31 May 2012

Tips for Traveling With Babies and Toddlers–Part II

If you missed Part I of this series, check it out here.

Part II: Day of Travel

1. Wake up early. No matter how well-prepared you think you are… don't be overconfident and think you can get out of the house in forty-five minutes. Give yourself LOTS of extra time. You’ll always need it.

2. Check your flight status online before you head to the airport. Cancellations or delays are rare, but it’s worth checking.

3. Dress that baby like a baby and put her in a footie sleeper already! I know that your little peanut looks so cute in that Tommy Hilfiger mini skirt with leggings, baby Uggs, sweater-set and matching bows, but do you really want to be crawling around on the floor finding all those outfit pieces after eleven hours of in-flight squirming? No, you don't. Put her in a footie sleeper and be done with it. If you manage to loose that, then you really have issues and maybe you shouldn't be flying with children in the first place.

4. When you check in, if you have a child under the age of two, ask for a seat with a bassinet (again). If they say they have none available, pitch a fit. If they still insist on putting you in a regular aisle, then get nice again and ask if they could possibly block an extra seat closeby so that you have a bit more room for your squirmy little one. Beg, cry and plead for this, especially if it's a longer flight. Having one extra seat makes an incredible difference and it's worth the hassle and the possible embarrassment of causing a scene. If the check-in agent still says no, then do the same routine with the gate agent when you get the the boarding gate (assuming it's a different staff person). Beg, cry and plead again. Maybe it'll work the second time. I’ve gotten extra seats (that we didn’t pay for) many times because I’m bold and unrelenting on this issue. If you still fail and you find the three of you packed into two seats behind some chronic seat-leaner-backers and you feel like you may need to breath into that air sickness bag just so you don't hyperventilate, then close your eyes and thank God for the privilege of traveling in the first place. You’ll make it through, I promise. I’ve been there too and I lived to tell the story.

5. Put on your patience and stop worrying about what other people think. Traveling with kiddos is much more complicated than traveling without. It takes more time, it takes more stuff and it takes more skill. So give yourself grace and just ignore those who are rolling their eyes at you and loudly sighing as they speed past your caravan of tots, blankies and diaper bags.

6. Bend the strict security rules. Okay, maybe I don't mean it that way. What I mean by that is don’t stress the security rules and line. You know the 2 oz. rule and the 'all liquid must fit in a quart ziploc bag rule'? Well, truth is, if you're traveling with wee ones, the rules are a bit bendy. I regularly take a clear zipper case full of various liquids and gels that is waaaay bigger than a quart bag through security. No one has ever said a thing. I have also gone through with an arm-full of applesauce cups, baby food, full size adult water bottles, kiddo sippie cups and baby bottles all full of various liquids. They just ask you if it's for the baby, you say yes, and then they do some sort of litmus paper test on them and send you through. Or make you take a swig. Or just wave you on past. It can take a little extra time, but you're a Mom loaded down with baby gear and generally you are offered some mercy when it comes to rules. So accept the offering and don't stress so much about ounces and baggies, gels and liquids.

7. When settling into your seats, empty the entire clan's seat-back pockets except for one movie-guide, maybe one Duty-Free catalog if your munchkins are into ripping pages out of magazines (or if you like goggling at all those silly gadgets they have for sale in there), one safety card if your little one likes 'comics' and an air sickness bag just in case. Put the rest of the various booklets and periodicals in the overhead compartment. Then load the pockets with sippie cups, diapers and wipes, stuffed monkeys, pacifiers and the kiddos' shoes, which they probably kicked off the second you found your seats. It's a great way to stay organized on a plane, and it may just let you feel a little more in control of things. No one really wants to read that magazine full of articles about five-star restaurants in Sydney anyway.

8. Ask for extra blankets. When little girlie falls asleep with two blankets under her and none on top, you are not going to want to risk waking her up by trying to slyly sneak them out from under her to put on top to keep her cozy. Just ask for a couple extras the first chance you get when boarding and you'll be ready to keep 'em nice and toasty or to make them a fun fort between the seats after the midnight dinner spikes their blood sugar and they begin to bounce around. It never hurts, is all I'm sayin'.

9. Try to prevent little ears from painful popping on the plane. Don’t freak out about this. My children have never had problems with their ears during take off or landing (due to the change in pressure), but it’s good to take precautions anyway. If you have a nursing babe, then try to nurse him/her at these times. Bottles and pacifiers also work for little ones. Sippy cups, suckers, gum or candy work for bigger kids. The idea is to keep them swallowing, helping their little ears stay clear and adjusted.

10. Utilize the floor for sleeping . When the time comes to bed down for the night and the chairs aren’t cuttin’ it, try tucking a kiddo into ‘bed’ down on the floor. It may seem scary down there by all those feet, but my son usually prefers to sleep on the floor than flopping around in a chair half sitting up. Talk to him ahead of time about it and arrange an appealing space for him before tucking him in. With any luck, he’ll fall asleep on the floor, your girlie will fall asleep in her Daddy’s arms and that will leave you with three seats for you to stretch out on (true story). Glory Halleluiah!

11. Always ask for two drinks. When the in-flight staff (what is the P.C. term nowadays, anyway?!) roll their big cart on by and ask "Can I get you something to drink?" ask for two somethings. The last thing we need is super-traveling-parent getting dehydrated on the flight. So enjoy the hospitality and drink you a Ginger Ale or an orange juice or whatever you fancy... but ask for a water too. They won’t tell you no and you’ll feel like you’re getting your money’s worth. Well, almost.

12. Don't drink hot stuff. Unless, that is, you are CERTAIN that there is no chance in *bleep* that your darling child could grab it in your tiny confined space. You don't want coffee on your pants and you certainly don't want your child getting burned. So get your caffeine fix with a cold beverage if you must, not a hot one. I know it’s a sacrifice tired Mamas, but it’s worth it.

13. Get up out of your chair. Don't feel like you're chained to your seat. Take your kiddos on a walk around the plane. Yes, you'll have to say "sorry" and "excuse us" fourteen thousand times and you'll have to do that awkward bending-down-ready-to-catch-wobbly-walker-who-is-about-to-smack-his-head-into-the-sleeping-dude's-arm-rest for awhile, but your babe will be so much happier exploring a bit and eating dropped pretzels off the floor along the way.

14. Take a hike to the back of the plane. As long as it's not almost meal-service time, the airline staff usually don’t mind if you bring your bouncy kids to the back of the plane where there is often a good thirty-square feet of open space. They might even give you an extra dinner roll and you can ask all kinds of probing questions to the staff about the fascinating life of international airline flight staff. It's really a win-win for everyone involved.

15. Stand in the aisle. If the kiddos seemed cramped for space in their seats or if you have a baby without her own seat but you don’t feel like taking another hike with them, get your butt out of the seat and just stand in the aisle and let the little one(s) claim the space for a little while. It's amazing how happy babies are when they can sit/stand/climb in a seat all by themselves. You might feel like the sixty passengers in rows 20-45 are all staring at you as you are standing around staring at them, but they're not. Trust me. Or maybe they are, but it doesn’t matter what they think (see #5).

16. Wait out the disembarkment. If you're not in a hurry to catch another flight, just sit (or stand) tight in your seats until everyone else has gotten off the plane. It’s much easier to maneuver children, too-many bags and stuffed monkeys down that narrow aisle if no one is burning holes in the back of your neck with their eyes and cursing you for going too slow. Also, if you can get your toddler to wave at and say 'byebye' to each passenger as they pass you, you can happily kill twenty minutes of possible layover time and get a whole-lotta smiles from weary exiting passengers in the meantime. Another win-win.

17. Don't expect help. My experience traveling with tots is that people are much more likely to offer open stares or an 'I am pretending like I don’t see you’ face than they are willing to offer a helping hand with your traveling circus. I hope that is not true for you, but if it is… you'll be fine without them. Just don’t expect help and then if someone does help you out you’ll be so pleased! But either way, when it's all said and done you'll feel like you've conquered the world.

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18. Remember this flying with tots motto:

“Failure is not an option.”

This is what I chanted to myself when I traveled to and from the U.S. alone with my two kiddos (aged 10 months and 2 years). The fact is… no matter how difficult the journey may be… you’re still going to reach your destination and that is the goal. No one is going to kick you off the plane if your baby pukes and cries the entire time. You’ll get where you’re going no matter what. Failure won’t happen, it’s truly not an option! So think of it as an adventure and make the best of it.

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The rest of the series…

Part III: Upon Arrival

Part IV: Favorite Products and Websites

29 May 2012

Tips for Traveling With Babies and Toddlers–Part I

Frequent fliers, we are. There is no denying it. 

And for the first time I've compiled a list of travel tips. People ask me regularly for my advice for traveling with tots. And I am always more than happy to share my experiences and tips whether you asked or not. So here is what I have learned since I started traveling internationally ten years ago.  And more importantly, what I have learned since I started traveling with babes and then toddlers, over four years ago.

Part I: Preparing for Travel

1. Call the airline ahead of time and request a bassinet for a child under two.  This doesn't always work, but it doesn't hurt to try. I don’t care if your eighteen month old is forty pounds and twice as long as the bed that they come and hook into the wall in front of you after takeoff. If he/she is too big for the bassinet, it doesn’t matter… what you actually want is the extra space that comes with a seat at the bulkhead. (The bulkhead is the wall in front of the front row of seats in each section of the airplane). The seats in this row give you and child room to move around. Stand. Climb. Play. It makes a big difference. IMPORTANT NOTE: Please understand that it might be helpful to be a bit pushy on the phone. Just sayin’. The nice agent says that bassinets are not available? Ask again. He says you can’t reserve one until you get to the airport? Then ask him to put a note on your ticket. She says no way sista’? Then call back the next day and ask someone else.

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2. Call the airline ahead of time and request a 'Child Meal' for every little person you're traveling with. The food is usually a little more kid friendly but the BEST part is that they deliver the special meals before the regular meals, so you'll have time to feed your tots and clear their trays before the regular meals come rolling down the aisle and you eat yourself. This greatly reduces the meal-time stress that can be caused by three seats, three seat-back trays, four people, four meal trays and no extra space. That scenario is recipe for disaster. Ordering child meals makes it much more manageable.

3. Call the airline again to confirm your request for a bassinet and for child meals. I try to call once or twice to double check, cause frankly, I just don't always trust what they tell me.

4. Load up on digi-stuff.  If your child is prone to sitting on her rear when there are cartoons flashing in front of her face, then upload her favorite TV shows or movies on your iPod, phone, tablet, or whatever other techy device is currently in style and charge it up good.  I know you're like me and probably not all that into letting your kids watch endless hours of movies and TV, but sit down and let me tell you somethin'.  Are you sitting?  Okay.  YOU'RE ABOUT TO PUT YOUR KIDDOS ON A METAL TUBE FLYING THROUGH THE SKY FOR HALF A DAY!! Do you get it? It's not going to be a normal day so let the rules fly out those fancy airport automatic doors as you enter through them.  It will be necessary to do whatever it takes to keep your sanity.  If that means your son wants to watch Finding Nemo three times in a row before he feels tired enough to close his eyes and sleep the rest of the flight, then let him (true story). And rejoice that he's not terrorizing the guy behind you (who lacks a sense of humor) by tossing stuffed monkey over the seat two dozen times and then poking his head back there to ask for help retrieving it two dozen times (also true story.)

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5.  Bring kid friendly head phones.  You'll need these so your kid can hear the movies on your gadget or on that sent-from-heaven on-demand entertainment screen installed in front of you on the airplane.  Airplanes often only hand out ear-buds, which are difficult (or downright impossible) for little ones to keep in their ears.

6. Snacks! Does your toddler love eating (and dropping and smooshing) fishy crackers, raisins and Cheerios as much as mine? Okay then. Pack lots and hand them out liberally.

7. Leave (most of) the activities at home.  I realize this may be a bit controversial, but hear me out. Many times, nervous traveling Moms think we have to pack a terrifyingly heavy backpack with loads of activities to keep our babies and toddlers busy during flights and layovers.  But my experience has proven otherwise.  The way I see it, any given activity -no matter how fancy or fascinating or new it may be- will only buy you two to five minutes (a bit longer if your kids are older).  If kiddo knows that there are a zillion other goodies in the mystery bag, they are going to fly through those activities before the wheels have even left the runway.  And then you have a fussy child who is angry that the bag-o-fun is empty, even if they are virtually buried in new markers, stamp kits, shiny Hot-Wheels, ponies with hairbrushes and sticker books.  BUT, I have learned that if I offer NO activities, the children are content with stranger’s purses, empty McDonald's bags, big glass windows overlooking runways and water fountains (layovers) and straw wrappers, movie guides, tray tables and empty water bottles (on the plane).  This last time I did pack one surprise gift for each of the kids which was fun and did keep them occupied for a little while but they didn’t get fussy later cause they knew they were just getting one special thing. But I have definitely stopped trying to pack stuff to keep them busy the whole time.  I actually do keep a couple extra things tucked away in my bag in case of extreme emergency, but most often I never even pull them out. Try it. You may be surprised.

8. Dedicate one carry-on suitcase to extra clothing and other over-night essentials.  Think of it as your personal insurance policy.  I promise you that if you pack this bag and are prepared for an unexpected delay, then there is a good chance that the delay will not happen.  But if you DO NOT pack this 'just in case' bag, chances are good that 'bad weather' (puh-leaaaase) will delay your flight and you'll be stuck overnight in a random hotel (or worse, on the airport floor) with no extra clothes, no toothpaste, no favorite hairbrush or *gasp*... no taggie blanket.  The extra changes of clothes will also come in handy when:
    A. Your infant daughter projectile vomits all over herself, yourself, her big brother and your husband upon landing at a stopover airport. It’s happened.  
    B. The airline looses your luggage and doesn't deliver it for several days upon arrival at your vacation destination. You know this happens too!
    C. You just need a little reminder of your well-preparedness to retain a scrap of sanity.

Don't risk it people.  It's not worth it. Just pack the bag, expect the worse and thank me later.

8. Dress for a blizzard.  I don't know about you, but I think those airplane cabins can get pretty frigid on a long flight.  Bring along a sweatshirt, socks, and even a scarf if you're particularly cold-blooded like me.  Freezing your bootie off for eight long hours can take the whole flying-with-toddlers experience from bearable to torturous. Obviously, pack warm gear for your kiddos too.

9. Special note to mothers – What NOT to pack:  Ladies, if you have a child under the age two, it’s time to stop living in a dream world. You must stop packing that cheesy Amish romance novel for the airplane and actually believing that you'll have a chance to sit back, relax, and leisurely read a few chapters en-route.  If you pack that book, then what you are experiencing is called DENIAL.  Friend, your days of reading novels on airplanes is a distant memory, face it.  Save the space in your bag and save your disappointment at having to unpack it upon arrival realizing you hauled it through three airports and on and off three airplanes and never had a chance to read even the prologue.  Just use the space in the carry-on for extra baby wipes, cause you know you're going to need those after the stewardess kindly gives your children chocolate candy bars, thinking she was being helpful.

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Keep reading, if you like…

Part II: Day of Travel

Part III: Upon Arrival

Part IV: Favorite Products and Websites

28 May 2012

A Taste of Home

A couple days before we flew out of the U.S. to return to Africa we had a fun day at The Farm with Mike’s cuz and family. It was Maple Syrup Day! I’d heard about The Farm for years and was so excited to go see it for myself.

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It was such a relaxing way to spend the day before the madness of traveling and settling back into life on the other side of the globe began. Who doesn’t love sitting dry on a porch chatting and laughing while the rain drops all around you? And standing by a fire while maple syrup boils away? And watching boys swing on rope swings from the rafters of an old barn? And feeding tiny horses treats? And eating way too much fabulous food?

Yeah. It was nice.

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Sweet N especially loved opening and closing the door of the wonderfully old and beautiful home. Not sure why, but she was happy!

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It was chilly and rainy but I appreciated it, knowing we wouldn’t have weather like that for awhile. Boy, was I right?! What does chilly and rainy even feel like? I can’t remember…

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Sweet moments. But ooooh, that fleece looks warm…

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And by afternoon…

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…the maple syrup over the fire outside had boiled down to the perfect consistency and it was bottled up for us to take home as souvenirs. Look how it’s all wet from the rain! It refreshes me just looking at it. Actually, if I’m honest, seeing the drops of rain on those cute lil’ bottles actually reminds me of the drops of sweat that have been dripping down my body all day long. But you probably didn’t want to hear that part…

Anyway, I happily packed it up and brought it back to Africa with us, knowing that it would be a nice treat for some weekend morning.

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And a treat it was! We shared it with a friend in our warm and sunny home half-way around the globe a month later. It’s the small things…

A taste of home.

27 May 2012

Sisterly Love?

I got a most interesting email from my Mom and Dad the other day. They had found a couple old letters from my sister and I’s childhood years, scanned them and sent them to me.

Now, my sister and I are close in age (only 21 months apart… God bless my Mama!) and we have had a close relationship during most of our lives. I do remember some rough patches in childhood and these funny letters are proof of that.

First of all, I love that I drug out the typewriter to compose this very important (?!) note. And second of all, I must have had  a love for parenthesis from a very young age. Ha!

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Dear Mommy and Daddy,
I love you very much. I am very glad that you are my Mommy and Daddy. And I am not glad that Sarah is my sister. But without her I would not be so smart. But most of the time (you know what I’m going to say) we fight. But I still love her inside my heart. 

                                                                   Love,
                                                                        Suzanne

But I wasn’t the only one who took time to pen a letter to my parents regarding my sister. Sarah had done the same, probably before I did. What is it with us writing serious letters to our parents?…

1989, she would have been 9 years old and I would have been almost 8.

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Dear Mom and Dad,
Hello, It’s about Suzanne, not surprised are ya. Suzanne is getting on my nerves. Remember when I said “I like her, but we can take her back now”, that is what I feel like saying now. Today Suzanne is making me clean up, it feels aful. That’s the only reson I took the time to wright this letter.
                                                                     Love ya!! bye
                                                                              Love,
                                                                              Sarah
When I was born and my parents brought me home from the hospital my sister did actually tell them “You can take her back now.” Brutal (and so cute), huh? And what was this about me making her clean up? Could I have possibly been bossing around my big sister? I don’t know! I wouldn’t put it past myself. Sorry sister!

In any case, we got a big kick out of these and I’m encouraged that even if my kids clearly express dislike of each other during their childhood years, that chances are it won't last.

I love my family…

24 May 2012

A Trip to the Store–Reprise

I wish there weren’t a reprise to this previous post. But there is.

Just now I walked to the store. No kiddos this time. I have had a shopping list for awhile but have been avoiding going. For one thing, there never seems to be a good time and I rarely have the car in the mornings, which is generally the only time I energy for much of anything. For another it got really humid around here. Usually the humidity stays at bay at the beginning of summer when the temps are 110+. But for some unknown reason, the humidity showed up early instead of waiting until the temps go down to around 100 at the end of summer. Praise Jesus in all things, right?! Right Suz?! Right?! Right. Praise Jesus. Needless to say, it’s awful sweaty in these parts and everything seems to take four times as much energy as it should.

BUT I walked to the store anyhow cause frankly, I need to feed my family.

I chose today to go past the store I wrote about several days ago… where the owner sprayed deodorant all over himself and then watched me fall down the stairs. That man isn’t my favorite (although Jesus loves him and I should try harder) and I walked past his store today to shop at another store where the men are a bit more honest and respectful.

I exchanged some friendly greetings with the guys at this other shop down the street, purchased a few things and walked back towards the deodorant man’s store. Stores aren’t very well stocked in my part of town and most shops don’t carry everything I need. I reluctantly had to return to deodorant man’s store to (almost) finish my list.

He was standing by the door when I walked in and watched me set my shopping bag (from the other store) down on the floor while I looked around. He looked at me like “What’s that?!” and I motioned toward the bag and replied “It’s from another store’ (in Arabic of course). I smiled and moved on, thinking that the man must know and understand that it’s a free society and I can shop wherever I darn well please. He should be lucky he gets my business at all, considering his usual level of rudeness.

Anyway, as I walked away he stood over my bag, blatantly peering inside to see what I dared to have purchased at another store. And THEN he kicked the bag a few times trying to get a better view its contents until the whole bag FELL OVER, including the two dozen eggs I had placed inside. I came racing over, in disbelief that he would kick my groceries out of curiosity/jealousy! He apologized (sorta) and went on with his business. At this point I wished my Arabic was SO much better so that I could give him a piece of my mind about snooping around in my groceries and therefore my business! The nerve of that man.

Alas, it’s probably a good thing that my Arabic isn’t so good cause if I made the guy angry then he might rip me off with his prices and then where would I be?! Without a cheap frozen strawberry dealer two blocks from my house. That’s where I’d be. And I don’t wanna be there. I wanna eat a smoothie for lunch.

Let’s hope there is no encore to this Walk to the Store series…

23 May 2012

Tried and True Recipes–Potato and Vegetable Frittata

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This is one my favorite recipes, and once again… it’s vegetarian! Also, I don’t know where I got it, sorry. And you’ll need an oven-safe skillet for this.

1 t olive oil
1/2 c chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced (I use at least 4)
1/2 c diced green pepper (I skip this if I don’t have them)
1 zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/4 inch thick (I use two huge ones usually)
2 c cooked and diced potatoes (I bake them ahead of time)
1 c chopped fresh tomato
2 T black olives (I skip this)
4 eggs (or more)
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 t dried oregano
1 pinch cayenne (I skip this)

Topping:
1 tomato, sliced
1/4 c shredded mozzarella
1/4 c grated parmesan (I skip this and add more mozzarella)

-Preheat broiler.
-In frying pan with ovenproof handle heat oil and saute onion, garlic and green pepper over low heat. Saute until vegetables are tender but not browned.
-Add zuchhini and then potatoes a few minutes later. Cook until potatoes are heated through and start sticking to the pan.
-Add tomatoes and olives and cook until tomatoes begin to give up juice.
-Meanwhile, beat eggs with salt, peppers and oregano.
-Pour eggs over vegetables. (If my veggies aren’t covered, I usually beat and add a couple more eggs).
-Arrange tomato slices over top and sprinkle cheese.
-Cook over low heat until eggs are almost set (firm on the edges but still runny in the middle)
-Slip pan under broiler until eggs  are set and cheese is browning.
-Cut in wedges and serve. (Also heats up wonderfully in the oven for leftovers the next day.)

22 May 2012

Quote of the Day

The other day I randomly busted out with my own rendition of Whitney Houston’s “Hero” when loading the kids into the car.

I don’t know why I did that, but I did.

And when I did, my boy asked me “Where did you learn that song Mommy?”

“On the radio when I was a kid” I answered.

His response?… “What’s a radio?”

Oh.My.Word. For a four year old who has a huge vocabulary, it’s funny to me that ‘radio’ is not part of it. I guess it’s just another way to see that he hasn’t lived in America most of his life…

21 May 2012

Say What?

This was for sale in a supermarket amongst the herbal teas.

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I know it’s hard to see. It says “Gunpowder”

Really? Exactly what type of tea is Gunpowder?

No. I did not buy a box just to sample it, in case you were wondering.

20 May 2012

Outsmarted

My daughter is a firecracker. She’s a whip. Just tonight, in fact, she and I had a half hour long show-down during church. I kindly asked her to please eat her cheese before she got down out of her chair and she refused. I removed her from the scene to have a little discipline. Then she threw tantrum after tantrum all the while refusing to agree to eat her cheese. The congregation sang hymns, the kids were released to Sunday School, there were prayers and a Bible reading and more prayers and more songs and all I could do was hope that she wasn’t extremely loud from the very back of the church and wonder if we’d be the last ones here still waiting for her to agree to eat her cheese. Anyway, I stood my ground. Thirty minutes later she finally said “Okay Mommy” almost loud enough for me to hear and that was good enough for me. So we headed back to our seats and she promptly ate her cheese and we snuggled for a minute. It was a battle of wills for sure, but if the girl thinks she can outlast the very one who gave her her stubbornness then she’s in for a surprise! I’m just sayin’. 

Anyway, that was another story. This post is about something different. In this story her Grandma and I just got plain outsmarted…

One day in March the kids were eating a quick meal of peanut butter sandwiches and chips for lunch at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. The chips were Doritos to be specific. We all know kids love Doritos and my children are no exception.

When the telltale orange film covered my girlie’s fingers and her sandwich remained untouched her Grandma and I insisted she eat some of her sandwich before she eat another chip. She immediately opened up her sandwich and placed the remaining chips inside on the peanut butter, closed it up and took a bite.


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She figured out a way to technically follow the rules yet get what she wanted at the same time.

I didn’t know what to do. We had been outsmarted by a two year old and what to do about it?

We did nothing. Except laugh at her creativity and let her eat her sandwich in peace… peanut butter, Doritos and all.

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This girl. I love her!

19 May 2012

Tried and True Recipes: Pure Veg Spaghetti Sauce

This recipe is actually a Suzanne original! I made it up myself, thankyouverymuch.

This recipe makes a LOT of spaghetti sauce. Couldn’t tell you exactly how much. I freeze it in smaller amounts to use later on.

Here’s what you’ll need:

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1 kilo (around 2 lbs) each of onion, carrots, zucchini, tomatoes and eggplant.

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Also, 1 can tomato paste and 1 packet of Spaghetti Sauce Mix (or skip the seasoning packet if you want to do all of your own seasoning).

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A small helper is not necessary, but fun if you’ve got one sittin’ around.

The big job is preparing each of the vegetables.

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Onions are peeled, diced and pureed (warning: might bring on tears).

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Carrot are peeled and chopped.

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Zucchini is scrubbed, chopped and pureed with some water to thin it out.

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Tomatoes are blanched and cooled, peeled and quartered.

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Eggplant is baked, peeled and pureed.

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Dump it all into a big pot and simmer for awhile. Look at that rainbow of color and nutrients!

As it cooks, season it further with garlic powder, salt and Italian spices until it tastes just right to you.

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Puree once more when the carrots are cooked soft (you’re going to either love your stick blender at this point in the day or you’re going to really wish you had one!)

And that’s it. Pure vegetable spaghetti sauce with great flavor, a nice hearty thickness and incredibly healthy too!

17 May 2012

Baby Steps for Projects

I’ve had quite a few projects on my mind these days. Repairs around the house. Decorations. Improvements. Organizing. And just some fun things I’ve waited until we were ‘settled’ again to do.

The thing is I have two small kids. And frankly that fact can make the idea of completing projects a bit more daunting.

But I've made it work! My secret, which really isn’t a secret at all is baby steps.

I mean teeny tiny itsy bitsy pieces of a project at a time.

Lemme show ya.

Week 12 042

When we first brought H back to Africa at sweet and tiny 5 weeks old, this was his  nursery. We lived in a different house at the time. I had made this bunting for his room and hung it for decoration. I loved it.

When we switched houses I used it again in the room that both the kiddos share. However several years later I now wanted to update it a bit and add some brighter more fun prints into the mix.

So that was my project. Nine new flags to add to the bunting I already had and then hang it all up for the first time since returning back.

Here is where the baby steps came in.

The important thing to note about the baby steps is that each of these steps was accomplished at a completely separate time. The bulk of the project could have been accomplished in a few hours if one could devote herself entirely to the project. But I couldn’t do that… I never had enough time to do it all beginning to end. But I sure did have several minutes here and there throughout my days and that is all I needed to get this done. I actually did this over a course of probably a week or more.

1. Prewash fabric and dry.

2. Get out ironing board and iron. (A tiny step for sure, but necessary. And it got me one step closer and that always feels good.)

3. Iron fabric.

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4. Dig out old bunting to use for a pattern.

5. Iron old bunting. (This probably took the longest of all the steps, and my boy assisted me on this one by handing me flags on one side and stacking them neatly on the other.)

6. Cut 9 new flags.

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7. Iron seams down on new flags.

8. Cut 9 new sets of ribbon for hanging.

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9. Replace sticky hooks on the wall in the kids room. (Switching gears to preparing the room for the bunting cause once I had sewn them I knew I wouldn’t want to wait to hang them up.)

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10. Purchase string in the market.

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11. Hang string on the wall through the sticky hooks that had already set for a day.

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12. Get out sewing machine and thread it with the correct thread. (Another tiny, but necessary step in the right direction. And how fun to have it all ready and waiting for me when the time came too…)

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13. Sew flags! Now, you might say this was the actual project. But see how much had to be done in preparation?! I actually could sew each flag in two minutes flat. It was so quick. But a lot had to happen ahead of time before I could sit down and actually DO IT!

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14. Hang flags!

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15. Stand back and admire!!! (Okay, so this was the only step that I actually did immediately after the prior one! Ha!)

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So rewarding, eh?!

When projects are broken down, they seem so much more achievable. I have applied this rule to so many areas of life lately. If I am feeling overwhelmed about what I have to cook in a day’s time I even think about that in steps. Choosing recipes would be the first. Then I’d go do something else. Then I’d go back later when I had a minute and set out all the ingredients I would need when the time came to cook. And later when the time came to start cooking I would feel like I already was prepared and had a good start and it wouldn’t seem so overwhelming to me anymore cause I had already taken a couple steps in the right direction.

Am I the only one out there who likes to operate like this?! Planning and preparation bring me such joy. And I get so much more done in my days when I think about what little steps I can take to begin accomplishing tasks that seem large and looming.

Now… what shall I start next?!…

16 May 2012

Roomtime

I have instituted ‘Room time’ with my kids at various points in their lives. When we returned home and finally had some sort of routine several weeks ago, I knew I wanted room time to be a regular part of my boy’s routine when his lil’ sister takes a nap in the afternoon.

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The first day I set the timer for 30 minutes. He did play in his room by himself (that’s what room time is), but not without poking his head out a lot and whining about when he could be done.

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A day or two later he played happily without asking me how much longer he needed to play in his room.

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And a day or two after that when I put Sweet N down for a nap I didn’t have to ask him to go play in his room, I didn’t have to set the timer and he never asked to be done.

He just happily played in his room by himself without being told.

Kids loves routine. Kids love boundaries. I believe it.

I’m not saying it goes like this every day. But the fact that it goes like this some days is victory enough for me!

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Also, toddlers love afternoon naps on the floor in the one room with an air conditioner.

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15 May 2012

Quote of the Day

The other day on the way home from somewhere I had to run into a small grocery store and the fam waited for me outside in the car. I shopped as fast as I could but I probably took 10-15 minutes. As I returned to the car, my boy remarked:

“Mom, Dad told me you were messing up his patience.”

Ha! Kids are so honest. Watch what you say around my boy… he just might repeat it!

14 May 2012

A Trip to the Store

A good early morning at home with my kiddos slowly deteriorated to the ‘challenging’ rating. Maybe as the heat rose my children’s (mostly my son’s) desire to disobey rose also? Maybe this is a common correlation? It could be. I shall conduct further research. Anyway, I decided to push through the circumstances that begged me to stay home, park them in front of Dora the Explorer, drown my frustrations in iced coffee under my air conditioner while I watch the clock tick towards naptime and instead take the kids on a walk to the store to pick up a few things we needed.

And now I have three things to note about this trip.

1. Upon arrival to the store I let my kids browse the toy section. They know we don’t buy toys there, but they like to look and it kills a few minutes so I’m down with that.  While they looked around I noticed the store owner cover himself in a cloud of spray deodorant the next aisle over. Then he proceeded to close the can and put it back on the shelf. What?! I was not impressed and if I ever in my life wanted to buy spray deodorant, I would not give him my business.

Anyway, this little funny observation proved to be the silver lining of the trip. Well, that, and the fact that I picked up two kilos of frozen strawberries for only $5.

2. As we exited the store, I picked up my daughter and our groceries and then proceeded to fall down the stairs. All the men (no women around) who watched it all happen just stared at us. Not one person moved a muscle to offer the mother and child who just fallen down the stairs any assistance. Ugh.

3. Then, on the walk back home, a wild street dog bared his teeth and got within six inches of my daughters face. She screamed, tripped and then fell  down in the street. The dog then followed us the rest of the way home.

Oh my.

Just a little trip to the store.

12 May 2012

Privacy Please!

When we returned to our African home almost four weeks ago, one of my major disappointments was the tree that had been cut down in the back garden down behind our house.

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The side of our balcony used to look like this. See that big tree in the back, providing TONS of shade and privacy and refreshing green?

Gone.

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Instead we had this.

Whoa. Big difference, eh? It felt so different out there I found it shocking each time I stepped foot outside.

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Hello world. Look at me! A white lady wearing a tank top in the privacy of my own home!!! *gasp* A tank top in 110 degrees?! The nerve that immodest woman has!!!!!

You get the idea?!

Obviously, as a woman living in this culture, I didn’t feel so comfortable hanging out on the balcony in my normal wear-at-home clothes… tee shirt or tank top and capris.  And I hated the inconvenience of throwing something else on just to walk out onto the balcony of my own home.

I felt way to exposed out there.

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And so we had this built. There was already a shorter privacy wall on the left side (see it?) but we added this taller and thicker one for the side where the tree used to be. It doesn’t give the place the same ambiance as the nice big tree, but we have privacy again. It’s great!

The other good news is that our entire electrical system is still in tact after the worker man hooked up his welding tool to our already scary electrical system. We were pretty happy about that. We learned awhile ago that when getting something ‘fixed’ in your home here it’s a miracle if something else doesn’t get broken in the process.

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We’ve spent a fair amount of time out there already since then. Everything out there can get wet (This Mama included, usually!) and so the kids have a great time splashing and playing.

(Sidenote: I promise I am feeding my boy. His ribs don’t normally stick out like that. I think it’s cause he’s stretched out and screaming?! ha!)

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I’m thankful. So thankful.