Thursday, September 26, 2013

Pre-breakfast Snacking. Revealed.

You know how with some people you can tell them the same thing over and over and over and over and they will still do it anyway?

Now make that person three years old, an early riser, and obsessed with preparing and eating pre-breakfast snacks.

Lexi, you see, ever since she could open the refrigerator on her own (actually ever since I could feel her moving around in my womb), has been determined to be independent and self sufficient, especially when it comes to choosing her own snacks before anyone else is awake.

I briefly looked into getting a padlock for our refrigerator, but didn't think the DCFS licensing people would be very approving of that.

Eric suggested that I start making snacks for her the night before and leaving them for her to get in the morning. This worked a few times, until she began getting more food on her own after finishing the prepared snack.

The problem isn't really with me not wanting her to eat early in the morning. It has more to do with what she does with food when unsupervised.
Covered in tomato seeds, 2012
Like the time when she took an entire container of leftover spiral noodles and dumped them all over her bed and bedroom floor and then proceeded to dance on top of them. I discovered this later in the morning when I thought it was strange that she kept trying to get the dog to go in her room, only to patter out seconds later munching on something. So I opened the door and turned on the light. Yay.

Or the time she got into the container of brownies and ate a large portion of the 8x8 pan IN HER BED. Her sheets were plastered in chocolate.

Or the time when she spilled the box of blueberries all over the kitchen floor and then hid in her room under her covers until we woke up and went searching for her.

Or the time when she opened the container of the freshly whipped cream and spooned it into a mason jar and ate all of it with a spoon.

Or the time she time she ate the ENTIRE POUND of red grapes that I had just purchased the day before.

Then she did it again, months later, with sour grapes that her grandparents sent. About an hour and a terrible stomachache later, those grapes graced my car with their reappearance. Yay.

Or the time last fall that I made several pumpkin pies. One of the pies ended up in the fridge overnight. The next morning, Lexi claimed to not be hungry and refused her breakfast. A little later I went into the fridge looking for some pie to eat and there it was. HALF of the full sized pie had been eaten out of the crust. A small fork remained in the pan. Next time, Love, remove your evidence.

Or the morning that Lexi came happily into my room announcing that she had found a snack and I should be so proud of her. And there she was, taking huge bites out of an enormous block of mozzarella cheese.
Fall 2012
Or the time I found crackers crushed all over the couch, or the spaghetti noodles covering the floor, or the NINE grape tomatoes stuffed down the bathroom sink drain (those were really fun to get out).

Bites taken out of fresh loaves of bread. The bunch of bananas half gone, the peels littering the counter. Entire jars of jelly slurped up with a spoon. All but one of the marshmallows missing from the bag in the pantry. My chocolate bar in the freezer gone - crumbs of evidence littering the floor. Granola spilled all over the kitchen in an attempt to pour it into her bowl by herself while the house sleeps, hummus smeared on the skin like lotion, leftover smoothies dumped on the table and floor. An entire container of organic yogurt (in other words, $$$) smeared onto the kitchen floor and hastily wiped up with kitchen towels and thrown into the sink.

If we drank coffee, I'm sure she would make it for us in a heartbeat, and serve it to us (complete with cream and sugar) in bed by 6 AM sharp.

The microwave sits way up high on top of the refrigerator because of another pre breakfast snacking incident. I came out into the kitchen because I smelled something burning. And there was Lexi, looking into the microwave as a paper plate with cheerios on it burned to a crisp.
Green smoothie face
The rule in our house goes: Put everything you don't want eaten up high and out of sight. More baked and fresh goods have disappeared than you probably realize. My sister tends to be forgetful of these things and left her half filled lunch bag on the counter over night. The next day at work, she opened her bag looking for the banana and bag of chips she left in there from the day before. Instead, she found an empty bag of chips with a banana peel stuffed inside.

The other morning I took a pan of uncooked cinnamon rolls out of the fridge that I had prepared the night before. As the oven was preheating, I was in the bathroom getting ready for the day. Minutes later, Eric walks into the kitchen and immediately sees that one of the unbaked rolls is missing. It is soon returned, a little worse for wear, in a small Tupperware container, the thief complaining that it wasn't cooked and therefore not good to eat.

If you think these stories are too ridiculous to be true, you obviously haven't met my sweet girl. I never lie. Also, this is just the tip of the iceberg. I could go on for days about these funny absurdities. And yes, we do discipline our kids and have tried so very many things to get this early bird snacking under control. Nothing has worked, so now we do our best to hide the good stuff and laugh at the stories we can now tell.

The good news? Early mornings are never boring around here. And this morning, she didn't touch my chocolate cake. Hallelujah.

Friday, September 20, 2013

What do wet ducklings, fluffy organic chickens and eggplant steaks have in common? Absolutely nothing.

Once upon a time it was raining outside. Everyone inside was reading books, studying, playing quietly, screaming loudly, making messes exuberantly, and cooking meals that didn't have rice or beans in them (miracle, I know!).

Turns out the now very plump ducklings love rain and puddles and everything water. They are ducks, after all. What I didn't expect is for the chickens to love the rain. But they do. And when they ruffle up their feathers to shed all the water droplets (think shaking like a dog, chicken style), I almost die of the cuteness.

That's not to say I haven't been craving some Rosti Pollos lately. These chickens are devouring my gardens at astonishing speeds. I am not sure what compelled them to it, but the chickens have been jumping (did you know they can jump?) over the cages into my gardens and eating everything in sight. Grilled chicken is sounding really good to me at the moment.
My lovely and only eggplant, that ended up as chicken food :-(
But alas, it cannot be! We are now cooking all vegetarian (not to be confused with vegan - we still enjoy our dairy products and free range eggs!) at home in an effort to save some money. Because here's the deal - if we are going to eat meat at home, it's going to be organic, grass fed, free range, etc. Basically, we are done living in blissful ignorance about our food and we want to know the farmer (if it's not us). Think Portlandia, obviously.

Ok, never mind.

Anyway, since the price of organic chicken is rather, well, pricey (because treating your animals right and feeding them well tends to be more humane and costly), and since we are trying to save our pennies right now, we cut the meat out of our home diet. I say our "home diet" because while we aren't eating out very much currently, we will eat meat if it is served in others homes or if they bring it into ours. But otherwise, eggplant is the new in season steak.

Speaking of eggplant, Eggplant Parmigiana with fresh tomato and basil marinara is on the menu for this evening, crying out to be prepared.

**Tune in next time to read all about how your children and your parenting are probably way better than mine in the coming post, "The Epic Bedtime Battles!"**

Monday, September 9, 2013

Memories to laugh about

I haven't been writing because I am reading a really excellent book right now, called The Lacuna. It's so good, in fact, that I have been cheating on my blog and other household duties and spending every spare sleeping-kid second with it. Give me a historical fiction novel set in the 1930's with Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, Trotsky, Stalin, the Revolution, and the brewing of WW2 all set in Mexico City and I'm a happy camper. In fact, every place they mention in the book (including the homes they are living in), every mural they discuss, and every market they shop in, I have been to and seen in person. This is awesome, but it is also making me miss Mexico terribly. I really wish that I could go back to my high school self and make me pay just a little more attention to the history I was living right smack in the middle of. Instead I was just worried about finishing my math problems and trying not to fight with my siblings. Hindsight is 20/20 of course. And when you are sixteen, well, life has different priorities than it does when you're ten years later and looking back.

Speaking of looking back, Eric and I took a long walk with the kids yesterday to a park that sits at the top of a hill and overlooks a baseball diamond at the bottom. There was a Jr. High softball game going on, and I kept stealing glances as I chased Lyla away from the kids on the swings every thirty seconds or so. As a former Jr. High softball player, I had some fond memories as I watched the girls pitch and field and swing the bat. I realized how much I miss it. Not softball, necessarily, but I miss the freedom and fun of just being a kid.

Being a parent of two kids at 26 years old has its pros and cons for sure. During the time that they are so little, it is a difficult season of life for sure. I love it, all the smiles and silly giggles and cuddles and discoveries. But it can also be a taxing time, with all the strong, untamed emotions and constant needs - and sometimes I do want to run away and hide for a little while when the day gets really crazy.

Eric recently had a change in his carpool to work situation and now he is driving every day out to his office in the suburbs and back. I am fortunate to live in the city and be able to have a handful of parks within walking distance and public transportation for the not so close places, but this has definitely meant a change of pace for us. I have never been one to make myself overly busy in the first place (my personality would never allow for that), but with the option of driving taken away from me, I have been trying to be more intentional about our life here at home, namely, with parenting my oldest.

I loved being a kid. I had so much fun. Most of my memories are from when I was older than three, of course, but it still makes me want to make sure that Lexi truly is encouraged to love her life. I am trying to say "Yes" more, let her make some plans, engage in play with her instead of observing while I do something else.

Kids have there own way of enjoying life, though. And I don't quite understand it sometimes. On Saturday, at the forest preserve where all these pictures are from, Lexi refused to walk through the grasses, the woods, and to walk at all, actually. She whined most of the three hours that we spent there. But then when we asked her at home what her favorite part of the day was, she said, "Walking through the tall grass."

At the end of our walk to the park yesterday we passed a fountain that Lexi had asked to stop and play in on the way there. On the way home, she got her wish. She got in, played, loved it, and got wet. When she got out of the fountain, she screamed and cried because her pants were wet. "Well, what did you expect?" didn't really get through to our child of all dramatics, who continued screaming and throwing herself around, drawing as much attention as she could, of course. Eric and I laughed, made her get back in the stroller, and then made jokes about her screaming, which got her quiet really fast, remarkably. When we were home and eating dinner together we asked her what her favorite part of the day was, to which she replied, "Playing in the fountain."

I have no idea really what this post is about except for nonsensical rambling, and perhaps how memories are made. Maybe having a perfect wonderful day where there aren't any kid episodes isn't what makes for a kid's favorite memory. Maybe it's riding on your dad's shoulders getting your arms and legs brushed by tall scratchy grasses or riding home in the stroller in wet pants from playing in the fountain. Maybe it's more about the people you are with than the things you actually do. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I said "Yes" instead of what would be easiest or most practical. It makes for some good memories for me too, as long as I can remember to laugh about it and not take it so personally when emotions suddenly run hot.

I am so thankful for my girls. I am thankful for this season of their childhood and don't want to just look ahead to the next stage. I want to enjoy them and be a family and make the good, laughable memories right here, right now. :-)

Tuesday, September 3, 2013


This weekend and last weekend we have made it a point to get out of the city and into the woods.

We found ourselves hiking on muddied trails under dense green canopies of dancing leaves by the billion. The rain pit pattered down and finally found us, dampening our clothes and unleashing laughter.

And then open spaces.

I leave my phone dead in the car, and take no camera or electronic device with me. We walk through the trees until we come to a huge sunlit field. The grass is emerald and sparkles in the sunlight. We run through the grass, frogs hopping out of the way and grasshoppers popping up like popped corn and birds singing and my children laughing and my heart is overflowing with joy. We find a creek, pet a frog, watch a praying mantis fly. We walk, run, explore hidden spaces. And then more woods. Trees all around, everywhere you look. A cool breeze is brushing against my face. We are crunching through leaves, the damp smell of the earth filling our senses, dappled sunlight streaming down and warming our faces. We are laughing and dreaming big dreams.
**instagram photo courtesy of C.J. who had a phone to capture the beauty when I did not
I recently read an interview with Michael Perry, author of Coop, who talked about sense of place in a way that kind of hit home for me.
"...I do believe that sense of place is pretty portable. We can be happy in a lot of places. I say that as someone who, given the choice, would spend the rest of my life in about six square miles of northern Wisconsin."

And I find myself wondering about this city of concrete that I live in. Wondering if place is what causes you to thrive or if it goes deeper than that. And wondering if I am truly thriving here, when I find myself feeling most alive somewhere else.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Giveaway Winner!

Thank you to all for participating in my giveaway!
The winner is Debbie B. Congratulations, Debbie!

If you didn't win the giveaway, you can still purchase a copy of this great cookbook. And today they are having a Labor day Flash Sale, which means the bundle is 50% off!!! Click on this link to find out more details or to buy the book

Have a lovely weekend!