Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Math Muffins

For the past few weeks, I have been helping teach Evie's math league. It's not a natural fit for me. I either lack a natural propensity for math or else lack enough of an interest to be competent in it. My daughter, however, fills notebooks with calculations in her free time and I want to support this interest.

After I offered to volunteer, I immediately felt apprehensive about my ability to actually teach the class. So I decided that I would bake some muffins to bring to her math league. That way, even if I didn't do a great job, everyone would still find me to be a respectable volunteer.

The kids loved the muffins and the first day was a success. And it turns out that despite getting D in Calculus in college, I am quite capable of teaching fourth grade math. However, I wasn't capable of calculating that after I brought muffins once, the kids would come to expect them each time. And so Tuesdays have become baking days as Noni and I experiment with making pumpkin and banana and chocolate chip muffins. Today, I made apple strudel muffins and they came out so well that I wanted to share. Below is the recipe, slightly modified from a recipe I found on allrecipes.com. They don't actually make you better at math, but they do taste good. Enjoy!

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 cups grated apples
  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons butter

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease two 12 cup muffin pans.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
  3. In a large bowl, beat together butter, sugar and eggs until smooth. Mix in vanilla. Stir in apples, and gradually blend in the flour mixture. Spoon the mixture into the prepared muffin pan.
  4. In a small bowl, mix brown sugar, flour and cinnamon. Cut in butter until mixture is like coarse crumbs. Sprinkle over tops of mixture in muffin pan.
  5. Bake 20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Allow to sit 5 minutes before removing muffins from pan. Cool on a wire rack.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Introducing Francie's Fortune!

I just thought I'd take a moment to let you all know that my new book is now available at both Blue Mustang Press and Amazon.com! You can get up-to-date information on my book on the Francie's Fortune Facebook fan page (try saying that five times fast...) or the website http://www.franciesfortune.com/. Thank you so much for reading my blog. I hope you enjoy my book as well!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Next Stage

This morning I filled three garbage bags with clothing for Goodwill. The clothes range from size "newborn" to 2T and each item brought back a flood of memories. Glover Park t-shirts, Frederick soccer uniforms, much loved leotards and princess t-shirts... I pulled out the ones that felt particularly significant, like the pink and black skirt that Evie wore daily for nearly a year, but the rest are off to be released into the world. For the first time, I am not saving the smaller sizes to be passed down to a little sister. I felt a stir of emotions as I filled up the bags, but they weren't the emotions I was expecting.

For the past nine years, I have devoted my life to raising three daughters. I also went to grad school and wrote two books. But, if you took snapshots of me moment to moment over the past nine years, you would see me wiping a nose here, pushing a swing there, changing a diaper here, and giving a hug there. I have been very busy with all the very busy things that one does when raising toddlers. It's not that, as a mother, I'm not doing any of those things any more just because the girls are older. It's just that recently I find myself more often planning activities for Lucy's Brownie troop or teaching Evie's math league or listening to Lucy read or helping Evie think up arguments for a debate or driving to soccer or ballet or piano or drama or science seekers or gymnastics... I'm still busy raising them, but it's different.

This difference struck me a few weeks ago when I spend the weekend in Boston with five friends from college and three babies. I watched them nursing and snuggling and calming their babies. I remember that stage so well. There were nights when Evie was up screaming for three hours and I found myself in tears thinking this stage will never ever end. And then there was her first smile and her first laugh and I found myself praying that this stage will never ever end.

But it did. It does. That's the way life works of course. Now my first baby is learning about elastic potential energy, my second baby can read and ride a bike and my third baby goes to preschool and didn't even need to sit on my lap during Tangled. This is the though that, while folding tiny t-shirts, I expected to bring me to tears.

Here's the thing though. I love this stage. I love that we can all go skiing or hike up Sanitas together. I love that I spent the morning in a debate with Evie and Lucy over whether it's better to be a werewolf, vampire or ghost (in case you're wondering, I'm going with werewolf) and that we'll spend the afternoon at the Nutcracker. Do I miss the snuggly, sweet stage of raising babies? Of course. But while I look older nine years later, I'm also realizing that I'm suddenly feeling younger than I've felt in a long while. I'm getting more sleep and more exercise and I'm finding more time to pursue interests that have gotten dusty over the past nine years.

Looking at those bags, I can't help but feel nostalgic at all the memories that go along with the stained and worn clothing in them. But part of me feels that, by pulling those clothes out of closets and the basement and releasing them into the world, we have made a little more room for ourselves at this stage of our lives. And to tell you the truth, that feels like a wonderful thing.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

King Tut Has Lice Too

Stitches and lice, the two childhood rites of passage I always hoped my kids would skip. Well, I can cross one off the list. In case you've never had the joy of picking crawling bugs out of your child's hair, I will let you share in my experience.

It starts like this. You're at the museum with your friend and your kids. The girls are trying on Egyptian hats. You turn to your friend and say, "Well, when they get lice, we'll know exactly where they got them." And you laugh. Ha ha ha.

That night, at dinner with your family and your husband's business partners, your daughter starts itching her hair.
"Mom, my hair itches."
"No it doesn't."
"Yes, really, it itches."
"No. It doesn't."
"Your head really itches?"
"For real?"

Sighing, you take her to the bathroom. You part her hair and there it is--a little louse crawling around your daughter's hair, about to wreck havoc on your life. You take a deep breath. You notice a single fruit fly, sitting on the bathroom mirror. You think about fruit flies and lice and temporarily consider yourself a failure as a mother. But you don't really have time for contemplation. You yell to your husband in the other room, "You need to go to the drugstore. Now!"

When you emerge from the bathroom to tell him and his business partners what happened, you all start scratching your heads. This is what happens when you even think about lice, you start itching.

You spend the evening rubbing toxic shampoo into your daughter's scalp. The lice could care less. They crawl around unfazed, coated in lice shampoo. You imagine their conversation. "Mmm, I love this tasty shampoo." "Oh yes, this brand is my favorite. Even better than scalp." You spend the next hour picking the lice out of her hair because clearly the shampoo is not doing anything. The rest of the evening is spent washing sheets in hot water.

The next morning you remember that your niece had lice and you call your sister hoping for reassurance. She tells you that sucks, it really really sucks. Not the reassurance you were looking for, but it's always good to know the truth. You tell her that your daughter got lice at the museum yesterday and you had picked nine out of her hair. She tells you that your daughter didn't get lice at the museum, she gave lice at the museum. She couldn't have had nine already unless that hat was teaming with lice. You feel momentary guilt thinking of all the dozens of kids who tried on the Egyptian hats after your daughter that day. Then, following your sister's advice, you buy an electric comb.

When you are done electrocuting lice, you call the school to tell them that your daughter won't be coming in that day. They tell you that at least four other kids are out that day too, all with lice. This isn't comforting. The last thing you need is to get rid of lice and then get them back again.

When you hang up the phone, you ask your daughter if she'd consider shaving off all of her hair. She isn't amused. You head back to the bathroom for another comb-through, and suddenly have a deep understanding of the expression "go over it with a fine-toothed comb."

Four days, twelve comb-throughs, and countless loads of laundry later, you breathe a small sigh of relief because your daughter's head is no longer itchy and so far your other daughters' hair remains bug-free. You are hopeful that you can put this whole experience behind you.

And that, my friends, is the story of lice. If it sounds like good times, then by all means go about your usual business. Maybe even take your kids for some hat-trying-on at the Denver Art Museum. But, if you'd rather keep your experience with lice limited to reading about it on a blog, I strongly suggest going through your kids' hair with a fine-toothed comb just to check, especially if you live in Boulder. Checking obviously won't prevent them from getting lice, but it's always good to catch it early. Also? Ponytails and buns are always good looks.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

King Tut Has a Big Butt

The girls had the day off of school today so my friend Tina and I decided to take them and her daughters into Denver for some art and culture. As soon as I told the girls that we were going to the Denver Museum of Art to see a King Tut exhibit, Lucy made up a song about it. Driving to the museum listening to "We're going to see King Tut and he has a big butt!", I began to have my doubts about our plans. Yet it turns out that spending a day at the DAM with the girls was a great way to spend the day.

I've learned a couple things in my years of dragging the girls to museums. Kids, like adults, enjoy art more when they understand it in context. Tina dropped off a bunch of books about Egypt from the library for us before our museum trip. Mummies & Pyramids, with a whole chapter on King Tut, proved the most valuable. The girls knew about tomb raiders and mummies and pharaohs before we set foot in the museum. The books plus the 3D movie we watched when we arrived (which, incidentally, started with a jackal jumping out at us from the screen. Noni spent the rest of the movie on my lap without her 3D glasses) gave the exhibit more meaning.

I also always bring notebooks for the girls now when we go to museums. Lydia and Lucy might still be in the King Tut exhibit drawing sarcophagi if their younger sisters hadn't grown impatient. Giving them something to physically do always helps keep their attention.

I think we all left the museum better informed about Egyptian history. And the "King Tut has a big butt" song is finally out of our heads. Now we are all singing this instead: click here

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Francie's Fortune

A year and four days ago today, I embarked in the crazy adventure of Nanowrimo, or the challenge to write a novel in a month. I didn't do it. But I got enough of a start that I couldn't stop writing. Through that process, Francie's Fortune was born.

I'm happy to announce that Blue Mustang Press will be publishing Francie's Fortune, which will be available on amazon.com and hopefully at a bookstore near you by the end of the month. The website for the book is currently in development, but check out the Francie's Fortune fan page on Facebook to get updates about the book.

Thank you to everyone for your support of my writing on this blog. I hope you'll check out Francie's Fortune as well!

Here's a sneak peak from the back cover:

Ten-year-old Francie is looking forward to spending the summer at home in Los Angeles as she always does, hanging out at the ice cream shop and at her best friend’s pool. When her mother drops the news that Francie will instead be spending the summer with her estranged grandmother in a remote mountain town in Colorado, Francie is crushed. Even worse, once she arrives, she begins to suspect that her grandmother is actually a witch. And why is a mountain lion following her? Will Francie survive the summer?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Multiplication Music

As I write, the girls are blaring music from their room. It's not the usual Lady Gaga or Glee CD. Instead, they are newly obsessed with a CD that Lucy brought home from school: Multiplication Sensation. It has really, um, catchy lyrics like, "Five times ten is fifty..." and yet at dinner tonight Lu was singing, "Five, ten, fifteen, twenty, twenty-five, thiiiiirty." If I'm going to have numbers in my music, I prefer Feist, but I highly recommend Multiplication Sensation for kids. It will drive you crazy, but so does most kid music and at least your kids will learn some math in the process! Check it out online here: http://www.kidcleveronline.com/home.html

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Unlikely Princess

As you might know if you've been reading this blog, or if you've ever spent 30 seconds with Noni, she's kind of into princesses. "Kind of" as in she sleeps with a stuffed Snow White on her bed, obsessively reads the Disney Princess Encyclopedia, dressed in nothing but princess dresses for almost a year, and usually leaves the house with at least two Polly Pocket-sized princesses in her pocket or purse. So when Halloween came around and she asked my dad what he was going to be for Halloween, he decided he had the perfect answer for his three-year-old granddaughter: "A princess."

And so, my dad dressed as Cinderella for Halloween. And Noni was terrified. Not only would she not go near him, but when we stopped at the first house to trick-or-treat, she turned to my dad and said, "You stay back!" We were cracking up. However, but the end of the night she had totally warmed up to the idea. Before she went to bed, she told my dad, "Next year I want you to be Snow White."

My dad as Cinderella. Noni, as a "princess cat", looking skeptical.