Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Heard Around, Quatrième partie (Part 4)

"Oh that's really great, babe!" I say to Eleanor after she told me something cute.

"No, I'm not babe!"

"I'm sorry, who is babe then?"

"Daddy is babe, not me."

Its true too. I only ever call Brandon 'babe.'   She's too quick for me.


*                          *                              *                                  *

In the middle of Grandma saying prayer for dinner Annabelle begins to shout at the top of her lungs.

"El'nor! Pray! El'NOR Praaay!"

I peek over at Eleanor, and sure 'nuff - Eleanor is not praying and stuffing her face with crooked-neck yellow squash (that girl loves her some squash).

After Grandma finished praying I tell Eleanor she needs to wait until we're done praying to eat, because we need to be respectful to the family and God and give Him thanks for our food.

"Oh, its okay mommy, I had already said my own prayer."

*                          *                              *                                  *

"Daddy theres a mouse in the car! A mouse!!" Eleanor screamed as she sat in her car seat.

And since we've recently killed six mice in our house (yes, SIX small field mice), and the last time she told us there was a mouse we didn't believe her since it had been so long since we'd caught a mouse - we thought we'd gotten them all.  So, Brandon chose to believe her,  and thought a real mouse had somehow gotten into the car (and so did Lisa who was going to be driving the girls in his car).

She kept pointing to a mouse that was under the drivers seat,  so Brandon went over and like the brave man that he is, looked under the seat  (I would like to say I would have been brave, but I've discovered mice make me scream like a little girl. Who knew?)

Sure enough, there was a mouse!

A sticker with a picture of a mouse the size all about the of a fingernail.


*                          *                              *                                  *

As we walk down the street to pick up our mail (which, by the way - what is up with not having mail boxes at each house?  Mailmen sure are lazy these days with all these communal mailboxes for each neighborhood. Hmph!) Eleanor ran ahead like she normally does, and Annabelle tottered along behind her as fast as she could shouting,

"El'nor stop! Stop!" And it was obvious she was really trying to say,  'Stop, I'm not as fast as you!'

Such is the lot of the little sister, always tagging behind in the older siblings foot steps. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Beet Salad

Back in the 1940's my grandmother created this recipe because and I quote 'it sounded good to me."

I was skeptical when she told me about "Beet Salad," which is pretty much just like potato salad but with beets instead of potatos.  In the end, my curiosity won me over and I was very pleasantly surprised.  It wasn't just tolerable,  it was delicious!  I can't wait to have the leftovers {which if its anything like potato salad, will be even better the second time around}.  However, if you don't like potato salad, and you don't like beets, then you won't like this salad {*ahem*Brandon*ahem}.  Which is just fine, more for me!

A food photographer I am not.  C'mon what were you expecting, this is a mom blog not a food blog! ;)

Beet Salad


Ingredients

3 Beets
2 Hard boiled eggs, chopped
1 celery rib, finely chopped
1/4 Onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon mayonnaise (or just enough to wet the ingredients and bring them together
. Less is better here)
Salt to taste

Directions
Steam or boil beets until they are soft and tender.  Remove skins.  Let cool and dice.  Finely chop celery, and onion, and dice the hard boiled eggs. Add all together and mix in a tablespoon of mayo, add more if needed. Add salt to your preference.



Serves 4
--From the Kitchen of Daphne Odell

Enjoy!!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Bedtime Stories: "When I was a girl. . . "

When I was just a little girl one of my favorite things was when my mom (or grandma) would snuggle up in bed with me and I would just sit and listen to her tell stories about when she was a little girl. There was the time she almost got kidnapped while picking avocados, or the time she saw a man rise up into the sky from the ground until he disappeared.  I may be a bit sketchy on some of the details, but the memories of warmth, and love, and security are just as vivid as ever. 

So when I put Eleanor to bed tonight, and we'd been laughing and just enjoying each others company all night (and all day really) I was loath to leave her room and the warmth and love of snuggling in bed with her. 

Besides, Brandon had to work late and wasn't home yet (still isn't), and I had the time to just lay there and cuddle with her. Nothing was pressing on my time but to just lay and be with my daughter (Annabelle had already fallen asleep an hour before, sweet sleepy baby). 


I asked Eleanor, "would you like to hear me tell you a story about when I was a little girl?"

"Yes! Yes!!" She whispered, "I hadn't heard about when you were little like me before!"

And it hit me. She really has never heard about all these stories that all piled together make me who I am.  She knows so much about who I am now, but she doesn't know the the stories that have made me who I am today.  It made me incredibly sad.  I don't why sad exactly, but there you have it. Sad mixed a with a little bit of longing that this child of mine could know me as completely as I know her.

As her little back curved into my body and I wrapped my arms around her it it me.

I could not think of one truly happy story from my childhood.

Not one.

The first story that popped into my head?

The time my sister and I went selling magazines for a school fundraiser only to come home to our neighborhood blocked off with police cars and my dad being frisked up against a squad car.

No, no, that wouldn't do. 

No, instead I went with the story about the first time I had a sleep over at my best friend Carrie's house-

{Yes, it starts out warm and fuzzy.  Just wait.}

And how when my parents came to pick me up the next morning, and everyone was standing around outside talking I went to say good bye to their enormous dog and wound up getting bit in the head -

{ah yes - there it is. A horrible story after all.}

My ear was almost taken clear off. It was a good thing her father and grandfather were doctors, and  stitched me right there at their house, right over their kitchen sink. 

Hmmm.

Yea - still better than the first story I thought up.




Moral of the story: Beware of big dogs. You never know when they might almost bite your ear off.

Hmmm.

Yeah, I'm hoping the exact details of the story don't phase her as much as the time snuggled together listening to the sound of my voice telling her stories about what it is that makes me, me.

As I finished the first story she asked for another, and another, and piped in with questions like, "ooh, maybe you could show me a picture of that?" and, "I've never been there before, maybe when I'm bigger you could take me there!" or "Who helped you, mommy? Who was there to help you?"

And as I kept talking more stories rolled up from the past that I had totally forgotten, like the time that a bee landed in my hand when I was three and I wanted to keep it so I closed my hand tight into a fist.

Lesson learned.

Don't squish a bee in your hand.


The more stories I told, the more I remembered, and the happier the stories became. We could have just laid there for hours me telling stories and Eleanor listening. Each of us perfectly happy in the moment. 

"Maybe you can tell me more stories about when you were a little girl tomorrow, mommy?" she asked as I kissed her goodnight. 

You bet it, kiddo!

Wouldn't miss it for the world.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Day Trips in Northern California: Leoni Meadows

Tucked away in the great Sierra Nevada's just over an hour east of Sacramento is my favorite retreat/camping/summer camp, Leoni Meadows. 

I've been going there ever since I was a kid in elementary school when we'd go there for science and class bonding field trips, Bible retreats in high school, and just to get away. 

For some reason I never really thought of it as a place to take my small children, but when we had the chance to go as a family for the day with the staff {and families} from the Academy I discovered that Leoni Meadows is perfect not just for big kids, but any sized kid - big or small.

I have also recently discovered an amazing program they have every summer called Family Camp  where you can go with your small children and participate in camp like you did when you were a kid (or never got to go to, but wished you had), with all the swimming in lakes, canoeing, archery, horseback riding, and crafting glory that summer camp brings.  I cannot wait to take the girls and go to this camp with them (and any other friends and family I can drag bring along with us}.

While we there for the day a few weekends ago we  discovered the amazing playground with swinging bridge, incredibly long slide, swings, and rustic log cabin playhouse.


We spent time chasing chickens, acting like chickens, and being chased by chickens.  


We played by the old fashioned train depot {though the train was unfortunately missing}
 We were awed by the beautiful horses in the meadow.


Total cost of the trip: >$60 in gas to get there.
             
                 And yes the memories were 'priceless.'

If you have a free day with nothing to do and are within a few hours from the Sierra's make a day trip out to Leoni Meadows and I promise you will not be disappointed.  

Whose Children Are These?

At one point last week I threw up my hands in frustration after Eleanor went to bed and exclaimed: "She keeps testing, testing, testing, and I keeping failing, failing, failing." It felt like she had decided to pull out the "Final Examination of Being a Parent To Three Year Olds" (not to be confused with "The Final Examination of Being a Parent to Newborns/Infants/One Year Olds or Two Year olds/Pre-teens/Early Teens, Late Teens, or Adult-Children-Who-Refuse-To-Move-Out-Of-Your-Home) and I had failed miserably. 

Every rule and boundary I gave her see tested. Sometimes subtly, as in "Don't touch that {fill in the blank off-limit item}, Eleanor."

Do you see this one tiny finger I'm putting on it, Mom? What are you going to do about it? Hmm?

Yes. I see it. And yes. You're in time out.

What?! But I didn't do anything?!! {Screams bloody murder.}

All week. And worse. Much worse.

I began to worry that my sweet-tempered, well-behaved child had permanently shed her skins for this new demon-possessed stranger.

Then a miracle happened. We 'had the weekend off' and went out of our routine at home. We spent time out on the town with our friend Caren, and then whisked away Sabbath for Yosemite to surprise Brandon {who had been there with the new senior class since Thursday} and spent the day in perhaps the most beautiful part of Gods creation I've ever been to.

The entire weekend {pretty much} both girls were the same sweet-tempered, well-behaved children I had almost forgotten we'd ever had.   It was a Christmas Day late-summer miracle.

But this morning when Eleanor crawled into bed with us at the crack of dawn my inner dialogue was less-than joyous.  

And when I heard Annabelle begin to cry in her crib I buried my head in the pillows and groaned just a little.  I knew it was 'my turn' to get up early with the girls, and my body and mind did not feel up to the task. 

Early mornings are my kryptonite.

Before I could crawl my lazy self out of bed to help Annabelle out of the crib, Eleanor dashed out of our bed, ran to their room, and I heard the crib gate open {yes, the crib has a gate, and it was worth every penny just for that feature} and then Eleanor greeted her with a cheerful 'good-morning sister!"

Annabelle ran into our room and I could hear her crawl onto the foot of our bed as we both lay in our pathetic half-awake but unable to process the world sleep-induced coma.

It was then I heard the most beautiful words I have ever heard my child utter. Perhaps anyone utter {I'm sorry Brandon, you know I love you}:

"C'mon Annabelle, lets go to the playroom and let mommy and daddy sleep."

Yes, you read that right. And yes, those were her exact words. No lie.

Annabelle froze and must have turned I don't know, I was pretending to still be asleep, "Come and play with me in the playroom sissy, Mommy and Daddy need to sleep," and just like that Annabelle climbed down off the bed and ran to the playroom where I could hear the sounds of them happily and quietly playing and reading books together. 

Oh sweet succotash, who are these children? First it seems they have been possessed by demons and now it seems they must surely be angels sent from above!


Monday, August 15, 2011

Six Years

I love how each year of marriage just keeps getting better and better.  Of course there have been difficulties, lots of hurdles we have had to jump through through the years- but we've jumped through them together and come out on the other side stronger than before.

I love that about us.

Here is a sentimental look back of us through the six years we've been married for your viewing pleasure:
Awww, look how young we are. Such babies we were!
Not sure how we got so tan that summer - we had just been in Alaska for an entire month
Three years into our marriage (just shy of 3 really) we welcomed our first daughter.  {yes this is us being crazy camping at Yosemite when she was only a few weeks old.}
 And after she is born, clearly I don't matter anymore (lets play a game of "Where's Heidi?")
For our five year anniversary we  spent three whole days away from Eleanor (Annabelle was too young to be away from me yet), while we relaxed at a beach resort. Yet we somehow managed not to take any pictures of us actually at the beach together.  We're amazing.

We went horseback riding together this year (thanks to a wonderful former student of Brandon's) for our anniversary. It had been six years since either of us had been on the back of a horse.  I may need to take some riding lessons again.  If only there were time for that! 

My legs and rear are already sore. 

Even still, I'd ride every day if I could. 


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Heard Around, La Troisième Partie (Part 3)

"I'm putting away the clothes right now, and when I'm done you can fold the socks. Okay? Because I don't know how to do them yet. I'm not big enough. See my feet? They're little.  Yours are bigger. When mine are bigger I can help fold the socks, okay mom?"

I love seeing the workings of her logic spin in her little brain.  I guess it does make sense.

******
After calming down from throwing one of the worst tantrums of her life, at a restaurant no less, and   screaming at me for eating my cracker -  Eleanor looks at me with a twinkle in her eye, holding the half eaten cracker out to me and says, "I was just joking mom, you can eat the cracker!" Then proceeds to burst into fits of laughter.

Funny how she was the only one laughing. 
****

At breakfast I often tell my Grandma the news from the night before.  This morning, as I was telling her about the continued stock market crash here, in Japan, and overseas - Eleanor pipped in, "It's okay, mom! We can pick up the pieces and take the trash back to target!"

Economic advice from a three year old. Pretty sound, I think.

*****
During our morning snuggle time Brandon tried taking over and pretended to push the girls away from me (who had been clambering on me pushing him away shouting, "my mommy, MY mommy,") telling them, "No, my wife, my wife!"

"No, she's not 'you're wife'!" Eleanor shouted at him.

"Oh no? Then who is?"

"I'm your wife, daddy!"

Ah, and so begins with her the many years that girls go through believing they will grow up and one day marry their father.

Uuh, wait? I'm not the only one who thought that, right?

*cricket, cricket*

Right?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Author Spotlight: Sandra Boyton


Hands down our favorite author in this house is Sandra Boynton. Surprise surprise! She only tops all the top lists for children books. There's a good reason she's so well loved.

We've had Moo Baa La La La! on our shelves for several years now, the first of her books we recived.  Eleanor has the book completely memorized.  Annabelle is working her way to it, and can pipe in with the animal sounds and "No no!" bit as we read.  It's such a simple book, but so much fun!  My favorite part is at the end when the book asks "Now, what do you say?" We've taught Eleanor to say, "I love you mommy (or daddy)" depending on who is reading to her. Awwww!

Another favorite is:"Hey! Wake up!" Funny story: One morning Annabelle crawled out of bed at 6 a.m. (her crib has a gate so she can get out on her own terms in the morning when she wakes up) and came to play with me while I was still out. I was so exhausted I just lay there and tried to snuggle her - which she didn't want anything to do with. She crawled off the bed to the playroom, came back rather quickly and hit me repeatedly over the head with a book.  I reached out for the book mumbling incoherently, then burst out laughing when I saw the title "Hey! Wake up!" I woke up.
 
 I haven't read any of her books that the girls and I don't enjoy.  Currently we have:
  • Fifteen Animals,
  • Moo, Baa, La La La!
  • Barnyard Dance
  • Lets Dance, Little Pookie!
  • Goodnight Little Pookie
  • The Going to Bed Book
  • Hey! Wake UP!
I especially love that we can go to this website here, and sing a song as we read the book (limited to Fifteen Animals for us for now).  The girls both get such a kick out of the songs that it makes reading even more fun, if that were possible!

*My plan is to begin a weekly author/book spotlight - sharing the books and authors that the girls and I enjoy the most. 

Friday, August 5, 2011

How to Survive a Long Car Ride Alone with Small Children

Its that time of year. Vacations. Schlepping of children from one side of the state to the other. Visiting relatives, hitting up the beach, and eventually jumping back in the car again for the long ride home. You want to do it, but you don't want to loose your mind, or kill your children. 

Without further ado, here is "Heidi's How To Survive a Long Car Ride Alone with Small Children" (sans fancy technology):

1. Master the ability to reach your arm to all locations of the back seat while keeping one strong and firm hand on the wheel and your eyes steady on the road. Your torso and neck should never move.  I'll give you a moment to practice that. Give a good sweep of your arms all around. Are you kidding me? You'll never make it that way, now try to reach at least 5 inches further in all directions.  Keep practicing.  Once you can do this successfully may you attempt to move on to the rest of the steps.   If you fail to master this skill don't even think of getting into a car with a child: you and/or your children will die, or you will lose your mind. Either or.

1. Pack/prepare lots of water bottles.  You never want to be in the middle of nowhere and hear 100 times, "I'm thirsty, I'm thirsty, moooooooom, I'm thirsty."  Its a good idea to stock up on at least 5-10 extra water bottles that you can stash next to you, that way every time a kid drops the bottle you already gave to them into the deep caverns of back seat floor (remember: there are limits to the reach of #1),  all you gotta do is grab another bottle and toss it back (gently). Rinse, and repeat.  At the next pit stop (which will be soon considering the amount of water being pumped into pea-sized bladders) simply gather up the lost bottles of the backseat floor, and you're good to go 'till the next stop. 

2. Prepare a potpourri of snacks. Not actual 'potpourri,' mind you. Although that could be usual too, come to think of it . . . Where was I? Oh yes, it should go without saying snacks are a mom's best friend in the car.  The important thing is keeping control of the snacks.  If you give the bags to the children you are  begging for them to shove crackers and rasins into every crack and crevice within reach.  Instead, dole snacks out like they are the rarest jewels on the plant and only you have access to the hidden quarry.
Good ideas: Anything 'dry,' crackers, raisins, nuts (if you're child is old enough to eat them, of course), cherrio's, chex, etc.
Bad ideas: Anything 'wet.'  Fruit leather sounds like a good idea but it gets messy quick, and nobody wants a sticky kid, car seat, and car. Amirite?



3. Keep a sense of humor.  If you wake up on the wrong side of the bed before a trip, you're doomed.  Say a sincere prayer begging God to release your humor back to you, grab it and run. At some point on the trip you will accidentally wind up with half a water bottle sprayed onto your face and clothes, soaking you through and through (or worse! Accidents follow kids  like the bubonic plague follows mice).  When the water hits your face and your child is on the verge of a meltdown, instead of getting upset, laugh and say, "ahh, don't worry about it my clothes will dry," because they will, and stains will wash out.  Getting upset for something your child didn't mean to do is recipe for disaster.  Accidents happen.  Get over it.  The way you react to accidents is crucial to your sanity and theirs. Just roll with the punches.  You'll appreciate it when they spill the other half of the bottle all over themselves, think about bursting into tears, then pull it together and say, "Its okay, it'll dry, right mom?"  
Sure will kiddo!

Keeping your humor is also important for those inevitable tantrums.  They will happen.  Its only a matter of time. Remember you are driving and its important to always remain calm, cool, and collected.  Don't let your child's immature ability to control his/her emotions  keep you from controlling yours and being distracted from the road (who am I kidding, this is important when you're not on the road too).



4. Keep a bag of books and toys within your reach at all times.  The toys you gave them at the start of the trip will be on the floor before you can reach 60 mph.  If the toy drops out of rule #1's zone, grab a new toy from the bag and you're good to go. Stumped for what to put in the bags? Stickers, crayons and a pad of paper,  (for children old enough not to eat them) magnetic doodling boards, plastic animals, balls that light up, squishy balls, several pretend cell phones (at least one per child), favorite stuffed animals, dolls, and books are our personal favorites.  

5. Don't forget your stash of children's blankets.  Don't be tricked into thinking its summer and you won't need blankets for the kids.  They always need a blanket. Also, you should train your children that whenever they are upset in the car and can't calm themselves down to put a blanket over their head so they no longer have to look at any of the evil adults or pestering siblings.  At this point of meltdown tossing a blanket over their own head will typically result in a long, long nap. The long car ride with children's mecca. Which reminds me about #6.

6. Leave right before the longest nap-time of the day, whenever that is for your child.   The goal here is to have at least 2-3 hours of pure silence for you to meditate before the crazy begins.  This is important to the overall health and sanity of all passengers.

7. Bring along those annoyingly upbeat pack of children's sing-along CDs.  I know, I know, stop groaning. You'll thank me later.  Trust me, listening to a 30-something adult sing obnoxiously upbeat songs like a 5 year old is much better than listening for 30 minutes to a crying 5 year (or whatever the case may be).  Just put the CD in, sing along (remember #3) and bounce along like you're dancing too.  Making your kids laugh at you is always the goal.


8.  Before leaving, study up on all the car games to play with your children.  Honestly, I sometimes forget about these games until the last leg of the journey, and I'm desperate.  Classics like, "I spy" are a must - and easy enough for fairly small children.  As they get older games like 'counting _____" (cars, tree's, telephone poles, etc.) are fun and educational (teach so they don't know you're teaching).

Here are some good sources if you're fresh out of ideas:
http://www.momsminivan.com/bigkids.html
http://familyfun.go.com/vacations/on-the-road-games/
http://travelwithkids.about.com/cs/printgames/a/gamesprint.htm

9. Try to keep in mind it's not about where you're going that so important, it's the journey you take together.

Now share, what are your car travel sanity saving tips?