Thursday, June 25, 2015

Sistersssss

The other weekend, I was feeling very tired of my children. I had spent 4 of the previous 10 days babysitting three different friends' kids and three of the four occasions were quite trying, with kids crying incessantly for missing mommy and a combined 5 potty accidents from kids we were watching that required clothing changes and carpet cleanup. I started thinking- maybe the reason that Natalie isn't potty trained yet is because this house has some kind of curse on it! It is so powerful, it even undoes potty training in kids who have been out of diapers for almost a year! (Side note- we took away diapers from Natalie last Saturday. So far, she hasn't gone a day without an accident. We'll see what comes first- her deciding to get with the program or me deciding I've cleaned up enough urine.)

Anyhow, when Saturday finally came, Micah was called away for about six hours in the morning while I was left with the kids and I was really at the end of my rope. So, I tried to think of a way to refresh and renew my interest and affection for my children. 

Naturally, I took eyeliner to their faces.








It was surprisingly effective. It made me laugh. And consequently, it made them laugh. 

Another battle we're fighting-teaching Natalie some body discretion. She's always liked to be undressed, but it's reaching troubling levels! Today during nap time, I put on a movie for her, left the room with a fully dressed child, and returned a few minutes later to her sitting on the couch completely naked. I asked her what was going on, and she just responded, "I wanted to see my nipples". Ugh. She's very into private parts. Last Saturday, I had to stop her running around at the YMCA pool repeatedly screaming, "Hello, penis!!!!" to nobody in particular. She asked me to help her spell "vagina and bum" on one of her pictures this afternoon. Hopefully she gets over it before we're sending her to kindergarten.

Too cool for a shirt or pants, but these sunglasses will do!

Natalie and Angela are very sweet sisters, wen they're not snatching away toys, jumping on one another's heads or making the other cry.
Natalie is coming to understand some of the perks of having a baby sister who is happy to share. Thus, Natalie gets to enjoy her own popsicle and then turn around and down half of Angela's.


We got a little $2 popsicle mold at ikea and Natalie loves making them. I love tossing in some spinach and Kale and believing that I'm helping them eat more vegetables to justify all the sugar in the juices that we add.


I've been trying to eat more salads. I'm normally not a huge fan, but I'm figuring out a few that I like. Anything southwest-ish- like corn, red bell peppers, avocado, black beans- will make greens tolerable for me to consume. And the other night, I really enjoyed cobb salads as our main entree. Here is Natalie's cobb salad "deconstructed".


I recently have been feeling very uninspired when it comes to cooking dinner- so much effort, especially with the kids haniging off of me and crying- over a meal that will barely be appreciated any more than frozen chicken nuggets. One meal that I am loving and wish that I could prepare every other night is Indian pizza:


It's naan flatbread with curry sauce and cheese topped with meats/seafood/veggies and it's amazing. I could make the naan, but it's too much effort with my kids right now, and plus I can never quite get that chewy consistency with the big, fat bubbles just right. Maybe it's the whole lack of a clay tandoori oven thing. I recently found naan pretty reasonably priced at costco anyhow. For the sauce, I like tikka masala- I've tried a couple brands but trader joe's masala sauce seems the best price with a good flavor. It wouldn't be too hard to make myself once I have time. Another beautiful thing about this is that I can just pop it in the toaster oven to melt the cheese, so I don't need to heat up the whole house using the full oven. My favorite topping are shrimp and red onions with cilantro, but this weekend I'm going to try korma sauce instead of tikka masala, and peas. I also got some really good provolone to try instead of mozzarella. So, there you have it- quick, easy, low-prep meal idea that breaks away from the boring cream-of-mushroom-soup stand-bys and and is super flavorful and delicious.


We went to the zoo yesterday and though we arrived by 9:30 am, we only saw the flamingos, parakeets and elephants before it was so hot, we had to go play in the splash pad. I expected to see more animals after, but Natalie got stung by something and we had to go home because she was in such exquisite misery.

I recently learned that Angela loves popcorn. Here she is stuffing her face with the newly-discovered favorite.


And this accidentally captured expression just cracks me up.


Natalie spread out a blanket today and asked for a picnic. I gave her a bowl of blueberries. It was very sweet- Angela went over and sat down right next to Natalie and they shared. They are finally figuring out how to enjoy one another.


 Angela is obsessed with markers. I have tried to keep art supplies away from her, but she recently realized that the box that we keep under the table is full of markers, crayons and colored pencils and she is determined to get into it. The box has closing tabs that she can't open, but she will get it down and walk around, carrying it and crying until I open it for her. I finally let her have a little freedom and set her up at the table, thinking that she couldn't reach any walls, so she couldn't do much harm. It never occurred to me that she might EAT THE TIP OFF THE MARKER!!! Angela may have some bright blue dirty diapers in the coming days.
Upset that I took away her yummy treat


Natalie is learning to do some basic commands with Sammy. His deep respect for her authority is absolutely palpable.

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Micah is busy, busy, busy. I am preparing to sell out house-trying to do one cleaning job every day. We'll be listing in the first week of August and in addition to all the cleaning, we will be moving much of our clutter to a storage unit to show the place, so I've already started packing and organizing for that. I'm looking forward to August and September when Micah will be less busy and I can work on some projects, like catching up on our scrapbook, making new cushions for our dining room chairs, learning about zone 9 gardening and mastering carpentry, to name a few.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Elevator and Escalator

Natalie was describing for me our game plan for when we hit the mall later this afternoon.

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Thursday, June 11, 2015

What's Going On

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Well, thanks LeAnn/Gabby for scoring Angela her FAVORITE gift this last birthday.

My one-year-old monkey is now dead set on cracking her head open. I keep turning my back and then returning to this:
 Or this:

 Or this....

Or This....

Or, on occasion, this....

Just this morning, she fell off the table and got a big bruise across her face from where a chair intercepted her on the way down.
Fun story: the other morning, I heard sudden, frantic crying and ran out to the dining room and didn't see Angela. I dashed to the kitchen and didn't see her. I flung open doors to the bathroom, the laundry closet, and was confounded. I could hear that she was close by, but didn't see her anywhere. Did she close herself in a kitchen cupboard? Was she wedged underneath a piece of furniture? Oh, yes, that would be it. Finally found her- trying to climb onto a chair that was pushed in and she got herself stuck. 

Angela is getting a real nasty temper and when she can't have her way, she stomps back and forth screaming and flinging her arms around.

All of the sudden, Natalie does not seem like a difficult child! I guess it's all really a question of perspective...

Enjoying her new "my-size" wisk, another gift from aunt Gabby (geez, no fair- how did she end up with the gift giving talent?)


This is a funny scene that Natalie left behind after eating lunch one afternoon,
and this is a super delicious peach divinity icebox pie that I made from a southern living magazine. And it was amazing.


 While I was at Darlene's, I felt jealous that Darlene had a binder filled with her favorite recipes. I've been meaning to put together some of my favorites, but I never have a convenient moment to print them out (the computer I most use is not compatible with the printer), so I decided to just stop worrying about printing nice recipes and start neatly copying them by hand as I use them. You can see where in my transcription a child came up and began to require my attention...

And last but most significant, today is my sister Gabby's 18th birthday. On this momentous occasion, I shall share five things that I have learned in my 8 years of legal adulthood. Maybe you could find one or two of them helpful?
1.) There is no substitute for hard work. That doesn't mean that you have to like it or even value it, but some things just need to get done and it's nobody else's responsibility to take care of those things for you.
 2.) Pay attention. I have made so many stupid mistakes and wasted so many resources over problems that could have easily been avoided if I had just looked into details and been more aware. The adult world is full of so many details. And when you are an independent adult, it takes a while to recognize which ones are important. So, to start with, just pay attention to EVERYTHING.
3.) It's okay to find George Cloony attractive even though he is more than 35 years your senior. The rule about age limits and romance (the older one should half his or her age and add seven, this is the youngest appropriate age of a romantic partner) does not apply to celebrity crushes.
4.) If you really want something, make it happen. The way may be long and fraught with complication, but you can find a way.
5.) Learn to cook. I thought as a teenager that the personal progress goal about learning to cook was stupid and I am so, so glad that I completed it because knowing how to follow a recipe has taken me SO far.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Angela Uses a Spoon


Angela is FINALLY starting to feed herself... somewhat. She's not that into finger foods; her main interest is utensil usage!
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Forgive the distracting back-and-forth with Natalie in the video.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Wow! What Happened To May?

The past few weeks have been a whir or excitement, but unfortunately, I have very little to show for it. I went to visit my sister's family in Raleigh and then swung down to stop at my Dad's in Wilmington before returning home. I forgot my camera :( But Natalie had a fun time with her cousins and then hitting the beach. Micah got some writing done while we were gone. He also fixed the washer and took care of the dog and watered my plants. 

I was gone longer than I had planned and I didn't expect my tomatoes to grow so much. I didn't leave any instructions for helping train the tomato plants through the support, so the leaves of the grape tomatoes grew up against the bars and are kinda wilting and dying on top. Hopefully the whole plant will still pull through if I trim off the tops. Otherwise, project cheap urban garden is going stupendously. 

Here is what it looked like over mothers day weekend, about 3 1/2 weeks ago. 

And here we are now:

I've got my first tiny green tomatoes on the beefsteak tomato plant and I've harvested tons of the herbs- especially the basil, cilantro and mint. I've just put in some yellow squash (yes, in a dresser drawer I found at the dumpster) and have a tiny bush bean going where my upside down tomato plant failed. For herbs, I've got basil, cilantro, lavender, chives, sage, mint, thyme, parsley, lemon balm and rosemary with some marigolds and petunias for decoration. I kept adding things here and there and now I really need to stop before I get in trouble with the HOA for encroaching on common area too much!




Natalie and Angela are little buddies. Natalie is very helpful with Angela and Angela wants to be involved in whatever Natalie is doing. In theory, it's wonderful and I should be grateful to have such sweet girls. In reality, Natalie spends all day trying to force Angela to obey me when I tell her to "come" or "stop"or whatever, she always wants to feed Angela, and Angela is always taking toys away from Natalie. There is just a lot of screaming and messiness and falling over and tears and stress.


Angela is a little monkey and climbs all over everything. I need to take more pictures!


Thursday, May 28, 2015

Proof that I did something while Sarah was gone

So I fixed our washing machine. I am now expert at diagnosing problems with direct drive top loader washing machines, if anyone has a problem. The problem with ours was that it would not get up to full speed during the spin cycle, leaving our clothes soaking wet. The problem was that the clutch (a piece which mechanically fixes the motor to the inner tub during spin) was old and the pads were worn down, as can be seen by examining all of the black melted plastic debris here in Fig. 1.


Replacing it with a new one involved detaching the washer from the cabinet, laying on its side, unscrewing the drive motor and gearcase, replacing the clutch, and re-assembling. (Fig. 2).



Now the washer works like never before, it goes so fast during spin, its scary.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Happy Mothers' Day!

On this marvelous day, I would like to honor an amazing woman who has shaped and influenced my life in many ways: Tina Fey.

Just kidding. I’d like to recognize my mother, the fabulous Kelly Sue Thomas Stoddard.

How can I briefly capture my mom? My mom is seriously awesome. I know that EVERYONE says that about their mom. Especially on MOTHERS’ DAY.  But for reals. No mom is as crazy awesome as mine. My mom is hilarious and warm and talented and kind and did I mention hilarious? Instead of trying to draw examples of every great quality that my mom possesses and list the many ways that she has exemplified such qualities, I am going to share a few things that I have learned from her.

Be sincere. My mom is not perfect. And, fortunately for us, she has always been confident and secure enough in her own imperfection that instead of some collection of tricks and pretenses aimed at earning our respect or getting us to toe the line, we get to just enjoy the real Kelly. My mom is okay with who she is. That doesn’t mean that she thinks she’s perfect or isn’t trying to improve. It just seems to me that she likes herself as a person. Maybe it’s easy for her, because she really is just an awesome person. But I choose to believe that her self-assuredness is the result of deep soul-searching and conscious effort. My unpretentious nature is something that I learned from her.

Snuggle with your kids and tuck them into bed at night. When we woke up in the morning as kids, we went straight to mom’s bed, climbed in and cuddled. She wasn’t the type that would wake up an hour before us to have hot pancakes ready, but I value just as much those memories of snuggling up against my mother, sometimes having to fight my brother or sister for the warm spot closest to her. As time went on, it got more and more interesting, with three teenagers at once trying to cram into mom’s queen-sized bed with her. Perhaps this was not the most productive way for all of us to begin the day, but it did help to nurture a sense of closeness.  Also, at night, my mom would always come and visit with each of us before we went to sleep. It was a great way to decompress, a good time to share things with each other, and one way that I knew that she cared about me uniquely and separately from my siblings. Even when I was a teenager, she would routinely come into my room and sit on my bed and talk to me. If any mother wants to know how to get her child to talk to her about things, this is the secret.

It’s okay to take off your bra. My mom did this all the time. If we were watching tv, or just lounging around the house, or going on a long drive, that bra was coming OFF! Even when my brother was a teenager, my mom was never ashamed to afford herself this basic comfort. I am typing this currently without a bra on. I learned this from you, mother!

Friends are important. When I was very young, I remember my mom hanging out with other moms of young kids. It worked out- we kids got some play time in while they enjoyed a little adult conversation. But it went beyond that. She enjoyed chatting with other women from church- I know this absolutely because when we would drag her away from church immediately after our meeting ended because we wanted to go home and eat lunch, she got very upset and spent the drive home telling us how angry she felt that she didn’t get to visit with the other women. As we got older, she made more friends from different, adult circles and they sometimes came over to our house to visit. They might sit out on the back porch and have some adult time. My mom talked to us about them, we knew who they were. One younger, single friend even came to live in our basement for a stint! My mom showed us that she valued her friendships. As a kid, I never thought much of it. But now, as a mom, I sometimes feel so busy with my kids’ social lives that I forget that I need to have one, too, and that it’s not only okay, it’s important for moms to have adult time with friends. My mom also expressed interest in our friends. As a teenager, she knew many of my friends and they knew her. It was okay to invite friends over to our house and she made it a place where we didn’t feel embarrassed or afraid to bring people over. She encouraged us to build friendships, and sometimes would tell us things that she liked about our friends. It meant a lot to me that she cared who I was spending time with and it probably gave her some peace of mind to know the types of kids that I was hanging out with as well.

Share your knowledge and talents. My mom may not have gone to a fancy university or competed in the Olympics (although, she could have!). But she knew a lot of practical things and never hesitated to share them with us when the opportunity arrived. As I go about my daily life, I am constantly noticing the things that my mother taught me. Things like putting the brush that you use to wash dishes through the washer once in a while. A little baby powder in your sneakers to help keep them dry. Don’t  buy generic graham crackers, they taste like cardboard. She always taught so casually, succinctly and by example, that her lessons really sunk in. She taught me that you plant marigolds around your vegetables to deter rabbits and deer. She taught me and my sister to drive a manual car and she is possibly the best parallel parker currently walking the earth. She can ride a unicycle. And drive a motorcycle. And give really good massages. And pretty much everything she cooks or bakes is amazing. 

Shrug it off. One of my biggest pet peeves: frequently practiced traffic violations. You know, the ones that everyone commits so often that we forget that they’re even illegal? I am the worst backseat driver ever and adamantly criticize rule breaking. It has caused a lot of fights between me and Micah. Once while we were riding with my mom, I snapped that it was illegal to change lanes within 100 feet of an intersection. Instead of an irritated retaliation, she waved her hand and just said, “oh, poo”. It may seem simple, but I think that her attitude of shaking off criticism has made her resilient enough to overcome lots of discouragement in life. Through her personal life and her career, I know that she’s encountered a lot of criticism and though she has her sensitive moments, she doesn’t mull over it and stay discouraged and depressed. After she has done her wallowing, she gets over it and moves on. Also she’s not one for huge emotional reactions. I remember a few distinct occasions when she was really angry or upset and I can remember them because they were out-of-the-norm. Usually, she was a very roll-with-the-punches type of mom who didn’t overreact to the little ups and downs of life.

There is a time and a place for nudity. Skinny dipping, in the right circumstances- not a huge deal. But so deliciously liberating.

Don’t take things seriously. Many people have described me saying that I don’t take myself too seriously. I owe this all to my mother. She could start out trying to discipline us and the confrontation would end with all of us laughing, especially her, because we all knew that she just wasn’t the tough, hardball type. She was constantly doing and saying ridiculous, silly things. We teased her and she teased us right back and we all laughed. I feel like our society is moving towards this state of hypersensitivity- we can’t tease and poke fun and risk hurting each others feelings. In our home, feelings were never hurt. My mom had the marvelous gift of being able to laugh at herself and, in turn, taught us to do the same. (My mom might call me after seeing this post and pretend to be offended that I shared such a hideous picture of her, but I will know that she is just pretending to be offended and we will both enjoy a hearty chuckle knowing that, in reality, it is a pretty funny picture.)

It’s okay to make a mess. “Clean enough to be healthy, messy enough to be happy”. That was my mother’s mantra. I don’t remember our house being particularly messy, but I remember that she would occasionally work up the energy to do a deep clean of one room and it would inevitably lead to a bunch of stuff being moved to, and cluttering up, a different room. When we were kids, she didn’t get mad if we came home covered in mud. My mom occasionally hosted “panty painting parties” in which my sister and I were joined by our best friends from down the street, stripped down into our underwear, and given paint and paper. It always digressed into us smearing paints all over ourselves, after which we would get hosed off in the back yard. My mom refinished our hardwood floors once- a pretty heft job that created a good mess while it was going on. Another time, I remember my mom canning homemade applesauce and I looked around the kitchen and was shocked by the heaps of dirty dishes we had created. But my mom never seemed to take big messes in stride, understanding that messes can be cleaned and she would get to it.

Say sorry. My mom was not a big yeller, at least not to us kids. If she ever did lose her temper with us, she would come to us later and apologize. This was huge. I didn’t think much of it as a little kid, but looking back now, I think that this is one of the biggest reasons that I always knew that my mom loved me. It’s easy for kids to feel their parents love when the parents are acting kindly towards them. But it’s in those moments when a parent does yell or criticize or otherwise freak out that kids need the most assurance of their parents’ continuing love. My mom gave us that. When she was harsh with us, she sought reconciliation and instead of trying to teach us what we as kids should be doing differently, she admitted the things that she as a mother needed to do differently.

Try different hairstyles. My mom has done it all. She has grown it long, chopped it short, permed it, and dyed it every color that occurs in nature. And some hairdos looked better than others. But it’s hair. It grows back. Even when she was really not pleased with a new hairstyle, she didn’t make a huge deal out of it.

Have a taste for adventure. Once upon a time, my mother suddenly found herself an empty nester. After nearly 20 years living in the same house, she gave it all up and began working for a company that lined her up with traveling gigs. It has been a blast just to see all the places she has gone. She is always up to try something new and she isn’t afraid to explore a new place by herself. Kayaking in the Ho Rainforest west of Seattle? Sounds fun! Halloween in downtown Salem, MA? Cool! Hot springs in the mountains? Let’s go! She is like a modern explorer, savvy enough to keep herself safe but in-tune enough to appreciate the wonder of new places and experience.

Really, this is quite a short list. I could go on and on if I had all the time in the world. My mother has taught me so much. I feel more prepared to be a mother because of her example and I hope that I can do as good of a job raising my kids as she has done raising us. I love you, mom!