Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Lately I have been frustrated by the fact that Ehren and Christian don't take responsibility for themselves.  On school mornings, they have to be reminded of everything.  Never mind remembering lunch, homework, library books, mittens, or whatever else he needs for the day, Christian has actually gotten into the car without a coat {and it's not warm out} on more than one occasion.  Most of the time, I am packing their backpacks in the morning so that we can make it out the door in a timely fashion.  Let me say it again:  I'm packing the backpacks of 7-year-olds. 

On the way to school the other morning, I caught myself thinking, They are never going to be independent.  Immediately afterwards I stopped myself and thought, I don't have enough faith. 

Ehren and Christian have already done so many things I thought they might never do.  Sometimes their accomplishments have been quick and surprising, like when Christian water skied on his second try.  Or like the other day when I asked Christian and his ridiculously strong 6-year old cousin to help me try to move our dining room table. Christian, who is not so strong for his age, lifted up his corner of the table and carried it with no problem, while his cousin kept dropping her corner.  But, most of the time, the accomplishments have come with much patience and perseverance. 

It's about keeping the faith.  If Dan and I don't believe that they can accomplish something, then who will?  As with many important things in life, slow and steady wins the race.  Pick out goals that are within reach, believe in your kid, and work at it until it's knocked off the list.  Then pick a new thing to tackle.  This is one of the most important things I learned from 2.5 years of ABA therapy.   Keep working and keep the faith.  My kids are capable even if I'm sometimes frustrated.

As for our school mornings, I'm thinking of making lists of the things they need to do each morning.  Hopefully a list will be less frustrating than verbal reminders {for all of us} and hopefully, it will get the kids into the mindset of visualizing their responsibilities.

Keep the faith.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Happiness Is

 Even though we didn't get a real tree this year,

the kids were so excited

to decorate,

and Dan and I were so happy to enjoy it when it was done.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Meal in One

Again this year, SuperTarget has a screaming pre-Thanksgiving deal on almost all the ingredients in a super easy dinner I sometimes make.  It's called the "Meal in One." 

(Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup: 59¢, Campbells's tomato soup: 52¢, Del Monte canned green beans: 49¢, Betty Crocker Instant Potatoes: 89¢)

The Meal in One is a completely stereotypical Minnesota hotdish, but ironically my sister's Montana mother-in-law taught me how to make it.  If you want to give it a try, here's how:  Brown a pound of ground beef.   Meanwhile, in another pan, prepare the instant potatoes above (or if you already have some leftover mashed potatoes in your fridge, skip this step).  Once the beef has been browned, add the contents of the cans shown above (one can of cream of anything soup, one can of tomato soup and one can of vegetables).  Stir together the ingredients and transfer to a baking dish.  Top with scoops of mashed potatoes and shredded cheese.  Bake at 350 for about 20-30 minutes or until bubbling.  That's it.  Hearty, tasty, and super easy.  Sometimes I add onions to the ground beef, and sometimes I double the vegetables.  Frozen vegetables are also fine.  It always tastes good.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

First Snow!

Snowflakes falling.

Snowballs flying.

Sleds crashing.

Hot chocolate warming.

A perfect day to enjoy the first snow of winter with cousins Ava, Aureilia and Sojourner!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Keeping Up With Second Grade

You may remember that Ehren's been working on improving his spelling test scores. Last Friday as he was going into school, I heard him say,"I can't wait for my spelling test!"  This Friday, he got back the results from that test.  He spelled all 15 words and the two challenge words correctly.  Pretty exciting stuff.

At parent-teacher conferences last week, we found out that we have new academic challenge to tackle.  In a few weeks, the second-graders will be taking a timed math test.  They have to complete 100 adding facts in five minutes.  Ehren and Christian's accuracy is there, but not the speed.  I found these five-minute adding frenzy grids for practicing at home.  I did a baseline assessment and found out Christian is at 8 minutes and Ehren is at 11 minutes.  I'm going to have them race each other for practice, but I can't have the winner get a piece of Halloween candy {yes, we still have a lot} because right now, Christian will win every time.  Instead, they are racing to beat their own best time.

As the baseline times show, Ehren is struggling more than Christian.  I overheard the two of them talking after they raced through the first two grids.  Ehren asked Christian, "How do you write those answers so fast?"  So, as extra motivation for Ehren, I dreamed up the 5-5-5 challenge.  Ehren is saving up for a deluxe pack of Pokemon cards that costs $15.  He has $5 so far, and I told him if he can get down to five minutes on these grids five times, I will give him another $5 towards his Pokemon cards.  I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Chef Ehren

Every once in awhile, Ehren gets on a creative streak in the kitchen.  If you tell him you're making a "secret" recipe, there's a good chance he'll like it {within reason}.  He's intrigued by the idea of secret recipes.  Sometimes, when he really likes one of my "secret" recipes, he tells me, "You should put that on the computer" (he means this blog).  Sometimes he dreams up his own recipes, secret or otherwise.

Tonight, I was trying to introduce the kids to Gravad Lax (cured salmon), which I picked up from Ikea.  I admit that even I have a love/hate relationship with cured salmon and herring.  Sometimes I love it, and other times, it gags me a little.  Anyway, I was pumping up the kids to try it, explaining that it's salmon, but you eat it cold.  I also told them how it's made by covering a salmon fillet with spices and sugar and pressing them into the meat to preserve it.  Believe me, explaining the process makes the food seem ten times more intriguing.  They all tried a little.  Anna liked it and asked for more.  Christian gave me the sideways thumb rating (not thumbs up, not thumbs down), which means it's just ok, but no seconds, thanks.  Ehren tried it and said, eyes lit up, "I have an idea!" 

He buzzed over the microwave and made what is commonly known as a "cheesy pizza" in our house: a corn tortilla topped with shredded cheese and heated in the microwave.  He cut the tortilla pizza into triangles with our pizza cutter and then proceeded to deftly tuck a small piece of Lax under the edge of the melted cheese on each triangle.  "Look mom, it's salmon-stuffed cheesy pizza."  Before you get too impressed, he only ate one piece of his cooking masterpiece.  This often happens with his "secret" recipes.  They don't taste quite as amazing in real life as they did in his imagination, but still, I love his enthusiasm.


Today when I realized it was sixty-five degrees out, I decided it was now or never. Time to plant my garlic and winter onions!  I'm always a little behind with fall planting, but this year I had an excuse.  Dan's been working on building new garden boxes below the main garden.   Because most of our back yard is a hill, we need to terrace to increase our tillable area.. The whole garden has been a disaster area work-in-progress since September.  

Our soil is poor and high in clay content, so before planting, Dan and I worked some dead leaves into the soil to loosen it and provide a few nutrients.  I planted one row of winter onions and one row of garlic.  This year's garden didn't produce as much garlic as I would have liked, so it was painful to raid my garlic jar for planting.  I planted the cloves as deep as I could push them with my finger, and I spaced them about 3-4 inches apart.

As for winter onions, I don't think many people know what they are.  You plant them in the fall and when they come up the next spring, you pull the green onions (scallions) and eat them while they're small (in the spring and early summer).  You leave a few plants, and after they flower, they develop heads of small bulbs.  In the fall, you harvest these bulbs (the sets) and plant them again for the next spring.  My grandpa always grew them, but somehow no one in our family saved the sets from his garden.  A few years ago, I found a seed catalog from Wisconsin that sold them.  The catalog called them "Egyptian Walking Onions".  My dad, my uncle and I have all been growing them now for a few years.  They are not quite as sweet as the ones my grandpa grew, and you can't pull them up easily (you need a small spade), but they're still enjoyable.  I wish, wish, wish we had saved sets from my grandpa's garden!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Stack the States

Although she doesn't know it, my friend Bonnie is indirectly responsible for getting Ehren and Christian excited to learn about the states.  When she got a new iPad, she asked her blog readers and friends on Facebook what apps they and their kids liked. I don't have an iPad, but we love our iPod touch, so I scoured Bonnie's comments for good ideas. Lo and behold, someone mentioned "Stack the States."  I downloaded the free version, and the rest is history. I haven't found many educational iPod games that the kids really like, but Christian loves, loves, loves this one, more than any other game we have right now.  He's collected 41 states so far, and going strong. For the moment, he has forgotten that Tower Defense and Angry Birds exist.

This game is perfect for second graders except for one thing: reading the names of cities, states, and landmarks.  I forgot how hard some are to pronounce until my kids started trying to read names like Cheyenne, Phoenix and Louisiana.  Also, Christian likes to call Iowa "Aloha," which totally cracks me up.

Now Ehren generally isn't that excited about computer and video games, but even he like this one. In his excitement about the states, Ehren drew me this Texas-themed picture the other day.

As you collect more states, you unlock bonus games. The first bonus game is called "Pile Up!"  State shapes pile up.  At the bottom of the screen, a state name appears, and you have to click the corresponding state shape to make it disappear.  Given Christian's excellent visual memory, he excels at this game. He was correcting me as I tried to play. He might not remember how to pronounce "Louisiana," but he knows exactly what shape it is!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Coloring outside the Lines is scary business.

Some days, I don't have the courage for it at all.

On my big, bold days though,
I like to let my red crayon just streak across the line.
Then I swirl my purple and orange out there with it in perfect freedom,
No lines!

Coloring outside the Lines is lonely too.
I'm the only one who doesn't get a gold star on my paper.
My teacher frowns.
The kids call me weird or dumb or stupid.

Why don't they see that I'm not behind them?
I'm out in front, running free outside the lines!

It would be nice to have a friend who
colored outside the lines sometimes too.
Would you?

* Note: I got this poem from my mother-in-law.  It was printed out from an email she received eleven years ago.  It was written by Sarah Maney.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Twin Power

Ehren has been having a little trouble with spelling. He is not appreciating words like "appreciate" and "granddaughter" and some other stumpers. What? It's not spelled "dotter"? Oh, that's Swedish? Shoot, right spelling, wrong country. Anyway, he failed two tests, so obviously, the old "Here's your spelling list. Now study it." technique was not working. Time to step it up a notch.

Enter twin power. Tonight I printed out this week's spelling list, cut out the words, folded them in half and put them in a bowl. One brother drew a word and read it aloud. The other had to spell it. Back and forth they went. When you spelled the word correctly, it went in your pile. If not, it went back in the bowl. There were 17 words, so when the bowl was empty, there could be no tie. The speller with the most words in his pile got a piece of Halloween candy. They loved testing each other! There was no complaining, and they didn't want to quit. I really think they know their words this week. Tomorrow is the last test of the quarter. We're shooting for perfect, but a plain ol' "A" will do just fine thanks.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Head Clown

On Sunday we went to watch Ehren and Anna at hockey practice.  Christian captured this great photo of Dan {Dan titled this post, not me}. 

As Dan's mom said to me, "Did you see they gave him a whistle?"  Yep, he's got a whistle, and he knows how to use it.  Skate, kids, skate!