If you're looking for Olson family updates, then visit our family blog, I Love You Same.

The rants and recipes found here are solely mine.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

There's an incredible sense of helplessness when you, as a parent, have to watch from the sidelines when your child tackles an incredibly difficult problem. I'm not talking math, here. I'm talking the growing pains of being an almost teenager.

There is no specific problem facing Sam at this time, so no one need feel slighted, but after speaking with a friend about mean girl behavior already occurring with her young daughter, it just got me thinking. We moms have to frequently balance the mother lion in us with the teacher. And it's not easy. The mean girls don't go away as you grow older. And they're not just girls either. You'll have mean, bitchy, unfair coworkers, roommates, lab partners, and neighbors.

So, it's time to learn how to deal with it. And that's how my friend feels as well. So much easier to be friends with someone if their parenting style is similar.

I'm often frustrated with helicopter parents who hover above and rarely let their kid tackle things on their own. I'm more of a sideliner. I'm there when you need me, but I'm not going to do it for you (ie become Mother Lion) until you've given it your all.

Forgive me if this is your style, but maybe it's time for you to hear that you're hindering rather than helping your child. Type their report for them now and they won't be able to do it in high school or college. Make a laser for a science project in fourth grade and they'll want you to go one better in fifth grade. Fight their battle before they get a chance to and they'll always look to you first.

I don't care what baggage your kid carries or what abilities they have, our job has but one description: teach them to fly. And you can't do it for them.

I remember the mother of a handicapped child that told me the difference between parenting this daughter and her siblings. "Well," she said, "it's simple. You know how with your son when he's learning something, you kind of put it just out of his reach so that he has to struggle a bit to get it? Well, with her, I put it even further."

I thought that was amazing. Her point? She's always going to have to work harder to live independently, so she pushes her now to get her there so she's never robbed of a life of her own. Brava.

Another Dinner on the Run

I'm sitting here watching a rainbow of birds fluttering around the feeders in my yard: red Cardinals, orange Orioles, yellow Goldfinches, green Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, blue Bluejays and Bluebirds, and purple Housefinches. I love my birds.

Sam is at golfing with a friend, so I decided to come home and race around for an hour to see what I could get done and then take the rest of the time just for me. I've had a serious deficit of recharge time this summer and so has Sam, so we're working on that, together.

Last night the young man was headed out with his heroes to launch some rockets. So, dinner had to be early and quick.

My go-to recipe if I have ground lamb available is Gyros. Ordinarily, I make my own pitas (they're so easy), and Tzatziki sauce, but I was super time crunched. So, I bought both. (I know, GASP)

Easy Gyros

1 lb lean ground lamb
a small chopped onion
1 TB garlic
Lots of fresh parsley, basil, thyme,rosemary---if you have to use dry, go for it anyway. Just measure about 1 tsp of each in your palm and toss in the bowl

Mix all of the above together early in the day or the night before if you can. Keep refrigerated until ready to use. Then brown in a skillet and drain off any excess grease. Serve on warmed pita bread with Tzatsiki sauce, sliced tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, thinly sliced red onion.

Be warned. These are so yummy, you may not speak for the entire meal.

My Tzatsiki Sauce
This is party size, scale down or enjoy as a veggie dip or burger topper (you're welcome), salad dressing, slaw dressing, etc. Does not freeze.

2 medium cucumbers
2 (16 ounce) containers sour cream
1 (16 ounce) container Greek yogurt (very important, but any plain yogurt will do)
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Peel cucumbers and grate into a colander lined with paper towels. Squeeze out excess water.
Mix together sour cream, yogurt, garlic, and olive oil in a large bowl. Stir in cucumbers. Chill at least 30 minutes. Fresh dill is a nice addition.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Desperation Marination

Usually at the beginning of the summer, right before school lets out, I make a ton of marinades and put them in the freezer or I organize a Marinade Exchange, like a Christmas cookie exchange. This year, I didn't get either done.

This summer has been nuts. We haven't had one full day at home yet. My house is a complete pit. My garden has weeds that could double as produce (that of course the rabbits and deer don't touch!) and I've been grabbing the odd hours I can here and there to try to squeeze things in. Last night I found myself laying in the back yard at 9 pm, exhausted, and unable to get up. The boys had run to the bike store and to get some sand and river rock for the pool and water garden and I decided to play dead when they came home so I wouldn't have to help haul it from the car.

I could hear the dryer buzzing through the open windows and I knew if I didn't get the clothes out, Sam would have no shorts to wear the next day. But, I was able to Mom Rationalize that he could just wear his swimsuit or I'd get to them in the morning.

I came to with Sam peering over me with a mostly eaten giant bag of Peanut M&Ms saying, "I know you're not dead. You moved." Great. "SHE'S NOT DEAD, DAD." Bet the neighbors loved that.

And then I finally came to understand why that woman on the commercials who all these years has mystified me with her, "I've fallen and I can't get up." Aside from not falling, I was just like her. I couldn't get up. Now, it wasn't just that I was in fear that while I was sound asleep in the yard one of the dogs had left something undesirable for me to roll onto as I got up. Nope, it was middle age. It hit me right there in the yard.

Forty minutes later, I staggered upstairs, attempted to read, attempted to watch a little BBC news, and then attempted to shut D's bedside lamp off with mental telepathy. Didn't work. That's the last thing I remember.

Dire days like this require crisis cooking. This is a little marinade that was a success after a short streak of abysmal experimental cooking. (Don't ask, that's what ketchup is for.)

Candied Pork Chops

Now, bear with me because this seems a little weird, but we loved it. I figured that root beer and colas are featured in lots of bbq, why not try it in a marinade. I wouldn't attempt this on any other meat, well, maybe chicken. My experiments haven't gone that far yet.

Lean, center-cut, bone in pork chops, or pork loin chops, not too thick!---Now I'm getting inspired to slow cook this on a pork butt or cushion meat

One can or bottle of root beer

a good glug of Worcestershire sauce

hot sauce to taste

salt and pepper to taste

Marinate as long as you can. Remove chops and grill 5-7 minutes on each side until done. You could dump all in a bag and freeze it, thaw in the refrigerator when you're ready to use.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Making Choices

It hits me smack dab in the soul when I hear or receive the snide comment of one woman to another. Apparently, mean girls do grow up, and they don't change a bit. It's all about choices and if you're secure in yours than you really shouldn't have to cut down someone else to make you feel better.

I've been on both sides of the Mom Wars, working vs. stay at home, and they're both equally hard. Just in different ways. And it's all about choices.

When Sam was little and I was home full time, we definitely lived on less. I didn't want to miss a minute in exchange for a bigger house payment or more stuff. So, our living room was empty for a while (great for a toddler on the go!). He still remembers playing elephant cage behind the hand me down love seat that was the sole piece of furniture in the room.

When I worked 24/7 for my business, I didn't have weekends, but I had the fulfillment of something that was my very own and a lot of challenges to face head on and solve. Great for me, but not so great for my family. Sam got lost in the shuffle and it took a year or so after we sold it to get him back.

But, this is what works for me. If you're a full time, work outside the home mom, and you're ok with daycare and weekends filled with errands and laundry, then go. Do. Be. But, if you feel tremendously guilty about all this, sell your stuff, make the sacrifices, and stay with your kids. It's a pretty simple choice.

Wandering around Facebook, linking from one person that I know to one that I used to know to one that I barely knew, to someone that person knows... I came across a snarky comment that precipitated this rant.

It saddens me that we're still fighting over this dumb issue. What a waste of time when we could be ruling the world!

Monday, June 7, 2010

I do know how to can things, but sometime I just don't have the time. I love freezer jam. It's easy and it tastes great, it's cheap if you already have the jars or containers, and it uses up fruit that you froze for the winter last year with good intentions of using it and then discover it right around the time that said fruit becomes ripe again one year later. (English teachers have fun with that sentence.)

I Don't Have Time to Make Jam, Raspberry Jam

3 cups prepared fruit (buy about 6 cups fully ripe red raspberries)
5-1/4 cups sugar, measured into separate bowl
3/4 cup water
1 box SURE.JELL Fruit Pectin Make It!

Run small canning jars or plastic containers through your dishwasher on a turbo heat, antibacterial cycle, be sure to use the dry cycle. Time it so jars are hot and dry when you're ready to fill them.

CRUSH raspberries thoroughly, one layer at a time. (Press half of pulp through a sieve to remove seeds, if desired. This is dumb, but it's in the original recipe, so if you really want to stain your hands your counter tops, and make a big mess, go ahead.) Measure exactly 3 cups crushed raspberries into large bowl. Stir in sugar. Let stand 10 min., stirring occasionally.

MIX water and pectin in small saucepan. Bring to boil on high heat, stirring constantly. Continue boiling and stirring 1 min. Add to fruit mixture; stir 3 min.or until sugar is almost dissolved and no longer grainy. (A few sugar crystals may remain.) Make some toast and taste it. This is required.

FILL containers immediately to within 1/2 inch of tops. Wipe off top edges of containers; immediately cover with lids. Let stand at room temperature 24 hours. Jam is now ready to use. Store in refrigerator up to 3 weeks or freeze extra containers up to 1 year. Thaw in refrigerator before using. Be sure to put one in your fridge and make some Cream Biscuits (recipe below) for supper. You can thank me later.

Cream Biscuits
The shortening is in the whipping cream, no need to cut it in. Makes biscuit making so easy. Great camping recipe, they bake up easily in your Dutch oven. You can cut or just make drop-style biscuits (drop from spoonfuls) if you could care less if Martha approves of your biscuits.

2 cups self-rising flour, plus more for dusting
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, and cream until the dough forms a ball. Turn the dough out onto a surface dusted with additional flour. Fold the dough in 1/2 and knead 5 to 7 times, adding just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to your hands. Gently roll out dough to 1/2-inch thickness. Using a 3-inch biscuit cutter coated with flour, cut dough into biscuits. Place on baking sheet coated with cooking spray, leaving at least 1-inch between each biscuit. Bake for 10 minutes, or until golden brown.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

What are We Doing to Our Kids?

A second, let me repeat, SECOND ninth grader at my son's future high school committed suicide. The first, through the parent rumor mill (not a completely unreliably source, but yet still taken with much salt), did so due to sheer exhaustion. The second, well, as yet I know no details, but I would suspect that the same contributed.

We live in a frazzled world and the pressures on our kids are beyond belief. My son is clipping away towards the end of his sixth grade year just barely keeping his head above water. Twelve hour days would be easy at this point. Yesterday, it was a 15 hour day and that's just school and homework. We vetoed a golf lesson, which would have been a nice break, but there just wasn't enough time. Math homework. Social studies project. Instrument practice. Book reports. Reading. At one point I caught him sound asleep on top of his homework.

What ever happened to watching the clouds roll by? Whatever happened to play? Isn't it truly a sign of the times that organizations are now offering classes about how to play with your kids or how important it is to get your kids outside? This was unheard of not too long ago.

There's something that's happened to parenting that is breaking my heart. I call it Competitive Parenting and there are no winners, just kids that lose out on childhood. "Well, we're so busy," the conversation usually begins. And then it's flop back and forth trying to one up one another. "High performance math? My son bypassed that and is now at MIT finishing his doctorate." "We have hockey, cheer leading, and a class on identifying trees tonight. Tomorrow is the science fair. Ben made a laser and shot a hole in the moon. Don't worry, we got a permit from NASA."

But, then there are the real conversations with parents focused on the happiness and well being of their kids.

And we're worried.

It's too much on their shoulders. It's. Just. Too. Much.

We've seriously considered chucking it all and heading for the hills, but it's too late for that. Sam loves his friends and a move would destroy him.

Meanwhile, we sit and wait for the next one to fall.

When we carry our babies we hope for health and happiness. Where does this get lost in the shuffle?

The news of this latest suicide lies heavily on me. I feel as if I'm working through a fog today. I'm emotional and scared and ticking off the tasks that Sam has yet to complete just today and none of them are ever going to make a damn bit of difference in his life when it comes right down to it.

In one day this Spring I received nine catalogs touting enrichment courses for kids. Camp this and class that. I tossed them all and I encourage you to do the same. Shred em. Put them in the recycling, go immediately to your calendar and write play on every day. And then do it. All summer.

And when the school year comes around again, ask yourself how you can help your kids learn the real lessons of balance, relaxation, stress relief, happiness, and joy. Remind yourself of those moments not so long ago of their impending arrival into your life when you wished for health and happiness and then make it happen.

Those lessons are just as important as anything else. Nope, scratch that, they're more important. And until we start making sure that they are, our kids are at risk.

Peace to the family. Peace to her friends, teachers, and anyone else torn apart by grief. Peace to all those touched by her life and wounded by her passing. Peace.

Taking a little time to play with words, to play with food, and just to play!