Things I’ve Learned Since Becoming a Parent

The juice from blueberries can be used as a wood or clothing dye. Make sure you get it right the first time because there is no correcting of mistakes. Rori has used this dying technique for several items with terrific (and permanent) results. For example, her baby doll. It is now a beauitful shade of purpley blue, head to toe. Despite me trying to correct the dye job in the washing machine, her baby is still purple. When blueberries are used to dye fingers, nails and lips it is also very effective although slightly less permanent with effects lasting only a week or two. If smeared onto unfinished wood it produces a gorgeous swirling blue/purple that absolutely will not fade no matter what you do to it.

I should find a way to market this dye.

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Things I’ve Learned Since Becoming a Parent

Lesson Number 2:

No matter how much you prepare your kids and teach them what is appropriate chit chat in a public bathroom, they will, none the less, embarrass you.

I was in a public bathroom with Sage (4) recently. We took turns as usual. The bathroom was very busy but still quiet. So I of course was a little anxious and she must have known it. She had been pretty quiet herself. I figure she must have been trying to think of what to say to embarrass me. As I am trying to be quick finishing up she looks at me, with a funny look on her face and loudly says, “Mommy, you have hair on your ______.” Now, this isn’t news to her. While we are not a naked house, she has seen all of me on a fairly regular basis. She is looking at me now expecting a response. I think I hear the woman in the next stall trying to stifle a laugh. What am I supposed to say to that? I know everyone in there is also waiting for my response. I chose to ignore the comment and change the subject. “So what do you want for dinner,” I respond in a whisper. Yeesh!

Ditching TV Among Other Things

In the last week of December Ron and I made a decision to discontinue our satellite service. This is something that I have been wanting to do for some time and I had suggested it more than once. But like most North Amercians, we are a teeny bit addicted to TV so Ron nixed the idea. I let it go. Then in the beginning of December it became his idea. Then of course it turned into a great idea. I was fully supportive of “his” idea but really didn’t think he would do it. First he started with the TVs. We had an embarrassing 6 flat screen TVs. One in nearly every room and even in the kids rooms (which we had always said we wouldn’t do). He started selling them off on Craigslist. I love Craigslist. Soon enough we had just one left. The he cancelled the satellite service. I was stunned and more than a little impressed. First he kicks gluten without even a flinch, then dairy, then aspartame, then TV and now he is working on soda in general. Since he has no other “real” vices he is on a fast track to becoming perfect. So you might be asking yourself, why would we do this? No, we’re not starving or having trouble paying the bills. This is really all just a part of a bigger picture. There is a lot to gain by ditching TV. First, the most obvious, is the cash you dish out every month for 7000 stations (and none of them are worth your time). Then there are the countless hours you can reclaim that can go to important things, like your family. We find we are spending more time as a family. We are playing games together, reading, making things, building things, going for walks, cooking, hanging out outside etc. Ron and I are talking more. Ron has started reading again. Him and I are both getting more sleep. Both of us had the habit of turning on the TV when we are tired to “just watch a couple of minutes.” Hours later we are still staring blankly at the TV. Then we wake up tired the next day and our patience is short with the kids and sometimes with each other. Then we’d miserable and lazy and only want to, guess what’s coming… watch TV. The TV was on in the background all the time whether or not anyone was watching. Since it has been off there is a beautiful calm in the house. I am enjoying the lack of the constant din. The girls are more often playing with each other. They are pretending, creating, learning and running. None of those things are done in front of the TV. We are spending more time outside and our attention is more fully on the present moment. How many times have I wished that the kids would just be quiet for a bit so I could hear or see something on the TV… TV is an escape, a drug, a diversion. I don’t want to be diverted from my life. I want to live it. At the end of our lives, will we look back and think “wow, I remeber that one TV show….”? We want our kids to have great memories of the time we spent together. Memories aren’t made waching TV. Life is so short and I want to be present for all of it. I don’t want to waste my precious time being told how I should look or what I should want (also why I don’t buy magazines anymore). I really don’t care what the Hollywood stars are doing, saying or wearing. I love the fact that my kids have no idea what a BRATZ doll is or who Hannah Montana is or what High School Musical is. I love that they adored the castle that Ron made for them at Christmas and that it wasn’t MADE IN CHINA or made from plastic. As I get older I find myself deploring the consumerism that defines American life. Everything is disposable, everything is about appearances and having the right car, handbag, hairstyle, jewelry, cell phone, clothing, body shape and bra size. I think that we have all lost sight of what really matters. Have have have get get get buy buy buy does not make us happier. Maybe it feels good for a minute but why? Because we have one upped the Jones’, or because we are one step closer to looking just so? In the last few months we have tried to reverse our years of that mindset of having and getting. We are constantly selling stuff we don’t use or need. Our entire focus is probably the exact opposite of most people here in Scottsdale. And you know what? It feels good. Really really good. We aren’t just selling stuff but we are giving stuff away too. I have discovered freecycle. This is an online group (probably one near you) that is all about the giving and receiving of free stuff in an effort to keep things out of the landfills a while longer. Right before Christmas we went through the kids toys and gave away everything that they didn’t use regularly. The whole lot of it went to a foster mom of 3 girls for their Christmas gifts. Even Sage felt good about that. So, to those of our friends and family who know about us ditching our TVs and selling all of our stuff: No, we are not starving or even having financial difficulties we are just trying to make the most of our lives.

Okay, I will step down from my soap box now.

For My Mom

Sometimes I am amazed at just how busy I am. My mom left more than a week ago and this is the first time that I have had to sit down and write. She arrived here on the 23rd for Christmas and left a week later. This was an unusually short stay for her. Unfortunately for all of us she has a life back in Alberta and she can’t just come and stay for as long as we would like her to.

We had a great Christmas this year. It is so fun to have kids this age. They get so excited about Santa. And for me it was extra special because my mom was here. My mom is the queen of Christmas. She loves it and everything that goes with it. She always has an amazing tree which she puts up in November and doesn’t take down until mid January. She wraps her gifts with perfection and a bow. All the gifts that she gives are chosen with such unbelievable thoughtfulness. I’m sure she must think about the perfect gift for each loved one all year long to ensure she nails it. Every year she used to do a ton of baking. Her shortbread cookies can not be compared with any other. And there were the millionaire squares, haystacks, uncooked cookies, naniamo bars to name a few. She was always so sure to make the number of gifts given to my sister and I were the same and the amount of money spent was the same. She always wrapped every gift in our stockings and made sure that it was unique Santa wrapping paper we had never seen before. The stockings were always our favorite and she (I mean Santa) packed them tightly and they often overflowed onto the floor. Just the act of setting up the Christmas tree was a special night. We would have a fire in the fireplace, eggnog and a big array of her baking. We would get to stay up late to set up the tree. My mom single handedly made Christmas the best day of the year. No matter how hard I try, I will never be able to do such an amazing job. Once again my mom made my Christmas for me. I can not even put into words how much her being here made this the best Christmas I have had in a long time. She has always been an amazing mom and now she is an amazing grandmother too. She has the patience to play with the girls for hours which is something I have trouble doing. One of my favorite pictures of her is of her sitting in our laundry basket playing with the kids. Always the mother, she is forever trying to take care of me by watching the kids or taking them out for a walk so I can nap in a quiet house or cleaning my house while she is supposed to be here visiting and relaxing. For all of my mom’s life she has focused on taking care of everyone around her and often at the expense of her own happiness. I know of no one else who is so completely unselfish and giving. She has a heart bigger than she is. Things between her and I have not always been so rosy. But I grew up and finally was able to see things as they are. She is my best friend. When something great happens I want to call her first. When something funny or horrible happens it is my mom I call. I can always count on her to lend an ear or a shoulder when I need it. If there were only one thing I could give my mom, it would be to give her the happiness that she has given to everyone around her for so many years.

Thank you mom for being you and helping to give us all a wonderful Christmas. Can we book your flight for next year??
I love you mom!
Here are some pics taken over the holidays.

Here she is, my beautiful mom.

Justus’ first Christmas.

Here is Rori in front of the gift her daddy made her. Ron made the girls a castle. The girls asked for knights, horses and other creatures that I can’t remember the names of right now. We are so happy about the girls asking for this kind of stuff rather than Dora stuff or Hannah Montanna stuff or princess stuff. I won’t get started on that right now… This view of the castle doesn’t show how amazing this thing is. Oh and Ron really was there for Christmas. That’s him in the background with no head. Other than that he seems to have escaped the camera, again.

Grandma and the girls.
Me and the girls. Sage had clearly had enough of the picture taking and Rori was only laughing because I was squeezing her knee.

Grandma feeding her only grandson.

For My Dad

My Dad just left this morning after visiting for 4 days. He drove here all the way from BC. He loves to drive and dislikes flying – hard for me to understand that. Anyway, we had a great visit. I think the last time we had a visit that long and unrushed was before we had kids. I was a different person back then. Actually, Ron and I are nearly unrecognisable from ourselves of back then. I think that if him and I were to meet that couple now we wouldn’t like them. We’d probably hate them. We stood for everything that we disagree with now. So when he visited the last time we didn’t have much to talk about. Actually he ended up leaving a day early. Since that visit all of our visits have been pretty quick. Short and sweet we’d say. So now jump forward about 6 years and things are different. I found that I really loved having him here. We have a lot in common now. I enjoyed just hanging out with him. We didn’t really do anything and stayed close to home. I loved to see him with my kids. It is a very sweet side of him that I can’t remember seeing before. I know he was always like this but I just don’t remember seeing it. It warmed my heart to see him cuddling Justus and feeding him. He read to the girls at night and tucked them in at night. That made my heart swell. My dad loves music and brought along his mandolin. (He plays in a bluegrass band that I have yet to hear play, much to my disappointment.) Sage and Rori love music too. Sage would sing, making songs up as she went along and my dad would accompany her on the mandolin. It sounded great to this mommy’s ears. Rori would dance to the music they were making and Justus watched intently and excitedly kicked his legs. I can’t think of a better Christmas gift. I also enjoyed cooking for him. His favorite of the week was a Latin themed dinner. I have posted the recipes so that his sweet wife Cari might make it for him. The black beans and rice dish would be good all by themselves but we always add the Picadillo. I first had Picadillo in a Cuban restaurant here when I was in labor with Justus. It was very good but kinda pricey. Then I found a recipe for it on allrecipes.com and I have been making it frequently ever since (and for a whole lot less money). The original recipe was posted by a DarcyStarz7 and I have made a few changes that work for us. Now I like this version much much more than what I had in the restaurant.

Cuban Black Beans

2 cups dried black beans, washed
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
6-10 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1 T dried oregano
1 T cumin
2 cups chicken broth
1 can diced tomatoes with green chili’s
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
salt to taste
1 TBSP white sugar
1 teaspoon black pepper


Soak beans overnight. Drain water and replace with fresh water. Boil beans in water only for approx 1.5 hours until they are tender. (Adding anything acidic i.e salt, tomatoes, onions etc during the initial cooking process makes the skin of the bean more tough so it takes much longer to cook.) In a large pot add olive oil. When hot add onion, garlic and green pepper. Cook until tender. Add cumin, oregano, tomatoes and chili’s and cook until fragrant about 2 minutes. Add chicken stock and cook covered over med low heat for another couple of hours. Keep enough stock in the beans so they don’t dry out but not enough that you have a soup. Think thick stew consistency. When you are ready to eat you can remove the lid to reduce the liquid if necessary. Then add salt to taste, apple cider vinegar, sugar and pepper. Serve along side white rice.

Picadillo

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
3/4 cup beef stock
1 tablespoon white sugar
1/2 cup chopped prunes
3/4 cup chopped pimento-stuffed green olives
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon capers, drained

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the ground beef. Cook and stir until no longer pink, about 10 minutes. Stir in the onions and bell pepper. Cook until soft, then add the garlic. Season with cumin, chili powder, oregano, paprika, and cinnamon. Cook and stir for about one minute to release the fragrance. Pour the tomatoes and beef stock into the pan, along with the sugar. Stir the prunes, olives, capers. Simmer on med low for 20 – 30 minutes. Add vinegar before serving. Serve along side white rice and black beans.

Here are a couple pics and a video of my dad’s visit. Thanks for everything Dad/GranDan. We love you!

Cooties and Houdini

It seems like forever since I have posted. We’ve been sick. All of us. Each more than once. It has been going on for nearly a month now. I am starting to wonder if it will ever end. When every one else gets sick I usually don’t but this time I got it too and bad. I even went to the doctor and agreed to antibiotics which I haven’t had since before Sage was born. I am a firm believer that a huge part of your immune system comes from your GI tract and if you take antibiotics and kill all those good bacteria then you are leaving yourself more vulnerable to getting the next thing that comes around. But this time I was desperate. I had a sinus infection that was so painful that my teeth hurt so bad that I couldn’t eat. The silver lining of course is that I ended up loosing 6 pounds. It made me wonder if anyone ever tried to come up with a way to eliminate your sense of smell as a weight loss gimmick. I cooked yesterday for the first time in over a week. I made my 10 veggie spaghetti sauce. I also have more than a weeks worth of laundry and house cleaning to catch up on. Justus is sick now. He has a fever but no other symptoms. Last night I had to give him Tylenol every 4-5 hours. His temperature got as high as 103.3. I can’t imagine how miserable he must have felt. I was soooo miserable at 101.7. You know, it really sucks living here so far from family when we are sick. Ron was as sick as I was and also took a trip to the doctor and got some antibiotics so he wasn’t any help to me. I really felt like if I could have just had lots of good uninterrupted sleep this wouldn’t have gone on so long. But we have no family here to help out. All our friends also have kids so understandably they need to stay far far away from us. Okay I will stop complaining now.

Houdini the Mouse has set up residence in our CAR. We were at home a couple days ago and Ron needed to get something out of the glove box. He opened it, screamed like a girl and jumped back exclaiming “Holy Crap! There are 2 mice in the glove box!” Sure enough, there was a mound of foam shreds, from somewhere in the car, all piled up in there like a comfy little nest. So glad that discovery wasn’t made while we were on the interstate. Not only that but there was mouse crap everywhere! Dandy. How can mice crap that much? We saw one run out of the car later that day and since then we have traps set up in there. But that mouse is friggin Houdini. It keeps getting the treats out of the traps and tripping the trap all without getting caught in the trap. I am scared to use mouse poison for fear of it dying in there and then the car stinking of dead mouse. And Mom, I bet you are rethinking about not renting a car when you come visit!

Out of time again.