Category Archives: Kid Activities

More “staycation” photos

Still catching up on the last few months!

We stayed home over spring break this year and simply enjoyed a week without a schedule.  I can’t tell you how much we appreciated just being in our hometown, taking advantage of some down time in the house with one another, enjoying some local outings with friends, and visiting a few nearby attractions that we had never made time to see.  My husband even took two days off work to make it a true “staycation” and a family affair.

The only time I felt a slight twinge about our lack of solid plans was when E was assigned to write about what she was looking forward to over spring break.  After hearing what her classmates planned to write, she came home and said “I think we are the only ones not going somewhere”.  However, my perspective was set right again when S responded, “Didn’t you hear?!  We’re going to my friend’s house…they’re petsitting chickens and we get to visit and touch them!”  Well, by golly, the kids were bouncing off the walls with excitement about that!   (Thank you, friends, for letting us visit, and for serving as the entire topic of E’s spring break essay!)

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E holding the chicken in our friend’s living room : )

In addition to that highlight, we spent the rest of break doing (to quote an elderly gentleman I met once) “a little bit of everything and a whole lot of nothing”.

We…

(1) played the first ever family game of T-ball in the back yard (called on account of hail after 4 innings, if you can believe that)…backyard T-ball has now become a favorite family activity, by the way.  One of my favorite moments was when – in our game of kids vs. grown ups – all three older kids were on base, leaving six month old H as the only available kid, which meant he had to bat.  We helped him earn his first RBI  (reported here mainly because I know you would be proud, uncle B!)

(2) traveled to the local transportation museum

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A real train shed, with a real turntable! The kids got to sit on the turntable while it moved and also got to see a milk truck (a concept we had to explain : )  We really made this trip for T and he loved it.  However, as a note to anyone who might find themselves at a train museum with a youngster, if I could do one thing differently, I would bring his toy train shed and turntable with us, so he could see that this was the same thing, only bigger.  The scale almost made some of the things we love seem unfamiliar.  It also makes my family seem tiny in this photo.  Can you even see us?!

The transportation museum was 5 miles from a park that had a kiddie-train and a carousel and the loudest donkey on earth (seriously, the thing “Hee-Hawed” so loudly and unexpectedly that we all jumped and H started to cry).  Of course, that will be the part of the day all the kids remember! : )

(3) hit our favorite local frozen yogurt shop

(4) concluded our Lenten project (I’ll update this later) and celebrated a wonderful Easter with some wonderful friends

(5) hunted some Easter eggs at home and at our church egg hunt

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If you can see past those faces that I love so much, I would like to point out the orange Christmas ornament on the table behind them. Did I mention that we’re a little behind on the housework around here?

The Easter bunny scaled back on the candy this year and brought each of the kids a small surprise.  The girls each found a small lego set in their basket, T discovered a new addition to his train set (Butch, the Sodor tow truck), and H is enjoying a new sleep wrap since the velcro on his old one, well…let me see if I have a photo…

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H stands for Houdini

(6) The big finale to the “staycation” was a pony ride.  We went to a local farm that, as it turned out, had “lost” our reservation.  It actually turned out to be lucky that we caught them at a time they could do it, and even luckier that the lack of preparedness in the stable meant we were able to help get the ponies ready.  The kids helped brush the animals and saw them being saddled and bridled.  Then each girl got her own turn while T watched and learned.  After he was ready, they doubled up while he got his own ride.

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And here’s T feeding the ponies afterwards…

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It was disconcerting that the petite carrots we fed them were exactly the size and shape of T’s fingers. Fortunately, the ponies have discerning palates.

Of course, the best part of the week was being together, and having extra time to just let a relaxing week feed our imaginations.  For example…

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That place where we spilled the water looks like a hippo!

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I could put pennies there to make the eyes!

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Check me out; I’m riding the hippo!

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My hippo is shrinking in the sun Mom!  What the heck?!

We may have also watched a movie or two…with a horse we rediscovered in the toy bin after our  trip to the farm.  (I played with this horse when I was a little girl and have vivid memories of building a fence for her with Lincoln Logs under Nana’s ping pong table…thanks for bringing up the old toys, Nana!)

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Love the staycation idea.  Now if I could just get the kids to stay little so we could savor more of those “at-home” moments.  I know that I’ll blink and they’ll be asking me if they can go on a spring break trip with their friends.  And that will be fun too, as long as I know where they’re going, that it’s a safe environment, that chaperones are present, that they know how to make good choices, that…

Well, let’s just say again that I’m savoring these moments.  Sit there and snuggle that pony as long as you want, T.  I’m coming over to sit next to you…

More updates to come!

Everyday moments

Behind on blogging, so I’m posting a few photos to catch up.

Here’s a photo from our spring break “staycation”.

family outing

Honestly, it is one of my favorite family photos ever because it is completely unstaged.

The backstory:  On a random Saturday afternoon over spring break, we decided it would be fun to let the kids ride their bikes and scooters over to our community courts to play basketball and tennis.  We saddled everybody up, slung the baby bjorn, tennis rackets, water bottles, and a bag full of tennis and basketballs over the stroller handles and headed out.  En route, we paused at an intersection where a friend just happened to be driving by in her car with her husband and three kids.  She leaned out the window and said, “y’all look like you’re headed out for a fun afternoon…let me take a picture of you with my cell phone so you can have a record of it!”  She snapped the photo, and viola, an everyday moment captured.

(and unlike me, the person who lets photos languish on her cellphone forever, she was amazing and e-mailed it to me the next day…I know, she is incredible!  She later told me that, as a mother, she knew exactly how much work had gone into getting everyone and all that gear organized and couldn’t resist letting me see, from a different perspective, how smiley we all were about our outing)

Don’t you just love pictures that capture those precious everyday moments?  Just a Saturday afternoon, out for some good family fun.

March Madness (alternate title: why? how did you fill out your bracket?)

Filled out brackets to compete against the extended family in a pool of 19 entries…here’s the summary of our “bracketology” and how we’re doing as of 10:30pm on March 22, 2013…

E is currently leading the entire group despite basing her picks entirely on her preference in uniform color – specifically advancing teams in her favorite shade of blue.  This made her one of the few in the country to predict FGCU over Georgetown, by the way.

Notice I said “one of the few”, not “the only”.  If you are wondering who else could have possibly predicted the upset, look no further, because…

The terrific brotherly duo of T & H entered the pool together. Since their entry boasted more than one name (Mr. T & King Hut, to be specific), they selected teams with more than one word in their name to win (such as, drumroll…FGCU over Georgetown).  Their strategy currently has them tied for third in the family pool.  Ha!

To provide slightly more detail, they are tied for third with LPK, my niece who is still in utero.

To summarize, everyone else in the extended family, including myself (a former college assistant basketball coach), my brother-in-law (a former professional athlete), and lots of other folks (who actually watch games and follow players and think about their brackets) are currently losing to four young children, one of whom is making her picks from inside the womb.

And this is why we love March Madness.

(and also one of the many reasons I love my family : )

Photo captions

Some photos recently uploaded from my camera…

(1) S is constantly seeing things around the house (including in the recycling bin) and asking, “can I use this for something?”  Here’s “something” she made recently… things like this are on display all around our house.  On a related note, we go through a bottle of glue, a roll of tape and a line of staples just about every week.

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(2) This is how you make a snow princess in the south.  You make a snowman with a bucket, a soccer ball and a hat, but I forgot to take a picture of that.

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(3) E & S received a sewing machine for Christmas (thank you Nana!)  Although Santa surprised them with several projects (small squares of fun fabric to sew quilts, simple apron patterns) and I have asked them to complete several others (“decorating” H’s burp cloths with stitches), S really wanted to make a dress.  Poor thing…her mama needs a sewing lesson!  But we did the best we could (with no pattern and the little fabric we had on hand), and yes, she wears this dress out, including to preschool.  Hey, she’s thrilled with it.  With that smile, who’s going to notice the stitching?!

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Lookin’ fierce in the photo below…

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(4) Catching snowflakes in bowls (while still in PJ’s…when it snows in the south, you best get out there…if you take time to change, you may miss the only snow of the winter!)

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(5) E came downstairs with this one day.  I may have to buy a new dry erase board because I never want to erase it.  We love you too, E.  So much!

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(P.S.  It reminds me of the dry erase board Nana kept in her kitchen that had “To Do” written on it, awaiting Nana’s next “to do” list.  My sister wrote “(1) Hug A” on the list and my mom could never erase that either.  Probably all our “to do” lists should have “Hug someone” at the top, don’t you think?)

(P.P.S. My sister is expecting a baby and I wish I could rub her belly today and hug her!   Love you, A!”)

(6) E’s door.  I love this stage of childhood.  All “rainbows and fairies” just like she’s printed on her sign.  Since I can’t freeze time, I’ll take some timely photos and try to treasure these moments.

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(7) This is S’ door.  She decided she wanted to be a doctor one day and made all these signs representing the different body parts to hang on the entrance to her “office”.  Patients can point to the body part they would like her to fix.  Worth clicking on this photo to enlarge…

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The empty spot on the door is for her favorite sign, which she had posted on a different door on the day I snapped the photo (because she loves it and wants to show it around!).  That one said “but cks” (for “butt cheeks”) until I made her rephrase.  It now has a sticker over “but” and reads “vny cks” (for “fanny cheeks”).  So if you have a fanny cheek problem, the doctor is in.

(8) I’m going to make my millions by selling this photo to the makers of the “Leap Tag” system and suggesting the tag line: “It will either teach your child to read or make bedtime super easy.  Either way, it’s worth a few bucks.”

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We actually gave S this Leap Tag pen for Christmas because E (1st grade) is now required to read to us every night, and we wanted S (preschool) to have the option of reading us stories too.  However, S is great about sharing the pen with T, and since I found this one train book on sale ($4!), T reads it with his pen over and over again.  (He can actually say the words along with the pen now.)  We hear him through the monitor reading the book until he falls asleep, and have been awakened more than once in the middle of the night to the sound of his pen reading the book again.

(9) A project from the 4’s class at preschool.  This is actually a photo of E’s from long ago, but S’ brought hers home this week, telling me “you have two S’ now, mom!”  (I need to get a photo of it.)  The life size replica of the child is part of a unit on the human body.  The stomach is a bag of cheerios, the lungs are bubble wrap, the heart is a balloon, etc.

Well, the brains are packing peanuts on the back of the head and when we were unloading S’ one of the peanuts fell off.  S picked it up and said to me, “here you go, Dad”.  I said, “I’m not Dad!” and she responded, “I called you dad because I’m going to make mistakes, since part of my brain just fell out...”

Pretty sharp, that one.  Is it a problem that my children are outpacing me when they’re still in preschool?

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We made the mistake of storing this inside E’s closet once and forgetting to warn a guest who stayed in her room that it was in there.  It’ll scare you to death in dim light, I tell you…

(10)  E is learning subtraction and her homework assignment was to do unit 7, section 1 in her math workbook.  Check out the upper right corner for some classic E perfectionism.  Practice Unit 7-1 has become Practice 7-1=6.  Well done, E.  :  )

(and what are the chances that the sample problem would be 7-1 also?  Go figure…)

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Anyway, more random photos later.  Just a few snapshots of life around here : )

Encouraging generosity, global awareness and perspective in kids

During our engagement, my husband and I read an article about a family that encouraged generosity and global awareness in their children by involving them in decisions about charitable giving.  We knew we wanted to adapt their method for our own kids, but 9 years – and 4 children – later, we were still talking about our plan to do that someday.

Well, for Lent this year, we decided to stop waiting until we had time to really come up with a perfected system for our family and just dive in now.  I feel a little weird writing about this, but I’m sharing what we are doing for 2 reasons: (1) we benefit so much when others share their ideas and (2) we know we could be doing it a lot better and are open to suggestions.

Here are the basics:

(1)   We told the kids that every Sunday during Lent this year, they are going to learn about one problem in the world and one organization that is trying to help address that problem.

(2)   Each week, we are going to pray for the people affected by the problem and the organization trying to help them.

(3)   At the end of Lent, we’ll review the different organizations (and problems they address) and the kids can decide which organization will receive some money from our family.

So far, we’ve focused on organizations that have short video clips on their websites, but we’re hoping to expand to other mediums this week.  So far, with the videos, we have been very careful about what we show and we talk to the kids about what they’re going to see in advance.  Only one of our kids can read, so we read the captions for them during the video.  And I talk over parts of the videos as I offer explanations for what the kids are seeing.  (The explanations are important as these videos aren’t made for the purpose of easy understanding by young kids, but they are powerful if shown in conjunction with explanation.)

Here are the videos we’ve shown so far.

(1)   From “Project Night Night” (http://projectnightnight.org)…We  summarized their efforts (detailed on the homepage) for our kids, then showed them the video.  The organization basically makes sure that kids in shelters receive a bag that contains a security blanket, a stuffed animal and a book.  A $20 donation buys a bag.   The video is a simple photo montage of kids who give, and receive, bags. We also suggested to them that one of the places that currently needs bags is located in their Nana’s hometown, and we could actually buy the objects to put in the bag and send it with Nana if they chose that organization (and if Nana was willing to do the delivery…what do you say, Nana?!).  Here’s the video…

Project Night Night Video/Photo Montage

(2)   From “Charity: Water” (http://www.charitywater.org/)… I was initially nervous about showing this video due to the soundtrack and some hard images (our oldest is 6), but I’m so glad we did.  Our kids’ reaction was amazing.  As they were watching, we emphasized that some people had to drink that dirty water and that helping build a well would mean clean water for everyone in a village.  Almost 2 weeks later, S pointed at a ditch full of dirty rainwater beside the road and said, “There are people in the world that have to drink water like that, but I’m sending pennies to help them.”  Another powerful thing about this video is that is says the average lifespan in this part of the world is 39.  We told our kids that dad and mom would both be 39 this year and aren’t we lucky that we live in a place with peace and clean water so that moms and dads live so much longer.  That really made an impression on them (but was a risk, as we don’t want them thinking about the possibility of us dying!)  Anyway, this video really made our kids think – in a good way.

(3)   From the Make a Wish foundation (www.wish.org).  We chose a video about a girl who wished to meet a real ballerina (1) because our girls totally related to that and (2) because the girl in the video gets better.  To introduce this, we emphasized that some kids are very sick and that Make a Wish offers them something fun to think about instead of thinking about being in the hospital.  (Like being able to focus on the sucker, instead of the shot sort of thing.)  Our kids still talk about the girl in this video too.

After this video, we also emphasized to the kids that giving money is not the only way to help.  If the girl had wished for a chance to play at our house, would we have let her?  Of course.  The dancers in the video gave their time, etc.  My husband works for UNC and we talked about how if someone’s wish was to do something there, would they help dad arrange it?  In short, making the point that giving time, energy, etc. is very important.

Here’s the video:

(4)   Not sure what we’re showing the kids tomorrow, but may read them part of a letter about a family in our town who just lost their home to a fire and ask if they would like to contribute to a community effort to assist them.

What has amazed me so far about this:

(1)   I needed to be reminded that the blessing comes back 10-fold.  Since watching these videos, my own perspective has received a wonderful adjustment.  Instead of feeling like money is tight, I am overwhelmed by how rich I feel simply having a bed, clean water, healthy kids… I need that perspective and so do my kids.

(2)   The kids’ generosity.  At random points, they say “I want you to send our family money to that one when it’s time, mom”, but in the meantime, they have each individually come up to us and said “please send some of my pennies to all of them”.  One night, S disappeared after the video and we thought she was playing her Dora tamborine in her room.   Turns out she was shaking pennies out of her piggie bank so we could send them for her.  And she was very thoughtful about it.  6 pennies to this place, 6 pennies to that place, and 13 to the other…

(3)   The kids’ attention.  Several times this week, they have asked me if we’ll see another video on Sunday and if there’ any way they could watch it early.  And they are totally focused when the videos are on.  We’ll see how they do if tomorrow is me reading part of a letter.

What we still need to work on :

(1)   I need ideas for organizations and materials to introduce those organizations to our kids.  This is my real Lenten sacrifice…the time to search to find the right images and words to talk to our kids about this.

(2)   Our kids don’t get allowances and we haven’t talked to them much about money.  I would love to use some kind of system (they get 10 dimes, one goes to charity, one to savings, etc.) but we haven’t figured that out yet.  This would be a better project if they had some an understanding of money and some of their own money to give.

(3)   As kids get older, there are deeper conversations to have about all of this.  The point for our crew now is: (1) There are problems and good people working to fix them. (2) Our family helps.  You can help, and we’re so proud when you do. (3) We are blessed.  Appreciate what we have.

(4)   The prayer part.  I think the prayer for the people should be a bigger part of what we’re doing, and I don’t want to lose sight of that.

Again, I feel a little weird writing this.  I don’t want to make it seem like we’re giving a lot.  And I don’t want to come across as anything other than someone who has procrastinated too long on an idea we learned about 9 years ago.  But I did want to share in case anyone else has ideas about how this can work, what resources we could use, or if anyone has been looking for an idea for their own kids.  So far, this has sparked some good conversations in our house and given me a reminder about the perspective I need to keep.

Hugs,

K

cute, creative & confined to the house…all while preparing her to take on the world!

I could write pages about E’s style.  Suffice it to say that since she was a tiny girl, fashion has inspired her creativity.  From

– fingernails painted 10 different colors to

hours in her room drawing new designs for her dolls to

asking mama to help her make those designs come alive in fabric (I wish I had any skill at all in this area…)

E simply sees things in fabric and thread that I would never see without her.

As a result, she has the uncanny ability to surprise me with what she’s wearing, even though I am very familiar with every stitch in her wardrobe.

Take her green skirt, for example.  It is a simple skirt, designed for a 5 year old girl in that it has shorts sewn in underneath.  Perfect for sitting on the Kindergarten mat.

Well, recently E came down from her room with the skirt worn in a way I had never anticipated.  She put on the skirt, and while the shorts remained covering her lower body, pulled the skirt overlay up and inside out to create a strapless shirt.

It was creative, cute, and (since my 5 year old will not be wearing strapless outfits), confined to the house.  I didn’t make a picture, but it’s basically a green version of this (except that the armless mannequin could never wear it since E had to hold the top up with her hands, as there is no elastic on what was intended to be the bottom of a skirt…I did help her pin it so it would stay during her fun “dress-up” hour).

You can imagine if the top were folded down at the waist, this would be a skirt with shorts underneath. E just transformed it the other way, making it look just like this outfit, without ever having seen anyone wear this before. Is this how Ralph Lauren got his start?  Or am I raising Lady Gaga?

This wardrobe alteration was not an isolated incident…

The next week, E surprised me by announcing she was dressed for choir practice while wearing a midriff-bearing, one shouldered shirt.  Since she owns no such items, I looked closer and discovered that her “shirt” was actually a pair of blue shorts worn upside down.  She had put her head through one of the leg holes and her right arm through the other to create this look.

Can you tell that the shirt is actually a pair of shorts worn upside down?  When she moves her arms and it becomes a full midriff-bearing, one shoulder ensemble, which is why I posted a photo that happened to catch her while her face was covered.  No need to show her fully on display in this outfit.

Anyone who knows me knows that I think some of the best and most important childhood moments when kids are given license to create.  And E absolutely has license to create in our house. And room what I’ve seen so far, art & fashion are absolutely her creative specialties.  Her mind just looks at fabric and sees things I don’t see, and I think it’s fantastic.  I want to encourage it, not stifle it.

At the same time, E and I had to have two conversations before we headed out to choir practice that day…

(1) modesty… I am confronting this issue earlier than I thought I would have to and am admittedly unprepared.  Any pointers on discussing modestly with a 5 year old are greatly appreciated!  In the meantime, I will say that before she went out of the house, she was required to (a) put another pair of shorts under her skirt and (b) add a tank-top underneath the upside-down shorts to cover her belly and the exposed shoulder .  Which meant she left the house looking like this:

I also had to talk to E about…

(2) Being who you are:  I was up-front about E that (a) I loved her mind and vision and creativity, (b) seeing and doing things differently is celebrated in our house, as long as you are being true to who you are and expressing/not contradicting important values (like modesty), and (c) once you leave our house, you may get teased for seeing and doing things differently.  She should be ready for that, but not let it scare her away from something that she wanted.  (The world needs people who see some things differently, and it makes things a lot more fun too!)

But reigning it back in to the issue at hand, I basically told E that someone could recognize that she was wearing shorts upside-down as a shirt and tease her about it, and asked her if she would be ok when that happened.  She said she would, so we practiced her response in case that happened:

“I like the way it looks!  But I don’t like to be teased, so stop.”

And off she went to choir…

As it turns out, no one said anything to her.  And I am proud that she had a vision, was comfortable doing things differently, and learned a little bit about how to brace herself.  I will be the first investor in her design company, if her interest continues.  (I will also be the first to send her back upstairs if something is not modest, with suggestions about how to make it work while still being fun, accompanied by clear instructions to put some more clothes on.)

(As a side note, I would like to say that I uber-impressed with my mother-in-law, who witnessed about 75% of this exchange with E, let me handle the whole thing, and just smiled and said at one point, “You are both just wonderful!”  I got extra lucky that she came as part of a family package with my amazing husband!  More on their visit in an upcoming post…)

I also got lucky that we happened to be ready for choir early that day, which left enough time for a conversation.  Because a few days later, she came downstairs a few minutes before she had to leave for school wearing this dress.

random, fuzzy photo of E that I snapped as she was putting on an “art show” on the kitchen table…but she happened to be wearing the dress I’m referring to…a dress we both love, by the way…

No problem, right?

Oh wait, I forgot to mention that she was intentionally wearing it backwards.  Which means this part…

became a midriff-bearing bikini in the front.  With no time for a real conversation or the addition of a tank-top, I simply had to ask her to turn it around and let her know we would talk again later about how to make her clothes both modest and fun.

Egads.

The next person who suggests we just make departures simpler by having the kids pick out their clothes the night before is going to get an earful.  I can look at what E is planning on wearing (sweet green skirt, cute blue shorts, pretty pink sundress…), but honestly, I’m not creative enough to imagine exactly how she’s going to put the things on!  I mean, this is the height of looking “different on the rack” than they do when the child actually wears them!

As another side note, I racked my brain to think of where E might have gotten any inspiration for the outfits…especially since with all the end-of-school commitments, we haven’t even really hit swimsuit season yet.  The only think I can think of is Princess Jasmine, which got me wondering why Disney, with all their creative thinkers, couldn’t come up with an outfit slightly less revealing than this for the princess so many little girls are obsessed with:

Love ya, Disney.  But I think you can do better by my 5 year old – who is certainly in your target age demographic and desperately wanted to be Princess Jasmine last Halloween.  (Which begs the question: why did I not see this coming?  E was a more modest version of the Princess Jasmine for that holiday.)

Anyway, a reminder to readers that I’d love tips on how you explain the importance of modesty to a five year old, and how you decide what is appropriate and what isn’t…

And a quick note to E…

E,

I Love your style.  I Love your brain.  I Love your spunk.  I love you.

Be who you are always!

(While modestly covering your five year old midriff.)

Love,

Mom

Some-kind-of-unidentifiable-soup for the soul

Another post I wrote a few weeks ago and never published…

I mentioned recently that S has a new fascination with cooking.  It manifests itself in a variety of ways.  Here she is helping me puree food for T.

In this photo, she’s peeling the leaves off cauliflower.

I do the primary cutting (i.e. I slice the squash and zucchini into medallions), and she uses her plastic knife to cut the medallions in half before I steam them.  She also uses a plastic knife to cut cooked carrots.  No, her cutting is not necessary to the process of making pureed food.  But it is absolutely necessary to the more important processes of (1) encouraging her current area of interest –  cooking, (2) contributing to the family in a way that makes her feel proud – you should see her showing T all the food she’s helped make for him, and (3) creating what I consider to be “quality time” in the kitchen…chatting while we both chop vegetables.  I’d love to still have her – or any of the kids – asking to work in there with me in 10 years.

My girl is mighty proud in this picture, and I am proud of her. These are some of our most fun days together. She likes pushing the buttons on the blender too.

As a side note, T is almost 2 and I should have him eating regular veggies now, instead of pureed.  We do encourage that.  He gets offered regular veggies at every meal.  But he doesn’t eat many, and he will take his morning oatmeal with all those veggies you see on the counter blended in.  I mean the kid goes through a bag of brussel sprouts, a head of cauliflower, a bunch of broccoli, etc. every month. Honestly, I wish I could get myself or the rest of the family to eat that much good stuff!  Still, I know we need to get him to eat a real green bean at some point (or even a pea or corn niblet, for goodness sake…) Any advice is greatly appreciated…

S also helps me make bread (which her dad loves…she is so proud to tell him on the days we make it).  And on days when there is no cooking to help with, she often asks if she can make us soup and salad for dinner.  She picks “salad” (grass!) out of the yard, washes and spins it in the salad spinner, and puts it aside as dad’s “late night” snack (i.e. he tosses the grass back out into the yard after everyone is asleep, and then of course wakes up raving about how yummy everything was…did I marry the right guy or what?!).

The soup she makes is basically water and anything else I have lying around the kitchen that she can get creative with (I let her put water into a big tupperware, and she adds a few scoops of flour, tears the heel of our bread into the bowl, adds a random fruit or veggie that has gotten over-ripe, puts in the unused parts of foods we’ve had that day (i.e. the green tops of strawberries) and dumps any breakfast leftovers in (whatever eggs E left on her plate and whatever cheerios T didn’t eat).

Check out the disgusting (but creative!) finished product, (which dad chucks into the yard discretely, along with the salad, after all the kids have gone to bed).

Oh wait… the soup is not the finished product…  this smile is what we’ve really been working on all morning…  check out my girl, so happy with her soup…

E loves the kitchen too, and is extremely eager to participate in the veggie chopping, etc.  (i.e. she is absolutely part of the fun!)  But S is currently the one who – when given free choice, anything you want with mom time – will ask to plant a garden, chop veggies, make soup, and pick salad.  (It actually started in our “school” time, where she would ignore every other activity in favor of the bowl of measuring items that she was allowed to take to the bathroom sink…she would play for half-an-hour with a few measuring cups, some funnels, an eyedropper, a set of measuring spoons and a baster.)

And for those who are curious, no…NONE of this has made her more interested in eating anything.  She is just as picky as ever.  In fact, although she is very interested in making dinner for everyone else, her absolute favorite treat – the one thing she asks for repeatedly – is to eat out, even though we do that maybe one time (Chick-Fil-A kids night!) during a regular month.  My goodness, she was on cloud 9 when Nana visited last week and took her out on several lunch dates and treated us to some fun dinners.  (And she comes by it honest…I was on cloud 9 too…thanks, Nana!)

(update: since I wrote this Grammy and Grandpa have also visited and treated all of us to some fun meals…so thank you too, Grammy and Grandpa!  More on that visit soon!)

This post has gotten longer than I expected, but there you have one additional thing we were doing last month…making lots and lots of inedible salad and soup!

A Bedtime Story

So the kids are always on my mind, but they’ve consumed my thoughts even more than usual recently because they are all changing so quickly…  The next few posts may be very “my-kid-centric”.  You’ve been warned!

I’ll start with E (the oldest at age 5).

Monday night, I put her to bed at 7:15 and gave her 5 new library books to snuggle up with.  At 7:45, I saw her sitting at her desk writing.  She noticed me watching her from the doorway and excitedly told me that one of the books we had checked out was now her favorite book ever.  She was going to write down every single word so she could always have those words with her.

Can I Play Too? An Elephant and Piggy Book by Mo Willems.  This whole series is awesome, by the way.

In that moment, E’s excitement was incredibly contagious.  I mean, she was bubbling over with enthusiasm and pride.  I remember thinking that her eyes were all sparkly, and her cheeks were all rosy, and she was all inspired because she had just finished the very first book she had ever simply picked up and read by herself.  We check out books that she reads to me – or to her dad – all the time.  But this time, she had gone through the pile, selected a book and read it in her room alone.  I could just envision her, up there, curled up in her bed reading, almost giddy about the fact that she was reading all by herself.  Of course it’s her new favorite book for that reason alone!

Anyway, I was so distracted by her excitement, and my excitement for her, that I gave her another kiss goodnight and went downstairs without thinking about any other parts of the conversation too much.  And after a few minutes, her room became so quiet that I assumed she had fallen asleep.

Until she appeared downstairs an hour and a half later – at 9:15 (way past bedtime!) – holding this:

That’s three regular sized pieces of paper taped together by E, currently displayed in all their glory on one of the main doors in the house.

Yes.  That’s right.  She wrote down every single word in the book, just like she told me she was going to right before I got distracted by all her contagious, wonderful, happy. She had worked for almost 2 hours to do it.  (I mean, really, imagine yourself loving a library book so much that you finished the last page, and simply had to express your appreciation by turning back to page one and eagerly copying down the entire book from the first word to the last…)

I was simultaneously, impressed, proud, shocked and so happy for my girl who was literally bouncing up and down with excitement over her accomplishment.  She said (during literal jumps and bounds and amid great pointing at her papers),

“Look!  Every word!  I wrote them all!  And some of the letters in the book were fancy (i.e. in italics).  I didn’t copy all the curly parts of those letters, but I did some and I wrote every letter!  And they made some letters capital that I knew my teacher said should be lowercase, so I made them lowercase in my book.  Don’t you just love it?!”

Well, yes I do E.  I think it’s awesome, quite honestly.  And the post-it at the top of the photo is from your dad, who happened to be working late the night you wrote this, and wanted you to see his celebration of it first thing in the morning.  (And, by the way, your Aunt A will love that you edited the writing in the published edition of the book!)

(Also, another by-the-way… amid all the enthusiasm, can someone tell me if I should be feeling a little mommy guilt over the fact that it never even occurred to E to ask me if she could get a copy of the book that she loved so much?  Obviously, I am proud of the work ethic, and clearly we haven’t spoiled her, but have we erred a little too far on that side of things?   And if we get the book for her now, will she be thrilled?   Or will she think we don’t appreciate her hand-printed version – complete with illustration!)

Or maybe I’m overthinking all of it.  Which would be exactly like me…

Regardless, to snap myself out of the worry, I will end by saying that while I was typing this blog post, E came downstairs and told me she wasn’t sleepy.  She should have been snoozing over an hour ago; everyone else in the house is asleep.  So I decided to surprise her greatly by asking her not to go back to bed, but to instead go get me her beloved Little House on the Prairie book (which S is growing into, and T just does not yet have the patience for, which makes it hard to read during the day).  We read a dozen pages, and when we finished, I spent a few minutes curling her hair (something she has been begging me to do, and I attempted for the first time ever tonight…using socks…anyone ever tried that method?).  Anyway, an important, enjoyable, and very fun memory with E that I wanted to record here…

And proof that maybe I’m spoiling her in other ways : )

Love you, E!

And love your book…

update on the past month, part 2

Other things we’ve been up to this month…

(1)  Exploring!

Here we are at NC State’s “farm day”.  Note to self: pack vegetarian lunches next year.  Otherwise, S may look at the animals walking around in their pens and ask questions like, “Is that turkey like the turkey I just ate for lunch?” and you will have to field panicked looks from nearby families until you say something misleading like “NO ONE is going to eat THAT turkey!!!”  (and at least one mother will mouth the words “thank you” as you’re leaving.)

S milking a pretend cow. There were also bunnies to pet, calf statues to lasso, and free ice cream. I thought T would like the “touch a tractor” section, but he just yelled “Big Scary Truck!” as we moved away.  I guess he’s used to the matchbox versions.

We also visited the big museum about 40 minutes away (a special outing for us!).  Friends gave us passes they weren’t using (thank you!), and we had an absolute blast.  T fed his train obsession in this exhibit.

T could have happily played here for the entire day.

And how about this sign at the exit of that exhibit?

It’s like they knew T was coming…

(2)  Celebrating!

Our cousins had lots of birthdays, so we have been to their house for a “Tangled”-themed treasure hunt, to a park near their house for their one-year-old’s cake smashing soiree, and to a pasture within that park to just admire the horses and views.  (Thank you, cousins!)  One photo, from my brother, who is by far my favorite photographer (as long as he’s not taking “work photos” of my children, i.e. “X-rays”…)  Can you believe this photo was taken by someone who just plays around with the camera during the off-time from his Orthopedic Surgery practice?

S in the white, E in the green, cousin G with the long ponytail and cousin E in his superman cape.  Childhood captured in photo.

(3)  Hanging around

Check out E on the swing in our backyard.  Photo credit to my brother again.  How much about spring and childhood and E is captured in this one photo of her muddy feet?  Volumes, I tell you.

(4)  Fishing!

Nana got the kids a fishing pole AND managed to disassemble the pole and fix it after I broke it (thank you, Nana!).  Since I clearly don’t know how to handle a rod, dad took over the casting lessons, and the kids had a blast.

Noteworthy: the kids will spend an hour catching minnows and tadpoles in their nets at the local pond and collecting them in a water filled bowl that we pour back into the pond before we leave.  Here are E & T inspecting their catches with Nana…

Also noteworthy: the girls “fished” for an hour with dad with a plastic stopper on the end of the reel (i.e. no bait or hook) and were thrilled with the experience.  I can’t imagine what they will do when we actually introduce the idea that you could use the pole to catch a fish.

(5)  Trying to keep our heads above water in terms of housework

With this much fun going on, mom has had to work overtime to simply keep our familial feet underneath us.  Exhibit A: every few weeks I have to go through a pile that looks like this to pull any artwork or projects we want to save.

This process deserves a post of its own.  Stay tuned.  Then there’s the normal stuff.  I mentioned before that I lost the battle with the laundry.  I fared only slightly better in the kitchen.  And Nana saved me with regards to everything else.  (see below)

(6)  Spent time with Nana!

Nana’s visit was devoted to catching up, hanging out, and pitching in. In addition to fishing, playing, taking the kids to several museums (T was adorable riding the train at the local science museum and still asks to “go ride James” again at least every other day), Nana just rolled up her sleeves and help me get some things done.

More detail?   I am just out of the first trimester of pregnancy, which means I am still exhausted, but also feeling my version of a nesting instinct.  Much to my husband’s dismay, I have no desire to clean, but an overwhelming urge to organize and declutter (my normal instinct, but taken to a fever-pitch during pregnancy).  The end result: During pregnancy, I am desperate to get organized but too tired to actually do it, which leaves me very frustrated.  While she was here, Nana helped me sort through the kids outgrown clothes and she watched the kids and took care of lots of everyday things (the kitchen! the laundry!) while I tackled the attic, my desk, the bankbook, and several projects that have been languishing on my “to-do” list literally for years.  Thank you, Nana!  We loved playing with you and are so appreciative of all the help.  (I haven’t listed everything you helped me catch up on because I am embarrassed that I was that far behind!)

More updates coming…have I mentioned that it’s been a busy month?!

Updates and photos from last month (part 1!)

So I’ve been AWOL (life has been busy!) and have been promising an update…

Here’s the short version: we’ve been having fun, which has involved a spring break “staycation”, a week recovering from that staycation (hello, laundry), a wonderful Easter, and then a great visit from Nana!

And here’s the longer version: updates and photos from our last month (part 1)…

Each girl got to pick one special “must do” for the week of spring break.  To my surprise (why did I think they would stay in my comfort zone?) E picked “make a dress for our dolls” and S picked “plant a garden”.  Holy moly.  I have no experience in either of those things.  (It did make me glad I asked however, since there is no way I would have put either one on a list of plans, and obviously they are unexplored areas of interest!)  Anyway, here we are at the fabric store…

fuzzy cell phone photo

After a “looking loop” around the store, each girl was allowed to pick out one yard of any fabric they wanted, and one foot of any ribbon they wanted.  E & S surprised me by both selecting the same fabric and ribbons.  (They wanted their dolls to match, I guess!)  T got a piece of fabric with cars on it that I hoped would become his new lovey, but alas that role was filled by the racecar and Toby train the Easter Bunny brought him.  Not conducive to sleeping – rolling over onto those loveys (especially Toby, who says “full steam ahead!” everytime T bumps him in the crib).  Oh well.  He loves them!

Anyway, here’s the dolls in their dresses.  Since I don’t know how to sew, these are more like glittery sackcloths, but they made the girls happy!

E said, “Her dress looks a little like a bathrobe, but I like it!”

Thanks to Nana who did an actual sewing lesson with the girls when she visited a few weeks after this (with a real sewing machine).  I keep a few cloths around the house for various things, and one now has random, festive stitches all over it.  An easy way to have the kids feel like they were “really sewing important things” (at least until the machine stopped working…anyone have a spare manual for a JC Penney sewing machine purchased in the mid 1980s?)  Here’s one of my new decorative cloths below.

Just look at that stitching! She’s a natural, I say! : )

We’re hoping to complete the set after (1) we figure out what’s going on with the sewing machine, and (2) Nana comes back to teach me how to thread and use it.

S’ project was the garden.  I am not a gardener, but we headed over to Home Depot (with their optimistic “You can do it.  We can help.” motto).  S & E picked out three things to plant (1) marigolds: the only flowers the deer won’t eat, (2) carrots: the only vegetable S will eat, and (3) basil: because the man who helped us said there was almost no way I could mess it up.

After hours and hours of shoveling, weeding, removing rocks, adding topsoil, planting, and lots of muddy shoes and jeans piling up on the porch, we have the smallest garden ever.  It is impressive only to me and the children.  (I promise, we truly have spent countless hours on it, but it is really only a 4 x 6 patch of ground with 12 flowers and some tiny sprouts that are either carrots or weeds…I honestly don’t know how to tell them apart, so I have no idea if I’m weeding, or ruining our only crop.  I am not kidding about this.)

The two big rocks on the left that we used to mark the rows of carrots and basil kind of look like gravemarkers for our struggling-to-survive garden. Seriously, is anything going to grow in that red clay? We added two huge bags of topsoil, but honestly, I have no idea what I’m doing.

And in the interest of internet input, can someone please click on this photo to enlarge it and tell me if any of the green things sticking out of the ground look like the beginning of a carrot-top?

OK, so if you can fight the impulse to tell me we should have added more topsoil and removed more rocks (I promise, we were removing rocks for hours…), tell me instead which of these green leaves is a carrot sprouting, and which is a weed. Carrot at the top of the photo? Weed at the bottom? All weeds? Egads. I think I’m going to go to the grocery store, buy a bunch of fully grown carrots and plant them one night after the kids go to bed and then take everybody outside to harvest them the next morning. In case you think I’m kidding with this plan, I have already done my research. Apparently, they sell carrots at Whole Foods that still have the green leafy parts on top. Score!

Anyway, the kids love watering the flowers; it has been a fun adventure, and I give us an “A” for effort.  My grandma J, who – God rest her soul – (1) won all sorts of yard and neighborhood beautification awards, (2) was in charge of all the flowers for our church for decades and (3) grew the rose petals that lined the aisle of my wedding, would applaud our efforts too.  She would appreciate that at this stage of life, we are certainly process (as opposed to product) oriented!

My grandmother would also likely laugh at the fact that the flowers we are trying to grow are in a battle to survive, while the part of our yard that received no TLC and is “supposed” to be grassy is covered in the most lush display of flowery “weeds” you can imagine.  I mean, check out the photo below.

Yes, I love them. But honestly, “My kingdom for a carrot!”

The brick wall marks the property line between our house and the neighbors.  It’s like the weeds magically stop there (much to the delight of the girls, and to the dismay of my husband).

It is uncanny. I will say that these flowers provide hours of entertainment for the children, because they are determined that none of them be chopped by the lawn mower. Every time my husband says he’s going to mow the lawn, they sprint outside to pick all the flowers and cover my kitchen in bouquets. I will miss this stage so much when they grow out of it…sigh…at least then I will know that I really did try to enjoy it all in the moment.  Bring on the bouquets, girls!

Finally, since I mentioned the racecar and train that appeared in T’s Easter basket, let me include a few photos of the holiday.  We tried to capture the meaning of the season – telling the kids an age-appropriate version of the crucifixion and resurrection (when S heard Jesus died and came back to life, she said, “Hmm.  I think that’s what I’ll do too”, then let out that little breath that almost made it sound like “Well then, that’s one less thing to worry about.  What’s for dinner?”  It was a good opportunity to tell her we can all come back to life, and live forever in heaven.  (Happy belated Easter, everyone!)

Then there were the secular celebrations.  Here we are dyeing Easter eggs

T got a plastic egg and a cup of water, and was absolutely a part of it at the age of 1!

I know you can see the plastic egg in the photo…can you also see the clear plastic cup of water he dunked this egg into for half an hour? He kept yelling out random colors while he did it, mimicking the words his sisters were saying as they dyed their eggs. I remember taking this photo. He shoved the egg right at the camera and yelled “purple!” So we have the spirit of the activity covered…we’ll work on colors next year : )

S at our church egg hunt

Hunting eggs in our house Easter morning

E & S hunting eggs on Easter morning. Note that it is still pitch black outside the windows. The kids were so excited that they woke up insanely early. Also…note to self: ask the Easter Bunny to make a quick list of where the eggs are hidden. There was one we couldn’t find for a few days, and of course it was one of the real, hard boiled eggs. Fortunately, we did find it before the smell found us! I was like Kirk in that episode of Gilmore Girls, looking for the egg…anyone else remember that episode?!

We also enjoyed spending part of the weekend with cousins and the other part with friends.  Beautiful company, beautiful weather, beautiful time.  Love all y’all!

In the “less than beautiful” category…My deviled eggs didn’t turn out exactly right…

I had promised deviled eggs, then learned that I couldn’t use the boiled Easter eggs that were hidden overnight at room temperature (health risk, apparently), so I only had the two eggs left in the fridge to work with. Me in the kitchen + no spare ingredients = no room for error/recipe for disaster. My mother-in-law gave me this awesome tray to hold deviled eggs in, and I am embarrassed to say that these eggs were so misshapen they wouldn’t even fit in the tray. Oh well. This is why no one complains when I bring pre-packaged cookies to potluck gatherings.

Between the flowers and the eggs, my grandmother would finally have to admit that I inherited absolutely none of her talents…but my admiration for those talents is ever increasing grandma!  This gardening and cooking is tricky stuff!

More updates on S’ new obsession with cooking in the next post…  Here’s hoping she has inherited my grandma’s skill as well as her interest, and that she can take over the kitchen soon!  S is actually so into cooking right now that I’m thinking of arranging an apprenticeship with my Mother-in-law, who is an amazing cook and maybe planning to visit soon.  Are you up for it Grammy?!

I’ll leave you with a photo of the laundry that accumulated while we were doing all this other stuff.  The laundry problem was exacerbated by the fact that the week after spring break was unseasonably cold, which meant I could just shove all the dirty warm weather stuff deeper into the hamper and pull out all the winter things I had just put away.  End result?  Well, check out laundry day…

There are no people in the photo because we were all basically walking around in towels by this point.

My husband, never one to complain, actually looked at the growing pile shortly after spring break, sighed, and went out and bought himself new boxers.  True story.

(And lest that be misinterpreted, know that he is actually great about helping out with the laundry and everything else around the house, but in his infinite marital wisdom realized that buying a few new boxers was probably the best investment in overall domestic contentment.  And his wife says, “amen to that”.  I don’t need a six-week retreat in Fiji.  But occasionally, I do need a week of blissfully ignoring the laundry : )

So that’s part I of our update…to be continued with part II later.  Hope everyone else is enjoying spring too!