Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Natalie Totally Looks Like the Frito Bandito


And a Happy 2009 to all of you!  I'll be ringing in the New Year in my dreams, as I'm planning on being in bed by 10:00.  Sad, I know.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Brief Check-In

I just wanted to pop in and clear away some of the dust from this place.  I'm on vacation (from work - I didn't actually go anywhere) and I've just been enjoying spending time with various branches of the family.  This week, the kids and I will just be hanging out and doing some fun outings.  I'll try to check in again later in the week, but regular posting won't resume until next week.

And, that's all I have for today.  Here, look at some pictures.  I hope you all had a great Christmas!
(Ha, I just noticed the red-eye removal tool got a little carried away on this one.  It also removed some of the red from the kids' outfits - that's what the black crescents above and below Natalie's eye.)




Monday, December 22, 2008

Living in a Winter Wonderland

It has been so freaking cold this winter.  I'm disappointed, because we couldn't go to the Holidazzle Parade this year, and we also haven't been able to take advantage of free ice-skating. You see, I'm rather fond of my kids - I'd hate to lose them to hypothermia.  So we've been spending A LOT of time indoors.  My sanity is suffering because of it.  Do you know what it's like to be trapped inside a smallish house with two kids under the age of three for AN ENTIRE WEEKEND?  I'd imagine it's a lot like being pecked to death by chickens.  Really loud chickens.  Who like to risk their necks by climbing up on tall things, and also? pulling every single tissue out of a Kleenex box, one by one, leaving a sodden mess on the living room carpet.  Because OF COURSE Kleenex must also be shredded into tasty bite-size pieces, then chewed up and spit out after the flavor is gone.

But!  On Saturday, it was actually warm outside.  (Ha - everything is relative.  Three months ago, I would have called 20 degrees unbearable.  Now, I'm all like, is that with a minus sign in front or not?  Did you say above zero?  Pour me a pina colada!)  

In addition to being warm, we got about 5 inches of snow.  So we bundled up and went outside to enjoy the brief respite from below-zero temperatures.  Approximately 12 hours later, the temperature dropped 40 degrees and we were dropped harshly back to the reality that is winter in Minnesota.









(Not long after this picture was taken, Natalie realized there was no hope of getting back up on her own while wearing all that clothing.  After that whenever she fell, she lay on her back, like an overturned turtle, waiting patiently for someone to come and help her stand up again.)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Keeping Me Laughing

Children are great mimics. Sometimes this is really cute. Other times, like when your child tells you to go into time-out because you are NOT LISTENING, it’s not quite as cute.

One cute thing Sam has picked up from me is that he sings to himself all the time. Oh, don’t get me wrong – it’s not cute when I sing – in fact, some might describe it as “nails on a chalkboard” or “incredibly annoying”. But it’s cute to see Sam doing it.

This morning, as he was eating his scrambled eggs, he was singing quietly under his breath: “I’m eating my eggs, eating my eggs; Please don’t, don’t bother me, I’m eating my eggs”.

*********
One other cute Sam story, since I can’t seem to think of anything else to write about today:

As are most little boys (and some girls!) Sam is very much into tractors. Last night, we were talking about tractors and how the different colors are different brands. Like, green tractors are John Deere, and yellow tractors (well, construction equipment, but we call them all tractors around here) are Caterpillars.

“No,” he said matter-of-factly. “Caterpillars don’t live in the snow.”

I tried to explain that Caterpillar was also a company that makes tractors. He broke in and said, “Worms are NOT tractors, Mommy,” in a “you’re-an-idiot” tone of voice.

“Good point,” I said, and left it at that.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Internet Dangers

One of the many things I love about having an almost-3-year-old are the endless questions. I'm not even being sarcastic when I say this - I really do love hearing the things Sam comes up with these days! One day, while watching Finding Nemo, he asked me how a fish sleeps. I think I answered that one to his satisfaction, but when the next day he asked me what a flamingo says, I was stumped. So we went to the internet to find out.

I decided to start with YouTube, and typed in the keyword "flamingo". Surprisingly, there weren't a lot of options and as I glanced down the list, I saw a title that was something about a baboon and a flamingo. Okay, that sounded like it might actually have an actual flamingo in it, unlike most of the other videos that came up.

So, that particular clip starts out with a baboon watching a huge flock of flamingos. Maybe you see where this is going, but I was oblivious and when the baboon attacked and ate a flamingo, I almost knocked over the kids in my mad scramble for the "pause" button.

You know, I don't really think Sam understood what was happening, though (or maybe he's a future hunter?), because he keeps asking to watch the flamingo video again. Luckily, I was able to find another 7-minute video of a trip to the zoo that has a brief cameo of a flamingo in it, and that satisfied him.

I'll consider that his first lesson on *cue the music* "the cirrrrrrcle of liiiiiiiife...and it moves us allllllll...."

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Catch-Up

You know it's cold when:
1) Your car door is frozen shut, even after being inside the attached garage all night.
2) The car isn't even starting to get warm after you finally arrive at the bus stop, 30 minutes after leaving your house. It normally only takes 10 minutes to drive to the bus stop. A day of rain followed by plummeting temperatures, topped with another inch of snow, makes for very treacherous roads.
3) Your feet are so numb by the time you get off the bus, that you have a hard time maintaining your balance on the three blocks over icy sidewalks before you finally arrive at your place of employment.

Replace the word "your" with the word "my" in the above sentences, and you have an idea of what my day has been like so far.

********
By the way, the preschool Christmas program? Was a bust. Sammy left the stage almost immediately and spent most of the time hanging out by me. In case you were wondering.

*********

We decided to buy ourselves a new camera for Christmas. It was badly needed, since both of our cameras have been broken for the past couple of months, and I was making do with a cruddy little camera phone. When I took the memory card out of our old camera, I found some pictures of happier warmer times.






Bet you didn't think you'd see pumpkin patch pictures in December, did you? Just wait until March when I post my Christmas pictures.

**************
Our weekend in pictures:

Mother's little helpers, assisting with gingerbread preparation.


The assembled gingerbread houses, before the exterior work had been completed. Can you believe I forgot to take a picture of the finished products? They were beautiful. Not to mention delicious.


Craft time.


Who knew laundry baskets could be such fun?


Sumo baby shows her signature move.


Recreating a scene from Animal House?


Exhibit A. See that awful white stuff out the window behind me? What you can't see is the -8 temperature on the thermometer.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Holiday Meme

Tonight is Sammy's first-ever preschool Christmas program, so I should have plenty to say tomorrow, but today, I have nothing. So here's a Christmas meme.

Egg nog or hot chocolate? Tough choice. I wonder how hot chocolate made from egg nog would taste? Might be something to explore.
Santa wrap presents or set them under the tree? Wrapping, without a doubt.
Colored lights on tree or white? Colored.
When do you put your decorations up? The weekend after Thanksgiving, usually.
What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)? Excluding dessert? Seriously? OK then, probably the Christmas cheese ball.
2 - 8 oz. blocks cream cheese
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 c. mustard
1 pkg. chopped dates
Mix all ingredients together. Serve with crackers.
Favorite holiday memory as a child: I don't have a lot of specific memories, but I always enjoyed the Christmas Eve service at the church (performed by the Sunday School kids), followed by opening presents back at our house.
And how did you learn the truth about Santa? I honestly don't remember believing in Santa. I must have learned the truth at an early age.
Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? Yes, we have Christmas Eve with my husband's family. The kids will open their presents from Santa & us on Christmas Day, though.
How do you decorate your Christmas tree? Lights, garlands, ornaments - both store-bought, and made by the kids. We buy an ornament for the kids each year and date it, so those ornaments are my favorite.
Snow! Love it or dread it? Hate, hate, hate it. Did I mention I hate it?
Can you ice skate? Not very well. I might try harder to learn if it wasn't something that had to be done outside in the bitter cold.
Do you remember your favorite gift? Not really, but I remember getting a pottery wheel for Christmas one year, and it didn't work. It ended up being returned and I got the money instead. I was really disappointed because I was so excited about that pottery wheel.
What's the most important thing about the holidays for you? Being with my family.
What is your favorite holiday dessert? Tough one - anything chocolate.
What is your favorite tradition? We're still trying to develop our own traditions, but starting this year I'm going to have Sammy tell me his favorite memories from the year so I can write them down on notecards. When Natalie is old enough, I'll do the same with her, and I'll save all the cards so each Christmas, we can go through all the cards from previous years and relive memories. I think that's going to be my favorite. (Although how many years have to go by before I can call it a tradition?)
Which do you prefer, giving or receiving? Giving, definitely. Especially to my kids. I can't wait to see the excitement on their faces as they open their gifts.
What is your favorite Christmas Song? I don't generally like traditional Christmas music, but my sister introduced me to some new stuff this year that I actually like. "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" by Death Cab for Cutie is my new favorite. I've also always really liked "Happy XMas (War is Over)" by John Lennon and "Feliz Navidad" by Jose Feliciano.
Candy canes! Yuck or yum? I'm impartial on this one. I will eat an occasional candy cane, but if given a choice between chocolate or a candy cane, the candy cane doesn't stand a chance.
Ever recycled a Christmas present? Not that I can remember.

I'm not going to tag anyone, but feel free to grab this meme and post it on your own blog, if you're struggling for content like I am!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Santa Claus Is In Town Early This Year

Santa Claus was in line to get on the bus at the park & ride this morning. Dressed in full gear - beard, red toy sack, black boots, and everything. I knew times were tough, but wow. When Santa's sleigh and reindeer get repo'd and he has to take public transportation...let's just say I don't have a lot of expectations this year for a gift from Santa.

And how long has my website been acting up? I hardly ever go directly to my web address - I usually am logged in from Blogger to post updates - so when I typed in my web address a couple of days ago, I was horrified at the slow loading time. I cleaned up some obsolete html code, and it seems to be working a lot better now. So sorry about that!

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Blue Dress

Natalie has a closetful of beautiful dresses, as most little girls do. Ron, who dresses the kids in the morning and drops them off at daycare, chooses to dress her in practical jeans and tops during the week. So, on the weekends when I choose her clothing, I usually put her in a dress.

Yesterday, I chose a beautiful deep blue velvet dress for her, and as she walked through the living room afterwards, I exclaimed over how beautiful she looked. Sammy, who was sitting on the couch watching TV, hardly glanced up as he commented, "She looks like a big blueberry."

Are boys are just born to say things like that? I think have my work cut out for me, to mold him into a caring, supportive man.

Friday, December 5, 2008

I Almost Have No Words

Remember when I made all that wine? That delicious, delicious wine? I almost don't have the heart to type this - but I had to dump out most of it.

Learn from my mistake: If you ever decide to make homemade wine, have lots of empty bottles at the ready. As soon as the wine is done fermenting, it needs to be bottled and corked, or it will turn nasty. And need to be dumped down the drain.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Books, Books, Books

I love to read. But I'm also very frugal, so I don't usually buy books. Why pay $20 for a book that I'm going to be done with in 5 days, and probably never read again? I get all my books from the library, and I have a system so I get to read bestsellers almost as soon as they come out.

In the Twin Cities metro area, we have five different library systems - one for each county. Although your library card needs to originate from your home county, you can activate it at any or all of the metro library systems, so you have borrowing privileges everywhere. I work in one county, live in another, and live close to yet another, so I've activated my card at three of the library systems and I can access all of their websites. One of these libraries publishes a "new and upcoming fiction" newsletter about once a month, which is delivered to my email inbox. I scan the list for my favorite authors, and place holds on the books through my home library's website. Since these books are all months away from actual publication, I'm usually one of the first 5 people to request the book, so I get the book within a couple of weeks of its release.

The only problem with this is - whether because of publisher's release dates, or the library's process for obtaining new books - they tend to come in groups. Once a month, I usually end up with a stack all at once and then need to scramble to get them all read. This month is no exception, but I'm faced with an especially difficult choice.

You see, two of the books in this stack are bestsellers, which means a two-week loan period, with no renewals. I've been eagerly awaiting the arrival of both Scarpetta and The Hour I First Believed. And one book is 500 pages, and the other book is 750 pages. What's a girl to do? There's no way I'm going to get both of these books read in the next two weeks, especially with all the Christmas baking, decorating, shopping, and wrapping I need to be working on. Ah well, I'd better get cracking, because I'm sure going to try my best to finish them both.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Ups and Downs of Eating

I've lost 4.5 pounds since I got sick on Thanksgiving. It's not the most fun way to lose weight (is there a fun way? probably not). But that's about 15 percent of my weight-loss goal, so that makes me happy.

Speaking of not eating, Natalie - who, until recently, ate almost as much as a small adult - has become a picky eater. I knew it had to happen eventually, but now I have two kids who basically subsist on air, with maybe some fruit and milk here and there. Sam's new favorite saying when I tell him it's time to eat: "Thank you; I'm not hungry." At least he declines politely.

It hasn't really bothered me until recently. I'm starting to feel frustrated that I take the time to prepare a healthy, well-rounded meal, and both kids turn up their noses at it. But if they come across something sweet, they'll eat until they're sick. Thanksgiving, for instance - there was a plate of bite-sized gingerbread cookies and a bowl of frosting beside them on a small table, small enough for easy access by the kids. Every time I turned around, Sam was into those cookies again (which I promptly took away from him). And I'm sure he ate twice as many when I wasn't looking. Then a couple of hours later, he announced with a green face that he wasn't feeling well. I've talked with him, read books with him, and sat with him to watch a Sid the Science Show episode about how healthy food makes our bodies feel good, and junk food makes our bodies feel icky, but he doesn't seem to understand or care yet.

Ron and I are no angels when it comes to food, and I have to admit, we usually have some kind of junk food in the house (and there's the reason I need to lose weight). Daily, I find Sam going to great lengths to reach the Candy Cane Joe Joe's I keep on the highest shelf in the kitchen. I suppose all I can do is keep soldering on, offering healthy meal choices and healthy snacks, and reinforcing that junk food is a "sometimes" treat. I can understand why so many children are obese, because it's a hard battle and I think sometimes parents are too tired to fight it.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

With our potty-training adventure set to begin in a couple of weeks, I've been trying to get Sam excited about the prospect of wearing big-boy underwear. Last night, we got into an in-depth discussion about which of his daycare friends still wear diapers, which ones wear pull-ups, and which ones wear big boy/big girl underwear. He had the inside info on all his friends, which amused me to no end. But, you know? I suppose these are the important issues to the 2- and 3-year-old set.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Catch-Up

We spent Thanksgiving at my sister-in-law's unchildproofed house. While Ron watched the football game, socialized with his relatives, and even took a brief snooze on the couch, I spent most of the day redirecting the kids when they started wandering towards breakable things. So when I developed a splitting headache late in the afternoon, I attributed it to a hard day's work.

The next morning, I woke up aching all over and still had a headache. We went to my parents' house as planned, but Saturday morning, I woke up feeling like death warmed over. I had myself a nice case of the flu. Not a stomach virus, but actual influenza. I have learned my lesson - I am never again getting a flu shot. Honest to goodness, the only years I ever get the flu are the years that I get the vaccination. Every other year, I make it through the winter healthy. My fingers are crossed that my kids didn't pick up any of my germs, but I'm sure I won't be that lucky.

Other than exposing everyone to my sick germs, it worked out quite well to be sick at my parents' house, because I got a lot more rest than I would have at home. There were a total of 5 healthy adults around to help watch and play with the kids, so that made a world of difference for me.

And now I'm freaking out, because it's December 1st today, and I have a million and one things I need to get done by Christmas. Also, planning Sammy's birthday party, which comes shortly afterward. Yes, I am a bit stresed out right now. Does it show?

A more upbeat post will come tomorrow, hopefully.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Hanging Out at the Mall

After a weekend full of errands and cleaning, we all needed to get out of the house on Sunday afternoon. So we went to a nearby mall that has a nice play area for the kids, and let them loose.

It’s amazing to me how easily kids make friends. Within 2 minutes, Sammy and another boy were sliding down the slide, hanging onto each other so they’d tumble off the end in a tangle of arms and legs. They’d laugh and laugh (even though it looked like it hurt) and run up the slide to do it again. Then the other kid got the brilliant idea to go down the slide head-first, on his back. It was a small-ish slide, but very slippery so he shot off the end pretty quickly and his head skidded about a foot across the carpet. No surprise, Sammy decided to do the same thing. The look on his face when he hit the bottom was a look of “Ow, that hurt” and I was expecting tears – his normal response. Nope, after a split second he laughed through his almost-tears, got up, and ran around to the ladder for another round.

Then the two boys played monsters. The other boy chased Sammy around the play area, and then they lost track of each other. Sammy came up to me and asked me where “the good guy” was, just before spotting him on his own. The next time they went around, Sammy giggled as he said, “He’s not a good guy, he’s a bad guy!” I told Sammy he should ask the other boy what his name was.

After “the good guy” left, I asked Sammy what his new friend’s name was. “I don’t know,” he answered, unconcerned. Just like that, he’d forgotten all about his new friend. That’s probably just as well, since they’ll probably never see each other again.

But really, can you imagine making friends like that as an adult? It would be like going shopping, and seeing someone around my age, going up to her and saying, “That shirt would look great on you!” We’d walk around the store, giggling as we chatted and helped each other pick out clothes, and then we’d leave and go home, having never exchanged phone numbers or even names. What a trip that would be!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Land of a Million Bells and Whistles

Last night, we went to Chuck E. Cheese's. We hadn't been there since February, but Sammy remembered it well. Every time he'd see coupons in the newspaper, he'd point them out and ask when we were going again. Since it's too cold to do anything outside these days, I called up my friend J last night to see if she and her two kids wanted to go with us.

The kids had a blast playing games, riding rides, and climbing through the tunnels. And then...Chuck E. Cheese himself made an appearance. Sammy was in love. He looked up at Chuck with adoring eyes and gave him a hug. About that time, I noticed Natalie needed a diaper change so I asked J to keep an eye on Sammy while Natalie and I went to the bathroom.

When I came back, I saw Sammy following Chuck around the restaurant. J was hanging back, laughing, and she explained to me that he had been doing that the entire time we were in the bathroom. Aw, isn't that cute. He makes an adorable little stalker.

Then, Chuck was done visiting customers and started walking towards an employees-only door. Sammy tried to follow him, and I caught up with them just in time to keep Sammy from going through the door after him. I explained that Chuck E. Cheese was taking a break, and he might be out again later. Sammy announced he was going to sit right there and wait for him to come out. I finally convinced him to play some more, but he kept asking about Chuck the rest of the time we were there. I told him I supposed Chuck might have gone to bed already, and Sammy seemed okay with that answer.

First thing this morning, Sammy was asking about Chuck E. Cheese again. He wanted to know what kind of a bed Chuck had. When I said I didn't know, that wasn't good enough, and Sammy wanted me to guess. So I said, "Well, maybe it's one like you have." That was thrilling to Sammy and he exclaimed, "He has a Lightning McQueen bed just like I have?!" Then he said, "Can Chuck E. Cheese come over sometime to see my bed?" I didn't really know how to answer that. How do you explain to a not-quite-yet-3-year-old that it might be a bit inappropriate to ask a grown man (maybe it was a woman) dressed in a mouse suit to come to your house to see your bed? I was hoping to not have that discussion for a few years yet.

In conclusion, a fun time was had by all and Sammy has a new idol.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

DIY Christmas Gifts

Link of the day: http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/holidays/giving/fromthekitchen.php

They have some great ideas for homemade Christmas gift ideas! I know that this year money is tight for a lot of us, and besides, homemade gifts always mean more than store-bought gifts, right?

In addition to the recipes on this site, I have come up with a few other ideas for potential gifts. I hope some of these can be of use to someone else.

1) Homemade vanilla. Buy tall-ish bottles with corks at your local craft store or even a thrift store (they need to be tall enough for a vanilla bean). Fill with brandy, and add 1-2 vanilla beans (split lengthwise), then cork. Let steep for at least a month. This will keep indefinitely.

2) Etched mirrors, glasses, etc. You could pick up glasses and mirrors for cheap at a thrift store. Trace your design onto contact paper, then press onto the surface. Cut out design with an Xacto knife, then use etching cream on the exposed areas, following the instructions of the particular brand you're using.

3) Teacup candles. Again, you could pick up teacups at a thrift store. Not only are thrift stores inexpensive, but you're reusing instead of buying new! It's like your Christmas gift to the environment.

4) Homemade kahlua. I intended to make this last year, and never got around to it.

5) Gifts in a jar. You can find a lot of great recipes on the internet.

6) Homemade dishcloths. Even if you've never knit before, the pattern on the back of the Sugar 'n' Cream label is incredibly fast and easy. One washcloth takes me about an hour to complete (maybe two hours if you're a beginning knitter).

I'm sure I'll be adding to this list in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Potty Chair

We haven't been hitting potty training too hard yet. It's difficult to be consistent with Sammy being at daycare part of the day. My current plan is to tackle potty training for real the week after Christmas, when I'm on vacation.




However. We have been working on getting him on the potty when it's obvious he "assumes the position" (that is, he hides in the corner and gets a look of concentration on his face). Over the weekend, he agreed to sit on his potty, so I set him up with a book and asked if he wanted me to keep him company, or if he wanted privacy. He opted for "pwivacy", so I scooped up the gawking bystander Natalie and closed the door.



Five minutes later, he announced he was done, and I oohed and aahed over the contents of the potty chair, before dumping it in the toilet. We went to his room for a fresh diaper. Afterwards, I stopped by the bathroom to shut off the light, and found this:


And afterwards, she oohed and aahed over the contents of the (empty) potty chair.

I'm thinking that there may be a bright side to the fact that Natalie wants to copy everything her big brother does.

(I apologize for the picture quality - it was taken with my camera phone, which is sadly still the only working camera in our house. Oh, and don't you love our beautiful pink bathroom. Ugh.)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Parenting Poetry

This is why All & Sundry is one of my favorite blogs. I hope you enjoy these poems as much as I did.

I was feeling inspired after reading this post, so I composed one myself.

I know you want milk
I heard you the first
ten times.
Oh, not that cup?
The blue one with
stars on it?

Here’s your milk.
Now you don’t want it?
YES, YOU DO WANT IT?
Here, I’ll set it on
the table while you make up your mind.
Aw, crap.
You’re cleaning that up
yourself.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Witching Hour

Let's talk about dinnertime. Every mother of young children struggles with getting dinner in the oven without sticking her own head in the oven out of despair. It's the time of day when everyone's starting to get tired, hungry, and cranky. Spending an hour preparing dinner is out of the question.

I have a list of things that I do to make dinnertime preparation more manageable. I'd love to hear any of your tips or suggestions, as well!

1) A crockpot is a busy mom's best friend. Check out A Year of CrockPotting for some great recipes, if you haven't already. (By the way, Target has an awesome 5.5 quart programmable Smart Crock Pot on sale this week for $19.99!)
2) I remember that once upon a time, I used to go out and do fun things on Friday and Saturday nights. Nowadays, a lot of weekend nights you'll find me in my kitchen, cutting vegetables after the kids go to bed. If you hook up your iPod with some good music, pour yourself a nice glass of wine, and dance, you can almost imagine that you're at a club. I suppose you could even wear some trashy clothes, if you wanted. Back to the point - I buy bell peppers and onions in bulk, and then dice and freeze them so I can just take out a handful and throw them into the dish when I'm cooking. The food processor would work well for this, too, but I find chopping vegetables to be therapeutic. Before I started freezing them, I was always having to throw out slimy bell peppers, because I couldn't use them fast enough. No more waste! You could do this with whatever vegetables you use most often.
3) Make one, freeze one. It doesn't pay for me to make an entire casserole for my family, since the leftovers never get eaten in time, so I divide a casserole or lasagna recipe up between two smaller (8' x 8') pans and freeze one. I use a Sharpie to mark the aluminum foil with the name of the dish, the cooking instructions, and the date on which I froze it.
4) Curious George episodes on the DVR. My kids don't watch a lot of TV, but we've recently discovered this show on PBS, and both kids turn into zombies when it's on. At this time of day, that's preferable to their usual curious puppy personas (chewing on non-edible items, piddling on the carpet, knocking over lamps).

So, what things do you do to keep yourself sane while you're trying to prepare dinner?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

It's Ba-a-a-a-a-ck

This morning, I muttered a four-letter word as I woke up and looked out the window. “Snow,” I said in a disgusted voice. While this isn’t the first time it’s snowed this year, this is the first time there’s been accumulation. It was only about an inch, but it’s what it stands for, more than anything. It’ll be another long six or seven months before we can count on nice weather again. This time every year, Ron and I start fantasizing about moving somewhere warm.

The morning commute after the first snowfall is always…interesting. It takes Minnesota drivers awhile to get their “winter legs”, so to speak. No surprise, traffic was very slow this morning.

I find it hilarious to pull into the Park & Ride when there’s snow on the ground. Instead of neat, orderly rows of cars, everyone is parked willy-nilly. Sometimes the gap between rows of cars is so narrow, even though there’s plenty of parking spaces at the end of the row, there’s no way to get to them. It’s especially funny at the end of the day when the snow has melted, to see the yellow lines in relation to where the cars actually are.


Wake me up when it's spring again, please.  I'm going into hibernation.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Did you know about Google SMS? I just discovered this, and it's a great thing if you don't have internet on your cell phone. It's a free service, and only costs whatever your carrier charges you for text messages. Want to locate an Applebee's in the Minneapolis area? Just text "Applebee's Minneapolis" to GOOGLE (466453) and you'll get a text message with the addresses and phone numbers of the Applebee's in the vicinity. After using the service a few times, it even sets your home location so you can avoid typing your city every time you do a query. (I think there's a way to manually set your location, too.)

Isn't technology great?

Friday, November 7, 2008

If I Only Had A Brain

Did you know that a woman's brain shrinks up to 8% during pregnancy? According to that first article that I linked, the brain increases in size again after delivery, but I originally heard that the brain rewires itself and eventually becomes more powerful. Well, I'm thinking that rewiring a brain is not a do-it-yourself job. I should have hired a qualified electrician, because my wiring doesn't seem to be up to code.

A few months back, I lost my bus pass. I tore apart my purse, then my car, to no avail. Finally, I broke down and paid the $2.75 fare so I could at least get to work, and figured I'd have to buy a new Metropass. The whole bus ride, I was silently grumbling at Sammy, the likely culprit. He likes to get into my purse to find my stash of bribes rewards suckers. Shortly after I got to work, I got a call from a stranger who found my bus pass lying on the ground at the Park & Ride and kindly retrieved it and tracked me down. I felt so guilty about blaming Sammy (even if it was just in my mind) that I apologized profusely to him later that afternoon, while he stared blankly at the crazy lady.

Then last weekend, I ran a bunch of errands with the kids. Monday morning, when I went to write out a check for daycare, I couldn't find the checkbook anywhere. Again, I tore apart my purse, the car, and the house. I traced back my steps, and the last time I remembered using the checkbook was on Saturday, at Target. By the time I figured this out, it was Tuesday afternoon and it had been four days since I'd last seen the checkbook, and my last hope was to check the lost and found at Target. If it wasn't there, I'd have to talk to the bank to cancel out the rest of the checks in that (practically new) book, with significant cost to me, since I believe it costs $25 per check for that service.

I walked into the office to look up Target's phone number, and saw that the message light on my answering machine was blinking. I couldn't believe my luck when I heard, "Hello, this is the Guest Service desk at Target, and I believe we have your checkbook..."

Now I've been lucky twice, and I don't know how much longer my luck can hold out. Next time, my bus pass/checkbook/keys/purse might fall into the hands of someone much less honest. I used to pride myself on being very organized and on top of things, and I hate this new absentmindedness. I can't even blame it on sleep deprivation, since both kids sleep through the night these days (except for this past week - let the record show that I hate teething and everything that goes along with it).

Please, can anyone tell me that this will get better eventually? Or am I doomed to live out the rest of my life as scatterbrained and forgetful?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Red, Red Wine

We have tons of grapes growing on the fence in our backyard. I couldn't even tell you what kind they are - they're small (pea-sized) and have huge pits in them. If you eat them too early, they are incredibly sour, like chokecherries. But if you catch them at the right time, they are actually quite sweet and tasty. And it's hard to tell when that sweet spot is, because they look the same shade of purple whether they're all chokecherry-pucker-inducing or sweet and yummy.

I've never had much use for them before, but this year, I decided I was going to take a trip into the unexplored (by me) world of wine-making. I found this recipe online and used it as my base recipe. I still had tons and tons of raspberries left, so I threw a bunch of those into the mix, too.
The only other thing I did different from the recipe was that I went to our local brew & grow shop, and bought actual wine yeast (as opposed to regular old bread yeast), and threw it into the mix instead of floating it on the bread, as the recipe suggested.

It's been fermenting for about a month, and I've started bottling it. I only had two empty bottles to start with, so let's just say I've been having to drink a lot of wine lately so I can use the empties for my homemade stuff. It's a tough job, but someone's gotta do it. And as an added bonus, you know all that stress I've been under lately from solo parenting? After putting the kids to bed and having a couple of glasses of wine, I'm all, "What kids?"

I actually tasted some of my homemade stuff, and it's quite delicious, if I do say so myself! And I couldn't believe how easy it was.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Halloween

We live too far out of the city to trick-or-treat in our neighborhood. I'd have to drive the kids from house to house, and somehow, that doesn't feel like trick-or-treating to me. The last couple of years, I've met up with my aunt and my cousins for TOT'ing in their neighborhood. My aunt and I enjoy chatting while the kids beg for candy.

I'd rehearsed with Sammy for a couple of days beforehand. "What do you say when they open the door?" and then, "What do you say when they give you candy?" The first few houses, he did pretty well. Then he forgot his manners and instead of saying "thank you" he said "More, more!" I quickly corrected him, and we only had one more incident of a forgotten "thank you". I think it went pretty well, overall. And the weather was beautiful, probably the only time I remember Halloween being warm. Most years, it's hard to figure out what kids are supposed to be dressed as, since they are usually bundled up in their bulky winter jackets and stocking caps.

With no further ado, the kids in their costumed glory:

Eeek! It's a skunk!


Natalie was about to cry in this one, because I stepped back to take a picture and she thought I was going to leave her.


I made that skunk costume for Sammy on his first Halloween. I haven't had time to sew another costume since, but I have high hopes for next year.


I should dig out a picture of Sammy wearing this costume for a side-by-side comparison. Natalie looks so much like him in this shot.

Get Out and Vote!

Top three reasons to vote today:

1. You will help chooose the next leader of our country.
2. Voting is your civic duty.
3. Starbucks is offering a free tall, brewed coffee to anyone who stops in and says they voted.

To elaborate on item #3, I received an email yesterday from Starbucks with this information. No coupon necessary! Get out and vote!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Tag! I'm It

Mommy Vern tagged me to play. I love games! The name of this one is, locate the 6th photo in your 6th online photo album and post it.


This was taken at Grandma and Grandpa's house. Sammy looks so young in this picture! Looking at the date stamp, he would have been 16 months old, just a little older than Natalie is now. Time goes by so quickly.

Anyway - this was a really funny moment, but it might have been one of those "you had to be there" type things. That cow that Sammy is holding, plays "The Chicken Dance" when you squeeze its udder. Riley, the Sheltie in the foreground, loves to sing/howl along. Riley and Sammy were fighting over that cow toy the whole time we were there that weekend. In this picture, Bailey (the Sheltie looking over Sammy's shoulder) looks like she was about to get in on the action, too.


So, who wants to play? Colleen, although you've already made your post for this month? (Just teasing! I kid because I love!)

Friday, October 31, 2008

It's Fall!

I recently read an article that began with a sentence similar to this one: "It's not difficult to take care of young children; what's difficult is trying to do anything else while taking care of young children." So true. I find that I get too frustrated trying to accomplish anything that takes longer than 2 minutes, while the kids are around.
But! It was beautiful here on Wednesday, and since it was 24 degrees on Tuesday morning, I wanted to take advantage of this last gasp of warm fall weather before winter arrives next week. When we got home that day, I decided to try to rake leaves. Amazingly - I managed to work for 3 hours and got the whole front yard done!

While I raked, first the kids played in the hammock swing:

Soon, that led to one sleeping baby...
and in the meantime Sammy found the book bag in the car, and read stories to me.


While I did this!
Holy Productivity, Batman! It was one of those moments where I felt like I had it all together. Not surprisingly, I was brought back to reality yesterday. Natalie is cutting two molars and fussed at me all day yesterday, so I barely managed to scrape together dinner last night. And when I got home from work yesterday, the lawn was covered with a new layer of fallen leaves. Oh well, it was a good feeling while it lasted.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Hot Wheels

In yesterday's episode, Ron and the kids visited their Auntie C., leaving Becky at home with her cleaning supplies and a peaceful house. When the kids returned...

Sammy found me in the bathroom, scrubbing out the sink. His face was puffy, and his voice was shaky. I immediately dropped my sponge. "What's wrong?!" I said, looking from him to Ron for an answer.

He was barely able to choke out the words. "I l-l-l-left my c-c-c-c-c-ar at Auntie C.'s hou-ou-ou-ou-se!!!!" he wailed.

Flashback scene: Earlier in the day, I'd run errands with the kids and we didn't get home until well after lunchtime. The kids were cranky, and I had a trunkful of groceries to unload, so I decided to stop at Micky D's for lunch, a rare treat in our household. Even rarer, I ordered a Happy Meal for the kids to split. I don't think Sammy even knew until now that McDonald's had toys. I might live to regret this rash decision.

"Boy or girl toy?" they asked. "Boy," I said, since Natalie's too young to know or care that she was getting a raw deal. I knew she'd be happy fighting with Sammy over whatever toy they got.

It was a blue Hot Wheels car, that you pulled back and then it would race forward. Sammy was thrilled, and insisted on bringing it to Auntie C.'s house later, to show everyone. You know what happened after that.

I have never seen him so upset about anything. Honestly. It was like the end of his little world. It was 8:30 at night, and Auntie C. lives half an hour away, so I was not about to drive an hour to rescue his 50-cent toy car, but I had visions of fresh bread dancing in my head all day and still needed to make a trip to Target for yeast. And McDonald's is on the way to Target, so yep, I told Sammy I'd stop and get another car for him. I know, if I was hearing someone else tell this story, I'd probably think they were overindulgent, but let me tell you, I have never seen him so happy. If another $2.50 Happy Meal is all it takes to turn his whole world right-side-up again, so be it.

I did tell him to enjoy it, because it's the last time he'll ever go to McDonald's twice in one day, on my watch.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Zen and Now

Since Ron has started working nights, I have a whole new appreciation for single moms and army wives. Honestly, I had no idea how hard it was to never get a break. I've found myself getting a little short with the kids, a little more often than I'd like, lately. I used to have a very short temper and I think I've come a long way, but with this new stress in my life, I've been backsliding a bit.

On Saturday, I got a much-longed-for-and-much-appreciated break. I spent the entire three hours cleaning the house, and had just gotten it under control when Ron and the kids got home from his sister-in-law's house. (There's another part to this story, tune in again tomorrow.)

I had packed lunches for the kids, and Auntie C. told Sammy he was really lucky to have a mom who made such nice lunches for him (awww, thanks, Auntie C.!). Sammy replied, "Sometimes I make her angry."

Ugh. That was a wake-up call. Ron thought it was cute and showed that Sammy had an understanding of how his behavior affects me, but that's not at all how I took it. For that to be the first thing he says about me when someone brought me up? It really didn't make me feel very good about myself as a mother.

I remembered a post on The Toby Show awhile back about a book called Buddhism for Mothers, and decided it was time to get my hands on a copy. I am going to learn to be a calm mother, if it kills me. And it might.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Seven Things

I was tagged by the beautiful and hilarious Beth to tell you seven things about me that you might not know. There probably won’t be any surprises here to those of you who know me in real life.

1) I worked my way through college, and managed to finish without any debt. It took me 7 years to complete my Bachelor’s degree. (Hey, a lot of people go to school for 7 years! But they’re called doctors.)
2) Midway through college, I burned out on computer programming and switched my major from Computer Science to Psychology. Strangely enough, my current job has more to do with computer science than psychology. Go figure.
3) I have a weakness for good-smelling things. Lotions, perfumes, laundry detergent, etc. I know, parabens and all that, but I can’t help myself.
4) I love to read. I read so many books, that I had to start a spreadsheet to keep track of which books I’ve already read. Too often, I was getting halfway through a book and realizing I knew how it was going to end. I have another spreadsheet with my to-read list. Since there are over 2000 items on my to-read list, I don’t have the time to read books more than once, unless they’re really, really good.
5) I used to have awful eyes. So bad, that if I would put my glasses down somewhere unusual, I was up the proverbial creek without a paddle since I couldn’t see well enough to find them. Six years ago, I had Lasik surgery and I still think it’s the best thing I ever did for myself.
6) I’ve never actually fainted, but came very close twice. The first time was in high school, when the class had a “job shadow” day. I didn’t have any idea what I wanted to do with my life at the time, but I loved animals, so I thought I’d work at the vet clinic that day. I pictured getting to help take care of the animals and maybe watch a couple of examinations. When I showed up that morning, the vet informed me that he had scheduled a spaying. With the first cut of the scalpel, I got very hot and faint and started seeing black spots. I had to sit down to keep from passing out.
7) I have a tattoo. It’s a dolphin, and it’s on my leg. That was the second time that I almost fainted. I made the mistake of watching the needle go into my leg.

I'm supposed to tag seven people, but I don't think I know seven other people who haven't already been tagged. So, if you haven't already played, go ahead and post seven things about you on your blog!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Fundraisers

A few years ago, I was in college. Okay, maybe it was more like ten years ago. That's not the point. Anyway, I was having a quick lunch in-between classes at a fast-food restaurant near campus, when I was approached by a young child selling fundraiser candy bars. You know, the kind in the special wrapper that the kids sell for $1 to raise money for band or whatever. I pulled out my purse to buy a couple as he was explaining what they were for. When he came to the part about, "my mom has a new baby" and gestured toward his mother and siblings at a nearby table, I realized this wasn't a school fundraiser. It threw me for a loop, and although I did still buy a couple of candy bars, it seemed strange. I suppose it's not a lot different from panhandling, although in this case you actually get something for your money. But still, not something you see every day. (Although, just now I remembered going to Mexico and the children were selling packets of "chicle" on the street to raise money for their families. So I'll amend that to say, "not something you see every day in this country".)

Fast-forward to a couple of years ago, when Sammy started daycare. He goes to a local independent daycare center, whose owner I know quite well by now. She works at the center all day, substituting for teachers, helping out with snack time and recess time, and doing all the things that need to be done to run a business. I like her and the center quite a lot. But I was shocked the first time that Sammy came home with a fundraiser booklet. Not only that, but a suggestion from the owner/director that each family sell $200 worth of stuff. Uh, no - I am not going door to door, or putting up an order form at work, to raise funds for my children's daycare. Public schools need to do fundraisers, I understand that. They're vastly underfunded and teachers often have to purchase their own supplies. I get that, and I'm perfectly okay for buying things to support our public school system. But I already pay a lot - a LOT - of money for my private daycare, and I'm supposed to ask people to help defray my costs by buying some wrapping paper? Honestly, I'd rather just pay an extra $10 or $20 a week, if that's what it takes for the daycare to pay their bills.

From talking to other people, I've discovered this is a fairly common practice these days, but it feels horribly tacky to me. I'm not sure why, because Tupperware/Pampered Chef/etc. parties are basically fundraisers for personal profit, but that feels different to me, somehow.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Dreams Really Can Come True

I walked into the living room to see Sammy sitting on the top shelf of his toybox/bookshelf. As I opened my mouth to tell him to get down, he said "Tweet, tweet". Well, then. As long as it's just a bird in his nest, and not a little boy.

*******************************************************************
On a totally different note, last night I was reminded of something that happened a long time ago. I had difficulty getting pregnant with Sammy, and after two years, I started to give up hope and thought it wasn't ever going to happen. I remember one night, feeling as low as I've ever felt. As I was going to sleep, I begged for help in getting through this and coming to terms with it. Call it praying, if you want. I'm not exactly religious, but I am spiritual and believe in a higher power, so the word "praying" works for me.

That night, I had a dream. I saw a little boy in my dream, standing in my kitchen and looking up at me with a big smile on his face. I knew intuitively that it was my son (and he looked just like my husband did as a child). The next morning, I woke up with a sense of peace and knew that I was someday going to have a little boy, and I just needed to be patient.

A month or two later, I found out I was pregnant. About a day after I took the test, I was shopping and bought a little blue Mickey Mouse onesie. I was that confident he was going to be a boy. Obviously, he was. I still have that blue onesie tucked away in his memento box.

When Sammy was a little over a year old, that moment that I had dreamed about happened. We were in the kitchen, and he was looking up at me and smiling, and looked exactly as he had in the dream. It still gives me chills to think about this.

Sometimes I feel guilty that I never had any such dreams about Natalie, but I understand why. That night, I really needed that reassurance more than anything. It's one of the many things that's happened in my life that confirms there IS someone watching over us.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Feeling Statue-esque

A partial list of the electronic gadgets at my house that have either been behaving badly, or entirely stopped working in the past couple of weeks: the keyboard mouse, my iPod, the starter on Ron's truck, the headlights on my vehicle, the earbuds for my iPod, BOTH digital cameras, my cell phone, and one of our clocks. And only one of these things can be traced back to an actual "event". The others spontaneously combusted, so to speak.

Needless to say, I'm feeling a bit grouchy about it. You know that saying, "Some days you're the pigeon, some days you're the statue"? I'm ready to be the pigeon for awhile.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The New Man of the House

Ron just started a new job, where he's working second shift. So, I'm essentially a single parent in the afternoons and evenings. The first morning of this new schedule, Ron said that he gave Sammy a talk about how he was now going to be the man of the house, and how he needed to look out for Natalie and me.

I laughed it off, thinking it was cute but that it wouldn't mean anything to Sammy. He's not even three years old yet, and he's going to understand what it means to be the man of the house?

Monday afternoon, I got home with the kids and we decided to make some crafts. I needed to make a copy of a pattern on the scanner, so I went into the office to do that, leaving the kids busily digging through the craft box. A couple of minutes later, Sammy charged down the hall past the office, muttering something about "getting her a diaper". Alarmed, I high-tailed it out of the office to see Natalie, bare naked, in the changing position on the living room floor. Since her diaper was only wet, there was no harm done and I waited to see what would happen next.

Sammy ran back down the hall with a dry diaper and looked disappointed that I had appeared. He informed me he wanted to do it all himself, and I told him to go right ahead. And he did. He needed just a little bit of help to get the diaper centered underneath her, but he completed the job by himself.

Then, at suppertime, he insisted that he needed to sit by Natalie. I traded places with him, and he helped her eat her entire supper. Then he entertained her while I did dishes.

Wow! Maybe it was just a fluke, but it seems like Ron's talk might have sunk in.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Taking Advantage of a Combative Mood

We went to a pumpkin patch on Saturday, and the kids had a great time. However, their naps ended up being delayed and then both of them were up much too late. And unlike adults, kids don't sleep later to compensate for lost sleep, so on Sunday, both were in rare form.

When naptime rolled around on Sunday, Sammy was so overtired that he couldn't settle himself down to go to sleep. He'd get out of bed, and I'd pick him up and put him right back. He'd scream, and I'd ignore. Then he'd get up again, and I'd put him back again. On and on, for about half an hour.

Finally, I had an idea. "Fine," I said. "You go play in the living room, and I'm going to take a nap."

"Nooooo!!!!!" he screeched indignantly, as he flung his head down on the pillow. Not too long later, he again started to get up. I repeated, "Fine, go play. I'm going to sleep." Again, "NOOOOOOO!!!!!!" as he plopped back down. Two minutes later? Sound asleep.

That there's reverse psychology at its finest, folks.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Helping Out

Natalie was still awake last night when I was taking my shower. I just started lathering my hair when she pulled the curtain back, spotted the water dripping from the spigot and dipped her hands into it. Then I heard her head out of the bathroom and down the hall.

Thirty seconds later, Natalie was back. She repeated her strange ritual. Thirty seconds later, again. And again. When I got out of the shower, she came into the bathroom, opened the washcloth drawer and took one out, then gestured at the faucet and said "eh, eh, eh". I asked her if she wanted me to turn it on, and she nodded her head "yes". She put the washcloth under the stream of water, looked at it and apparently decided it wasn't wet enough, and put it under the water again. When she was finally satisfied that there was enough water on the washcloth, she headed out of the bathroom and down the hall.

By this time, I was really curious so I quietly followed her. What I saw in the living room was this: The TV was tuned in to a football game. Ron was lying on the floor, staring at the TV. And Natalie was rubbing the washcloth into Ron's already-damp hair.

I guess she had decided he needed his hair washed, and was accomplishing the job slowly but surely. She must have known that Ron starts his new job today, and wanted him to look good for his first day.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Feeding the Baby

Natalie got a few dolls for her birthday, and surprisingly, Sam has been playing with them every so often. He's especially interested in the one that drinks her bottle, then wets her diaper.

Last night, I was cooking supper when he came into the kitchen clutching that doll. He said, "I'm feeding the baby!" and I said "mm-hmm" absentmindedly, without even looking. Then I finally looked up and, rather than seeing Sam feeding her a bottle, he was proudly nursing the baby.

I'm glad he still sees mama's milk as the natural way of things, in spite of Natalie being exclusively bottle-fed for the past four months.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Better Late Than Never

Since Natalie's 2nd birthday is only 11 months away, I thought it would be fun to take a look back at some pictures from her first birthday party.  

It was a rainy, dreary day, but the kids still enjoyed themselves.  Except for when Natalie fell off the picnic bench onto the hard cement floor.  And when she got run over by Sam on his trike.  But, other than that, fun was had by all.

video

Fun Dinner Idea

Here's a fun recipe to get your older toddler or preschooler involved with making dinner.

Fun Taco Pies

Ingredients:

Your favorite taco meat recipe
Diced tomatoes
Shredded cheese
Two 9-inch pie crusts
Fun-shaped cookie cutters (the bigger, the better - small shapes are harder to fill)
2-3 eggs and food coloring, if you want to "color" the pies

Roll out the pie crust, and have your child cut out shapes with the cookie cutters (you'll need at least two of each shape for each pie). On one of the shapes, spread a tablespoon of taco meat, a tablespoon of diced tomatoes, and a tablespoon of shredded cheese. Top with the other shape, and seal the edges the best that you can.

This step is optional, but fun if you're not totally opposed to food coloring (I try to use it sparingly, and don't always do this step). Separate the eggs, and put the yolks in separate bowls - one for each color. Mix a couple of drops of food coloring with each yolk, and have your little one paint it on the pies with a basting brush.

Bake at 375° F for 10-12 minutes, or until golden. Serve with your favorite taco toppings - sour cream, guacamole, salsa, etc. Yummy!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Pictures

I know, I know, I still haven't posted about Natalie's birthday party! I did finally manage to get the pictures off the camera, and make a slideshow on my Mac, but now I'm trying to figure out how to upload my iPhoto slideshow to Blogger. I don't know if the file's too big or what, but it's not going through.



Here are a couple of pictures in the meantime:

This was the actual day of her birthday. She looks thrilled. Come on, kid, you're only turning 1, not...30 or anything.

Since this picture was taken, the right (or wrong, in my opinion) combination of synapses have connected in her brain, and she now realizes she can drag a chair over beside any previously-out-of-reach shelf, then climb up and reach - oh, the telephone, my sewing scissors, you-name-it.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Bye, Bye, Binky

Sam has always had a very strong sucking reflex.  When he was less than a day old in the hospital, one of the nurses commented on it and predicted that he would be a baby who loved his binky.  He did, when I finally broke down and gave him one at about three weeks old after I couldn't take one more second of the round-the-clock nursing.  His beloved binky, his precious pacifier, became his (and my) best friend and got us through many tough times - teething, ear infections, and general crankiness.  


About six months ago, I decided to try to get rid of the binky.  I could tell after a few minutes that he wasn't ready yet, so I scrapped that idea.  If there's one thing Sam has taught me, it's that things go a lot easier when he's ready for it, not when I'm ready for it.

Then a week ago, binkies started turning up cracked and broken.  The first couple, I wrote off as a coincidence.  Then I noticed Sam chewing on binkies in the corner of his mouth, and put two and two together.  That, to me, was a signal that he no longer needed his binky, and it was just a habit and a prop.

So, Friday night, Operation Binky Removal began.  I built up to it all week, by explaining to Sam that the Binky Fairy was going to come and take his binkies for the new babies that needed them and leave him a present instead.  Awhile back, we watched The Wizard of Oz on TV, and he loved that movie and still asks for it, so I suggested that the Binky Fairy might bring him that movie as a present.  Unfortunately, I wasn't able to locate it in either Target, Walmart, or Best Buy, so I hoped that he'd forgotten that discussion.

When Friday night actually came, we wrote a letter to the Binky Fairy, put the letter and his last binkies in an envelope, and put it in the mailbox.  At bedtime, he cajoled and pleaded for his binky, but never actually cried.  When he pleaded, "But I'm still small.  I need my binky," that just about did me in, but I stayed firm.  Sam tossed and turned, mumbled to himself, kicked and squirmed, and finally fell asleep after about an hour - about three times as long as usual.

Saturday morning, he came into our bedroom at 5:00 a.m. and cried for his binky.  I explained that the Binky Fairy had already taken them, and he was too big for a binky anyway.  He cried less than five minutes, then fell back asleep.  When he woke up for the day, he popped up and said, "I was sad for my binky this morning, but I'm not sad anymore!" and that was really the last of it.  He hasn't asked for his binky since (it's Sunday afternoon as I write this), although it's still taking him a lot longer than usual to fall asleep.

Lastly, when he opened his gift from the Binky Fairy (a Bert and Ernie DVD and a toy tractor), he was really excited, but after a few minutes he said hopefully, "Maybe the Binky Fairy will bring me The Wizard of Oz next time."  I'm going to have to put a bug in Santa's ear to make sure he gets that one at Christmas instead.


Thursday, October 2, 2008

Because I Like You, I'm Going to Share My Secret

Imagine this scene. It’s 5:00 in the evening, and you’re trying to cook supper with two little kids underfoot. Actually, one is clinging to your leg, crying to be picked up, and the other one is throwing a tantrum in the middle of the kitchen floor. The living room looks like the toy box had a violent case of the flu – the kind that comes out both ends. Your baby is teething, so you’ve gotten nothing done all day. There are dirty dishes on the counter, dirty laundry overflowing the baskets in the laundry room, and the bathroom could use a once-over (more like a thrice-over).

The phone rings. You think it might be your husband, so you answer without looking at the caller ID first. It’s a friend that you haven’t seen in awhile, who’s in the neighborhood and wanted to stop over for a second to drop off some things she’s been meaning to give to you.
If you’re like me, you feel awkward admitting that “this isn’t really a good time”. So you try to sound excited, and as you hang up the phone you mentally calculate how far away she is. Five minutes? Ten, at the most?

You need a little help. There aren’t any fairies or elves hiding in the corners waiting at your beck and call. Only dust bunnies to be found there. So, what do you do now?

You know what you need? You need my patented five-step system to a company-ready house.

Step 1: Make use of storage space. By this, I mean often-neglected spaces like:
Underneath the couch
The bathtub
The refrigerator
The oven, after ensuring that it’s not turned on

Step 2: Dim the lights and close the curtains. You can call it mood-lighting, if you like. It sounds more fancy-like than Dirt-Minimizing lighting.

Step 3: You don’t have time to clean off the end tables? Simple. Just throw a large blanket over the top of the mess, and explain that you were just in the middle of playing a game of Fort.

Step 4: Close the door to every room that has a door.

Step 5: When you answer the door, say right away, “I hope you don’t have to use the bathroom, because the toilet’s out of order. I’m expecting the plumber any minute.” That will keep your guest out of the filthy bathroom.

If someone’s going to stop by with little or no warning at a house with young children, they really deserve to step over piles of crap (figurative, not literal, of course). But my ego won’t allow it, so I’ve had to employ this method many times.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Raspberries!

Of all of the new raspberry recipes I've been trying recently, these two are my favorite.

Recipe #1: Raspberry Cinnamon Muffins (from http://www.razzledazzlerecipes.com)
2 cups flour
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1-1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 cup raspberries
3/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. Line 18 muffin forms with paper liners, or spray cups with non-stick cooking spray. In bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Set aside. In another bowl, combine buttermilk and vanilla. Set aside. In mixer cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, blending well.
Add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with buttermilk/vanilla mixture in 2 additions Scrape bowl between additions and mix only until just combined. By hand, fold in raspberries (and nuts if using) being careful so the fruit stays whole as much as possible. Fill each muffin cup 2/3 full. Bake until tops spring back when lightly pressed; 18 to 20 minutes. If tops stick to muffin tins when removing, loosen with a sharp knife.

My notes: I don't enjoy nuts in baked goods, so I substituted a handful of chocolate chips instead. Chocolate + raspberries = yum! Also, I recently discovered powdered buttermilk - what an awesome thing! It keeps in the fridge indefinitely, so no more waste. I used to buy a carton of buttermilk for a recipe, and not have any use for the rest of it, so it would end up going down the drain a few weeks later when it spoiled. (If you don't already know about powdered buttermilk, it's on the shelf in the baking aisle of the grocery store.)

Recipe #2: Crepes with Cheese Filling and Raspberry Sauce (from http://recipes.epicurean.com)

Crepes:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Pinch salt
2 large eggs
1 egg yolk
1 1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 tablespoons butter

Filling:
1 pound Ricotta cheese
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Raspberry Sauce:
1 pint raspberries
1 teaspoon water
1/2 cup sugar (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest

The crepes can be made the night before, filled, covered, and refrigerated until morning.

Crepes: Sift together flour and salt in a medium size bowl. Whisk in eggs, egg yolk, and one tablespoon milk to form a smooth, paste-like batter. Add the rest of the milk and vanilla and mix well. There should be no lumps. Melt butter in a nonstick skillet and stir into batter leaving behind a film of butter in the pan. Allow batter to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. Heat skillet over medium-low heat. Stir batter and ladle about 1/4 cup into pan. Thinly coat bottom and edges of pan with batter. Cook until crepe turns golden-brown, lacy, and begins to pull away from pan, approximately 2 minutes. Turn and cook other side 30 to 40 seconds. Slide from pan and continue cooking other crepes. Stack crepes on a plate.

Filling: Combine all filling ingredients in a bowl and blend well. Place a tablespoon of filling in the center of each crepe. Turn in opposite ends and roll up the crepes. Cover and refrigerate. In the morning, fry the crepes in three tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat until golden.

Raspberry Sauce: Place half the raspberries in a saucepan with water and sugar. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves and sauce is thick. Add the remaining raspberries and orange zest. Heat through at the lowest temperature setting. Top filled crepes with raspberry sauce and garnish with sour cream and fresh raspberries. Serves 8.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Hope on the Horizon

We took the kids to the park yesterday, and for some reason Sammy had it in his head that his daycare friends were going to be at the park, too. When I told him that they wouldn't be there, he said, "Well, maybe Nye will play with me instead."

And then, last night after we came home, Sammy said to Natalie, "Come on, Nye, let's go play in my room!"

Wow - could this be the beginning of a friendship?

(And an update - Sammy rarely hits, pushes, or otherwise bullies Natalie anymore! I can actually leave them alone in a room together for a couple of minutes without worrying about the consequences!)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Close Encounters of the Fungi Kind

Before having kids, I used to have a beautiful vegetable garden every summer. Each fall, I would can, freeze, and pressure cook vegetables until the pantry was full and I had lost half of my body weight in sweat from working in the steamy kitchen. But no more. Turns out, vegetables really don't do well when surrounded by weeds three times as high as they are. Who knew?

Luckily for me, raspberries have no such requirements. In fact, if this year's crop is any indication, they seem to thrive on neglect. I've been picking raspberries every other day, and ending up with approximately 4 cups of berries with each picking. In the coming days, I'll post some of the recipes that I've been experimenting with in my attempts to use up all these berries.
Last night, I made a fresh berry tiramisu. It turned out to be a lot of work, especially since I had two whiny children at my feet and in my hair (and it turns out, they can be both places simultaneously). At one point, I was starting to lose my temper, so I decided to step outside to get some fresh air and get away from it all for a minute. The problem is, "it all" followed me outside. Natalie wouldn't let me put her down, so she came out with me by default. And Sammy came running behind me, in his sock feet, saying, "Mommy, I want to come with! Don't leave me!" So instead of going for a short walk, like I had intended, I sat down in the grass and put my head in my hands for a brief meditation while the kids milled around.

It wasn't long before I heard Sammy say, "Natalie, don't eat that! Mom, Natalie's eating something!" Thinking she was eating a blade of grass, or a weed, I didn't react at first. When he repeated it, I finally looked up to see Natalie spitting something out, and Sammy pointing at the humongous mushroom she had just sampled.

Um. It seems that every story I've heard about amateur mushroom hunters hasn't turned out well. And even though it didn't look like she had actually swallowed any of it, I had no idea how much of that particular mushroom it would take to cause ill effects. So, I gathered the kids up and ran in the house to make my first call to Poison Control.

The man on the other end of the line was very helpful. He had me describe the mushroom, and reassured me that it didn't sound like it was an overly toxic mushroom, but to be safe, he wanted me to take a picture and email it to him. I did that, and a few minutes later, he called me back to say that the worst she would probably experience was stomach upset. And since I thought she hadn't swallowed much, that odds were she wouldn't have any symptoms whatsoever but if she did start showing symptoms, to call him back right away.

She ate supper shortly after that, and went to sleep. Of course, I checked on her all night long but she was totally fine. So, all's well that ends well.

Edited to add: The Poison Control called back this morning to follow up. I'm very impressed at their helpfulness! Although I hope I won't have to do any more "business" with them.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Random Musings

Natalie only has four words in her vocabulary right now, plus about a half-dozen animal sounds. Do animal sounds count as words? They're a lot harder to work into casual conversation - "That's a moo point. It's like a cow's opinion. It doesn't matter."

But despite her lack of words, she can hold entire conversations with just the sound "eh". "Eh, eh eh eh eh EH!"means, "I was playing with that toy, Sam! Give it back RIGHT NOW!" And "Eh eh EH eh eh," (accompanied by a pointing finger) means, "I'd like a snack. Preferably those animal crackers I see on the counter right there."

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On an unrelated topic, hooray for the new TV season!* Last night, I eagerly scrolled through my DVR listings to find Monday night's new episode of Two and a Half Men. Hmm. That's strange, it wasn't there. Come to find out, someone deleted the program off the list of timers (Ron later fessed up). No worries, though. I was able to hop online and find the full episode and watch it anyway.

That got me thinking about all the things my kids are going to take for granted. They'll never know a time before being able to pause and rewind live TV, skip through commercials, and record TV programs with a couple clicks of a remote. They'll never remember what it was like before internet and the ability to instantly download TV shows, movies, and radio programs from around the world. They'll never know what life was like before iPods, cell phones, or text messaging.

Just like the things that I've grown up with, and taken for granted. Things that didn't exist a generation or two ago - like televisions and microwave ovens. Doesn't it make you wonder what life will be like for our grandchildren?

*Did anyone else watch Worst Week? The last thing I need is another television show on my DVR, but the first episode was freaking hilarious. I'm a little skeptical that they'll be able to keep up that level of humor, but I'll definitely be watching that one again.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The PROTECT Our Children Act

I happened to catch an episode of Oprah last week about online child predators. It was absolutely horrifying, and I had to skip through most of the first fifteen minutes because I was getting sick to my stomach.

However, I did watch enough of the show to gather that only 2% of all leads are followed up on due to lack of resources. Law enforcement is grossly underfunded in this area.

There's currently a bill before the Senate - Bill 1738, the PROTECT Our Children Act - that would provide a lot more money and resources to law enforcement. I believe this is up for vote this Friday, September 26th.

Oprah's website makes it easy to contact your senators to show your support of this bill. She not only has the link to find contact information, but also a sample letter that you can modify as you see fit. Here's the exact link: http://www.oprah.com/article/oprahshow/20080911_tows_predators

It seems like such a small thing to do, but there's strength in numbers. Let's email our senators and then pray that this bill passes.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Learning About Bees

Colony collapse disorder has been in the news a lot lately. It’s scary stuff, especially since no one knows for sure what the cause is. I’ve heard of everything from a virus to cell phone radiation as being possible culprits.

Evidently, wasps are not struggling with the same problem. This seems to be a record year for wasps in our area. We took the kids to the zoo on Saturday, and were swarmed by wasps looking for a free meal while we were trying to eat our lunch. Amazingly, no one got stung. That day, anyway.

Thursday night was a different story. Ron drank some soda and left the empty can on the picnic table. An empty soda can is equally attractive to both wasps and young children, but I didn’t notice the can until the inevitable had already taken place. I heard Sammy’s screeches of pain and turned around to see him still clutching the can, so I guessed what had happened even before Sammy blubbered, “I got a bee stung”.

He wouldn’t let me touch it to try to scrape the stinger out, so all I could do was wash the area and apply an ice pack. His cheek turned bright red and swelled up, but after an hour he didn’t complain about it anymore. Friday morning, he crawled into our bed at 5:00 a.m., like he does every morning, and after a few seconds he obviously remembered what had happened. He sat upright in bed and said, surprised, “My bee stung not hurt anymore!”

Yesterday, he went into the garage to throw something in the garbage can. After about a minute, when he didn’t return, I yelled around the corner to ask what he was doing. “I throw something away,” he said. I waited another minute. Pretty soon, he came around the corner, still clutching the garbage. “There a bee on the garbage can,” he said. I went to help him and shooed away the “bee” – a housefly. It’s good that Sammy has a healthy respect for bees/wasps now, but I guess we should work on insect identification.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Dreaded One-Year Checkup

Natalie had her one-year well-baby checkup yesterday. Dread is not a strong enough word to describe how I felt about the upcoming appointment.

Let me explain why. Twenty months ago, Sammy had his one-year appointment, and I expected that the shots would be the worst part of it all. As usual, he cried when he got the shots but got over them quickly. Then...the blood draw. You see, at our pediatrician's office, they want to check lead levels and hemoglobin levels at twelve months old. So, they stuck Sammy's finger and he instantly started screaming. It took an eternity for them to squeeze out enough blood to fill the three little tubes full of blood, with Sammy getting more and more frantic with each passing second. In the parking lot afterwards, it took literally close to an hour to calm Sammy down enough to get him into his car seat. And that was with nursing, his usual cure-all.

Now, Natalie is a bit more skittish about new situations than Sammy was. So I was expecting at least twice the commotion. She cried at her shots, but got over them pretty quickly. We dawdled in the examination room after dressing her, letting Sammy take as long as he wanted to pick out a sticker from the doctor's sticker drawer, delaying the inevitable. I walked slowly down the hall with Natalie in tow, feeling like I was leading her like a lamb to the slaughter.

I sat down in the lab chair with Natalie on my lap and tried to steel myself. I felt her flinch when the nurse stuck her finger, but...no tears. As the blood flowed into the tubes, Natalie watched with curiosity at that strange red stuff coming out of her finger. And when the nurse put a band-aid on her finger, Natalie scrutinized it and evidently found it pretty, since she proudly showed off her band-aid to everyone she came across on the way out of the doctor's office.

Well then. Ahem. To think of all the time I wasted worrying about that darn appointment, when I could have been spending all that mental energy trying to solve the current energy crisis.