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BEST MOTHER’S (OR OTHER) DAY GIFT

In our house the kids get excited about holidays – especially those involving gifts. We like to put thought into gift giving when we have the luxury of time, and they enjoy planning for me just as much. They start planning what they’re going to give me early on but considering they don’t have an allowance, the school no longer offers their gift fair (where the kids bought the family’s gifts), nor do we have another parent to take them shopping, their options were limited. Additionally, considering how much stuff resides in this apartment with us, the last thing I need are more tchotchkies. Pinterest didn’t exist yet in my universe so what now?!

I wish I still had the article that provided this gem so I could credit the woman. At her suggestion, I purchased a nicer journal and every Mother’s Day and birthday the kids now each design a page in the journal. So far, I’ve received pictures of our house, poems, and love notes with bouquets of flowers. One of the best parts becomes looking back reliving the love of previous years and laughing at what was on someone’s mind. I love seeing how the children’s abilities and interests grow each year as well.

Lauren working on her masterpiece!

The rules are simple – anything goes. It can be handmade or store bought then glued in the page, drawn, assembled as a collage, painted, stickers, glitter, anything! Realizing that children evolve, as do their moods, written words aren’t required but if you include them they can be original thoughts, song lyrics or whatever communicates your sentiment. Being realistic that kids will pass through teenage years, the philosophy “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” stands. I fully expect trends to waver from flowery sweetness to minimalist.

Carson keeps his back to me so I can’t see. Not too secretive but it worked.

Even if you do have another parent in the house to take the kids shopping, I’ve yet to see any gift that will beat the journal. While we started it for the holidays, my goal is to showcase it and make it available for any OTHER day as well so whenever the children feel so inclined, they may savor its pages, relish the memories and add to its richness.

Lauren’s 2011 masterpiece! (I haven’t seen 2012 yet!)

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12. HAVE A RAINBOW MEAL

Today being Cinco de Mayo, we threw a family fiesta! Trying to figure out a Mexican menu that both kids would eat challenged me. One kid eats quesadillas, the other hates melted cheese. One loves spicy food, the other gets easily burned. I settled on Chicken Fajitas.

Loving the colors everywhere I turn!

I immediately thought how colorful and beautiful it would be and since I already used up half of the spectrum just in the peppers we’d use, (and perhaps slightly inspired by the Rainbow Cake from King’s Hawaiian we ate today) I announced that we would make our Rainbow Meal!

My kids’ simultaneously demanded to know how many colors would be vegetables. I promised not all of them. It’s not hard to think of food in any color of the rainbow. They’d suggested that we go for Skittles, but I overrode that one. Seeing as how it was 6:30pm before I got this bright idea, I improvised on some things since I didn’t have all day for prep time.

APPETIZER:
BLUE corn chips (although they look purple, the bag said blue so I’m standing by that), served with GREEN and RED spotted guacamole, and YELLOW virgin margaritas!

Virgin Margaritas: Lemonade, OJ, Fresh Lime Juice over Lime ice cubes!

My kids loved drinking out of fancy cups! My son loved the lime ice cubes and had four margaritas – I’m a little concerned by the implication.

Fiesta! Maybe this will be a new tradition!

He loved the guacamole. My daughter tasted a shmear and thought it was ok but better than she thought.

The best green alternative she had.

MAIN COURSE:
Chicken Fajitas with ORANGE, RED and GREEN peppers, YELLOW Sweet Corn mash, RED Spanish rice and one bite of PURPLE cabbage.

Pretty colors but the high quantity of veggies made them uncomfortable.

Sadly, we were full from multiple margaritas and the appetizer but the kids and I ate a bite of all required food colors– since I threatened to double the veggie intake if it waited til tomorrow.

WTF – Wow, the FLAVORS!

I can’t share recipes, but I’ll share brands. I used TGIFriday’s Frozen Fajitas since the grocer didn’t have fresh pre-marinated chicken. I added orange peppers to the rest (thus explaining the huge size, I’m not patient enough to cut things into slivers). The corn mash was El Torito brand sold in stores, the rice was Zatarain’s (with “fresh” canned tomatoes).

Let me know if you cook a RAINBOW!

Ah, now to make clean up more enjoyable.

PARENTAL ADVISORY: EXPLICIT TOMFOOLERY!

This blog posting is Restricted: Under 17 without accompanying parent or adult guardian.
Unplug from your fantastic games and pay close attention. You have the rare opportunity of April Fool’s Day falling on a weekend which means a whole day of pranks without the interruption of school! This posting contains an arsenal of tried and true April Fool’s pranks to play on your whole family! Effective and free monkey business without being hurtful or harmful.

PRANKS:
WARNING: Use at your own risk! Not responsible for wedgies or nougies or any other payback and please keep the pets and grandparents out of it. 

• Put a thin layer of Vaseline on Dad’s deodorant.
• Put Salt in the sugar bowl or sugar in the salt shaker!

Either way it's nasty!

• Freeze all of big sister’s bras and underwear – Get them damp, lay them in the freezer!
• If your folks buy cardboard milk cartons, add a few drops of food coloring.
• Short sheet big brother’s bed – Don’t know what that means? Ask your parents, they may help you do it!
• Put cat or dog food in the cereal box (store cereal somewhere else until the prank is done!)

It's all about the presentation! Can you tell which is for humans' breakfast?

• Set the clocks forward and see how long it takes people to figure out their alarm clock woke them up 2 hours early!
• Tell your parents that you were afraid to tell them that Friday at school you got in trouble, sent to the principal and have a note from the teacher. Give your folks an envelope with a note in it that says “April Fool’s!” – Must be able to keep a straight face!
• Superglue a quarter to the sidewalk in front of your house and watch people try to pick it up – Get your big siblings to help with the glue.
• Bunch up toilet paper and stick it in your family’s shoes so their feet won’t fit.

Get the tissue way in there and from the top they won't see it!

• Make buggy ice cubes – Put little knots of black thread, or use your fake spiders, and freeze them into ice cube trays. Drop it into someone’s lemonade!

If you can look honestly surprised when the tricks are discovered, you may even get away with them! Maybe…

TRADITIONALLY SPEAKING

How many favorite family traditions can you think of from the last third of the year? Then, turn the corner into the new year and the barren first months leave us in withdrawals. This year I’m eager to define a fun tradition for my family to implement this spring, in addition to our shamrock shake indulgence or any religious holidays.

Carlsbad rununculus = spring!

Living in Southern California finds us smack-dab in the middle of a huge, often impersonal, population where hardly anybody – not even most neighbors – interact. Rather than go away on vacation, I want to stay local and find something that this region finds significant. Something to bring this diverse town together through an event that people do, not just observe. Visiting a museum, or taking a historic tour of downtown might be options. Knowing the scurrying pace of people in a big city, I don’t want the tradition to take up more than a day.

California Gold!

Spring creates a mental picture of beautiful and plentiful flowers, sunshine, beautification and rebirth. Perhaps replanting things for an elderly neighbor, or cleaning up the parks or beaches. Perhaps repainting senior centers or scout houses. I hope this tradition could provide a celebration to kick off the active, healthy outdoor season.

I feel the sunshine from these daffodils!

I want something that draws in my children to teach them the importance of traditions, plus the lessons in the activity themselves all while having boatloads of fun and creating fond memories. I want the journey to carry more significance than where we end up and for the flavor to last longer than the mint shake lingers on our tongues.

Tulips - all the colors of spring!

Because of this, I tend towards philanthropic endeavors to remind us of the humanity in people and the good in ourselves from giving back and supporting others. Charities come in many forms and don’t underestimate baby steps – small gestures impact the world as much as large ones.

I could lay under the tree and dream all day!

I think the springtime is a great time to give back to your community or get a local group to support far away causes. In the spring, focus on bonding with friends and neighbors that you will see more of throughout the upcoming summer months.

Once a year traditional indulgence! Yum!

What about you? Have any favorite Spring traditions?

TO FIND OUT WHAT TRADITION I START:  “LIKE” Makes Me Wander’s Facebook page!    The answer and pictures of the kids and I will be posted in the next week or so. To submit pictures to be put on the Facebook page of you and family/friends carrying out your own traditions, please email them to makesmewander@gmail.com!

WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE: INDULGE

This restaurant has been a part of my family since about 1993 when my sister worked at the very first San Diego location that had to move into a new larger location within months of opening. Truth be told, each menu item you could probably find anywhere else, but the preparation set it above the rest.  Here it was hand-made with love by an amazing family with subtle combinations of spices and huge flavors that left us craving more.

When I moved to LA, I immediately flooded their inbox trying to get locations up in LA because we couldn’t live without it.  When they opened one near my work I took a whole group in immediatley to make sure it was an instant hit. They appreciated my effort and gave us a free business lunch to infiltrate the company even further. Once people tasted the buttery garlic breadsticks, they were hooked.

At some point, the family sold their restaurant to a larger chain and the fans were fiercely loyal promising to stick with them – as long as NOTHING changed!  The backbone of the company stayed the same with the flavors carefully monitored. All changes were welcome additions and improvements. We as a family of patrons approved.

When I moved north of LA, I consistently emailed with location availability and such trying to get them into their perfect demographic of my over-populated family-friendly community.

After my divorce I moved to where I live now, and having one of their restaurants within minutes from my house told me I’d made the right choice for where to grow roots. This became my children’s all-time favorite place to eat and celebrate birthdays or raise money for their school or the philanthropic runs I participated in.

Sadly now, the company changes again as the current owners (I lost count of what number owner they are) files for bankruptcy. The location near our home closed, but the franchises persevere.  We’re desperately holding onto hope that they’ll keep going, and desperately holding onto traditions centered around the restaurant.

So tonight, to INDULGE us in our tradition of having Oscars (the original restaurant name had no “Pat &”) while watching the Oscars.  We drove over 30 minutes away on a school night which, if you count the cost of our SUV “limo,” added at least another $15 dollars. But the joy of seeing my kids’ cling to their golden reward – breadsticks, and hearing their acceptance speech “I can’t believe it, it’s like a dream come true!” was so worth it.

We wound up not even watching the Oscar’s – which may have redefined the tradition for the future!

Bringing home the ultimate indulgence, the golden statuette - I mean breadstick!