THE WILDEST





chloe and i took a trip to the zoo. it was a hot sunny day. the mid-morning sun beat down hard on our sunscreen slathered shoulders. we began our stroll, avoiding all the air-conditioned buildings which house the small reptiles and the birds - chloe doesn't care for them much (yet), and would rather hang out around the bears, rhinos, and ducks. so we strolled through the zoo, stopping for short amounts of time to check out what the various animals were up to. the rhino was trotting, which was uncharacteristic of him, based on our previous visits where he lied in the shade and stared at pesky zebras who taunted him. today he trotted around his "habitat" guarding it from those sneaky zebras who may try to overstep their bounds. 

the polar bears were both basking in the sun, lying on a large rock above the water. they couldn't be persuaded to entertain us with their graceful swimming. no, not even the yells and screams from fifty elementary school children could get them to budge. this didn't bother chloe, she sat at the viewing window checking out their toys and staring into the blue. running back and forth at the base of the platform. i let chloe run around... a lot. she is two, and full of energy - energy and curiosity. she loves to run, pick things up, smell things, taste things. she looks at things as well, but she uses all her senses. one of her favorite words is "touch". she will hold her hands up and bring her fingers together and say "touch, touch". she usually is saying "touch" in response to me instructing her not to touch something. "no, don't touch that", "touch? touch?" those wiggly fingers come together.

she has become a good listener, a good learner. she amazes me with all the new words and new things she is figuring out each day. i often stop myself and need to ask "where did she hear that?", "how does she know this?". before she could walk, crawl, or talk i could easily appease her by feeding her, rocking her, or playing with her. now, over the course of what only seems like days, she has developed a desire for more. she wants to do more things. she wants to see more stuff. she wants to taste everything.... and who can blame her? to her this is a strange new world to explore. she is into everything and with such a ferocity that i often feel as though i am wrestling a wild animal in my efforts to hold her back.

also there are now more emotions. she had the "happy" and "sad", in their simplest sense, down pretty early. but now there are new emotions, new feelings that she has... and it must be confusing. imagine feeling betrayal for the first time... i think the first time probably feels the most awful. and then there is the "magical thinking" that these little ones use to process the new world around them. they gather information from everything they see, like a sponge, and then use all the crazy things they hear and see to make sense of what is happening in their world.   the only example of this that i can recall is probably a memory from when i was in pre-school. i wasn't reading yet, but i could remember things. i didn't know what mouthwash was... and i thought it was a poison that grown-ups drank... i watched each day as the amount became less and less and wondered why my parents wanted to drink it. i feared they would die. crazy, right?  but it was scary to me. i was scared i would wake up to them sleeping in their beds, like sleeping beauty and we wouldn't be able to wake them up.

this world is scary, even if you are not new to it.
chloe is making a transition from babyhood to girlhood... and while this is a time of intense learning, fun, and enlightenment for her, it is an awkward time for me and christian. we don't want to say "no" too much, we don't want her to run too wild, we don't want her to be too monitored, we don't want to be those parents who hover. we just want her to be a kid and have fun and not get hurt too badly. i am sure we worry about this too much, just like all first time parents. i am sure she is doing fine. i am sure if you have a child you worry the same things i do. this world is a wild, amazing, and scary place, and sometimes it seems i have a child who is more wild than any of the animals in the zoo.

and yesterday when i told her she needed to leave the zoo she showed me her wildness. she threw the biggest tantrum i have ever encountered. i pulled out every trick i know. i saw with her, i talked to her calmly, acknowledging her feelings - "you are pretty angry that we must leave", and "you are crying. you seem sad that we must go home now. i will hug you once you calm down". then i ignored her. i allowed her to throw herself on the ground (while i carefully lowered her head so she didn't smack it hard). i tried to pick her up. i attempted to put her in her stroller. i gave up on wrestling her into her stroller. i contemplated throwing myself on the ground, but thought better of it. i tried to just keep a little smile on my face and not fall apart...

i looked down at my shoes and bit my lip, hoping it would all pass by quickly. until another mom, out of nowhere, came to my aid. she calmly walked over, took the sippy-cup out of the stroller and as i held chloe, she buckled her in. those two extra mom hands were needed for my very energetic, thrashing toddler who is only a little less than a third of my weight and more than half my height. she is not easy for me to just pick up and walk off with. this mom was a big muscular mom, she could have picked up me and put me in that stroller. i almost cried as i thanked her. i exclaimed "she just turned two... and she is a little too big and energetic for me to strap her in by myself. thank you so much"  she smiled and said "i have twins... it only gets worse" as she walked back to her group of fellow moms... looking like such a bad-ass.

umm... thanks again.

i have read a great deal about tantrums. one of my favorite articles it this one. according to the experts, chloe's pre-frontal cortex, which is responsible for her learning language, is still underdeveloped. this allows her to learn language more rapidly than us adults who have a developed pre-frontal cortex... however, this mushy brain of hers is easily irritated and processing so much information. she had mood swings and can go from being completely devastated to content and playful within minutes. she will hit me, sit in time out, and then two minutes later be hugging me and playing as though her angry outburst never took place.

one thing i can say that has helped is just putting her in time out... we don't really use it as a punishment around here as much as just some time to relax. if she hits christian or i (yes, hits! neither of us have ever hit her or each other, but apparently this is not a learned behavior - it is just a natural reaction). we don't say anything other than  that we do not hit one another, and calmly put her in bed. we tell her she needs some time to relax and let her relax... we don't use this for anything other than hitting... and i don't want it to become a punishment... it is more of just her taking some time to calm down because she is letting her crazy mushy-brained toddler emotions get the best of her.

and then there are the times, like today, when i need her to do something that she doesn't want to do.... like leaving the zoo. it is not easy for me to physically remove her from a setting. she is strong, and can throw her limbs in such ways that we are left looking like a two headed spider doing the second half of the harlem shake (the crazy wiggly part... don't pretend you don't know!). the act of physically relocating chloe has become a no-go, unless i have an extra set of hands.. and since i usually don't, what we do is this: i hold her the best i can, without walking... she eventually becomes frustrated, and i get tired. i let her down. she will sit on the ground in protest. i will wait and then offer for her to walk with me. she refuses and tries to run. i once again hold her... then i let her down once she gets too wiggly. she often will lie herself on the ground, and when she does this i make sure she doesn't hit her head and i stand there and wait... and sometimes i will take a photo. 

i take photos of these tantrums because they are kind of funny. she is upset because she didn't get a lolly, or because she doesn't feel that 30 minutes of running around a water fountain is enough, or she wants to walk on that patch of grass over there, or there is a piece of pretzel on the ground that i won't let her eat... and suddenly her wold is crashing in. she cannot take it anymore. she doesn't know what she will do without that pretzel. so she throws herself on the ground. sometimes she does this silently. those are my favorite tantrums. i don't need to do anything, just stand there. eventually she stands up and everything is okay again. it's funny, and honestly, sometimes i wish that dealing with disappointment were that easily. that i could just lie on the ground, kick it out, and then be over it... doesn't sound like a bad idea. but anyway.. this is about toddler tantrums, about chloe's tantrums... and so after i take a photo...

i continue to ignore her thrashing on the ground. when she stops thrashing and screaming i will count to three in my head and then say "i am sorry that you are so upset. you look really angry... let's go do...." but when she is freaking out, that is no time to talk. that is the silent, wait it out time... i just stand there and kind of half-smile at all the people starring.... and think "dang those mushy toddler brains". i also try to remind myself that this will not last forever, and someday she will have a huge vocabulary, and speak a second or third language, and have better coping skills, and that just because you try to do all the right things doesn't mean your child isn't going to freak out and throw tantrums. 


right?

right.





























BY TRISH - PART TWO


these are more amazing images caught by the ever-talented patricia westfall. after spending some time at the park we drove back to our house to get a few pictures of us at home. we live kind of close to a particular donut shop, and the fluorescent light outside of it that indicates the donuts are fresh and still hot was on - so christian needed to stop. we grabbed a dozen and headed home. we don't buy donuts very often (way less than you would expect for people who live down the street from a donut shop!), but chloe knew that the box contained a treat, and was very happy to enjoy one and run around the house in a sugar-crazed state while trish snapped photos.

i had made shortcake earlier that day and got busy cutting strawberries and whipping up cream to top it. of course chloe wanted to help, and christian even joined in. afterwards we turned on some music and chloe had a little dance party, followed by some pre-bedtime books to help her wind down.

a typical night at home caught in photos for us to remember forever.

thank you again trish. these photos fill me to the brim with such happiness and gratitude for this family of mine and our little home. 

see part one here.







SUMMER PICKS


as summer starts to settle in, with the weather here shifting from rainy and chilly, to downright hot and soup-ishly humid, i have begun to put together easy summer wardrobes for chloe and myself. if you are to go through our closets you would see that some of our clothes come from thrift shops, some items i have made or altered (hello jean cut-offs!), and very few items are bought new. because our budget is on the tighter side this summer, and our wardrobe is full of a whole lot of t-shirts and jeans, i like to pick out a few little things that are fun, well made, and not entirely practical :)

here are some things i can see becoming wardrobe favorites for chlo and i this summer:

for her:

for me:



what are your favorite summer staples?



BY TRISH - PART ONE










we count ourselves pretty lucky to live so close to many parks and playgrounds. i recently counted and discovered i could easily take chloe to a different park every day of the week. many of these parks have a playground, which chloe loves. the swings and slide are her favorites. she doesn't need swings or slides to have momentum though. if there is no playground at the park she makes her own fun.

dirt. mud. sand. rocks. water. she will play with them all. she runs up and down hills, i watch from the bottom, inhaling her giggles, soaking up the sounds of her feet as they plop on the ground one after the other. she stops at the bottom only to hug me quickly and run back up. over and over again. she hugs me ritualistically. i am aware that part of her affection is ritual. she hugs me after she runs down the hill, because she needs to in order to run back up the hill.

she also needs to walk close to the edge of the side of the creek. she needs to throw rocks, shower herself in dirt. when the cherry blossom petals fall, she must pick them up and shower herself with them. every time she throws them into the air she exclaims "whoooooo!". every single time, "whoooo!"

christian and i stood in this park one october morning together with trish. trish didn't know i was pregnant. i was the bride. christian and i don't have many photographs of ourselves together, other than our wedding photos. our wedding photos are in a way, our first family photos.  when i look at them i remember christian making jokes and funny faces which made me laugh that morning. in some most of photos i am totally "ugly-laughing". the type of real laugh where i am really not faking it. he really did something funny, and i am trying not to pee my pants - i am laughing just that hard. the images are honest. we were so thankful to have trish there to capture those real moments where we are being us together on the day we made ourselves a family. they are my favorite photos. 

this spring, when i decided that family photos were long overdue, i knew that i wanted trish to take them. again, she captured the three of us at the park and in our home. the same park she photographed us at on our wedding day. thank you trish, for capturing us in the ways that i hope i will remember us forever. you captured little glimpses of our ordinary life, and through your remarkable talent and care made them into extraordinary treasures. i plan to soak up these images over and over again, to show them to chloe over and over as she grows up, and then to my grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. you are amazing.



PORTRAIT v. 21

"a portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2013"


wearing her favorite dress (i think it's the ribbon), and eating breakfast of choice (a cereal bar).




IF YOU LOVE ME, YOU WILL BRING ME KALE


sometimes i sew things, or make things that are inspired by conversations i have, texts i recieve or send, silly things i see or think. one of the most efficient ways to capture these bits is embroidery. if you can draw it or write it, you can embroider it. 

one day christian was at work, and i asked him to pick up a couple things from the store. he texted back:

 "o.k."

then i added,

"oh yeah, and some kale too".

"really?"

"yeah. i need some kale."

"seriously?"

to which i answered... (duh)

"if you love me you will bring me kale"

he brought kale home for me. he loves me. the conversation was admittedly a little silly... but it stuck with me, and i decided i would embroider it so i can remember it forever. 

i figured out how to make a tracing of the embroidery and thought i would share it for any of you who would like to make your own. i used plain black dmc embroidery floss as well as a really pretty green hand-died 3-ply floss i picked up a while back, and the lightest pink for the hearts... you can probably find comparable colors at your local craft store, as well as a hoop, and some fabric. you could even use some cute scrap fabric (i used some linen i had leftover from another project).

you can download my kale embroidery guide here.

or, if kale isn't your thing, you could always make your own. just pencil down a drawing, or a quote... anything that makes you happy, and trace it onto your fabric. then make a cup of tea or coffee, snuggle up with a good movie, and stitch away.

i hope you enjoy it and be sure to link back if you decide to post a photo!

happy friday!




THRIFTED

i have been trying to steer clear of the mall and most stores lately as i try to save some money, pay off student loan debt, and spend a bit more wisely. it's not always easy. i am one of those girls who likes stuff, pretty stuff. cute little bowls to put stuff in, nail polish, pretty handmade trinkets, old jewelry, and good jeans. i like buying craft stuff, i love love LOVE buying things for chloe. i probably love buying her things more than anything else. luckily i live near to some good thrifts and sometimes a visit yields some good treasures. 

today i grabbed chloe and we hit one of my favorites. i was on the hunt for fabric to make some tanks and simple sun-dresses. i found some great fabric, the most adorable dress and top for chloe, and then decided to let chloe look at the toys. usually i let her pick out tiny "toy" (it's not always a real toy, but something she wants to play with... it could be anything from ribbon to a small ceramic chicken, a book or a bracelet). well today i spotted these breyer horses, and they were just such a good deal that i couldn't pass them up. i remember these from when i was a kid. one of my best friends had a bunch of them and i can remember thinking they were so cool . i still think they are cool... and so did chloe. yay!
  
the thrift store actually did have cut flowers for sale, and they were beautiful. but, i passed them up as i know i didn't really NEED them. then when we got home my sweet neighbor cut me some peonies from her garden! on hot, humid, grody days these flowers smell intensely like heaven... and they make your entire house smell like it too!




SOMEDAY I'LL STOP WRITING ABOUT SWEETS.... BUT FIRST, RICE PUDDING.

no, i will never stop writing about sweets. i have a thing for them. i will admit it. i always have, and sometimes i can get a little carried away... but even when i am trying to eat healthy (-er), i cannot give up a little post-dinner treat. i can go all day long without them, it doesn't bother me one bit. but desert -  it's as though it signals the end of the eating day. after that little treat i don't need anything else.

i don't remember snacking much as a kid. we ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and at the end of the day there was always something sweet. a cookie or two, pudding, a piece of pie. desert was practically a staple.

as i am trying to be healthy and good to my body i just cannot give this up. there are many things i can give up: candy, diet coke, adding sugar (and when i say sugar i mean the fake stuff and honey as well)  to oatmeal, coffee, tea, or anything else. but if i give up desert i almost feel as though i am punishing myself, as though i am pushing myself too hard, as though i am setting myself up for failure. when i allow myself desert i eat healthier throughout the day.

today i put chloe to bed and speed-walked on the treadmill for the better part of an hour. i am listening to "where'd you go, bernadette" by maria semple, and it made that hour seem to fly. once i was done working out i was ravenous for something sweet. i downed a liter of water, and i was still thinking of sugar. i wanted something not overtly sweet, but kind of substantial. i had some leftover rice in the fridge, some milk, raisins.... and i decided i would make some rice pudding.

i once heard someone mention putting a bay leaf in your rice pudding while cooking it, and for the life of me i cannot figure out where i heard it. it makes some sense to me, because any rue i make gets at least one bay leaf... i just never thought to put it in something sweet. let me tell you, it is perfect. it balances out the sweet taste so well.

so here is my recipe:

3 cups of milk (i used whole because that is what chloe drinks, but any kind should do)
1 cup cooked rice
1 tsp salt
1 bay leaf
1 egg
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
raisins (as many as you like, or leave them out).
cinnamon to top (if you like)

add the first four ingredients together in a saucepan and bring to a boil. reduce and simmer until slightly thickened (this won't take very long, maybe 10-15 minutes). whip the egg and sugar together in a small bowl and add to the pan slowly while stirring continuously. return to simmer and add vanilla and raisins. allow to simmer, stirring often, until thickened. remove the bay leaf. eat hot, or cold, top with cinnamon if you like it. enjoy!  

are you a desert person? what is your favorite?

TODAY


not every day is easy. i know that. but some days just seem rougher than the rest of the rough ones. these extra rough days seem to drag. you look at the clock, hoping it will be nap-time, and only five minutes have passed between this tantrum and the last one. the laundry sits on the floor, folded and untouched. it takes hours to put away. you loose count of how many pee and poop accidents your toddler had, but know that they have not had any on the toilet. every time you put her in time out she has another accident, and what are you going to do? she is already in time out - and now she is quiet because she had an accident and is hoping you will not notice. 

yeah kid, your lumpy smelly bottom and the puddle you have left is so inconspicuous.  when i count to three (inside my head) and then ask her if she had an accident she grabs the nearest object and exclaims: "a ball!", or "book!" as if i am going to be distracted from the pee puddle or turd bundle seeping from her mickey mouse underwear.

tantrum after tantrum we get through the day. i have cut back on television during the day, and she is no longer allowed to play with the ipad as these just seem to fuel more tantrums over stuff that is not necessary. not that she ever watched that much television, but on days like this it can buy me a few minutes of peace. i pop in toy story, and during those few minutes i decide that putting on make-up, deodorant, or a fresh shirt will not change how today is going, and i take a self photo. 

i am getting old.

a notification appears on my phone. it's letting me know that tomorrow starts my "fertile days". i curse at my ovaries and uterus and say a few sassy remarks under my breath while looking down at my womb. i inform them that this is most definitely not the time. i think about this more - the idea of having another child, and i laugh so hard i don't know if i will pee myself or cry... i cry a little... i do want more.

chloe gets distracted from the television and many messes are made. i try to get her to eat as many healthy things as possible. i try to get her to sit on the dang potty as much as possible. i try to smile and be as sweet as possible... even when she pees on the floor again.

and then it is nap time. i sneak in her room to make sure she is asleep in her big girl bed, and not running around...

i don't have it that bad. things are not that rough. i feel bad for complaining when so many people lose so many things. have lost so many things. i think about oklahoma. i have my home and my family. we are safe. we are happy. i feel guilty for complaining, for getting upset, for not being more thankful. 

screw potty training. screw cleaning up this house. screw the laundry, and the dishes, and the messes. let's enjoy these days that we have. let's eat up this time with smiles on our faces, as much as we can muster.




STRAWBERRY TART


 did somebody say strawberry tart? yes. please. thank-you. i saw a recipe for a fruit tart at my mother-in-law's this past week and decided that i would recreate it. i had written it down, but then lost the recipe, so i winged it. i am not usually so bold as to throw together a cake without a recipe, but maybe i should do so more often (or maybe i just got lucky this time!) it turned out pretty good. not too sweet. perfect with a cup of coffee or tea. would be great with ice cream or frozen yogurt. that is, if ice cream or frozen yogurt are your thing. i love both, but i really think a dollop of unsweetened, or maybe just slightly sweetened, whipped cream would be perfect on top of this.

here is what i used:

1 cup of flour

1/2 cup of flour

1/2 cup of sugar

1 tsp. baking soda

2 eggs

dash of salt

scrappings of 1/2 of a vanilla bean

strawberries (i used about 8-10oz)

cinnemon and powdered sugar to sprinkle (optional)

what i did:

i combined the dry ingredients, and then added the butter. i mixed it well and then added the eggs. i mixed it well in the mixer until the batter was smooth, slightly lightened, and a little fluffy. i poured the batter into a greased pie dish. the batter was kind of soft and loose, so i put it in the fridge for a little bit (about a half an hour)...





during the half an hour i got chloe up from her nap. i thought she might want to help me wash and cut the strawberries... but i was wrong. she was more interested in looking out the window overlooking the driveway and watching the tiny little red mites that scurry along the window sill once the weather is warm. she excitedly yelled "bug! bugs!" and pointed at the microscopic red specks. she loves bugs, trains, finding rocks in the garden, getting good and dirty every chance she can. this girl of mine couldn't be any less interested in girly stuff at this point in her life, and i am savoring it while it lasts.

i prepared the strawberries while she listened for the train passing by, kept watch for the dog next door being left into the yard, and talked on a banana as if it were a phone.

i washed, halved, and then pressed the strawberries into the batter. then i baked it in a oven at 375 for about 30-40 minutes. you could check with a toothpick for done-ness... i checked by pulling the dish out and rocking it to the side slightly and then feeling the top. this is how i check my cakes... a clean toothpick means overdone to me. if it springs back when i touch it - then it is good.

i topped it with a bit of powdered sugar and cinnamon. if i had some whipping cream then i would have whipped it up and topped it with that instead - next time!




i think this tart would be good with any seasonal fruit... i am thinking blueberries or raspberries next time, and maybe eventually cherries. the tart is not too sweet but soft with crisp edges the sweetness of the fruit really comes out with baking, leaving you with a perfect after-dinner desert or little breakfast treat with your coffee. enjoy!
 
 

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