Friday, April 24, 2009

The Freshour Children's Choir

The Freshour Children's Choir singing Peyton's favorite song. Carter on (teeny tiny) lead guitar.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Veggie Tales: Popeye Donuts

Here at Chez Freshour, I'm on a quest to expand my children's vegetable awareness because, quite frankly, I'm a little tired of the seemingly endless rotation of carrots, peas, green beans, broccoli, carrots, peas, green get the idea. So when I came across this recipe while at the hospital yesterday with Carter, I shamelessly tore it out of the magazine and took it home. What is exciting about sitting in a waiting room for an hour and a half, is all the time you have to scan free magazines and ponder what to have for dinner. And wonder if you are going to be there for so long that a trip to the grocery store afterwards will be out of the question.

You could probably call these Spinach Balls, but around these parts, conspicuous vegetable typecasting earns us swift and blatant rejection. There's nothing like a clever marketing ploy to help move them from the plate into the mouth. Without further ado, I bring you:

Popeye Donuts

2 (10-oz.) packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed
4 eggs
1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese
1 lg. white onion, finely chopped (I grated mine thereby rendering it invisible.)
2 c. Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Stuffing mix
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
10 Tbsp. melted butter (Try to keep your mind centered on all the folic acid while drizzling this in.)

Heat oven to 350. (Mine was already on because I was baking cookies. This because we are not above bribery when it comes to pushing new vegetables and we weren't exactly sure if the green donut idea was going to fly.) Squeeze the water out of the spinach through a colander in the sink until the spinach is just about dry. Beat the eggs in a large bowl, then dump spinach and the rest of the ingredients in and mix well. Cover the bowl and refrigerate until the mixture holds together, about an hour. Shape roughly into 1-inch balls and bake on a lightly greased cookie sheet (I'm nothing if not lazy and avoided that whole greasing bit by lining my baking sheet with parchment paper.) until just browned and crispy, 30-35 minutes. Sprinkle with kosher salt while still hot prior to serving.

It's spinach for spinach haters. Not only did the kids give them two thumbs up, but they would be a slammin' summer appetizer or side. They were that good.

Monday, April 20, 2009

CMS: C is for Convenience

Around this time last year, Jeff and I began to ponder education options for our rising Kindergartener. At the risk of causing all of my homeschooling readers to hyperventilate, I will admit that our final decision was based solely upon something entirely unrelated to our educational philosophy. It wasn't based upon curriculum, academic emphasis, use of enrichment programs, student-teacher ratios, or test scores. No, instead it was based upon convenience, which is a hot little commodity for this working mom.

The school we chose for our firstborn was none other than our local public school and, after touring and researching several other options, we picked it because it didn't start until 9:15am in the morning, (around the same time I needed to be in the car running the other two to preschool), and it didn't get out until 3:30pm allowing our youngest to take her afternoon nap uninterrupted. Also, we thought, "It's Kindergarten, right? How much damage can they do?"

So now we are coming to the end of Carter's first year in CMS, and I can honestly say they have not just met our lofty expectations, they have by far surpassed it, earning them a well-deserved A++. Not only has his academic day been completely compatible with Griffin and Peyton's preschool and nap schedule, but Carter has delighted in being able to ride the bus to and from school each day, thereby making my job even easier! Other pleasant surprises for the year included Carter's teacher - a seasoned veteran who manages him exceptionally well, and the fact that under her, he learned to read, and tell time, and count to 100.

Unfortunately, the disappointments are beginning to outweigh how cool we think it is that the bus stops right at the bottom of our cul-de-sac, and that Ms. Juanita makes all the Kindergarteners sit up at the front of the bus with her. One of those is that we live in a fairly diverse community both racially and socio-economically. While our family possibly owns more children's literature than the local library, some of the students who entered Kindergarten with Carter had never held a crayon or a pencil. How as a teacher do you reconcile your responsibility to bring all 26 of these children with such varying abilities up to a common level? And is your bigger problem the non-English speaker who is legitimately struggling, or the kid who races through everything and spends the rest of his day cutting up? Because that would be our kid. The brilliant bored one. Or maybe he's not smart at all. Maybe he's entirely mediocre, he just looks smart because the competition is working at such a tremendous disadvantage.

Another concern is the lack of focus on enrichment activities such as art. Consider Exhibit A below:

It's an Easter hat, sent home as a Fun! Family! Activity! like so many other art projects have been this year. Problem being that neither Jeff (who is entirely responsible for the above millinery masterpiece) or I are at all crafty, hence the finished result is altogether worse than if Carter had just done it himself. AT SCHOOL. With an accredited art teacher presiding over the mess.

All things considered, Carter's teachers have done a wonderful job this year despite a work environment that would have sucked the joy right out of me. They are tasked with directing far too many kids at once, are very under-resourced, and endure constant pressure not to teach creatively, but to raise to raise test scores. Speaking of the AYP (which we didn't pass), in our particular elementary school, only 60% of the kids in Carter's school were found to be performing at or above grade level. I find that deeply disturbing...which is not to say that I don't understand why.

Suffice it to say, despite a seemingly successful year in public school, we are once again elementary school shopping. Yesterday we toured a private school option we are quite familiar with. For the past year we have compared the awesome projects that line their walls with the enormous stacks of worksheets Carter brings home. He, lately, has begun to notice what is hanging on the walls as well. On our last visit, he commented on "all of the different materials they used". It really is a much more vibrant, creative learning environment than he is in presently. The class sizes are significantly smaller, integration of faith and learning is a priority, and the other students are closer to his performance and achievement potential so the pacing would be more stimulating for him. Challenges are numerous, the school is a 20+ minute drive from our house, and they require something Jeff and I are only too familiar with: school uniforms.
Fortunately, Carter is a big fan of red.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


My blog and I are experiencing a slight identity crisis...where "slight" equals all-consuming, very disturbing, I need to find a therapist immediately.

Please be patient while I try on different themes...where "try on" equals my husband hated the springy green stripes, try to embrace the whimsical giraffe, I'm not replacing my widgets (gadgets? plug-ins?) until I actually decide on something. Which might take a while since, again, the identity crisis is not solely restricted to this blog.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Bloom Where You're Planted

When we moved into our current home, there was a large, overgrown planting area between our house and our neighbors that really had to go. I tore it apart at the height of my second pregnancy whereupon I promptly went into pre-term labor. Suffice it to say, it was a busy fall.

One of the first new shrubs I planted was a lilac bush...because lilac bushes are rumored not to grow that well in the south and, being the gardening rebel that I am, I like to tempt the naysayers. I purchased it from Wayside Gardens in 2004, put it in the ground and waited to behold the glory of a bush I had never seen in full bloom.

Four years later it had grown but had yet to flower and, in my opinion, a lilac bush without the flowers is a deciduous waste of space. For three seasons of the year it is lanky and ridiculous looking sticking out of the top of my planting bed, and in the winter it's just a bunch of sticks. So this year I decided it either needed to produce something bouquet worthy or I was ripping it out.

It apparently sensed the end was near.

Because right at this moment there are exactly three blooms on the darn thing...

And as you can see below, they make quite an impact.

Or not.

Fortunately, I think I have figured out the problem. Lilacs like loamy soil. Four years ago, I had no idea what loam was. Now I do. I don't have loam. I have clay. And while I am fairly certain I can turn clay into loam, I'm not so sure the other plants around the lilac would appreciate the effort. So I am admitting defeat and giving this round to the naysayers.

But I'm keeping the lilac. Because if a lilac can adapt to clay soil, I can probably adapt to the south. Maybe we both just needed that 5th year.