Monday, June 29, 2009

Snapshots from the mountains

A few scenes from our weekend in the Colorado outdoors:

playing in the creek with Grammy and Grandpa, while Rob and Uncle Graham and I snuck in a canyon hike with Owen.
dandelion blowing...

and rock climbing during an evening picnic in the mountains

and running from monsters in Grammy and Grandpa's backyard:

Friday, June 26, 2009

Notes from the road

We've logged 2,163 miles from Columbus to Austin to Colorado. It made for four fairly big days in the car, thankfully divided by the couple days we enjoyed in Austin with old college friends and their kids.

Will and Owen are pretty happy travelers. But occasionally Will offers up a minor complaint, as in: "If I don't get out now, I'm going to die!"

This is when I motivate to leave my roomy front seat and slide between the boys' car seats in the back so we can read books together or I can hold a mini basketball hoop while Will and Owen take turns shooting baskets.

We've also been known to stuff whining mouths with lollipops, ice cream, fruit roll-ups and chewing gum -- with the clear understanding that these are road trip treats. And since we do much of our eating in the car so that all stopping time is spent running around stretching legs and exploring visitor centers or fast food playgrounds -- Owen's car seat is covered with food residue.

Will and Rob have worked on some collaborative landscapes in crayon -- their latest masterpiece featured cows, horses, mesas and a train as seen through the car window in New Mexico. Will has also enjoyed listening to some books on CD. Our mutual favorite this trip is Daniel Pinkwater's "The Hoboken Chicken Emergency."

Friday, June 19, 2009

Odes to Dads -- add one from your kids!

We’ll be slipping this list of things Will loves to do with his dad into Rob’s father’s day card (and since we’re embarking on a mega road trip today, he won’t read it here first). If you have time, collect your own “ode to dad” list from your kids – use it as an added touch in your father’s day cards -- and please post it here with your children's first names and ages if you’re willing to share. I would love to have a collection of father’s day odes. (Some of my mom friends have e-mailed me directly so you'll see some of their children's odes posted by me.)

Things I Like to Do With Daddy
By Will, 4 (with interjections from Owen, 23 months – in italics)

I like to play with him – football and basketball.
I like to build stuff with him – castles and towers in the sand.
I like to make stuff with him – paintings to go in my room.
I like giving surprises to him – like cleaning up the house and cleaning up all the balls and Legos.
I like to color with him.
I like him making my cereal.
I like him making my oatmeal.
I like going outside and playing with him. He pushes me on the swing and plays soccer and he blows bubbles.
I like playing with Owen and Daddy and me. We play race cars and we play blocks together and we play monsters.
I play with Daddy, me, Will.
I like playing hide and seek.
I like to hop on top of Pop.
Hop on Pop, Mommy.
We like dancing to the music.
I want dance music.
I like playing with him in the water.
I like playing harmonica while daddy plays guitar.
I like him reading to me and tucking me into bed so I can go to sleep.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Changing table talk

Mom: “Wooh. I’ve changed 3 poopy diapers from Owen today.”

Owen: “Change Will diaper too?”

Mom: “No Will learned to go poop on the potty right about the time you were born, Owen, so I don’t have to change his diaper anymore.”

Owen: “I born, mommy? I born?”

Mom: “Yes, you were born. Good thing too, because we like having you around.”

Owen: "Oh."

Will: (Who frequently sits on our bed observing diaper changes): “Yeah, good thing we didn’t born just one brother, because that wouldn’t be any fun at all. One brother wouldn’t have someone to play with all day and he wouldn’t get to sleep in the same bedroom together forever.”

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

4-year-old swim teacher

Today Will and Owen and I went swimming for the first time since our swim lessons wrapped up last week. We were accompanied by Will’s longtime friend, Creight, who quickly convinced Will that going under water is super fun. Creight was also apparently much more comfortable in the water when he was frolicking with Will than he had been in his own swimming lessons.

Will made more progress in an hour and a half at the pool today than he did with two weeks of swim lessons, in spite of the fact that he had very competent teachers. When you’re playing with your friends, you just plain forget to struggle and fret and resist.

More proof that kids are often their own best teachers. And that I need to make frequent trips to the pool this summer.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Eating local

One of my favorite things about this summer has been the way our cooking and eating has changed after joining a local CSA this year. I'm pretty sure it's reducing our grocery bill because I feel more inspired to cook largely vegetarian meals and I can practically skip the produce section of the grocery store (other than the necessary fruits and avocados).

I've made it a sort of personal challenge to use up everything we get in our half-subscription. Who wants to let delicious organically grown, fresh-off-the-farm produce spoil in the fridge? So we're eating more vegetables and greens than we ever have before and I'm more likely to eat a salad for lunch or load up my sandwich with cucumbers and arugula instead of just throwing on a piece of cheese and deli turkey.

And I've been suprised by how much of the produce Will and Owen want to eat too. Over the past week these are the locally grown things that both boys have gobbled up and asked for seconds and thirds: a medley of sweet potatoes (not local), carrots and beets drizzled with olive oil and roasted; steamed beet greens (yes, we use them too) and broccoli tossed in a pasta; squash and onions mixed with some grocery store produce for a ratatouille with basil dumplings; and a basmati rice salad with arugula and olives. Our farmers send us a weekly produce list with recipe suggestions -- and finally I am beginning to learn the art of cooking with splashes of this and dashes of that and some tasting -- instead of adhering to a recipe.

Will, who enjoys chopping produce with a kitchen knife and stirring sautees, cooks with me on many afternoons so he feels connected to the food too. And Rob's been feeling inspired to play chef too. This is a recipe for collards that we all love -- invented after I merged some advice from a couple good cooks in my life and then told Rob to add more ingredients until he felt excited to eat a green he's never much liked until now. Here's the gist of it:

Rob's collards:

Boil chopped collards 5 minutes, then drain and put in icewater bath 5 minutes or until cool. Saute in olive oil with a dash of sesame oil , a couple cloves of garlic minced, worcestire sauce, soy sauce, a generous bit of apple cider vinegar, a dash of ground mustard and ground ginger. Devour immediately.

(We get our produce from a Hamliton CSA because Rob's co-worker lives there and does the pick-up for us, but there's a Columbus-based CSA too. If you live nearby, check it out. It makes meal-planning fun and simple.)

And if you're a Michael Pollan fan like me, you might want to listen to a piece that aired Friday on NPR -- as he and director Robert Kenner discuss "Food Inc.," a documentary that "takes aim at corporate giants behind the U.S. food supply."

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Almost big too

This week Will’s been attending a Harry Potter-themed vacation bible school, and Owen has been extremely envious. Every morning as we leave from dropping Will off, Owen whines repetitively, “I go to bibe school too.” And when I explain to him that it’s for bigger kids, he says, also repetitively, “I big kid too.”

So I decided I’d treat him like a big kid this morning and let him try making oatmeal cookies with me for the first time. It was messy at moments, but always manageable and Owen was surprisingly good at following my instructions (Don’t eat the cookie dough, etc.). I think it would be a nightmare to orchestrate cookie-making with Will and Owen side by side, but maybe I’ll get brave and try that one of these summer days.

Although I’ve been enjoying my home alone time with Owen, he frequently suggests that we get in the car and go somewhere. Yesterday, as we were preparing to go nowhere, he slipped into my sandals and announced: “I ready to go!”

This week Owen’s also learned to talk on the phone without pushing buttons the whole time. It helps to have Will on the other phone carrying on a fascinating conversation with Grammy so Owen can listen and chime in with lots of echoes of Will talk. I realized I can fold a whole basket of laundry while the boys talk to Grammy so we may be calling her a few times a week now.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Prepping for the road trip

About a year ago, we set out on our inaugural road trip to Colorado – and in about a week and a half we’ll be launching our sequel trip (only we’re adding to the adventure – and the insanity – this year by going via Austin on our way out). Sure it’s tacking on an extra day of driving, but we think it’s worth it to catch up with old friends. We’ll see if we still say that in retrospect.

Today I started collecting things to help us survive the road trip. If you’re going to sentence your kids to a few days straight in the car, it pays to plan in advance. I looked for some auto bingo games in a big-box store that will remain nameless, and I came away with just a Milton Bradley Barrel of Monkeys game, which I’ll probably be cursing myself for buying when the kids drop the monkeys to the floorboard every 30 seconds. Since it's looking like I’ll have to print-out auto bingo cards again, I'm going to reaquaint myself with this Mom's Minivan Web site, which features auto bingo printables and plenty of other road trip games and ideas too.

I’m bringing doodle boards, crayons and paper, and I told Will that I’d pack a notebook for writing stories in, after we enjoyed telling stories to each other on the way to and from swim lessons today. (The only problem was Owen’s constant interruptions from the back seat: “What doin’ mommy?” and my repetitive replies: “I’m listening to Will tell a story.” When Will’s telling a story, Owen feels obligated to chatter too, even if he's got nothing to say. It’s obvious that part of the challenge this trip will be finding activities that work for both kids simultaneously. Owen doesn’t settle for doing his own thing very often. He’s too determined to ape and parrot Will.)

We'll bring lots of books and kids music -- and Rob is also recording to CD some audio tapes we have of Aunt Alicia reading several different children’s books. This is an old treasure we rediscovered today, when Owen was upset. He asks if we’re going to see Aunt Alicia and her puppies about once a day, so to hear her voice is the next best thing. He was enthralled by her readings – she does voices and rings a bell when it’s time to turn the page. Grandparents and aunts and uncles, take note: This is a great home-made gift idea for the little ones in your life who don’t live down the hall from you.

Before we hit the road, we’ll pack our share of treats and snacks so that we can occasionally cork whiny mouths with edible happiness. But I could still use more brilliant road trip time-passers. So if you have any ideas, please share.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Arts and Gardens

A couple things to do in Columbus over the next week:

Today we're heading up to Callaway Gardens for some swimming and biking. But we'll come back in time to enjoy Arts in the Park at Lakebottom Park, where there will be music, local artist vendors and kids activities this afternoon -- from noon to 7 p.m.

Next weekend Keep Columbus Beautiful holds its 2009 Tour of Gardens with a focus on gardens in Midtown. Today's Ledger includes an article I wrote about Mark Porter and Chris Harman's lovely traditional Southern garden, built from scratch in seven years. If you're around next weekend, consider touring some Midtown beautiful gardens and supporting Keep Columbus Beautiful.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Everything but swimming

Yesterday Will launched into a declaration of the things he likes, unprompted by me – although I quickly started taking notes. Here’s the uninterrupted script of what he said for no reason as we sat down to dinner. I didn’t do anything but nod as he rushed through the list – until he mentioned that he didn’t like candy and I looked at him in disbelief. Which prompted him to revise his statement as you’ll see:

“I like apples, I like bananas, I like pears, I like oranges, I like milk, I like water, I like playing with Owen, I like being nice, I like my Will cup, I like Uncle Graham, I like people, I don’t like kidding, I like playing with Owen, I like giving stuff to him, I like eating crunchy carrots, I like drawing pictures with daddy, I like playing baby, I like playing at school, I like flying kites, I like drawing picture frames, I like putting all my pictures on a big board, I like studying stuff and drawing them, I like to discover stuff and learn something new, I like beans, I like all healthy stuff, I don’t like candy…. only once in a while I like candy, I like helping mommy, I like helping mommy help find out what Owen is saying, I like folding clothes, I like helping mommy cook.”
The list ended there. I loved hearing what he liked. But he definitely didn’t declare “I like swimming.”

And about an hour later Will was sitting pool-side trying to work up the nerve to join his class on his third day of swim lessons. He’d gotten a bit of water up his nose on day two, and it had destroyed his confidence as a wanna-be swimmer. We negotiated way too much about it, he cried when I’d abandon him to talk with his teacher and finally he just joined Owen and I for the true beginner lesson in mostly shallow water. Suddenly Will was having a blast, and he even got bold enough to join his class for all of five minutes before retreating back to toddler land.

On the way home, I was secretly exasperated. And Will was declaring that he would stay with his class the whole time next lesson. “I love swim lessons!” he said at one point. Go figure. (Today’s declaration though: “I don’t like swim lessons.” Lucky for him, today’s lesson got rained out, so we went puddle jumping instead. Now we have the weekend to help Will rediscover a love -- or tolerance -- for swimming before lessons resume.)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Messy wins

While I was trying to "clean" our mess of a house yesterday, Will was dragging furniture into the kitchen to construct a balance beam and a monkey cave.

I added to the clutter, when we spotted a tall flower box atop the dumpster behind a flower shop on our walk to the park. We brought it home perched on top of the double stroller and the boys turned the two halves of the box into ramps for their cars and beds for their bodies.
Between their messing and my cleaning, we stay mostly messy at our house. After all, I'm outnumbered in this battle -- and I don't fight very hard.

Does messy win at your house? Or do you manage to keep it clean?