Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I want that too! Why didn't I get one?.....You know the story...

We are still working through why she did not get the second trophy her two friends did at the swimming awards banquet. We tried to point out that she received a silver pin for her stroke improvement at Champs, and then the question comes, "Did Aria cry because she did not get the silver pin?". I don't know was my reply. Aria’s mom did have to explain to her daughter that she did not improve on her times at champs, the final swim meet of the year and thus no silver pin.” Aghhh and so the conversation continues.

Try to explain to a 5 year old, that she did not get the trophy because she did not always have the best attitude, (aka she cried about twice a week at swim practice) or she did not improve enough. Then it becomes a story of "mom, you always say I do not have a good attitude." Oh my goodness where did the "always say", come from, I muse in my mind. (She sounds like a teenager now.)

I must get to those positive parenting notes I have somewhere in my cluttered house! Now how can I undo the damage! My friend who is a social worker and sometimes works with kids, called to let me know that she would be happy to listen to Margo if she wanted to talk about the trophies. Gee have I done such a lousy job at parenting that my daughter needs counseling at age 5? I thought it could wait till she was at least a little past 6 years old, about half way through kindergarten. I hope you all know I am smiling widely as I have been writing these paragraphs before me. I would laugh at loud except that my two loves, daughter and husband are sleeping in their beds, and their doors are open.

So, all you parents must relate to this situation. Your kid does not win the prize, for improvement or leadership, or some other character trait; you KNOW they exhibit some time during the day. Then the question comes out really loud in the midst of the awards, "Why didn't I get the big trophy too?" At this point, I, the embarrassed parent want to cover her mouth and remove her from the award ceremony, while at the same time removing myself. But I do not. I figure this is where she gets a life lesson about earning awards versus winning awards. Isn’t it great, that at a young age we can begin to teach our children about the realities of life? We get a chance to learn the best way to teach them about this reality, that yes dear some people are nicer then others. Yes dear, some kids are smarter than others, or are better leaders than others. That is what life contains. It is neither bad nor good, but provides us a chance to grow into better persons. Yada, yada, yada....I am still working on the best way to explain this to my 5 year old, Margo.

First I thought perhaps it would be a good idea if she made cards and sent them to her swim buddies. Those were the girls who looked after her at the swim meets. I think she ended up with a bunch of swim buddies. The official one was Julia, then Rachel and Ashley, and of course Jessica, who is too old to have a buddy, but too young to be a buddy, and finally there was Ainsley, the 8-year old who shared Rachel and Ashley with her. Margo agreed to make these all cards...and we are starting the process of her looking beyond herself.

Then I had the idea, ok, how about making congratulation cards for Aria and Siena, about their extra trophies? What was I thinking, you are all saying about now? "But who will send me a card of congrats...for my pin"...and then the tears....and more tears...and then she bopped me on the chin, and I sent her to her room to think about what she had done. I visit her in her temporary holding cell; she had climbed up into her bunk bed to consider her current situation. “Are you ready to apologize” I ask? “No” she said, “and you should apologize to me”, was her reply. This part of the story gets to be a little hazy, but in her mind I was not helping her get over the trophies, because we keep talking about it. Better said, "How can I get over it, when you talk about it mom?"...."and you always say I have a bad attitude..." I realize she is making some sense, so I apologize and ask her to forgive me, which she does. Then I tell her I forgive you for bopping me on the chin, and then I wait..."Well aren't you going to say you are sorry?" "No, I am not ready yet mom." Ok, I say and leave for a few minutes. Upon my return, she does say she was sorry for bopping me on the chin, and then that is that.

This past paragraph was my attempt at getting my daughter to look beyond herself, via creating the cards...but instead I created an opportunity for her to think I thought less of her. So back to the drawing board I say. I need to approach this subject again, from another angle. I am not sure what the angle will be, but she needs to learn that awards are awards. It is something you earn for doing something well. And I really believe this was a good experience for her to start learning about this aspect of life.

Later that day, she mentioned how she would get two trophies next year, a big one and the little one. I think she really is planning on working on her attitude a little bit. She said, she will not cry if she bumps into someone while swimming, she will go and follow the stroke of the person in front of her even if she did not understand the coach, and she will try not to whine so much.

I think she really does love to swim, and as she gains her confidence with the different strokes and the different drills, she will not need to whine. Why you ask? Because she will be older and wiser as a 6 year old who would have completed kindergarten. Will she be grown up by then? No. absolutely not, but she will be a little bit more mature, and better able to handle her world and the changes that come with a wide variety of situations. I will be sure to provide her the "wide variety of situations".

I know, I know, you all think I am dreaming, I bet you can't wait to read what I write as she starts school in late August...oh we shall laugh out loud quite a bit I think! Enjoy the week, and whatever challenges your little ones bring you when they say, "Why didn't I get the big trophy?"

Monday, July 13, 2009

Camping with kids... a true adventure!

We did not need to go far to find the great outdoors. It only took us about one and a half hours to arrive at our destination. Now if truth be told, it probably took us 3 hours or so to pack, in fact I would say more since we started organizing the week before. You all know the drill, (and if you don't you will); climb up the ladder and pull down the gear. "Maxine, we really need to organize the garage, is the voice echoing lost among junk in that location.” "We need mantles for the lantern...oh and you need a sleeping bag too...hey where is my sleeping bag....I got it..." Yup it takes a lot to prepare for the first camping trip of the season! Everything is staged in the living room...did you know the definition of living room is: the room in which we live, aka: living room/staging room! This is my personal excuse for clutter.

My own preparations began with making chili, a huge pot, and dividing it up for the trip. Next I was finding the remainder of my spaghetti sauce I had frozen a few weeks before. Oh and last but not least, I had to make a bunch of cookies. I cheated a little bit here and bought some mixes I just added the butter and eggs and baked. They turned out fine. I must have made about 130 cookies, a little bit more than I needed, but hey we were going to be in the wild for two and a half days...we needed the comfort food. The best part was bringing the two bottles of wine which had been resting in our fridge for near 10 years...it was time to drink these two darlings.

Ok, back to the story....We arrived, it was a fun trip, playing eye spy a frog, or a cow, or some other interesting object. My daughter found every existing American flag between San Jose and Fremont Peak State Park. The final 11 miles were very curvy, but very beautiful. At the top, we gazed upon the valley we had just passed through with all the other 4:30 pm commuters. But here, everything looked beautiful, the sky, the trees and yes the valley below. It was dry, a little dusty to be sure, but beautiful...the golden hills of California, spotted with Myrtle and Oak. It was not too hot, just right I would say. We found our spot, it was number 24.

Setting up camp went fairly quickly, most likely because we had practiced at my brother’s house over the July 4th weekend. We learned how to set up our tent there, and we actually spent two nights in that little place for practice. Now it was real, we passed the test; the tent was up in about 30 minutes. Little Margo was able to help along the way. She had the job of securing the poles to the straps of the tent. It was a little job, but big for a 5 year old. Next in order was to prepare the meal, spaghetti and meatballs. It just meant setting up the stove, lighting it and letting everything defrost. Thank goodness for cast iron pots! Our friends arrived, they brought their small brood of three, two 5 year olds, Ben and Lily and one 3 year old, Ava. Jeff and Linsey were pros at this adventure compared to us...that took the pressure off of us. The kids played, and we all set up our camps to completion. Dinner was ready as the sun set, and all the kids were hungry. So were the adults...we ate a lot of spaghetti sauce in that one night.

The next morning we all awoke early, ready to start the day. We ate pancakes and bananas for breakfast, fresh brewed coffee, lots of that for the adults, and bikes and racing for the kids. Around 10:00 AM we decided it was time to head off for a real hike, the men chose the valley peak trail, and it started easily enough with a gentle downward slope. Soon all you could hear were the warnings of "don't touch that bush, it is poison oak." Or look out for the poison oak in the middle of the trail. Margo was a trooper; she trailed directly behind me, using my fanny pack for her stabilizing grip. Sometimes I think I was something of a pack horse for her, or mule to be more exact. Do you recall the movie where the heroin is trudging up a mountain pass holding the tail of the pack mule to make it to the top? I was the pack mule for little Margo. Linsey was the Sherpa for Ava, and carried her upon her back for most of the trek. Mark my beloved, would push Margo up the steep parts while she would try and pull me back down. In the end we all made it to the top! It took us about 2 hours to walk all the way over to the top of Fremont Peak. The views were amazing in every way. It seemed we walked through lush jungle, (with lots of poison oak), up through the golden hills of brush, rocks and few trees. At one point, Margo and Ben ended up chasing two large alligator lizards up the path. Boy did those two little lizards fly up the path, and eventually leaped into the brush off the side of the path. But so amazing to me, was that, the one chasing them with gusto had only a second before declared she was unable to go a step further. I learned, there just needs to be the right motivation.

Motivation would become very important before this story is complete. As we were getting closer to the peak, Margo was determined this was to be her last step. We urged her over the bridge, but that was about it. Between my husband and myself, I was the healthiest in regards to joints as such. So it was my job, to become Margo's pack mule one more time. She was placed lightly upon my back and then we walked forward. I even walked up the steps carved into the hillside with her on my back. I was pleased I could do this without too much fatigue; I guess all those days at the gym were paying off! We were left with about 50 yards more of trail which quickly became a spot of rock climbing for the last 100 feet. There were four adults and four children, all wanted to climb the rocks to make it to the top of the peak, and reach the flag pole, that marked the spot of General Fremont and his troops back in the 1800's. Ben and Lily were very good climbers, so Jeff was able to help them up to the top with some ease. Ava being three needed a simpler way, and Linsey took care of these needs, they too made it to the top with fair ease. I decided to send Mark and little Margo up together, I would stay down and take pictures and watch the packs. Really I was too concerned she might grab on to me and I would twist my back, so I did not want to risk the climb. Mark would lift her to a spot, or coach her to the hand and foot holds that they saw before them. Jeff, Linsey and the kids would tell her there is food for her at the top. Aha, motivation, the right motivation, and she would not talk about her fears, but about the need for food. My daughter, who even three months ago would not climb much of anything, was climbing these rocks. Once at the top, I was told she was really looking to eat the food. So the apple was delivered and her hunger quenched.

It was time to climb down, how were we going to get all the kids down? One by one, they each created a path down the rocks of the peak. I was amazed to watch them pick the best way down with a little coaching from us. Even Margo could make it down...her new motivation? 10 minutes till the rain arrives, oh oh, 9 minutes till the rain arrives...and so she counted down while she was climbing. No time to worry about how to climb down, she just kept focused and moving on the task set before her. I was proud of little Margo, she later said she was afraid, but kept climbing anyway...I told her that was courage.

Linsey and I looked at each other while speaking out the same thoughts. What were we thinking letting our little one's climb to the top of that peak! We decided once back at camp we would drink more wine that night by the campfire as well as eat the deserved smore's. Ben, the little son of Linsey expressed to me later, how he was scaring his mom, when he was climbing, but he assured me he was totally safe and knew not to fall off the edge. Did you catch that Linsey, he knew to be careful, not bad for a 5 year old. We decided to walk back via the surface roads and that took us all of 30 minutes.

Back at camp we enjoyed a well deserved dinner with wine and smore's for desert. The night was clear, and Ben told us a spooky story around the campfire and then the kids retired to bed. The adults, what about us, we continued to drink wine and discuss life. Oh yes, we checked out the sounds of animals walking on the slope behind our tent. Never did see the beady eyes, but I am sure something was there. Linsey moved to our side of the campfire. Hey who wants to be licked by a wild deer or "petted" by a raccoon? All in all this day truly defined our camping, it was about the hiking, the adventure and the team work.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Sometimes its just fun to talk about food....

No it is not about food our children will love when they are five...but maybe in the future these tasty bites will be something they enjoy. It really can happen. For instance my niece who is now 8 years old loves leg of lamb, in fact it has been her favorite for more than a few years. So yes there is hope for the simple pallets of our children to develop a bit of sophistication.

What about our own pallets? Do you linger over the flavor of a tasty spaghetti sauce cooked with time in the crock pot? What about a balsamic vinegar reduction drizzled like chocolate over grilled eggplant, stuffed with a lovely goat cheese mixture. One simple bite, and the flavors slowly explode upon your tongue! Individually these flavors are strong, perhaps too strong for a delightful treat, but put together, and you discover the sweetness of the balsamic reduction balances out and smooths the flavor of the goat cheese. Ah, the delight of savory and tasty food.

Wednesday night we enjoyed lasagna, prepared with home made pasta, scratch sauce, and a flavor that creates a dish as light as a feather. Who ever thought lasagna could be considered light, but this dish prepared in the kitchens of our newly discovered restaurant did not disappoint. Saturday we enjoyed salads made with mom's vinaigrette dressing over the long weekend. And of course s'mores cooked around the fire pit as we all talked about..., gee I don't remember what we discussed, but I do remember the s'mores that July 4th night.

My sister-in-law, my brother, husband and I had spent the afternoon preparing the feast to celebrate July 4th. At first we thought it would be a simple meal, but as we talked and discussed what would be prepared the gastronomical delights just kept appearing. We featured a variety of meats which included, the killer leg of lamb, rare and tender with each bite. The tri-tip was twice marinated, along with chicken breasts for those who enjoyed "white meat". We also prepared a vegetarian stir fry created with sesame flavor, pared with a light cucumber salad flavored with sweet rice vinegar. This simple salad was refreshing and cool to the taste, lovely with the vegetarian dish and big enough to counter balance all of the meats. Corn on the cob was boiled and ready to be served at the required time, as well as baked potatoes and that lovely green salad. Desert consisted of two home made pies prepared by my sister Elisabeth. They were wonderful in every way. The crust was flaky and light, she revealed the secret of the recipe, it is very very cold ice water. The apple filling was not mushy in any way, and the flavor rich. The strawberry rhubarb pie was simply to die for. And yes the s'mores were enjoyed as much by the senior crowd as the eight and five year old girls.

Friends and family add to the flavors of the past week. Last night I ate the most wonderful calamari salad I have ever had. It was perfect, tender in every way, fresh with the use of the vinaigrette style dressing. In fact I have never had a calamari salad as good as this one was. So I am begging my friend Gia to set up a cooking date with her mom. I would love to learn how to make this delightful dish. One day perhaps I shall.

In the midst of all the eating, at every event, I watched and listened to the conversation. We all seemed to enjoy the flavors of each others lives. I suppose that is really what July 4th and weekends are all about...enjoying our lives with each other.....Now on to the next meal.