Friday, December 14, 2012

Please join me.

I'm trying to work, but it isn't working.  My mind keeps travelling to Connecticut, and envisioning all sorts of things that I desperately wish were some horrible nightmare.  I won't go on and on about my feelings regarding such a senseless tragedy- I think an entire nation shares my horror and disbelief.

What I will say is this: in the aftermath of this tragedy- as well as the horrors at Clackamas Town Center earlier this week- there is bound to be a flare up debate, hard feelings, blame and large-scale talks of problem solving.  I'm no longer on Facebook, but I hear it is ablaze with talk of the shooting and arguments about where to go from here.  Of course we, as a country, need to have a dialogue about how to keep these tragic incidents from happening.  I don't want anyone to read this and think that isn't a priority in my mind.  But, before we rush into that, I have a proposal: let us pause for a moment and each do something kind.

Today at work, a mom stood in my office in tears.  We both have children who are the same age as students at this school.  I think it would be impossible not to be affected and think "what if it was my child in that room?".  We were talking about our feelings on it, our desire to keep our children innocent and untarnished by reports of these tragedies and, of course, what we can do to help.  Before she left, she said: "I just don't know what to do.  What are we supposed to do?".  When she left, she was on her way to complete a volunteer Meals On Wheels route.  I wished her a good route and she barely managed a smile- how can we smile, when our hearts are so heavy?

Suddenly, a thought occurred to me: She is doing exactly what she *should* do. 

Let me explain.

We will never be able to eliminate the hurt, pain, and devastation that humankind imposes on one another.  At any given moment, our children or community may be exposed to horrors beyond our understanding.  But today, tomorrow...unless and until that happens, they can know kindness above the horror.  The woman in my office, along with her children who deliver with her, spread love and kindness today despite the sinking feeling in her chest.  The message that such an act sent was this: unthinkable tragedy can knock us over, but kindness gives us the strength to keep going.

Of course I will be sending prayers in the direction of those families affected by these recent tragedies.  My hope is that they will comfort this community- a community which I will probably never visit, never have a personal connection to, never be able to help on a first-hand basis.  But I will do more than that.  I will make an effort to spread love and kindness, in random and unexpected ways, for as long as it takes to heal this nation. 

I've been meaning to seek out an organization to volunteer with.  I've been intending to drive around and place little thank you notes on the doorsteps of homes whose Christmas displays make me happy when I drive by.  I've been trying to get better about smiling at strangers and going out of my way to hold doors open for people, even if it means waiting for them to catch up.  Calling the Red Cross to schedule a blood donation is on my to-do list.  I have kind of gotten out of the habit of "random acts of kindness", and I know that is a good habit to keep.  This list of potential for spreading kindness grows longer the more I think of it, and I know I am not the only person with such a list in his or her head, who just hasn't gotten around to checking those line items off.

These acts will probably never directly affect the families of the victims in Connecticut, and I know that.  But maybe, just maybe, it'll spread in their direction.  And for me?  It will leave me with the feeling that, however small, I have done something to help combat the horrors of evil we sometimes face in this world.  I'm a person that wants to "do something" when faced with horror.  This, for now, is my "something".

Please join me in this small gesture of remembrance and healing. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The BEST gluten free birthday (cup)cake.

For the last two weekends, I have been baking up a storm. My mission? Find the right recipe for non-chocolate birthday cake. Besides tasting fantastic, I wanted a cake that had a fluffy texture AND can hold up to the heavy frosting involved in making a themed birthday cake.

After 2 weekends of my house smelling like a bakery, a couple pounds added to the scale from "taste testing", and more flour than I've used in a LONG time...BAM. I did it!

For one cake, I began with a champagne cake recipe- kind of just using this mission as a chance to recreate a champagne cupcake I had at a wedding a year ago and still dream about. Since I AM trying to find a cake for a kid's party (and I don't think an alochol based dessert will make me a favorite at PTA meetings) I decided to change it up.

So, here it is:

The Best Gluten Free Birthday Cupcakes*, EVER.

2 cups gluten free flour mix **
1 Tbsp. nonfat milk powder
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 cup room temp. unsalted butter
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1 1/2 cup baker's sugar
5 egg whites
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup Cherry 7-Up

Preheat oven to 350. Line cupcake pans with liners OR grease and flour cake pans*.

In a large bowl, combine baking mix, milk powder, baking powder and sea salt. Mix and set aside.

In the bowl of a mixer, combine butter and coconut oil. Mix on medium speed for 3 minutes, until white and fluffy. Add sugar in small batches, scraping sides of bowl and mixing well. Add egg whites in 2-3 batches, then add vanilla.

Alternate adding baking mix and soda into the mixer, while mixing and scraping the sides of the bowl. Do not overmix at this stage!

Pour batter in to cupcake liners or pans. Bake cupcakes for 15-18 minutes for small cupcakes, 25-28 for large cupcakes. When batter is baked, cupcakes will have beautiful golden edges and a toothpick inserted into the center will come out clean.

I frosted these cupcakes with Wilton's buttercream. Next weekend's mission is to find the perfect frosting- for Sky and I, buttercream is too sweet! But it DOES do a good job when it comes to decorating and making frosting fast.

*I used this mix for cupcakes. I have every reason to believe it will be perfect for a cake- the crust of the batter will lend itself well to a shaped cake and whatever frosting I want to pile on it. I simply don't know the baking time for this, though, if it is used in a cake. If you want to use this in a cake, 350 is a great temp for it- you'd just have to keep the oven light on and line up testing toothpicks rather than setting a timer and walking off.

**You *could* use a store bought gluten free flour subsititute. But the truth is, in the almost 3 years that Sky has been off gluten, I've just never found a store bought mix that is better than this homemade (less expensive) mix. Honestly- stop wasting your money buying expensive mixes. Buy these ingredients, mix this up, keep it in the freezer, and use it in any "regular" recipe, any time flour is called for.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Teachers, we support you!

I would like to take a moment to say THANK YOU to all the teachers of the Gresham-Barlow School District.

Our children go to school every day and enter a place where they are loved, cared for and educated. They are curious, they are happy, they are confident and they will have a bright future- thanks in no small part to the people who work so tirelessly for them every day.

I understand that both sides (the school district AND the teachers) have concessions to make in order to avoid a strike. I understand that school budgets are taking a beating, and we ALL have to make sacrifices in order to recover. I understand that my children simply won't get the same education I did, years ago, in the same schools. Change happens.

What should NOT happen is a school district completely ignoring the backbone of their organization when it comes to safety, schedules and compassion. What should NOT happen is an official distict website using language so slanderous and disresepctful to the district's employees that I- as a parent of the district, not a teacher- cringe to read such a passive agressive slap on the cheek. What should not happen is a school board walking away from negotiations while my children's education is on the line.

I have seen some things that, in my opinion, the teacher's association could bend on. I have seen the anger, the passion, the hurt that has the school board on the defensive. And guess what? I have an opinion about that.

Sometimes, just acknowledging some else's frustration goes a long way toward finding common ground. I have seen the teachers do that. Now, as a parent, I ask the district to do the same.

If a strike happens, I will be very disappointed. I will feel sad for my children, for the families of the teachers, even for some school board members whom I believe really WANT to reach an agreement. I will be sad for the district that helped form me and so many around me.

If a strike happens, my children will not cross a picket line. I do not believe that my eager to learn students will get the education they deserve while their beloved, hard working teachers stand on the sidewalk in a last attempt to be heard. Instead of sending my children in to get a sub-par education at a school which has always provided them an excellent education, my children and I will stand WITH those people who stand FOR them. My children will return to school when those schools are what every child deserves.

I ask any Gresham-Barlow parent to join me in this. We simply cannot support our schools without supporting the teachers within them.

I am confident that if the school district goes back to the table (and STAYS there as long as is neccesary), with the intent to find a respectful solution- our teachers will do the same.

Teachers: THANK YOU. From the bottom of my heart- for all you do- thank you.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Mommy/Son Dork Tour 2012

First off, sorry I haven't been updating much. Bad me. I know I said I'd be around more since I'm off Facebook, but life is busy. And I have to say that I am really enjoying the less internet-centered life.

Still, I have to share: Skyler and I just returned home from a 2 night stay in Forks, Washington. This was super, amazingly fun. Really cool. In fact, even if you hate Twilight- or live under a rock or something and don't know what it is- you should still go to Forks.

Perhaps now Dusty won't have to listen to me begging him to move to Astoria...because I think I now want to move to the Olympic Penninsula (though I don't think I could handle a town with THAT small of a population...perhaps Port Angeles would be a better choice for us).

Skyler and I set off on Friday morning with a plan: head to Astoria, Oregon via the old St. Helen's highway and then travel all the way up Highway 101 to Forks. I brought lots of water and snacks and an audiobook. Sky brought a good attitude, lots of enthusiasm and multiple disposable cameras. We even bought a map. And we looked at it right side up (<--- Aren't you proud, Mom? Everyone else: there is a story here. I'll explain someday.).

We made it easily to Astoria, then crossed the bridge- which is LONG! Wow!- to Washington. We were happily listening to the book, chatting and enjoying our time...when suddenly I realized we were in Oysterville. This was majorly confusing to me, since I was almost positive that Oysterville was NOT on our route. Probably I should have looked at the map better. Since I didn't, we had to backtrack quite a way! I'd somehow gotten off of 101 about 30 minutes before I realized my mistake. But still, we have a sense of adventure and figured that- hey, at least now we know what Oysterville looks like!

...Until a couple hours later when I realized I'd gotten off of 101 AGAIN, and had just added ANOTHER extra hour to our trip. See why I had to buy a map? Because I didn't own one. Because I can't read them. Probably (MOM), I would have been able to read it had it been upside down! :-)

Finally, we got back on 101 and actually stayed on track, because Skyler decided he'd better take over the map reading. Finding our bed and breakfast was quite an adventure, since I had planned to rely on the GPS function on my phone- not realizing that I wouldn't be able to use that function in Forks, because T-Mobile sucks when it comes to coverage in remote areas. Luckily, the people of the town are pretty friendly, used to tourists and willing to help out a woman on the verge of tears in a gas station.

Saturday morning we did a tour of Forks' Twilight spots. That was fun! I loved it and Sky was willing to have fun because I was having fun. We took some silly pictures and laughed a lot.

Then we headed to LaPush. LaPush left me struggling a bit. Traditionally, I have always been Team Edward and Team Cannon Beach Is The Best Beach Ever. I have to admit- seeing the beaches at LaPush has my loyalty to BOTH teams starting to shift. It was AMAZING. Oh- and really cold.

Sky and I finished up Saturday night with a walk around the property of The Palmer Lodge (the B & B we stayed at) that left our jaws dropped. As the rain slowed and the sun faded, we got to watch a herd of around 70 wild elk walk out of the forest and into an open field to hang out for the evening. I have seen exactly ONE elk that wasn't in the zoo in my entire life. Sky has NEVER seen an elk out of captivity. This sight alone was totally worth all the driving.

After the elk sighting, Sky and I decided to "hit the town". There is exactly one activity on a Saturday night in Forks that the inn keepers could think of: bowling. So we headed to Sunset Lanes Bowling Alley, where score is kept on paper with a projector system, bumpers have to be physically placed on the lanes at the start of the game, and the newest song we heard was from the 80's. It. Was. Awesome. We still have no idea what our final scores were- I've never had to calculate them myself! Even so, I have never had so much fun bowling.

On the drive home Sunday we opted to head through Port Angeles, then head to Kingston so that we could take a ferry to Edmunds and then have lunch in Seattle. I realize we pretty much took the two longest possible routes, but the journey to and from Forks was as awesome as being there! We were amazed at the sight and beauty of Lake Crescent. We MUST camp there someday, now that I don't totally hate camping*. The ferry ride was great, too- but by the time we reached Seattle we were pretty ready to get home. We love Seattle, but it WAS a lot of driving and exploring for only three days.

What a trip. I feel like some amazing memories were made, and I am so glad that Skyler isn't *yet* at the age where mom is just NOT cool enough to hang out with! I know it'll happen eventually, which makes times like these just so much sweeter.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Snow! Or maybe not.

In their annual attempt to actually get people to watch their broadcasts, the news stations are going on and on about snow. The kids are convinced that they will get 2 weeks off school for a blizzard. Dusty, who seems to regard the possibility of snow 'round here like a 7 year old regards Santa (ping-ponging between optimism and reality), keeps telling me it is "supposed to get pretty bad tonight". I am prepared to work tomorrow*.

*I'll be complaining about not having a snow day, but I'll be there.

We DID get a little, tiny, itty bitty bit of snow on Sunday morning. Here is Alex enjoying the snow (Sky was at his Dad's, where snow was elusive):

Alex yelled "Happy Holidays!" every time he threw a snowball at the window. Not sure why, but it was so cute that I couldn't bring myself to burst his bubble by telling him that Christmas is over. And, yeah, his scarf is pink- he likes it.

Sky is hard for me to get pictures of because he isn't the type to make picture taking easy and he just isn't around the house as much as Alex. I'll try to get some soon, so that I can keep it even.

The boys have recently started music lessons- Alex is excited about learning to play the piano, and Skyler is trying his hand at guitar. I love it when the boys open new doors, especially when they do it with enthusiasm!

And now...better go make dinner. Because if I don't do it soon, the stupid weather report may actually turn out to be right and the power will go out or something.