Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Panda House

As my local friends know, our side of town is full of cultural curiosities to say the least. I dreamt of writing one amazing post about all the oddities... but became quite overwhelmed at the task.

Where do I start?
Where do I stop?
How do I do it all justice?

Lorraine's idea was divine... to do an "observation of the day" type of thing... freeing me from the pressure of wanting to perform ALL of it perfectly at my first shot. She acts like she's taking Sonship or something. Anyway...

The Panda House is a great place to start. I pause here, because I'm quite aware that my words won't do it justice. You'll just have to come for a visit and ask for the tour... from across the street.

I got my rear in gear and went for a walk Thursday morning. Our side of town is made up of cozy bungalows... some making you say, "oh, how cute-" and some making you stop and gasp, "what is that?" Well, the Panda House is one of the "gaspy" ones.

Imagine, if you are capable, hundreds- I'm not exaggerating- of stuffed panda bears, yes- the toy kind, all over the outside of a house.

The porch. Piled on the porch swing. Stacked on the steps. Stuffed in the planters.

The yard. Peering through branches in trees. Lining the fence. Peeking through the shrubs. Even bleeding into the vacant lot next door.

Yes, I really am serious.

Urban Legend has it that there are even more INSIDE the "Panda Woman's" house.

I've always had a problem with collections. If I like something, I might want a couple more of it- maybe. But I'll probably just want to enjoy the one I have. I've never understood the wanting of many many of one thing. I've started to view that house has haunted and wondered what issues the Panda Woman has, or doesn't have.

Well, I have some news for you. On my walk that cool, brisk morning on Thursday, serendipity had it for me to lay my eyes on the Panda Woman herself. When Melanie and I used to walk these streets, we only dreamt of such an occasion. Well, it happened and I will tell you what I saw.

She actually appeared much like I had imagined. She had many years on her, had unkempt hair, and wore a very worn moo moo. She was slowly walking through her yard with a tall pooper scooper, scooping up poop. (By the way, in case you were wondering, "pooper" doesn't pass spell check.)

Upon telling of my viewing to Doug, he exclaimed, "Was it a dog's poop? Or the pandas' poop?" Good question. Good question. I need to get back over there and observe the poop a bit closer.

As I continued on my walk past the Panda's House... or the Panda Woman's House as I now shall say, I leave with many of the same questions as I had before.

Why does she have all these panda's?
Does she not notice they are dirty and molded from being subjected to the elements?
Is anyone in her life to tell her these things?

The whole situation is such a vivid picture of depravity.

Then I get sad. Either she
a) has no one left to free her from the pandas.
b) she has family/friends, but for whatever reason, there's enough distance or fear in the relationship that no one is taking action to free her from said pandas.

Does anyone even know why she has the pandas? There has to be a really good reason and a really good story. Does anyone know it? This realization might be the saddest part.

And so I end with a request. If such a collection takes over my home and life in my latter years... or if I have any other issue completely obvious to the world... or we'll even say, if these things are true of my today, please come help me!! Don't leave me here alone to die with my "pandas!"

Doug's ending to this madness is this...
"What if she isn't alone. What if she has a husband who hates the pandas?"

Monday, July 23, 2007

Childrens Book Reviews

Some folks are AMAZING at giving reviews of children books... amazing in that they do it often and give concise, clear, and compelling reviews of their favorite children's books. Check out Preschoolathome if you're interested in one.

This is my first time, so be patient with me! I'll definitely save figuring out how to post pictures of the books for another day or year.

The boys and I had a very successful trip to the library a few weeks ago. I discovered the "New Children's Books" section. My other strategy was to look through all the children's books on display. I figured they were on display for a reason (someone must love 'em!) and loaded up. Usually I wander around in circles, if i haven't placed specific books on hold or don't have specific books in mind, randomly pulling books off the shelves... a frustrating process producing few quality books to be checked out.

Here are a few gems we found and recommend... the first is a board book and the rest are picture books.

The Big Book of Beautiful Babies Board Book by David Ellwand
Actually a small board book, Justin loved the pictures of the babies and loved practicing the opposites.

Hush Little Digger by Ellen Olson-Brown
is sung to the tune of "Hush Little Baby." How amusing to sing about trucks to the soothing tune of a lullaby! The illustrations by Lee White were fun and modern.

The Wheels on the School Bus by Mary-Alice Moore
is a modern take on the traditional song, including all our favorite school characters such as "The librarian on the bus says read more books!" etc. Its illustrations, by Laura Huliska-Beith, are also fun and modern. It's a fun book to play an "I spy" type of game with your child, "Who is wearing purple glasses?" or "Where is the basketball?"

Full, Full, Full of Love by Trish Cooke
is about beloved Sunday dinners at Grandma's house from the grandson's point of view. Its joyful and sing-songy... and the illustrations by Paul Howard are precious, leaving me wanting to jump in that grandma's lap! Seriously, her eyes are so comforting and her lap so squooshy-looking!

Goodnight Me, Goodnight You, by Tony Mitton
ends a long term search of mine to find a book as well-written, calming, simple, and easy-to-read as Big Red Barn and Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown. (Thanks for the gift of that book, Aunty Bets!) I almost gave up until I found this jewel! The rhyme is so beautiful and the modern pictures (illustrated by Mandy Sutcliffe) are captivating. I'd love to own this one! It was my favorite out of the bunch.

This Way, Ruby!, by Jonathan Emmett
is one of a series of books about Ruby Duck, the late bloomer. We loved the tales of this sweet duck, slower in speed but faster to "stop and smell the flowers" than her siblings. I loved being reminded to care more about quality than quantity, slow moments than efficiency.

Smash! Mash! Crash! There Goes The Trash! by Barbara Odanaka
is perfect for all the kids out there who love a good garbage truck. I love books like these that embellish everyday situations- making them even more fun and interesting for children and for us. As demonstrated in the title, this book masters onomatopoeia and alliteration.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

"Two Little Monkey's Jumping on the Bed!"

Today I was pushing Justin and his friend Tian in the double stroller. My friend Lorraine (Tian's Mommy) was pushing Nathan behind me. It was hot. We were all sweaty. I was bee-lining for home where I would promptly lower the air conditioner and refill all our water bottles and sippy cups with cold water. ("coll wada!")

I was daydreaming about these next moves of mine when out of the corner of my eye, I barely noticed Justin stretching his neck out of the stroller, trying to look back at something unbeknownst to me. I promptly stopped the stroller and turned it towards the direction he was looking. I followed his gaze to a mattress store-- whose store front was covered with new mattresses. An employee was carrying them in one by one.

Justin was fascinated. The sheer number of mattresses in one location, the fact they were outside, watching the employee actually pick them up--- because of some or all of those reasons, it was all so new and curious to him. He proclaimed "Bed!" and "Night Night!" Lorraine laughed in delight, explaining she was touched by the fact that he made the connection between the beds and night night.

A few thoughts--
One, it's always a gift when a friend notices something about your child and subsequently complements and enjoys them. Thanks, Lorraine. I want to be more like that.

Secondly, I almost missed it! I'm so thankful the Lord prevented me from getting too lost in my own thoughts. The experience makes me want to keep slowing down and to be more present to notice the little things, the little significant moments in my boys' lives... in order to nurture their hearts and minds, to enjoy them, and to perhaps most importantly-- to let them know that I enjoy them, that I want to experience all those moments with them. The Lord certainly enjoys and notices all the little thing about me- including knowing how many hairs are on my head. He delights in me and sings over me. I hope to reflect the Lord's love for us in that way.

Lord, give me eyes to see, notice, and enjoy all the little hairs on Justin's and Nathan's heads, and all the little moments you give me in general in life.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Banana Bread Recipe

Here's another favorite in our house. It's a recipe I got from either Ashley or Cheyenne, thanks you two! I use it so often and I can't remember from which one the recipe originated. I love it because it's full of healthy goodies like wheat flour, wheat germ, and flax seed mill (which Justin calls, "fax seed MILL!" hilarious to me that he knows what this ingredient is!). So it's guilt free and everyone always raves about its taste, from the toddler to the retiree-- even people as old as my Aunt Betsy. ;)

This banana bread is a staple around here. Justin "helps" me make it. It's so easy and I'm so familiar with the recipe by now that I can handle the unpredictable but precious participation of my toddler. And he loves being such a big help and sticking his fingers in all the flour. Cooking is becoming a regular shared activity for us. Last week he even ran inside from playing ball outside with Daddy (sorry, Daddy!) when he saw me inside with my apron on. He immediately found his apron and wanted to join in on all the fun. He loves helping, loves that I let him sample what I'm making, and I love the special time with him. An added benefit is that he'll eat almost anything in that setting... even red peppers, cucumbers, and walnuts.

Like everything else, it doubles well (I've been known to quadruple it!) and freezes well. I usually make 2 loaves... eating one and freezing the other or giving it away to a friend. Your's wasn't one of the ones touched with Justin's fingers, I promise. Try it out and let me know what you think!

Banana Bread
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 stick of melted, softened
3 over-riped bananas, mashed
1 cup of sugar
pinch of salt
2 cups of wheat flour
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cups walnuts, chopped
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/4 cup flax seed meal

Mix together and place in a greased loaf pan. Bake @ 350 for 1 hour-1 hour 5 min, or when the middle is cooked. Makes one loaf.

Monday, July 9, 2007


Thanks to my dear friend Missy, I have been introduced to a new amazing help for my Mommying. It's a magazine called Wondertime. (Thanks for all the back issues, Missy!) I have generally run away from traditional parenting magazines, finding them way to "should" and "how to" oriented. They bore me and stress me out. This magazine is more reflective, vision-oriented, and generally refreshing. In the words of my friend Jen, mother of 4 children in 4 years, it's like Real Simple with the focus on parenting preschoolers. It's aestheticly beautiful and oh so fun to read. And most importantly, it's helping me appreciate and make the most of all the valuable time I'm getting with my boys.

Here's a jewel from the Feb/Mar 07 issue... from page 16, the editor's note:

"Here are a few pieces of wisdom, collected from our advisory board and others, that have inspired me. I hope they do the same for you:

~Smile more; your face speaks volumes to your child.

~Three things to say more often: "Take your time," "It's not your fault," and "I'm sorry, you're right."

~Listen more, talk less- your child is the best teacher you'll ever have.

~Care as much about other people's children as you do about your own.

~Remember that kids don't learn by having knowledge poured into their brains; they learn by experience and through relationships.

~Expose your child to noble people."

Doug and I had a great time processing these wise words... very convicting and very encouraging to our parenting. They served as great reminders to us as we seek to be loving parents both to our children and to the world's children. We are encouraged to remember that we get to rely on the Lord's strength to help us love both.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

A New Way To Spend Our Evenings

It can happen so easily. The boys are put to bed. Doug and I sigh, "Ahhhh, the boys are contained." We allow ourselves a couple minutes to catch our breath and then we are off to work on our to-do lists.

For me, the list includes catching up on emails and blogs, planning meals, cooking, phone calls, folding laundry, decluttering, etc. In my dream life, I try to do these things during the day so that Doug and I have our evenings to spend together... but all to often they seem to spill over into "overtime."

Doug's list includes planning the next home improvement project, doing a home improvement project, working through receipts and bills, making a trip to Lowe's, decluttering, etc.

These tasks aren't bad tasks, and obviously there are times when they must happen during the evening. But all to often, these tasks keep us from resting and prevent us from spending real time together, even as we're actually only a few feet from one another.

Thankfully, last night, the Lord gave us a birds' eye view of what has become all to "normal" in our home in the evening. We decided to work on directing our home improvement efforts to ourselves.

The new gift we give to each other is reading together. We are finally reading a book we have heard to be the "be all end all" marriage book from way too many people we respect, The Mystery of Marriage, by Mike Mason. Last night we read the prologue aloud to each other. The book's beautiful writing coming from my husband's lips made me become one with the couch. It was so relaxing and refreshing!

There is something really dear about reading aloud. I'm attracted to this method as it's very inefficient. It'll take us longer to finish this book; we'll get much less "done" this way. But for us, who are way too focused on efficiency and output, reading orally will be one more gift.

We loved getting Mason's thoughts on marriage and thinking of them together. On page 21 of the prologue Mason says,

"Marriage stands at the very hub of this exciting spiritual dialectic, for it is, as Paul points out, a cameo dramatization of the relationship of the whole church with its Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This is the territory which this book seeks to explore, this dynamic correspondence between marriage and the great invisible realities of the Christian faith. It is not a "how-to" book so much as a "how-come" book, a meditative inquiry into the spiritual foundations upon which marriage is built."

And so my beloved and I get to kill many birds with one stone... we gain a break from our household tasks, time with one another, the chance to experience life a bit more fully and "inefficiently," and the chance to grow in our most precious earthly relationship.