How to get kids who will make your breakfast for you

. . . In two easy steps.

Step 1 –

Introduce them to an amazingly delicious but healthy breakfast, like these Jam-filled Oat Bran Muffins.

Step 2 –

Make oatmeal. Over and over again.


If your kids are anything like mine, you will eventually wake up to them begging to make breakfast for you. And you’ll get to enjoy those muffins again, but without the effort.

Jam-filled Oat Bran Muffins

from The Joy Of Vegan Baking

16 muffins

2 Tbsp. ground flasseed
6 Tbsp. water
2 cups oat bran
1 cup unbleached all-purpose or whole wheat flour
1/2 cup firmly packed light or dark brown sugar
4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1-1/4 non-dairy milk (try oat milk!)
1/3 cup canola oil
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional, or use less if desired)
1/2 cup strawberry (or any fruit) jam preserves, or fruit spread, preferably unsweetened

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly grease your muffin tins.

In a food processor or bowl with electric hand mixer, whip the flaxseed and water together, until you have a thick and creamy consistency. This can all be done by hand, but a food processor/hand mixer does a better job in 1 to 2 minutes. It also makes it creamier than can be done by hand. ( I use my Braun hand-held mixer).

In a large bowl, combine the oat bran, flour, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together the flaxseed mixture, milk, and oil. Stir in the walnuts, if using. Add to the dry ingredients, and mix just until blended.

Fill the prepared muffin cups less than half full with batter. Place a dab of jam or preserves in the center of each cup. Add more batter to fill the cups two-thirds full, concealing the jam. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on your oven. Cool in the tins for 3 minutes, then remove to cool on a wire.

People Watching

I’m a people-watcher, and the best place to go people-watching is the community pool. I’ve been going to the pool to watch people about twice a week since the kids got out of school in May.

This week, among my finds, I saw a group of young moms with their tiny toddler and preschool-age kids, and I was thinking about how lucky those moms are to have each other. Later on, while Izzy and the kids and I gathered to have a snack break, I commented on the group of moms and we wondered out loud for a while how the group came together.

“All the kids are mostly the same age,” I reasoned. “I doubt they just all happen to be friends on their own. I bet they’re part of a mom’s club or something.”

“Or maybe their kids all go to the same preschool. That could totally be it…” one of us suggested.

We came up with three possibilities before our six-year-old, Aiden, cut into the conversation with, “But the real question is whether they have iPads and iPhones.”
Clearly, those are the all-important issues in our household right now.

* * *

Ella Publishing Co. has nominated me as one of the nine Most Influential Scrapbookers of 2010. You can learn more about this award, the nominees, and the blog tour at or

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The Ripple Effect

Trinity asked for the camera when we sat down to dinner at Chipotle’s the other night. I handed it to her and made a face. I guess people liked it because the face caught on and took many dips and turns along the way.

“Remember there’s no such thing as a small act . . . Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.”
So true, Scott Adams. So very true.

Why We Don’t Pay Our Kids To Do Their Chores

My 12-year-old son, Blake, recently invested $150 in the development of skills that will enable him to be a professional graphic animator, possibly by the time he is sixteen. Part of this comes from the fact that we got rid of television in our home a few years ago, which leaves our kids a lot of time to develop artistically. Part of it, in my opinion, has to do with our philosophy on allowance and chores.

Izzy and I do things a bit different from how most other parents do them (no surprise there). We don’t pay our kids for doing their regular jobs:

  • 5 minutes minimum daily bedroom cleaning.
  • Daily bathroom cleaning.
  • Daily vacuuming of the living room.
  • Daily kitchen cleaning after dinner.
  • Dog mess clean-up

We also expect Blake to babysit the kids without pay while we run errands (although we pay him when we go out for fun).

Slave Labor?

I suppose that’s debatable.

We do pay our kids an allowance, but their allowance is in no way tied to their responsibilities around the house. It’s a philosophy I believe in. If they forget to do their jobs they either get a lucky break or they have more to do the next day. But we pay them their allowance.

My Philosophy

It was important to me that my kids never associate their responsibilities with getting paid. They clean because it is their responsibility as a member of the family and a resident of our home. If they ever get to a point where they refuse to clean, they will just lose all of their privileges, like:

  • computer use
  • friend dates
  • desserts or snacks, or any foods not necessary to sustain life
  • clothing that is not necessary to maintain modesty or health
  • toys or fun stuff
  • extra-curricular activities

So far the kids have never refused to clean, and complaints are fairly minimal. They forget a job here and there, but for the most part they just do them. If they forget and get on the computer, they run the risk of losing their computer privilege for the day. Blake often has his jobs done before we are even out of bed in the mornings. The kids understand that they have to do their part. Once their regular jobs are done, they are allowed to perform extra jobs for pay if we can use the help.

Allowance With No Strings Attached

We pay our kids allowance because we want to help them learn to use money. We refuse to pay them to do the things they should do. We have never, ever said they would lose their allowance for any reason. They don’t earn money for good grades or good behavior. They don’t lose their allowance for inappropriate behavior or poor grades.

  • We expect them to be decent human beings because their actions effect others.
  • We insist they get good grades because they are fully capable (or if they were not, we would expect them to get the kind of grades they could reasonably get), and because they will need to get scholarships.
  • We can see they are capable of scholarships, so if they want to go to college, we require them to live up to their abilities and earn one. We have told them a number of times that we will not pay for their college tuition.
  • We expect them to share most all of their belongings with each other. Having their own allowance enables them to buy some things that are truly their own that they do not have to share.

How They Can Spend Their Money

We have a collection jar for the purpose of donating to an organization called, Kiva. Kiva advances micro-loans to individuals in third-world countries who are trying to start or sustain a business. The kids are only allowed to donate a percentage of their money to this cause. We match their donations times 7.

We gave them a cap because:

  • Trinity would give away most of her money and feel guilty about any she kept for herself if we didn’t cap the amount.
  • We like the reverse psychology of telling them they’re limited in how much they can donate.

To help them learn to spend well, we have these rules for how they can spend their money:

  • They have to declare to us their intention of purchasing something. We have the right to tell them no. For example, Blake can only buy one or two video games in a row, and then he has to buy something else before he buys more games.
  • After declaring their intentions to us they have to post those intentions, along with the date, on the fridge.
  • They have to wait 2 weeks after “declaring” before they can actually buy their items. This is the part that gets the most resistance, but they have realized how quickly they change their minds about what they think they want. They’ve also learned from this how seductive advertising sways them to make unwise spontaneous buying decisions. The 2-week requirement forces them to be sure they’re not acting from the gut when it comes to money. Every time they change their mind they see how the two-week wait prevented a poor buying decision.

Once in a while, when there was no real way to plan, we let them make spontaneous purchases.

Responsible People

I love the messages we send our kids every day with our method. As they get older, we see them invest more and more of their time developing their talents and skills. In my (biased) opinion, they’re growing up to be pretty awesome, independent individuals who understand their place in the tribe, as well as how their choices effect themselves and others. They’re very cool people.

A Train Of Blunders

If I believed in fate or some powerful will outside of myself, I might have concluded that this Paperclipping episode was destined to never happen.

But I don’t. So it did.

I fully acknowledge that each blundered attempt to print and retrieve the photos for the above project sprung from my own spaciness. Here is why it took me 5 attempts to get the photos I needed . . .

Attempt #1

I brought my cd of photos to Costco. Because I print from tiff versions instead of jpeg, and the Costco computers can’t really handle tiff files (boo on them!), I waited 45 minutes for my photos to load. It was after that 45 minutes passed that I realized I had burned the wrong photos to my cd.

Attempt #2

I burned a new cd and returned to Costco. I waited the approximate 45 minutes for my files to upload to the computer (again), this time to learn that I forgot to convert my collage of pictures from a psd file to a tiff file. As a psd it was unprintable.

Attempt #3

I gave up on the tiff version and decided to upload it as a jpeg via the internet.

(Since then I discovered that you can upload tiff versions to their website, BUT the Costco computers rename the files as jpeg’s. My technician said she “thinks” they’re just renaming them but not actually changing the files themselves. I’m not sure I believe that).

When I got to Costco to pick them up, I realized I didn’t have my Costco card because I had taken it out of my wallet in order to upload my photos. It was sitting on the computer back at home, which meant I couldn’t get in.

Attempt #4

I went home, grabbed my card, and returned to Costco where my collage was finally waiting for me.

At this point I had missed my deadline for the scheduled video shoot of the project for which I needed the photos. Because we were leaving town that afternoon, Mother’s Day became our only available day to shoot the episode. Fortunately, my family gave me the most amazing Mother’s Day, which made it almost a complete pleasure to have to work a few hours on “my” day.

BUT . . .

. . . it wasn’t really that easy. I took my collage of photos out of town with me for a little prep work so I would be ready on Sunday.

Then I left them. In the hotel.

That’s right . . I did not have them when we returned home before the episode shoot on Sunday.

Attempt #5

. . . was a success. I ordered my collage print AGAIN on Saturday. I picked it up. It was done correctly. All of the photos were on the collage. We did the shoot on Sunday, and released the episode with a dramatic drag of the hand across my forehead on Monday.

But seriously? Five attempts?

The Story Of My Life? Well . . .

I guess I could conclude this post with a “story of my life” sob, but it wouldn’t be true. This many attempts with accompanying blunders for one simple task isn’t typical. Plus, I also commit singular blunders that result in odd experiences, like finally finding the ketchup bottle under the bathroom sink. Or where I can hear my cell phone ringing incessantly from the direction of the kitchen counter, though I can see it’s NOT ON the kitchen counter. And then, after almost convincing myself that I’m insane and only imagining the ringing, I find it inside in the dishwasher. Underneath the kitchen counter.

At which point I am still convinced that I’m insane, but for a different reason.

So my train of blunders, plus my singular crazy ones, all derive from the fact that I have extremely exciting activity going on in my brain that distracts me from the mundane acts of life. Fortunately, I did not fall for an understandable “the gods are against me” conclusion and give up. I just needed a big hug from my very supportive and unbelievably patient partner, and I worked it all out.
But may a train of that many errors never happen again . . .

Mother’s Day

What more could they do for me on Mother’s Day when my husband and kids already treat me like every day is all about me? Turn it into Mother’s Week! It wasn’t intentional but that’s basically what they did. Aiden started celebrating his mama four days early when he began making me handmade Mother’s Day gifts like this “I Love You” bracelet (which I decided worked better as an awesome arm-band)…

Handmade gifts from Aiden continued to come in daily. I made him save the rest for the “real day,” but talk of Mother’s Day by the kids seemed never ending. You would have thought it was Christmas. In fact, early in the day on Saturday I mentioned that I got a sudden craving for ethiopian food and that evening, as I was about to boil artichokes for dinner, Israel and the kids announced we would now have a “Mother’s Day Night” and they took me to Cafe Lalibella in Tempe where we all dug into piles of wot with our injeera.

(Did that spark your curiosity? Good. Go try it. Yum).

After we got home the kids banned me to the bedroom because they didn’t want me to accidentally see something that an unnamed somebody was preparing. I think it was this very amazing and hilarious graphic my twelve-year-old son, Blake, designed…
I am now calling on my Mother’s Right To Brag to tell you that Blake didn’t copy light bulbs somewhere and photoshop them into his picture or anything like that. He didn’t use someone else’s models. He designed those bulbs from basic circles using professional software that is very difficult called, Blender. I’m sure that my three or four blog readers don’t know what that is, so let me say that my son is a genius and you can just take my word for it.

The Actual Mother’s Day

On Sunday morning — the big day that everybody had been revving up for — I opened my bedroom door to find my three children in a youngest to oldest pose with about 9 balloons all bright and shiny around them. They greeted me with a little chant by which they each took a turn throwing their balloons into the glorious air. I opened all the handmade gifts with my kiddies around me and I basked in the beauty of the clean room, which was Trinity’s gift.

Israel surprised me with a subscription to a super cool music application called Rhapsody (you will be hearing about this on some Music Monday to come).

And then we ventured out to The Compound Grill for brunch. Vegan breakfast is unheard of around here and the chef made a number of yummy vegan entrees for the occasion! There was even a guitarist-harmonica-ist-singer named Geoffrey J. who accompanied us. Loved it.

Next, we recorded a Paperclipping episode (you will learn the almost traumatic reasons we had to work on Mother’s Day very soon) and then Israel took me out for his gift number two (because he can never stop at just one). Clothing shopping! Yay for Tilly’s and Wet Seal. Yay for Izzy!

When I kissed my kids goodnight and told them how wonderful they made the day for me, Blake and Aiden told me they LOVE Mother’s Day. Blake said, “I can’t wait until I’m a mother . . . Oh, wait.”

And that’s it. Okay, well, not really. I must mention that when I woke up on Monday, my kids wished me a happy Post Mother’s Day. Geez, I’m totally spoiled.

* * *

Note: I realize that two of my last three posts have been braggy ones about how sunshiny and Brady Bunch-perfect my family is, and how much they adore me. While that part about my family is true, I promise I also have plenty of self-depricating content to blog about. Those seem to be the Reader’s Choice posts, based on the fact that they draw the most comments. I will indulge you soon. Please be patient, my dearies.

A Week In The Life: What We Learn About Izzy

If you’re my friend on facebook then you might have seen the Week In The Life photos I’ve been posting. Last week I adopted the role of photojournalist for my family’s everyday life. Okay, to be truthful, when I looked back at my photos for the week to see what I could observe about each family member I realized that my documenting skewed toward my own everyday life, more than my family’s.

There’s not as much to learn about Trinity’s week, for instance, as there is to learn about my own. I did get a lot of Izzy’s day to day, though, and made some observations I thought interesting enough to share.

From my series of photos I proved that Izzy is almost always physically attached to technological devices, especially those involving video. Let me illustrate…
If you know Izzy at all, you already know that about him. What you may not know is that when his hands are not gripping technology, they are sometimes strumming a guitar…
And every few weeks his hands are buying me the most beautiful bouquets of flowers…
They cook dinner with me (and I confess his hands do more cooking these days than mine do)…
They take the kids to school every morning while my hands are lifting weights or supporting an alligator pose or plank or cutting through the air while I run on the treadmill…
…and pick the kids up with me after school ends.
They even keep the kids and the dogs busy so I can have a daily Me-Time…
What I failed to capture from the week is how you will truly find Izzy and me physically attached to each other even more often than you will find him attached to a piece of video equipment or computer or other device. I don’t mean to get graphic here. We’re just affectionate. I’m pretty sure that my kids’ memories of their mom and dad will involve a lot of the hugs, the piggy-back rides, the hand-holding, the kissing, the laughing and teasing about stuff we hope they don’t understand yet.

I know if the day eventually comes when my contact with Izzy will have to be through memories, it is the physical affection that I will remember. The kisses on the back of my neck that give me chills. The massages. His rock-hard biceps. The smooth nape of his neck that I like to feel while he’s driving. The warm spooning in bed. The dancing. Lots of dancing. The way he sweeps me up around his waist. How, if I’m wearing a mini-skirt when we arrive at the school to pick up the kids, he loves to offer me his back and ask, “Piggy-back ride?”

These are the types of physical contact images I failed to capture. Hmmm . . . maybe I have a new photo project to work on soon.

A Gap

In my teeth.

After years and years of painful and humiliating metal contraptions and wires. Five years, to be exact.

Exhibit A:

(Congratulations. You are now looking at the most embarrassing picture of me ever to appear on the internets).

After so many years of braces and weird retainers and a headgear, it was horrifying to get those braces off and find my teeth immediately separating back toward their original spots.

Exhibit B:

The Gap Before braces:
The Gap That Is There Now:
The black gap, post braces, started as just a slight narrow slit, but when it continued to grow and grow, I had no way of knowing if it would ever stop. Whenever I saw the gap I imagined an eventual inch-wide chasm, so I hated the gap in my teeth until last year when I realized my teeth seemed to have found the happy place they were looking for and haven’t marched ahead in their east and west treks in a few years.

So now that the nightmares of a huge hole into which a dentist tries to insert an extra fake tooth have stopped, I finally like the gap in my teeth. I think it’s kind of cute and it’s different. I like different. A lot. As long as it’s not hideous.

So it occurred to me the other day to also like the new jagged splotch-line in my forehead that stretches from the center of my hairline under my bangs and reaches down into my eye brow.

Exhibit C:

I guess it developed as a result of my living in the skin cancer capitol of the world: sunny Arizona. Or perhaps it’s because I was a teen of the 80’s when all that mattered to us was super tan skin and foundation makeup in a layer so thick you could scratch your name into it.

That jagged splotch-line? It’s now my Harry Potter lightening scar. It means I have special powers.

Now if I can just find some positive association to the other dark splotch that is surfacing above my lip.

Exhibit D:

Can you see it there? I’m thanking Mary Kay Cosmetics and their Even Complexion Essence for helping me to minimize this one because I’m having a bit of a harder time finding a reason to like a dark upper lip. Seriously. Of all places to get darker skin pigmentation as I age, did it really have to surface above my lip? Come on…