Monday, December 31, 2007

wrap-up

We had a lovely holiday. We enjoyed lasagna for Christmas Eve dinner (well, everybody except C. We made him some instant mac & cheese instead.) and then spent some time trying to get a family photo in front of our tree. Thankfully my sister was around to help take pictures.

We celebrated midnight mass at our parish. N fell asleep about 10 minutes in, but C & L stayed awake throughout. The boys were eager to climb into bed when we got home, and even more eager to wake in the morning!

We had our usual, relaxed Christmas morning opening gifts and taking our time. I made cinnamon rolls the night before, and baked them in the morning. After opening most of our gifts, I laid down with L and we napped a good 3 hours of the afternoon away. When we woke, my sister was here and everyone was playing Wii (the big, extravagant gift this year!)

DH made the entire dinner (I am such a lucky woman!) and it was yummy as usual. I was going to make fresh bread, but my nap put the end to that.

The next day, the kids & I started coming down with a head cold, which gradually got worse - and then better (as colds tend to do) over the next few days. I think yesterday was the worst day, but I feel a ton better today. L's nose is finally stopping the constant running, for which I'm thankful.

I still have to address and send our holiday cards (whoops!) and get our thank you notes written and mailed. DH is painting the kitchen today. We don't have any plans for New Year's Eve - other than spending it quietly in our home.

I'm thinking about resolutions for 2008 and planning a post about them tomorrow. L is stirring on my lap, so it's time to change diapers and figure out a dinner for tonight!

Monday, December 24, 2007

almost ready!


The cookies are baked (cutouts, gingerbread, peanut blossoms and haystacks) and the presents are wrapped! Today I'm making a lasagna, frosting for the cutouts, and cinnamon rolls (to be baked in the morning.) I'm doing today & tomorrow's laundry so I don't get behind.

The baby is actually napping off my body, so I can dust and sweep the livingroom. The boys are off on a bike ride with their dad.

Later tonight, we'll take our annual holiday family picture in front of the tree, enjoy midnight mass and put the kids to bed. Tomorrow we'll relax in pajamas all day and enjoy watching the kids with their new gifts.

I hope everyone enjoys a wonderfully blessed and merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

2007 Meme

As seen over at Carmen's . . .

1. What did you do in 2007 that you’d never done before?

Gave birth to a daughter

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I didn't make any resolutions last year. This year I resolve to find a way to create a 2nd revenue stream for our household, as thing are ridiculously hard again this year.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Other than myself, our boys' godmother gave birth to her first child.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Yes, my great-uncle died in November. We were lucky enough to see him in August for a family reunion, and got a picture of him with L. They were the youngest and oldest members of the family attending the reunion. I sent a copy of the photo to my great-aunt and she said it was the last photo of him, and was grateful that I sent it.

5. What countries did you visit?
none

6. What would you like to have in 2008 that you lacked in 2007?
Money. More Time. Cleaning help again!

7. What dates from 2007 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
April 29 -- birth day of L. August 8 -- 10 year anniversary with DH

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Surviving my pregnancy and giving birth to a healthy, happy baby

9. What was your biggest failure?
Not budgeting as well as I could have

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
The pregnancy was very hard on me, especially the last couple months. Recovering from my c-section was fairly easy, especially in comparison.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
I can't think of anything -- probably the co-sleeper.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
My boys stepped up to the plate and are awesome big brothers.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Mine, on occasion.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Bills, groceries, mortgages

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Welcoming L. Visiting WI with the whole family and seeing tons of family/friends we haven't seen in years.

16. What song will always remind you of 2007?
Huh. I have no idea.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: a) happier or sadder? b) thinner or fatter? c) richer or poorer?
a) about the same; b) thinner; c) poorer

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
saved more money

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
feel stressed

20. How will you be spending Christmas?
hanging out at home with my family, playing the new Wii that is our family gift

21. Did you fall in love in 2007?
Still am.

22. How many one-night stands?
None.

23. What was your favorite TV program?

Rescue Me (although I wasn't crazy about many of the storylines this year - maybe this was last year's favorite TV show), Heroes

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
No.

25. What was the best book you read?
I read many, but none come to mind. I think I need to track my books again in 2008.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Renee & Jeremy, It's a Big World. soft, sweet and gentle . . . wonderful music to calm children and myself.

27. What did you want and get?
a healthy baby

28. What did you want and not get?
A better year of commissions for DH.

29. What was your favorite film of this year?
Haven't been to the movies this year . . . except to see a kid's movie and I can't remember what it was. I rented a bunch though -- liked "A Night with the King"

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 40 in November. Celebrated with my parents who came to town! We went to a symphony concert in the afternoon, then had a wonderful homecooked meal eaten outdoors for dinner.

31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Not stressing about paying for the basics in the last few months.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2007?
Big and pregnant . . . then nothing fitting because the weight keeps dropping, but the clothes budget is nonexistent.

33. What kept you sane?
snuggling with my husband

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
no clue

35. What political issue stirred you the most?
Healthcare in America.

36. Who did you miss?
my extended family. It's hard sometimes having family all over the country, and no feasible way to get together regularly.

37. Who was the best new person you met?
L. She's made me want to do so much better for our future, and I am amazed at how wonderful she is.

38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2007.
Remember to breathe.

39. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

"Everything is possible, 'cause you're a miracle"

(Miracle, Renee & Jeremy)

Friday, December 21, 2007

sitting up

L has been crawling farther and farther each day. Today she went from a crawling position to sitting up by herself. She's very confident pulling herself up to standing and cruising along furniture.

It's so much fun watching her grow and develop. The boys are so excited to watch her learn new things as well -- they are almost as fun to watch!

infant CPR

I was nursing L late this afternoon, when she suddenly pulled away and began to choke. The scary, silent choke that screams that the air passage is blocked. I immediately flipped her over, did a sweep of her mouth and knocked her on the back. A small piece of black plastic came out, along with a bunch of mucus. She must have had the plastic tucked in her cheek, and swallowed it while nursing.

With my heart racing and my baby screaming, I sat back down in my chair and cuddled her close. Once again, I was grateful for the infant CPR class DH & I took soon after C's birth. While it is something that I hoped never to use - I have used the lessons I learned about choking at least once with each of my children.

I always tell new parents to take the time out of their busy lives to attend an infant CPR course. It's just a few hours -- and the lessons learned last a lifetime -- and probably save a few as well!

L is fine. She finished nursing, then took a nice long nap on my lap. She's sitting at my feet now, tugging at the stuffed ornaments on our Christmas tree.

If you have young children in your life, PLEASE take an infant CPR course. We probably need a refresher course, since it's been seven years since we last took the course. I'm off to search for local classes!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

presents

I wrapped and sent the box of presents to my parents today. Almost all other gifts were sent from Amazon with free shipping -- but no wrapping. In years past, we've spent over $100 in postage alone shipping gifts, so I was happy that we spent only $24.10 this year in shipping. We're waiting for DH's paycheck after Christmas to send gifts to his dad & girlfriend and his mom; but I'm hoping to spend only minimal (if any) shipping for those gifts as well.

I had an hour or so today to work on wrapping our family's gifts and got through the majority of them. In years past, gifts from Santa were not wrapped, but this year I decided there were extra elves so they are wrapped. I picked up some wrapping paper with Santa's face all over it from the dollar store and sparkly to/from gift tags. I also was able to sort out stocking stuffers, and was relieved to see that I had plenty. DH's stocking will be pretty sparse, but the kids and my sister will have nice stockings to open. L's stocking will be full of socks and bibs -- the only thing she really needs right now. She will get a couple toys (things I actually had picked up on clearance a few years ago!), but that's all.

We're having lasagna for Christmas Eve, and all I need is ground beef (raincheck from Safeway for sale price.) We've decided to go to midnight mass again this year, a tradition that I grew up with and love. I figure that L won't be able to go next year (or for a few more years), so we may as well go this year before heading back to vigil mass until she's older.

Other than wrapping a few more gifts, I'm ready for the holidays.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

tree & other holiday prep

Thursday night, I wandered out to the living room after putting L down and found that my DH had put up our tree and strung lights all over the living room! It was a very nice surprise.

On Friday, the boys and I pulled out the decorations and decorated the tree. Each ornament on our tree has a story, and I love them all. This year, I got C a dragon and N a horse as their 2007 ornament. C especially has been very interested in the fact he was born in the Chinese year of the dragon, so the ornaments went along with that. (N was born in the year of the horse, L in the year of the pig.)

I have to wrap the presents for my parents and get them in the mail tomorrow, and I plan to wrap family presents on Tuesday when my Christmas angel watches the boys (we had to cancel the first time because of illness, she & her mom forgot last week -- so we'll see her this week.)

All the shopping is done! The kids will visit Santa tomorrow, and I'll start making cookie dough this week for a big baking session on Saturday with my sister. I think we're planning on 5 different kinds of cookies.

I looked back at last year's posts this week and realized that this is the week we found out that L was a girl :) I remember how excited the boys were that they would have a sister, and that excitement has remained. She giggles in anticipation of their interactions when she sees or even just hears them come into the room.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Mom Central Review: What to Expect Guide to a Healthy Home

When the request came through for bloggers to review What to Expect Guide to a Healthy Home, I was in the midst of cleaning house during/after a rotten stomach virus. I jumped at the chance to review this booklet, in hopes of finding some tips to make sure I got all the germs OUT of our house. Since it was funded by Clorox, I admit wondering if every page was going to tell me to use a bleach solution or their wipes on every possible surface!

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the 16 page booklet presented very practical tips, and did not present any information which made me want to burn the house down and start over! While it was suggested throughout the booklet to use disinfectant wipes, I felt that it was warranted -- as they ARE a fast, easy way to disinfect surfaces.

Some of the interesting facts I learned while reading was that most people touch 300 surfaces every 30 minutes!! I assume that number is probably higher for children. I also learned that the flu virus can live for 2 days (or even longer!) on some surfaces. I had been under the misguided notion that most viruses/germs could only survive a few hours on surfaces (I have no idea where I got that idea though.)

After our stomach virus, we all picked up a chest cold. I passed this little booklet along to my 7 year old and pointed out specific pages for him to read out loud as part of his reading lessons. He was amazed to learn that 80 percent of germs are spread by touch. Even though I've taught my boys to wash their hands practically since birth, somehow reading about it in this little booklet helped drive it home even more. I heard him later in the bathroom telling his brother to close the lid before flushing, and that he'd sing the ABC's along with him to make sure he washed long enough.

The booklet is set up with 2 sections. The first is "Keeping Your House Healthy" and has tips about keeping bedrooms, bathrooms, playrooms and kitchens clean. One thing mentioned was washing plastic toys in the dishwasher, which is something I actually did with a bin of baby toys that I came across in the garage. I had saved them when the boys outgrew them, and realized they were right for L. I had planned to fill a sink with hot, soapy water and wash them all, but instead I threw them all in the dishwasher and they came out fine!

The second section is "Healthy Habits For Your Family." This had the reminders to wash your hands and encourage kids to do the same! There was also information about protecting your family from germs while away from home -- from public bathrooms, playgrounds, the family car and child care centers. I realized that I do not disinfect the car often enough, and spent yesterday afternoon wiping the inside down.

The booklet is a quick read, and I think there are definitely tips to be learned. Long ago I heard a comment that if you take the effort to learn a bunch of tips that make improvements of only 1%, before you know it, you'll have improved 100%. The booklet is available for download from the Clorox website.

Oh, and go wash your hands!

Thanks to Mom Central for the chance to read and review this booklet!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Mom Central Review: Crawling

I finished reading Elisha Cooper's book, Crawling, and immediately sought out my husband for some loving. Cooper's honest and poignant writing style brought back so many memories of the year my DH & I first became parents, that I had to go & kiss my sweet husband for all that he still does for our family.

I think fathers are often overlooked when it comes to new parenthood -- except for dumb jokes and assumed incompetence. I was delighted while reading Crawling -- a book written by a father about that first, wondrous year of becoming a parent. I was enchanted by his love for his family, and enjoyed his writing. His book of essays about that first year of fatherhood was funny, honest and charming. The overriding thing that came through was his deep and utter love for his wife and his daughter, and that was so endearing to me.

I enjoy reading about other people's lives; I know it feeds the voyeur in me. I like to read about how other people approach life and how they respond to various situations. What Cooper's family and mine have in common is a great love for our families, and I loved reading his feelings about his family. Cooper writes from a father's standpoint, but many of the things he writes ring true for any parent - male or female. At one point he wrote "Acceptance of change is at the heart of parenting . . ." and I thought "YES!" and even called a good friend (and mom to a toddler) to read her that line!

His essay about his daughter's dog bite brought tears to my eyes, and a reminder of the fear I've experienced when faced with hospital visits with my children. His book also made me think of my own sons as fathers some day -- and I imagine they will be as helpful then as they are now with me and their baby sister; fetching water and snacks so that I can spend hours each day nursing.

I looked Cooper up on Amazon and realized that we have checked out his children's books from our library in the past. I feel like I know him a little better now, and we'll look for more of his books in the future!

Thanks to Mom Central for giving me the opportunity to read & review this book!

forward movement

I forgot to post a few days ago when it first happened, but L has figured out how to crawl! She's not fast yet, and she has to be motivated, but she's done it enough times to say that she is now a crawler!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

snow adventure

Nine years ago this month, DH & I were saying goodbye to friends and family in Milwaukee in anticipation of moving to AZ after the holidays. When people asked about missing snow for Christmas, DH always replied that we could travel to Flagstaff whenever we wanted and see snow.

On Monday, we traveled to Flagstaff for the first time.

The boys have been asking to see snow for ages, and with a winter storm blowing through, we decided to take off for Flagstaff (about 3 hours from our home) and take some pictures in the snow and let the kids finally make snowballs.

It was definitely snowing and we stopped at a park about 20 miles outside of Flagstaff to let the kids run and play in the snow. We got some great pictures and the boys had a blast. The snow was coming down softly and C kept complaining that we did not stop and buy them mittens because it was cold.

N mentioned that he never thought snow would CRUNCH, he thought it was just soft like cotton. I thought that was a pretty interesting observation -- growing up in snow I never thought about the crunchiness of it.

After a while of making and throwing snowballs, and running through the snow, we decided to climb back in the van. We drove a bit further into the park, thinking there would be more to see, and assuming there would be another parking area not that far. We were wrong.

After a couple miles, DH decided that we should turn around. He started to make the turn, and the van got stuck. He hopped out, pushing while I gave the van gas, and we got out of the spot. We switched places and he started to drive. And the van started to slip. And slip. And slip right off the road. Where the front tires got firmly stuck and the van was at a slight angle. DH pushing couldn't get us out this time (although he did try!)

I was thankful that we had cell reception, and called AAA. Who took all my information, assured me someone would be there in an hour, and told me to keep the baby warm. And then called back to tell me they couldn't help me after all, since I was in a state park and off a paved road (the snow was covering it and we didn't realize it wasn't paved.) They connected me to a towing company who wanted almost $500 to come and try to pull us out. I took his number and we began brainstorming.

We called the sheriff's office, who promised to come check on us in a few hours -- definitely before dark he thought. We called information trying to get a number for a park ranger, with no luck.

The boys thought it was great fun and were running around in the snow. The snow was falling more heavily now and it was pretty :)

2 young men drove by on their ATV's and tried to help push us out. They had no luck either, so they offered to go get their truck and come back with a chain. After they left, another ATV came by and he worked for the fire department, so he offered to get one of the trucks from the station.

The 2 men came back with their truck and after much effort, our van was back on the road! We thanked them profusely (thanks again, Cody & Cameron!!!) and they offered to follow us out in case we went off the road again. I got everyone strapped back into the van and we were about to head off when DH looked out the mirror and said "Um, I think they're stuck!"

Sure enough -- their truck went off the road and so DH tried to help them get back on the road. A truck drove up and I went to the window (I was blocking the road at this point, but I was afraid to move the van), and I told him that we were stuck, but 2 kind boys helped us, but now they were stuck! He asked if it was a black truck and I responded that it was. He shook his head a little and said "That's my son . . . " About that time, DH & the boys came around the curve and DH said the boy said "Oh, this is embarrassing, that's my dad!" Turns out, his dad was the fire chief.

The chief got his truck around our van, and I assume he pulled his boy's truck out of the ditch. We carefully drove out of the park, hopped back on the freeway, and drove back to warm Phoenix. N said at one point "I need to really enjoy this, because this is the last time I'll be a child in the snow!", because I kept saying this was the last time I would make this trip! LOL!

It was actually a fun day, and I'm glad I went. I'm also perfectly happy waiting another 9 years to spend time in the snow!

Friday, December 07, 2007

stuffed animals

My boys love their stuffed animals! Over the last couple years, I have tried to cut down on their numbers, but they still have millions. Okay, maybe just thousands.

This last bout of illness had me feeling crazy about the animals. They each had dozens (literally) on their beds and many found themselves in the path of puke. And then the rest were thrown to the floor in order to change the sheets 4 or 5 times (again, literally -- gaw, it was awful.) It was nearly impossible to walk into their room, since floor space is at a premium as it is. Thankfully, the ones that needed washing survived the washing machine beautifully.

I declared earlier in the week that they could have SEVEN animals on their beds. I wish you could have witnessed the anguish and difficulty they went through in trying to choose their seven. The rest went into a bin, with the promise that they could switch out animals whenever they wanted -- but they had to keep only seven on their beds.

Today I started to tackle the playroom. I went through it when I was pregnant, but you'd never know it. I managed to fill up 5 bags of trash (misc. Happy Meal toys, broken things, things they've outgrown.) Maybe 1 bag would have been worthy of donation somewhere, but I just wasn't going to take the time to sort it like that.

And then I came across another bin of stuffed animals. And then a basket in the closet (which I will HAVE to clear out since there are newborn clothes in there from Nate - who is 5 1/2. But, I think I'm waiting on that for a couple more months.) And yet another bin of stuffed animals. I swear they multiply when my back is turned.

They really care about the animals, and they do play with them. They have elaborate games of jungle, or zoo, or pet store. They are confidants and buddies. Some have special meaning because of who gifted them, others are special just because they struck a fancy. I feel like a meanie by insisting they cut down on the numbers - but they just make a mess!!

Does anyone have any brilliant stuffed toy strategy? (Other than donating them all?) We tried the corner hammocks before, but they weren't able to get them easily -- they would just knock them all out and then couldn't return them. I am donating the extra bins I found in the playroom today -- so maybe being down to just one bin isn't so bad.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

St. Nick's Day

My boys are finally feeling better, and I think L has left illness behind as well. My voice is gone today, but it's just a winter cold . . . that hopefully stays just with me!

The boys were excited this morning to wake to goodies in their shoes. C insisted on leaving his outside the front door, as he didn't want the door to be left unlocked and it stressed him thinking of a stranger (even if it was St. Nicholas!) coming into our home. (We have similar issues over Santa.) The shoes were inside when they woke, but we told them that DH woke earlier and brought them in.

They each had a chocolate St. Nick, a pen with a snowglobe and a Christmas-themed jigsaw puzzle. I bought chocolate gold coins . . . but couldn't find them last night. I guess they'll go into their stockings!

We read "The Baker's Dozen" last night which is about St. Nicholas cookies and greediness. And I read the story of St. Nicholas this morning. They did a coloring page of St. Nicholas riding through a town on a white horse with a sack of treats on his back.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Kenosha?

Who's in Kenosha? Do I know you IRL? Just curious, as I see you've visited 2 of my blogs. Leave me a comment, or drop me an email! thanks ;0

under the weather

I had 1/2 thought the boys might have had food poisoning (they ate the same type of sub for lunch), but L threw up all over me Monday night, so I guess they had some random bug.

I'm almost afraid to say it, but it looks like DH & I are safe. N was still sick Tuesday AM, and I kept him home from enrichment today because he was complaining of a sore throat and still feeling yucky.

I'm coming down with a cold; I can feel it settling into my throat and chest. Can my breastmilk keep L from catching it? I sure hope so! She's been a bear the last few days . . .refusing to be more than an inch away from me at any time, and only napping if she's attached to me somehow. It's been an exhausting few days.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

puke buckets

After completing our grocery shopping yesterday, both boys started complaining of not feeling well. About an hour later, the vomiting started.

I am so thankful I was caught up on laundry, as we went through 4 sets of sheets and almost every blanket in our house last night, as well as multiple pairs of pajamas and an entire drawer of clothes (N first got sick as he was getting into his pajamas, leaning over an open drawer.) My poor, sweet boys were both violently ill from around 6PM until almost 5AM. N got the worst of it, but C was pretty sick as well. They spent a good portion of today in bed, which tells you how awful they felt.

I hope tomorrow sees the end of this bug. N cried out around midnight last night "I can't even get a WINK of sleep!!" And C cried out once "I was sleeping so peacefully before I got sick AGAIN!"

I was thankful that DH was home to help, but it was still difficult to clean up & comfort the boys at the same time and keep track of L between the 2 of us. I am so very grateful that my husband doesn't shirk from helping out in situations like this -- he was there with towels and wet rags and the carpet cleaner and puke buckets. And, then he let me go to bed with L around midnight and stayed with the boys all night taking care of them. He truly is a gem.

L seems fine -- she has nursed quite a bit today, but doesn't seem to be sick at all. DH & I are also fine, which means I'm still caught up on laundry (the washing machine has been running non-stop!)

An interesting start to Advent, but hopefully this means we're done with sickness for the holidays??

Friday, November 30, 2007

I Did It!

Christmas Angel

I got a call yesterday from a friend who announced "I have a Christmas present for you!"

I tentatively answered "Okay?" as I'm scrambling in my brain thinking why she would be giving me a Christmas present. While I do consider her a friend, she's really more of an acquaintance -- we know each other from church, and a homeschool group, and from a few other shared experiences. I like her very much, but we just haven't gotten that deep.

She replied "I'm giving you my teenager for 3 hours. Whenever you want, so you can do whatever you want while she watches the kids."

"WOW! Okay!" "If you want to think about it and call us back . . . " "OH, NO! Let's get out the calendar and get it set right away!" ( I know her daughter; she's very sweet and kind and my boys know and like her as well.)

She's coming next Tuesday afternoon. I had thrown a random comment out a few weeks ago on an internet board that what I wanted for Christmas this year was time. She saw it, and she & her sweet daughter decided to gift me. A wonderfully fabulous gesture that I am so grateful for!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

sweet potatoes

We've had a great day so far. Tuesday had been very challenging . . . but everyone seems to have snapped out of it today!

C woke early and got started on his schooling immediately. He cheerfully completed the work he didn't finish on Tuesday, then did today's work and tomorrow's! N woke later, but was also cheerful about completing his assignments.

They played outside without fighting, and are now watching a Mickey Christmas dvd. They wanted to watch Rudolph, but our VCR is acting up.

L didn't nap . . . she naps beautifully when the boys aren't home on Wednesdays and I'm not sure what to do. She is a very light sleeper . . . although you'd think the 3rd should be able to sleep through anything!

L & I just finished a sweet potato that DH grilled on Thanksgiving. L & I are the only ones who like sweet potatoes, but DH cheerfully cooks them for me. I just warmed it back up, split it open and enjoyed! I love the taste of sweet potatoes.

L is cranky, so I'm going to snuggle her and hope I can get her to stay asleep for more than 5 minutes. Tomorrow I'll write about a Christmas angel who called me this morning ;)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Mother Talk Review: The Daring Book for Girls

When I opened the package containing The Daring Book for Girls, I was immediately impressed. I was grateful that it wasn't pink for starters, but it was sparkly! I started flipping through the book and couldn't help but think of young women who would love this book as a gift.

My sister came over and started flipping through the book. Her first reaction was "How cool! I want this book!" (She's 28, and I may just give her a copy for Christmas this year!) I found something new every time I picked it up over the last few weeks.

I imagined what fun it would have been to receive this book for Christmas as a child and spending the next few weeks (months, years!) reading through it whenever I had a chance. As a child, this would have appealed to me immensely. I loved playing Nancy Drew and Harriet the Spy, and this book would have fed into my play beautifully. It is chock full of interesting facts and things to do. There are sections on
  • Reading Tide Charts
  • Karate Moves
  • Every Girl's Toolbox
  • How to Put Your Hair Up with a Pencil
  • Rules of the Game for Softball, Basketball, Darts and more
  • Princesses Today
  • How to be a Spy
  • and tons (literally tons!) more
Even though The Daring Book for Girls is obviously geared for girls, there is plenty of interesting stuff in here for my two active boys. My oldest was fascinated by the sections on creating a clock that runs on lemons and bird watching. My middle child wanted my oldest to read the section on knots out loud a few times to help him learn to tie better knots. And they both looked through it for things to do with their baby sister as she grows.

One of the things I loved most was how nothing in the book required a computer. It encourages children to be active, playing, working, thinking, outdoors and indoors -- using their hands and minds to create.

Andrea Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz did an amazing job creating this book. The extensive research and the wide breadth of subjects is fantastic. I will be giving it as birthday gifts for many years to come as the young girls in our life grow older.

Check out the website for the book for more information, and some fun downloads!

I was able to review this book thanks to MotherTalk.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

laundry

I think I'd be mortified to look back through this blog and see how many entries I wrote about laundry. It's something that everyone does, and I don't know why it's one of the hardest housekeeping tasks I perform!

I've started having the boys fold and put away their own laundry. They had been putting away their clothes for at least a year, but in the last couple months I've had them fold as well. You'd think I was asking them to fold EVERYONE'S laundry (like I have done for years . . . .) I am holding firm on this one, however, and will continue to wash and dry their clothes, but I'm not folding or putting them away.

Today I cleaned the washing machine. For something that is supposed to clean clothes, it's amazing how much gunk ends up in the fabric softener cup and around the edges. I clean it at least once a month, and I'm so glad I do as I caught sight of someone's recently who I don't think has ever cleaned it and it looked disgusting. (how about that for a run-on, ungrammatical sentence?)

I wrote out the laundry schedule yesterday. I've had a few over the years, and with L's appearance it's time for a new one.
  • Monday - adult whites & socks/unmentionables
  • Tuesday - boys clothes (usually 2 loads)
  • Wednesday - L's clothes (usually 1 load)
  • Thursday - adult darks (usually 2 loads, sometimes 3. I wash shirts separate from pants.)
  • Friday - towels (we go through a ridiculous amount of towels, but hopefully with the pool closed we'll do better. I'm seriously considering emptying the linen closet and donating about 1/2 the towels just to cut down on the amount of dirty towels that are possible.)
  • Saturday - sheets (everyone's, which means at least 2 loads. More when I'm also washing blankets, which I do at least once a month.)
When it's laid out like that, it doesn't seem like such a big deal. I know it works better when I get the loads started in the morning and have them completed (meaning put away!) by lunch, so that's what I'm trying to do. We're on track so far this week, which feels good.

I have said since L's birth that when I can get back on track with laundry I'd put her into cloth diapers. I know that's a place where I can save some money (granted, it's probably about $10/week, but every little bit helps.) I already have the diapers, only need a couple covers, and we're ready to go. The thought of the laundry, however, has kept me from it. It would mean about 3 extra loads a week.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Fundraiser

My dear friend, Kelly, has some amazing children! They decided they wanted to donate "everything for a family with nothing" through the Food for the Poor organization. This means they have to raise more than $3500!! They are working hard towards their goal, and I want to help them get there.

They are hosting an online Usborne book show with 20% of all sales going right back to them for their donation. If you have kids to buy for this year, please consider giving books! Usborne has some of the best educational (and fun!) books out there. If you shop through this link, your books will be shipped right to your door within a few days.

For more information about their efforts, please visit the blog their mom set up to share their progress. If you have any questions about Usborne, please drop me a note (or comment). Thanks!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Mom Central Review: Jump Start World 1st Grade

We have had a great time this week playing Jump Start World, 1st Grade. When I told C (my first grader) that we had the chance to review this software, he eagerly checked the mailbox each day. He had previously played it at his enrichment program, and had told me he liked it. He was excited we'd be getting a copy of our own to play at home.

We had a little trouble loading it (took a couple restarts of the machine to get it working), but once it was loaded, the boys were off! The software is set up like an adventure video game, with multiple characters to "be" and lots of different places to visit. C was a bit annoyed that the mouse didn't move his character, and that he had to use the arrow keys instead. Once he got used to it, however, it wasn't an issue any longer.

C quickly started earning "gems" by playing different games geared to helping him practice math, reading and other first grade skills. (The website talks about the curriculum standards here. I liked the fact that it clearly explained what each module was helping the kids learn.) N has also enjoyed playing (he's my kindergartener), since there is plenty of vocal help from characters within the game.

When I asked C what I should share about Jump Start, he told me "Tell them it is a lot of fun. You can be a different character every time you play! The games are fun and pretty easy to play."

The box and website refer to a Parent Center, but I was unable to locate it in the game. From the screen shot, it looks like a parent can see exactly how a child is progressing through the different units. I searched the game, and then the website and wasn't able to find the answer. In the FAQ section, I was told the information could be found in the Parent Center, but I couldn't find out where the Parent Center is located.

The game, as purchased, includes 2 adventure units, which provide 80 or so learning games. Additional units can be purchased via a monthly subscription, which can add 10 more units to the game. I'll be more likely to purchase the additional units if I can find the Parent Center so I have a clear picture of how the boys are doing on individual tasks.

I know the boys will continue playing this game. It will make a nice complement to our regular schooling activities, and reinforce the skills that they are learning. I would recommend it to other other families with first graders, if they were looking for an educational software game.

I was able to review this product thanks to Mom Central!

I have another week

Advent doesn't start until NEXT Sunday. I feel like a doofus. It usually starts the Sunday after Thanksgiving, but that would have meant there were 5 Sundays in Advent this year, when there are only 4.

Oh, well, that means I have another week to get done what I wanted before it started.

yesterday was a bust

Um, yea, all that stuff I thought I'd be doing yesterday?

Didn't do a lick of it.

Maybe today . . .

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Advent Preparation

Advent is the season of preparation, and today is my day to prepare for that season!

My sister and I sat down last night and decided what Christmas cookies we wanted to make this year and picked a weekend to make them. I will go through the list and check for ingredients we need to add to the shopping lists over the next couple weeks.

Today is a cleaning day. I'm almost caught up on laundry, so I will finish the laundry today and then re-create my laundry schedule. Years ago, I had a great schedule that had me doing laundry 5 days/week almost and I never had overflowing baskets. I need to add in L's laundry to the schedule, but I still hope to keep laundry to only 5 days a week.

The kitchen is clean, but today I'm going to wipe down the cupboards and the chandelier. The house will get vacuumed or swept as necessary. The boys room is clean, but I still have work to do on mine. The fish tanks need to be cleaned today. The house needs to be dusted.

The playroom is the worst room of the house (well, maybe the office is the worst . . . ) and I don't think I'm going to tackle those rooms today. They WILL get done before Christmas is here, however!

I found the box of Christmas/Advent/winter books, so I just need to put them in a basket and place them in the living room.

I'm trying to decide when to put up our tree, and I think we'll wait until the 16th. That gives us a couple weeks to enjoy it, but not too much. I imagine L will be crawling by then, which will be fun ;) DH will probably finish the outside lighting tomorrow after church.

Friday, November 23, 2007

shopping

My sister and I pored over the ads yesterday, and decided that there wasn't much to get us out early. Both of the deals we were interested in involved mail-in rebates to get the super-low price, and so weren't that good of a deal.

I called her when we were all up and dressed -- which ended up being around 9:30. I had been up at 5:30, and considered staying up, but fell back asleep with L.

Around 10:30 we headed out and found it easy to park everyplace we went! We visited 3 stores and did buy a few things -- but didn't spend very much. We took L with us, and the best part was just hanging around with my sister and the baby. We didn't get home until around 5, mainly because we wandered the stores we did visit quite a bit and stopped for lunch as well.

I was able to find a horse ornament for N, and new pj's for the boys. I also took advantage of a great sale at TRU and picked up a Lego kit and a K'Nex kit for the boys' Christmas. I bought a large griddle, since ours broke last week. We didn't have to wait in line at any of the stores we visited!

L was an angel. I nursed her a couple times while we were out, but she was content to hang out in the sling and even napped a couple times while out and about. She was great in the restaurant as well -- sitting and playing on the bench seat next to me while I enjoyed my lunch.

It was really nice being able to be out and not referee the boys, placate them, or argue with them. We didn't have to rush through any of the stores. It was a calm, enjoyable day.

When I came home, DH had a good start at putting up our Christmas lights, which brought a cheery glow to our street. Tomorrow I plan on doing some house cleaning in preparation of Advent.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

something new

I wanted to add something new to this year's Thanksgiving -- so I tried this crustless cranberry pie. It was DELICIOUS! It was easy to put together, and had wonderful flavor -- a little tart, but just right. I will definitely be making this again in the future.

We had a nice dinner. Just us, and my sister. She brought the green bean casserole, DH made the turkey (grilled outside with fresh rosemary under the skin and in the cavity -- scrumptious!), I made the mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, cranberry pie and whole wheat dinner rolls. My sister made the gravy, which we forgot to eat! I also forgot to put out the salad . . . oh, well! DH roasted a couple sweet potatoes for me to eat this week -- I'm the only one who likes them, so I'll share some with L.

L loved the mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie filling. C complained about something food-wise (as usual) and N ate a good meal. The boys wouldn't try the cranberry pie, which was okay, as it means more for me!

Happy Thanksgiving!


Hope everyone enjoys their Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

sleep . . . glorious sleep . . .

I can't believe I'm posting this!

L and I went to sleep a little after midnight last night. She's finally big enough so that I don't worry as much about nursing her in bed, so I slept mostly until around 7. Got up and helped the boys get off to their enrichment program. Climbed back into bed to give her the morning feed and fell asleep.

Until the phone rang at noon!! DH couldn't believe I was asleep and very apologetic for waking me. She woke to nurse; I fell back asleep until around 1. Got up, she stayed sleeping! I was able to make myself some tea, egg and grits, throw in a load of laundry, clean the kitchen, fold a load of laundry, respond to a few emails, update my picture blog and read a few blogs.

She finally woke right around 2, so we both hopped in the shower and she's eating again now before we need to leave to get the boys in about 15 minutes.

I feel wonderful. That's an understatement.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

dangers of kids reading . . . LOL

We sent back a couple movies to N*tflix recently, and when I went to check our queue to see what would be arriving soon, I found that the first 15 or so movies were things like "Looney Tunes, Vol 5" and "The Pink Panther" and "Tom and Jerry." I called out "Hey! Who messed with my queue?" DH responds "Not me!" I start listing the movies and C says "Oh, that was me!"

I asked him "How did you get into the queue?" and he replied that he typed in "n*tflix.com and got there. "How did you get them to the top?" "I read the information. The box said 'Move to top' so I clicked that button." Turns out he added about 50 movies to the queue overall.

I started laughing and also looking into setting up a separate profile for kids' movies. Unfortunately, you can't copy movies between queues, so he'll have to start from scratch. A good afternoon project for him, I think!

This is also the kid who explained to his grandfather about going to "The Google" to find Underdog videos on Y*uT*be. LOL!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Mashed Potatoes (again . . . LOL)

You Are Mashed Potatoes

Oridnary, comforting, and more than a little predictable
You're the glue that holds everyone together.

MmmmMmmmMMmm

The title represents L's way of saying "momma." She's been doing it for a few weeks now, and while I may have put it off as random sounds, others have noticed that it's a definite sound she makes when she sees me. My parents noticed it right away when they were here last week.

I have to admit that it's cute. I need to step up using sign language with her, as it was such a help with both boys. I started with C much sooner, but around now with N. C's first sign was "all done" and N's first sign was "more," which tells quite a bit about their eating habits even today!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Advent a week away!

Advent starts next Sunday!

My plan for the week is to:
  • Catch up on laundry (I really really really need to do this, and then STAY on top of it!)
  • Clean my bedroom
  • Write a plan about how we're celebrating Advent this year
  • Find the Advent/Christmas season books and put them in a basket in the living room next Sunday. Some years past I have wrapped them -- not sure if I'm going to make the effort this year.
  • Write out a baking plan, including cookies and other treats as well as WHEN they'll be baked.
  • Finalize our gift list.
  • Put stuff up on ebay to earn the money to purchase our gift list.
  • Shop for, and celebrate Thanksgiving
The boys & I cleaned their bedroom thoroughly last week. Since I'm going to tackle my room this week, I'll put off the playroom another week I think. Some major decluttering will have to happen in there, especially since that room needs to become L's room in the next few months and the playroom and the boys' room will need to be combined.

One of my plans for Advent is to hold Sunday as a day of rest. Too often, it becomes a day of errands and cleaning house after church. I want it to become a day of rest and enjoyable family time and I decided that Advent was as good a time as any to start implementing that.

Another thing I want to do is finally finish all the decluttering that I started during my pregnancy. Our office is the worst area at the moment. I would love for the house to be decluttered and painted (interior) by Christmas -- or the New Year at the latest. Careful planning (and help from DH & the boys) can make it happen!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

mommy guilt

C's allergies have been bothering him for a couple months or so. He was scheduled for a well-child visit last week, so I thought I'd talk to the doctor at that time. His well-visit appointment was rescheduled for December (his ped is pregnant and couldn't work full days any longer), but I decided he needed to be seen as his allergies were really bothering him.

Turns out that while he may have allergies, the major issue is that his asthma is flaring up. Since he wasn't wheezing, I didn't even consider that his asthma might be bothering him! I feel horrid that I didn't consider asthma. I was smug in thinking he had outgrown it, since it didn't seem that he had any problems in over a year!

I filled his prescriptions today, so we're on our way to getting it back under control. I feel guilt that I didn't realize and he's been suffering needlessly for months (at least!) DH doesn't think I should feel guilty about it, but I do :(

Friday, November 16, 2007

mashed potatoes

How do you make your mashed potatoes? I've always added cold milk and butter to cooked potatoes and mashed them together with salt, pepper and some paprika.

C received a new cookbook for his birthday (Kids Cook 1-2-3) and their recipe for mashed potatoes called for heating up the milk before adding to the cooked potatoes. I gave it a try, and I think it made them taste better! I love mashed potatoes, as do my kids. I didn't tell anyone about the change, and N said "These are the BEST mashed potatoes you ever made!" so I don't think it was just my imagination. I don't know why the heated milk made them better, but I'll be doing that from now on.

C can't wait to try their recipe for popcorn. We've always made microwave popcorn, but they have a recipe in there for stovetop popcorn. I agreed to buy some kernels and give it a shot. We have a large pot with a clear lid that'll be fun to watch the kernels through.

The cookbook isn't a typical kid's cookbook since it doesn't have any photographs and the recipes are a bit advanced (even though each only calls for 3 ingredients.) I like it, though, and look forward to making more recipes from it with him.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Thanksgiving Menu

I just realized Thanksgiving is next week already! Which means Advent starts next Sunday, and before I know it, Christmas will be here! I've been vaguely planning for the holidays for a couple months, but it's time to get serious. I need to make lists, get started on homemade gifts, and decide what is most important this year.

First, though, I need to shop for Thanksgiving dinner. One of my favorite Thanksgivings was the year we moved out here. Since our family was so far away, we decided to drive to Rocky Point, Mexico and camp for the weekend. I had sea bass for dinner, and we camped in the back of our old minivan. It was completely stress-free and wonderful!

This year, it'll be another traditional holiday. Hopefully everyone will be well, since the last few years my sister has either been sick, or stayed away because one of the boys was sick.

Our (boring) menu for this year will be:

Turkey, cooked outside on the grill
Mashed Potatoes (made from scratch)
Gravy (made from scratch)
Green Bean Casserole (which I don't like and have been thinking of buying pre-made)
Rolls (still debating about store-bought and home-made)
Cranberry Relish (deciding between trying to make something fancy or just using store-bought)
Pumpkin Pie


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

7 Years Old?

The child who made me a mother turned 7 years old today!

It's hard to believe that 7 years ago I was in the hospital, wondering when we'd meet this little boy that turned our world upside down! We had wanted children for so long, only to be told it was pretty much impossible. 12 weeks prior (to the day!) I was told that I was pregnant -- and we found out that a very healthy, 28 week old baby was growing inside of me. Those 12 weeks were a whirlwind of activity, but it was a wonderful whirlwind!

Of my 3 children, C is most like me in temperament and personality. He is intense, emotional and loving. He takes his role as a big brother very seriously -- even when he would rather not. He is a very kind and friendly child. He talks a lot, and enjoys carrying on conversations.

He is a voracious reader and has no problem asking for help when he's not sure about something. He currently loves learning about dinosaurs, the stars, Pecos Bill, and knights. He loves listening to audiobooks at night when falling asleep. (He'll be thrilled to learn that we got him "Trumpet of the Swan" to add to his collection of audiobooks.)

He requested ham, mashed potatoes and green beans for dinner tonight. He also requested a vanilla cake with strawberry frosting. I bought a few fresh strawberries to put on top of the cake, but will use frozen for the frosting.

He is attending his enrichment program today, and I miss him. It'll be time to pick him up soon enough, though, and we can celebrate the rest of his birthday! He was born at 6:20 in the evening, so he isn't "officially" seven yet!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

errands & driving

With gas costing $2.93/gallon, I am trying to be even more careful about where and how often I drive places. Especially since DH drives all over the state for work, and we are 100% responsible for the gas purchases.

This morning, we dropped off netflix movies to the post office, visited the bank, got haircuts for the boys, stopped at the library and picked up McDonald's lunch on the way home. I thought ahead so my route wasn't all over the place, and I think I did a pretty good job of it.

At the library, I started teaching the boys how to use the catalog. A part of me really misses the card catalogs of my youth -- but I can see how much more efficient the computerized catalogs are. I do think it's important to learn the dewey decimal system, but I think the boys are too young for that! It is enough to teach them about searching the catalog, and then how to find the books they want using the numbers from their searches. We looked up books about Pecos Bill and Johnny Appleseed today.

While I love my house and the area we live in, I do regret that we aren't able to walk anywhere! The last house we lived in while in Milwaukee we could walk to a gorgeous park, at least 2 libraries, a dozen restaurants, 2 Catholic churches, the lake, numerous stores, and more! Here, I can walk by the 77 houses in our neighborhood. Nothing is closer than 2-3 miles away. It's something I regret, but I don't see a way to live any differently at this point.

Monday, November 12, 2007

me & my kids

We enjoyed a lovely day at the botanical gardens yesterday. DH snapped this shot of me & the kids. I don't look 40, do I? (Although, I guess since I AM 40, I do look 40 . . . )

My parents left this morning for the long drive back home. It was nice having them here for a visit, and I know they enjoyed having "fun" this time instead of doing projects which is what usually fills their stay here. Hopefully, the next trip I'll be able to spend more time with them.

Right after they left, I put L in the co-sleeper for a moment and when I came back she had pulled herself to standing! She has been sitting for longer periods of time, and now she's pulling up! I started to walk at 9 months; C at 10; I wonder when she'll start? (N didn't bother to walk until 13 months.) I get flak for carrying her "so much," but she's perfectly fine developmentally.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

reluctant napper

L has been a reluctant napper. I have struggled to find the right way to get her to nap. For a short while, the swing was the answer -- but then she learned to flip herself out of it, so we had to put it in the garage.

I'm almost afraid to write this out, but I think we've turned a corner. I finally found a pacifier that she is willing to take when she is asleep and would like to suckle on my nipple while sleeping. For a week or so now, I've been able to successfully transfer myself out of her mouth and the pacifier in -- and she's stayed asleep!

The next problem was moving her from my arms. I've learned to make a tight nest of pillows in the middle of my bed to lay her in. Then I cover her with a blanket. Put my hands on her belly. Breathe deeply. Slowly move away from the bed.

About 5 minutes later, she flips onto her belly. And I panic that she can't breathe, but I also don't want to lose the napping time. DH reminds me that her mother is also a belly sleeper, and also that she has no problem flipping from belly to back, so I relax a bit.

She sleeps. For at least an hour, sometimes more. It's more than I've ever gotten before so I'm grateful.

Hopefully this will last for at least a month before a new routine has to be found!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Happy Birthday to Me!


My parents are in town to celebrate my 40th birthday with me! We're off to an afternoon symphony concert, then steaks on the grill when we get home.

I'm not sure how I feel about turning 40. Obviously, it's better than the alternative. But I'm doing some soul searching about what the future holds and what I need to do to be happy with it.

Friday, November 09, 2007

what works for our family

A common refrain that DH & I use is "it works best for our family." Stress on the word "our". It's something that comes up when our choices are questioned, or we're feeling put down, or comparing ourselves to others. Sometimes it's me reminding him, and other times it's him reminding me. I think the best times are when we look at each other and both feel confident and grateful for the choices we've made.

We do our best to make choices and decisions that will work for OUR family. We realize they may not be the best choices for other families to make, and we try not to be judgmental -- and hope to avoid judgment by others.

I admit, though, that I often hope that I am a good example, and that my choices are inspirational to others. Inspirational may be a rather lofty goal, but on days when I'm feeling down and it seems another way would be easier . . . it gives me a push to go on making those choices for our family.

It's not easy to be open to life, or for me to stay at home, or homeschool, or breastfeed, or a myriad of other choices we've made. I believe, wholeheartedly, though that they are the best choices for OUR family.

I try my best not to judge others, and be cheerful and open when questioned about our choices.
Sometimes I fail, but yet I continue to try.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

L's first tea party

The tea party yesterday was a great success. L was an angel -- even falling asleep for about 20 minutes during the middle of it. My mom bought her a sweet tiara with pink feathery fringe as a remembrance of the day. I do hope we make it an annual tradition, as I think it'd be a wonderful memory for L as she grows up.

It's definitely NOT someplace I'd like to go with the boys, however -- way too many breakables, since it is also a shop and the eating tables are scattered throughout all the merchandise. In fact, it'll be tricky with L during her toddler years, but keeping track of one is much easier than keeping track of 3.

C was feeling under the weather last night. I'm hoping he was just exhausted (he's had VERY late bedtimes this week), on top of allergies. He was asleep by 8PM last night, and is still sleeping now (after 9AM.) Today will be a laid back day, since my parents & sister are on an 8 hour jeep tour. We'll probably do some light schooling, but I'm going to give him plenty of opportunity to rest since tomorrow, Saturday & Sunday are all busy days.

I have a rare moment of silence right now that I'm savoring. All the kids are sleeping and DH is out of town. Whoops!! There's my middle boy walking into the kitchen! Time to start my day officially.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

girls' day out!


My mom is in town this week, and brought along one of her dear friends.

My sister and I decided it would be fun to have a girls' day out and visit a local tea shop. We chose this one and are looking forward to enjoying their "Ceremony of Loveliness" which includes tea, sandwiches and sweets. L will join us, of course, and I hope she is in a better mood than she has been the last few days.

We haven't been to this shop yet, and I hope it is as nice as the website makes it appear. I think this could become a lovely tradition to have when she comes to visit.

My dad was very brave and offered to watch the boys while we enjoy our day. DH is headed out of town today for calls, so he won't be around as backup. I think the boys are old enough to behave well for my dad, but I hope my expectations and his are similar. I've told them they need to be on their best behavior!

Do you have any traditions when family visits? One of ours seemed to be that my mom visits and does a lot of the cooking . . . but she decided that she wasn't cooking this trip. I think she'll enjoy going out to tea a bit more :)

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

cleaning out email boxes

I have 2 main email accounts, and realized yesterday that I had about 15,000 emails between them! Argh!!

A great majority were sales/newsletter/special offer type emails that I would skim (or not), but not bother to delete in a very long time. I have to say that I like gmail even more these days (my main emails are with yahoo and gmail.) It was much easier to do a search in gmail and delete 100's of emails at a time. I also like being able to apply labels to incoming and existing mail. It makes for an extremely easy filing system -- and also an even easier way to find hundreds of emails to delete!

After about an hour of concerted searching, deleting and un-subscribing from newsletters, I'm down to about 3,000 emails. Another hour or so and I should only have those that deserve saving (emails from family, friends and the occasional business offer.) It feels great!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Entertainment Software Rating Board

My husband and boys have wanted a Wii since they came out. When my DH walked into Target on a recent Monday and found a short stack of Wii boxes sitting in the electronics department, he called and asked if he could get one for the boys' Christmas. I knew that my interest in video games was about to go up a few levels.

I was vaguely aware of the rating system for video games, but was amazed at the wealth of information found at the Entertainment Software Rating Board website. I knew of the letter ratings, but I didn't realize that the rating was expanded to include information about content that contributed to the rating -- including mature humor, violence, blood, and even tobacco references. Now I know to look at the back of video game boxes to find out what type of content will be found.

I was also a little surprised to learn that "E" refers to "Everyone" over the age of 6. Since N is 5 1/2, I'm not concerned about "E" games right now, but that was a good thing to know, especially with an infant who will grow up with a Wii in the house.

The website also includes information about setting parental controls on a number of different game systems. While I envision having direct control about the games the boys will be playing, I can see that they will likely share games in the future with their friends. By setting parental controls right away, I won't have to worry about them playing games on our machine that I would find inappropriate.

Another great feature of the website is the search feature. Right on the front page, as well as various pages throughout the site, you can search for games based on publisher, title, platform, rating and/or content. You can set multiple search criteria within each area as well. This is a quick way for me to search for games that we might want to purchase in the future. It's also a great tool to share with family & friends who might want to purchase games for our kids. After just a few seconds, I found that there are 106 games rated "E" for our Wii that have no descriptors.

I know that I'll be using the ESRB site quite a bit in the coming years. I have shared it with family & friends already who have kids and video games. The wealth of information and ease of use makes this site a great tool for parents!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

grocery lists

Do you shop with a list? Over the years, I've gone back and forth about shopping with lists -- and I have to admit that we save money and I have a better idea of what we'll be eating when I take the time to make a list. I *knew* I needed a few things yesterday so I went to the store with just a minimal list in mind, and no meals planned for the week. I spent $76.13 and didn't get enough to ensure we had meals for more than 2 days. Ugh!!

My sister was free (and it's much easier when I have all 3 kids if she comes along,) L had just been fed, and I didn't want to waste my window of opportunity -- so I headed off without the week's meals planned. And I picked up a bunch of stuff that didn't really translate into meals for my family. With our budget being so tight right now, I really can't afford to be unorganized.

My mom tends to plan meals 1-2 days out and then shops multiple times during the week. I prefer to get my shopping done in one trip per week. Which works best when things are planned (as I think I've mentioned!)

I'm going to hit publish, then plan out the rest of the week's meals. Are your meals planned for the week already? Do you plan out breakfasts, lunches and snacks as well as dinners? I started doing that and it helps immensely, plus the boys love being able to see what the planned snacks are for each day.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

weird doc questions

When I took L in for her 6 month checkup this week, the pediatrician asked me "So, is she starting to respond to tone in your voice? Like if you tell her 'no', she gets a little pouty face?"

I looked at her blankly. Why in the world would you have to say "no" to a 6 month old baby? What could she possibly do that I need to correct her for? She sleeps, eats and babbles. She's barely mobile (although she did manage to crawl out of her co-sleeper this morning onto our bed.)

I said "Ummm, no -- but she definitely lights up when she hears her dad or her brothers come into a room. Is that what you're looking for?" She marked something down in the chart, and we moved on.

Overall, I like our ped. But I thought that was a really weird question to pose about an infant.

Friday, November 02, 2007

costumes



I often think how lucky N is that we live in Arizona, where he can wear flip-flops year round (because he will ALWAYS choose to wear them instead of any other shoe.) And how funny it is that C absolutely refuses to wear them because they "feel funny." I wonder where L will fall in the flip-flop debate?

To-Do Lists

I have a to-do list a mile long today, but it's still in my head. I really need to write it out and prioritize, as I know there is no chance I'll get to everything.

My parents are on their way for a visit, and should be arriving sometime tomorrow. It's an absolute luxury that they were able to purchase the house next to mine -- but I still have to clean my house. They're bringing a friend with them this trip, too, which should be interesting. She's a very dear friend of my mom's and a nice woman, but it'll still be interesting.

L is lying on the floor at my feet, playing with her toes and babbling. The boys are in the backyard, making the most of their morning recess. As soon as I hit "publish", I'll:

throw in another load of laundry
sweep the kitchen floor
plan out next week's meals
write the grocery list

Hopefully those are the biggest priorities for the day!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

All Saints Day

When I learned that DH had late calls today, I said "Great! That means you can make mass with us this morning!" The church was pretty full, but we were the youngest ones there by about 30 years. I had hoped we might see some other homeschooling families, but I'm guessing they got up earlier and made it to the 8AM mass. We'd attend more daily masses if they'd have a regular 10AM mass instead of 8AM, but I guess it's easier for the priests to have it at 8AM. Unfortunately, being up and out of the house before 8AM doesn't happen very often around here.

As a child attending Catholic school we always had All Saints day off of school, and I remember thinking it was so cool to have the day after Halloween off every year!

After church, we went looking for golf clubs for the boys, but we had no interest in paying $100/set. I'll start checking craigslist and 2nd hand stores if it seems they might enjoy playing. They started lessons this week, and are currently borrowing clubs. I'd like to wait until they finish this set of lessons and then decide -- but I think know DH would like them to have their own set sooner.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

well baby check, 6 months

L weighs 13 lbs, 2 oz -- which is a little more than 1/2 lb more than she was at 4.5 months. She's still in the 10th percentile. She grew a .25 inch, to put her at 25 inches.

The pediatrician suggested I start giving her 2-3 meals of solids a day in addition to breastfeeding on demand. She's doing fine -- developmentally she's on target and she looks healthy -- she's just petite.

Her 2nd bottom tooth broke through last night. It explains why she's been unusually cranky the last few days.

National Blog Posting Month


I've decided to participate in NaBloPoMo this year. (Click image above to go their website and learn more.) The purpose is to post daily throughout November. I'm not sure I'll be able to keep up and post daily, but I'll do my best. I'm expecting lots of "this is what we did today" posts, but maybe the regular posting will encourage my writing ability. I used to think I had a talent for writing, but lately I feel that I've lost too many brain cells to pregnancy . . .

halloween

I threw our 4th annual Halloween party for the kids on Saturday. We ended up with 20 kids here, but thankfully a few moms stuck around so it wasn't too overwhelming. The party has really evolved since the first one when I invited mom's group friends only. This year we invited kids from the boys' enrichment program and neighborhood kids, as well as families who have attended the past 4 years, and I admit I was feeling pretty stressed Saturday morning. Somehow, amazingly, it all came together and everything that needed to get done got done.

The boys had a great time, although C was annoyed when people thought he was Robin Hood (he was Peter Pan) and he kept saying "Does this outfit LOOK like it's Lincoln Green? If it was Lincoln Green, then I'd be Robin Hood!" (in the book, which we read an abridged version of recently, they always talk about the merry men being dressed in lincoln green.)

Trick or treating happens tonight, and I hope DH doesn't have any calls to run so he can walk the neighborhood with the boys. He loves doing that -- and I don't. Halloween has never been a big holiday for me . . . but I won't spoil it for my kids.

I do realize (once again!) that I should buy Halloween candy to give out that I don't personally like . . . as I keep dipping into the bucket. Yea, not so good for mom! I'm sure I'll be handing out handfuls tonight just to make sure we don't have any left. In years past we've given out trinkets, but candy was the cheapest way to go this year.

Monday, October 29, 2007

6 months old

L is 6 months old today. It's funny how it's hard to remember life without each child after they're born.

She is a delight. Rolling, grabbing, and working hard to sit independently. She prefers being held 24/7, but I know it's only a matter of time before she's crawling, walking, running -- so I'm doing my best to live in the moment and enjoy each moment.

She's primarily breastfeeding and we've just started offering some baby foods. So far, she likes bananas and yogurt and turns her nose up at squash. We've started offering her a sippy cup, but I think she is only interested in chewing on it. She still has only one tooth that has broken through.

She likes to watch her big brothers and is pretty patient with their boisterous selves. She likes to try to help me type and wants control of the mouse and also the remote control.

She doesn't nap much -- maybe an hour or 2 every third day or so. She sleeps well at night, usually down for a solid 6-7 hours. She catnaps while nursing, but isn't interested in being moved away from me to nap any longer. She's mostly a happy baby, though, so I guess she doesn't need much sleep. She takes after her father in that -- definitely not me!

I'm still her favorite person, but she'll let her Dad or aunt hold her for brief periods of time.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

sleeeeeep

Or, perhaps a better title would be "wishing for sleep!"

DH is out of town for a few days. His flight left Monday morning, and we knew we had to be out of the house by 7 :15AM or so. At 5:15, our smoke alarms started going off. They are hard-wired into the house with battery back-ups, so when one goes off, they ALL go off. We saw no smoke or fire, so he went up in the attic to check and found no fire. We don't know why they went off, but they didn't stop beeping until all six of them were removed from the ceilings. C woke up, but N slept through the entire thing -- about 15 minutes of alarms --without even stirring!

I don't sleep well when DH is gone, but I was exhausted and hoped that L would let me get a decent night's sleep. I fell asleep around 1AM and was woken by a phone ringing just before 6AM. My sister's car broke down on the freeway and she was stranded. Another early morning outing was in store for the family! (Thankfully, she is fine and her car is already repaired.)

Last night, I think L is gearing up for her 6 month growth spurt (plus teething), so she was awake and needy every 90 minutes or so. Another early morning because the boys have their enrichment program so we needed to be out by 7:30. I considered skipping it, but today was picture day and I didn't want them to miss out on being in their class picture.

DH returns tomorrow and thankfully his plane lands around noon so I won't have to get us all out of the house in the early morning. If I'm lucky, I might get a nap in the afternoon :)

Monday, October 22, 2007

milestones

L's first tooth came through on Saturday. It's one of the lower front teeth, and I think that's why her cheeks are bright red at the moment (apparently bright red cheeks can be a symptom of teething.)

N asked DH to take off the training wheels on Saturday and is successfully riding his 2-wheeler! It took him about 10 minutes after the training wheels were removed to get the hang of it. Of course, he's still a bit wobbly, but he's doing great!

Friday, October 19, 2007

eating

I'm not eating these days. While I vaguely remember going through a similar thing after C's birth, I'm pretty sure it was in the earliest days of his life and I got over it rather quickly.

I'm especially glad my mom will be here in a couple weeks because she will cook all the meals and even hold the baby so I have no excuse not to eat.

For the last 2 days, DH has come home after 9PM and I've realized the last thing I ate was breakfast around 7. And somehow I wondered why the weight has been melting off?

Intellectually, I know it's not healthy. But, I can't eat while L cries, and she only wants to be held by me non-stop when she's awake -- which is pretty much all day. This one doesn't need much sleep it appears. The effort of creating meals is pretty much devoted to the boys, and even if I make myself something -- if she's been crying while I prepare it, I can't eat it because I'm sick to my stomach.

And everything these days is from scratch -- where even a few months ago we would eat out or grab fast food -- our budget won't allow that kind of waste at the moment. Cooking from scratch is labor-intensive and . . . I keep writing excuses, don't I?

I need to eat. I need to just plan out meals (that include me!) and make them happen.

(I'm drinking plenty. And I am eating some. But I realize my caloric intake is too low at the moment. I make sure my boys eat regularly and well, and I feed L on demand. I'm not neglecting anyone but myself. I just want to make that clear in case anyone had concern about my children.)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

running laps

N is an active, healthy, rambunctious, mischievous, physical child. Between sitting on his brother when he wants to play and loudly protesting simple requests, it can be exhausting to try and help him find better ways to interact. His first response has always been to strike out -- either physically or vocally.

He had gotten much better for a few weeks, but started struggling again. I tried having him do push-ups a couple months ago, and while they did seem to begin to help, it wasn't physical enough. So, I've started having him run laps in our backyard.

I don't argue or even converse with him when he starts acting out. He already knows it's inappropriate. I simply say "Nate, go run 2 laps" (or 5 or 8) If he balks, I add more laps on until he finally goes and runs them. He ALWAYS goes and runs them. I count them out for him and when he comes back in, he's usually expended enough energy that he can make better choices.

Today, he's run 23 laps and it's 1PM. Yes, that seems like quite a bit, but I haven't had to raise my voice once. His brother feels that he's safer (he is often the brunt of physical reactions.) N is much more cooperative after his runs, and much more willing to listen calmly as we discuss better ways to ask someone to play, respond to a request, etc.

I'm grateful that something is working!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

St. Gerard of Majella's Feast Day

Today is the feast day of St. Gerard of Majella. He has always held a special place in my heart and my prayer life.

I was saying daily prayers to him, beseeching his assistance in adding a child to our family -- not knowing that C was nestled safely in my womb for many months (I was 28 weeks along before finding out I was pregnant.)

I continued calling upon him during the remainder of my pregnancy and then again during my 2nd pregnancy. I found a small statue of him that sits on my dresser long before I was expecting L. A few months ago he fell and broke his arm. I kept his hand safe, but just today finally glued him back together.

When I hear of someone expecting, I often send one of his prayer cards along to the expectant mom. He is the patron saint of expectant mothers, among other things.

He was a tailor, apprenticed out at a very young age to help support his mother after his father's death. He patiently waited for admission to the Redemptorists, who didn't want to take him because of his frail health. He performed miracles throughout his life, which earned him the name of "Wonderworker."

One story I love is that he was forbidden by his superior to perform any miracles without permission. A man fell from scaffolding, and St. Gerard stopped him in mid-air while he went to ask permission to save him. He received permission, and the man floated gently down to the ground.

He was also able to bi-locate and was often seen caring for 2 families at the same time during the plage of the early 1700's.

When we baptized L, we were asked to name a family patron saint. It was easy for me to choose St. Gerard.

We'll make some biscotti in honor of him today (he was Italian) and perhaps the boys will sew a little bit in honor of his time as a tailor.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Mother Talk Review: Deceptively Delicious

When I first heard about this book, I couldn't wait to read it! I have one child who is a picky eater, and a husband who turns up his nose at any vegetable except canned green beans and raw carrots.

Jessica Seinfeld created a cookbook that is a delight to look at and then filled it with tons of recipes that sneak in extra vegetables and fruits. She took kid-friendly recipes and added in various fruit and vegetable purees to increase the nutritional kick.

I love cookbooks, and this one hit all the big points for me -- color pictures of the food, simple how-to's, recipes that are unique and delicious. The beginning of the cookbook has some great basic information -- from stocking your pantry to specific how-to's on creating purees. After the basics are covered, it moves into the recipes -- including breakfasts, mealtimes and desserts.

My boys have been helping me cook more and more these days, and I debated about asking their help with these recipes. While I knew my 5 year old would be eager to eat any of them (since he eats most vegetables happily!), my 6 year old can refuse to eat a dish if a vegetable is even mentioned in the same room as food prep. I decided to ask their help on one recipe, and try another without their knowledge. I handed the book over to my boys and asked them to pick a recipe to try.

They chose Chicken Alphabet Soup -- I think because they liked the look of the large pasta letters in the picture (which I was unable to find at our grocery store.) Her trick for the soup is to stir in cauliflower and sweet potato puree instead of adding any recognizable vegetables. The recipe is very simple (broth, chicken, pasta and the purees) but it tasted good. Both boys liked it, and I never thought of adding puree into chicken soup before -- usually I just add chopped carrots.

I decided to try her brownie recipe, even though the thought of spinach in brownies made me grimace. She added carrot & spinach purees to the recipe -- and warned that the spinach flavor wouldn't disappear until the brownies were completely cool. Ummm, for the first time ever I threw brownies away. I didn't tell my boys or my husband about the spinach, but they all took 2 bites and wouldn't eat more. They definitely had an odd taste.

I didn't want to end on that note, so I tried her Angel Food Cupcake recipe, which added yellow squash to the batter and carrot puree to the frosting. This was a success, with everyone eating their cupcakes and not even noticing the flavor of squash in the cupcakes.

I also tried her ketchup recipe, which the kids liked just fine and had fun helping me prepare. We actually don't eat a lot of ketchup around here, but we eat enough of it that I liked the idea of having a healthier version on hand. It freezes easily in smaller portions that should last a few months.

Overall, it's a great addition to my cookbook collection. I will definitely try more of the recipes in this book. I like having some tried & true ways to add more vegetables to our diet.

My only complaint is that the recipes lacked nutritional information. I would have liked to see the calorie counts, fiber content, etc. for each recipe.

You can check out a few of the recipes from her book at the book's website.

If you'd like your own copy, it's available at Amazon and other bookstores. The publisher is also running a contest if you'd like to try & win a copy!

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