Wednesday, August 31, 2011


B, singing to Miles in his crib this morning:
"you are my sunshine, my only sunshine. you are happy when skies are grey. you never know dear how much you love me. please don't take my sunshine away..."

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

travel snacks

Someone asked me recently what snacks I carry around in my purse for the kids. I learned the hard way that snacks like string cheese, fresh fruit and granola bars don't hold up in my purse when it's hot outside. There's nothing like reaching down into the bottom of your purse and feeling something squishy, slimy or just plain rancid.

So, after experimenting a lot this past year, I started a list of my new favorite snacks for when we're on the go.

Granola: Granola in a snack cup or baggie travels really well. Bonus: Loose granola tends to be higher in protein and lower in sugar than granola bars. Our favorite right now is Bear Naked brand. It's whole grain, contains no high fructose corn syrup. Plus, it's super yummy and my kids think it's a treat. At home, Kris eats it with milk like cereal.

Raisins: They're already dried, so what's a little desert heat? I always have a few mini boxes of organic raisins tumbling around the bottom of my purse.

Bars: Okay, so I still buy bars occasionally. I like theClif Kid ZBar in Honey Graham or Blueberry. Kashi's crunchy granola bars in pumpkin spice flax are a favorite too. I avoid bars with chocolate or peanut butter because they melt easily.

Seeds: Roasted pumpkin seeds or sunflower kernels are durable and travel well, as long as you don't mind finding a few seeds in your kids' pockets or in their carseats.

Carrot sticks and cucumber slices: Durable. Healthy. And if I happen to forget about them at the bottom of my purse, they just get shriveled, not rancid.

Honey Stinger Stinger Waffles: Okay, truth be told, this is a treat for me and the kids. These little organic waffle cookies are crispy, buttery and chewy and just melt-in-your-mouth good. They're an American version of the stroopwafel you find in Europe. Honey Stinger makes them for athletes to gain some quick energy on the go. But they're also perfect for stashing in your purse as a bribe (er, I mean treat).

Rice crackers/rice cakes/rice chips: My kids have a weakness for potato chips ("salty chips" as B calls them), but they'll accept rice. At many stores you can find whole grain brown rice cakes and chips which are super yummy and healthier.

Roasted seaweed: These are usually stashed in the Asian food section of your store. We get them at Trader Joe's and the kids love it. I've seen other kids (and adults) who hate seaweed too, so you'll have to do a taste test. The flavor isn't for everyone. I like eating roasted seaweed with rice cakes or rice crackers.

Snapea Crisps:  Another slightly healthier alternative to chips. Very yummy, easy for little fingers to hold, and easily packed in my purse.

Banana Chips: We either buy banana chips in bulk or Trader Joe's has freeze dried banana and strawberry slices that are so yummy and melt-in-your-mouth.

What do you guys pack for your kids to eat on the go? As I look at my list, I realize most of my convenience snacks are prepackaged and store any of you make your own snack mixes or bars for your kids? Got any recipes to share?

Monday, August 29, 2011

B's first B

Of course, as soon as I lament B's delay in writing letters (specifically, the letter B), Sister shows me what's what. She presented this to me on Friday...

Is this not the most enthusiastic, artistic, delightful "B" you've ever seen?

She said she likes drawing Bs now because they look like balloons, which, of course, starts with "b."

Someone call Mensa, please. 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Subaru spa day

Our poor Subaru is on its last leg, I fear. We've poured more money into repairs this summer than I'd like to admit. This weekend, we tried to cheer it up by giving it a bath. Can cars benefit from a little pampering?? We really, really love not having car payments! This past year we've been working toward being debt-free (except our mortgage) and we're so close we can taste it. Of course, just when you're reaching the home stretch, Murphy's Law interferes...In the past month our air conditioner died and my computer went kaput. We're hoping our beloved Suby hangs in there for us another year or two. It's 11 years old, and the first car I ever purchased on my own :)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

sweat, cowgirls, and the great escape

oh dear lord.

I have to admit, I've been in a funk since we got back from Colorado. I attribute it to missing old friends, but also readjusting to the triple-digit weather. I hear people in other parts of the country talk about heat "waves" and I can sympathize, but here we've been riding the wave for months. (According to the National Weather Service, our area averages 100 days over 100 degrees each year.)

I am someone who needs to get outside every day. I just do. Fresh air nourishes my soul. Yet, the 5-minute walk to Bronwynn's school leaves us both drenched with sweat and delirious. That's at 7:45 a.m.

Last weekend, Kris (a.k.a. my hero) suggested an escape. We packed up and headed to Payson, AZ, the gateway to the Mogollon Rim. The rim is basically a 7,000-foot wedge dividing the sweltering desert to the south and the Colorado Plateau to the north. Beyond the rim is another world--lush green trees, dramatic winds and cooler weather. In about 90 minutes of driving, the temperature dropped about 20 degrees. Ahhhhh.

Payson also happens to be the home of the world's oldest rodeo (they claim), so we made a stop to see what that's all about. It was my first ever rodeo (despite my southern upbringing, I've never been much of a country girl).

Holding an oversized cup of freshly squeezed lemonade in one hand, a bag of kettle corn in the other, we settled into the bleachers for the show. A cool breeze bathed us for a couple of hours while we watched cowboys and girls gallop across the ring.

Maybe it was the smell of fresh dirt, or the sea of cowboys holding their wide-brimmed hats against their hearts. Maybe it was the utter joy of sitting outdoors for the first time in weeks. Or the sight of that gorgeous blonde horse. Or the kids' faces, rapt. But when this woman rode in front of us holding the American flag, I got all teary.

There's a patriotism and loyalty to the desert out here. In other places too, but it takes on a unique flavor in the West. And to be present--physically and emotionally present--with people who ooze passion for the land and culture they love.... well, it snapped me out of my funk.

Next up: Big burly cowboys were tossed like rag dolls from the backs of bucking broncos.

It must hurt to land face-first in the dirt. Seriously. Some of the falls were totally brutal to watch. Yet I couldn't help feeling bad for the horses. The cowboys choose to ride. The horses don't.

(There's also the oddity of smelling barbeque from the vendors while watching livestock perform. Hmmm.)

But since I was at the world's oldest rodeo, amongst some of the world's most loyal rodeo fans, I kept those thoughts to myself. 

After the rodeo, we found a park to explore with a pond. Some rain clouds rolled in, and the temperature dipped lower and lower, which made us want to stay longer and longer.

I love how small Miles looks next to his papa. 

"Look, Mama! Fish!"

When the skies opened up, we didn't run for shelter right away. We stood there and savored every single drop of that rain. We got soaked, and we loved it.

Before heading home, we found a restaurant with patio seating and requested to sit outside so we could enjoy the rain even more.

We drove home feeling so relaxed and refreshed. Even the kids seemed calmer than usual, happier than usual. Fortified and ready to face a few more weeks of searing heat before the wave finally breaks.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


the sight of a sleepy toddler in the backseat.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

evening swim

It's their evening ritual from April till October. Kris gets home from work. We eat dinner, and then he takes the kids swimming before bedtime. It's only about 30 minutes, but it's by far the highlight of their day. With temperatures still close to 110F, it's the best excuse to go outside.

Cutest wedgie ever.

Kris teaches them how to find the edge and pull themselves out of the pool.

Little Brother feels left out sometimes because he can't swim to the deep end like B can. 

Kris decided I should be in some photos for a change.

Friday, August 19, 2011

playroom refresh

It's been a year since I first set up the play area in our house, and I wanted to show you what it looks like now. I made a couple changes: I added storage so that we could more easily hide the toys that were piled in the corner and also create more of a play surface for the kids along that back wall. Plus, I covered up the ugly (and dangerous) open railing above the play area with some fabric panels.

Despite my mantra of "less stuff! less stuff!" the kids have accumulated more toys, but a few of them I'm really excited about. We recently picked up an old rotary phone, which I mounted to the wall for them. Of course, I had to explain what it is ("no, it doesn't have an 'on' dial it like there's no window to see just talk with it....put it up to your ear like this..."). 

 She got the hang of it eventually.

For photos of the playroom last year, click HERE. I'm also working on a photo collage for the wall opposite the activity table. Stay tuned for photos of that. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

is toddler brain worse than pregnancy brain?

I haven't had a fetus growing inside of me for almost two years now, but yet my brain is still not entirely my own. I can't blame hormones or sleep deprivation (though, I'd still say I'm sleep deprived, in the toddler-waking-at-3:00-AM-looking-for-her-flashlight sense.)

I set out to do something...say, make a cup of coffee...and I walk toward the coffee machine with purpose. Make coffee. But on the way there, little voices say "Mommy I need some milk!" or "Mommy, I need you to wipe me!" or "Mama, cracker peeeez?" or "Mama pick me up!" or maybe they say nothing at all, but along the way I step on something sharp or slimy or wet and I bend over to see what it is and clean it up and suddenly 45 minutes have passed and why am I so groggy? Oh yeah. I haven't had my coffee yet. Except, how can you remember to make coffee when you haven't had your coffee?

I've long given up on things like peeing and showering alone. 

I've outsourced my memory to Google Calendar and a stack of spiral-bound notebooks. Anything work-related, I write down in quadruplicate. Some of my best creative work happens at my bedside table, scribbled onto a blank page when the kids are asleep and my mind is my own.

I say all this because it feels good to say it, and I'm hoping I'm not alone. I am a work-at-home mother of two children under 4 years old, and some days I think I am losing my mind.

But also, I am having the time of my life.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

printable writing sheets & our left-handed child

I have to thank my friend Karen for this suggestion. I was telling her how B is left-handed. (Kris and I are both right handed, though two of my siblings and my dad are left-handed.)

B favored her left hand as an infant, but she would use her right if she had to. So we decided not to encourage her either way. We didn't put crayons in her hand, for instance. We always let her pick them up. Same with forks and spoons...we just let her natural preference emerge over time.

The only drawback to our laissez-faire approach is that she is a little behind some of her peers when it comes to things like cutting with scissors and writing her name. No biggie. She'll get the hang of it, but I wanted to give her some practice with tracing her name at least. She's started to notice that some of her friends can write their names and she can't. (and by write her name, we mean she can't yet write a "B" ...We know "Bronwynn" is going to take much longer to master!)

So Karen suggested these tracer sheets which you can find and customize online. (Just Google "tracer sheets" or "handwriting sheets" and you'll see several sites offer them) You can also print alphabet sheets and block or cursive letters to practice.

Cool, eh?

Side Note: As I was writing this post, I was searching for some information about left-handedness, because I've been told that some teachers and parents used to force kids to be right handed by tying their left hands behind their backs, which just sounds cruel. In my search, I discovered that August 13th is International Left Handers Day! Woohoo! So happy Left Handers Day, everyone. ;)

If you're left handed, please leave a comment with a tip for us right-handed parents. How can we make things easier for B?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

painting rocks

If you're not afraid of a little (non-toxic, washable) mess, set your kids up with some paint and a pile of rocks. We did this outdoors at my friend Jes' house and it kept our 4 toddlers entertained for nearly 45 minutes. Miles was by far the messiest (and most entertaining).

"All done!"

Sunday, August 7, 2011

when no one is watching

Do you ever watch your kids from a distance? Observe them while they're lost in an imaginary world of their own creation?

Singing to a well-worn stuffed bear as if he was a newborn child. Rocking him. Kissing him. Promising to keep him safe.

That expression on her face is priceless. I realize she could not demonstrate this kind of love (for a stuffed animal no less) if she had not been shown it. What a gift to see this reflected back.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

snap wrap dress

I'm getting a bit more confident in my sewing skills, so I decided to take the plunge and follow a PATTERN and make a DRESS. (I know, I know.) I turned to my pals over at Prudent Baby, because they have so many wonderful beginner tutorials to follow. I landed on their Snap Wrap Dress and decided to give it a whirl.

I think it turned out lovely! I made a few mistakes along the way, such as placing the snaps too tight and having to reposition them. I added the little crochet flower to hide some of my ugly hand stitching on the snap.

The skirt is not as gathered as I would like. This was my first time doing a basting stitch (where you sew straight on your widest machine setting and pull one thread to gather the fabric). Next time I'd pull it tighter.

But enough excuses. I made a dress! And it fits! And B loves it!!

I love the back of this dress.

Next up, I'm making some skirts for her to wear to school. I'm so glad she is finally branching out and wearing skirts and not just dresses. For a while (uh, like 2 years, actually) she was only content wearing dresses. This summer she's even worn shorts! and jeans! Hooray.

Monday, August 1, 2011

how to talk to little girls

I've been meaning to post about this topic (and the article by Lisa Bloom), but then today I read Joanna Goddard's post, which is just lovely. So I'll link to her instead. 

It's worth a read if you have a moment.

And I'll just add that having a little boy and a little girl, I notice this is so true, that strangers compliment B on her looks and what she's wearing and Miles is complimented for being "strong," or "active" or "adventurous." People comment on Miles' platinum hair and blue-saucer eyes too, so it's not a clear-cut gender difference. But I would absolutely love it if a stranger asked B about her favorite books sometime and noticed that she too is adventurous! What would happen if we communicated this message to little girls: that we notice their intellect, their gifts and passions above their appearance??
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