Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

We have been squeezing all we can into, and out of, October, wringing that towel for every pumpkin-spiced drop we can get. The week has been full: welcoming a childhood friend and her family into our neighborhood; putting the finishing touches on Halloween costumes; and making plans for a certain soon-to-be-four-year-old's (really!?) birthday. And while I have some catching up to do in this space, tonight I'm going to spend the last hours of October thinking of the weekend past and its sweetness, inside and outside of those candy bags.

You might recognize Audrey's costume. I made these wings from a pile of leftover felt back in March with plans of giving them to Audrey as part of a birthday gift. Then, a couple months ago, she informed me that she wanted to be a butterfly for Halloween this year. Not one to stand in the way of a Halloween wish, she received the gift early. Saturday morning, I covered a headband with felt matching the wings, and attached antennae by covering some thick floral wire with felt and twisting it around the band before sewing some pink circles (with light green circles inside the front pieces) on top. The costume made her sing, literally. She fluttered around the house Saturday morning sporting the wings and singing a made up tune. It may have been the before-bedtime sugar, but she woke up singing this morning, and those butterfly wings found themselves making a second appearance in, ahem, church.

Nathan spent his first Halloween buzzing about in this costume (actually he spent it sleeping in the little red wagon while his sister dashed through the neighborhood), made from a black fleece that once belonged to my sister. The fleece found its way into a pile intended for Goodwill a few months ago, where it sat, because, good as my intentions might be, I just can't seem to make it to Goodwill. Once I began brainstorming warm Halloween costumes for Nate, that fleece got pulled back out (sorry, Goodwill), which may be my best rationalization for procrastination yet. The fleece gained a few yellow felt stripes and a pair of wings fashioned from floral wire and a pair of my pantyhose that had a run in them (yep, he's going to love knowing that when he's older). One stinger and a hat made from the same fleece later, and he was ready for his close up (or at least, running away from it). Two sweet winged creatures zooming around your house? Precious. One full bag of Halloween candy for a preschooler ready to devour it? Frightening. Two memorable costumes without paying a dime? Priceless.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fall in a Hot Pocket

The weather may be reading spring (complete with its crazy storms), but my appetite only sees fall. Fall with its emphasis on meals meant to warm, decadence that nourishes. As the leaves turn I begin to daydream about steam rising off soups and food stuffed in all manners of speaking. So when I ran across this recipe for Chicken Pocket Pies, they seemed like the perfect meal to kick off this last week of October. The crust comes together in the food processor. The filling is creamy and rich (we filled ours with roasted turkey leftover from a turkey breast Jason made over the weekend instead of chicken). I was a fan. Jason said he liked the idea, but something about the dish was a bit too tangy for him. He's requesting that the next time I make them, I fill them using my own recipe for chicken pot pie filling. Done.

Monday, October 25, 2010


Fall makes me want to fill my shopping cart with the magazines lining the grocery checkout stand - the ones with spreads of fall tables decorated with fall foliage, grumpy-looking gourds, and desserts that quite frankly, deserve their own season. I want to pour over pages of handmade wreaths and garland strung from book-pressed leaves and imagine how I could turn the house into a pumpkin-spiced, gourd-and-foliage-filled wonderland of gingerbread house proportions (spirit-wise, not size). But something happens here around fall - things get busy. The days before important birthdays and holidays dwindle as quickly as chocolate on your tongue. We are forced to prioritize. We get down to the business of simplifying. And, just as often as I imagine myself taking the children for a scavenger hunt through the woods to collect the perfect materials for an all-out fall crafting extravaganza, I find myself doing a little bit of this, instead:

Scouring for a recipe for homemade play dough (this one using paprika to color the play dough orange from FamilyFun's October 2009 edition).

Scooping out pumpkins to be brought to life by tiny carving hands and glowing tea lights.

Roasting the saved insides.

And taking some time out to enjoy the rare warm weather, and chance to rest, right before the tickling match ensues.

Maybe we'll get around to that wreath and garland - next year.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

For Posterity's Sake: Week in Review 92

Transitions and the Names by Which we Call Ourselves:

We have felt like a family in transition for months. All signs point to it: a change in management and focus at Jason's job; leaves in all colors and stages of decay scattered about the yard; house organization and reorganization projects planned; and kids growing before our eyes. Of course, nothing emphasizes transition more than a ten-month-old steadying himself on his feet for a few seconds for the first time, or a growing-out-of-her-three-year-old status daughter letting you know how she sees the world, or more particularly, how she sees you.

Audrey's transitions often involve a change in titles. I remember the first time she stopped calling me mama or mommy and referred to me as mother, for weeks. Wednesday, she tried out a new tag. She called me Big Mama. Nonchalantly. Almost in passing. Attached to some mundane phrase like, what are you doing, Big Mama?

By the afternoon, she had decided I was something else. It began with an altercation of sorts. Audrey was hanging upside down, her hair fair game to her little brother's fingers. He took advantage, grabbing a handful. When I told him "no," he loosened his grip. I told Audrey to step away. She body slammed her brother, instead. I told her to go cool off in her room. She refused. I gave her the option of going to her room or having a bag of candy she had been gifted tossed in the garbage. She didn't move. I tossed the candy. She decided I belonged there as well. "I'm going to throw you in the trash!" she said.

An hour later she had, once again, traded her vocabulary. "Mom, you are the best girl in the whole world," she said, spontaneously. I guess she decided to recycle me.

Audrey's problem-solving skills never fail to show me just how quickly she's shedding her toddler skin. She was invited to spend the night with a friend on Thursday night. Of course, her suitcase would not be properly packed without a favorite toy, or twelve. I told Audrey she could take two stuffed animals and one ball. She packed four bags and stashed them by the front door.

"You can't take all of those," I said.
"But I'm going to carry this one in my teeth, this one like a backpack, this one like this (slinging it over her shoulder) and this one like this (holding it out straight)."

Jason found it funny that when I said she couldn't take all of her bags, she heard, you can't carry all of those. I think, perhaps, I should stop trying to carry all my grocery bags into the house at once in her presence.

The weather has been playing tricks on the season, masquerading as spring, swelling our sinuses and causing us to abandon our plans (or chores) in lieu of a blanket on a grassy patch of lawn and bare feet. I'm taking my lead from the weather, grasping these days with full fists and holding on tight until we must move on to the next growth spurt or house project or tumble in a pile of leaves.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Finding the Corners

Today, I found myself finally buckling down and addressing a few neglected areas of the house - the ones I only realize exist after I've tackled the mountain of laundry and dishes that have hovered in our midst the past weeks (or what felt like weeks). And while these jobs tend to include sorting out bins of cleaning supplies or finally assembling (with the help of my handy toddler) the new compost bin that thought it had taken up permanent boxed residence in the garage, something about these days causes my eyes to wander. To the corners. The ones I miss through the piles. The ones that give little clues as to how we spend our days and craft our lives. Ones like these.

This first corner is typically empty. But, this weekend, I found it like this: an Audrey-created pile that told the story of our weekend. The suitcase from her sleepover at Grammy's. The bucket that typically holds our umbrella misplaced by a couple of kids playing "let's drag everything out of the hall closet." Two quilts, passed down from grandmothers, recently taken on a road trip for a photo shoot with the great-grandchildren those women never got to meet, but somehow found a way to love, anyway. While I knew I should, it took me days to dismantle this corner. Each time I walked past, it was like a breath of all things good.

And this. The other kitchen corner that regularly catches my eye: the windowsill above the kitchen sink filled with things Audrey loves. Rocks - some collected and one with a tag on it that seems to have mysteriously been with us a while. A feather mailed to Audrey by a friend. A cool blue pot whose color reminds me of a calm day filled with an aloe plant that, bless it, keeps hanging in there (and that I have used on more than one occasion after burning myself at the stove).

Our corners. Our quiet reminders of who we are and how we spend our time, whether or not the laundry ever gets done.

Monday, October 18, 2010

For Posterity's Sake: Week in Review 91

I didn't write anything down last week. No cute antidotes. No funny lines. Instead, I spent each minute hanging out with family, or chasing little ones, or going about the minute details of our day without taking those little breaks to capture the moments as they come. So, come Tuesday, I can only share flashes: how Jason said "Good morning, sunshine" and Audrey ran to look out the window because, being a pancake, naturally, he would only be talking to the sun outdoors; that "bolution [solution]" has become a common word thrown about our house as we teach her about problem solving; and that Jason got the third degree concerning who he was with one afternoon when he called to say he was coming home and referred to himself and Audrey as "we" and she misunderstood.

So, since I have such scant offerings for last week, I decided to let Audrey tell you a little about herself in her own words. From an interview at the dinner table last night:

Mama: What is your favorite thing to eat?
Audrey: Oranges

M: What is your favorite thing to do?
A: Kick a pickle to a hogs. That's kind of tricky for you. (Kick a pickle to a hogs is a paraphrasing of sorts from the book Silly Tilly).

M: What is your favorite animal?
A: Horseys, I think. And Piggies.

M: What is your favorite thing about being a part of this family?
A: Putting the napkins out and the drinks out and the forks out and the candle out (I think she means blowing the candle out).

M: What is your favorite book?
A: The Fancy Nancy book at church (it has stickers that you put on the pages).

M: What is your favorite drink?
A: Daddy's water (Propel, Mama's water - tap - is too boring).

M: What do you want to do when you're older?
A: I want to do the oven and the toys and the refrigerator.

M: What's your favorite thing about Daddy?
A: For him to throw a pickle to a hogs just like I do.
M: What do you really like about Daddy?
A: His nose. And mouth. And feet. And his eyes because they're blue. And his eyebrows and his ears. And he's so ticklish to tickle.

M: What is your favorite thing about Mama?
A: About you? Your fingers.
M: Why do you like my fingers?
A: Because look at this (points to my wedding ring). That's why I like your fingers. Did Dad give you that?
M: Yes.
A: Was I correct?
M: Yes.

M: What is your favorite thing about Nathan?
A: (Leaves to go check him out). I like his neck and his hands. And his nose.

M: What is your favorite thing about Emmy?
A: Her tail.
M: Why?
A: Because it's really pully and Nate can even pull it. (Which is why the children are not Emmy's favorite things).

M: What is your favorite thing to celebrate?
A: Presents and toys and some books. I thought you were asking what I wanted for my party.

M: What is your favorite holiday?
A: Christmas.
M: Why?
A: Because it's snowing and we can build stuff and we don't have to do it with sticks anymore. And Halloween.
M: Why?
A: Because it's fun and we can get more candy.

M: What is your favorite candy?
A: Dad's favorite and suckers. What is Dad's favorite? Dad, what's your favorite?
Daddy: I like Tootsie Rolls.
A: Tootsie Rolls? That's what I was talking about and I like suckers and dots.

M: What are you really good at?
A: Doing sports and putting candles in the water for fishies on a plate. (I have no idea what that means).
M: Anything else you're good at?
A: Yes. And at being brave. And at giving butterfly kisses.

M: If you could have a super power, what would it be?
A: It would be (begins jumping around the room spinning and flexing and making fighting poses).
M: Would it be to be super strong?
A: Yes.

D: What is your favorite thing about football?
A: Kicking the football.
D: What's your favorite thing about watching football?
A: Just watching it.

D: What's your favorite thing about dinner?
A: Mom is asking me the things. Mom, are you still asking me things?

M: What is your favorite thing about dinner?
A: Eating.

M: Is there anything else we should know about you?
A: My nose.
M: What about your nose?
A: That boogers come out and we can't eat it.

As for Nathan, he's not much of a talker unless his big sister isn't around. He likes to spend his time cutting teeth and is never happier than when hanging upside down. He's a snuggling extraordinaire and enjoys dining on fine pureed cuisine. His favorite pastime is outcrawling his parents and they chase him with clean diapers. He can't wait until his diapers are a thing of the past, oh wait, that's us.

Here's to little ones and the moments they make so special, the ones we catch and the ones we forget to write down. And to noses. Apparently, Audrey likes them. A lot.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Little Catching Up

My little sister made an improptu visit from California last week. Like most good surprises, it had me leaving the dishes, the laundry, even the camera (except for one day trip to the orchard with all the cousins) be while we let the other parts of life seep in and rush over us. This morning, my sister and nephew caught a flight back to the setting of their everydays, while the rest of us began to get back to ours. I have some catching up to do, here as well as at home. But not tonight. Tonight, I'm catching up on a little something else. Sleep.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Flowers for Audrey...and Ducks

I'm still catching up on a bit of computer time this week, which means it's Wednesday and I'm still posting about the weekend. But it would be a bit remiss of me to not include a few pictures of a little stroll we took on Saturday, because, well just look at those flowers, would you? Saturday we found ourselves downtown returning some ill-fitting shoes. Like any parents of an outdoorsy almost-four-year-old (sheesh!) we decided to take advantage of our surroundings (and the ridiculous summery weather) and dawdle along the very oddly-hued Kool-Aid red canal. Audrey soon made friends with a stoic woolly mammoth and some much more expressive (or at least mobile) goldfish. But her real attachment came when she found a row of black-eyed susans. Faster than a mama can say, those flowers don't belong to us, a sprig was plucked and popped into her hair Daisy-Head Mayzie style. Where they stayed. Until some ducks came along and she tore her sprig in half and tried to share (you can just make out the head of the flower cupped in her hand in the last photo). I thought I'd pass them along to you, just in case you're having a flowers-in-your-hair sort of Wednesday.

(As for the shirt she's wearing, I remember seeing my little sister wearing it in photos taken some twenty-something years ago).

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Little Technical Glitch

I started a post last Friday, but weekends being what they are, and subject to spontaneous interruption (or exhaustion, whichever the case may be) I only got as far as posting my pics. I finally got down to the business of adding a few words this evening. But, when I went to publish the post, it published with Friday's date, which means it's hidden behind my last post. I attempted to move it with no luck. So, if you're looking for today's post, check a little farther down. :)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

For Posterity's Sake: Week in Review 90

Most weeks, I hoard the funny stories from our days and stash them here for safe keeping. As I write them down, I relive the laughter. I feel gratitude, not just for the laughs of the day - these precious memories, but for the gifts bestowed upon my children: her quick wit and his easy way with a smile and laughter. As they grow and learn what we all must, that so little of our days are under our control, these abilities will matter (and ease their mama's mind) more than the totals of their SAT scores or bank accounts ever could. But not just these memories. Or gifts.

I tend to focus on the funny, but so often I find myself taken back even more by the sweet nature of my children. They do not have to be this way, and yet, every day they surprise (and delight) me with their willingness to help, to sacrifice, to give, and to love. These moments, like no others, fill me with gratitude - gratitude for how they ease my days and gratitude that I have been given these children and this this job of knowing and encouraging them.

So here are the moments that stuck with me last week - the sweet moments (not that they don't include a little humor), because without them, you wouldn't have a complete picture of who these children are:

Nathan had his third tooth push through Monday night. No tears, no whining, just a few sleepless moments of each night the week before. While he's not quite ready to jump in and help unload the dishwasher like his big sister (not that that stops him from trying to climb into the dishwasher) he seems determined to be as easy on his mama as he can. He's the silent, sweet type, easily calmed by a cuddle and typically only inflicting pain when he snags you with one of those three new teeth while planting a kiss on your cheek. He has us all a bit smitten, especially his big sister who has been referring to him as her best friend for weeks. This week she insisted on feeding him.

She's also quite smitten with her Daddy. Tuesday morning she became upset when she woke up and realized he had already left for work. "But now I can't hug him and kiss him!" she said.

On Wednesday, she saw her brother crawling toward an electrical outlet that had a cord plugged into it. She ran in front of him and blocked the outlet with her body (he was still several feet away) while yelling, "No, Nate! Dangerous! Dangerous!"

Later that afternoon Nate dropped a heavy plastic elephant, which landed on Audrey's toe. Audrey had barely stopped crying and nursing her toe when Nathan smashed his own finger. Audrey left the room and came back carrying a cup of ice to make her brother's finger better.

Toe and finger healed, the two began playing on the kitchen floor. Audrey told Nathan she loved him. "I will always love him," she said, "and my elephants. I will always love my elephants."

Friday morning, Audrey did wake up in time to see her dad off to work. As he was leaving, she poked her head into the garage. "Be careful! Don't crash!"

On Saturday, while walking along the canal, she told us she wanted ice cream. "I thought of it for you," she told her dad (who has sensitive teeth and rarely eats ice cream). "You like ice cream."

Last week, we were blessed with warmer-than-expected weather, some extra family time, and two scoops of sweetness, served with a side of smiles. It was more than we could hope for and more than this mama deserves, but she'll take it - any day of the week.

Friday, October 8, 2010

And Now For Pumpkins

After a week of promises, we finally made it to the pumpkin patch. Last Friday. I was hoping for a fun trip, one that would suffice Audrey's mounting hopes. What we found was a little bit of magic. A fall day turned summer. One daddy home earlier than expected and along for the ride. Patches popping with orange bulbs everywhere we looked. A field of fuzzy weeds for the taking and touching (and storing by mom as little fingers busied themselves with pumpkin hunting). The chance to lend a hand when someone came up one caramel apple short for their little man. Daddy's strong hands to haul our bounty back to the wagon (really, how would I have managed that on my own?). Five perfectly unique pumpkins, one for each of us (even the dog), home and huddled in the lawn. Fall festivities now in swing. A perfect surprise party sort of a day, when I didn't even realize I wanted a celebration. Fall's magic, already brewing.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Making Me Smile Today

This random blue bloom, the first one of the, um, summer?

Then, as to not be outdone, I looked down and found that the lavender has begun sprouting.

And looking out the window to find this impromptu game of catch and first soccer lesson.

Have I mentioned I love this man? I do. He makes me (and a couple of kids I know) smile. I hope you're smiling today, too.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

To The Trees

Today we spent some time among the trees - in their shade, under their leaves, on top of their branches. I pulled the red wagon along the dusty tracks, footprints of pick-up trucks past. Audrey filled our bag one Golden Delicious or Jonagold at a time, lingering in the twisted branches. Nathan, ahem, tasted the earth as only a babe will. We took in the afternoon, each bite, apple, and drop of shade sweet to the touch. We left, our wagon heaped with produce and smiling babes, sweetened by the sunshine and gifts of Fall.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

For Posterity's Sake: Week in Review 89

This picture was taken before I discovered her father had told her, in no uncertain terms, not to climb the trees. Notice the slightly smashed black bucket underneath the tree, used to give herself the little boost she needed.

We pulled onto the nature park drive, a tree-lined road that curves its way past a house and field and into an abandoned-quarry-turned-wooded wilderness with miles of trails, the woods as big or bigger than most Audrey has seen. She took in the view from the back seat. "Mom, this looks like an average forest. Anyone would say that."

Ahem. Last week was your average forest sort of week. We all have them. Somehow, those twenty-four hour days seem to shrink while the chores or meetings (insert your own obligation here) grow like stalks from Jack's magic beans. Mine often begin with Jason packing a suitcase for someplace like Ohio and leaving before the kids wake Monday morning. Next, I scrap all but the most necessary of chores. I fill the minutes that they might take up with trips to grandma's house and parks and moments to catch my breath on the couch (and debate whether I should just sleep there rather than make the long trek up the stairs to my bed). I forget to write down the funny things Audrey says and allow Nate to develop new habits like sleeping in my bed when he wakes up congested at two in the morning. By the time Jason gets home Thursday evening, the piles of "to do's" greet him at the door like a suddenly sprouted bean stalk forest, and a certain little someone wakes up every night wanting to reenact the slumber party that was the night before. The weekend is spent trying to catch up: on stories, snuggling, chores, and sleep. Slowly, the cogs begin clicking back into place, my watch is rewound, and I grab my pen and take to the business of writing things down. Little things. Funny things. After all, this is not your average forest. Anyone would tell you that:

Thursday, at dinner, Audrey looked at her dad. "Remember when the ants bit mom and you killed them?"

"That sounds like me," Jason said.
"You killed them with a gun, because you're a man."

Jason, who has maybe used a gun for skeet shooting, but who I've only seen handle the plastic gun for Duck Hunt, answered, "I'm not that kind of a man." But if he ever changes his mind, those ants better watch out.

Last week, I let Audrey check out The Land Before Time from the library. It had been a while since I'd watched it, which means, I ended up with a lot of explaining to do about why baby dinosaurs where wandering around by themselves and what happened to their mothers and what an earthquake is. Friday, while in the car, I found myself in for more.

"Mom, this boo-boo on my finger looks like the crack in the land."
"Like in the dinosaur movie?"

Then, she began to ask questions about the Tyrannosaurus Rex - why the others were afraid of him and why he ate other dinosaurs instead of plants. I told her that when God made dinosaurs He planned it all very carefully so some dinosaurs would eat plants and others meat, so not all the dinosaurs would be trying to get the same food. Audrey milled this around a bit.

"When God put the dinosaurs in, he did it very carefully?"
"So He wouldn't get bit?"

This week, we're trying to get back to our normal patterns while we steer clear of bites - ants, dinosaur, or otherwise - and take in this ever-growing forest of ours, one tree at a time.