Saturday, June 29, 2013

Who Am I?

I can't even tell you how many times this week alone a kid or teacher called me "Ava's Mom" as if it were my actual name. I answer to it without hesitation just like if they called me Amanda. After Ava was first born, I wrote a post called "I'm Ava Mom" about kids and grown-ups calling me that instead of my name. It was only a few months ago that Ava wondered about my actual name.

When I was a little girl my family called me Mandi. Now only a few people call me Mandi. After graduating college, I built a professional identity as Amanda Volarvich. Then 7 1/2 years ago, Aaron and I got married and changed my identity to Amanda Berkey. The Volarvich name showed up surprisingly in January when we signed our mortgage refinance paperwork. I couldn't believe after all this time, I signed my name as Amanda Volarvich.
The day I became a Berkey.
Then Ava was born in March 2010. Hearing myself referred to as a mother was surreal. Now, Ava prefers to call me mama or mom. And in sweet moments, she calls us Baby Mama and Baby Daddy. And then if we have another child, I'm sure it will be so cool to hear his/her friends call me by their name too.

First family photo in March 2010.
Here I am 36-years old, and I remember those days in my 20's when I identified with being a feminist focusing my power on advancing a career and being independent. Then after marrying Aaron, we merged our independent lives and identities into a unit. We had to become more reliant on one another. We've adopted a mix of traditional roles in the context of a modern family. I still feel like a feminist, but now inside of marriage and motherhood. I handle the cooking, cleaning (ok, outsourced a bit!), and the bulk of child care duties. That's not because he's unwilling, but naturally with mothering/breastfeeding in Ava's first years she wanted me. Aaron handles all the outdoors work, which is a lot since we have a lot of land for city-standards. But, we adopted these roles by our personal interests. I love to cook and he loves to be outdoors. Now with being a mother, I want to do meaningful and challenging work but not at the expense of my family. So that means, I've put the brakes on surging to higher levels for now while we have a young family.

It makes me look forward to more transformations in the future when Ava grows up or even my 40th birthday, which is not too distant in the future. I want to live my life to honor those important milestones and transitions in life to shape me into the person that I have become. It makes me appreciate my age and where I am in my life. I don't want to hide my age because it's a marker for what I've been through, the good and the bad and in between!

Ava is an energetic and empathetic 3-year old.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Summer is here!

Excited at the ice cream shop
Today is the summer solstice and the days have been so long. It's even more noticeable in Indiana where we're on the westernmost area on the Eastern timezone. It's not completely dark until about 10pm. Ava has been staying up later and later. The days of winter hibernation are long over and now we're in summer mode: going to bed later and waking up earlier with the extra light.

Tonight we made our pizza on the grill instead of using the oven on a hot day. Last summer we changed our Friday night pizza tradition to the grill, but since today was the first day we had to remember how we did it. This time we made it on a metal pizza pan on the grill and it worked out great! It takes longer than the oven, but Ava had a TJ's peach pop after school so she was fine to wait longer for her dinner. I make a whole wheat dough for our pizza and top it with cheese, fresh spinach, pepperoni, and olives.

A couple weeks ago, we took an impromtu Sunday afternoon trip to a local ice cream shop after Ava's nap. Ava got a chocolate ice cream cone and it was so huge that Aaron had to help her eat it! She was excited because her cone had chocolate and sprinkles!

Her favorite flavor is chocolate!
The ice cream shop is on the Monon Trail and we walked a bit afterwards. Then we saw lots of geese and ducks on the canal. We stopped into a local heath food store that sells corn for ducks. That can't be good. But it's probably better than feeding them bread. Ava felt brave enough to carefully drop the kernals to feed the ducks, but the geese were more interested. One of the geese was especially friendly and walked right up to us. I was shocked! We saved the rest of the duck food for another trip.

Ava just wrapped up her soccer season at school today. She asked to do gymnastics instead of soccer. Last month, she went to her friend's birthday party at a gymnastics place. She had a blast, especially loved jumping on the trampoline. I signed her up for some classes in July to try out to see if she will like it. She has also asked for ballet classes and thankfully we can do that on-site at her preschool so that may be in the near future too. We're excited that she is able try some new activities. 
Feeding geese

I'm amazed by how fast she's growing up - emotionally and physically! She must have been going through a growth spurt because we're starting to put away the 3T outfits for 4T, especially in shirts and dresses. She is tall and skinny so the 3T bottoms fit better. I'm amazed by how much she is developing friendships and recognizing social cues. Her emotional development is top of mind right now and we talk about every detail of her day. She tells me about her friends and who hurt her feelings or made her laugh. I believe that the openness of our relationship now will help in those awkward teen years.

Our garden isn't booming like we had hoped, sadly. When we scoped out the garden spot in early spring, the sun was in a different spot and there were no leaves on the trees. Our garden doesn't get much direct sunlight especially now that the trees have filled in so much. Aaron is thinking about cutting some tree limbs directly above our garden. We have some cucumbers and a few green tomatoes developing, but the peppers and cauliflower have been eaten by slugs. We finally have kept the deer away with the netting, but the garden has been attacked by a mole and slugs. We also suspect our new topsoil is packed down to much. Next year, we'll have compost to mix in and we'll aerate the soil to see if that improves it. We keep learning each year. I hope one day we'll have the garden that we've been dreaming about to provide vegetables through the summer. I really want to make salsa with all our veggies.

We're really looking forward to some lake weekends up north to visit Aaron's family. We're heading up on a long weekend around the 4th of July and then have plenty of lake time in the next few months. Ava is really excited to go swimming in the lake and see her family and friends. We were up a couple weeks ago and the lake water was still very cold. No doubt we'll be swimming on the 4th! We're excited that summer is finally here!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Whole Grain Egg-Free Pancakes + Freezer Tips

After we discovered Ava's egg allergy, I started experimenting with egg-free cooking and baking. I found a recipe for whole grain pancakes and have adapted it for her allergy and it's fantastic! I made a double batch last weekend for breakfast and to freeze. On Thursdays, Ava's school serves pancakes for breakfast. Aaron liked them too! I keep egg-free muffins, pancakes, waffles, and french toast to bring to Ava's school so she can participate in the meals without causing an allergic reaction. Since she sees her friends eating pancakes too, it's nice that she has some that are tasty and egg-free.

So far, I've made these pancakes with cooked millet or oats. We like them both ways. I cook the whole grain on the stove ahead of time and set them aside for making the pancakes when we're ready.

Step 1: (Make-ahead) cook whole grain - I like to use old fashion oats or millet. Store in the refrigerator or puree and store until ready to make pancakes.

Puree the whole grain (millet)
Step 2: (Make-ahead) Puree whole grain 1 cup + 1/2 cup water. Blend to desired consistency (you don't have to do this step, but the texture might be off for kids if you don't). Store in the refrigerator.

Step 3: Make batter and cook pancakes on the griddle. Serve and save the rest for freezing. Let pancakes cool completely and store between wax paper in labeled freezer bags.

Step 4: Reheat. Remove frozen individual pancake. Put on a microwave safe plate. I usually set this out about 30-45 minutes before we leave the house. I microwave the pancake for about 45 seconds on 70% and put int a container to bring to Ava's school. Ava likes to eat the pancakes cold, biting it like a sandwich. Very easy!

Whole Grain Egg-Free Pancakes
Makes 6 small pancakes

  • 1 cup cooked whole grain (millet, oats, quinoa) + 1/4 cup water, pureed in blender
  • 3/4 cup flour (1/2 cup whole wheat 1/4 cup all purpose)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt 
  • Egg Replacer (equivalent of 1 egg) - can buy at Kroger, Whole Foods, or Amazon
  • 1 tbs butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup milk (buttermilk, regular, almond/soy milk)
  • 2 tbs maple syrup

Egg Replacer is mixed
  1. In a medium bowl, mix together pureed grain, flour, baking powder, and salt. In another medium bowl, whisk together prepared Egg Replacer, butter, milk, and syrup until smooth. Add egg mixture to flour mixture and whisk to combine.
  2. Lightly coat a large nonstick skillet or griddle with butter and heat over medium-high. Drop batter by heaping tablespoonfuls into skillet. Cook until bubbles appear on top, 2 minutes.
  3. Flip cakes and cook until golden brown on underside, 2 minutes. Wipe skillet clean and repeat with more melted butter and remaining batter (reduce heat to medium if overbrowning). Serve with maple syrup and fresh fruit or preserves if desired.
Pancakes are cooking!