Friday, May 19, 2017

Last Day (& off to Middle School!)

We have a fourth grader and a grade school graduate. Where did the time go?!
Lorelei insisted on wearing her dazzling dress for the Fifth Grade Farewell ceremonies. 
 Middle schooler!
Hard to believe this pair that sticks together like glue is going off to different schools next year.

 The Fifth Grade Farewell ceremony was wonderful! There were remarks from the principal, Ms. Luzenske, the teachers presented their students with certificates, then there was a slide show and musical number.
This is when I lost it. Ms. Gafney, Lorelei's fifth grade teacher, had to wrap her arm around me as tears gushed down my cheeks listening to those kids sing a song about school memories.
I pulled it together, and joined Lorelei and all the fifth grade families in the lunch room for breakfast.
I can't even begin to explain how much we've loved Ms. Gafney, and what an extraordinary influence she's had on Lorelei. So grateful for phenomenal teachers!
 The fifth graders processed through the hallways per tradition, and exited the doors for the last time.
 Lorelei & her friend Ty.
Lorelei and Reece (who's having a slumber party to celebrate tonight).
 Class of 2024!
 The carpool gang: Lorelei, Gryffy and Ava.
Forever Heartland Jags.
Thick as thieves, these two!
I decorated the car and then it rained! The pizza party on the playground was canceled, but that's okay because we love to huddle inside during thunderstorms!

I'm so proud of my kids and the wonderful people they are. Both have grown so much at Heartland Elementary, and each stage gets even better. How I love being their mom. Best job in the world!
 We made our traditional, last day of school, Luksa family no-bake cookies. Luckily we'll have four other kids over tonight to help finish them off!

School's out for summer! Off to new adventures!
And to kick off the sleepy days of summer, L & G got to invite two friends each for a slumber party tonight. Gryffy and our neighbors (Avery & Caden) are upstairs playing Catan in the hallway...
They're yelling "disqualified" to someone as I type! Such a serious game.
 And Reece, Lilly and Lorelei are downstairs singing along to Moana (which is driving the boys upstairs batty).
Happy summer!

Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Tuffets

In January while learning about Buddhism, I practiced zen meditation and chanting everyday for 20 minutes. I knew that sometimes the kids were watching, but they generally tended to make fun of me, chanting "Om-so-hummm" whenever I entered a room.

But little did I know that this practice was making an impression on them, and that they were intrigued by the practice of cultivating a "super mind," as one audio book I listened to called it.
Fast forward to last week. Gryffin was on a field trip to the Plaza, and when he came home, he shared two stories:

First, about how he saw a homeless man, and told his chaperone Nayelli not to spend money on him during their Starbucks hot chocolate break, because he wanted to give his money to the homeless man instead. Sweet Nayelli bought Gryffy a drink anyway, and then gave $7 to the man on the street. My heart was filled to the brim! Thanks Nayelli.

His second story was about the ride home on the bus. Gryffy said that he meditated during the bus ride, and that's why his mind was clear enough to remember that he was supposed to walk home with friends instead of waiting in the usual car line. He also said he performed extra well on his MAP test. He attributed both to meditation!

Seizing any budding educational/expansive opportunity I can find, I asked Gryffin and Lorelei, "Do you want to start meditating everyday, and have a little meditation club this summer?"

They agreed. Off to World Market we went to buy meditation pillows (we each picked out our own), and using the Insight Timer app, we've been meditating for 5 minutes each morning and evening in the hallway above the stairs, where we keep our tuffets stacked at-the-ready.
We call ourselves the "Tuffet Trio" or just the "Tuffets." Sometimes we burst out laughing, sometimes we hold hands, sometimes we chant. Sometimes we're actually quiet and mindful. But above all, we're intentionally together, bowing reverently toward one another as the bowl dings to end our time. We end by saying Namaste, meaning: I see the divine in you.
Love my little zen masters so much!

Friday, May 5, 2017

BlendTec & Banana Kale Smoothie

A few days ago, I was making Lorelei our favorite banana kale smoothie, when our old blender broke, the spinning part on the bottom cracking off. It was dangerous, and we immediately threw that old blender away.

Which was the perfect excuse, of course, for upgrading to this!
For some time now I've had my eye on BlendTec and VitaMix blenders, and have done some research to compare the two. Summary: either way, you can't go wrong! But I especially liked the shape of the BlendTec and the lid, and how easy it is to clean (blend soap and water, rinse out, done). 

And so we ordered (Mother's Day gift to me!), and I am head over heels in love with this kitchen appliance! I put in whole fruits and veggies - cored apples, carrots, celery, ice, anything - and what comes out is as smooth as Smoothie King and Robek's! 

Tonight when we gathered with our neighbors around the firepit, I had my carrot-celery-apple-banana-orange-kale smoothie in hand.
I'm getting more fruits and veggies into my diet in a single day than I used to in a week. Now I'm looking forward to trying recipes for soups, salsas, smoothies and mixed drinks. 

Just so I have it on record, here's our favorite Banana Kale Smoothie that the kids glug down in no time flat (amounts are approximate):

Banana Kale Smoothie
2 c milk
2 bananas
handful of kale
handful of frozen mango chunks (Trader Joe's)

Hit the smoothie setting and boom. Kids beg for this funky green concoction.

Cinco De Mayo

We had a little Cinco De Mayo celebration this year with tiny street tacos and a piƱata.

I love that the kids are studying Spanish in school, and how Lorelei does Duolingo religiously over the summers to keep up her Spanish skills, and so I thought I'd bring a little flavor of hispanic culture home tonight.
The kids informed me that pinatas are traditionally filled with oranges, so it was a healthy celebration with smoothies instead of candy highs (though I did add some Big League Bubble Gum - they love blowing bubbles). Happy Cinco De Mayo!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Ode to Siblings

Lorelei and Gryffin have always been close. They created their own Sibling Day this month, and celebrated each other with donuts. And at school recently, they each had a special poetry reading in which both kids decided to write poems for one another (this wasn't planned together - they simply both thought of honoring each other).

Parents afterward remarked about their bond, and even their classmates asked for their secret to being so close. I really don't know; they've always been best friends. Sure, they get in little tiffs once in a while. But most of the time, they cooperate, share and champion one another. And as an only child, it's been a joy to behold this incredible love (like tonight, when they were doing a duet mime, with Lorelei pulling Gryffin up the stairs with an invisible rope, heaving and tugging with wild theatrics and laughter on both ends).

Lorelei's poem:
My Brother
He is very kind and sweet, and the best brother you'll ever meet,
He always has a smile, bright, when my day is dark, he is my light.
When I am sad, he always finds a way to make me glad.
He is always there for me,
Especially when I hurt my knee.
He is also very funny,
I love my brother, and he loves me.

Gryffin's poem:
Really nice
Ever caring
Lucky I have her
I love Lorelei

Afterward, we pulled the kids out of school for lunch dates. Lulu chose Chick-Fil-A.

And Gryffy chose Zaxby's.

World's most darling siblings. :)

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Mark's Chicken Pot Pie

Since we had leftover chicken from yesterday's Chicken Ramen Noodle Soup, Lorelei requested another family favorite, Mark's Chicken Pot Pie. It's a staple dish throughout the cold months, but tastes good any time of year.

And the cast iron skillet goes from this... this, lickety split.
Chicken Pot Pie
1 chicken breast, chopped into cubes (from Sam's Club rotisserie chicken)
2 T olive oil
1 c frozen peas & carrot combo
1 c frozen pearl onions
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T flour
1 1/2 c chicken stock (low-sodium)
1 c heavy cream
pre-made pie crust

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a 10" cast iron skillet, saute vegetables in oil until onions are tender, approximately 4-5 min. Add garlic, saute 1 more minute. Stir in flour. Add chicken stock, simmer for 10 min, stirring occasionally until thickened. Add cream and chicken. Place pie crust over the top of the pan, sealing the edges. Brush top with beaten egg and cut small slits in top of crust to vent. Bake 20 minutes.
(And be careful, the pan handle is hot!)

Monday, April 17, 2017

Chicken Ramen Noodle Soup

Lorelei had a sore throat today and requested homemade chicken noodle soup for dinner. I've never written the recipe down - I usually just throw ingredients together - but tonight's combination of flavors hit the spot, so I'm recording the recipe here for future reference. Lorelei devoured it.
Chicken Ramen Noodle Soup
Rotisserie chicken breast, chopped into small cubes (I get ours at Sam's Club and save the rest of the meat for another recipe)
48 oz. low sodium chicken broth
1 small onion, chopped
1 c celery, chopped
1-2 carrots, chopped
1 pkg. oriental ramen noodles
2 T butter
pepper to taste
sprig of parsley (optional)

In large saucepan, melt butter. Stir in onion, celery and carrots; saute until onion is clear. Add chicken broth, bring to a boil, then cover and simmer about 20-30 minutes or until carrots soften.

Spend said 20-30 minutes constructively, like painting your front door a shocking coral-red to match your hanging dala horse.

Break up ramen noodles; add noodles, chicken and 1/4 oriental ramen seasoning packet. Add pepper to taste.

Ladle into bowls, garnish with fresh parsley from the herb garden, gather your people, and enjoy!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter 2017

It's Easter, the day when we remember that Christ was resurrected from death to life. This Easter has been hard, because we've lost someone very dear to our hearts. And amidst all the celebrations and traditions, we've had the true meaning of this holy day etched into our hearts and minds: death does not have the final say. 
On Thursday night, I visited the Little Brothers and Sisters of the Lamb (the hitchhiking monks I took to lunch once, who are now my friends) and kept vigil with them from 10:30pm-3am, recounting the events of Jesus' last night in the Garden of Gethsemani, up until his arrest. In my heart, I was also keeping vigil with family far away, as our loved one's life was slipping away. I just knew I had to be in a place of prayer, and it deeply settled my soul. Some photos from that beautiful evening, along with a candlelit procession around a bonfire at 2:30 in the morning.

The rest of Holy Week was less somber. We did our traditional Passover seder, and this year our neighbors joined us, last-minute. The kids helped to set everything up. It's our favorite tradition.

A rose, red for Christ's blood, with thorns for his crown.
This was a special treat this year, because on Monday I had attended a traditional Jewish Passover seder. Ours was a much smaller version, but the experience rekindled the wonderful memories from Monday night.
In our family seder, we recount the days of Holy Week, from Palm Sunday to Christ's Resurrection.
We keep some traditional elements from the Hebrew seder, but then switch up others. It's thick with meaning and the kids look forward to the seder all year long. (They talk about it all the time.)
We make Resurrection Rolls (croissants with a marshmallow and spices that disappear when baked, like Jesus' body from the empty tomb).
Then we open the festivities with palm fronds waving.
Everyone takes turns leading each day, reading Bible verses and sharing its rich symbolism - we tear a napkin to show the temple veil rent in two, and wash one another's hands to recall Pontius Pilate.
Love this tradition so much, especially when shared with friends! (They all said they're coming back next year.) :)
For church, we split our time between two. I went to Resurrection Downtown at the gorgeous Kauffman Center, and heard a deeply meaningful message from Pastor Adam about death and loss that was so timely, given the loss of our dear friend yesterday.
Gotta love that on-screen plug for my class, Live and Let Think!
And the kids wanted to watch Mark play the keys in the band, so we went as a family to Life.Church. Good thing it's practically next door, because a spring broke on our garage door, so the kids and I had to walk to church. 
My hubby's so talented. See him there on keys? (As he was putting away his keyboard after the service, I caught a glimpse of another band mate bowing to him in honor - ha!) It was such a great message, too, about how we need the trial for the testimony, the struggle for the story worth telling.
Next came the traditions the kids were begging for - hunting Easter eggs and following a trail of string to their Easter buckets, chock-full of swimsuits and beach towels and other goodies.
Here they go!

Easter Buckets!
And this year, the kids set up a special Easter egg hunt for Mom & Dad. They stuffed the eggs and even created a prize egg with a "hang out" certificate. Mark won, so he gets to "hang out" with the kids in lawn chairs, chillin' in the front yard.
Happy Resurrection Day! He is risen, indeed!