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Friday, October 31, 2014

On Being Scared...

Halloween 2014

It's Halloween Eve. The anticipation has been building all week. We have engaged in Halloween related activities and projects all week long. It's almost here!

I promise, we are not really big Halloween junkies. Babe-O has had an interest in things that are a bit scary this year, like the idea of ghosts and haunted houses, spiders and bats, and ghouls (we call them dirty guys). And more than the tricks or treats, I really enjoy the feeling of Magic that can accompany Halloween. The magic of being anyone or anything that you want to be. The magic of autumn nights where the leaves crunch under your feet, toasty popcorn and warm apple cider fill your belly, the stars burn brighter in the clear night sky and bonfires spark and warm chilly noses in the cold air that will carry in Winter. As the leaves fall and the nights get longer, it seems like a time to celebrate the magic of growing older. Because we are all doing it and because that sweet and sour anguish of watching my kids get older lives in my bones and will always haunt my heart as I try my hardest to hold onto the little moments, knowing I will have to let go.

Today Babe-O and I had a scare. Different kinds, in different ways. For me, it was the kind of scare that reinforced the impossibility of keeping my children protected from fear or unpleasant experiences whether they be scary or painful.

We had a friend over and dressed up in our costumes for a day out at a Glow in The Dark Inflatable Playground. The kind where your kids get to jump up and down until they are ravenous and so very tired, yet totally pumped full of adrenaline. You know, kinda how it feels after a really hard workout (the kind that make you feel like you might pass out but you don't). It's fun (once in a while).
And it was a special event for Halloween. Jump around in your costumes! Glowing, bouncing, Halloween fun! Perfect!

Babe-O quickly got used to the Glow in the Dark area, after being very cautious at first. He and his friend were having a great time chasing each other around an enclosed obstacle course. Babe-ala and I watched from behind the net enclosure, cheering Babe-O on as he bounced by. Suddenly and undetected by myself, an older child in a scary wolf mask entered the dark glowing bouncy house. Babe-O turned around only to be head-on with a wolf. The scream was piercing as he tried to escape the enclosure only getting trapped in the net. I yelled for the older child to take off his mask, which only took a moment and Babe-O recovered with the comfort of his friend and myself.

It's hard to describe a Mom's (or Dad's) reaction in the instant when her child is faced with something terrifying, something so scary you know that in some way, measurable or immeasurable, it will change them. There are all different kinds of scary and all different ways of being changed. But in the instant the incident occurs you can at once empathize so deeply as to be equally and indelibly imprinted as your child and simultaneously realize that although you are now more present for your child than you may ever mundanely be you are absolutely and utterly unable to protect them from the impact.

The spectrum of scary is so broad: from childhood illness, disease, tragedies (which we also live with on a daily basis you can read about Deo here) to the frights of Halloween, fear of the dark, loud flushing toilets.  The effect may have it's definite course or be unknown and as a Mom it can be hard to decipher which is scarier.

As a Mom, the scariest thing is to embrace my own fears about my children growing up - to really let myself feel the fear, pain, even regret of not having seen the Wolf coming. Accepting that while they are young I can  do what "feels" like sustaining their lives every day and still not see the Wolf coming. Realizing that sometimes I may see the Wolf coming and have to let my children encounter it on their own and knowing that even if they turn to me in times of fear there will be increasingly less and less I will be able to do.

We will have different scares, in different ways. If I practice living with and love through my fears, which I believe is the magic of fully, deeply living I may have the privilege to be there to hold the space where their fear lives without letting mine get in the way.

It comforts me to know, on this Halloween Eve, that my children may know the feeling of being loved that is both connected to fear and more powerful than it. 

How's that for existential Halloween fodder?

Just to let you know:
As he was leaving the Glowing, Bouncing Halloween Party that nearly made him pee his pants, he had a conversation with the manager (totally unprovoked by me- i swear.) In which he informed him that he had run into a wolf in the bouncy house. He reassured him that. "the wolf was really a boy, so thank goodness for that". He continued by questioning the manager, "did you see the wolf come in? " And then castigating him, " You should not let wolves come in here. Next time no masks in the bouncy houses!" (Unannounced to Babe-O, I had already had this conversation with the manager).

Deep breath. He'll be okay this time.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Pigeon Gets A Pumpkin!

The Pigeon is Babe-O's very favorite literary character!
He just loves him (and the duckling)!
He loves all the books (by Mo Willems) and knows them all by heart.
And since Batman has come into action, we have taken a short break from pigeon only bringing him back to fight crime with Batman once in a while.

Recently, we were surprised to find this book on the "New Books" shelf at the library.

Needless to say, Pigeon has made a come back!
Babe-O plays Pigeon and Duckling stories out in his sleep.
We role play Pigeon and Duckling (I usually get to be Duckling) almost everyday and we do Pigeon and Duckling puppet shows.
I am sure this may seem familiar to many of you, since Pigeon and Duckling are pretty popular.
(And if you don't know Pigeon and Duckling, I recommend them no matter your age. Very funny stuff and a lot of room for ad lib!)

Naturally, our pumpkins have turned into Pigeon and Duckling.

Here they are sharing a hot dog on the front porch.
Babe-ala brings the mustard to the party!

I will admit that this project stressed me out a little bit.
The excitement leading up to the final project was very frenetic and it was hard for little hands to resist pigeon and duckling while they were still wet.

We used acrylic paints like these.  Babe-O and Babe-ala both helped paint the pumpkins. Our paints clearly said non-toxic on the label. Although, I worry with acrylic paint (hence the heightened stress about the painty mess).While they dried, we took a long bath break.

The beak is made from foam sheets. I cut two triangles for the top and two for the bottom beak and hot-glued them in 3-D fashion, as well as to the pumpkin itself.
I painted the eyes on and Babe-O helped put the large googly eyes on Pigeon.

When they were dry (or still a little wet), we got a hot dog and mustard bottle from our play kitchen and had a hot dog party on the front porch!

Fun, fun, fun!

And here's the scary pumpkin (carved by yours truly)... just because it's The Scariest Best Things Week... and we HAD to have a scary pumpkin...

A few of our favorite Pigeon books:

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Orange Pumpkins. No Really, Orange Pumpkins.

I did this a long time ago with a clementine peel.
But lately we have a ton of oranges in the house.
We haven't seen a good orange in a while so when we found them at the store we bought them up.
Here's what we did with the peels.
Perfect for little hands since carving a pumpkin is usually a big persons job around here.

Step 1: Cut off the top of your orange.

Step 2: Make an incision down the back of the peel and carefully pull out the orange guts. If the peel rips a bit that's okay. You'll see it will still be spherical-ish.

Step 3: Cut out your orange pumpkin face. I used a knife and I helped Babe-O me use scissors to cut  a scary face into the peel.

Step 4: Sucher up your orange. I cut up a bamboo skewer. Toothpicks might work fine too.

Step 5: Insert tea light.

Step 6: Light your candle and turn off the lights for some spooky orange pumpkin fun!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Keeping The Kids Clean: Part Two

Welcome to The Scariest Best Things Week! Some very spooky posts are headed your way this week. To begin, Part Two: a very chilling account of how I don't keep my kids clean. Promise that the following posts will be very Halloween-y! 

It's time for some Fall House Cleaning.
And instead of cleaning it, we have been trying to get out of it as much as we can.
Soaking up the crisp autumn weather, visiting the remaining ducks and geese before they head south and exploring the leafy forests seem like a better idea than cleaning.
Because well, I am lazy about cleaning AND it always feels like a losing battle.

We live in a 1200sq ft house. There are five of us. Plus one more coming home from afar, plus one more on the way. That all equals an avalanche of mess in this house.
There are food crumbs, laundry, art leftovers, outside particles (such as dirt - it sounds better the other way), toys, toys, did I say toys?, everywhere you look. One could spend the entire day sweeping and putting away and turn around to find it all back the same way. 
I can't fight that battle. It makes me insane. AND I don't have time to clean around the clock.
I have way too much playing to do!
But this post is less about the mess that is inside my house. Maybe another day.
This post is about how that mess gets on my children and how, then I take my children and that mess out of my house into (drumroll) the REAL, CLEAN-ish world.

Now, before I go any further, let me set a few things straight.

1. Order and cleanliness are important. Kinda.
Order helps kids feel secure. Keeping things neat helps kids focus and so on and so forth.
Time out.
Order doesn't always look neat and tidy.
I help my kids feel secure. They know no matter what the mess looks like, I'll always be there to help them or support them in cleaning it up, now or forever.
I also have found that if my kids find an activity worthy, they will focus when they are ready and that doesn't mean it will always look like they are focusing to me.

For example, when the Legos explode all over the playroom and all the other toys in the playroom end up in the living room - that's Babe-Os way of ordering his most important toys and his workspace.
Similarly, when he can't find something he really wants because I didn't clean up after him or it's lost in the morass he learns a little bit about keeping order, without me having to nag or make orders.
But that's order of possessions.
How about the order of a routine?
Well, we have one of those. It consists of waking up, sustaining our bodies with nutrition when we are hungry, doing what makes us happy, maintaining our hygiene when it is agreeable to all*, and trying not to boss each other around all day long until our bodies feel tired enough to go to sleep.

*One trick to getting a kid who doesn't want to take a bath to take a bath is to let them do something really really messy so that they get so messy that they really want to take a bath.

 2. I don't require my kids to clean up.
They aren't there yet. There is NO interest in cleaning up ANYTHING.
Some kids have that desire. Mine don't.
One day they will be more ready to cooperate in the cleaning. I hope.
Instead of singing songs to myself and playing games, or devising clever games to try to interest them while I do all the cleaning alone (which I have tried) I talk a little bit about it and then do the nasty job myself.
So I'll say, " Look at all these toys. I don't want to trip over them. Let's put some away."
And then I 'll just do it.
Or when I think he can handle it I'll say, "Put this in the toy box." And just hand Babe-O the toy. Sometimes I get a little help and sometimes I don't.
Here's the most important lesson I have learned about asking for help.
If I expect a yes answer, don't ask. It just makes me mad when I don't get one.
How about spills? or sticky fingers? or messy faces?
For spills I just say, " It's okay. Let's clean it up." And do the same as above. Mostly, clean it up myself while they hold an extra towel.
For messy selves I hand them a wipe and try to get a wipe in myself, or I let it go.
Because I'd rather give them freedom. I'd rather give them a choice to be as they are. I'd rather have peace.

3. They are healthy.
Everyone has a bath at least every other day.
They pee in the water and I don't drain it. But because I have recently had a guilty moment I checked on that. It turns out pee water is sterile. So I am okay on that.
I clean the bathroom.
I wash the floors and change the sheets (occasionally).
I wash clothes. (I don't always fold it, but believe me I wash it.)
I wash their hands before they eat and after they use the toilet and whenever we go somewhere that gives me the eeby jeebies (most of the time).
I change diapers and keep their skin healthy.
I brush their teeth and their hair when they let me.
I do the important things. (For example, under no circumstances can anyone drink the bathwater, only the water that comes out of the faucet. But they drink it with cups that have been in the bathwater. Well, no one has died or been sick so we are okay on that too.)

So, here is what unclean looks like for us:

I let them feed themselves. At home, in public, in the car. Whenever they are hungry.
I let them eat what they like. I don't limit to-go foods to dry foods. I let them eat yogurt and smoothies in the car. I let them pick apart their sandwiches and eat peanut butter with their fingers. I let them use big people utensils and serve themselves. I let them drink out of cups with no lids because who wants to suck their drink out of a tiny hole in a plastic lid all the time?

I don't use bibs. They don't like them. Never have. Not as babies and not as toddlers. They always cry and complain and tear them off anyway. Plus it's just more tiny laundry.

I let them play with their food. In fact it's our family pasttime. It's almost a daily occurrence. Whether Batman has to save the Lego guys from the syrup filled holes in a waffle or we make food specifically for the purpose of playing with it, it just happens and I'll never limit that or stop it. I 've even been known to turn a blind eye when they throw food.

I let them wipe their hands and face on their clothes or mine if we don't have a wipe with us.

I let them wear their leftovers in their hair if they want to. I try to clean it out, but sometimes they don't want me to. So there you go cashier at the grocery store, who handed me a paper towel to wipe down my kids. I am not doing it. You can recycle your paper towel.

I let them get dirtier. If we are at the park and there are muddy rocks to climb. I say, " go for it."
Even if we are going to the store next.  If it just rained and their are giant muddy puddles to splash in I say, "absolutely." We can usually find a way to clean off our boots enough to track only minimal dirt into the store or library or five star resturant with white linens and furniture (oh, wait Babe-O won't eat there so I guess I do that one). We have had to run home to grab dry socks. We have had to cancel plans to go home and take a bath.

I want to give my kids this time limited opportunity to be. a. kid. To be messy and enjoy it. To make a mess and play in it. To not even notice who may or may not be judging them.To be just exactly who they are, just exactly how they want to be. Because they are not just kids who look messy on the outside.

They are people who have opinions and desires about when and how and where they and their things are kept clean. And I'm not just their Mom who is or isn't doing my best job of keeping them clean. I'm the person caring for and protecting their right to be as they are.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Keeping The Kids Clean: Part One

So here is what happened today.

We left our messy house to visit the grocery store.
Both kids had at least one article of clothing on that they had slept in.
Both kids had some remnants of breakfast either stuck in their hair or on their clothes.
Both kids had peanut butter and apples for a snack in the car on the way to the store.

I considered myself skilled to have gotten them dressed, in the car, and happily accompanying me to said store.

We shopped. A bit frantically, because I misjudged lunch time for snack time and the apple and peanut butter has not been enough to hold them over. They requested all of their favorite snacks and demanded to eat them right away. My shopping list went out the window and everything ended up in the cart.

Overall, I applauded myself on the way to the check out. This was a smooth trip. Babe-O helped out, picked out a few foods he wanted to eat. Only ran off once. Babe-ala stayed in the cart seat for half the trip and made it to the check out without gnawing a hole through the cracker box.
I'm doing awesome today.

Babe-O helped unload the cart and then even helped pack some groceries.
He made conversation with the cashier.
Babe-ala helped slide the debit card at just the right time.
Nobody is screaming.
I'm killing this.

At which point the cashier kindly states:

Cashier: (directly to Babe-ala) What's that in your hair? Paint? You must have had fun.

Me: No. That's yogurt. From breakfast. It was fun.

Cashier: (quietly and with dismay) Oh.

Me: (chuckle uncomfortably, try to avoid eye contact)

Cashier: (silently folds a paper towel in half and hands it to me).

Me: Oh. It's dried on. (Yes, folks I really did say this. As if to inform that the yogurt would not in fact come out of my baby's hair even if I tried to wipe it out. And then I proceeded to make a token effort to clean off Babe-ala's head.)

Babe-ala: (looks at me with confusion as if to say, "Why have you taken this paper towel from a stranger?")

Me (to Babe-ala): Sorry (as I put the paper towel down on the counter, neatly folded, as it was given to me).

I let her eat powdered donuts on the way home.
I had some too.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Our Top Five Feel Betters for A Cold (includes 3 bonus recipes!)

It's cold season around these parts.
Drippy noses, coughs, sore throats, runny eyes, no fun.
My main mode of operation is to let colds run their course without much intervention, except to support little bodies in the battle against the bug. I try to steer away from over the counter medicines. So here are the few things that provide extra comfort for us when we are sick.*

1. Olbas Oil   a.k.a "Spicy Stuff"
This oil is super "spicy." It contains oils of Peppermint, Eucalyptus, Cajeput, Wintergreen, Juniper and Clove. It really helps when stuffiness makes it hard to breathe and fall asleep. I use it, Diet Coke Papa uses it,even Babe-ala uses it. We put a few drops on a tissue (no more than 5 drops for the Babes because the "vapors" can irritate the eyes) and then place the tissue inside of the pillowcase or under the sheets of the bed. I have rubbed feet with this oil and covered them with socks. (This supposedly works wonders for colds. I noticed better sleep after this technique). You can add a few drops to coconut oil to dilute it a bit. I have also put 10-20 drops into a small jar on the shower floor (out of the way of the direct stream of water), while holding the Babe with the cold, letting it do it's vapory magic in the steamy air. You could also let the vapor magic happen in a closed up bathroom while you enjoy the sauna with the your Babe, if he/she is not in favor of showers.

2.The Snot Sucker This thing is amazing (especially for little babies who may not protest as much)! First, you have to get over the fact that YOU are the engine that drives the snot out of your baby's nose. Simply (depending on your child's willingness to have their nose sucked) insert the nose-tip into a tiny snotty nose and suck out the boogers. There is a tiny sponge in the snot collecting compartment to ensure the snot doesn't reach your mouth. We lost ours after a few times and seriously, you would have to really suck hard to get the snot all the way up the tube so I don't worry about it. Works so much better than the one they give you in the hospital or the one that comes in the baby first aid kit. If you try it you will wonder why you ever flinched at sucking boogers out of your baby's nose. Seriously!

3.Maunuka Honey (Should NOT be fed to children under 1 year old).
Oh yum! Maybe the best thing about being sick around here is Manuka Honey! Manuka is a very special honey made by bees that feast on the Manuka or Tea Tree which grown in New Zeland. It is said to have anti-microbial properties. Very special and very expensive. Manuka honey is hard to find and easy to consume. We use it VERY sparingly and in lemon ginger tea at the first signs of a cold. It is superb for sore throats!

photo by Angry Julie Monday

4. Vitamin C Mocktail
For those of you who do not know, I am a recovering alcoholic. I concocted this recipe when I was first recovering. I drank them all the time. Now, I share them with the Fam-O! Hey! that's one good thing that came out of drinking. They are a great substitute for a glass of sugary fruit juice and perfect for providing extra vitamins and fluids when we are sick.

Zippy Cranberry Orange Fizz (fills a Quart Mason Jar)
1 packet of Emergen-C Super Orange
12 ounces of lemon or any citrus flavored sparkling water
6 ounces of kombucha (we use a local brand that makes a seasonal flavor but a peach or ginger flavor would work beautifully)
lots of ice cubes
splash of cranberry juice

Cherry Berry Super -T Charger (fills a Quart Mason Jar)
1 packet of Emergen-C Drink Mix, Acai Berry
12 ounces of lime sparkling water
8 ounces of Celestial Seasonings Black Cherry Berry Tea or Wild Berry Zinger (cool it down before adding it to the mix)
6 ounces of kombucha (we use a local brand that makes blueberry or raspberry flavor but any berry flavor would be fine)
lots of ice cubes
splash of cranberry juice

photo by lindspetrol

5. Good Ol' Chicken Soup
I don't know why but good chicken soup has always been the hardest thing for me to make. My grandmother and my mother made me the most awesome chicken soup. Somehow I never got the recipes and I never found one that satisfied. Maybe it's because boiling a whole chicken kind of creeps me out.  But with the latest cold infecting our homestead, pregnancy related cravings, and Halloween around the corner, I decided to brave the boiling chicken carcass in my kitchen. And let me tell you, oh so good! It takes some time to simmer but it's much easier than I have been thinking it to be for years and years and years. I know it's like I have been living on some planet with no chicken life. You probably already have the best recipe for chicken soup. But I need a place to keep mine and if you need one you can sneak it.

The Easiest Recipe for Really Good Good Ol' Chicken Soup 
1 medium onion
3 stalks of celery
3 carrots
4 parsnips
1 whole organic, free range chicken (3-4 pounds)
1 bay leaf
32 oz. chicken broth
3 T chicken base (we use this one)
1 1/2 quarts of water
2 T fresh dill
2 T fresh parsley
sea salt and pepper to taste

Peel and chop all vegetables. (This soup is chunky. Great with a piece of bread!)

Rinse the chicken in cold water. Sprinkle with salt and peper.
Place the whole bird in the pot.
Add the bay leaf.
Pour in chicken broth, add chicken base, and water.
Try to stir, just a bit to dissolve the chicken base.
Add all the veggies, dill and parsely.
Bring to boil.

Reduce to a simmer and cook for 2-3 hours.
Remove chicken from the soup.
Place on a cutting surface and remove all meat from the bird.
Shred it and return it to the pot.
Simmer until you are ready to serve.
Add black pepper and salt to taste.

That's it. Just a lot of sitting around, being sick, waiting for the most delicious soup to soothe what ails you.

P.S. One of us will NOT eat soup. (Even though another one of us believes that if  that one would try it he would probably like it.) So, I throw in some egg noodles after I've shredded the chicken and then pick them out and serve them without the other goodness. At least they have been cooked in the goodness. Right? That's what I'll keep telling myself.)

Hope these things bring your family some comfort during this cold season!
I would love to add to my arsenal.
What's your favorite feel better for a cold? Please comment!

*All information and resources found on The Best Things are based on the opinions of the author. Readers should consult with health care providers to make their own nutrition and health decisions. None of the information on this site should be used to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease or condition.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Busy Little Squirrel

This is Babe-ala's favorite book!
We read it at least four times a day!

Every Mom has at least a dozen books memorized and this is one I can tell in my sleep.
Getting to that point is what makes reading it really fun!
I can play with the words and the story as we read it and see who notices or who cares.
And Babe-O has also come to really enjoy this book with us. He has it memorized too, so he can jump right in and Babe-ala really loves that!

The Busy Little Squirrel by Nancy Tarfuri begins like this:

"The leaves are falling. The air is getting cold."
Through out this picture book, the little squirrel is very busy gathering food for the winter.

What better excuse for making cookies? That's what I say.
So we did! The three of us! Babe-ala's first batch of  "I made these" cookies! (But no picture of that because cookies with a four year old and eighteen month old is a whole lotta crazy in the kitchen, no room for a camera!)

Honey Frosted Cutout Cookies made with Spelt Flour

I found the recipe for the cookies here and they are seriously delicious!
(The recipe calls for sprouted spelt flour but I didn't have that so I used regular spelt flour.)

For the frosting:
I used 1/4 cup of softened butter, enough honey for your desired level of sweetness, and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Mix it all together until incorporated. SO delicious!!!!

They have a sort of nutty flavor that is perfect for fall. But I am going to use this recipe for Winter cut outs too.

I used cookie cutters like this one, this one, and this one to cut out red birds, squirrels, owls, leaves, and pumpkins.
We ate some right out of the oven - delish!
And then played with some - Food Fun!
We matched them to the pictures, made the various animal sounds, and played out the story.
Of course we did it all right on the reading couch. Because well, it's comfy, it's our favorite reading spot, and we can look out the big window at all the birds and squirrels that are getting ready for winter in our very own yard!

Are you too busy to make and play with these delicious cookies? I hope not.
They are worth it!
Happy Autumn!

Want an extra bonus?
Here are a few of our other favorite fall books! Some have squirrels!(They all do except for Ghosts in the House).
(We love it when we don't have to return our favorite books to the library. Click on the picture to buy them for your family. )