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?" 

Monday, May 24, 2010

Standing Tall

Oh, how I love this old tree in our backyard.  It's definitely seen better, stronger days.  There are signs of rot.  Various snowstorms and windstorms have taken their toll on this magnificent giant.  But even yesterday, with 60-70 mile per hour winds, this tree didn't back down (which is more than I can say for some of the other trees around our house).  It gently swayed and moved with the gusts, giving a creak now and then, but staying strong. 

My husband wants to cut it down.  He says it's only a matter of time before it gives way.  And, unfortunately, if it did fall in a storm, there's no guaranteeing that it wouldn't fall in the direction of our home. 

But I argued that it was still strong and hardy and would stand for a few years yet.  {Of course, I wasn't at all sure if this was true, but I had to defend my tree!}  Besides, I said, look at all of those holes in the trunk.  Too many of our dear feathered friends call this tree Home. 

Not to mention, we'd be depriving this little forest gnome of his little peek-a-boo spot.  We can't have that, now can we?
So, for now, the tree stands.  I convinced my husband to let it be, and leave its final demise in the capable hands of Mother Nature.  So, rest assured, dear tree, you can go ahead and open those reluctant buds of yours.  It's springtime and we're waiting to see your beauty unfurl.

Friday, May 21, 2010

{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 SouleMama

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Cheap, Easy Thrills for the Under-Five Crowd:

I have been wanting to steal some time away in the craft room for weeks now.  But, truth be told, I really need to concentrate when I sew because I have a tendency to make a lot of mistakes if I am even slightly distracted by the general chaos of young children playing nearby.  So, I've been forced to wait until after the littles are in bed before I can attack any sewing projects.  But, then I'm entering my sleepy time too, and often don't have the energy or focus to sew.

The past few days, I've been able to make great strides in sewing curtains for my daughter's new bedroom.  AND, I've been able to accomplish it during the day.  While the children are wide awake. No one was more amazed than I.  How did I do it?  I came up with a few activities (no-mess, no-fuss activities -- as this is a crucial component to making this work) for them to occupy themselves while I sew.

Here are a few examples (just in case any moms out there are looking for easy entertainment for their little babes that doesn't involve plopping them in front of the TV):

By the way, the photo at the top of this post is my son "painting" the wood stove with water.  You could just as easily give your kids a cardboard box or (if the weather is nice and your little me-time project is something you can do outside while they play, like reading, embroidery, knitting, etc.) have them "paint" the outside of the house/garage/driveway/sidewalk with a bucket of water and some brushes and big sponges.

A popular one around our house: popping bubble-wrap by jumping/dancing:

My daughter loves moving my sewing pins from one pin cushion to the other.  Again.  And again. This activity alone usually buys me about 20 uninterrupted minutes (And, no, that band-aid isn't from her sticking herself with a pin.  :)  This is a pretty safe activity for those over age 2):

Playing with buttons is a great tactile experience.  It's even better if you provide tiny containers for them to put the buttons into, close them up, take them out:

My scrapbooking supplies have been sitting idle for ages.  Might as well find some use for them (these are chipboard pieces, so they stand up to a lot of handling and abuse):

Just finding a way for them to play with their regular toys in a new way is a successful tactic.  Here I tied some yarn to a wooden firetruck and a leash to a car.  Now, what used to be strictly push-toys that required them to kneel and scooch their vehicles along, are now pull-toys that can be quickly pulled to follow them around the house.  Believe it or not, this little idea kept them busy for over an hour.  So, either I have children who are easily entertained, or this was a brilliant idea on my part. ;)

And, finally, our last entry for today's "Easy, Cheap Thrills for the Under-Five Crowd":
Sticky notes on a window.  This photo shows them plain. To make this activity last longer, I usually encourage my kids to decorate each individual sticky (with pencil-- no markers or crayons when I'm not right there supervising.  This rule applies only to my son, my daughter is responsible enough to use paints/markers without being directly supervised) before sticking them up on the window:

So, by incorporating a few fun and easy ideas into our day, I was able to finish sewing my daughter's curtains and paint the hallway (and I even had time to take these photos and upload them!).  Good stuff.  I love sneaking a little more productivity into my days.

This post was completed in 29 minutes (even with all of these photos!) as part of Steady Mom's 30 minute Blog Challenge.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary...

A couple of weeks ago, determined to make a dent in the looming pile of (still!) unpacked boxes, I asked Roo to entertain herself while I went through the boxes and tried to find a new home for each unpacked item (all the while muttering to myself, "Why did I bother to pack THIS??").

Here's what she came up with (yeah, not at all sure why that picture loaded sideways):

She found a package of pipe cleaners in our art supply and the piece of Styrofoam came in the shipment of dishes that arrived last week.  She created a "flower garden."  Lovingly planting each one and watering them with her mini watering can, she declared it "a happy and very magical garden where the fairies come to play."  And, seeing how we currently have 8 inches of snow on the ground in mid-May, I can safely declare that her pipe cleaner garden is the only garden she'll be watering for awhile.

She admired that garden and planted and re-planted the flowers for a couple of hours.  During the midst of my unpacking, I heard Roo crying and using a harsh tone with her little brother.  Coming upon the scene, I asked what was wrong.  Through tears, and clutching a yellow pipe cleaner in her hand, Roo said, "That little boy planted a tulip in my garden of daisies!!  Doesn't he know that this is a magical daisy garden, not a magical tulip garden??" 

Trying my best to take her little brother's offense seriously, I suggested we scavenger another piece of Styrofoam for him to plant his own garden.  That way he could mix tulips and daisies up together to his heart's content. 

Here's Roo putting her flowers in the sunny window so that they can grow.  {And, yes, she is wearing a fleece pullover underneath her dress.  She insists on wearing a dress everyday, be it over her pajamas, her winter coat, or whatever she happens to be wearing that day.  We get some odd looks from passersby, but we don't mind. :) }

Friday, May 14, 2010

{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 SouleMama

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Mmmm...Start the day with a little sweetness:

I just wanted to pop on here tonight and share a wonderful recipe for coffee cake that I made for Mother's Day brunch.  It's full of cranberries, orange peel, cream cheese, and it is sooo yummy.  Even my dad and my brother-in-law, who normally don't partake in cranberry dishes, ate second helpings of this.  Of course, lots of sugar and cream cheese will have a tendency to make just about anything palatable. 

My children helped me make this the night before Mother's Day.  While watching me chop up the frozen cranberries, my son said (over and over with the most forlorn expression), "Sad berries.  Berries so sad.  Chop. Chop."  And as my little kitchen helpers sat on the counter top assisting me, I heard myself saying something that probably doesn't fall under the category of typical meal preparation talk: "If it falls on your sock, don't throw it in the mixing bowl." 

I have several old issues of Taste of Home, and this came from one of their recipe contests for coffee cake.  It was tough for me to choose which one to make.  I figured I'd just start with this one (which, by the way, was a runner-up, not even the winning recipe) and work my way down their list.  So, without further ado, here's the rundown:

Creamy Cranberry Coffee Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 egg
3/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups coarsely chopped cranberries (fresh or frozen)
1 Tbsp grated orange peel

Cream cheese layer:
1 pkg. (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup cold butter

In a large bowl, combine first 4 ingredients.  Then combine the egg, orange juice, butter, and vanilla; stir into dry ingredients until well mixed. Fold in cranberries and orange peel. Pour into greased 9-in. springform  pan.

In a small mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth.  Add egg and vanilla; mix well.  Spread over batter.  Combine the flour and sugar; cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Sprinkle over the top.

Place springform pan on a baking sheet and bake @ 350 degrees for about 70 minutes (I checked mine beginning at the 60 minute mark) or until golden brown.  Be sure not to overcook!  Cool on wire rack for 15-30 minutes before removing sides of pan (I didn't remove mine until the next morning -- after it safely made the journey to my parents' house).

My favorite part of this cake is the custard-like layer right there in the middle.  I'm not a fan of dry, crumbly coffee cakes (is anybody?).  There is definitely zero chance of this cake tasting dry or crumbly.  It turned out moist, creamy (with just a bit of crunch from the topping), and had just a hint of tanginess from the cranberries and a light citrus zing from the orange peel.  A perfect balance of flavors.  A must-try for your next brunch or, really, any morning when you need a little motivation to get out of bed and start the day!  If there had been any leftovers from our Mother's Day brunch, I would have raced down to the kitchen the following morning to eat every last morsel.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Little Something for Me

Happy Sunday, everyone!  Pictured above is a little gift I bestowed on myself for Mother's Day this year.  Sometimes we have to treat ourselves to non-essential, but pretty things, don't we ladies?  I saw this necklace gracing the pages of many blogs lately, and I just knew that it was destined to become my new "everyday" necklace.  A staple in my jewelry wardrobe (other than my wedding rings, of course). 

I love the sentiment stamped on it, "hand holder, dream soother, love giver."  Plus, I'm partial to the word "Mama," the way in which both of my children refer to me.  I honestly feel that wearing this necklace makes me feel more present and aware of some very important components to my "job."  When my son is screaming and crying inconsolably for the third hour in a row, I finger that silver medallion hanging around my neck, and I am reminded to be a "love giver."

I opted for the large link chain instead of the sterling ball chain because I love the flowy openness to it (another visual reminder to stay open and receptive throughout my day).  And I also think the links look like a series of wedding bands: the symbol of never-ending love, a love so deep that there is no distinct beginning or end.  I feel that the unbreakable bond that characterizes a wedding ring is just as easily (if not more so) adapted to the love we mothers have for our eternal love.

I do think that all women have an innate nurturing spirit.  We expend inordinate amounts of energy loving, nurturing, and taking care of the people in our lives -- whether those people are children, husbands, friends, or parents.  So, to me, Mother's Day is a day to celebrate all women and the way we make this world a better place by being in it, taking care of our dear ones and making them feel like the treasures they are.

Friday, May 7, 2010

{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 SouleMama

Friday, April 30, 2010

Don't You Think Daisies Are the Friendliest Flower?

I couldn't help but use a line from one of my favorite movies in my post's title today. And I also couldn't agree more: daisies DO look like the friendliest flowers, don't they? Well, they do when they are sprinkled all over a little girl's Easter dress and she's twirling and giggling and dancing with her brother:

They frequently dance together...she calls him her "little prince."

I love the way he's beaming at her in the above photo (and you can't tell, but she's beaming back at him just the same way!)

A bright sunny morning and two siblings that really are best friends...these are the things that warm a mama's soul.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Another close call

{Just a note: if you are a new visitor to my blog, welcome! Just to let you know, I generally go for a more positive vibe around here. The entry for today and the post just previous to this one (regarding my son) are not typical. But, since both incidents were heavily charged emotionally, I found it helpful to add them to my blog. I have always found writing to be a very therapeutic aid, and putting my thoughts down in the written word helps prevent all of those emotions and thoughts from just swirling around endlessly in my head. And, after all, this space is a dedicated spot for recording all the happenings in our life: the good, the bad, the sweet, the sour. But, my plan is (and always has been) to pool the majority of my blogging effort into the happy, joyous, feel-good stuff that fill our days.}

I need a cup of tea to steady my nerves. It is 5:02 am and I feel queasy and so unsettled that I am finding it difficult to choose my words.

We've just suffered another major scare, our second such scare in less than 12 hours. This morning's heart-stopping moment coming on the heels of last night's incident with our son. But, through the queasiness and uncertainty, I can feel God's presence. I am incredibly grateful that He has seen us through another potentially dangerous moment.

I am currently sitting in front of the picture window on the front of our home. I am watching and waiting. Watching the full moon drop slowly behind the mountain range. Watching the dark valley that stretches out before me. Waiting for the sunrise. Waiting to see if the danger has passed. My, were we ever so thankful for the light of a full moon on this early morning.

This is how it all started:

I didn't even crawl into bed until 12:30 am. Still wired and emotional after my son's ordeal. My son woke up fussing 4 times between 12:30 - 3:00 am. After the fourth waking, he asked me to hold his hand while he fell asleep. I obliged. I eventually back to sleep myself, only to wake up again at 3:45 am. This is my husband's rising time. Because of the early hour, he sleeps in a different room so his clock alarm doesn't disturb the children (my 2 little ones and I share the master bedroom). Lying there, semi-awake, I watched for the tell-tale light to go on in the living room so I would know that my husband was up for the day (he has a terrible habit of sleeping through his alarm). I must have fallen back to sleep while I waited, because the next thing I know, it's 4:12 am.

At 4:12 am I was awoken by someone banging on the exterior french doors of the master bedroom. These doors lead to the backyard. At first I thought it was a burglar. But then, I thought, a burglar wouldn't bother to bang on the door first, would he? I got out of bed and walked down the hall to see if my husband was still sleeping (as I fell asleep before I knew whether he had gotten up for work or not). His bedroom was dark and empty. Okay, I reasoned, the person banging on the glass door must be my husband.

As I walked back to the bedroom, the banging on the glass became incessant. Now that I knew it was my husband, I was feeling annoyed by all the noise because I was sure he was going to wake the children. I felt my way through the dark bedroom and pulled back the curtain on the french doors. Relieved to confirm it was, indeed, my husband. He shouted at me through the glass, "Go to the kitchen door!"

So, I made my way through the house toward the kitchen. Before I got there, he was already banging on the kitchen door and frantically jiggling the door handle. Geez, I thought, why is he being so impatient? He usually leaves the house for work by 4:15 am. And that was roughly the time right now, so I didn't understand why he was so frantic.

Before I could completely open the door, he barreled past me. I thought for sure he was being chased by something, and was half expecting to see a mountain lion following close behind my poor husband's heels. He was so worked up he could barely get the words out, "I dumped the ashes from the woodstove into the valley. I think I just started a fire! Holding a bucket in hand, he began to fill it up with water at the kitchen sink. Stunned, I froze for a moment. Then, the distinct smell of fire caught my attention and snapped me out of my daze. He ran past me with the bucket of water and shouted over his shoulder, "Fill up as many pots of water as you can!"

Searching the cupboards for the biggest pot I could find, I started praying out loud, "Please, Lord, save us once again. Please make everything alright. Please help us..." I was shaking, searching fruitlessly for something to fill with water. I found one smallish stock pot and began filling it. I leaned my head out the door and looked toward the valley. Except for the motion light on the garage and the light of the moon, it was pitch black outside. I couldn't even see Mark out there dumping water. But, oh my goodness, the fire smell was strong. In an instant, I thought about our move here, the remodeling we've done, the work we've put in to make this our dream house, and the children sleeping in the bedroom. Mostly I thought about them. They were safe right now, but I had no idea if the smell in the air was a threat to them or not.

Mark made a dozen more trips with the water (why, oh why, haven't we stockpiled jugs of water in case of an emergency like this. And why don't we have a water spigot and hose at the base of our property?). Then, when he was relatively confident it was out, he began to look in earnest for his car keys. Apparently he had them in hand when he dumped the bucket of ashes (by the way, just so you don't think he's an idiot, these ashes were from a fire that burned 2 days ago! So, not fresh hot embers or something obviously dangerous like that). When he saw the embers start igniting the twigs and pine needles in the area, he dropped his keys in a panic. That's why he had to knock on the door to wake me up -- he was locked out of the house and couldn't access any water. Thankfully, the light of the full moon fell upon the keys, laying on the slope of the forest valley, causing a glint of light to catch Mark's eye. Otherwise, he wouldn't have been able to drive to work (new car, no spare key made yet).

So, now I sit here in the dark, watching the valley, hoping and praying that I will not see an orange glow appear. Obviously, I won't be going back to sleep. That hour and a half of sleep I got will have to get me through the day. I am hearing the wind start to pick up and I desperately hope that it dies down quickly. I have visions of the wind carrying tiny embers deeper into the forest where they will smoulder into fire -- fire I won't see burning until it is too late. Every few minutes I poke my head outside and smell the air, just to be sure I don't smell any smoke.

But, my paranoia about the wind gets the better of me. Still in my pajamas (my bright pink bunny ones -- footed pj's, no less -- I am quite a sight to behold), I slip on my boots (which barely fit over the bunny ears sewn onto each pj foot) and go outside to check for smouldering ashes. However, the motion light going on behind me and the sound of twigs snapping (I'm sure the wind was the culprit) made me scurry back up to the house. So, I will have to wait for the sun to come up. The sun always seems to come up way too early when I'm asleep in my bed. But right now, since I'm anxiously awaiting its arrival, it is taking an eternity. I'm cautiously optimistic, though. I think all is well out there in the forest. For the second time in 12 hours, I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

When a moment seems like a lifetime...

We just had one of those moments that will shake a parent to their core. It all started out innocently enough: I was trying to wrangle the children for bed and get their pajamas on. In typical fashion, my son was dodging me like a bullet. Tired of chasing him, I just sat on the bedroom floor and waited for him to come around my way again.

My daughter, being the Little Mommy she is, helped me by taking away the cars he was carrying around and started to lead him back to me. He, of course, didn't like this at all and started to wail. In fact, he threw himself down on the floor and got ready for an all-out fit. And then, suddenly he went silent. Although his face was the picture of a screaming baby, no sound was coming out of his mouth. My husband, Mark, was right there next to him and I could hear him trying to calm him down.

I got up from where I was sitting and went into the hall. I saw my husband and my son coming toward me, when suddenly my son threw himself face-first onto the floor. His body was thrashing about violently. Still emitting no sound from his mouth. {Looking back, I realize that this thrashing was probably the result of panic on my son's behalf, although it looked as if he was seizing} I leaned down to pick him up and he went stiff as a board in my arms. I looked at his face and it was purple. His lips were blue. Really, truly blue. His eyes had a vacant look, and although he was looking at me, it was like he was looking through me. Then, I watched as his eyes rolled into the back of his head. He had stopped breathing.

I asked (well, screamed, is more like it) my husband if our son was having a seizure (we have a history of childhood epilepsy in our family), and my husband replied that he didn't know what was happening. I frantically thrust our son into my husband's arms and fled for the bedroom phone. I vaguely recall brushing past my daughter, tears in her eyes, as she stood watching nearby.

My hands were shaking and my heart was pounding. I picked up the phone and dropped it. I picked it up and dropped it again. When I had finally grasped it (it felt like I was moving in slow-motion) in my hand, I headed back into the hall. My heart sank. My son, drooping and hanging like a limp rag doll, was completely unconscious in my husband's arms. His lips were still blue and he was not breathing. My husband was calling his name. Again and again. "No. This isn't happening," was the only thought running through my mind. I honestly believed that my son was dying.

Panic had already set in, but now it was in full overdrive. "Are you sure he isn't choking on something??" I asked. Without waiting for an answer, I pleaded to Mark, "Do something!" Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him giving several hard blows to the back. I shakily dialed 911 while trying to gather the pertinent information in my head: my baby's age, what's happening, our address, my name. All the while, I was calculating how long since my son's last breath and how many minutes it would take for an ambulance to make its way to our house. My calculations gave me a feeling of despair and hopelessness. It would take too long for them to get here. It's already been too long since he last made a sound.

After I dialed, there was a long pause on the phone line. It wasn't ringing. I waited for what seemed like many minutes, but was probably only seconds. I glanced at my son and noticed him slowly lifting up his head. He gasped. His eyes were still closed but he was moving. I hung up the phone and swooped him up against my body. Hugging my baby, I turned and asked Mark a litany of questions, "Is he still blue? Can you see him breathing? Are his eyes open?" Mark assured me that the worst was over and everything was okay.

I started shaking uncontrollably and sobbing. And I didn't (and couldn't) stop for a long time. Holding him as tightly as I ever have, I buried my head into the crook of my son's tiny neck and stroked his hair. I hugged my tearful daughter and told her that we had quite a scare, but her baby brother was alright. My husband sat next to us on the hall floor and rubbed my knee, softly telling me that all is okay now.

As I laid in bed next to my little boy, waiting for him to fall asleep, I listened intently to his breathing. Was it regular? Was it too fast or too slow? Should I let him fall asleep or should we keep him awake for awhile? Honestly, he was wiped out. I think the whole incident physically and mentally exhausted him. While lying there, I thought a lot about feeling helpless and how awful that was. I have taken a few CPR classes in my time (I even reviewed my CPR handbook on a weekly basis when my daughter was an infant). Why, when it looked like I may need to use it, did my mind fail me? My child was blue and I panicked. I couldn't recall anything life-saving or, at the very least, helpful. I hated that feeling and I don't want to feel that way ever again.

With much mama-guilt, I replayed the moments of our day when I felt annoyed by my son's crying or his outright disobedience. I recalled complaining to my husband how difficult our son could be. Now here I was, overcome with tears, feeling nothing but grateful. And humbled. And I wondered to myself, how can I make gratitude and humility my constant companions without being forced to make their acquaintance through survival of a terrifying event? I don't want to be the kind of person who needs a wake-up call in order to appreciate the goodness surrounding me (even amongst the crying and whining and bickering). I'd like to think of myself as one who treasures life's everyday gifts (after all, I'm the one who annoys my husband by listing all of our blessings when he gets bogged down with negative thoughts and worries). I give thanks in prayer every single day. But, I think I could most definitely learn how to better differentiate between life's "big stuff" vs. life's "small stuff." Because, I have to say, I sweat it all. I make every little annoyance, frustration, and inconvenience a big deal. I do gratitude in a big way. But I also do grievances in a big way too. In fact, I give life's petty little downers too much weight in my life. I suppose that's a pretty human thing to do, isn't it? So, the question is, how does one go about being a little less human? ;)