The Muffin Truce

My two older kids, ages 7 and 5 years old have learned the art of sharing. It didn’t come naturally. Through a series of fights, heartbreak, surprises and delight they have discovered this gift. Even after witnessing it several times now, it still amazes me when Iris, the 7 year old brings home a treat from school and says she saved it until she got home so she could share it with Bency, the 5 year old. She could have easily eaten it all by herself on her walk home but she knew Bency would LOVE half of her “fun size” Milky Way. Every birthday “loot bag” has been brought home, dumped out and evenly dispersed among the two. I have never said a word…only sat back and watched with a happy heart. This past year at Halloween, Iris ate her bag of candy quicker than Bency. Bency noticed this and went and put 10 pieces of his own candy in her bag. She gave him a hug…she would have his back the next time he had no self-control on his Halloween candy!

 Our youngest child, Cesar, is almost 2 years old. He still has to go through all those life lessons and experiences to learn about the amazing concept of sharing. Yesterday, at our family reunion, my brother rented a Sun Drop slushy machine. Even though he had a Sippy cup of milk, Cesar was enamored with the slushy machine. All of the other kids were getting cups of bright yellow frosty ice and oohing and aahing. Cesar wanted in on this action; watched carefully, planned his maneuvers and every time someone sat down their cup, he would stealthily snatch it up, keep walking and mumble a “thank you.” He quickly became known as the “Slushy Thief” after stealing over a dozen!

 After witnessing this, I came to the realization that perhaps we would have a long road with Cesar to get him to the certifiable “sharing point” if we still needed to overcome stealing.

 After the big kids went on to play in the afternoon to do “big kid” stuff, he was left by himself and his only playmate was my Mom’s cat. This is one of the friendliest and most tolerant cats I have ever seen but everyone has their “breaking point” and after Cesar forcibly held him down and tried wrestling with him 10 times, the cat finally gave him a little scratch on the cheek.

 Cesar’s feelings and cheek were not hurt much and he has never been one to be easily deterred. He went and grabbed a muffin off the food table and went back to sit by the cat. He took a bite of the muffin and then gently held the muffin in front of the friendly feline. He was making his peace offering by SHARING his muffin with the kitty. The two sat and enjoyed the wonderful sunshine, each other’s company and a delicious blueberry muffin. Cesar leaned down and kissed the cat and if I’m not mistaken…I believe I heard him whisper in the kitty’s ear, “I’m sorry for being mean to you…please accept this small gift. I will ALWAYS share with you so you will be my friend.”

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Cesar’s scratched cheek

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Cesar sharing his muffin

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Cesar giving the kitty a kiss

 

 

 

The Lists

I am a perpetual worrier, planner, and a maker of lists. I make “To Do Lists,” grocery lists, budget lists, lists of things I want my husband to do and occasionally lists of lists I need to make. It helps to clear my head and makes room for more things…to make lists about.

I see so much of myself in my 7 year old daughter, Iris, but when she brought “her lists” out to my husband and me the other night, it very much solidified it.

Iris approached us in a very serious nature and stated she had compiled some ideas for us and we were to pick and choose as we pleased. The lists contained Birthday Party food and location suggestions. Keep in mind Iris will not be celebrating her birthday for another 10 months! Enjoy!

Where I Want to Go on My Birthday:

  • Magical Forest (this is where Iris believes unicorns live)
  • Farm
  • Cemetery
  • Nana & Papa’s house
  • Candy land (she believes this is a real place and not just a game)
  • Burger King
  • Mall
  • McDonald’s
  • Flower garden
  • Gallagher’s (local pizza restaurant)
  • Little Caesar’s Pizza
  • Sea World
  • Beach
  • Bay Beach (local amusement park)
  • Pet Store visit
  • Baby nursery
  • Library
  • Zoo
  • Legion Pool
  • Park
  • Kalahari Water Park

What Food and Drink I Want to Eat and Drink at My Birthday:

  • Little Caesar’s Pizza
  • Caesar salad
  • Cake
  • Cup cakes
  • Cotton candy
  • Apples
  • Oranges
  • Peas
  • Green Beans
  • Rhubarb sauce
  • Angry Bird cookies
  • Candy canes
  • Tootsie Pops
  • Tootsie Rolls
  • Cherries
  • Peaches
  • Baby oranges
  • Slushies
  • Sprite
  • Orange juice
  • Trix cereal

 

This made me happy for so many reasons:

     a)      That she is making lists

     b)      She is a planner just like her Mom

     c)       As much as I would love to take her to Sea World for her 8th birthday, I am so happy we have   the option to take her to the library!

     d)      As much as I love making my kid’s birthday cakes it’s nice to know Trix cereal will suffice if I run  out of time!

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Wednesday Morning at the Cemetery

The other day when we were driving, Iris, our 7 year old, asked, “Can we go there?” I looked all around trying to figure out what she was referring to because all I saw was a cemetery. She said, “I’ve always wanted to go to where people are buried so I can read the tombstones and learn about the lives of people who are no longer alive.” I found this a somewhat strange request.

I thought long and hard about her suggestion for an outing. Is it an appropriate place to take children for a field trip? Bency, my 5 year old, has been going through a phase where he is afraid of getting old and dying. It has become so bad lately that I have had to promise we will not celebrate any more of his birthdays and he can stay 5 forever. Iris, on the other hand, is the opposite. She talks about Heaven and angels. She tries to calm Bency’s fears by explaining Heaven is a beautiful place and we all turn into angels to help others here on Earth.

What finally sealed the deal to take the kids to the cemetery is when I found a list on Iris’s desk entitled: Places I Want to Go for My Next Birthday. The list included: A farm, the library, a cemetery and the magical forest (she believes this is where the unicorns live).  I have no idea what kind of birthday party she was expecting at a cemetery but I figured we would just make her dreams come true on a regular Wednesday morning!

Off to the cemetery we went, pen and notebooks in hand (the kids wanted to write down what they found out about people). Iris squealed with delight when we pulled in. Bency was equally excited just because it looked like a huge place to run and there was lots of mud puddles from the rain the night before. Cesar, the almost 2 year old, was just excited to get out of the house.

The kids had so much fun! They ran from tombstone to tombstone reading the names and figuring out how old they were. We made up fun stories of what we thought their lives were like and celebrated them. They filled their notebooks. It was quiet and relaxing. Iris’s curiosity has been satisfied but she does want to go back again. Bency seems more at peace with death and getting older and Cesar had fun playing in the mud puddles!

The kids have been lucky that they have not lost any loved ones. I hope when that day comes they can look back on this day and it will be a comfort to them. They will remember that we can visit the ones we have lost at any time and celebrate them in a fun and happy way…..perhaps our loved ones will be visited and celebrated by three strange kids as well…smiles and notebooks in hand.

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Iris and Bency writing down information

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Bency’s favorite tombstone

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Iris wanted a picture of this one because she felt her and this person must have had a lot in common….she loves “baking” too!!!

 

 

 

Monster Pooping Jelly Beans

When I was a little girl, my grandma Freda would write me letters stating that, “she needed more artwork for her cupboards.” In my mind, I imagined Grandma in a frantic desperation wondering what she could put on the bare spot. Apparently, my other cousins had been slacking on their artwork as well, and it was all up to me to put Grandma at ease. I would set to work, drawing and coloring. When I would get my picture done, my Mom would put it in the mail for me.

At our next visit to Grandma Freda and Grandpa Dale’s house, there it would be…my picture hanging on the kitchen cupboards along with about a dozen others and my cousin’s artwork as well! My grandparents lived in a 100 year old farmhouse that was filled with interesting artifacts and knickknacks. I felt proud that my artwork was featured among it all.

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Bency’s framed “Cat” painting

 

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Iris’s painting she did when she was 2 years old

As an adult, I absolutely love children’s artwork and I have not forgotten how Grandma Freda’s “gallery” made me feel about my own creations. I have instituted my own “gallery” in my own house and framed several pieces to display around the house as well.

I wasn’t sure if the gallery had an impact on my own kids until a day of rearranging and putting up new. My son asked why I took his “Monster Pooping Jelly Beans” picture down. I explained I’m always changing it to make room for all the new pictures and that I have all his artwork scanned into the computer and I proudly display it on the digital photo frame in our living room. He still looked like I had stabbed him in the heart until he noticed I had replaced it with “Baby With Chicken Pox in a Cage.” He also felt better when he saw I had taken down Iris’s magazine collage of “Bras” that she did when she was 4 and updated it with her recent picture of a unicorn.

 

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Our “Art Gallery”

 

 

I won a few art contests in elementary school but nothing compared to being featured on Grandma’s farmhouse cupboards. Thanks to her “frantic desperation” for my art she always kept me drawing. I will continue to portray to my children that I am “frantically desperate” for their artwork as well!

 

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Bency painting

 

 

 

The Teacher Who Did a Cartwheel

This past year our oldest child, Iris, attended 1st grade. Kindergarten had been amazing for her. She had dreams of staying in Kindergarten and having her same teacher forever! Part of me (mostly all) wanted her to stay too. It was a great class filled with the most adorable children, the cutest activities and a terrific teacher!

When she started 1st grade, she was nervous and scared. She thought nothing could “top” Kindergarten and she had heard rumors 1st grade was tough! The first week, she talked incessantly about her previous teacher. She was excited when she caught glimpses of her in the hallway or if she waved at her from across the cafeteria. She wrote notes to her and had her 1st grade teacher pass them on.

After one week, this all changed. She became enamored with her new teacher and 1st grade in general! As the year went on, her teacher became very special to her… almost like a second mother.  Before Kindergarten, I had spent nearly every minute with Iris, experienced all her experiences right along with her and almost everything she knew, I had taught her. Having her away from me was hard but knowing she was in such good hands was a comfort.

Iris learned so much in school this year and most importantly she gained confidence. I credit this to her teacher. Her teacher went above and beyond any teacher I ever had. She was sweet, kind, funny and still maintained respect from her students. She did cartwheels. She had “lunch with the teacher” days, where she would pick a child and they could pick a friend and the three of them would have lunch together in the classroom (these were Iris’s favorite days!). She gave hugs. She stopped to watch Iris learning to ride her bike one day after school. She was driving past when she noticed us at a parking lot practicing (this meant the world to Iris). She wrote back to all the notes Iris wrote her.  And I mentioned, SHE DID CARTWHEELS, right? She promised she would do a cartwheel if her whole class got their spelling test correct and they did! I can honestly say, I don’t think I had a teacher who could have done a cartwheel if she wanted to!

Teachers are amazing creatures and we were lucky to have one of the best!

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A painting I did for Iris’s teacher. It was from a photo I took when I was there helping out.

 

Tortilla Touchdown

Yesterday we were invited to our friends’ house for a cookout. More than likely I would have brought tuna pasta salad to pass but “fortunately” I was out of mayonnaise, peas, cheese, and onions! Our cupboards were more than little on the “unsatisfactorily” stocked side.

I’ve been on a huge kick of making homemade tortillas ever since I found out how easy they were to make and completely worthwhile! Plus, as an added bonus, my husband is Hispanic, originally from Albuquerque New Mexico, so I think I have endeared myself to him just a tad bit more. He did say I couldn’t roll my tortillas as round as his Mom’s but thanks to my brother’s recent gift of a tortilla press I can get mine round now too!

Unfortunately, tortillas don’t go with a Wisconsin brat fry so I needed to figure out a way to use these new loves of my life that would be conducive for a cookout.

I think I have come up with an original idea! I’ve never heard of them! If you have, go ahead and burst my bubble and tell me what they’re called!!! I’ve called mine…….

Cream Cheese Tortilla Roll-Ups

First you need to make your homemade tortillas (I’m sure store bought would be fine too, but trust me the homemade are SO good). I used this site to learn how to make tortillas: http://tastykitchen.com/blog/2012/03/homemade-tortillas/

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Next, while the tortillas are cooling, make a filling to spread on the tortilla

Filling:

1 (8 oz) pkg. of cream cheese

1/4 C. brown sugar

1 tsp. cinnamon

Directions

Mix this together and spread on tortillas

Next, roll the tortillas up and secure with a toothpick.

Mix up a small bowl of sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle this on the rolled up tortillas after you use a basting brush to wipe a little water on the tortillas to help adhere the sugar mixture.

Finally, stick in a 350 degree oven for 12 minutes

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Once they come out of the oven you can remove toothpick and serve this way or cut up into snack size bites like I did! They appeared to be a big hit at the cookout with both the adults and kids! Next time I need to double the batch!

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Bite Sized Cream Cheese Tortilla Roll-Ups

I Know Everything

Questions….

The amount of questions I’ve been asked by my children since becoming a mother is mind boggling. The amount of questions I still have to deal with (I realize they don’t stop when they turn 18…thanks MOM!) is downright frightening!!

My favorite came in the form of a tap on my shoulder at 3am, four years ago from my then 3 year old, Iris, “Mom, why do we have thumbs?” Kids think about EVERYTHING and apparently they think about them 24 hours a day!

I ruined the good ol’ answer of “I don’t know” for myself awhile back. After explaining to my 5 year old Bency nicely for the 100th time that the reason he needs to brush his teeth is to avoid cavities; I became exasperated on the 101th time and said, “Because I am the Mom…I know everything…so just do what I tell you to do.” Those three words…”I know everything”…have ruined my life.

The other day, Bency asked why a local business in our neighborhood was being remodeled. I replied, “I don’t know.” He came back with, “But Mom, I thought you said you know EVERYTHING??” I hung my head momentarily in defeat, took a deep breath and said, “That is the ONLY thing I don’t know. I know everything else.”

In the weeks since I’ve made that statement, Bency has used this opportunity to really test my knowledge. “How do fireworks work? Can a bird still eat if it loses it’s beak? What is the process called when seeds start to grow?” Normally, I would openly go to the computer with the kids and look up answers to give them CORRECT and detailed explanations. Now I’m forced to give answers off the cuff using big, sometimes “made-up” words and answer “yes or no” when I’m really not sure. I was pretty sure germination was the answer to the seed question but really wanted to send him to Iris, my seven year old to field that question as I know she studied that subject in school this year. At the expense of losing all credibility I took my chances.

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Bency playing with fireworks

I realize I have made a big mistake, but in order to get Bency to brush his teeth I must maintain my reputation and upkeep this facade that “I KNOW EVERYTHING!” As a mother it is my responsibility that my children have healthy teeth. If my kids are destined to become chemists I have to trust that with or without me they will become a chemist. Their curiosity will get them there and I will dutifully supply them with a computer so they can learn EVERYTHING!

Thursday Was No One’s Birthday

Thursday was no one’s birthday. It was a fun day though! In the morning we went to story hour at the library where they put on a puppet show and then introduced the kids to HUGE life size characters of Elephant and Piggie (popular characters from Mo Willem’s children’s books). Picture Cesar, the almost 2 year old with his arms wrapped around Piggie’s leg in a tight embrace for 10 minutes. In the huge sea of children I was unable to get up to him to tear him off, so unfortunately for the mom’s taking pictures of their kids giving hugs to Piggie, they also have Cesar in the picture as well. Sorry!

Back at home I gave the kids their lunch and then came out with a surprise….

On Wednesday, Bency had baked cupcakes for his soccer team and there had been a little batter left so I had just poured it into a little pan and made a “baby cake.”

I brought out the “baby cake” bedecked with the leftover frosting and candles!

I asked who we should sing to and the older kids carefully thought and came up with the idea to sing to Cesar as his 2nd birthday isn’t too far off and he really needs the practice.

We had our mini party over and over giving everyone a chance to blow out the candles a few times! It was a good celebration….(over nothing, other than just having a fun day!)

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Iris and Bency singing Happy Birthday
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Cesar saying “Cha-Cha-Cha”

 

 

This “off- the- wall tradition” has been practiced in our family for years. It started with my nephew Isaiah. He went crazy for blowing out candles. No matter who’s birthday it was… he always got a turn. My daughter soon followed suit when she saw how cool it was. Straight from the pages of Lewis Carroll’s, Alice in Wonderland we began to do these impromptu “unbirthday” parties on a somewhat regular basis.

I like these parties! You don’t have to plan for weeks. There’s no presents. No Pinata. Just cake, candles, singing and celebrating whatever is worth celebrating at the moment!

You may be asking if this takes away from the child’s actual birthday. The answer is NO! Iris, my 7 year old is a seasoned “unbirthday” attendee and not once at her “actual” birthday has she yet to yawn and say, “Oh, another birthday cake? (in a listless tone)

Can you really ever get tired of celebrating, being honored or serenaded to? I don’t think so!

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Angry Bird-oholics

Bency lost Angry Bird privileges a couple of month ago and I have no plans to reinstate it. He has begged, bartered and pretty much offered his soul in exchange to be able to play again. Recently, he said he heard a rumor that if you conquer all the levels it becomes a learning game. He really thinks I should reconsider my decision because he sure loves to learn and he would hate it if he was missing out on a great learning opportunity just because I won’t let him play Angry Birds.

Unfortunately for Bency, I did NOT reconsider. During the 3 weeks he was allowed to play it, he became obsessed. Even though I limited his time on it; it was all he thought about. He had no interest in eating, sleeping or his favorite activity of drawing. Things are back to normal now in those areas but he still does think about it quite a bit!

Last night I went outside to where the kids were playing and came upon a new game they created…..Angry Birds! One child sat on the ground a few yards from the swing set and dubbed themselves one of the pig characters from the game (Helmet Pig is one.) The other child would dub themselves one of the birds (Big Red Bird) and then swing really high, launch themselves off, do a rolling tumble and knock the child on the ground down.

Perhaps it sounds a bit dangerous…. but what’s a few bruises in exchange for fresh air, exercise and using your imagination?

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Playing “Angry Birds”

 

The Magic Snack Night

Our 3 month stint of soccer is coming to an end. Only 3 games left in the season. Both our 7 year old, Iris and 5 year old, Bency played this year for the first time.

Iris had asked last year if she could play but I declined her request. Throughout the year, she checked out book after book at the library on soccer. When she asked again this year, I could hardly say “no” considering she is probably qualified to teach a college course on the subject. I thought Bency would be jealous if she was playing, besides, he needed an outlet for all his energy, so I signed him up too.

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I didn’t realize both kids would be playing on same nights, very often requiring my husband to take one kid while I took the other. We would flip a coin as to who had to take Cesar, the almost two year old and who is determined to get on the soccer field and play too.

Iris did great! She listened to her coach and got all her skills down in practice. Once the games started she paid attention, was always with the ball but when her chances were there to steal it she never took them. It was like she didn’t want to hurt her opponents feelings!

Bency was a mess. I know as his mother I shouldn’t say that but… he was! He wasn’t listening to his coach, he would flop down on the ground for no reason mid drills, he would tease the girls and claimed one as his girlfriend even though she said “no” to his request several times. He started impromptu games of tag during the soccer games and he and a couple of other boys magically found sticks on several occasions and would play swords. His main motivation was to find out what snack would be served after the game. When other parents would ask me who my child was and I would tell them, they would nod and give me a sympathetic smile.

Over the past couple of weeks both kids have improved greatly. Iris is now seeing her chance and stealing the ball. Bency made two goals but unfortunately for the wrong team. The first time he did this, I had been preoccupied with keeping Cesar off the field and out of the corner of my eye saw Bency whipping down the field with the ball, all of his opponents were yards behind. I began screaming at the top my lungs “Go Bency!” It was only until the coach’s yells finally drowned out my own of “Wrong way Bency,” that I realized my mistake.

Last night the whole family was there to watch Bency. Iris’s team had a night off. We were all sitting there and Cesar didn’t try to run in the field once… only put his foot on the sidelines a couple of times and would turn back and give us a devilish grin. I noticed a look about Bency I had never seen before. He was focused. There was no games of tag. If there was a stick, he did not pick it up. He did not throw grass at any of the girls. I don’t know when this happened but Bency was serious about soccer.

During the second quarter, Bency got the ball at half field, and began driving it down (towards the correct goal). We were all yelling, “GO BENCY!” Cesar went wild and was jumping with his arms in the air screaming, “Go Bobby, Go Bobby!” (Even though Cesar can say Bency he has decided he likes Bobby better.)

Bency took it all the way down and scored the goal!! Everyone was so happy for him! One of his little boy teammates came and gave him a hug and said, “Good job Buddy!” Bency turned toward us and said,”Did you see that?” I did. It was a little piece of magic.

Bency continued to play good the rest of the game and then the real magic happened for Bency…. when he got to hand out the snack that he made all by himself!

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Cupcakes Bency made along with his own soccer toothpick decorations