Monday, March 29, 2010

Baby Fever

Guess what? I'm so excited! I'm going to be an Aunt! My sweet sister Hilary is having a baby. I truly couldn't be happier for her.

For almost ten years now we have been the only ones on both sides of the family with children. We have been sufficiently doted on and spoiled. So we are more than ready to be the ones doting and spoiling. I'm slightly mourning the lack of babies around here so I plan to fully take all of that unused baby energy out on my sister. In the last few weeks, I've found myself wandering over to baby aisle, oooing and ahhing over all of the cute little clothes and blankets. I've been browsing sewing patterns that are far to small for my own children. My hands are ready to make things for a wee one. And we would like to make it very clear to this lovely sister and brother-in-law that we are also planning revenge for every loud toy we've had delivered to our doorsteps, which will be delivered to you alongside all of the soft and precious ones.

I welcome you to the chaotic world of parenting. There is no other experience in life like it. No other job in life could make you want to scream one moment and melt in love the very next. No other human being in your life will make you feel like there is a string connected from your heart directly to theirs. These little beings will fill your house with clutter and make your life abundantly disorganized. But they will also fill your house will love and make you life abundantly more meaningful.

I have watched you both with our children and I know that you are going to be wonderful with your own.

Congratulations. We all send much love your way.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Easter Parade

The kids and I spent most of Saturday at the Easter festival downtown*. This is why we chose to live in this little community outside of the big city. There are always holiday parades and festivals going on. I love a good festival. I love happy crowds and silly games. I love sitting in the grass and listening to music and watching kids dance silly dances. I love families having picnics on worn blankets. I love petting zoos and balloon animals. And I love watching tired, contented children walk down quaint old streets with their balloons and baskets of treats, on their way to beds where they will no doubt have happy dreams.

I couldn't leave this out. It was honestly the highlight of my day. This went on for a good thirty minutes or so. I love watching them dance. No restraints. They're so much fun!


*Steven was running a 10k in Charleston after spending all day Friday on a friend's boat out in the ocean. It's a rough life for my charmed husband, isn't it? I hear he had a lovely weekend as well.

Align Center

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Monkey in a Tree

We have a great climbing tree in our backyard. It starts out low with a lot of branches that take you high. It's a few trees actually, all semi-circled around a nice little patch of soft grass. It's overgrown from the front and open near the fence. A hard to reach place for adults with limited imaginations. It's the perfect fort. There's always one or more of them up there. Just hanging around, listening to music, having a snack. Monkeys, that's what they are. Monkeys in a tree.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Butterfly Garden

Sunday we ventured over to the Nature Museum. One of our favorite places to play is the butterfly garden. It's beautiful. And it was our lucky day because a whole group of cocoons had opened the day before. I've never seen so many butterflies in one place. They were everywhere. If you stood still long enough, you would have ten or more butterflies flying circles around you. We were all awed by how closely we could observe them.
It was a great time to play with some of the settings on my camera that I don't often use. I was pretty excited by how some of these pictures turned out. I have to give most of the credit to my subject matter. The garden was enjoying the Spring air and was colorful and lush. Some of the flowers were just starting to open up and really shine. Of course, the human subjects are beautiful in any weather.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Arrival of Spring

Happy Spring Day to you all! Flowers, birds, and bees have arrived. The Daffodils are blooming and the garden is being planted. Sundresses were pulled from attic bins and are wishing to be worn. Flip flops hit the pavement that is drawn bright with chalk. And a bubble or two escaped a wand after lunch. Lovely is the spring. A welcome warmth to our spirits.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Kindred Bonds

He carried them like this all the way across the yard before they all collapsed in a pile of giggles and got up to do it again.

As I watched them play, I found myself praying for them. Not the regular prayers of health, success, and Spirit guidance. I daily pray for their individual futures. I pray that they will become loving, compassionate adults. But in this moment I found myself praying for their relationship with each other.

I want them to carry each other throughout their lives. I want that boy to be a shoulder his sisters can cry on. I want him to defend them, to stand up for them. I want him to be excited about their accomplishments and cheer them on. I want those girls to sit cross legged and giggle about crushes. I want them to be each other maid-of-honor, to hold each other's hand in child birth. I want them to uplift their brother and comfort him in his failures and hard times. I want the three of them to be closer to each other than they are to us. I want them to lean hard into each other and laugh with each other. I want them to have dinner together. I hope they are there for the small daily moments as well as the big ones.

I think there's something special about a sibling bond that can't be replaced by any other. They grow up together. They know weaknesses and strengths. They know the history, the happy and the hurtful. They'll fight and they'll each have their moments of selfishness, I know. But I hope they make up and ask for forgiveness and love each other.

This is my new prayer for them.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Run, Run As Fast As You Can

Yesterday was our elementary school's Boosterthon Fun Run. The older two have spent the last week or so collecting pledges for the number of laps they could run. Then yesterday they got to go out and run their hearts out.

I love this fundraiser. It's fun for the kids. It's fun for the parents. It's fun for the teachers. And it's wildly effective. Bonus, no stale chocolates or overpriced gift wrap. The Boosterthon team does such a good job of getting the kids excited throughout the week. By yesterday they were all really eager to run. The atmosphere is like a big party which only adds to the fun of it.

Sicily got to help this year by handing out water. It made her feel big and she was very helpful. All of the grade levels were at different times and since we were helping at the water table, the two of us camped out at the school all day. It was a tiring day for all of us. But between this event and St. Patrick's Day fun, yesterday was one of those wonderful ones you never forget.

Chris ran 50 laps which is the equivalent of 3 miles!

Laps are marked off on their shirts each time they cross the start/finish line. This is his finished shirt. It makes it easy to know how much you owe them. (side note: look at his awesome hair. his dad is jealous.)

Sisters saying hello at the beginning of the race

Does every sporting event have to start with the national anthem?

Analiese ran 39 laps! This group of 1st graders were all red faced and out of breath by the end. They ran as hard as their little legs would carry them.

The Irish water girl got a lot of isn't-she-cute giggles from other moms. But it turned out she was on just the right level for the kids to reach out and grab a cup from as they ran by. She was very proud of her contribution.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy Leprechaun Day!

That's what Analiese calls it. From the rest of us, Happy St. Patrick's Day.

I love this day. I have a love affair with Ireland in my head. If you've visited us enough you know that I love the beauties in the mysterious. The fairies, the sprites, and yes a wee leprechaun if he chooses to visit. I love a good fairy tale that makes you shiver. I love rolling green hills and melancholy history. I love a place that can put just as much passion into a toast as a blessing. And my husband would love to frequent a pub for a daily good beer. Plus St. Patrick was a very good man. What's not to love about Erin and this lovely day?

Here's some Irish fun for you:

When Irish eyes are smiling
Sure 'tis like the morn in spring.
In the lilt of Irish laughter
You can hear the angels sing.
When Irish hearts are happy
All the world seems bright and gay.
And when Irish eyes are smiling,
Sure, they steal your heart away.

- Chaucey Olcott and George Graff, Jr.

Irish Toast

St. Patrick was a gentleman
who through strategy and stealth
drove all the snakes form Ireland.
Here's a drink for his health!
But not too many drinks
lest we lose ourselves and then
forget the good St. Patrick
and see them snakes again!

An Old Irish Blessing

May love and laughter light your days
and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours
wherever you may roam.
May peace and plenty bless your world
with joy that long endures.
May all life's passing seasons
bring the best to you and yours.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Jane and the Dragon

Jane and the Dragon is one of our favorite Saturday morning cartoons. Jane is a lovely role model for little girls. Sugar and some serious-bad-guy-kicking spice. I love that Jane can stand on her own and beat any male knight, but is still soft and caring. I can't wait until they're old enough to read the actual book. Here Knight Sicily proves that busting bad guys doesn't belong to boys. You can wear a dress and floral boots and still be major tough stuff. (And props to Analiese for your very dramatic hand-over-forehead bad guy fall.)

and the victorious knight strolls away, pony tail only slightly off center.

*note: I feel I should say this is as violent as our imaginative play gets. Knights, Dragons, and Princesses are stories we play out. We aren't the gun supporting type.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Barefoot Spring

Walking barefoot on wet soil, sand between toes;

seeing dragons in the clouds;

discovering pastel petals hidden in the grass and

catching leftover raindrops that fall from wind shaken trees;

spotting rainbows and wondering of pots of gold;

making the mischief of all good sprites,

drawing birds and chasing butterflies;

These are the pastimes of spring loving children

And adults who aren't averse to sitting in the rain.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Friday Favorites...Jamie's Food Revolution and The Art of Simple Food

We have spent the last two months eating recipes from this cookbook, Jamie's Food Revolution by Jamie Oliver. It is exactly what it says: simple, delicious, and affordable. In the past two months we have eaten out less and honestly eaten better than we would at most restaurants. And I'm no chef. (Though if I'm completely honest, a vast majority of my day dreams involve owning a bakery in a small town. Kind of boring day dream, I know. I'm not the superhero type.)

The recipes are really easy to follow. I've learned to make Indian curries, my husband's favorite, that rival a few local Indian restaurants around here. (Is my humility bursting from the page here or what!) I repeat, I'm no chef. I give full credit to the recipes. A lot of the recipes use similar ingredients so by staying stocked up on those staples I save money. My kids are eating soups full of veges and loving them. It doesn't hurt that the pages are full of the Naked Chef himself. Ah, crush.

It's just simple stuff, like pastas and how to roast a chicken the right way. But sometimes simple is best. I think home cooks fail a lot because we try recipes with terms that are way over our head. Then we think we can't cook. But you can, you can cook good, nutritious, pure earth food. You just have to know the basics. I've pared my little culinary adventure with this book:

The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters really breaks it down. Each chapter tackles the absolute basics of good cooking. I'm talking technique, like how to cook fluffy rice and dried beans. How to make chicken broth, polenta, and custard. And most importantly I've learned what a poached egg is. Some of you might be laughing but I didn't grow up knowing any of that. This has been a wonderful learning process for me. Knowing the basics, I feel like I can cook anything now. When Steven and I go out for a date I can tell what's in our food and how it was cooked. I love knowing that. And I love that it's so incredibly simple.

Both of these books allow you to go to the farmer's market, know what you're buying, and go back home to prepare a lovely, delicious meal. You can finally make peace with your oven. Who doesn't want that?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Best Compliment

I shared with you last week that I was having a fault listing kind of week. I've been questioning what I'm doing. Wondering if I'm doing this mom thing right. We've just sort of been off, I guess. The kids have been arguing a lot. We spent most of the weekend sending them to time out. We've had major respect and disobedience issues. We've just been a little bit muddled up.

But, wow, what a difference a week can make! I believe it has something to do with the sunshine, but whatever has thawed our spirits, I'll take it. My mama's heart has been warmed this week. How is it that children can say a few simple words that can flip you upside down?

Last night I was hanging out with the boy. The house was quiet except for the rain coming down outside of the open windows. The girls were sound asleep. It was just the two of us with a sea of Legos in front of us. We sat, chatting and building quietly, for about an hour. When it was time for bed, he said, "You're good at Legos. Will you do this again with me sometime?". I would have bought him the world in that moment. I believe it's one of the best compliments I've ever received. Not that I set out to be a great Lego builder, but that, in that moment when his eyes lit up, I was good to my son. For that moment I did something that he loved. And that is enough. Steven reminded me during one of those bad days last week that the boy still hugs me before bed. I can't be a total failure if I'm still getting hugs from my nine year old and he thinks I'm good at Legos.

I think when young children compliment us it means so much more because there's nothing behind it. Children say what they think. They are honest. Their words can be harsh or so very sweet, but either way they mean it.

Like this letter I got from Analiese yesterday:

She was sitting on the hammock drawing and ran inside abruptly with a huge smile and gave me this paper. Then she ran off to keep drawing. It came from her heart and no where else.

They keep growing and one day those simple words will cease. They might realize that flattery gets you things or not want to hang out with their mom. But for now I'll store up what I can. For now I'll cherish their simple little compliments for what they are. So even when the baby calls me soft like a pillow when she's laying on my stomach, I'll know that she thinks its a good feature for her mama to have and say thank you.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

To Market, To Market

Yesterday as I was stocking our pantry, fresh from a trip to the co-op and the grocery store, I thought it would be fun to share the goods. I think it's fun to see what people eat. We all have those things that we buy weekly. The basics. The things we can't live without. It might change as our tastes change or as the kids grow, but for months at a time I buy the same things every week, sometimes twice a week. Here is what our little family considers the "basics" right now:
  • We go through at least three gallons of milk a week. The girls and Steven drink soy, so we go through two cartons of soy milk a week.
  • I'm a coffee drinker and my guilty morning pleasure is International Delights French Vanilla Coffee Creamer.
  • We think Simply Orange orange juice is the best orange juice.
  • We eat fresh as often as possible. We don't do a lot of canned goods. So our fridge has a lot of fresh produce. What we don't buy fresh we pull from the frozen and preserved produce of last summer's harvesting adventures.
  • Sicily and I eat spinach and mushroom omelets for lunch almost every day and I love to bake, so we go through 1 to 1 1/2 cartons of eggs each week.
  • I love Immaculate Baking Company's break and bake cookies. They're really good, they're local, and they majorly support the Folk Art Foundation. All good reasons to indulge in some chocolate chip cookies.
  • My husband is a beer snob, as most of you know, but that's a post for another day. What you probably don't know is that he's also a cheese snob. He thinks Cabot Cheddar Cheese is the only cheddar worth buying in grocery stores. I happen to agree.
  • I love Stoneyfield Organic Yogurt. It's so smooth and creamy. The kids love the YoKids Squeezers. We go through two or three boxes a week.
  • My new love: Stoneyfield Oikos Greek Yogurt. Mmmmmm. Especially the one with honey. Immediately after I took this picture, I shoved those to the back to hide them from Steven and the kids. I have no shame. You know you have a secret stash too. All moms do. It's our sanity saver.
  • We are on a serious pastrami kick. I know, a little weird.
  • We go through a lot of fruit each week, especially apples and bananas.
  • PB&J is the school lunch item of choice. If I try to switch it up I get serious complaints, so why switch it up. We use Jif Natural Peanut Butter, because as Chris say, "it tastes like peanuts". Go figure, a peanut butter that tastes like peanuts. Steven prefers Trader Joe's Almond Butter. All of those sandwiches have us going through two loaves of bread a week.
  • I've told you before we aren't good at mornings so we do easy breakfast. You will always find frosted mini wheats, honey nut cheerios, and oatmeal in our pantry. The exception is Saturday when we always have pancakes and I can whip up some wonderfully creamy grits if cravings call for it. I am a good southern girl after all.
  • I can't live without sweet tea. (Have you read the title of this blog?) My husband will only drink Luzianne Iced Tea (maybe he's just a general food snob). I'll drink any tea, as long as it's sweet.

So those are our basics. At least for right now. On reflection, I spend a lot of time in the dairy aisle. We should have very strong bones.

What's in your fridge or pantry that you just can't live without?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Spring Preview

Dear Husband,

You'll have to forgive me if nothing gets done this week. If the crumbs remain under the dining table and the laundry flows from the hamper you'll just have to look past it.

You see, the spring fairies have become eager to show us their handiwork. They are delighting us this week with a preview. So the children and I will be outside watching the butterflies dance among the daffodils and listening to the birds catch up on their gossip.

So know that I am not neglecting my work. I'm simply thawing winter skin.

Try not to be jealous. Take heart in the fact that your home will be a little bit happier as we will all be drunk on sunshine.

with much love,
Your Wife

Friday, March 5, 2010

Friday Favorites....

We love this game!

Curious George Hide and Seek Zoo, it's a board game with a little hide and seek thrown in. Bonus, you get to wear animal masks. I play this game no less that 5 times a week. Sicily loves it. She especially loves the part where the man in the yellow hat says, "oh, no george! the animals have escaped from the zoo!" because that means she get to put on her mask and go hide. She love to hide. Even the older two kids get into it. It's really fun.

So here's how it works. There's a walkie talkie and on your turn you push the button to get a message from the man in the yellow hat. Most of the time you have to draw a card to help an animal. You spin and try to earn the card. Typical board game, right? Only sometimes the man in the yellow hat says the animals have escaped and everyone else runs off to hide. The walkie talkie counts for you, then off you go to find the other animals so that they can come back and finish the game. Every kids game should have a round of hide and seek thrown in just to get the wiggles out.

I highly recommend this game to my mom friends. Granted, you know that we're a little biased toward anything Curious George related. We've like it so much that I'm going to check out a few of the other Curious George games to see if they are as much fun.

So check it out! I hope you like it too.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Silly Bands, Silly Trends

Have you seen these? Or is it only the children in our town that have gone crazy over rubber bands? Granted, they're shaped rubber bands but, my children, they are still rubber bands. Yet, if you walk around our little town you will see kids everywhere with colorful rubber bands up to their elbows. They're called silly bands and of course they have invaded our house too. The upside and the downside is that they are cheap, about $1 for a back of 20. So kids can get lots of bands for the change they find in the couch cushions. LOTS of bands! They're worn like bracelets and they pop back into their shape when taken off. Kids wear them to school, to church, to the park and they trade them. Like any other silly trend, there are rare ones that any child would give ten bands for. The other day I was out running errands and spotted some packs of them. Given that they are selling out everywhere, I decided to pick them up. (Yes, that's right. Rubber bands are selling out. Didn't see that one coming.) Not knowing it, I scored major points because apparently the pack I picked up had a kangaroo. Kangaroos are big! I would really be super mom if I could find a penguin.

Oh, the memories. Did we look this funny to our parents when we bought into trends?

*note: My son's hand says peace with a peace sign. That makes me laugh.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Cool and Refreshing

They were fighting and picking on each other. Having "I'm not touching you" wars. So we left the paperwork, the laundry, and the messy kitchen behind in order to rid ourselves of a little cabin fever. The breeze had a bite, but we breathed in deeply to refresh our lungs. It was good to stretch our legs and dip fingers in ice water. We needed to be lost in the quiet for a bit. Soon enough they were laughing and holding hands.