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it is so good…

it is so good...

To be here in Michigan making memories!  To pick blackberries on cool days…  To spend hours at the lake with no agenda besides our whims…  To laugh!  Oh my, to laugh…  To watch my sons love and trust…  To smell clean, wet morning air… To be inspired, and challenged, and supported all at once…  To watch the boys’ eyes sparkle and stories emerge hatched from the attention and affection they recieve…  To become an extended family, with smiles and laughter and a few shrugs, making memories that fill my heart. <3. Oh, it is good.

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in which we have a fire.

In A. A. Milne style, this is the post in which we have a fire and I find out what the sweetest thing to say is in an emergency.  I’ll give you a hint: It isn’t to ask, “What happened?!?”  😉

Ladder truck 39 putting away the big fans

Today, I multitasked….unsuccessfully.

While setting up for a tea party, I turned the (electric) stove on with the kettle freshly filled.  Then, wanting to use the quick minutes waiting for the water to boil productively, I opened the silverware drawer looking for a sauce cup cover (read: tiny cover) I hadn’t been able to find but just *knew* it was in there…and the tea ball.  Thinking it might be under the utensil organizer, I took that out and set it next to me (on the stove for lack of counter space) and promptly found my cover!

The baby had fallen quite asleep in the wrap and I thought it to be the perfect time to quick lay him down before tea time.  While in the bedroom, Gabe came in to offer me fake tea and chat.  We chatted for a bit, and then were suddenly interrupted by the newly installed smoke alarm beeping loudly.  My first thought was total irritation that the steam from the tea kettle would set it off and how on earth was I going to turn that infernal beeping off before the baby woke up!  He was sleeping for crying out loud!

I walked under the smoke detector and peeked through the doorway to see how much steam was really going off and my whole body froze, instantly switching into emergency mode.  There was fire.  Real fire.  The plastic utensil organizer had caught fire when I’d inadvertently turned on the wrong burner and flames were leaping toward the cabinets.  Focused, I walked in and tried to pick it up to take it outside to finish burning, but the bottom was gone and I didn’t want pieces of burning plastic falling onto the floor as I carried it burning and deteriorating outside.  I set it down on the center of the stove, not realizing that the move was crucial.  The hood ended up catching the heat and much of the smoke from the fire, as well as the tips of it’s flames.  Had it been left on the burner, the flames would have touched the cabinets instead.  But I digress.

I thought to smother it.  Grabbing a handful of rags, I covered the fire completely only to have the flames burst out the side as if to remind me of my place.  Thinking I might gain a few seconds if the rags were wet, I soaked them and tried again, only to see the flames leap even higher.

In an instant, I mentally gave everything in my house to what this fire could become and zeroed in on the boys.  Walking back, I told Gabe to go to the porch immediately.  I was so proud of him.  He had no clue what was going on, and he ran straight to the porch with no questions and without stopping.  Picking up the whole hammock, I carried the baby out and called Rock.  Watching through the kitchen window, I saw the fire continue, fueled by plastic forks and silicon baby spoons.

Fumbling for my phone, I called 911 and they patched me through right away for the address.  I asked excitedly what I could put on it to control it.  She said to do nothing and wait.  So we waited, and the fire grew plastic spoon by plastic spoon.  Peering into the smoking living room, I pondered what I might need to save from the house if I needed to.  The only things I could think that were important enough to walk back through that door were with me on the porch, so I grabbed my purse and baby bag in the doorway and walked away.

We waited in the car, listening to the sirens approach.  Out of these enormous engines piled men oozing strength and level-headedness.  I knew it just needed a fire extinguisher quick and had a hard time watching them calmly walk to the correct hatch to get it.  But what the panicked resident forgets is that, while I’ve been busy watching fire in my kitchen and feel like I know what they need to do, they are walking into an unknown with their life possibly at stake with each call.  If the fire burns an extra minute while they assess, the additional damage done is worth their life.

So, my piddly little kitchen fire got a quick squirt from a massive fire extinguisher and, instantly, the emergency was over.  My house (with newly openable windows thanks to a responsible landlord who just weeks before installed smoke detectors through the fire department and paid to have the painted-shut windows cut open) was aired out with industrial strength generator-operated fans.  And then, they asked what had happened.  So I told them my story and got a kind smile and a knowing nod from one who said, “So, you were multitasking, huh?”

Two neighbors had collected on the edge of the property when they saw the trucks stop and swarm with firemen.  An older gentleman with several grown children and a grandmother of many slowly came toward me.  I braced myself for what I knew they’d ask…something like “hey, what happened?” or, “What did you do?” and I would have to confirm my idiocy to them too.

But they didn’t.

The older gentleman just looked at me kindly and asked if we would like to come regroup at his house while the firemen took care of things.  When I said I’d stay because I didn’t know what I was supposed to do, or how long it would take, he simply assured me that if there was anything I needed, we knew where he lived and he’d help any way he could.  They both offered some words of encouragement that everything was going to be okay, and left.

Later on, while I threw away all my silverware and scrubbed melted plastic and oily smoke off the stove-top and cabinets (magic erasers are truly magic by the way), I began to ponder their reaction.

As a parent, you learn that when your child has an emergency (the blocks won’t stack, they stubbed their toe, wrestling matches go awry, etc), the last thing in the world that is helpful is to show up and demand, “What happened?!”.  When you walk in on a screaming child and find no blood, the response is so different when you scoop them up in a hug and soothingly tell them it’s going to be alright over and over until the cries die down.  And only then can you make progress with, “What happened?”

Ending the crying or strong emotion instantly is not what it’s all about, even though that’s the natural human reaction sometimes.  No, instead I will take a cue from my neighbors who have both raised their own brood and gave me the benefit, and from the firemen (yes, they were all men or they’d be firefighters) who are trained to be calm in the face of insanity.

Today, I was the recipient of their thoughtfulness.

Today, I experienced how it is for my children when I can offer that kind of calm support.

And so I hope to remember to swallow my “What happened” for a few important moments the next time I am presented with a difficult situation like this, and rather make my goal to offer comfort, support or solutions, even if it means never finding out what actually happened…because that’s really a question that serves me and my own sense of curiosity.  It’d sure be nice to know, but most of the time the comforting can come first.

Tomorrow, I think I might bake a few batches of muffins for some special people to say Thank you.

We did finally get to have that tea party.

Feeling quite grateful today.

 

moving on up…

Today was the day I became the mother of a kindergartener.

Take note the awesome socks.  It’s his flair 😉  One does want a hint of flair, no?

So, never having experienced this for myself, I found a decided lack of emotions I hear so many have.  There were no tears, from me or him.  He was ready to charge off with Dad on the scooter.  I think I did get a quick hug.

With no tears, I got to thinking what it was that I did feel.  This is supposed to be an epic moment in a parent’s life when they send their first child off to kindergarten.

I did feel pride; that he was excited, that I had helped him to survive thus far, that I had succeeded in packing two lunches, making green smoothies for everyone, and feeding breakfast and all with a 4-week old baby.

I felt relief; relief that things would be calm around the house for a few hours, that he was excited and not terrified, that I could stay and clean up dishes after they left.

I felt sad; sad that his brother misses watching and playing with him, but now also gets a chance to speak and tell stories and play his own way.

I felt grateful; grateful that he goes to an amazing school and loves his teachers.

And then I also felt a little too excited about making lunches with leftovers and feeling a little awesome myself.  You gotta take these streaks as they come 😉

Tomorrow might be a whole ‘nother batch of crazy 😀

 

saturday

A Saturday.  Another one, spent with only each other…

We’ve been without husband or MIL now for weeks and days, respectively.  I know they are missed, and it is novel to have this time just to ourselves again.

It’s funny, living as a family apart for so long and then merging back together again is still, even months later, like trying to relearn how to be a family in so many ways.  Who guides the children when certain situations come up, how can we work around work schedules and sleep schedules intuitively, how many meals-to-go need to be prepared, who intervenes the unprovoked wrestling match when we’re both in the middle, when will I get some “me” time to ride my bike at the lake?

Somehow, that last one is extra tricky for me.  When I’m alone, I expect to be the sun and moon, 24/7.   No biggie, pace yourself, no expectation of down time or pure free time.  Being with the kids *is* my free time.

But somehow I tend to get my undies in a knot when we’re both home and I don’t have a broad breakdown of a schedule to work around, no moment I can reserve and look forward to and go fill my tank.  Why do I need that when we’re together but not when I’m alone?  I guess that’s the trick about having a ferociously busy and entrepreneurial husband and being an introvert then, huh?

When you’re parenting solo , a dynamic changes.  I’m still trying to figure out how to capture the essence of it on any other day-in-the-life we have because it can be so sweet.

On a day alone with these boys, I am the sun and these small and medium sized planets circle in erratic ellipses around me throughout the course of the day.  Out to the sandpile and back, down two driveways and then back, into the garage and back, into the TV and then back.

Always back to me.  To cry, to complain, to request, to display, to snuggle.

There is no one else to get permission from, no one else to entertain them, no one else to pull them off of each other, no one whose work to innocently disrupt with the pure desire just to BE together and connect, or to exasperate at 4:30 AM with PLEEEEEASE can we put the Christmas Tree up now {squeal!!!}!?!?!

And so this sweet Saturday goes like the last one.   One where there is but one person accountable for our children.  For better or for worse.  For crazy-making and for sweet kisses and snuggles.  One where every meal, snack, diaper change, clothes change, sweater reminder, smooshed raspberry in the carpet and response to, “Mom!!  Watch what I can do!” is my department.

I miss my sweet husband and thoughtful Mother-in-Law.   I know our boys do.  It will be so good to have them back.

And on these sweet obligation-free Saturdays, I love my department.

the soul of halloween

Tonight, Superman and a dinosaur left home to rush through the neighborhoods in search of (elusive because Mom doesn’t buy it) candy.

It’s funny because as a Mom of little kids, I sometimes forget that the concept of Trick-or-Treating is not a born intuition, nor is the deferred gratification of waiting until you get home to eat your candy.  With one piece successfully acquired, my toothy dino thinks: Mission Accomplished!  Hehe…not quite…oh, there is more to be had!

Lucky for them, the trusty wagon is available for tired legs and Thor (Dad) is leading the charge in which small boys will learn the rubric for successful Trick-or-Treating: porch light on (garage light or lights inside the house, or street lamps in the yard apparently do not count around here…lol), knock knock, “ToT!”, {candy}, THANK YOU!…run to the next house…or ride the wagon…

Yes, I know the picture is fuzzy, but you can still see the “happy” shining through.  I recall the first year we went out with a tiny Tiger, I was a bit taken aback that we only made it through five houses before our small boy communicated he was “all done.”  Wasn’t this part of the rights of childhood?  Candy, costumes, FREE candy at that, racing the dark…it never dawned on me that the enthusiasm and excitement wouldn’t transfer at 1.

The next year, we were better prepared and chose the five houses on the block who would most enjoy seeing our toddler dudded up, sharing full-size candy bars and hot apple cider with us along the way…mmmmmmm…

After that, at three, a vague sense of anticipation began.  An abstract notion of free, combined with the word “chocolate” made for some excitement, especially in the company of a good friend.  And yet still, after a block we were done.  Exhausted and wagon-bound, no longer able to postpone the gratification of free sugar, my 3yo sat peacefully and half asleep with a lollipop in the dark.

Now, this was also the year I learned the importance of intuiting the fear factor, for Cinderella in possession of Twix was perfect, but a reenactment of the Chainsaw Massacre spontaneously being performed from someone’s garage was not.  With a three year old in tow, the avoidance of anything that might cause night terrors (read: less sleep for me and the challenge of calming multiple children with hysterics in the middle of the night) was looked on like the plague.

But at four, we’re entering a new layer of childhood.  Gone are my expectations that Halloween will be for my toddler as I remembered it at 12.  That’s kind of how parenthood goes too…our kids begin to teach us early that each experience is their own, not our memory for them.  Now that I’ve done this a few times, I expect that we’ll need the wagon and that they will be done right about the time it gets dark and I start to really get excited.

But now too, for the first time, I see his own memory layering.  For the first time, I don’t have to explain every holiday as though we’re experiencing it for the first time.  The synergy grows with each day.  These crisp fall days marching toward Halloween, Thanksgiving and eventually Christmas are not just days.  The holiday itself is not just a day.  It is a momentum built over months.

A season where, whether your preparing for costumes and candy, the rebirth of light or the light of the world, our children begin to layer their experiences…building the excitement of the coming day with parties, festivals, celebrations, crafts…suspense knowing what is coming and having to WAIT!

Someone’s sweet ride to school that Gabe got a ride down the hall in.

There is a crossover that happens when your first child begins to remember.  No other child of mine will need to be told so painstakingly why we have joy during these seasons.  They will have a brother to watch and learn from.  And, not realizing it until today, there will be no need for me to patiently explain the nuts and bolts of each holiday.  You do it once with your firstborn (for multiple years in a row it seems), and then they begin to remember.  It has caught be by surprise after being so accustomed to the prior situation.  The child grows, absorbing the role of teacher and, in turn, gifting me the ability to be part of the magic rather than leading the torch trying to explain that there is magic.

Today, we talked about the joy of Trick-or-Treating with our beloved Papa and good friends last year…together.  I got to laugh at our first school party when every other child was off diving into the crafts, and it was my boys who were gently and obliviously helping themselves to thirds and fourths…and fifths.

This holiday season, we begin a new dynamic.  One where we get to reminisce…together!

One where a small boy takes the lead from his older brother.

One where a Mom is given a new role…no longer “explainer and facilitator of holidays” but something else…something exciting…

This is the good stuff.

 

 

 

cookies and cherries

So I know this blog is not the cooking channel, but when you’re building kids, mealtime and food in general is no stranger to exasperation.  We try to keep all stress to a minimum, and coercion nonexistent, but sometimes a little ammo in your arsenal is really helpful to ward off junk food attacks…both for the kids AND you!

Truth be told, it would be either impossible or cruel to hold the second child to the same PURE nutritional regimen that the first enjoyed simply because…well, there is an older sibling to expose them to all sorts of great things.  So, despite the fact that your first never had refined sugar until he was two, your second got a taste of the chips ahoy at one and decided that flavor was his favorite.  *groan*

If left to his own tastes, my sweet two year old would survive on chocolate chip cookies, applesauce, dried fruit, and peanut butter popsicles (any nut butter on a spoon).  The sweet tooth is strong with this one.  Lucky for me, green smoothies are also sweet, or I’d be worried.

However, a year or so ago a friend and I were toying with ways to make our own versions of LaraBars, known for their simple and wholesome ingredients.  For instance, the bar “Cashew Cookie” is made from: dates, cashews.

Epic.  Two ingredients, both pronounceable.

Downer, they are usually over $1 per bar.

So I thought for today I’d share our favorite non-junk junk food around here.  With a batch on hand, it’s an easy snack for a hungry kid or a quick fix for my moments of weakness for a sweet.

Every other day or so, we seem to find ourselves making up a batch of “cookie dough.”  Anytime Gabe is hungry, his little frantic self will hold his fingers together to make a circle…a clear request for “balls.”

Good news though!  These little “balls” of cookie dough will neither make your blood sugar tank in an hour or sentence you to self-inflicted guilt trips for eating them/feeding them.  They are just nuts and dried fruit.

So drag out your food processor and crank out a batch of yummy goodness you can keep on hand, sans guilt trip or upset tummy!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

1 cup almonds (process first)

1 cup brown rice flour (don’t worry about being hard core here.  You can use anything dry: unsweetened coconut, brown or white rice flour, an additional cup of almonds, some other nut you have on hand, grain, etc.  But if you want believable cookie dough, rice flour is going to smooth out the texture best)

1 cup dates (pop in with nuts/rice flour and process)

Add a pinch of salt, a splash of vanilla (1 tsp for you measurers out there) and 1/2-1 cup mini chocolate chips.

To avoid sugar crashes and milk issues, one bag of these vegan/soy, milk, corn, etc-free chocolate chips will make 3-4 batches of cookie dough.  But, use what you can find.  Binging on this cookie dough with or without milk chocolate is going to be better than binging on Chips Ahoy.

Pulse this all into the food processor.  Then to make it all stick, add small amounts of either honey or water while pulsing until it all *just* sticks together.  Maybe a Tablespoon or two.

Then smoosh what you haven’t snitched out already into a little dish of some sort (or, if you have little hands that love to roll, roll them into charming little balls…because you know tiny cookie dough balls are SO fun to eat).  Cut into a billion pieces.  This pan here is probably 5″x7″ and each little square a 1/2″ big.

Ta Da!

Happy boy, happy Mom.

Aside:

The fun thing about these is it’s easy to experiment.  The general ratio is 2:1, nuts/grain:fruit plus pinch of salt, tsp vanilla, water to make it stick and any special spices or flavors, just be sure to add flavors before the final water bits so they’ll mix in.

Ideas include:

Ginger snap cookie dough, coconut cookies, cashew cookies, carrot cake balls, cherry almond, peanut butter and jelly, lemon poppyseed, chocolate coconut…

And if anyone wants some of our recipes for the above, feel free to ask! 😉

show and tell

Did you have show and tell as a kid?

I have a vague recollection of knowing what it was but never having actually practiced it in any of my classrooms growing up.

My Mom does something with her middle school children where they get a chance to share, like show and tell, one day each week.  I love some of the stories she’s shared with me.  I associate middle school with a nightmarish social scene, and knowing that there are some kids out there having good, emotionally safe experiences is great!

So Austin got to take us on a show-and-tell tour of some of his favorite “work” he chooses at his Montessori school.

It was such a fascinating experience to see my son in a completely different context.  He was attentive to details, he was respectful of the materials and space.  The kids use real glass dishes and such.  He was focused…he was an enthusiastic professional in each “work” he showed us.

The younger brother who desperately wants to be part of all the things happening in the classroom but is not every other day went bonkers at the opportunity to actually touch the materials.

It was wild to watch Gabe’s untrained enthusiasm derail the ordered predictability in Austin’s experience.  When big brother is in school, he and ALL the children must treat each material a specific way.  They receive lessons on it, they practice and practice them, there is protocol.

A two year old in the mix was a hard thing to manage.  He was SO eager to be involved, included, to explore.  But of course he has had no lessons nor did we have time to perform one on each activity.  So rather than getting a mat to do the number sticks (this is not their “correct” name), he just did it on the shelf.

Austin’s togetherness deteriorated into this frantic pace, desperate to have his classroom back under control.  Makes me wonder what the best thing to do is.

But overall, it was wonderful to hear how he teaches the younger children to fold laundry (really!?!  I have GOT to get on this wagon).  We saw his projects, which we were impressed with (more to come when it comes home).  We were tutored in the numerous steps involved in washing one’s hands in the wash basin.  So careful and purposeful the kids move.

A bouquet was cut and arranged.

This picture sums up a lot of the dynamic.  A proud creation by big brother…little brother must.touch.creation.

His activity was pretty cool too though…

But even at the end, despite wild dynamics that little brothers *who are 2* bring to the classroom, they had a fantastic time.

As evidenced by the fact that it took everyone an extra HOUR to fall asleep tonight at bedtime.

Yes, other than Monday, the high of every day for my bigger boy is “Going to school” and the low is often “When I had to leave school.”

Sigh of relief.  Wash of excitement.

School can be so wonderful.

Did you get to do Show and Tell as a kid?  Any memorable ones?