Thursday, April 30, 2009

Reading and Writing

Now that she is reading so well, Honor has decided to start writing stories. She has always been very eager to pick up a pen and paper and express her creativity. As a toddler, she used herself as a canvas. Yes, we would be the parents with the child at day care who was stained multi-colors from non-permanent markers that weren't quite non-permanent. She also colored on other things that she knew she wasn't supposed to. Books, puzzles, the wall. She knew it was wrong... you could tell she knew! But she did it anyway. Fortunately, that was a very short stage in her career and she quickly moved on.

Even before she turned 3yo, she enjoyed freestyle coloring, drawing, and painting more than coloring books:
Like her brother, her creations, pictures or letters, would often be upside-down and backwards. When she started learning her letters and asking to have words spelled, all the letters would be scattered randomly around the page. Eventually, she got things turned around and lined up.

Until only recently, she's been more determined to learn how to write words, than she has been to read them! "How do you spell ... ?" has got to be her favorite sentence, although she is getting to be more adventurous and is writing by sounding out the words. She's also learned to send text messages with my (I mean 'our') phone.

She sat down one afternoon and wrote these two stories. No particular reason, she was just in the mood to write:
Once upon a time, there were fairies, and they had kids. The kids were walking and they saw a baby and they brought the baby home. The End. Honor 6
Once upon a time, there was a mermaid. The mermaid had lots of kid mermaids. The kids were scared of sharks, and once a shark came, they were scared. The End.

She'll be blogging in no time!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Caring for our kitty

We are missing our Misty cat...

...but we are coping as best as we can.

Misty's 'brother' misses him too and has been very demanding of extra love, attention, snuggling and playtime. The first couple of days after we lost Misty, Ramzi needed ALL of our attention, ALL of the time. He followed us everywhere and was awake most of the day... he's usually napping most of the time as he's an old kitty. He had to keep an eye on us I suppose. Make extra sure that we didn't leave him too. He's feeling a bit better now though, more reassured, and back into his routine of sleeping most of the day when the kids are out, although he is still being extra cuddly in the evenings when everyone gets home from school and work.

I'm doing a lot of 'hand/paw' holding:
Ignore the mess of boxes, please! We are preparing to move.

We got the cat carrier out to clean it up and get the cat used to it. He was actually very happy with his new fort. Especially when Honor got home from school, fixed it up for him, and played in it with him.
Ramzi trying to get in while Honor is trying to explain that she isn't done fixing it yet.
Hey! Whose fort is this anyway?

Move over and let me in!

And yes, kid and cat both fit happily in the carrier together. Goofers. I am glad they have each other.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Angel Misty

On Friday morning, our 'big cat' Misty passed away. He was an old guy, over 13 years old and in declining health, but we had hoped he would pull through and stay with us a few more years. He's been with us through so much, and has always been such a good big brother to our non-fur-kids. We are going to miss him so much.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Hug Day!

Ok, maybe I am supposed to be saying "Happy Earth Day" . I know that the kids are having Earth Day activities, assemblies, pledge-taking, etc. at school today that might very well be interesting to blog about - if I would just wait, but no, my day started out with hugs and cuddles, so I'm going with the given theme.

Even the cat was cuddly and talkative this morning. The kids woke up silly and giggling. Brian insisted on sitting in my lap as I brushed and combed his hair - which is nice, but he's getting tall enough that I almost cannot reach properly anymore! Honor was a hand-holding, skipping, smiling, sweetie as we walked into school. Brian went off to his class, and Brad and I took Honor to the playground.

Not only was Honor a hug-monster when saying her goodbyes to daddy as he left for work, but also, a neighbor's daughter came up for hugs from both of us. Then, after Brad left, I found myself surrounded by 4-6 other kindergartners from Honor's class.. using me as 'base' for their tag game... and hugging on me! A couple are 'usual' huggers - the class is full of very sweet kids - but there were a couple of unexpected hugs today. Did I need hugs? Did they? Or is there just something in the air that makes it a day to hug?

By the time I left the school to walk home - and I was only there all of about 10 minutes - I was full of sweet little hugs and smiles! What a way to start the day! My walk home was very pleasant as well. Blue sky. Warm air (although it is slated to be darn hot later, it was pleasant at 8am). Flowers and birds. Looking at the life around me, and feeling the happy hugged thoughts inside of me, thinking of Earth Day... I was reminded of this little snippet I wrote when Brian was just a little guy. We'd had a nice afternoon outside, and he had been a state of gleeful, unabashed nature appreciation - enjoy:

Toddler Tree Ritual
Location: any nice group of friendly trees
Time: whenever
Method: Insist on going out to play, even in spite of a little rain. Find your local grove of trees. Grab mom by the finger and insist she accompany you to the chosen location. (especially if you're not allowed to cross the parking lot by yourself!) Approach the first tree and give it a few pats hello. Proceed to run as fast as you can around the tree (15-20 times), and pronounce your joy with loud squeals and laughter. When the next tree beckons, run over and repeat the greeting, the circling, and continue to share your happiness with all. If you fall down, be sure to share the earth kisses that have made their way on to your hands, with mom, by smearing them muddily and lovingly on her jeans. Continue this ritual until you are tired, then sit with mom in the juniper, hold her hand, point at ants, and watch the world go by.
Equipment: a small Ernie toy was sacrificed to the deepest bit of the juniper but this is not necessary.
Usage: warms mom's heart, cheers her like you wouldn't believe!!
Creator: my 15mo old 'Druid'

Happy Earth Day - may it be hug filled and naturally blessed!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Cheering for cheerleaders

Another event from our busy, busy, busy break last weekend. It's taken me a bit to get this organized because I wanted to link to websites to give proper credit - not difficult, but I've been distracted :)

We just happened to be at the club when a show started on the lawn. This was not a show I was interested in when I heard of it. It was advertised rather simply. Something about cheerleaders visiting. I thought, "So what?"... I am not at all interested in sports, therefore the actual sports, or the related sport and show of cheer leading was not of any interest to me. I'm glad that the military and Embassy brings these various entertainers around, but not all are what we find entertaining. What I wasn't aware of though, was this wasn't just a bunch of pretty girls doing cheers about a sport I could care less for - this was a show troupe, and these ladies truly did put on quite a show.

The event was sponsored by the Armed Forces Entertainment agency, and the Show Troupe are members of the Indianapolis Colts Cheerleaders. Honor was definitely enthralled by the pretty ladies in sparkly, glittery, feathery costumes... all the little girls present seemed to be. A whole squad full of smiling, dancing, real-life Barbies - what more could a little girl want? Brian thought they were great too - especially after he managed to catch one of the small plastic footballs! The show was about an hour(?) long with many songs, costume changes, different types of dance routines, etc. I had fun sitting with the kids and answering their questions - as well as just watching them as they watched the show.

This is a good age for this. I am not from a sports fanatic family. We did not watch any team sports and this has been a fine life-style to continue as far as I am concerned. But I do remember meeting some sports players when I was their age - players with the St. Louis Cardinals in Florida for spring training, and players from the Tampa Bay Rowdies. I'm not so sure WHY it was so interesting to meet these sports players, but it was - and I saw that same excitement with our kids when they met these performers.

One bit of the show that struck me as funny was when the emcee had a bunch of kids up in front and was asking them where they were from. Instead of the state name answers that she was obviously expecting, each child answered with the name of the country they were born in. Most were from America, so eventually, she asked a child - who had answered with yet another "America" - where in America was she from, what state. The child just looked at her. Fortunately mom was in the audience to loudly stage-whisper the answer.

Honor (on the left, wrapped in a towel as she ran out of the pool to come see the show) and a friend watch the show together. All those feathers and sparkles - she was instantly smitten.
Brian sat back with me.
A salute to the troops - Brian liked the Army girls the best. Go Army!
Even 'Tina' showed up. This was one of the many small group or single performer/singer routines included in the show.
They even did actual cheerleader-like stuff.(sort of, it was mostly song and dance)
The ladies gave out flags, as well as T-shirts and toys.
From Whale Ears and other Wonderings
Getting kids up to sing a patriotic song was just one of the many audience-participation things they did.
By the end of the show, the kids were eager to line up for autographs.
Not sure if they knew what 'autographs' actually were before this, but they lined up eagerly to meet the ladies, and were happy to get the signed photos!
Thanks to AFE and the Colts Cheerleaders!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

You know what to do with lemons...

.. but what if life, or your weekly veggie delivery, hands you 5 smallish citrus fruits of indeterminate color that may be yellowish limes, but might also be greenish lemons? I have asked and been told they are "limuns", and have also been told by some that this means "lemon" and by some others that this means "lime". Who knows? Anyway. Given mystery citrus - did I make lemonade? No way. I was sure that this was a situation that called for making something that may or may not be an Egyptian variation of Key Lime Pie, a favorite dessert from my native Florida.

And why, as a native Floridian, do I not have a complete encyclopedia of all the details of all the citrus fruits, of every variety and species, engraved upon my brain? Well, I never bothered. Sorry. There's so much! And I really do not care. I like it all. Orange-like objects. Grapefruit of all kinds. Lemons, limes, tangerines, etc. I don't care. It's good and good for you. Why worry about the details? So, when I started getting these little greenish-yellow, lime-like objects locally, that were sometimes yellow like lemons, sometimes dark green... no bells rang. No light bulb appeared. I just stacked them on the counter with the rest of the citrus and used them as lemons or limes in whatever random use I happened to come up with.

Then there was today's pie. I chose this simple Key Lime Pie recipe (same link as in the first paragraph) because I like key lime pie... but I did so knowing that you really do not get key lime pie (link to pie history), if you do not use real key lime juice. You don't. It's not the same. It might be very good lime pie, but it isn't key lime pie. And what is the difference between key limes and regular ol' green limes, anyway? Basically the regular lime, the Persian, is sweeter, has a thicker and softer skin, and is less acidic. It is the very familiar green oval fruit found in most US supermarkets. Key limes are what I also knew as 'wild limes' in Florida. I remember them being small, harder, much tarter, and very yellow limes. Anyway, what happened when I made the recipe with my mysterious local citrus? When we tasted it.... it was key lime pie. I kid you not... How?!

I had to find out, so I started researching limes and found out that the local Egyptian fruit makes authentic tasting key lime pie, because it IS basically, key lime! Both are (C. aurantifolia) - they are the same variety of lime.
-- Key lime, West Indian lime, Mexican lime, kaghzi nimbu (India), Gallego lime (Brazil), limun baladi (Egypt), doc (Morocco), shirazi (Iran) (C. aurantifolia) is a variety that is referred to as the true lime. It was brought to the Americas from Asia by the Portuguese and Spanish explorers in the early 16th century and cultivated as early as 1889 in the Florida Keys. It grows well in all of the citrus-growing regions: hot semitropical, subtropical, and tropical regions, and particularly flourishes in the Caribbean and Florida. It is round to oval, very small, and harvested year round. They are so small that often as many as sixteen will make a pound (500 grams). Key emits an extremely distinctive aroma from its thin green rind, and it is quite juicy with some seeds and an acidy taste. Like the lemon, the lime became abundant in the New World soon after its introduction, particularly in the West Indies and Central America.
Ok. Sure. I bet there are some minor differences due to evolution, and to the effects on the different plants in widely varying climates, etc. but this Egyptian Lime pie took my taste buds around the world and back in time. Mmm!

It was a pretty pie, and very yummy. After thinking about it, I believe I should have used a graham cracker crust... I generally am not fond of any pie crust, but graham cracker is good with this type of pie.

New recipe, new bit of horticultural knowledge - don't say I never gave ya nothin'!

Monday, April 13, 2009

How was your Easter?

How was your Easter? Did you spend it with someone dear and close to you? Like Honor and 'Amanda' did (yes, her reflection has a name):
Was it well-balanced?
Were you happy, smiling and hugged?
Did you set aside some time to be crafty?
Was it so fun that you were you walking on air?

was it planned, or were you flying by the seat of your pants?
Did your eggs portend hatchlings of rabbits, or dragons??
However you spent your Easter day, I hope it was a good one, and filled with love and family.

Princesses, Pirates, and puppies

Honor's birthday bash was a ton of fun. She had told me, months ago, that she wanted to have a Princess party, but she wasn't sure if the boys would like that. I suggested we add pirates to the theme. At this age, we really had no plans to structure a party with games and scheduled events, etc.... although I saw a couple of creative ideas on the web for theme games, like 'Walk the plank' (a balancing relay) and a 'royal' version of musical chairs, where the main/last chair is fancied up as a throne and each time the music stops, a small prize goes to the one in the throne, etc. Maybe for older kids. For these littler ones though, a couple hours of free play on a bouncer and playground, plus cake and pizza was enough. Although... as Honor and I were making arrangements for the party together, we saw a photo of a dog show. The price was very fair, so we added that too. Why not, and it turned out to be a great combo!

Finding a photo for an invite was tough. Honor, very specifically, wanted a pirate next to a princess on a horse. I couldn't find one anywhere and eventually gave up and drew it on the computer - and it turned out good enough for the birthday girl, so it was good enough for me! (The copy above is altered, I photoshopped photos from the party onto it today.)

It was much easier to find awesome party supplies - thank goodness for Oriental Trading Company! I was able to get plastic swords with eye patches, pretty paper crowns, piles of beads, a bag of 'gold' coins, and some sweet little plush pirate bears as favors. The swords, crowns, and beads, were for entertainment and craziness during the party... and they went over very well! For treat bags, I prefer to give a little toy, or something else the kids can use and keep, like sun visors, craft kits, or notebooks and crayons, rather than a bag of candy - they get so much candy as it is. Oriental Trading sells in bulk and they have good shipping rates. The only problem with this plan is you have to set the number of guests, which makes it hard to be flexible with the guest list later. Of course, you have to set a guest list anyway, in order to plan on food and drink for a certain number of people. The thing is, we never turn away extras... the whole idea is to have fun and unexpected siblings should come too. The problem is having a party bag for all the kids. We, adults, know its not technically necessary to have a party bag in order to enjoy a party, but that's like telling a kid that a burger, fries and drink off the drive-thru bargain menu is 'the same thing' as a McD's Happy Meal in a colorful box with a toy, eaten in the restaurant with an employee handing out balloons. Not needed, but part of the fun if you can fit it in. And, if big sister is invited and gets a bag, little sister tag-a-long ... well, her mom may say she doesn't need a bag, but you look into those little eyes and try to agree! I think my take-away lesson for this party is that we can plan a guest list, plan special treats for those on the guest list, but we should plan to have on hand a bunch of 'just in case' treat bags for surprise guests.

Anyway, we had pirates, boys and girls. Pirates with crowns. Princesses. Princesses who took up sword and eye patches to become pirates. We even had an Indian, and some regular kids - as costumes were completely optional. ... and the best thing is that it didn't get quite hot enough to melt any of our costumed guests (or non-costumed parents)! Good timing, as since then we have suddenly dropped into summer (whew!).

Here are my favorite pirates - Brian and his best friend.
A couple of very pretty (and very silly) princesses.
Pirate power! (aka an example of what this mom can do with a Sharpie)
When it was time for the show, Honor got a lot of special attention.
A parade even.
The hostess tried to make this a 'photo op' with the kids around Honor, but they see Honor all the time and were more interested in petting the dog! (and so was Honor!)
Isn't she regal?
A chance to perform
or at least to hold the props for the real performers.
There was much 'ooh'ing and 'awww'ing
Honor wasn't the only one to participate, although she did have the main focus. The ladies called a bunch of kids up to participate throughout the performance, which really made the show more special.

Honor jumps rope...
but is outshown by a puppy.
Then it was time to get dressed up.
And have a dance!
Of course, there was cake. Gotta feed the pirates or they get cranky.
Princesses like cake too!
I think it was a success :) Tiring, but kids had fun and that was the whole idea.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Family celebration

I've been a bit slow on posting some pics, but we've been so happily busy. One big event - events - has been Honor's 6th birthday. We celebrated her actual birthday at home, but we also threw a big party for friends at the club.

We do not do a lot of going out here. The roads are rough. Parking is hard. I do not trust the taxis. Going 'out to the movies' or 'to the mall' is a pain in the rear at best, it is not what we consider 'fun', so we do not bother to go out just to 'go out' as a social thing. We also avoid a lot of crowded places, like theatres and restaurants, because of.. well, hate to complain about our very welcoming hosts, but too many folks here know nothing of standing in lines politely. I can't even stand to go to Carrefour (local version of Walmart) with the kids because inevitably someone tries to physically push us aside to cut in line... Notice I said tries, like any of the more polite locals, we don't let them, but why should I bother patronizing a store where I have to put up with that? We also avoid the small mall near our home for the parking lot bandits who harass you for tips in the parking lot. I don't need anything from the place, it's more annoying than 'fun', so we don't go there, even to browse or window shop, which is too bad, but... as I said before ... meh...

Wow... aren't I starting out positive?! Just being honest. We don't like city-living. NOT in ANY place in the entire world. There's a lot we love about Cairo, but pushing and shoving, crowded, cigarette filled, crazy loud, and insane traffic/parking.. I'm sure my blood pressure went up just thinking about it. Some people love living in the hustle-bustle of cities... not me. So, to go out into that, just to see a movie that we will eventually see on DVD, or to go window shopping in a mall for things we aren't going to buy... meh... no thank you.

Anyway, we do like to do stuff. Socialize. Play. Get OUT. etc., but this usually revolves around school, friends or family activities, and usually we are kept far more occupied than we need to be... in a good, but tiring way! Birthday parties are one form this self-made entertainment takes and we gave both kids big parties this year. The big 'friends' parties we host though, are generally more of an excuse to entertain... for the real birthday party, we prefer to celebrate at home as a family.

This year, Honor woke up sick. Poor kiddo hardly ever gets sick, and yet she did. Right on her special day. Fever. Sore throat. etc. But she was cheerful and helpful. As we weren't going to have guests, I let Miss Cooties help bake her own cake. She read the directions, got the ingredients, and did quite a bit of the work on her own.
Mix on 'low'.

ta-daa! Didn't they turn out pretty?
Me and two smiling kids....
Brad and smiling kids.
Honor gets a pretty box with her own perfumes - so she doesn't have to use mine.

I love these happy kids!!
Happy Birthday Sweet Honor!