Friday, February 27, 2015

See Crayon?

You have probably had a little too much of the Dick & Jane books when the only caption you can come up with for this shot is, "Oh look! Look and see! See crayon? See crayon roll? See crayon roll on the floor? Silly silly crayon."

Monday, February 23, 2015

Boredom Buster for 4 Year-Old Chefs

I have had it with Winter, I have had it with snow, I have had it with Windchillville, I have had it with Frozen, I have had it with February, I just want it to be June for the rest of the year.

The cold actually does bother me.

But no, that's not the way this game works. 

So with all this pent up energy pining away for Spring, some days we just gotta, you know, Let it go. (resorting to lane redundant cliches now.) 

So Jimmy. He's so easy going and relaxed, but cabin fever gets him too. And since there's not a vaccine for that, it has to run it's course and the best thing you can do is try and keep him stable. We were both kind of having an "off" day. Since playing in the sunshine (which we have vague memories of) wasn't an option, and since I had nearly a bushel of honey crisp apples going bad (which is a felony, right?), I thought well, why not let him have a little fun, miniature chef boy that he is? 

So I pulled out all the ingredients that would go good with apples and I let him take it away. 

He loved it. We all got to enjoy it. He's quite a chef. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Moist, Delicious, Whole Wheat Crazy Cake

...And how to make the best birthday cake ever for a little brother.

{scroll below for recipe}

Like most people, we love birthday cakes at our house. We also love birthday boys that come in the form of adorable 2 year-olds such as Colton.

Jimmy, being a lover of the kitchen and a huge fan of his little brother, was eager to make Colton's birthday cake himself. So I let him, and I managed to grab a few shots of the process in my poorly lit kitchen.
Step 1.
Mix together some crazy cake (recipe below), using your favorite whisk.

Step 2.
Keep mixing because it's a lot of fun.

Step 3.
Let your mom use some of the batter for cupcakes in cool football papers.

Step 4.
Bake it. Cool it. Make it into crumbs. If you wish to feel like a grown up chef with mad chopping skills, maybe your mom will allow you to use a butter knife.

Step 5. Cover the bottom of the platter your mom provides with cake crumbs, and then fill the tractor trailer heaping full with more crumbs. It looks like dirt. For fun, maybe your mom will let you scoop some of her leftover famous peanut butter frosting in with the crumbs (this is important: don't let her see you sneak tastes; somebody has to do it!). And if you ask nicely, maybe she will let you take hot fudge and drizzle it all over the top to make it look like mud. This is the best birthday cake ever.
Happy Birthday, Colton!


Moist, Delicious, Whole Wheat Crazy Cake

3 cups whole wheat flour 
1/2 cup cocoa
1 3/4 cups pure cane sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt 
3 tablespoons vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 cup apple sauce
2 cups water

Whisk dry ingredients together. Make 3 depressions in flour mixture. Measure vinegar in one, vanilla in the other, and apple sauce in the third. Pour water over all. Mix together. Pour in greased 9x13" pan (or 16 cupcakes) for 30-35 minutes (or 20-25 for cupcakes), or until tooth pick comes out clean.

Monday, February 16, 2015

My Little Camera Men

Silly boys, making me feel laughingly proud to see the way they copy me. They bring a whole new element to one of my favorite photography rules....

It's not the camera, 
but who's behind the camera. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

How to Handle the Tantrums

I typically hesitate to speak of parenting techniques much, considering I'm still figuring this whole mom thing out, and I only have four years of experience under my belt. I'm not sure what exactly qualifies one to become an expert in the raising of children, since the longer I do this with the two I have, the more I realize I have so much to learn. However, when I discover something that works and makes sense, I want to share it with my fellow-mom friends because we're all kind of in this thing together, this imperfect parenting thing in an imperfect world with our beautiful imperfect children... 

I have this child. We call him Colton... Mostly because that's actually his name. He's a spirited one, that boy. Like a young colt, in fact. Energetic, vivacious, a strong-willed mind of his own. He's two years old now, but he's always been what one might label "challenging". He's got a big personality with a lot of determination that can tend to boil over into a big rebellious and stubborn mess. At least, those are the negative terms I come up with for him when I'm completely exasperated by his behavior.

Sometimes he goes through these phases where he screams a lot. He only communicates with tantrums. The kind that grate on your eardrums... and nerves. Constantly. I. Can. Not. Tolerate. Screaming.

So then my lovely friend, Mom Guilt, moves in because I just can't stand to be anywhere near the child.

But I have learned to realize when there's a disconnect between he and I. It is imperative to take everything that's on my life's plate and set it aside, because this boy needs me. 
His most unlovable behavior is a plea for love, attention, validation, assurance, and security. 
I'm his mom, I am the only person who can provide that for him.

So I get down on his short little level and I look directly into his eyes. I use words, calmly, and encourage him to do the same. I smile reassuringly. I give hugs, a lot of them. I ask him what is wrong, and I show sympathy for his many afflictions whether real or imagined. I scoop him up and bring him to the kitchen with me; I give him a few random ingredients along with a bowl and a spoon and let him think he's helping me as he's doing his thing and I'm doing mine, right beside him.

All of a sudden our world is peaceful again. He's smiling and calm. He's trying so very hard to use words and construct sentences because he really wants me to know what he thinks. And I listen. He feels useful and important. He's safe. He realizes that I'm not going to abandon him and leave him feeling lost in this big busy world that's towering over him. And as I make it a habit throughout my day to take time for him, the tantrums become nonexistent and his communication skills hit a new high.

Little ones don't have behavioral problems as much as we like to think, they have small-human problems. They very easily succumb to panic, fear and insecurity because their little hearts are so delicate. They can only grasp a very minimal reality of life and what is going on around them. Meanwhile their body and cognitive development is growing and changing at such a rapid rate. Pain confuses them, yet they experience it frequently as they clumsily discover the laws of gravity. They often have to suffer through brand new teeth slicing through swollen and painful gums, and it makes no sense to them. But what really takes the cake is there's this huge communication barrier between them and their mommy and daddy--the very people who are their complete life and love and security. Their desires, needs, pain and emotions all frustrate them, and they don't know how to calmly communicate them. It's no wonder they cry and scream and behave in all sorts of ugly manners.

Some of the experts like to tell young moms like me to train my babies to sleep, to teach them what "no" means, to get them on schedules so they can learn about self-discipline and quiet play, and tantrums, oh my goodness, the tantrums! those are bad, and if your child should throw one you should be embarrassed and ashamed of yourself. But I say no. How about we show them love and comfort. Let them experience the gift of selfless love so as they mature they are better equipped to give it. How about we nurture those big fiery spirits because God knows we need more gigantic hearts with strong wills to change the world. How about we be that safe space that shows love and teaches boundaries in a way they can understand. And when they scream and express frustration? How about we show them that it's okay... they're safe, and loved.

Kids aren't supposed to be convenient, they are supposed to be loved and nurtured and cherished. A child should never be given the opportunity to doubt that.

Your right hand has held me up,
Your gentleness has made me great.Psalm 18:35

Friday, February 13, 2015

What Lifelong Relationships Consist Of

It's Valentine's Day this weekend. It's reds and pinks, fluffy teddy bears, roses, hugs and kisses, and lots and lots of hearts every where. Romantic.

My man and I have been together for going on seven years now. Seven years of thick and thin. Turns out, love is not always reds and pinks and fluffy teddy bears and sexy cologne. In seven years of loving this man I have realized there's a trick to this lifetime commitment thing, and that is...

There are no tips and tricks.

Deep stuff right there.

But there are no twenty steps to guarantee a fulfilled relationship at the end of it. There is no giving 90/10, 80/20, or even 50/50.

Lifelong relationships consist of two very imperfect human beings waking up every morning 100,000,000% unconditionally committed to loving and forgiving and accepting the other. It is understanding that there will be flaws, disagreements, misunderstandings, and hurts unintentionally inflicted along the way.

Giving up is never an option.

At the end of the day, we live to know and love each other's heart. To accept, treasure and respect the person we are committed to.

It's not about what we can get out of our relationship, but what we can give.

Coming up on seven years later, together, pouring ourselves into each other, loving, forgiving, accepting, respecting one another unconditionally, our cup still runs over.

He's my Valentine. Today. And tomorrow, and next week, and next year, and when we're old and gray. I'll be by his side and he by mine. Always. Because that's what you do when you love someone.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Zhao Family

My amazing friend Rachel packed her little family up and made a miniature road trip to come and visit me. We had the best of times, the most epic of parenting experiences and a photoshoot in that blissfully short overnight time together. It's amazing how beautiful and lovely they remain in spite of a baby who can cut two teeth in the span of a few very long nighttime hours, and a lack of naps. Seriously, this mommy and daddy are an inspiration to me. 

Little Miss Angeline 

 Sweet Baby River

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Colton | 2 Years Old!

Oh little Colton Samuel. Two years old already. I know this is what every mother says, but seriously, How the heck did that happen? It makes me laugh when I ask you how old you are... You stomp your little foot down for emphasis, hold up one finger, cock an eye brow and say with a twinkle in your eye, "Four."

You have grown up so much lately. You talk like a little orator. Communication is highly important in your book, which is one of the gazillion ways you take after your daddy. Your full sentences and more recently your careful attention to pronunciation surprise me. In fact, just this morning you were requesting your usual, "An 'anna'? A 'hannah'? A 'Ba. Na. Na.' Banana. Can I have a banana?" And then when I gave one to you (and one for you to give to Jimmy, because that's how you like your bananas), you ran off calling over your shoulder, "Tay tou so much!" I don't think I have really made an effort to teach you manners, you just seem to know. Usually.

You are terrified of the vacuum cleaner, in a highly adrenalized sort of way, which means you thoroughly love it. 

You are nearly the size of Jimmy and can almost share clothes.

You don't really watch movies, unless it's "'Inions'" (Despicable Me).

You love music. Love, love, love. You sing along to so many songs and it's ridiculously cute.

You love animals and babies. And baby animals. Sometimes you make me swaddle your stuffed puppy so you can cuddle him.

You are just so squishy and loving and cuddly and adoring. Bed time is rough on you because it doesn't matter how tired you are, you don't want to miss anything. You just want to hang out with Mom and Dad and cuddle under a blanket on the couch.

According to the experts, you would probably be best described as "strong willed". You are stubborn, you are fiery, you are vivacious... You are spirited. The heart and soul you possess is a beautiful thing. My hope and prayer to God is that you never lose it. Children with passion like yours have the potential to grow up and impact the world. Sometimes I know I mess it all up and I don't nurture the little person that you are the way I should. The thing that never ceases to amaze me is how readily you forgive. You don't care that I make lots of mistakes along the way, as you would say, you "just need more 'wuv'." And so love is what your daddy and I do our best to give you. Every day, every night. As you grow older the little person emerging through the babyness makes my heart happy to know that you are becoming who Jesus made you to be. Like your big brother, you have a ginormous heart.

You have taught me so much, my cute little son. You are the child and I am the parent, yet somehow I think the lessons I have learned from being your mom have made the biggest impact on my life ever. In your own, unassuming way, you have enlightened my heart, taught me more about grace, and somehow with you in my life some of the biggest hurts have been healed. You are such a precious gift.

I love you, little boy. Forever.