159534_nOnce the kids see the first star we sit down for wieczerza wigilijna, the Christmas Dinner. There is a Polish saying “a guest in the home is God in the home,” so we invite our neighbors to join us. The picture above is from last year. The Wigila meal is usually meatless, but I made Golapki (pronounced Gawompki) because it is one of the dishes my Polish grandmother taught me to make. It is cabbage leaves stuffed with beef and rice. We also had pierogi, sauerkraut, borscht (beet soup), uszka (mushroom dumplings), sernik na zimno (like a cheesecake with fruit and jello on top). To drink we enjoy Oranzada with wodka which is really vodka with orange soda.

This year I am adding fish to be more traditional. I am also going to try to make Chrusciki, which is like little fried dough cookies. I’ve found a recipe for a Rose of Warsaw cocktail made from vodka, cherry liquor, orange liquor, and bitters. We don’t have the ingredients on hand but it will make the shopping list for next year. Of course we will make pierogi for our dinner. I learned to make these cheese and potato dumplings when I was really young and this year I hope to teach my daughter Sophie. Check back on Wigilia for a blog entry tutorial on making pierogi.

After dinner we will go to church. Good Poles would go to a midnight mass but we will attend the 6 pm family service at our Methodist Church. When we come home we will open the presents we gave to each other or received from other friends and family. In Polish tradition the kids pass out the presents. We will leave out cookies for Santa, but will also talk about Gwiazdka which means “the little star,” who is the Polish gift-giver. This relates back to the Wigilia theme of the star of Bethlehem.  

However you celebrate, have a Merry Christmas!

"We work things out."

Arguing to Reach a Resolution

In the interest of full disclosure, let me start by telling you I am an attorney. My profession is to argue and I enjoy it. I love painting witnesses into the proverbial corner. In court I spar with opposing counsel, attacking the logic of his points, and then shake hands and wish him well.
My husband Steve and I do fight in front of the kids. And by fight I mean we argue. We “use our words.” I would never ever condone parents using their hands on each other ever let alone in front of the children. We made a promise to each other years ago to work problems out. So we work them out as they arise. We respect each other and don’t want the other to feel bad until it is convenient to talk. We have discussed whether we should disagree in front of the kids. I think we may have actually argued about it. I feel strongly that the kids and us are part of a team and we need to be transparent with each other. For us, the fights always get resolved. The persuading, compromising, criticizing, negotiating, and forgiving, are all practical skills you learn from observing. I do my best to keep my sailor’s mouth in check, even when I am mad, because I know it is important to my husband that we don’t cuss in front of the kids.
My kids will sometimes pick sides when they see us argue. It depends on whose side is more closely aligned with their own interests. If I am making the case for a trip to Disney, they take my side. A few months ago my four year old interrupted a heated discussion with “Mommy don’t fight with Daddy, he loves you and you guys are married.” Steve and I cracked up laughing and forgot what the dispute was.
The kids helped us celebrate our 10 year anniversary.

The kids helped us celebrate our 10 year anniversary.

I remember my parents fighting in front of me and my brothers, heck, they still do. They have been happily married for 41 years. Even when they fought I felt they were in it for the long haul. I never once worried “oh no my parents are fighting they are going to get divorced.” I want my kids to have that same security, that mom and dad can work anything out and will never give up on each other.
My parents gave us security that we would always be a family.

My parents gave us security that we would always be a family.

In my house we play a game called the Martin Luther King Game. Here are the rules.- if someone has a problem, and it can be anything, we use words to work it out. They use words to state the problem, explain how it makes both sides feel, and then express a solution. For example, if my daughter took my son’s toy and he is about to throw a fit I say “Martin Luther King Game!” They will take turns back and forth until there is agreement. Maybe it is my background as an attorney, but I really want my kids to solve their own problems with words.
I think it is artificial to create an environment for the kids without conflict. The real world is full of conflict that our children will have to navigate. Not in the future, but now, on the playground or in preschool. They fight over toys, they fight over taking turns, they fight over friends.  I hope that my children will have the language to resolve these conflicts. Last year I was volunteering in my son’s kindergarten class, and I saw two kids fighting over a puzzle. I was watching, waiting to see if I needed to intervene or if they would work it out, when my own son came over with a second puzzle box and said, “here now you both can have one.” It melted my heart that my son offered himself as the peace broker during this classroom scuffle.
"We work things out."

“We work things out.”

My son was late to talk, so the speech therapist told us it was important to give him language to express his feelings. We had a chart he could point to with different stick figure faces that were happy, sad, bored, etc. I love that now, as a six year old, he is so eloquent when expressing his feelings. He will say things like “I am so frustrated right now that it makes it hard to think.” He knows to define the conflict, and seek resolution. I think he has this ability because his father and I express our feelings to each other.
The preceding is the background I used for the interview featured on Today.com

http://www.today.com/moms/fighting-front-kids-parental-do-or-dont-2D11624576
Grocery store score...Brussels sprouts.

Five Tips to Help Kids Learn to Love Vegetables

A few weeks ago I came home from the grocery store excited from the cool produce my kids had picked out, like this stalk of Brussels Spouts. I posted on Facebook and a lot of friends were curious whether the kids would eat them. It inspired to think of some of the tricks I have used over years to get my kids to eat vegetables. Here are my top five.

1) Help them understand why they are good, specifically. My son cracked me up a few months ago when he came in from climbing on the monkey bars and was rooting through the fridge. “Help me mommy,” he said, “I’m looking for something to eat to help me climb more monkey bars.” Saying something is healthy might not have much meaning for young kids, but they may be interested to hear what is good for building muscles to climb trees, or strong bones so they can be tall enough to ride the roller coaster, or something to boost their immune system so they don’t get sick,

2) Family Rule- You Must Try It. All I require is one bite.  I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have heard the kids say they DON’T like something, remind them of our family rule to try it, and have it turn out that they LOVE it. This is not a one time thing. No matter how many times it is served they have to try it that meal. Their tastes can change or I could have prepared it differently.

3) Let them get involved. Let them pick out vegetables at the store, or help wash or cook them at home. In my house I have the kids work in the garden with me. I remember as a child going out to my parent’s garden to “get dinner.” This lets kids feel like they had a choice in their meals.

Sophie picked out this turnip because it was her favorite color.

Sophie picked out this turnip because it was her favorite color.

4) Skip the snacks. It is self evident that kids eat better when they come to the table a little hungry. I struggle with this one all the time. My oldest gets off the bus and eats a snack because he is starving. I serve an early dinner because we have soccer/dance/cub scouts/etc but now he is not hungry. It is important to manage the snack to meal ratio.

5) Cook it with a chicken. I guess smothering it in cheese would work too. Vegetables are healthiest in their rawest purest forms, but they have to be eaten to be of nutritional value. This is what we did with the Brussels Sprouts. Guess what? The kids ate them. Even little baby JP.

Roasted vegetables with chicken.

Roasted vegetables with chicken.

Andrew loved this meal.

Andrew loved this meal.

Sophie thought this was so funny.

Sophie thought this was so funny.

Special Occasion Food and Elimination Diets

Lets face it, special occasions are all about the food. For some events the food is the highlight of the day, such as Birthday cakes, Thanksgiving turkeys, and Easter eggs. Sometimes it is small things you may not even realize you associate with events, like a cold beer after a day of yard work. It might be something unique to you. My husband likes to go to the gym, because he knows he will stop for a raspberry turkey flat bread afterwards. I specifically remember drinking a NA beer with teammates after a big mission in Iraq thinking, we are drinking this beer not out of taste, and certainly not for a buzz, but out of custom. This sort of food custom brings comfort. We share meals together to strengthen our bonds. Food is a huge part of our culture.

When we learned that my son, Andrew, was allergic to 16 foods, to include wheat, rice, oats, milk, cheese, eggs, soy, coconut. bananas, yeast, and more, I didn’t know what I would cook for him. I had mastered those kid friendly meals such as macaroni and cheese and chicken nuggets, but during the elimination diet phase of his treatment I couldn’t give him most normal kid food. For breakfast is was apple slices and sunflower butter. Lunch could be a chicken breast and broccoli. Snack was a big wedge of watermelon. Dinner an ear of corn and bunch of grapes. All in all very little cooking for me and pretty healthy for him, but I longed to give Andrew those  special occasion meals. Sunday morning waffles were a treat he looked forward to all week. In our house Fridays were pizza nights.

This replaced Sunday morning waffles and scrambled eggs

This replaced Sunday morning waffles and scrambled eggs

In the beginning I called every dinner I made “dinner miracle.” Below is a picture of a “pizza” I made from spouted corn tortillas, tomato sauce, and chopped cauliflower. Andrew loved this. School lunches were the hardest because they had to travel via Andrew’s swinging back pack.

Fake pizza, featured here with a warm quinoa salad and turkey

Fake pizza, featured here with a warm quinoa salad and turkey

It was easy to stay focused on the diet for us. After three days Andrew’s eczema had cleared 100%.  After a week he stopped complaining of tummy aches. He was having an easier time sleeping and staying focused. Even a plantar wart on his foot that had been bothering him for a year went away on its own. After three months we began adding food back in to Andrews diet to see if there were foods he tested reactive to that he could actually tolerate now that his gut was healing. Our Naturopathic Doctor said it was up to us which to try first. We started with those foods that would allow us to bring back some of our family traditions. As of today, we have added rice, coconut, and yeast back into his diet. This was huge over the summer because it meant I could buy him almond milk ice cream, which contains rice syrup and coconut oil. It also means he can eat Daiya almond milk cheese. I can make quinoa pasta with Daiya cheese and call it Fake mac’n’cheese.

Recently I posted a blog about making an allergen free pumpkin pie. It was important to me do make this seasonal treat. It would often be easier for me to have Andrew eat before we go out, but I recognize that this would deprive him of the fellowship of eating with others. Depending on where we are going there may be no menu options for Andrew. Below is a picture I took of Andrew at a local restaurant patio where we were celebrating the end of my husband’s soccer season. I had packed him almond butter truffles. They totally melted and had lost their shape, but as you can see Andrew didn’t mind. He was happy to be at the table.

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Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. It will be the first Thanksgiving where we are allergen conscious, and also the first thanksgiving where I am not cooking. I am not packing any food as we head to Philly to see my in laws, but rather I am leaving it up to my father-in-law. Worst case scenario…I know for a fact my boy eats turkey legs.

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Keeping the kids busy with the Post-Halloween pumpkins

No Rest for the Weary

Today was a long rough day, mentally and physically. This morning I took my bi-annual Physical Fitness test for the Army, and after went immediately into important meetings and pending deadlines. Coming home I hit traffic in the city and the beltway. As I pulled in the driveway I thought “easy dinner…use homework pass…movie night.”

The kids had other plans. The kids decided tonight is the night the Halloween pumpkins become pies. As I was starting dinner, I heard banging and thumping as they rolled the Halloween pumpkins from the front porch to the kitchen counter. “We want pumpkin pie!” they said over each other. Ironically I intended to make them a pumpkin pie soon to try an experiment with flax as an egg replacement. “No, I’m sorry, it will have to wait till this weekend,” I told them. My son is dairy/egg/soy/grain free so every baked thing I make is like a little miracle. Steve jumped in to help and offered to help them scoop the seeds out for fun.

Andrew has a baggie of seeds to take to school to show his friends.

Andrew has a baggie of seeds to take to school to show his friends.

As they were pulling the seeds out, Andrew, my first grader, asked for a bag so he can bring the seeds into school for show-n-tell. Steve asked, “Andrew, why do you want to bring seeds to school?” “Because seeds are cool!” he answered.

I loved this, loved loved loved this. I love that my kids know where their food comes from, and how it got to the table, and that they are enthusiastic about it. Forget the relaxing,  I decided to seize the moment as a learning experience and teach the kids more about pumpkins. Waste not want not my grandma use to say. We made the most of our time and our pumpkins.

The kids were working together and keeping busy.

The kids were working together and keeping busy.

While I cooked dinner I let them work on the guts. They used spoons to scrape out all the seeds and slime. Seeds and guts were flying on the counter, stools, floor, and walls but I managed to make a decent dinner while they were entertained. After dinner we cut the pumpkin and steamed it.

Sophie scooped the meat from the skin.

Sophie scooped the meat from the skin.

Sophie used the baby bullet to puree the pie.

Sophie used the baby bullet to puree the pie.

We lost Andrew for a few minutes, although there is evidence on my mouse and keyboard he was in my office, so Sophie helped me scoop the pumpkin meat into a bowl. I showed her how we will use the skin in the compost and put it in the bin. We added almond milk, agave nectar, cinnamon, and a flax mix (one Tblsp flax meal to three tblsp water and let sit for two minutes) then ran the mixture through  JP’s baby bullet. At this point Andrew had wandered back and both kids were licking the pumpkin mix right out of the blender.

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Yup, those are tongue marks.

This crust is wheat free, made from hazelnut meal.

This crust is wheat free, made from hazelnut meal.

At this point I had conceded to a massive kitchen cleaning and I made a quick crust of hazelnut meal, sugar, and butter, poured the mix into the shell, then had forty minutes to get the kids ready for bed. We also used the time to take the seeds and make a tray of sweet (sugar and cinnamon) and savory (salt and old bay) snacks. Pumpkin seeds are high in protein, magnesium, and iron.

Pumpkin seeds are a super food.

Pumpkin seeds are a super food. Don’t look at my oven.

The poor kids were fast asleep by the time the fruit of their labor was done. This mama finished cleaning the kitchen and is now kicking back eating a warm piece of homemade pumpkin pie, with the added bonus of knowing that breakfast is already made. That is 15 more minutes of sleep for me in the morning.