Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Family Project

Moving to a new place brings many challenges. Preparing for a new baby brings many challenges. Challenges can lead to stress and families who get aggravated with each other. The solution? A Family Project!!

We decided to hang some bird feeders in our backyard. Our home backs up to a pine forest, and we see a variety of wildlife on a daily basis, so we thought we'd try to lure attract some of them to our yard, by bribing them with food.

My husband Gareth even let Chris have a turn with REAL TOOLS.

I even passed the camera over to Gareth so that I could not only photograph the event, but participate.

It was a nice way to spend the evening laughing together, with the promise of many hours of bird-watching to come.

Friday, July 8, 2011

In Which "That Kid" learns how to become "A Good Man."

Today, my child was "That Kid."
That Kid that tries to duck under the rope blocking everyone from the dinosaur bone exhibit.
That Kid who was throwing sand where all the other kids were nicely using brushes to "discover" the dinosaur bones.
That Kid who climbed up onto the ledge of the balcony over a 3-story drop.
That Kid who kept running away from the rest of the group and bumping into people.
That Kid who wouldn't let anyone else have a turn at the water pump exhibit.
That Kid who kept sticking his hands all over the glass, making handprints right in front of the rare species of frog so no one else could see it.

Today, I was "That Mom."
That Mom who can't keep her kid under control.
That Mom who never smiles.
That Mom who doesn't speak in soft, quiet, tones, but rather yells and screams.
That Mom who must be clueless.

Today, I was also "That Mom."
That Mom who wanted to enrich her child's life by providing an educational activity with friends, rather than sitting at home in front of the TV all day.
That Mom who is trying desperately hard to instill values, such as obedience, respect, kindness, and self-control, in a rambunctious 4-year old.
That Mom who has to scare her kid with death, because death is the only thing he is afraid of, and there was no other way to prevent him from climbing onto the ledge of a balcony overlooking a 3-story drop, except to tell him that if he fell, he would die.
That Mom who slaps the hand of her child when he touches something he shouldn't, because he hasn't responded to verbal commands to do so.
That Mom who had to put on her "loud voice" because her child ran way ahead of everyone in a large crowd.
That Mom who put her kid in time out when they got home so she could write this blog post and clear her head a little.


One Day "That Kid" will become a responsible citizen.
One Day "That Kid" will understand how to respect authority.
One Day "That Kid" will realize that he has to be considerate of other people.
One Day "That Kid" will have the self-discipline to keep himself out of dangerous predicaments.
One Day "That Kid" will be "A Good Man."

So if I have to be "That Mom" to teach "That Kid" how to become "A Good Man," it's all worth it.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

In Which I Employ An Archaic Method Of Paying For Goods And Services

Every now and then, a series of circumstances come together in such a way to let us know that the universe is trying to tell us something.

This happened to me today. My good pal Jessica informed me that there were some big sales going on at our local mall, so I drove on over. Lucky me, two of my very favorite stores were having some pretty awesome sales! I eagerly tried on a few clothing items, and selected my favorites. They fit well, were comfortable, and perfect for summertime. I wait in a LONG line. My child waits in the long line with me and manages not to wreak havoc. I approach the register. I am asked by the sales clerk, "Will you be using your Our Company Name credit card today?"

"Why, yes, of course I am!" I smugly hand over the card. I have been a proud card-holding member at this establishment for nearly ten years. It is my go-to place, the place I know the clothes will fit and will last a long time. The perky sales clerk hands my card back to me and chipperly says, "I just have to call this in." I ask her if there is a problem. "Probably just because of your address change" she replies. (Prior to running the card, she takes my phone number at the register and has me verify contact information, you know, so that Big Brother can keep watch over me they can send me coupons.) After a couple of minutes she hands the phone to me. Apparently, because I haven't used the card in quite some time, it was deactivated. In order to reactivate it, they have to check my credit report again. Fine, fine, I tell them. I hand the phone back to the perky sales clerk. Bless her little heart.

Now she asks me for another method of payment. "It will take a few days to reactivate the card."


I hand over a different card. Declined.

I hand over yet another card. Declined. (My face and neck are growing quite red at this point.)

And yes, I hand over a THIRD card. Declined. (It would be appropriate at this juncture to mention that all 3 cards are from the same bank.)

WTH??? I just checked my account balances and everything is in order...

I call the customer service number on the back of the credit card. I hold up the entire line behind me. The perky sales clerk just says, "I'm going to suspend this order while you take care of this with the bank. We'll be happy to ring it up again once it's cleared up." I just smile at her and don't budge. I want these clothes, dadgummit!

One of the many headaches of moving involves updating your address with everyone in the whole world. While we did indeed update our address with the bank, I learn that two weeks ago they mailed me all new cards. To my old address. And deactivated the ones I have in my wallet. The dingleberries. How dare they??!!

I toss my phone into my purse with a hint of self-righteous indignation. Whereupon it lands on my checkbook. I so very rarely write checks anymore, and NEVER at stores, that I completely forgot that it was a viable option.

I wrote my check, which was processed electronically, in exactly the same way my debit card would have been processed,except for the fact that it had been deactivated two weeks ago when they sent me new cards to my old address.

And I brought home my new clothes.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

In Which I Break Something

My kitchen has it in for me. Yesterday, my blender stopped working just after I prepared the ingredients to make Giada DeLaurentis' delicious, yummy Mint Cantaloupe Granitas. I've got a blender full of cubed cantaloupe doused with simple syrup which had been simmered with fresh mint leaves, just TAUNTING me in the fridge. I've got to blend it, then freeze it, before I can enjoy it on these nice hot summer days we're having down here. Alas, my blender is no more. It is an ex-blender, has joined the bleedin' choir invisible, and is pinin' for the Fjords. (I pity those of you who are not Monty Python fans and have no idea to what I am referring.)

Now today, as I am washing my dishes, I dropped a wine glass on the floor. It shattered into a zillion pieces. I began to weep. After I recovered my senses, I sweep up the visible bits, then fetch the vacuum cleaner to suck up the tiny little bits that I can't see but would inevitably make their homes inside innocent bare feet.

My vacuum is old and very, very, tired. It can't handle anything much larger than a crumb, or anything that is not soft, like dust or hair. It sucked up those shards, felt the sharp edges, and spat them back out at me. At my ankles. Leaving behind a trail of even smaller glass shards.

After I stopped cursing uttering expressions of disdain, I knew just what would come to the rescue. My Swiffer. (And no. Swiffer has not sponsored this blog post. However, if they would like to send me free stuff for sharing this story, I'll be happy to entertain such offers.)

So. Broken wine glass. Shards everywhere. Swiffer saves the day. Moral of the story?

Stop drinking wine. Stop washing the dishes.

Friday, June 24, 2011

In Which I Write A Poem

I am from sidewalk chalk, from worlds constructed of cardboard boxes where dragons and princesses reside.

I am from the brick house with bay windows, the one where you sit in the backyard with Mom, sipping iced tea, watching the sun go down.

I am from the Redwoods, the Sequoias, the mountain streams along which I sit on a boulder and gaze into the depths, contemplating growing up and fear and uncertainty.

I am from Sunday potlucks, patriotism, and self-respect. From Kales and Beechers and Copelands and Daniels.

I am from the stubbornness which requires that I have the last word, and I am from the humility which makes me admit when my last word was the wrong one.

From "Be smarter than the...(insert whatever object was giving me a hard time)" to be clever and come up with a solution to a problem rather than whining about it, and from the freedom felt when I finally got it through my head that people could only control my feelings if I allowed them to.

I am from the Lord who made me.

I'm from Mississippi and Europe, sweet potato souffle and Key Lime pie.

From the time my grandfather took me to the popcorn shop and bought me a whole big bag of blueberry flavored popcorn just for me, and from the time I thought back on that memory when I was told he had gone on to heaven.

I am from musty photo albums that smell of blueberry popcorn, from mountain air scented with moist earth and the color of lightning bugs. I am from the spiraling, the turning, the constant motion as the second-hand ticks by on my wooden clock.

I am from the sound of my son's voice as he calls "Mommy! Come play with me!" So I shall stop writing now.

(I found the template for this poem over here after reading one over at Adventures in Babywearing. Give it a try yourself, you'll be surprised at the memories that come to you!)

Monday, June 20, 2011

In Which I Cry A Little

Today I dropped off my son at his first-ever Vacation Bible School. I have fond memories of going to Vacation Bible School (VBS) when I was growing up. A week of "summer camp" if you will at church, where I learned new songs, did fun crafts, and heard bible stories in new and exciting ways that regular every-week church just couldn't match. Chris was too young to attend VBS last year at our church.

We have been in our new home in Green Cove Springs for about three weeks now. I met a very nice lady who recommended the VBS at a particular church which is not too far from me. So, I registered him. I was excited. I wanted him to have the same kind of fun that I had, and to learn about the God my family worships, around whom our lives are centered.

And yet, when I walked him into the large worship center of this unfamiliar church, surrounded by a sea of unknown faces, I was hit by a panic attack. He was fine. He was looking around at all the decorations and checking out the other kids, while my knees started to shake and I wanted to bolt. We found his section, introduced him to his teacher, and I said goodbye. He sat right down in an empty seat, and started staring up at the screen which was projecting images of happy, singing children having a wonderful time. He didn't look back.

Tears started to well up in my eyes as I walked back to my car. I had to sit in the parking lot for a few minutes to regain my composure. "Why on earth are you crying?" I asked myself. "Chris has been in full-time care for over two years. He's got this."

I'm sure I'll be crying when I drop him off for his first day of kindergarten next year, but I really didn't think I'd be blubbering like a baby for VBS.

My boy is so brave. I'm glad he is, because if he had my temperament, he would have been clinging to me in fright, crying and screaming. That's what I would have done if my mommy had dropped me off in a strange place, with unknown faces, by myself when I was 4.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Cooking On The Fly: Peanutty Chicken with Teriyaki Noodles

Okey dokey.

I am not a chef. At ALL. But I LURVE me some good food!!! Tomorrow will be grocery shopping day. As I thought about what to prepare for dinner tonight, I surveyed the contents of my pantry. Spaghettios. A pack of "Asian Sides" teriyaki noodles. Easy Mac'n Cheese. In the freezer? A couple of frozen pizzas. Some leftover pasta in the fridge from a couple nights ago.

Really not inspiring.

What I wanted, nay, what I have been CRAVING all day long, is sausage with peppers and onions.

That's not what I made today. Somehow, a memory was triggered. Several years ago, I was served tiny bites of chicken with a peanut sauce for dipping. And somehow, I vaguely associated that particular dish as part of a larger Oriental-styled meal.

So I googled "Do peanut butter and teriyaki go well together" because I had NO.IDEA. I didn't dare ask on facebook because then I would reveal how much of a kitchen LOSER I am.

I found directions for how to make peanut sauce using peanut butter and teriyaki sauce. BINGO!

I checked my pantry for the ingredients. Peanut butter? Check. Soy sauce? Check. Teriyaki sauce? Check. Brown sugar? Check. Fresh lime? Well, no, but I guess we'll skip the lime.

I really, REALLY wanted to make this peanut sauce. But what could I put it on? I knew I had a packet of teriyaki noodles in the pantry. Maybe if I added a little peanut sauce to that, it would be good? Hmm. Maybe let's add some chicken. I had some frozen boneless skinless chicken breasts, so I thawed a couple, cut them into bite-sized pieces and browned them in a skillet.

Then I made the peanut sauce. I poured the peanut sauce over the browned chicken and let it simmer.

I cooked up the teriyaki noodles in another pot, and then served the chicken with peanut sauce over the noodles. It was good.

Here is how to make the peanut sauce:

-Bring a cup of water almost to a boil. Just before it becomes a rolling boil, remove it from the heat.
-Begin spooning peanut butter into the water. Stir immediately. Continue adding spoons of peanut butter until it becomes a "sauce" consistency. (I ended up putting about 4 big spoonfuls of peanut butter in mine.)
-Add a tablespoon of soy sauce and a tablespoon of teriyaki sauce
-Add a tablespoon of brown sugar
-Taste, and adjust ingredients as needed. (I ended up putting a bit more brown sugar in, because the peanut butter I used was "all natural" and had no added sugar, so the peanut sauce needed a little boost. It was very salty from the soy sauce.)

And then I gobbled it up. YUM! I should have taken a picture of it before gobbling it up, but I was hungry.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I'm Back! Again!

OK. So for those of you who have been following me on-again off-again, you know that I am an on-again off-again blogger.

In recent weeks, I have been released from drudgery allowed to return to stay-at-home-with-my-amazing-son-wonderfullness. Oh, and pursue my dream of becoming a full-time photographer. I'm on my way! (Check me out at Jennifer Swanepoel Photography!)

Anyhoo. I have been home again for two weeks. And let me tell you something.

Staying home with a four-year-old is very different from staying at home with an infant.

Naps? Gone.

Quiet? Gone.

Control of the TV? Gone.

But I don't care. For three years I have been in the workforce, entrusting the day-to-day care of my son to other people. They were wonderful people, really, but they weren't family. I am so blessed to have found an incredible place for him to go when it was financially necessary for me to be bringing in second income. Now, however, things are starting to turn around and I can return to where my heart is.

At home.