Tuesday, August 25, 2015

"I NEED A SNAAAAAAACK!"

Yesterday, I sat down to write this post during naptime.  I had just finished writing about our weekend and how many times I had heard, "Maaaaaaaaahmeeeeee!!!!  I need a snaaaaaaaaaack!!!!  I'm soooooo hungry!!!!" during our trip to the mountains (many, many times) when Ronan woke up and came stumbling into the living room.  He went immediately to the pantry and flopped over the  kitchen stool and starting wailing, "MAAAAAAAAAHMEEEEEE!!!!  I'M SOOOOO HUNGRYYYYYY!!  CAN I HAVE A SNAAAAAAACK?!!" I kid you not.  And I hushed him, because the baby was still sleeping, and I told him I would get him a snack in just a second, please just let me finish this sentence.  But there was so much wailing and flopping I couldn't get a single word down, and I finally got all snappy with him because his wailing about snacks was interrupting my writing about him wailing about snacks.  Then I realized that I was snappy because I needed a snack, too.  I nearly choked on all that irony.

There are so many reasons why I need this list, not the least of which is inspiration for what to feed MYSELF so I am qualified to take care of my own kids.  :)

So here it is, as promised: a giant list of snacks that impart at least some nutrition and that kids will actually eat, organized by level of parental desperation.  I don't know about you, but what my kids will actually eat on any given day is a crapshoot, so this is a long list. 

1.)  I'M A BADASS AND PLANNED AHEAD  (a short list, for obvious reasons)
  • Frozen homemade meatballs
  • Hummus and crackers/veggies
  • Hardboiled eggs
  • Green muffins w/ blueberries
  • Energy bites
  • Frozen smoothie popsicles
  • Sliced cold grilled chicken with dipping sauce (BBQ, peanut, guacamole, salsa, etc)

2.)  I HAVE THE PATIENCE TO MAKE A LITTLE EFFORT (if you ask with nice manners, please, Little Love)
  • Apple w/ peanut butter (add raisins or shredded coconut)
  • Peanut butter, raisins, shredded carrot in tortilla
  • Crackers (Pecan Nutthins are good) spread with Laughing Cow cheese
  • Deli meat and pickle roll-up
  • Deli meat and cheese roll-up
  • Deli meat and avocado roll-up
  • Cocoa almonds
  • Popcorn
  • Corn chips w/ cheesy refried beans
  • Banana slices w/ peanut butter
  • Smoothies
  • Cracker sandwiches, Lunchable-style
  • Cheese-plus quesadilla (chicken, black bean and sweet potato, chopped grilled veggies, etc)

3.)  HERE, STUFF THIS IN YOUR GOB AND QUIT MAKING THAT AWFUL NOISE!
  • Whole fruit: peaches, plums, apples, bananas, grapes, clementines
  • String Cheese or Babybel cheese
  • Lara Bars
  • Pretzels
  • Cheddar crackers
  • Cucumber slices
  • Carrot slices
  • Snap peas
  • Olives
  • Corn chips and salsa
  • Freeze dried fruit
  • Trail mix
  • Mini pickles
  • Dilly beans
  • Applesauce
  • Pistachios
  • Cheerios
In my dreams, I keep a few things from each category in the fridge/pantry at all times.  In reality, Category #1 doesn't exist, we eat A LOT of apples and peanut butter, and if Ronan digs deep enough he'll find Crunchy Cheetos in the pantry.  I'm hoping a list of options can nudge me in the right direction.  :)

Okay, now your turn: what's on for snacktime at your house?  Please help me add to my list! 

PS:  Here's a genius trick from my friend Sabrey: she leaves a plate of cut-up veggies on the counter and doesn't say anything about it.  She catches her oldest boy (3) sneaking veggies from the plate when he thinks she's not looking!  You're doing it right, girl.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Because Waiting is Hard


Take a handful of plastic animals/insects/dinosaurs/buildings/equipment from your stash, add the corresponding cards from a pack of flash cards ($1 at Target!) and stuff 'em into whatever bag you have handy.  Voila!  A matching game.  (Sound effects optional.)  Because waiting is hard, and sometimes Mommy needs a minute.

If you are plastic animal/insect/dinosaur/building/equipment stashless, your living room is probably way cleaner than mine.  Ranch supply stores like Murdoch's or Bomgaar's can fix you right up.  Or, try these

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

"Does This Spark Joy?"


Last week I brought home The Life Changing-Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo from the library.  Ever since, I've been trying to write a little something to tell you about the book, but you guys.  It's so weird I can't even put it into words.  (I'm not sure Marie Kondo is not a pseudonym for Auri herself.)  My eyebrows were in my hairline the whole time.  She named a home-organization technique after herself.  She talks to her shoes, for Pete's sake.  But despite all my skepticism, her kooky ideas keep ringing true.  I can't decide if Marie Kondo is a genius for writing a book about what should be obvious, or if I'm an idiot for needing a book to show me the obvious. 

Two of Kondo's big ideas keep revealing themselves over and over in my daily life, like a pattern I hadn't noticed before she pointed it out and now I see it everywhere.  The first is this: items that have been handled with love by people are fundamentally different than those than are infrequently touched.  Kondo uses the example of clothing that is either folded with care and tenderness and stored neatly in a drawer, versus clothes that are jammed in a box and forgotten.  The former are treasured possessions, and the second are merely products.  But I've been seeing this difference in every cupboard I open: there are things that have been handled with care and tenderness and there is crap from WalMart, and they are different.  I'm not talking about quality, though there is certainly a difference there.  I'm talking about something less measurable than utility or durability: the human consciousness than has been imbued in an object through touch.

Are your eyebrows in your hairline?  It's okay.  I know I sound like I've lost it.  But start looking; you'll see.  Here's what I saw: the baby quilts Aunt Sandy made for my boys.  The quilt Sabrey made for me (that I use every day.)  The tiny pots Abbi made that travelled all the way to Alaska and back to live on my windowsill.  The chest Grandpa Dan built us for our entry with wood he milled himself.  The boys' play kitchen, with the burners that were taken from the kitchen I played with for hours as a little girl.  The dress my grandmother sewed herself and gave to me.  The tissue paper flower Ronan made for me for Mother's Day.  The watercolor Gabrielle painted.  The wool coat I've had since my senior year of high school that I still wear all the time.  These things are different than the "products" that surround them.

The more I thought about it, the more examples kept cropping up in my mind.  The Red Violin.  The "dust" of The Golden Compass.    The beautiful prayer quilts Aunt Sandy makes for her church's prayer ministry, each tie knotted with a prayer for the recipient.    The Velveteen Rabbit.  The idea that the things we touch carry our consciousness is not new.  It is only a revelation to me.  :)

That touch changes objects also changes our relationship with those objects.  It's the reason I could never wear the ring my dad gave to my mom when they were married.  It's a simple, beautiful ring, a silver band with two pearls nestled together, and when I see it I think about the love that must have prompted the giving of such a ring.  But the ring also bears the weight of the end of that love, the bitterness, sadness and loss of divorce.  It has been changed by hands who have held it and worn it, and some of their consciousness is still there.  In the same way, a lined piece of paper on which my mother wrote a poem to me for my 13th birthday has been transformed by her hands and thoughts into one of my most prized possessions.

This changing, this imbuing of consciousness, is why I think Kondo insists that in order to sort through your belongings and decide whether or not to keep them, you must touch each one.  You are reading the consciousness in each item, even if the consciousness is your own, put there by repeated handling of your favorite things.  "The criterion is, of course, whether or not it gives you a thrill of pleasure when you touch it," she says.  She challenges us to ask ourselves, "Does this spark joy?" of each item we own.  This is the second of Kondo's kooky-sounding big ideas that have proven to be wisdom.  If it sparks joy, it has a place in your home.  If it does not, then it is to be discarded.  Kondo's goal is to create a home in which every item is serving its purpose, especially if that purpose is filling you with happiness.  What a home that would be!  And such a home I am working to have.

Needless to say, tidying up has taken on a whole new meaning at my house.  Even in this one-bedroom apartment, there was so much that was here just taking up space.  Our local Goodwill is now well-stocked with items that do not spark joy in my heart.  :)  I'm finding myself admiring and caring gently for the things that I have kept, though I have yet to consult my shirts as to how they would prefer to be stored, and I draw the line at talking to my shoes.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Romance In The Bathroom

A reflection on marriage and family as we approach our ninth (!) anniversary.  Scott, I still choose you, every day.

...

“Want to come to the bathroom and help me with… laundry?” I ask Scott, with an arched eyebrow and a significant sly grin.  In our married-with-two-kids-in-one-tiny-house romance, my words are XXX pillowtalk.  He grins back, catching my meaning.  “Why yes.  Yes I do.  ‘Laundry.’” 

I tuck Ronan into his lofted fort bed in the living room, turn on the humidifier to help keep his cough at bay.  He’s been sick for a week now, and though the antibiotics for his ear infection have reduced his fever and boosted his appetite, the barking cough lingers.  Merrin is asleep on the low bed in the only bedroom, exhausted from the same illness.  Nobody has slept in a week for the coughing that just won’t stop.

In the bathroom, I shut the door softly behind me.  Scott flicks on the fan for white noise; it seems like our kids can sense the minute we are up to anything PG-13 or better, and a little sound-proofing might prolong our privacy.  It’s mood music to our ears.  Scott wraps one arm around my waist and runs the opposite hand up the back of my neck and into my hair, pulling me toward him, kissing me deeply.  I snake my arms up his chest and around his neck, pressing my body into his.  When we first became parents I found this 0-to-60 kind of action alarming, off-putting.  Now I know that our time alone is so limited, and so likely to be interrupted… it’s now or never.

There’s a metal chair in the corner of the laundry-carpeted room, still standing there from family haircuts the night before, and I pull a folded something from the open linen cupboard to cover it.  This will have to do: this chair, in the bathroom and very nearly in the linen cupboard, is the closest thing to a marriage bed we will have for a long time.  We cast aside our clothes and I push him down onto the chair, his eyes locked on mine. The unfinished chores and sleepless nights fade away, and from depths of our stretched-too-thin selves, we resurrect the passion of our first years together, when we were the only two people in the world.  When this kind of love was easy.

On our wedding day, many lifetimes ago (or so it seems), we vowed to protect moments like these.  We knew we would have hard times, that there would be challenges, but at 21 and 22 we only knew those things theoretically, and promising to get through them was just so many words.   That day, standing under the pine trees in my white dress and laughing at the surprise snowfall, I promised to love him even when he was the worst version of himself, and to cultivate what I knew to be good in myself so that I could offer it to him.  I meant those promises absolutely, if naively; only now, nine  years later, have I even begun to understand the breadth and depth of such vows.  Those worst versions of ourselves do exist, and they are ugly, selfish, and hateful.  And they are hard to love.  So hard that it seems impossible sometimes, like we can only push and strain so long before the trying just breaks us. 

But we don’t break.  We keep loving.  It is neither sweet nor light, but it is strong. 

We used to tell people that when we got married, we didn’t commit to each other forever.  We committed to the marriage forever.  That distinction matters; we are not those same starry-eyed young lovers anymore.  We have hurt each other, lost each other, and clawed our way back to the shelter of our marriage.  We have each grown into people those young selves wouldn’t recognize.  And we have become parents, perhaps the biggest change of all, or at least the biggest catalyst for change.  The man I married that day in the mountains wasn’t big enough to carry the responsibility of the life we have built.  But I didn’t commit to him.  And there is room in a marriage to expand, to contract, to reinvent, to start again.

As for the good in me: have I done my part?  Held up my end of the bargain?  I didn’t understand then that somewhere in the grey nebula between good and bad there is real, and it is the purest offering of all.  We have real, alright.  Heaps of it. 

Scott, always a step ahead of me in understanding, didn’t litter his vows with intangible promises.  Instead, he offered me one simple thing: that he would spend the rest of his life showing me the love he felt.  Sometimes that promise has meant simply staying when the prospect of a happier life beckoned him out the door.  Other times, like this afternoon in the bathroom, surrounded by heaps of real, that promise means stripping off the mantle of parenthood, of adulthood, and loving me.

Later, I rest my cheek on his chest and let the familiar cadence of his heartbeat quiet my mind.  We are safe from the world again, our shelter fortified, our love renewed.   I tip my head back to gaze into his gold-brown eyes and—are those stars I see?  There he is, my—    

The peaceful stillness is suddenly shattered: cough, cough, splatter, choke.  Ronan is awake again, his cough robbing him of sleep and agitating his throat until he vomits on his bedcovers.  I can hear panic rising in his voice.  “Mama…?!!”  More wretching, coughing.

“We’re coming, Baby, it’s okay!”  Scott and I both rip into action.  I cram my shirt on inside out and backwards.  Ronan starts to sob, still choking. 

“Stay calm, Bud!  It’s alright!” Next to me, Scott is fumbling with his pants.   I glance toward him as I cram my own pants on, ready to shoot him a look of resignation.  But what I see stops me short.  He isn’t grossed out or exasperated; he is rushing toward the trouble, ready to scoop our filthy boy in his arms and deliver him from his fear and shower him and hold him and keep him safe.   His face is full of love.  For me, for our sick babies, for our unruly and imperfect life together.

The look lasts a nanosecond, but I’ve seen enough.  The love there has outgrown the people we once were, the people we were when we said, “I do.”  It has stretched and expanded, encompassing our two sons, filling up these tiny rooms, spilling out into the world. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

10 Things I've Been Meaning to Tell You

Hey!  I'm still alive!  I swear!  I was planning on taking a little digital sabbatical and telling you about it beforehand so you would know I wasn't just being a negligent writer.  But life happened, and the sabbatical wasn't so much about mindfully setting digital media aside to focus on my family as it was about whirlwind travel and I forgot my laptop.  Oops.

(On a related note, you know when your librarian corners you to ask where on Earth you've been that you've really fallen off the radar.  She told me she was planning to call Scott's grandma to find out what had happened to me if I hadn't shown up yesterday to pay my library fine.  :)  That's small town love for you.)

Let's catch up!  Here are 10 things I've been meaning to tell you.

  • I recently discovered that the sunscreen I'm always praising (and using every day) is on EWG's Hall of Shame list.  Damn!  Sorry!  I did some late-night Amazon-ing last night and ordered this instead.  I'll let you know. 
  • I took some advice from Courtney Carver (creator of Project 333) and packed way less than usual for our recent 10-day jet-set.  I packed three outfits plus my wear-to-every-wedding-this-summer getup.  Same for Scott.  Double for the kids.  And it was great.  We wore everything we packed and just did a few loads of wash when it was handy.  Lighter luggage was imperative because...
  • Scott recently completed his pilot's license (!) and went in threesies on an airplane, so he flew us to Kansas City to visit my family.  It. Was. Awesome.  The drive usually takes 12 hours of straight driving, plus pee stops and food stops and grouchy stops... This time, we spent just under four hours in the plane with one stop for fuel/pee.  Five hours from our door to my dad's door.  Game changer.  Here are a few shots of that adventure:
 
 
 
 
  • Speaking of Project 333, several friends have asked me how it's going.  I've neglected to mention it because it's the new normal around here.  My closet is always tidy, there's less laundry mess, and I spend zero time debating what to wear or what to pack.  I'll do another capsule when the weather starts to turn, and I intend to keep at it forever. 
  • I chose one outfit to wear to every event this summer, and I'm planning a go-to dress outfit for the fall.  While we were in KC we took Scott to get outfitted for some dressy fall events, too.  I told him that having dress clothes in the closet, ready to go, felt like adulting: my old self would just wait until I had a need for dress clothes, then panic because I had nothing, then buy random stuff to get me by.  I couldn't see far enough ahead to prepare, but there will always be weddings, funerals, parties, etc that require us to kick it up a notch.  I told him it was like stocking up on toilet paper instead of buying one roll at a time (also adulting.)  He didn't appreciate me comparing his new duds to toilet paper.  I got it, at least.
  • Scott had to buy a schmancy outfit because he was accepted to Leadership Wyoming.  And when we got home from our trip, there was a big article in the local paper about him.  I'm super proud of him, not just that he got accepted but that he is the kind of person who is constantly and consciously improving himself, for himself.  I find that so inspiring.
  • Speaking of leadership, I read this a few weeks ago (thanks for the recommendation, Julia!).  I loved it so much I sent a copy to Jill before I even finished it.  It is not a light read, but is full of such profound truth about who we are and what we need.  I just bought a copy for myself so I can read it again.
  • On the subject of books, I've become an accidental evangelist for the Whole30 program.  (This book has the details, or read this one for a summary with recipes and pretty food pics.)  I started testing out recipes for my MIL, who wanted to do a Whole30 but wasn't sure she could make it through.  But I ended up changing my diet for long enough that I noticed I really feel awesome when I don't eat wheat or cheese.  It was a bummer discovery at first, but I'm getting the hang of it.  I'll be sharing a few recipes here soon that have become staples at our house, not because this is a food blog but because food business is mom business, no?
  • I've had the chance in our travels to talk to several mom-friends of mine about the food thing at their house, and I've noticed something weird: we all seem to be at a loss for ideas for snacks our kids will actually eat.  You know, food with actual nutritional value and no yellow #5.  Any ideas?  I'd love to make a big list so we can all quit scratching our heads.  :)
  • I'm reading this, and I'm about 20 pages in.  She says I'll achieve perfection and never have to tidy again.  To say I'm skeptical might be the understatement of the decade.
Okay, absolutely enough about me.  What about you?  What have you been up to?  What are you reading?  Any fun trips, cool projects?  And for Pete's sake, what are you feeding your kids?!! 

I'll Say It Again: We Are Better Together

My husband sent me a link to this Ted Talk last night with the message, "Wow!"  He's not usually an exclamation point kind of guy, so I knew this video would be awesome...

 
...but I didn't know it would be this awesome.  This is why we share our stories.  This is why we need each other.  We are better together by design.  Beautiful.

Monday, July 27, 2015

I Shall Call Them Squishy

Subtitle: What To Do With All Your Old Receiving Blankets, Burp Cloths, Holey Baby Blankets, Stained Onesies, Worn Out Baby Towels, Mateless Baby Socks and Other Squishy Detritus

But all that didn't fit in the Post Title slot.

As I've been weeding out our baby stuff (mementos, what to save for friends, what to consign, what to toss) I have accumulated quite a pile of the squishy stuff mentioned above.  None of it is worth keeping or donating, and the boys have outgrown the original iteration of these things.  But squishy is always useful, no?  As I was scheming on what to do with it all, I stumbled across these on my Pinterest profile:

http://mysticmandy.blogspot.com/2012/09/giant-floor-pillows.html
 
Bazinga!  We have concrete floors in our rental and in the house we are building, and we are always on the floor playing with the boys.  Our grown-up asses are begging for a softer place to sit!  So, after a quick stop at JoAnn and a few YouTube videos, I whipped these puppies up:
 
 
They look hooker-boots red in the photos, but in person they're a tweedy, faded coral color.  Inside, they each have two 22"x22"1" square foam pads with all the squishy stuff sandwiched in between.   Like this:
 
 
The foam pads keep the pillows' surfaces smooth, and the zippers (yikes, I sewed zippers!!!) will let me unstuff them for washing.   And we all know something gross is bound to happen to them at some point...
 
So far, I'm sold!  The cushions have already featured largely in living room forts and obstacle courses.  They'll be just right for chilling on the floor or sitting at the coffee table (if we ever have a coffee table...) and stacked together, they're perfect ottoman-height in front of our couch. 
 
And, they're nice and squishy.
 
If you're in a sewing state of mind:
  • I was super intimidated by this project until I read this tutorial.  She's right.  It's not brain surgery.  It's an effen box.  :) 
  • Here is the tutorial I used to figure out the zipper business:
 
 
If sewing is not your bag (see what I did there?!):
  •  These would be rad for storage in a kids' room.
 
What's new with you? Any projects, squishy or otherwise?  I'd love to hear.