adventurous eating

We had the chance to be wildly adventurous recently when I found a batch of bright pink DRAGONFRUIT.  I mean, seriously, naming a fruit “dragonfruit” automatically skyrockets it into a sub-super-hero status…so cool.

So our planned after school snack of wicked-awesome-dragon-fruit is planned and the kids are all fired up about it.  As a mom, I’m secretly thinking, “Bwahaha…my kids are fired up about fruit…yes!!” as they enter the house shrieking in excitement and joking that they’re going to eat a dragon!!

Opening it up, we are rewarded with the creamy white flesh and what appears to be star constellations formed inside.  Totally amazing.  I’ve got visions of bringing in dragon fruits for Austin’s class to let the kids try…

A tentative taste…

A bolder mouthful…

Followed immediately by questioning looks to me…looks that said, “Uh, what happened to our fruit?  It tastes of unflavored grits with the texture of very ripe kiwi.”  I returned the questioning look too as it took me by surprise as well.  I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it certainly involved something that one could describe as “a flavor.”  Apparently in my research, I had found out how to eat the fruit but not that the fruit would not actually taste like anything.

Boo.

I’m not knocking the dragon fruit.  It scores big points in looking awesome.  It is like looking at a tall glass of pink lemonade only to find out it’s just water with a few drops of food coloring in it.   We’ll call the flavor “anticlimactic.”

So we moved on to oranges, and left the dragon fruit to supply fiber and vitamin C to our morning smoothie…which it did, as well as leaving it sufficiently devoid of flavor in spite of the banana and mango that no one drank much of the shake either…lol.

Well, that’s what an adventure is all about, isn’t it?!

 

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into the woods…

After months of being in Dallas, hearing stories of all the dump truck loads of tires and trash pulled out of the forest…knowing that it exists, having driven past it, being shown where the trailheads are and the spots where “just a short walk in there and you’ll see one of the best views in the city” but never having actually gone yet, we finally went on a family tour in the Trinity Forest.

And guess what!  There are WOODS in DALLAS!  As in, a real trail with topographical interest, roots coming out of the inclines, and rocks crumbling in spots.  A brief walk through a little meadow full of new flowers and berries I’ve never even seen the color of before…

…and little boys playing with rocks in the dirt…

It was so refreshing.

With little kids, your expectations and reality of going “on a hike” drastically change from what you remember pre-kids.  Kids like to be involved, feeling, doing, exploring, oogling, and then when they’re little and tired, you better be prepared with a  backpack or a strong arm or *something*!

Gone, for a time, are the days of anything that involves the words “strenuous” or “miles” but it’s a good excuse to slow down and notice the little things…

Like the one tiny green branch shooting up toward the sun, the only vestige of life left on an entire tree hell bent on surviving.

There is a lot of hype about Nature Deficit Disorder.  I get it.  Being back in the woods is like coming home.  Left at the trailhead are the manicured boxwoods and lawns…sometimes even other things we find ourselves so accustomed to we forget it’s not the “norm”…walking into the woods leaves the ticky tacky little boxes in another world…

The show “Weeds” did a great portrayal of it.  Click on the link…NBC or whoever owns the song has disabled embedding, but it’s a great visual with the song 🙂

Rather than valuing aesthetic beauty in the conventional sense, the forest knows a different beauty.  The beauty of the forest is less pruning and more like a spectacular fireworks display of determination: shoots sprouting up out of dead stump, fallen limbs that refuse to die and continue to grow skyward.

It’s this wild contradiction to the laws of thermodynamics and entropy…that even while everything is tending to chaos with trees splitting and logs decaying…the sun creates life that defies it…growing and creating the forest.

Perfectly imperfect oak trees frame the vista of the forest at our picnic spot.

In horticulture, known for their strength, size and beauty, the mighty oak is revered like few other trees.  In this forest, the oaks are imperfect friends…content to sit with you on the bench and share their vista of the forest and city…at peace as their twisted trunks rumble each time the commuter train passes.  Yes, children need the forest, in any dose they can get it.

And on the way home, tanks full of adventure and tummies full of blueberry muffins, my boys fell asleep.

Perfect.

Do you have memories of playing in the woods as a kid?  Do you find them valuable now? 

taking time

Once school starts, it’s easy to forget the rhythm of a sweet, slow day.  A day where no car is involved and the only ones you’re responsible to spend the day in orbit around you in one form or another.

It’s the little joy of finding the library open…the peaceful pace which allows for time to stop and watch the tree trimmers on the walk there.

It’s the long, deep breath you take when you dust off an old, found table and discover that it’s just the ticket for an hour of peaceful coloring in the sunshine with a cup of tea.

It’s sharing the tea, and finding that a certain off-brand of crayons can actually color fingernails any color you want!

And then reinventing the table at the end of the day for a magical picnic in the sunshine.  Smiling and telling stories of the day…

It really fills your tank up.

So much so, that when you wake up the next morning to the kitchen floor covered in dog poop, a sore throat and a sick husband….it just doesn’t seem all that bad.

😉  Wishing you all a wonderful weekend, filling your tank for the next adventure…

post-it notes speak louder than words…oh wait…

Very few days go by when I don’t have a finger-in-the-nose moment where I can only wonder what the social “norm” might be for acceptable behavior based on the situation and age of the child who has spawned the brilliant idea.

A truly horrifying scene: running the streets after a torrential downpour, barefoot.  Could be.  We walk our street multiple times per day though and have a very clear idea of what is commonly found next to the curb.  Calculated risk.

The other day, we found ourselves early to a store on a lazy Sunday morning.  Needing to pass 5 minutes, we tried to get out and splash in the puddles, but it was just too cold.  So, we climbed back in and drove around the back of the empty building, splashed through a couple puddles with the car, and then found ourselves back where we started in the parking lot.

With two antsy boys, we made the seemingly benign decision to ask if the youngest would like to try “driving” the car around the back of said empty building.  Now, when I say “driving” in this context, it’s more like “holding onto the steering wheel…mostly…while occasionally picking a nose or checking out a puddle while we creep along at 2 mph.”  So, we crawl around the back, park, and finally go in.

Upon arriving back at our car, we find we’ve been post-it-noted.  In true passive-aggressive style, we find our van stickied with hot pink notes screaming, “CAR SEATS ARE THE LAW IN TEXAS!!”, “YOU ARE ENDANGERING YOUR CHILD!!!” and “A CHILD SEAT FOR EACH CHILD!!”

Really?  I was genuinely surprised. There were 5 cars parked in the parking lot when we showed up.  Not exactly Black Friday.

Positions ready…this is the game called, “Let’s jump at each other and try not to crack our heads open.”  So far so good.  But it does make my tummy jumpy 😉

Well, thank goodness for those sticky notes.  They’ve certainly taught me a lesson.  Phew…and here, this whole time I’d been operating under the misguided notion that car seats were just some optional piece of gear, a ploy by childhood equipment manufacturers to garnish more of our cash in the great get-parents-to-buy-all-the-fancy-stuff-at-the-baby-store conspiracy.

No, not really, but it did make my heart beat faster.  I did feel angry, as though I’d been judged and convicted of endangering my child without even knowing what was going on or giving me an opportunity to defend myself.

Running the dry river bed.  We did find one patch of water, which later became the source of thousands of the tiniest frogs we’d ever seen.  If adventure were a math equation, risk and discovery would be variables for sure.

So here is the catch about parenting…this is not an isolated incident.

I’ve been reprimanded at a bus station for not harnessing my son into the 5-point harness available on the stroller.  I’ve been told countless horror stories of birth *while pregnant*.  I’ve been informed that carrying my children in wraps/slings will deform their hips (studies demonstrate that the open-straddle position helps hip development), that my husband and I should have our children taken away because we practice Elimination Communication….the list goes on an on…

The touted death traps formerly known as merry-go-rounds.  I prefer the latter.

It’s tough to please everyone else. This is true whether you’re a parent or not.  With kids, there are lots of opinions.  It gets tricky to tease out which ones are yours and which ones are the fabricated what-ifs.

Someone could have a field day with this.  Filthy chickens, barbed wire…giggle…balancing keeping kids in a padded room and avoiding death is such a big gap to feel out.

So, I keep trying…feeling out each social context the best I can in the attempt to keep peace…some of us are wired that way.  Momentary conformity does not threaten me, rather it’s a means to an end…a hope that maybe I’ll get to see the better side of others rather than their horrified, attacking selves.

Post-it note: “Your son could be seriously injured if that sign didn’t hold and he just came crashing down.”  (I did wiggle the sign as part of my rigorous sturdiness-test).

And in the mean time, I found myself today nervously eying the neighborhood.  Hoping that somebody didn’t come flying out her front door waving her cane and railing at me about what an irresponsible mother I am for letting my son climb a sign.

I realized a while ago that, for this boy, climbing isn’t a bad habit to be tamed, it’s a compulsion to be supervised.Looks like a Gabey for sale!

So the next time someone tells me that they use Benadryl to help their kids sleep at bedtime, I’m going to turn off my Unsolicited-Advice-Reflex and ask her if she’s been having a rough time with bedtimes…they can be a challenge.  Who knows, she might ask your advice 😉

Do the best you can, in the place you are…and above all, be kind.

There’s a rubric I can aspire to.

big, little

Today I was reminded of how much time was spent with the oldest child doing activities that required very little accommodation by him: finding empty lots with diggers and playing on them, taking an hour at the wholesale store so we could move at toddler speed, bouncing on the beds in the back, looking at each new toy on the shelf, talking about the different fruits we’d see.

Since my oldest has been in school, there hasn’t been quite the same time spent blissfully finding activities for the youngest to do, but we do find things that end up being particularly special with our newfound 1:1 mama time.

Today, we found diggers.

I heard heartfelt, “Ohhhhh!” and lots of “Mmmmmm!!!”

There was a BIG digger, “Ohhhhh!”

And there was a little digger, “Oooh”

Pondering what the fascination is with these noisy, cabled machines, I remembered a walk with some friends whose daughters had never seen diggers up close and in action before, nor had the one young son.  We stumbled upon a front-end loader getting some scoops out of the pile of dirt we were going to play on (with permission), and I had to instantly go into calm-down-distraction-mode because the girls were in near hysterics as the the giant machine approached.  Meanwhile, the young son, maybe a year old, watched with eyes WIDE eating it all up as though he’d seen a mythical beast descend from the sky and his purpose in his small life had just been revealed.

Wired.

Not sure yet what the wiring is for…big…noisy…powerful…mysterious…magical…

Like a moth to a flame, my boys in the toddler years have been compelled to experience any digger they can.

I even got an “Oooooh!” of discovery upon unearthing a half-used can of Rustoleum on the floor of the digger.  Oooooh indeed.

In all my years before motherhood, I never experienced elevated levels of excitement upon the discovery of an unoccupied and mostly safe construction site, or found myself pointing and squealing over some ancient and clearly refinished vehicle.  A sheltered and clean mud puddle was devoid of emotional excitement.  But now I have boys.  My mud-puddle radar has been honed.

So I reveled in a muddy boy this afternoon at the playground construction site…

And then again when I locked my keys in the car at school, we were blessed with a clean pile of sand in the parking lot…why I bother wiping faces is still a mystery to me other than social pressure 😉

No, faces and fingers don’t manage to stay very clean around here in the toddler years.  But we sure do have fun digging.

building rome

Everyone knows the saying, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”  Very profound.  Thank you, Einstein.

But somehow, it is easy to reduce the value of the everyday at times with this parenting gig.

Our culture revolves around goals, accomplishments, scientific studies, timeframes, recognition….all with fantastic benefits.  I wonder if part of the struggle of many stay-at-home parents is the lack of clearly defined accomplishment and recognition.  I wonder if part of the struggle for some parents who work outside the home is the lack of time to do all they would like at the level of excellence they’d like.

When I hear that someone I love has been promoted, has received an accolade or pat on the back for a job well done, it is thrilling.  I am connected to this mover and shaker!  Hard work pays off!  Good for my friend!  And, who doesn’t like to be appreciated?  In fact, I’d venture to say that if you can make people feel valued and appreciated, you will have a dedicated following wherever you go.

Somehow though, this model doesn’t translate directly to parenthood.  There is very little “peer recognition” around here.  I’ve never been invited to a dinner celebrating a “A Year of Dinner!  Come join us to celebrate Beth’s outstanding work creating nourishing and varied dinners for her family five days a week this year!”  Would you be more motivated to promote excellence in the “laundry department” if you knew it might help pad your Christmas bonus?  I’d wield that bleach pen with enthusiasm!  And second only to undergoing dental work without anesthesia, one of the more difficult experiences in life is caring for two active young children while very ill.   Fresh out of sick leave.

I joke, but as a Mom, it’s easy to struggle at times and wonder what the value is of what we’re doing here.  After scrubbing toilets and washing the fridge out in the company of a toddler, I sometimes wonder whether this is the highest and best use of my time.  After all, does the toddler really benefit from my cleaning activities?  When I hear about a friend’s new promotion and all the wonderful things that go with it, I am so joyful for them!  And then I get myself thinking….pesky thinking…and start to ponder what I’ve accomplished that day….joy peters out a little….

Every day, like you, I am a problem solver.  But a mom’s conundrums look more like this: how am I going to stage taking out the trash and washing the can, getting the dog poop out of the front yard without bringing it through the house (gross!), vacuuming, rearranging the play-doh storage, making beds, feeding everyone three meals of good food,  and spending quality time with each son while trying to keep them from killing each other today…oh, and every school uniform shirt has mysterious orange stains on them and need to be cleaned TONIGHT.  It is busy, but seems less glamorous somehow than saving someone’s life or getting kudos from the boss.  Certainly it doesn’t come with a Christmas bonus.

But for those of you who are wired, like me, to *need* supportive people and encouragement to rise above doubt, know this:  the little moments mean the world.  Because in between those moments you are building.  Spending twenty minutes at the arboretum making the swan gourds chatter like a bunch of schoolgirls has value to the small boy trying to grasp conversations and pretend.

Giving your children the memory of a warm home, full of pumpkins and muffins in the fall, has value for the boy craving security and trying to make sense of the months and seasons.

Taking the time to really *process* through the scary mummy on a neighbor’s house has value to the child who is scared by it and is practicing real vs. pretend.  Walking to the playground for a picnic dinner to hear why their day was so rough they found it necessary to clock two other kids is worthwhile for the boy who was hauled around the day before to doctor’s appointments and school activities and told to sit down and be quiet one too many times by those he looks up to most, only to anger them and fall into a hopeless anger that he just couldn’t do anything right.

To feel heard is to generate a fresh start.

Building a boy is more than getting your kid old enough to leave.  There are memories we give him that will make them a more attentive father.  There are experiences we give him that will make them a more compassionate husband.  Your girls will have their own blueprint of what it means to nurture when it’s her turn because of who we are today.  The value our children place on themselves will be influenced by who we are now…in between washing the dishes and volunteering at school…and also who you are someday…

Building our children is like building Rome.  It is each day that is left open for opportunity.  Today, tomorrow, and everyday until our last….we have the opportunity to build on the existing, to learn something new to help our child be something stronger than before.  Oh, and while you’re at it, someone shoved potato peels down the garbage disposal and it stopped working, so you’ll need to check on that too 😉

Do you feel like your parents’ involvement continued to impact you into adulthood?

Did you/do you struggle with finding value in the everyday, amidst the process happening under your nose or is it easy to keep the big picture in focus?

crowds, corndogs, and creating memories

A full day spent at the State Fair.  Eight and a half hours to be exact.

It was confirmed that there is something novel and fantastic about the view from Dad’s back, and Pete got his first taste of stroller-envy.  Stroller-envy is a common ailment that parents experience when they see doo-dads or contraptions on another’s stroller that would simplify their life right at that moment.  In our case, the stroller-envy was directed at those with a double stroller big enough for two tired kids halfway through the day 😉  So we got resourceful and nestled our kids in with each other.  Nobody fell off.  A success.

We practiced our distraction skills in the Museum of Texas State history.  Here, Gabe discovers how much more interesting the ceiling is than the delicate displays of state treasures.  Somehow Dads have a way of making things more fun.

And despite kids being a little unsure on the way TO the fair about riding the Ferris Wheel, somehow the tables were turned once we were actually standing under it.  The kids got all fired up and it was Pete and I who took turns looking up, then looking at each other with a slight hint of panic in our eyes.  Had the youngest not been so determined to control his own body once inside our little cabin (read: not felt the need to violently revolt at the vile suggestion of coercion by being held onto gently while 200ft in the air, his evil mother thwarting determined attempts to stand up and lean over the edge and say, “Whoa!!!!!!!” at the view), I might have had a picture from the top…but alas, no picture this time.

But it was a great and full day, full of all the wild wonders of a State Fair…bellowing game attendants, wild rides with lights flashing, ever-increasing numbers of people as the day wears on, impressively priced deep-fried and sugared food, sore feet, trying to keep a group together.  But while all that is completely stimulating and, at times, frustrating and annoying, the reflection on the day remembers very little of that.

At the end of the day, our reflections remember being together as a family.  We remember wrestling on the lawn in bare feet, laughing over silly family caricatures drawn, processing how the dancing figures on the black-lit puppet stage were really just puppeteers dressed in black and not scary figures.  We recall the sparkle in a boys eye just as a ferris wheel ride starts, or the novelty of a little goat that takes an affection to you amidst an ocean of people trying to feed and pet him.

It’s seeing the creations entered from people around the state…knit sweaters, model cars, action heros, lego creations…and taken the time to enter them in the contests.  It’s knowing about the ONE stand in the *whole fair* it seems that makes REAL lemonade, and getting a big cup to share.

Yeah, there’s a reason you brave the craziness of the Fair….it becomes a fantastic, wonderful, and rich memory…together.

Is braving the crowds and wildness too much or are there things/memories you LOVE about going to big fairs?