Summer baking, anyone?
Why not? Extra time in the mornings means you can go slow, right?
For us, some mornings have extra time around here. Some mornings have kiddos needing to be at camp earlier than they needed to be at school! (With further drive times too! What was I thinking?)
But for the slow mornings. These muffins are an option all my guys love.
What you need: 1/2 cup rolled oats, 4 ripe bananas, 1 egg, 3/4 c brown sugar, 1/2 c unsalted butter, 1 (heaping) c flour, 2 tablespoons baking powder, 1 cup pecans.
1. Take 1/2 cup of rolled oats and let soak. (Water's fine, but this time around I used unsweet vanilla almond milk)
2. Mash 4 bananas and 1 egg in a bowl.
3. Dump in 3/4 cup brown sugar and 1/3 soft unsalted butter and beat in well.
4. Mix dry ingredients: 1 cup flour, 2 tablespoons baking powder, and the soaked oats. (Okay fine, the oats aren't that dry, but they're still in this group.)
5. Add dry ingredients to the banana mush.
6. Stir in 1 cup pecans (whole or chopped--whatever you like--and if you want walnuts then walnuts it is)
7. Bake 20 min at 375.
In the past few years the annual Christmas letter morphed into a part of Kevin's quarterly MFI newsletter. Those went out Thursday, BTW. But for those of who aren't on his mailing list or who want the version with more pictues... here ya go:
2014 was the year of the traveling Strattons!
In March Kevin was first officer for a Missionary Aviation Fellowship chartered flight to the Dominican Republic. Because he’d be staying in-country throughout the MAF staff retreat at a Puerto Plata resort, Faydra got to go as well.
"Serving" in the DR... it was rough but someone had to do it.
Later that month, we returned to the island of Hispaniola, but this time on the Haitian side. Kevin, Faydra, Kaden and Blue traveled to Fort Liberte to live life with the missionaries of Paulos Group and experience Haitian culture. It was an amazing opportunity for the boys to get a better understanding of why their dad does what he does!
Buying treats in the local street market.
Posing with Brynnan or should we say Nana from Peter Pan!?
Kevin, with Kaden in tow, also made it out to Longview, TX with a stop in Slidell, LA en route. Kaden had another special trip all on his own - his first time at an overnight camp! Five days and four nights of climbing wall, lake fun, and boy cabin shenanigans!
In the fall things didn’t slow down - Kevin spent the entire month of September in Eldoret, Kenya “on loan” to fly for Samaritan’s purse as they continued their relief work to the refugees of South Sudan. In October Faydra attended the Florida’s Writer’s Conference in Orlando, FL where she met with a number of agents and attended workshops for four days. At this event she even won a gong-show style pitch contest and had her full manuscript requested by a movie producer. (Not counting chickens, just nice to be recognized.) Then in November we all took a family camping trip to Bahia Honda State Park in the Florida Keys. (Yes, tent camping and yes, Faydra is okay with this.)
When we weren’t out and about... Kaden finished up 4th grade and started 5th. (Last year of elementary school - how did that happen so fast?!)
Blue stopped tormenting challenging his 1st grade teacher and moved on to his 2nd. And Toby finished up his special needs pre-k program and started at Kaden and Blue’s school for kindergarten where he is in an autism class.
Here he is part of the pow-wow with ALL the kindergartners.
Faydra is intermittently querying and revising her first manuscript while writing another. Meanwhile, Kevin has moved out of the parts room at MFI and into an office in the main building where, on days that he isn't flying, he is in charge of media and sfotware. We also stay busy with church where Kaden, Blue, Toby AND Faydra are all involved in choir and Awana and Kevin helps by teaching middle school youth on Wednesday nights.
We are grateful for all God has done in 2014 and ready to see what he has in store for 2015!
This was a rough week.
Not for me personally. Not for our family. Not for the Fragile X community (as well as the rest of the special needs community) while it celebrated the ABLE Act passing in congress.
But for the friends and family of Eric Garner, when the grand jury reached its decision not to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo, it became a very rough week. For the friends and family of Tamir Rice who are preparing for their trial - a rough week. For Ferguson... rough week after rough week after rough week.
It's Christmas. We're supposed to be pouring glasses of eggnog, watching cheesy movies, wrapping presents, and driving around looking at giant snowman inflatables. The Christmas season doesn't have time to stop and consider police brutality and racial divides.
We cannot light a candle of peace without looking around and seeing all the places there is no peace. We cannot light a candle of peace for advent without asking, no matter our race, how long?
I don't believe we will ever reach the fullness of peace on this side of heaven, but when I light the candle of peace I have to ask: In what ways can I sew the threads of peace back into the ripped and broken places?
Maybe peace is...
Found deep in the December post office line.
On my trip this week there was a woman in the wrong line sent over to mine. I knew she was there before me, so instead of pretending like I didn't notice, I motioned for her to stand in front of me. It was incredible how grateful she reacted. She thanked me more than once. Each time I shrugged and said, "You were here first." Maybe she was even more pleasantly surprised because I'm white and she's black. Maybe that didn't matter at all. It still felt like a moment of sewing peace in my community.
Maybe it's found by just answering your door.
Sometime this week around 8:00 p.m. a teenager knocked on our door. When I opened it, he held up a flat basketball and asked if we had a pump. We didn't know him but because we have a basketball net at the foot of our driveway, he must have figured - here's a house with basketball inflating capabilities. He was right, and he left our property with a very bouncy basketball. Maybe that story is even nicer because he was a black male teenager whose request was met easily and happily by a white household. Maybe that doesn't make a difference whatsoever. Either way, kind neighborly moments weave peace through our neighborhoods.
Maybe peace is found by joining in protest. Standing with the wronged.
Maybe it's being nicer to your 10yo when he's DRIVING YOU CRAZY BECAUSE OH MY GOSH HIS LACK OF EFFORT ON HIS SOCIAL STUDIES PROJECT IS KILLING ME, uh, you.
In an act of high irony our pastor asked our family to do the presentation and lighting of the advent candle of peace during service yesterday.
We built on that irony by having Blue do the actual lighting. And yes, he ended up playing with the lighter, so I had to bite my tongue from snapping at him in front of the whole church.
Okay fine. I'll give you a moment.
Never mind the presenters. The material presented - words written by our pastor and the prophet Isaiah - is worth revisiting throughout this week, and I wanted to post here.
Isaiah envisioned a transformed world. His world, like ours, was scarred by violence, bloodshed, anger, prejudice, and injustice. But he saw God’s new day, a day of peace and justice. He saw the day when old animosities melt away as the wide embrace of God draws outcasts in and the deep love of God transforms enemies into beloved friends.
The season of Advent calls us to live in that peace today. As we light the Candle of Peace ask yourself this question: Where in my world would God have me be his agent of peace?
The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. Infants will play near the hole of the cobra; young children will put their hands into the viper's nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.
In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious.
As we wait His coming, we light a candle, a ritual performed as a vow.
Our waiting will be active.
We will do the work of peace that His light may grow brighter. We will keep doing this work no matter the divide. We will not stop until He comes.
I have been planning and hosting Thanksgiving dinners since I was nineteen years old. Nineteen! For three years in college my friend Brooke and I hosted "Fall Feast," a Thanksgiving dinner for all our college friends at a mutual friend's rural cabin.
We did all the coordinating: making the turkey ourselves but assigning out the sides. There were a few other aspects to the planning - I have vague memories of Kevin spray-painting pinecones to help with our table decorations. (If I'm ever stressed in the midst of dinner-party prep and Kevin acts surprised, I'm like - you've known this about me SINCE COLLEGE.)
The menu has changed. (No turkey for our mostly vegetarian household.) And I've since mastered many sides, but a solid foundation for my Thanksgivings to come was created in those days, so I'm always a little surprised when I hear others expressing exasperation over the duties of holiday meals. Because... NINETEEN.
So, if your're still staring at your Pinterest board and don't know where to start...
Here are my tips to help you keep calm and bake on:
1. Have butter? Buy more butter. Have chicken/veggie stock? (Most use chicken we use veggie.) Buy more chicken/veggie stock. Fresh garlic? You need more of that too.
2.Take inventory of your herbs and spices.
Nutmeg and cloves may only come out around this time of year. Make sure you didn't use them up last year. Also, if your recipes call for sage, thyme, parsley or basil. Buy fresh! (Always buy fresh cilantro too, but I guess I wasn't expecting your Thanksgiving menu to have cilantro.)
Missing something you "need." Google for substitution ideas before sending someone to the store. Recipes are suggestions. I'm eliminating a gelatin rum layer from a pumpkin mousse dessert I'm making this year. I imagine I'd like it, but... probably not best for the rest of my eaters. To see what I mean... Here's some advice I sent a friend who said her sweet potato casserole needed help. She later said, my "recipe" got rave reviews.
I have three recipes... And pretty much, I put them all on the counter and improvise. As in once, I whipped up my casserole but also realized I had some extra pumpkin pie filling that didn't fit in the pie shell so I mixed that in with the sweet potato mix too (and got much praise) The main thing is... don't let it get soupy. Make sure it's a good fluffy batch.
I usually peel, cut and then boil 5 sweet potatoes till soft. Then, in a big 'ol mixing bowl I add in 2 eggs (but if I only had one the world wouldn't end), a splash of vanilla extract, 1/2 cup sugar (white or brown, whatever), 1/3 melted butter, and possibly 1/4 to 1/2 cup evaporated milk, but only if it doesn't look like it will get soupy. I mix this all together with a hand held mixer.
Butter a casserole dish (9x13) and spread in.
For the topping I usually go half marshmallows/half pecan...
For the marshmallow half I just lay them on. For the pecan half I use about 1 cup chopped pecans, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 2 T flour, 1/3 cup melted butter - mix together then spread on top. And by spread on top... you can either sprinkle on top or sort of make like flat sections with your hands and lay on top. If you dumped it on top and tried to spread out, it would sink in...
Ready, set... cook!
See? I'm all about flexibility. And while we're being flexible...
4. Drop the Cream of Whatever Soup from your recipe.
It's so easy: butter, flour, broth, milk, salt, and pepper - whisked and heated on low. There are a million of these substitution recipes out there. Pick one and cut out all the preservatives and junk from your casseroles.
5. Accept your weaknesses.
I make ugly pie crusts. Maybe, one of these days, I'll start to care about that, but until then I:
A. Buy pre-made pie crusts.
B. Avoiding the "pie" aspect altogether. These pecan BARS I'll be making for the third year in a row are so yum.
C.Embrace the ugly by also involving the kids!
Sure, Blue. Whatever shape you have picked out is just fine.
6. "Mistakes" are memories so embrace the humor.
(Or just pour more wine.)
Remember that year when... Dad... and the turkey frier.... and there was that explosion....
Don't worry. It's not just you. Get on Twitter and read all things #Thanksgivingfail or check out this Thanksgiving edition of Pinterest Fails.
Happy Thanksgiving, ya'll. Now get in the kitchen... and figure it out!
Me: "I did what you asked and called the insurance company today."
Kevin: "You did?" He doesn't bother to mask the shock in his voice. It's founded, his surprise. Because A. I did what he asked and B. I made a phone call. On purpose.
(If my 12-20 year old self knew how much I hated talking on the phone these days she would be shocked. Floored. She'd disown me.)
Me: "Yup. I called. And then he couldn't hear me, so I hung up."
Kevin: "Did you call back?"
Kevin: "Are you going to call back?"
Me: "Sure. If we put in a landline."
I love my phone for twitter, instagram, facebook, pulling up pinned recipes while at the grocery store, handing it off to my kids so they'll behave in public places, and text conversations. Kevin and I decide very important things over texts.
See? It's super important that he pretend asks my permission so I can state the obvious in three separate texts in reply.(He deserved three dings.) Texting is fundamental to how Kevin and I annoy/make fun of/tease each other in the middle of the day.
(It's also often excellent entertainment for my friends when I send them a text meant for Kevin because I just always assume my texting is open to a convo with him but when it's not... Oops.)
Those few embarrassing moments aside... I love my phone. For everything except phone calls. So I'm over calling it a phone. I WANT A NEW WORD FOR PHONE.
What do Germans say? They're the best at exact language.
*tries this out, annoys everybody*
*grumble, grumble gumble*
*decides to wallow with a little help from the Halloween candy stash*
*finds a Twix!*
So... In conclusion I may not have a phone that actually makes phone calls and I may not have life insurance, but I do have apps and chocolate.
You're right. That's not so bad.
On the Tuesday before the Saturday Kevin is to return from his month in Africa my sea salt grinder came apart in my hands right over the Greek pasta salad I’d just finished. This mechanical failure sent giant salt crystals pouring down on dinner rendering it inedible. We ate hummus, crackers, and apple slices instead. This mama was over it.
The kids and I Facetimed Kevin multiple times a week. Not a day went by where Kevin and I didn’t at least have a text exchange. We had other ways to feel close to what he was doing like keeping track of his days on a big desk calendar.
We're at 28 Xs now - three boxes to go!
We always knew what time it was for Kevin because we reset the microwave to Kenya time.
3 in the afternoon for us = 10 at night for Daddy.
We learned about the people Kevin was serving by reading A Long Water to Water by Linda Sue Park a chapter a night till we were done.
There's this scene with crocodiles... *shudders*
Kaden chose an article about the war in South Sudan for his first current event assignment. (And got 100%!)
Even so, Kevin was still there, seeing and experiencing new things, and we were here up to our usual grind.
But! In that grind the kids were never late to school. I volunteered for picture day. I scheduled and attended an IEP review. I ran errands: Toby to OT, Blue home from tae kwon do, oil change here, dry cleaning pick up there. Two of us got haircuts (me and Blue). I painted two bedrooms in my mom’s house and reorganized our own home office a task that involved me building a shelf. (For real.)
And Kevin doesn't think I follow directions!
Church meetings, book club, and writer’s group were all attended. Bible studies got prepared and taught. I won a book and read that book. I took the kids to the beach twice, a science festival, and one Saturday we crossed the state and visited my dad. This Saturday, before Kevin gets home, we’re going to the zoo. (Kaden is signed up for the "Impressive Impalas junior zookeeper class.)
We decorated for fall. Began Halloween costume purchases. Most dinners were cooked without incident. Clothes got washed. Beds got made. Floors got swept. Dog got fed. One broken salt grinder aside, we faired well.
Single parenting is doable! Well, so long as you don’t have to work and have a free grandparent babysitter available for the aforementioned church meetings, book club, and writer’s group.
For a month anyway.
Because there’s something about doing life without a partner physically available that made all of the above a touch harder. In spite of my, “I’m great! Just missing Kevin! It’s the longest we’ve ever been apart!” glib answer to the ever-frequent how-are-you question, I was often a little gloomy.
I was going to be SO productive with my evenings while Kevin was gone. Finish the first draft of my current novel! Update the blogs! Read all the things! (One adult book and one kid’s book is the least I’ve read all year.) Instead I binge-watched ABC Family’s Greek from start to finish and THEN went back and re-watched all my favorite episodes pining for MY college boyfriend. (Which would be Kevin, so that’s ok.)
I missed my husband, was initually nervous sending him to all things unknown (That incuded a war zone... searching for appropriate articles for Kaden's current event that first week Kevin was gone may not have been the smartest move in easing my concerns.), but family policy has always been: fear doesn't make our decisions. The boys missed their dad but learned that sacrifice is part of being an obedient Christ-follower. So yes, we'd make the same decision all over again, but here's hoping not anytime soon. We're ready for Kevin to be home.
July is Fragile X Awareness Month so I've been sporadically facebook sharing and tweeting and instagramming various fragile X facts. Mostly statistics. Mostly not personal.
But today, July 22nd, is Fragile X Awareness DAY and I guess I should up the ante or something like that. Since Toby, our guy with fragile X, is five...
1. Quirky Conversations
Kevin and Kaden have been out of town, (They get home today!) so we remaining three have been playing musical beds a little bit. A few mornings ago, after a night Toby had slept in my bed, the VERY FIRST words he spoke in the morning were:
"Look! A lobster!"
In response to which I said: "Where?" (This is Florida after all. It's possible?)
And he pulled up his pillow and said, "Under here!"
But even without having yet put on my glasses, I could tell there was no lobster under the pillow, not even a crayfish he'd mistaken for a lobster. Silly kid.
2. Sad Realizations
Last week Blue (no FX) got to attend a camp at a nature preserve 5 days a week, 9am to 3pm. It cost $100.
Last week we spent $100 on Toby's activities as well. For his money's worth he got 30 min of speech therapy and 30 min of occupational therapy on Tuesday morning.
3. Deliberate Reading
Toby will be starting kindergarten at the school were Kaden and Blue already attend which is to say Toby will be his quirky, difficult self in the environment where my older boys are living out most of their social lives, the place where they are most at risk for peer rejection. Because of this, tops on our list for important summer reads for Kaden who is about to start 5th grade: Rules by Cynthia Lord a book about an older sister dealing with feeling embarrassment and resentment toward her younger brother with autism.
4. The Latest Obsession
There's always an obsession. Obsessions around here rotate from Phineas and Ferb to something else, back to Phineas and Ferb then on to some other thing, and back to Phineas and Ferb. Right now we're on a something else.
Since taking Toby to see How to Train Your Dragon 2, he has been obsessed with dragons. He must watch the first movie or the Book of Dragons EVERY SINGLE DAY. I have also bought him two HTTYD2 books to have in the car and a Toothless toy and some action figures which he will get in his first day of kindergarten zuckertute.
But you guys, when he TALKS about the dragons? The way he says "Whispering Death" in his little Toby voice? I melt.
5. Anxiety Throw Up Meets Summer Vacation
Anxiety throw up is always a problem. Anxiety is big for fragile X kids, and it's a real and most un-fun symptom that affects Toby. It's the primary reason we didn't all go on the trip Kevin and Kaden went on. Travel with Toby is hard on Toby. SO! MANY! NEW! THINGS! It's also hard on me, the person he most expects to FIX! ALL! THE! THINGS!
We DO travel. We're going to St. Pete Beach for three days coming up soon. Place your bets now on how long it takes him to throw up and where. I could make a grid! On one side: 10 minutes in, 30 minutes in, 1 hour in, etc. On the other side I could put locations: in the hotel room, on the pool deck (where I'd place my money), in a restaurant (another good contender). We try to make accommodations. What we will no longer do is travel all of us minus Toby. We tried this in March for our Haiti trip and it screwed up his sleep habits and increased his anxiety for months.
Yes, even on our home turf, we see anxiety.
Toby had swim lessons two weeks ago, and I had to clean much throw-up from the van that week. Toby can swim. Toby LIKES to swim. But MAKE him swim and work harder at swimming better and... BLETCH all over the van before he gets out for a lesson.
Just this Sunday we had to deal with it.
Church is not a throw-up event.
Restaurants are not a throw-up event. (Usually)
The beach is not a throw-up event.
But the last two times we've gone from church to restaurant lunch to beach? BLETCH (Once in the van after restaurant en route to beach. It was SO BAD. We had to pull over. And this past Sunday? In the restaurant. Good times!
We are church-going Floridians, so this is going to come up again. It is. Sooooo. We either picnic ON the beach from here on out OR don't tell him the beach is part of the day's line-up. We'll see.
There's your five windows into our particular fragile X world. Hopefully they help you remember:
Different not lesser.
Fragile not broken.
If that's all you get out of Fragile X Awareness Month/Day, I'll call that a success.
You say your goodbyes to preschool and you make your plans for kindergarten. You watch the first wobbles of tiny white baby teeth. You tear up when you see old videos and hear the bird-like baby caws of his vocal play because you remember those sounds, they still echo in your memory fresh and full. They are not the sounds of five years gone.
You tear up when you realize one morning that the first tooth has disappeared, possibly swallowed in the night.
You still have a boy who cries for kisses on his boo-boos. You still have a boy who crawls into your bed and tucks himself into you at any hour of the night. On his face, his nose and the puff of his cheeks are still all round and soft.
But his body grows in angles and he's stretching, desperate to catch his brothers.
There's a part of you that wants another baby, a swaddled bundle of milky breath. But a bigger part of you like this stage. Likes that the last trip to the zoo saw the stroller left behind, no bottom basket packed with changes of clothes. Instead, one backpack with snacks and towels for the splash pad and you were all set. You appreciate that you didn't have to stay behind for the zoo's kayaking fun because all your boys met the age five requirement.
So while you get teary and nostalgic for the baby, toddler, and preschooler left behind, you are ready for the bigger fun a bigger boy can take on.
You can handle the energy, stubbornness, and endless questioning that is five. You've been here twice before. Yes, it's different because every kid is different. But you still know five. You like five. You're ready for five.
Because even at five, he's still the baby.