Tuesday, December 28, 2010

First Skirt

Guess what Alice and I did this afternoon?


This is her first sewing project. She did everything except for putting the elastic through the casing - I helped with that because it was a tight squeeze. She even used the serger to finish off the raw edges! She is very proud of herself!


I predict many more skirts in her immediate future....

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Treat Trade

This was our fourth Halloween dealing with a gluten free diet. In the past, we've done the "treat trade" with Alice. After she gets done trick or treating, we sort through her candy and separate out the things she can't eat. Then we work some sort of trade with her. Usually we let her pick a few pieces from her "okay" pile to keep and add the rest to the gluten pile to trade in. She swaps us her big pile 'o loot for something - money, a book, etc.

Its a system that has worked really well for us. We fully intended to implement it this year.

Last night I sorted her candy when we got home from trick or treating. On the gluten free side was a HUGE pile of candy. On the gluten side there were 5 mini kit kats, 6 whoppers, and a candy bracelet that was made in China. (Don't know if it contains gluten or not. In any case, I have a strong suspicion that its not really food...) That was IT! I looked at Alice, who was broadly beaming at me. "Some people didn't let me pick, so I had to take the kitkats and whoppers," she explained.

It is hard to express how PROUD this makes me. It's not about the candy. This is bigger. Alice is taking responsibility for her diet. She *knows* what she can and cannot eat and makes choices accordingly whether its picking Halloween candy or politely declining to eat something she's not sure about. I think this is pretty remarkable for a six year old.

So, I don't know if we'll do the treat trade this year. A side benefit has been limiting the number of sugar highs in the house.... We'll have to think about it.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Stop the Pweachahs!

Conversation in the car:

Alice: "Mom, pweachahs are really, really bad."

Me: "Preachers?"

A: "YES! You know, pweachahs? They go out and kill animals?"

M: "Really? Preachers do that?"

A: "YES! They kill animals and then just take their horn or something."

M: "OH! You mean POACHERS, not preachers."

A: "That's what I said. Pweachahs is just a different word for poachers."

M: "Um.... Not really. You're really talking about poachers. A preacher is something very, very different."

A: "Okay. Can I send part of my allowance to stop the poachers? Can you look up where to send it?"

M: "Um... Okay."

A: "Do poachers trap skunks?"

M: "I don't think so - usually they hunt animals that are rare like rhinos or eagles."

A: "Phew! Good, because I love skunks. We should still stop them, though."

A little while later, coming out of the grocery store:

Woman standing by the door soliciting donations: "Donate to help stop child abuse?"

Me: "Not today."

Alice, very innocently: "I'm saving my money to help stop the poachers. Those are the REALLY bad people."

Thank God she didn't say preachers.

So, Alice is indeed saving her money to help stop the poachers. She's putting part of her allowance aside every week and when she's got $10, we'll find someplace to send it. Tim and I introduced the concept of matching funds to her. We told her we'd match whatever she decided to send. This is quite exciting to her. She said that it makes her feel very grown up.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Brown Butter Oatmeal Cookies, Converted

I have a friend who is a true foodie. She enters recipe contests and wins them. She's got a new blog where she is taking on the challenge of feeding her family of 5 on $75 a week.

Today she posted a recipe for these:

Oh. My.

It was good timing because I "needed" to make cookies today. Her recipe was a good candidate for a gluten free makeover, so I tried them.

Oh. My.

There is a reason she does well in recipe contests. These are amazing. Its a good thing I have quartet rehearsal tonight with three guys who like cookies because these are dangerous.

When I look at converting a cookie recipe, there are a few clues as to how easy it is going to be. If I want to be virtually guaranteed of success the first time (i.e. I'm feeling lazy), I look for these characteristics:

1. A cup of flour or less in the recipe. Why? Because if it doesn't have much flour to begin with that means the cookie is not depending so much on gluten for its structure. It also means that its not depending on wheat for taste (think shortbread).

2. Bar cookies are a good bet, because they are contained in a pan with sides. My baking flops tend to be spectacular messes that run off the side of the pan and make the whole house fill with smoke. Most of the time they taste pretty good, they just have no structure. Bar cookies have four solid walls of built in structure.

3. Clues in the recipe that point to good structure. If a recipe instructs me to flatten a cookie with my hand or a fork it is a good sign that most likely it is not a dough that will flatten out on its own (and run all over my oven.).

This particular recipe met two of my three criteria for an easy conversion so I went for it. Actually, I felt so confident about it that I doubled the recipe. As you can see, it worked really well. For the flour I measured by weight and substituted part Pamela's mix and part coconut flour.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Sweet Success

My family LOVES pumpkin. They ask for pumpkin pie in July. Last year there was a pumpkin shortage which was a crisis in this house. Last weekend I did my "big shop" where I hit the warehouse store and spend about 1/2 of my monthly grocery / household budget. They had canned pumpkin. The excitement this produced in Alice and Tim was similar to the time when they walked around the store singing a made up song about ham, another passion they share.

We came home with enough canned pumpkin to last an average family 3 or 4 years. My family is not average. I predict that pumpkin will not make it to Thanksgiving.

I made this a few days later:
pumpkin bread with dried cranberries and walnuts

I got three loaves out of the recipe, which I doubled to use the entire 30 oz can of pumpkin. I took one loaf to a friend who thanked me the next day but said, "That was gluten bread, right?"

THAT is the ULTIMATE compliment.

I think my new found success in gluten free baking has to do with the purchase of a digital food scale. You see, a cup of rice flour, a cup of sorghum flour, a cup of Pamela's mix, and a cup of all-purpose wheat flour all have different weights. Substituting cup for cup does not always work out. If you measure by weight you have a much better chance of getting it right the first time.

For reference, a cup of all purpose flour weighs 125 grams, or about 4-3/8 oz.

Pumpkin Bread (single loaf recipe)

250 grams of flour (I used Pamela's Baking Mix and a little bit of almond flour.)
1 tea. baking soda (1/2 tea if using Pamela's)
1 tea. baking powder (1/2 tea if using Pamela's)
1 tea. cinnamon
1/2 tea. salt
1/2 tea. nutmeg
1 (15 oz) can of pumpkin
1 cup sugar (I always cut the sugar a bit, I probably used about 3/4 cup)
8 Tbs butter, melted (I used half butter, half oil and cut it down a bit)
2 eggs
2 tea. vanilla
1 cup toasted nuts, chopped (opt)
1 cup dried cranberries
If you are using gluten free flours that do NOT include xanthan gum, you will have to add some when you mix the dry ingredients, probably 1 teaspoon.

Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. Mix the wet ingredients in a different bowl. Combine the two. Add anything optional. Pour into a greased loaf pan, bake at 350 for 45 to 55 minutes until it is done when tested with a toothpick.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Love Letters to my Daughter

This month has been tough on Alice. We always have a little bit of a rocky transition to the start of the symphony season. As a "lonely only" she is spoiled in terms of enjoying undivided parental attention. Summers are especially luxurious because I am off of work for three months. Usually we ease into the season - a few rehearsals here, a few concerts there... It's never easy for Tim and Alice when my work starts in the fall, but it's usually more of an annoyance to them.

This year has been very, very different. It's the symphony's 75th anniversary season. We kicked things off about a week earlier than usual with rehearsals for Amadeus, a collaboration we did with a local theater. The schedule for Amadeus was pretty intense. I was gone most evenings, some days I was gone all afternoon and evening. This week hasn't been much better. Last night and tonight are our gala concert. From Tuesday through Sat we were / are scheduled for six rehearsals and two concerts. Its a lot.

It is great to be busy. The symphony is doing very well, which is something to be extremely grateful for in this economy. The schedule has taken a toll on my family, though. Last night as we lay in bed talking, I mused that Tim and I had only seen each other a total of about 5 minutes in 48 hours. He leaves for work just as Alice and I are getting up and I leave for rehearsal as soon as he gets home. He's stayed up a few nights waiting for me, but at some point you just have to get some sleep!

Poor Alice is not doing well with the sudden shift of schedule. She is about as flexible as a rock anyway, and this has turned her little world upside down. I see her a lot more than I see Tim, but it is a far cry from the luxury of summer. On more than one occasion I have had to pry her off of me as I've left for the theater. "Tell them you quit" has become one of her favorite phrases.

I started leaving her notes in her lunch box. Just short, stupid, silly things like "Roses are red, blueberries are blue, cookies are sweet, now go eat your sandwich!" She LOVES it. She carries them with her the rest of the day. Then she started writing me notes that I would find on my nightstand when I came home from rehearsal:
This is just a sampling. She is prolific in all things artsy, this included. Tim says that she writes them every night after he tucks her in because she misses me the most then. I love them, but having so many little cards and post-its floating around was making me a little bit crazy. They are not something that can be thrown out or recycled easily because if she found out it would greatly offend her. (And I can understand that because if someone threw out a love note that I had just written to them I would be sad and offended too.)

So I came up with a solution:
It is not a Bible. It's a blank book for us to write back and forth in. She writes in it and puts it by my bed, I write back and put it by her bed.
So far she is loving it. I am too. I am hoping this is something we can do for many years.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Spencer's Angels

Alice is very perceptive and very bright. She is also a worrier. Because of this we've told her, in an age-appropriate way, about why I've been seeing the doctor so much lately. Honestly, I don't think we could have kept it from her. A few pregnancies back, when things were so early we had not told anyone (and had been very careful not to talk about it in front of her) she kissed my tummy and said, "hello baby!" A few weeks later, the morning after I miscarried, she said, "Mommy, why did the baby come say goodbye?" It gave me chills.

We have never told her about a pregnancy but she has known about all the losses. In our thinking it was less stressful for her to understand on a basic level what was going on than to see Mom and Dad upset, Mom going to the doctor all the time and Alice having no idea what was happening. Each time we told her that we were sad because we thought that she was going to have a brother or sister but the baby went to heaven instead.

This actually gave her solace when we had to put our cat to sleep last fall. It was her first tangible brush with death and she was devastated. She drew a picture of Spencer with wings sitting on Jesus's lap with little tiny angels flying around his head. She said that she was sad but the angel babies could have a turn playing with the cat.

So, she understands at least a little bit what is going on. Yesterday, though, we had an interesting conversation:

"Mom, why is the doctor trying to MAKE you have a baby?"

"Um.... Well... Actually, the doctor isn't MAKING me have a baby, Daddy and I WANT to have another kid in our family because you're so great." (I could see where this was heading and I wanted to try to head things off with flattery.)

At this point Alice looked like I had slapped her. The looks that crossed that child's face were incredible: betrayal, horror, disbelief...

"You don't want a sibling?" (BAD question, Mom!)

"If I have a brother or sister then I won't get all the attention!"

Which is exactly why we want to have another child. Well, one of the reasons, anyway...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

You Can't Kill the Rooster

A month ago I consulted with a reproductive endocrinologist for recurrent miscarriage. I don't want to go into it now; let's just say we have had too many heartbreaks in the baby department.

Today I had a follow up appointment to discuss the masses of tests that Tim and I have had in the past 30 days.

Among other things, Tim and I both tested positive for two genetic mutations. If you are related to either of us by blood, you should consider being tested, or just follow the treatment.

MTHRFR genotype (methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase) impairs the body's ability to process folic acid. The treatment is folic acid supplement - check with your doctor for how much because the normal amount doesn't cut it. I've got a prescription, our doctor suggested 1000 mcg for Tim.

PAI-1 (Plasminogen Activator Inhibitor-1) causes clotting problems. As in, you have a difficult time getting rid of blood clots. Treatment for this is a baby asprin every day for life.

Alice has always been our wondergirl. Today was the first time I realized just how amazing it is that she is actually HERE. Because, medically, the odds were stacked high against her from conception. I suggested to Tim that we nickname her "rooster" as in, "you can't kill the rooster" (Alice in Chains). Alice didn't like that because, "roosters are boys and boys are stupid. Except for Daddy. And Brandon. And Ildar."

Friday, September 3, 2010

When Elephants Fight

As part of a parenting course Tim and I participated in, we watched a few videos of lectures by Rick LaVoie, who is a special education expert. (I HIGHLY recommend watching his lectures, by the way, even if your child does not have learning disabilities. F.A.T. city was especially enlightening.) He ran a school for children with learning disabilities. On the wall of the room where they held the IEP meetings, he had painted, "When elephants fight, the grass gets trampled." Meaning, when adults fight the kids lose.

"When elephants fight, the grass gets trampled" has been my mantra since school began. Things have happened that have made my blood boil. We looked at pulling Alice out. Tim and I are both strong believers in public school; the things that went on in the first two weeks of school seriously shook that belief. To say that things were (are) tense is an understatement. Tensions have been so bad between the parents and administrators that there has been an armed police officer on duty since the middle of the first week of school because the teachers and staff felt threatened.

My tactic has been to kill them with kindness. There have been several times where I've really wanted to go in and yell and scream at *someone.* Then I stop and think, "When elephants fight the grass gets trampled. There has to be a better way." I have made friends with everyone I can possibly make friends with: the crossing guard, the secretary, her teacher, other teachers, the armed police officer... I have also been in there volunteering about 12 hours a week since school started, primarily because it was the only way I felt okay about sending her to school. I'm doing room mother type things, but not in the classroom. I really like the ladies in the work room and it is satisfying to be able to go in, work for awhile and actually SEE what I've accomplished. I plan to continue volunteering all year simply because I enjoy it.

Now, three weeks into the school year, I'm cautiously optimistic that things are going to be okay. Knock on wood.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Pigs are PINK, dammit!

School is not going well. That is an understatement, really. Things have gotten so out of hand between the administrators and the parents that there is now an armed police officer at Alice's school. We have looked at our options for pulling her out. Still on the fence about it. We'll see how next week goes. A lot more on that whole mess later.

Things aren't going particularly well with Alice's teacher either. Alice is trying to like her. I'm trying to like her. Sigh. Per new safety regulations I am not really allowed in the classroom, so I have spent 7 hours this week doing room mother things in the work room. I have run xeroxes, sorted alphabet letter tiles and sight word cards. Not really what I had envisioned doing as room mother...

This came home with Alice today:


It is a story strip of the three little pigs. They had to color it, cut it out and paste it in the correct order.

Note the color of the pigs:

They are pink. Alice wanted to make them a different color - green or purple or something. Her teacher told her that they had to be pink because it had to be "realistic."

I can't tell you how hard that made me laugh. These are pigs who are wearing clothes and building houses, but they have to be pink to be realistic?! HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

Here is the grade that Alice got on this assignment:
Ouch! The grading scale goes +, Check+, Check, Check-, - . Wow. She got the equivalent of a D. Seems a little harsh to me considering that she got all the pictures in the right places (which, I'm guessing, was the point). The cutting is a little sloppy, but not too shabby for a leftie who is re-learning how to hold scissors. Imagine what her grade would have been if she had colored the pigs purple! Yikes!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

1/2 Full or 1/2 Empty?

This morning the jar was full.


She had some for lunch and the first thing she said to me when I picked her up from school was, "Can I have some more of that applesauce for a snack?" We're going to need the recipe, Grandpa!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

1st Grade

Yesterday was Alice's birthday. Thanks to all for the cards and gifts. She had a wonderful day. Here is the cake I made. It is a "Super Duper Snicker Fluff Brownie Mom Special Surprise!" cake. I picked the cake out because Alice couldn't decide on a cake. I figured the title would sell her on it.

Tonight we went to her school to find out who her teacher will be this year and to see the new principal. Alice and I missed the principal's speech but Tim was there. His reaction was "Hmmmm." She is a newly branded PhD and is! very! excited! to! be! here!!! He said she spoke in that high simpering tone normally reserved for babies. Hmm. We'll (try to) reserve judgment.

Alice's teacher is pregnant. Just guessing, she's probably due around Christmas. Another hmm. I signed up to be the room mother. My first act as room mother was to strong arm one of the only moms I know from Kindergarten into being a room mother's assistant. We have no idea what we're doing.

The school has adopted a discipline system they are calling the "Panther Pride Behavior Plan." Alas, no more pleasant purple and beautiful blue. This is a scale from 0 (bad!) to 5 (good!) And, sadly, it has nothing to do with the Black Panthers. Along with a sheet introducing us to the plan we received the "Behavior Expectation Matrix."

There are 100 rules on this matrix!!! (I counted) They all fall under the four main categories of be respectful, be responsible, be prepared and be safe and orderly, but geez! 100 rules? Most of these are common sense. My favorites:
- Only one person per stall in the bathroom
- Use toilets and sinks as designed
- Use only 2 squirts of soap and 2 pulls of paper towels
- Walk in Travel Position

I have to sign a form that says that I've reviewed the matrix with my child. I'm tempted not to turn it in until the principal demonstrates Travel Position for me. Tim and I have our own ideas about what Travel Position ought to look like:

I understand the need for rules, really, I do. And I'm sure there are some kids (and parents) who need everything spelled out. Things like this frustrate me because Alice is on the other side of the spectrum. Alice falls apart when she DOESN'T follow the rules. We could read all the rules to her and I guarantee she would memorize them all. But she would be so focused on making sure that she followed all the rules that she wouldn't be able to focus on learning. Which is the whole point of school, isn't it?

Sunday, August 1, 2010

One Down, Nineteen to Go.

Look what Alice lost today!

She wiggled and wiggled but refused to yank it. She wanted it to come out on its own. And it did while we were walking into a store. Actually, she credits her top teeth for knocking it out. She told them "good job" for bumping it out, then she pumped her fists in the air in victory. While we walked through the store she mused, "This morning I had twenty teeth. Now I only have nineteen. And, probably those will fall out soon."

Monday, July 26, 2010

Fountain Park Pictures

This summer Alice and I have been doing a tour of the local fountain parks. Maybe this is a Southern thing or maybe its a Knoxville thing. I don't know, but they are awesome. Its basically a sprinkler on steroids. I love it because I don't have to pay the water bill (directly, anyhow...), it's FREE, and it's a good opportunity for my lonely only to socialize with her peers. There are several of these parks throughout Knoxville. This one is right on Gay Street, which is the main drag downtown. Its set back from the sidewalk so the kids don't splash the business people walking past. The theater I perform at is to the right (but not in the picture.)


This is in World's Fair Park. These are the biggest fountains in town and the ones we frequent most often.
These are also fun because the height of the water varies. Sometimes it will be really low and calm and then will suddenly shoot up higher than the flag poles.
There is also a really great playground in Worlds Fair Park.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Here are some pics from our trip to Ann Arbor. I'm pretty bad about documenting things with the camera. I didn't get any pictures of Alice with Grandma or Grandpa G or Aunt Amy! I think Mom got some, so if she sends them to me I'll put them up.

These are from the children's museum

Alice in a bubble:

This was Alice's favorite part of the museum. You danced in front of a screen and it projected images of you onto a screen in front of you:
I thought this was a cool picture because it sort of shows how it works. The silver screen / black shadow only show up when you take a picture of the color screen. When you're actually dancing and watching the color screen you only see the colorful images.

Alice and Mme P:
Phew! I had forgotten the endless movement of the toddler years!

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Fluffy White Death (aka snow)

Today is a snow day. Alice does not have school; they called it off at 7pm last night. Something is missing.... I can't put my finger on it....


The snow isn't supposed to start until early this evening. Granted, if we get what they say we're going to get (which is anywhere from 3 inches to a foot) it will shut the entire city down for several days. The funny thing is we have to go brave the grocery store today because we are out of milk. I'm considering making Alice wear her bike helmet because this has the potential to get ugly.