Saturday, July 31, 2010

An Ah-ha Moment

For several months now, Audrey as been beyond obsessed with copying the adults and occasional older children around her. Since she spends most of her time with me, she ends up trying to copy me the most. I had previously tried to waylay her attempts at involvement in whatever I was doing by promising her that I'd come play with her things just as soon as I had finished with mine. Then it hit me: why can't she do whatever I'm doing, with me? Thus my revelation. As long as the task at hand isn't dangerous, time-sensitive, toxic, or way beyond her skill level, I have been letting her do whatever I'm doing. She has been loving it. Loving it!

Two of her favorite big-girl activities are sweeping and cooking with me. I've had to get over myself with the urge to control messes, and accept the fact that some of the best learning activities go hand-in-hand with messes; it's no big deal to make a mess because messes can be cleaned up! I am proud of myself for this concession, and we've had fun with messy and not-so-messy activities since then.

The other night, we were making flat bread to go on the grill, and Audrey was helping...

Audrey positions her dough...

...pat pat pats it out...

...lines up the rolling pin...

...and then whack, whack, whacks it! A new technique, for sure

Studying her favorite part of the whole operation

She really enjoys doing the things I do, from gardening to cooking to working on the computer, and everything in between. Who knows? Maybe I've stumbled on the best way to make her look forward to the chores she'll have one day :)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

It's the Simple Things

Audrey is, on the whole, a sweet-tempered, curious, and loving little girl. We have fun together. The other day, it was raining outside, so we had our snack picnic-style on the living room floor with all the blinds pulled up. She chatted with me about the rain falling down, and we had a good time. I love this girl.

"Mmm, pah-cohn!"

Nom nom nom

Back for more

These sweet little moments are good to keep handy when she's not having a very good day... I treasure them all.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Waste Not, Want Not

During a Texas summer, everything struggles to survive. Not just the flowers, plants, and trees, but the bugs, the birds, the crawfish, everything. It is easy to sit and dream of bountiful gardens, fanciful flowers, and fruitful trees when the weather is damp and cool, but it doesn't take long for all those things to wilt under the big Texas sun.

However, despite the odds, some plants manage to produce a little something for all the trouble. In my gardening dreams, I have veggies and berries and herbs coming out of my ears, and I have more than enough to store up for friends, family, and fruitless winter months. Sadly, what my garden has managed to produce this year has been just enough to supplement the grocery list, not really enough to pack pantries and cupboards. It's been fun working garden veggies in to dinner menus, and watching Audrey pick a strawberry here and there while we explore the garden space, but alas, only the jalapeños have been plentiful enough to can.

That is, at my house, anyway (and this is my first year to have a garden... with a few tweaks over the dormant months, perhaps next year will be better). At my mom's place, however, her peach tree has exploded with fruit- an unpredictable phenomenon that the birds and bugs have not missed- and last week we picked every last tiny Texas peach that the wildlife hadn't already sampled. We sifted through all the (then) rock-hard clingstone peaches, picked out the biggest and best, and guess who got to take them all home? You bet... and happily!

22 pounds of Texas peaches, slightly under-ripe, made it to my house at the end of last week. The first step? Tricking the peaches in to ripening the rest of the way. The solution? A really big paper bag.

After taking the weekend to sit and mature, Monday rolled around, and they smelled like they were ready for business! I started reading up on ways to safely can peaches without a pressure-canner, and found two great recipes in a modern canning book. Batch number one: peach butter. Requirements: eight pounds of peaches. Roger that.

Now, here's a trick that- in theory- is supposed to make peeling peaches a breeze: if you dip a peach in boiling water for about 30 seconds, the peel is supposed to slip right off, easy-peasy. Ha. I sure tried that trick... with all 22 pounds of peaches. You know what? There's always an exception to the rule.

Boiling the little buggers

A dip in an ice bath

The whole operation

SO, after hand-peeling the 8 pounds of peaches called for in the peach butter recipe, I set the rest of the peaches aside (they will become brandied peaches today) and moved on with my operation. I swear, after the peeling is done, the rest of the process is really easy! That is, as long as your hand isn't cramped in the shape of a claw from holding a pairing knife in the same position for almost 2 hours... 

Eight pounds of hand-peeled Texas peaches

A little lemon, a little sugar, a pinch of cinnamon, and some time to simmer over low heat, and voilà! Summery peach love for those dreary Texas winters. That is, if I can resist cracking in to these beauties before then...

Eight pounds of peaches' yield: five 1-pint jars of peach preserves (aka peach butter)

Side Note: I processed these jars using the boiling-water method, and all of them did in fact properly seal, thank you very much. 

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Color Color, Paint Paint

Audrey went through a phase recently where she wasn't really interested in art; she would ask to, say, color, we'd get all the supplies out, and she'd spend said art time handing colors to the closest grown-up and asking them to draw something ("Boo Heart?"). Needless to say, with all the artists in the family and me being one who dabbles myself, this was a disheartening phase. However, we still pulled out the stuff every time she asked, and recently, she has started coloring for herself again. I AM SO EXCITED!

I have always, always loved kid art. Not the scribbles-in-a-coloring-book kind, but the free-hand, imaginative, messy kind. In fact, as a social worker in schools, I'd linger in hallways decorated with art projects, tickled to death at 1st grade interpretations of snowmen, space ships, and who-knows-what. Upon becoming a parent, I received my very own kid artist... and now she's creating her own masterpieces!

She has always loved sidewalk chalk. This past weekend was a special treat: Mimmy and Pappy are in the process of finishing an addition off the dining room, and Audrey was allowed to color with chalk inside since the floors aren't finished yet. How exciting!

Mimmy and Audrey making scribbles

Mimmy shows Audrey how to turn chalk on it's side and make wide scribbles

Last night, we cracked out the finger paints. Some day, we'll make egg tempera and I'll show her how to use a paint brush. For now, we're sticking with the kind that is washable and non-toxic! Besides, she's a hands-on texture girl, and what could be more fun than going Pollock on her huge drawing tablet right before bath time (which was perfect timing)?

Masterpiece #1

Masterpiece #2

Now, what's awesome about these paintings is this: Audrey asked for each color as she painted, so they're completely her creations. I lined up the bottles of red, pink, yellow, orange, and blue finger paints, then sat her on the paper. I asked her what colors she wanted, and she would say, "Boo?" So I'd put a dollop of blue next to her. She'd smash and smear, then look up and say, "Pink?" or "Ornge?" or "Ret?" So here you go. Two finished masterpieces, both original creations without Mama influencing color or composition. Pretty cool. We'll be making this a regular part of our day. 

Friday, July 16, 2010

Lazy Summer Evening

I would love it if Audrey grew up able to appreciate the natural beauty around her, the feeling of growing something planted by one's own hands in lovingly worked soil, the simple pleasures from the fruits of hard work, and in general a natural life. I guess I better make sure I show her how it's done!

An evening visit to the squash and pumpkin patch

Audrey spots a wee summer zucchini

She dives in to retrieve her garden treasure


Showing Mama her prize

Next stop: the strawberry patch


Audrey ate her micro-strawberry faster than the camera could capture, but one thing is for sure: no matter how crabby she might be, a trip outside with Mama and/or Daddy in tow always lifts her spirits, and ours.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Twinkle, Twinkle

A special moment: Audrey sings Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star with Mama.

Audrey Sings Twinkle Twinkle Little Star from Kyle Ware on Vimeo.

Dylan & Brooklynn Visit

Mama and Jackie decided they needed to have a playda... um, I mean, Audrey needed a play date with Dylan and Brooklynn, so the Lightfoots packed up and came down to play with... us...

Brooklynn, Dylan, and Audrey dive in to the toys while the grown-ups get coffee

Audrey sorts beads, and Brooklynn climbs on the yellow digger

Dylan accessorizes

Slightly blurry kids in motion

Everyone heads outside after lunch

Destined to be pals

Our beautiful girls

A last bit of digging, then...

...on to the water feature! C'mon, Audrey!

Everyone loves popsicles in the pool...

...or by the pool


Audrey helps clean up

We love playdates!


Audrey's vocabulary is expanding exponentially, and although I can much more clearly decipher what she's trying to say, many of her words are 'Audrey-isms,' or attempts at getting the point across in an adaptation of a word. I know it won't be long before they're clear and perfect, so in order to savor this special time, I will now try to phonetically record some of my favorite -isms and their translations.

Audrey-isms, 20 Months

Eye-aaah-too: I love you
Bah-fye: Butterfly
Lah Mo: Lawn Mower
Ah Sye: Out Side
Doot: Drink
Wah-lor: Water
Boo-bee-yee: Blueberry
Pano: Pillow
Keey-yee: Kitty
Kah-koh: Cracker
Soo Sahan: Shoes On
Bah-tit: Basket
Sah-pee: Shopping
Gooh Moh-een: Good Morning
Beh-tist: Breakfast
Fye-pace: Fireplace
Bah Toof: Brush Teeth (and sometimes Toothbrush)
Hah-noh: Hello
Wah-men-non: Watermelon
Pee Balor: Peanut Butter
Heh-hahk: Hedgehog
Ko-kama: Koala
Eh-fan: Elephant
Bips: Grapes
Dah-yee: Dolly

I could go on and on for pages with the words she says clearly, but it's always more fun to try and figure out what she's trying to say in her own language. Ironically, the practice I get in translating Audrey hasn't made me any better at understanding other toddlers. I still have to look to the little's parents when a garbled message has been spoken to me and ask, "Did he just say I have bees in my hair?" I have, however, become more patient, more open-minded, and a little more bilingual. I love my little Crumb Snatcher.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Birthday... Kinda

I thought I would post a commemorative blog today to mark the one-year anniversary of this blog. Yes, I'm blogging about blogging. It just seemed noteworthy; there is a years' worth of pictures, tales, and tear-jerkers here, and all because I followed a whim one year ago today.

I actually had no idea that this little milestone was coming up... I was just going back through past postings (a virtual walk down memory lane, if you will), and before I knew it I had worked my way back to the very first post, which was July 13th. Hmmm.

It sure is a reality check to revisit the goings-on of yesteryear. Some of the things that were breaking news then seem today like they were just a few weeks ago. Also, um, where did all of Audrey's hair come from? Wow! That girl is wild and woolly... just like her mama... ha! I remember when those tiny little micro-clips would hold her hair...

Anyway, here's to technology and the developments that allow us all to step beyond cave walls, family bibles, and aging memories to record family history. Cheers.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Feeling Nostalgic

Yesterday, we received the culmination of weeks of phone calls, arrangements, and headaches in the form of 4 boxes of freight from Trenton, Missouri. Delivered in two loads from an eighteen-wheeler that couldn't come down our driveway, the eclectic mix of linens, furniture, kid toys, and old photographs sent by my Grandma Greiner were the result of purging as she prepares to move from her home in her childhood neighborhood to a retirement complex in Arizona, closer to two of her daughters.

It was surreal to watch my daughter inspect and play with toys that I had played with when I was her size, that my mom had played with when she was her size, and that my Grandmother had played with when she was Audrey's size. There is something to be said about never, ever throwing anything away.

When I opened the boxes, I was hit in the face with the smell of old fabric, mothballs, and the odd off-brand fabric softener from Hy-Vee that Grandma always uses... in other words, I was immediately sent back to the home that she's occupied since I was maybe in kindergarten (and really the only home I associate with her).

As I unpacked the antique baby doll buggy, the doll highchair, the boxes and bags and odds and ends, and really, the memories, I started remembering all the times I had encountered each thing in her home. Even now, after the excitement of unpacking the shipped treasures has ramped down, I still feel nostalgic... and a little sad. At no other time in the recent past have I felt so acutely the passage of time. It is almost like I can feel myself aging, my parents aging, and time slipping away.

It was just about two years ago that my Grandfather passed away. Now my Grandmother is moving to a retirement village, and the context in which she has always existed in my mind's eye is changing completely. Honestly, I can still remember when my grandparents still had color in their hair, could get down on the ground to play with their grandchildren, and were still pretty much the heads of the family. As pictures of them 10, 15, and 20 years ago slipped through my mind, I couldn't help but notice the gray in my mom's hair while she flipped through the box of old photos tucked in with the furniture.

Time really does fly. It's a beautiful and a scary thing. Today, I choose to focus on the beautiful.

Yellow Guy in the highchair that now belongs to a 4th generation

Audrey sitting in the little red chair that was my Grandpa's when he was a boy

Inspecting the baby buggy that belonged to her Great Grandmother when she was a girl

I remember when it seemed this big to me

Switching the canopy back and forth

Stuffing Yellow Guy inside...

...and off she goes!

Almost as exciting as the buggy and the chairs: the boxes they came in

Exploring the skylight

Reminiscent of that wack-a-mole game

Having a rooftop chat

It is a bittersweet thing, this Circle of Life... I guess, when you become melancholy and start pondering its ebb and flow, you can either become depressed by it, or choose to celebrate the memories and experiences that are provided by it. Here's to our family, our history, and it's continuation.