Thursday, December 26, 2013

Kids Choice Day

We made up a new holiday today.  It's called "Kids' Choice Day" and takes place the day after Christmas.  Today was a trial run, and we all rated it a smashing success!  It came about because of my thinking about how we need to be better about playing with our children, and letting them take the lead on play more often.  Here's how it works:

Kid's Choice Day


  • The family needs to stick together
  • There is a set budget 
  • All the kids need to be in agreement
  • The kids get to choose what the family does all day!
  • The grown-ups can't be involved in the decision-making unless requested
We had a blast.  The kids watched a couple cartoons in the morning (including watching UNICEF's Global Handwashing Dance three times--a family classic), then we went to the awesome College Park Aviation Museum for the rest of the morning.

 From there, we went to the park to try out our new Christmas scooters.
Next up on their list was Chuck e Cheese.  Where in the world did they even hear about it?  Well, we stuck to our guns and didn't use veto power.  But we kept it short and only spent $5, and they seemed to have a good time.  We were too embarrassed to take pictures.

Then we came home and had pizza and watched Fantasia and read books.  We all had a great time, and it's something that they'll definitely be looking forward to for next year.  After all, it's the only other day besides their birthday when they don't have to do ANY jobs!  For us, it was fun to have a relaxed vacation day, where we were not in charge of entertaining, and the kids liked talking with each other about the plan and informing us.  

Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Christmas Story: "Christmas is for Sharing"

I love Christmas stories. This one is from the childhood of my great uncle, Richard Warner (as told to his sister, Emma Lou Thayne). My mom read it to me when I was a girl, and before bed tonight, I read it to my inseparable boot-loving boys. I hope that as they grow, they will be as loving and good to each other as the sweet boys in the story. Enjoy!

Christmas is for Sharing

I knew that Homer had wanted canyon boots for as long as I could remember. He was eleven and I ten, and we had spent many nights under the blue quilts at the cabin talking about how great it would be to have some real boots — boots that would climb through thorny bushes, that would ward off rattlesnakes, that would nudge the ribs of the pony; we had planned the kind of leather they should be and what kind of decoration that should have.

But we both knew it was just talk. The depression had been hard on Father's business, and even shoes for school were usually half-soled hand-me-downs.

Christmas that year had promised as always to be exciting, though mainly because of the handmade things we'd worked on in school for our parents. We never had money to spend on each other, but we had caught early in our lives a sort of contagion from our mother. She loved to give, and her anticipation of the joy that a just-right gift would bring to someone infected our whole household. We were swept up in breathless waiting to see how others would like what we had to give. Secrecy ruled — open, exaggerated secrecy, as we made and hid our gifts. The only one whose hiding place we never discovered was my Grandmother's. Her gifts seemed to materialize by magic on Christmas morning and were always more expensive than they should have been.

That Christmas I was glowing because Mother had been so happy with the parchment lamp shade I'd made in the fourth grade, and Father had raved over the clay jewelry case I had molded and baked for him. Gill and Emma Lou had been pleased with the figures I'd whittled out of clothespins, and Homer had liked the Scout pin I'd bargained for with my flint. Then Grandma started to pass out her presents.

Mine was heavy and square. I'd been in the hospital that year and then on crutches, and I'd wondered how it would be to have an Erector set to build with. Grandma had a knack at reading boys' minds, and I was sure that's what it was. But it wasn't. It was a pair of boots, brown tangy-smelling leather boots.

I looked quickly to Homer's package. His was a sweater. He'd needed one all fall. I wanted to cover my box before he saw what it was. I didn't want the boots; they should have been his. He came toward me, asking to see, and I started to say, "I'm sorry, bruv."

But he was grinning. And he shouted, "Hey everybody — look what Richard's got." He swooped the boots out of the box, fondled them like treasure, and then sat on the floor at my feet to take off my half-soled shoes and put on the brand new boots.

I don't remember how the boots felt, nor even how they looked. But Christmas rang in my soul because my brother was glad for me.

Richard Warner
As told to Emma Lou Warner Thayne
December 1964

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Hurry Up and Play!

One summer when I was a teenager, I met some second-cousins and we soon started playing together and having a great time outside their family cabin.  After about a half hour or so, their mom came outside and said, "I was washing the dishes inside, but I had to leave them and come out here and play because you looked like you were having so much fun!"
Evelyn obviously has too much unsupervised play
I was so impressed that she would leave her work half way through to come play with us that I determined to be "that kind of mom."
After reading and playing by himself for a half hour, Benjamin came upstairs like this.
I, unfortunately, don't think that I've held to that determination very well.  When the kids are playing happily by themselves, instead of thinking, "That looks fun!"  I think, "Look how much I can accomplish!"  And when I'm done with the urgent things on my "To Do" list, I often read to myself or to the kids, but not often enough do I think of playing with them.  
The holidays are a perfect time to take advantage of the kids being around and playful, but it's also very convenient to keep hacking away at the endless "To Do" list. It's not always a get things done OR play decision.  I've been surprised how much faster my chores go when I really make an effort to go fast. And it's more fun!  When I work hard to make child-led play a priority, there are big payoffs in our relationship, and it's also really fun! 

Are you good at remembering to play with your children?  What do you like to do together?  How do you find time, and how do you remember?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

How to De-Seed Your Pomegranate in 30 Seconds

I love pomegranate season. Our California trees are laden heavy with fruit, begging to be eaten yet simultaneously defying us to try to pick all those scrumptious, nutritious, versatile little seeds from their insides. Only the most patient among us can win, right?

Not anymore!!

Up until recently, I used to boast that the ultimate way to de-seed a pomengranate was to dismantle it in a bowl of water: the seeds sink, the membrane floats. No juicy mess! Yes!

And NO FUN! And still soooo LONG.

May I present an infinitely better technique? (If you already know about this and didn't ever tell me, you are in big trouble.) We have been eating so many more pomegranates these last weeks for the ease of it. The bowl of water method doesn't even hold a candle!

Items Needed
wooden spoon

STEP 1: Score pomegranate with a knife, about 1/8" deep.

STEP #2: Twist apart to open the fruit.

STEP #3: Loosen the membranes a little by gently pulling back around the edges with your thumbs. If you do this too hard, you could crack the fruit (the technique will still work, but might be messier).

STEP #4: Turn upside-down and whap it hard with a wooden spoon, rotating the fruit in your palm as you strike. Smile.

Demonstration video:

The video cut off just before I finished, but it literally takes seconds to strike out all the seeds (see here or here for extra proof). Behold the finished product:

STEP #5: Gobble down those precious seeds so you can have another whack at it!

Happy smacking! May it make your holidays a little brighter and a little tastier.

Monday, December 2, 2013

A Clean, Clear Face

Twice now I have tried this great recipe for DIY pore strips, with great success.  It's quick, cheap and easy, and really does the job!
It's just unflavored gelatine and a bit of milk to make it a wet paste, microwaved for a 15 seconds.  My only changes was that (like everything), I didn't measure very exactly and it turned out fine.  Also, you don't need a disposible cup, as it washes out easily when warmed up, and you can just apply it with your finger.  Also make sure to apply it thickly, and avoid your eyebrows if you intend to keep them!

What natural ways have you found to keep your face clean and clear?