Summer 2014 Bucket List

Summer 2014 Bucket List by Elaine Griffin from The Laine List

The days are hot. The nights are warm.

We’ve already swam in ponds, and roasted things over fires.

Summer break has finally arrived.

We are all more than a little ready for summer.

We are tired of the grind, yo.

I’ve managed to squirrel enough cash to cut back on my work hours, and we have many, many plans.

I’ve never made a bucket list, but because there is input from 3 people, I figured it would be a good idea, because we all know I will not remember all that. Plus, A LIST!

Summer 2014 Bucket List!

Visit local swimming areas.
Make tie-dye t-shirts.
Visit local farmer’s markets.
See many dollar movies.
Make creativity journals.
Visit the planetarium.
Launch our food blog.
Pick as many fruits and veggies as we can.
Learn to ride a bike.
Learn to tie shoes.
Make a soda volcano sprinkler.
Go to the movies.
Have a sleepover.
Read.
Have a treasure hunt.
Build a fort.
Play laser tag.
Go bowling.
Build a sheet fort and watch movies.
Have a water balloon fight.
Learn the alphabet.
Run in the sprinkler.

I sat down and made this list with the kids, but I have some plans of my own, too. Plans I had hoped to fulfill last summer.

I’m always striving to be a better mother.

More patient. More kind. More present. More willing to drop what I’m doing for a hug, snuggle, or non-emergency need.

To put down my phone (also known as work).

I’m hoping cutting back a bit on work will eliminate stress, and not cause more of it, and we will have the best summer ever. I need it as much as they do.

Here’s hoping anyway! What are your plans for the summer?

Meal Plan Week of June 2nd

meal plan week of June 2, Elaine Griffin, The Laine ListI know I am not the only one who cannot believe it is June already! The weather is crazy – today may be close to 90, and by Thursday it is going to be around 70, hence my choice of a leftovers chili.

We are still working on our healthy eating habits. This week my focus is breaking the nasty nightly dessert habit we have. I have been making Greek yogurt fruit smoothies for breakfast in the morning and making a little extra to freeze into popsicles, which I am going to try to sub for ice cream!

Meal Plan Week of May 19th

Monday

Meatless Monday! Barilla Pasta Plus with Mediterranean veggies.

Tuesday

Rotisserie chicken with broccoli quinoa salad.

Wednesday

Track night – sandwiches and salad after track.

Thursday

Scout night – leftovers chili with brown rice.

Friday

Buffalo chicken pizza and veggies with dip.

What are you eating this week?

Learning to Cook from the Heart

Learning to Cook from the Heart, Elaine Griffin, The Laine ListI’ve been watching cooking shows since I was knee high to my mother and grandmother. Of course back then it was Julia Child. The Frugal Gourmet was right up there for me too. But after Julia it was Graham Kerr and Martin Yan.

Soon after that, celebrity chefs hit the scene and the Food Network came along. I could have died and gone to heaven. Celebrity chefs have begun to lose their appeal to me now, unless we are talking about pretty much any Chopped judge and then I will be right there.

Aside from that I now enjoy following chefs like Vivian Howard, who is not only employing the farm to table philosophy, but also learning about and sharing her regional cultural and agricultural food history. So cool.

My mother and grandmother have always shared in my journey to learn about food, and taught me how to cook. When I was young, my mother cooked out of the Moosewood Cookbook and Joy of Cooking. As I grew older we cooked less from recipe and more from head and heart. No matter how little money we had, we always had good food.

My grandmother had recipe cards that she would pull from her recipe box, but mostly her recipes were in her head. Most of the time it was more technique than ingredients. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for all of the hours I spent in her kitchen learning farmhouse recipes like homemade baked mac and cheese, scalloped oysters, creamed onions, scalloped potatoes, meatloaf.

She too, cooked from her heart.

The cooking from head and heart technique is how I am teaching my children to cook. Rarely do we cook anything from a recipe, at least all the way. There is always something that needs to be added or substituted. We create. Ben is particularly good at creating not just recipes, but soul-satisfying food. Genevieve is still a little bit too little for that, but her zest for helping to cook makes me believe she will master this skill as well.

Tell me, how did you learn to cook?

Nourish

Nourish by Elaine GriffinThe theme of this months NaBloPoMo is Nourish. As an aspiring food blogger you would think my mind would have immediately thought this would be a perfect opportunity to blog about food.

Interestingly, my first thought when I read the word Nourish was how to nourish my soul.

What nourishes my soul?

My little dude who is sleeping soundly in his bed.

My little girl who is balled up on my lap making it hard to type.

Good food, that I will gladly cook myself.

Good wine.

The company of all the family and friends in my life that I love and respect, who’s presence just makes it all better.

I have all of these things, much of the time.

There is one thing missing, though, and it is my desire to have all of these things at the beach.

Sure, I live in the beautiful Finger Lakes, with no shortage of lakes, sandy beaches, and waterfalls. But I long for the ocean. The smell. The sound of crashing waves. Pelicans. Dolphins. Warmth.

Someday.

What nourishes your soul?

Photo Credit: Katarina 2353 via Compfight cc

My Daughter, a Big Kid Bed, and a Flashlight Friend #Review

My Daughter, a Big Kid Bed, and a Flashlight Friend The Laine ListMy daughter has a lot of…personality. She’s a little bit of loose cannon, little bit of headstrong, and a whole lot of sweet all rolled into one.

I wouldn’t trade any part of her personality for anything, but it is for the first two reasons why we have, until recently, kept her in her crib. Well, that and her habit of getting up at 4:30 in the morning, which I use as some of my only quiet work time. Giving her free reign to get up and roam rather than turning over and going back to sleep hasn’t seemed like an option. At least not a good one.

Of course she loves the “big kid bed,” even if for now it is only her crib mattress on the floor. (New bed and bedding/curtains will be revealed to her soon). For the most part she has done great. She goes to bed and stays in bed, and rarely gets out at night or in the morning. This morning was a different story though.

I heard her coughing and rustling around even before I got out of bed. Wouldn’t you know, around 4:30, out she wanders with her Flashlight Friend lighting the way.

Unicorn, as she calls it, is a recent addition to her extensive stuffed animal and baby doll family. And a timely one, too, as her arrival coincided with leaving the crib and having the opportunity to wander around a dark house. Genevieve has been wanting a Flashlight Friend forever, and so she is one happy little girl.

Anyway, out she comes from her room, and try as I might, I cannot get her to get back to sleep. She says to me, “Mama, can we have a family snuggle, just me, you, and Unicorn?” How can I say no to that sweetness? So off we go to the family room to snuggle in front of some cartoons. The work can wait. The snuggles can’t.

*Disclosure: We received one Flashlight Friend in order to write a review about it. I agreed to write this review because I knew it was something that my daughter would love and would be useful to us, and maybe to you. We really do love Unicorn. Genevieve says, “I like her ears because they’re pink. I like her eyes because they’re purple. I love her because she is soft, and she feels snugly!” There you have it folks! So, look out for Flashlight Friend – they retail for around $20 in many stores and online.

Summer Dreams Fall Away

summer fun in the sunSummer is over. The weather is starting to change, and we are getting back into the groove of school. Soon we will be jumping in leaves. Making snow angels. Starting our little seedlings. Before we know it, summer will be here again.

This summer, our days went too quickly. Work took over mornings. Attention spans did their usual wandering act. Kids age differences kept their interests on either side of the spectrum. The heat of the afternoon called for nothing more than lounging and sprinkler running.

I had grand plans for summer. Don’t I always have grand plans? And as my grand plans usually go, we did almost none of it. I had written a very up-beat post about how I was going to take control of summer. Give in to it. Be a fun mom. A “yes mom” instead of a “no mom.”

For various reasons, the post never posted. Here it is, in it’s entirety.

Ain’t No Cure for the Summertime Blues

Next week marks the last week of first grade for my son. Lazy, errr crazy, days of summer are upon us. The fear within me is strong.

I know a lot of work at home parents are struggling right now as their kids are entering into summer break mode. I have my toddler home all the time, but adding my son to the mix is…interesting. Their four year age difference means they can do some of the same things, but not many. And in general, they are just up in each other’s business all the time.  Bickering, screaming, and the like ensue. So coming up with activities is tricky.

Obviously I have been more than a little concerned about how summer is going to go. I have to work and I don’t really have money for camp every week. (OMG, how do people who have to work pay for childcare or camp?)

Anyway, rather than worry about the summer, I am being pro-active. I would like to thank Pinterest, but you know I’m just not that mom.

Here’s what we’re gonna do.

We will have a schedule. A chore chart. Mutual expectations. Which means I will I will expect decent behavior, and in turn, the kids can expect that I will be working part time, so we can really enjoy our time together. Basically, I’m eliminating the lazy and the crazy, because in this house lazy = bored = too much technology time = bad attitudes. Or what I like to call badittude.

Last summer was miserable, and I really hope these are things that are going to give us some harmony around here. My thought is keep them busy so they don’t even think about bickering. It makes sense that a schedule and some expectations would not only benefit Genevieve, since she will be entering pre-school in the Fall, but also Ben, who is used to having every minute from 9:00 am – 3:30 pm scheduled for him during school. I would think it’s a hard transition to go from all to nothing.

Basically, our schedule will go a little something like this. 4 days a week, with wiggle room for play dates, rainy days, etc., we will be pretty structured most of the day, with a combination of work (both for me, and chores for the kids), play, crafts, exercise, and brain activities. The fifth day, probably a Wednesday, will be our day for working on large craft projects, cooking and posting to our new blog, visiting museums and parks, running errands, and the like. Or just snuggling up and playing games and watching movies!

I only actually have a few large projects planned, but I think that’s okay, since a couple of weeks in July and at least a week in August will be spent traveling. One thing I want to do is some sort of epic treasure hunt, where they can hunt for things that will be useful throughout the summer. I wouldn’t mind suggestions about that! Another thing we are going to attempt is making plaster masks. We shall see if Genevieve will tolerate it. One project she will love is making wind chimes, and Ben and I are very excited to try our hand at making a piñata, which we will EXPLODE at an end-of-summer party.

Rad! I think I actually DO have the cure for the summertime blues!
Here’s to a glorious summer of fun times and beautiful memories. And a little bit of work!

Like I said, pretty much none of this happened. There were no big projects. No play dates. No museums. We didn’t launch our food blog. The chore chart disappeared after a couple of weeks when things got crazy with visitors, travel, etc. (Although the chore chart is now back!)

And that is what we DID have. My mom visited and we went to a festival. Then my dad was here. Then BlogHer happened. We did start to develop some mutual expectations and respect. I cut my work schedule to 4 half days a week. Weekend work ceased. We took some walks, gardened, and explored our creek. We played in the sprinkler. We swam. Read many books. Played games. Snuggled. Camped and roasted dogs and marshmallows.

Massanutten OverlookWe also took our best and most relaxing vacation ever, and returned only a couple of days before school started. It was epic, and so very, very needed.

We survived a car crash together.

In a way I guess I did become a “yes mom.” There are still far too many “no’s” for my kids, but that’s my job, I guess.

Now fall is upon us. I plan to continue my vacation mindset and enjoy life and give in to the moment. To just be. To watch football and cook and eat yummy food. To play games and snuggle up. To just love those little buggers with all my might.first day of school

How was your summer vacation? Was it everything you dreamed?

The Best Mother’s Day Gift: My Children

Yesterday was my son’s  7th birthday. Seven years ago, one week before Mother’s Day, he made me a mother.

Four years later, one week after Mother’s Day, I became a mother again. This time, to a daughter.

Best Mother's Day Gift My ChildrenI was gifted with two amazing little people.

There are some ways that bringing my babies into the world was not the most pleasant experience. When Ben was born he had some sort of bizarre vomiting and choking issue that awarded him three days in the NICU.  When Genevieve was born, my husband’s somewhat estranged mother sent hateful, accusatory, and demanding emails to me when I was still in the hospital.

In spite of the worry and upset associated with their births, nothing could take away that amazing feeling I had after giving birth. The hormones, freeing your body, and seeing that new little person you created, combines into the greatest cocktail of your life. It makes you feel light and airy. Energized. Deliriously happy. I’m sure there is a drug out there somewhere that makes you feel the same. I have often mentioned I wish I could bottle the post-birth euphoria, but without that sweet little baby, it just wouldn’t be the same.

There are some ways that being a mother is not the most pleasant experience. The hormones subside. The fatigue kicks in and never really goes away. New worries pop up. Maybe you allow them to dictate what kind of mother you will be. The kind of mother who is filled with self-doubt, stress, and worry. Maybe you don’t ever become the mother you thought you would be.

Motherhood is hard and overwhelming.  I’m sure fatherhood is too, but in my home, as in many others, I am the default. I do the lion’s share of the loving, the planning, the breaking up of fights, the discipline, the handing out disappointment.  It’s tumultuous, and many times I don’t know if I am coming or going.

It’s truly draining.

Motherhood is also glorious. On my children’s birthdays, I am almost able to recall that hormone cocktail feeling, when I recount to them their birth stories. I look at them and see their tiny infant faces, which I can still see through their growing kid faces. Everything stands still, and nothing else matters.

It’s truly refreshing.

The best gift I ever received for Mother’s Day was my children, and they never fail to give to me every day.

They give me eyes to see myself.

They give me love when I cannot love myself.

They give me pause to forget the stress and see the beauty and humor in every day.

They give me their trust, that I will love them and care for them unconditionally.

I often feel like I am not the mother I wanted to be. I am impatient. I’m overwhelmed. I’m annoyed. I yell. I am not always in the moment. The list could go on.

Yet, they continue to love me unconditionally, because I am their mother. And I them, because they are my babies.

That is the greatest gift of all.

*This post has been submitted to NerdWallet’s Mother’s Day Your Way Contest.

Our Trip to the National Museum of Play

Last week the kids and I played hookie we took a field trip to Rochester to visit a friend and go to the National Museum of Play. That place is seriously awesome. I can’t even put into words all they have to offer, so I will let them do the talking.

You’re never too big for this much fun! With more than 150,000 square feet of dynamic interactive exhibit space; the world’s largest collection of toys, dolls, games, and other items that celebrate play; a wide range of programs and activities; and family-friendly amenities, the National Museum of Play® provides educational, entertaining, and unforgettable intergenerational fun.

I didn’t take that many pictures, because I was too busy playing!

museum of play

We strolled along Sesame Street, and had a picture in Big Bird’s nest. We saw comic book hero’s, shopped at a kid sized Wegmans, and played in an arcade. One of the best parts was the butterfly garden. Even though there was a butterfly or probably a moth that kept buzzing my head/face. In case you don’t remember, here is my history with moths.

I love how the turtle looks like he is waving good-bye!

If you are a local or are traveling through Western New York, this is a serious must do! It is well worth the money, and I can’t wait to go back!

My Kids Help Me Grow and Learn

thankful for my children from the laine listLately I have been so stressed out. About a lot of things. My children seem to want to compound this stress.

Genevieve will not stop getting into stuff. Her new trick is putting things in the toilet. Washcloths, hand towels, cups.

Ben spends his days at school, apparently smiling always, complaining never. He hits my door running, complaining, nagging.

The two of them hug and love on each other, run around, scream, beat on each other, argue.

It’s exhausting.

I view this part of my life – their behavior – as bullshit. It’s hard for me to get through these perfectly normal situations with my children. I feel like I’m constantly at my peak tolerance level. I just simply cannot take anymore.

These feelings add to my stress, and it stresses my kids out.

They are the cutest little buggers. They are smart, sweet, and funny as hell. It’s so hard to remember when we are in the thick of it.

The last couple of days I have been so exhausted that my normal routine of wrap up work-prep snack-prep dinner-pick up the house after the boy gets home has been put on the back burner. After work wrap up and prepping a snack we have sat and watched movies. And played games. And snuggled. Last night we went out for dinner and colored, laughed, and actually had a relaxing time.

Are we at the point where we can go out to dinner WITH KIDS and actually enjoy our time out?!

It’s so easy to be overwhelmed with life and forget that at least sometimes, children can bring us joy. It’s hard to remember when you are knee deep in all the bullshit that kids bring, that sometimes you need to just surrender to it. See it for what it is. Kids exploring, learning, growing.

Doing this was actually relaxing for me. It was my own growing experience. I’m learning to let go and surrender to the moment. I love those little buggers. Bullshit and all.