Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Pretty Spoon

So, this picture of my dear ones - sweet brother and sister - holding hands and being lovely to one another.  Well, this is how I imagined Henry and Anna would be once they got to this age.  Playing and laughing and reading books together.  Basically, learning how to be the best of friends....

Oh my.  That's not exactly happening at the moment.

What's up with all this fighting???  Lately, it feels non-stop.  Over everything.  And even worse - over nothing at all.

"I get the computer first."

"Quit singing (or humming or talking or fill-in-the-blank!)

"I had it first."

"It's my turn."

"Mom, Henry looked at me."

"You had it last.  Where did you put it?"

"No fair!!"

OH MY GOODNESS!!  Swear to god.....I even threatened to pull the car over yesterday.

Of course, I know siblings fight.  Heck, I grew up with two brothers, and we fought over nothing too.

I remember.....We had this damn spoon. Who knows where it came from - - maybe inside a bag of sugar or something.  We referred to that spoon as "the pretty spoon" and my brothers and I argued over who would get to use it every night at dinner time.  Every. Night.

How our mother survived that daily argument (and all the others) without running out the front door??  Well, now I know it was a small miracle.

Who knows - maybe it's hereditary.  Maybe I'm just passing the "fight with your siblings" gene on, from a long line of family sibling fighters..... 

And shoot - now my kiddos are doomed too.

But, here is my latest theory.  And actually - all kidding aside - it's made all this arguing a little more tolerable. 

I think my kiddos fight, in our otherwise happy little home, because it is safe to do so.  They're just practicing how to stand up for themselves.  And (even better), maybe this arguing stuff is developmentally appropriate.  Like this is exactly how they learn to be assertive.  How to keep people from stepping all over them.

Thankfully, they don't walk up to their teacher or a friend and yell "Hey!  It's my turn for the pretty spoon.  Hand it over."  But as I've been trying to think this all through and figure out how to address it a little better - well, their fighting has come to make a little more sense to me.

Of course, I'd appreciate it if Henry and Anna were a little nicer in their tone when they practiced all these new-found assertiveness skills.  And we'll keep working on that part.  But sometimes mommy-beggars can't be mommy-choosers.  Lessons come in all sorts of odd ways.

But regardless of it's truth, my little "developmentally-appropriate" theory has been keeping me from screaming and running out the front door lately.

Goodness, maybe that's exactly how my mom stayed put all those years ago too!

(Of course, the little moments like in these photos - even if they are few and far between lately - well, they certainly help a whole lot too!)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Tale of Three Balloons

It started a few days back.  For some reason, Anna decided that she wanted a balloon. Desperately. "Balloon, mom.  I want a balloon.  Can I get a balloon?  When are you going to the store?  Can I come along?  Could I pleeeeeeeeaaase have a balloon????" 

She was very passionate about this balloon request, and I figured that a $.97 latex balloon wouldn't break the bank.  So I said yes.  Next time we were at the store, I'd make my little 4-year-old happy with a bright pink balloon. 

Fast forward to Sunday morning.  I was working at my desk and Anna was reading besides me.  Suddenly, she hopped out of her chair and said, "Mom, there it is.  I see something yellow out the window.  I think it is a balloon."  She started dancing around.  "Mom, mom. It's MY balloon."

So, we threw on our coats and shoes to go investigate.

Sure enough.  A balloon floated into the back of the yard and had gotten caught up in the tall grass and weeds.


Of course, Anna was thrilled with her find.  But admittedly, the balloon was pretty deflated and probably didn't have much life left in it.  So, later that day, when Ray announced he was running to the store, Anna attached herself to him and insisted that she go along.  And that we make good on our promise - - a "real" balloon.

And so off they went.....

About an hour later, I heard Anna and Ray returning from their shopping trip. With a grin from ear to ear, Anna walked through the door, holding the hand of a near-life-sized Austin balloon (for the non-preschooler set: Austin is a character from a kid's TV show called The Backyardigans).  Literally, it was almost as big as she was.

(Note to self: next time, be much more specific about balloon options and - um - limits with Papa).

Of course, Anna was over the moon.  She could hardly contain herself.  "Mom, I'm going to pretend Austin is my friend today.  We'll play and I'll talk to him and we'll watch Backyardigans together so he can see himself of TV and it will be so much fun."

After 15 minutes of Austin playing time, Anna decided she wanted to have her picture taken with the giant balloon.  And, because the light wasn't very good inside, we headed out the back door for a quick balloon photo shoot, with Anna holding firm to Austin's hand.

(Yes, you know exactly where this story is headed....)

As I tried to get everything situated for a photo, Anna held a strong grip on Austin.  However, the balloon deflated a bit in the cold outside.  And as the air contracted and shifted, it startled Anna.  Without even thinking, she let go....

She. let. go.

I turned just in time to see Austin floating up and away.  I jumped to try and grab his foot, but I was a moment too late.  He was off.  For 10 seconds, we just stood there frozen.  And we watched.  It was one of those crazy slow-motion moments.  Austin floating off into the gray winter sky, almost waving goodbye to us in the breeze.

Without even thinking myself, I snapped a picture.....

When I looked back at Anna, I saw my baby girl, leaning against the wall.  Gazing up into the sky.  And suddenly across her face, you could see reality sinking in.  Austin was gone.  And she started to sob - - the really, really big four-year-old sob.  Anna just lost her best friend.....(well, at least her balloon best friend.)

Anna turned and bolted up to her room.  She threw herself in a corner, and cried.  I think it was the saddest I've ever seen my little girl.  For the longest time, I couldn't offer any comfort. The tears just wouldn't stop.  And my heart broke.

After awhile, Anna recovered, but she talked about her lost friend all day long.  She kept telling us how sad she was.  And she asked to look at the picture of Austin floating away, again and again......

Just before bed, she said "Mom, I'm not so sad anymore.  I'm just a little sad.  I hope some other girl finds Austin to play with, just like I found the yellow balloon."

My sweet girl.

Yesterday, I did what any Mama would do.  (well, at least any push-over Mama like me.....)

We made a little trip back to the store.  And when we carried Uniqua from the store to the car, we all held on for dear life.  No one was letting go of the balloon this time.  Mama made sure of that!

Somehow, Anna's $. 97 latex balloon idea had turned into a very expensive $20 adventure.  But in the end, it was worth it just to see her grin from ear to ear - not once, but twice!  Plus, we have a pretty good story to tell.....

And pictures?  Well, damn the bad lighting conditions.  We're staying inside.

Friday, February 17, 2012


So, this may be a selfish mama moment, but I'm going to admit it anyway.....

Sometimes I wonder whether the little things that I do for my family make a difference.  Does anyone notice?  Does anyone care?  Those things really feel important to me, but does it matter to anyone else who lives under my roof?

For example, take Valentine's Day on Tuesday.  As I've done the past many years, it was time for our annual Valentine's dinner.  I brought out the linens and crystal, planned a several course, kid-friendly menu and we enjoyed a lovely dinner by candlelight.

Well, at least I thought it was lovely, but I'm not sure about anyone else.

I can't help but ask.....

In twenty years (or even 20 hours), will Anna remember that I made her favorite double chocolate cupcakes with marscapone cream filling and ganache?  All from scratch.  Not a cake mix or can of frosting in sight.

Will Henry know about the half hour it took to get the damn heart-shaped jello jigglers out of the pan, dripping little drops of melted red jello all over my arms  (The box says "immerse pan in hot water for 15 seconds and flip to release."  Yeah. Right!)

Will anyone care that I ironed (I repeat - i.r.o.n.e.d.) the tablecloth???  PLEASE!  Pleeeeaaassseeeee.  Will someone at least notice that I ironed the tablecloth?


I think that when - day in and day out - spare time is in short supply, then it's hard not to ask why. 

But as soon as I STOP with all the busy-ness and simply take time to remember what is most important to me.  Well, then the answer is right there....

Damn right it matters.  Of course it matters.  I may not know exactly how or why right now, but it probably matters more than I can imagine.....

Amen, brother.

When I was growing up, my mom made us a candlelight dinner every year on Valentine's Day.  We'd get off the bus after school and we'd be ushered directly to the basement to play until dad came home. Then we'd rush up the stairs to the dim flickering light and the good china and more forks than I knew how to use and jello molds with whipped cream and fancy desserts.

It was beautiful. And it mattered.  So much - - then and now.

I think of those dinners every single time I light a candle for my own special family meal.  And I remember when our little foursome creates a new tradition or memory.  And I recall on the "every-days," as well as the special days.  

This past Tuesday, the kids may not have raved about how well-seasoned the chicken was, or how it perfectly complemented the side-dishes, or how unwrinkled the tablecloth was.  But they will remember that I took the time to give them something special.

Homemade - - because I love them beyond words.

Handmade - - because they are so worth every ounce of effort I could possibly muster.

It matters.


For my Valentine's dinner, several of the recipes came off of my Pinterest board - my obsession.  I love it, and mostly because I use it!!  I probably refer to something on one of my boards at least once a day.  I've decided I no longer need to renew any of my magazine subscriptions.  Everything I would have clipped from a magazine (and then would bury somewhere in a file cabinet) is now at my finger tips. 

So, here are a few of the things from our Pinterest menu.  You can click on the photo to go to the original post/recipe.  (That is really important to me.  I am all about sharing on Pinterest, as long as the original site gets the credit!!)

We started with Baked Mozzarella Sticks with Marinara.

We all loved this recipe.  Super easy and they tasted great.  The only thing is that it took almost double the time to bake.  But it was absolutely worth the extra 10 minutes!!
For our entree, we had Lime Cilantro Chicken.

And Coconut Basmati Rice

with Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Our new family favorite.  Anna especially.  She requests them for a bed time snack.

And for dessert....

Plus, the extra cream from the strawberries filled the cupcakes, made with my absolutely favorite chocolate cake recipe.  Over-the-top fabulous!!!

(I guess if I had any questions about whether my kids "cared" or not about making them homemade treats, Anna resolved the issue with this grin.....)


Oh, and did I mention.....

Anna's birthday is less than a month away (omg!!), and the party supplies have begun arriving.

My dozen-page agenda and to-do list is finalized and I've started staying up late to make these:

and this (minus the wine, of course)....

Stay-tuned. Homemade, handmade, late nights and all - -

It's going to get DIY-exciting around here!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

On Their Way....

Today, my mom and dad leave on the trip of a lifetime.

When I was little, I remember them talking about a trip to Hawaii as their be-all-end-all travel destination.  Now, years later, despite a fair bit of travel, they still  haven't made it to Hawaii (yet!).  But Hawaii doesn't have anything on the adventure they are about to begin.....

As I type, my mom and dad are headed to Africa, to visit my sister Annie in Rwanda.

As I've mentioned here many times before, Annie is serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Rwanda, teaching biology and English, and doing a dozen other amazing things.


Annie is a little more than half way through her service, which is hard to believe.  It  seems like only last week that we were saying goodbye. Her time in Rwanda has been filled with excitement and struggle and questions and culture shock and great joys and mind-boggling accomplishment. 
And, I am so over-the-moon excited for my mom and dad.  They have always been up for an adventure, but a few years ago, I don't think any of us would have imagined that they'd be headed to Africa.

And of course, I am SO proud of Annie.  Her service and selflessness inspire me everyday.  We've been fortunate to keep in pretty close touch, despite the distance, with phone calls and emails and even Skypeing from time to time.

Check out Annie's blog The Long Way Around to see about all the amazing things she is doing.

Mom and Dad:
Here's to a extraordinary and safe journey.  We're sending all of our love along with you.  Have an amazing time - - for all of us!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

My Girl

Anna is ready for Valentine's Day.  She spent last Saturday getting all of her cards ready for friends.

She carefully wrote her name on each.  Capital A.  Lowercase  n.  n.  a.  (she's all about the lowercase these days).  Then she attached the princess tattoo and sticker, wrapped each card in construction paper to make sure it all stayed put, and added the tape.  LOTS of tape.

She finished nearly two weeks early.  My sweet little early-bird planner.

Hmmmm.  Can we say the apple doesn't fall far from the tree?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

New Friends

Anna met Addy at preschool this past fall. And I met Jill (Addy's mom) when I cornered her at the community Halloween party and begged her to be Anna's preschool chauffeur from time to time. (Nice way to introduce myself, huh?) Jill was nothing but gracious, and since then, after several preschool transports and a few play dates, our families have become fast friends. Danny and Henry and Addy and Anna.  All about the same age, give or take. Everyone just seems to fit.

And then there is Lexy, bringing up the rear at almost two years old. But trust me, she hangs just fine with the big kids.  Just fine.....

With a few days off from school week before last, we were excited to plan a trip to the zoo.  It was a great afternoon.  I figured the fun broke down like this:  25% amazement at the zoo creatures, 15% sweet treat appreciation, and 60% of pure joy simply from the chance to run around.

I swear, that's all we have to do sometimes.  Just give our kids lots of room to run! 

(Oh yes, I know - - I could wax on about that last statement, but today, I'll just leave it alone.....)

Off they went, from the minute we arrived.
I think this was a private preschooler joke.  Something about bubbles and grapes and muddy shoes.  Clearly, a mom just wouldn't understand.

This is Lexy.  Don't be fooled by that shy little grin.  This girl is all spitfire - in the best possible way!
I think Addy was hypnotized by her giant lollipop.
Henry should have thought twice about leaving his Icee unattended. I have a feeling that Lexy is a "go for it right now, and ask permission later" kinda kid! 
(I think this is one of my favorite shots from recent weeks.  Thanks Lexy!)

We're working on our next adventure. Hopefully something again with lots of room to run!!  We can't wait!!