Friday, July 29, 2011

Sping Cycle- I Want My MTV...

This week's Spin Cycle was "kids and technology" .  Which is going to let me air one of my recent concerns- how the the "best choices" we make for our kids sometimes end up being bad for them...

My kids don't deal directly with technology.  Yes, I have digital baby monitors, and we have a microwave oven.  PB and I have cell phones.  But it's not like LG is using the micro to make himself pizza rolls.  He just gets the products of my nuking up some snacks.  The don't know how to turn on the TV, have no idea what a DVD is, and to them the computer is "for Daddy's work".  I know some people out there are applauding me.  My kid don't have a TAG, or use my iPhone for games (although I admit that having YouTube to entertain them for long waits is great).  Their toys rarely contain batteries (and those that do came from relatives- I didn't buy them).  Mostly, they play with cars, or Legos, they run and ride their tricycles.  They beat each other up.  We read a lot of books.  Occasionally, they get a show.  One half hour.  Or, if they've started a movie, they get 3 commercials worth (start at the end of a commercial and when you've seen the next 3, the movie goes off-thank god for TiVo).  Sounds great, right?  I'm keeping them free from all the evils of modern technology.  My innocent little flowers, nothing polluting them.

EXCEPT, I have a niggling fear.  Kids today need electronic skills.  They will have to use a computer before they are out of grade school.  By the time my kids get to HS, a phone will probably be on the "back to school" list (I know of HSs where a laptop already is).  So, am I doing them a disservice by not introducing them early, in a way I think is best?  Should I be bringing up the Crayola site for LG and letting him color electronically?  Should little o be getting some little Einsteins (which could be the most irritating show around)?  Along with teaching them how to safely cross a street, and not to talk to strangers that are standing in front of them, do I need to teach them skills for navigating the electronic super highway, and to be wary of virtual strangers? ->  Here I should insert that at school kids from 3 and up have a computer in their classroom and the kids watch books on the computer, and play little computer games.  So, it's not like they have no expose what so ever.  LG loves watching the books on DVD.<-

Last night at swim, while LG waited for little o to finish up so they could go to the splash pond together, a little girl (maybe 5) waited for her little sister with us.  She was "alone" (her Mom was in the pool with said little sister).  Normally, I would hate this.  I would think that the Mom was a sucky fellow mom for letting me do the work of watching her kid without asking.  But that wasn't the case.  Her little girl sat with a smart phone (presumably her moms) and played a letter game for 1/2 an hour.  Quietly.  Not a fidget.  And LG looked longingly at her, and the phone.  It occurred to me that maybe by now he'd already know his letters if I downloaded something like this. 

It's a really deep and wide ocean to navigate.  Now that LG is in pre-school, though, I think we need to don some floaties and wade on in.  I just need to figure out how...

Go see the other Spinners and some one's kid can tell you how to sync your phone to your Outlook calendar, I promise. (though they probably can't help you find the remote)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Horses, Alpacas and Wine, oh my!

I was going to save these precious words for a more important day.  Then I remembered that I haven't been posting much, and I probably owe you guys a freebie. 

Saturday we went to visit a friend of mine on her farm (and winery).  She's just outside of Amish country, so we figured we'd make a day of it.  Since my blog might be questionable as advertising for her endeavors, I won't mention it by name.  If you want to visit, shoot me an e-mail and I'll give you the info.


Mrs. JoAnn was our host.  She is an amazing person, as is her husband!  During the week she does foundation work up here in Cleveland, and on the weekends she tends the farm and winery.  Here she's showing PB and LG the pond, and looking for fishies.

 Then she took us over to the horse barn to meet some equine friends.  We brought lots of carrots, so we were VERY welcome into their home.  Little o heard one of the horses blow their lips, and has now decided that horses don't say "neigh" at all.  When you ask what a horse says, he will now blows his lips at you.  Very polite, I know.  This is what happens when you learn your manners in a barn...
 I got a little horsey loving from Dancer.  LG was in typical 3 year old mode, and chose to kick up the sawdust floor rather than feed the horses.  Little o was in heaven touching horse ears.  Since it's been such a hot summer, the horses hang out in the barn during the day.  They go out into the fields when it's cooler in the evening.

 LG drove the gator into the barn for Mrs. JoAnn, while little o did some flirting.  He was a bit upset as he tried to explain to Mrs. JoAnn that HE drives, and LG shoots the guns.  It took some back story to explain that at all the fair rides this summer, we've put little o at the wheel and LG behind the artillery.  It just seems like the responsible thing to do.

 LG on his way to the tractor barn.  He had a great time running through the fields and chasing butterflies.  We live on a fair bit of land, so he's used to running around.  Running on the lawn is NOTHING compared to running through a field, though.  He was in heaven.
 The boys got to sit on the big tractors, but since it was 97 in the shade, we didn't start them up.

 Here are the girls.  Notice their fancy hair dos.  I had never seen an alpaca before, and I had no idea they were so soft!  And sweet!  These girls were just a pleasure to be around.
 Little o looking all sweet and innocent.
 Until he attempted to scale the fence and climb into the alpaca pen (where they were encouraging him with kisses and nudges!)  He was our grand adventurer this trip.  LG was unusually shy and not really open to being near the animals (a weird trend for him.  He used to love all animals, now he shies away from even the dogs we know well.) 
 He settled for feeding them.  This girl had a fondness for PB.  She would give him a kiss, then hide her head behind him when I tried to get a shot.  Apparently, alpacas are playful (and PB loves a pretty girl).
 
At the end of our journey, we stopped at the winery.  While PB and I sampled their wines, the boys made good use of the wide open floor plan by running wild through the top floor (we were the only guests at the time).  Even in the 95 degree heat, all they wanted to do was run and climb.  I'm withering just thinking about it.

All in all, it was a great day.  We rounded it out with a few stops at our favorite Amish country places (Guggisberg Cheese, Lehman's Hardware and Der Dutchman for dinner.)  When we got home the boys were exhausted (a great state for a little boy.)

Friday, July 22, 2011

Spin Cycle- Food

Food.  There are so many ways to go with this topic.  Like Jan, I had thought about doing a post a day.  But, as you can tell from my side bar, I can't find time to post a Spin Cycle on time, never mind find time to post once a day.

I was going to do one on the amazing CSA we joined.  Mmmmm.  Last night our box was overflowing, and so are our plans.

Then I thought I'd talk about the new dietary restrictions I've placed on the fam (no food dyes, no HFC in our house).  The inside scoop of how I became a crazy person (little o can't have food dye.  I started reading the labels.  You'd be shocked by the krappe that's in even the "healthy" food!)

Then PB wanted zucchini bread.  The one he made last week was...  less than delightful.  I remember my Mom making it when I was a kid and it was delicious.  When I dug it out I realized what I had to write about this week.  My Mom's recipe book.  The tome of food knowledge.  The edible archive.

Let's start with the book itself.  It's an old 1969 binder edition of the Better Homes and Garden Cookbook.  The one with the red and white gingham cover?  The one everybody has at some point in their life (even if they never crack the cover)?  I think that was the basis of everything, but it clearly didn't stop there.  I suspect she got it when she was first married (based on the date) thinking she needed to American-ize her cooking style for her new family.  I honestly don't think it worked.  The pages of the book are pretty pristine.  It's the add-ons that are the real meat of this book.

Mom at the stove.  That's me next to her, and my brother at the table.


First are the articles.  She cut them from magazines, had handouts from god knows where (one really helpful one on canning, another on how to convert measurements, a third on how to shop for kitchen implements).  Their contents are still relevant, but what makes us giggle are the ads on the back pages.  One has an add for Bacardi rum from the 70's.  He, he, he.

Then come the clipped recipes.  They are kept in one of those school binder, zip, pencil cases.  The ones that had 3 holes so you could put them into the binder?  All sorts of tiny little cut out recipes, all jammed into the pouch.  These have some good stuff, but mostly stuff I don't think she ever got around to trying.  More like "dream" cooking.  She'd see something in a magazine and think "Oh, it sounds good" but then it had an exotic ingredient, or a challenging step that just didn't seem worth it at the moment.  I do the same thing.

Then comes the real treasure trove.  The things PB thinks make the book an heirloom.  The hand written recipes.  They come on every imaginable source of paper.  Some are on index cards, some are on actual sheets of loose leaf.  There is a whole series written on the back of a letter from my Dad's cousin Louise (I was 3 or 4 when it was written judging by the questions she asked about me!)  I have an old memo given to my Brownie Troupe about an up coming event, with recipes written on the back (I can only assume that when it was handed out someone wanted to share a recipe and that's what was handy?)  These recipes are really the only remaining "handwritten" items I have from my mom or my dad (yup, some he wrote!), so that alone makes them a treasure.  PB laughs because in some of them, the words are half English, half Italian.    At one point I thought I would type them up, because the ink is fading and there are splotches all over them.  Then I realized that I would be denying the boys a means of getting to know their grandmother.  Which is at the heart of why I love this book.

For my Mom, cooking was many things.  An adventure, a means of expressing creativity, a labor of love, a chore that needed to be done multiple times daily.  But it was also a way to remember her mom and feel close to her family again.  Many of her recipes were ones she learned from my grandmother.  I remember sitting at the kitchen table with her in early December making all the holiday cookies and having her tell me the stories about how her Mom taught her to do the little things just right.  Hours we spent rolling dough, whipping frostings, cutting shapes.  When I look at the recipes for all those cookies, I tear up.  All that time we spent together, just the two of us.  All the cookies we "sneaked" saying we had to make sure each batch came out right.  I know she only wrote them so I could have them (she knew them by heart!)  And I'll keep them because hopefully my boys will love to make them, too.  We'll sit at the table for hours, talking and making the finishing touches just right.  And that will be a gift from their Grandma.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Spin Cycle- Things that make me...

happy.  This weeks Spin is "of puppies and unicorns and other things that make you happy".  Well, I don't have a puppy, and unicorns don't make me happy.  I was going to be all prosaic and write about how happy those single beams of sunshine on cloudy days make me, or seeing the first bunny in the spring.  But nah, I'm going for the obvious today. This is what makes me happy:

Miss Wylie

Pestilence
->  These guys have been making me happy for many, many years (13 or so).  We've lived in 7 different houses/apartments and had 10 different roommates that we've lived with ( most of whom probably wished they could take these guys with them, and a few who tried!)  They have NEVER spent a night apart from each other (they're brother and sister.  you could tell, right?  they totally look alike.  just like LG and little o.)  They are sweet, furry, and like to sleep on my feet.  All they ask in return is some kibble, the occasional tum scritch and defense against little boy hands.  Miss Wylie is your proverbial "scairdy cat".  For many, many years nobody except me saw her (some will tell you she's my imaginary pet).  Now that she's older, she's realized the value of companionship a bit more.  As for Pestilence (pester, putter, Cattywumpus, bubba), he might as well be a dog.  He acts just like one.  He meets us at the door, hops up on the bed to get attention, yells at strangers, sits under little boys who drop food.  I think someone put him in the wrong body, some days. 

little o doing some digging.

big brother doing what he does best, torturing little brother.
-> Yeah, you all know how happy these little monkeys make me.  We took the boys to the beach on July 4th weekend.  It was their first time experiencing water attached to sand.  The best words to describe it might be, "They frolicked".  I don't think I've ever used that word before, but it fits.  How could that not make someone happy?  Sand castles to build, tracks to follow (machine and animal), water to splash.  My Dad loved the beach.  I wish he could have been there to see how these guys took to it.  I can just picture him setting up his low slung beach chair, with his umbrella and then completely ignoring it as he chased them on the sand and tossed them around in the lake.  I have to dig out some old beach pictures to put up.  You guys would love them, I bet.

->  And of course, this guy.  PB brings no end of happiness to my days.  I probably don't tell him that enough.  His face was just made to smile, and he makes everyone around him smile, too.

I could write about the 1,000 other things that make me happy, but then you'd get bored.  You'd want to click off the page, but you'd feel guilty for not reading the rest before you made a comment.  You might think you were going to miss the one big clue for what to get me for my birthday, or Christmas.  But, nope.  You could have clicked.  It's all over.

Head on over to Sprite's Keeper.  Just saying that makes me happy.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Spin Cycle- Forgiveness

Damn, I need a cookie today.  One of those nice Italian butter cookies with the sprinkles on top?  The kind that are verboten at our house due to said brightly colored sprinkles?  Sigh.  Why do I want this cookie so bad???  I'm blaming it on Jen.  She wants us to talk about forgiveness, which always makes me think of my very Italian, very grudge holding extended family.  And they make me think of those cookies.

My childhood memories are filled with women sitting around tables, or at the stove, talking partially in Italian, and partially English (and me sitting under the table, eating cookies).  And I wish I could say that I remember them saying nice, polite, happy things.  But I don't.  Because as much as they all loved each other, they were a tad vicious.  Who had wronged who 20 years ago and still gets malocchio (look it up) at church.  Who didn't go to who's wedding because they weren't speaking to this one or that one.  Who had better not show up because of some minor wrong they had committed and not self flagellated enough to pay their penance in the eyes of my mother and her sister and sisters in law.  You'd think they would get tired of it, but no.  Fifteen years after she had moved out of their house, my mother still held grudges against her sister's in laws (people who took in my Mom and her younger brother when their parents died- and reminded her of it every day she lived there...)  It's exhausting just to think about all the emotions wasted on past hurts.  And you would think it would have ended with that generation, but nope, it didn't.

An abrupt turn in the story:

My brother has not spoken to my extended family in, hmmm, let's see now, almost 19 years.  Yup, going on 2 decades.  He lives down the street from my cousin.  Does he pick up the phone?  Reach out?  Nope, it's like she's a stranger.  Why?  Because when my parents died he imagined some sort of slight against him from them.  I can't even pinpoint what he thinks they did or said.  Or maybe it's something they didn't do or say, who knows?  No matter, he is completely uninterested in connecting with them. It kills me.  He didn't go to his Godfather's funeral.  Has ignored wedding invitations, calls, holiday gatherings.  He would rather eat his Christmas dinner with a friend at a diner than let them back into his life.  I would give my right arm to be close enough to see them regularly.

I used to wonder how he did it?  How did he hold all that anger over "something" that happened almost 20 years ago?  Ahhh, it's inherited.  That ability to hold a never ending grudge is genetic (think Hatfields and McCoys).  He gets if from my Mom.  She was amazing at it.  There was very little forgive and almost no forget in her world.  Sigh. (and when it give it some thought, my ex was like this, too.  well, that's not a shocker...)

I refuse to carry that on.  Actually, I can't think of anything that someone has done so wrong to me that I would need to truly "forgive them".  Little things here or there, but nothing that I would carry to my grave, certainly.  So, I tend to just let it go.  I might grump for a day, two at the most, but then I need to move on.  I might decide that I need to remove myself from a situation, or let a friend slowly roll out of my life, but I never end things on such a sour note that I feel anger over it (and hopefully, they don't either...)  My emotional tank needs to empty out the yuck and let in something better for it, I think.  That's just how I roll. 

How about you?  Long standing feuds, or quick scapes and on to greener pastures?

For more takes on forgiveness and such, go see Sprite's Keeper and the other Spinners.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Randomly Wednesday

Yup, I let the long weekend waylay me.  No random Tuesday thoughts.  They had to wait until Wednesday.  Sorry about that.  But here they are:

Two barefoot boys in front of the Tent Majal.
->  We took the boys tent camping for the first time this weekend.  We shall call it a learning experience.  Here is what I learned:
1.  Do not rush while packing the station wagon to go camping.  Everyone should participate in packing, and it should not go on while other activities that require attention are going on (say feeding two little boys lunch).  We left behind all the sand toys, ride on toys and balls I had intended to bring.  Mistake #1...  But we won't place blame.
2.  You must be in a "roll with the punches" sort of mood to camp.  Little boys too excited to eat or nap are going to happen.   Plans can be re-worked.  Damn, you're camping, who's making plans???
3.  Recognize that you can not control other people be they with you, next to you or across the campground.  They will make noise, or be distracted or just want to have fun.  Forget your normal schedule, it isn't going to happen.  PB couldn't let the schedule go.

Badgers on the ferry to the Island


In the end, the boys and I still had fun.  PB contests this view and insisted on being miserable the whole time.  It was weird being the fun parent.

->  However, Christopher Titus and his "Neverlution" saved our weekend.  We came home Sunday night, dumped the sleeping boys into bed and after we unpacked the car (and disposed of all evidence that we had even tried to camp) we sat and watched comedy for 2 hours.  It made it all better.

Little o with brain freeze!


->  One of our board members at work keeps stealing my Shrek glass.  You know, the one I got at McDonald's years ago (the good ones, not the cadmium ones from last year).  It is a nice shape and size.  Whenever I know he's going to be in town now, though, I have to quickly grab my glass lest it be gone by the time I decide I want water.

->  I will now out myself.  I'm addicted to Zombie Farm on my iPhone.  It's a simple premise, you grow plants and zombies and you use those zombies to fight "enemies" and get gold and treasure.  It's not hard.  It's pretty mindless.  LG likes to help me farm my "zombas".  He'll sit on my lap while I farm and giggle.  We went to the "Boneyard" for dinner with a few friends last weekend and LG told PB that "that's where the zombas are!" 

Boys on motorcycle.
 ->  Yeah, I'm all out of random now.  I still need a vacation from my vacation.  Have a good afternoon, everybody.