Thursday, February 26, 2015

Valentines Day 2015

Handmade Valentine cards

And just like that a year flew by and another February come and gone. Well almost. It's the last week of the month and I couldn't be wishing March, and hopefully warmer weather, would arrive any sooner. 

Valentines Day this year was just like any other day. Nothing special. I spent the morning rushing to make Valentines cards for all three of my sweethearts before Sophie headed out to spend the day with my mom and sister, thrilled that it was her weekend to go to Grandma's. As we always do, we made plans to meet them later for dinner. IHOP, one of Sophie's favorites. The snow began to fall as we were finishing up our meal. I had decided to try something new with the double blueberry pancakes and quickly came to the conclusion they were not for me. Next time l'll stick to my tried and true, plain pancake combo. It was a wonderful surprise that my dad joined us, it happens fewer and fewer these days and before I know it, it's been months without having seen or talked to him. I was happy to get a chance to catch up and talk books. He is so much faster at reading that I am, going through one or two books in a weekend. Oh to be able to read that much in my lifetime. My excitement quickly turned to worry as my gaze turned to the window. The snow had begun to fall faster, harder, and whip around like a blizzard. I looked around the table and sensed the same feeling in everyone's eyes, maybe we should hurry this up before it gets too nasty out there. 

We stepped out the door and were immediately blasted by the frosty air. I turned to my sister, trying to shield my face from the snowy whirlwind surrounding us and said, "doesn't this remind you of that time when dad was in California and that terrible blizzard came through?" "We were driving home from that small convenience store, High Up, in the rusty old Monte Carlo and mom missed the turn into our neighborhood off Crestview, the visability was so bad." We practically finished in unison, laughing. We were not much older than Mason is now, and still that story is shared almost every year we have a horrible winter.

It was getting pretty dicy out and I worried my dad would be unable to get into the car safely. These are things I constantly worry about now, ever since he had his stroke and can no longer walk without a cane. We said quick good-byes and slowly made our separate ways. 

That storm dumped only a few inches on us, but with the windchill and temperatures continuing to drop, the kids were out of school four of the five days, with one 2-hour delay, the following week. We all made it home safely that night but it had me thinking. Winters like this aren't normal in Virginia. We keep saying that, yet it seems more and more this is becoming the new norm. Even as I sit here writing this post and wallowing in my winter woes, my mind wandering as it always does, I took a look back at Valentines Day last year and found this:

…with the winter storm that had just dumped 13+ inches on us, closing schools for the 10th time this year (no, not the school year, I'm talking about just in 2014 our kids have missed 10 days due to snow. This does not include all the holidays and teacher work days that happened to coincide with those snow days. But don't get me started on that. How I feel about the lack of school my kids have attended since we rung in 2014 is a whole story in and of itself).

Ha. Ha. I had to laugh because the reality was just so sad I seriously wanted to cry. Here we are a whole year later and facing the same situation. Kids have missed I don't know how many days of school, probably at least 10 at this point. We just had another storm dumping around 10" of snow. Thank the lord it only resulted in a two hour delay on Monday and the kids have been back to school as normal the rest of the week. *Enter foot in my mouth. After putting this post away for the evening, I would surely have time to finish tomorrow while the kids were in school, good ol' Wayde called me this morning. Yup, schools are closed again today. I didn't even bother to inform the kids. Just hung up the phone and went back to bed. As excited as I am at the prospect that this horrid weather is quite possibly killing off the remanding population of stink bugs, one can only hope, I am so over this winter! Honestly, I can't be the only one craving some sense of a routine around here.

With all this winter weather advisory hoopla, at least the kids got to have their classroom Valentines parties. Unfortunately they were both scheduled during the same time on the same day. Ugh! Problems I am sure I will encounter more and more as the years go on. This meant I could only attend one party. This meant I had to let one of my kids down. I agonized over this for weeks when I found out. I hate having to chose between my kids. I love them both equally and don't want to let either of them down. Ultimately I decided I would try to share my time. I've heard other parents talk about doing it all the time. It would be easy right? However, as always, I was running late. 

I had signed up to make the cupcakes for Sophie's Kindergarten class. Mostly because of her food allergies and I don't trust other parents to make homemade food without fear of cross contamination. Sorry if that offends you, but after you watch your child almost die you take this shit seriously, and don't leave anything to chance. Most parents, and shockingly to me even ones who have children with food allergies, don't know or either don't care enough to understand the dangers of cross contamination. So many times I have seen the eye rolls and heard the sighs when mentioning the extra precautions that need to be taken, or special brands of ingredients that have to be bought in order to ensure the food is safe for ALL kids to consume. As if it is just too much work for them to buy the Enjoy Life brand chocolate chips. Because of this, I just don't bother to ask anyone to provide safe foods for my daughter. I always make sure I have a safe alternative on hand for her wherever we go. 

Being a mom of a child with food allergies I am super sensitive to other kids with food allergies, and there are quite a few in Sophie's Kindergarten class. I am no expert on food allergies, in fact I have freaked out a few times over the milk allergy. It's harder to avoid then you think. At first I figured I could just pick up a box of the Cherrybrook Kitchens fudge brownie mix. I soon discovered that you need to add butter. Guess what butter contains? You got it, milk. Now I could have purchased the vegan butter and been done with it, but the cost of that butter was more than the box of mix and we are on a seriously tight budget in my household. Not wanting to be defeated, I went to task scouring Pinterest for a recipe that is not only peanut and tree nut free, but also free of eggs and milk. That is when I happened up this vegan chocolate cupcake recipe with strawberry filling. I had most of the ingredients already on hand so it was perfect. 

I do not claim to be any baking expert, far from it in fact. I have no idea the difference between raw cane sugar and regular sugar. So as I stood in the baking aisle at Wegmans I thought, I have regular sugar at the house, and if it's not a major difference I think I'll just use that because when am I ever going to cook with raw cane sugar again? In case you are wondering, the regular sugar worked great. 

I made the cupcakes the day before so I wouldn't be rushed. I must have been craving some chocolate because I licked the hell out of that bowl and spatula, glad the kids were at school and I didn't have to share. I chose to substitute the strawberry filling with store bought strawberry preserve. I am all for baking from scratch, in fact those tend to be my favorite, but sometimes you just need to simplify when possible. However stuffing the cupcakes with the preserves was not as easy as the author of the recipe made it sound. The reality was so much harder, and messier. I ultimately decided to use a cookie cutter and partially cut a heart shape in the tops, removing it to spoon in the strawberry preserve before squishing it back into the cupcake and sprinkling with powdered sugar. I would have made it on time to the party if not for the powdered sugar having absorbed into the cupcakes and needing to quickly sprinkle more on before rushing out the door. 

The kids Valentines Bookmarks and the vegan cupcakes

The parents who tried the cupcakes all said they were very tasty. Yay! During the Valentine exchange portion of the party I snuck out to Mason's class for a bit. I arrived just as they were in the middle of enjoying a snack. I was disappointed when he told me I missed the skit they put on earlier, but what can you do. Your a mom of two kids in public school and as much as you hate to admit it out loud, you can't do everything. Noticing the time, it was just about dismissal, I raced back to Sophie's classroom. (All this running around, I was sure to get my 10,000 steps in for the day.) All 30 cupcakes that I had stuffed and powdered were gone. Yes! Less cupcakes I would feel obligated to consume over the weekend. We packed up and headed back to Mason's classroom just in time for his exchange of Valentines and clean up.

In public school if you are going to hand out Valentines you have to hand them out to everyone in the class. This means you have to get around 26 cards times two classrooms, that's a total of 32 cards at $4 a box, and each box only contains around 10-12 cards so you have to purchase at least two or three. If my math is correct, that means I would need to spend possibly around $20 for silly little cards that are going to get thrown away as soon as these kids get home. No thank you!  I knew I could do this better, cheaper, and give the kids themes they really wanted.

Both kids agreed to the bookmark idea for their Valentine cards this year. Simple to make, and you can use it again and again. Each kid was heavily involved in the decision making process. Sophie was very adamant about the pink background with her Monster High ghouls, even though I felt a white background would be better. Hers read, I like you so much its scary Valentine. Mason was more particular about the image he wanted and finally settled upon Deathwing from World of Warcraft (WoW). His read, You melt my core Valentine. Fred made some comment about using Deathwing to say Happy Valentines Day. I mentioned these are second graders and would probably have no idea who Deathwing is, it's just a cool dragon to them.

After all was said and done it cost me a grand total of around $8 for 36. Now that's a win. I suppose you could say my kids have an advantage with me being so crafty and willing to create custom valentines for them. To that I reply, such is life. We all have our weaknesses as well as our strengths. Mine just happens to be a love for crafting, and any excuse to do cute things during the holidays. Especially if it involves the kids and making them happy. I guarantee you no one else was going home with more than one WoW Deathwing valentine in their bag that day. Couldn't say the same for TMNT though.

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