A Day of Favorites

December 31, 2008

Yesterday was filled with some of our favorite people, places,and tastes. It started with a visit to Aunt Janet's: picking and eating satsumas; checking out the garden; and a walk in the swamp. And ended by eating boiled crawfish with Pris, Eddie, and Bea.

Day 181

Seems so appropriate on the last day of 2008 to be doing something that has become such a big part of our lives, especially this year: packing and preparing for another transition. Taking a quick break from the mounds of "stuff" that have accumulated since moving to Louisiana in July. We arrived with a three suitcases, some books, a few favorite kitchen items, and our pillows...now we have birthday gifts (why did I think a huge dollhouse would be a good gift for Camille? she loves it, but even when it is disassembled it is in a big box!) and holiday gifts (big garbage trucks are not so easy to disassemble!).

It doesn't matter how many times we've done this packing/moving business, it is still a lot of work and stress. The kids react in their own ways. Noah gets even more hyped up and energetic than usual. Camille gets whiny and clingy. And I get tired, frazzled and snappy. And this time is no different. And just as with other moves I always swear I will get started earlier and be more organized, but I don't and the end is always frantic. I don't like it and perhaps one day my mode of operation will change but right now it is actually a little layer of emotional protection. Because if I stop to think about what/who we are leaving behind in Louisiana I start to get very sad.

But I am not sad to be saying good-bye to 2008. This has been a big bad and very sad year for us. So I am going back to the boxes with the mantra that 2009 will be a better year and by the time we unpack all of this stuff we will already have entered that new year. 2009 will bring us back to Florida and back to being a family of four (can't wait for February!). 2009 will be the end of this deployment. 2009 will be our big move to Sicily. 2009 will be filled with all sorts of new adventures and we will hold on tight for the ride.

Louisiana Traditions

December 28, 2008

Here are a few of my family's holiday traditions which I love.
Crawfish Etouffee on Christmas Day
Gateau Na-Na is my favorite holiday dessert. My dad would always pick one up on Christmas Eve during his annual shopping trip to The Kitchen Shop. This year Camille and I made the trip to Grand Coteau and had a nice visit with Jesse and Nancy.
Amaryllis in full bloom in my mom's kitchen
The big family holiday party and annual step photographs. The party starts with a big holiday lunch at Aunt Carol's house. After everyone has filled up, we head down the street to Aunt Christine's house for dessert, gift opening, and the step photos. After a couple of hours of visiting, everyone heads back to Aunt Carol's for a dinner of left overs and card playing late into the night. It's a crazy, cozy, chaotic family gathering and I wouldn't want it any other way. So glad my kids have been able to experience the holidays Louisiana style for the past three years.

Santa Update

Thanks for all for the feed-back on the Santa debacle. Santa did indeed leave a spy kit at the big family Christmas party. Poor Noah has had way too many "life lessons" during this past year (and I just couldn't erase that image of him crying in the bathroom). Unfortunately my little guy didn't believe it was from Santa. He is thrilled to have the spy kit, but is convinced it was a gift from my uncle. So I didn't quite succeed in reviving the magic, but he did have lots of fun spying on family members throughout the day.

Lessons from Santa

December 26, 2008

Lesson learned...never take your children into a store the day before Christmas. That's when Noah saw the International Spy Kit that would taint his Christmas. He pointed out the junky $10 plastic spy kit while we were madly rushing through our last minute shopping list. He'd never yearned for one before. It had never been on any of his lists and yet suddenly it was at the top of his list. He kept talking about it for the rest of the afternoon and fell asleep on Christmas Eve whispering about it to my mom. Why,oh why didn't I just hide it in the bottom of the cart? I honestly thought he would forget about it especially once he saw all of the other tantalizing things under the tree.

Christmas morning he woke us up by announcing his excitement about finally getting the spy kit. He kept searching under the tree. He was absolutely certain it was there. But it wasn't. He was excited about the garbage truck and the legos, but later in the day I found him sitting in the bathroom. Tearfully he said: "Don't believe what they tell you. Santa won't make all of your wishes come true". This Santa business is complicated and at times heartbreaking. I remember how sad I was when I discovered the truth about Santa. And now as a parent I feel a little heartbroken about Noah's disappointment. He still believes in Santa but not in the same wholehearted way.

So I am grappling here. Do I just chalk this up as a life lesson..."you don't always get what you want" and "sometimes people let us down" ? Or do I play the forgetful Santa card and discover the spy kit under the tree at tomorrow's big family gathering?

Christmas 2008

December 25, 2008

Christmas Eve Christmas Morning

The Third Night

December 23, 2008

A Hanukkah party with Temple Shalom friends: latkes, dreidels, laughing, and singing. We will miss the small congregation here....such a warm and welcoming community.

The Second Night

December 22, 2008

Putting Camille to sleep tonight she said "Thank you for Hanukkah"...it melted my heart and I said the same words to both of my children because I am truly grateful to them. Their excitement and awe is contagious. The last two nights have been good for all of us. We spent the first night listening to The Golden Dreydl, lighting the candles, eating matzah ball soup by candlelight, and opening little gifts. And tonight we added another candle, another dinner by candlelight, and some more Hanukkah stories. Thanks to all for the kind comments and continued support. I hope that you and your families are also surrounded by warmth, love, and hope this holiday season.

Waiting Candles

December 21, 2008

Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah and also the Winter Solstice. Seems so appropriate this year that they coincide. The darkest, shortest day of the year and the festival of lights seem to go hand in hand. A time to celebrate miracles but also a time to acknowledge the larger forces of nature and our connection to the sun. But for me there also feels like an even closer personal connection between the two. I can't seem to shake my sadness. I have entered this holiday season with a heavy heart, but I am eager for tonight when we will light the first candles. There is something so stirring about candlelight, especially candles in the menorah. Tonight we will light the menorah that came from Adam's family, one we made with beans and applesauce cups, and something just for my dad. My dad didn't celebrate Hanukkah, but he did believe in the power of rituals so I have been trying to think of some way to honor him during Hanukkah. It came to me this morning when I was cleaning up from breakfast. I moved the bowl of paintballs and suddenly it made sense. So I took the paint balls and lined them up with nine alternating tea lights. I don't expect the sadness to suddenly disappear tonight when we light the candles for the first time, but I do hope to find a little comfort in watching my children's faces glow in the candlelight.

Holiday Thoughts

December 18, 2008

Cards made using this technique and Noah's designs. Trying to keep things simple and homemade this year which is especially busy since Chanukah and Christmas are in the same week. Just like our crazy Louisiana weather (snowing last week, in the 80s this week), I find myself vacillating wildly with my emotions. Feeling like a grinch one minute and weepy with holiday emotions in the next minute. Trying to keep things simple, but fun and festive for the kids. Trying to savor the moments, but also wanting to just be done with the holidays. Missing my dad and Adam. This year feels like a crazy, mixed-up, bittersweet holiday season. Wishing you all the best and hoping we can all find some peace and joy amidst the holiday frenzy.

Stolen fortune

December 14, 2008

To the thieves who broke into our van this weekend:

Hope you enjoy the nice camera and the box of fortune cookies. But I really wish you had taken some of the other things with you...like the multiplying mounds of garbage and junky drive-thru toys. Or that annoying children's music cd that I keep meaning to toss out. Thank you for not taking the enormous Tonka recycling truck waiting to be wrapped. That was very kind of you. You must have known that was Noah's only holiday request this year. If you have a chance, could you please make prints of those photos from Noah's good-bye party with his class last week and stick them in our mailbox? And could you please mail that other package that you stole? I am sure once you open it you will discover that some fortune cookie ornaments and a homemade bookmark weren't quite the treasures you had been hoping to find (but if you mailed the box by tomorrow I would still make the deadline for the holiday book club exchange). I imagine things must be pretty rough for you right now, but they aren't super easy for me either and now I have another thing to add to this year's list of crappy happenings. I hope your luck changes soon, but even more than that I selfishly hope my luck changes sooner.

One pissed off cookie


December 11, 2008

We made snowmen today after school...a fun way to end a day that started with snow. Cotton make-up remover pads, cotton balls, popsicle sticks, buttons, stickers, and glitter glue. Yellow by Noah (age 5) and pink by Isabella (cousin, age 7).

Louisiana Snow

I woke up at 5:30 am with a nagging cough and peeked outside to discover big flakes glimmering in the street lights. I went out on the screened porch to verify my eyes weren't playing tricks on me. Noah heard the door opening and he joined me on the porch. It was one of those magical moments as his eyes registered what was happening outside. We quickly dressed and headed out. Camille was a little more hesitant. She cried and wanted to be held until she saw how much fun Noah was having. Lots of snowball throwing. Lots of snow tracks. Rosy cheeks and cold hands (we couldn't find gloves anywhere so we all had socks on our hands!). And lots of fun.

The last time I remember seeing snow in Louisiana was in 1988. I was fifteen. It was pretty exciting, but my first snow experience was even more memorable. My parents took us to the airport to watch the planes, but then they surprised us by getting in the line to board a plane headed to Cleveland,Ohio. Now I don't usually hear people talking about Cleveland as their top travel destination, but Cleveland will always be a magical place in my mind. We stayed in a fancy old hotel downtown. Went to some great museums. My dad was excited to see his friend's exhibit and I was excited to see Lucy. But the biggest highlight was the snow.

Our snow experience this morning was pretty short lived (it is already melted and turned to rain), but it was still a wonderful surprise. Noah has been begging to see snow so it was nice to see his wish come true. I have been struggling to get into the holiday spirit this year but I have to admit that waking up to discover snow was pretty thrilling and sharing it with my children was pure joy.

Day 155

December 9, 2008

Adam told me last week that his return date has now been set for the middle of February (so much better than March!). That happy news sent me to a giddy place. I spent several days smiling to myself, hugging the kids extra tight, and daydreaming about all of the good days ahead. But then those happy feelings were nudged a bit by other feelings. I suddenly missed Adam more than I have in the all of the past few months. Sounds crazy but I think I have been numbed a bit by living in survival mode. Now that the end of this deployment is within sight, I just want it to end and I want him home more than ever. I am sure some of these feelings are also related to the upcoming holidays. And in addition to those feelings of sadness and longing, I am also trying to keep myself calm in the face of another transition. The kids and I will be packing up and moving back right after the holidays. That means another long car trip, another period of re-adjustment, and hardest of all saying good-bye to family and friends here.

When we first arrived in Louisiana, the months ahead seemed so long and I made a list in my head of all the things we would do during that time. Places I loved as a kid that I wanted to share with my kids. People I wanted to see. Projects I thought I would do each night once the kids were in bed. Movies. Keeping in touch with friends with late night phone conversations. It just didn't happen the way I thought it would. I was too tired each night to do anything besides a little blogging and reading. I haven't had the attention span to focus on a movie in months. I have been bad about staying in touch with friends except for occasional e-mails. Our weekly schedules quickly got filled up with soccer and gymnastics. And I had to come to the realization that I am just not able to do everything right now. I am usually able to juggle many things at once. I am usually the one who volunteers for everything and starts up new projects/groups without a second thought. But right now I am not quite myself. These past six months, actually this whole year has really been hard. And I am still reeling from it. I am sure there are lessons to be learned from this past year. I am sure I have I grown stronger from the challenges and losses of this year. But right now I just feel drained and I am ready for a new year. And ready, more than ready for Adam to come home.

Growing Gifts

December 8, 2008

Sprouting Amaryllis bulbs make me happy which is why I grow them every year as gifts (and keep a few for brightening up our house, too). This year we decoupaged old tissue paper on the pots to make them a little more festive. Once they are ready for gifting we'll attach a bow and handmade holiday cards. The kids are having fun watching them grow before our eyes.

Recycled Menorah

December 7, 2008

Since we didn't bring many holiday items with us to Louisiana, we are creating our own decorations. Here's our recycled menorah. The kids and I made this menorah with toilet paper (and one paper towel) rolls, a large box, and magazines. We started by cutting out images we liked and then attached them with blue masking tape. This was much easier than my original plan for glue/modge podge. I cut out a couple of words that were meaningful for our family and attached those. Then we painted the paper rolls, glued on construction paper flames, and we had ourselves a colorful new menorah.

Books and Pockets

December 4, 2008

A few book "things" to share:

First of all, Karen's book is now for sale. She wrote In Etna's Shadow while living in Sicily and it is a vibrant and tasty read about her culinary adventures. Full of great photos, interesting history, market tips, and some delicious recipes....makes me want to get on that plane for Sicily today! A perfect gift for anyone who loves food and travel(and anyone planning to visit us in the next three years!).

Secondly, one of our favorite children's authors/illustrators, Grace Lin, is graciously doing a bookplate promotion. We love her picture books (Dim Sum For Everyone, Round is a Mooncake) and her chapter book series (Year of the Dog, Year of the Rat). Check out this link for more info on her beautiful book plates. And this lovely quote she used on her site:

A book is like a garden in one's pocket.
Chinese Proverb

And finally, visit the Sweet Thing(s) blog for an interesting post on blogging, mothering, comparing, struggling, and making it all work. Sarah and I have had some on-going discussions via e-mail about this topic so it was nice to see her post and the comments it elicited. In connection to that discussion, she is hosting a book give away. Looks like an interesting book. Leave a comment on Sarah's blog for a chance to win the book.

Hope your pockets/stockings are filled with good books this holiday season!

Pipecleaners and Shoelaces : Updated Family Travel Tips

December 3, 2008

I am happy to say our most recent cross country trip to San Francisco went very smoothly and with it came a few realizations: traveling without diapers is very nice, charging us to check bags is not nice, and my two kids are traveling pros/troopers. I also realized that as my kids get older our list of travel necessities is changing so I thought I should update from previous posts on the same topic. So here are some things that worked well on our recent trip:

1) Pipecleaners: handy, small, lightweight and good for all ages. Can be used to make crowns, flowers, aliens, and many other twisty designs. Also good for wrapping around the handle of bags to distinguish your black suitcase from all of the other black suitcases.

2) Shoelaces: go great with sewing cards. We love this set and these, too (both brands have nice illustrations and durable cards). But I have also been thinking about making our own set with family drawings.

3) Velcro shoes: makes security lines so much easier. And dressing kids in sweat pants/knit leggings is also good for traveling. Comfy and easy to get of/on in tight airplane bathrooms. And even though my kids are older, I am so glad I still pack extra clothes in our carry on bags. We volunteered to get off one of our flights (got some nice travel vouchers for future flights) and ended up having to spend the night in Houston (yes, I am nuts to do this with two small children...but happily it all went well and now we have a free trip!)...anyway the extra set of clothes was put to good use.

4) Blank sketch books: good for drawing, tick tack toe, etc. Also, keep meaning to make some pencil rolls like these because they would be great for traveling.

5) Magnets and stickers: (or band aids, too!) keep little hands occupied. These sets are nice for air/car travel and also good for restaurants because they are so thin and lightweight.

6) Little things: Noah was thrilled to have some micro machines (thank you, Aunt Carol). Camille
loves these animals. I always find myself stashing little figures, matchbox cars, etc into small bags in anticipation of upcoming trips.

7) Hand gel: I am a fan of the Bath and Body Works hand gel. Nice small containers and less harsh on skin. Baby wipes are also good to have on hand. Just never know when a mess will happen or when you might be someplace without quick access to soap and/or a sink.

8) Car Seats: We travel with our car seats so we don't have to rent them at our destination and for use on larger planes. The GoGo Kidz is a long time favorite for car seat travel. And
here's a more recent favorite. Since my son is now in booster seat (which can not be used on flights), we went with a booster that could be folded and fit into it's own travel bag. Very happy with the Compass booster seat. Here are my other travel gear recommendations.

9) Books: lots and lots of paper back books. This book and this book continue to be big hits when we are flying. I also try to find books about the area we are visiting. I buy a few new books for each trip but mostly just go through our book collection and pick books that haven't been read in awhile. I also packed a couple of "blank books" (paper stapled or sewn togeth
er) so the kids could make some of their own on the trip.

10) Extra hands and extra time! I had my mom with me on the most recent trip which was a huge help, but when I have flown solo with the kids I have quickly learned to ask for help. I have also learned to book flights with enough connection time to get additional food, bathroom break, and run around/play time. I'd much rather have a longer lay-over than be rushing to catch a plane with two little ones in tow. And for military families, check out the airport USO (great for free snacks, computer access, help, and some even have areas for naps and/or showers).

San Francisco

December 2, 2008

Highlights from a busy trip included: visits to the California Academy of Sciences, a spa escape to the Claremont (my mom and I sans kiddos...thanks to Adam and my in-laws), a neighborhood walk in Berkeley, the most amazing fabric store, the SFMOMA (great exhibit by Martin Puryear ), Habitot, the Berkeley public library, exploring local parks, and best of all lots of good food and family time. It was a memorable Thanksgiving for all of us.

Taking Flight

November 19, 2008

We are leaving for San Francisco tomorrow. Looking forward to time with Adam's family, exploring the city, and celebrating Thanksgiving together. Frantically packing, cleaning, and trying to finish up a few gifts. Also giving thanks for chocolate, my sweet children who went to bed early, and This American Life (good to listen to stories while packing!).Happy Thanksgiving!

Pumpkin Pie Playdough

November 14, 2008

We have been experimenting. Inspired by the recipe in the October issue of Family Fun magazine, we made our own no-cook version. Actually we tested out two different no-cook recipes. The first one was very simple and fast, but the outcome was gritty and the kids didn't like it as much as our good old stand-by recipe. It is basically the same recipe as in the magazine minus the cooking part.
  • 1/2 cup of salt
  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1 tablespoon of cream of tartar (found in the spice section and once you have this little bottle you can makes lots of playdough...I think it is the ingredient that makes this dough so nice and keeps it nice for awhile)
  • 1 tablespoon of oil
  • I cup of boiling water
  • red and yellow food color (add to hot water)
  • pumpkin pie spice or a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger...whatever is in your spice cabinet that smells good!
Mix dry ingredients together. Add oil and spices. Slowly add hot water and mix. Will get very gooey. I usually end up adding additional flour until the consistency is right. My kids love this messy, mixing stage. We all put our hands in the bowl to mash and knead the dough. After playing with it, place the dough in airtight container to enjoy on another day. We also use this recipe to make regular playdough by adding a packet of kool-aid (instead of food coloring and spices).
Camille made lots of birthday cakes (candles made from a stash of barrettes I have been looking for!). Noah was into making patterns using cookie cutters and things he collected around the house. Smells good and easy to do.

Chunks of Time

I am in the process of preparing a letter and photos for Camille's birthfamily. We do this twice a year (around her birthday and Chinese New Year). It always makes me feel sad and sentimental. Especially sad that her family isn't able to experience Camille in the same way we do. I sort through all of the recent photographs trying to evaluate each one in hopes of giving them a taste for her personality, her growth, her current interests, etc. And as I look at those images I am flooded with all sorts of emotions. And I am also struck by that crazy phenomena of "time flying by"...that warning you hear from everyone when you are expecting your first child, the one that really doesn't hit home until your sweet baby turns into a pre-schooler overnight.

This time as I was sorting through the photos I realized that Camille is now the exact same age as Noah was when she was first placed into our arms. Noah had just turned three and something happened between our taxi ride to the orphanage and the return trip later in the day. There was a shift. It wasn't just that we had a new ba
by, but we suddenly had a big boy, a big brother in the family. Suddenly he seemed so much older. And now Camille is the exact same age but I can't really wrap my mind around that. Just doesn't seem possible. And so I can only imagine how her family must feel when they get our letters/photos twice a year. The last time they held her was during our second trip to Taiwan. Camille was six months old. Will she always be six months old in their minds, their arms, and their hearts? Do these photos of a big, grinning three year old even seem real? We had hoped to hear from them occasionally, but so far that hasn't happened so I am just left wondering and sorting and packing another chunk of time to be sent to Taiwan.

November List

November 12, 2008

So here is another rambling list of random thoughts and links:

1) One of the most unique and disturbing craft sites I have ever seen. The turkey and the menorah are "interesting" but I don't think we'll be attempting those anytime soon. I think we'll try this or this instead.

2) Bookswim. Like netflix for books. When I first heard about this idea from my on-line book club, I thought it was a crazy idea. Why not just use the public library system? But with our recent overseas news, I quickly remembered the pain of not having access to a good library system. I can see how this would work well for those living overseas or in more rural areas.

3) One of the books that is helping me out of my reading slump: "Fortune Cookie Chronicles". Fascinating read about American-Chinese food. Seriously entertaining. Everything from the American invention of the fortune cookie and General Tso's Chicken to the impact on state lotteries. And did you know there are more Chinese restaurants in the States than all of the fast food restaurants combined?!

4) Cleaning swap. I think the most fun and the most productive I have ever been in regards to cleaning was the summer I worked on a ranch in Colorado. One of my jobs there was to clean cabins and I surprisingly enjoyed it. Much easier to clean up someone else's stuff than my own. Is that a weird confession? But I think it would work with organizing and cleaning. I could be so much more productive if I was cleaning out someone else's closets instead of my own. I wouldn't stop to get sentimental or distracted with someone else's clutter. So instead of that crazy wife swap show, I think there should be a cleaning swap. You clean my crap, I'll clean yours.

5) Land of Nod Podcasts. I have been meaning to post about this for awhile. Some of our favorite kids/family musicians and writers reading/playing and talking about their work on free podcasts. Great for car trips or those rainy afternoons around the kitchen table. The Land of Nod website is our favorite place to get kids' music (also our favorite place for sending musical gifts). I also love the reviews from Zoogobble (both on the Nod site and on his blog).

Day 127

November 11, 2008

Finally some good news to share. We found out that next summer we will be moving to Sicily, Italy! This exciting news should help me survive the final months of this deployment...daydreaming about European adventures, Italian delicacies, and the thrill of living overseas again. This is one of my favorite "stages" in the military wife cycle. This is the stage of anticipation and research. We finally move out of the limbo of not knowing where we will spend the next three years and move into excitement and preparation. Still too early to have to deal with all of the realities and stress of moving/PCSing, but not too early to start imagining all of the good things ahead. It's also the stage that prompts us to start doing all of the things we had planned on doing/seeing in our current duty station. This time it is especially bittersweet because the kids and I are in Louisiana with my family and it is sad to think that in the coming three years we won't be able to see our families as much (although we really hope we have lots of visitors...get those passports ready!). It means we will be making the most of this family time together.

Ever since we started this crazy life in the military, we have been hoping to get orders to Europe. Adam and I both lived/studied in Europe during our college/high school years but we haven't been back since that time and we have often fantasized about returning with the kids. I will be keeping my fingers crossed until we actually land in Italy. It is the military and things can always change. But for now I am enjoying the thrill of European daydreams. I have been following Karen's blog for awhile, but will now be studying it and anticipating her upcoming book. I have already put a couple of books on hold at the library and spent way too much time on-line looking at things like this and
this and this.

In terms of deployment, things are continuing to move along. Feels like we have more of a rhythm . Some hard days, but most are just busy and full. Adam is enjoying a small break(R & R) courtesy of the military...that means he gets to visit another base! We continue to have pretty regular contact which has been good especially in the past week while he was negotiating our orders for Italy. When we are finally all home together, we will have lots to celebrate before the work of moving begins.

And Happy Veterans Day! Thank you to all who have and who currently serve.

Birthday Girl

November 9, 2008


November 6, 2008

Camille turns three tomorrow. Like the Five post I did for Noah, here are three of our Mei Mei's favorite things: her bunnies (count as one item since they can not be separated), her crown, and a Dan Zanes cd/book. Camille has had those two bunnies since she was an infant. They are irreplaceable and they are very well loved. Her crown goes along with her larger love of accessories and dressing up. And Dan Zanes....she loves Dan Zanes, she loves singing and dancing, and she loves reading so the Zanes board book /cd represents several of her favorite activities all rolled into one.

Three. Three just seems too old for our sweet baby girl. Three is big girl stuff. Here's what Camille has to say about three:

L: What will you do when you turn three?
C: I will take out my birthday candles.
L: What is your favorite song?
C: Happy Birthday song
L: What is your favorite color?
C: You
L: What is your favorite animal?
C: Sheeps
L: What do you want to be when you grow up?
C: A cat

Crawfish, Aliens, and Pink Eyes

This has been one heck of a week...the election, the plague, and birthday preparations. The election: what a great time to be an American! The plague: nasty stomach bug for me and pink eye for the kids (trying to convince myself my eyes aren't itching). We had to wait for two hours yesterday to be seen by a doctor for two seconds who prescribed eye drops four times a day...that's two drops in two sets of eyes belonging to two very wriggly kids. And I don't even have the strength right now to describe our mandatory grocery trip after all that waiting in the doctor's office. All I can say is THANK YOU to my mom and my aunt who swooped in to take care of all of us this week. And thank you to Lisa who sent a very nice surprise...a little care package all the way from Japan.

And in the midst of this week, there has been some very important birthday prep. Noah and I have been collaborating on two very special gifts for Camille. That means I have chosen to ignore the dirty dishes and feed my kids oatmeal (Sarah and Karen, I can't do it all and I won't pretend that I do!). So here's a proud mama showing off her monkey boy's hard work:

The Crawfish and The Alien

It started with the t-shirt. Noah made the drawing and I did the embroidery. Notice the letter "C" in the center for Camille and crawfish? and the alien in the crawfish neck? And then a story emerged and he decided to turn it into a book. Here's the story: "One day a crawfish swallowed an alien. The alien escaped. He invited the crawfish to ride on his spaceship. The spaceship sailed away into the night sky.They played and played like on a cruise ship. They lived happily ever after. The End".

Caps to Haiti

November 5, 2008

Calling all crafty, creative, generous, and loving mamas to action...I just discovered that one of my favorite bloggers is starting a new endeavor called Mama to Mama. The first project is one that struck a real chord with me. Caps for newborns in Haiti. My own mama spent a good part of her childhood in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. I grew up hearing her magical and sometimes sad stories about that divided island. My mom and her sisters are now sharing those stories with my children. And so that island continues to be a part of our family.

I have always wanted to visit and do something to help. Adam and I have talked about trying to do some sort of doctor/social worker trip but the timing just hasn't been right. Baby caps aren't quite the same as a medical mission trip, but they are a good start. And one that feels just right for now. It's a project that is simple and quick (there are detailed directions and pattern on the website). But even more importantly it's a project with meaning.

I can still remember Noah's newborn caps...those tiny, stretchy little caps that kept him warm and cuddly during a dreary Northwest winter. And I also remember those intense feelings of new motherhood...the overwhelming love, fear, and desire to do everything possible for him. Tiny newborn caps have a lot of meaning to me and now there is a new layer of meaning. The sad reality in Haiti is this:
  • Just 1 in 5 women receives skilled medical care during childbirth.
  • Haiti has the highest maternal mortality ratio in the Western Hemisphere.
  • 1 in 40 women will die as a result of pregnancy complications, unsafe abortion, or obstetrical emergency.
  • Twelve percent of children die before the age of 5.
Mama to Mama is collecting homemade caps for Konbit Sante which is assembling safe birthing kits for distribution throughout Haiti. I hope you will join me in making some baby caps and if you aren't able to make caps, please spread the word about this meaningful project. The deadline is December 10th, 2008.


November 4, 2008

"A wordless book offers a different kind of experience...each viewer reads the book in his or her own way...As a result, there are as many versions of what happened that Tuesday night as there are readers" ---David Wiesner, Caldecott acceptance speech for "Tuesday"

I recently came across this quote in "A Caldecott Celebration" and it stuck with me because I have been noticing in the past few months how much my children enjoy wordless books. I was also recently reminded of my own early love of wordless books when I came across a wordless series I devoured as a kid. I stood in the library holding the little books about mice adventures and was quickly transported into a world I had forgotten about. When I brought them home, both of my kids (ages 5 and soon to be 3) kept reading them over and over again. I don't think they can be purchased but check your library to see if you can find any of the "Naughty Nancy" series or "Creepy Castle" both by John Goodall. In addition to being word-free and having delightful illustrations, they are smaller sized books and they have half pages throughout which change the scenes. Did anyone else out there read these as a kid?

Some of our more contemporary favorites are:

Flotsam by David Weisner
Tuesday by David Weisner
Lights Out by Arthur Geisert
The Crocodile Blues by Coleman Polhemus
Good Dog, Carl (the series) by Alexandra Day (yes, I know it bothers some people to see a small child left alone with a big dog, but their adventures are always fun and the illustrations are so appealing...and isn't part of the fun of reading to escape from reality?)

While searching for more wordless books, I came across this great list. And be sure to check out David Wiesner's website where he describes the "art of visual storytelling" and you can read the complete version of his Caldecott acceptance speech. Including these thoughts:

The truth is that the imagination needs no outside stimulus. To watch children at play is to see the mind in all its uninhibited glory.
I think that is part of the magic of wordless books. Without text there is more space for imagining all of the possibilities....more mystery, more playfulness, and more to the story.

So what are your favorite wordless books? or as David Wiesner might say your favorite visual stories?

All Saints Day

November 2, 2008

The kids and I spent the past two afternoons visiting cemeteries with my Aunt Carol. In recognition of All Saints Day, we brought flowers to family gravesites in St. Martinville, New Iberia, and Loreauville. Aunt Carol shared family stories; I started to finally get a better idea of the family connections; and the kids enjoyed the adventure of exploring the cemeteries. As a child I have very vivid memories of exploring cemeteries. Looking at the names, the dates, the different markers. Meandering between the raised tombs. It never felt like a scary place to me and perhaps that is because of my Cajun Catholic heritage. Death and life, family and tradition, culture and history mixed together into the way things are done. Families gathering at grave sites each year to paint, clean, and leave fresh flowers. It's not only a sign of respect but also a way for families to stay connected to the past and the present. And this year death has been a very real part of our lives. I spent some time at my dad's grave site last week. I was the only one there. A small country cemetery surrounded by woods and empty rice fields. Despite heavy tears, I felt strangely comforted being there. I am so glad we have a special place for my dad. Rituals and sacred spots are important. The kids and I discovered a book this summer that illustrates this point. "A Pig for Amarillo" follows the story of a Guatemalan boy and the loss of his beloved pig. A moving and beautifully illustrated tale that ends with a special kite flying ritual on All Saint's Day. A good book about loss, ritual, and remembering. I also enjoyed Karen's account of All Saint's Day in Italy.

October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

October 30, 2008

Yes, we know it isn't officially Halloween until tomorrow, but in this small Southern town tonight is the night for trick or treating...wouldn't want to interfere with the high school football schedule! So we will dress up and we will beg for even more candy. It is a strange holiday, isn't it? We have all consumed way too much candy already this week, but this year I am just letting it happen. In years past I dreaded this week of over indulgence, excessive sugar, and whining for more. I tried to limit or hide the wicked stuff, but this year is different in many ways so I am just allowing it to be what it is...and I am making sure I get some of the good stuff, too. We have already been to four Halloween parties and still have two more before the end of the week. Again a sign that things are different this year. I don't usually overschedule us for things, but the kids are loving all of this activity and fun so we are rolling with it. And by Halloween night I am sure we will all be crashed out in sugar comas and craving vegetables. Hope you all have a great Halloween!

Photo Tagged

October 29, 2008

Melissa tagged me with this. I followed the directions. Went to my photo files. Selected the fourth folder and opened the fourth image. And this is what came up:A shot of one of our dinners during our trip to the Sapporo Snow Festival in 2005. That night was fun because we were staying at a Japanese onsen and this was the evening meal. After Adam and Noah went to bed I climbed up to the roof to soak in the outdoor bath....steam rising from the hot water, snow flakes falling from a starry sky, naked in a tub surrounded by naked Japanese women of all ages. It brought back so many memories of my year of teaching in Amagi. My weekly trips to our neighborhood bath house (remember that, Karen C.?). Longer weekend onsen trips. I love the Japanese onsen experience. If you ever have the chance to make a trip to an onsen, do it! Put all modesty aside and soak.
That whole trip was a lot of fun. The ice scluptures were breathtaking. The food was great. The company was entertaining. And it was Noah's first and only experience with snow (he was just about to turn two). I laughed when I looked at this photo of us. We look like one of those super color coordinated families but the reality is that we didn't own any of those clothes except for Noah's jacket. Keep in mind we were living on a tropical island so in the days leading up to our trip we begged and borrowed all the warm things we could get our hands on!It was fun to take this little trip down memory lane...might need to do this again soon. Thanks for the tag, Melissa. If you want to do this, please share your image. Fourth folder, fourth image, and post a link in the comment section.

Autumn Scene

October 28, 2008

Twisted paper bag trees as seen here. A variety of beans, acorns, pecans, and rocks. Needle felted pumpkins as demonstrated here. A clothes pin scarecrow with an acorn hat. Add it all to a large tray and it becomes an autumn scene.

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