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.