What Do You Do With an Idea?

       I'm thrilled to be guest posting over at the Nerdy Book Club today! I know some of you first found yourself here because of my picture book reviews. Since I'm expanding my focus to different genres, I only review titles that are truly outstanding. This is one can't get out of my head- What Do You Do With an Idea?

               Something happens to us as we get older.  We used to have time to dream and to ask ourselves, “What if?”  Then we had even more time to let each scenario play out- to watch it crumble or watch it grow.  Now we don’t have time for anything.  We don’t have time to communicate unless it’s via text and half the words are abbreviated.  We don’t have time to visit so-and-so who moved across town or the time to read all those books that keep piling up.  And, most of the time, we don’t even have time to think.  That’s what happens- we stop thinking as we age.  We let a famous celebrity, our favorite television show, or the nightly news tell us what to think.  Even if we silenced the noise and finally heard our own voice blurt out an original thought, we might find ourselves asking, “Now what?  What do you do with an idea?”

               Author Kobi Yamada and illustrator Mae Besom guide us on the course of one child’s conviction in the celebrated picture book What Do You Do With an Idea? Yamada’s verse lifts us from whispers of self-doubt to bellows of confidence and joy.  Besom’s delicate pencil and watercolor pictures tip the scales from a hint of hues to a world overflowing with colors.  The tale centers on a child, neither obviously a girl nor boy, to whom we can all relate.
             Want to read the rest of the post? Click here!


Let it Grow

   Back in January, I wrote about my new year's resolutions in Goalkeeper.  I have entered a clear passage in my life which has allowed me to come to terms with a slew of my shortcomings.  I over plan, over worry, and over work myself in areas that aren't overall beneficial.  The past several weeks I decided to tackle something I've always wanted to do, something I've been too scared or too lazy to deal with, by starting a vegetable garden.  It may seem a little too earthy to some or a big step backwards to others since the produce section is in constant, ample supply, but for me it would mean a little bit more.  I needed to settle some past hurts and fears, get off my rear, and just do it.

   Yes, I live out in the country now on three acres.  Yes, I should put some of that space to good use.  Yes, I'm an advocate for organic produce because it tastes better and is safer for my family.  (Don't believe me?  Click here and watch.)  Yes, I realize it's more expensive.  And no, after purchasing supplies for my own garden, I don't think it will be a big money saver.  But my motivations are bigger. 

   A lifetime ago, I was married at 20 and living in my first apartment.  I was hopelessly na├»ve and nesting for the first time in my life.  I wanted to emulate my mother's garden to bring a little touch of home to this new chapter and to force myself to grow up a bit.  Soon enough, my patio was an oasis.  Hanging vines and ferns, hibiscus trees, creeping jenny, maui ixora, moss roses, lantana, and white-picket fence planters and shelves all filled this third-floor, concrete box I called home.  I spent mornings out there watering, smiling, squealing at the nests in the hanging ferns, and loving life.  When I was finished watering, I'd head to the kitchen, prepare an elaborate breakfast, then take it outside to enjoy the view.  It was my escape.  It was how I centered myself each day.  It didn't take long to realize how much I would need to lean on the clarity and cheerfulness my little oasis provided.

   As the months turned into years, and the issues started to pile up, my garden began to wither away.  The day I realized the marriage was over, I escaped to my little nest and stared at all the brown.  I had let it all die.  It wasn't a conscious avoidance.  Little by little, I had given up hope and stopped caring.  And one day everything was dead- my hopes, my dreams, my life's purpose, and my garden. 

   The next few months I had fooled myself into thinking I was now myself more than ever before.  Of course, that all came crashing down soon thereafter.  And I became bitter.  I cursed myself for all my past decisions and all my wasted years.  I couldn't handle the sudden change, so I folded inward.  On the outside, I could put on a show.  But those who knew my heart saw what I had turned into and there wasn't anything anyone could do to fix it for me.

   I couldn't function.  I didn't even take care of my dog very well so my Mom took him to live with my parents.  There he stayed until the end of his little life.  And the garden?  Forget about it.  My life revolved around my nights, not my mornings. 

   I always felt the urge to find somewhere to settle and nest again, but I had lost my desire to trust.  Not only did I stop admiring beautiful gardens in the multi-million dollar estates I worked in, or the elaborate floral arrangements in the luxury hotels I visited (I was a model, not a hooker- just clarifying), but I would cringe at the thought of them, of taking care of them, of taking care of someone else, and for what?  It all dies.

   This is not something I've ever discussed with anyone.  It's really a small symptom of my bigger fears.  But every time I had the desire to plant something in the ground, I retreated.  Then in February of last year, I dipped my toes in the water.  My husband and I built a retaining wall for a garden.  As soon as it was done, I admired it for a few days and retreated once again.  It seems so silly.  I don't think I even realized what my hesitation was until recently.  But if it's silly, then it won't be so bad to overcome.

   Then I took one of those ridiculous personality tests on facebook.  You know, the ones that tell us that we have the biggest hearts, the most intelligent point of view, eyes that twinkle, and a tough personality, which always conclude with some message that if anyone doesn't notice all this about myself and much, much more than I should kick their ungrateful bums to the curb.  Instead, I read my following depiction (as I shared in The Spontaneous Idealist):

However, they quickly become bored when things repeat themselves and too much detailed work and care is required.  Their creativity, their imaginativeness and their originality become most noticeable when developing new projects and ideas- then they leave the meticulous implementation of the whole to others.

   Oh.  Snap, err, slap in the face.  That's a back-handed compliment attempt if I've ever seen one (which I have, don't you worry).  I'm a dreamer, not a doer.  I have great ideas but no work ethic.  I never finish anything, instead I pawn it off on someone else.  That's quite an exaggeration, but there is some truth to it and I'm not going to let that stand anymore.

   So, I pulled weeds for days, planned for several more days, and planted for even a few more, and am pleased to say that things are actually growing.  I'm holding myself accountable as my own goalkeeper.  As for the empty frames hung all over the house?  I filled them.  The counter full of "someday/just in case crafts"?  I've narrowed it down to two- stuff for the garden and garments I need to repair.  We don't do crafts.  We go outside and play.  (Although this summer I will have to actually plan some activities and will most likely resort to a few crafts.)  I still haven't had friends over for dinner, but we did have our group from church over to do our weekly lesson.  My husband and I both cooked.  And I think we had a great breakthrough that night within our group.  I'm making progress and always leaving room for error.  I'm on the move.

First there was this- February 2013

Then over a year of this.
Then in March, this happened.

Finally, in April.

And now, this.


Campfire Food

   The main appeal of camping?  The food.  I run across yummy camping nibbles on Pinterest all the time.  I yearn for the day we cook over the fire in a cast-iron dutch oven or skillet.  Until then, we'll stick with what's easy- Hobo Dinner with marshmallows for dessert.

   Admittedly, we travel with seasoned camping pros.  They come prepared.  Without them, we would not eat so well.  For instance, we bring cereal for the girls in the morning because Baby Girl is allergic to eggs and doesn't care for bacon.  Little Girl doesn't like either.  If we had decided to go it alone, without our friends, we might end up eating cereal too.  I meant to try these canned cinnamon rolls baked in hollowed-out orange rinds, but if you read my last post, In a Tent, you know why we never made it as far as breakfast on our last trip.

For directions, click here!

   However, we did successfully complete another recipe that called for oranges!  Did you know you can cook cake batter in hollowed-out oranges?  And the cake will have a hint of orange flavor?  Neither did I.  They are so good.  Also, you can use the fruit for freshly-squeezed orange juice.  I was lucky Baby Girl was interested in helping because cleaning out the rinds can be a bit time-consuming.  While I worked on those, she stirred the batter over, and over, and over again. 

   For a step-by-step recipe for Orange Cakes, click here!  Basically, you slice the top off the orange and hollow out the fruit.  Mix in a bowl and pour batter into 2/3 of the rinds.  Replace the top of the orange.  Cover in foil.  Roast and turn over the coals.  It didn't occur to me at the time that I might ever blog about our camping trip, and they were too good to stop and take a picture, so I don't have a great shot of how they look when they're done.  But trust me, you want to make these.

For Orange Cake recipe, click here!

      Our friends introduced us to the whole Hobo Dinner concept.  There are tons of recipes on Pinterest, but we love the one they taught us to make!  Not only is this delicious, but it is also kid-friendly because love to assemble their own.

Hobo Dinner
Layer in a rectangle of heavy-duty foil,
from bottom to top:
Ground beef patty
Thinly sliced potatoes
Sliced onions
Sliced carrots
1/4 cup cream of mushroom soup
(make sure to get pop-top cans or
bring a can opener)
Salt and pepper to taste
Seal the foil air-tight and place over coals

For instructions on how to properly seal foil packs, and for more delicious foil packet recipes, click here!

Some children, like ours, aren't going to go out on a limb and try something new even if the assembly was fun.  Both trips our girls ate grilled cheese sandwiches that were cooked in foil packets over the coals.  They were so gooey and delicious I wanted some too.

   We made sure to save room for dessert because there were many to try on this trip!  Yes, s'mores are easy and delicious, but we have a fire pit at home and make them quite a bit.  I wanted to try the Campfire Cones and Banana Boats I had seen so many times before.  This was another fun thing to make with the kids because they can assemble these too.

   Stuff a waffle cone with strawberries, bananas, marshmallows, and chocolate chips.  Cover with foil and roast.  Or, slice a banana lengthwise, stuff with strawberries, marshmallows, and chocolate chips.  Cover with foil and roast.  For more about Campfire Cones, click here!  You can also add butterscotch or reese's pieces peanut butter cups to the Banana Boats.  Look here!


   After the kids went to bed, us grown-ups tried one more dessert- strawberries dipped in marshmallow fluff and the roasted over the fire.  They were incredible!!  We did have to use a spoon to get the fluff on the berry though.  Make sure you have wet wipes handy for this one too.

   Even if we choose to stay in a cabin nowadays, my mind is set on trying the recipes from the pin below!  They look so good!  For seven days of camping recipes, go here


The picture below is from my favorite camping pin!  Click here!


At the Campsite

  Camping.  Camping with kids.  Did you just flinch?  Or did you sigh?  I loved camping as a kid and even as an adult.  Cozy tents, a kaleidoscope of stars, crackling campfires, and spending the day covered in a layer of dirt was charming, even exhilarating.  From Girl Scout trips to 3am munchies on the Guadalupe, I loved it all.  Now, camping as a parent?  That's tricky, even a bit scary.

   Some of our dear friends are avid campers.  They were raised camping and have been taking their children since they were babies.  I remember my girlfriend showing me a picture of her son in a pack-and-play surrounded by a blanket of rust-colored fallen leaves with columns of sunlight piercing through the tree tops.  They had just gotten back from their annual camping trip and were putting the feelers out- trying to see if we'd be interesting in going with them sometime.  I didn't hesitate, "No way!  There is absolutely no way Little Girl (a baby at the time) would ever fall asleep (until the age of four she was a difficult sleeper, only closing her eyes for 9-12 hours as a newborn) in a tent and I don't think I could ever get my husband in one." 

   A few years later, they asked again.  At this point, Little Girl was four and Baby Girl was two.  Baby Girl had just finished successfully potty-training and we had just survived eight days in Disney World.  We can handle it, we thought.  Luckily, our friends were taking on much of the responsibility by deciding to host us.  They were bringing and cooking all the food.  Phew.  I brought ingredients to make a dessert I found on Pinterest and we brought all the necessary gear- tent, blow-up mattresses, marshmallow skewers, soap, water, and books.  When we arrived at Tyler State Park, we were stunned by the scenery and the spacious campsite, fully-equipped with electricity and running water.  The bathrooms were pretty close too.

Camping at Tyler State Park in Texas,

Little Girl putting OFF on everyone.

   It was a little stressful putting a tent together with a curious and destructive two-year-old, but our four-year-old had just begun to listen to our commands and was a complete angel.  Once the tents were set up, the dads grabbed some bug kits and took the kids on a nature walk while the moms started preparing dinner.  I was completely out of my element and provided little assistance in the "kitchen".  It has never been so obvious I'm a creature of habit as when you ask me to prepare a meal outside of my own kitchen.  Even when my oven has been too clean in the past from under-use, I still knew my way around.  As the nature walk came to an end, we were ready for them to return.  The kids first assembled their own Hobo Dinners and then came to our tent for story time while dinner cooked over the campfire.

     Our girls ended up eating the emergency grilled cheese I brought, just in case they wouldn't be adventurous at dinner time.  As it turns out, grilled cheese has never tasted as good until you've cooked it on the campfire- so gooey and warm.  With the exception of "bath time" (showering at a campsite with small children was so much trouble for me...I might have been better off hosing them down back at the tents), the rest of the evening was perfect.  S'mores.  Kids' bed time.  Adult beverages and belly laughs.  The only rookie mistake we made was inflating the mattresses during the day.  We must have warned and corrected the kids a hundred times not to jump on the beds.  I woke up about fifteen times that night on the floor because my mattress was leaking.

  The next morning, the moms took the kids to play at the park while the dads prepared a delicious breakfast.  Dessert was next.  When you're camping you can have dessert after every meal, right?  Baby Girl helped me whip together cake batter, we poured it into hollowed-out orange rinds, and let them cook.  The moist fists of chocolate cake soaked up the citrus and warmed us up for the day.  We took a wonderfully easy, yet beautiful, hike before leaving that afternoon.  It was a perfect trip.

Hiking in Tyler State Park.

   Fast forward a year and a half, and they asked us to go camping again.  We were so excited!!  The weather forecast was warm and we were more prepared than last time.  The girls squealed in excitement all week!  As we packed up that morning, a surprise storm had blown in (lovely Texas weather).  I threw an old gazebo in the truck just in case it rained.  We made it to Ray Roberts Lake State Park a little late, but unpacked and set up tent like pros.  Unfortunately, I had somehow forgotten the blankets and, according to the newly adjusted forecast, the overnight low would now reach 45*, not 55* as it stated earlier.  The dads grabbed brown paper bags and headed out on a scavenger hunt/nature walk with the kids while the wives made a run to Wal-Mart.

   I had received a "Daddy SOS" phone call while we were gone, insisting we hurry back because Baby Girl wouldn't stop crying.  Only when we pulled up to the campsite and I saw my husband and Baby Girl three feet from each other, his arms crossed, and her standing still and bawling, did I take him seriously.  Apparently, she had gotten into some cactus while we were gone.  Of course she did.  Fifteen cactus thorns were lodged in her sweet little skin from her underarm, down her side, and all the way to her rump.  I couldn't see the thorns with my naked eye and running my fingers across her skin only worsened the pain when they caught on the thorns.  Eventually, I discovered they were visible if I pinned her down and held her skin up to the sun light.

   Unfortunately for me, my husband had shut down while we were gone and, even with seventeen plus years of paramedic experience, would be of no assistance.  I struggled with her in the car, hoping the enclosure would muffle her terrified screams, while I attempted to hold her down and remove the nearly-invisible thorns from her flailing, fighting body armed only with a pair of eyebrow tweezers.  Had she not suffered from a stubborn splinter a few weeks prior which took me thirty minutes of digging with real tweezers to remove, she probably wouldn't have been that upset this time.  It was awful.  Eventually, I looked out the window and realized I needed to relocate.  Her shrieks had been scraping everyone's brains for well over an hour.  At this point, it wasn't fair to make the entire campgrounds suffer too.  But right before I drove off, and immediately after my own meltdown had begun, I slung an expletive at my husband and flipped him off.  He's a lucky guy, isn't he?

   Twenty minutes later, I somehow finished removing all the pain from my Baby Girl, cuddled and calmed her back down, and then headed back to the campsite.  Thanks to over a year and a half immersed in a marriage ministry in our church, I knew the only thing to do was to immediately apologize.  I didn't hesitate.  I said I was sorry for being so hideous and, of course, I loved him and was so embarrassed I had acted that way.  He was gracious, forgave me, and we were all laughing about it within minutes.  Phew.  Crisis averted.


Camping at Ray Roberts Lake National Park.

   Again, we assembled and cooked the Hobo Dinners, told stories and roasted all kinds of melted marshmallow desserts around the campfire, then put the kids to bed.  Since we were better at this whole camping thing, we chose not to inflate the mattresses until bed time.   The only problem with that is, if there is a hole in one of the ole trusty mattresses that had been reliable for almost ten years, you won't discover it until it's too late.  You won't discover it until after you've already made a Wal-Mart run, fed them dinner, dressed them in their pajamas, read the bedtime stories, trekked back and forth from the campsite bathroom one last time, and the adult beverages have already been cracked open, condensation quickly gathering on the glass.  It's too late to run back to the store.  We'll just have to make it work.  Our friend patched the hole with electrical tape.  Genius.  Kiss, kiss.  Goodnight kids.

   We drank.  We dipped strawberries in marshmallow fluff and roasted them on the fire.  We drank some more.  We laughed.  We ate more strawberries.  We walked down by the lakeshore and stared at the stars.  Then it was time for all of us to go to bed.  It was getting chilly and I couldn't wait to cuddle up in the warm tent.  I layered up, we aired up the girls' mattress that was already sinking, and we tucked ourselves in for the night.  Then it all started. 

   First, the train horn.  You know when the night air is so still you can hear a train blowing its horn miles away?  I usually smile and then head back in the house.  This is not the case in a tent.  I don't know what crisis the train was averting by blowing its horn repeatedly for an hour, or why the horn never faded into the horizon, but it didn't.  And just as the horn became bearable, the armadillo started.  In Tyler State Park, the raccoons were a problem.  There were too many and they weren't scared of coming uncomfortably close, sniffing for snacks.  Now at Ray Roberts Park, the armadillos are the problem.  We had been shooing them away from our site the last hour or so and I thought they were gone for good.

   I had seen a slithery shape in the fallen leaves near our tent that afternoon and decided to brush it off.  Even if it was a huge snake, it wouldn't dare try and slither into our tent.  It turned out to be the trail an armadillo's tail leaves behind.  Now this relentless armadillo sniffed, scooted, and crunched the leaves right outside our tent for what seemed like hours.  Then it would stop.  Then it would start up again.  Meanwhile, the temperature was dropping, Baby Girl was sniffling up a storm, and the girls were sinking into the mattress again.  I kept checking the weather app on my phone.  "Ok, it dropped another two degrees.  We still have eleven more degrees to go.  Surely I'm tough enough to handle this, right?  It's just chilly.  It's not that bad.  I'll fall asleep eventually.  Oh no.  My nose is frozen.  Let's check the app again.  Maybe it won't get any colder."  An hour or so later, I pleaded with my husband.

Me:  Babe?  Are you still awake?  I can't sleep.  I'm freezing.

Him:  Me too.  This blanket is no good.  I guess we aren't sleeping tonight.

Me:  Really?  How am I supposed to function tomorrow with no sleep?!

Him:  (He muffles a snicker with his hand.  He has a severe sleep disorder and never sleeps.)  Well, what do you want to do?

Me:  I don't know...???

Him:  Leave?

Me:  Would that be so horrible??

Him:  No!  We're not stuck in a fox hole in the middle of a war.  We can leave!  We have a warm, comfortable home.  Why would we force ourselves to stay here when we don't have to?


   So, we packed up and left.  Our friends forgave us for not being prepared (we do own an electric blanket but I left it at home with all the other blankets) and for leaving them with a tent and a gazebo to break down in the morning, in addition to all the equipment of their own.  And when we slipped the girls into the truck, they awoke, asking us why we were leaving.  "Girls, a storm is coming!  We have to get out of here!"  They asked why no one else was packing up, but didn't put up much of a fight because it seemed a bit exciting to them.  My husband and I deliriously laughed the whole way home, swore we would never go camping again without at least a cabin, and slipped into our warm beds at four in the morning.  You win some, you lose some.

   And even after I was a monster to him earlier in the day, he was understanding and loving with me that night.  You win some, you lose some.  The only problems were we didn't leave a bottle opener with our friends (they texted me a picture of the neck of a broken bottle the next day) and we had a bunch of oranges to eat once we made it back home because I didn't get a chance to cook canned cinnamon rolls in hollowed-out orange rinds.  You win some.  You lose some.  If anyone knows of some cool cabins in Texas for our next camping trip, please let me know.


No, Mommy. Not you.

   Spring break usually means a hiatus from the demands of school, the first my skin is warmed by the sun each year, and a time to spend catching up with family and friends I'm normally too busy to see.  I scheduled no plans for the first half of the break.  Scheduling nothing seems paradoxical, but it must exist, or I won't exist well.  We still had a trip to look forward to at the end of the week and needed to take advantage of our down time.  But I didn't realize "Spriiiing Break!!" could also mean "Spring Break."

   While my husband was at the fire station, I took the girls to dinner at their favorite restaurant to kick off the week.  They settled in their usual stools and watched the flames light up the kitchen while they waited for "brown noodles" at Pei Wei.  Brown noodles (lo mein or any noodle with Asian sauce and a few vegetables not-so-subtly snuck in) were named such as not to be confused with white noodles (fettuccine alfredo), known already to the girls as simply "pasta".  Don't try and convince them that there are any other kinds of pasta.  The only thing pasta could ever be is fettuccine with alfredo sauce.

   Little Girl sat, silently wondering if she'd made the right choice changing her future ambition from Chef to Magician last year.  The chefs at Pei Wei casting bright vegetables into and swirling the woks while laughing and singing in an exotic language always try to carry her dreams back to the explorations of the kitchen.  Baby Girl was constantly moving yet stayed within a two-foot radius the entire meal- sitting on her legs facing the kitchen, turned to the side with one leg dangling off the stool, sliding off the stool and dancing in a circle, back at counter height with her back to the kitchen sticking her tongue out at other patrons, her belly to the sky as the lays on the stool with both feet hanging low and the longest noodle outstretched and lowering into her tiny gaping mouth...with sound effects.  Whatever.  They were eating.

   Afterwards, we made our usual stops at the outdoor mall next door.  A trip to Barnes & Noble helped us finish shopping for a birthday party gift, Little Girl picked out Corduroy and The Gruffalo for her friend, and resulted in another purchase of "Mr. Oliver's" books- this time we picked up a copy of StuckThen we headed to the park.  It's just a little patch of green with a fabricated stream and a fountain, a small playground, and a train ride that encircles the park.  They decided we would ride the train first, then we would hit the playground, and finish at the stream.  Right as we arrived, the train was finishing its last trip and both girls were chasing it down, sure to be the first ones in line for the next ride.  Both bouncy little creatures waited patiently for the even the smallest and slowest of other kids to exit and clear so they could board.  As I handed the conductor a few dollars, I turned to board the car they picked when I felt Little Girls arm slice across my legs.  I stopped and looked down, startled.  She looked up and said, "No, Mommy.  Not you."

   Now, I've been known to suffer and recover from plenty of heartbreak in this fallen world.  Haven't we all?  I've lost and found pieces of my heart in many places- Moonlight Beach in Encinitas, a dressing room in NYC, my first apartment, the back porch of our current home, etc.  And in that moment, I added another one to the list: the gum-speckled swath of concrete beneath the train at the mall. 

Me:  What do you mean, "Not you?!"

Little Girl:  Mommy.  You stay here.  You can't come with us.

Me:  What?  Of course I can!

LG:  No, Mommy.  It's just for little kids.  You stay here.  I don't want you to ride with us.

Me:  (swallowing, clenching)  Honey, you're not going without me.  (leading her to the car and hopping inside)

LG:  (silence, back of her head to me, hands gripping the window opening)

Me:  Hey.  (she turns to me)  Do you know why I'm the only parent on the train?  Because I still think this is fun.  I'm a fun parent!  Look!  (smiles, points to self)  Fun mommy!!

LG:  (she blinks and turns away)  (sighs)  Well, we are going to ride this two times.  And next time you aren't coming with us.

Me:  Well that isn't happening.  I'm sorry.  But you're not going on this by yourself.

   I guess some day I can try letting them ride alone.  But I'm going to have to follow closely behind.  Ever since I lost Baby Girl in Disney World for about three minutes, I don't relax when we're in public, ever.  (Different story, different day.)  They could disappear for any number of reasons at any second whether I'm cautious, or overly-cautious, or not.  I choose cautious.  I'm not letting anyone load them up in a train and take them out of sight in a busy area without my eyes on it all.  I tried to shield her from such worries by throwing in the Fun Mommy line, but it didn't work.

   She accepted the single ride and both danced their way to the playground next.  Little Girl precariously jumped from roof to roof of the stationary train and Baby Girl stood on a center spring while four other kids tried to bounce her off.  I corrected and warned them a few times.  Then they were off to the stream.  Their favorite part is collecting fallen leaves and conducting a long series of leaf races until each are satisfied with their totals.  Up until this trip, it's been a peaceful game.  But not today.  Baby Girl was swinging on the chains that attempt to rope off the rocks lining the stream while Little Girl had surpassed them all and was running on tops of boulders not set with the purpose of any one ever testing their balance.  Then here came the older boys, whizzing by and even knocking the girls out of the way.  I was done.  I gave them the five-minute warning and ended up pulling them out of there.  No *happy hearts* rewards today.  I got an earful on the way to the car:

Little Girl:  You never let us do anything.  You're always mad at us.  Now I'm mad at you!  I don't want to talk to you anymore.  I don't love you.  I'm mad at you.

Me:  (pulls them to the car, sets Baby Girl in her seat, kneels down)  Honey!  You think I'm always mad at you?  I'm not mad at you!  I worry about you because I'm your mommy.

LG:  Well I'm mad.  You always say no.  You don't love me.

Me:  No.  That's not true.  You have to know that I know exactly how you feel!  Do you feel like you can't do anything right?  (nods, pouting)  Do you feel like you're trapped?  (nods, eyebrows raised)  Do you wish you could have more freedom?  (nodding feverishly, almost smiling)  I know how you feel!  That's exactly how I felt when I was a kid living in Mimi and Pop Pop's house!  You can have more freedom!  (smile, gasp)  But with freedom comes more responsibilities.  You have to show me I can trust you to make the right choice.  (squealing, she heard none of that last part)

   And the full circle reveals itself again.  I've taken them swimming at the city pool I grew up visiting every summer, I've watched Pippi Longstocking with them and read Henry's Awful Mistake to them at bedtime, and now I am revisiting my childhood through their eyes.   Further exacerbated with the current point of my memoir (I'm starting to hate that word- memoir), my childhood, and a spring break reconnecting with great friends- both from when my husband and I first met and also the girls I grew up with- a tidal wave of memories has flooded my brain and my heart.

   These two have been with my husband and I since the very first "date".  They were his friends first and have been there every step of the way.  The top photo is our first one together.  Bottom left is when she was pregnant with her first.  Bottom right is all of our children playing together last week.

  I grew up on the same street as two of my best friends before we all moved away or moved on.  By some chance of wonderful luck, we've remained friends all these years and just got all of our children together last weekend for the first time!  Now, that'll bring you back!  It has been many years since we were all pushing our babies around in strollers.  The top picture is our attempt to camp sleep in a tent overnight at Lake Tawakoni.  The second one is in Vegas while we celebrated turning twenty one.  And the bottom photo was last Friday with our kids at the Houston Zoo.

   I went on several trips, travelling different roads this past spring break- memory lane, highway 45.  Our trip to Houston was absolutely wonderful.  The kids had a ton of fun together and us moms squeezed in some mommy juice (or as my daughters call it, "poison") at night and played catch-up.  That first night, I was trying to shake off Little Girl's newest request to get some separation between us and to enjoy more freedoms, when I realized I had forgotten the baby monitor at home, and the box fan, and the lullaby CD, and a nightlight.  As my girls grow up and let go of old comforts, I must as well.  The box fan, lullabies, baby monitor, and ladybug nightlight are more for me than them at this point.  Growing up that night, for me, meant not panicking and rushing out to the store to buy a monitor for my almost six and four year old, uploading a lullaby app on my phone, leaving the closet line on and cracking the door.

   I couldn't help but dip back into the old pot of memories after that trip.  And I'm certainly examining them, or at least thinking about examining them, for my memoir.  (It's official.  I hate that word.)  Many questions arose when I first became a mother about choices my parents made in raising me and I've found some answers the last few years as I begin to mature as a parent myself.  Whereas nothing was too terribly traumatic, several grey areas of my childhood yet remain and they aren't accustomed to visitors.  I love this line from Hope Floats by the little girl, Bernice:

My dad says that childhood is the happiest time of my life.  But, I think he's wrong.  I think my mom's right.  She says that "childhood is what you spend the rest of your life trying to overcome.  That's what momma always says.  She says that beginnings are scary, endings are usually sad, but it's the middle that counts the most.  Try to remember that when you find yourself at a new beginning.  Just give hope a chance to float up.  And it will, too..."

   I guess I'm in the middle with Little Girl now.  I taught her to eat, held her hand while she learned to walk, showed her how to use the potty, sent her off to kindergarten with experiences, skills, and a heart of gold, and now the beginning is over.  I do hope my children will have a more positive outlook than Bernice on their youngest years, simply because I'm doing my best.  Surely my best will be good enough?  Little do they know that it won't be easy to break away from me.  I will be with them...everywhere...forever...even on that little train.