Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Fun Halloween Reads

I don't know who exactly my intended audience for this post is.  A significant portion of my small readership don't actually have kids of their own.  Another portion have much older children, and these books are geared towards the toddler and preschool audience.  And the remaining are probably familiar with the books listed.  I guess, in writing these books down, I have them in a convenient location for next year when it is time to request Halloween books from the library.

 

Too Many Pumpkins: This is a new title for us this year.  A women, who hates pumpkins, suddenly finds herself inundated with them.

The Widow's Broom: This is rather text heavy and good for older preschoolers/grade school children.  there is a twist at the end which is rather fun.  It is a story about a magical broom.

Oliver and Amanda's Halloween: A cute little chapter book about carving a pumpkin, picking out a Halloween costume, and going trick-or-treating.

Creepy Carrots: A favorite here.  Carrots are lurking everywhere!

Frankenstein: a ghoulish take on the classic Madeline.

Ghosts in the House: The cutest book ever about a witch who takes care of her ghost problem.

Halloween Mice: More for the toddlers in your house.  Full of mice-like sounds as they celebrate Halloween.

Popcorn: This might be hard to find.  There is only one copy in all of the three counties included in our system.  However, it is a fun story.  A bear throws a Halloween party and there is an abundance of popcorn.

Pumpkin Jack: The life cycle of a jack-o-lantern.  We like this story since our we had a pumpkin plant growing from our former jack-o-lantern who met his demise in our garden.  Too bad our pumpkin developed rot before the cycle could be complete.

Room on the Broom: A number of characters try to hitch a ride on a broom.

Sheep Trick or Treat: By the same author and illustrator as Sheep in a Jeep.  The sheep dress up and trick-or-treat in the barn.  They are able to scare away some wolves lurking nearby too.  The rhyming text is fun for the young readers, I love the drawings.


Tell me, are there favorite Halloween stories that you read every year?


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Our first family camping trip

A couple of weeks or so ago, we were driving back from a really nice outing at the park.  I expressed to Mr. F. how much I enjoy the stage we are in right now.  The kids are at a really good age; A lot of new activities are open now to us due to age and because missed naps are not life-threatening as they once were.  I also mentioned, tentatively, that we might attempt to camp at some point.  What I didn't know was that my little boy, though silent, was soaking up this conversation.

The next day as I was cleaning, Finn said he was getting a surprise ready downstairs.  As this surprise left me to clean with only Enna to deal with rather than both of them, I didn't question his activity too closely.  Later, Finn told me some clues.  "It starts with the sound, C," he said.  I tried to think of what things he could be gathering downstairs that started with the sound C.  "Clothes?" I guessed?  "No!" he gleefully replied.  After a few more vain suggestions, I hit on camping.  "Yes!" he happily responded.  It turns out Finn had taken all of our tents, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, and bags out of their storage area to dump in one large pile on the downstair's floor.  He had also started packing.  This entailed taking all of our shoes and other random objects and putting them in various bags.  This became problematic later in the day when we were trying to run out the door for some errands but had to spend 15 minutes trying to find shoes for everyone.

"I am packing, so we can go camping tomorrow," Finn declared.  "I am getting everything ready, so you don't have to worry about it."

Finn is not one for imaginative play.  Also, tomorrow meant a Tuesday, a day Mr. F. had to work, and Finn had preschool.

"Is this pretend packing?" I suggested, oh so tentatively and hopefully.  "Because Daddy has to work tomorrow.  We can't really go camping tomorrow."

I could tell immediately by the brief fall of countenance before he closed up, that no, this was not pretend packing.  Now I had a crushed and embarrassed soul on my hands.  I gave Mr. F. a call at work to apprise him of the situation.  Obviously, the ideal solution would be to realize Finn's dreams and go camping.  However, we had no idea when we could possibly squeeze in a camping trip with Mr. F.'s current work schedule, even if it was more or less in our backyard.   Providence, however, worked in our favor, and we were able to throw something together for that coming weekend. Although Finn strongly petitioned for camping "far away," we ended up at a recreational center 20 minutes from our house.  It was ideal for our first family campout.  If we forgot something essential, we could make an emergency trip home.  There was also a grocery store practically across the street as well.  So yeah, you could say we were pretty much roughing it.

What was not ideal was the caravan of six cars from Alabama who drove in at dusk and set up camp right next to us.  (They even brought their own smoker!)  They blasted Motown music from their cars until close to 11 o'clock at night, not to mention talking and laughing loudly the entire time.  I guess we got our payback when Enna decided to wake up and scream for an hour just as they were shutting down for the night.  (While she was a fan of camping, she wasn't a fan of not sleeping in her climate, light, and sound controlled room)

Despite the less than awesome night, the kids LOVED camping.  They loved being outside All. Day. Long.  They loved eating their meals on a picnic table and cooking them on the camping stove or grill.  During the day on Saturday, we went 10 minutes north to a state park where there are some trails and a playground.  The weather was lovely, and despite being basically in the same location as home, we felt like we were on an actual vacation.

We had planned on staying two nights, but the weather was forecasted to turn really chilly and windy on the second night.  We bailed at the last minute.  (Which you can do when you are only 20 minutes away!)  It turned out for the best as both Mr. F. and Finn came down with colds the next day.  Despite it being less than smooth, we all had a great time.  Finn asked the next day when we could go again and we are tentatively planning on a trip in the spring. With luck, we might still have all of our gear out and ready to go. (Ha!)






More pictures on my Flickr photostream here.

And because, I would be interested, here was our menu (please feel free to share your easy camping meals.  I am such a novice!):

Dinner 1:
Diced potatoes with oil, salt, and pepper wrapped in foil and cooked on coals
Hamburger patties pre-made before hand and cooked on skillet
Carrot and cucumber sticks

Breakfast 1:
Pancakes (dry and wet assembled before hand to mix together morning of)
bananas

Lunch:
Quesadillas (store bought gf tortillas) with refried beans and cheese cooked on skillet
Carrots and cucumber sticks
Apple slices

Dinner 2:
Brined chicken cutlets cooked on skillet.  (Too salty! But I was worried about dried meat!)
Baked sweet potatoes (cooked whole, wrapped in foil, on coals)
Steamed cauliflower in small camping pot on camping stove.

Breakfast 2:
Baked oatmeal (previously cooked in muffin tins and brought with us) with cream
bananas

Snacks:
dried fruit
cheese sticks
apple slices
carrots and hummus
gingersnaps







Friday, September 19, 2014

Friday Flashback: Meet Big Baby, formerly known as Katie

I was a child of the 80's and if I do say so myself, the 80's had some really awesome toys.  I adored Care Bears; my sisters made me Care Bear pillows and painted Care Bear figurines for my birthdays.  I played with Strawberry Shortcake dolls (I owned Strawberry Shortcake, Lemon Meringue, Angel Cake, Almond Tea, and Plum Pudding.)  I had a sizable collection of My Little Ponies (and also the stable and the pink castle monstrosity).  And of course, any one who was anyone, had a Cabbage Patch Doll.

My Cabbage Patch Doll, though, was extra special.  My mother made it for me for Christmas.  She made it to look just like me as a baby: brown curly hair and dark brown eyes.  The doll even wore my old baby clothes.  She made one for each of my sisters: curly blond hair and blue eyes for M. and straight brown hair and blue eyes for N.  We all fondly remember that Christmas as the Christmas of the Cabbage Patch Doll.  (Not to be confused with the Christmas of the Pound Puppy, another great Christmas and another great toy of the 80's.)





I christened my doll Katie, after my blond-haired and blue-eyed cousin (because of course!)  I dragged Katie around the house, left her on the floor, and loved her thoroughly.  With so much love, Katie's face got horribly dirty, and it never occurred to me (or my mother?!) to clean it.   In fact, when I acquired Katie again last year after years of her being stored at my Parents', I wondered if it was even possible to clean her up, or if she should be (gasp!) tossed.  However, with a little bit of stain treating and a gentle wash, she became as good as new.

Shortly after turning one, Enna started being enamored with babies and stuffed animals.  She would steal other children's play babies at play dates and not want to give them back.  Obviously, Enna needed a baby of her own.  First, I gave her the doll we gave Finn when he was younger.  However, I could tell, she was less than enthusiastic with it.  I then brought out the big guns and gave her Katie.  It was love at first sight.



To distinguish between the two dolls, we called them Little Baby and Big Baby.  Big Baby is almost as tall as Enna herself, and is rather cumbersome.  However, that doesn't stop her!  Big baby nurses with us.  Big Baby needs hugs before bedtime, naps, and leaving the house. (Enna would love it if Big Baby could sleep with her but, I put my foot down.  There is not enough room.)  Enna always makes sure that the gate is closed so that Big Baby doesn't follow and fall down the stairs.  We sure do love that Big Baby.

And look!  It appears that Enna treats her as lovingly as I used to.


  

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The No Nap

Parent puts child down for a nap just like she always has.  Child refuses to sleep.

Parent: Why won't my child sleep!?

Parent, in a panic, starts googling, "19 month old has stopped napping."  She reads the hundreds of forum posts under the exact same title, and finds responses such as:

"My child stopped napping at 15 months!  Some children just don't need much sleep.  He is just like me!"
and
"Do everything to get them to nap!  Preschoolers even need naps!  Naps are crucial to brain development!"

Parent starts imagining a world where her child never sleeps and has inferior intellect because of it.

After an hour or so, Parent succumbs to the reality of the moment: Her child is not going to sleep today.  She picks up child and catches a whiff of something not so fresh.  She peaks inside the diaper and discovers a smelly, brown surprise.

Mystery of the No Nap solved.......for today.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Ancestral Wormhole

I had this thought at Easter, when we were busting out all the Ukrainian dishes, the perhaps I should take a look at some of our ancestral roots and incorporate some of those traditions into our holidays.  Celebrating a Slavic Easter was fun and all, but it lacked the meaning or history than if I were celebrating in a way that perhaps my progenitors had.  I took a gander on FamilySearch to see what I could discover.

My family has been in this country for a good while.  I had to go back to my great-great's (average birthdate of 1836) to find someplace other than the U.S. of A.  As it turns out, I am 1/16 German, 2/16 Scottish, 2/16 Welsh, 5/16 English, and 6/16 American/Canadian.  (I feel so very white with that sort of list, but it is what it is.)  However, if I thought my family had been around awhile, they have nothing on Mr. F.'s family.  I kept going farther and farther back on his family tree waiting for a birthplace other than the states (or territories, or colonies, or British America) to be mentioned.  It wasn't until that I hit the early 1600's that there started to be another countries listed as birthplace.  (Because, you know, the colonies weren't even founded until 1607 at the earliest so...).  And yeah, I have a line or two like that, but I was finding hard pressed to find a line that wasn't like that on his, the show-off.

So this begs the question, does it even make sense to embrace your roots and celebrate the traditions of your ancestors if said ancestors haven't lived anyplace but here for 400 years?  Mr. F. says this is why he always makes a case for Thanksgiving--it being a true American holiday.  It would be interesting to see if we could discover some family names who came over on the Mayflower or other ships.  This could add some context to the Thanksgiving day dialogue.  Already, I have discovered an Anna Rolfe on Mr. F.'s side.  She was a niece to John Rolf--the man who introduced tobacco to the Virginia company and married Pocahontas.  Or, perhaps a better example, would be a Quaker on my side of the family who came over for religious freedom.  However, I am still dissatisfied.  Isn't there some early colonist tradition that has since gone out of fashion that I could revive?  (Holding witch hunts maybe?  Wearing scarlet letters?)

I can, I think, in good conscience, incorporate my family's British Isle traditions into ours since it has been only a mere 150 years since their departure.  For Christmas, I have the following list:

Scotland: shortbread
German: nutcrackers, gingerbread houses, advent calendar, stollen and platchen on first day of Advent, Christmas tree.  (Basically, everything related to Christmas.  I have this one covered.)
Wales: toffee making Christmas Eve, wassail
England: mince pies, Christmas crackers, christmas pudding

We have a recipe for plum pudding that we grew up making all the time at Christmas.  I will have to pull that out and adapt to make gluten-free.  (I can't see that turning out wrong.  Ha ha ha.)  I am also really interested in the idea of Christmas crackers, mainly because I think it will be fun wearing the paper hats during dinner.

What about you, dear reader?  Do you embrace family traditions?  Do you think there is any value in celebrating your heritage?  At what point does it become moot?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

School Days

Last week, Finn started preschool.  Up to the very day, I was vacillating between being very nervous and very excited.  Nervous because I wondered if three hours in the morning, five days a week would be too much, and was I throwing him to the wolves?  Excited since most of our "altercations" stem from boredom, and the kid just wants things to do.


Enna has some concerns
So far, it has been great.  He showed no hesitation or anxiety about walking in with the other kids to the classroom and leaving me behind.  He comes home in a good mood and has nothing negative to report.  And every day, he wakes up and is excited to start another day at preschool.  We do have some behavior issues in the afternoon though.  We have instances were he lashes out because he is too tired from having to self-regulate at preschool for a long time.  I sort of expected this and am just trying to deal with it the best I can.  Ideally, he would have a bit of quiet time after preschool while Enna naps.....except that Enna has switched to napping during preschool.  Ultimately, this works out the best for me and bedtimes, but not so great for Finn's decompression.    

Of course, after only a week of preschool, Finn has been struck down with a virus.  Nothing too serious thankfully, just congestion and a low-grade fever.  But, it is never fun to have a sick child.  They just look at you and say, "mom, why do I feel so yucky?  Make me feel better."  And there is very little that you, as a parent, can do.

This never happens....except when sick.



Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The non-30-minute meal

The other night, we had chicken caesar salad wraps for dinner.  For most people, this would be a simple dinner that one could throw together at the last minute.  For us, it is a multi-day, or at the very least, an hour-long process.  Let's compare.

Normal People

Buy rotisserie chicken, lettuce, tortillas, dressing.  If you are feeling fancy, you can make your own dressing and just be out a few minutes.  Debone the chicken, toss the meat with the dressing, and put everything on the table.  BAM!  Dinner done in less than 30 minutes.

Chez Lady Susan

The day before, cook a whole chicken in the crockpot since it is difficult, nay impossible, to find a gluten-free, corn-free, soy-free, low-sodium rotisserie chicken.  Debone it, freeze half for another dish, and save the other half for your dinner tomorrow.  Make broth from the carcass.  (If tonight is your lucky night, you might be able to skip this step just be able to defrost the chicken that you have stored in your freezer.  Win.)

During the afternoon while your child naps and the other plays by himself, mix together the dough for the tortillas.  Heat up the skillet and laboriously roll and cook 9 tortillas that will be eaten in less time than it took to make them.  (However, practice does make perfect, and you are getting pretty skilled at making tortillas in only 30 minutes!  Pat yourself on the back.)

Store-bought dressing is out, so you make your own.  You prefer that anyway.  You check the homemade mayo in the fridge and find it on its way south.  Dump it and start afresh by making new mayonnaise.  Assemble the rest of the ingredients for the dressing and toss with the chicken you defrosted earlier.

About an hour (or a day!) after you started the process, you have dinner ready to put on the table.  Go you!  Try not to look at the mountain of dirty dishes created from having to make everything from scratch that you will have to wash later.

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