October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

October 30, 2008

Yes, we know it isn't officially Halloween until tomorrow, but in this small Southern town tonight is the night for trick or treating...wouldn't want to interfere with the high school football schedule! So we will dress up and we will beg for even more candy. It is a strange holiday, isn't it? We have all consumed way too much candy already this week, but this year I am just letting it happen. In years past I dreaded this week of over indulgence, excessive sugar, and whining for more. I tried to limit or hide the wicked stuff, but this year is different in many ways so I am just allowing it to be what it is...and I am making sure I get some of the good stuff, too. We have already been to four Halloween parties and still have two more before the end of the week. Again a sign that things are different this year. I don't usually overschedule us for things, but the kids are loving all of this activity and fun so we are rolling with it. And by Halloween night I am sure we will all be crashed out in sugar comas and craving vegetables. Hope you all have a great Halloween!

Photo Tagged

October 29, 2008

Melissa tagged me with this. I followed the directions. Went to my photo files. Selected the fourth folder and opened the fourth image. And this is what came up:A shot of one of our dinners during our trip to the Sapporo Snow Festival in 2005. That night was fun because we were staying at a Japanese onsen and this was the evening meal. After Adam and Noah went to bed I climbed up to the roof to soak in the outdoor bath....steam rising from the hot water, snow flakes falling from a starry sky, naked in a tub surrounded by naked Japanese women of all ages. It brought back so many memories of my year of teaching in Amagi. My weekly trips to our neighborhood bath house (remember that, Karen C.?). Longer weekend onsen trips. I love the Japanese onsen experience. If you ever have the chance to make a trip to an onsen, do it! Put all modesty aside and soak.
That whole trip was a lot of fun. The ice scluptures were breathtaking. The food was great. The company was entertaining. And it was Noah's first and only experience with snow (he was just about to turn two). I laughed when I looked at this photo of us. We look like one of those super color coordinated families but the reality is that we didn't own any of those clothes except for Noah's jacket. Keep in mind we were living on a tropical island so in the days leading up to our trip we begged and borrowed all the warm things we could get our hands on!It was fun to take this little trip down memory lane...might need to do this again soon. Thanks for the tag, Melissa. If you want to do this, please share your image. Fourth folder, fourth image, and post a link in the comment section.

Autumn Scene

October 28, 2008

Twisted paper bag trees as seen here. A variety of beans, acorns, pecans, and rocks. Needle felted pumpkins as demonstrated here. A clothes pin scarecrow with an acorn hat. Add it all to a large tray and it becomes an autumn scene.

Gumbo Time

This past weekend marked the start of Gumbo season (at least in our family!). The nights were chilly and we ate gumbo three nights in a row. Three different gumbos. Friday night was my mom's chicken gumbo followed by a bonfire. Saturday night was John's duck gumbo followed by sitting around the fire pit telling Halloween stories/memories and some singing. And Sunday night was my Uncle Dan's okra and sausage gumbo. I think gumbo is the Cajun equivalent to Matzo ball soup. The smells bring up so many memories and feelings, everyone swears their mama's version is the best, and it is both a comfort food and a social food. After three nights of gumbo our bellies and hearts were very full!

Robot and Kitty Cat

October 25, 2008

Here's a Halloween preview. My mom and Noah built his amazing robot costume with bits and pieces from the kitchen, studio, garage, and hardware store. I especially love the button on his control panel: "I do windows". Camille is a pretty cute kitty cat and she's happy with her costume (unlike last year...my poor mom sewed on lots of feathers to create a chicken costume she refused to even try on once!). Noah painted on her whiskers and "cat eyebrows".

A Slump

October 23, 2008

I am in a reading slump. Kind of like writer's block or that annoying state of craving a certain taste but not really being able to identify or find it until that glorious day when you finally bite into just the right thing. That's where I am right now. I eagerly headed to the library a few days ago. Loaded up my basket with things that looked good and spent the ride home anticipating the sweet taste of a good read only to find nothing was right. I am in between books for my on-line book club and I feel the need for a quick diversion. An absorbing, satisfying read. As I get older I have less and less patience for books that don't grab me right away. I admit that I judge a book by its cover and I love fonts...first impressions do make a difference to me when it comes to book. I wish I wasn't so superficial but I am. I used to feel obligated to finish books that I started. Now I don't. Kind of like an addiction, I crave that high that comes when words and images grab me, suck me in.

I am sure part of my slump is indicative of my emotional state. Feeling unsettled, out of whack, and agitated. These are the times I wish I could just curl up with a good read and escape. So instead of reading, music has recently given me some escape. I loaded up on cds at the library and those are a temporary fix while I keep searching for that read that will pull me out of my slump. I find myself listening to a mix of far flung sounds and those Cajun ones close to home and my heart. I am especially loving this and this. Both by Putumayo, both international, and quirky, soothing, and fun. We have several Putumayo cds and they are all wonderful. The kids are into the French music right now since they are learning French. I also keep replaying "Femme L'a Dit" by FeuFollet. They will be playing this weekend with some of my other favorite groups (Balfa Toujours, The Figs, The Pine Leaf Boys) at the Blackpot Festival.

So what's keeping your interest these days? Any suggestions for books or movies or music?


We spent this afternoon gathering pecans. It was a good way to mull over the news of change (see below post). We had some stiff competition from the resident squirrels but did manage to pick two big bowls. Noah is very excited about the prospect of selling the pecans. I am just craving pralines. And Camille seemed to enjoy the challenge of finding the pecans buried in the grass and under leaves.

Day 108

Just when I was starting to feel good about making it halfway through this deployment, that dreaded thing called "change" has to intervene. Adam told me today that his return date will probably be extended until March (he was originally scheduled to return in January). Nothing definite so I am trying not to get too upset by it. I just hate when plans get changed. We knew this could happen and it is part of the reason we didn't make a countdown chain. Some families make paper chains with links for each of the days until the military member returns home. In theory it sounds nice because it is a visual countdown, but the reality is that return dates are rarely set in stone and when dealing with kids (and mamas who like plans) it can make things feel even worse. I shouldn't be shocked or upset because it is common (especially these days) to have delayed returns or deployment extensions, but I can't help feeling bummed. Changes are such a big part of military life that I should be an old pro at dealing with the unexpected or the dreaded, but I am not.

And regarding this whole deployment thing...Camille is pissed. She has recently been very vocal about her anger. At Sunday School she suddenly made a loud announcement to all of the students and teacher: "I don't like my daddy because he never comes home from work". Not everyone knows our story so I can only imagine what thoughts crossed their minds, but poor Mei-Mei is just trying to make sense of all this. Living with her through this deployment is like witnessing emotional stages of deployment. She has now moved from sadness to anger. And I can understand. Actually in some ways I wish I could be as vocal as she is. Because on many levels I am also angry right now, too. Angry that my dad is really gone. Angry that Adam had to go at one of the worst times possible and that he is still gone. Angry that war happens. Angry that change happens.

Felted Acorns

October 21, 2008

One of the things I love about motherhood is that I get the chance to re-experience the world through my children. The natural miracles that seem so common until seen through the eyes of a child. The tiny objects along paths that are rescued and collected by small fingers. The questions that make the ordinary suddenly seem extraordinary. Acorns are one of these things for me. Last year around this time Noah discovered a buried stash of very large acorns at the base of a tree. He searched around the park for the tree that might have produced such large acorns but we never found it. We wondered if some little creature had tucked them away for winter. Until Noah's discovery, I hadn't given much thought to acorns. Never really noticed that there were differences in shapes and sizes...but since that day acorns (like rocks and shells) have become something we seem to collect.

Our stash has been multiplying lately so we have started to use them in different projects. I recently saw some beautiful felted acorns made by Lil Fish Studios and thought they would be fun to make. We wet felted little balls and then attached the tops with glue. Here's a guide for wet felting balls. It can get a little tedious. I found it best to work outside....less mess with the bowls of water and the kids would take lots of breaks to run around in the yard. I actually enjoyed the process of sitting there and rolling the little balls of felt while watching them play. And now we have some colorful autumn keepsakes.

Never Thought

October 19, 2008

I'd ever get so excited about $2.99 a gallon for gas! When we started out for our Texas road trip last weekend, I remember being excited about the $3.17 I spent per gallon. I also never thought I'd ever be so pleased with a piece of blue plastic, but I am. Six years ago I purchased a plastic blue tarp to cover the back of our station wagon. We had just moved into our house on base and we were making multiple trips to the compost/dirt pile to create beds around our yard. Ever since then that blue tarp has traveled with us and been used in so many different situations. It is such a simple thing but really useful. Here's a pic of our van loaded up last weekend before we headed to Festival Acadiens et Creoles (if you are ever in Louisiana in October this is a GREAT event...all of the best Cajun and Zydeco groups play). Notice the blue tarp? also the wagon and little potty? this is the height of festival season in Louisiana....a wagon, a tarp or picnic blanket, water, and dancing shoes are required. Today we are lucky because the Pepper Festival is right down the street from us so we'll be loading up the wagon,eating crawfish po-boys, and dancing the day away. Here's Camille at the end of Festival Acadiens!

Day 104

October 18, 2008

I think we are near the halfway point of this deployment and that feels good. Since we don't have an exact return date it is hard to pinpoint the halfway mark, but it gives me some comfort to think we are getting closer to the end. In honor of being smack in the middle of the deployment, here's a little list of things that have happened so far:

1 set of stitches (Noah got those yesterday from a freak accident with a folding chair)
1 potty trained monkey girl (hooray! no more diapers)
3 bad storms (Gustave, Ike, Fay)

3 new cell phones (dog attack and malfunctioned/cheaply made phones)
5 states since July (Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas)
15 family members who now live down the street and give us lots of love and support
100 phone calls from Adam (give or take a few...nearly daily contact)
Too many pieces of dark chocolate to count

I have been reading a book recently which has really made me feel lucky about our current deployment experiences. "Founding Mothers" by Cokie Roberts is a fast (and at times jumpy) read about the women involved in the early days of our country. So many of the passages about the Revolutionary War make me realize how easy my modern experience with war and deployment is versus theirs.....in many cases multiple years of separation, smallpox, little to no communication with their spouses or the larger world, loss of children during childbirth or early illnesses, constant fear and worry about the future, keeping track of not only their children but also running farms and family businesses, all the while fending off or outsmarting British soldiers. Makes my challenges with solo potty training seem so trivial! Don't get me wrong I would much rather not be doing this whole deployment thing, but right now I am feeling very grateful that I didn't have to live through it during Revolutionary times! It kind of reminds me of a yiddish folk tale Noah likes called It Could Always Be Worse....it is all relative and sometimes it is so good to step back and get some perspective on it.

I also have to put a big plug in here for my family. Without my family (including my amazing in-laws), this deployment would be so much more challenging for us. The past twenty four hours are a testament to that. When Noah had his accident yesterday, I was able to pick up the phone and my aunt ran over to help me. She took Camille home with her while I took Noah to the emergency room. While at the hospital I was able to call my mom and she came to spend the night with us. Today another one of my aunts showed up at our house and she helped me with things around the apartment. Since getting married and moving around the globe, I have never had this luxury of being so close to my family and it has really made a big impact on me and the kids. The hardest thing about the end of this deployment will be moving away from family again. I love that my kids are exposed to so many different cultures and global experiences, but it also makes me sad they don't have the same family experiences I had as a child until now. It is so good to see them getting to know their great grandparents and all of the aunts, uncles, and cousins that surround us right now.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

October 17, 2008

These plump little treats mean fall has arrived in our home (even when it is still 80 degrees and all of the leaves are green....fall doesn't look the same in the deep South!). The funny thing about these cookies is that I was introduced to them while living in Okinawa, Japan (another hot and humid area without the traditional autumn experiences!). My neighbor, Keri gave me the recipe and they have quickly become a family favorite. And since we always seem to live in tropical or semi-tropical spots these cookies have become our way of welcoming fall. These are easy to make and produce moist pumpkin cake-like cookies. Happy Fall!

1 cup canned pumpkin
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup shortening
1 egg
2 cups flour + 2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp milk
2 cups chocolate chips
1 tsp vanilla

1) Pre-heat oven to 375
2) Combine sugar and shortening. Add egg and beat well. Add pumpkin
3) Add flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and mix by hand until combine
4) Dissolve baking soda in milk and add to above.
5) Add chocolate chips and vanilla. Mix well
6) Bake for 10-12 minutes. Enjoy!

Texas Travels

We spent most of this week in Texas. We had a great time visiting my Aunt Claire and Uncle Ron on the outskirts of Houston...exploring their creek, climbing up their tree house, baking cookies, and building bird houses. We also ventured out each day for some fun adventures. One day to the Houston Children' Museum, one afternoon at the Fort Bend Museum (the kids loved doing laundry the "old fashioned way"), and a very full day at the George Ranch Historical Park. These are a few photos from our visit to the Ranch. Camille and Noah both loved the cowboys. If you are visiting Houston, I would highly recommend a day trip to the Ranch....lots to see and do for all ages.

Recycled Pumpkins

October 11, 2008

Trying to save money and be creative....we are working on a series of Halloween projects using recycled and found items. Here's the first one. Camille and I made pumpkins out of recycled cardboard containers (salt box and large cardboard peanut canister) We also experiemented with toliet paper rolls which were ok, but not as easy to wrap as the sturdier canisters. Large oatmeal containers would work well for this project.

After removing the wrapping, wind yarn around the container until it is covered. Tuck in any loose ends. Camille enjoyed the tactile tasks of ripping and wrapping.

I finished the project by hot gluing a cork for the pumpkin stem, two green pipe cleaners for the leaves, decoupaging orange tissue paper over areas not covered by yarn, and finishing with a felt face. I used my favorite cold heat cordless glue gun. Really a great invention...no more burnt fingers, good for older kids, and free to work anywhere.

A List

October 10, 2008

This is a list of random things I have been enjoying or meaning to post about. Since I am working on de-cluttering my surroundings, my e-mail, my life...I am also working on de-cluttering my mind and instead of storing up things for future posts I thought I would just put it all here in one random list. Plus, I have to admit I love lists. I am not good at keeping track of them and frequently find my lists months later in various places like the lint filter, or stuffed in a pocket,or in Camille's stash of found items. Finding the old lists is kind of like finding pieces of my life. A way to look back at all of the mundane things on my shopping lists or the things I thought were urgent "to-do" items or the books/movies I wanted to find. Random little bits of scrawled writing on little scraps of paper. Here's an on-line version:

1) Kaboodle is my list dream come true. Finally found a place on line where I can create a wish list for each person in the family from any and all websites. Perfect timing for upcoming holidays and birthdays.

2) This funny Japanese video clip from Cami's blog. So Japanese, so bizarre, and brings back so many memories from teaching English in Japan...happy to report I didn't have teach any of these phrases but I do remember having a Japanese co-teacher who wanted me to teach the students what the phrase "Freeze" meant in case they were ever in front of a gun toting madman or policeman.

3) This cool site for keeping track of places you have visited. Our neighbors in Okinawa had a huge framed map in their living room with little flags on all of the spots they had been. I keep wanting to create something like that for us, but for now the on-line version is my best option. It is fun to see where we have been but also amazing to see how many more places there are to visit.

4) I was trying to figure out where and how to vote since my living situation has become so complicated. Our official address is in one state, our voter registration is in another, I am living in a different state and my husband is living in a different country....the joys and complications of military life. So here's an important link with info for military families or Americans living overseas... Most importantly Vote!

Ok, just like in real life I have to add a couple of things to this list that I made yesterday.

5) The To-Do List Blog (thanks to Morninglight Mama's comment) which "
celebrates the world of the overlooked and mundane, letting our lists serve as unique windows into who we are. Nothing is more revealing than someone's to-do list".

6) And One Pretty Thing which does an amazing job of collecting cool ideas and projects from all over the web. Be forewarned it is a dangerous place to visit because you can get drawn in for long periods of time...inspiring, humbling, and lots to see. I am especially enjoying the Halloween ideas right now.

Collage Memory Game

October 9, 2008

I am still on a collage kick and decided to make a memory game as a birthday gift for Camille. 8 blank wood squares, 1 bottle of Mod Podge, the Boden summer catalogue, a pair of scissors, a glue stick (found it was best to glue down the designs with small parts before decoupaging)...and I now have one present ready to go! I would like to find a book or get more tips on working with the smaller details. I found kid's scissors worked better for the tiny cuts but I did have several frustrating episodes when I lost the tiny pieces by breathing or moving. These little wood squares (found at Hobby Lobby) are a great size and weight and could be adapted to make many variations of matching games (covered with fabric scraps, stickers, family photos for the family "version").

I came across this fun video clip of Eric Carle demonstrating how he works. And also wanted to share another author/artist who does beautiful work, Suzanne Tanner Chitwood. We keep checking out her "Wake Up, Big Barn!" book which was created using torn paper collage...really amazing details in all of the farm animals.

More on Cleaning Up

October 5, 2008

This is becoming quite a dominant theme lately. First of all, I have to make a correction to my last post about cleaning: vomit is an even bigger motivator than house guests! Yes, I spent today cleaning all sorts of stuff because poor Noah has caught a nasty bug. And the thought of of us all getting a stomach bug has whipped me into shape. So there is a positive side of vomit but that never seems to get mentioned in any of the organizational books or websites out there. Forget the professional organizers, the cleaning lady, the fancy cleaners... just give me some good old fashioned vomit (and what the heck throw in some urine ala potty training!) and I can suddenly get all of my floors mopped!

Halloween Faces

October 4, 2008

The Halloween decorating has started and since we didn't pack any of our Halloween stuff we'll be very busy over the next couple of weeks. Yesterday I picked up a pack of pre-cut foam pumpkins. I didn't really have a plan for them but Noah quickly found the perfect way to spice them up with scary faces. We used some of the "foam paint" that was sold in the same area but after that ran out we just used acrylic paint. Our front door is metal so we may be sticking magnets on these guys and using them to decorate our entrance.

Cleaning Up

October 2, 2008

Thanks for the suggestions and support regarding my clutter issues. Several of you recommended the Flylady. I tried that about a year ago (perhaps even around this time last year?). Anyway at first I was all fired up and convinced that this would finally change things. During the first few weeks I did the daily suggestions with gusto. But soon the e-mail reminders started to pile up and "clutter" my mailbox. My e-mailbox is also a big problem. I currently have over 3000 messages in my mailbox (some from the year 2000). Yes, I know I need to delete a lot of stuff, but now it just seems like such an overwhelming task. One of those tasks that always seems to be getting pushed to the bottom of my "to-do" list. But the bigger issue with the Flylady is that I started to feel like a failure and a cheater. And how crazy is that? I was worried about letting down an on-line stranger? I wasn't keeping up with the e-mails and eventually just stopped doing any of it. The one thing that has stuck with me is her sink advice...never go to bed with a dirty sink. That doesn't mean my sink is always clean, but I do try and when it is clean I really do feel a sense of accomplishment (it's the little things, right?).

Honestly the most effective method for getting my house in shape is having company. My mother-in-law and I were laughing about this the other day. She knows me well! I wish I could be more self motivated but really it is the fear of having others witness my mess that gets my butt in gear and gets the house cleaned. If the Flylady had surprise visits, I think I would have been a star pupil.

And speaking of mess, what about these current issues? I am honestly shocked that anyone even wants to run for President. So many messy issues to clean up and so much pressure. Makes me happy to just worry about keeping up with dirty dishes instead of the massive clean up job our new president is facing.

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