Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category.


Our family made sushi (California Roll) for dinner tonight. It was so much fun! Here are some links in case you want to try it.

For the recipe we used the one from Good Eats –,1977,FOOD_9936_31391,00.html

But before we were ready to try inside out rolls, we did normal rolls, using the same ingredients, like this: Except that the way I had learned you only cover 1/2 of the nori with rice, not all but a little.

Then we did the inside-out California rolls, using the 1/2 sheet of nori like Good Eats says, and it worked pretty well – some of them fell apart. You have to be super careful when you cut them.

Then I got ambitious and made Caterpillar roll (but without the unagi – and still using the 1/2 sheet of nori) like this: . They were the best IMO.

Lastly, I made miso soup with a bit of Thai fish sauce (instead of the fish “tea bag”), miso, and a bit of torn up nori. (Ratio – 2.5 cups water; 1.5 tbsp miso; 1 tablespoon fish sauce).

We’ve decided we’ll make Sunday into a regular date to make dinner together as a family…next week, homemade pizza with the bread machine.

Webkinz Crochet Sweater & Scarf

Here is another version of a Webkinz Sweater, with a matching scarf. It’s easy enough that my son can make them, and the scarf is a nice learning tool for the child who wants to progress to the sweater.

For basic crochet instructions:


For the scarf, form a loop in your yarn and make a chain that is 5 links plus the initial loop, plus what is on the hook. Neither of those count.

Your scarf will be 4 stitches wide (the 5th is the turning stitch). The beauty of this for kids is that they don’t need to figure out where to put the next stitch. For each row, simply count from the far left end – first count to the 4th (not counting the initial 1/2 stitch that came from your initial loop) and put the hook through number 4. Single crochet (wrap up around the back, pull through 1, wrap again, pull through all). Next count to number 3, then 2, then 1. After doing these 4 stitches, make a single chain stitch for the turning row, turn, and do it all again, counting back each time until you know by heart which stitch to start with and which one is next. So it starts like this, where x is your initial loop, and h is your hooked loop:

x 1 2 3 4 5 h

Stitch 4, then 3, then 2, then 1; chain; turn; repeat. Note that on row 1 you go under 1 piece of yarn, but on all other rows you go under both yarns of the “V”.


Next, the sweater! Loosely chain on enough length to slip over your Webkinz head and form the neck. Using a simple slip stitch and making sure the chain is not twisted, join together. Crochet around and around (again, on row 1, going through 1 yarn, and through 2 after that) until it is the right length for the neck and any cuff you want. Try it on your dog, and leave it on for the next step.

Next you are going to make the body. Either rotate the collar so that your hook is at the side, or crochet over to one side. Then make a chain stitch (still attached) about 1/2 the circumference of the dog so that it will go under his legs and reattach to the main crochet. Straighten the chain, run it under his legs, and join this chain to the main crochet using a slip stitch. Now simply crochet around and around this new circle (either on the dog or off) until it reaches his back legs. If you would like a rounded edge on the back, turn around without using a turning stitch, and go backwards for a few inches and end with a slip stitch before tying off.

Here is the pattern I used as a base for the sweater, though I believe mine is simpler:

Webkinz Knifty Knitter Sweater

I found/modified this loom knitting pattern for my son’s Webkinz, and thought your kids might like to try it!

I modified a base pattern from here:

You’ll need to refer to that pattern for pictures and details.
Materials: Knifty Knitter rectangular or 12-peg flower loom, bulky yarn.

First, I loosely wrapped 12 pegs on the end of the rectangular loom in the “e-wrap” pattern that you use on the round loom. When I got to the end of the first 6 I just went across to the other side. I did NOT use the figure eight pattern that you might usually use – I went around in a circle, with the crosses on the inside and the loops on the outside, like a f lower.

I knitted for 11 rows to make the back-end of the sweater – I found that I needed to knit about 3 rows more than I thought I would need by looking at it, because it tends to snug up when taken off the loom. I knitted the back end first, because it is naturally much looser than the cast on.

Next, using the above pattern as a guide, I picked two pegs for each leghole. Since I wanted the leg holes near the bottom, I left 3 pegs in between the legs, and 5 on top. Here’s an attempt at an illustration, with O for pegs that are knitted normally and X for leg-hole pegs:



If you look at this as if it is a circle, you can see there are 5 pegs for the top, and 3 for the bottom. I cast off the two legs and rewrapped them according to the above pattern.

Next, I knitted 9 rows for the neck of the sweater. This gave enough for a small cuff.

Now you are ready to cast off. If your Webkinz has a small head and neck, you can do a regular cast-off; I did this the first time and it worked OK. But it fits better with a loose cast-off. I used this one: – look for “SUPER-STRETCHY BIND-OFF”.

Have fun!! I’ll try to post a picture soon.

Frozen Fruit Smoothies

Fruit smoothies are a great way to hide supplements. If your supplements taste bad, you’ll want to use frozen fruit because it numbs the taste buds. (However, an interesting note is that our taste buds often don’t object to supplements we really need – e.g., one way my practitioner tests if I need zinc is to put some on my tongue (a special formulation) – if it tastes horrible you don’t need zinc!). I can’t stand the taste of fish oil in smoothies, but my son doesn’t hardly notice.Overripe bananas are great for sweetening smoothies – slice them into a freezer bag whenever they are spotted brown and no-one wants to eat them.

It’s possible to make smoothies in a blender, of course, but if you have a hand (immersion) blender they make fabulous smoothies. My basic recipe is:

  • 1/2 cup whole yogurt on the bottom
  • a few chunks frozen banana
  • a handful of frozen berries, peaches, or other fruit
  • supplements (e.g., powders or opened capsules, liquid fish oil, whey protein powder, magnesium drink mix, Vitamin C, etc)
  • Other foods you want to hide (raw tofu, raw egg yolk, frozen cubes of vegies)
  • Enough milk (if supplements are too sour) or juice (if it is too bland) to make it blend well

Blend thoroughly, stopping every few seconds to get the air bubble out and adding a little more liquid if needed. I’ll add a little sweetener sometimes at the end after taste testing (or more banana). Sometimes a bit of lemon juice is helpful to make it more “intense” – though it will require more sweetener, it will cover more other tastes as well.

When I use an immersion blender, the consistency is almost like soft-serve ice cream and can be eaten with a spoon.

If fruit shakes are used for “dosed” supplements, it can get tricky if you make too much fruit shake. In this case you might make the fruit shake for the family, and add the child’s supplements after most has been poured out. For non “dosed” amounts, where you just want to get some nutrition in, you can freeze extra fruit shake into cubes, and re-blend them later.

Enzymes: Enzymes shouldn’t be put in fruit shakes because they quickly get activated by the liquid and make the whole thing taste awful. But, they can be mixed into anything fatty such as nut butter or chocolate as fat doesn’t activate them. Or you can use the Straw Trick. There are more tricks on for enzymes as well as lots of information.

Just as they are

One of the biggest concepts I’ve been pondering on lately  is the idea that children are great just as they are, and how to integrate this idea with helping them grow at the same time.

Some of us went to a talk by Jonathan Mooney recently (a fabulous speaker) and he emphasized how normal is an illusion based on a “norm” that often doesn’t make sense, and how children should be celebrated for who they are rather than pushed to be otherwise. It very much hit home for me. So what if my 5th grader is not ready to stay overnight at a camp? It doesn’t mean he won’t be able to when he is ready. Heck, this speaker stretched my understanding even further. As parents we often console ourselves with the thought that “well, he won’t be needing this by the time he goes off to college”. That argument, I find, is starting to get a little stretched as the teen years loom. But as Mooney points out, we don’t all have to be good at everything. His mother helped him spell check his papers in college and now his wife spell-checks his books (as he is dyslexic). Even as a Honors graduate in English Lit from an Ivy League school, he doesn’t really need to know how to spell.

But I especially find this concept difficult with a child that struggles with a lot of anxiety and depression. I don’t think accepting him for who he is means watching him suffer, yet how can you help a child through this without sending the message that something needs fixing, something is broken? And what if the child *says* something needs fixing? “You are great just as you are” only goes so far when one is never invited to birthday parties and one’s best friend goes to them almost weekly.

Perhaps there is no clear answer on this – perhaps it is just one of those lines that requires constant balance.

Fruit Loops

Fruit loops have a long history in my life and it seems to have come full circle. I grew up on a “commune” so most everything was home-grown. However, when I would visit my grandmother each summer, I would stay an extra couple weeks and travel back by myself. It is one of the highlights of my childhood.

I don’t know how Fruit Loops became something I craved. My parent’s rule was that I not have sweetened cereal, but others were OK. We reached a happy compromise with Honey-Nut Cheerios. At the time, I thought I had pulled one over on my Grammie, convincing her that they weren’t nearly as sweetened as others and that at least it was honey (yeah…riiiiight); looking back, I have to wonder if she just thought the rule was silly, just like the one about not eating meat, of which she let me have as much as I wanted and never told my parents.

Nevertheless, Fruit Loops became a symbol for me, for a while. Given my poor memory, I was surprised when as an adult, my cousins gave me a huge box of Fruit Loops for my birthday. I was very touched. 7 years later, I suggested to my 10 year old son that Fruit Loops would be something I would like for my birthday – a special treat that I would never buy as a staple, but something I would slowly eat and treasure.

Last night I spoke to him on the phone while at Gramma’s. (Unfortunately, he’s only there for one night; not two weeks). They had gone shopping, to get milk and cheese. Somehow, they ended up with ice cream cones and Fruit Loops. She figured since I had gotten them for my birthday, they must be OK.

After my initial consternation, which I was careful to keep to myself, I let it go and said he had to have protein at the same time, and only a small bowl. (Luckily he doesn’t react to food dye, only blood sugar swings). It took me a few minutes to realize that we’ve come full circle, and that in a way, convincing Gramma to buy sweetened cereal against the parent’s wishes must be some sort of rite of passage in our family.


Well, I was supposed to be cleaning out my inbox (I got from 400 to 340…and that is just the email that comes straight to me). But I ended up creating a bookstore instead. If you are curious:

Anything ideas for things I should add?

Magic Brooms

Here is the last craft we did in the Stroyan’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. We made brooms!

The handles were each hand chosen and worked by the children. (I didn’t make a broom this time). The broom is made out of alfalfa stems – we wracked our brains for good materials and couldn’t find any. Unfortunately, they shrink a lot when dry. For some reason I thought I would be able to get them tighter when wet but I had to re-tie my son’s broom and I suspect others did also. Finally, we stamped and embossed the name of the broom on the handles.

My son now rides around the house constantly and wants to figure out some “muggle broom tricks”.



Wands This summer I had a group of children over to do “The Stroyan’s summer school of magic” a la HP. These are the wands we made on the first day…it was a good exercise for my son as he was thinking everything had to be “authentic” (meaning the feathers on the outside would not be OK) but he got over it 🙂

Mine is the second from the end…it has a gold-embossed handle and a peacock feather gently winding around it, and the whole thing has a light coating of gold glitter spray.


A friend commented on a local list how much more delightful her (recently annoying) children were when she fed them and make sure they got enough sleep!

We’ve recently found out that DS has chronically low energy levels – he’s literally running on adrenaline (corresponds to the “not enough rest”) and his body is eating his own muscles for protein (obviously the “well-fed” part) despite adequate intake.

It seems that almost all of his issues – severe anxiety, moods, etc – can be traced back to this basic issue (which is quite complicated once you get into the “why” of it). After a summer of pumping him full of supplements (currently 33 pills/packets/etc total each day, poor child) we are having so many more good days than poor ones – and the poor ones are almost always an impending illness or a sleep disturbance. It’s so nice to see – to just be around! (I wish some of you that came last night had been at the plant exchange – talk about night and day!! At the beginning of the summer he couldn’t even come out into the yard for a party he had helped plan, due to anxiety…and he was so upset about it….last night he was a social butterfly, showing off his guinea pigs and fetching candles so the bugs wouldn’t eat us 🙂

It’s really eye opening…my whole business is based on the philosophy that kids (people!) are doing the best they can with what they’ve got…but there were parts of me that still didn’t quite “get it” until this summer. Ooooh, he’s *not* being rude because I’ve failed as a parent, it’s because he’s drained down to nothing. Get him feeling better and he is a sweetheart. Ooooh, when he says he “can’t” walk back to the table and clear his dishes, he really feels that way, he’s not just trying to be lazy – get him feeling better and he makes me lunch 🙂 Etc.

I’m still really nervous about school though….I’m afraid we will just not be able to keep up and balance all of the stress and exhaustion with supplements and I wish he had more of a reserve built up. I asked him if he was almost ready for school to start, and he said no, he thinks about 5 months of summer would be just right. Smart kid…the way things are going, I wouldn’t mind another month myself!