Rosh Hashana 2008

September 30, 2008

Nothing went quite as planned which was both wonderful and not so wonderful, but a good reminder about the nature of life, especially life with two young kiddos. Services were going to be too late for us last night so we had a nice little dinner at home. I had hoped to make challah or some of my mother-in-law's kugel, but that didn't happen. As we sat down to dinner last night it hit me that it was our first Rosh Hashanah without Adam and without any other friends or family gathered together which made me feel a little sad, but I couldn't stay sad for too long because Noah and Camille were so excited...hanging up their decorations, actively saying the prayers with me, lighting the candles, making up their own holiday songs and dancing in the kitchen.

Today was the first full day of the New Year and things did not go as planned. We started the day with a trip to the doctor because Camille has a urinary tract infection (poor baby fully potty trained for the past few weeks and now terrified again to use the potty because it hurts). Noah's glasses got broken at school (he "had" to take them off to put the dinosaur mask on and he warned the other kids not to "mess" with his glasses....but putting them on the floor in the middle of a classroom full of masked and jumping 5 year olds is not a good thing!). We were finally able to make it to Taschlich services later in the day. It wasn't the quiet or reflective experience that I have had at past Taschlich services because I was so focused on keeping my two monkeys safe along the edge of the water, but just happy to be there with them. We had a great time afterwards at the playground and that was my favorite moment of the whole day. The way the new year should be celebrated...swinging, collecting acorns, happy, dirty fun.

The end of the evening was not as much fun. I decided to take the kids to one of my favorite places to eat when I was a kid. Minutes after sitting down, Camille climbed under the table to retrieve a toy and loudly announced "I peed and it didn't hurt". I did my best to clean things up and rushed her out to the van to change. We headed back in to eat dinner but that didn't last long because a few minutes later poor Camille had her second incident of the night: diarrhea. I again did my best to clean things up, left a huge tip, silently expressed gratitude for the dim lighting, and headed back to the van for the second change of the night. And what a drive very hungry big brother, one sad little sister with a soar bottom, one very smelly van (boxed up food and very soiled clothing is not a good combo), and one strung out mama.

On the drive home I couldn't help thinking this was a crappy (pun intended) way to start the New Year. I even got a little angry because I feel like we are entitled to a good year. But as I was putting the kids to bed tonight I couldn't help smiling as I thought about their silly songs last night and their joy today at the park. And suddenly that bowl of apples and honey has even more meaning to our life right now is very sweet and at times very messy. So I hope this new year is a good one, but when it gets messy I'll be sure to have extra clothes and towels in the van. La Shana Tova! Happy New Year!

Rosh Hashanah Apple Prints

September 27, 2008

We started getting ready for the Jewish New Year by doing some apple and decorations for the house. Lots of messy, messy fun. Looks like this is becoming an annual tradition for us. During the coming week we'll be eating lots of apples and honey...symbolic of our desire for "a sweet new year" (wonder what we could eat to have a less cluttered year?).

Feeling Better

September 25, 2008

My cousin sent me this link which made me feel much better about my clutter issues!


September 24, 2008

Surrounded by a messy house, sleep deprived, and very frustrated. This is not the glowing upbeat post I wish it was. I wish I could blame these feelings on the deployment but unfortunately this state is a familiar one. The piles of papers have reached the point of extreme overflow. The kids' toys seem to have multiplied over night. The bathroom sink is hard to find underneath the jumble of toothbrushes, make-up, and other stuff that gets put down in our mad rush to get to school on time each morning. None of us have been sleeping well and that really ruins things. I had one good night of sleep last week and when I woke feeling refreshed for the first time in quite awhile it only made things getting a taste of the good stuff and then craving, needing more, more.

I stomp around the house resolved to get it back in shape while at the same time stupidly wondering how this happened. I naively thought that living in our temporary space with so little of our belongings would lead to that life of voluntary simplicity I yearn for...but dirty dishes, laundry, and kid clutter seem unstoppable. I guess the real answer is that it isn't the stuff, it's me. Reminds me of the title of one of my favorite books "Where Ever You Go, There You Are" and it is so true right now. I can't seem to escape my pack ratting, clutter prone self. No matter how many resolutions I make I find myself caught up in the same vicious cycle. I organize, feel good about it, start to slack, get surrounded by clutter, get frustrated until it prompts me re-organize and start the cycle all over again. I guess I was kind of hoping in a smaller space with less stuff I would have an easier time keeping it all in order, but I don't and in my sleep deprived state it makes me feel even more edgy and out of sorts. Now the key is to use my anger to get this mess cleaned up so I can get to that more enjoyable part of the cycle...the part where I breathe a sigh of relief, walk around my clean house enjoying the peace, and wanting to believe that this time things will be different. And maybe while cleaning up I will be able to find my favorite little mediation book underneath all of the clutter...I could certainly use it right now!

Saving, Giving, Spending

September 21, 2008

With the Jewish HighHoly Days approaching, I have started to think about ways to make them meaningful for the kids. Tonight at dinner we discussed the concept of mitzvah. We decided to do a mitzvah project during the High Holidays. We made a list of possible options and took a vote. The winning idea was one Noah suggested "bring food to people in jail" (he was inspired by this movie last night). Not quite sure how we will work out the details of this mitzvah, but so proud of Noah for coming up with several ideas on his own(his other ideas included sending water to military people and stopping people from killing animals). We have done mitzvah projects in the past (orphanage donations, food pantry donations, holiday gifts for foster children, etc),but this is the first time Noah has been so active in creating a project. Makes me happy to see my children starting to understand and embrace the idea of helping others. I am hopeful that with the start of this new Jewish Year our little family can continue to do at least one mitzvah project a month.

In addition to deciding on our mitzvah project for the High Holy Days, we also created a new set of money jars. We had a similar set at home but needed one for our current stay in Louisiana. I read about this idea several years ago and it has really worked well for us. It is very simple...basically three jars for saving, giving, and spending. We made ours a little more specific to our family needs. Noah wrote the labels for our jars tonight: "Turkey", "Tzedakah" and "To Spend". The Turkey jar is for "saving" for our trip to Turkey. The Tzedakah jar is for "giving". And the "to spend" jar is self-explanatory. I started the jars off tonight with some cash ($1 for the spend and Turkey jars, $5 for the Tzedacha jar). Any lost change goes into the jars and once a week I try to give the kids money to put in the jars.

Back on the Mat

September 20, 2008

And I am resolved to stay on the mat. The yoga mat. I signed up for classes several weeks ago but with all of the recent hurricanes, haircut, and other excuses I didn't make it to class until yesterday. I have never been a big exercise person. Team sports bring back painful memories of an awkward summer of softball. Gyms filled with exercise equipment and weights make me cringe and feel overwhelmed with all of the possible ways I could injure myself. I do enjoy walking (not running) and riding bikes, but really yoga (and some pilates) has always been my preference. I love the combination of relaxation, challenge, and individual pace/practice.

I seem to cycle through phases of dedication. There have been periods when I had a daily practice at home and took classes multiple times a week, but that's been quite awhile. I convince myself that it takes time to find the right teacher, the right space, the right schedule, etc but the truth is that I haven't made it a priority. But right now I need to. Yesterday was a good reminder of this. I could feel myself at times struggling with poses I used to do with ease. And other moments I could feel my body falling right into place as if it had found its home base again. I allowed myself to breath and relax for the first time in weeks, actually months. I left feeling energized. Today I am feeling sore, but sore in a good way. All those muscles that haven't been worked in way too long. I am glad to be back on the mat.

Green Beans

September 16, 2008

Yesterday while checking out at the grocery store, the cashier carefully studied the bag of produce and then pulled out a chart with photos of fruits and veggies. She then looked up at a me with a puzzled look and asked "what are these?". And sadly she actually seemed surprised to learn that they were green beans. Really, how sad is that? I could understand the need to consult the chart if I had a bag of exotic fruit, but green beans? Note to self: increase the range of our vegetable consumption. We seem to be in a rut regarding veggies and food in general. I just don't feel as adventurous or driven to try out new recipes lately, but hopefully that will change soon.

Nature Prints (aka nature cookies)

Noah and I made these nature prints with sculpey. I had been wanting to try these for awhile after seeing them on Write, Mama. Write where she has detailed directions. Fun to make and when Camille woke up from her nap she was delighted to discover the new "cookies" which she quickly fed to her stuffed friends. Noah wants to try using them as playdough molds. Multifunctional, great for focusing on textures, and easy to make.

Day 71

September 15, 2008

It's that time again when we starting thinking and waiting to find out where we will be headed next summer courtesy of the Navy. But this is the first time we're going through this stage apart. In some ways this whole process of discussing where we will live is an on-going, ever present part of our existence as a military family. I jokingly wonder what we will talk about once we leave the military life behind since this discussion is such a big part of our lives...where will our next duty station be and ultimately where will we live when Adam gets out of the military? Whenever we travel we can't stop ourselves from evaluating each destination to see if it gets a spot on our "list". Whenever I get together with a group of military spouses it is inevitable that at some point in the conversation there will be some sort of discussion or comparison of various duty stations.

According to my theory of the military wife cycle , we are entering the third year which is filled with those liminal feelings of being "betwixt and between" two different places (our current duty station but also starting to plan and get excited for our new destination). But this time around the third year is much more complicated with both of us being in different places. One of my frustrations with the whole process is that it always seems more complex and mysterious than it should be. I don't envy the detailer (person in charge of making the assignments) especially during this time when there is such a high need for family docs and an increasing shortage, but I do wish there was more of a logical system. Adam spoke with earlier in the summer and he got us "penciled" in for a very exciting destination, but I am keeping my fingers crossed until the actual paperwork appears (hopefully in the coming month). So for now we wait to see where we will be sent next summer. This is always a period of anxious waiting, mixed with excitement about all the possibilities, and sadness as we look ahead to leaving family and friends again.

In some ways this deployment has dulled some of the anxiety of waiting to find out...I am just too busy and too exhausted to spend any extra time on worrying. Plus, I think we will make the best of whatever assignment we get. We have loved every place we have lived via the Navy (the Northwest, Japan, the Southeast) and if for some reason we were miserable at least we know it will only be for three years and then the cycle starts all over again.

With all of the recent storms and related cell phone issues in my part of the world combined with some Internet issues in his part of the world, Adam and I haven't been able to talk as often as before and that has me missing him even more. And for some reason Camille has recently become very convinced that Daddy is coming home soon...whenever the doorbell rings she thinks it's "Dada" and she got up from her nap yesterday looking for him. I can understand her feelings. I also feel like it's been enough time and he should be coming back soon, but we still have many more days to cross off the calendar.

Styrofoam Scupltures

September 13, 2008

We did these a couple weeks ago after receiving a nice package from Nana. Some packing peanuts are the kind that can be dipped in water and stay together, but these stayed together with glue. We used cardboard bases, packing Styrofoam,and school glue. Camille enjoyed working with the glue and Noah enjoyed the challenge of going vertical...trying to see how high he could build his sculpture. A cheap and easy activity good for all ages and a good way to turn those peanuts into little pieces of art.

Hurricane Discoveries

September 11, 2008

Since Hurricane Gustav we have been finding lots of interesting things on our walks. The biggest discovery was this drawer (above) which has turned out to be a great little nature box because of its clear bottom. Our finds include two different types of hawk moths, one cicada, a beautiful bird's nest, large mushroom, rocks, pine needles, and several large green acorns. There are so many green acorns and pecans all over the ground as a result of the wind...poor squirrels might be hungrier this winter as a result of this hurricane season (or maybe they are thrilled, do they like the green acorns?). We are now preparing for Hurricane Ike and hoping it doesn't cause too much destruction (and really hoping we don't lose electricity again!).

Potty Problems

Before having children, I heard plenty of advice about the lack of sleep, the "terrible twos", colic, and other parenting woes...but no one ever warned me that I would suddenly become acutely aware of my children's bowel functions. First it was that yucky meconium (that's quite a shocking substance), then the smelly changes that occur with the introduction of solids, then the fun of potty training with Noah, and now we are in the midst of potty training with Camille. And for the past couple of years I have heard the word poop way too often(poopyhead, poopybutt,etc). But the biggest challenge these days is the lack of poop.

Camille has happily been using her potty at home for several months but with all of our recent moves and changes I haven't really been diligent or consistent about the whole thing until recently. The problem is that she is scared of pooping in the potty and as of this week also scared of using potties outside of the house. At school yesterday she refused to use the potty all day despite drinking and eating. Once she got home yesterday she ran right to the potty and used it many times before bed last night. She expressed a desire to poop but kept saying she was scared. And similar things today. Today I gave her a spoonful of Karo syrup and tried to entice her into eating some prunes in hopes that would speed things along. Noah and I even wrote a little book for her called "Poppy Goes Poopy" (I'll try to post photos of the book tomorrow), but even that didn't work the magic we had hoped for. I hate to see her so scared and I know it must be painful to "hold" it in for so long.

Sorry for the graphic and not so pleasant topic of this post, but we could use some help. Any advice?

Tea Party

September 10, 2008

The Messy Truth

September 9, 2008

I have recently gotten a couple of comments about how the projects we do seem to be effortless and mess-free. Here's the truth. The pictures I post don't show it all. When I first became a mom I couldn't wait to pull out the paint, glue, clay, etc and let my kids run free with their creativity. I had memories from my childhood of the pure joy that comes with creating things all by yourself. I had images in my head of perfect sunny afternoons filled with happy, shining little faces creating, painting, building one masterpiece after another.But many of the early arts and crafts experiences with the kids felt more frustrating than joyful or fulfilling. But here's what I have learned from my kids. It's not a new lesson. It's one that seems to pop up in my life in various's the process, not the product; it's the journey, not the destination and it's messy, not neat.

I quickly learned that my expectations and desires were unrealistic. Part of that came from my frustration during early experiences...the "mess", the time it took to set things up vs. the actual time spent doing a project together, and disappointment when Noah didn't enjoy it the way I had hoped he would. Reading Susan Striker's book "Young At Art" was very helpful (and still is) because it gave me a developmental framework and guidance for introducing different mediums and techniques in age appropriate ways. And most importantly it confirmed the message I had received as a child from both of my parents. Creativity comes naturally and shouldn't be forced. Coloring outside of the lines is good and being messy is part of the process. Here's a great interview with Striker on Artful Parent.

The photos on the blog don't show all of the work that goes into setting up and gathering supplies for our projects. I have learned that it is better to have everything needed out and ready before getting started. I try to keep our supplies organized in one closet. I keep things for everyday use and easy access on lower shelves. The kids can get paper, mar
kers, crayons, etc anytime they want to, but I keep other supplies like scissors, paint, hot glue gun, etc on higher shelves. And I try to do projects that will work for the different ages of my kids. Now that Noah is older, I am excited to be trying new things with him but if it is something that will be too challenging for Camille we'll do it during her naptime.

The photos also don't show the reality of time or my kids' responses. Sometimes my kids just aren't into the activity and they only spend a few minutes giving it a try. This used to bother me, but these days if it is something I like doing then I will just keep w
orking until I am done (it is easier to do this now that my kids are older and can entertain themselves for a bit). I want my kids to see me doing things that I enjoy and that allow me to be creative. If they want to join in and give it a try that's great, if they don't that's ok too. I have written about this in past posts but I have come to realize that Noah will probably never enjoy drawing the way I did as a kid. He goes through phases when he draws more than other times, but in general he is a very tactile and three dimensional guy. He loves clay, sculpture and constructing things. Camille on the other hand loves to draw and paint much more than Noah ever did at this age. Different kids, different addition to developmental stages, individual temperament and preferences play a big role in which activities are more appealing to my kids. Part of the process is discovering each child's interests while introducing them to new experiences that will perhaps prompt to explore more.

The photos also don't show the clean up process and sometimes it really
is messy and time consuming. I try to anticipate and do messy stuff outside or in the bathtub. I keep lots of washrags, paper towels,baby wipes, and garden hose (if working outside) within close range at all times. And I try to embrace the fact that they will get dirty and that's ok. I also try to remind myself of all those time as a kid when I was so happy to be covered in paint or mud. I want my kids to have those memories later on, too. Don't get me wrong that doesn't mean I enjoy the clean up. It just means I have come to accept that it is part of the whole process.

The messy truth is that there are still times when I and/or my kids g
et frustrated if things don't work the way we hoped they would. The messy truth is that I don't always feel like doing something creative and we just lounge around watching movies. The messy truth is that photos don't show it all. The messy truth is that I want my kids to love art and the creative process as much as I do, but I can't force that to happen. The messy truth is that our arts and crafts closet sometimes looks like this:

Alpha Books and More

September 8, 2008

Alphabet books have been on my mind. Never thought that would happen but I have two little monkeys to blame/thank for that. It is amazing me to me that such a simple subject like the ABCs can produce such variety in medium and presentation...some visually appealing, others creative and amusing, and those that should never have been published because they are too drab and boring. Here are some of our favorite alphabet books:

Found Alphabet
Takes ordinary bits and pieces and turns them into extraordinary alphabet creations....great inspiration for creating from found objects. Several polish artists worked hard to create this little gem of a book. I was very happy to find it at Tuesday Morning last week for $3.99...scooped up a couple for gifts because this is a book anyone would love.

Ellsworth's Extraordinary Electric Ears and Other Amazing Alphabet Ancedotes
One fabulous little scene after another with witty text...right up Noah's alley with his love of models, collage, and "I spy". Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

Be forewarned this book is very catchy and you may wander around for weeks with it stuck in your head. Catchy, cute, and colorful makes for a good alphabet book. This is Camille's favorite alphabet book!

Pigs from A to Z
This clever book is filled with beautifully detailed illustrations of seven pigs hard at work to build a tree house. And to add to the fun there are hidden letters on each page. We checked this out from the library several times because Noah (and me, too!) couldn't get enough of it.

And our favorite alphabet songs...Here Come the ABCs by They Might Be Giants. The Price family gave us this cd when Noah was two and it is still a big hit around here. So what are your favorite alphabet books?

And one other book related item. I recently learned about Bookmooch from my on-line book club. I am primarily a library person, but when it comes to book club books I like to be able to make notes in the margins so I always end up buying my books.This sounds like an easy and inexpensive way to get/give books. Hope to try it out soon.

Collage Cards

September 6, 2008

We needed to come up with a quick gift for my aunt's birthday tomorrow so we decided to make her a set of collage cards. We have been reading a lot of Eric Carle and Lois Ehlert books lately so that was part of the inspiration (plus I happened to have a bunch of blank cards ready to be decorated!). A pair of scissors, a Pottery Barn Kids catalogue, glue sticks, blank cards with envelopes + a little creativity = an easy and colorful gift. I did most of the cards with some help from Noah, but my favorite one was the butterfly which he did all by himself.

Hurricane Thoughts

September 5, 2008

I had forgotten how exhausting these darn hurricanes can be...typhoons (even the super typhoons) in Okinawa were so much more relaxing. We would stock up on videos, junk food, and hunker down in our little concrete house to enjoy a day or two of serious down time while the 100 plus winds roared through the little island. We never boarded up or taped windows. Never lost electricity. And the day after the storm we would emerge to find sunny, breezy weather and a few downed branches. But hurricanes in Louisiana are a different.

Thanks to the modern technology we have many days of advance notice which prompts all of the prep work. The boarding up of windows, the clearing out of freezers, doing all of the laundry, stocking up on water and food, or in our case packing the car to leave town. And during the storm the challenge is trying to keep cabin fever at bay because the electricity usually goes out pretty early. But the hardest part of hurricanes seems to be after the storm. Living without electricity is not fun. The heat, the stickiness, the bugs...I don't know how people, especially women survived before air conditioning. Seriously, the thought of adding any additional layers to the bare minimum of t-shirts and in the world could you wear panty hose or all of those petticoats without air conditioning?! I think air conditioning is part of the reason people now live longer than our ancestors. With air conditioning there must be fewer homicides and suicides, right? Has there ever been a study on that correlation?

In addition to the exhaustion, I had forgotten the sounds of hurricanes. Not just the sound of the wind and rain, but the post-hurricane sounds or lack of sound. During the first night after the storm I was struck by how quiet the world suddenly cars on the road, no low level buzz of appliances, no tv, no phones and so dark. The day after brought the sound of generators throughout the neighborhood, rescue vehicles, helicopters (lots of helicopters both civilian and military), and people emerging from their homes to survey the damage. The third day became much noisier as we awoke to the sound of chain saws, utility trucks, and traffic.

Anyway, happy to report we survived Gustav and very happy to report we finally had electricity back last night. I feel so sorry for those in other areas still waiting for that modern miracle. Lots of clean up to be done in our yard, but feeling like we got very lucky with this storm. Could have been so much worse. Just hoping we don't get anymore during this hurricane season. And I had a good laugh when I saw the signs our neighbors put up on their house before evacuating (see above).

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