Friday, April 27, 2012

Meals: A Follow-up

It's Friday, which might be my favorite day of the week. I still get the freedom of packing kids off to school and dragging Laura along with whatever my scheme for the day is (centered around music class, which she adores and thus so do I). Yet the promise of the weekend lingers, enhancing everyone's mood. And a large part of every weekend's joy is, of course, food.

As I've indicated off and on in the past, we've come a long way in the Seymour house when it comes to meals as compared to when I last devoted a post to the subject. And let me tell you, re-reading that really made me cringe, and feel sorry for the me of the past. At the same time, it makes where we are now feel all the sweeter. Tonight's menu summarizes this point best. Frankly, we all got a bit burnt out by pizza night every single Friday. Especially post-Lent, when pizza was the default for a meatless entree. So instead we're going to take advantage of this beautiful weather and grill some flank steak. And guess who is most excited about this? Clare. Well, Danny definitely shouted a "yessss!" when he heard, too, but he's even more excited about the rack of lamb we'll prepare on Sunday after his birthday party.

It's been over a year now that Clare has embraced beef in just about every form, and lamb, and to a lesser extent, pork. Last spring (? maybe earlier) when we enticed her to finally try steak, she literally had tears in her eyes after the first bite. I think she was mainly so relieved to honestly enjoy something the rest of us have relished for years. She still doesn't like chicken or fish, which is her prerogative. I still cook and serve both, which is my happily reclaimed prerogative. Danny now eats enough fruits and vegetables that we need more than one hand to count them all. And Laura is doing pretty darn well, too, despite former gloomy prognostications. In fact, today she and I shared a Publix sub sandwich before doing our grocery shopping - something I never would have considered doing with Clare and maybe not even Danny. Blissful freedom!

Which all amounts to me being a heck of a lot happier in the kitchen. I look forward to meal planning. I've always loved my kitchen, since the moment we laid eyes on the house (if you'd seen the one in our Chicago condo you'd understand). Now I love cooking in it, too. It really is the center of our home: it's where we do homework, where we share meals and learn about each others' days, where Laura loves to make messes and's where our family's heart beats. To be sure there are still plenty of groans and failures (no one else has embraced the slow cooker like I have, but I keep trying!). But I am delighted that those finicky ordeals are in the way past now. As one of my favorite blogs proclaims, dinner really can be a love story.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Toddlerhood State of Mind

I tried to stay in denial, but I have finally come to grips with the fact that Laura is no longer a baby. Sort of like the word "teenager," "toddler" can strike fear in a parent's heart. Sometimes watching Laura can strike fear in our hearts, mainly out of concern for what havoc she will wreak as she gets older and stronger.

At the same time, though, toddlers have so much more personality than babies. And The Menace is no exception. As her vocabulary grows, she loves to show it off to anyone who will listen (when she feels like it, of course - she does not do command performances). She is extremely responsive to music and loves to sing. She also loves to wear hats, both traditional and make-shift (i.e. the vegetable strainer), as well as sunglasses, and she often puts on beads and then coos, "oooooh" as though she's gorgeous. She thinks she's funny (she's usually right), knows she's cute, and at 15 months has mastered a withering stare that will send would-be boyfriends home in tears.

What I find most endearing about this phase is her perspective on the world. Everything is interesting. Anything can provoke sincere shouts of joy. In fact, the simpler, the better. Routine is marvelous. And at the end of the day, Mommy is always the best. Which simply fills my heart with love.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

How To Make Your Mom's Day

I'm not a particularly sentimental person. I estimate that I dispose of about 95% of the items the kids create/bring home from school. I just really dislike clutter, and I think multiple moves over the years have prevented me from being a pack rat. Of course, there are a few pieces so special that they are worth saving - I think Tim will always treasure the turkey drawing Danny made in preschool that says, "I am thankful for ninjas and my dad." The holidays tend to generate a certain amount of nostalgic artwork, and while I hesitate to say we expect them, I guess we sort of do. So when it's a random Tuesday, filled with the mundane duties of a stay-at-home mom, it's pretty awesome when your 9-year-old comes home with the following letter:

"Dear Mom,
Today we continued to read Because of Winn Dixie. Today's chapter discussed Opal's mother. The preacher mentioned 10 things Opal should know about her. It made me think about 10 things I love about you. Here they are:

1) You are a great cook and baker
2) You always do things for me so I don't have to
3) You always spend a lot of time with me
4) You are funny
5) You are a great singer
6) You are a very friendly person
7) You love meeting new people
8) You give me plenty of time to read
9) You read every night with me
10) You love me"

We parents don't really get report cards, but based on this I feel like I'm an A student. I think I'll hang on to this.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Have We mentioned She's A Little Bit Different?

One day, a few months ago, Laura was sitting in her high chair when I flicked on the garbage disposal. I quickly glanced her way as I thought to myself, "oops, probably should have waited to do that." Or not. She positively lit up, virtually cackling with glee. Nor was this a one-time event - I started to seek items out for grinding purposes, just to amuse her. When Grampy fired up the blender, she was thrilled. When I get out the dust-buster, she follows me around with joy.

We find this surprising because Clare and Danny were both terrified of the vacuum. Even now, Danny holds his hands over his ears when I use the blender. But not Laura.

So today I decided to really put her to the test. After our Florida road trip, the van was an absolute disaster, such that even the kids remarked on its filth. Not wanting to waste precious weekend time at the car wash, I opted to drive through one on the way home from one of our runs. The above photo is how Laura looked while we were going through the washing part - you know, the potentially terrifying part with the swishing machinery and loud fans and hoses? After which she said, for the first time ever, "again!"

Moved on to the vacuums. The ├╝ber-powerful, free tubes for which I Iove this particular car wash. Now, I did not get any looks of joy, per se, but Laura simply sat in her seat, munching her snack and completely relaxed. Even when I vacuumed her carseat while she was in it.

I'm not saying I want her to be scared...exactly...but I'm not quite sure Tim and I are equipped to manage a fearless child. Guess we better figure it out.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Postcards from Spring Break 2012

I'll admit to feeling sorry for myself last year, when we were 'stuck' at home for spring break due to the presence of a certain infant. So this year I was quite happy to pack up the van and drive the three to Sarasota for a week of fun in the sun with the grandparents, especially with the prospect of Tim joining us for the second half. Although it was at times a bit frustrating to deal with a baby who didn't want to nap well or be parted from her mommy, we really had a terrific time, as the below images attest.

Clare loves the beach. I think if we had simply gone there every day, she would have been satisfied. The fact that Siesta Key is rightly named America's #1 beach year after year is the cherry on top. The white sand is incredible, composed of quartz that never gets hot. Beautiful, clear water through which we saw several large fish. Some days the water is very calm, like below, which suited Danny quite well. This was Danny's only visit to the beach, because as much as Clare loves it, he does not. Fortunately, Donna and Larry were extremely accommodating, so Tim and I each had the opportunity to return to the beach for some one-on-one time with Clare. Both visits were fantastic and equally enjoyed by both parent and child!

I do wish I had some pictures of time spent at the pool, because while Danny had very little interest in the beach, he has suddenly become an avid fan of the pool. In years past, he would swim somewhat grudgingly, often a victim of my need to get the kids out of the house and Clare's passion for the pool. This week, for reasons passing understanding, he turned the corner and couldn't get enough. He was always the first to ask to go, and the last to get out of the water. He wore goggles 100% of the time (including while walking to the pool), which may have made the difference. Whatever the case, I love it and hope it continues throughout the summer.

Legoland! The best way to summarize Clare's and Danny's excitement for this trip is with this anecdote. The night before our planned visit, I explained to both kids that we would all be wearing hats at Legoland, thanks to the fact that we had spent a tad too much time in the sun at the pool. I also mentioned to Clare at bedtime that we would be leaving early, so she and Danny should go ahead and get dressed when they awoke. After an early wake-up call from Laura, I opened my bedroom door at 6:34 a.m. to find Clare and Danny standing in the hall, dressed and with hats on, just waiting to leave.

I think the Florida location mostly lived up to their expectations. It was missing a couple of spots from the California site that they enjoy, but we managed to spend a good 8+ hours there and had to drag Danny from the "Build & Test" site (below) in order to hit the souvenir shop and head home.

Proof that Laura did spend some quality time with the grandparents! (Donna graciously kept Laura all day while Larry and I took the other two to Legoland.)

This past week Laura added "up" and "down" to her vocabulary, and is working hard to distinguish "book" from "ball" (they sort of sound the same right now). She asked to go up on laps and read books frequently, which is encouraging on the reading front. She only allows you to actually finish the book about 25% of the time, but it's progress.

Larry rented a boat for Tim's first day on vacation, so the two men took the big kids out on the water. They did not capture it on camera, but apparently multiple dolphins frolicked quite close to the boat, to everyone's delight. Clare relished speed (just like she has come to adore roller-coasters at Legoland), while Danny often asked his daddy to slow down. Nevertheless, they both enjoyed it.

Meanwhile, Donna and I checked out the Casey Key Fish House for lunch with Laura:

While Clare was busy on her private tours of the beach, Danny was treated to some golf with Grandpa. He has yet to reclaim his two-year-old self's love of the sport, but he never turns down a chance to play, so there's still hope.

On Saturday, while the gentlemen golfed, Donna and I took the kids to an Easter festival hosted by St. Michael's Church on Siesta Key. Clare took the opportunity to wear her sun hat that Grammy bought for her, and which she loves:

There were a number of classic games like egg-and-spoon and sack races, as well as an egg hunt. (Note Danny's determined face in the sack race!)

The lucky older kiddos enjoying souvenir t-shirts from Grandma and ice cream at Grandpa's newly-discovered favorite shop, Abel's:

This final snapshot is a bit random, but it's the best illustration I have for a couple of terrific walks that I took with Danny. Donna and Larry's condo is located in a country club with lots of paths and ponds for walking around. Danny and I went gator-hunting a couple of times, and it was fun to see how genuinely interested he was in all the wildlife. We saw a lot of turtles, and many different species of birds. The gators were more elusive, but on our final walk we finally saw a big one, swimming away from us in a nearby pond. According to a couple of men walking by, we had just missed seeing him cross the street, and they claimed he was 10-12 feet long. We'll be looking for him again when we return at the end of May!

MANY thanks to Donna and Larry for such a splendid spring break!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Easter 2012

We ended spring break in Florida (post on that coming soon) with an excellent Easter! Knowing our crowd, we decided to get up and at 'em and attended the 8 a.m. mass, which worked out pretty well. As the church down there has a lot more seniors than babies, Laura got a LOT of attention with her Easter bonnet and dress (incredibly, she kept that hat on all morning, and when it would blow off she would motion for us to put it right back on):

The Easter Bunny brought, among other things, a coveted Notre Dame hockey puck:

And a longed-for Webkinz:

You can tell we were in Florida with the palm trees playing a predominant role in the egg hunt:

And last, but not least, the now-traditional bunny cake for dessert:

In between these traditional holiday festivities was a visit to the beach for Tim and Clare, a nature walk for Dan, Laura and me, some golf for Danny and Larry, and a visit to the pool for most of us. A blessings-filled day, in so many ways!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Spring Break Snippet

Given the scraggly, wing-like way Laura's hair seemed to be growing, I decided it was time for her first haircut. With the help of a couple of lollipops and a serenade of "Kookaburra" by Mommy, she made it through.

She then enjoyed checking herself out!

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