Sunday, September 8, 2013

Volume IX, issue vii, August 2013

For us, the month of August is a blank slate of summer possibilities. This year we used some of that time to take a trip to see my brother, Tom, and his family in Seattle, Washington. They're scurrying off to New York in September, so we decided to take the leap into the world of long car trips to see them.

When I told one of my friends that I was going to Seattle, she said, "Who's Attle?" 

We've only locked our crew in a travel vehicle for longer than four hours when we went to Oregon two years ago, and Charlie was still new enough that it wasn't too difficult. There is only one word to describe how we felt about squishing ourselves in a Suburban with our ever-squirming Charlie for twelve hours in a row: fear. 

This fear motivated me to create fourteen different activities to pack in our traveling bag, which ended up being so big that it took up all of my leg room in the front seat. I didn't care though. I was a perfect boy scout. I was prepared for anything. 

The older kids helped me make puppets, magnet games, and file-folder games for hours the week before we left, so it was a team effort. We took turns sitting next to Charlie and making his peace and ours our only priority. 

After over twenty-four hours in the car with him going to Seattle and back, we all came to the consensus that it wasn't so bad. In fact, it was almost pleasant. Almost. Let's not go crazy. 

Eric commented that if you put a curly blond wig on a monkey, you wouldn't be able to tell the difference between the monkey and Charlie. I think that might be true. Or maybe we watched Curious George about five too many times on our car trip. 

After eleven-and-a-half hours in the car, we broke out the "emergency items" for Charlie to play with. One of these was a glow stick. It entertained Charlie for the last 30 minutes of the trip and ushered us calmly to our destination. When we arrived at Tom and Tracy's we plunked ourselves on their couches, just happy not to be moving. Suddenly Charlie saw their dog and started saying, "Oh no! Oh no!" He then grabbed each end of his glow stick with a chubby fist and crouched in his best two-foot ninja position to show the dog that he meant business.

Having fourteen kids in one house was not as Lord of the Flies-esque as you might think. Between the two families, we have 10 boys and 4 girls, and their ages and interests match up so well that there was noisy, wonderful, lively fun for three straight days.

Charlie's pronunciation of "Pish" is one of my favorite Charlie-isms. 
Our Tom
My sweet Tommy is caring, brilliant, loyal, tender, and witty. He has a rare combination of spiritual maturity, unique insight, and hilarious humor. His balance between "heart and head" (as my Dad used to say) taught me what kind of man I wanted to marry, so obviously Eric loves and respects him as much as I do. Along with my Dad, the two of us are the only "Browns" in the family, so we have to stick together! (And we can still beat you Blondes at Trivial Pursuit any day!) My favorite part of this trip was watching Tom with his kids. He is the type of father every kid dreams of. One moment he'd be giving them sage advice about education and the next he'd be cranking up the tunes and dancing and playing in the hot tub with them. I loved watching them watch him with so much adoration in their eyes. He loves and appreciates them as individuals and they sense that. 

Rose Colored Glasses

Eve and I share a lot of genetic and personality traits. She may have gotten the rich brown color of her eyes from her Dad, but her prescription for eyeglasses is all me. Like mine, her glasses are heavy enough that sometimes they slide southward of their own accord.

One day on our Seattle trip, she emerged from Tom and Tracy's guest bathroom looking panicked. She whispered to us that her glasses had fallen into the toilet.

I'm not sure how that happened and frankly I don't really want to know. The point is her glasses were in the toilet and we had to do something about it.

After she retrieved her glasses from their. . . uh. . . perch, Eric stood at the sink with her and helped her to get cleaned up.

She looked up at him and smiled and said,  "Do you know what the good part is?"

Eric just looked blankly at her. The good part about having your glasses fall into the toilet? 

She continued by chirping, "The good part is that my glasses fell on the toilet paper and not the stuff underneath it!"

Eve is a "The-Glasses-Are-Half-Full" kind of girl.

Breakfast at Marie's

There were a few days this month when I was under the weather. One of these mornings, Marie approached me and asked with concern, "Mom, are you feeling sick?"

I answered, "That is so nice of you to ask, Marie."

She replied, "Well, I wanted to be nice. . . and get some breakfast."

Back to School Outings

Before we crack open each shiny new school year, the kids and I go on one-on-one "outings" to the restaurant of their choice. The outings consist of feasting on the rare experience of not only the food at a restaurant, but having some one-on-one conversation. With the first day of school breathing down our necks and six outings to schedule, I decided to take Peter and Marie at the same time. They couldn't decide between McDonalds and Pizza Pie Cafe and there were heated deliberations all morning on their scheduled day. Marie couldn't decide between the two because, in her words, "I like them both the same height."

Marie Salad

Lucikly for me, Peter and Marie chose the pizza buffet, which allowed me to eat some salad while they stuffed themselves silly with pizza. They opened their mouths unnaturally wide and stretched their bellies to carbohydrate capacity. 

After watching them eat three or four slices of pizza, I asked Marie if she would like me to get her some salad. She replied with the one word she usually uses to answer a question: "Sure!"

 I placed a variety of garden delights on Marie's salad plate and watched her ooo and aah over each healthy morsel. She was so excited about her salad that I asked her, "Do you like salad, Marie?" 

She replied, "I don't care what's in it! I just like it!" 

I had to snap a photo of her relishing each bite of her salad just like the health-nut for whom she is named would have done. Marie Senior absolutely dominates the world of salad building. For her, it is both a sport and an art. I have never seen anyone build a more gigantesque and simultaneously structurally sound salad. I'm talking different FLOORS of salad rising to green heights on the same plate (symmetrically, of course) with each nutritive layer building upon the one before it. You haven't really witnessed a real salad bar salad until you've beheld a Marie Salad. 

After more than an hour, Marie and Peter finally arrived at their Dessert Pizza Course and Marie chose a slice of raspberry. She licked her lips and said, "This raspberry stuff blows my mind!"

Peter's World

I asked Peter if he had any advice for Marie about kindergarten and without hesitating, he piped up, "I know! Be responsible, respectful, and ready."

Peter rested his chin on the table so that the rest of his body was hidden and then offered a cheesy smile and said, "It's an episode of 'Just a Head!'"

Holden On

With Holden on the cusp of his high school career, I told him the story of the summer before my ninth grade year and how my parents nudged me gently towards going to a private school. They left the ultimate choice up to me, and so I prayed about it. It was my first experience with prayer in which I was having a two-way conversation with God and negotiating about an important decision. I asked God if I should attend the private school and He answered me with a clear, "Yes." I remember the feeling of warmth that started at the top of my head and traveled downward until it rested in my heart with undeniable certainty.

I told Holden how that decision not only changed my academic life, but it changed my perspective on life. That was the year I learned how to learn and learned to love learning. 

I was a little wistful as I realized during that conversation with Holden that it was an adult conversation with a spiritually mature and sensitive young man. He chewed on his food thoughtfully and asked me questions about my experience. He asked me how I knew I wanted to be an English Professor and if it was okay if he wasn't sure what his major should be in college. As we were driving in the car, I asked him if he was excited to start school again.

He said, "During the summer I just sort of missed learning. I sort of hungered for it."

As Eric often says, "These people who are our children are the ones I'd choose to spend time with if I could choose to be with anyone in the world." 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Anne of Green Gables Picnic and Tea Party . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (Camp d'Evegnee, August 2013)

After so many fantasy-filled Camp d'Evegnees, I decided it was time to experiment with something a little closer to reality. As a teenager, I lapped up Anne of Green Gables like water and soaked in her creativity, her constant involvement in "scrapes" and, of course, her secret crush on (sigh) Gilbert Blythe. I want both my boys and my girls to become fictional friends with our dear, quirky Anne and to appreciate the need for female protagonists whose only super power is their imagination and their ability to make a simple life absolutely fulfilling. Thank you, Anne Shirley, for being that sort of girl. (And thank you, Lucy Maud Montgomery, for creating her!)

To prepare for Camp d'Evegnee,  I read Anne of Green Gables aloud to the oldest four kids. The boys tolerated it with a respectable amount of amused interest. Eve, though, kept me grinning as I caught her leaning forward intently and clinging to each carefully crafted sentence night after night. Anne kept popping up in her everyday conversations with both Eric and me.

The kids asked me, "So, with your best friend in junior high, were you Anne or Diana?"

 I wanted to say, "We're planning a costume bedecked picnic and baking Josie Pie and drinking Root Gil-beer-t Blythe. What do you think?"

Anne of Green Gables Picnic
 We dressed up in our formal picnic attire and headed down to the next best thing to the Barry's Pond--the gorgeous Ricks Gardens at BYU-Idaho. We couldn't have cooked up a better setting with our imaginations. Anne would have approved (and she certainly would have come up with a much more romantical name than "The Ricks Gardens!").

When Eric saw my get-up with its yards of white lace I had sewn on to a plain white apron, and the converted gathered empire waist, he said, "Well. . . you look maternal." I wanted to reply, "I've always dreamed of going to a picnic in puffed sleeves.  I'd rather look ridiculous with everyone else than plain and sensible all by myself." 

The Menu for the Picnic:
Root Gil-beer-t Blythe
Matthew's Favorite Fried Chicken
Rachel Lynde's Potato Salad
Carrots (of course!)
Josie Pie
Marilla Bean Ice Cream

All of the recipes for the picnic and the tea party are posted on my recipe blog HERE

Anne of Green Gables Tea Party
We couldn't keep all of the Anne-esque amusement to ourselves, so we invited some kindred spirits to join us for a tea party.

The Tea Party Menu
A Variety of Tea Sandwiches, including my personal favorite, Fluffernutter Tea Sandwiches (a homage to Eric's Eastern upbringing)
Raspberry Cordial (absolutely non-alcoholic--no intoxicating our bosom friends)
Josie's Beaus on a String (Fruit Kabobs)
Plum Pudding with Sauce
Miss Stacy's Nature Salad
Matthew's Lady Bugs (Get it? He's bugged by ladies! I got a real "thrill" out of that one.)
Teacup Cupcakes and Teapot Cake
You can find all of the recipes HERE

When I discovered that Plum Pudding doesn't have plums in it, I was so flabbergasted that I couldn't stop chattering about the history of the dessert. The kids got so tired of my purely nerdy enthusiasm, that I over-dramatically asked them, "Did you know that Plum Pudding doesn't have any plums in it??" at least ten times the week of the party to see them roll their eyes.

I'm sure you caught a grotesque gander of the mouse in our pudding sauce. Well, I suppose in the end it was a romantic way to persish. . . for a gummy mouse. 

I wish you could have seen Marie as she ran after her partner, waving her arms just like Jane Andrews when she thought Anne had drowned and yelling, "Wait for me! Wait for me!!!"
The kids each got to decorate their own cupcakes to look like teacups.

Please email me if you'd like the files for any of these printables, the invitation, or the food labels! I'm always happy to share!

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