Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Charlie and Judah and a Bun in the Oven

Well, I'm going to have to change the name of my blog. I knew it would happen sooner or later, and I really wish I had thought things through a little better when I first established my blog. But at the time, it was impossible to imagine that another little Callahan would be a reality. But here we are--I'm pregnant! Yay!
I found out the day before I ran my last half marathon in October. Paul had been telling me for days that he could tell I was pregnant, but I kept replying in denial. However, the day before the race, I thought it might be good to know my "condition" before I ran, so that I could feel good about taking it easy. And I did. We had a great race--just me and the unborn little one. It will probably be the last big race I run for a couple of years, so it was a very nice way to welcome a new baby.
I was instantly thrilled to find out that there will be another child joining the family. I was actually still sitting on the toilet when the stick showed a bright blue "+," and I screamed to Charlie, "Charlie! Come here! Mommy's going to have a new baby!" Then I took a picture of the stick and, embracing the age of technology, texted it to Paul. He was a little shocked at first (though I don't know why--he says he already knew I was pregnant), but within a few hours he was pretty excited, too.
It so happens that I am due in June, near the summer solstice, and NOT September, which is when I'm used to having babies. What a wonderful feeling to know that I will be at my biggest, fattest, and most uncomfortable stage of pregnancy at the BEGINNING of summer and not the END! I'm ecstatic about this fact! And I get to wear winter maternity clothes for the first time ever!
I'm feeling well most of the time, but I have been hungrier than ever with this pregnancy and also experiencing more nausea than I ever have, mostly in the late afternoons and evenings. Perhaps those two facts are linked by the reality that I am also busier than I ever have been and therefore find little time to eat a full meal. At any rate, the baby and I are doing well. I was able to hear the little one's heartbeat last week at my first midwife appointment, which seemed to make it official. Well, that and the announcement on Facebook. I feel like the baby is a girl (only because I feel somewhat similar to how I felt when pregnant with Charlie), but we are considering not finding out the sex until the birth. Not sure about this one, but considering it. Of course we are also planning a homebirth, since things went so well with Judah. I'm really excited about bringing another life into the world in my own home.
I suppose this news can partially account for my lack of blogging the past few months. It seems that once Paul comes home and starts the bedtime routine with C and J, I'm nearly instantly asleep on the couch and therefore have very little time to catch up on projects like Christmas gifting, let alone blogging. As I round out the first trimester, though, I am starting to have more energy and should be able to keep my eyes open a little longer into the evening.
I've also been extremely busy handmaking almost all of our Christmas gifts. For the nieces and nephews, I've put together a blankie/pillow set with matching backpack for daycare, a princess crown and cape set, three little girl aprons, three little girl baby slings, and three "Twirly Girly T-shirt Dresses." In addition to gifts from us, I've also been commisioned to make a few things for others to give. It's been a very busy and very productive sewing season! I've about finished everything for everyone else and can finally begin on gifts for C and J! From us they will be getting mom-made crown and cape sets (complete with a wand for Charlie and a sword for Judah), slippers, and a stuffed animal. We like to keep things simple and this year are instituting a new tradition of giving three gifts to each to represent the three gifts that the wise men offered to Jesus. We are doing our best to keep the focus on Christ and the miracle of His birth.
Charlie's first year of school is going so well. I'm so pleased to be her teacher and to have the opportunity to watch her grow and learn on a daily basis. She is reading now, and it absolutely melts my heart to watch her point to words, sound them out, and grasp their meaning. She has entered a new world now. It's one more thing that we share. Thanksgiving night we took our little lady ice skating for the first time, which she really enjoyed. When we arrived home, she told me,"Mommy, that was the best night EVER!"
Judah is busier than ever. His vocabulary is totally taking off, although most of the time he needs a family translator. :) He's also starting to assert some independence, which is certainly a double-edged sword. It's wonderful to see him develop as a growing little person, but, and if you are a parent or anyone familiar with little kids you know what I mean, it's so hard to get him through a parking lot when he absolutely refuses to hold your hand. Or watch him carry his cereal and milk to the table all by himself. Or try to zip up his jacket. Oh, the list goes on and on. This is definitely a stage that he has to get through, and we'll all be better for it, I know. It's just exhausting.
We will be staying here in town for Christmas for the first time ever. We are certainly torn about not seeing our extended family during this time, but also excited about waking up in our own home on Christmas and opening presents in front of our own tree! Because it's such a special time for us, we are working on making our own traditions. We have a blank slate since we've never had our own Christmas! What sorts of traditions does your family hold?
Well, I hope to check in again sooner than later, but you know how that goes. So much of it is up to what life allows, at least at this stage in my life while I'm still making babies and raising little ones. :) God bless you all during this Christmas season.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Team Callahan

While it appears I may actually have a few minutes to sit here and blog (although, as you parents know, that could easily change at any moment), I'd like to share a little bit about our latest adventure as a family: a half marathon!
Back in May when I started running, I could do maybe a mile without stopping to walk. I signed up for a half marathon in June as sort of a motivation to keep at it. The training schedule that I adapted (per Hal Higdon for you runners) had me running up to 5 days a week, most of which I could do during the mornings before Paul left for work. On the weekends, Paul would push the kids in a double stroller that was gifted to us (thanks, Victoria!) and we all did my long runs together on the Mt. Vernon running path along the GW Parkway.
We had a VERY hot summer, which made running really difficult at times. I remember our seven-mile long run one weekend in July. That morning it was 90 degrees by seven A. M. It was absoutely dreadful. But I think that training in the heat paid off, because once the cool September mornings arrived, we noticed that a whole minute dropped off our time.
As we got closer to race day, Paul decided to join me and sign up! I was so excited that the whole family would be together for this fun event! I was also happy to have the encouragement, as I'd felt like I had my own cheering section on every long run over the summer. There were times that I'd be running in front of Paul and the kids, and they would shout, "Go, Mommy, go!" I loved hearing their silly little voices cheering me on, and I knew it would help the day of the race.                                      
The morning of the race was a bit of a stressful time. We had to get up at 5:00 and then get the poor sleeping kids up, dressed, and out the door, so that we could be at the start no later than 6:00. We had packed a bag of snacks for them the night before so that they would (hopefully) be entertained and fed while we waited to start and then during the race. Charlie and Judah behaved better than we had expected! We had a few touchy moments with Judah, but eventually he fell asleep and slept for about half the race. Then they both seemed to really enjoy themselves and all the happy energy surrounding them!
The race started at George Washington's home, Mt. Vernon, and ran down the George Washington Parkway and then over the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. It was the first race ever to cross the new bridge, which was built in 2008. What a view from the bridge! Then it wound around and eventually ended in the National Harbor, Maryland.
I ended up tripping and taking a little tumble around mile 7, but I felt like a total warrior running the rest of the race with bloody knees. I'm pretty sure adrenaline carried me for a while, because I didn't hurt much then, but I sure do now.
Paul is a rock star. Of course you already know I'm a fan, but seriously. This guy pushed these kids in a double stroller (all of which is half his body weight) up and down hills for 13.1 miles! Every time we passed someone or a spectator spotted him, we would hear, "HOW is that guy DOING that???" or "Look at that Daddy! Way to go!" It was so fun to see people's reactions to Paul's incredible ability. I don't know how he did it. And he could have finished waaaay before me, but he'd held back so that we could finish together.
The last 3 miles or so were killer. By then the sun was out in full force, and there were lots of hills. And let's face it, it was more than I'd ever run in my life (the longest run we did in training was 11 miles). But we did it! I nearly cried when I was handed my medal! Our finish time was 2 hours, 20 minutes, which was my goal.
What a fun experience to have as a family. And a special thanks to my friend Chrissy, who encouraged me to do it, and Melissa, who ran the race with us. I'm already thinking about a full marathon for next year!

Monday, September 20, 2010

She's a big girl now

We celebrated Charlie's 5th birthday this week. I just can't believe it. I remember her being so small. I remember that the first thing she did after she was born and I said, "Nice to meet you, Charlotte" was to go poo and pee all over me. I remember when she was two days old and we were alone for the first time since she was born, and I told her, "You're growing up so fast!" But she really IS growing up so fast. When I tell her not to grow up--"Please, PLEASE stop growing! Please stay small so I can hold you forever!!"--she says things like "That's not the way it works, Mom." "MOM"? Since when did I become "Mom" and not "Mommy"?
 I also cannot believe that she has started kindergarten! We have just finished our first week of home kindergarten. Our books arrived Monday morning, and we got started right away. We're using Sonlight Curriculum and so far, so good! I'm impressed with the reading lists of this curriculum and also the style, which seems to be fairly classical in its technique. What drew me to it is its literature basis and also the fact that the lesson plans are ready-made. In the future, I may adapt a bit and put together my own curriculum from different sources, but for my first year, I thought this may be the way to go. We are doing a four-day kindergarten week with history, science, math, handwriting, and reading. Once Charlie has learned to read on her own (hopefully in the next couple of months), we'll add in her language arts.
I am really loving homeschooling and having a regular routine to our day and our week. Every day we take Paul to work and then come home and make breakfast (or stop for a bagel). Then we head out to a park or some other activity, maybe errands if we need to. Then we come home, make lunch, and then Judah heads down for his nap, and Charlie and I do school. The routine makes things so much easier (and relaxing, even) for everyone. I'm plannig a couple of field trips for the near future: apple-picking and a trip to a museum. Living in DC gives us LOADS of field trip opportunities of whick I need to take advantage.
I am so enjoying being fully focused on my own children, as I have recently closed my home daycare. Please don't get me wrong, I enjoyed having other little ones here. It's just that I feel like I finally have the freedom to raise these two the way I've wanted to for so long. As for the bills getting paid, I'm not entirely sure how that's going to work in the future, but I'm trusting God and trusting Paul. This is the way we felt we were being called, and we know that God is going to prove Himself faithful, as He always does.
Going back to the birthday festivities . . .
So Wednesday I offered to make whatever Charlie wanted for dinner, and she chose chicken and dumplings. I wish I had a photo, but unfortunately, our camera is pretty much trashed. I think it may have something to do with the fact that we realized what a fun car toy the camera happens to make for a bored little girl on long trips to grandma's house. Anyway, we had good friends come over to help celebrate, and we had such a great time. Over the weekend, we had a more formal celebration in the form of a combined birthday party for Charlie and Judah (his birthday is on the 30th), but this little dinner was the perfect way to celebrate Charlie and Charlie alone. :) She got a brand new scooter from Mom and Dad and some really nice other things from close friends and family.
Charlie is one amazing little girl. She melts my heart every single day with her concern for others and her sincere love for God. She astounds me with her intelligence. She also drives me crazy with her incredible sensitivity, but I know it's something that will be a very special attribute as she grows up. She really is a special, sweet, funny, and beautiful girl that I'm so, so happy to call my daughter. I thank God for her sweet spirit and for giving me the opportunity to carry her and give life to her. Happy belated birthday, my incredible Charlotte.

Here's my chicken and dumplings recipe (this recipe makes a huge pot):

The soup:
2 Tbsp. butter
1 medium onion
3 stalks celery
4 or 5 carrots
2 cloves garlic
1 pound chicken thighs (boneless, skinless)
1/4-1/2 Cup of flour (I never measure, so I'm guessing)
32 oz. chicken broth

Melt your butter over medium heat in a stock pot and cook all your veggies until slightly tender. Then add your chicken thighs and cook them until they are just browned on the outside, then chop them in the pot. Add flour and stir to make a roux. Add broth and whisk until it thickens a little. If you have found that you didn't add enough flour to make this mixture thick enough for your liking, you can always add corn starch at this point.

The Dumplings:
1/2 Cup butter (cold)
2 Cups flour
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
3/4 Cup buttermilk (since I don't make a habit of keeping buttermilk around, I use the trick of adding about a teaspoon of vinegar to regular milk and letting it sit and curdle a little bit)

Cut butter into dry ingredients using a pastry cutter or criss-crossing two knives. Add buttermilk and stir until mixture makes a big doughy ball, leaving sides of the bowl. Then drop your dumplings by the spoonful into your soup, turn the heat down to low and let them cook until they look edible and fluffy.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Happy third birthday, Benjamin

Today is Benjamin's birthday. I overheard Charlie telling a friend this morning that today is her brother's birthday--her brother who is in Heaven. She said that we will be having a party for him. Then Charlie's friend said, "But your brother won't be there." And Charlie said, "Yes he will. He is in Heaven, but he will be at the party."

The hardest part (these days) of having lost a child so soon after his birth is trying to figure out how to feel. I've always felt like on the grief scale, we're somewhere between 'had a miscarriage' and 'lost a child that had been around for a while.' Does it matter that we knew during the pregnancy that we'd lose him? Does it matter that he wasn't our first child? Isn't this ridiculous? There's no reason we should be comparing our experience to any other experience, real or hypothetical. But I've always wanted to know what is the proper response to having a lost a son to Trisomy-13.

I have since learned that there really isn't a *proper* response to losing a child--no matter the point that he or she was lost. It just plain hurts. It feels like a bottomless pit of pain. So the only thing that a person can do is *feel* the pain.

I will say this, after three years, it doesn't really hurt as much anymore. I really miss Benjamin, and I feel a loss, like I should have been able to parent this baby that I carried for a full pregnancy. But the loss isn't nearly as sharp anymore. So for those of you out there that are wondering if the day will ever come when you won't cry yourself to sleep every night, I say to you, Yes, it will come. And it's okay to allow yourself to heal. It doesn't mean that you are forgetting your child or abandoning him somehow. It means that you are healing from the pain of the experience. Benjamin will always be my son, and I will always love him and miss him. But I have chosen not to live under the dark cloud that surrounded his little life and his death.

Because of this choice, I like to share his story. I want to pay tribute to this little saint. Please read about his birth story here. I'd also like to mention that I'm thinking today about all of you out there that have recently lost children, whether due to miscarriage or some other tragedy. Please know my thoughts and prayers are with you.

Soon I will pack up the kids and the cupcakes that Charlie and I made today, and we will pick up Paul and then head to the cemetery and have a little graveside picnic birthday party. I have no idea what people generally think about this potentially morbid celebration, but for us it works. We will enjoy our time together as a family saying happy birthday to Benjamin and remembering his beautiful life.
It's such a strange thing that every year when I want to post about my first son's birthday, I have only pictures from his actual *birth*day. I'm so very thankful for those photos, though. Which is while I will mention them yet again: The Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep Foundation is how we were able to capture his short little life on camera. I like to mention them whenever I can, so that people can prepare, should the worst occur.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What a wonderful, wonderful summer vacation we enjoyed. It was so worth the wait. The long, hot summer, the working way too much, and the days of traveling to get there seem like a fair trade for the fun that we had with each other and with Paul's sister, her two kids, and Paul's parents.
Before we left for the beach, Paul had to head to another part of SC for work, so the kids and I spent a week in the upstate, visiting family. Just a couple days before we left the upstate, I had a conversation with my older brother who expressed sympathy for me at having to go to the beach. Of course he was being sarcastic (and funny, as usual). Apparently my brother is not a beach person. I can respect that--to each his own, right? While I can respect it, I just don't understand how a person could dislike the beach. I mean, what's not to love? Where else can grown people run around half naked, lie down outside for hours at a time, talk as loud as they want, make sand castles, and dig holes in the dirt?
Kidding aside, we find the beach just the perfect vacation. We rented a house in Cherry Grove, SC for a week. We have rented this house in the past and just love it. It's a little 3-bedroom cottage overlooking Cherry Grove's canals and perfectly suits our needs, sitting only a block from the shoreline. What we Callahans like to do on vacation is arrive at our destination and then sit in one spot for a week. Apart from the occasional trip to the grocery store, one night out to dinner (thanks again, Kelly), two trips out for ice cream, and the three times we went for a run, we stayed at the house and the beach (and in our bathing suits) the entire time.
The beach offers a natural playground for the kids where they are easily entertained and pretty well contained. For the most part, we big people could just sit down on the sand or in the water and watch the little ones, playing with them when they would invite us into their digging games. It was actually quite relaxing. Our typical day was something like this: a group breakfast (pancakes or French toast and bacon), then head out to the beach for a couple hours, back to the house for lunch and naps (in which, I must admist, I also indulged), then back to the beach for a couple more hours, then back to the house for dinner (we cooked out almost every night), then kids down for bed while the big people sat out on the back deck and had a beer and talked until we had to drag our own tired bodies to bed. It was just lovely.
Our first day at the beach, Charlie was very happy to play in the water, but Judah, being a novice, was pretty apprehensive. The only way we were able to get him comfortable with the waves was to let him sit in my lap while I sat right on the water's edge, letting the waves come in and out, covering our outstretched legs and then receding. Sitting there with him like that, I was reminded of the last time we took a long family beach vacation. It was about a month before Judah's birthday, and I felt like a beached whale. We had played all week in the tide pools when the tide was out, but the last night of our stay, Paul, Charlie, and I (and Judah, in utero) sat in a tide pool while the tide came in and erased our mini-ocean. It was a strange feeling sitting in a tide pool one moment and then the ocean the next. For some reason it symbolized for me the changes that were about to occur in our family, going from having one child one moment and suddenly having two the next. We were sitting in our warm, comfortable spot, having become used to raising one child, but soon we would be thrust into life with a little girl and a brand new baby. Everything was about to change, and though we were thrilled to soon be having our Judah, it was all unchartered territory for us. Sitting in the water with Judah in my lap and Paul and Charlie beside us felt to me like coming full circle. Looking those waves in the face and being grateful to have our two little ones here with us and our two little ones watching us from Heaven, I was overcome with peace.
Now that our vacation is over, I'm facing a whirlwind of a September. Every September I feel a little overwhelmed, but this one seems particularly staggering (it's fortunate that we just enjoyed such a restful and pleasant vacation). This weekend we will celebrate Benjamin's birthday, and then Paul's. Later in the month we will celebrate Charlie's and Judah's birthdays. This month I will also be starting Charlie in home-kindergarten and running my first half marathon. 
Though I'm talking about the near future, I've been doing a lot of learning how to live in the present moment. Live in the here-and-now and really enjoy it. Just like those waves that crash in and ease out again, time keeps moving forward, regardless of how we feel about the past, present, or future. We would do so much better to go with the flow and welcome the change into our lives and be thankful for our blessings. And even those things that maybe we don't immediately call blessings.

This is me (and Judah) on our last beach trip 2 years ago:

This is us now:

Friday, July 30, 2010

You know you're a mom when . . .

So, it's been a while, huh? I can't believe it's been over a month since my last post. It's just been so busy. So wonderfully busy. Over the 4th we traveled to celebrate with good  friends and had a wonderful time relaxing in North Carolina over local food and even a local beer. Our stays with these friends never seem to last long enough.
There a changes coming in the Callahan household. We are looking forward to officially starting home-kindergarten with Charlie this fall. We have weaned Judah (yay!), which is going very well for everyone. For the first time in 5 1/2 years, I am solo. That is to say, I'm not directly sustaining any life other than my own.
I've also been sewing a LOT. I worked on my first nursery bedding set a few weeks back and was very pleased. I'd like to post some pictures of it, as soon as I receive them from my customer. I'm also working on stocking up the stores that carry my baby things. After I bulk up my inventory with the retailers and also my Etsy store, I will be working on creating a website of my own, which I'm really excited about. It will take a lot of effort, but it's something I've wanted to do for a while, and it just feels like the right time to do it. I will be keeping you posted on that!
Today I'd like to share with you a list of ways you know you're a mom that I worked on with my twin sister, Cindy (which also reminds me that I need to be working on a post about sharing my twinship with her). So, please, read ahead. And share your additions with me. This list is not so much for those of you who handle motherhood much more gracefully than the rest of us. I'm interested in hearing from the moms (and dads!) that relate. :)

You know you're a mom when . . .
1. You don't remember the last time you drank a cup of coffee without reheating it.
2. Cleaning out your purse involves a multi-purpose cleaner and a shop-vac.
3. You can somehow find the emotional wherewithal to comfort an upset little one even while you're on the toilet.
4. You ALWAYS multi-task. Doing only two things at once seems like a waste of time. See number 3.
5. Before leaving the house, you examine your clothing for bodily fluids and determine how many stains are acceptable.
6. You haven't seen a mirror for three days.
7. You say things like, "Hand the poopy to Mommy," and it seems perfectly natural and sensible (in fact, so natural that I questioned whether to list this one).
8. You wash your hands at least a hundred and fifty times a day.
9. You don't remember the last time you finished your own snack without sharing it.
10. On more than one occasion you have eaten food that has gone into and come out of another person's mouth.
11. You're no longer embarrassed to make a total fool of yourself in public just to make someone laugh.
12. Every time you go out someone says to you, "You sure have YOUR hands full!"
13. You look forward to your semi-annual dental cleaning because it's the only chance in six months you will have had to sit down for an hour.
14. You cannot accomplish ANYTHING without being interrupted. This includes taking a shower, having sex, talking on the phone, and writing a blog p--. Okay where was I? and writing a blog post.
15. You can't explain why, but you wouldn't change your life for anything.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Summer fun

This morning Judah and I went for a short little walk in the courtyard while Charlie slept and Paul got ready for work. While we were out I noticed that the sprinklers were on and thought what fun the kids would have if they were able to run around in them. So we put on their swim suits and headed outside to the courtyard. Charlie had so much fun in the sprinklers, but the big puddle in the breezeway was much more Judah's speed. Here is a glimpse:

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


On this longest day of the year, I thought I'd share a few thoughts about mothering. Today I took the kids to the center of Old Town to splash in the fountain in market square. I was surprised to find no other kids there with their moms (maybe they're all at Stonehenge?), but we were delighted to take off our shoes and jump in. Pretty much all that Judah wanted to do was pick up the wishing pennies and throw them, but he had so much fun doing so. Then he decided to sit down in the water and needed a new change of clothes by the time we left to get ice cream.
After the ice cream we needed to walk by the fountain to get to the car, and I wasn't really in that much of a hurry, so we headed into the water again for a few minutes. I had every intention of making sure Judah stayed somewhat dry this time, but of course, even the best intentions can't keep an almost-two-year-old boy neat and tidy.
At this point, there just wasn't anything I could do but jump in the fountain and splash with my kids. Judah was already soaked, so I thought let's just have some fun. So we did. And what fun we had! It was such a fun way to pass the time with my little ones.
As we were cleaning up and packing up the car, a passerby made a comment like "I sure don't miss the stroller days." I made an I-hear-ya kind of face and then he said something that I don't think I'll forget: "Just remember, the days go slow, but the years go fast." It's just so strikingly true. And so fitting a day to hear such wise words. It was a reminder to me to make the best of every moment. And while the days seem so long, they're so fleeting.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Stickin' it to the Man

I recently "ran into" (via Facebook) an old college friend who was pretty surprised to hear that I'm a work-at-home mom who sews and cans her own strawberry jam, etc. I wondered where he figured I'd end up, since my way of life is just second nature to me. So I've been thinking about this idea quite a lot lately. If you're wondering what in the world this has to do with pictures of homemade pickles, hang on--I'll get there.
I've mentioned in the past that if you'd known me back in college or the few years just afterward, you'd likely be as surprised by my present-day lifestyle. I was not exactly the model Bible college student. I always meant well, but, let's just say that there were certainly things about me that were never tamed. Needless to say, learning to sew my daughter dresses and baking bread don't exactly match up to the girl who was constantly in the Dean of Women's office having to explain this offense or that. 
I certainly have changed quite a bit since then, but I'll also add that a lot of my choices of late are sort of born out of that spirit of rebellion, as opposed to being in spite of it. I'm doing a lot of things that are unconventional--natural childbirth, cloth diapers, alternative and holistic medicine, and the list goes on. Certainly my food choices are going to be no exception.
For example, today Charlie and I made homemade pickles from this recipe. While I was prepping, Paul asked why in the world I felt the need to make my own pickles when I can just as easily buy a jar of them. I laughed and replied that I'm "sticking it to the man," or something like that. I hope that by now you know that I'm half kidding, but only half. I don't mean to be melodramatic about it, but canning my own pickles, simple as it is, is one of my many little protests that I display against the machine that is the conventional American way of eating. Instead of buying yet another prepared food off the supermarket shelf and having no idea where these things that are called pickles come from (did you know that pickles actually start out as cucumbers???), I'm buying vegetables directly from a farmer and turning them into food for my family. A very tasty food, if I do say so myself.
A friend recently showed us this video that was so well done for a variety of reasons, and it so artistically and hilariously describes this battle between Supermarket and Farmers' Market. Please check it out if you have 5 or 6 minutes (if you're a Star Wars fan, you definitely do not want to miss it): "Grocery Store Wars."
Today it just so happens that a brand new farmers' market opened up just around the corner. Another small victory for the rebellion! I'm so happy that this way of shopping for food is becoming even more popular these days. People are shopping more wisely and supporting our local farms, and it is paying off. We're gaining momentum, and we need to keep heading this direction in order to make our voices heard. So keep frequenting your farmers' markets, growing your own edibles, and joining your CSAs.

8 small pickling cucumbers, unpeeled and cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
1 medium onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
1 cup cider vinegar
3/4 cup sugar
4 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
1/2 teaspoon turmeric

Combine cucumbers, onion, vinegar, sugar, salt, mustard seeds, dry mustard, turmeric, and celery seeds; heat to boiling over high heat, stirring occasionally.

Boil 1 minute, stirring frequently.

Pour cucumber mixture into a large bowl; cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.

Cover and chill overnight before serving.

From sliced cucumbers:

To Bread and Butter Pickles


Last weekend we were blessed with a visit from my parents, my sister Stephanie, and my niece Chloe. We decided to brave the intense heat and take a road trip to Colonial Williamsburg. (Unfortunately, my sister became ill while we were there and couldn't leave the hotel room, so the rest of us had to go on without her.)
Colonial Williamsburg is a really interesting and beautiful place. It's also a great place to take kids. There are so many things to see and so many activities for kids. We highly recommend taking a weekend to spend with just the family.

Here are Charlie and Chloe checking out the inside of one of the buildings on a farm just outside the town. This farm has been recently constructed to show exactly how a farm would be run during colonial times. It's quite fascinating and shows how much we can take for granted today.

Here is one of the vegetable gardens on the farm:

Here are my sweet parents having a little rest while we wait for our next attraction.

Here Charlie is being handcuffed at the town jail:

Here is a picture of Chloe helping to take care of Judah. She's a sweet little cousin!

Judah became very attached to his Pap Pap.

Poor Charlie is squinting because of the sun, but here she is showing off her new doll that she bought with her own money:

Here we are on our way out:

I wish I had taken more pictures of the buildings to show you. The town is really quite beautiful, even when it is 90 degrees. I hear that Christmastime is also a great time to visit. Maybe we'll return and take some better photos then!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Dancing Queen

Little Charlie had her second ballet recital on Saturday. We are so glad that she is enjoying ballet and wants to continue her classes. I think it's giving my little girl confidence and physical strength and all those benefits that come from learning something new. She was so precious dancing with her little friends. I made a video of her recital, but for some reason I can't attach it here on the blog. I've posted some photos instead.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Saturday morning

Every Saturday morning the Callahan family enjoy the sunshine and shop at the best farmers' market in the area. This past weekend I finally remembered to bring the camera, and I just wanted to share a few photos of our beauties. Enjoy!

These cherries are packaged in one of my homemade produce bags

The Del Ray Farmers' Market

Monday, June 7, 2010

Fun in the City

I can't believe I forgot the camera! Aaargh! Since today was the first Monday that I've had off (and by "off," I mean only my two kids) in a while, we decided to make the most of city life and head to a museum. We left the house early and drove Paul to his office (free parking!), stopping at Cosi for a simple bagel breakfast with coffee (I sound so citified, don't I?), and then to the National Air and Space Museum.

Since we parked at Paul's office, this trip also involved a trip on the Metro, which is no easy feat with two kids and a stroller. Got to find all the elevators and push the stroller with one hand while holding tightly with the other hand to Charlie's little hand and all that. And try to find a seat and make sure the stroller isn't in the way of all the people exiting the train, etc. Some of these maneuvers make me feel like a professional mom but also kind of like a tourist in my own town. I wanted to explain to all these people that I used to ride the train every day and could have done it walking backwards with my eyes closed and had the Metro map memorized in a former life. "I'm not a tourist! Honest!"

But the Metro ride did not disappoint the kids. Good call, Mom--scored points there. The museum was a different story. Oh, we had fun, but a lot of it was the mom-invented sort of fun, like finding a mostly deserted exhibit area and letting the boy out of the stroller to chase him and his sister around a little. They did most certainly enjoy looking at the suspended airplanes and spacecraft, but not much else. I think this museum is maybe a little too advanced for my small kids.

I used to feel like we had to spend a certain amount of time at a place to sort of "get our money's worth." Not that we spent anything--the Smithsonians are free--but you know what I mean. Get my effort's worth, I guess. But I'm realizing that we only need to spend as much time as proves enjoyable. If I push my luck beyond that, I'm totally asking for a public meltdown (call that foreshadowing).

After we'd seen enough, I towed the children into the museum shop to see if we could find a trinket or a book or something that wouldn't cost an arm and a leg or break in five minutes. As soon as Judah spotted the bin of 4-inch plastic airplanes, it was all over. So I picked up a couple and happily realized they weren't quite as cheap as I'd expected and purchased those along with a book on the history of flight (for my dad for Father's Day--he's a pilot and will hopefully enjoy this book and I really hope he doesn't check my blog before he gets his gift). Meltdown avoided postponed.

Since it was nearing lunchtime and I knew that these two were absolutely not going to survive the long trek back to Capitol Hill (was not going to attempt the train again) and then the ride home without something to eat, we decided to have a light lunch at the museum's food court. Okay, if I'm going to be completely honest, I'm going to have to admit that secretly I really wanted to do lunch at the food court. The Air and Space Museum's food court happens to serve Donato's Pizza, which is a chain that was started in Paul's hometown of Columbus, Ohio, and it happens to be a real treat for the Callahan family. One of his sisters in particular practically foams at the mouth over the thought of Donato's and is quite jealous that we have such access, since it is not available in her current city. Anyway, so we split our little Donato's pizza (for $10 bucks with a bottle of water!), and then it happened. I made the mistake of buying a vanilla cone to share.

Maybe all you-know-what broke loose because he was tired, or maybe it was the sugar intake (albeit, very small sugar intake due to the ridiculously cute way he licks ice cream with just the teeniest tip of his tongue), or maybe because I'd ordered ONE cone for all three of us to share, but OH MY GOODNESS. Seriously. The food court was absolutely filled with tourists, school kids, and who knows who else, and you could hear MY child above it all. He wanted to hold the cone. So I let him. Then I had to keep taking it away--scream after scream after scream--so that Charlie and I could actually eat it so that we could get the heck out of there.  The only exit is through the museum, and you can't take food in there. I wasn't about to throw it away and then deal with the inevitable simultaneous meltdowns. By this point, I was sweating and wishing I hadn't taken on this whole day. What was I thinking? This morning I was whistling, "I'm going to take my lovely children on an outing to the city. We're going to a MUSEUM! Oh, what a lovely day we will have. I'm such a good mom." By now my feet were killing me, I was so stressed out, and I still had the walk back to the car.

To end the suspense, we survived. The walk to the car was actually quite enjoyable. Judah ended up falling asleep (ah!), we stopped in to see Paul again, and he walked us down to the garage to see us off. Then Judah slept for another hour when we got home, and I actually napped for a bit, too! And Charlie didn't complain, because I let her watch a few cartoons on the computer while I dozed. Score.

I did actually really enjoy my day. And I know the kids did, too. I know that I just need to chill and go with the flow, which is what I'm trying to do. Later this afternoon, after my few very short moments of quiet, I threw the kids outside to burn off the last of their energy while I cooked dinner. I was actually skyping with my mom and sister and asked mom, "When does a mom get to relax? When will this get easier?" Her reply: "I'm still waiting."

Monday, May 31, 2010

Juicy, red summertime goodness

There is something so special and so satisfying about picking our own fruit right off the plant and either eating it just like it is or turning it into jam in our own kitchen. Yesterday, we did just that! Paul and I packed up the kids as early as we could and headed out to a little family-owned Shlagel Farms near Waldorf, Maryland to pick strawberries. What fun! The warm sun was shining and ripening those gorgeous berries practically before our eyes. Charlie, once she got past the mud that she had to trudge through, thoroughly enjoyed everything, as did silly Judah.
Together as a family, we picked about 6 quarts. After we'd paid for those and were heading out, Paul spotted a few flats of "Day Old" berries at a ridiculous rate of $20 per flat (8 quarts). So we snatched up one of those for making jam.
We were up to our armpits in strawberries yesterday (in my tiny kitchen, although it's way better now with the recent mini-renovation), and for a little while I wondered if I'd bitten off more than I could chew. Four hours later, with Charlie's help, I'd canned 16 pints of jam and frozen 6 bags of chopped berries. We also ate a huge bowl of berries, saved a quart for this week, and gave away 2 quarts.

Paul and the kids searching out their treasure

Here are the kids reveling in their bounty

Such a sweet little berry-gatherer

He had so much fun

The best berries I've ever eaten!

My first home-canned jam!