29 January 2015

Oolong Rouge

"Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea."
~ Henry Fielding 

Oolong Rouge Tea is a classic oolong blended with rose buds. I bought in Beijing after a Gungfu Chinese tea ceremony, literally "making tea with effort," on my first trip to China. 

Oolong Rouge Tea is mellow and slightly fruity with hints of rose. Pair it with chocolate covered almonds, strawberries dipped in chocolate, and tea sandwiches spread with a chocolate hazelnut butter and thinly sliced strawberries. 

Whether your tea tastes better with love or scandal is up to you. 
By the by, "voulez-vous boire du thé avec moi ce soir?" is formal French for "would you like to drink tea with me tonight?" a take on the phrase from the song "Moulin Rouge."

28 January 2015

The Aquarium


Our visit to the Virginia Aquarium was a complete disaster. It was ridiculously crowded. Isaac was both tired AND tired of potty training. He decided to forego the toilets and ran around hitching up his soggy pull up. He was overstimulated and I was slow moving---the stroller slowed me waaaay down, stranger's kids kept trying to climb on it, and Eloise fussed and howled. 

"THAT BABY IS CRYING!" said lots of little kids while they watched a crocodile slide by at kid-eye level. 

Adult European tourists blocked off the best views of the tanks while Isaac and other shorties said, "Mooooom! I can't see!" 

Eloise had some lunch in front of the glorious shark tank. That was cool, until she pooped through her onesie, my baby sling, and onto my pants. I always have spare baby clothes and even a spare shirt for me in the diaper bag, but pants? Sigh. I just wiped it off as best I could. 
A huge thanks goes to my long-suffering neighbors for putting up with us that day. They, and the aquarium itself, were awesome, and no doubt our next visit WITH DAD will be loads of fun---we can front-pack the baby and skip the dang stroller. This misadventure is what I get for trying to do something fun with both kids by myself. 

But since our first visit was such a bust, I'm just editing it out of my memory and stuffing our aquariumizing into this trip to the Houston aquarium the rest of the cousins enjoyed last month. Boom---much better. 

A Sailor Went to Tea


"Most navy warships (Depending on the captain, of course) have pretty strict mealtime rules. Carriers not as much because they're so big, but cruisers, destroyers and frigates typically have very specific meal start times where you are in place in the wardroom standing at your chair waiting for the captain. If you're not there or are late, you either ask the captain to join, or you don't eat. 

The chaplain generally blesses the meal, and we wait for the captain to eat first.  And you have to ask to be excused from either the captain or senior officer present to leave as well. 

There is a lot of etiquette and rules governing most of the meal. We have fine china and silverware in the wardroom, with junior enlisted still working on their vocational rating serving the officers.  There's even a dumb waiter going up to the wardroom kitchen from the main galley and mess decks below. 

It's amazing that tradition has held in the face of operational life on a ship with everyone standing watch at different times 24/7, running drills, flight ops, everyone sleep deprived, etc. but I've never had a captain on any ship budge on the pleasantries of it; it feels almost sacred, which is refreshing. 

I think it's held so long because it brings everyone together in a daily forum so that the captain can build relationships. Kind of like families, eh?" 

---Chris, in an email to my parents and siblings as part of a discussion on eating together as a family 

My mom found the USN anchor teacup in a northern CA antique store. The anchor and cherry blossom teacup is a replica of Japanese Navy teacup. Chris and I got it in 2009 at Sasebo's JMSDF Museum. 

27 January 2015

Snow My Goodness!


Snow day! Everything was canceled for our half-inch of snow. Last night Isaac said, "if there's snow, I want to play with my diggers." 

This morning, he was delighted. "Where did all that snow come from? It's wet?Why is it snow?" 

We bundled up and out we went. We played with the neighbors, we pushed snow with diggers, we took a walk to neighborhood play group. Pounce bounded outside and started high-stepping in surprise. 

We read "Katy and the Snow Plow" for nap time of course. If tiredness is any indication, I'd say Isaac, Eloise and Pounce enjoyed their first snow! 

22 January 2015

Sleep Deprivation is Serious


This is us. 

But then I read this: "You know how the mere aroma of a rich French roast seems to wake you up on a sluggish morning? Turns out that whiff can help minimize the effects of too little sleep on your body. Researchers found that when stressed-out, sleep-deprived rats simply smelled coffee, it triggered gene activity known to protect nerve cells from stress-related damage." 

Until there's hope, there's coffee. 

Update: Chris might be home early! PARTY!! And by party I mean be in bed by 9pm. 

19 January 2015

Heaven of Tea


I discovered: 1. New neighbors moved in across the street, 2. Their three-month-old daughter is four days older than Eloise, and 3. The mom likes tea! 

So I promptly invited them over for tea time. As expected, the girls had lots to babble about. Sara brought Teavana Zanzibar Ginger Coconut rooibos tea, which inspired the creation of Sunrise Coconut Cookies. The cookies compliment the coconut in the tea but pair equally well with Teavana Rooibos Chai. Even with wheat flour and oats they turn out so soft and chewy. A hint of Thai galangal---kind of a cousin of ginger---adds just a touch of the exotic. The neighbors agree Sunrise Coconut Cookies are perfect for sharing! 
Sunrise Coconut Cookies 
(Note: I measured the baking soda---that's science. I approximated the other ingredients---that's art!) 

3/4 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar 
2 eggs 
1.5 cups wheat flour 
1.5 cups old fashioned oats 
1 teaspoon baking soda 
.5 teaspoon salt
.5 teaspoon Thai galangal (optional) 
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut 

Cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs. Sift together dry ingredients. I let my three year old loose on the salt with a miniature spoon. Mix in dry ingredients in batches. Stir in chocolate chips and coconut until just incorporated. 

Drop onto parchment paper and bake 10-14 minutes at 375 degrees, until browned around the edges. 

Sunrise Coconut Cookies are great for sharing, but tasty enough to keep all to yourself! Suggested pairings: Teavana Zanzibar Ginger Coconut rooibos or Teavana Rooibos Chai. 

17 January 2015

A Sailor Went to Sea Sea Sea


Isaac is missing his daddy (and isn't he handsome?? Chris sent me these pictures the ship PAO took) If Chris had shipped out after having watch every three days, Isaac could have taken it in stride. But after having Chris home and relaxed and fun for two weeks, Isaac is really missing him. He cries when we have dinner at the table because Daddy isn't there. He leaves lollipops at Chris' seat. He wants Dad to snuggle him at night. Anything that makes him feel sad or anytime he's in a little trouble he starts sobbing, "I miss Daaaaaaadddy!" 

Chris being gone has been hard, mainly because the kids WILL NOT SLEEP AT THE SAME TIME. Isaac was staying up singing and partying in his room until after 10pm (and Eloise often wakes up around 11pm) so I experimented with dropping Isaac's nap. DISASTER. Add potty training, Eloise's constant---CONSTANT---spit up, and general household lack of sleep to Dad being gone and that is a sure-fire recipe for frazzled chaos. The washing machine is on the fritz too, so the pile of soaked burp cloths is approaching disaster mode. And it's a holiday weekend so everything is crowded and all the other dads are home. No wonder Isaac is all weepy for Dad. 

Anyway, today we're at this short underway's halfway point. Yay! The second half always goes faster than the first. Maybe we'll celebrate with A Sailor Went to Sea Tea Party. Oooo. Think of the possibilities! I have just the tea cups (shocking, I know)! 

14 January 2015

Cold Out, Warm In


Chris is out to sea somewhere and the kids and I are doing our best to stay busy. And by 'stay busy' I mean 'entertain ourselves at home.' 
We're pretty good at it. I need to wear glasses a lot more, it turns out, so the kids helped me pick some out. Then we built a train track. Then we built a train track. Then we built a train track. Then we built a train track. Then we built a train track. Then I realized the solution to my problem was nigh at hand---Isaac has had marginal interest in potty training. I haven't worried about it. Then I asked him if he'd like to earn some more trains and tracks. We examined set after set on amazon. We set up a training chart, complete with train stickers 
We've had some limited success. Something is better than nothing at this point! 

Building train tracks is really the best thing that ever happened to January. Eloise loves to stagger her naps around Isaac's so someone is always asleep at our house, making any outing loud and grumpy for all to hear. And the weather has been quite cold, so we've just embraced being indoors. And ordered some flexible wooden wacky tracks that will hopefully arrive before we go wacky ourselves. We do try to get out and run around anytime it's above freezing and sunny. Good thing expectations are low in January. 
Eloise enjoyed tea with dad before he shipped out. I am lucky she's so darn cute because she is sleeping worse than ever. She's up four times most nights and still up an hour before Isaac wakes up...at which point she goes back to sleep. Or if she has an ok night, Isaac is sure to wake up THREE HOURS EARLY for no reason. 

Eloise's recent tricks include GIGGLING. She always howls when I put her in her carseat, but yesterday for the first time I was able to tickle her out of crying. When she fusses I can ask Isaac to go play with her. His silly songs, dances, and general noise is just what she wants most of the time. She gets seriously grumpy if she doesn't get enough peek-a-boo. 
"Raaaa!" I scared Isaac the other day. 
"DONT SCARE ME!!! ....scare me again!" Was his immediate reply. These silly kids! 

10 January 2015

Illumination


Here's what I liked about January in Japan: illuminations. They'd open in November or December and continue through the New Year, often until mid- to late-January, when New Year celebrations conclude. 

So when I saw that the Bruce Munro exhibit "Light" was open at Norfolk's Hermitage Museum through January 10, I thought it would be the perfect January illumination. It was! Cold weather almost kept us home---it didn't open until 4pm---but we hustled our kids out the door after dinner, flagrantly defying our normal evening schedule. Should we try to go Sunday night instead? We waffled. Somehow we got going anyway and discovered we would have arrived Sunday to find it OVER. Whew! Chris had watch Saturday of course, so Friday night was the last possible day we could have seen it! 

The Hermitage grounds were really dark. More than half a dozen light exhibits shimmered and twinkled in the blackness, sometimes backlit by the industrial lights of the port sparkling on the river beyond the grounds. One exhibit, called Water Towers, had music floating out of LED-lit towers of water bottles. Another was a field of bulbs waving like poppies over a network of lit wires snaking across the ground. Isaac liked the Lighthouse, which looked like a wall of illuminated water flashing messages in morse code. 

It was the perfect final family date before Chris heads out to sea. 
It's been really cold. I finally figured out it's ok to ignore people's horror stories of sky-high winter heating bills. We have never had a winter power bill approach Houston summertime AC power bills, so gone are the days we spent shivering in our warmest coats indoors, squabbling over the thermostat. Our house is warm. Feel free to come enjoy our high, balmy temperatures and afternoon tea. The switch to January tea accessories was a success, and we've celebrated tea time with predictable regularity for over a month now---don't they say it takes 27 days for something to become habit? Well, Miss ELOISE can't figure out her schedule, but afternoon tea is in the books. 
Isaac and I found a camellia blooming in the back yard one afternoon we kicked around a tennis ball in 36-degree weather. 

We are trying our best to figure out this brief and temporary stage of baby naps. Some days the kiddos perfectly stagger their naps all day. How do we get groceries without having a triple melt down? How do we stay sane and see other humans without getting the flu while Chris is gone the rest of the month? Why did Eloise go from waking up once or twice per night to waking up three and four times per night? I know the double-nap-shakle and sleepless nights won't last forever, but it makes me SO appreciative of our fun neighbors and close-by friends! And online grocery shopping! And free delivery for big diaper orders! 

I accidentally static-shocked Eloise this morning and Isaac said, "Mom! You have to be gentle with Baby Eloise!" He is so much fun to have around. Especially with his new trains. But that is a different post.... 

05 January 2015

Seaworthy


I want to be careful about expectations and hopes I put on my kiddos. 

I EXPECT them to do their best, tell the truth, obey. 

I HOPE (and pray expectantly) they will follow God with all their hearts, minds, souls and strength. 

I DELIGHT to observe and discover their personalities, eccentricities, likes, dislikes, strengths...eye colors. Isaac has always had very very pretty turquoise eyes. Eloise's are darker and change from gray to deep blue. I think Eloise's will keep changing to some other lovely color (I admit I secretly hope she'll have green eyes because that's what Isaac first predicted, but obviously have no pointless expectations). I just adore her little three-month-old eyes right now! 

I have this fun Sherwin-Williams color matching paint app. I took a picture of Eloise's gorgeous eyes, and the river near our house, and the sea on New Year's Day. "Seaworthy" is the color found in both the sea and her sweet eyes. Swoon! 

01 January 2015

Happy New Year!


We had a miscommunication and ended up in the car for SIX HOURS to spend New Year's Day at Cape Hateras. I don't recommend THAT, but the Cape was beautiful. 

A couple of currents converge here at the point, making this the Graveyard of the Atlantic. We did not find any good seashells. But the worst day spent looking for seashells is still a day at the beach! Isaac made tracks with his diggers; Eloise napped snug in her warmie. 

We stopped in Kitty Hawk for dinner of seafood risotto at the Black Pelican, named after a local legend. The Coast Guard used to follow a black pelican to survivors, and shipwrecked sailors often reported sightings of the same in stormy weather while waiting for rescue. 

We saw tons of pelicans along the coast and a pod of at least a dozen dolphins just a couple swells offshore. I like the East Coast. 

As per tradition, we wrote the outgoing year in the sand to be washed away, and wrote the new year above the high tide line. 

We also discussed highs and lows of the year, plus goals for the upcoming year. 

2014 Highs: 
Gaining one baby ELOISE! 
Isaac successfully coming off his heart surgery medication! 
Going to Bolivia with the Children's Heart Project! 
Friends in Norfolk! 
Fun trips to the USS Alabama; New Orleans with Hannah, Justin and kids; having Chris' parents and my parents come visit in Florida! 
Having my parents, Hannah and kiddos come help with ELOISE in Norfolk! 
Chris passing 2,000 flight hours AND being a Muster speaker AND getting Navy League Instructor of the Year!  

2014 Lows: 
Losing a baby last January. 
Having gestational diabetes and having to have another c-section. 
Chris not getting TPS. 
Struggling with a lot of transition (new home, new baby, new job, crappy watch schedules and underways) all at once. 

Still! I can easily say 2014 was a HUGE improvement over 2013 for us!! Here's to 2015 being even better! 

And you? What were your highs and lows of the year?? 

30 December 2014

After Christmas


Usually the last week of the year feels like Sunday afternoon---deflated. Not this year! Chris' Christmas leave started after Christmas, so this week feels like the first time we've seen him all month! Isaac has been delighted to have Dad around. 

"I don't want Daddy to go to the ship," he said after Chris had been home two days in a row for once. He was thrilled when Chris told him he was home for two whole weeks! 

We've done lots of lounging around being lazy, slow loops around our two-mile circuit (some of it caroling), skyping with family, and even some local Christmas festivities that continued a few days after Christmas Day. 
Isaac threw a massive tantrum when we left the train exhibit at Dicken's Christmas Towne. Eloise has a horrible cough but is now giggling like crazy whenever tickled. Isaac continues to say hilarious things and find new ways to make his parents laugh, like dancing around naked (no photos). 

And appreciating his toys: 
"I so happy with all these toyses!" he said on Christmas. 
Or appreciating his toys as much as he can, anyway. 

"Look: my digger...my track...my train," he said. 
"Yeah, you're lucky boy! And there's your book, your Thomas trains, and your car carrying truck," I said. He looked around, surprised. 
"Where's my car carrying truck?"
"Over there. Did you already forget about it?"
"Yeah." 

TOY OVERLOAD. 
"We're best friends!" Isaac said, smiling up at me before naptime and touching my face.  "Pretty hair! Pretty eyes! Pretty nose! Pretty mouth!"
"You're so sweet! Your dad could take some lessons from you!" I was momentarily charmed. 
Then he sticks his finger in his nose and pokes it toward my mouth. 
"Did you just try to stick a booger in my mouth?"
"Yeah! Ha ha ha!" 

Note to Chris: please do not take any lessons from your son. 
CAT UPDATE: the dang cat has returned to his snuggly, worthless-lump-of-cat state. What changed? We gave him "spoiled kitten food" (canned cat food) for the first time in a year on Christmas and he was the best. So we got more and kept giving it to him. The yowling has totally stopped and he is a squishy ball of purrs and snuggles. It's a Christmas miracle! 

25 December 2014

Christmas Morning!


Eloise was SO EXCITED about her first Christmas that she woke up four times to ask if it was time to open presents yet. And to ask for a boogie wipe. This morning, her stocking (knit by Aunt Hannah!!) was full of baby gas drops, pacifiers, burp cloths and a blanket made by mom!

Isaac is so thrilled with each present he doesn't want to open the next. So far he's opened train tracks, a truck, candy and a book from Grandma! 

"Isaac, want to open another one?" 
"Not yet, Dad."  

The other day I heard Isaac call a caboose a "peek-a-boose." Hee hee. 

Chris suggested a new tradition of monkey bread for Christmas breakfast---YUM! Even Pounce got a special kitten breakfast. It's a very merry Christmas indeed! 

24 December 2014

Merry Christmas Eve!


We made it to Christmas Eve Lessons and Carols, then drove around looking at Christmas lights. Now the children are nestled all snug in their beds! Until the 2am crib party anyway. Merry Christmas Eve! 

23 December 2014

Ship! That Was Close!

This is a horror story. We were on the ship. The kids' Christmas party provided a good chance for Chris to show us his living quarters and the flight deck. Everything was going well. 

Then Isaac fell headfirst down a stairwell. Chris was in front of him; I was behind. Isaac had already climbed up many stairs no problem. Then we headed back down. In the half-second it took Chris and me to free our hands to reach for Isaac before he descended, he had already lost his balance and toppled down. 

Chris was on the stairs with Eloise in a front snuggly pack. Isaac and I were at the top of the stairs and I adjusted the diaper bag so I could help him. But in that brief moment it was already too late. I blinked and saw Isaac's feet disappear through the chain railing. Chris---while holding Eloise---grasped at Isaac's legs. Miraculously, he caught Isaac by one ankle. I don't even know how that was possible. Isaac must have tripped over the lip at the top of the stairs, tried to steady himself on the railing, and gone straight through. 

He hit his head on the wall, which must have slowed him down enough for Chris to grab his ankle. Chris handed him to me and I lifted him into my arms like he weighed nothing. I carried him down the two flights of stairs he would have tumble down. 

Even scarier, the way the stairs were set up Isaac probably would have landed on his head on an eight-inch section of steel before continuing to fall down the second flight of steps. And there was another three-inch lip around the second flight of stairs like the one he tripped over at the very top that he would have gouged his head on as he continued his descent. 

The whole thing was one miracle away from spending the day in the ER or worse. 

For days afterwords we thanked God for saving Isaac, and Isaac said over and over, "I fell down the stairs! Daddy saved me! He caught me by my ankle!" 

It was horrifying. 

And just the day before Isaac had told me something interesting. He was playing with my iPad and pointed to a sunbeam radiating out from the sun in the app he was playing with. 

"It's like God," he said. 
"Whaaaat?" I said. 
"It's like God," he repeated. "God is like that. He looked like that when he lifted me." 
Isaac is not an entirely reliable source. 
"What are you talking about?" I asked. 
"When he lifted me out of the water, he looked like that." 
"Are you talking about when you fell in the river?" I asked. 
"Yeah. When I fell in the river and I all soaked. God looked like that." Isaac tapped the rays radiating out of the sun again. 

Ooooookaaaaaay. Here I have to admit that I did not see Isaac tumble into the water that day. I saw him leaning over it, whacking it with a stick. I turned to put Eloise's paci back in because she was fussing. Two seconds later I saw Isaac standing on the riverbank, soaked and crying, "I all soaked! My running shoes! My hands! My pants! My shirt! My diaper! Is all wet!" 

And even now, weeks later, every time he talks about falling in the river he also talks about climbing in a tree afterwards, so he obviously remembers quite a bit about that day. 

So if you need a little more divine interaction, I invite you to spend time with my son as he tries to accidentally kill himself. 

It will stop your heart and increase your gratitude. Guaranteed!