Saturday, August 30, 2008

Farmer's Market and Football

Time was when I would wake up early on this particular Saturday morning of the year with one thing on my football! I still think this is the best time of the year. I love the opening of the football season. But since my Vols don't play until Monday this week, I was freed up to actually think about going to the market. I almost didn't make it; this baby is doing me in. I woke up at 2:30 this morning feeling like my stomach was going to digest itself if I didn't put some food in it. Needless to say, getting up early to go to the market was not first on this pregnant mommy's mind. But since I hadn't been able to go in a few weeks, I made myself do it.

And I was so glad I did. I always come home from the market in a good mood with a basket full of treasures. This week, I came home with my usual batard, farmer's cheese, and pastries for breakfast and lunch. I also bought two fresh chickens, as we'll be out of town next Saturday and unable to get one. Corn, arugula, radishes, homemade raisins (out of this world good!), radishes, eggs, melon, peaches and mozarella also found their way home with me. I picked up some eggplant and red pepper to add to my CSA goodies this week for some ratatouille.

My favorite finds are always the new ones. This week I stopped by the goat cheese guy's booth and talked to him a bit about his operation. My mother-in-law used to keep dairy goats, and when she lived in France for a few years, she took a cheese making class at a genuine French dairy farm in the countryside. I picked up a bit of chevre for her, though the feta and cheddar were tempting, too. I also found out that they host a dinner at the goat farm once a month. A local chef who uses their cheese gets invited to cook a multi-course meal for a few lucky folks in the old farmhouse. What a great date night when we have some money!

As I was leaving, I had $2 left to spend, so I decided to pick up a treat for the boys. The little guy in the photo (and his friend who is napping with Hobbes) just had to come home with me, finger puppets crafted by a local artisan. I rarely have money left to buy crafts or soaps or any of the fun things that are sold at the market, but these were in my budget. The boys loved them! What made it's way into your basket this week? Write a post and go on over to Kerry's blog to link to the Farmer's market report.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

And Sometimes They Cry...

Today was not as good as Monday on the school front. Hobbes broke down into hysterics when I started to walk out the door. I reassured him that I would be back after lunch, reminded him how much fun he had on Monday, and told Calvin to help him adjust. Then I decided it was best to just leave him in the arms of his very loving teacher and go. My staying was only going to make him cry more.

If you read this blog regularly and are the praying sort, please say a prayer for him and for me. I am still not settled on this decision, though I do think that God has led us to at least try school with Hobbes this Fall. And I know that the teachers and principal there are fantastic, and many of them are Christians. The principal even told me this morning that they are doing a space shuttle craft and learning to say "space shuttle" in Chinese because she knows Calvin and Hobbes are really into space right now. The school is small enough that they pay that kind of personal attention to the kids. I know it is a good place; I am just praying that Hobbes sweet little heart is ready for this separation. It was much easier with Calvin, as he was already 3 1/2 and a Daddy's boy by the time he started.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Go Ahead and Try, It's Not Going to Kill You

Today was Hobbes' first day of Chinese preschool. He is a little young to be starting, but the other option was to start him in January, right after the baby comes. We figured he only needed one major life change at once. To say I was worried about how he would do is an understatement. When I try to leave him in the nursery at church, he always cries pitifully, and though he stops crying, he starts up again as soon as he sees me. From what I know, that means he is just waiting until he feels safe to cry.

Our nursery is a very safe and friendly place, full of kids that he sees on a regular basis outside of Sunday mornings. The same woman works in there every Sunday, and the other volunteers and teens who help in there are people he loves outside of nursery. School, on the other hand, is full of people he doesn't know speaking another language. The only thing it has going for it is that Calvin is there. Last Spring, I tried to leave him there a couple of times while I was at a parents' committee meeting. Even with me in the building and Calvin right there to play with him, he came crying to me.

Needless to say, I was prepared for a scene when I dropped the boys off...and maybe a phone call later saying I needed to come calm a crying boy. I was so worried, in fact, the my husband had assured me we could pull Hobbes out if it wasn't working (a substantial financial loss). Imagine my surprise when I dropped him off this morning, said good-bye, and barely got an acknowledgment when I left. Not a single tear.

And when I picked him up this afternoon? He came running to me saying, "I didn't even die, Mommy! Not at all!" Well, I wasn't to worried about that...It sounds much more dramatic until you know what he was actually saying.

And me? I was able to enjoy a child-free morning catching up on some reading and work at a coffee shop and getting stuff done around the house. I don't think this situation is going to be too bad for my health, either.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Just Around the Bend

I'm in a bit of a blogging slump lately, in case you didn't notice. We have been busy trying to enjoy the last few days of summer before hubby starts back to grad school and the boys start Chinese preschool. With my limited energy level these days, that means blogging has been put on hold.

We have had a good summer, full of swimming and visiting family and enjoying having Daddy home without homework. But I am not sad to see it coming to an end. I think the boys and I are ready for a change. I love this time of year. In my mind, Fall instead of Spring is the time of new beginnings. I love the coming of cool mornings, the smell of nature preparing for hibernation, the anticipation of coming holidays, the beginning of new learning, and, most importantly, the opening of college football season!

In preparation, I am trying to get a bit of order back into my life. I have been working my way through A Mother's Rule of Life in an effort to implement more of a schedule into our daily routine. I'll probably write more on it later, but the process has been good for me. I am looking forward to having a little more self-discipline and finding time for prayer, exercise, and quality time with my family. The time is right. Hopefully we will have some routines in place by the time the baby comes. I know they will change, but it will be good to have a foundation.

The boys are in need of more structure, too, and I think school will be good. It has forced us to get their bedtimes into more of a routine, which we needed desperately. Though I am a bit worried about Hobbes going to school, I know that the time apart will be good for all of us. We have had a bit too much time together with no schedule, and we have suffered from impatience and lots of sibling rivalry. Calvin's burgeoning independence has led to a lot of conflict with me, and we are both ready for him to be in a challenging and stimulating environment a couple of mornings a week.

There are a lot of exciting things around the bend, and I am feeling my energy return. Hopefully that means you will hear more from me around here.

What about you? How do you feel about Fall? What are you doing to prepare for the change in seasons?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Nothing to Say, Lots to Love

Despite our recent parenting difficulties, we are find a lot of things to enjoy around the TwoSquare household these days. Since baby brain is sucking all of my deep thoughts, I offer a list of some of our current favorite things.

John Adams
We thoroughly enjoyed this miniseries. It was incredibly well acted, and it was a great look into some American history that I have little knowledge about. I especially enjoyed the portrayal of Abigail Adams. The Adams' marriage relationship may be one of the most interesting and inspiring of American history, and this series focuses a lot on Abigail's role in her husband's career. If you're looking for Revoluntionary War action, this is not the show to watch, but if you want to know more about one of the more interesting and confusing figures of that time, I highly recommend it.

The Olympics
I've already mentioned that I am enjoying them. In fact, I am watching way too much TV these days and getting way too little sleep. We only turn the TV on to watch DVD's or football, so this is an overdose for us. I can definitely see how regular television watching would be bad for our family. All the same, I am thoroughly enjoying the games, except for the trampoline. Um, how did that get to be an Olympic sport?

The Jesus Storybook Bible
I purchased this book when it first came out, but we have just recently started reading it. The boys both love it, especially Calvin. We are reading it for our Bible story time during prayer every evening. It is very well-written in a fantastic storytelling voice. Each story points forward to the high point of God's story, the coming of Christ. Calvin is especially drawn in by the emphasis on God's faithful love and promise to ultimately save His people. He is anxious for God to send a hero. It's a great way to introduce children to the narrative of God's history.

Cool Weather
Well, it's cool for August around here, anyway. After last year's drought and 90+ degree temperatures that went into October, this summer has been a pleasant surprise. We have still had some hot and humid days, but we have had many, many days in the 80's. It's still warm enough to swim and enjoy summer activities, but it is bearable to be out past 9:00 a.m. This is unheard of around here in the summer, and we are taking advantage of it. It gives me hope that we will have an Autumn this year.

The Mysterious Benedict Society
I wandered into the bookstore one Saturday looking for some light reading for the beach and came out with this fun kids' book. This is absolutely the sort of book I would have loved as a young reader, a story of four genius, orphan kids sent on a mission to save the world. It's one I'll hold onto for my kids when they get older, and I'll probably buy the next in the series. If you have young readers or are looking for something fun for yourself, check it out. kicks, fresh tomatoes, football previews, kisses and hugs from little boys...

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Not Even Most of the Time

When Calvin said that no one can be perfect all of the time, I should have been forewarned. The past three or four days have been terrible with him. Talking back, screaming, tantrums, and defiance have been the norm. I would chalk it up to a little post-beach depression, but he is never this bad, not even during the days following a visit from Nana. A little bad behavior is to be expected a the end of a stretch of fun, out of the ordinary days-but nothing like this!

As I've written before, my boys are very different when it comes to emotions and will. Hobbes's bad behavior can be physically tiring, but it is pretty typical two-year-old stuff. Calvin's attitude shifts are a whole different sort of beast, and this time around they are leaving me absolutely emotionally exhausted, not to mention the physical exhaustion of dealing with two boys and being pregnant. I know there must be something behind this atypical behavior, but I have yet to uncover it. He has been given the parameters for acceptable behavior. Every time he steps outside of those, he is disciplined. We are being more strict about his sleep schedule and making sure things are as stable as possible. He is having lots of Daddy time, and I am trying to show him a lot of affirmation and love when he isn't throwing a tantrum that forces me to keep my distance in order not to get hurt.

Still, nothing seems to be working. I'm at the end of my rope, staring at the beginning of a week of being home alone with them. My husband's classes start up again this week, so we are looking at some long days without Daddy around.

I'm not sure why I'm writing this, only that I need to put it down to realize it's okay to feel this way. And perhaps to remind myself that I need to pray. There is nothing else I can do for Calvin, and I have to trust that God can. This parenting thing is awfully sanctifying and faith-building if nothing else.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Calvin Speaks the Truth

We are back from the beach, doing laundry, and recovering from the break in routine. I am absorbed in Olympics watching. Maybe you'll here from me when the Olympics are over...

In the meantime, here's a conversation with Calvin at Trader Joe's today. I don't know what it is about that place, but my kids are always terrible there. Maybe it is the freedom of having their own little carts. Maybe it is the small size of the place that makes them feel safe to roam around without me. Whatever it is, I feel like we always make a scene there. Today, I asked Calvin about it.

Me: "Why are you two always so bad in Trader Joe's? Can't you try to be good when we are here?"

Calvin: "Well, Mom, no one can be perfect all the time."

How true.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Market Meals

My bloggy friend, Kerry, has just started a new blog about eating locally and seasonally. Go over and check it out. I'm nearly a day late, but wanted to get up a post about this week's trip to the farmer's market.

Since we've subscribed to a CSA, farmer's market trips have become a lot less stressful around here. Since I get enough veggies and eggs for the week in my produce box, I don't have to depend on Saturday morning shopping at the market to fill up the fridge. It was especially good early on in this pregnancy (see announcement in my last post), when looking at vegetables did me in. Even though I am not under pressure to get the pick of the crop, I still like to get to the market early. I usually buy some bread for our lunch, and the one European-style baker sells out quickly!

The Saturdays when I make it to market are some of my favorite days around our house. I usually leave before the hubby and boys are awake, and come back with a basket of goodies. Though some are for use during the week, like the two pasture-raised chickens I bought this week, I always buy the makings of a yummy market lunch to be eaten up that day.

This week, I came home with breakfast and lunch in my bag, and even something to add to dinner.

Cinnamon Roll for hubby
Cinnamon Roll and Grape Empanada for the boys
Chocolate Croissant for me (yum!)

freshly baked Batard
lovely little cucumbers
farmer's cheese (my kids' favorite market food)
sliced tomatoes (from my CSA)
watermelon (also from my CSA)

If we were eating at home, I would roast one of the chickens I bought. Since we aren't, I am taking a salad made with mozzarella from the farmer's market, tomatoes from my CSA, and basil from my front porch pot.

I also bought some grapes, peaches, and potatoes. Even with all of that, I had enough left over to buy a lovely bunch of flowers to brighten our seasonal, local table.

Hope your day was as good as mine!

Counting Down

We are doing a lot of counting down around the TwoSquare household these days. Calvin's recent obsession with space travel (which is also Hobbes' obsession by default) means that I hear "5-4-3-2-1 blast off!" at least 462 times a day. But we are counting down to other things as well, which though not as exciting as a trip to Pluto, are still mostly fun.

24 hours until we head to the beach for some end of summer fun

10 days until my husband starts his grad classes for the Fall and life gets crazy

$2.75 left to earn until Calvin can buy his book

16 days until Calvin returns to Chinese school and I send Hobbes off to join him...only two mornings a week, but I'm not sure I'm ready...

23 days until kickoff...Go Vols!

6 weeks until the mornings begin to smell like Fall...a girl can be hopeful

3 1/2 weeks until we fly up north to reconnect with dear friends

And most overwhelming of all...

20 weeks (or somewhere thereabouts) until a third baby makes its appearance into the TwoSquare household...

That's right folks. Despite my controlling nature when it comes to childbearing and my questions about my adequacy as a mother, I find myself grateful to have been given this gift once again. Scared to death, but grateful. I was slow to announce it here because my miscarriage in the Spring left me anxious. I probably won't write much about it for now. I have sort of enjoyed keeping one area of my life baby-free for the time being. But now that he/she is kicking and rolling around, I figured it was time to let the secret out. Besides, January 1st will be here before I know it, and y'all might wonder about my honesty on this blog if I failed to announce anything until then. Here's hoping for an early delivery (though not too early) to avoid paying two deductibles!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

"Jia you, Zhongguo! Jia you!"

Update: Wow! I just finished watching the creative part of the ceremony. I haven't even seen the amazing torch lighting yet, but I am in awe. Zhang Yimou outdid himself on this one. And it was so Chinese, so much done by pure people power and nothing more. Way to go! That's what you can do when you have 3,000+ years of civilization to draw from. Despite what it has gone through in recent history, I have a feeling Chinese civilization will outlive all the others on earth.

As a kid, I used to love the Olympics, but I have been sort of out of the loop the past several years. In fact, I can't even remember where the last Winter Olympics were held, and I am pretty sure I was busy elsewhere when the Summer Olympics were held in Athens. (That was where they were last, wasn't it?)

But I am more excited about this Olympics than perhaps any of my whole lifetime. Those of you who know me or who have read my blog for awhile know that China, its people, and its culture hold a special place in my heart. I am looking forward to seeing China show the best of itself to the world.

I'll admit that when I first heard the announcement that Beijing had been chosen to host the games, I was a little shocked. After all, BJ is not the most pleasant city in the Summer. Even without the pollution, it is still really hot. Perhaps Kunming would have been a better choice. But I still had no doubt that the Chinese could make their capital inviting to athletes and spectators if they set their minds to it. Despite all of the negative press China has received over the past few months, I know that the legendary work ethic and determination of the Chinese, combined with their strong sense of national pride, will succeed. In fact, if anyone is an ideal candidate to hold the Olympics in this age of heightened security, China is it. Though something could still happen, the Chinese will have things more organized and under control than most any other country could hope, and they will do it all with the greatest of hospitality.

I'm sure there are many things that one could criticize about China (many arising from cultural bias), but for the next two weeks, I hope we will all be able to sit back and enjoy the show. I, for one, am cheering for China. "Jia you, Zhongguo! Jia you!" (Go, China! Go!)

Monday, August 4, 2008

I'm No Ace of Cakes but I Received an Award Anyway

Calvin turned four on Saturday, and per his request, I attempted to make a space shuttle cake. To understand what a big undertaking this was for me, you should realize that the most elaborate cake I have ever made was a cake mix in two round pans, layered, iced, and covered in sprinkles. Usually, we get cake mix in a rectangular pan, poorly iced. This was still a box mix (actually two) and store bought icing, and it certainly isn't flight-ready. We nearly lost the icing on the 40 minute drive to my in-laws on the hottest day in weeks, but we got the cake in the freezer just in time, only a few minor cracks. As an added touch, we stuck the candles in the back to light them, so that the shuttle engines were "firing." Thankfully, four-year-olds are easily pleased, and I wasn't expected to be an ace of cakes.

In line with the space theme, Calvin received a plethora of space presents, including an astronaut suit that convinced me that he needs a career involving a uniform. Calvin has always had this way of revealing what he will look like as a grown man (we called him a little old man when he was a baby), and I have never seen it more clearly than I did in that suit. He is going to be a handsome fella! The helmet for the suit is about five times the size of a toddler's head, and Hobbes amused us all by walking around, helmet down over his shoulders, visor hiding his face, shouting "1-2-3-4-5 Blast Off!" (Hobbes hasn't quite figured out counting down.) Calvin also received a rocket from his Daddy, which they proceeded to shoot off a couple of times in my in-laws' huge field. All-in-all, it was a fantastic sort of day, even if it was as hot as Mercury!

Now we are suffering from some severe post-birthday syndrome, compounded by post-Nana syndrome, and it has been a rough day. I pretty much forced them both to take naps to keep us all sane. Hopefully I will have some interesting posts up soon, but I wanted to get a pic of the cake for those who requested it. I'm not sure why you wanted to see it, but now you have. I'm certainly not a brilliant cake maker.

I don't think I am a brilliant blogger, either, but Kerry of Ten O'Clock Scholar was kind enough to pass this award to me anyway.

I am not too good at this award thing, but I will pass it on to a few people. If you read my blog and see your name here, feel free to pass this on to others. Thanks for giving me such good food for thought!

Tipper at Blind Pig and the Acorn posts wonderful stories and music of my beloved Appalachia. She also gives away a wonderful piece of her folk art every month, so check her out.

My real-life friends Catherine and Farrah always write honest and thoughtful posts about motherhood and faith and many other topics. You won't be sorry you visited their blogs.

Kate at A Telling Place already received this award from Kerry, but that shows you how great her writing is. She is a Blue Ridge mountaineer living in Scotland, and her honest and deep writing has challenged me regularly over the past few months. She also has great taste in books.

My husband says that if you only read one blog it should be Father Stephen's. I am inclined to agree with him. A more humble, thoughtful, and well-written blog I have never found. Be careful, though, or he may convince you to convert to Orthodoxy!