Friday, January 29, 2010

I have a confession

I'm not good at letting my kids help...with things that I like having control over. Sure, I am happy to let them help pick up toys, vacuum, set the table, brush their teeth, etc. But when it comes to more delicate things, like baking, I am a bit of a control freak. Sad, I know.

Before my children were even old enough to help, I used to dream about blissful moments with the kids in aprons, working beside me at the counter as we baked perfect chocolate chip cookies. Well, of course I've attempted those moments many times, but often they weren't very blissful. Instead there have been raw eggs splattered on the floor, flour puffing up on the cabinets, much over-mixing and over-tasting, and me getting frustrated and wishing I was doing the job alone. I really need to loosen up, I know.

Things may be getting a little better as my kids' abilities increase with their age, but I still have a hard time not intercepting the teaspoons of baking powder that weren't leveled perfectly, or refraining from holding the end of the mixing spoon as they stir.

But I am trying to be better. I've found that it helps if I look the other way. What I don't see won't hurt me. I'm letting go of the expectation of perfection, because let's face it, half the things I make by myself flop anyway. And I love the idea of them helping me, and learning to cook on their own. There will surely come a time when they don't want to help anymore, so by golly I better capitalize on the eagerness now.

During the many Christmas baking episodes this past season, I really tried to let the kids be involved. And the results were fairly successful. Here is Tessa stirring the marshmallow creme into the fudge. It still turned out!

(notice the suspicious white line above her lip:)

Reindeer cookies are one of my favorite kid-friendly goodies. They can place the antlers, eyes and nose independently. But, I admit...I adjusted the off-center ones when they weren't looking! See? Control-freak!

Candy cane cookies are really fun for kiddos, but tricky with under-developed fine motor skills. I was actually impressed with how well my 8 and 6-year-olds could do it this year. There is hope!

So I just need to stop being so uptight about it all. If I can do that, I know that blissful image I conjured in my mind years ago will become a spite of a messy kitchen and over-stirred batters.

Monday, January 25, 2010

A snapshot of our current life stage... shoes.

When my kids are all grown up, I want to be able remember them when they were small. I want to remember their wispy baby hair and smiles with only two teeth, and the first time they could jump with both feet, and the smoothie mustaches that were always leftover after the smoothie went down, and I want to remember that their feet were small enough to fit in tiny shoes.

My own memory is not that good. Hence the reason for cameras and blogs and journals, I suppose. I hope that is enough!

I love our repertoire of brown of my favorite colors. But lately we're getting much more use out of our waterproof, insulated footwear. Such is the Midwest. (we've already logged 5 3/4 snow days) But the kids aren't complaining. Day after day they bundle themselves and brave the weather to sled, build snow forts, and battle with snow balls. As for Tom and me, we like our spot in front of the fire with hot cocoa. That makes it all worthwhile.

Monday, January 18, 2010


In the forty months we lived in New York, six of my seven siblings (& their families) and all three of Tom's siblings were able to visit, some more than once. Of course each of our parents made the trip to the East Coast multiple times, and a few cousins, aunts, and uncles even made an appearance. Throw into the mix a handful of friends that came to stay, and we had a nice steady flow of houseguests. We loved it.

We have a feeling our Des Moines home will not be graced with as many visitors. We'll see which of our friends and family truly love us for us, and which just love us for the city we live in. :)

So far we're doing pretty well. We've already added two groups to the running "guest book" we keep for overnight guests. Tom's parents have the desire and the freedom to travel frequently, so they took a hefty road trip here from Idaho in October and stayed for a few days...bearing gifts of furniture and other goodies that our home is now big enough to hold. We're so lucky!

I don't know why we don't have any pictures from that visit--shameful. But I love this one from one of their trips to see us in Forest Hills a few years ago. Eden really loves her Grandma, but takes some time to warm up...

After Christmas we got out the air mattress again for some of our best friends, the Wills, who traveled about 14 hours (in one day!) to visit. We became great friends when we all lived in New York together. They loved us so much that they even moved to the apartment above us after a year. That was the best. We practically shared the same house, which meant we shared a front door and front porch, as well as Sunday dinners, babysitting, game nights, big gatherings, and lots of laughs. I was very spoiled from that awesome living arrangement, and I've never recovered. But life goes on as people move on. They moved to Wyoming, and then we moved to Iowa. So now we're a reasonable driving distance from them. Not the same as being one flight of stairs away, but we'll take it.

We had so much fun with Chris, Beth, Caitlin and Ashlee. They stayed for five days-- we celebrated New Years' and Beth's birthday, we went to a movie, we toured downtown Des Moines a bit, we saw Curious George Live! (because a close friend of theirs was playing the Man in the Yellow Hat--so fun), we played in the snow, and tried to stay warm in the sub-zero temps.

These pictures didn't turn out well, but you get the idea. The Wills took some better ones and posted them on their blog.

Eden missed little Caitlin when she left. Those three year olds were super partners. They could hardly wait to see each other and start playing each morning. The first one to wake (often at 6am!) would either go wake the other to join her, or after some parental rebuking, wait until she heard little feet running about, then take that as a signal to let the fun begin. Cute friends.

We had a blast. Thanks for coming, Wills! And who's next...?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The best medicine

All of my problems seem to melt away when I hear a baby laughing, truly guffawing. It is cute enough when they giggle as a response to tickling, but I love the hearty, spontaneous laughs that come when a baby sincerely thinks something is funny. It is the best.

In our family, it seems that the child just older than the current baby is always best at provoking that baby to laughter. So right now Eden is the champ at getting Ansley to laugh. Today I was taking a shower during baby nap time. Apparently Ans woke up before I was done, so Eden took the liberty of tending her. She went into her room and pulled the old "climb in the crib with the baby" trick, and it was well-received. Those two girls were bouncing and playing and CRACKING UP with laughter when I became aware of it all.

It doesn't get much better than that for me. Laughter is truly the best medicine. Not that I needed a prescription or anything, but a dose of laughter--either mine or that of my little ones-- is always good for the soul.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Snow day home school

The near-arctic temperatures, accompanied by some of the falling white stuff, resulted in some fun "snow days." Yesterday the kids hung out, watched movies...took a break. But when we heard that school was canceled again today, I decided we needed to do something productive and a bit academic.

I conducted a modest little version of home school. It was fun! Nobody complained. I drilled them on math facts, administered spelling tests, made up story problems, and gave a writing assignment. We also had...
art--sketching and coloring
recess--a brief (due to the -20 degree temps with windchill)10 minutes playing in the snow
P.E.--stretches, jogging, games with balls
story time--in blankets in front of the fireplace
lunch--still packed in lunch boxes on request

I thought it was a great way to pass the day, and spend quality time together. It made me wonder if I would enjoy full time home-schooling. I have considered it before, and I think it would be fulfilling for me. I like how individualized it is--teaching methods and material tailored to each child. Today we focused on specific areas that needed attention and made progress. I saw them learn and internalize things that they didn't know yesterday. That was cool; I would like to be a part of that on a daily basis.

But I know it would be considerably tougher than it was today. Today was easy. I had no agenda, nothing we had to accomplish. We just did whatever we felt like doing. While it would be rewarding and exciting to take charge of my children's education in this way, I think I would feel a lot of pressure to give them every academic opportunity possible. I try to stimulate them intellectually at home, but it's nice to know there are others at school with the same goal (hopefully). Ideally my kids will be enlightened at school in ways I wouldn't have thought of. And in turn, I can try to reach them and teach them in ways not possible in a school setting. It's a good arrangement for now.

It is an amazing thing to watch kids grow and develop, and acquire knowledge and ability. I am glad to be a part of it. I was reminded today that I need to take advantage of teaching opportunities even more, while my kids are young and spongy.

I was so busy relishing in the joy of teaching today :), that I didn't take any pictures. Here is one of my favorite photos from the oldest three students, a few years ago.

Ansley is learning a lot every day, too--mostly perfecting her clapping and waving and toilet-paper unraveling. She has a knack for getting into the middle of every thing we're trying to do. Which is pretty fun most of the time.

Here she is lying in the piles of laundry Tom is folding.

There are good days and there are not-so-good days in the life of a mother. Today was a great one!