Chomp Chomp

Today we took R and J to the dentist. R has been before, and this was J’s first trip. Before I go any further, I should explain. My family has had a history of dental issues. My grandma had all of her teeth removed by the time she was 17. She said it was the hugest relief ever. My mom had dental issues, so many toothaches. I had to have all four of my front teeth removed when I was three. R had all his four front teeth removed when he was two. J has decay on her front teeth, too. It’s almost as if they grow in that way. So I am wary of dentists, having seen many over the years. The last office I took R to was horrible. The kids are all in the same room, and the dentists don’t seem to listen. It’s one of the low income offices, so they treat us all like we have no idea what we are talking about. We tried a different dentist today, one who has been in practice for probably 30 years. It was a breath of fresh air. We told him about the kids’ diet, and that we exclude sugar, soda, and junk food. We discussed what we do feed them and learned a lot. We are now going to omit coconut sugar, maple syrup, agave, and any dried fruit from their diet. That is tough. I am ready for this challenge, though. To me, it means we need to lean towards more raw foods, especially when it comes to goodies for the kids. Instead of crackers, I will give them homemade flax crackers. Instead of dehydrated mangoes, fresh mangoes. And so on. It will be a little bit more of a challenge when it comes to birthdays, but I have at least five different raw cookbooks that have cake and pie recipes. I have to research what to do instead of dates and agave nectar in those recipes, but I know we can do it. I am going to cut back on pasta, bread, and other starchy foods. I am determined to help our kids have the best health on all levels. Little R does need to have a couple teeth pulled, but his big person teeth with be coming in soon, anyway. It’s exciting and a little scary, but we can do it!

Wine and Pizza and Dandelion Tea

Saturday started out sort of yucky. I dropped D off in town so he could hitch a ride to a Winter mountain climb that he was doing. I was a little sad because he would be gone overnight, but I also love that he is doing what he loves and I get some nice time with the kids. After that, I was supposed to take R to see his dad….but his dad bailed out on him again. This has been a pattern all R’s life. It hurts to see my little guy disappointed. To cheer him up(a little) I took him and J to the local bookstore for some vegan hot chocolate. I am very sensitive to caffeine, but I was tired and a little cranky, and had some cleaning to do when I got home, so I ordered myself a vegan mocha. I usually get decaf, but thought it would be okay this time. Wrong. I almost instantly started feeling strange. Oh, boy, I knew what that meant. Just in sitting and chatting with a friend for about twenty minutes, I felt my heart begin to race and sweat started breaking out under my arms. I collected the kids and headed out. On the drive home, I felt cranky and nervous. By the time we got home, I was having full blown anxiety. Yuck. I breathed through it, called my mom, had some lunch, and finally felt better around midday. Poor J must have gotten some of the caffeine in my milk, because she would not nap. So I turned on Elmo In Grouchland and got to work on the house. The kids were happy to watch it, and it’s a cute movie.  Around six, our neighbor lady and her boys came over to hang out. We mamas had a couple bottles of wine, we all ate some delicious vegan mini-pizzas, and the kids had a blast playing while we talked and talked. I played cd’s all night……a little different than my usual Pandora default.  We had a great time and stayed up until well after one in the morning. The neighbors headed home and I pulled the futon mattress down onto the living-room floor(we do that every time D is gone overnight)and made a huge nest. The kids crashed right out, but I couldn’t sleep. I watched some reruns of Roseanne and finally fell asleep around three. I woke up at eight because the dogs had to go potty and now am enjoying a cup of dandelion tea and making pancakes for us(the kids are still asleep!). D will be back this evening and we have Monday off for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I want to do something in nature. I also have been talking to R about civil rights(all his life, actually)and what a special person Martin Luther King Jr. was. I remember being in elementary school and coloring pictures of him this time of year. I remember a boy in my class coloring him black black, not the beautiful brown that his skin really was. I remember how sad that made me, especially because he and some of the other kids in my class were laughing about it. Things like that are why I teach my kids early about equality, humanity, and compassion for all living beings. We are all sharing this Earth, it is important to treat one another with love and respect. Om.

 

Vegan Parties and Lazy Sunday Mornings

D and I always joke that our relationship is backwards. What we mean is that we started everything in reverse…..we jumped into family life together after our third date, each of us already having a kid from previous relationships. R was only three months old and miss Z was six years old. We then had a baby together four years later, and now we are planning our wedding. By the time our kids have left the nest, I guess we will be at the dating phase….with a lot more “us” time.

Last night we had a birthday party for D. He will be 42 in a couple of days. Like all of our parties, it was family friendly. Someone brought beer, but nobody got sloshed. Usually, our parties wrap up by ten. Everyone has a good time, though. We had about nine guests and then the five of us. I didn’t serve dinner this year at the party. We had our vegan chimichangas before everyone got there. I veganized my brother-in-law’s chimichangas. It is one of D’s favorites.  I fill mine with rice and beans, sometimes adding vegan cheese. After they are fried,  I top them with salsa, lettuce, and some type of vegan sour cream. Last night I made a cashew sour cream, which is really easy. It consists of  cashews, lemon, water, and salt. I had a little of the sour cream left over, so I served that with salsa and chips for the party. People really liked it.

The people who come to our parties aren’t all vegan. Besides us, our neighbors are usually the only other vegans. I used to worry that people wouldn’t like the food I served. I don’t worry about that anymore. I often don’t get a piece of cake because everyone else loves it so much. D always requests my chocolate chip cookie cake. It is really the chocolate chip bars from How It All Vegan. I then top it with some sort of chocolate frosting. This year, I made the one I have been raving about in my previous posts. It is super easy, too. I melt coconut oil, and combine that with cocoa powder and maple syrup in a blender. So good. It was a big hit this year. The cake was a bit gooey, but everyone seemed to like it that way. Now it’s time to plan Z’s party, which is in a couple of weeks. It’s a little harder to please the pre-teen crowd, but I haven’t had any complaints yet. One year, she requested split pea soup for her birthday dinner. I didn’t think it would go over very well, but there wasn’t any left after the party.

So here I sit, eating my breakfast which is really more like brunch, considering it’s almost noon. This has become a tradition here on Sundays. We are all home, we don’t have any commitments, so why not. I usually either make pancakes or french toast. Vegan french toast is really easy to make, it consists of chickpea flour, almond milk, and arrowroot,  I whisk it together and dip my bread in it, then fry it on my cast-iron skillet.  Served with Earth Balance and maple syrup, it is so good.  The kids have already devoured theirs, so I get to sit here and eat and enjoy some “me” time.

The Kitchen Table

I hate to admit it, but we only eat at our table a few times a week. It is something we are trying to do more often. We have gotten into the habit of eating in the living room in front of the T.V. I know. Yuck. Me, the woman who used to be so against watching television, period. My only defense is that we do choose pleasant, educational shows when we are eating. That doesn’t mean that it is right. My goal is that, at this time next year, I can say we always eat at the table. Our littlest one is getting big enough to eat a the table with us in her own chair. We have been working to keep it cleared off, not cluttered by all the stuff that can accumulate on it, papers, shopping bags, river rocks, etc. This isn’t to say we don’t use the table at all. Right now, I am sitting at the table as I write this. We just have a laptop, and since our table is at the kitchen window, which looks out at the river, it is a great place to write. R also does his homework every night on it. There hasn’t been a single night where he has done his homework elsewhere. We use the table as counter space, since this single-wide mobile home we live in doesn’t have a ton of space. It is a fine table, solid pine. It was gifted to us by our sister-in-law. It has six chairs, and fits perfectly into our kitchen. True, the door to the fridge can’t totally open because it butts against a chair, but I wouldn’t trade it for the tiny table we had before. Even if it took up our whole house. I think a kitchen table is important. It creates memories of its own. I hope I can pass it on to one of our kids when they have a family. By then, D and I should be traveling around in our RV or something. For now, it is mine. I am committed to taking great care of it and loving it as mine.

The source of memories to come...........

The source of memories to come………..

Getting Back to Normal(Whatever That Is)

Tomorrow, R and Z go back to school and I go back to work. My sugar took Z back to her mom’s house this afternoon, which is always hard. Time goes by so fast when she is here, and the house feels a little bit emptier when she leaves. She lives a couple hours away, so it’s not like we can just pop over for a visit during the week. The good news is we should be able to bring her here more often, as our financial situation seems to be looking up. More money means more gas, which means more Z time.

R and I spent some time this afternoon making snacks for him for school. Not only is he vegan, but also sugar-free(dental issues)…..which can make snack time an issue if Mama doesn’t stay on top of it and send sweet snacks with him. Thank goodness his teacher is now putting his classmates’ birthdays on the calender that she sends home…….I can make him cupcakes for those days so he doesn’t feel left out. He is so awesome about it, though. He has grown up this way, and has been to parties where he can’t eat anything served there. Yet he doesn’t cry or have too much of an attitude about it. He knows why we do what we do. I still want him to feel part of things…….and food is so important, especially in social gatherings. So I have been working hard at planning ahead and coming in prepared.

We made some yummy oat bars with my favorite, coconut sugar, and sugar-free preserves(made with xylitol)from Nature’s Hollow. After they are done, we will whip up a batch of granola, and that should be good for now.

It is going to be strange at first getting back into the school groove. I want to have dinner made and R’s lunch packed  before 7 pm. Then it’s bath/shower time for both R and J, teeth brushed, outfits for the next day picked out, and bedtime by 8 pm. We have been doing it all school year, but it’s really easy to fall out of the routine after 3 weeks of vacation time. We have gotten used to staying up until almost midnight and getting up around ten or eleven. I know it’s going to hurt getting up at six tomorrow morning, and R will not enjoy getting up at seven.

Even though D and J will be home all day tomorrow, they still have their schedule, too. D is a writer, so he will be busy with that, housework, and taking care of J. She will have a busy day playing, playing, and more playing. She has had some tummy troubles today, with a lot of poopy diapers, and hopefully she will be better by tomorrow. I have been giving her almond yogurt for the probiotics and if it continues, miso broth. She has nursed a lot today, too.

I also should get an answer tomorrow about the job I applied for at R’s school. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Back to the "grind"....he he he!

Back to the “grind”….he he he!

Dinner with the Neighbors and Bedtime Issues

We are so fortunate to live where we do. Not only do we live within 100 feet of a gorgeous river, in the midst of lovely trees, but we also live right next door to some dear friends. Originally, our two houses were owned by elderly sisters who were both going to live out here on the land. It didn’t work out for them, so they sold the property to our current landlord. A path connects our two yards. We have lights strung among the trees in both yards…..it’s like a fairy wonderland out here.

One thing we love to do together is eat! We are all vegan or vegetarian, and so that makes it even more wonderful. Last night was no exception. Our neighbors made a delicious rice and veggie dish with a “cheezy” nutritional yeast sauce. I made a soda bread, rosemary seitan, and a chocolate cake(using coconut sugar instead of cane sugar in the cake and maple syrup in the frosting). It was all very yummy.

We came home with enough time to get the kids to bed before Portlandia came on. I ended up only seeing the last ten minutes, but my darling got to watch it. The reason I missed it is because I was trying to get my 5-year-old to sleep in his own bed. This is a transitional time for all three of our kids right now for different reasons. For my kindergartener, it is time to leave Mama’s bed and sleep on his own. Our friends gifted us with a nice, solid wood bunk bed months ago. Our 11-year-old sleeps in it when she is here(she lives with her mom most of the time), but our little guy hasn’t been sleeping in his. He has co-slept with me since birth. Our 19-month-old still sleeps in the bed with me, and I will be transitioning her to her own bed before she is two. Little R is afraid to sleep in a different bed and different room as me. It has been hard for me, too. I go with him to his bed each night(usually with little J)and read him a story while little miss J falls asleep on the boob. R falls asleep very fast in my bed, but he fights sleep in his bed. So I usually end up spending at least a half hour in there with him until he finally drifts off. He is usually a solid sleeper, but when he is in his own bed, he wakes up in the night and ends up in my bed, anyway. We have tried everything. His bed is very cozy, and he has a picture of his granny on the wall next to him. We have a night-light. He has a light-up pillow. It is definitely a struggle. Two nights ago, after both little ones had fallen asleep, little J and I were in my bed. I was reading my Game of Thrones book, and J was nursing away. R suddenly came into the room and wanted to get into my bed. I sent him back to his bed. Five minutes later, R is back with his pillow. So I send him back. This happened a handful of times before my other half came into the room and gently took him back to his bed. I have to admit, it was really hard for me. I wanted to sweep back the blankets and tell him to hop on in. I love snuggling with my babies. He isn’t a baby anymore, though, and it is time for him to spread his wings a little bit. Knowing this, I have the strength to not cave in when my heart wants to. It may take months, but it will be good when we are all settled into our own beds. And maybe I can share a bed with my man again 😉

cooking up something good!

cooking up something good!

Fajita night!!

Yum! My kitchen is filled with the smell of onions and bell peppers right now. It’s Fajita night 🙂 I love making these, they are super simple and very yummy. It’s pretty easy. I sautee onions (as the tears stream down my cheeks) and add some extra-firm tofu, cut into thin strips. If I want “beefy” fajitas, I use seitan. I then add bell peppers that have been cut into strips. I cook this all for a little while, then add some of my super secret spices. Tonight, I am making a cashew “cheeze”, which is just soaked cashews with lemon and salt pureed in the blender. Serve it all in a tortilla. The kids love it. My kids are already blossoming into little foodies. My 5 year old is the most curious, but my 19 month-old seems to get it, too. Which is good, because Daddy doesn’t care one way or another about food. It’s purely functional to him. He appreciates my cooking, and he is very close to being vegan(he still takes cream in his coffee, and sometimes eats a snickers bar).

He is pretty awesome, actually. When we first met 5 years ago, he was a meat eating, cigarette smoking guy. Inside, he was my dream, but I knew it would be difficult to get over the things he was doing to his body from the outside. Very shortly after we got together, however, he switched his diet to vegetarian and quit cigarettes……all on his own.

After we eat our fajitas, I will make some chocolate chip cookies. I made them for a friend one time, and she asked if it was a secret family recipe. We both had a good laugh when I revealed that it was just the veganized version of the recipe on the back of the chocolate chip bag. I have tweaked it here and there, and it is so, so good! Our family of five always devours the whole dozen in one night.

Today I made some cheesy crackers out of this awesome old book I have from the ’70’s put out by the Farm Commune. I scored it at a second hand store. They were a big hit in this house. My little lady kept asking for more crackers. She is talking so much these days.

I am trying new things to put in my kindergartener’s lunch box. I feel a little extra pressure to pack really awesome things for him. I know they don’t mean to, but his teachers sometimes make me feel guilty if I don’t send a special snack on a day when someone brings in cupcakes. I don’t always know that cupcakes will be served at snacktime, and since his school is awesome, they know not to give him anything that isn’t vegan. I don’t want him to be labeled as freaky and I don’t want anyone to pity him because of our choices. He loves the food I give him. Both my kids are life-long vegans, so they really don’t know any different. My little guy is very social, and despite all my “be yourself” lectures, he does want to conform. It is who he is. I won’t force him to be anything else. He is very much into animal rights, so much so that I had to tell him to tone it down a bit. Anytime there was a mention of eating meat on t.v., he would tell people they were stupid or would use other violent words against them. I had to explain to him that, even though we don’t choose to eat that way, we still need to show compassion to people who do eat that way. I can’t help but feel a little swell of pride, though, when I see how passionate he is about it. One of my dream trips for us as a family is to visit Farm Sanctuary. They are one organization who is going about things the right way. I’m not into the in-your-face attitude of Peta.

Tonight I think I will let my little guy help me with the cookies. I love to think about how it will be when he is older and comes home to visit Mama. We can cook together, then, too. I love to think that I am helping to mold a couple of really awesome people.

Baking together since he was wee.

Baking together since he was wee.

Grocery Shopping Fun

Ah, grocery day! We use food stamps right now, so when our card is loaded, we head in to town to do our monthly shopping trip. My darling and I have decided that doing the bulk of our shopping once a month is a great way to save on our grocery bill. We get all the staples, and then leave some for produce(which we pick up weekly). Usually one of us makes up the list the night before, and then we all troop in to get the goods the next morning. I think the cashiers fear that we are extreme couponers when we come to their register with our overflowing cart. I have seen the look of panic flash in their eyes. Nope, we aren’t couponers, though maybe we should use more coupons. We have just found a way to shop that works for our family of five. We are a vegan family, who prefer to eat organic, whole food as much as possible. The simple act of eating mostly whole food is a huge part of why the five of us are able to eat the way we do for only around $650 a month. Those processed veggie burgers, boxed cereals, and meals in a box could add up. I ate that way when I was in my 20’s, but I certainly wouldn’t be able to feed my kids that way now. Nor would I want to. It helps that I love to cook.

Today’s shopping trip was a little different. It started out with my guy offering to stay home with our new dog. Shortly after my sweet, old hound passed away (around the winter solstice), a new dog came into our lives who desperately needed a family to love him. He is a sweet dog, but he has major separation anxiety. He practically destroyed our futon last time we left him at home. So hubby was out, and then my 11 year old step-daughter awoke with a sore throat, so she was out, too. I woke my other two sleepy-heads(at around 11 am!) and after I got them all bundled up, we loaded up and headed out to face the crowds. Boy, were the stores packed! I was really happy that I had done yoga in the morning, because if I hadn’t, I probably would have been a bit of a you-know-what. Driving into town, I had prepped myself for the possible madness we would face in town, and I vowed to make the shopping trip a happy trip.

Our shopping trips usually involve visiting three stores. I like to start at the Grocery Outlet to see if we can get some of our list taken care of at a discounted price. I scored some organic olive oil and a case of unsweetened almond milk among other things. Next was a local discount grocer, where I got most of the rest of the list knocked out. At this point, the wee ones were getting a little sick of this shopping thing. My 18 month old got her finger stuck in a rack at the check-out counter, and my 5 year-old was bouncing around and asking if we were done yet every five seconds. I kept calm, though, and am very proud at how I was able to keep upbeat despite it all. Our last stop was Fred Meyer, my favorite of the three. At that point, the list was quite a bit shorter and the kids were happy after eating bananas on the way between stores and because I let them ride in the “car cart” , so this time it  was much more pleasant. We got our list done and headed to our final destination, Papa Murphy’s. Their crust is vegan, and they are really good about catering to vegans. They never roll their eyes when I ask them to change their gloves before handling our food.Big plus there. We always get the family size veggie pizza without cheese and red sauce instead of white sauce. I top it with Daiya cheese before putting it in to bake. So very good! It is one of my guilty indulgences. For dessert, we had picked up some coconut ice cream, including my new favorite, Coconut Bliss Mocha Maca Crunch. Oh, baby! For the kids, we got some Coconut Secret Raw Berry Fusion ice cream.

By the time we were heading back out to the river, I was getting a little bit of a blood-sugar crash. I popped the pizza in as soon as we got home and by the time the hubby and I had finished bringing in and putting away the groceries, it was done.

Now here I sit, contemplating a cup of tea and ready to put my feet up and enjoy the evening. I may play a round of Grateful Dead-opoly with the kids. Or we might just watch the boob-tube and read. It’s vacation time. We only have four days left before it’s back to work and back to school. I am going to embrace these idle days. With cupboards full of food.

Yay for veggies!!!!

Yay for veggies!!!!

Letting Go in the Kitchen

I love to cook. I am a bit of a perfectionist with my cooking. I rarely let anyone in the kitchen with me when I am creating a meal. I get in a zone. In my kid-free days, I would get stoned, turn on the Dead, and spend hours in my kitchen, making some really amazing things. Yet now I am a mama. My dear little 5 year-old seems to share my enthusiasm for cooking. He is always so very curious about what is going on in the kitchen. We have cooked “together” before, which translates to me telling him what to do and hand-over-handing him through the steps. The new year is upon us today and I have made many resolutions. One of those resolutions includes letting my kids explore life a little more, stepping back and observing while they figure things out on their own. So tonight, as I was preparing to make some yummy vegan applesauce muffins, my wee guy asked if he could help. My instant reaction was to say no, not now. After a breath, I called him back. “Come here”, I told him. He eyed me suspiciously as I led him back into the kitchen. When I told him he could help, his eyes lit up and those dimples I so love appeared on his cheeks as he broke into a huge smile. He washed his hands, and then joined me at our big kitchen table. I simply told him how much of each ingredient(he is an emerging reader)to use and he did the rest. Many times I held my tongue as I had the urge to correct something he was doing. Oh, crap, he’s not putting equal amounts in each muffin cup, did he stir it enough….aughhh! I used my breath, the same breath I use to get me through tough yoga poses, each time that little voice piped up in my head. I am happy to say, we got through it with no frustration. Once the muffins were in the oven, he ran out to the living room and proudly exclaimed “I made muffins!”. These are the moments I live for. It is my goal to have more moments like this. In order to do it, I have to set aside my perfectionism and allow life to happen. I know the more I do this, the more happy times we will all have together.