Friday, February 18, 2011

{this moment}

{this moment}
hitting life's "pause" button
no chit-chat
just a single photo
a glimpse
our life, here and now
forever etched in my mind
and in my heart

...inspiration courtesy of Soule Mama

{cheated for the first time doing this week's moment, as one cannot properly represent "the twirl" with only one photo!}

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Picking Up Where I Left Off...

Okay, I realize I probably shouldn't have left my blog on indefinite "pause" after my last post (the one regarding the bear in our yard).  I got a few emails from concerned readers wondering if the bear had carried me off to the depths of the forest.  Yikes.  Nothing that dramatic, thankfully! 

The past 7 months have been filled with life's little (and not so little) hiccups.  You know the ones.  Setbacks, worries, and other bumps in the road.   It became apparent that documenting our days in this space wasn't nearly as important as trying to navigate the last half year while still cultivating an overriding sense of peace for myself and my family.  And while the waters are not exactly smooth, I felt that if I waited for life to be all roses before picking up the blogging habit again, I would be waiting forever.  Because, really, that's life isn't it?  The good with the bad.  So, here I am!  It feels exciting to be back here, ready to resume putting life in picture/word form.

Putting life's challenges aside for the time being, there really were many positive moments to celebrate since I last checked in here.  One of which was my daughter turning 5 years old.  Five!  That seems like such a big leap into full-fledged childhood.  Leaving any trace of toddlerhood in the dust. 

The lucky birthday girl had an unintended 3 separate parties, and thus, 3 different birthday cakes.  That's what happens sometimes when you live in the mountains and your summer birthday party gets cancelled due to snow.  In late June, no less!!  This cake helped cushion the blow of the first cancelled party:
A Ladyfinger Lemon White Chocolate Mousse!  Oh yes.  The day after her birthday, she asked me, "Do we have any of that deer cake left?"  Deer cake??  After a few conversational volleys back and forth, I finally realized that she was thinking "moose" rather than "mousse."  And moose led to the word deer.  And there you have it.  Ladyfinger Lemon White Chocolate Deer Cake. 

I've been anxiously awaiting the day I could bestow a very special gift upon my daughter: a wooden barn made for me on my 5th birthday, by my grandpa. 
After he made it, he shipped it in pieces, all the way from New Jersey to my childhood home.  He carefully labeled each piece and included a detailed diagram, all so my parents could re-assemble it easily in time for my birthday surprise.  I love how the labeled pieces of masking tape are still attached to each piece (even each individual stall is numbered to its corresponding slot on the barn floor), these many years later.  With my grandpa's, albeit indirect, guiding hand, I put the barn together in less than 10 minutes.

I added all of my childhood play horses as well.  The look on her face was worth the years I waited to have a child to whom I could pass along this heirloom toy.

Speaking of heirlooms, I also gave her the rocking chair which belonged to my sister and me, oh so many years ago.  It's the kind with the music box attached to the rocker arm, which plays as you rock.  My sweet girl was thrilled, and happily rocked the day away:

It was a grand day all around.  A perfect reminder of the pleasure that is being a five year old little girl!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my!

Okay, so maybe we don't have any tigers, but we have the lions (mountain-variety) and now the bears. We knew it was inevitable.  I saw some bears playing all over the rock face on the mountain in front of our house.  Locals told us we'd see them -- up close and personal.  But, I was still surprised and a little speechless when I saw this bear stroll right by the kitchen window while I was clearing the dishes from the table.

{Sorry about the blurry photo above, but having a steady hand is a bit difficult when you are face-to-face with a bear.  At least this was my defense to my husband's criticism regarding the out-of-focus shot.  Plus, I was holding my 2 year old son in the other arm.  My dear husband countered that I was inside the house, and therefore, safe.  Thus, his expectation for a National Geographic-quality photo. I told him that I would be more than happy to place all future wildlife photo ops in his capable (and steady) hands.}

He (?) made a beeline to the suet cage that hangs in one of our trees for the birds.  After scoping out the situation for a second or two, he climbed that little aspen tree and snagged his snack.

Oh, that poor aspen! I thought the whole tree was going to give way with the weight of that massive bear.  And the claw marks that he left behind on the trunk -- amazing.
In the end, he left the unopened suet cage full of the suet cake.  I guess he wasn't hungry enough to fiddle around with it.  He promptly gave up and moseyed his way into the trees just beyond our driveway.  I was outside in a flash, taking down our hummingbird feeder and closing the garage (where we have a nearly full trash can).  Perhaps this Papa Bear was on the hunt for his own Father's Day treat?  Unfortunately, he went away empty-handed (empty-pawed?).  Hopefully Mama and Baby Bear had some porridge waiting for him back at the den.  Where I hope he will stay.  Is it hibernation time yet??

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A New Bedtime Ritual is Born

So, my little girl has been sleeping in her own bedroom for 10 days now.  Ten very long, lonely days.  For me, anyway.  She is loving her new found independence and privacy.  I guess I underestimated her need to have a space of her very own, apart from her parents and her (often extremely loud and tantrum-prone) baby brother.  On an almost daily basis, she'll wrap her arms around me and say, "I am still just loving my own room so, so much!" 

I, on the other hand, have been sleeping with one eye and one ear open for the last 10 days.  The first night (okay, and maybe a few additional nights since then), I sat in the hallway outside her bedroom door and just listened to her breathing.  One would presume that I have a difficult time letting go.  One could not be more right.  That sweet little girl has been sleeping right next to me or within arm's reach for five years.  {Unless you count the many months I was pregnant with her, then it's almost six years} 

But because I thought she might have some anxiety about sleeping alone in her big girl room, I made up a little jar of Angel Cream.  I jotted down the idea many years ago, before I had children of my own.  I'm just guessing, but I vaguely recall getting the idea for it from the website A Magical Childhood.  A website, I must add, that has so many good ideas and links it will make your head spin.

The idea is to take some sweet-smelling lotion and add some glitter to it (the original instructions called for sparkly eye shadow, but since it's not 1984 and I don't own sparkly eye shadow in a bright color, I went with extra-fine glitter).  Then add a label with a little poem to recite every night at bedtime:

Night is here, and it's time for bed,
But before you lay down your sleepy head,
On the back of your hand, rub some Angel Cream,
So the angels will watch over you as you dream.

My daughter is thoroughly delighted with this new little ritual.  We haven't skipped a single night's application.  After we read stories and say our prayers, I take the jar from her nightstand drawer (must hide these kind of things from her rascal brother), and she dips her finger into it.  While I recite the poem, she applies the magical cream.  The whole thing takes less than a minute, but the impact has been huge.  It's just an extra measure to ensure secure, happy feelings going into the nighttime hours.  Not that she needs it, as I've said, she's made it clear she was ready for this kind of transition into big girlhood.  Hmmm...maybe I'm the one who should be applying some Angel Cream. ;)

This post is part of Steady Mom's 30-Minute Blog Challenge.  Go check out some of the other quick reads!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

You At Two...

Happy 2nd Birthday to my sweet love!  My little boy is now fully entrenched in the toddler years. Although I'm quite certain we stepped foot into the challenging toddler years about a year ago!  So much has transpired in what is, really, such a short period of time in the grand scheme of life.  But, for our relationship as mama and son, it has been two years of growing, testing, understanding, learning, coping, and becoming more wrapped up in absolute love for one another.

Here are a few thoughts I have regarding you, living life at two, that I never want to forget:

*Your whole being is encased in a soft, sensitive, compassionate envelope.  I'm not sure if this is a trait that has been nurtured by spending so many hours in the company of your big sister (and best friend), or if this boundless kindheartedness is inborn.  Regardless, here are a few ways this admirable quality plays out in our everyday life:

             -When we are reading a book and the character is having
a rough day or is sad about  something, you ask me to stop reading mid-story so you can kiss and hug the character on the page.  It is a daily occurrence around our house to see you clasping an open book against your chest, eyes closed, and patting it gently.  Only after you have given it some love, can we continue with our story.

-When your sister does something less than kind to you (and, thankfully, this is rare and usually extremely mild, like giving you a light shove or taking a toy from you), and I reprimand her, she usually ends up crying.  {And it's not that I'm yelling or being harsh, she's just extremely sensitive to criticism or having her behavior corrected}  Anyway, even though you are the one who has been wronged in some way, you always stop crying and begin to comfort your sister because now she's the one crying.  I've actually witnessed blood dripping from your lip (after your dear sister pushed you flat onto your face), while you take the time to pat your sister's arm and stroke her face in order to cheer her (the instigator in the event) up.  You never hold a grudge.  You give love no matter what, even if the situation would dictate otherwise.

-If you hear (or even sense) that someone wants something, you go to any length to get it for them.  Often when coloring, your sister will say, "I wish I had a black crayon to color with."  You, holding the black crayon, immediately stop drawing and hand it over to her gladly.

The other day, I was standing in the living room, and I said under my breath, "Now what did I do with that measuring tape??"  You were sitting half a room away, playing with your cars and trucks.  I noticed you get up and walk past me.  You went downstairs.  I could hear you rummaging through the craft room/playroom, talking to yourself.  A couple of minutes later, you appeared at my side, holding the measuring tape in your chubby little hand.  My smile was the only reward you needed.  You LOVE being helpful.  And you have an incredible memory.  How you could remember that you had seen the measuring tape in that crowded, overstuffed craft room/playroom is a mystery to me.

- When we are out on the swing set, every time I give your swing a push, you immediately say, "Sistah, too!  Sistah! Push sistah!" (sistah means "sister").  Meaning, you want me to give your sister a push too.  You can't stand the thought of your sister being left out of anything, so concerned you are for her welfare and happiness!

-Three days ago, when I was couch-ridden with a terrible cold, you squeezed yourself onto the couch next to me and stayed there for the next three hours while I rested.  You only got up a couple of times to get a new toy to hold.  This speaks volumes, as normally you never. stop. moving. Ever. Never. 

-In the middle of the horse quilt that Grandma made for me, there is a quilt square with a puppy dog.  Since you have a soft spot for puppies, you lean over and kiss the puppy's face.  Every day.  Several times per day.  I have pictures of you laying on your tummy, your nose pressed up against the quilt on our bed.

*Speaking of hugging and kissing, when you give anyone a kiss, you use your nose.  Ever so gently, you lean in and touch the other person (of stuffed animal or book) with the tip of your nose.  It's precious.

*When one of your toys is asleep, you go around the house tapping your nose with your index finger, saying, "Shhh...shhh....Seep-een."  Seep-een meaning "sleeping" in this scenario.  Instead of bringing your index finger to your lips as most people do when they want someone to hush, you tap the end of your nose 5 or 6 times.  I'm not sure why.  You seem to like using your nose for what the average person relies on their lips.  You're quirky and cute.  It's one of the many reasons I love you.

*Your voice is so varied.  Sometimes it's high and chipmunk-y.  But usually it's deep and husky.  Almost raspy, like you have a cold, even though you don't.  Your Daddy and I mimic your voice a lot when we talk to each other because it makes us giggle. 

*You wave backward: with your palm facing your face, rather than your palm facing outward from your body.

*Saying sorry (pronounced "Saw-eee") comes very easily for you.  You say it over and over again whenever you make more work for me (as in spilling your milk or tipping over your bowl of food).  Let's hope you're still able to admit it so readily when you are a grown man! ;)

*You are sly and sneaky and clever.  Very often, we should be annoyed or frustrated by your relentless efforts to defy us, but I find myself frequently amused by your resourcefulness and persistence.  Especially when I see that sparkle in your blue eyes and that dimpled smirk spread across your face. 

*You love to get my attention when it's clear I am trying to concentrate on a given task.  When I am leaning over you, trimming your tiny nails, trying to concentrate on not clipping your skin in the process, you lean your head way down next to mine, and nose your face right in front of my line of vision. Instead of having a clear view of your fingernail, I see your goofy smile about 1/4" from my face.  It never fails to send me into gales of laughter.

*And speaking of laughter, we joke that you are our little comedian.  You love to get the laughs from your adoring audience.  I think this is more for our benefit than yours.  I genuinely think that you just love making the people you love happy.  At the tender age of two, you have already learned one of life's greatest secrets: tis better to give than receive. 

Sweet boy, you have given us so very much in such a short period of time.  Thank you!  We love you more than you know.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Books to Share with Little Ones

Here's my vision: after nursing her little brother and tucking him into his bed, my little girl and I tiptoe off to her new "big girl" room and cozy up in her bed to read stories.  "Big kid" stories with true story lines and descriptive words and beautiful illustrations (but moving toward more words than illustrations).  During the dark, winter months, maybe we'll read by candlelight.  During the summer months, when it's still light outside when we're heading off to bed, we'll read by the rosy glow of the setting sun. 

I've been searching high and low for some seriously sweet and light tales to read to my very sensitive and tender-hearted girl.  Although she'll be turning five (I can't really believe that, but the math adds up to five!) in a few short weeks, she's really not at all ready for some of the more heavy drama and suspense that many reading lists have recommended for fives.  Just a couple of examples: she sobbed profusely and made me turn it off when Peter Rabbit got caught under Mr. McGregor's fence in this DVD version of Beatrix Potter's lively tales.  And, watching that evil cat Lucifer try to get those sweet Cinderella mice proved too much for her to bear.   Of course, both of these examples cite movie versions of stories.  And I think the combination of sight and sound on the TV screen makes the story come alive a little too much.  I've observed that her tolerance level for such dramatic scenes increases when it plays out on the storybook page.

So, I stumbled upon a couple of books that are not yet chapter books, but have more words than the books we read during the day with her little brother joining us.  She has the attention span for longer reads, but we're limited to reading shorter, simpler books so as to include her nearly two year old, I-must-stay-in-constant-motion sibling.  These books contain a series of stories, or vignettes, if you will.  And they involve animals (which are our favorite kind of characters).

The first is by Cynthia Rylant (we almost always have one or two of her books in our book bag on return trips from the library), called Thimbleberry Stories.  I came across this book in the Chinaberry catalog.  I mean, come on, do you see that squirrel in slippers, cleaning his thatched home?  That doesn't look like a book that will scare my daughter, does it?  Truth be told, only time will tell.  I haven't given the book to her yet, and I haven't read it yet either.  I prefer to read books for the first time with my children.  That way, I'm just as excited to see the outcome of the story as they are, and I think that comes through when I'm reading.

The second book I chose is James Herriot's Treasury for Children, a collection of happenings in the life of a small-town veterinarian, set in the English countryside.

Amazing illustrations: warm, homey, inviting...

And I would be remiss if I didn't mention the Brambly Hedge series.  I got her a set of these books for Christmas.  We choose to read them during Rascal's nap, so we won't be interrupted.  To be completely honest, the stories fell flat for me.  I expected to love them.  I wanted to love them.  Every review I had read online loved them.  Maybe they were built up too much in my mind.  But, aside from Winter Story, the tales just seemed a bit stale.  Regardless, I would read the Brambly Hedge every day just to gaze at the lovely, intricate illustrations.  Pure beauty.

So, that is a very brief selection of books for the slightly older, little one.  Looking at books for my son, who turns two in just over a week, I think this is going to be a winner:

Yes.  I have two copies of this book.  A couple of years ago, Oh, What a Busy Day was out of print.  I went online and found prices for used copies of this book ranging from $30.00 to $700.00.  Yes, I know.  Unbelievable.  But, countless reviews and blogs had cited this book as a staple in any child's reading collection.  I was convinced that my daughter had to have this book (although, it takes very little to persuade me to buy any children's book).  So, I splurged on the best used copy I could afford.  I think it's a 1976 edition (it's the one on the left).

Then, naturally, someone got smart and decided to start reprinting the book in April of this year.  For less than $10.00!!!  Yes, I know.  Unbelievable.  It is exactly the same book that I convinced my husband that I had to buy, no matter what the cost, just a few years ago.  Exactly the same. 

Which is 99% a good thing.  The reason I say this is because I was hoping the new edition would be without a particular two-page spread.  There is a horrible (completely my opinion, but I hardly think I'm alone in thinking this is inappropriate in a children's book) story about two children going out into the woods and dying there.  Complete with birds dropping feathers and leaves over the children to "bury" them.  Yes, I know.  Unbelievable. Why, oh why, put such a story in a book for children??  The first time I read the book to my daughter, I started reading that awful story and immediately sensed where it was going.  I told my daughter that they were napping after their long journey to the woods, so they would have enough energy to walk back home in time for dinner.  

I put the book back on our shelf and didn't touch it again for years.  I contemplated re-selling the book.  Since it was still out of print, I figured I could make a little money.  But, the rest of the book is delightful, and I hated to get rid of a great book just because of one story in it.  So, I considered just taking my x-acto knife and cutting the depressing little story out.  But, as my husband pointed out, I could never re-sell the book if I removed any pages from it.  So, it has been sitting on my bookshelf all this time.  Not being read.  Not being enjoyed.  And now I have two of them.  I decided to keep the 1976 version on the shelf, since it has more monetary value than the 2010 edition.  Maybe one of the children can sell it years from now and buy themselves their first car.  I am going to give the brand-new copy to my son (although I know my daughter will pore over the pages as well).  My son is the energizer bunny, except instead of beating a drum, he wields a wrecking ball.  Every day is a busy day when it comes to mothering him.  So, the book seems an appropriate choice.  Gorgeous, colorful, detailed illustrations give little eyes plenty to take in.  It's a very whimsical, fun read.  Well, minus those two pages, of course. 

I also have my eye on the Big Alfie series.  It looks like a charming collection centering on life for a young boy and his sister.  We have so many books where the central character is a girl, I love the idea of a series of books where a little boy is highlighted.  Especially a tender, thoughtful, creative, brotherly boy.  So, I think I will trust the reviews I've read, and start collecting books in the Big Alfie series.   If anyone out there has read Alfie, I'd love to hear what you thought.  Or, if you have a particular favorite book for the little crowd, please do share.  I'm always looking for new additions to our home library or to check out from the public library.

And that is making just a small dent in my bank of ideas on books for children.  I love books, but especially picture books.  I could discuss books all day.  In fact, I have.  I started this post early this morning and I'm just now finishing it at 11 pm.   :)   Good night!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Spoiling My Man

We officially entered into our "busy season" last month.  We have 12 celebrations of either holidays (like Easter and Memorial Day) and birthdays in our little family in the span of 8 weeks.  That adds up to a lot of gathering and feasting (even when we double up on some of the birthday parties).  But then we have a social "drought" from July through September, so we have adequate time to recover before autumn and the upcoming holiday season hits.  My husband was the guest of honor a couple of days ago.  My gifts to him included:

*Removing all unpacked boxes from the house, and then cleaning said house. {As for the boxes, I carried them down to the garage.  I'm not sure why I thought having to stare at them sitting in my house for the last 4 months was going to make me empty them sooner.  It didn't.  Frankly, their presence just stressed me out.  This way, I can (and will) take up one box per week from the garage and empty it (either by finding homes for the items or by donating them).  The clutter stays out of our living space and I can tackle the boxes one at a time.  If absence doesn't make the heart grow fonder, maybe that'll be the kick I need to get rid of the stuff once and for all.}

*Filling his collage picture frame that he keeps on his desk at work with updated photos of us all.

*Tucking, inside his lunch box, an impromptu drawing I made of him (which, if I had known he was going to hang it up next to his desk, I would have spent more time on it!)

*Hanging some artwork and other surprises that I had ordered, all by myself (not the ordering, although I did do that all by myself, but the hanging part -- I hate hanging things on the walls myself.  I'm always fretting whether the nail is going to hold the object, or it's crooked, or not centered, etc.)

*Helped Roo decorate a plate with a drawing of herself holding hands with her Daddy.
*Made one of his favorite dinners: Cider-glazed pork chops, baked potato fries, applesauce (not from scratch, though. I looove homemade applesauce), lemon/hazelnut green beans.  And for dessert: Chocolate Peanut Butter Trifle, which was, in a word, AMAZING.  How can you go wrong with layering fudge brownies, pudding, whipped peanut butter, peanut butter cups, sweetened sour cream, and heavy whipped cream?

It was a day without bickering, complaining, lots of phone calls to Daddy at work to check and see how his birthday was going, homemade birthday cards, great wine (for me) and beer (for him) with dinner, the children going to sleep peacefully and without incident, and the two of us sitting on the front deck listening to the orchestra of birds die down as the moon and stars made their appearance.  It was simply lovely.  That night, just like a child who had just celebrated the perfect day, my husband wondered aloud, "Why can't every day be my birthday?"