30 October 2011

Snowy October and Pumpkin Painting.

Who would have thought that a day before Halloween the ground would be covered with heavy, sloshy, wet snow that grips the trees, and is taking off whatever remaining leaves are still clinging desperately to the branches? This is Maine, after all, so nothing should surprise me. 

You could feel it in the air yesterday.  By mid-afternoon, the imposing gray clouds were hanging low, and one deep breath let it be known that the white stuff was on its way.  There's a common term in snow country---'it smells like snow'.  And it does.  There's a tangible feeling, especially for the first of a season, that reaches all of your senses, warning you, preparing you, for what is to come.  This one was no different.

My final thought before drifting into dreamland last night was a sleepy prayer to the electricity gods that we not lose power.  It's what I hate most about winter. Well that and driving in snow.  And the fear of slipping on ice.   And the utter bone-cracking, cuts-right-through-you bitter cold.  Yeah winter's not my favorite, but I tolerate it because the Maine summer and autumn make it all worthwhile. 

I had decided this morning that it was going to be a lazy Sunday for G and I.  Terry is in the home stretch of preparing the new bookstore to open this week. Translation--he's been working every single day for about a month now.  A must as the new head honcho, but it takes its toll on all of us.

We never did make it back to the orchard to get more pumpkins, so in deciding what to do today, carving was not on my list. We have one giant pumpkin that my parents gave to G and yesterday while in Target, I decided instead of carving we were painting.  After breakfast this morning, I set up the newspaper, pumpkin and paints on the dining room table and guided G through his first efforts as a mini-Van Gogh. He had a blast and so did I.

Unfortunately it wore him out because at 10 he signaled for heading upstairs to snooze, and three hours later awoke feeling the dreadful hot to the touch.  For the rest of the afternoon he spent sleeping on me, his head nestled in the crook of my neck, with Giraffe and Pooh offering comfort in his tender little grip.

I hate fevers. I hate feeling helpless as to how to soothe him.  But if spending the day snuggled with me is what he needed, I will never deny him. We'll see what tomorrow brings. 

23 October 2011

Playground etiquette reaches a new low.

Yesterday was a super fantastic day. It started with breakfast in Portland at one of my favorite spots, with a friend who I hadn't seen in awhile. G is becoming more and more of a challenge during outside mealtimes. I think he's becoming anti-highchair.  After breakfast, we headed to the playground in Deering Oaks Park which was fun and even better, not too crowded.  After lunch and a nap, I decided it was time for a trip to our town's library.  I had a book to return and G has always liked exploring the kids area, so off we went.

When we arrived, there was only one other little boy, I'd say about 8 or 9, playing with the train table, while his mother sat nearby reading.  G immediately toddles over to the table and dares to pick up a train.  The other boy, fraught with anxiety, snatched the train from G's hand and firmly said "This is MY train."  I glanced at the mother, who sat continuing to read her book and ignoring the situation.  So I said, Ok, well, he's just little, he doesn't understand and we'll play on the other side.  The boy continued to hoard his trains, which I realized actually WERE his...he'd brought 4 or 5 in a rumpled Target bag that lay nearby on a tiny stool.

G and I went to the other side of the room, where his two favorite big play dogs sat waiting for attention.  G loves these dogs.  He hugs them, gives them kisses, and coos at them.  The boy comes right over, snatches one of the dogs, tells G he can 'have the other one' and drags the other dog across the room, where he leaves it, tossed aside, and goes back to his trains.  G gives me a look like "what did I do to make this mean boy so nasty to me?".  Meanwhile, the other mother continues reading. 

Not deterred, G wanders to the other side, tries to pet the other dog, and still the boy keeps it away from him.  Next G picks up these little wooden people that fit in a zippy airplane, the train station, a car.  G, in his typical 17 1/2 month fashion, promptly puts the toy in his mouth, and before I have the chance to admonish that, the OTHER boy, says "Ewww. Germs! NO! Take that out of your mouth," but he does it for him, once again, snatching it from G's little nimble fingers and furiously wiping it on his shirt to dismiss any chance of further germ spread.  I sigh, and again, while looking at his mother, and just a teensy bit louder say, "he's just little, he doesn't know, and I'll take it from here, thanks."  I scoop G up, and in my passive aggressive way, mutter that it's just too obnoxious to stay here, and we move on.  I so wanted to slug this kid, (i know that's wrong) but moreso, his mother, who sat totally ignoring the situation, which just ended up depressing me. I am constantly amazed at parents I see who are totally checked out of what their kid is doing, no matter how old.

Moving on, G and I decide to head down the road to a playground that is at the fields where we take Gabs to run.  I can see when pulling in the dirt parking lot that there's also a children's party going on, as the picnic tables have balloons and the group has just sat down to enjoy hot pizza on this crisp fall afternoon.   The playground is pretty decent sized, and we remained a distance from the party, at the swings, while noticing another little one with her grandparents wandering around nearby. 

All of a sudden, the birthday boy (again about 8 or 9 years old) screams (and putting a whole new level to the definition of obnoxious) "Whoooo invited the baaaaaabies to MY birthday party? GO away babies! This is MY party."  What? Is this kid for real?

Out of the dozen or so adults that stood there, only one half-heartedly said blandly "This is a public place." 

I really couldn't believe that within a half an hour span of each other, we had been dealt with this type of behavior.  G and I move on to another part of the playground---a huge structure to climb on, go down slides, swing from etc.  One of the party-goers comes tearing through yelling "Invaders invaders! Baby invades ship."  Seriously, the intellectual part of my brain realizes that these kids clearly have issues from lazy or nonexistent parental guidance, but the irrational part of me wanted to collectively hurl rocks at them.  Thank goodness G has no understanding of these words yet.  He continued to move along, chucking wood chips and laughing at the mess he was making.  While he remained blissfully unaware of these tough words and actions, the whole experience got me thinking.

This was my first real experience with the instinctive mommy need to protect my child from harm, whether it be physical or emotional.  The things going through my head that I wanted to say to these parents and their kids for that matter...well, let's just say not appropriate for playground banter.  Besides, that would be sinking to their level. However, it just made me realize what a long road ahead we have in terms of dealing with bullies, school, and all the other mediums around that promote or ignore this kind of intolerant behavior.  And more importantly, how I hope we are able to instill in G the values and understanding that this behavior is unacceptable, and that the excuse of 'kids just being kids' is a mask for lazy parenting. 

So while our day was speckled with those unfortunate events, we actually did have a great Saturday.  After a good nap, we went to a kiddie Halloween party at my friend Amanda's.  G had a blast and made a very cute giraffe, his most very favorite thing.  I can't wait to walk him around the neighborhood in this on Halloween.

Today also did not disappoint.  This morning we met with some buds at the Rumpus Room and had a grand time diving in and out of the ball pit, shimmying up the pirate ship plank, and flying down the slippery slide to cushioned pillows below.  Lots of playtime outside, lunch, a walk around the neighborhood with Gabs, and now a good nap.  A perfect way to spend this fall Sunday.

17 October 2011

Carpentry and Pumpkin Patches.

With Terry on yet another voyage to Birmingham Sunday, G and I were left to fend for ourselves on a beautiful fall day. What to do? Saturday was hectic as we had flu shots, playground, errands, haircut (me, not him, not yet!), more errands --all summing up to a day with very little nap time for G. 

Terry left at literally the crack of dawn, and unfortunately my internal clock and the general morning person in me does not allow for sleeping past the time I'm used to getting up each day.  I had about an hour of solo time before my fellow morning buddy awoke just before 7.  Snuggles and breakfast followed, and sure enough, he was ready for a nap at 8:45.  I think he was still catching up from Saturday.   During my intoxicating elixir that is morning coffee, I chatted with A, wondering if we could get the dogs and boys together for a play date.  The Gabs desperately needed a day with her bff.  G woke just after 10 and off to the usual fields we went---only to find that we forget youth soccer takes over in the fall at these fields, and frankly, we just don't trust our pooches to stick close while we chase our active toddlers.  Fortunately A has the most amazing piece of land just right down the road, so off we went to her place. 

The morning was crisp, colorful, and just one of those days where you inhale deeply and take in the fresh Maine air that surrounds you. I love this time of year.  We released the hounds and off they ran; dodging branches and rocks, kicking up leaves as they went bursting through the yard, down by the river, so happy to see each other.

G took a little bit longer to warm up.  Sure he's been here tons of times, and his buddy N was quick to be busy.  Finally, enticed with a couple of soccer balls, he toddled his way down to where N was.   N's dad is a master at building things. He's built his own shed, a dog house for Buckley, and the latest is another little structure that will eventually be a greenhouse. It's clear N loves the outdoors and is comfortable around his dad's construction.   Soon the boys were like two little carpenters, picking up pieces of wood, stacking them here, tossing them there.   It was a riot to see them look so busy, so official, and so darn cute.

It's hard not to compare them to a year ago when they were still these little chubby blobs that were just about learning to sit up on their own.  Now they are clearly little men.  I love watching how they change and grow.

With the dogs frolicking in the background, the boys continued to play until we decided to take them for a wagon ride.  N has an awesome two-seater Radioflyer.  We piled them in and walked down the dusty road as the dogs trailed behind us.

Soon enough it was past noon and time to head home for lunch and naps.  And by naps I mean one for G and one for me.  After being zonked out for two hours, he woke up and back into the car we went.  Up the road in Bowdoin is a fabulous apple orchard and pumpkin patch.  Rocky Ridge Orchard is a beautiful stretch of rolling hills that at this time of year is so picturesque.  The foliage is bursting in brilliant colors and it's clear that people enjoy this spot for an apple picking as well as pumpkin patch adventure.  Not to mention, they have an ah-mazing bakery. Sandwiches, pies, cream tarts, apple cider, apple cider donuts, you name it, they have it.  Plus a variety of other gifty items for the last minute shopper.  

At first, G was not into being placed among the hundreds of orange globes.  He was totally unsure and wondering why we were there.  Then it hit me---he had not yet had his afternoon snack.  So armed with a molasses cookie, we sat and took in the surroundings.  As he watched others weave in and out of the pumpkins, I think he realized he wanted to be among them.  

He tried pushing.  He tried pulling. He tried picking up. He's nothing if not persistent.

Not into the sun in my eyes, mom!

Moving away from the pumpkins, we entered the giant barn , filled with fragrant hay, an old-fashioned rope swing, and a tiny tractor made for tiny tots.  My favorite, however, was the growth chart that was tacked to the barn.  G was perfectly cooperative as he stood there, just under three feet, against the chart awaiting me to snap the perfect shot.  I kept thinking what a lovely tradition to try and capture every year and watch the progression of growth.  

We had our fill of touching the bumpy gourds and smooth squash.  While we didn't actually buy any pumpkins this time around, (waiting until Terry returns from his latest venture), it was still a delightful way to spend the late afternoon.  Walking back to the car, we gazed at the late day sun beginning to set beneath the trees.  A fall sky is spectacular, and this one was no different. We watched a horse-drawn carriage giving wagon rides to happy orchard-goers, the clippity-clop of hooves echoing in the afternoon breeze.  Hopefully the weather will cooperate next weekend for us to go again and this time come away with some pumpkins to carve and decorate.  And maybe, just maybe,  we'll have to get another cookie.

13 October 2011

Cream-Filled Chocolate Wafers a.ka. Fake Whoopie Pies

These tasty morsels of goodness may look small and nonthreatening.  However, the first bite will have you begging for a glass of milk or your morning coffee.  They are rich, decadent, and quite simply, delicious.  A unique spin on the classic Oreo or Maine favorite, Whoopie Pie, these treats are easy to make and are sure to be a hit at any gathering.


2 8oz packages of 1/3 less fat cream cheese
2/3 cup butter, softened
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1.5 cups powdered sugar
4 tbs brown sugar
1 pkg of mini chocolate chips
2 9oz boxes of chocolate wafers (the only ones I've tried and found to work are Nabisco's "Famous Chocolate Wafers" which are hard to find, expensive and very fragile, but the end result makes it totally worth it.)

Beat first three ingredients at medium speed. Gradually add the sugars, beating until well blended. Add chips. Spread layer of mixture onto 1 side of wafer, topping with the other.  Cover and chill minimum two hours but best overnight.  Keep refrigerated.   

Two boxes of the wafers are a must for this recipe and because they are so fragile, be careful in how you spread the mixture.  I've bought boxes before that had several of the cookies broken, which at $3.99 a box, is infuriating for a recipe that requires you to use two cookies to make it complete.