Monday, January 28, 2008

To Sing a Song or Two (or Three!)...

Remembering Mama
by Mimi Greenwood Knight - taken from Chicken Soup for the Mother of Preschooler's Soul

"My mother raised twelve kids. But, as anyone from a large family can attest, there were always many more than that playing in the backyard, eating around the dinner table- even, it seemed to me, in the bathtub. A few cousins were spending the summer. Someone's parents were going through a divorce. Someone else's family moved away, and the kids were finishing out the school year with us. Yet there was always enough food on the table and enough of her time to go around. (Mama used to say that you don't divide your love; you muliply it.)

My mother never raised her voice. This is not an exaggeration; it is a fact. I never really appreciated the self-control this must have taken until I had my own houseful. I have to admit, there are days when I hear a screaming maniac in my house and realize it's me. How did she do it? And why didn't I inherit her peaceful nature?

Mama sang all the time. She sang in the kitchen. She sang in the car. She sang when she asked you to do something. I can hear her now: "Michelle, please empty the dishwasher; Denise, please sweep the kitchen" - all to the tune of "A Tisket, A Tasket." Anytime she was on the brink of losing her temper, I realized, she broke into song- sometimes chanting through clenched teeth, "Leave your little sister alone. I'm not going to ask you again"- this to the tune of "Mary Had a Little Lamb."

In the grocery store the other day, I hung at the end of my rope when, suddenly, I heard myself singing, "We're almost finished. Then we're going home." (The tune was unrecognizable. I inherited a wee bit of Mama's patience but none of her tunefulness.)

During her forty years raising children, Mama acquired some unbelievable tricks of the trade. Whenever she wanted to introduce a new food, she would serve it in a small casserole dish and announce, "This is a little something I fixed for your dad. If you'd like to try some, you may take a little on your plate. But you don't have to."

Of course we would all scramble for it and clean the plate. Dad was lucky to get any at all. Then she'd wait a couple of weeks and serve it again, but in her usual large portions. Someone would exclaim, "Wow, zuchinni for everyone!" After that, it became a family favorite.
Hanging on the wall of our kitchen was a chalkboard on which my mother wrote her thought for the day- usually religious, always inspirational. The children in the neighborhood took to cutting through our kitchen on their way to the bus stop in the morning to read it. A few of them, after they went off to college or got married and moved away, would even call from time to time to have it read to them over the phone.

I tried my own thought-for-the-day board. It hung on the fridge- for about a month. I remembered to change the thought- for the first five days. Then the board hung there, with the same thought half-erased, for the next twenty-five days-right next to the behavior charts I had forgotten to keep up with. I've decided to try itr again- when the kids are old enough to read.

Yes, she was an incredible woman, my mother. Though I often feel I fall miserably short when I compare my mothering to hers, it gives me great comfort to know that her gentle spirit is within me somewhere. I'm sure it will make itself known- especially when I introduce zucchini to my children."

Is it possible to sing 24 hours a day?

I thought this was a great remembrance, a great encouragement, and a great inspiration of ideas.

Happy Singing!

Friday, January 25, 2008

A Snapshot into our Marriage...

Does your husband ever steal your food?
Mine does.
I am very precise with the method I use to eat my food.
My sister in law, Ashley works at a bakery. A very good bakery.
She occasionally brings us cookies. Last time she did, there was only one left.
I told Ryan it was mine. He said he would split it with me. I said no.
I either wanted all or none of it. OR I said if he wanted to eat the edges, I could take the middle. I am very generous you see when it comes to cookies.
Ashley comes over every week to babysit. On that particular night, I told her we wouldn't let her in the house without cookies anymore. Because they were so good, you see...even if she was babysitting. No cookies, no entrance. So the week after, she forgot. And the week after that, she forgot. She got tired of us turning her away at the door, so she brought some this time. She came to the door with a large white box. She said to open it. There laid before my eyes were 6 gorgeous cookies ready for my cosumption. But then I saw it. She decided to help out with our arguments. So she decorated three cookies with my name on them. And three cookies with Ryan's name on them. I showed Ryan. He immediately picked up a "Dana" cookie and took a big bite out of it. I picked up a "Ryan" cookie and took a big bite out of it. He returned to his video game. So I did what any cookie lover who is married to an honory husband would do. I finished it and closed the box. Later when we returned to the box for more, he noticed his missing cookie. I ate the rest of mine. Ryan saved his. I felt sick. Ryan still has some left. Hmm. you'll have to excuse me, I have something I have to attend to....

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

There's Something about Bouncing...

that makes everyone feel and act like a kid again.

Here are photos from our outing to Bounce U. For those of you who aren't fortunate enough to know what it is- it is a place where you can pay to jump on huge inflatables for an hour. There is a huge slide, a dodge ball room, a bounce house, and an obstacle course.
Participants: Ryan, me, Anna, Naomi, my sisters, Tara and Emma, and Ryan's brother, Jonathan, and his friend Ethan.
Anna and "Uncle John" a-woo-woo!

I had to practically drag Ryan there. He even brought his book with him because he thought he'd be bored. Think again! He had a really good time playing with everyone, in between breaths!

the boys lined up at the drinking fountain- just like in grade school :)

Anna bouncing -she was so tired by the end but had such a good time!
Naomi sat on someone's lap for the first 1/2 hour or so- she was petrified. But eventually she got into jumping by herself and didn't want to stop.

Tara and Emma after just getting pegged by a plethora of flying balls

Ryan and Naomi going down the "BIG SLIDE"- looks of fear on her face most of the time
Anna and Tara had a much better time on the slide!
Ryan trying to coax Naomi into bouncing while also trying to soothe her
Jonathan and Ethan wrestling


Sunday, January 20, 2008

A 24 hour vacation

Ryan's parents have given us quite the gift...probably the best gift you could give us. They are taking Anna, Naomi, and Abigail overnight every Saturday!!! So, here is what we have done on our "mini vacation"...

-We bought a new washing machine. (Our old one died. We thought we brought it back to life by removing the tiny baby sock that was clogging it up. Slightly recessitated, but death was it's ultimate end.) Ryan left completely disappointed because we spent $800, more than we were anticipating, weren't able to get the top model with all the fanciest gadgets, and got to leave the store with nothing (they're delivering it). It was quite humorous to watch his playful frustration. We ended up spending more because we failed to consider the fact that if we got a front loading washer without getting a pedastal for it to sit on, this 5 foot 10 inch girl and 6 foot 2 inch guy would have to lie on the floor to load the washer!

- We went grocery shopping- so far our day is really exciting! (but at least it's kidless!)

- We came home to make a fun appetizer style dinner. We had cheese fondue, winecoolers, bandito chicken wings, salad, and started to make our own homemade mint chocolate chip ice cream. Ryan and I love food and we love cooking. So we had a good time whipping up some new recipes!

- We ate while watching two episodes of Arrested Development. We are still trying to decide what we think of them. Some of them are absolutely hilarious. Some hilarious parts are not so good. Verdict is still out.

- We finished eating (yes, we tend to eat in spurts!) while watching Rush Hour 3. Ryan laughed hard. I wasn't impressed. We both fell asleep in each others arms while the movie finished.

- We woke up this morning at 8:30. We slept in...finally!!!! Ah! We ate a liesurely breakfast at the table while reading the back of the cereal box and eating ALL of our OWN food. No one was asking us for anything. No one was trying to eat off of our plates. No sippee cups needed to be washed. Peaceful.

- Then I went to email and do blogging, while Ryan watched tv.

- Now we are going to work on our sunroom. We are trying to make it usable in the winter. We bought a super duper cutting edge heater fan that is supposed to heat even uninsullated rooms. Now we are going to put plastic on all the windows and get it all set up to play in! YEAH! This week we will have more space to play in!

- We will then leave for church and come home clean up a little bit more and then our girls will return.

- Yes, we will be glad to see them. Happy to interact with them again as they are all so entertaining and enjoyable. We will miss the serenity of the house as it is when it's just the two of us...but then there is always NEXT WEEK!!!!!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Hi Tech Couple

So Ryan and I were driving the other day and came upon a sight that made us both laugh incredulously...

A Cobalt blue Sonata with a sixty-ish aged couple with a fancy GPS system, a radar scanner right next to it, while both talking, not to each other, but on their seperate phones using their own individual ear pieces! We were hoping to snap a quick photo but for fear that they were videotaping us, refrained.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Ethnic Food Extravaganza!

Uh oh! Laura and I are at it again- another adventure, only this time with food! We decided to have a "Recipes from Books and Movies Party" Yes, I did come up with the name myself (patent pending). Our party consisted of us, the dynamic duo, and our taste testers : Ryan and Joe Bubenik.

A Bio of the Chefs:

Laura- She has travelled the world and experienced many culinary delights. She also has had a thorough experience of washing dishes everyday for 150 people in Sweden. She's fast!

Dana- She has experienced many culinary delights in West County, South County, Mid County, Downtown, and her very own neighborhood South St. Louis City. Oh, the places she has been! Dana, on the otherhand, only does dishes when Laura is in town.

A Bio of the Food Critics:

There is Ryan...who has two basic needs in life, the first being food. The second being left up to your imagination. He has a great talent for identifying various flavors in food.

There is Joe...who grew up with three brothers. Hence, his household has consumed large amounts of food. Some might say he is biased because he doesn't like vegetables.

The Recipes:

Ratatouille- from Ratatouille (French)

Turkish Delight - from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (British...or maybe Turkish!)

Aushuk - from Garlic and Sapphires (Afghan)

Matzo Brei- from Garlic and Sapphires (Jewish)

The Results:

Ratatatouille- ingredients included mushrooms, chicken broth, onions, zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant, garlic, basil, and more

Well, our second food critic didn't even sample this dish. You be the judge as to his bias. The other three of us had mixed reviews. It was not like the ratatouille pictured in the movie. We made real French ratatouille. It was basically like stewed vegetables with spices. Ryan and I thought it definitely needed parmesan cheese. Ryan thought meat should be mixed in as well, but he thinks everything should be mixed with meat.

Turkish Delight- I can't remember what was in it other than gelatin, sugar, powdered sugar, an extract of your choice (we chose maple), and fuschia food coloring.

Just think jello plus maple syrup. Absolutely horrid! See photo below. It looks horrid. It tastes horrid. Well, with one exception, the critic who doesn't like vegetables took a liking to these. What a surprise! ha ha

Aushuk- boiled wonton wrappers filled with loads and loads of garlic and green onions (also known as scallions which we discovered on our shopping expedition) and red pepper flakes. With a yogurt sauce with yet again, more garlic. A meat sauce on top with spices and more garlic.

I think this was the best of the dishes. We all liked it. Being a person who has tasted many authentic homemade Afghan dishes, this came up short in comparison to any of them. But for a bunch of Americans, I guess we didn't do too badly.

Matzo Brei- lots of butter, eggs, matzo crackers, and salt

Very easy. In the book, it was a dish that a small boy and his mother ate as comfort food. That fits. Comfort food or kid food. It was good, just a little bland. The smell of the butter melting and frying in the pan was noted in the book and was brought to life in our kitchen. Surprisingly, butter and titanium combine to make a really good smell. :)

The Rating:

2 Stars
the experience was much more fun than the final product
love the paint color of the kitchen- That alone gives it another star! (just painted it for my bday)

The Photos:

starting with the purple blob and then clockwise: Turkish Delight, Matzo Brei, Ratatouille, fork, and Aushuk.

this is an accurate representation of everyone's face after (or even before) trying Turkish Delight

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Kudos to a Super Aunt!

Aunt Ashley juggling all three girls who were desperately vying for her attention....and she loves it!

Aunt Ashley...they just light up when you say her name!

Reasons to like Aunt Ashley:

a) it started out when they were young- Ashley used to put vanilla in Anna's baby cereal. She thought there was no possible way it could be good without vanilla!

b) She reads to them for a never ending amount of time. This includes reading and re-reading Dr. Seuss, Pat the Bunny, and more.

c) She is the one who started "The Big Tickle". Now Anna frequently asks for a "BIG tickle".

d) They frequently have dance parties in the living room to the Newsboys.

e) She lets them play with her cell phone. Often you will find her ringer turned off, the phone lost, or various other functions activated or unactivated due to this generosity.

f) She is a super great aunt and spends LOTS of time playing and taking good care of her nieces!

Reasons to like Sister Ashley...

a) She makes weekly visits so Ryan and I can go out on a date. How very generous of her! Ashley works full time and goes to school full time but still takes the time to come over. We are always completely amazed by her sacrifice and generosity in spending her free time with our girls so we can have a break for a little while.

b) She still provides boundaries with the girls...even more so then her parents sometimes! She even makes them eat the stems to their brocolli!

c) She helps out from the biggest things all the way down to the littlest things. She spent several hours hanging and rehanging fabric squares on our walls that kept falling. The solution finally ended up including foam, tacks, superglue, fishing wire, and loads and loads of duct tape! Fabric squares are shown in the background of the above photo :) Now she is currently working on refinishing an old window to hang up in our bedroom! Something tells me were going to need a few more rolls of duct tape.

d) She is empathatic, takes action to help others, is passionate, creative, and oh-so-generous!

THANKS AUNT ASHLEY! Love, Anna, Naomi, and Abigail


Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Adventures Galore!

My dear friend Laura, who normally resides in Wisconsin, decided to take a break from the snow and come home to St. Louis for Christmas. So we decided to venture to a far and distant land...for the day. We chose Springfield, Illinois. We started our journey with Bread Company egg souflees and breakfast sandwiches. Then proceeded the LONG 1.5 hour drive :) to the Home of Lincoln. In case you are thinking of making the long trek for is "DANA'S QUICK TRAVEL GUIDE: TIPS FOR TRAVELING SPRINGFIELD IN A SANE (AND NOT SO SANE) MANNER": (there are also some photos included for your enjoyment)

inside a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright
a lamp whose twin just sold for over $1 million

Cozy Dog Drive In Diner- 2 Corn Dogs in love...isn't it pure bliss!?

a family photo with the Lincolns
Dana in front of a room of a 1920s reproduction of an enbalming room
our craziest stop in Springfield!
Laura in front of the Lincoln home downtown Springfield
1) First and foremost, trust no travel guide (except mine!). I ordered one from the Springfield's visitor center. The included map got us lost repeatedly. Now I have no sense of direction as you already might be saying to yourself but Laura has manneuvered her way around many foreign countries and U.S. cities with success. Not in Springfield! As further proof of the horribly constructed map, Our first touristy attempt was to go to the Lincoln Home. Due to our our favorite Springfield cartographers', we ended up at the Governor's Mansion. When we called the museum to tell them we were lost and to ask for directions, they asked us if we were using the travel guide.
2) Springfield has a wonderfully quaint downtown atmosphere. Unfortunately, whoever designed the street layout in Springfield was not aware of this. Therefore, all of the main streets are ONE way! We are talking about a SMALL city, NO TRAFFIC. I am convinced that they only exist to confuse tourists. Just be aware that if you want to go anywhere, you need to walk.
3) Because of it being a SMALL city, parking is either free or runs about 25-50 cents an hour!
4) The area code for Springfield phone numbers is 217. You will need this information if you pick up the Springfield Visitor's Guide and try to call for directions when you are lost. The TOURIST brochure did not include area codes!
5) Lincoln! Lincoln! Lincoln! If you have a fondness for our 16th president, this is the place to go! Our first stop (well, actually, our second stop, after the Governor's mansion) was the Lincoln home. We went on a guided tour through the home that him and his family lived in for the 17 years before they left for the White House. When it was first bought by Lincoln for $1,500, it was only three rooms. Due to winning a big law case, he was able to upgrade and add on an additional 4 rooms. Below is a photo of Laura in front of the house. Just in case you were wondering, good old Abe and his wife Mary slept in seperate beds.
6) If visiting Sprinfield, be warned, you will be unable to avoid death. There are countless museums talking about the civil war and Lincoln's assassination. There is Lincoln's tomb, a huge cemetary, and last, but certainly not least, The Museum of Funeral Customs. We just couldn't resist! Now my instructions to you, Resist! and if you'd still like to be morbid, at least go to the Race Riot museum instead. And if you really can't resist, save your 4 bucks a person and visit where I have discovered you can get a virtual tour of the WHOLE museum for FREE. But keep in mind that if your children are behaving badly in the car, children 5 and under are free. The museum was quite deathly. We were, however, charmed by the ever so eerie gift shop located in the museum. I was very tempted to pick up one of the shirts that had cute death phrases on them! There were also the ever so cheery Christmas ornaments with the name of the museum and the motto: "Death is only the beginning" No, I am not kidding. Oh, and wait, there is something else you must know about this museum...they actually sell memberships! For $45, your whole family can go free for a year and get 10% off of those tshirts I was talking about! Save up so you can buy all your Christmas presents there next year! We got a lot of laughs at that museum. And may I tell you that the curator was anything but lively. Below you will see a photo of me in front of the Enbalming room- exciting huh!? Don't you want to go to Springfield?
7) The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library is FANTASTIC!!!! It opened in 2004 so the whole museum includes various multimedia exhibits. If you attend the shows, you will see ghosts, smoking canons, and your seats will move! One thing I learned that I didn't know before was that Mary Lincoln wrote many letters to her son after the death of Abe. Her son destroyed all of the letters as he claimed Mary had gone mad and didn't want the letters to ever get in the hands of the public. You may also get your photo taken with the Lincoln's themselves! See photo below.
8) Cozy Dog Drive In...another idea we got from the Visitor's Guide. We should have known! We went there for dinner and ordered, what else, a corn dog and fries and onion rings. At first we were suprised by how cheap they were. And then we ate them. They were horrible! We decided we must go somewhere else for dinner- it was THAT bad! The best thing about them is their logo- two corn dogs embracing. See below. I bought a postcard with their logo and made Ryan's Christmas card out of it. Awwww!
9) If you are dressed in sweats, you are very limited to which restaraunts you can go to in Springfield! It was getting late and it was the Saturday before Christmas, either the restarants we wanted to go to were no longer open, too busy, or my attire was not permitted. When we called a restaurant at the Hilton, they said the dress was casual and then I proceeded to tell the nice lady what I was wearing, at which point she said, "Not THAT casual" It was a duh moment but I thought maybe we could sneak in the hotel lobby and get a bite to eat. Not so easy when the restaurant is on the top floor of the Hilton overlooking Springfield! So we settled for the Holy Land Diner. It was a Meditarranean/Lebananese/Greek (I guess in case you couldn't decide!) place with a buffet. Laura enjoyed the food immensely. I enjoyed the ice cream and baklava!
10) Our last stop- the Dana-Thomas House, built by Frank Lloyd Wright. We went on the nightly candlight tour for Christmas. Very pretty. The architecture and layout for the house was amazing. He had quite the knack for creating huge houses with lots of space while keeping the feel of the house incredibly intimate. Stunningly designed. Much better at Christmastime and at night. So there you have it folks.
My visitor guide is complete. I hope you enjoy.
Oh, and one last tip, 11) Get your gas in St. Louis! Much cheaper!