Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Summer Book Basket

While it's not QUITE officially summer, we're sure feeling it here. Beautiful weather (some days even hot and humid), only one week left of school for Alex, and a change in our book basket. Here are our summer picks (although Justin is reading a copy of Mother Goose....which is really for all seasons, right?)Summer - Gerda Muller

The Summer Noisy Book- Margaret Wise Brown

Curious George Goes Camping (not really sure how this one became a favorite, but Alex adores it!)- Margaret and H.A. Ray

Planting a Rainbow- Lois Ehlert

The Curious Fish- Elsa Beskow

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Holgate Train

A few years ago, we received a wonderful package in the mail from Great-Grandma Alice and Great-Grandpa Bob. In it were vintage building blocks, gorgeous puzzles, cars/trucks, and some old wooden toys that Papa Bob and his siblings played with during their childhood. One of these toys was a Holgate activity train (or, actually, two trains adapted to fit together by an ingenious young mind with some yarn and buttons... I wonder which Marotz child did that?). Justin just discovered the joys of this train yesterday. It has officially made its way off of the display shelf and into the permanent toy collection. Normally I would hesitate handing an antique to an 18 month old, but this train is so well-designed and built that it would be a travesty to NOT play with it!

In doing some background research for this blog entry, I found a fascinating write-up of the Holgate Toy Company. What a treat to have a piece of American history in our playroom!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Alex Hatches an... Egg?

We spent Memorial Day outside as a small family unit. While we did find ourselves missing our family and friends who we normally have around on holidays, I did enjoy just making some memories with the four of us. We started the day off with a nice hike at one of our favorite spots- the Cottage Grove Ravine Regional Park. There were so many surprises and treasures that we found along the way. I brought my edible pant identification book and we discovered that the sides of the trail are teeming with brambles (blackberries) that we'll have to keep an eye on so we can come back and enjoy some sweet berries later! We identified a few other plants, but couldn't stand in one spot for too long because of the mosquitos! Best to keep moving. Dave and Alex discovered a few snails lazily making their way across the forest floor-- a spider spinning it's intricate web-- and one almost ripe wild strawberry (which we left for another lucky soul to find in a few days). I miss my camera!

After our hike (and an adventure with a flat tire... sigh!), we had brunch out and returned home for the rest of the day spent in our backyard. Even Mama and Daddy tried out the Slip n' Slide (for this, I am fine with no pictures!) and both kids found that they adore their plastic kiddie pool. We planted the rest of the garden and the windowbox and even found some interesting eggs on a blade of grass.

The eggs are now on my kitchen table, part of a grand "eggsperament" that Alex and Dave proposed. We'll see what comes out-- Alex thinks they'll turn into caterpillars. I'm thinking some of those japanese beetles that eat the strawberry plants they were found near)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Pre-Memorial Day Party!

We had Sam and Carrie over for a pre-Memorial Day party/picnic (it's supposed to be rainy tomorrow), and the kids had a great time playing with them. They also had a great time playing with their water toys (it's hot and humid here!). We got the generic Slip n' Slide out and Justin was in heaven.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Justin's Last Class

Justin enjoyed his last day of infant ECFE with the teachers that have known him since 6 weeks of age. These ladies are so special and have left such positive, nurturing, indelible marks on the person that Justin will become. We've been so lucky to have them as a part of our extended child-rearing community!

On another note: I absolutely detest not having my camera! I'm relegated to these shoddy camera-phone shots that aren't even worth trying to record the really FUN things we've been up to this week. For example: planting some tomato plants in the garden and some herbs in containers, enjoying a playdate and lunch with some good little school friends, refining our discipline tactics for a little boy who has a totally different temperment than his big sister.

Wait. Strike that last one-- not the most fun we've had this week, but necessary and important.

Justin has figured out 'shortcuts' in our discipline scheme. For example, if a stray foot wanders onto the table during dinner, that's an automatic dismissal from the privilege of sitting with us for mealtime. So.... if we're trying to get him to try a new veggie or participate in the meal and he doesn't want to, he just puts his foot next to his plate. It's become his "all done" sign. Ack!

The other issue we're dealing with is learning how to always use gentle hands with sisters and kitties. He knows what gentle means and we just need to really focus on praising him when we see desired behavior. He chooses to use non-gentle hands when he thinks he needs some attention (our old tactic was to pick him up and remove him from the situation to put his hands by the window to 'warm and gentle'). Once he started bringing himself to the window, smiling at me and heading right back over to hit sister I decided it was time to re-design that discipline, too! Any ideas?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Real Food- our newest journey

I made a reference to a 'new adventure for the Marotz family' a few entries ago, and though I enjoy being cryptic, I think it's time to let you know our newest "pledge". It's in quotation marks because we're a pretty flexible family, and aren't going to get totally nutso about it. That being said, it's something that I can control. I can control what I feed my family.

In all the Victorian-era 'womanly spheres' that encompass my duties as housewife and mother, I can say that I earn an "A" in parenting, teaching, and artistic expressioning. I'd give myself a "B" in housekeeping-- and I'm ok with that. I think my cooking/nutrition grade would fluctuate between an "A" (we buy mostly local, grass-fed meat, belong to a veggie CSA in the summer and have a fairly solid weekly meal rhythm) and a "D" (I have been known to drive through a fast food restaurant or two a week when I'm running around and have forgotten to pack healthy lunches. I've also been known to revert to frozen chicken nuggets for dinner on a busy day). A personal goal of mine is to make sure that I can average a B+ / A- when it comes to nutrition. I control what I feed my family and there is no excuse for them getting subpar, 'empty' calories.

That being said, we are taking baby steps in the world of Real Food. We are completely cutting out refined white sugar and processed white flour from our baking and cooking. I am carefully evaluating the need for buying prepackaged items when it comes up. Baby steps. We'll still go out to eat occasionally, and we will enjoy ourselves without worry when we're being hosted at our friends' and familys' homes (so don't stop inviting us for dinners!)

Our first Real Food Breakfast--Pecan Maple Breakfast Cookies (which everyone LOVED)!

To begin our journey, I revamped the menu plan-- and, using the 100 Days of Real Food blog as inspiration and recipes, have started using a lot of whole grains in our menus. It does take a bit longer to prepare dinner, but if I've done the shopping (which, incidentally, is actually cheaper because I'm just buying fresh produce) it's not much more work than normal. The kids still help wash and chop and mix and prep. Our tastebuds are simplifying and getting more satisfaction and nutrition out of natural sugars.

Here's to a new adventure!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Apple Blossom Race

Dave and the kids joined me early this morning at Carpenter Nature Center to cheer me on in my first ever 5K. It was exciting to run a 'personal best' (32:48), but MUCH more exciting to, in turn, cheer on Alexandra in her first ever 2K! I was all set to run it beside her, but she turned to us and told us that she wanted to do it by herself! Setting aside our (perhaps) better judgement, we said 'ok'. She was so excited to do it just like Mama.Fast forward to 14 minutes later, when the older kids have been coming into the finish line for about 5 minutes or so.... Dave and I kept looking at each other with these "we're the worst parents in the world-- what if she got hurt or fell or just got tired and scared and overwhelmed and is somewhere on the trail crying?" expressions on our faces. Dave even started to walk the route backwards, hoping to run into her and rescue her... but then there she was, running her little heart out. Apparently she had to stop to re-tie her shoe (and another Mama helped her), but "I never stopped going. I walked for a while but never stopped." We're SO proud of you, Alex! What an exercise in independence for her and letting go for us! She ended up right in the middle of the finishing times-- not bad for a 4 year old on her own with an equipment malfunction!

Weird camera-phone juju going on here... but it kinda looks vintagey

Thursday, May 17, 2012

KidCreate Open Studio

There is a new kid's art studio that just opened up in Woodbury. We decided to take advantage of their free open studio (grand opening special) today, and brought our friends Megan and Emma with us. The kids had a great time flitting from activity to activity (bubble painting, free clay play, book-making and a paint/paste project). The only critique that I have is that it is VERY craft-oriented. Projects are about take-home products, not process. There was no attempt at art theory or history lessons (even in the studio decorations). On the up-side it looks like a great place to bring your child if you are a bit art-shy and nervous about making a mess at home. If you, like us, have free access to materials at home (and not even fancy 'real art' materials, but glue, scissors, markers, crayons, construction paper and paint), you probably won't be very impressed. We signed up for one other free class, but I don't think I'll pay tuition.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Rocky Point: Saturday

We enjoyed our last day in Rocky Point on the beach, in the pool and on the patio overlooking the sea. Being here with a baby is a little exhausting... although Justin did get over his hatred of the sand long enough to throw a few shells into the ocean today. Alex's big moment was when she purchased a 'beautiful' bracelet from a beach vendor. We head back to Phoenix this evening, where we'll have a few days of relaxation before returning to Minnesota. Happy Early Mother's Day to all!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Shell-hunting with Grandma Mary

In the afternoon, after swimming in the pool, enjoying some fresh shrimp and taking a little rest, Alex, Grandma Mary and I headed back down to explore the beach. Every time we visit, we discover a new creature... we've seen big and little crabs, horseshoe crabs, beached jellyfish, last year it was a starfish, but today we started finding sand dollar pieces!

Friday in Puerto Penasco

Shrimp stands open up around 8:30am in town, so the Marotz family was there! Alex also discovered some oysters.... but wasn't too sure about actually touching them. I feel like our family is a walking advertisement for Sunday Afternoons hats, (as everyone but myself has a version!) so here's my little plug. We love these sun hats. Al lived in her blue one until this year, when she was upgraded to purple and J-bunny inherited the old one. Best comfy and breathable head protection EVER!

Walking downtown with Daddy, watching the pelicans soar, the seagulls swoop and the waves crash. Doesn't get better than this!

Rocky Point Morning

Since we're still on the 'two hours ahead' time schedule, more-or-less, getting up early for some unrise beach action wasn't too hard. We arrived in Rocky Point on Thursday evening (after a car ride with two kids who pretty much refused to sleep) and were greeted by the sand and surf at daybreak.

Justin wasn't a big fan of the sand in his sandals. He also doesn't really like wind..... or sand in the wind. Let's just say that he'll probably enjoy the beach MUCH more in a year or so. It was just too 'exposed' for him at this point in time. And the shells were sandy, which made them taste awful.

Exhibit A:

Family shot - morning at the beach:

Monday, May 7, 2012

Our Time in Phoenix

We had a wonderful time visiting Grandma Mary and Papa Bob while Daddy was at his work conference (at the Biltmore, so don't feel TOO sorry for him... plus I got to join him for a day and a half, so I also had a wonderful vacation!). Because it was already getting "hot" (or "ha-ha-haat" in Justin-ese) during the day, we spent a lot of mornings playing outside on the patio. I found a new love of desert trail running, and Justin mastered the words "cookie", "noodle" (like the pool kind), and "slinky". He is not signing as much as Alex did-- he'd much rather just try to use his voice! We visited the Farmer's Market on Sunday morning and tried a variety of new things. Pichuberries (or ground cherries) were a hit with the 4 and up crowd. Cucumber Sesame and Mango-Prickly Pear popsicles we enjoyed all around.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Reflections on a Screen (and Camera)- Free Week

I have no pictures from this week. I thought it might be sort of freeing-- to not have to document everything we do and just focus on being in the moment. While it was nice (in a way) not to be scrounging around for a camera, I can say that I genuinely enjoy documenting our lives! Had I not been completely camera-less, I would have broken down and taken pictures. Lots of pictures. I love photographs, and I love looking at the things we've done, the places we've explored and the experiences we have. I'm proud of the work I do as a Mama, and enjoy sharing it with all of you! Plus this blog is the only way that our relatives can keep up-to-date with the kids' growth. You wouldn't believe how many questions/comments I've gotten from grandparents about our absence!

What we did this week: Pretty much par for the course-- Alex went to school, Justin threw balls, we started a new family goal (more to come on that later), we cooked and baked and I stayed off of Facebook (now THAT was easier said than done-- I realized how much of a habit it's become to quickly check my FB page everytime I sign on the iPad or the computer). I broke the screen-free rule when I unwittingly went into the cardio theater at the gym. Didn't even regisister that I'd watched part of a movie (btw: The Iron Lady is fantastic!) until I'd finished my 30 minutes of treadmill time. We spent the rest of the week packing for our upcoming Phoenix/Mexico trip (updates and PHOTOS to come soon!).