Friday, July 29, 2011

Food For Thought

My family enjoyed a trip downtown last night.  Moseying along through the farmer's market, hearing some live music and walking off a little ice cream treat!  Seeing all that fresh produce (while still savoring my non-veggie deliciousness ...) is a reminder to me of the Joy of the Summer Salad!  This time of year, it is such a delight to toss together fresh ingredients (some from our very own garden) and savor a bit of summer.

Here are three salads we've had recently.  The first is an old favorite while the other two are new to our family ... but sure to become old favorites!

Hope you're inspired to enjoy your veggies ... so you can enjoy your ice cream, too!

Taco Salad
(A family recipe, i.e. "whatever I have in the kitchen".)

Ingredients:
Lettuce (we use ice berg or romaine)
Tomatoes
Scallions
Ground Beef, cooked and seasoned to taste
Black beans, drained and rinsed
Cheddar cheese, shredded
Sour cream
Salsa & Guacamole (here are our favorites)
Lime, quartered
Anything else that says "taco" to you!

Pile the chopped lettuce in a bowl and top with any and all of the above.  Brett and I enjoy this dinner in place of the tacos or burritos the kids are having.  We get all the good stuff with a few less carbs ... makes us feel a little bit healthier!

The fresh squeezed lime makes all the difference!


Blue Cheese & Walnut Coleslaw
(This recipe is from "The Dinner Doctor", with a few adjustments.)

Ingredients:
1 package coleslaw mix (or 1 small cabbage, shredded)
1/3 cup walnut pieces
1 small jicama, peeled and grated
1/2 cup ranch dressing
1/4 cup blue cheese crumbles
Black pepper

First, toast the walnuts.  Place the walnuts in a small saucepan and place over medium-high heat.  Stir slowly while they toast.  When their skins darken, they are ready.  Transfer to a small bowl to cool.

Combine the dressing and blue cheese in a large bowl and mix until the cheese is incorporated throughout the dressing.  Add the cabbage, jicama and stir well.  Sprinkle with black pepper to taste and top with toasted walnuts.  A delicious addition to any picnic!

The jicama is a delicious and refreshing surprise!

Cauliflower Tabouli
(This recipe is from Food Network Magazine, May 2010, with a few adjustments.)

Ingredients:
1 head of cauliflower
1/3 cucumber, chopped
2 roma tomatoes, diced
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
3 T. olive oil
2 T. soy sauce
2 green onions, chopped
1/2 bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped
Salt & Pepper

Grate the cauliflower on a box grater.  The cauliflower will be in grain-sized pieces.

Great grated cauliflower!

Add the remaining ingredients and toss well.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  I was pretty thrilled with the flavor of this dish.  A great substitute for bulgur wheat tabouli, without sacrificing any of the flavor!


Not a grain to be found ... but you don't miss it!


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Dry Watercoloring!

My name is Morgan and I don't like Play-Doh.

Whew!  That feels good to get off my chest ... but I think there are a few more confessions to make:

I don't like glitter.

I don't like beads.

I don't like stamping.

I don't like watercolors.

Uhmmm ... hmmm ... I think I need to go back and rephrase those statements.

I don't like when my kids play with Play-Doh ... 
and the clean-up involves twice as much time as the actual "fun" had by the kids.

I don't like when my kids use glitter ... 
and I find my floor still sparkles nine months later.

I don't like when my kids are beading ... 
and all I can hear the tippity-tappity-tip-tip-tips of the itty-bitty seed beads dancing around the table only to roll to the floor to join the glitter.

I don't like the clean up involved after my kids have been stamping ... 
and I find myself wiping not-so-washable ink off the table, chairs, the kitchen floor and more than one knee.

And as for watercolor ~ I don't like when my kids watercolor because of the sheer amount of water that goes into their drippy, soggy, colorless paintings.  They definitely have the water-part of watercoloring down, in fact, they use so much water that they "paint" right through their paper to the table below.  We also find that their sodden works of art have to be ironed flat after drying due to their sheer saturation.  And due to the ginormous amount of water used, there is no discernible color ... just a lot of dishwater grey.  (And don't get me started on the periodic floods that cover the table when some little person's elbow collides with the rinse cup ... effectively turning my MOPS notepad a lovely shade of dishwater grey.)

Until ...

We discovered Crayola No-Drip Watercolors ... and suddenly I'm saying, 

"Yes!  You should watercolor!"  

This little number is terribly cool.  It comes with two brushes/markers and a tray that includes six colors, each in their own little contained capsule.  There is also a "cleaning pad" that you can use to wipe the brush clean.  This eliminates the pesky need for an opened jar of ready-to-be-spilled water which makes me happy. (see above)

Your little artist sticks the brush into the small opening of the desired color, the tip absorbs a small amount of vibrant color and then your little one uses that mess-free tip to color to their heart's content.  Want a new color?  No problem!  Simply wipe the brush clean on the pad and choose a new hue.  When the pad gets dirty, which it does, just rinse it off under running water (the same with the brush tips) and then you are ready for the next masterpiece.

There is no spilling, no soggines, no tearing sodden paper ... and your kids can discover the COLOR aspect of watercoloring!

Ashley is hard at work painting her yellow daisy yellow.

Even Lydia enjoys getting her artistic-groove on.

I don't think the gloves are necessary
... the paints are non-toxic.

A garden masterpiece ...
straight out of Alice in Wonderland.

Proof that even the littlest hands can manage this craft.
I have found that my girls are happy to sit and "paint" for long stretches of time ... much longer than the actual amount of time needed to clean-up!  And that makes Mommy happy, too.

Now ... my mom might disagree about this craftiness falling under the heading of watercolor.  But that's only because she can do things like this with her watercolors and brush:




Yes!  She's amazing!  Maybe someday one of my little people will create such wonderful pieces, but first we have to master the water-containment issues!

For more wonderful watercolors to enjoy, head over to my mom's website.  You won't regret it!

_________________________________

Linking up with Mama Kat today ...
Prompt #4 ~ something that keeps your kids busy for 20 blissful minutes! :)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Time-Warp Wednesday

When our herd travels out into public (which is often ... too often I think, sometimes), our number one comment from perfect strangers is regarding the kids' hair color.  Without trying :) we managed to create four follicle-ly distinct children.

Aaron is our red-headed one.  Not Carrot Top red, just a terrific shade of cinnamon.  It's not scratch-n-sniff ... but it is wonderfully touchable!



Norah's hair is a lovely strawberry-blonde.  A perfect kiss of red to make other people ooh and aah.  And search the Clairol boxes in vain for, "Sweet Strawberry Kisses".

  

Ashley is our blondie.  She doesn't have any red in her hair, just long golden, wavy locks, reminiscent of Rapunzel.  With a few hyper-blonde highlights thrown in for fun!



And then there's Lydia.  Our brunette.  She has straight brown hair.  Completely different from her siblings.



This would be a perfect example to me of the mystery of DNA.  Each of us has a distinctive and unique cocktail of genes that make us who we are.  What an amazing tribute to God's unending creativity and artistry!  And you know as well as I do that their one-of-a-kind hair color is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all the myriad of ways in which they are each individuals!

Now, someone from the outside could look at our kids and wonder if they all come from the same family - the same two parents.  (Of course, they truly only have to hang out for a few moments to watch them and listen to them to see that they are, indeed, related!)  Even though at times we might desire to distance ourselves from these four little people who follow us around, it doesn't take long to see the similarities between them and us.

"Yep.  They belong to us."

Recently, Brett's mom and dad passed on a snapshot of their little tyke when he was about Lydia's age.  We now have photographic evidence that I believe would hold up in the court of law as proof of Brett being the undisputed father of our Godzilla, er ... Liddy.

Daughter



Definitely Daddy

Isn't it a little crazy?!  The same straight brown hair.  The same severe bangs.  The same furrowed brow of concentration.  You'd have to trust me about the nose and mouth ... but she makes that same face with her lower lip pooched out.  That is, when it's not stuffed in an ice-cream cone.

So ... the next time Lydia pitches a full-blown, I'm-screaming-til-I'm-blue, watch-my-feet-fly fit in Target, I can confidently turn to Brett and say ... 

"She's yours."

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Polynesia

The other day I was in the basement waiting to put my little Ashley down for her nap.  As I sat there, I surveyed the disaster zone ... toys strewn haphazardly around the floor, doll legs hanging out of the dress-up bin, a half-built race track dangling from the bookshelf, PlayMobile people scattered across the carpet like a long line of refugees looking for asylum and the play kitchen devoid of all food paraphernalia because it's in a heap on the floor.  Sigh ... and a mental note to do some serious purging down there! 


Ashley was taking an inordinately long time to join me downstairs, so I took advantage of a few minutes to tidy several bins.  Underneath a purple, feather-fringed cape I found a blow-up beach ball globe.  I knew the kids had been looking for this (and they never would have thought to look there!) so I set it beside me to take back upstairs.


Still waiting for Ashley ... doo-dee-doo ... 


I glanced over at the globe on the futon beside me and the bold letters "Polynesia" caught my eye.  It stretched across a large portion of the Pacific Ocean and dotted here and there among the letters were little islands.  According to this globe, those islands didn't have names, they just belonged to "Polynesia" and that struck me as puzzling.


About then Ashley finally dawdled downstairs and snuggled into her bed.  I tucked her in and then tucked the beach ball under my arm and headed upstairs for my own quiet time.  But that word "P-o-l-y-n-e-s-i-a" stretched across all that water and all those islands and all those people was still kind of pestering me.


Here's what Merriam-Webster has to say about it:


Polynesia |ˌpäləˈnē zh ə|a region of the central Pacific Ocean that lies east of Micronesia and Melanesia and contains the easternmost of the three large groups of Pacific islands, including Hawaii, the Marquesas Islands, Samoa, the Cook Islandsand French Polynesia


That's a lot of territory for just one little word.  I would imagine that there are a lot of people on those islands that have a lot more to say about themselves.  I imagine that they have individual names, unique cultures, distinct traditions and their own remarkable identities.  And they would probably appreciate being recognized for their individuality and their uniqueness.  Instead of being glomped all together.


And maybe that's why that globe struck me like it did.  Because ... I know that I'm not much different in that respect.  I don't much appreciate when I am assigned to a broad, generalized category like:  Mom, Christian or Woman.  I am a unique individual and I like it that way.


I have carved out my identity as a mom and while I can relate to other moms, I'm not just like all the other moms.  We each have our own tricks of the trade and our own challenges and our own perspectives about the "rights and wrongs" of parenting.  Each of us faces the challenges of discovering what works for our family:  spanking or time out; homeschool or public school or private school; mac-n-cheese or whole grain noodles with red sauce; sleep with mom or sleep with stuffy; The Wiggles or Veggie Tales; and breastfeeding or bottles ... just to name a few!  I love to lend encouragement and, when asked, advice.  And I appreciate hearing from other moms and gaining insight into how they handle challenges and celebrate milestones.  But I get to choose what my Mommy-Identity looks like and it looks different than those around me.


I have also embraced my identity as a Christian ... but I know that my spiritual life looks different than other Christians around me.  This is one area of labeling that really bothers me because it's such a personal aspect of life.  I will make many choices for myself that are not spelled out word for word in the Bible.  And it's important for me to not pass judgement on others because they choose not to do things different than me.  


I also don't like to be clumped together with other Christians when they speak their minds ... especially when they shouldn't have.  When I hear about a church leader making a brash statement that wouldn't have come out of Jesus' mouth, I cringe.   I don't want to be associated with that sort of yuck, and yet so often that un-Jesus-like comment gets attributed to the group as a whole and it makes me want to come up with a different name just for me & Jesus! :)  In truth, that is just the way it is (what with us none of us being perfect) and my responsibility is to live my life in such a way that is above reproach and try to be a better reflection of who Jesus really is and what He would really say and do.


I have also accepted my identity as a woman ... and not a size 2 woman, but me.  I am so tired of feeling like I need to measure up by being several sizes smaller.  Nothing puts me in a sour mood quicker than going clothes shopping and finding myself grumbling about the emaciated mannequins wearing, as Liz Lemon would say, "A Vietnamese, size 2" and then being less than thrilled when I see the same top on a normal-sized person.  That would be me.  I'd be the normal-sized person. :)  Those letters (S, M, L) and numbers (10, 12, 14, 16) are not my identity ... they are sizes arbitrarily assigned to a pair of pants!


Whew ... sorry about that.  I got a little worked up there! :)  That just really irks me.  


ahem ... where was I?


Oh yes ... I am a woman.  And I am uniquely made.  I have my own interests, my own sense of humor, my own passions, my own anxieties, my own quirks ... just the way God made me.  And I don't want to feel like I should apologize for those differences or try to be like anyone else.  I am not cookie-cutter made.  And I'm not a nameless person in a sea of people.  I'm me.


I understand that on a little plastic beach ball globe, you can't list Pukapuka, Funafuti or Manihiki ... or all the other hundreds of islands found there ... but I can try to look past that little label to see the life-sized people living there with their own quirks and personalities!


Monday, July 25, 2011

Maybe She's a 80's Girl

I've been savoring this post for a little while ... thinking about it, making notes, humming some familiar tunes.  It's put a smile of my face a number of times and helped me to look at my little Lydia in a different light.  A more musical light.  An enlightening 80's light.

What if my Lydia had a soundtrack to her day?  

Seeing as her vocabulary is still a bit limited (although she does share new words with us everyday) ... maybe she would enjoy having some famous folks sing what she's trying to communicate with her garbly-gook words and emphatic hand-waving.  Maybe if she had Cyndi Lauper speak for her, there wouldn't be so much desperate crying and more smiley interactions with her Mommy.  'Cause maybe she really does "just want to have fu-un!"

Maybe ...

Instead of yelling, "No! Down!  No!" when she is frustrated by the fact Mommy wants her to have one measly bite of lunch, Tears for Fears could jump in with "Shout, shout, let it all out!  These are the things I could do with out!  Come on, I'm talking to you, come on!"  That would make it so much more fun ... and cleaner, too.

Poor Liddy is the brunt of a lot of tattle-taling.  On a regular basis, Ashley comes running to me with the latest update about what Lydia has touched, broken or eaten.  Poor girl.  I'm sure that she and Bobby Brown could sing a little duet about how, "Everybody's talking all this stuff about me now, Why don't they just let me live ... Make my own decisions, That's my prerogative."  I can just see her strutting her stuff.

There are times, however, when I'm glad that Ashley has alerted me to Lydia's current location and potential trouble.  Having extra eyes has saved us from serious destruction around the house.  That little girl was nicknamed, "Godzilla" for a reason.  But perhaps Peter Gabriel describes her better, "I'm your sledgehammer, Let there be no doubt about it."  Nope ... I don't doubt her ability to clear a bookshelf in 1.2 seconds.  And she can gouge out a chapstick faster that you can say, "Sledge, Sledge, Sledgehammer."

When Lydia is feeling like Ashley is bossing her around a bit too much, instead of slugging it out, I would love for the song "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" to fill the air instead.  Wouldn't it be a treat to hear that in place of the of crying?  Not everyone can be the boss ... even if we want to be.

But I have my own songs about that little girl ... songs that go on inside my head when I'm face to face with my little sweetie.  On a regular basis (almost moment by moment), I'm joining Pure Energy in singing, "I want to know what you're thinking, There are somethings you can't hide, I want to know what you're thinking, Tell me what's on your mind."  Really.  Just tell me.  With words.

Because sometimes words are helpful.  I get plenty of non-verbal communication:  pouty lips, scrunchy face, flailing arms, kicking legs, grabbing hands, even a little spitting at times.  You know, "She's got the look."  The look of someone who wants to say something, but doesn't know how yet.  The look of someone who's desperate to communicate it's her turn for the iPad.  The look of someone who just really needs a hug.

It's those moments when I can't figure out just what would put a smile on her face - because, "Ma ... po ... bobo," doesn't mean much to me - that I join The Fine Young Cannibals in singing, "She drives me crazy, Like no one else, She drives me crazy, And I can't help myself."  Because even though I sometimes feel exasperated by her urgent, "Dee, Dee, Dee's," she is still super cute.

And I can't help but love her!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Food For Thought

As you might remember, I am a bit of a tea drinker.  Until recently, I was still grieving the loss of my dear friend Almond Sunset.  That is until I discovered one last box that had snuck away into the back of the pantry!  Now, of course, I'm in full-blown ration-mode ... savoring each and every little sip.  In light of that, I have been icing up just regular old Lipton tea and sweetening it up a bit as needed for my afternoon refreshment.

Then came the most recent Food Network magazine!  Nestled in the pages of this month's tome of deliciousness was a spread of make-it-yourself flavorful teas.  And through experimenting a bit, I have discovered a new love.  Actually three new loves ... but the first is certainly the best.

Introducing ...



Lavender Tea
(This recipe is tweaked a bit from Food Network Magazine, July/August 2011.)

Ingredients:
3-4 sprigs of fresh lavender
4 tea bags (decaf or regular)
5 cups of simmering water
1 cup water
1/3 cup sugar

In a kettle, bring 5 cups of water to a simmer.  In a small saucepan, heat 1 cup of water to a simmer.  Add the sugar and stir to dissolve.  Add the lavender (still on the stem) to the sugar mixture and let this sit for about 10 minutes.


In a medium sized pitcher, use a clothes pin to clip the tea bags to the side with the bags low enough for them to sit in the water.


Add the kettle of water and let steep for 4-5 minutes.  Add the lavender water by pouring it through a strainer to catch any flowers that might have fallen off.  Remove the tea bags and mix well.

Fill a glass with ice and pour the lavender tea over ice.  Enjoy ... and feel refreshed and relaxed!

I have also tried and enjoyed:

Mint Tea

and

Lemon Zest Tea

The recipes are essentially the same.  Simple replace the lavender with either mint or lemon zest in the sugar water.  A whole new way to enjoy some icy refreshment!

Cheers!

Yes, that's my yellow cup. :)

Lavender Tea

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Something Yellow

Hmmm ... something yellow.  Something yellow.  Write about something yellow.

As I was working around the house and contemplating Mama Kat's writing prompts, I was struck by the variety of yellow things around the house that I could write about.

~My lovely bouquet of yellow alstroemeria sitting on my kitchen table ... a gift from my sweet hubby this past weekend.

~My hardy yellow rubber gloves that protect me from having to actually touch any of the nasty, soggy, slimy food particles during dish-duty.

~My amazing  yellow bottle of Tea Tree Oil.  One little dab and those pesky mosquito bites are itch-free!

~My trusty plastic yellow cup that follows me around the house.  Filled with ice water and always within reach when I get a little "firsty", as Lydia would say.

~The soft yellow glow of the lamp in the living room.  A sweet beacon beckoning me to settle into the couch for a good read ... with my feet up.

~The economy-sized yellow tub of Clorox Wipes that leave my counters, sinks and kitchen knobs squeaky clean and smelling clean.  Even in the hands of my littlest helpers.

~My  yellow sweetie Petey canary ... still singing to me as I toodle around the kitchen.  He has great taste in music!

~ My ...

... hold on a minute.  What is that?!  Is it? ... Yes.  Eww.  A piece of TP on the bathroom floor.  And it's yellow.  Gross.

Even with all of my efforts to find something yellow and sentimental to write about, I'm left with something yellow that makes me feel mental!  Aaahhh! ... As I stooped down to retrieve that little yellow memento that someone left for me, I couldn't help but think about all the other unfortunate bathroom habits that my little people have right now that I am in the process of working on.  My hope is that at the end of all this training and teaching, I will be sending responsible, fun, enjoyable and hygienic people out into the world!

I am working hard on training my kids to ...
  • Aim for the toilet.  More challenging than it would seem.  And not just for my boy.
  • Throw away their used tissues.  All the way into the trashcan, not just near it.  And most definitely NOT back in the box.
  • Rinse the used up toothpaste down the sink.  As opposed to allowing it to dry and crust over.  Same goes for the actual toothbrush.
  • Avoid spraying toothpaste on the bathroom sink.  Essentially, keeping the toothpaste in the mouth is the main goal.
  • Forgo using their hands to wipe said toothpaste spray off the mirror.  It's not really cleaner, just smearier.
  • Keep the hairbrushes away from the toothbrushes.  Makes me gag just thinking about it.
  • Throw away the bandaid wrappers after binding their wounds.  This also goes for the used bandaids.  shudder ...
  • Pick up the teensy-weensy, itty-bitty hair-do parts.  If they fall on the floor, they don't disappear into the bathroom rug.  They still need to be picked up.
  • Flush.  Seems simple, but apparently this is a tough one.
  • Keep the hand towels off the floor.  They seem to jump off the hook a lot, those pesky little hand wiper-thingies. Help Mommy keep them from misbehaving so much.
  • Keep the water in the tub.  Of course, Liddy is the biggest culprit here, but the big kids are just as guilty of dowsing the bathroom floor on a regular basis.
  • Put your clothes in the hamper.  Emphasis on "IN".  "Near" doesn't count and neither does hanging on the towel rack.  IN.
And finally ...
  • Remember that Mommy loves the smell of a clean kid.  That goes for hands, heads, and hineys.  Take the time to actually use soap.  
Thank you.

Now ... if you'll excuse me, I need to pull on my yellow bathroom scrubbing gloves and get to work!

_____________________________________________
Prompt #2 from

Mama’s Losin’ It

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Time-Warp Wednesday

It's been a little while since I warped ... too many things happening today to even think about reminiscing about yesterday!  I love having my kids home for the summer, but I can't help but think about how things should settle down a bit once we are in a regular routine.  That or we will ramp it up another notch and be forced to begin mommy-atom-splitting.  Again.

Ah well ... here's a Time-Warp post that I have been eagerly waiting to post.  For one thing, it's one of my favorite pictures.  For another thing, it involves one of the stories that we tell a lot in my family.  And finally ... it explains a lot about Norah and how she is her Mama in miniature.  (Anytime she pouts through a picture time, I can't help but think, "Yep ... she's mine ...")

This snapshot was taken in September of 1982.  Growing up, we had "the bench" where we would take family photographs.  It was a rickety old thing (my mom's great-grandfather's bench?) and it sat in front of the giant blue spruce in our yard.  Over the years we had a huge number of photo shoots with us perched on that bench.  But none quite as memorable as this one.

For some reason, which is forever lost in my almost-eight-year-old mind, I was a grump.  My mom wanted a snapshot of her kids and because I was a girl and had perfected the pouty lip and was rumored to be a bit of a drama queen, instead of smiling for the camera like my siblings, I protested.  I turned my little lower lip out, slumped my shoulders, severely crossed my legs, covered my eyes and refused to smile.  I thought, in my puny pubescent brain that I was in charge of the situation.  As you can see, I was wrong.

It was my mother who had the final say.



This snapshot became the hallmark of the Nadel kids.  From this point on, my mom referred to us as, "Her Three Little Monkeys" and she has gathered a rather extensive collection of the iconic "See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil" little fellows.

But I think we are still her favorites.

In this case, I was smiling ... I promise.

We love you, Mom!

(And let this be a lesson to you all ... one little snapshot in time can go down in infamy ... following you around for the rest. of. your. life.  Be very, very careful ... and smile.)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Good Medicine

As of today, my mom is 4 weeks post-op for back surgery and she's doing great!  Way to go, Nana!  Of course, she has experienced the expected and typical bumps and bruises in her road to recovery, but to quote the wise Bob Wiley, she's making lots of baby steps toward being pain-free.  And toward normalcy ... whatever that is.  It was a treat to be with my mom and sis this weekend and to see first-hand the great strides she is making ... even if she feels like she's shuffling along.

In light of her diminished pain, better sleep habits, returning appetite (we're still excited for when she can get thrilled about more than popcorn, creamed spinach and brown rice!) and returning sense of humor, we are looking forward to seeing her soon as a family.  The kids are especially anxious to see Nana ... here's to hoping we can all get together soon.

And if it's true that laughter is truly the best medicine, then we will have her ship-shape in no time!  Here's a little snapshot of the kids antics just yesterday morning ... oh, how I wish she'd been here!  It would have been even more fun to laugh with someone else.

We started off with Lydia lining up all five (five!) stuffed and robotic doggies on the desk in the girls room and "feeding" them.  Shoes.  Yes, the food of choice for our poochies is a buffet of flip-flops, tennis shoes and dress flats.  Yum!  Of course, Cousin Matthew would probably agree that flip-flops are a favorite of our four-legged friends ... first hand experience there, I believe. :)

This "meal" was quickly followed by all four kids sharing with me several interpretive dances set to Bobby McFerrin's album "Bang!Zoom" ... and their interpretations were ... interesting.  To say the very least.

Our musical geniuses re-titled the first song, "Cry Babies".  As you might have guessed, their movements resembled four little kids throwing tantrums on the floor.  In synch.  If they hadn't been giggling uproariously, I might have been annoyed.  As it was, their smiley, rhythmic fits of faux-frustration were actually quite entertaining.

The next song they chose was a ballad that featured Norah and Ashley and a dueling hula dance.  There was a bit of a tiff regarding which direction they were supposed to wiggle towards first.  The rest of the song involved them holding hands and swaying a lot with Aaron crawling around on his belly and weaving between their legs and under their "London Bridge is Falling Down" arms.  He also had to watch out for Lydia who was running back and forth between the hungry puppies and their endless supply of "fresh from the oven" foot-ware.  I think that there was one full-body collision, but they didn't miss a step in the music.

The kids entitled the grand finale, "HoboTown".  I don't know why.  According to Norah, she thought the song sounded a little bit like the music from the opening credits of the Cosby Show.  Again ... I'm completely lost on that title.  The Crosby Show is the least Hobo-ish thing I can think of!

As the music started, both the girls struck a pose.  And Aaron hid behind the clothes in the closet.  Ashley and Norah started dancing/marching/flailing/waltzing around the room (and around Lydia) for the first portion of the song.  Then suddenly Norah said, "Get ready Aaron ... here it comes!"  I perked up in my seat, ready for something new.  As the song transformed into a new melody, Aaron began peeking out of between the clothes - in rhythm with the music.  Norah then squealed, "It's the hobo peeking through the fence!"

What?!  I couldn't help but bust up.  Where do they get this stuff?!

Our crazy dancers antics went on like this for some time, finally crescendoing into a Hobo-parade in which the girls retrieved their suitcases and marched around the bedroom giggling.  Aaron, on the other hand, lost interest and flopped down on the nearest bed and re-enacted the most recent battle between Captain Rex and the Clone War troopers.  And Lydia fed the doggies their dessert course.

As you can see, there is no lack of inane silliness in our house.  The hilarity that ensues on a regular basis is always good for what ails you!

We can't wait to see you, Nana!   We've got some good medicine all bottled up for you!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Food For Thought

This week I have been seeing red.  Red watermelon, that is!

Such succulent, run-down-your-chin, sweet refresheny goodness!  We have had watermelon on the grocery list for the past several weeks and those tasty little globular melons have not let us down one bit in the "boo-yeah!" department.  In fact, it's entirely possible that Lydia has been surviving on watermelon alone ... who wants to eat fajitas or mac-n-cheese when watermelon's on the table?!?

As much as I love to savor a hunk of red, juicy melon right off the rind, it is fun to have a few different ways to enjoy this delectable delight.  Here are two such splendid recipes ... enjoy!

Watermelon & Berry Salad
(This recipe is from Food Network, July/August, 2011 ... only a few adjustments.)

Ingredients:
1 small watermelon, cubed or balled
2 cups blueberries
3 mint sprigs
1 lemon, zested* and juiced
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water

*Don't worry if you don't have a zester.  I used my cheese grater to zest the lemon.  The course grate was great (pun intended!) for giving me small shavings of lemon zest.

In a small sauce pan, bring the water and sugar to a simmer.  Remove from heat and add the mint sprigs. Let steep for about 10 minutes.  Discard the mint and add the lemon zest and the lemon juice.  Mix well and then add a pinch of salt.  In a large bowl, combine the blueberries and watermelon.  Pour the glaze over the fruit and toss well.  Let the salad sit for about 15 minutes in order to allow the flavors to mingle. Garnish with chopped mint.

Just try to have left-overs ... I dare you.

Watermelon Slushies
(The girls wanted slushies ... this is what they got ... they liked it ... ta-dah!)

Ingredients:
4 cups frozen watermelon*
1 cup ice water
Juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 cup sugar

*We recently ended up with an extra watermelon in the house ... that's a lot of watermelon, even for these kids!  One watermelon we ate, the other we froze.  Here's how:

Line a cookie sheet with waxed paper.  Use a melon-baller to scoop out the watermelon.  Line the cookie sheet in a single layer with the melon balls and then pop it in the freezer.  When the melon is frozen hard, break it up and store it in a ziplock freezer bag until ready to use.

To make the slushies, measure 4 cups frozen watermelon balls into the blender.  Add the water, juice and sugar.  Blend on high.  I had to drizzle a bit more ice water into the blender to ensure a smooth consistency.  You could almost use a straw ... but it was much more fun to use a spoon.  Makes 2 large slushies.


Perfectly refreshing for a hot summer day ...
Just the thing to cool you off.

Uh oh ...


Warning:  Might make you too refreshed, too cool ...
and too silly!


Thursday, July 14, 2011

I Think You Underestimate My Sneakiness

I posted this little escapade a few months ago, but seeing as it's a story that we tell again and again, I figured you wouldn't mind.  That and the fact that one of this week's prompts for Mama Kat was about a time "you crawled through a window".  Makes for an easy day's work for me!

(Easy day of writing, of course.  I still have four little monkeys to keep up with and I'm currently on day four of The Summer House Purge of 2011!  Stay tuned for the yard sale of the century soon!)

Let me set the scene for you ...

My family had taken a trip to Fort Collins, Colorado for a swim meet.  I don't remember much of the meet because I was there purely as a cheerleader.  I don't even remember cheering, but I do have a vague memory of sitting on a hard metal bleacher seat for several hours.  But it was for my sissy, so it was worth it, I'm sure.

We had some time after the meet to go miniature golfing and have dinner ... then the sneakiness began.  My parents had made arrangements for us to stay the night at a friend's house.  Actually, I think "friend" is probably a generous word ... more likely an acquaintance or fellow employee.  I'm not certain of the relationship between us and the home owners, but I'm quite certain that there had been limited verbal arrangements made prior to our stay.  Hence the need to be sneaky-sneaky.

Upon arriving at the house that evening, we found the doors locked.  All of them.  Hmmm ... that wasn't very helpful.  Following this unfortunate discovery, there ensued a rather lively discussion about our puzzling sleeping arrangements.  It didn't look good.

During this time, it was discovered that there was one window that was open a crack.  With a little work, we might be able to push it open far enough to climb through.  The problem was the height of the window.  Who could we lift high enough to shimmy through that opening?  Who, oh who?  Commence the sneakiness:

I couldn't find the "half in/half out" snapshot.
Honestly.

With just a little bit of wiggling and giggling, I was able to balance precariously on an up-ended cooler, hoist myself (with a bit of help from those down below) and shimmy my way through the window and into the bathtub.  Ta-dah!

Because of my cat-like skills, I made it possible for my family to sleep in a house instead of the car.  You're very welcome.

So ... there you have it.  After that, no one in my family underestimated my sneakiness.

(*Please go watch, "Mr. Deeds" and see for yourself what true sneakiness looks like.)

____________________________________
Prompt #1 from

Mama’s Losin’ It

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Three, Two, ... Aaaahhhh!

I don't consider myself much of a thrill-seeker.  I have never had any desire to bungee jump or throw myself out of an airplane. (Unless I have a Wii remote in my hand and my tush is nestled on my couch!)  I don't much like heights (translated:  My knees get rubbery and my stomach flips a bit while standing at the window on the 5th floor at the hospital) and speed makes me nervous.

How is it then that I found myself giddy and grinning at the top of the tower waiting to shoot down The Scorpion's Tail at Noah's Ark Waterpark?  I have no idea.

As I stood at the bottom of the slide and watched our nephew exit the water with a enormous smile on his face, I found myself turning to Brett and saying, "Let's do it!"  I think Brett was just as surprised as I was at those words.

Before I could change my mind, we headed up the path to the ride.  As we trudged along, I teeter-tottered back and forth between excitement, dread, and a nervous twitch.  Half-way up the stairs, I felt myself waver a bit, but as I am a person who sees all tasks through to their respective ends, I knew I wouldn't turn around.  Especially seeing as Brett was immediately behind me.  Blocking my escape. :)

As it was a cloudy morning, there wasn't much of a crowd at the waterpark.  While it was great to not have to wait in line, that also meant that before I had much time to consider this crazy decision to plunge "ten stories down" at "50-feet per second".  I guess that was probably a good thing.  Before I knew it, I was facing the slide attendant who asked me to stand on a scale to verify I was heavy enough ... "uh, yeah ... I weigh more than 90 pounds ... thanks for the compliment, though!".  Then, before I stepped into the coffin, er, chamber, he said, "You might want to tuck in the top of your swimsuit."

What?!  Why?!

I nodded, tucked, gulped and stepped into the sarcophagus.  I crossed my arms over my chest ... it was getting more coffin-like by the moment ... and wondered once again, "What are you doing?!?"

Then the friendly, computer lady interrupted my last thoughts and started the countdown ... "Three, Two, One" ...

WHOOSH!

The floor dropped out of the casket and I screamed for the next 30 seconds.  Intermixed with hysterical laughter and maniacal shrieking.  I shot straight down and then suddenly my feet were above my head and I was going up.  As I reached the top of the loop, I slowed down ... but only for a moment.  It was just long enough for me to take a deep breath, get a shot of chlorinated water full in the face and be shoved around the bend by the blast ... then the screeching started up again.

As I saw daylight again at the end of the tunnel, my howling began to subside.  I was ejected out of the slide and came to a dead-stop in the water trough at the end of the ride.  Upon standing, I was painfully aware of three things:  my sinuses were thoroughly cleansed, my suit had rearranged itself resulting in an extreme wedgie and I was grateful that I had tucked my tankini top in.

All I could respond with was, "Wow!  What a rush!" I finally had a little taste of what those crazy thrill-seekers experience ... and I understood how that adrenaline can be addicting.  When my sister-in-law paused and asked, "Did you like it?", all I could say was, "Yes ... I'll go with you!"  Back-to-back craziness!

I can honestly say that the second time down was worse than the first because I knew what was coming and the anticipation was scarier than the actual ride.  I can also say with all honesty that I think I have fulfilled my need for speed, heights and insanity all in one day.

I'm not entirely sure what I learned that day (other than the fact that your sinuses can drain for a very long time following being fully flushed with 500 gallons of water), but I think that I will have a better understanding of my son in the coming years.  Inevitably, Aaron-boy is going to go through a phase of risk-taking, whether it's biking at the speed of light, bouldering down a mountainside (with his Dad) or the latest mind-blowing rollercoaster at Elitch Gardens.

More than anything I don't want to be a helicopter-mom, hovering around him, over-using the phrase, "Be careful."

I want to be able to share in his excitement (from my secure location on the bench) and celebrate the desires he has to experience life fully.  I hope my trip down The Scorpion's Tail will help with that ... if nothing else hopefully he'll be able to look back with pride on, "that one time my mom took a risk" and screamed through the whole thing!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Keeping the Magic Alive

While in Wisconsin, we spent one evening enjoying the thrills and spills of the Tommy Bartlett Show.  Not familiar with that?  Well ... imagine a circus on water skis ... complete with a ringmaster, silly skits, daring escapades and Aqua the Clown.

As we sat watching the motorboats jet by the stage, I was torn between watching the thrilling stunts and watching my children's faces.

As one water skier flew over the jump and did a spin in the air, Aaron's eyes  got big and round, "Whoa!  I've gotta try that sometime!"

As the lovely ladies skimmed across the water poised on one leg in an arabesque with their raised leg looped through the tow line, Norah's smile spread from ear to ear.  I could almost hear her thinking, "Ooohhh, something else I could do in a leotard."

As the water skiing pyramid glided past, Ashley smiled past the thumb she was sucking on.  Her eyes lit up ... "Hmmm ... that's taking cheerleading to a whole new level."

As the roar of the jet boat roared around the river in an oval, spraying water in its wake, Lydia covered her ears and grinned.  "Loud!"  Liddy likes loud.

Each aspect of the performance grabbed my children's attention.  Whether it was the danger or the glitter or the noise, they were riveted to the "stage".  The magic of this event captured them.

Unfortunately, as I've grown into adulthood, some of that magic has lost its sparkle.  While I am still in awe of the feats of daring that we watched ... no one I know would fling themselves over a jump set aflame ... I was also aware of the overly-scripted monologue of the ringleader and the "oops, we missed the boat" cover-up by the performers.

While it truly was a well-done show, it was just that.  A show.

I was also struck by sense that while this show is celebrating 60 years of "Livin' the Dream" ... not much has changed in those 60 years.  Of course, there are fresh and young entertainers, but they are performing many of the same stunts that performers 60 years ago debuted.  There might be more bling, more flashiness and more splash, but essentially not much has changed over the course of this show's life.  Day after day ... show after show ... splash after splash.

It was an exciting show for us, but I had to wonder if the magic has been lost for the performers.

Isn't that the way with life?

As a kid, my future was dazzling.  What would I do?  Who would I marry?  Where would I live?  All magical possibilities.

Now as an adult, those BIG decisions have been made.  I'm a mom.  I'm married to Brett.  I live in the desert.  And some days are a little low on the sparkle-factor.  My life can feel a bit like a show that just goes on and on ... and on and on.

The same "stunts":

Watch as Mom makes dinner (again) while keeping the youngest from terrorizing the others by allowing her to "help" in the kitchen.  She is boiling a pot of pasta and trying to cut up vegetables without putting her toddler in danger but at the same time keeping her contained.  Can she do it? ... Yes!  She did it!  And the pasta didn't boil over!

The same "daring feats":

Now Mom will attempt to go to Wal-Mart with all four of her children ... and come out without anything that isn't on her list.  Watch carefully ... she's nearing the check-out line ... she's almost there ... Ooooh!  She buckled!  She said, "yes", to a pack of gum.  She was so close!  Better luck next time!


The same "daredevil attempts":

For the grand finale, Mom intends ... to make a phone call.  She has made a quick survey of the home and it would appear that all the children are occupied which should ensure a successful performance.  Look at that focus.  She's dialing the number.  She's waiting for an answer.  Uh-oh ... did you hear that? Someone is calling for her from the living room.  She darts around the corner into the kitchen.  Someone answers on the other line ... she exchanges a few pleasantries, but she looks worried.  And for good reason ... the children are headed her way!  They are all talking.  That little one is banging on her leg!  She's cornered against the stove!  What is she going to do?!  She's trying to hold on, trying to listen and respond, trying to make her way out of the kitchen ... she did it!  She has escaped to the bathroom!  Well done!  Such suspense!

Yeah ... I can't imagine much of a crowd paying for a ticket to watch that! :)  But it's true.  So painfully true.  Unless ...

If I make it a point to see my life as mom, wife and desert-dweller not just as a wing-and-a-prayer performance, but as a carefully orchestrated and significant existence, my perspective is utterly transformed.  

No longer do I see my attempts to keep Lydia contained as an endless trial, but as an opportunity to study and train up my little girl.

No longer do I see my repeated trips to Wal-Mart as agonizing, but as teachable moments to model good manners, cheerfulness and self-control.

No longer do I see my challenging phone calls as frustrating, but as occasions to remind my children of respect, boundaries and patience.

Of course, I still find myself frazzled, frustrated and fried, but I don't have to settle for that.  With God's help, He is guiding me to be more the mom He wants me to be and giving me the opportunity to re-capture some of the magic of motherhood.  It is a comfort to know that I'm not on my own in my parenting.  According to Isaiah 40:11, God is gently leading me along as I navigate this role as Mom.

I don't want to just go through the motions of mommying with the hopes of wowing the crowd!  And I don't want to lose the magic of having front row seats to the adventure-filled lives of my kids. 

Here's to 60 years of me "Livin' the Dream" and parenting my kids with bravery and grace ... and hopefully a little bit of sparkle!

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Not-So Lazy River

During our vacation to Wisconsin, we stayed pretty wet.  And not from the humidity.  From the first hotel night, through the five days at the condo and on through the birthday party upon returning home, we only had two days were weren't suited-up and splashing.  That's a lot of pool time.  A few kids were at risk of sporting gills.

On our first full day at the resort, we visited one of the indoor water parks on the campus.  One of three ... we enjoyed them all by the end of the week.  This particular park, Klondike Kavern, was designed along the lines of the gold rush, complete with the water-filled Bonanza Bluff play area and Sulfur Springs spa.

This was also the location of the not-so-lazy Bonanza Brook.  My nemesis.

After the first hour of sliding, splashing and sloshing around, Brett headed off with Aaron to brave a few trips down the tube slides.  That left me with the three little girls who all wanted to float around the lazy river for a bit.

Before heading to the landing to intercept a couple of tubes, I strapped the two littlest girls into their life-jackets.  And I'm so glad I did.

We stepped down the stairs into the brook/stream/rapids and snagged two double inner-tubes.  Norah plopped down in the hole of one end of a tube while Ashley climbed into the other side.  They both smiled and giggled.  I lifted Lydia into the hole opposite me and she peered over the edge of the tube at me and grinned.  We were set for some fun.  At least until we pushed off into the deep.

Within just a few seconds, we went from fun to frantic!  As the current pushed us along (and the fellow tubers bounced against us) I could quickly see that our strategy wasn't going to work.  Even with the life-vests, Little Ashley and Tiny Liddy were dangling down in their respective holes, teeny fists gripping their tubes' hand-holds and still sorta-smiling through the clear plastic float.  It was obvious that I needed to get them up onto the floats, but how??  We were in motion and they were slippery.  And I'm short.

I grabbed a hand hold of Norah and Ashley's float and put on the breaks (i.e. my feet that fortunately reached the bottom of the pool).  Then with my body, I wedged my float up against theirs to stop them from floating away.  There was a potential for us to create a traffic jam, but everybody else was just going to have to go around!

First I managed to hoist Lydia up by her life-vest so that she was straddling the tube.

"Ride it like a horsey, Liddy.  Okay?"

"Eee-haw."  ...big smile...


Then I turned to the other girls.  Norah looked nervous and Ashley was still hanging there with a grinning grimace plastered on her face.  Are we having fun yet?!  I reached over to try and grasp her hand but my arms were too short.  I couldn't get a good grip.  I felt a little panicky, but I knew that Mommy needed to keep her act together ... so that grinning grimace didn't turn into tears.

With my calmest voice I addressed Norah:

"Honey, I need you to help."  Yeah ... I need you to help lift your sister who weighs as much as you do, plus a few extra pounds due to the sodden life-vest.

"Can you go under and push her up?"  Yep ... go underwater ... in this current ... and push that bricks-in-her-britches kid up.

"Please."  Mommy is pretty helpless here ... literally, out of her depth.

Norah's response?

"Sure!"

She dove under the tube, hoisted Ashley up until she could swing her leg over the tube (Eee-haw!) and then monkeyed herself back into her hole.

Smiles again ... this time for Mommy, too.

We entered back into the flow and found ourselves surrounded with familiar faces.  Some of our family floated by and an uncle latched onto Norah and Ashley.  I sighed (and shuddered ... a little post-traumatic stress released) and finally began to enjoy Bonanza Brook!

Let the laziness begin!

This experience is actually a pretty good illustration of how I sometimes feel in parenting.  There are times when I find myself on the bank of a new adventure or a new season in mommyhood ... ready to jump in, but not sure what I'm actually in for.  From the edge of the water, it looks like fun.  Maybe a few bumps.  Maybe a few rapids, but with my tube, I anticipate it will be smooth sailing.

Then I get into the middle of the current and find myself in over my head.  My feet can't find the bottom of the river, my hands seem too slippery to hold on for long and the current is pushing me along whether I want it to or not!  This new stage of mothering is not what I thought I was jumping into!

In these moments, I have to trust in others to keep me afloat.

I have to trust in friends and family.  So often I have fellow moms and other family members who offer to help and instead of accepting their assistance, I hear the words, "It's okay ... I've got it ..." come out of my mouth.  And then there I am bobbing up and down gasping for air instead of benefiting from the blessing of their rescue.


I have to trust in my kids.  They amaze me sometimes with their resiliency and maturity.  On more than one occasion, I have floundered in my parenting and been rescued by my own little people.  Whether they are extending grace, a helping hand or a fresh perspective, I find myself back on secure footing and seeing my kids in a whole new light.


I have to trust in God.  He promises to keep my head above water ... my own personal Life-Saver according to Isaiah 43:2, "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you."


Parenting is a wet and wild ride ... but if we surround ourselves with the right people, if we are willing to accept a little help, and if we are resting in our Life-Saver it can be both fun and memorable!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Food For Thought

It's been a little while since I've been in touch with my foodie-side.  I've missed her. :)  We had been so busy with VBSing, traveling, water-parking, traveling, recovering and laundering that we had also been scrounging, left-overing and sandwiching.  Until this week.

My aunt, uncle and cousin were in town and suddenly my dinner inspiration kicked in and I jumped back into actual cooking.  Mommy's happy slicing and dicing in the kitchen; my family is happy eating fresh and good-for-you meals ... Everybody wins!

This week, we enjoyed a few of my favorites:

Southwestern Slaw
Cold Curry-Peanut Salad
Fiery Broccoli (in place of green beans ... and equally tasty and toasty)

Now I'm back into the groove of cooking again and ready to try out some new flavors and foods.

Here are a few new salads to freshen up your main courses ... and to add a little green to your plate.


Creamy Spring Peas
(This recipe is from Food Network, April 2011, with a few tweaks to lighten it up.)

Ingredients:
2 cups frozen peas
1 lb sugar snap peas
1/2 lb snow peas, trimmed and thinly sliced
5 slices of bacon
2 T flour
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup evaporated milk
Juice of one lemon
Freshly ground pepper
Kosher salt

Fill a large bowl with ice water and set it aside.  Fill a large pot with water (with a pinch of salt) and set to boil.  When the water is at a rolling boil, add the snap peas and cook for 2 minutes.  Then add the snow peas and cook for a mere 30 seconds.  Drain the peas and then dump them into the ice water to cool them quickly and retain their beautiful bright green color.

In a large skillet, cook the bacon.  Once crisp, set the bacon aside on a paper towel and then chop coarsely.  In the bacon drippings, add the flour and cook over medium-high heat until toasted.  Whisk in the chicken broth and evaporated milk.  Stir well to remove any lumps and then cook over medium heat until the mixture is reduced by 1/3, about 5 minutes.

Drain the cooling peas and add them to the creamy mixture along with the frozen peas.  Cook (stirring constantly) until heated through - about 5 minutes.  Stir in the lemon juice and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Top with the chopped bacon before serving.

In this case, it's easy being green.
Peas & Sprouts
(This recipe is something I threw together to add a little summer to a recent dinner.)

Ingredients:
2 cups frozen peas
1 lb frozen brussel sprouts
2 roma tomatoes, diced
Rice vinegar
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper

Fill a large bowl with ice water and set aside.

Microwave the peas according to the package instructions and then plunge them into the ice water to stop them from cooking.  Do the same with the brussel sprouts.  Once the sprouts are chilled, cut them into quarters with a paring knife.  Toss the peas and sprouts together in a serving bowl with the tomatoes.  Add a splash of vinegar, oil.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  


Simple, but scrumptious!

Broccoli Waldorf Salad
(This is an old family recipe.  And a favorite in the summer time.)

Ingredients:
4 crowns of broccoli, chopped
1 granny smith apple, chopped
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup walnuts
3/4 cup mayonaise
1 T sugar
2 T vinegar

In a large bowl, combine the broccoli, apple, onion, celery, raisins and walnuts.  In a small mixing bowl, combine the mayo, sugar and vinegar.  Pour this mixture over the salad and toss well.  Refrigerate for one hour before serving to allow the dressing to mingle.

Proof that it's okay to mix fruits and veggies.

Starstruck Edamame Salad
(This recipe is from Food Network, June 2011, with a few tweaks.)

Ingredients:
8 oz small pasta (I used stelline ... adorable little stars!)
2 cups frozen edamame, thawed
1 cup cilantro, chopped
4 green onions, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup parmesan
1/2 tsp. grated lemon zest
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper

In a medium sized pot, prepare the pasta according to the package instructions.  During the final minute of cooking, add the edamame.  Drain the mixture and transfer to a large bowl.  Add the cilantro, green onions, oil, parmesan and lemon zest.  Mix well and then season to taste with salt and pepper.

Warm and refreshing at the same time!