Monthly Archives: August 2013

My kids are growing up way too fast. Don’t Blink!

I am a mother.

I am a mother of teenagers.

So far being a mother of teenagers has been uneventful for the most part.  They get decent grades in school. (Yes I have to nag).  They do their chores. (For the most part, but sometimes I have to nag).  They don’t sass too much. (Most of the time.)

Actually I think I am pretty lucky in the kid department. (Their rooms are nasty though.) I gave up the room battle years ago.  Now as long as I can walk across the floor without stepping on stuff I am okay with it.  I choose my battles.  Battles over grades will always win out over battles about their rooms.  The way I look at it, good grades means opportunities, and clean rooms just mean clean rooms.  Opportunities trump clean rooms, in my opinion.

So I am a mother to teenagers.

It went by so quickly.  It seems as though just yesterday they were little, and were showering me with hugs and kisses and love.  These days I still get love, but it is less frequently, and sometimes peppered with wise ass comments.  They make fun of me if I cry during a movie, and while they will still hug me on occasion, kisses on my cheek are forbidden. (They will still kiss me if I ask nicely, and throw in a bribe)

My boys in 2012.  Photo by Leila Wylie

My boys in 2012. Photo by Leila Wylie

But I can’t really complain.  I enjoy my kids.  I laugh with them, and goof off with them.  I tell them everyday how much I love them.  Sadly, I have friends who have lost children.  My mother lost my brother.  I can only imagine the pain and loss these women feel.  I am sure they cry every day missing their children.  I am grateful for every day I have with mine.  But I know another day with them is not guaranteed.  So I make sure every night before I go to bed I kiss them (they know resistance is futile), and make sure they know how much I love them.

When they were little I was always afraid if something happened to me they might not remember me. Now they are old enough to know how much their mom loved them if something happens to me.

But even with all of that, with the good foundation I have laid with my children about right and wrong and good decisions and bad decisions.  About responsibility and foolish choices.  About drugs, and friends, and sex and drinking.  Even with that I worry.  I am entering the years where I have little control and have to just hope and pray that the guidance and structure I gave them throughout their lives will win out when they have to make a decision.

When they are at a party and there is alcohol.  When they have a girlfriend and the topic of sex comes up.  When they are with their friends and someone pulls out a joint.  I won’t be with them, and I have to believe that the values and ethics I tried to instill in them actually took hold, and they will choose to leave the party, choose not to have sex,  and choose to walk away from the group of friends with drugs.

I am entering a new phase of parenting.  An unknown phase.  I was talking with a friend recently who has an 8 year old.  I told her, “You are still molding your child.  I have finished molding mine and am now just fine tuning.” And I truly believe that.  I no longer tell my kids to say please and thank you.  If I am still trying to teach them good manners, I missed the boat when they were 5.

I do think I am a good mom, and I have spent the last 16 years trying to be a responsible parent and raise two young men.  I have always felt it is my responsibility to help them become responsible, polite, respectful, productive members of society who know how to be nurturing and kind. I think it is important that we give back and I have tried to instill compassion and a sense of doing right by others.  Now the wait to see if my diligence paid off.

Now that I am the parent of a high school Junior, and a high school Freshmen, I will be able to see if what I tried to teach them actually sunk in.

I will let you know how that turns out!

(The music is “Don’t Blink” by Kenny Chesney)

Real Food: Strawberry Honey Jam

If you read this blog with any regularity you know about my struggle with my weight, and  how recently (the end of April) I started my family on a mission to change our eating habits from a regular diet to eating real, organic foods.

When I made the switch I was incredibly worried about how my boys were going to react, and whether or not they would like the food.  I will say that they have honestly said they prefer it!  Well, at least 95% of it!  LOL  Joe Cool has said that he doesn’t car for the All Natural Cookie Dough ice cream because it is “grainy”, but The Genius has eaten the entire container, so I guess different palates like different things.

We changed our diet, and started eating organic produce, organic chicken, organic diary products and grass fed beef.  Along with all of this, I started canning more.  I had my first experience canning last year when I canned plain tomatoes from my garden, as well as canning stewed tomatoes. 

This year I decided to try my hand at making and canning Jam.  I did some research and saw that most recipes called for pectin and LOTS of sugar!  That was NOT what I wanted to add back in to my diet, so I did more research and saw that lots of people (especially this with organic or real food websites) were using apples to help thicken the jam, and honey to sweeten.  I read that pectin actually adds sugar to the jam, and decided not to use either pectin or sugar.

Now in order to can, you will need certain tools. The “must have” tools are:

  • Jars (of course) – I prefer the jars without shoulders. I buy them at the local grocery store.  For jelly I use the small jelly jars, and for tomatoes I use pint sized jars, or wide mouth pint size jars.  canningjarsbox
  • Ball Utensil set.  This set has a funnel, jar lifter, lid lifter, and bubble remover tool. I don’t really use the bubble remover tool, but everything else is essential. This set can be easily purchased online for about $10.00, if you can’t find it locally.ballutensilset
  • A Large pot.  I actually purchased a canning pot online because was able to purchase the pot with a rack and all the above pictured tools for about $40.00.  I didn’t want to mess with a pressure canner, and this does the job quite well.
  • canner
  • A ladle or big spoon to spoon your ingredients into the jars.
  • An analog or digital scale.  Many ingredients need to be measured.  Mine is not an expensive one.  I bought it from my lovely Pampered Chef consultant for about $30.00
  • A potato masher.  You will want your fruits to be mashed so your jam is “jammy” and not just cooked fruit. (I received a kitchen “power tool” for Christmas last year and used that to smash my fruit, but a good old potato masher is perfectly good as well)

Strawberry Jam recipe

  • 3 pounds of organic strawberries
  • 1.5 cup raw honey
  • 1 apple, grated
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Rinse the strawberries, cut off the stem and cut them in half.  Place them in a large pot on the stove over medium high heat.  (I used my caldero, but any nice large pot will do).  Add the honey to the pot.  Grate the apple (including the skin) down to the core and add to the berry honey mixture.  Add the lemon juice.  Stir it together and heat to boiling.

Once it is boiling, turn the heat down a bit so it is a light boil, and cook for 30 to 60 minutes.  The time variation really depends on how thick you want your jam.  The longer you boil, the thicker it will become.  However, this recipe will not be as thick as store bought jams, or jams with pectin.  Scrape down the sides of the pot as the fruit cooks.  It will burst while cooking, so don’t worry if that happens.

Mash the berries with a potato masher.  Some foam will form on top of the berries as they are cooking.  Some people skim it off and discard it.  I just stirred it in, and didn’t worry about it.  The taste of the jam is the same either way.

Meanwhile fill the canning pot ¾ full with water, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Be sure to wash all jar pieces in hot soapy water first.

Once the water is boiling turn off the heat. Test the temperature with your thermometer and when it reaches 180 degrees F put the jars, bands and lids into the pot. Leave everything in the hot water until ready for use, removing one at a time as needed.

When the jam is done cooking do a taste test to make sure the thickness and flavor is to your liking.

Remove the first jar from the hot water using your jar lifter tool and shake out excess water. Don’t touch inside of the jar in order to keep it sterilized. Insert clean canning funnel and ladle the jam into the jar leaving ¼ inch headspace at the top (this is where the headspace tool can come in handy – leaving more space at the top might not give as good of a seal). If there are any air bubbles you can slide a clean knife along the inside of the jar to remove them. Using a clean rag wipe excess off the outside of the jar and rim.

Using a magnetic lid lifter pull the first lid out of the hot water and set on top of the jar without touching the bottom of it. Then while only touching the outside of the band screw it onto the jar just firmly enough so it doesn’t feel wobbly on the grooves. Repeat until all jars are filled.

Process the Jars: Bring large pot of water back to a boil. Using your jar lifter (or canning rack) carefully lower as many jars that will fit without overcrowding into the boiling water so they are covered by at least 1 – 2 inches of water. I use a rack inside the canner, so the jars do not directly touch the bottom of the pot (so hot water can flow beneath them). From the moment the water is boiling and the entire first batch of jars are submerged set the timer and process them for 10 minutes.

When 10 minutes is over use the jar lifter to carefully remove the jars from the water. Put them on the counter and don’t move them right away. You will hear your jar lids “popping” which means they have been sealed properly. If jars aren’t sealed within 12 hours then move them to the fridge and eat within 3 – 4 weeks.

Remove bands from sealed jars and with a clean, wet cloth wipe off any jam that has congealed on the outside rim of the jar. This prevents mold from forming on the band. The band can be reapplied, but don’t screw them on too tightly.

Label jars and store in a cool, dry, dark place for up to 1 year.

Tools for jam making

Tools for jam making

Strawberries rinsed

Strawberries rinsed

sberriesin pan

honey

strawberries and honey in pot

strawberries and honey in pot

appleforjam

organic gala apple for jam

Everybody is in the pot ready!

Everybody is in the pot ready!

Ready to cook!

Ready to cook!

The power tool I received for Christmas last year.  I used to mash the berries, leaving some yummy chunks!

The power tool I received for Christmas last year. I used to mash the berries, leaving some yummy chunks!

Ready for the jars

Ready for the jars

lids and jars in canner

lids and jars in canner

funnelinjar

jaminjars

lidsoutofcanner

Wipe the tops of jars with a paper towel or cloth towel, then they are ready for lids

Wipe the tops of jars with a paper towel or cloth towel, then they are ready for lids

after lids and rings are placed on jars, they process for 10 minutes

after lids and rings are placed on jars, they process for 10 minutes

ready to be stored away for later consumption!

ready to be stored away for later consumption!

sberryjamjarssberryjam

Delicious!

Delicious!

 

I also made Blackberry jam sweetened with honey, that post will be coming soon! YUM!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Teacher’s thoughts….for what it’s worth.

My children have been blessed to attend schools here in a town where they have had many, many wonderful teachers. I have friends who are teachers.  I know they are overworked and underpaid.  I know they have to spend a lot of their own personal finances on things for their students and classrooms.  I know that in order to teach they have to love it, because the financial rewards are not great.

My son The Genius usually enjoys his teachers but this past year in 8th grade he especially loved his English teacher. He loved the way she taught, and he always felt valued in her class.  The other day on Facebook I ran across a post she had written and I feel compelled to share it with as many people as I can.  My reach is more broad here on the blog than on my Facebook page, so I asked her permission to repost her words here and she agreed.

This post is written by 8th grade Teacher Karen Pierce, who my son told me is his “favorite teacher of all time.”  As a matter of fact when I read it, I thought, let me see if he can guess which of his teachers wrote this.  So I read it to him, and when I read the part about teaching on her feet, he said, “Oh, that is Mrs. Pierce.  She never sits down when she is teaching.”  Mrs Pierce you have made a difference in my son’s life and are an exceptional role model.  Thank you for allowing me to share your words with the world!!

The Genius asked me to put this here.  :-)

The Genius asked me to put this here. 🙂

 

Teacher Thoughts….for what it’s worth

28 July 2013 at 08:03

I have spent the summer reflecting on my job & have some thoughts to share:

  •  I teach because I love it. Paying me more will not make me a better teacher. Paying me more will enable me to support my family without working 2 other jobs.
  • Contrary to popular opinion, having summers off is not the same thing as a paid vacation. We are paid for working 10 months. If you know a teacher who gets paid in the summer, it is because he/she had pay withheld until summer.
  • Politicians (national, state, local) make huge decisions regarding education…..usually without asking for teacher input. If they ask for it, they do it solely for show and have already made up their minds.
  • I spend about $1,000 a year on my classroom. I would do so no matter how little I’m paid….it’s necessary.
  • I am making 10% less than I was 7 years ago when factoring in the increase in medical insurance premiums, the state’s reduction in retirement that I must now pay, no raise, and the rise in the cost of living.
  • I go to work early to be prepared for the day. I teach on my feet, not from behind a desk. I try to make learning fun, not only so my students will retain the content, but because we both have to be there…why not enoy it?
  • Over 20 of my past students are dead or in jail. We DO have a national problem….educating students in poor, crime ridden areas is not the same as in affluent ones. You simply cannot compare apples to oranges and tie money into student performance.
  • When asked what I do for a living, I say “teach” but really on a daily basis I hug your child when he or she is having a bad day, give bandaids, counsel when guidance sends the child back after 2 minutes, protect from bullies (bullying today is NOT the creep stealing lunch money!) , feed hungry children, provide basic school supplies such as paper and pencil, build self-esteem, etc, etc.
  • I have over 500 books in my classroom library for my students to borrow. I also let other students borrow them when they ask. Approximately 20-30 disappear from my shelves each year. I have replaced some novels more than 5 times. Instead of getting upset about it, I believe I’ve given a pretty nice gift to someone’s child. A friend asked me when helping me in my classroom last week if I paid for all of those books. Of course I did….unlike when I started teaching in 1988, teachers today have to buy their own paper clips, staples, cleaning supplies (would it shock you to know my classroom floors are mopped twice a year and desktops are only cleaned when I do it or provide students with the supplies to do it?) etc.
  • I teach in a city that has a beautiful school with wonderful technology. Weird how all of our city wide meetings are held there rather than the other 3 that are decrepit, mold ridden, and have 1 dinosaur smartboard that is bigger than my dry erase board and wheeled from room to room when not broken. Should I mention that our dry erase boards are actually construction white boards from Lowe’s or Home Depot purchased and mounted by us…..a far cry from the gorgeous white boards in our “model showroom sister school” across town.
  • Finally, the best gifts I’ve ever received from students are when they tell me what a difference I’ve made in their lives because each of them has made a difference in mine.

I want my thoughts to be food for thought rather than just a teacher’s venting. I wonder if this will go viral like those cute videos of small girls dressed like teenagers singing a Nicki Minaj song? Probably not, but feel free to share.

I teach because I love it. Paying me more will not make me a better teacher. Paying me more will enable me to support my family without working 2 other jobs. I am looking for a non-teaching, better paying job at this time. If I find one, I will take it…….but I guarantee I will never be able to say that I love it and mean it as much as I say, “I love teaching!”

Karen Dugas Pierce; 8th grade teacher in Virginia