Monday, September 30, 2013

Cougar All-stars

According to the school newsletter, Alex was one of two All-Stars in her class for September (the school mascot is the cougar). We have no idea what that means, but congrats to Alex!


We don't have the time or the yard for a large garden but Terry did manage to put in 2 small "children's gardens" for A and Z. Well, next year it can be for them, for this fall we planted what we wanted. And this will be helpful as the government most likely plans, today, to take away my family's income for an undetermined amount of time.We can eat radishes and lettuce!



Thursday, September 26, 2013

Conversations with Zoltan

Z: Mommy, [name of teacher] comes on Fridays.
Me: Yes, but you don't go on Fridays, not until Mommy starts working.
Z: Yeah. I love Fries days. But I like chicken nuggets more.

Four coughs

There are four people in my family. And right now there are four coughs in my house.

One is GERD/reflux
One is most likely a sinus infection
One, I suspect, is allergies
And one little cough is a simple common cold

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Homemade bread

It turns out, in America, that the fewer ingredients your bread has the more it cost. Being all house poor and all, paying $5 per loaf when we go through 1-2 a week wasn't working out. Plus, a good friend gave me the her special secret recipe (ok, not so secret and easily found here). So, I got cooking. Well, baking.

The first batch was decent. The second pretty good. By the third I definitely had the hang of things.

 The only problem is that we gobble up the first loaf the within the first 24 hours and then have to ration out the sandwiches for the rest of the week out of the second loaf. The only good news is Zoltan seems interested in helping me, so it can be a weekday activity we do together.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Pectin free jam

We eat a lot of jam in our family. Lots of peanut butter and jam, lots of toast with jam. We throw jam into our oatmeal and in our plain yogurt. For the 13 years we've been jam making, we have always stood by the Certo product and method. In fact, we've been quite timid about venturing on our own.  Until last year, when we made our own pectin.

I think that was our "gateway" experience. With homemade pectin, you add some, see if things gel, add some more, see if you get fruit cement, then grump about the ruined jam.

A couple of weeks ago I entered the as yet untraveled ground of pectin free jam. First, the trip to Butler's Orchard in Germantown. Because of some bad instructions by the lovely workers at the orchard, by the time we realized the middle was not in fact the picked over part there was massive grumpiness and hunger (Zoltan) and hot and tiredness (me) so we left with a mere 2lb of  raspberries. Then to the farm market, where we got 25lb of tomatoes and what I think was about 18lb of peaches. After lunch, while the rest of the family napped, I made raspberry jam. Way easier than I thought. One of the things I really like about jamming "outside the box" is the fruit to sugar ratio - 1:1 rather than 1:2. The jam tasted intensely of fruit, and was plenty sweet. In fact, the kids spent a healthy amount of time lobbying to be allowed to eat the jam with a spoon.

Some web sites that helped me figure out what to do:

The raspberry jam turned out perfectly. It has a wonderful jam consistency. The peach turned out not quite so "jammy" and a bit more syrupy ... well thicker than that ... more like Russian vareini.Turns out the riper the fruit, the less pectin, and the peaches were "seconds" so, well, overripe. The taste is wonderful and the kids like it on their pancakes so it's still a win.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Love changes over time

I don't know that I have ever loved my husband as much as I do at this very moment. He just drove away - with the children - for a weekend at the grandparents.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

That's it? Medical care overseas

Since December, I have had pain and limited mobility in my right arm. The doc in Russia told me to "stay off it" until it felt better and after a couple more visits where I tried to get more help, I gave up. I knew that, at least, I was moving to America soon and could find a doc to fix me up right. Of course, flying alone with Alex (who's going to move those suitcases?) and being the primary unpacker (who's going to move those boxes?) did no favors.

I had my first appointment with my new primary care physician last week, and my first and last appointment with the physical therapist yesterday. I am healed. Seriously.

After nine months of pain and no yoga, it took one hour for the therapist to fix the problem. I am both thrilled and frustrated. But working on focusing on the thrilled :-)

Monday, September 16, 2013

My brilliant mathematician .. oh, wait

Today in the grocery store Zoltan looked up at the lit-up number of the checkout line we were in. He said "Look mommy, we're in number eighteen!" Cue up the pride. Pushing the envelope, I pointed to the one next to us. "What number is that?" I asked.

"I dunno. Seven and one?"

Guess he's a normal kid after all :-)

Friday, September 13, 2013

Three cheers for the Rockville Metro station master

I like to get out of the house at least once a week with Zoltan, as it is just too hard to focus on him vs. all the chores when we're home. So today he asked to go to a museum on the train. Sorry hon, all those books you wanted me to read cut into our travel time. How about we go watch the trains?

Unfortunately, between the walls and trees, there are no good outdoor vantage points to see the metro trains as they go by.  I have been wondering what it would cost to go into the metro and back out at the same stop anyway, so I asked the station master. For anyone who's wondering, it's $1.70 (or $1.75, I forget, but it's close enough). I explained that my son just likes to watch the trains go by.

He let us in for free. He even suggested we could hop on a train, go a few stops and turn around to come back. He told me how long he'd be at the station so we could just go back out through him. First, we had a snack on the platform while watching trains come and go. Then we hopped a train and went three stops (the last outdoor stop, I think) and sat there watching trains for a bit. Finally, we crossed the platform and went home.

Was it worth $1.70? Absolutely! But how much sweeter to meet a man with sympathy for a boy who loves trains?

Bonus: As we started walking home, a freight train came by on the other track so we got to watch it too. It probably had 20 or more cars.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

What I like about Alex's school

I'll be honest, I worried a bit about Alex's school. Of course my darling is above average, as are all kids in Lake Wobegon, and the first week of homework - tracing letters A and B and the number 1 - incited a bit of over-dramatic heart palpitations and I called the teacher to set up a meeting.

I am so glad I didn't let the concerns fester. It turns out the homework is not at all indicative of the work they are doing during the day. The kids have already started writing and reading, they are learning about characters and plot and comparing stories. They start science next week and will learn about the water cycle. In addition, her teacher was happy to give her first grade homework (the first grade teachers are more than willing to share) and if it turns out to be necessary children can go to a first grade class for any specific subject where they are particularly accelerated while staying with their peer group for the rest of the day. Children who finish their work quickly are encouraged to help other children who aren't mastering the material as quickly.  In sum, it is every single thing I could have hoped to hear.

And, although Alex still misses her friends from Russia and tells me so, she also tells me she's made a new best friend. She's only in her third week of school! This is going to be a good year.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Reusable Sandwich Bags

In preparation for school and knowing Alex will eat nearly nothing of the hot lunch options, I asked my mom to pick up some reusable sandwich bags (thanks mom!). My mom likes to shop. She really, really likes to shop. So, in the end we have a plethora of bags from 3 different companies. I've now had a couple of weeks to use the bags and figured now was a good time to review them.

Lunchskins: These are made from a tough canvas, sailcloth-like fabric. Very sturdy. I like the simple designs and the space for writing a kid's name. However, the wonderful tough cloth makes it a little hard to turn them inside out, which I like to do to ensure a thorough washing.
Green Lizard Reusable Sandwich Bag

ReUsies: These are hands down my favorites. They are more cloth-y than either of the other brands, which makes washing them easier. They are roomier than either other brand too - the snack size is almost as big as the sandwich size of the PlanetWise. Plus, they have 2 vertical strips of velcro for the closure so that whatever size ends up in the bag, you can wrap or double wrap so it fits just right. Both other brands have the one horizontal velcro closure.
Peace Flower Two Pack

PlanetWise: These were the cutest, I love the little owls. Unfortunately, these are also the smallest and seem to have shrunk a bit even though I always hand wash them. This means that I can't put in a full sandwich unless I use a loaf of homemade bread, which is a good deal smaller than the commercial brand we like.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Alex update (final)

Almost a year after it all began it has finally ended! Alex had her last dose of medicine around the end of August. So far there has been no coughing, no heartburn. She has even gotten to eat french fries and pizza. I think this crazy saga is finally, finally put to bed.

Of course, now Zoltan's got mysterious runny nose. He's probably got allergies, and his adenoids are probably enlarging while I type. Can't have it all!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

A declaration of adverse possession

One of the fun things about law school and lawyering is learning about arcane facets of the law. For no particular reason I have always loved the law of adverse possession, by which a person can become the owner of property by simply using it, openly, continuously, exclusively (acting like they own it) hostilely to the deed owner, for 21 years. I have always wanted to adversely possess property.

Our cabin has a right of way over the piece of property that abuts the road. My rant about the people who own that property will be saved for another time. What I will say is that Terry and his dad mowed that property for the very first time all summer back in September (we regularly mow the piece that is our right of way). Since then we have let the kids play freely on it whenever we are at the cabin.

I need to do more research, but I learned at a CLE recently that somewhat recent caselaw states clearly that simply mowing the property is enough possession to count in Pennsylvania.

I am hereby declaring that September 2013 is the month in which we began to adversely possess this piece of property. Check back in 2024 whether it's ours!