By Gina at 3:39 PM | Labels: 365 Project, Confessions, entropy, parenting, surface of the sun, survival
It's 111 degrees outside, and I've let the kids run wild indoors while I read a new book under the cool blanket of air conditioning. I'm not enforcing nap time, because we are all content, and frankly it's too hot to argue.
The kids sense this, that I'm setting aside our routine, and so they've hunkered down in B's room. I press my ear to the door and listen to them drift away to a fairytale world. They're operating a zoo that includes dinosaurs and frogs and there's a baby dinosaur who cries out for his mommy. I instinctively reach for the doorknob before I realize the cries are pretend.
I fix a cup of coffee, burrow into the couch and read 10 pages. 20. 50. Their giggles drift down the hallway. Occasionally one of them will emerge and ferry in glasses of water, a handful of peanuts, slices of cheese. We all feel like we're getting away with something.
I tick through 15 more pages. Am I taking too much liberty? I question the ease of the situation and the kids' raucous laughter responds: No. This is childhood. This is them making their own fun... together, enjoying their sibling relationship apart from me.
Eventually they ask to watch a show on my Kindle, and I say yes. They snuggle together on my bed while the opening jingle to Wonder Pets plays.
Ten minutes later, B tiptoes downstairs, fingers pressed against her lips, suppressing a giggle. She says "shhhhh," and leads me by the arm upstairs and to my bed, where Miles is sound asleep.
"Let's let him rest," she says, and then gives a sly smile. She tiptoes over to him, pries a toy out of his hand (a rubber duck that she has been coveting all day), and skips away to play.
One of the nice things about living down here in the desert is our proximity to Mexico. There's something unique and exciting about driving across the border. Even more exciting is arriving at this stunning beach on the Sea of Cortez.
This was our second trip to Puerto Penasco (a.k.a. Rocky Point). I enjoy looking back at our first trip and remembering how little the kids were, noticing how much they've changed.
This year, they owned the beach. They were fearless explorers, marine biologists, body surfers, sand castle architects, tide poolers! B collected dozens of sea snails and hermit crabs (and released them). Miles mined the sand for the most colorful sea shells. B found her first sand dollar. And we partied on the beach with several families at sunset every night.
Photo note: All these images came from my iPhone.
Does it get better than this?
Some tips if you're going to drive to Mexico:
1. Most towns close to the border accept US dollars, but bring plenty of small denominations.
2. Make sure your passports are up-to-date! Kids passports expire within 5 years. Adults: 10
3. Buy Mexican car insurance for the duration of your stay. Our friends recommend and we used a consolidator called BajaBound.com
4. Teach your children it's not okay to make faces at the border patrol officers. And it's ESPECIALLY NOT OK to try to touch their guns (yes, B tried to do this...we taught her instead to ask the officer if she can shake his/her hand)
5. Have fun! Mexico is largely a safe, friendly place to visit with kids. If you're concerned, check travel forums or the state department website for specific places to avoid. Beyond that, take precautions such as avoiding travel at night, use popular tourist border crossings and be vigilant.
When we designed B's room a few years ago, we hoped it would be a style that would grow with her. So far, that's been the case, as she went from a toddler bed to a twin....and now as we are upgrading her gallery wall to better reflect her evolving taste.
B had been sticking photos and pictures to the wall with Scotch tape: sea animal drawings, favorite toys, and photos of loved ones. So, I decided to give her more of what she enjoys (without all the sticky tape mess).
We kept the fairy tale canvases that I created for her (using Lizzy House "Castle Peeps" fabric) and added a photo wire with clips where she could hang her own art and photos.
New Art includes the adorable "Marry Me Pig" canvas, given to us by our dear friend, artist and children's book author Jonathan Fenske. Jonathan's work speaks to my love of vintage illustrations and nostalgic toys. We have a custom painting of his that I've always cherished, but this is the first time he's offering reproductions of his most famous illustrations on stretched canvases. It's a great way to add to your family's art collection without breaking the bank.
I also discovered vintage sea life prints from old textbooks and encyclopedias. I'm not really into beach themes, but the natural history of sea life fascinates me almost as much as it does B. And the old scientific illustrations are truly amazing. I found this 1930s manatee at Aged Page on Etsy for $10 and framed it myself.
I intentionally left some blank space on the wall. Over time, we'll add to the collage with more sea life prints or other art that interests B. We'll probably frame some of her own drawings and photography too. I'm also thinking of getting a shadow box and filling it with the sand and sea shells that B has collected from Florida, California and Mexico.
Best part: When B opens her eyes in the morning, the first thing she sees is images and people she loves.
(I told Miles to think about what he wants on his wall...)
It's a contradiction, fruit orchards in the desert. But they do exist and the harvest is impressive. A single bite from one of these peaches bathes your wrist in juice.
This is our third peach season, and we realized almost too late that today was our only chance to go pick. So we headed out early to avoid the searing heat and drove 45 minutes to the farm.
In previous years, the kids needed a lot of coaching. Don't pick the green ones. Or the rotten ones. Or the ones that are on the ground and half-eaten by birds. And there was whining. I'm hot. I'm thirsty. Are we done picking?
This year, their attitudes were as sweet as the peaches themselves. I barely had to work. Miles would disappear under the thick, low canopy of a tree and emerge with an armful. B carefully considered each peach and plucked only the most interesting ones: the twins, the fuzziest, the most colorful. The kids steadily filled our boxes with some of the most gorgeous fruit I've seen -- 19 pounds in all.
It was still hot. We were still thirsty. But no one complained. There was an argument over who could carry the most (I won).
Now we're back home planning recipes.
By Gina at 11:35 AM | Labels: 365 Project, Confessions, iphone, parenting, photography, tantrum, toddler
"Where's Becca, Mommy?"
Thursday evening, Kris and I were relaxing on the patio when Miles came running out, excited and grinning. "You like my haircut, Mommy?"
He turned to the side, and sure enough there was a small bald patch above his ear.
The kids had been in the next room, 15 feet away from us, trimming paper -- and hair, apparently -- with their jumbo safety scissors. My first thought was, it finally happened. I admit, once I saw that the damage was minimal, I was a little excited to have reached this childhood milestone. I suppressed my laughter, though, and ran inside to see how Bronwynn looked.
Thankfully, her cut was even less noticeable than Miles'. She'd lopped a few inches off the end, underneath several long layers.
Whereas Miles had been proud of his new do, B was clearly aware she'd made a mistake. She averted her eyes and smoothed her hair down to hide the evidence. Then, both kids lied and tried to cover up the whole thing, stuffing clumps of hair in their pockets.
The lying was a bigger offense than the hair cutting, so we sent the kids to their rooms and talked about the consequences of losing our trust. Miles was a little upset, but more confused as to why we weren't proud of his cutting skills. B, on the other hand, dissolved into a puddle of shame and self-loathing. She announced, through sobs, that no one will ever love her again and she might as well grow up and become a bank robber. Her reasoning: Bank robbers make bad choices. She made a bad choice. There's nothing left for her on this side of the law.
Being dishonest is painful, I told her. It doesn't make her a bad person, just human. And nothing she could ever do -- even robbing a bank -- would make me love her an ounce less than I do right now. That's the truth. I also assured her that tomorrow is a new day.
She went to sleep crying, and I wept too, because I worried that she really does think no one will love her if she's not perfect.
Five seems a little young to be such a perfectionist, but she comes by it naturally. It's one of the biggest lessons I keep relearning in life. I don't have to do it all, or be everything to everyone. I will not say the right things or do the right things in every situation. I am far from perfect. I am enough.
The next day, B had a breakthrough. She woke up happy and relieved that it was indeed a new day. We talked briefly about the haircut, and I reminded her we all make mistakes, and it was time to move on.
B usually gets really embarrassed if she makes a mistake at school. She typically wouldn't tell her favorite teacher, Theresa, about getting in trouble. She craves Theresa's love and approval in the same way she craves mine and Kris'. But on Friday, she told Theresa the whole entire hair-cutting saga, including the cover-up. It was a beautiful opportunity for someone else to reinforce what I've been teaching my daughter, that she is loved and accepted, that it feels good to be honest and be heard and seen as imperfect as we are.
There's such peace in that, isn't there? When we can stop spinning our wheels, lean into authenticity, be vulnerable, and find support and love.
Truth: Miles needed a trim anyway.
I get a little dizzy reading all the latest studies about nutrition, specifically those regarding GMOs, processed foods, preservatives, hormones and food dyes. I do a fair amount of health-related magazine writing, so I keep up with this stuff. And, as a mom, of course I'm concerned about what the kids are eating. But, sheesh. The tide of new, alarming studies never ends.
My advice is to look at what's available to you and choose the best foods you can. Your best options might change with your budget. It might look different when you're traveling or when you're sick. We like hormone-free meat & dairy, organic produce (local, if we can get it), and low sugar snacks. I've been able to make those a staple in our house, and our weekly grocery bill for a family of four is still reasonable (under $125 a week). Here's a great article about how to eat organic food on a budget, including which foods you should prioritize: Delicious Living.
Others choices are tougher. I've been cutting back on gluten and processed foods, but I have toddlers, and toddlers love their carbs. Bread, granola bars, crackers in fun shapes. I don't want to deny them that stuff entirely, but I also don't have a fortune to spend on the designer-organic-non-GMO versions of every snack food.
And really... a nutritionally elite organic cookie is still a cookie, right? An occasional treat.
B starts kindergarten in August (!), and I've been thinking about school lunches and convenience food. I've been experimenting with homemade alternatives -- recipes where I can control the ingredients. I work part-time from home and don't love cooking, so any recipe I try needs to be pretty simple.
Here are three winners. I've made these several times now and would recommend them to anyone who wants their occasional carb fix without all the toxic side effects:
1. Homemade Cheez-Its. I found this recipe on Prudent Baby. The ingredients are just cheese, flour, butter, salt, paprika and ground mustard. I cut the flour down to about 3/4 cup and added 1/4 cup flaxseed meal, which didn't affect the flavor & upped the nutritional value. I'm curious how this would work with gluten-free flour, oat or rice flour.
2. Easiest bread ever. Baking bread has always intimidated me (something about yeast and starters and pounding and rising). But then I stumbled upon Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes A Day and, it couldn't be simpler or more delicious. :) The basic recipe calls for just yeast, flour and salt. From there you can customize it however you like: flax, sunflower seeds, walnut & dates (pictured above), cinnamon, cheese & olives... The recipe is very forgiving. It makes enough dough for four small loaves and stores in your fridge for up to two weeks.
3. Date bars. There are a million recipes out there for these treats, but the basic idea is that you throw about 2 cups of pitted dates (I like Medjool dates) and a cup of raw almonds into a food processor. Add a little vanilla, cinnamon, or whatever you like...dark chocolate, cashews, oats, etc. Roll into balls or form into bars and refrigerate them. You can coat them in chopped nuts or shredded coconut.
Other easy foods for lunch boxes:
mixed nuts or seeds
dried fruit or fruit leather
apples & nut butter
ham & cheese roll-ups
veggies & hummus
What else should we add to our list? Please share your faves and recipes in the comments.