Black History Month and Parenthood.

As I was writing this post I started to wonder, at what point do kids start asking their parents about race?  The more curious question though is, when do parents bring up this question of race to their kids if they do so proactively.  How early do white parents speak to their children about these differences in their home ? How does it look in African-American families? Or how frequently are other white mothers of biracial children asked if they point out the difference in color, the injustice in our country too early or that they even speaking out too loudly on this subject matter? 

My oldest daughter at age 2 could already tell the difference between her and my own skin color. And just like that, conversations about race started in our home. I'm not sure if I was prepared at the time but I knew that the color-blindness approach was just as wrong as giving the explanation that, "we should only see good in people". Yes. We should treat them with love and kindness but not to be blind to the fact that there are mean and cruel people around us.

At the age of 3 she went from predominantly white daycare center to a private catholic school with mostly white kids as well. She would come back home and tell me the stories of how some of her friends are getting braids just like Elsa ( yes, that was the season ) and one particular girl would always say 'that she can't have it done because of her puffy hair'. There were tears and my hardest attempts of putting a French braid in her hair to prove her friend wrong. From an early age we encouraged her to kindly speak for herself and to always know that she could do and be anyone, no matter her background.

At the age of 4 her younger sister was born and we moved her to a near by public school. It was within walking distance from our home (which made a huge difference when you need to make a drop while dragging around an infant in brutal Chicago winter weather ) and it offered a more diverse environment. She liked it but as it turn out after a while, she started to feel lonely as one of the few English speaking students. She would tell me frequently that she is not included in the free play because she doesn't understand Spanish. And so conversations continued. I would often bring up my own background and the fact that we speak Polish at home and at different gatherings. I remember telling her that as people we sometimes just forget others in conversation because we need the ease of expression.  That the other children really aren't trying to be insensitive it's just that they lean on what they know.  I encouraged her to try and speak Spanish but to also connect with her class mates in other ways to help bridge the gap. 

At almost the age of 5, I started my research for a very well diverse public neighborhood school that would also include African-American teachers. A school where any child could see their self in the crowd of students and where they could learn about multiple cultures and heritages. We got lucky! After a heavy search I got lucky and to my own good fate, both of my daughters got in. 3 years into it, I'm happy to say that not only are both of my girls getting an excellent education but becoming well rounded humans. We still have ongoing conversations about race, human nature and various injustices that my oldest child sometimes hears and asks questions of. My husband and I try to navigate through this subjects gracefully but with the honesty that a 9 or 5 year old can comprehend. 

February is a Black History Month and during this month I make sure to ask my daughters about what they learn at school and I try to extend the conversations at home. Last year we celebrated it by talking almost every day about the most influential African Americans in our history. The girls mostly loved to hear stories about great African American musicians and athletes but also some activists and politicians. It was the girls who made decisions about who they would like to hear about. When I think about African-American history I believe that it shouldn't be only taught in the classrooms and extra activities at home just around this time of the year. All parents should participate in regular, honest conversations surrounding different cultures and spending time on showing real day to day activists. There are so many people worth talking about that are fighting injustices of our day and making current history that it would be simply wrong to live in privilege and not to acknowledge it.

Love Is In the Air...

February is around the corner and as usual we're starting to brain storm the Valentine's Day ideas. There is 'no candy' policy in my daughters school - which I'm totally in support of- so it gets a little difficult but we give ourselves some time to think and pick some easy craft. In the past we had a tradition of melting old crayons and turning them into hearts. We loved it but we didn't want to repeat it each year. I actually thought I posted a tutorial how to make them but I can't find it so...explanation below. Last year I bought a bunch of heart shape balloons and we attached to them tags that said ' Love is in the air'. Apparently my kids friends loved it!

Here are some ideas we have so far for this years Valentine's Day. I think we are going to make some cards and pick something from the Amazon website- year by year we need bigger quantities of Valentine's gifts.

1. ' YOU MAKE THE WORLD SPARKLE' -  sending tiny bottles of glitter for all the crafty kids maybe a big hit.

2. 'YOU MAKE ME FEEL BETTER' - Valentine Day card that includes fancy bandages.

3. 'YOU RULE' - Your little one may become the teacher's pet after handing these rulers out.

4. 'WE MAKE A GREAT PAIR' - Take a walk through the dollar store or a dollar section at Target and gather up as many pairs of socks as possible.

5. 'WHOOPEE! IT'S VALENTINES DAY!' - You may want to check with your kids teacher before handing out mini whoopee cushions but this could be a very fun idea!

6. 'YOU ARE A CUTIE!' - healthy, easy and right on the budget idea of sending cuties with this little note.

7. 'I GOT MY EYES ON YOU!'- Right on time for spring! Send the whole class heart shape sunglasses.

8. 'YOU 'QUACK' ME UP!' - Who doesn't like the rubber ducks? Especially in the Valentine's Day colors and patterns.

MELTED CRAYON HEARTS:

The most time consuming part of this project is probably the peeling of the paper but my kids loved it and it gave them something to do for a couple of long winter nights. The crayons need to be broken into small pieces and placed in the baking pan- preferably heart shape. I found this one above in the World Market. Bake in the oven at 250F for 20 minutes or until crayons are completely melted. Wait for the heart to harden.

Honey Coconut Matcha Latte

I have been thinking about making a switch from coffee to matcha for a while- at least in the afternoon. It all started with reading multiple articles about how differently our bodies process caffeine from coffee and how beneficial drinking matcha can be. I have to agree that one cup of matcha provides a less jittery, more sustained energy boost- with no crash at the end and it's so easy to make. It also has much higher levels of antioxidants and it boosts our metabolism.

With that said I have been searching for a perfect recipe. After trying a hand full I settled with this Honey Coconut Matcha Latte. I still don't own a fancy bamboo whisk and a bowl so I am very grateful for my blender.

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2cup boiling water
  • 1 1/2 cups almond milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon matcha
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-2 teaspoons honey to taste

WHAT TO DO:

1. Heat the almond milk on the stove top until steaming.

2. Add all the ingredients to a blender and blend on high until well combined and frothy. Serve.

This Honey Coconut Matcha Latte uses coconut oil to slow down the absorption of caffeine and create a steady energy without any jitters. A quick and easy 5 minute recipe with five ingredients and two steps. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

FIXED ON..

BOOKS: 

'Americanah'  by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie , 'The Rules Do Not Apply' Ariel Levy, 'The Wild Woman's Guide to Traveling the World' by Kristin Rockaway, 'Her Body and Other Parties' by  Carmen Maria Machado, 'Little Fires Everywhere' by Celeste Ng

SHOWS:

I have to cut it short because there has been a bunch in the past few months that I really enjoyed...

'The Marvelous Mrs. Misel', 'Insecure', 'Broad City', 'Curb Your Enthusiasm', 'Crashing'- coming back this week I think.. Eeeek! 'Master of None', 'I love Dick', 'Black Mirror', 'The Deuce', 'The Handsmaid's Tale' , 'Starnger Things' and obvious...'Game of Thrones'

MOVIES:

'Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri' - so SO good! 'Lady Bird', 'I, Tonya'

ARTICLES:

Very interesting interview with Tonya Harding.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/10/movies/tonya-harding-i-tonya-nancy-kerrigan-scandal.html

PERSONAL GROWTH:

Eckhart Tolle 'The Power of Now. A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment' , Shawn Achor  'Before Happiness' 

PODCASTS:

'On Being with Krsita Tippett' , 'Oprah Super Soul Conversations' ,' Alone: A Love Story'

THIS SUPER SOUL CONVERSATION:

 

 

 

 

 

Homemade Marshmallows

I know this post is sort of out of the season. Christmas has just passed but during the holidays I had few people ask me through Instagram for the marshmallows recipe. At the time I was just too busy to get to it but I feel that it's still 'post worthy' recipe. I know I will be making them it in the future.

Just a few suggestions before you start. You will really need the candy thermometer- don't skip that part.  It is important to measure sugar temperature- it has to be exactly 240 F for marshmallows to come out the right way. Also... The best way to cut them it is to use the kitchen scissors. Just make sure to put some coconut oil on the blades to make the process easier.

Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 packages of unflavored gelatin
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

WHAT TO DO:

Combine the gelatin and 1/2 cup of cold water in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and allow to sit while you make the syrup.

Meanwhile, combine the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Raise the heat to high and cook until the syrup reaches 240 degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove from the heat.

With the mixer on low speed, slowly pour the sugar syrup into the dissolved gelatin. Put the mixer on high speed and whip until the mixture is very thick, about 15 minutes. Add the vanilla and mix thoroughly.

With a sieve, generously dust an 8 by 12-inch nonmetal baking dish with confectioners' sugar. Pour the marshmallow mixture into the pan, smooth the top, and dust with more confectioners' sugar. Allow to stand uncovered overnight until it dries out.

Turn the marshmallows onto a board and cut them in squares. Dust them with more confectioners' sugar.

SPRING

I love this season. Probably like any other ... Each one of them brings some changes to our daily rhythm and I truly appreciate it. Days are longer but still a little bit chilly in the morning and in the evening. We had a fun spring break in April and beautiful Easter right after. We are spending our days playing outside and pampering our front and backyard . Life is good ...

Homemade Mango Sorbet

The other day I bought way too many mangos. They were 79c per pound! That's a steal...! When I got home I quickly decided that I will turn them into sorbet. It is my favorite! Especially when it's really warm outside. Eating it today made me think of warm spring days. Can't wait!

MANGO SORBET

INGREDIENTS:

4 mangos

1/2 cup honey

1/2 cup water

DIRECTIONS:

1. Cubed your mangos.

2. Freeze them overnight.

3.Blend mango cubes with honey and water. Leave it in the freezer until ready to eat.

  

Sleeping success.

I have always believed that being able to get a good night sleep is a habit, even when you're a child. I think I did the best job teaching my oldest daughter how to fall asleep in her crib on her own, and how to put herself back to sleep if she woke up in the middle of the night. As a new parent at the time I really took it to heart and I really leaned on her from the very beginning to be an independent sleeper. I was also a full-time working mother and it was in our best interest to get enough sleep per night. I was pumping milk at work and dropping her off at childcare during the day. I got kind of lucky with that as I believe the daycare she was at helped reinforce a structured sleeping regimen. By the time I had my second daughter my oldest one was over 3 years old. My parents came to stay with our kids when my husband and I  went back to work. The baby was 3 months old. At that age my oldest daughter was already sleeping in her own bedroom and in the crib. Nella was still in the bassinet and in our bedroom. Our sleeping situation changed - we moved to a different place - and her future bedroom was for a time being a guest room for my parents. This I think effected her sleeping habits. She became our roommate almost till she was 8 months old and she was use to having someone near her. Even if she woke up at night she could just peek through her crib and we were right there. When my parents left we moved her to her own bedroom and that's when she started to waking up. By the end of each night she would end up in bed with us. I didn't care. I knew that I had to be at work early in the morning and I simply didn't want to struggle with putting her back to sleep in her crib. Neither my husband. By the time when Nella was two she started sleeping in the same bedroom with her sister. They both wanted to share the same bedroom even though there was no need for it. This was a break through. Nella stopped traveling to our bed. Within few months from the transition Santa dropped off a bunk bed for the girls. Just like they requested. Fast forward to the September of 2015 . Nella will be 3 years old and Pola is 6. Our family is growing once again. My son Milo is born and I quit my job. I no longer have to worry about pumping milk, carrying my pump and washing all the parts. I have the comfort of nursing on demand and we didn't really introduce the bottle to my son. I was becoming a full time stay at home mom! Milo shared the bedroom with us at the beginning- just like my daughters. He slept in the bassinet but also shared the bed with us depending on the night. I am the one responsible for the school drop offs and pick ups. Breakfast, lunch and dinner preparations. Laundry, cleaning, homework, entertainment, baths an so on... In order to function and be happy I need my sleep. And if that meant my son sleeping right by my side then I would do it. What I really wanted was peaceful nights and to have enough energy for my daughters the next day. As it turn out that we didn't create a monster. No, Milo is possibly the sweetest boy ever but he really never liked his crib. He usually napped in our bed and at night he would frequently sleep with us.  He has just turn 18 months and my husband suggested that we put his crib down and move him into a 'big' bed. I wasn't sure about this move. In my head I created a vision of him walking at night... To our surprise, Milo transitioned very well.  He is actually excited about the new bed, sheets and the night light. I set up a little library right next to his bed knowing that he will love looking through the books before or after bed. The very first night he went to sleep without nursing and called us maybe once. It has been over a week and he takes naps in his bed and happily walks into his bedroom when you ask him to go to lay down. I believe that he really needed that little space for himself ! He is growing and changing into a little boy. It makes me sad but I am also super happy for him. It's milestone for him and a success for us as parents.

To be honest, I don't have that much advice when it goes about teaching your kids how to sleep, stay asleep, and wake up happy. But if you were to ask me what my suggestions for achieving a content and rested family are, I would give you these few tips.

  •  I think it is very important to have a routine. Kids love to know what comes next. Whether it is a naptime or bedtime. It should always fall around the same time and it should break into the same steps. Bath, reading books, listening to the stories, nursing etc.
  •  I think it is the easiest to teach your kids how to sleep on their own and in their own crib when they are around 3 or 4  months. Once you skip that window it gets harder just because they are more aware of what is going on around them.
  • All three of my children have loveys/ blankets. They are very important for those children who are gaining independence but still need that extra helping of security. Loveys help with separation, with fighting the scaries, and with breaking lingering emotional attachments to bottles or pacifiers.
  • Install darker shades and drapes if your child wakes up very early or has trouble napping.
  • Leave a dim night-light on.
  • Consider using a white noise machine or fan if you live in a particularly noisy home. Children learn to sleep through routine household sounds but some places are just really loud, and some kids are really sensitive.  Go ahead and block the noise from heavy traffic, rumbling trucks, nearby construction, barking dogs, noisy neighbors , or SIBLINGS .
  • Do not change your child's diaper at night ( unless he/she is poopy ). If your child gets soaking wet at night, or goes through occasional phase when he gets soaked, use extra-absorbent overnight diapers.
  • You always want to put the baby down ,,drowsy but awake''. If you have trouble visualizing what ''drowsy but awake'' means, imagine a scale of one to ten, one being wide awake and ten being deep sleep. You want to put the baby down at about seven or eight. He should be quite sleepy but awake enough to know that he is going into the crib.
  • I think that unusually alert, bright and aware children tend to have a little more trouble learning to sleep. These children often reach their physical milestones, like walking, on the early side, and they tend to have slightly disturbed sleep. In general I believe that achieving any milestones         ( sitting up, clapping, waving etc.) disturb their sleep.
  • Children need morning rituals just as much as they need bedtime rituals. Even the infants.  Do a ''dramatic wake-up". Throw open the blinds, switch of the lights, sing some cheery good-morning songs, and start the day.
  • If you anticipate needing the crib for a new baby, make the older child's transition to a bed at least two months before or four months after the birth to avoid the feelings of displacement. And if your toddler or preschooler is not ready to give up the crib, don't push it. Borrow a crib for the new baby, or buy a secondhand one until he is ready.
  • And the most important thing! Always do what works the best for your family! Don't question yourself, don't let other people judge you and believe in yourself! You're doing the best you can!

The book that helped me multiple times when sleep training my kids : "Good Night, Sleep Tight." by Kim West.

San Francisco Sourdough Peanut Butter Cookies

The weekend is over and I somehow found myself in the kitchen searching for some easy cookie recipe. I woke up with a sweet tooth and quickly decided that I should use my sourdough starter and make something that will put anyone in a good mood. It was a great decision. The peanut butter cookies were perfect for after school snack and I even sent some to our neighbors to enjoy.

Here is the recipe.

San Francisco Sourdough Peanut Butter Beatnik Cookies

1 cup sourdough starter
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour, plus more if needed to make formidable dough
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix sourdough starter, peanut butter, butter, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla extract. Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together. Add to sourdough mixture, adding a little more flour if needed to form balls. Form into small balls, place on ungreased cookie sheet and press down with fork. Bake at 350 degrees F for 12 to 15 minutes.

PS: I wasn't able to upload my photos for some reason yesterday so I had to hold off on my post till today. But here it is! Enjoy and happy Fat Tuesday!

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

A is for activist.

In last two weeks I had a chance to attend three different rallies in Chicago. I had days when I felt sad and helpless about our current political situation and being a part of those gatherings really helped me out. I know my daughter's were really happy to be a part of the 'Little Marchers' rally, which was organized by 'Just Like Me' group that connects multicultural families . With the enthusiasm they made signs spreading kindness, love and equality among other marchers. There are few other events in the horizon. I am looking forward to the 'Woman's March' on March 8th - International Woman's Day and the March of Science on Earth Day - April 22nd. We will be taking it to the streets as a family!

Sourdough obsessed.

Two weeks ago I posted a sourdough starter recipe and since then I have made few bread loafs. For some reason I thought that baking the bread would be harder but it actually turn out pretty easy. And it is true when they say that quality of your starter really matters.

I researched for a different recipes and here is the one that works the best for me. My family loves the fresh bread. The only hard part about it is the wait ...

ENJOY!!

INGREDINENTS:

4 3/4 cup bread flour                                                 2 tbsp. margarine softened

3 tbsp. white sugar                                                      1 1/2 cup sourdough starter

2 1/2 tsp salt                                                                  1 large egg

1 (.25oz) package active dry yeast                         1 tbsp. water

1 cup warm milk                                                           1/4 cup chopped onion

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a large bowl, combine 1 cup flour, sugar, salt, and dry yeast. Add milk and softened butter or margarine. Stir in starter. Mix in up to 3 3/4 cups flour gradually, you may need more depending on your climate.
  2. Turn dough out onto a floured surface, and knead for 8 to 10 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turn once to oil surface, and cover. Allow to rise for 1 hour, or until doubled in volume.
  3. Punch down, and let rest 15 minutes. Shape into loaves. Place on a greased baking pan. Allow to rise for 1 hour, or until doubled.
  4. Brush egg wash over tops of loaves, and sprinkle with chopped onion.
  5. Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 30 minutes, or till done.

Gloomy January.

It is a last day of the month tomorrow and I must say that I am really working hard on my positive attitude and keeping my hands busy even though it has been gloomy a lot. Also political decisions of our president don't settle with me very well and I have days when I'm just purely upset... January can be hard. All of us step into a new year with a lots of goals but sometimes even silly weather can bring you down. So.... I have been baking bread, making crafts with my girls, sending postcards to our representatives in capitol, listening and searching for new music and learning how to macramé.

That's my way of keeping my mood up...

10 actions / 100 days

January 21st was epic in American history. Millions of people not just in the U.S but all over the world came together to rise their voices. But just like Womens March website says: 'Our march forward does not end here. Now is the time to get our friends, family, and community together and MAKE HISTORY'. If you visit this website https://www.womensmarch.com/100/ you'll get details what kid of actions you can take for the next hundred days. This will be a simple tasks I believe and they will not require too much of your time. I'm sure even your children can get involve and this would be wonderful lesson of democracy and activism for them.

 

Sourdough starter recipe

I don't have much of an experience with making the sourdough bread. I love baking though so I figured that I should at least try and see what comes out of it. I did a lot of reading and decided that the best way to go about it is to start with a good sourdough starter.

Here is the recipe I used:

INGREDIENTS:

1 package active yeast ( .25 oz = 1.5 tsp )

2 cups warm water

2 cups all-purpose flour

 

  1. In large non-metallic bowl, mix together dry yeast, 2 cups warm water, and 2 cups all purpose flour and cover loosely.
  2. Leave in a warm place to ferment, 4 to 8 days. Depending on temperature and humidity of kitchen, times may vary. Place on cookie sheet in case of overflow. Check on occasionally.
  3. When mixture is bubbly and has a pleasant sour smell, it is ready to use. If mixture has a pink, orange, or any other strange color tinge to it, THROW IT OUT! and start over. Keep it in the refrigerator, covered until ready to bake.
  4. When you use starter to bake, always replace with equal amounts of a flour and water mixture with a pinch of sugar. So, if you remove 1 cup starter, replace with 1 cup water and 1 cup flour. Mix well and leave out on the counter until bubbly again, then refrigerate. If a clear to light brown liquid has accumulated on top, don't worry, this is an alcohol base liquid that occurs with fermentation. Just stir this back into the starter, the alcohol bakes off and that wonderful sourdough flavor remains! Sourdough starters improve with age, they used to be passed down generation to generation!
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Remembering King: 10 Books to Celebrate M.L. King Jr. Day

Since 1986, the United States has recognized Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday as a federal holiday. Although King was born on January 15th, the country observes the holiday on the third Monday of the month. This year on January 16th, millions of people across the country will celebrate the day by committing to a day of service to carry on King’s vision of peace, unity, and justice. Many will also reflect on his challenge to humanity, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” Parents, educators, and community leaders willseek out various resources to teach about the life of Martin Luther King Jr. There have been many books written about his life. King himself and members of his family wrote most of the books. As a parent I researched for some titles in our local library and here is the list of the books you could read with your kids on that special day: