Wednesday, October 31, 2012

guest post! anything once: dressing up like a gorilla to run through the streets of denver

Today's guest post comes from Miss Kim, one of my sister's BFFs, and now a friend of mine! We share a similar sense of humor, love of bad reality TV The Bachelor, and she let me borrow her sister's dress for my sister's wedding (clearly that equals lifelong friendship). She was mostly inspired by this very random activity, but in part she wanted to help me achieve my goals. So she's a friend and an enabler. Miss Kim, you're the BEST. Take it away!

See if you can follow this story.

I have this friend Hannah…
Who is married to a handsome man named Nick…
One of Nick’s cousins passed away a year and a half ago…
Nick’s cousin loved gorillas…
For the second year, Nick’s family has run this race in Denver called The Gorilla Run in memory of his cousin…
Nick is currently living in Washington DC for an internship…
Nick had planned on coming home for said race but did not…
Hannah needed someone to take Nick’s place…
Enter me.

When my friend Hannah asked me if I wanted to participate, I wasn’t too sure.  I had heard about the Gorilla Run before, and I knew you had to run the entire race wearing a gorilla suit.  I mean, I like to run, but I wasn’t sure about the whole gorilla thing.  Turns out, it was way fun.  Who knew dressing up in a gorilla suit with 1,300 other people could be so entertaining?  (Also, in all honesty, we didn’t run. We walked. And despite the fact that it was cold that morning, it got hot in those gorilla suits! I admire the folks who did run.)

Here's me pre-race, channeling my inner gorilla. It's hard to tell, but I'm wearing the suit sans head.
Here we are in full on gorilla suits.  You can’t even tell we’re people can you? Can you?
We didn’t want to get too intense, so we took some human photos, too.
Here’s all the gorillas ready to run the race. You may be asking yourself what they’re chasing.
Oh that’s right, there are others dressed as bananas (dogs, small children, adults on bicycles… the possibilities were endless).  
Oh yeah, and no one just dresses like gorillas.  They wear costumes over their costumes.  

It was so sweet to take part in an event that was so special to Hannah and Nick’s family.  I did my best to channel my inner Nick, but I could never replace him.

And in case you’re wondering, the Gorilla Run is a fundraiser for The Mountain Gorilla Conservation Fund.  You can read more about it here

All in all, this is a first I’d be willing to repeat.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Long time coming

After my sister was about two years old and I got over her cute-ness factor, we fought constantly. Throughout my childhood, my grandmother told me to treat her with more kindness. She told me that when I left home, I'd miss her and I'd regret all our fighting. I left home. We kept fighting. I got married. We kept fighting. 

Even though we fought, and even though everyone around us told us we hated each other, we kept trying to be sisters. When we both lived in California, we visited each other fairly frequently for weekends at a time. But Sunday morning would come, and inevitably, no matter how smoothly the rest of the weekend had gone, within 3 hours of the departure, a huge fight would ensue. It would feel like whatever good we'd worked toward in the weekend would have been ruined. 

The one reprieve I remember from our bickering growing up was when I would be driving her around together, older siblings get that great honor of being the personal chauffer. While driving, we would roll the windows down and crank up some worship music and sing at the top of our lungs. Maybe there were other people in the car. Maybe they would look at us like we were crazy people. Maybe they would join in. But it was our thing. 

Now my sister lives on the other side of the country. 3000 miles away. And for a few years now, by the grace of God, we've finally started getting along. I DO miss her. Finally. I do regret our fighting, the missed years when we could have been enjoying life together. 

She's a great sister. She does her best to keep me more up to date on fashion, culture, music. She loves my daughter like crazy. She thinks of me and misses me. She loves me. 

And this weekend, as if it were "on the way," she made a jaunt up to Maine after a weekend in New York. She spent extra money, expended extra energy [she came on 2 hours of sleep], and she shared extra joy with us for less than 24 hours that she was able to stay. 

This morning, I drove her to the airport. She sat in the back seat with Sofia, keeping her entertained on the 40 minute drive. Within minutes of getting on the road, Sofia was asking to sing songs. Auntie Nina, as we call her now, went through as many nursery rhymes as young hip single woman might be expected to be able to recall before she looked up to me a bit baffled. I filled in a few more while Nina searched for ways to meet her nieces demands. As I concluded a round of "One little two little three little polar bears," my sister had some worship songs playing from her phone that she could sing along to. I hooked it up to the car speakers and turned the volume up high. We both both sang our hearts out. I could see the hands raised in the back. I raised my free hand up front. I heard her teaching Sofia how to raise her hands, I heard her cheering as Sofia supposedly did raise her hands along to the music. She initiated my daughter into our little tradition of praise. 

There were no fights this trip. And at the end, when we might have had our traditional parting hostilities, we were singing praises instead. Because, you know, that's our thing. 

It's been a long time coming, but I am so grateful that we've finally figured out how to love each other. And I'm so overwhelmed with joy that Sofia gets to be part of our fun and part of our love. God's grace is sweet.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

eight days to my goal deadline

Let's take a look again at the five goals I made nearly three months ago:

Make FIVE phone or skype calls to keep in touch with long distance pals.

Well, I'm failing here. I have skyped with Shep and Tab twice and we called them another time. I also keep in touch with Chadley via work chat. I skyped into my brother in-law's 30th birthday party, but I don't really count family. If I did count family, I've skyped with my sister oodles of times. Also, I saw Nathan and Annie, who are totally long distance friends, for church and lunch a few weeks ago. But really, I'm failing at this one. Bum.

Have FOUR new anything once experiences.

One, two, two and a half, three. That's 75%. A solid C, which is technically passing.

Write THREE posts per week.

I've posted 17 times since the original goal post (ha - goal post), some of which shouldn't count. It has been 12 weeks. Therefore, I'm running an average of about 1.4 per week. That's 47%. A solid D, which is technically passing in some schools. I hang my head in shame.

Complete TWO works - hopefully finish the play I've started and write a children's book or even just a poem.

Let's see. I've completed zero works. That is an epic fail. I did come up with a great idea for a novel though, and I wrote the first two pages of that. So, yeah.

Move into ONE apartment, for goodness sake.

YES. I did this one! We are now living in a townhome in Westminster, and this has been my excuse reason for most of the aforementioned failure. Before we moved, I was spending all of my energy in locating an apartment. Then we moved, and I was spending all of my energy in moving. And now that we're starting to get settled, I'm writing this post. Blam. Back in the swing of things. 

Anyway, I do still have eight days, so I might be able to squeeze a few more things in here and there. We shall see. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Children's Books Take Five: A Hush Baby Comparison

When I first had Sofia, I had so much trouble thinking of anything to sing her. I was far enough away from my childhood or my baby-sitting days for any lullaby's to be front of mind. So when someone gifted us with a board book of Hush Little Baby I breathed a big sigh of relief and then said, "duh!"

And then I read the book a time or two, and realized how it models this parenting approach of materialism. The Papa spends the whole song trying to buy lots of presents to keep a baby from crying. Fresh out of my baby-registry craziness, I was feeling like that philosophy had already been sufficiently thrown in my face by all the baby stores of the world. And none of these supposedly fool proof sleep-toys did a thing to soothe my own baby. I kept thinking, "someone should really re-write the words to this song!"

Turns out, someone did! Nearly a decade before I had the thought. Way to go Sylvia Long! I saw this new version of Hush Little Baby in my mother-in-law's children's book collection [she's been preparing for grand-babies with great excitement for a while!]. These new lyrics portray such a sweet, patient, nature-inspired relationship between a mother and child. The illustrations are also beautiful, just as Sylvia's other books. I was so thrilled by this book that I stole it from my mother-in-law (with permission) and brought it home with us.


And yet, as much as I prefer the message of the above Hush Baby, the illustrations of the original board book we had seem to be far and away Sofia's preference. The illustrations do feel clever, I must admit. And in fact, I appreciate that in these illustrations, it is not just one mama comforting the child. The baby looks to be much more of a terror than the "blue hush baby," as Sofia calls it. This baby is really screaming his head off. But his WHOLE family, big sister included, is there working to the brink of utter exhaustion to help calm and comfort him. The story told through those pictures, of all that family does for that baby, make the last line "you'll still be the sweetest baby in town" so much more sweet. They communicate, "no matter how crazy you make me, I will still love you." The pictures almost overwhelm the materialistic message of the song. Good work, Marla Frazee!

So, torn between good aspects of each, we hardly ever read one without also reading the other. 

P.S. The other Sylvia Long book we own and enjoy is Ten Little Rabbits, a sweet counting rhyme with beautiful Native American style.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sabbath Sunday

“Sabbath keeping is something that was designed to be a part of us by our Creator. It is a day where we rest in the work that God has already done. It is a laying down of our wants, demands, and activities to be content in what God has already accomplished in our lives. It is a discipline of acknowledging that I don’t have to produce or do something in order to be right before God. 
It’s an act of being versus doing.”

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Children's Books Take Four: Madlenka

Madlenka ~ Peter Sis

Madlenka's tooth is loose, and she has to tell everyone. She runs around her city block in New York to share the exciting news. Through her journey, she encounters friends from several countries, and in the end, announces to her parents that she's been around the world, and she lost her tooth. It is a sweet story of our globally integrated society and the diverse nation we live in. And I personally feel that the illustrations are what really make this book so magical. The graphic layout that illustrates her run "around" the world and the fantastical pictures that show her exploring each friend's unique universe really enhance the beauty of the story.

Right this minute, I really love books that provide natural teaching opportunities that jump off the page. The more we read this book to Sofia, the more she wanted to read it. And the more that she read it, the more fun she had talking about how "Mommy went around the world" or "Sofia went around the world." We read in a library that's on one corner of a bit of a circle around our stairway, so as she kept laughing over this one phrase, I realized, we could really go "around the world!" So I quickly scratched out some little signs with the names of each continent and posted them up in the different spaces around our stairway. I grabbed Sofia's hand and announced, "This is Africa," ran to the next spot, "Now we're in Europe, let's fly to Asia" and so forth. When I came full circle, I could announce, "Sofia! We ran around the world! Just like Madlenka!" and her mind pretty much exploded with happiness. We run alot of laps now, which is great as we've been having alot of rainy days lately and need a way to get energy out indoors. It's not that I think a child under two needs to know her continents, but it has been a really fun way to act out a story she loves and get physical with our imaginations. And it is pretty cute hearing her try to say "Antarctica." Thank you, Madlenka, and Peter Sis, for inviting us into this beautiful adventure!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Children's Books Take Three: In a Blue Room

In a Blue Room ~Jim Averbeck, illustrated by Tricia Tusa

This is one of the sweeter nighttime books I've ever come across. We used to read Goodnight Moon to Sofia every night, and now In a Blue Room has replaced it. Somewhat for variety, somewhat because Sofia's growing out of Goodnight Moon, and somewhat because I think it's just better. But something tells me I might draw some flack for that statement.

Alice does not want to go to bed in anything but a blue room. Her mother very calmly brings in sleep aids that stimulate all of her senses, but each thing contradicts Alice's demands for blue. As bedtime draws nearer, the lights eventually click off, and all the colors of her sleep aids are blanketed in a "pale blue light." I love the creative concept, the soothing poetic language, the model of a mother who can stay calm through a stressful daily routine (an encouragement to me!), and the magical illustrations. Much like Goodnight Moon, it's natural to memorize the entire text. And I can testify that the calming example has literally encouraged my support of Sofia through challenging bedtimes, as well as her ability to focus, calm, and relax on similar sorts of nights.

After our library due date ran out, I had to buy our own copy because I simply could not let it go. I can't seem to get enough of this one!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sabbath Sunday: Children's Books Take Two: Perfect Square

Perfect Square ~ Michael Hall

Why am I bothering to recommend a children's book on a Sunday, you ask? Because I believe this book is a beautiful illustration of Sabbath. Much along the lines of another great new children's book, Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg, perfect square shows that sometimes mistakes or injuries can be transformed into something beautiful. It's a valuable lesson to learn in art, and it is a beautiful lesson to learn in life.

Hall's book is simple and creative with a story of a square whose sides become less than perfect day after day. But what makes it a great Sabbath book, is that after restoring imperfection to beauty Monday through Saturday, on Sunday, nothing bad happens to the squares perfect sides. He comes to feel even bored by the lack of activity or challenge. But he realizes that he can sit back, and become a window, through which to view the beauty that he's created the rest of the days of the week.

I think of how God sat back, on that first Sabbath day, surveying the work of His week, and He said, "It is good." It was so good, it took Him as long to take in the joy of it, as it did for Him to create each thing. Isn't that a beautiful thought? I have no idea what Hall's intentions were, but I enjoy and recommend reading this book on a Sunday, and use it as a prompt to look back, and see what good God has been up to, transforming you this week! (and feel free to share in the comments!)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Children's Books Take One: Clorinda the Cow

Sofia is finally entering into the world of picture books, by which I mean she does not instantly consume everything we read with her teeth. We are going a bit hog-wild at the library and spending hours at home tearing through books, some of them over and over, now that I can trust that we can return them safely in one piece.

Before I was a mom, I had this idea that children's books were all golden classics that would give me warm fuzzy feelings and beautiful ideas to ponder. Turns out that's not the case. There is a shocking amount of stupid stuff out there. And frankly, there is a surprising amount of material I really do not want Sofia to be exposed to. It's just plain bad. But when you're confronted with a large room filled with shelves, it's a bit overwhelming to sort through it all.

I find myself comparing notes with other moms about good books to keep an eye out for, so I figure, why not share them here, where perhaps more people can benefit. I'll post some suggestions as they come. If you have some tips to share, please do comment! Small note: if you click on the images of the books, it'll link you to Amazon. If you purchase these books from there, Amazon will send Emily and I a little cut. Thanks in advance ;)

I don't want to rail on all the bad books or become a censorship police. My hope is to steer you towards books that are edifying so you don't have to waste your time, or your child's attention span on things that are not.

Without further ado, here is one of my new, two-claws-up, favorites:

Clorinda Takes Flight ~Robert Kinerk, illustrated by Steven Kellogg

I have loved Steven Kellogg's illustrations since I was a kid, The Mysterious Tadpole remains one of my favorite children's books.

He continues to do a fantastic job illustrating the Clorinda books. Very colorful and imaginative, with creative little details hiding here and there.

In this and the other Clorinda book we've read, Robert Kinerk writes thoroughly uplifting poems whose lines are fun to read. (I am looking forward to reading Clorinda Plays Ball, because it's more Clorinda, but I'm not huge on baseball, so I'm a bit nervous.) 

Clorinda has big dreams. Being a cow, she also has big limitations. But she pursues her dreams, she turns to her friends for help. Even when she faces failure, she acknowledges what she can and can't do, adjusts her dreams, and finds beautiful ways to be happy and share her happiness. I love Clorinda and her pal Len! You can just sense that these stories were written from a place of great love. It's hard not to love them in return. 

Well there you go, four tips on one. I hope you find this little series helpful. Happy reading, Lobsters!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Cooking with Zoe: Tomatoes Galore

The Farmer's Almanac, which I hadn't even looked at since I was a kid rummaging through my grandfather's ranch house curiosities but is apparently a regularly referenced guide here, tells me that it is officially fall now. The students have had their first round of exams, the leaves are changing color, and my tomatoes have nearly all together petered out.  

My first tomato harvest yielded this little salad with fresh basil from my herb garden. And as my father-in-law, who helped me transplant my seedlings, predicted, I've had more tomatoes than I would have asked for. He is a more generous man than me. When he has a bountiful harvest and winds up with more fruit than he would have naturally purchased at a store, he gives it away to anyone who will take it. I am a bit of a hoarder. So instead of sharing much of my tomatoes, I have challenged myself to get creative and find ways to use my fruit at a rate that keeps up with their ripening. I've lost one or two from falling behind. But in the process, I've made:

1) Caprese paninis

2) Spaghetti with tomato meat sauce

3) Pesto pizza with goat cheese, caramelized onions, chicken, and of course, tomatoes

4) Roasted corn and Tomato soup [recipe from the William Sonoma catalogue], good enough to make twice

5) Breakfast burritos [sausage, eggs, cheese, and diced tomatoes wrapped in a warm tortilla]

6) Bruschetta [I dice the tomatoes, add olive oil and balsamic vinegar to coat, salt, pepper (fresh ground if it's available), garlic salt (fresh garlic if I have the energy), lots of basil, and other italian spices to taste (such as oregano, thyme, a hint of rosemary, sage, and savory)]

7) Salsa, using this recipe from my sweet friend Jamilah:

1 cup red onion chopped
1 cup chopped cilantro(it takes a lot, you could even add more than this)
1 can diced tomatoes (I like to use the seasoned kind with onion and flavoring)
1 cup frozen corn
Salt, pepper

Combine in bowl, add white vinegar until the level of liquid is about an inch deep. Taste test.

Optional ingredients: fresh cucumber and green pepper chopped fine

8) Turkey sandwiches with sliced tomato

9) Chicken Vegetable Soup [see this recipe from Cooking Light - this was SOOOoooo good and surprisingly filling!]

And I have a few more tomatoes left on the vine, still ripening. Any more ideas for how I might use them? Not too shabby for the cost of about one good sized tomato and the transplant fertilizer! I feel like this if the first time in my life an investment has paid off so fruitfully. ;)