Reads of the Week – June 4th

Here’s what we’re reading in the little toyhouse this week:

Monsters Eat Whiny Children by Bruce Eric Kaplan

Georgia has been SO whiny lately that I think I’m about to lose my mind.  Rather than read a parenting book that offers positive solutions to this problem, I grabbed this book at the library last week to scare the bejesus out of her instead (kidding….sort of). The kids in the book don’t actually get eaten, but they do get kidnapped by a monster which is pretty darn scary for a toddler. I asked Georgia while we were reading it if it was too scary or if she wanted me to stop, but she said no and proceeded to request it repeatedly for several days.  That said, now whenever I tell her she’s whining and ask her to stop, she says “The monster’s gonna come get me?”.  I’ll take my Mom of the Year award any time now.

Bedtime for Frances by Russell Hoban

I have fond memories of reading this book as a child so I was excited to read it with Georgia.  She really enjoyed it, but as a parent I was less than impressed.  I had somehow forgotten that  the book is all about the things that Frances does so she doesn’t have to go to sleep.  Georgia currently doesn’t do anything like that and I definitely don’t her to get any ideas. Not to mention the fact that Frances’s dad threatens a spanking to get her to finally go to bed.  Even though Georgia liked it, it’s probably best saved until she’s a little older.

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown

Georgia picked this one out because she’s been really into tigers lately.  The story is about Mr. Tiger, who lives in a city of animals that seemingly act like humans – they wear fancy clothes, walk on two legs, etc.  One day Mr. Tiger decides that he’s fed up with being so proper so he starts getting back to his roots – walking on four legs, running around “naked”, etc.  Georgia probably got the biggest kick out of the part where he goes “nakey”, but the message is fun and straightforward – sometimes we all need to go a little wild, and that’s okay.

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The Idea of Home

As my family faces the possibility of yet another cross-country move within the next year, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the idea of home. I was born and raised in the same town, so home was a pretty concrete place for me growing up.

I don’t know that I’ll be able to say the same for my kids. Georgia lived in 4 different homes in her second year of life alone, so the idea of home for her and Jameson is likely going to be very different from what I grew up knowing.

In a way, that makes me sad. Mostly because my childhood home is so ingrained in who I am. It’s almost as if it’s more than just a place, but rather an extension of myself.

A place belongs forever to whoever claims it hardest, remembers it most obsessively, wrenches it from itself, shapes it, renders it, loves it so radically that he remakes it in his own image.

Joan Didion

From the age of 5 the place I called home was idyllic by any standards. Our house overlooked a quiet bay on a small lake, surrounded by towering Norway pines and snow-white birch trees. The bay was home to beavers, giant snapping turtles, and families of loons who would carry their tiny babies around on their backs.

It was a place filled with peace and stillness. It was quiet and serene, yet filled with a multitude of comforting sounds that I have mourned the loss of since leaving home for city and suburban living. The rustling of the leaves on the breeze, growing louder with each gust of wind and then softly quieting down, the crescendo and diminuendo of the north woods. The loons calling, a sound whose return we eagerly anticipated each spring. A kayak paddle rhythmically dipping into the water, lapping the water behind you as you pushed out into the open water. Snuggling up under a pile of blankets on a cold winter night, listening to the wind roaring outside.

I guess the idea of home will be fluid for my kids, constantly changing as our life as a family evolves. Regardless of where the journey takes us, I hope that one day we end up in Minnesota so our kids can experience the magic that is childhood in the North.

MN Childhood Home

20 Minutes in My Brain

In an effort to develop that writing habit I’m always talking about but never acting on, I signed up for The Daily Post’s Writing 101: Building a Blogging Habit.  It’s essentially a daily writing challenge with prompts and support to help get into a blogging habit and grow as a writer and blogger.

This is going to be a HUGE stretch for me since I can barely post once a week, but I think it’s just the kick in the pants I need to get going.

So, here we are on Day 1 and I finally got around to today’s writing challenge at 10:00pm.  Better late than never, right?  Today’s challenge was 20 minutes of stream of consciousness writing – just sit down and put anything that comes into your brain on paper.  So, as a treat for anyone who happens to read this (aside from my mother), here’s a look at 20 unedited minutes inside by my brain:

I am tired, oh so tired, it’s amazing how tired I feel! 

I sang “I Feel Pretty” to Georgia the other day and she clapped in delight and asked for it again and again.  I think she loved just listening to me sing, but she also maybe loved a song about being pretty.  We have perhaps told her she’s pretty way too many times because she will often look at herself in the mirror in the morning after getting dressed and say “I look beautiful!”

I’ve worried that we tell her that too much, that she’s going to become narcissistic or too full of herself.  But yet, another part of me thinks what is so wrong with a little positive self-esteem?  I certainly never look in the mirror in the morning and tell myself “I look beautiful”.  If anything, I look in the mirror and think “Ugh.  I need to get a haircut/brow wax/facial/makeover/whateverwillmakemelooklikeasupermodel.” And is that really any more healthy than telling myself I’m beautiful everyday?  I truly don’t want my daughter to be narcissistic, but I absolutely want to raise her to have better self-esteem than I have.  I’m not sure where I lost it.  Maybe somewhere among the scoliosis back brace, the 2 bouts with braces, acne that I could never seem to get rid of. 

That’s part of the amazing thing about young children.  They are so pure and untouched by anything bad or painful that they think life is beautiful, they are beautiful.  It’s beautiful to watch, and yet a little sad to realize that it won’t last forever, that they will end up jaded just like the rest of us.  I know I can’t keep my daughter little forever, but oh if I could just freeze time a little longer.  Every day she is older, acting more like a big girl than a baby, more like her own person (and what an independent, strong little person she is!)

She also has the most incredible spirit.  I am in awe of her everyday, of her tenacity, her boldness, her strength.  Yes, I am absolutely glorifying what can be, if manifested properly, the worst traits of a toddler, but in truth they are traits that will serve her well in life if we can shape her into a good person and not a horrible rotten stinker.  When I get frustrated with her and maybe raise my voice a little louder than I’d like, I worry that I’m going to crush her spirit.  Am I going to be the reason she loses that spark?  Will she look back at her childhood and feel like she wasn’t able to be herself?  It’s a fine line, because I’m absolutely in favor of boundaries and rules and limits, but I also don’t want to squash her developing little personality.  

Ah, the perils of raising children.  Everyday it feels like it’s too much and not enough.  Like I can’t get it right.  I remind myself that tomorrow is another day, but inevitably I tell myself that the next day too.  That said, even if there are no perfect days, there are perfect moments.  Simple moments even.  Today Georgia was thrilled to have me sit down with her and share some goldfish crackers and an apple for 20 minutes.  She smiled her million dollar smile at me, cocked her head in that impish way and said “I just love you Mom.”.  Well, I just love you too my Georgia. 

And then there is the boy.  My sweet little baby, so easy and willing to do anything to keep the day moving along.  So content with life.  As long as he’s fed and can be close to someone he loves, he’s a happy little dude.  He’s the one I really, really want to freeze time with because he might just be my last baby.  Every moment is so, so precious.  I don’t think I realized it when Georgia was a baby because everything was so new and exciting that I just wanted to see what was next.  But with him, oh if time could stand still, please, please, please.  If I could bottle up those tiny baby sighs for a rainy day I would.   The first smile, his first giggle, the way he cuddles right up onto my shoulder every time I hold him.  It’s just so incredible to be needed that much.  To have this tiny little person that completely relies on you. 

I think about my kids a lot, more than I ever thought I would.  Obviously they dominate a lot of my thoughts as my stream of consciousness writing turned to them after one short sentence.  Probably because they take up so much of my time that there is little room for much else in my brain.  I was thinking about this as I walked out of the baby’s room at 10:06 tonight, that it is a before dawn til after dusk job.  Georgia is up at 6 and Jameson doesn’t go to bed until 10.  And I like to try to get 8 hours of sleep (with a short interruption in the middle of the night to feed the baby), so that leaves pretty much no other time.  None.  Zero.  You would think that I could have some time to myself during naps and such, but inevitably they nap at opposite times, meaning that one of them is always up and needing something.  I love being at home with them, I truly, truly do.  But sometimes I fantasize about going back to work just so I can have 30 minutes to eat lunch by myself and peruse the internet  without being interrupted.  That sounds really sad actually.  I want a job because I want to slack off and surf the net?  Not entirely true, but there’s a shred of truth in it. 

And there it is! Excited to see what Day 2 has in store!

CSA Test Drive

Last week, one of my friends was kind of enough to give me her CSA box for the week since she was out-of-town.  I’ve always been interested in CSA’s and have been considering joining one, so this was the perfect opportunity to try it out.

If you’re not familiar with CSA’s, CSA stands for “community supported agriculture”.  Here’s how it works:  a local farmer offers a number of “shares” for purchase by the public.  By purchasing a “share”, customers receive a box of locally grown produce (and/or sometimes other farm products) each week during the growing season. It’s a fabulous was to get high-quality, local produce and support your community at the same time.  If you’re interested in learning more or finding CSA opportunities (and other local food options) near you, I recommend checking out Local Harvest .

The downside to the CSA is that you usually don’t get to pick what you get – it’s all about what’s in season and what the farmer has that week.  Which means you could get a lovely box full of variety or end up with a giant box of mostly greens.  Now I love kale about as much as the next person, but a box full of it every week?  I wasn’t so sure.

The week I got my friend’s CSA box was the first week of the growing season, so my expectations were pretty low.  I was pleasantly surprised to receive the following:

  •  A pint of strawberries
  •  2 heads of broccoli
  •  1 head of cauliflower
  •  A pint of green beans
  •  1 head of bok choy
  •  2 bunches of turnips with the greens
  •  1 bunch of green onions
  •  2 giant (and I mean GIANT) bunches of kale

Some of the stuff we ate straight up (e.g. strawberries, broccoli, raw turnips) and some of it we included in recipes.  The bok choy and turnip greens were new to me so I spent a little time online looking up what to do with them.  In the end, here’s how we enjoyed our goodies:

  •  Veggie Stir Fry: For this, I used the entire head of bok choy (including the leafy greens), broccoli, beans and green onions.  I also threw in some carrots I had for a little color and whipped up  a garlic/soy sauce.  It was so delicious that I had two giant helpings.  I will definitely be adding bok choy into my stir fry from now on.
  •  Kale Salad:  My favorite kale salad recipe is Dr. Andrew Weil’s Tuscan Kale Salad. The recipe calls Italian black kale, but for I’ll make it with whatever kind I have.  I also usually forgo the bread crumbs to save time or I’ll use store-bought instead of homemade.  It is absolutely the yummiest way to enjoy raw kale!  We had this salad nearly everyday for a week with the amount of kale we got in the CSA box.
  •  Oven-Roasted Cauliflower: We made an Emeril Lagasse recipe that was quite tasty and served it with steak and kale salad.
  •  Spicy Skillet Turnip Greens:  I’d never cooked turnip greens before and didn’t really want to spend 5 hours on them, so I went searching for a quick and easy turnip green recipe.  This spicy skillet turnip greens recipe from Add a Pinch was perfect – easy and super flavorful.

In the end, we ate everything from the CSA box before it went bad with the exception of a few green onions.  Everything was incredibly delicious and really made us realize what good produce should taste like.  That said, it wasn’t necessarily what we would have picked out for ourselves if we’d had the option.  The cost is also a little bit of a factor for us ($45/week), and we feel like we could get a better selection of local produce we want for less.  In the end, we decided to forgo signing up for the CSA ourselves (at least for this year) and make an effort to buy more produce from local farmer’s markets and farm stands.  If anything, it reignited our interest in local food and made us appreciate just how good it really is.

Reads of the Week – May 12th

Here’s what we’re reading in the little toyhouse this week:

Bashful Bob and Doleful Dorinda by Margaret Atwood

I was surprised to see Margaret Atwood’s name in the children’s section at the library, so this one jumped out at me.  My husband read this with G before I did and he said it was hard to read.  I thought that was just plain silly (a children’s book hard to read?) until I read it myself – this book is alliteration to the extreme.  If you can get past the tongue-twisting rhythm, it is packed with fabulous vocabulary words, the story is sweet and the illustrations are engaging.  We might just be adding this one to our permanent collection!

Players In Pigtails by Shana Corey

The other day we drove by our town’s skate park and G said “When I grow up I want to be a boy so I can ride a skateboard!”  After explaining to her that girls can ride skateboards too, I started wondering where she might have gotten this idea that skateboards were a “boy” thing.  The only thing I can come up with is that, in her limited media exposure, she has only seen boys on skateboards.  Which means, at age 2, my daughter is already exposed to (and apparently buying into) gender stereotypes.  Ugh.

In an effort to teach G that girls can do anything, I turned to A Mighty Girl, one of my favorite sources for book recommendations for G.  Players in Pigtails, a book about the All American Girls Professional Baseball League, seemed to be a good start.  She loved the story and the illustrations, but her favorite part of the book is singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”, which, incidentally, was written about a girl!

Finding Susie by Sandra Day O’Connor

I happened to spot “Sandra Day O’Connor” peeking out from the cover of a lovely blue picture book with a little dog on the cover and thought this might be worth a read, especially since G has a mild interest in the supreme court (thanks to Olivia Forms a Band). I wanted to love it, but I just didn’t.  Neither did G – she lost interest about 1/3 of the way through it.  The book follows little Sandra as she finds a series of wild animals on her family’s desert ranch and she tries to turn them into pets before, finally, she gets a dog.  There wasn’t anything particularly special about the story (other than the fact that it was based on O’Connor’s childhood) or the writing, and I think the story could have been told in about 1/2 the words that were used.  I still think O’Connor is a fabulous female role model, just maybe not the best children’s author.

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