Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Imagine Nation

One of my very favorite lines from the movies is this one from the 1947 "Miracle on 34th Street"

This is Suzie talking to Kris Kringle about why she doesn't play with the other children her age:

Suzie: I don't play much with them. They play silly games.

Kris: They do?

Suzie: Like today, they were in the basement playing "zoo".... and all of them were animals. When I came down.. Homer, he was the zookeeper....he said, "What animal are you?" and I said, "I'm not an animal, I'm a girl." And he said "Only animals allowed."  SO I came upstairs.

Kris: Why didn't you tell them you were a lion or a bear?

Suzie: Because I'm not a lion or a bear.

Kris: But the other children were only children... and they were pretending to be animals.

Suzie: That's what makes the game so silly.

Kris: I don't think so, sounds like a wonderful game to me. Of course, in order to play it, you need an imagination. Do you know what an imagination is?

Suzie: Oh sure. That's when you see things, but they're not really there. That can be caused by other things too.

Kris: No, to me, 
the imagination is a place all by itself..... a separate country.....
You've heard of the French or British nation. 
Well this is the
Imagine nation.
It's a wonderful place.
How would you like to make snowballs in summertime? Or drive a big bus right down the Avenue? How would you like to have a ship all to yourself.....that makes daily trips to China and Australia?  How would you like to be the Statue of Liberty... in the morning, and in the afternoon.... fly south with a flock of geese?
It's very simple.
Of course it takes practice.
  The first thing you've got to learn is how to pretend. 

Isn't that beautiful? It wasn't until last Christmas that that scene really stood out to me. What a fantastic way to explain the glory of our imaginations. An entirely separate place, it's own "nation"

Those are truly profound statements. 

Since my discovery of Pinterest
(Otherwise known as www.ididn' -Our Best Bites) 
I have had a love hate relationship with it. I've been absolutely AMAZED at the brilliant things that teachers and moms have come up with for their children!! It's incredible how much talent and creativity is out there! 
I have spent hours upon hours recreating, and cutting and gluing to try and give my kids the opportunity to experience some of these great ideas.
While there have been some real gems that my children have loved and I'm sure I will find even more great ideas... I have come to the conclusion that 
kids are simple. 
They would rather you just let them play with that branch that fell off the tree, or use Easter baskets as marching drums. They are happy to use mixing bowls as top hats

 and chopsticks as wands. 
And, of course.....
sneaking baby wipes for costumes
 Claire being a princess getting married.

Sammy being the superhero of the day.... I'm going to go with either Iron Man or Spider Man on this one :)

What they really need is 
But where do they get these ideas? How do we cultivate a creative mind, how do we help them find their very own Imagine nation?

 This is a picture that my sister got at a read-a-thon. It hung in our bedroom until we we moved, after that it hung in my Dad's office... Recently they gave it to me and I love it. I haven't quite found the place to put it yet- but I love the message.

That is the answer to our question. 

I remember when I was younger my mom would organize "book clubs" for my friends and I. One night a week, she would read from a chapter book, we even had treats sometimes :) It wasn't something that was too practical as she was in the process of raising 7 children, so it didn't last long - but honestly, that didn't matter - it is a cherished memory of mine. She did this with my siblings and I as well. My parents really tried to instill a love of reading in our minds.I have pictures in my mind of my brothers on my mom's lap reading I SPY books and other stories. It was not an uncommon thing.

The glory of a book is that you can take your children anywhere on any day.... These next pictures make me particlarly happy because this was on a really bad day for me and I came in and found them like this.... 

The song from Reading Rainbow pops in my mind

Now, tell you me you can't watch that video with out feeling a like a child again... WHY didn't they keep that show going? Oh! I just love that.

In my home, bed time is bed time. They have to be in BED. But if they want to read books, they can stay up as late as they want. Sammy will pile up a dozen books and turn through every page ... it's fun to find them like this:

Yesterday, after they woke up from their naps they made this while I was taking care of Ben and talking to Mike on the phone:
 They made a "bookshelf" out of the legs of the chair.

It was so inspiring to me.. they did this all on their own and spent a long time in their little book cove. :)
They LOVE books and it seriously makes me so happy! 

Moments like this get me motivated to read to them more regularly.

I'm just barely getting back into the groove of things and this post is a reminder to me of all of the reasons to read to my children. Sure, they have looked at plenty on their own, but writing this out is to remind myself to continue to give them options by going to the library or book store and also to actually read to them more often...

 I'd LOVE to hear what your kids' favorite children's books are. 
What you do to foster that love for reading?
I'd love some new ideas
Because sometimes, kids just need to escape, just like us... only they don't have car keys or freedom. But books give them that freedom. Their own little place, their
"Imagine Nation."

I will post a few of mine later, but I'd really love to hear from you! :) I need some new ideas :)..... Please share! :)

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Holy Guacamole!

Holy Guacamole~

You are going to love this recipe :)
 It is simple and only has a few ingredients.
(We LOVE simple, right?) 
It is super healthy ......annnnddd....
When you eat it, you get the "Remy Effect" 
Fireworks! Guaranteed. :)

This is a recipe I adapted from my mom's version of Ina Garden's Chunky Guacamole. . :) This time of year is perfect for fresh dips like this....... ONE day,  I will get some of these ingredients from my garden... as for right now.....

I will have to get mine from the store :)
(For the full effect, don't forget to imagine that western dry wind and of course, the 
tumbleweed blowing by... one day, one day.

The Best Guacamole

5 ripe avocados, diced
4-5 ripe tomatoes, diced (I used roma because it was what was on sale and they dice easily)
1/2 c red onion diced small
1 bunch of cilantro chopped
1/4 c fresh or bottled lemon juice
About a teaspoon of salt
Tapatio sauce to taste.

I forgot to add the lemon juice... so don't forget it! It's important :)

Dice and chop tomatoes, onion and cilantro and add to the bowl

 Dice your avocado last to avoid browning while working with the other vegetables. This is how I dice them:

Then just scoop them out with the knife you are using. Don't worry about it being perfect, Avocados are mushy and will mush a bit when you are stirring the ingredients together.... :)  
Mike is an engineer and so mathematical. If he were making this, each chunk of avocado would be a perfect 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch squares..... buuuttt.... I paused from my cooking for a second to take a few pictures of what was going on while I was dicing my avocados......

Claire's "stinker face" while being caught with a black pen on the couch.... that stinker

Sam climbing in the pantry 
.. I'm not kidding you... these pictures were taken in between avocado dicing :) 
Please tell me I'm not the only one who is constantly putting out fires with their kids! :) I'm going to tell myself that they are just very... curious.... and have a strong desire to "explore" the world around them......This isn't an abnormal moment, I just go around taking the pens, and helping them down from dangerous places, ... who has time for perfectly diced vegetables? They all get eaten in the end anyways right? :)

 And this kid was in need of some smooching... so........

 This is what it is :)

At this point, pour the lemon juice over the vegetables.
Add the salt
Add the Tapatio
And gently stir. 
Try to keep from mushing the avocados, but a little mush is inevitable! :) 

Now for my favorite part...

Taste Testing!! :)
This part is ESSENTIAL. We all have different tastes. I like putting a LOT of tapatio in... mmm! .. some like it more or less salty, you may want to add more onion....
. Never forget to taste test along the way!! :)

 We, of course love to eat this with chips, but it is also yummy smothered over quesidillas and burritos :) It is pretty similar to the guacamole they use at Cafe' Rio, so you can use it your salads as well :) MmMm.

I hope you enjoy this! You will never go back to buying it again! :)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Apricot Trees and Refugees

I know, I know, it's that tree again!

 As you know, I have a soft spot for this tree. It swept me off my feet at first glance. For the past few weeks I have been watching the beautiful apricots ripen, and could've picked them a little sooner, but I decided to wait until I got back from a short vacation. I thought, by then, they should be perfect.

... As I drove up to my home after a 4 hour drive, I spotted the tree right away! It was time!
Time to "harvest" something for the first time in my yard!
 .... I looked a little closer....
then, before unbuckling my kids from the car, or opening the garage, I hopped out, booked it to the tree ... and yes....

That TOTALLY happened. 
Ugh, I was heart broken.

I was able to salvage one measly half of an apricot.
(which tasted divine, by the way).
I know this happens. But... seriously, THIS tree? MY tree? If you don't know the story behind this tree, click here. I feel like a crazy person as I type this out... I keep filtering my thoughts to avoid looking a little too eccentric.

 As I have thought about this apricot experience, I have attempted to see the good in it.... "Well, at least the birds enjoyed it"..... let's be real... I wanted to ... I wanted to... Send that stinkin' bird into time out for the rest of it's life!   
That's my somewhat irrational solution to problems with my kids when I know I've lost control of the situation. :).. There have been few times I have actually said it, but boy oh boy have I thought it!

You know you are a sleep deprived mama when the only thing you can come up with for the bird  who ate your apricots is to send them to time out.... Good one Cara. :) That'll teach 'em! haha.

Anticipation gone wrong.

We've all been there, right? You plan and prepare for weeks for the perfect party for your child, and when it finally comes... the birthday boy ends up being the birthday BUM. :) 

You spend hours making homemade bread and as you bite into that warm slice, you remember you forgot to add the salt.

You work all day preparing meals, snacks and activities to go on your favorite vacation that has been on the calendar for months... pack up the van.. just to find you have a really bad flat tire you can't afford to fix... so you unpack everything and you have to stay home.

Now, onto a more serious note.
 Far above trivial apricot trees........

Lately it seems there are so many people struggling. I think of friends and family members who have had to stand against the blows of extreme disappointment and pain.
Birds pecking at their anticipated fruit.
 A friend whose mother passes away unexpectedly in her 40s, another whose daughter was diagnosed with leukemia at 9 months. The sting of a miscarriage after years of infertility. Floods and fires destroying homes and precious things. The list could go on and on.
These things are REAL.
I try to focus on the good in the world, and in most situations, you really can find the good. But it's important to know and accept that there are some things that are just
 Maybe in some future date, or in the next life, we will see why that experience was necessary and what the purpose behind it was. Sometimes we are left without the answers.
That, is real. 

But how do we go on? What do you do when you feel robbed and empty? 

I suppose we try look for the good that is already around us while reaching up to the Lord. 
I suppose we accept the situation and accept that it is just going to hurt for a while,
  a long while.
 Remind ourselves that it's okay to cry.. a lot.

One of the most touching quotes from one of my favorite movies,
 "Sleepless in Seattle"

Doctor Marcia Fieldstone: "What you going to do?"

Sam Baldwin: "Well, I'm gonna get out of bed every morning.... breathe in and out all day long.
 Then, after a while I won't have to remind myself to get out of bed every morning and breathe in and out.... and, then after a while, I won't have to think about how I had it great and perfect for a while."

I don't mean to make this blog a gloomy place for a few moments. But, it wouldn't be right to act as though this reality was not really there. 

The purpose for this blog post isn't to leave us all feeling discouraged and hopeless.
The purpose is to know that most REAL people are fighting unseen battles.
Everyone is in  their own crisis of varying levels. I remind myself of this sometimes when some one is rude or disrespectful towards me. Whether it's what's going on or not, I will never know, but I can do my best to be patient as I would want someone to be patient with me if my world were falling apart.

We all know people who are struggling with very real battles, and we just don't know what to do.
We want to lift them and ease their burdens, but how? That  is the purpose of the post.

I came across this beautiful article from one of my favorite blogs. "The Golden Seven, Parenting in the Latter Days" - This woman's teenage son has leukemia and she came up with a list, 
The 10 Commandments for Helping a Friend Going Through a Hard Time.

So in the end, I suppose there was some good to the misfortune of my apricot tree. It was a reminder that some things are just
out of our control.
What is in our power is the power we have to lift others through their disappointments, big or small.

This is a song from an album my Dad gave me after I graduated high school. It has such a profound message that I wanted to share it here..

Michael Mclean's Safe Harbors 

There are refugees among us
That are not from foreign shores;
And the battles they are waging
Are from very private wars.
And there are no correspondents
Documenting all their grief,
But these refugees among us all
Are yearning for relief.

There are refugees among us.
They don't carry flags or signs.
They are standing right beside us
In the market check out lines;
And the war they've been fighting
It will not be televised,
But the story of their need for love
Is written in their eyes.

This is a call to arms,
To reach out and to hold
The evacuees from the dark.
This is a call to arms,
To lead anguished souls 
To safe harbors of the heart.

Can you see through their disguises?
Can you hear what words won't tell?
Some are losing faith in Heaven
'Cause their life's a living Hell.
Is there anyone to help those
Who have no where else to flee?
For the only arms protecting them
belong to you and me.

This is a call to arms,
To reach out and to hold
The evacuees from the dark.
This is a call to arms,
To lead anguished souls
To safe harbors of the heart.
Can you feel the pleas of the refugees
For safe harbors of the heart?

This was a slideshow for the Relief Society, so there are a few RS plugs

Cara's Oatmeal Cinnamon Pancakes.... with blueberries :)

Now that you have an entire carton of Costco blueberries to try the Blueberry Scones with Lemon Glaze recipe, It was only fair that I gave you another blueberry recipe, right? 
Tis the season! :)

This is a recipe that Mike and I have been using since the first year of our marriage. This was originally my mother in law's recipe.- Through the years I have tweaked it to make it our own without realizing how much I had changed it. A few years back I hosted a recipe exchange with my inlaws and had this recipe titled "Deawn's Oatmeal Cinnamon Pancakes" .. or something like that ... but she had brought her recipe too! .... Except they were completely different! She looked at it and said, "this isn't my recipe!'' --- Ha!
I'm always weary of claiming other people's recipes as my own if I only change small things, but apparently, I had changed the whole recipe.. so I can confidently say that... this is....

Cara's Oatmeal Cinnamon Pancakes

These are great as pancakes or waffles! I'm more of a pancake girl... it's probably the "cake" involved.. anyway.. Serve with syrup,  or for a healthier option: yogurt, fresh fruit or apple sauce! 

We like to make the dry ingredient mix  in bulk and put them in Ziploc baggies for quick breakfasts! J 

A half batch is perfect for 2-3 people 

Cara’s Oatmeal Cinnamon Pancakes

2 c Quick Oats
½ c Brown Sugar
1 c Flour
1 c Whole Wheat Flour
1 ½ T baking powder
1T (heaping J) Cinnamon
¼ t cream of tarter

MIX… then add

2/3 c vegetable oil
2 Eggs
1 c water
1 c milk

We love adding chopped walnuts or pecans and blueberries - both are optional, but they make it so so good!! :) 

Place on a griddle or frying pan.....

How do you like the legs on my griddle? So... it's seen a few rough moves.... BUT! It works! 
"Use it up, Wear it out. Make it due, or due without!" ... right? :)

Now this part may be old news to you, but... when I got married, along with not knowing how to boil noodles, burning poptarts and making soggy mac and cheese... I made soggy pancakes, they were either burnt, or still batter in the middle. 
(My lack of cooking skills was such a blow to my pride, I had grown up watching and helping my mom in the kitchen... I suppose I missed "Poptarts 101" and the "How to Boil Noodles" class :))  

My sister in law Jenny taught me this trick: 
See those little tiny bubbles? When those fellas start to show up, you know it's time to flip! :)

Leaving YOU with Beautiful pancakes! :)
Remember, these are made with whole wheat flour, so they are brown, not white :).

And NOW! For the finale! .......
Dun da da dunnnnn....

Another stunning presentation.... hee hee...
No, but seriously. 
REAL moment here.... I have boxed up my pretty plates and bowls... too many of them have broke. Plastic is my new best friend. It washes easily, and when Claire throws a tantrum and swipes her plate off the table... the plate survives... Claire might not.. but the plate does :) heheh jk. 
I. Love. Plastic.
Now, I'm not going to tell you to appreciate this picture, even though it took 10 minutes and 2 plates to take... I won't tell you that it looked drab, so I pulled out frozen blueberries from the freezer, thawed them out in a sippy cup and am now typing with purple stained fingers.... because, apparently.. I am no photographer... But I won't tell you that..because that's too real :) .. hehehe

I know you will love this recipe :)

I like to double the recipe and use my regular waffle iron, then freeze them. They fit perfectly in the toaster and come out tasting fresh! Crispy on the outside and warm and soft on the inside.. yum! I loved having these on hand when I was pregnant and didn't want to make breakfast! :) ... or lunch.... or dinner.... ehem...

Monday, July 22, 2013

6 Ways to Help Your Children During A Time of Family Crisis

My precious Benjamin was born with a birth defect called Laryngomalacia. It is a condition where the epiglottis is not firm and flops together and closes off his airways. So every time he breathed in, he would make a loud, high pitched sound

Here is a video I took of him right before his first surgery. We had run out of the tabs for his o2 so we had tape on one side! :) We figured we wouldn't need them in a few days.:

 When we went into the clinic at 6 weeks old, in the dead of winter, for his diagnosis, he caught RSV and nearly died .I know that sounds dramatic, but when you can't breath, you die. I don't think we realized how serious it was in the moment.

(The picture on the bottom was at his worst, he was even more miserable then he the middle, if you look closely, you can see his little nose bleeding from needing to 'deep suction' his nose so much... it was awful.)

The anticipated surgery didn't fix the problem. At his follow up appointment, we found that scar tissue had built up from the surgery and was covering his airways. He went in for a second surgery the next day..... which still didn't fix the problem.

Needless to say, it was a long, hard road full of sleepless nights, beeping pulse oximeters and many many tears.

 BUT- I'm happy to report that my little powerhouse is finally on room air day and night!

 It took 7 months to get here, but - I think we've made it to 
the light at the end of the tunnel!!

He's loud enough where people who don't know Ben's situation give me all sorts of looks, but he's getting enough o2 in and he's happy and growing well! It feels amazing! :)

As things have been settling down, I have had a few moments to reflect. It was all such a whirlwind.

 I mostly thought about my sweet Sammy and Claire.

This picture was taken after they had been away with friends and family for almost 2 weeks while they were both sick and Ben had his RSV. 

I missed them so much it hurt. When they finally got home we were so happy! They were really confused about what was going on with Ben. We had tanks, and tubes and cords EVERYWHERE! 
For a while I had to continually remind them that Ben's o2 tubes were not for jump roping and it was especially not a balance beam. At one point in the middle of the day, Ben's oximeter started beeping like crazy, we couldn't figure out what was going on. Claire had gone into the back room and switched his oxygen off! She wasn't trying to be bad, she was just barely 2 and really curious.

It was a rough and rocky road for them too. They saw me scared and crying more then I ever wanted. With ER trips becoming routine and  a trip to the hospital in an ambulance, 
they were scared too.

It was so hard to know how much they needed  me, but I had to take care of Ben. 
As I have looked back and wondered how we survived, I came up with this list of things we did to help Sam and Claire feel loved.  Even this wasn't quite enough, but it was more then I had to give.

I'm typing this out in hopes that if someone else finds themselves in a situation when crisis hits, and just like us, you have NO idea what to do, that this will help a little. 

I am absolutely, and obviously NO EXPERT. There were so many things we probably did wrong. We were under water and felt like we were wingin' it for months - but these are the things that seemed to have the best results.

6 Ways to Help Your Children During A Time of Family Crisis

#1. Let Go.... That's right, I said "let go!" That was probably the hardest thing for me. Let go of your struggle to allow people to help you. Let go of  needing a clean house, especially when people come to visit. It was more important to spend what ever  time I had with my kids... not the dishes..... It was a messy while. . .This will help them.. 

#2 Let your kids "let go" ... meaning ... 
If your son wants to take that Iron Man toy around EVERYWHERE. Let him.

(This is Sam giving Iron Man a "bath" while I was giving Ben a bath)

 If your daughter wants to be a monkey, morning noon and night, no matter where you are... let her.

 If he is just certain that that cereal  bowl with the plastic cups taped all over it is the PB and J machine off of "Meet the Robinsons" and insists on wearing all of the time... roll with it.

(He's quite the little inventor :))

And last, but not least... if your daughter is fulfilled by sticking her head out the window during a windstorm like a dog on a car ride... join in.

 I'm not saying that they should be allowed to run a muck, but if there is something that is harmless even if it's not .... normal..... let them. Let them have something they can do that is innocent and makes them happy.

#3 It will be hard, and even seem impossible most of the time, but make one on one time with them a priority. It didn't happen much, but it made a world of difference when we were able to.

We did simple things. We went to dinner, went puddle hopping, went for a ride listening to their favorite songs, visited the pet store to look at all of the creatures... shared treats from little bakeries we would find... simple things that didn't cost much, but was good quality time.

#4 Let them be in charge of something. One day when everyone was napping, Sam and I talked. He was struggling. 
I just ached for him... 
then something popped in my mind, and without completely thinking it through, I said 
 "Sammy, our family needs to have fun, hu? Will you plan a party for us?" 
... His eyes lit up "like the 4th of July" :) - 
He was so excited! We went through the possibilities and he chose a beach party! Above all, he wanted popsicles and lemonade and they HAD to wear their swim suits. He helped cut out big suns and waves from butcher paper and made faces and fishes every where. 
It was so fun seeing him so "in" to something. 
It distracted him and made him feel important.
 It was nothing big.. we ate goldfish, did the Limbo and ate some runny blue jello that didn't quite set properly. :) 

 This is Ben joining in on the fun! First time discovering.. "the rattle" :).

 Sammy "swimming" in our "water" and Claire being as cute as ever.

(He was cold, but determined to wear his swim suit.. haha)

#5 Count Your Blessings. I know we hear this all of the time.. but it wasn't until this experience that I fully realized the actual power behind counting your blessings. This is something I posted to facebook after we had moved from our home into my inlaws basement.
"our family has been through absolute chaos for the past year and especially past 6 months. Our whole world has flipped upside down on us and it is affecting my four year old the most. We just recently moved and he is heartbroken. I think he tells me every day that he wants to move back and every time something hard happens, he'll say "this is why we never should've moved" .. well, last week he got really really sick - I have never seen him so sick before - it was his last straw. This poor usually energetic and happy boy was so sad. Depressed even. He's not sick any more but He just goes back into our room in the dark to lay down, he wants to sleep all of the time and I'll find him just laying down on the ground in random spots being sad. I'll make his favorite meals and offer his favorite treats and he just didn't want to eat. He didn't even want to go outside to play. Today I got everyone ready to go to the park and before we left the driveway he said his legs were tired and he wanted to go back inside... We continued on and he had some happy moments, so it was good, but I could tell he was still so sad. So, tonight at dinner we started talking about one of my favorite songs "Count Your Blessings" - it is a happy song that has helped me through some rough moments. We sang the song and decided to count our blessings- we got the camera and started taking pictures of the good in our world. Beds, toys, our family, then he said "church"- so to his surprise, we hopped in the van and went to our church and took a picture - we took a picture of the American flag and parks. We took pictures of shoes and ice cream. - Once he got started "counting his blessings" he couldn't stop - he has a whole list of things he wants to take pictures of tomorrow. We decided to make a "count our blessings" wall. I'm going to develop the pictures and hang them on a wall so when we struggle, we can go the wall that will be covered, i'm sure, in pure goodness from God. I have never taken that song so literally before and tonight for the first time in weeks, MY SAMMY was back. Mike and I sat on a bench with Ben watching Sam and Claire play at a park tonight as the sun set and honestly - amid life's billows and raging tempests- all was right in the world. It was a moment of perfection.... all starting from a conversation around the dinner table about counting our blessings.

#6 Hold them close. I felt like I had to keep leaving them for various medical reasons. I didn't want them to feel "alone."  Whether you give them big bear hugs, or just sit with them and hold their hand during a movie.  It wasn't until our "crisis" that Claire began to like to be snuggled. It's a reassurance that they are loved, and that you are still there. Put your hand on their back while they tell you something.. it brings you closer to them and lets them know you really are listening. Give them hugs out of the blue, have tickle fights. ... or simply let them play with your hair, or let them be the "doctor" and you the "patient" ... just be close.
I caught Sammy putting his arm around Claire while we were in line. Being "close." It made my heart so happy. 

Well! There you have it! If you know someone who could use this, please share it with them. We are all just learning and getting a different perspective always helped me.