Monthly Archives: October 2011

Are we tending to the souls of our children? or is our time otherwise consumed?

A few weeks ago, Nana e-mailed me and all of my (three) siblings with information and an offer.  She had just seen the movie “Courageous”, which is the story of a group of male friends who – amid many challenges and conflicts, and along a dramatic (fictional) storyline – commit to becoming better Christians and better fathers to their children.

Nana was so inspired by the movie that she wanted to make sure all of her kids had an opportunity to see it with their spouses.  To facilitate this, she offered to pay for a babysitter, dinner and movie tickets if anyone wanted to check the film out.

Well, she didn’t have to ask me twice.  An inspiring movie?  A date with my husband?  Only Nana could figure out a way to invest in our marriage, our parenting, and support a great film all in one swoop, and to do it in a way that made all of my siblings, and siblings-in-law, feel good about how much Nana loved them and the roles they were playing in our family.  (She told us in her e-mail offer that this was a movie about fathers and she thought all the guys on the list were great fathers who would appreciate a celebration of that…)

So a few days ago, my husband and I hired a sitter, had dinner in a restaurant, and saw a movie about Christian parenting.  It was a fantastic night.  Thank you, thank you Nana.  The movie made me catch my breath, cry, laugh, and hold hands with my husband.

I’ll leave you with one quote from the movie’s conclusion (told as best I remember since a google search didn’t turn up the exact words):

“Someday, we will all realize that the jobs and hobbies that consume us hold no eternal value . . . and that the souls of our children do.”

Not undermining the value of jobs and hobbies here – we believe God leads us through passion for work and other pursuits and don’t want anyone to misinterpret – but that is some serious food for thought…

It is the souls of our children that hold the eternal value.

How much time have we devoted recently to the development of those souls?  To fostering our children’s spiritual natures?

Or has our time been otherwise consumed?

Thank you, thank you Nana!

And thank you Hollywood for giving us a movie I was proud to see.

For those who are interested, this is the link to a review of the movie:

http://m.cbn.com/entertainment/screen/courageous-movie-review-goodwyn.aspx

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Jill-O-Lantern

Jack-O-Lantern:

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Jill-O-Lantern (courtesy of E):

Have I mentioned lately how much I love E?!

She keeps my heart happy and my pumpkin decorations fashionable.

Love you, E!

“Unanswered Prayers” (alternate title: a conversation between S, God and Garth Brooks)

Today, while standing in front of a mirror holding a piece of curly green ribbon under her nose, S told me, “I really wish God had made me with a green mustache.”

Well, S,  to quote a country song by Garth Brooks, “some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers”.

(My current prayer  is that S is not on her way to Halloween costume #3, since I am running out of time to pull things together, though I will say that a green-mustached-whatever would certainly capture the uniquely wonderful essence of S!)

Love you, your brain, and your green mustache, S!  (Truth be told, the green actually complements the Frankenstein tattoo you’ve been sporting on your cheek for four days now quite nicely.)

Halloween (with apologies to Jane Fonda!)

A few weeks ago, the girls settled on their Halloween costumes.

– E wanted to be Princess Jasmine

– S wanted to be Barbie from Toy Story 3.

– and, looking for a character that would complement both his sisters and be fun for himself, T settled on being a monkey.  To E, he is Abu (Aladdin’s monkey).  To S, he is “The Eye in the Sky” (the Toy Story 3 character that clangs his cymbals loudly whenever one of the movie’s characters tries to escape).

We did pretty well this year without breaking the bank…

– I found E’s Jasmine costume at a consignment sale ($8!)

– While searching for S’ costume, I discovered that no one makes a “Toy Story 3 Barbie” costume.  No worries, as I was able to piece together an outfit from supplies I found at Wal Mart and the dollar store.

– and T’s monkey costume is on loan from a friend (thank you! he loves it!) and is complemented by some accessories we had around the house.

Here they are…

E’s is spot on, which is good because (at this stage of life…no permanent labeling here), she is my perfectionist…

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S’ is pretty spot on too, but it doesn’t matter because only true Toy Story 3 fans will recognize her.

Here’s the actual character:

and here is S’ costume:

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The leg warmers are actually dollar store socks with the toe seams cut open. S wears them around the house all the time. (Her mama might have rocked a few leg warmers back in the '80s...what can I say, certain things are timeless...)

I think we did pretty well, and S is thrilled.  However, I am pretty sure most people will think I have dressed her like a miniature Jane Fonda, so I am tempted to put this label on her shirt.

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T’s costume wins points for its split personality.  The monkey suit has managed to do what I attempt to do on a daily basis…provide both girls what they need (an celebration of both their characters!) while giving T the fuzzy warm snuggles a toddler requires.  I lose slight points since, in our trial costume run at our (awesome!) neighborhood celebration last weekend (which we attended with our cousins!), someone got all excited and said: “I love it!  He’s a little Ewok from Star Wars!”  Oh well, maybe whatever points we lose in due to “ambiguity” we gain back in the “versatility” category?

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T's Monkey Suit...

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...which could be Abu from Aladdin (a perfect complement for E's Princess Jasmine costume)...

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...or "The Eye in the Sky" from Toy Story 3, a perfect complement for S' "Toy Story Barbie" ensemble... (By the way, we are still working with T on making that face, but he has the cymbal banging part down pat already...)

Anyway, I will conclude the rundown of our Halloween gear by saying that after all this, S announced tonight that she has changed her mind and just wants to wear something from our dress-up bin.

No problem by me!

Though Jane Fonda may be disappointed…

Hypothetical Himalayas

So let’s say, hypothetically, that while trying to cook dinner last week I accidentally turned on the front right burner (instead of the burner that held our meal).

And let’s say that during the 10 minutes it took me to realize my mistake, that front right burner heated a dirty breakfast pan (that might have been sitting there for 10+ hours…what’s your point?…anyway…as I was saying…) that (hypothetical) front right burner heated a dirty breakfast pan and cooked the plastic spatula sitting in it.

Now let’s imagine that the spatula melted . . . covering my wonderful, used-everyday, dishwasher-safe, non-stick, very large, wedding-gift-much-nicer-than-we-would-buy-for-ourselves, fabulous frying pan in melty, spatula plastic.

Now let’s imagine (without judgment) that I reflexively took the pan and ran it under cold water, making the melty plastic solidify into a miniature replica of the Himalayas on my pan.

Does anyone know how I would get the now hard plastic off the pan without ruining its non-stick or dishwasher-safe (i.e. won’t rust) nature?

In case you were planning to suggest, “just ignore the Himalayan replica and cook in the pan as usual”, I already tried that.  It doesn’t work, since tiny bits of the plastic miniature mountain range erode into the food as I’m cooking (and after converting all of our sippy cups to BPA free models last year, I can’t quite bring myself to feed the children eggs laced with melted plastic…call me over-protective.)

Thoughts?

Or did my Christmas list just condense itself into three words: “new frying pan”?

The Runaway Bunny, science edition

As we were leaving (five year old) E’s school building yesterday, she surprised me by yelling “I’m a magnet; I have to stay with things that are metal!” She then ran to the nearest pole, hugged it tightly, and announced it would be impossible for her to let go.

Trying to think quickly, I announced, “If you’re a magnet, then I’m the biggest piece of metal in the whole world.  Come give me a great big hug!”  E then leaped off the pole, ran across the sidewalk and let me swoop her up in the biggest bear hug I could give her.

It’s like The Runaway Bunny, science edition.

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(I mean, can’t you just hear it:  “If you become a magnet and attach to randomly placed metal objects”, said the mother, “I will become a giant metal mama and you’ll be drawn in to hug me”.)

P.S.  Please tell me you’ve read this book, or – alternatively – are at least willing to click here so you’ll understand what I’m talking about…

P.P.S. This imaginary insertion into a kiddie-lit classic is absolutely dedicated to you, E.  Your mama loves you, your amazing imagination, and your wonderful hugs.

a “priceless” day at the fair, while on a budget

If you read the last post (http://wp.me/p1Auii-cI), you know how much we love the fair.  Here’s a behind the scenes peek at how we make it work without breaking the bank.  (Sorry if some of the this advice is too late for this year!  And I hope this comes across as “here’s what we try”, not “we have it all together”, because I assure you, we do not have it all together!)

But with that in mind, here’s how we keep it (i.e. us and our budget!) from falling completely apart!

–       Buy advance tickets (discount admissions, discount rides, and we love that kids 5 and under are free…the online advance tickets also offer an opportunity to “click here!” for a $20 rebate.  I clicked it, so I’ll either get a check in the mail or a virus on my computer…stay tuned to find out which!)

–       Find the free parking

–       Buy favorite foods (including typical fair foods) at the grocery store before the trip and eat them right before you enter the fair (we had hotdogs, yogurt and granola bars in the car, and the kids walked through the gates carrying popcorn from home in quart size ziploc bags…full tummies and a treat in hand before we saw the first vendor)

–       Set expectations.  Our kids knew they would each get to pick 2 rides and 1 treat before they entered the fairgrounds.  They also knew we were doing the free stuff first (“I’m saving your tickets until we see everything we might want to use them for!”) and eating treats last.  That meant that as we walked from one free activity to another, we had fun conversations about “is that the treat you’re going to pick?” …  “is that the ride you’re going to pick?” instead of begging to do things right then.

–       Know where the fun free things are.  I checked out a local mommy blog and got the 411 before we entered the gates.

–       Take special candy as a special surprise for when your kids need a fix.  (For us this meant breaking out the “Jessie the cowgirl” pez dispensers E had gotten as a birthday present and reloading them.)  Also take suckers (which my kids love and can carry with them for a while.) These came in handy for us when the girls found out the “goody bags” at one tent contained pickles (not their idea of a “goody”, and I offered to trade them the pickles for a sucker).  Extra tip: hide these treats until the moment you need them, so they are a preventative tool instead of something else to beg for!

–       If the kids can ride by themselves, let them.  We assumed we would have to ride with the girls this year (and budgeted accordingly, telling the girls they could each pick 2 rides).  When we discovered they were ok riding alone, that meant we had saved the tickets it would have cost for mom or dad to ride, and the kids could choose extra activities.  (Side note: if part of the family fun is doing it all together, then ignore this or find a balance.  Dad and I each did one ride with the kids.)

–       Do a “looking loop” before your kids pick their rides.  (Our kids are familiar with the language of “looking vs. buying trips” to the store.)  Our looking loop allowed for informed decisions and prevented later disappointments.  The way ours worked:  dad went to have our advance purchase passes converted into real tickets while I did our loop through the Kiddie Land rides with the kids.  Every time they said, “I want to do that right now!”, I could respond, “This is just a looking loop!  I don’t even have the tickets yet!  We have to choose what rides we want to do, then go meet dad to get the tickets.”  After we had seen lots of things to choose from, we had a conversation about what they wanted to do.  (Side note: we encouraged our kids to agree on rides, since it seemed easier and more fun to have them enjoy rides together.  This was pretty easy for us, since (a) they are close in age and (b) E’s excitement about a ride convinced S and vice versa.  When we realized we had a few extra tickets, they decided to spend them on separate rides, so mom and dad split chaperoning for that part and it was no problem.

–       Don’t forget an extra picnic meal with drinks!  We had a picnic dinner and included special drinks (the kids could choose a juice box or they could split the can of Sprite I had brought from home).  After dinner, they got to pick their one treat each at the fair.  They chose ice cream and cotton candy and shared with each other. (I overheard the cutest conversation between E & S about how if they chose different things, they would actually get a taste of two treats; they love it when they think they’ve outsmarted us!)  Note: budget extra if mom and dad are getting treats too.

–       If you can, splurge a little or find a way to make a special activity work.  The girls wanted to ride a horse.  E had been saving her birthday money from Grammy and Grandpa for that opportunity and the fair proved to be just the place.  E was thrilled, and Grammy and Grandpa were a big part of our fair day even though they were faraway (we called them in NY to tell them all about the horses!).  Thanks again for the pony ride, Grammy and Grandpa!

–       Dress in layers.  We threw fleeces under the stroller.

–       Don’t assume your “bigger preschool kids” will be able to walk the whole time.  We took our double stroller and were so glad we did.

–       Avoid the most crowded days if you can.  If you have preschool aged children, try for a weekday morning.  We went right after we picked up E from Kindergarten and had a blast from 3:30-7:30.  Weekends tend to be the most crowded.  (And although we love discount days, this year we decided that saving $12 was not worth the mayhem level crowds that our fair’s special day would save us.)

–   Set your own expectations for behavior accurately.  With young kids, there are bound to be “moments”.  Time it around naps, etc. where your kids have the best shot at success, manage when necessary, and focus on the positive.  At least if someone has a meltdown, you were in an area where the viewing public had lots of more interesting things to look at (the fair!) instead of on aisle three at Target, where we always seem to attract an inordinate amount of attention.

I think that’s most of it.  Bottom line: we had our fun fair day for around $50 (under $30 if I get the rebate…of course it will be over $1K if the rebate button was a hoax that actually opened a portal of doom on my computer…I’m choosing not to think about that…).

Anyway, I know there’s a mastercard commercial in here somewhere that ends, “a day at the fair: priceless”, but laundry calls so instead of writing it all, I’ll just stick with that punchline, and say that if you are so inclined, we hope you enjoy your well-budgeted/priceless day at the fair!

All the world’s a fair!

We had a blast at the state fair yesterday! In addition to enjoying all the exhibits and goodies we had brought from home (a picnic, special drinks and candy!), the kids were each allowed to pick a few rides and one edible treat.  End result: roller coaster (!) ferris wheel (!), swing rides (!).  And don’t forget the ice cream (!) and cotton candy (!).  My goodness, we do love the fair : )

This was the first year the girls were able to go on rides by themselves, and they absolutely adored both the experiences and the independence.  Here they are on the swings:

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S was smiling most of the time, but I love this photo because it captures the "ooooooh!" moment so nicely!

As an extra treat, E had put some birthday money (thanks Grammy and Grandpa!) into a “horse riding bank” just waiting for an opportunity to be a real version of “Jessie the cowgirl”.  What a magical moment watching her buy a ride and treat her sister to one.  They just beamed.  A quote from E (age 5):  “I rode a horse!  I rode a horse!  I have wanted to ride a horse my whole life!”  Thank you Grammy and Grandpa!  It’s not every day you get to help someone fulfill a lifelong dream : )

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Technically ponies, but it's all the same to us. And our ride lasted a little longer than average, since they had to stop to clean up after S' when it pooped. (Double bonus, since this resulted in extra time atop the horses and a glimpse of horse poop. An exciting moment for our kids! Although less thrilling for the two cowboys on duty, I would imagine.)

The fair also offered lots of exhibits the kids loved.  They were able to

– play “farmer” (picking, weighing, and “selling” produce for toy money that they used to “buy” a bag of items)

– see our “grocery store” food actually growing (broccoli was particularly neat)

– talk to a motorized cow on a toy tractor

– have a conversation with a woman on stilts

– “fish” for the letters in their names, and

– hold a baby chicken (check out the photo below!)

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Of course, the highlight for my husband and me was just watching the kids.  These are the kids whose imaginations are sparked by a cardboard box and an hour of free time.  So you can imagine watching them transform into roller coaster-riding-adventurers, food-growing-farmers, and yodeling cowgirls yesterday at the fair.

P.S.  In an effort to keep it real (!) I should also tell you about all the missteps (and near missteps!) involved in any trip with our creative and crazy crew, but I won’t bore you with details of

(a) the sheriff that almost ticketed mom (note to self: don’t unclick the seatbelt to reach for the sippy cup right as your husband stops to ask the sheriff how to find the free parking),

(b) the display produce we almost picked off the vine

(c) our fruitless hunt for the “state’s biggest pumpkin!”, or

(d) how we spent as much time in the bathrooms as we did on the rides.

Instead, I’ll just reveal that those missteps are always part of a normal day for us, and it’s infinitely more fun to have missteps at the fair!

I’ll leave you with one last photo.  Here’s hoping this image will tide me over until next year.

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The Ferris Wheel in Kiddie Land

Can you tell from this post how much I love (that my kids love) the fair?!

I’d compliment her on thinking “outside the box”, but she’d have no idea what box I was talking about.

We were driving in the car today, when out of nowhere, S offered a reflection on her hair (which I always comb for her).  As a reminder, this child is three.

 

S: You know mom, my hair is getting too hard to comb.

Me: We could use more conditioner, if you want.  Or I could give you a haircut.

S [without a trace of sarcasm]: Or we could just stop combing it.

 

 

Man, I love that kid.

She is queen of the “should have been obvious but no one else thought of it”.

And she is an absolute antidote to a world that wants kids to find an answer via multiple choice (i.e. conditioner or haircut? . . . pshaw!!!).

Long live the clear-sighted, creative thinkers!

(and heaven help their parents.)

 

 

P.S.  Does anyone remember the time I asked a group where they wanted to go to lunch and, in unison, everyone said “McDonalds!” except for S, who said “Mexico!”  That is a kid who is wonderfully unaware of the box.

A nose enema and fecal eye-drops . . . just another day for ma at the spa

Here’s a picture of our kitchen counter, with its two-compartment sink.  Please note the sink, the counter and the location of the panel of switches to the far right of the frame.

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The sink on the left has a disposal.

To turn on the disposal, you have to lean across counter on the right to reach the switch.

It just so happens that every time you lean across the counter and flip the switch, a blob of disgusting water shoots out of the right sink drain at the perfect angle to nail you right in the face.

Would anyone like to tell me what is up with that?  (and by that, I mean the whole package…a drain that aspires to be a germy version of Old Faithful, a combination of switch and counter placement that positions your face directly in the line of fire, and the extraordinary sleep-deprivation that renders me unable to remember that will happen and take appropriate precautions.)

By the way, the best precaution is piling the right sink high with dishes that block the water-blob.  But, unfortunately, you have to run our disposal right before you can run our dishwasher – a long story of relationships between electric devices I won’t go into – so every time I load all those dishes from the right sink into the washer, I have to switch on the disposal before I can use the dishwasher to clean them.  For my efforts, I am then awarded with a nose enema.  And my husband wonders why both his wife and the kitchen are in such a state . . .

But I digress, because the point of this post is about how it seems that every time I start to whine about minor problems, the universe grants me a healthy dose of perspective.

Because today T pooped right after my nose enema, and as I was dumping the turd from his cloth diaper into our toilet, the plop led to a backsplash that nailed me right in the eye.

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen:  a fecal eye-drop.

It does wonders for your perspective (though not for your vision…)

Because all of a sudden, the germy nose enema seems like a fairly minor part of my morning . . .

. . . and a hot shower just became the most important item on my to-do list today.