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.

Latest Instagrams

© Dim Sum, Bagels, and Crawfish. Design by FCD.