Saturday, August 31, 2013

Oatmeal Cut-Out Cookies - Dinosaurs and #4s

Syd's 4th birthday is just around the corner, and I have a quite a bit of fun experimenting on cheap but fun ways to make it entertaining. You can see many of the activities I did over the summer and am planning for his birthday on my Pinterest board here. But the most recent addition to the 'dance of experimentation' was the Oatmeal (a.k.a., healthier than store-bought) Cut-Out Cookies.

The first time I made these, Syd was about 18 months old, and none of us liked them, much. I honestly do not recall where I found the recipe. It was handwritten in his book, so I'm going to assume I copied it hastily out of a magazine. Regardless, they were rather flavorless. However, they did cut out well. That's a bonus, right?

Since Syd's birthday theme is dinosaurs, I thought it would be wonderful to have a simple cookie to go along with his festivities. Bonus - after tweaking the recipe, he wolfed them down, so I think I may have a winner. I was tempted to purchase a dinosaur cutter, but then realized I had his sandwich cutter that made 2 dinosaurs out of his grilled cheese. Problem solved! I did, however, buy a #4 cutter to accompany his brachiosaurus cookies.

Oatmeal Cut-Out Cookies

Preheat the oven to 375* (I think this is a little hot; I went to 350*)
1 cup unsalted butter - (I usually let mine sit out, but I've also found that 15 seconds in the microwave on half-power does the trick nicely.)
1 1/2 cups sugar

Blend these together well until fluffy.

Whisk the dry ingredients together while this blends:

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt (I used more - probably 1 1/4 tsp - and I used a coarser salt than the regular table salt - it added a subtle but nice surprise every once in awhile as you bit into the cookies that blended well with the sweetness.)
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
Cinnamon - (I'm a nut for cinnamon, so I don't measure. I dump some in and after I've whisked the dry ingredients together, I smell them. If I can't smell cinnamon, I add more. Simple enough. You need to measure to your own taste.)

After the butter is fluffy and the dry ingredients are whisked well:

2 eggs - beat these into the sugar mixture well, one at a time, incorporating each egg well.
1 Tbsp vanilla - (I love vanilla, too - I used vanilla paste instead of extract. Yes, that says Tablespoon - think about all the absorbing ingredients - flour and oatmeal? It needs the extra punch.)

Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet, mixing well. Afterwards, add in 2 cups of dry oatmeal, folding this in by hand.

Roll the dough to 1/4" and cut-out. Spread on prepared (greased - blech - I used parchment paper) pans. Bake at 350-375* for around 10 minutes or until lightly brown.
These were test cookies - I plan to add icing to the top for Syd's birthday so the 4 looks like a 4. And this is the only dinosaur that survived, so it looks a little sad, but the sandwich cutter worked very well. Either way, these are yummy! I hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Cannonball! Jumping in to School Year 2013-2014

I am excited for this new year. It is impossible to enter into the new year without reservations regarding certain issues, topics, etc., but I honestly feel more prepared for this year than I think I ever have, and it is a very satisfying feeling to possess.

This will be short - I merely wanted to touch base and let you know that I've been busy with school, which is why I haven't blogged recently.

  1. I've been reading 3 books to help administration with work week lessons for the teachers - sort of like an inservice. Drive - by Daniel Pink, was a fascinating read about what motivates us and how we need to start intrinsically motivating our students to succeed rather than tempting them with Shrute Bucks. :-) (This is a video that explains, perfectly, how we tend to withdraw from extrinsic motivators.)
  2. I also read through Flip Your Classroom, by Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams. This will revolutionize the classrooms as children know it if we are able to institute this everywhere. Essentially, the students watch videos the teachers produce that explains the lesson (what would normally be done in class) for homework. Then, when they come into class the next day, they do the practice (what would normally be the homework) and are thus able to get more help from the teachers as needed, rather than.. ahem... throwing their Algebra book across the room at 11 at night and waking up their Mom who wants to know why they're still up and what's wrong before they burst into tears because it just doesn't make any sense. Yeah - I vote to help keep kids from having to do that.
  3. Last, I was involved in a group that explored Project Based Learning, produced through the Buck Institute. I am astounded by the idea. I am terrified, yet enthralled by this idea. Watch this video about Sammamish High School in Washington. I cannot fathom how to incorporate this into my AP class, but I definitely want to try with my 9th grade class. 
The point to these three books is that I feel a revolution coming, and it starts in my own curriculum. I'll keep you posted as things progress! 

Monday, August 5, 2013

My Story - Endometriosis: Part III - A Baby Story

We were pregnant.

It was unexpected. It was ... holy cow - it was nerve-wracking.

I am a natural mother. I've mothered my siblings as long as I can remember. I mother my students. I am why 'mother' is a verb. I knew there was an exciting, frustrating, fun-filled life ahead of us. Steve was more pragmatic and wanted to start budgeting immediately. But by the end of the first week after finding out, we were both looking forward to our bundle of joy and anticipating what that joy would consist of. Besides, for the first time in YEARS I didn't hurt. I didn't ache. I wasn't nauseous. You heard me - nary a symptom of morning sickness did I have and I have only recently realized it was the just rewards for dealing with endometriosis my whole life. Karma finally said "Give her at least 9 months of freedom." It was heavenly.

Other factors were uncomfortable. Mind-numbing leg cramps that made me sit up in bed like a gunshot were fun. Steve got very adept at deep muscle massage in his half-sleep. And my muscles in the back were strained (it wasn't sciatica, but very similar from what I understand) b/c the full weight of Syd was in the front. But in all, I had the most peaceful, pleasant pregnancy I believe I've heard of - to the point where when, sitting in the doctor's office waiting for my check-ups and overhearing the other expectant mothers sympathizing with each other, I just kept my mouth shut.

My beautiful boy was breach. The entire time. He was and still is quite stubborn. This was demonstrated when the ultrasound technician was trying to get a measurement of his neck. I was 33 and I have a direct cousin with Down Syndrome - the Nuchal scan measures for extra fluid around the neck which Down Syndrome babies tend to exhibit. Every time she zeroed in on him and was ready to snap a picture so they could measure, he flipped sides. He went from right, snuggled up to me, to left, back to right. She finally had to move on and check some other things before trying to measure him again.

The good news? The Nuchal measurements were within normal standards. I was thankful that I wouldn't have to have an amniocentesis, which would be the next step. The bad news? He was a hairy baby. You could see his hair. By the last ultrasound done, he had an inch of hair on his head. And I was a poster-child for the old wife's tale that hair = heartburn. I chugged Tums like they were candy, walking around the classroom, chomping in between answering questions.

The auspicious month arrived and we were as set as necessary for a newborn. We had one last scan to see where his head lay; it had not moved in the last 6 weeks. I was doing swimming exercises to encourage the baby to turn, etc. The doctor, Steve and I decided a c-section would be the safest way to deliver our Sydney baby. We didn't know gender. We only knew name. And we were overjoyed to meet our son on that morning.

I healed well - as quickly as any c-section survivor could. The doctor, while she was "in there," took a look at my ovaries to check for any cysts, etc. I have often experienced direct pain on my right side, but she said it all looked healthy to her.

I had also heard that sometimes, the pregnancy hormones can, in fact, help endometriosis - reduce the lesions, sort of turn back the clock, and that symptoms are much lessened after a baby is born. I was hoping, praying, pleading that was the case - especially since she said everything looked healthy for the time being.

Alas, that was not to be. And Part III is over.