Monday, November 30, 2009

a birthday letter

Dear Sam,
I feel like I've known you forever and yet, it seems like just yesterday when they placed you in my arms for the very first time. How did nine years pass by so quickly? You, my boy, are my heart. You are so loving and giving, not of your things, but of yourself. You are always on the alert for ways to make someone smile, whether it's making my bed or playing Barbies with your sisters. It seems unfair that someone as generous and loving as you should have to struggle the way you have. Sometimes I want to rail at the world that you have to deal with so many challenges. Challenges that sometimes seem like they're too much for you, but they aren't, and they never have been.

I remember forcing myself to sit in my chair when you were just a year old, watching you with your Early Intervention teacher. She would be trying to get you to reciprocal play or sign the word help or stop spinning wheels and play with the car. You would be protesting...shrieking and turning yourself away from her. Sometimes you turned to me, with your arms stretched out and your face pleading with me to rescue you. But we strapped you into your seat and there was no where to go. You had to learn to do these things, even though they took you out of your comfort zone and tested the limits of your abilities. And I had to let her do this. It took every ounce of my being not to jump up and undo the buckle and hold you till you stopped your fussing. My heart broke into a thousand pieces every single time. I physically hurt inside that I couldn't help you in the way that you wanted.

Month by month I watched and you began to take baby steps; steps so small they were barely noticable. You rolled the car to Sheila, instead of flipping it over and silently spinning it's wheels. You smiled at her and prodded some playdough with one finger. Then you began to sign. Nothing in this world will compare to the time you first signed your very first word..."more". You slid down a slide and at the bottom looked up at Daddy and I, and took your tiny little finger and poked it into the center of the palm of your other hand. It wasn't exactly the right motion but we knew what you were saying. Much like any parent understands their child's baby talk. We were so overjoyed I think we let you slide on that slide all afternoon...crying with delight when you'd sign "more" at the bottom each time. As the months passed you added many more signs to your vocabulary and then you began to speak.

The years have flown by too fast. I still watch you struggle with things that are outside your comfort zone. I still have to hold myself back from jumping in to save you. My heart still shatters every time you turn to me with tears in your eyes from dealing with a world that sometimes seems too difficult. I still marvel at your strength, determination and perseverence.

People sometimes say to me "He's come so far...because of you and all your hard work." I am not the one who's had to do the hard work though. I can't take credit for the person you are, for the things you can do. You find within yourself all you need to take on the world and succeed. I am no more than your pit crew. I'll find the tools and help to get you on the track. But you win the race all on your own. I'm proud of you Sam. I remember when they placed you in my arms, you took my breath away with your perfection.

You still do. I love you.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

turkeys, berries and oranges

One of our traditions, both in my family and with my daycare friends, is to make cranberry orange relish the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. It's a quick easy recipe and is really good. I especially like it smeared on a turkey sandwich the day after Thanksgiving. My recipe is scribbled on little piece of scrap paper and I can no longer remember where I first got it from. I could have picked it out of a cookbook, recieved it from my Mom, or even from a magazine. Usually I use my trusty food grinder but when I took it out, it was rusty and I just wasn't sure it was safe to use. Instead we used my mini cuisenart food processor. Truth be told, while the food processor made the job easier, I like making the relish with the food grinder. I don't know why...makes me feel all pilgrimish or something, not that pilgrims used food grinders but, whatever.'s the recipe

Cranberry Orange relish

1 cup fresh cranberries
1 orange
1 Tbsp finely grated orange peel
3/4 to 1 cup sugar (depending on how sweet you like it)

peel orange and separate into sections.
put orange and cranberries into food grinder or food processor and grind into coarse pieces
add sugar and zest and mix well

See, told you it was easy.

We also made these fun little turkeys too. Red, orange, yellow, brown and black paint, a white piece of paper and a teeny triangle piece of orange are all you'll need. Children dip their hands into the red, orange and yellow paint and print them onto the paper in a fan shape. Let this dry. Then paint the child's foot and print it on top of the handprints with the toes facing down to the bottom of the fan. Dip a finger in black paint to make the eyes and a thumb in red to make the wattle. glue on the triangle for the beak. This guy is so cute you won't be tempted to cook him up for your Thanksgiving dinner!
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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

trees, beer, bread and butter

We made these easy and sweet Thankful trees yesterday. I wasn't sure I could pull this project off with my younger ones but they all did a great job. I cut out all the leaves. I traced a leaf shape onto a piece of construction paper and then layered a few more underneath it and cut them all at the same time. Makes it faster and your fingers won't cramp up from all the cutting. In addition to the multi-colored leaves, you will also need a large piece of construction paper, brown paint, markers and glue. You are also going to need a wet cloth or wet paper towels on hand before you start.

First paint the child's hand and forearm brown and press it down on the paper to form the trunk and branches of the tree. I wipe down the forearm and have the child make several more handprints so the tree is really full.

Let that dry and move on to the leaves. Earlier during our circletime we read Celebrating Thanksgiving by Joel Kupperstein, Thank you, Thanksgiving by David Milgrim and Giving Thanks by Chief Jake Swamp. I then had an informal discussion about what we are thankful for and as the kids volunteered their ideas I jotted them down on a piece of paper making sure to initial who said what. Having done that, later at the table, I passed out one leaf at at time and using my notes asked the children to draw one idea on each leaf. The children came up with a couple more as we worked at this and we included those as well. You want to make sure each child has at least five leaves on his/her tree, otherwise the tree looks a little bare. After each drawing was completed I used a black sharpie to label it.

Once the children finished illustrating all their ideas they used a glue stick to glue all their leaves to their now dry trees. I finished it off by adding "I am thankful" with letter stickers but this could just as easily be handwritten.

This is my favorite leaf of Katie's..."snuggling with Mumma" Aren't the two little faces peeking out from under the blanket the cutest darn things? She was also thankful for going to the beach, berries, trees, flowers, playing, her friends M and J, her aunt Carol, Sam and Teresa because they kiss and hug her and relaxing with her stuffies.

Now it may seem like an abrupt change of topic but it follows in my mind because here are a couple more Thanksgiving projects I did with the children. I love to cook with my children and the daycare children. It exposes them to math, scienece and literacy and you get a goodie when all is said and done. It's just a win/win situation all around. I had planned on making butter with the kids for them to bring home and share with their families for their own Thanksgiving dinners and what better to accompany butter...but bread. I opted for a Tastefully Simple beer bread mix. It's quick and easy and oh my God! yummy. We used two mixes and made one big loaf to share today and a couple small loaves for the daycare kids to take home.

Our bread baking was effortless and my house smells like heaven. I couldn't have been happier with how it turned out. I wish the same could be said for our butter making. First I gathered the cast of characters and realized I did not buy the correct cream. I usually use heavy cream, not whipping cream. But beggers can't be choosers, so I crossed my fingers and hoped it wouldn't matter. (It didn't.)

I have also always used a baby food jar and a marble to do this activity. However, I do not recommend a glass jar anymore. After pouring in the cream and dropping in the marble the kids got to work shaking the jar vigourously to change it into butter. About six minutes later they were tired and bored with this and asked me to take over. I thought I would shake it extra hard to really get the cream really churning. Big mistake. The marble actually broke the jar and cream went everywhere. It is not a fun thing to clean up either. So for round two, I used a plastic cup that has a fitted lid. We shoke it and sloshed it for about 10 minutes and lo and behold, we made some butter. I must be very easily impressed because no matter how many times I do this, when it begins to change over to butter I call out as excitedly as the kids "butter! look! look! it's butter!" We put the butter into a small tupperware in the fridge to set up.

For lunch they all had a slice of beer bread smeared with butter, all made with their own two hands. They gobbled it up and I don't think they've ever enjoyed bread and butter as much as they did today.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I hate to correct them because they always make me laugh

Teresa must have learned a new word at school because she came home and used it in every other sentence that came out of her mouth. The only problem, she wasn't using the correct word. A few examples...

What's for dinner Mom? Chicken? Could you be more PACIFIC?

I'm reading a new fairy be PACIFIC, it's called Tia the Tulip Fairy.

I like your picture Katie. Can you tell me about it? Be PACIFIC!

Sam is no stranger to flubbing some of his new vocabulary. He came to me very upset because he was trying to read in the same room his sisters were choreographing their own ballet complete with music and lots of arguments between the two prima ballerinas. I just want to read my book without any destructions! he wailed.

Katie came out with a couple of my favorites though. When choosing a bathing suit to wear in the pool this summer...

Mumma, I want to wear my zucchini!

And just the other day she asked me this thought provoking question.

Why does Daddy always yell "CHEEZ ITS!!!" at the t.v. when he watches football?

Friday, November 13, 2009

a day at the cranberry festival

We headed out to Edaville Railroad for the cranberry festival. My kids have been to Edaville more often than I care to count but it never fails to deliver. We always have such a good time in a small town kind of way. It's not a big place and the rides are very mild mannered but we could spend all day there. And on this incredibly gorgeous fall day....we did. We arrived just after ten in the morning and didn't leave until after four in the afternoon. Can I add that there is maaaaayyyyybeeeee ten rides total in the park...not including the train ride. Yeah, we must have gone on every single ride at least a dozen times each. All the ride operators knew my kids by name that day. Especially the tilt a whirl guy. Good Lord, we must have gone on that a thousand times. They figured out which car twirled around the most, number seven by the way, and woe to the world if we didn't get that car. Did I also mention that because of her height, or lack of a few measly inches, Katie required a grown up to go with her on just about every ride...and yep, that was me most of the time. My sense of equilibrium is still trying to recover. Thank God my brother Dan showed up because I was Done, with a capital D, so I handed him my bracelet and called it a day.

Dan, Sam and Teresa enjoying the ride, even though it wasn't the twirliest one. I was sitting with my head between my knees at this point.

The girls on ole reliable number seven. They didn't stop twirling long enough for me to even get a good picture.

Here I am on the ferris wheel with Katie and Sam and Teresa are coming along behind us. The miracle of this picture ISN'T that I'm actually on the ferris wheel. And it ISN'T that I'm smiling. And it ISN'T that I actually released my death grip on the bar to wave, notice my death grip on Katie is still intact though. Poor Katie, she's so smashed into my side it's a wonder I didn't suffocate her. It's that Joe, all on his own initiative, PICKED up the camera and took a few pictures!!!!

We finally made it on the actual train ride through the bogs and forest. This has got to be one of my favoritest things in the whole entire world. We sat in the open car because it was so beautiful out. The train ambles through the woods and bogs and you can't help but relax and enjoy yourself.

Unless you're trying to take pictures of your kids and then you end up sweating and swearing because "GOD D@#A$@#!&$*! Can you all just F#@^%@*@@# look at the camera at the same F@#@#&$R time!" Just kidding...a little. Swearing at them doesn't seem to'd think I'd have that figured out by now...but no. I guess I'm a slow learner.

My one and only picture of the harvest because I was so busy trying to get a group shot of the three kids I think I missed it all. In my defense, it's only a twenty minute train ride.

Teresa's favorite pink caboose on our way out. Thanks Edaville...we'll be back! We'll be the fools twirling around in car number seven or swearing at each other on the train. Good times, I tell ya!

I'm so sorry about the underlining through the whole first part...I have no freaking idea how that came to be and hence there was no freaking way to figure out how to undo it. Believe me, I did try. After twenty minutes, I admit defeat and the underlining stays.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

sneak preview...Katie's quilt

These are the fabrics she chose...

...and this is the design. It's called Star Struck.

I was a little concerned that the black would be too dreary for a child's quilt. I kept showing her the same pattern without the black but she remained adamant that she wanted the black and brights. It's her quilt and I aim to please so black and brights it is. The borders on her's will not be the blue and purple but pink and green...her two favorite colors.

I am itching to start cutting the fabric but my sewing machines are both in dire need of tune ups before I can do any sewing, so I need to take care of that before I start cutting anything. I have high hopes that I can finish the top over this winter. I plan on quilting in the ditch around the bright stars. I make no predictions on how long that will take me though. My track record's not so good. With any luck she may get it for her fifth birthday. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

have you thanked a Veteran?

We have been talking about Veteran's Day around here. Who are Veterans and why we have special day off because of them. Teresa has really taken it to heart and decided to thank any passing Veterans by making a flag for the yard. I think she actually understands and is grateful to America's soldiers. I'm proud of her for acting on her gratitude. Maybe we can all follow her example and take the time today to thank a Veteran. We Americans take for granted the way of life we have here in America. But were it not for the sacrifice of the men and women in uniform, our lives could be very very different.

There is a veteran I'd like to thank in person, but I think it would make him uncomfortable. He served in both Iraq and Afghanistan and came home to us all in one piece. For that, we are grateful to God. While serving in Afghanistan he worked towards getting schools built, temples rebuilt and gave support to the local Afghan run government. The schools the people were working to build were little more than sheds and woefully undersupplied. This man contacted his high school Alma mater faith in action program to see if they'd like to donate school supplies. Thanks to his outreach over 400 pounds of school supplies found their way across the world into the arms of Afghan girls attending school for the first time ever. This soldier could have just completed his mission as given but he didn't. He saw a small way he could help make things a little bit better and he worked to make it happen. He saw how desperately the people in Afghanistan cherished their newfound freedom and he wanted to give more. I believe this is typical of our armed servicepeople. And I am grateful they are our ambassadors to the world and proud of all the work they do for us and for the citizens of our world. So I want to say thank you...for the freedom to bitch about our government...for the freedom to choose where to send my kids to school...for the freedom to work at a job I enjoy...for the freedom to live without fear...for the freedom to worship as I choose...for these freedoms and so many more, I am grateful to JPC and all his brothers, and sisters, in arms.

Friday, November 6, 2009

katie's broken teeth

I apologize for the graphic picture. We had a tragedy concerning two of Katie's little baby teeth. She was out playing on the swingset with Teresa and in the blink of an eye went from singing and laughing with Teresa to screaming with blood covering her face. Joe brought her in and laid her on the changing table. At first I thought she just had a bloody nose and a split lip. However, after cleaning her up and taking a really good look at her mouth I realized she did not get off so lightly.

I have to be honest, I gagged and came thisclose to throwing up when I took my first look into her mouth. The top front teeth were pushed so far back they were almost pointing to the back of her mouth. The roots of her teeth had come through the gum and her gum was mangled. After the initial screaming, she got unusually quiet and lay in Joe's lap while he held an ice pack to her mouth. Of course this happened Friday evening of Labor Day weekend. I put a call in to our dentist's answering service for the dentist to call us and advise us on what to do next. An hour later we were still waiting on the dentist's call so I called the service again. Finally two hours later he called back. I described what happened and her injury. He asked if she could close her mouth, which she could do. So he told me she should be fine and to just keep an eye on her gums to make sure she didn't get an abscess. I repeated that her teeth and gum looked like road kill, but I think he thought I was just another overreacting mother, because he said not to worry and if I really felt it was necessary I could bring her in the following week.

Which of course I did. The dentist took one look at her teeth and gums and said "ummm...yeah, they've got to come out." I was surprised at how sad I felt about her losing her teeth. I love my kids baby teeth. I love their little smiles with those perfect little pearly teeth. I like looking at their kindergarten pictures with those sweet little smiles and then love the progression to gap toothed smiles and finally to looking way too big with their adult teeth all in a row in the next couple grades pictures. I got over this foolishness pretty quickly. Even more upsetting, I could not go with her for her dental surgery. I was already bringing Sam to an all day date with a neuropsychologist so Daddy was going to have to go with her. It near about killed me not to be with my baby for this. I insisted Joe call me and update me every 4 minutes. He was very good and kept me in the loop. I even talked to Katie before and right after. She did awesome and while I am a wee tiny bit sad about her missing teeth, her smile is none the dimmer without them. us your new smile

C' your mouth and smile

Don't you be a stubborn smile...pleeeeaaasee?


Monday, November 2, 2009

this is why I have a button in my jewelery box

It seems no matter how many times I go through the house, no matter how many times I pick up an errant doll, book, shoe, car, action figure or stuffed animal, no matter how many times I wipe the bathroom sink down, no matter how many times I clean the dishes, it all just needs to be done again and again and again. I adore my kids and am overjoyed that our house is filled with small shoes and clothes and dolls and toy trains and all the other very important things of the moment. But is it too much to ask that they put them away once in a while?

I have always taught my children that they are expected to pick up after themselves and for the most part they do a good job. But they are still kids and kids need to be reminded, all the freaking time, to pick up their clothes, shoes, socks and toys. Usually one reminder is enough but sometimes I end up shouting and threatening to give away any toys that aren't where they should be. I stomp around my house throwing everything into a basket and muttering to myself, "no one does it so hard to just put it where it many times do I have to...if I have to pick this up one more time" I feel all poor poor me and wonder when, if ever, I will have a home that doesn't require 20 minutes of frantic cleaning when someone calls to say they're dropping in.

And that usually reminds me of something my Mom used to say when we were little. It's kind of become a family saying. My poor Mom, she takes so much abuse. Anyways...she too would stomp through the house and her mutterings sounded similar to mine. Although she would add in a few "Jesus, Mary and Joseph"'s to her tirade. When she finally reached her breaking point and had found yet another one of her Hummels broken or an antique colored on she would scream " YOU KIDS RUIN EVERYTHING! I CAN NEVER HAVE ANYTHING NICE IN THIS HOUSE!" And the brats that we were, we continued to break her things and color on her furniture despite her yelling. Now when I go to her house with my kids and I caution them to be careful with Mimi's things and don't touch that and get down off the table, she tells me "it's fine. Let them be" I know she's the grandparent but still, what happened to "I can never have anything nice!" What the heck is going on here?

The other day I was cleaning up my bedroom and I actually pulled stuff out from under the bed and was cleaning under there. I reached under and pulled out a slipper that I'd been looking for...for years. I heard a little jingle and tipped it. Out rolled a small round golden button. I held that little button in my hand and sat on my bed and nearly cried. At one time in Sam's late toddlerhood, he developed a fascination with these buttons. Button balls he called them. I had to have several in my pockets at all times just in case he lost the one he carried everywhere with him. Teresa was only around a year old at the time and if something wasn't tied down, it went into her mouth. So these button balls were a royal pain in my rear. Sam was forever putting them down and just leaving them. And I was forever picking them up or fishing them out of Teresa's mouth. I remember wishing he could just. put. them. on. the. counter...but, he was three...what can you do?

And then...I remember how his chubby little hand clutched the button ball whenever he was nervous. I remember how he would take two and cup them in his hands and gently shake them and the look of pure wonder on his face at the pretty sound he made. I remember when I was upset, he'd trot over and work a precious button ball into my hand and stroke my cheek to make it "ahhh bedda" and it did make me feel all better. I remember finding a button ball on my pillow some nights. A little present to find before bed from my little man. His giving me his precious button ball, even just for the night, such a grand gesture for a little boy and it never failed to make me feel oh so treasured and loved. What I don't remember, is when he stopped loving those button balls. They just dropped to the wayside and I probably picked them up and put them into the button jar one last time not even realizing it was the one last time.

I think I know why my Mom doesn't mind my kids climbing over her furniture and having tea parties with her baleek china. I think she might miss the days of finding the detritus of childhood spilled throughout her home. And even though her days of having a houseful of kids is behind her and I am still in the midst of it...I think I understand. And I'm going to try not to get so riled up about the little things because one day I will look back and miss it. And if I ever need a little reminder, the little golden button ball in my jewelery box should help.