Waging war in the urban jungle

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The most wonderful proud feeling

This is how my son described himself to me moments ago on the phone.  Why was he so proud?  He finished his second chapter book.

I ask my kids to read daily when school is out, I think their little brains need the exercise.  He finished the first book last week and called me to share his happiness that day, he just couldn't wait to tell me until I picked him up.  I loved that.

He picked out a new book Monday morning, read that day at his Grandma's, yesterday was a busy day so he didn't spend any time with his book.  But today when I dropped him off we agreed that he would spend time with his book this morning since he has a play date this afternoon. 

He just called me a few minutes ago to tell me he finished that book too!  Now, these are not huge books, nor should they be for a beginning reader.  The first was a Werewolf Club book and the second a Junie B Jones book, but both are around 80 pages, and he finished them!  He's so proud of himself and I am just as proud of him. 

What I really love though is how excited he is to share his accomplishments with me.  He's proud of himself.  He worked hard, he finished the task, he feels pride.  He's connecting those three things early which I hope will take him far, not only in school but also in life.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Changing perspectives

This has been an...unusual holiday season.  It's sort of snuck up on me.  Thanksgiving caught me by surprise and I found myself at the grocery store the day before picking up things I'd forgotten, that never happens-me and crowds do not get a long. 

My company holiday party, which I host, sort of did the same.  Very last minute on a lot of things, barely got the food ordered, was shopping for it day before-had to take the morning off work to do that.

Christmas was much the same.  I barely got our Christmas cards out! I was wrapping literally the day before.  Heck, I still shopping the week of! 

Despite all of that, it's actually been a very enjoyable holiday.  It's been hectic at times and I have had to cut a few things loose that I just could not do this year.

I normally bake goodies and send fudge to my dear friends that live out of state....didn't happen.

Paulo usually has hand made crafts for his loved ones, little treasures for the Aunts, Uncles and Grandparents.....didn't happen.

I like to make my packages pretty with bows....didn't happen.

But, what did happen, was some lovely, quiet, one on one time with my son.  We went to a holiday concert last week and we went to see The Christmas Story on stage Thursday night.  We did make fudge and gluten free gingerbread men.  We did watch our beloved holiday classics.  And, we read A Christmas Carol this month.  Bit by bit, chapter by chapter, every night.  To be honest, I've never read A Christmas Carol before, I've seen the Mickey Mouse version many times and I've seen it on stage at my old college....many, many times, but I'd never read the book.  I've owned it since Dimitri was Paulo's age, but it sat on my bookshelf, waiting for my son. 

What also happened was a truly special Christmas Day.  We have stayed home today, just me, my husband and our son-sadly we are missing Dimitri who spends this holiday with his Mother.  We had friends over for lunch.  Paulo played for HOURS with his friend from next door.  And then we capped it off with a fancy, Momma made, steak tenderloin dinner with rosemary mushroom gravy, smashed red potatoes and carrots with freshly baked gluten free bread.  It's good bread, really good bread.  Now we're heading over to a dear friend's house for dessert.

Yesterday we spent time with Rene's family.  Tomorrow we will see my sister and the rest of my family.  Today, today belongs to us.  And it has been delightful.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Holidays and husbands

My conversation this morning with Rene....
"uh, I don't mean to be tacky but Paulo typically likes to pick out my present himself.  Have you taken him anywhere??"

"uh..........no...........guess we will do that tomorrow"

Are all men like that?! 

Monday, December 13, 2010

Holiday traditions-the fudge edition

Every year Paulo and I make fudge.  We do this for many reasons, the first being that we both really love chocolate, he inherited my sweet tooth!  The other, equally important, reason is to remember my Mom. 

My Mother was a compulsive baker.  Every year come Christmas time our house would be filled with the sweet smells of sugar, chocolate and flour.  I have fond memories of my Dad sitting at the kitchen table with the big bowl in one hand and a spoon in the other getting all the last tid bits of fudge from the bowl-we don't want to waste fudge now do we?!  All of her treats were great but her fudge was special.  It signified Christmas to me.  She died in June 2006.  Come Christmas time I was found myself standing in the kitchen pondering the fudge, who would make the fudge this year??  I did.  I started looking up recipes, I didn't know which one she used because, sadly, she had never involved me in the making of the Christmas goodies.  To be fair, I probably never asked her to either!  I found an easy recipe and started mixing and heating and stirring and tasting.  All the while with my sous chef, Paulo, at my side. 

Baking 2008.  He looks so little!
I bring Paulo into the kitchen for a variety of reasons, one being I really like the little dude so it's one more fun way for us to spend time together, but also because I want him to remember cooking and baking with me and I want him to know how to do it himself if the need ever arises.   
Christmas is fast approaching and this year his allergies have thrown a little monkey wrench into the mix.  The fudge I typically make is full of milk and marshmallow fluff uses eggs, two of the foods on the naughty list for Mr. P.  I, of course, turned to the internet and started researching vegan fudge recipes.  I found a total winner, this recipe is as easy, or easier, than my normal recipe and only uses coconut milk, vegan margarine, chocolate chips, confectioners sugar and vanilla.  I will post details and the recipe as soon as I get a good picture.  In the meantime, Paulo (and I) really enjoyed the end result!

Happy boy with a chocolate face!
 Next up is gluten free gingerbread men and chocolate peppermint cupcakes!  It's such a busy time of year, it's good for us to stop and lick the bowl from time to time, brings us back to what's important, family and making memories.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Holiday Traditions

I love traditions.  I love the consistency, the routine, the planning and expectation and the comfort that it all provides.

One of the newer traditions that we began last year was visits from the Christmas Elf.  Paulo hung up my very old stocking from when I was a wee babe and waited.  Waited to see what little trinkets and treats he might receive. 

This year we hung the stocking last night and today he sprang out of bed to see what that little rascal had left for him.

I love to see the joy on his face when he pulls the gift from the stocking.  I love how happy he is to be drinking his juice out of his new candy cane silly straw cup.  I love my baby boy.  Having children make the holidays so much more fun.

What is your favorite holiday tradition?  Did you start new ones with your family or carry on the ones from your own childhood?  I will be sharing more of our traditions in the coming weeks.  It helps me to refocus on what matters most during this often hectic time of year: my family.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

My my where does the time go?

December 8th...really?  How did that happen!  So much has happened since I last posted. 

My sweet boy won the grand prize for his efforts with our school's first ever Run for the Arts.  He was given his award in our school's first ever assembly.  Thankfully I was tipped off by the Mom that organized the whole deal to come to the assembly and even more thankfully I work two minutes away so I was able to come and watch him accept his award with typical Paulo enthusiasm.  We are seeing The Christmas Story at Portland Center Stage later this month as part of his award package.  And we will have tickets to a Portland Youth Philharmonic concert coming up in March.  The prizes were outstanding, but even better was watching his complete and utter joy.  That boy knows how to accept an award! 

It's blurry but you get the idea!  He was so happy and I was so grateful to witness it.

We celebrated Thanksgiving last month with dinner for 16-this is a decrease from last year by about a full table!  It was still lovely, even with a few less faces.  I have my toe dipped into being a vegetarian though so there was some personal conflict leading up to the big day.  Ultimately though I ended up eating some of my bird.  I have not eaten much meat at all since the end of September.  October was Vegetarian Awareness month and I answered the challenge to forgo meat for the whole month.  It was easier than I thought it would be and I found my body runs better without the meat clogging the pipes.  Plus since Paulo is not eating dairy there have been more days than not that I have actually been vegan.  I am still not 100% committed to being a vegetarian and honestly some of my hold ups have to do with my family.  I married a serious carnivore and he comes from good, hearty, meat eating stock.  Food is such a big part of our lives too, all of our celebrations revolve around food and frankly most of them center on meat.  I'm not sure where I am though in it, I'm still a work in progress.

We entered December and were hit with Paulo's first major illness.  He had developed a cold in mid November which settled into a lingering cough.  On the 1st of December he woke me up around 4:30 and as soon as I reached out and touched his hands I knew he had a fever.  He missed three days of school and ultimately ended up with a trip to the pedi and a round of antibiotics.  She suspected a sinus infection.  I really didn't want to give him the drugs but ended up starting them last Saturday after the 4th day of fever.  By Sunday he was fever free so I suppose it was for the best.  Through it all though I did take comfort in the fact that his ears were CLEAR!!!  Ear infections plagued us last year, it was terrible.  Holding your sobbing child while he waits for the pain meds to kick in...it's no fun.  I was so happy he was not in pain last week.  It does give me some encouragement to keep up on his wheat/dairy/egg free diet.  He's able to tolerate eggs to a certain degree but definitely no wheat and dairy right now.  The other thing that comforted me was how well he'd been sleeping prior to the fever.  In the past every cold meant days of disrupted sleep.  But he's been a much better sleeper this Fall despite a little case of the sniffles here or there. 

Paulo got to experience his first ever professional Blazer game with his Dad.  Ooooh boy, was that a huge hit!  He was able to yell and cheer and scream and no one told him to Shh!

We're gearing up for Christmas now and all the events that go with it.  We went tree hunting last Saturday, despite Paulo not feeling 100%.  He was a trooper though, it helped that we were in and out of the farm inside of 20 minutes.  It was by far the fastest tree hunt ever for the Rodriguez Family. 

We have our company holiday party coming up soon and then a week later, wham! It's Christmas Day!  I am amazed at how fast this year has flown by.  It is almost 2011!  One of my boys will be 7 in April and then the oldest turns 16 next August....16?!   I don't know quite what to think of that. 

I know I need to remember to slow down and enjoy these moments as they come.  Seeing the years fly by reminds me of that.  But to be honest I have a hard time putting it into practice.  I know I should slow down....I know I should enjoy the moment....but how when there's a pile of dishes to be washed and lunches to be made?  I think perhaps that will be my New Year's Resolution, to sloooooow down.  Wow, time to start thinking about goals for a whole new year.  I do make resolutions.  Often they are about food or health related, one year it was to remove HFCS, another year to purge food dyes, that sort of thing.  This year though perhaps I need to refocus inward and see what sort of growth I want to see in myself.  What about you?  What has the coming end of the year brought to mind for you?  What do you see for yourself in 2011?  Amazing...2011.  But before I get ahead of myself, I need to enjoy the end of 2010.