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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Motherhood Math

Math really isn’t a prerequisite of motherhood, unless you consider counting the breaths between contractions that you learn in Lamaze class. But soon after you first realize you are carrying life, the numbers begin.

The average pregnancy lasts 40 weeks. Ask a pregnant woman and they will prove they have mastered the art of subtraction by rambling off how many weeks they are along and instantly how much longer they have to go.

After the birth of the child, the mother will tell you how many hours she was in labor, and perhaps practice multiplication and spit out exactly how many minutes she sacrificed for that beautiful baby.

And once the baby is born, ages are counted in days…and then weeks…and then months…and then finally, years.

But that’s not where the numbers end. We learn to study decimals whenever the child has even the slightest fever, learn metric when we administer medicine. We count hours of naps, servings of vegetables, and certainly how many sleeps until Christmas or birthdays.

However, I thought I’d share a little extra motherhood math, some numbers that may shock and amaze and yes, might make me seem a little off my rocker for actually figuring all of this out.

I have three children. The number of times I have given birth is only three. My oldest child is nine, which means that she is approximately 117 months, 504 weeks, and 3,570 days old. My middle child is seven, which translates to 89 months, 384 weeks, and 2,715 days. The youngest, at three, is a mere 40 months, 168 weeks, and 1,175 days.

A little wild, eh? Numbers that large can easily be brought back to something simple.

Santa has visited our house only nine magical times. I have baked my children a grand total of 19 birthday cakes.

We have celebrated 11 first days of school and because we are fans of the home-packed lunch, I have gotten up early and packed about 776 lunches. (I admit I can pretty much now do it in my sleep.) This also means I have unpacked 776 book bags and checked folders 776 times.

Having two girls, I should have fixed their hair 4,745 times, but if I’m being honest, that number is a little high because their hair is often ragged because I’m just not handy with a pony tail.

And even though their hair might not always be tip top, as parents we try to keep our dirt-loving children as neat and clean as possible. This sort of cleanliness does not come without some serious hours spent hunched over a bathtub, wondering why “tearless” shampoo still makes our kids scream bloody murder when it touches their foreheads. Assuming we bathe them all twice per week (another high estimate, especially if you consider how I tend to simply hose them down in the summer), we have given a total of 2,112 baths.

This means that if I clean their ears after each bath, I have cleaned a total of 4,224 ears, equaling almost 15 300-count packages of cotton swabs if it’s a one swab per ear job.

Grooming doesn’t stop there. If I clip their nails just once a week, I have cut 10,560 fingernails, meaning that over ten thousand little clippings have flown haphazardly around the room. Chances are at least 400 of those have hit me in the eye.

Cleaned and trimmed, we have put children to bed a total of 7,461 times. With an average of two stories per night, we’ve read 14,922 books and peeked in at a sleeping child just to check probably too many times to count.

Other things are beyond numbers as well: loads of laundry, diapers changed, Band-Aids applied, hugs and kisses. Those figures probably define the mathematical term “infinity.”

But for all the big numbers out there, how many days, hours, minutes, seconds do I regret giving to my kids?


Monday, April 25, 2011

A need for weeds: Dandelion Fritters

Of all places, this recipe came to us in a Smucker's cookbook we got at the local Bunny Trail. I was surprised to find something as "odd" as dandelion fritters, but even more shocked to find a full recipe for acorn pancakes. (We'll have to tackle those later. When we move to an oak forest.)
When your son says he wants to cook, you say YES no matter the recipe, and so we gave this one a whirl to make the most interesting after school snack of the week.
He ate the whole plate.

You will need:
1 cup biscuit mix
1 cup milk
1 Tbl honey + More for dipping
Oil for frying
Fresh dandelion flowers with no stems/leaves- rinsed and dried.

1. Mix biscuit mix, milk, and honey in a large bowl.
2. Heat oil (about 1/2 inch) in a skillet until water sizzles when dropped in.
3. Batter the dandelion flowers a few at a time and drop them into the oil, flower side first.
4. Fry until golden brown, drain on paper towels.
5. Serve with honey or jam.

(note: I didn't take off all of the green in these-- next time I will.)

"It's like a flower donut," he said. Brilliant.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

To each his own: beer and Earth Day

My grandparents used to have a novelty sign that hung in their basement. “A man’s got to believe in something. I believe I’ll have another beer.” I spent most of my childhood not quite understanding it (not that I was supposed to) and most of my young adult life ignoring it.

As it turned out

, as a young adult I ignored most things, including my parents, some of my teachers, many of my peers, and most certainly the people who truly believed in something and wanted to tell me about it. Most specifically I can recall sitting in debate class, assigned to argue about cryogenics and really not caring one way or the other, and I couldn’t imagine how anyone could think frozen people was something to make a big deal over.

In college there were plenty of people who believed in something and gobs and gobs of them trying to convince me at every turn. Sign this petition, march in this parade, hold these signs. I don’t remember anyone burning their bras per se, but if someone would have I probably just would have walked around the flaming undergarment.

The news is chock full of people around the world believing in something so strongly that they would lose sleep, jeopardize their families, and risk their own life for it. And all the while I’m trying to figure out why it’s such a big whopping de


On a smaller scale, there are the parents who volunteer countless hours at their child’s schools on their own will and others who give hour upon hour of time to their local government or church. Some fundraise for charity campaigns and some protest society’s methods. Some throw paint on fur coats and others tie themselves to old buildings.

And I don’t understand any of it.

What I have come to learn after so many years of pondering that sign in my grandfather’s basement is that the sign is absolutely correct – at least the first part of it. Every man – or woman—has to believe in something. And the great thing about living in the USA is that we have a right to believe in whatever we want and even are allowed to tell people about it. So while I don’t quite understand what these people are doing, I understand why they are doing it: passion.

They have their own particular cause, and it’s because not everyone shares the same cause that keeps this world just a-spinnin’.

I mention all of this because we are at an important time in the year for what I have determined to be my own cause, a cause that has been hiding in my heart for so many years until finally it reached my brain and I realized, wow, I really do care about this.

Earth Day, Arbor Day and a change to warm weather fall very close to each other, whirling my life into a burst of appreciation for the cause that means the most to me: the out-of-doors and the natural world. I love it all. I love wildlife and trees and plants and creeks and rocks. I do not like clear-cutting and trash thrown in every directions. People tossing cigarette butts out their car windows makes me batty, and strangely enough, I love bats. I love the feeling of warm dirt and seeing a sapling make it through the winter. I love watching the wonder in a child’s eye when she finds a crayfish under a smooth rock, standing ankle deep in chilly creek water or catches a glimpse of the woods when the trillium are in full bloom.

And in my mind, there’s just not enough of this good stuff going on, and so it is my own personal cause.

You may not find me ever marching down the street with a banner or campaigning for a politician, but there’s a good chance I might try to convince you to plant a sunflower or take a hike. I’ll probably be in the woods with my own family, all except my grandfather. According to the sign, he’ll be somewhere near the fridge.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Earth day clean up and the world's best cleaner recipe

It's Earth Week and I'm proud to say we'll be knee deep in trash this week, weather permitting. Three community clean-ups on tap for my family and just a general reminder of how important good, clean nature is to us.
(Brace yourselves, readers. It's about this time every year I get a little nature crazy. There's a very good chance upcoming columns will be as much about wildlife as my wild life.)
But in honor of this step into the summer outdoor season, when the plants all come back to life, I wanted to quickly share one of my favorite recipes.
-For those who have used cleaner with bleach and stained their countertops (me)...
-For those who have watched their children spray cleanser backwards into their tiny faces (me)...
-For those who feel a strong sense of wholesomeness when it comes to things like soap and water (me)...
-And for those who go gaga over the smell of pure lavender and tea tree oil (also me)...

Make your own all-purpose cleaner

In a 16 ounce container, combine:
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 tsp borax powder
1/4 cup dishsoap (nice eco friendly option, or Dr. Bronner's)
10-15 drops lavender or tea tree oil (I like lavender in the kitchen, tea tree in the bathroom)

Add HOT water. Shake/stir to combine.

DID YOU KNOW that the average spray head of a Windex bottle will fit on any old used plastic water or pop bottle? Makes this recipe pretty handy.

DID YOU KNOW that lavender and tea tree oil both have antibacterial properties? And that for regular household cleaners that you buy you need to let it sit for over one minute for the antibacterial stuff to work? (see above comment about me staining my countertops. oops.)

Make this. Use it. It makes me smile.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Shock and horror and bachelor gray

I had a sad epiphany the other day while scrubbing spoiled soy milk out of a recovered sippy cup. I realized that if I actually put forth the effort, I could spend my entire day either at the kitchen sink or the laundry room. As fast as I can wash dishes, my kids can dirty them faster, a constant cycle of plastic cups and snack bowls, princess silverware and full-sized plates that were apparently necessary for a single mini pretzel twist.

What food doesn’t end up in them ends up on them which takes me to my second treadmill position of household duty: the laundry. By far it is the chore I complain about the most, which is why after a week of buildup that filled every laundry basket we own, I pouted on the couch and whined instead of hauling it all to the washer.

And while I’m not so good at actually accomplishing the laundry, I’m quite good at whining so when my dear husband showed up with a giant heap of stinky clothes, I felt an internal smile coming on.

Doing the laundry is not something he normally does, and not because I don’t ask or because he protests. It’s just the system of housework we’ve figured out over the years. He straightens the garage, hauls the wood, and cleans the dogs. I complain about the laundry while I do the dishes until we run out of socks and finally break down and do it.

So when he began to take over my duty, I was a little shocked. (I also was a little worried I’d have to clean the garage, but that quickly passed.) After the shock passed, the horror set in. By horror, I’m referring to the way he went about doing the laundry.

For one, there was no such thing as separating by color. I bit my lip as I saw a white t-shirt still tucked inside a red sweatshirt go into the same load as a light blue dress shirt. I saw jeans and light colored shirts swarming with black socks. When he wasn’t looking I tried to save a few things, but was already imagining casualties of our casuals.

Also, the load sizes were so large we could have probably used a wheelbarrow to haul them into the laundry room.

But as the saying goes in marriage, never bite the hand that helps with the laundry and certainly never look a gifted load of freshly washed whites in the mouth. I knew that the right thing to do would be to let him finish the job he was so wonderfully kind to do while I toddled off to wash a few more thousand plastic cups.

Life was good for a while, pretty good indeed. We had broken the rules and he was kind enough to keep me from having to complain all day about un-wadding socks and turning shirts right-side out. He even changed a few loads in record time and I was impressed that even though he might have needed to refer to a color chart for separating, his load time was remarkable.

A few hours later, I peeked in to get a glimpse with my own eyes at what week’s worth of laundry looks like without having passed my hands. And there it was, a pile of unfolded clothes, some stained, some shrunken. All washed in hot water on a speed cycle and not dried quite enough so that for sure the pockets of our pants would be damp for days. Perfect.

That hand that helps with laundry should never be bitten, but it should also be shaken in congratulations. The whole ordeal really was a win-win situation for both of us—for me, I didn’t technically have to do the laundry. For him, he was banned from the duty ever again, which may have been his evil plan all along.

And so it goes, I tossed some shirts and re-laundered some pants. And while un-wadding socks I had another epiphany: I should start whining more about the dishes.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

History of a hugger

“What, no hug? I thought you hugged everyone,” said a friend of a friend one day, and of course I could do nothing else but to wrap my arms around this semi-stranger. Not because he asked me to, but because he was right. I do hug a lot of people.
It wasn’t always this way, though. Growing up I was the child who hugged her parents and grandparents every chance I got, but making physical contact with strangers was not something I did. It just didn’t feel right for some reason, as if I was as afraid of invading their personal space as I was of them invading mine.
Not only that, but it always seemed to be my luck that there would be an exchange of unpleasant cologne that would stick to me or, more likely, I’d leave a deodorant smudge on someone’s black shirt.
For those reasons and more, I avoided personal contact with non-family members for quite some time, and it wasn’t until I met one particular preschool teacher that my life as a hugger began.
Back when my first child left the nest and flew off to the land of cracker snacks and finger-painting, I did as most new mothers do. I panicked. And I cried. And I worried if my child rearing had been good enough that when I sent her away into someone else’s care, that that person wouldn’t think I was a total slacker mom.
Then I met the teacher, someone as wonderful at consoling weeping children as she is at consoling weeping mothers. She talked to me and looked into my eyes and put her hand on my shoulder as if to connect herself and send me positive vibes through her very touch.
I wouldn’t have believed it if I didn’t feel it with my very own arm.
Never have I felt so loved in the presence of a practical stranger. She made me feel OK the way a child feels when the kiss from a mother makes a boo-boo disappear. Magic, I tell you, magic.
From that day on I started to open my eyes to people in a whole new way. I tried to sense out the person who was having a rough time or was feeling a surge of emotion—either good or bad. And soon enough, I started touching arms and spreading love the best I could, just like that preschool teacher did for me.
Let me tell you, once you’ve gotten over the fear of hugging people, life changes.
You smile more, for one. You also feel a connection to a person that happens without words.
But there are, of course, rules for giving and getting a good hug.
First of all, one-armed hugs are the pits. They say, “you’re only worth 50% of my arms.” Secondly, the “dead fish” hug should never be practiced because it gives the hug-ee the impression that he or she isn’t worth exerting a single ounce of muscle flex, and that he or she probably is stinky. (This rule also applies to handshakes, which is a philosophy I’ll have to save for another day.) And finally, the “double pat” should also be a forbidden move. The “tap tap” on someone’s back tells that person that you don’t want to be hugged, and you’re just doing it to satisfy the other person, in which case I say you don’t know what you’re missing.
A good hug is a solid hug. It’s a firm squeeze that lingers just long enough to feel the other person’s warmth, to get a breeze of their natural perfume, to know that they really want to be there hugging you back. And for a brief moment during a good hug, two hearts will beat close together sharing some cosmic bit of connection that I may never understand.
There is actually a day designated for hugging. January 21st of each year is National Hugging Day. But for me and a certain preschool teacher who changed my life, I know the world needs it more than just one day a year.

Contact Karrie at KarrieMcAllister@aol.com or read more at www.karriemcallister.com.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Pigeon Poo. Snack time just got a little better.

Oh, the pigeon. Dirty bird that it is, is most commonly found around cities and farmyards, scratching for seeds and flocking around old ladies who carry paper bags full of stale bread.
And what goes in must come out, right?
While looking for a "nature themed snack" I came across this recipe where it delighted the folks at the 30th Annual Project WILD training with the Ohio Division of Wildlife. And if a container of poo can do that, it's a recipe worth sharing.
I admit to not knowing much about the biology of pigeon poop, although I did read in one of my favorite books, "The Truth About Poop" by Susan E. Goodman that Ancient Romans used pigeon poop to bleach their hair.
Oh. My. Goodness.
I also know that bird poop is not really poop, it's actually pee.

And thus ends your lesson for the day. Can't say you "wasted" any time reading this-- chances are you learned something.

Don't put this pigeon poo in your hair. It's much better in your mouth...

Pigeon Poo

4 cups peanut butter cereal (like Cap'n Crunch)
3 cups rice krispies
2 cups pretzels sticks, broken up a bit
2 cups mini marshmallows
2 bags white chocolate chips

Mix dry ingredients in large bowl. Melt white chocolate chips and pour over dry ingredients, mix well. Pour onto cookie sheets lined in wax paper. Let cool, then break into pieces.

(The photo leaves a little to be desired, I know. But posting it in full color made it look more like pigeon vomit than poo, which is probably a recipe I wouldn't want to try!)
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