August 21, 2014

1 thing i wish we DID bring on our toddler road trip

The other day I outlined 7 things that made our toddler road trip great. As soon as it went live, I realized I left something out: the one thing i wish we DID bring on our toddler road trip.

Oh, we forgot things. Okay, I forgot things. In fact, I forgot a whole bag of things -- books, good instant coffee, an extra cup and plate for the boy, snack pouches I'd bought specifically for the trip to offset the endless parade of junk and restaurant food... sigh. Whatever. We lived.

Ironically, that bag also included a book called "The Family Traveler's Handbook." Ahem.

What I really could have used was a frigging night light.

How annoying is it to sleep in a hotel and turn on that gawd-awful fluourescent bathroom light at 3 a.m.? Not to mention the horror of accidentally looking at myself in the mirror at that dreaded hour.

Note to self. I'm putting one in my travel toiletry back tonight for our next trip (though a next trip isn't even on the radar for the next half year or more).

"i wanna go IKEA!"

Why? Why does my son say he wants to go to IKEA? Maybe it's because the shopping carts twirl in every direction, or because he can play with their toys and then scream when I won't buy them.

Sorry Son, Mommy's not willing to drive to the ass-end of the city on a week day just to indulge you for the fact that you probably just like saying the word "IKEA."

i am going to make real food from scratch

This weekend I am going to make real food from scratch. That sounds ridiculous, because I make real food at least a few times a week. But I'm talking about old fashioned food production: applesauce and yogurt.

Why? Because they're the two things my son and I happen to love most, because they're actually easy to make, and because I'm convinced that anything I make at home is better in quality and taste than anything I can buy. Most days, anyway.

I've discovered the kitchn, an all-things-food blog that is downright inspirational. They have the yogurt recipe and it's ridiculously easy. The inspiration for applesauce comes from my neighbor's tree. Half of its branches reach into our yard, and I'm sick of just picking up the squirrel-eaten ones off the grass and ignoring the free bounty. It's probably as close to organic as I'm gonna get at that price, as my neighbors don't do anything to the tree -- no water, let alone pesticides. The tree's only company is birds, squirrels, and their two dogs. Think what you might about that, but at least it's all natural.

I'm pretty sure I can heat milk, cool it down, stir in a half cup of yogurt, and let it sit in the oven overnight. I'm also pretty sure I can boil unpeeled/cored apples and run them through my food mill that I bought for $3 at a second-hand store several years ago and have basically never used but just admired since it's about 50 years old and fully functional.

Now that half of our weekly meals come from Dream Dinners, I spend far less time managing meal planning. It's starting to uncover my foodie roots. I actually love cooking and baking, and eating at chef-owned restaurants. I'm also making dietary and exercise changes so I can back the scale further away from the 200 lb mark that I'm uncomfortably close to. Because of all these factors, I'm looking forward to creating a few easy foods that will nourish us and help keep me from eating crap. Wish me luck.

August 20, 2014

a simple prayer

I love that my son is growing up in the church, and that from his earliest years he's being introduced to the god of the universe as the loving, perfect god He is who wants to live with him forever. And very slowly, I'm trying to reflect my beliefs in front of him so he grows up understanding that I believe every word that I just said.

So far, I don't often get take that opportunity. I miss learning moments of pointing out God's creation, I swear too often, and I'm not exactly reading Bible verses out loud day and night. But I'm learning to do one or two things consistenty, and one of those things is prayer.

I pray with, or rather for, my son every night that I tuck him in. The Lord's prayer is way beyond his comprehension, let alone memorization, and the old "Now I lay me down to sleep" has always sounded morbid to me. Why would I die before I wake? Gives me the creeps. So I made up my own. It's simple and focuses on gratitude first.

Thank you Jesus for today
Thank you for my family
Protect me as I go tomorrow
In Jesus' name

Some nights he repeats some of the words like "today" or "tomorrow." Sometimes he folds his hands along with me. He usually says Amen after me. Most of the time he's content to just listen and absorb it as another bedtime routine, which suits me fine. And some nights I actually forget. Fortunately, God's not checking an attendance sheet.

Another prayer we do together when we think of it is saying grace at the dinner table. I won't even tell you how rare this is, but we've nailed down a simple format that he'll memorize without too much trouble.

Bless the food
In Jesus' name

Eventually I'll expand into other things like reading the Bible and praying with my son, and helping him express himself through prayer. But faith doesn't have to be complicated, because Jesus didn't come to start a religion. Simple is the way to go.

August 18, 2014

7 things that made our toddler road trip great

5 days, 2 hotels, 1 car. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, right? It actually wasn't. A learning experience, to be sure, with lessons I'll carry with me long into the future.

We drove with my mom two states away for a family reunion, arriving early to spend time with my brother and his sons (hence the second hotel). I don't think my son has ever eaten in so many restaurants in so few days, and for the most part he was pretty well-behaved. I even learned how to change a blowout in a dirty, cramped bathroom with him standing up! I felt like I was earning my stripes at times, but those moments were rare. We all enjoyed each other's company immensely, especially the boy who is a born extrovert and loves loves loves people.

The first hotel we stayed in had adjoining rooms for us and my mom. She stayed in the single king room, we took the double queen. We had the boy sleep in one bed with a border of pillows around him, while we slept in the other. And -- miracle of miracles -- he slept! The first night he woke up and cried a bit, but I shushed him back to sleep quickly. No big deal. In fact, it was nice to sleep in the same room and see him wake up smiling at us. Letting him go bug Grandma while I was showering was a big plus too.

The second place we stayed was a rustic duplex-style cabin -- the four of us stayed in one, and my brother and nephews stayed in the other. With 3 bedrooms in each, there was plenty of room to spread out (despite sharing one bathroom). The boy contented himself exploring the rooms, the grass, the people, the dirt, and anything else that looked appealing to a 2 year old.

While the trip wasn't completely devoid of minor temper tantrums and such, it was far more successful than it could have been. That said, here are 7 things that made our toddler road trip great.

  1. Sitting in the back seat with the child. He gets bored just like anyone else, so having my mom along on the way up was a godsend! Six hours in the car with only two extended stops for lunch and playtime was a good balance. He was so excited he didn't even nap until we were almost at our destination. On the way home, I sat in the back seat with him. We only stopped once, since he actually took a 2 hour nap.
  2. New toys, wrapped as presents. Just simple things -- a couple of new cars, a couple of books (I brought the tablet with new games and we never even used it) -- and a new backpack for them.
  3. Old favorites. We brought two lovies and a plush puppy that he adores. Comfort objects made a big difference, especially at bedtime.
  4. His comforter. One more comfort object.
  5. Flexible bedtime. I'm usually a stickler on this one, but letting him stay up just half an hour later practically guaranteed an easy bedtime and good night's sleep. I gave him every opportunity for a solid nap, but didn't stress if he didn't sleep his normal amount.
  6. Play Doh. Not in the car, of course. But during some down time or when he was getting bored at the hotel, this was perfect.
  7. Prayer. I do believe that God answered my prayers for a successful trip and gave me peace. And even though my brother, cousin and I came down with a stomach bug at the end, it was really great.

August 11, 2014

random thoughts: the analogy of the sea and the lighthouse

The other day I told my husband how I see us parents relating to our toddler's temper tantrums. The boy, having little control over his emotions, is like the sea -- sometimes calm, but given to raging storms. We are like lighthouses -- solid and steady. As much as the waves of his emotions crash against us, we have only to continue to guide him as the storms pass.

August 6, 2014

a blessing for mothers of young children

I came across this on someone else's blog and, after getting choked up a bit, knew I needed to repost it. Be encouraged!

"Oh, Mothers of young children, I bow before you in reverence. Your work is most holy. You are fashioning the destinies of immortal souls. The powers folded up in the little ones that you hushed to sleep in your bosoms last night, are powers that shall exist forever. You are preparing them for their immortal destiny and influence. Be faithful. Take up your sacred burden reverently. Be sure that your life is sweet and clean."

-JR Miller, a 19th century preacher, The Family

August 4, 2014

I turned 45 and didn't take a single picture of my son or me

You might think I'd want to immortalize the occasion, but it just didn't work out that way. It was a simple day that included church, a nap, and comfort food surrounded by loved ones.

We joined family and friends at a restaurant that specializes in overweight-family-style eating with endless side dishes and generous heaps of fried hushpuppies. My husband described the ambience as "Disneyland and a retirement home had a baby." It's big, country-thematic, inexpensive, and super entertaining if you're under 5 -- which, HELLO, is exactly the reason I picked it!

Seriously, when we were ushered to our table we passed by an area with a sign declaring it an "adults only section." As if it were some animal exhibit at the zoo. "Ooh, look at all the childless diners... how sad and quiet they look..." Not like the screaming-tasmanian-devil-toddler-section we contributed to sat in.

Most of us ordered the fried chicken, while my mom broke the spell with liver & onions. I had hoped to convince the boy of the wonders of fried chicken and gravy-slathered mashed potatoes. What did he do with a chicken leg? Stabbed and dismembered it with a toothpick flag and straw, then declared he was "all done." The chicken certainly was. Oh well -- at least he enjoyed playing with ice cubes and straws. I made a point to smile and thank him, more than once, for being a good boy in the restaurant. It seemed to help. I'm still working on the positive-reinforcement tactic.

After we ate, we strolled down the hallway and came across a theatrical display of googly-eyed plush chickens sitting atop hay bales, automated to talk and sing songs. My son, because he is under 5, LOVED it. He danced to the music, stared open-mouthed at the talking chickens, and could only be lured away with the promise of buying treasure with the wooden nickel our server gave him. What did I do? I stood next to him, dancing along with him, beaming with joyous pride and hilarity at our little moment together. And although I thought about it, I did not whip out my phone and take a photo or video. I allowed that time to absorb me, deeply imbedding the sweetness of its beautiful memory like honey poured over hot biscuits.
Some moments are so precious that to preserve them artificially is to diminish their value.
Well, my husband did take a photo of us from behind, unbeknownst to me. But the moment is still mine.

Although I don't put a big priority on presents, my family chose to bless me with some special ones. My husband gave me a lovely, purse-sized day planner (partly in response to my failing mommy brain) and brought me a glass of champagne along with my own happy-birthday-cupcake while he sang to me. My mother gave me a big, glass rooster to decorate a different spot in my kitchen since the last one met an untimely demise, having crashed to its death from its perch in the window sill. My friend, knowing something of my heart's desires, gave me two journals; a directive journaling book and a songwriter's journal (more on that another day). And my other friend gave me an adorably girlie cut-glass bowl with butterflies christening the edge.