Thursday, May 29, 2008

Me, again

Geez, I'm not doing so hot on keeping things updated around here, am I? Sorry! I feel like I'm in a whirlwind. . . there's been a lot of stuff going on. Nothing particularly newsworthy, just daily obligations.

I've been wanting to write a story to post here, and I have a number of ideas. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to sit down and write it! I'll get cracking soon, I promise.

In any case I wanted to at least check in. And since this is such a lame post, I thought I'd at least post a pic for you.

Isle of Palms- Charleston, SC 2006

And a cool link:
Pick a toy, print the template, fold and tape it and voila! Instant fun.

There. Am I partially redeemed? Have fun with that, while I go do some more laundry.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Car Trips With Kids

What to write, what to write?
Well, a friend asked me for advice on taking young kids on long car trips. I replied, and then decided to repost it here.

What do you do to make long car trips tolerable with kids?

It seems to me that the key to traveling with very small children is timing. Timing, breaks and supplies. Try to structure the trip to maximize potential sleepy-times: be sure that whenever a nap is likely everyone is fed, pottied/diapered and the car is gassed up. That way you can drive as long as they sleep without interrupting them. When they are awake, take pretty frequent breaks so they can stretch and move about outside of the carseat. Help them have fun and burn off some energy at this time.

We have never had in-car movies, so we've never used them to entertain on a car trip. I hear they are the bee's knees, though! I'd be tempted to go forward facing, too. If you do, just be sure he's in the middle of the back seat. You can always turn him rear-facing again after the trip. (I tend to go longer rearfacing than most people, as I go by the carseat's weight/height limits rather than by age. Sweetcheeks is still rearfacing!)

Have a bag full of books and toys that he can play with while strapped into his seat, including a couple cool things that are new to him. You'll know what toys are likely to hold his attention. Keep the bag up where you are, so you can easily reach in and hand something new to him when he tires of what he has. (At each break, collect all the discarded toys back into the bag to replenish your supply.) You should also pack plenty of snacks- don't rely on stopping for food alone, because the timing might not be right. Try to stick with wholesome stuff- sugar and artificial ingredients can cause hyperactivity and mood swings. Fruit, cheese, crackers, etc. Pack something with protein, too- grahm crackers spread with peanut butter, for instance, or chicken salad. Drink way more water than juice. Bring tons of wet wipes. Plan to wash the car seat's cover at the end of the trip.

Have a selection of music on hand that he enjoys, if that might help, or story CDs checked out from the library. And despite everything, do be prepared for rough traveling sometimes. Just do your best, pack some Bach's Rescue Remedy for your nerves, and have a nice drink when you arrive at your destination. :)

Saturday, May 24, 2008

We're back!

I just want to post to let you all know that things are fine here, and I'm still alive and kicking. :) We had a brief family vacation to Florida last weekend, and adding trip preparation, the trip itself and of course unpacking/recovery to my usual list of duties has completely wiped blogging from my accomplishments for the last several days. I'm slowly getting back into the swing of things.

Billy was heading to Orlando for business, and we figured if he was spending the money on gas and a hotel anyway, then we might as well all go and spend a day at Disney. We've taken the boys before (my Uncle and Aunt work there, so it's great for us!), but this was their first time to the Magic Kingdom. We weren't interested in trying to do everything; just being there was an adventure for them. They were thrilled to ride the boat to the park and see the castle. We rode Pirates of the Caribbean (babyman too!), and they climbed the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse. They waited in line to fly on Dumbo, but that was the only long line of the day. We played at Winnie the Pooh's house, rode the train, played on Tom Sawyer Island and watched a show at the castle before leaving the Magic Kingdom. While Sweetcheeks napped in the stroller, we rode the monorail to Epcot for drinks and dinner in "Morocco", and finished up the evening with the fireworks show. It was a good day, and all three boys were remarkably well-behaved. I'd been prepared for trouble, but everyone kept their cool nicely. Babyman charmed perfect strangers everywhere we went. He seemed to genuinely enjoy himself. :) Next time we go, we plan to spend several days.

A highlight for me was our hotel- I got a great deal on a room at the Embassy Suites in downtown Orlando (near Billy's business obligations). The service and amenities were excellent! I highly recommend it. This trip also marked Babyman's first swim- we enjoyed the hotel's pool while Billy was off doing his thing. Babyman liked the water. Littleman and Mr Sweetcheeks LOVED it, of course.

So, we are home and I have been catching up on laundry, bills and blogs while marching through our normal day-to-day necessities. (I am also participating in activities for Sweetcheeks' Montessori school and am planning our big summer family campout). So perhaps you will forgive my dreadful lack of blog updates. And as for right now, I really must go to bed.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Eye Mysteries, Mother's Day and Vonnegut

Babyman's eyes haven't changed their color yet- they are still baby blue-grey. But the transformation is beginning.

It is always so interesting to watch their eyes evolve, shifting tones and blends, changing in specks and starts until finally settling in on their final color choice.

Littleman's eyes ended up sparkling blue (which pleased his blue-eyed Grandpa no end), and Mr. Sweetcheeks settled on rich chocolate brown (with a single, odd little chunk of blue in one eye). Billy's are clear honey-brown, and mine are hazel green. So thus far, we are all diferent. What will Babyman's eyes be?

Care to place a bet?

* * *

I hope you all had a lovely Mother's Day. Hallmark holiday it may be, but I'll take what I can get. :) Yesterday we honored Grandma's wishes and joined a family work crew at her home, cleaning, weeding, landscaping and performing other odd jobs. My sister in law and I organized food for the gathering. It turned out to be a nice day for all. (Well OK, perhaps not so much for my SIL and her husband, who got the tough job of scrubbing down the porch ceiling. They were working their asses off). But the food, company and weather were good. I bet there are more of these days in our future. Hmm, maybe I'll plan one! Think I could convince everyone to come tackle my "honey do" list?

Maybe not.

Maybe I just need to start me a Grrlz Co-op. Yeah, that's it.

ANYWAY, back to Mother's Day. I had a very nice day. I had a nice shower this morning, Billy brought me flowers, and Mr. Sweetcheeks gave me a bracelet from Bead for Life, in a decorated bag (he decorated the bag, the bracelets were a charity project of his Montessori school, and it was all organized by his teacher). It's a cool charity, and really quite a pretty and well-made bracelet. Check them out.

We went to REI, where I got to pick out some coveted items: a sigg water bottle, a new frying pan for car camping (pancakes, here we come!) and a good map of the area where we will be camping this summer. We ate out for a late lunch, and went to the park. The boys played while I went off and had a pedicure.

Babyman needed to eat just as I was getting ready to go, so the timing was great. Billy (distracted) managed to roll the stroller right over my freshly manicured toes, but luckily the nail salon was happy to give me a touch up. (LOL.) I got coffee at the coffee shop and we all went home! Now I am doing laundry and playing on the computer rather than doing dishes, listening to the remarkably strong winds outside.

* * *

I'm giving thumbs-ups today to Bead for Life, and to this list from writer Kurt Vonnegut:

8 Basics of Creative Writing

Kurt Vonnegut created some of the most outrageously memorable novels of our time, such as Cat’s Cradle, Breakfast Of Champions, and Slaughterhouse Five. His work is a mesh of contradictions: both science fiction and literary, dark and funny, classic and counter-culture, warm-blooded and very cool. And it’s all completely unique.

With his customary wisdom and wit, Vonnegut put forth 8 basics of what he calls Creative Writing 101: *

1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
4. Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.
5. Start as close to the end as possible.
6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

The greatest American short story writer of my generation was Flannery O’Connor (1925-1964). She broke practically every one of my rules but the first. Great writers tend to do that.

* From the preface to Vonnegut’s short story collection Bagombo Snuff Box

(I found that list at this site.)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

A nap, and peanut butter and apple sandwitches

Today I had a ton of stuff to do. But, I was TIRED. The fatigue has been building all week, as Babyman continues to struggle with teething and neither of us is sleeping well at night. Add to that the fact that I never get a nap, and well I have been dragging. But this afternoon, I had managed to get a couple things done at least. My bedroom was so pleasant, with the windows open and sunny shadows dancing on the wall, sparkling with movement whenever the cool breeze came through the screen. The older boys were tucked in their beds, and babyman was nursing sleepily next to me.

I took a nap.

A long, luxurious nap in the lazy sunny afternoon. It was really quite heavenly. And evernow, I feel so much better for it. I am still tired, but I am functioning, and my temper's not as short-fused. Much, much better.

Thumbs-up, naps!

* * *

Littleman came up with another original recipe, and this one I actually tried. It was quite good!
Littleman's Peanut Butter and Apple Sandwiches

Spread peanut butter on two slices of bread. Slice a fresh apple thinly, and layer slices over the peanut butter on one of the pieces of bread. Put other piece of bread on top (peanut butter side in, of course) and cut sandwich in half. Eat!

I like to eat apple slices with peanut butter, and of course peanut butter sandwiches are a staple around here, so when Littleman suggested a "peanut butter and apple sandwich", I thought "Why not?" It's not bad at all- the fresh apple has a nice crispness to offset the soft bread and peanut butter, and all the flavors go well together. Good idea, Littleman!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Littleman's Crab Cake Recipe

Yesterday Littleman was asking me how to make crab cakes. I told him I've never made them myself, but that I could look it up.

"I'm sure I could make them if I look at a recipe", I told him.

"I know how to make them!" He said enthusiastically.


"Yeah! First, you get some crabs. Then oil, and water, and salt, and some leaves. And tomatoes. Oh, and some grapes. And then, boom! You have crab cakes."

So there's Littleman's personal recipe for crab cakes. If you try them, let us know how they turn out! ;)

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Spring Rain

Sometimes, a rainy day is mystical. It has a soft quality, where the edges are blurred and grey shapes flit through a foggy landscape. Sometimes, a rainy day is powerful. The air is literally electric, tingling your senses and stirring instincts deep within your soul. Sometimes, a rainy day is peaceful and steady, quietly welcomed by the thirsty ground. But in the Springtime here, there are rainy days that manage to be all of those things and more- the rain is peaceful and steady, nurturing the youthful vegetation, which is just bursting into being all around. The misty edges of your vision are blurred into a gentle green illumination, like hope and remembrance bound up together in this journey's fresh beginning. And somehow, against all odds, despite all distraction and clutter and jaded perceptions, in spite of yourself, you drink deeply of the promise, and you smile.

Friday, May 2, 2008

A Day at the Park

Billy and I are sick to death of suburbia. On the one hand, we hate our complete and total dependence on cars to get anywhere. Even our neighborhood is not ideal for walking or bike riding, since drivers are too fast for comfort when my preschoolers are trying to get out of the way. (Besides, there are a couple ~huff, puff~ killer ~huff~ hills.) But on the other hand we yearn for a place where our children can go out the door and play, without me worrying about them being run over by cars or picked up by a passing stranger. Though I don't have time right now for much gardening, I do enjoy it (especially vegetable gardening!) and want to retain the space to grow foodstuffs. And I have dreams of raising goats (yes, goats! As if human kids weren't enough. . .) which is generally frowned on in suburban neighborhoods. At least around here.

HOWEVER. This isn't a post just to bitch about suburbia. In fact, I was musing on one aspect of this area that we really love (besides the library system!): the parks. We LOVE the parks around here. I have a long list of really wonderful playspaces that are all a short drive (there's that car dependence, again!) from home. Now, none of them are a substitute for unstructured time in forests and wild fields, but they sure are fun, and they give us sun, fresh air and fun activity.

We had a great day not long ago in a nearby park, riding bikes (well, Littleman prefers his scooter, and I was pushing Babyman in the stroller, and Billy was alternately walking to help Sweetcheeks or riding the kids' bike to speed things up. . . which garnered some double takes and laughs from passers-by. . . but you get the idea) and playing in the grass. I just love watching my boys play outside.

As usual, Sweetcheeks was avoiding the paparazzi. Littleman gave me his ham smile. It was a gorgeous day. I was feeling great from the exercise.

Babyman explored the fascinating texture of grass.


I am so glad it's Spring.

* * *

Thumbs-up today goes to this website with a list of the World's healthiest foods. Fill your diet with these power foods, and start feeling better!