Monthly Archives: December 2016

It’s Not What You Think…

Like most people at this time of year, our family life is feeling particularly hectic. Christmas concerts, Christmas parties, dance open house, holiday prep including baking, buying, wrapping, decorating, and entertaining….and all of this on top of the regular, day to day stuff that we do year round.  It’s exhausting.  And a bit overwhelming at times.

christmas_tree_covered_with_gift_170128Berrik and I are trying to stay focused, but it seems as though the ‘to do’ list is so long that it keeps interfering with our daily routine.   A friend texted me yesterday that I must be enjoying being a stay at home mom due to all the free time to get ready for Christmas.  The truth is that I’m the least prepared for Christmas that I have ever been. It’s difficult not to be a bit sensitive about the insinuation that staying at home means having lots of free time.  The ‘stay at home’ moms (SAHMs) I know are rarely home.  They may not all be homeschooling, but they are volunteering, supporting family members, driving, fundraising, and doing so many other unpaid jobs.  I’ll admit that I didn’t fully understand this when I was working full time.  I thought it must be easier to be at home.  There are perks for sure.  I like getting up and putting on sweats and starting my day with a coffee while chatting with the kids over breakfast.  When I was working, I didn’t get to do that as I was out the door before the kids were even out of bed most days.  But after the girls leave for the bus at 7:30, Berrik and I are often busy right until the girls arrive back home again at 4…and then the real craziness begins.  There are many days where I know it would be easier to get up early, dress in my work clothes and head into the office for a day talking with adults, going to the washroom SOLO (I truly thought that having the kids join me in the washroom would end after the toddler/preschool years, but I was mistaken.  Even my almost 14 year old knocks on my bathroom door to inquire as to what I am doing!), feeling respected for my knowledge/expertise, and receiving a lovely paycheque every two weeks!

It’s quite fascinating to talk to people…both those I have known for years, and people I have just met. Invariably the question comes up about either how things are going ‘at home’, or in the case of new people, questions about what I do for a living.  It seems many people have some interesting, but not totally accurate, ideas about what I’m getting up to these days. I’d like to take this opportunity to dispel a few myths that I have heard in my short time away from work:

feet-932346_960_7201.MYTH: Homeschooling is easy and you get everything done by noon so you can spend the rest of the day relaxing.  Oh how I wish this was the case. And I only have one to teach.  I know people teaching 3, 4,5,6, even 7 or 8 kids at once.  Or teaching 5 with a toddler and newborn!  I’m teaching one grade only.  And I need to prepare for that.  It may not be the same amount of prep that a teacher with 25 grade two kids would have to do, but it’s still quite a bit.  Especially because doing worksheets is not the way that Berrik learns best, and therefore it is not the way we do school.  And can I add that without Sound Connections and the ability to use their materials, I’d have considerably more work to do. The language and literacy components of Berrik’s homeschooling are almost exclusively using materials and/or techniques we have learned through Sound Connections.

money-case-163495__3402. MYTH: Homeschooling is lucrative.  Ahahahahahahahaha.  Um.  No.  In total I received about $1000 in funding for Berrik this year.  And every dollar must be accounted for, and used for specific education related items.  His funding is pretty much already gone for this year, so anything else we need (and any other classes I want him to attend) are out of pocket.  I once heard someone suggest that a mom chose homeschooling her multiple children because she wanted to ‘give herself a paying job’.  What a joke that is.  Even if we could pretend that the $5000 per year in funding that she receives (for 5 children) is a good salary (obviously it is not, by anyone’s standards), she can’t use any of it for stuff for herself anyways…  we buy curriculum, perhaps some field trips, or a few classes from our homeschool board if offered…. and oops, it’s all gone.  Not lucrative.  This is not something people choose to do for financial gain.

3. MYTH: I COULD NOT homeschool my kids.  I would go crazy!  Admittedly, these words have come from my mouth. And not all that long ago either.   The truth is that homeschooling is not as crazy-making as I would have thought.  In fact, I quite enjoy it most of the time.  It’s busy.  It’s not easy.  It takes some discipline and some preparation. But overall, the rewards are daily, and limitless.  There are so many benefits to being able to spend time on areas that require additional support and speed ahead in areas of strength, to explore areas of interest further, and move more quickly through topics that are less interesting.  The benefit that I didn’t anticipate is the bond with all of my kids getting stronger as a result of my being more available to them.  My daughters confide in me, they know they can depend on me, and I now know their friends better because I get a chance to drive them all to the mall, or to a sleepover.  Berrik and I are closer than ever. And I know him so much better now.  I know how he likes to learn, what he is interested in, how he feels about his friends.  These are the priceless benefits that I didn’t expect but that I so enjoy.  All this to say, if you feel it would be the best choice for your family, but are hesitating because you feel like you COULD NOT DO IT, then call me.  I’ll explain why you totally CAN do it, if that is what you want.

stretching-498256_960_7204. MYTH: Stay at home moms have time for the gym, lunches out with other SAHMs, and watching soaps.  Sadly, I go to the gym less frequently now than when I was working, I almost NEVER go out for lunch, unless you count feeding Berrik in the car while driving from Sound Connections to a school class or function, and I haven’t watched soaps for 20 years or more.  As I said above, SAHMs are busy doing many of the unpaid tasks and roles that the working moms can’t do.  I was (and am) always thankful to the moms (and dads) who volunteer at the school or for other organizations as we all benefit from their hard work and commitment.  When I was working full time, I didn’t have time to do those things, much as I would have liked to, and my kids fully benefited from the work of those moms who were willing and able to sacrifice their precious time.

5. MYTH: Working moms have it better.  SAHMs have it better. This is a ‘grass is always greener’ style myth.  There are pros and cons to both.  I liked working.  I like being at home.  One is not easier than the other.  One is not more fun than the other.  One is not more time consuming than the other.  They are just different.  Completely and totally different.  One pays better in terms of cash.  The other pays out in other less tangible ways.  Every family is different.  And it changes. What worked this year may not work next year etc. etc.  Having been raised by a working mom, I know that working moms can raise successful and relatively well adjusted people.  (I’m mostly speaking about my brother here… ;-))  Having known many people raised by SAHMs, I know that staying at home produces some pretty cool adults as well.  The fact that we, as women and mothers, (and dads!) have a choice to have one or the other or a combination of both is what we should be celebrating.  That is all.

 

Date Paste – Key Ingredient to everything chocolate and sugar-free!

The key to making most chocolate-based items successfully and without refined sugar seems to be date paste.  It’s easy to make, adds a ton of sweetness (and fiber and actual nutrients as opposed to the calories and nothing else good of plain ol’ sugar).  It has the bonus of being good and sticky, so eliminates the need for a million eggs that much gluten free baking requires.   And finally, perhaps the best thing about it, is it sounds like you’re fancy, but it’s really so ridiculous easy to make.

Because I’m using it for chocolate based treats, I use coffee to soak the dates.  I like the richness that the coffee flavor adds to the chocolate. You can’t really ‘taste’ the coffee in the treats, but I think it just adds some depth. You could totally use water if you are worried about the coffee flavor, or use decaf if you’re concerned about caffeine.  Caffeine and I are life long pals, so I go with the full strength version.

I buy my organic dates from Costco because it’s considerably more fiscally responsible – now that I’m not working, I like using terms like this.  Take away one full salary from a family, and you start to really get a sense of what it means to budget-cut, and demonstrate fiscal restraint!  Anyhoo..back to the paste.  

To make a couple cups of paste, I dump approximately half of one of these bags into the blender, and pour one cup of hot black coffee over them.  If you’re an exact measuring type (I am not….thank you Mom, for the genetic refusal to get caught up in the details of exact measurements and following directions) you can weigh out 14 oz of dates to get exactly half a bag’s worth.  Let them soak for a minimum of 15 minutes.  A bit longer is probably better.  I like to make up some date paste ahead of time, planning for a couple of recipes.  You can freeze it, or keep it in the fridge for a few days with no issues.

When the dates are good and soaked in the coffee, pour the remaining coffee into a cup leaving only a small amount in with the dates.  Blend them with a highspeed blender adding small amounts of the left over coffee as needed to get a very smooth, but still thick paste.  It should look a little like the photo below.  Kind of like peanut butter consistency.

And that is it!  Now you have some yummy date paste (taste it, it’s delicious) to use in chocolate recipes.  Sneak peek – I’ll be posting the recipe for these cookies later today, and the key ingredient is, you guessed it, date paste:

No Bake Haystack cookies – Sugar free, gluten free, simple, and delicious!

A couple of days ago I was making dinner (and it was a less than impressive dinner).  I was thinking about my youth and eating haystack cookies with Muriel (her favorite cookie, and my favorite ‘second mom’).  I was thinking it would be great to have a ‘Berrik’ friendly version of that cookie for the holiday season, although considering that cookie is literally more than 1/2 straight sugar, I wasn’t sure it would be possible.  So, while my uninspired dinner was cooking, I started mixing up some ingredients to see if I could make this cookie work.  The result was incredibly good.  Surprisingly good for a first run at it.  I took a few of them to the dance studio and shared with a couple of my dance mom besties (and a dance dad!) and they were met with approval.  Granted, the one mom was dying of hunger as she had yet to eat dinner…. but still, I think everyone thought the cookies were pretty good.  They were quickly kid approved in my house.  So I knew I was on to something good.  I wanted to try the recipe again, with a few minor adjustments though, before I posted it.  Yesterday I tried it again, made a few minor changes, and I think it’s pretty good.  My kids love the cookies, so ultimately that is always the goal for me!

You will see there are many substitution possibilities – that’s the beauty of this cookie.  The base of it is delicious, and the addition options are pretty much endless so you can adjust it to your own tastes or to accommodate food sensitivities/allergies.

The ultimate test would be for Muriel to try them and approve!  I may have to send her some.

Ingredients:

NOTE: The cocoa is not in the photo… I forgot.  But it’s the second most important ingredient. So don’t forget it.  🙂

1 cup  Date Paste

3/4 cup cocoa

1/3 cup coconut oil

1/2 cup coconut milk (or any other kind of milk you’d like to use)

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla

2 cups gluten free large flake oats

1 1/2 cups long flake coconut

Approximately 2/3 cup of whatever other additions you’d like to add.  I have done 1/3 cup pumpkin seeds, plus 1/3 cup walnuts, and in another recipe 1/3 cup pumpkin seed plus 1/3 cup chopped peanuts.  The options are limitless.  Dried fruit would be good also  Alternatively you can add more oats or coconut if you’d prefer instead.

Directions:

Heat up the date paste, coconut milk and coconut oil over low heat until melted and mixed together. Let cook for 2-3 minutes while stirring.

Stir in cocoa, cinnamon & vanilla and continue stirring over low heat until well mixed.

Remove from heat and add oats, coconut and whatever other add ins you are using and mix well.  It should be just sticky enough to hold together.  Add more coconut and/or oats a little at a time if it seems too sticky.

NOTE: Taste the batter at this point.  If you are more accustomed to a sweeter cookie and that is your preference, add pure maple syrup or gently melted raw honey to taste.  I would start with 1/4 cup and go from there.

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Use a small cookie scoop or just roll by hand and place on parchment paper to cool.

After about an hour, put into an air tight container with parchment between the layers and refrigerate.  These freeze well also and taste really good frozen (which means that trips down to the freezer become a regular part of the day for me!)