Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Skill to Have

A couple weeks ago, I took the girls strawberry and cherry picking at a local orchard - whose name shall remain anonymous for reasons obvious once you read this.

This was Zelda's first time berry picking. I'm not sure she quite got the hang of it. She seemed to enjoy picking a few strawberries - and not even nice ones - throwing them into her container, dumping them on the ground and then stepping on them. Yep, actually, I'm positive she didn't get the hang of it.

Annalee, on the other hand, did really well picking beauties - both strawberries and cherries. She did like to bounce around a bit. While I would stay in one section of a row, Annalee bounced around from section to section, row to row. I'm sure the orchard growers love ADD pickers like her.

Besides fruit picking, I had the opportunity to teach my girls some very basic skills that will carry them through life: how to pee in the bush. Yes, indeedy, I helped them squat and pee. When Annalee said she had to go, I knew it would have taken us too long to get back to the farm entrance where the port-a-potties were. So, I told her she'd need to do it right where we were, amongst the cherry trees. Strangely, I had even thought to pack tissue with me. So, they had the luxury of being able to wipe with the real deal. And, since we have the 'monkey see, monkey do' syndrome in our family, Zelda had to follow suit.

I won't go into the details here, 'cause I'm sure one day the girls would be mortified to know I'm sharing this. But, I'll just say that I was very proud of them.

Then, yesterday, I found out that this lesson had been successful. I was at a park with Zelda when she told me she had to pee. This particular park didn't have a portable john anywhere. While I stood there trying to figure out what to do, Zelda told me she was just going to go on the ground. I stopped her long enough to get her in a secluded spot near a tree. She just laughed and laughed. And, she peed.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Looking Back

As part of Ron's father's day gift, I finally created a file of a whole bunch of our best pictures from the past 10 years or so for him to play on his electronic picture frame. Well, it was actually only about nine years with the exception of boating pictures, 'cause we didn't have a digital camera until about 2001. And, I say finally since I gave Ron the electronic picture frame for Christmas with the promise that I'd make a file as part of the gift. So, now, six months later he finally has his file.

It took me several hours just to pick out the pictures, then another hour sorting through the hundreds I copied into the folder. I deleted extraneous ones and ones that just didn't tell a story.

When Annalee asked me what I was up to I showed her some pictures and told her they were from before her and Zelda, when daddy and I had a different life. What I found most interesting was to click through the pictures in full-screen once they were all cleaned up. I had so many realizations; I thought I'd share them...
  • Ron and I looked a lot younger 10 years ago. Less gray. Fewer wrinkles. More carefree.
  • We had a lot of fun when it was just Ron and me. And, we've had a lot of fun when we were a family of three and now as a family of four.
  • We have done a lot of traveling to a lot of really cool, really beautiful places.
  • We have had a lot of laughs together, with family and with many wonderful friends.
  • We have taken a lot of pictures of each girl doing the same thing, just three years apart.
  • If you run all the pictures of just Annalee together, you see the same happy smile and many of the same poses, shot after shot. Same goes for Zelda. It's really pretty amazing when you see the pictures one after the other.
  • Zelda looks a lot like Annalee did when she was younger. In fact, I did a double-take on a couple pictures trying to figure out which girl it was.
The biggest realization for me was the peace in knowing that in 45 short years, I have lived an amazing life (and that's just from looking at a decade of pictures and remembering the other 30 years). When I finished looking at the pictures, I gave thanks to God for this wonderful life. I felt a sense of contentment in knowing that if my life ends anytime soon, it's been a very full one.

Of course, at 45 I figure I'm only half way to 90, so I still have a long way to go. I have two girls to raise and a husband to grow old with. What a great life this is!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Canning Season

Canning season has opened again, at least as far as fresh produce is concerned. I was in canning heaven the other night canning beets for the first time. I just can't describe the peace that I feel when I'm canning. I often think of my grandma Fran. She was a canner, even though I had no idea what was going on at the time she was doing it, since I was probably five. But, now that I can myself, I have realized what the smell of dill in her kitchen was all about.

The cooking of the beets took longer than I anticipated. I was feeling generous, so I let Annalee stay up and help me. She was very curious to see what it looked like to take off the beet skin. Heck, I was curious since I'd never done it before. I kept reading 'slip the skin off' and 'cook the beets until the skin slips.' And, then, we figured it out. This outer layer on the beets gets soft, cracks and just falls off. It was pretty cool to see and feel. Annalee couldn't wait for me to finish cooking the beets, so I let her sample a beet dipped in the brine. She declared that canning them ourselves is 'so much better than store-bought beets. We should do this all the time!' I continued with my work long after she went to bed - I finally finished around midnight. Maybe I'll start earlier in the day next time.

We had to wait a few days to open our first jar, to let all the flavors gel. OMG, did they gel! Annalee, Zelda and I nearly polished off an entire pint jar within a few minutes tonight.

Too bad that five bunches of beets doesn't go very far. I only managed to get four pints from them. I'm thinking the next time I do beets - in the upcoming few weeks - I'll just do a bushel. And, I'll pack them in quart jars. Hmmmmm, maybe I should think about two bushels....

UPDATE: Annalee came in the office just as I was posting this. She smacked her lips at the picture of the beets and asked,'I can't wait for you to make more because I can't resist beets!'

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Summer Vacation is Underway!

Annalee has been out of school one week now. Those first few days, we really couldn't appreciate the opportunity to sleep in as we had a bunch of appointments and stuff to do that required us getting up early.

This week, Ron is off fishing in Wisconsin, so we've been getting really lazy. The evenings are getting later and the mornings are as well. Zelda slept until nearly 8 this morning!

Last week, to start our summer, I asked Annalee to come up with a list of things that she wanted us to do during the next few months. Being the Type A that I am, I thought it would be nice to have some direction. It also provides us with ideas when that special someone says 'I'm bored!'. Here's our list so far:

Have a fire in the fire pit in the backyard (did that tonight, actually); roast marshmallows, a lot!
Visit six new parks in the area
Go to the Shedd Aquarium
Go to the Art Institute
Go to the Field Musuem
Visit Brookfield Zoo, multiple times
Visit The Flamingo (sculpture) in Chicago
(Annalee) Have a sleepover with Nana and Grandpa
Visit the Morton Arboretum, multiple times
Go to Swedish Days in Geneva (we will, since my dad is exhibiting his turned bowls)
Go to the Wisconsin State Fair
(Jackie) Enter at least one canned good in the DuPage County Fair
Go to the DuPage County Fair
Go to a Kane County Cougars game, hopefully with friends from our first China travel group
Go to the Kane County Flea Market
Visit Grandpa Ronnie and Grandma Betty in North Carolina (sorry, Annalee, this won't happen until the fall holidays)
Pick blueberries - and lots of other fruits for canning
Read at least one book from the Little House on the Prairie Series
Go to a Wednesday morning kids movie at the Tivoli Theater
Attend the Taste of Westmont (with and without the girls)
Teach Annalee the knit stitch
See the Darien July 4th parade
Make good use of our pool passes to Cypress Cove
Hang out in a hammock watching the clouds (we have to buy a new hammock, first)
Spend time with friends, especially friends from our travel groups
Go to at least one farmers' market each week

Long list, huh? Keep in mind that we have all that to attempt along with the complete remodeling of our kitchen, which should happen in early July. Yikes! And, a lot of things on Annalee's wish list require traveling downtown. But, with good planning, I think we can make most of this happen.

Actually, one week in and we've gone strawberry and cherry picking (I'll cover that in another post), been to the Hinsdale Farmers' Market, met four families from our first travel group at a park, and had a camp fire in the back yard and roasted marshmallows.

What I think will be fun is to look back at this list at the end of the summer and see what we did compared to what we thought we wanted to do. Obviously, the best part of our summer will be the time we spend together, no matter what we do. In fact, that's so important to Annalee that she really doesn't want to take any classes. I insisted on continuing swimming, but that's all I could get her to do. She just wants to be with me. And, really, that's ok. She's seven. She doesn't have to take a class every day for hours on end. Summer is about relaxing and enjoying time together. I think we're off to a good start.

End of School

Following in my friend Becky's blog tracks, I thought I'd share pictures of Annalee from the start of first grade along with pictures from her last day of school last week. I can't believe she's a rising second grader already! First grade seems to have flown by, no doubt in part because of our travels to China and the arrival of little Zelda.

So, here's Annalee on her first day of school:

And, here was her last day of first grade:

Just to highlight the changes in our family these past seven months, here's a picture of the girls together on Annalee's last day. Annalee and Zelda wore their matching outfits...

Monday, June 7, 2010

Five Times and Counting

Annalee lost her fifth baby tooth yesterday. At our church picnic. The week before, she lost her fourth tooth. During Memorial Day weekend. These last two were her two front teeth.

Really, I couldn't wait for this second tooth to come out. Last week, after Annalee crashed her mouth into my little nephew's head and her first top front tooth came out, the remaining front tooth was kind of hanging there. With the missing tooth and the hanging tooth both on the top combined with the opening where a new tooth is growing in on the bottom, Annalee basically looked like a snaggle-toothed hillbilly. And, that's what we called her for a week. Now, she looks like a typical first-grader missing her two front teeth (at least three of her friends look like her right now).

With the loss of these last two teeth, Annalee has kept up her losing streak. She seems to lose teeth on occasions. Her first tooth came out on her sixth birthday; the second tooth came out on the last day of kindergarten; the third tooth came out on Easter; and now these last two teeth on Memorial Day weekend and at the church picnic. Isn't that fun?

If only the tooth fairy would come. We think last night she might have had trouble finding the tooth under Annalee's pillow. I mean, she just couldn't have forgotten...could she? Maybe I'll go check now.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Sunday, May 30, 2010

A new blessing for the season:

The Wisdom of God
the Love of God
and the Grace of God
strengthen you
to be Christ's hands and heart in this world,
in the name of the Holy Trinity.