Monday, July 7, 2014

Thursday, July 3, 2014

A good reason to be a stay-at-home parent?

Baby gets to finish her nap in the stroller

Monday, June 30, 2014

Joining in

We took the kids to the Cowtown Bowling Palace before Mass this Sunday.  Mark had been asking to go and Sunday morning discounts make a family bowling bill less than a Costco pizza/1.5 gallons Horizon organic milk/the very smallest pack of diapers (whyyyyy did I not purchase those cloth things 6 years ago, since I'm way post-squeam in matters of poop, human or poultry, these days), and we were there at opening. Bowling is the ideal event for our family right now: boys throw (ahem, roll) heavy things, June plays with the brightly colored balls and carpets, I make up high school AP Physics exercises, and Luke pretends he is The Dude.  We all cheer for each other a bit, tease each other a bit, and enjoy the velocimeter a lot (3? 3 mph boys? Forget outrun, we can outCRAWL that ball!).  It's great.

And so I'm quite glad I joined in.  At 8:30 a.m. I almost stayed home to do breakfast dishes, start lunch, and make things easier on everyone by keeping the littlest out of the way. But! Life is full of boring adult chores that need to get done.  All chores and no play make Jackie a dull girl, and no one wants to hang with her.  I'm a big cheerleader for moms joining in -- jumping in the ocean with or without the perfect swimsuit body -- and being center stage for the fun memories, rather than always behind the scenes. I think the men like this, too. Luke and I signed on as co-adventurers throwing our fortunes together, not as the man and the woman behind him.

I remember my mom in cold, muddy Georgia-clay rivers up to her pretty shins, sifting for starlites. I remember her dripping gloppy sand into sand castle spires.  A couple weeks ago I saw her swim underwater with her grandkids. I love this memories that have her in the middle.

And even more than joining in, I'm a proponent of letting your family and especially children see you enjoy life even when it is a minor inconvenience to them. That's why I spent 25 unnecessary dollars and an out-of-our-way trip to rent myself a wetsuit for our last California beach day last year. It's why I kept beating the drum for my chicken coop dream. Full-time parenting is often, to me, an exercise in less: spending less on bills, serving less sugar, keeping little voices quieter and little hands and faces less messy. Sometimes I feel less entitled to spending because my name's not on a paycheck this year. I know deeply that less makes room for the important more, but I still have to practice pulling myself out of the Issuer-of-No role to join the fun. I'm going to pick engaged and joyful over receeding most every time. Ladies, moms, siblings, parents: we love being the helpers that make our dear ones' dreams come true.  Let's let them do that for us on occasion, too.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Dream Waffles

Last Christmas, Luke asked the Wagner fam for a waffle maker and he received it, along with the best waffle mix ever.  He makes waffles at least once a week now, and they're always good, but never quite the same pudding-middled eggshell-crusted delight as that first box .. until this morning.  He found the Aretha Frankenstein recipe online and if you've got a waffle iron you need to make this tomorrow.


Serves 2 hungry people
  • 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup whole milk or buttermilk (or a combination)
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil or melted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Butter and pure maple syrup, for serving
  1. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; mix well. Add the milk, vegetable oil, egg, sugar and vanilla and mix well. Let the batter sit for 30 minutes.
  2. Heat a waffle iron. Follow the directions on your waffle iron to cook the waffles. Serve immediately with butter and pure maple syrup or hold in a 200 degree oven, directly on the rack (don't stack them or they'll get soggy). These also reheat very well in the toaster.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Prime the pump

By the 10,000 hour rule mentioned in Malcom Gladwell's Outliers, which says one becomes an expert at a given task after practicing for 5 standard American work-years, I'm an expert at parenting my children at least twice over.  Conservatively, I parent 12 hours a day.  Now there's at least one child awake 14 hours per day, but sometimes they go to the YMCA childcare or family watches them overnight(s) (THANK YOU!), and when it was just Scott there was a nap break, and they used to go to day care a bit.  Still, easily 25,000 hours of parenting accomplished.

So as an expert at my children -- not every child, certainly -- I want to share a little tip: priming the pump.  Luke's a pro at this. I saw him do it with his little cousin before we were even parents.  Instead of telling the child to do something, or why or how to do something, he just starts entertaining himself with that something where the child can watch.  He draws, or builds, or does Legos.  No lecture on why it's good.  No forced enthusiasm.  Just fiddling in an open way.  You don't lecture the water until it flows up the pipe, and you don't give it a pep talk, you just draw some up and let the rest follow.

Maria Montessori talked about this approach in her work, describing it as the teacher charming the children into paying attention.  I've been trying it more and it's good for everyone.  It's especially fun in big, open areas like the blue foam block building sites you see at childrens' museums, or when looking for something fun to do on a dull day at the playground.

What do you think?  Do you try this?  Does it work for you?

Friday, May 30, 2014

Doing it right

You know those times in life when you wonder if you're doing it right? The blog thing, I know I'm not doing it right. I'm supposed to WRITE, encapsulating twisting thoughts and events into neat little pill-sized lessons. But I haven't. I'm not there now. I'm all twining vines and compost piles and building soil for next season in my mind over here.

However, I've got a gorgeous little sister who is tired of hearing my adored brother-in-law "harumph" every time he logs on in Hawaii and sees no new pictures of these three darling babes that fill my days, which I get, because I love the pictures of their little adventurer. So -- SPLAT -- here's a quick mind dump of what we have been doing right in the last hundred days:

My partner in crime and former neighbor visited with her 3 dear children and we adventured.

EVERYTHING about this gif is right.

Okay, so, we wished they'd checked with someone before they jumped on the longhorn at the Stockyards, but I'm awfully glad they didn't, 'cause these pictures are pure joy.

We went to the property with family.  Luke shot a rabbit.  I cooked it and we ate dinner.  This was exciting and odd and made me feel very powerful. Like, on the order of natural childbirth powerful. Strange ideas to explore in my thirties ... (watch out rabbits)

We visited San Antonio.  My mom took a vacation day and we played at Sea World!  I didn't take enough pictures.  We drove to Austin to pick up my dad, played a serious game of predators and prey (Scott's favorite tag) on the airport lawn, and ate way-late-night Taco Cabana.

We scored the good grocery cart at Kroger.
Actually, we didn't.  We shopped with a boring regular cart.  After loading the groceries into the car, we spotted this one and I pushed the kids around the parking lot for 10 minutes before we left.  I remind myself of this when I wonder if I'm a good mom.

Ellen became a full-fledged nurse.  She continued spending more time around us than I probably deserve.

Luke traveled for work for a couple weeks.  Ellen helped us bake a pretty welcome home cake.  Then he took a month of stay-cation, working only Tuesdays and Thursdays, and we saw this city!

We almost took a family picture (but accidentally cropped out the dinosaur)!

A friend's dog had puppies.  We held them. I continued to be in love with Mark's eyebrows.

We built a chicken coop and filled it with chickens! The boys (note, that's the Batman costume on DIFFERENT boys on different days) like them a lot, and June loved them so much the day they arrived that I want to present her with a baby chick every morning.

Easter Sunday: three lucky grandkids with four happy grandparents.

Lots of love, and see you sooner I hope,

Monday, February 3, 2014

My curly girly

June is red waves and ringlets these days and it is terribly fun to move about town with a little strawberry-haloed angel on my hip! She smiles and makes friends at the grocery store, preschool, and speeding ticket court (do those friends count if they dismissed the ticket?). At home, however, she puts the halo away and enjoys emptying all drawers of all items. Yikes.