Thursday, December 31, 2009

Merry & Bright

We took the kids to a waterpark in a nearby town this afternoon. It was such a nice change of pace, and all the credit goes to my husband, who not only suggested the idea a few days ago so I could wrap my brain around it and be prepared, but also packed the kids all up along with the requisite gear. Also, he didn't totally freak when he came upstairs (after getting all those kids and bags in the van) and found out that I'd just finished taking a shower. WHAT?! A girl's gotta shave.

Anyway. I brought Adam's swim stuff along, but he started wailing the minute we stepped into the water area, so I figured that was a bad idea. I did swim for a bit while he sat half comatose in his seat, but then decided that I was better off dry. He and I headed to the family shower room (2 toilet stalls, 4 shower stalls, all with doors! It's so great.) to change clothes and get a fresh diaper on him, and then ducked into a changing room to nurse.

While I was in there, a herd of kids entered. A herd of kids and ONE mom.

These are some of the snippets I overheard (italics are Mom):

"The least you can do is help! Mom paid $35 for you guys to go swimming, and you sit there and do THAT! That's just naughty." Quick math - that's 5 kids.

"I have a matching swimsuit and towel!" - "Yes..."

"Mom, where are my goggles?" - "In the bag."

"I just knew that today was one of those days that is not going to go well..."

Coins drop on the floor - "Just put it here in my disaster of a purse." - "It's not a disaster, Mom!"

"Mom, where are my goggles?" - "In the bag!"

"I have a matching swimsuit and towel!" - "Yes, I know you do!"

"Oh, the ice cream got all over..." At this point, I'm almost laughing. But she doesn't know I'm there at all, so I keep veeerrrry quiet.

"Being a mom is hard work. You'll understand that when you have kids."

But this was my favorite part: "I have a hearing problem - everything sounds 10 times louder to me than it does to everyone else. That's why I get so upset when you guys yell." Hmm. That sounded feasible until I walked back into the swimming area and was blasted with noise as soon as I opened the door. And there was the mom, sitting quite calmly at a table blowing up inflatables. I think her hearing problem is called I'mtheMomitis.

The whole situation was very amusing to me. Not only could I totally relate, (and I only have 3 kids!), but I was thinking back to being a kid. Inevitably every mom has a bad day or ten, and the kids are all, "I really don't care how or why you are crabby, I just want to get away and do my fun thing!" Because there may be ice cream all over and disaster in the purse and who knows what else, but WE GET TO GO SWIMMING! And that is the only thing that matters. Of course!

I stayed in the changing room until they headed out, just to save that mom the embarrassment of knowing that I'd overheard so much. I just hope that they all ended up having a better afternoon!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Gifting

As I've explained before, Aaron and I give the kids three gifts for Christmas. Of course, this doesn't include all the goodies stuffed into their stocking, or the haul from the rest of the family - don't worry, they are sufficiently covered with new stuff.

One of the gifts they get from us, I make myself. A few years ago, Leah got an ABC album, with family for almost every letter. I've been saving a coordinating album for Ben, and decided to do this one with his favorite things. The side benefit (hopefully) is that it will help him learn his letter. We'll see how that works out.



"S" is for snow and swing, and "T" is for Thomas the Train, and tickles! Most of the photos were ones I already had, but I did take a few deliberately - Apple, Umbrella, Quilts... but the photo for Vikings is probably the oldest. Ben is about 18 months old, wearing his Vikings outfit.

Leah's gift has also been floating in my head for awhile. She loves playing dress up, especially (and predictably) princess. We have had a series of crowns in the house, but they are all fairly temporary. Thanks to this nifty blog, I made her a more permanent headpiece. All the rhinestones are sewn on, as well as hot-glued.

My friend Crystal at Two Peas makes some phenomenal tutus, and Leah has been dying to own one. My version is not quite as elaborate, but it'll do for something that gets shoved into a suitcase for storage. (You could totally make this yourself. Sew a piece of elastic into a circle, cut strips of tulle, and tie them on. Wonderful! ps - use tulle on a roll and save a year of torment.)

And for some reason, Leah is infatuated with wands. The shorter ones are sturdier, and also pose less risk of being turned into a weapon by a brother.

I think the crazy eyes mean that she likes it.


The neighbors are not forgotten - I didn't put it on my list of Christmas projects earlier, because this year I decided not to make a special goodies just for the neighbors - I just made a double-batch of cookies I was already going to make. The packaging is the fun part - my philosophy is to give a small selection of something especially delicious, and then make it look gorgeous. This year I even included the recipe, so I'll give it to you, too! These cookies are awesome, and so simple!


Chocolate-Dipped Cranberry Cookies

1 c. shortening
1c. sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp salt
2 c. coarsely chopped fresh or frozen cranberries
2 c. (12 oz) semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 T shortening
1 ¼ c. chopped walnuts (optional)

In a large bowl, cream shortening & sugar until fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Combine dry ingredients; gradually add to creamed mixture. Using paper towels, pat cranberries dry; stir into dough. Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls 2 in. apart on baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 11-13 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on wire racks.

In the microwave, melt chocolate chips & shortening; sitr until smooth. Dip cookie halfway into chocolate misutre; sprinkle with walnuts if desired. Place on waxed paper until set. Yield: 3 ½ dozen


What gifts did you make for friends/family?

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Bliss

One of my least favorite things about Christmas is how it seems to end so abruptly. Yes, I know that's kind of like answering "What's your biggest fault?" with "I am too dedicated,", but it's true. On the 26th, everything goes on as usual - stores open, people bustling, regular TV programming...but I like to savor the peace and specialness of Christmas Day.

Which is why this year was awesome. Not only was Christmas a Friday, essentially extending the holiday right through the weekend, but a blizzard dumped 17" of snow on us, and then blew it around for a little bit. Even us hardy North Dakotans know better than to attempt too much during those types of conditions, and since there was immobilizing snow on the roads, and some vehicles were covered...well, the city was forced to slow down. There was a long list of closing and postponements for Saturday and even stores opened later, so they could get the parking lots cleared out. It was wonderful.

We have dug ourselves out, thanks mostly to my dad hauling his snowblower down here...twice...and Aaron is on the hunt for one of his own. Most of the family have returned successfully to their own homes, and I just bought another carton of eggnog, and some eggnog creamer as a bonus. There are plenty of cookies left, new games to play, and I don't have to take Leah to school all week! Let the vacation continue!

Tomorrow I have a high school friend and her five daughters coming for an overnight, and I'm hosting a tea party for the girls in Leah's class on Wednesday afternoon. So there will be lots of entertainment, as well!

What part of Christmas do you hold onto a little longer?

Friday, December 25, 2009

It has come to this.

It's 10pm on Christmas Day. The kids are in bed and the husband is playing his new Wii game.

Me? I'm drinking eggnog and eating cookies. Yes, I glanced at the clock, and then decided to completely disregard common sense and any concern for my gastro-intestinal system.

I may be a Christmasholic. And I have no problem with that.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Settling Down for a Long Winter's Nap

We are in the final hours now, my friends. The siblings and their spouses (and a baby!) have all arrived safely from their various destinations. The chili has been made and eaten, with enough left over for lunch tomorrow. Well, for a few of us, anyway!

I got vacuuming done today, along with laundry finished and put away, bathrooms cleaned, and sheets changed. All because of the cup of coffee at breakfast and raw, nervous energy. Plus, what ELSE was I going to do? Rest came in the form of sitting with Ben until he fell asleep and took a 45 minute nap, and then watching some television with him after he woke up (in a ferociously evil mood. You do NOT want to wake that boy.)

The vacuuming didn't really need to be done, but I knew that if I didn't do it today I probably wouldn't get around to until next week sometime. Plus, my nephew David is a year old and I wanted to eliminate any items that might make their way into his mouth.

I can't wait to see the kids open their presents! Especially Leah with her new tutu and crown. Photos will follow, hopefully some in her pjs with the first try-on! I'm going to be remembering that God sent his son some two thousand years ago because He simply loves us, not because we were good (yeah, most DEFINITELY not because we are good!) What a present! And my enthusiasm should be that of a five year old's for a pink tutu.

Now is the time to relax, keep the dishwasher going, and refill the cookie tray. To absorb every ounce and moment with my family and stash it away in my head for those spring days when it seems like forever since I've seen them all.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Monday, December 21, 2009

The thumbs, they are a-twiddling.

Here I am, a full two days before Christmas Eve, and ALL my tasks have been completed. The presents are even wrapped and under the tree. Okay, fine - maybe I didn't finish that last project, but the hand print tree is not necessarily for Christmas...I can put it off until January. Along with our New Year's card and letter - I don't even attempt to get those out until after the year begins.

A few friends have expressed wonder and even disgust with me, that I can actually say I'm finished. Believe me, I'm just as shocked. This rarely happens. Usually this time of year I'm in the Christmas Crunch, staying up until midnight finishing things up. Here's how I managed to do it this time:

1) Start early. Thanks to staying at home for Thanksgiving, I had a majority of the house decorating done before December even started.

2)Make a plan. I made that holiday schedule and stuck to it pretty closely. Even if I didn't really feel up to it.

3) Get off your (my) rear. Even *gasp* get off Facebook once in awhile. I know. But desperate times call for desperate actions.

4) Figure out what the roadblocks are, and then eliminate them. My craft room is wonderful, and I love the space, but the sewing machine being down there, with all the sewing that I'd have to do...it wasn't going to happen. So I moved it upstairs, onto the counter overlooking the living room. Ahhh. So much better.

5) Know what to let go. Like that hand print tree, and the Christmas cards.

And here's the end product:

1) cookies - 5 types done. One afternoon each, baking about twice a week. Frosting them with Mom and sister Ruth and kids this week.

2) Ben's gift, an ABC album - Started and pretty much finished it in one night! Ahead of schedule on that one!

3) Leah's gift, a tutu/crown/wand and maybe slipper set (that's at least 2 evenings) - I cut the tulle at Ben's gymnastics class, and then put it together one night, along with assembling the crown, which I prepped another evening. Skipped the slippers for now.

4) sew a stocking for Adam - This one is the shocker. I did it all in one night. Well, one night after I had to re-cut out the whole thing. The first time I ended up cutting it out so that it would either face the wrong direction or have the wrong side out. Anyway - the baby has a stocking that won't throw him into therapy down the line.

5) sew some baby booties for gifts (of which I have made NONE - we'll see how that goes) - It went pretty well! After I figured out that the pattern didn't include the seam allowance, so instead of the first pair being for Adam, they are for the next baby boy to be born to a friend or family.

6) Made an anniversary album for Aaron. Oh yeah! Couldn't put that one on there earlier, but we celebrated our 10th anniversary this past weekend, and I made a special little scrapbook for him. Thankfully he worked the weekend before. That and one morning while Leah was at school was all it took. I LOVE scrapbooking kits.

So there you have it. Now you can all hate me if you want, but I am sitting on the couch on December 21st enjoying some television and Internet. I'm even taking on some extra projects, like baking some Cranberry Orange bread for Aaron's work folks.

What did you get accomplished that you didn't expect? Let's not be too demanding of ourselves, here - shoveling the sidewalk or changing the bedsheets totally counts.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

And the winner is....

I just realized that a very important part of having a giveaway is actually determining a winner. So I put all the names into a mixing bowl and had Leah choose one...and it was Melissa! So lovely, since she was the first to participate. See, folks, the early bird really DOES get the worm. In a completely random way, of course.

If you are completely devastated, you could always purchase your own necklace from Lindsay. She has a stockpile at her home available for purchase.

Congratulations, Melissa! I hope you enjoy your necklace!

Monday, December 14, 2009

What? You want to turn the TV off early?

Last night the kids were eating their bedtime snack, and we heard this (familiar) cry: from Ben of course, "Weah! Weah! WEAH!" Each time louder and more insistent. Then, "Mommy! Weah's ignowing me!"

from "Weah" - "I'm not ignoring him, I just don't feel like talking!"

But no, I did not suggest that she might be sick. Here's why:

Earlier this fall, the kids were having their bedtime snack of cherries. Usually they gobbled up as many as they could, but this particular night Leah said she was done with several still on her plate. Offhandedly, and from another room, I said, "What? Are you sick or something?"

Then there was silence, followed shortly by a wail.

"What's wrong!?!"
"I think I'm siiiick!"
"Why would you think that?"
"'Cause I don't want to eat the rest of my cherries!"

Oh goodness. I tried to tell her that she wasn't, but the wailing continued, so I got out the thermometer to prove it to her. Then she got carried up to her room and some extra babying from Mommy (to make up for her poor suggestion).

From now on, I will ONLY be suggesting things like, "What? You feel like eating your entire dinner?" or "What? You want to play nicely with your little brother?" or "What? You're tired of singing the months of the year song?" (I'm serious. She has got those months DOWN FLAT!)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Graduation may be a close second.

There are milestones in the life of a family.

- First baby
- First holidays as a real family, not just a couple.
- Potty training.
- Giving up of naps.
- First dentist appointment.
- First ER trip.
- First day of school.
- First Christmas program.

And then there is the REALLY meaningful milestone: When the kids "helping" actually becomes helpful.

Ya feel me, mommas?

(I am sooo unbearably white. I know it.)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Sir Six Months

Hey, don't forget about the necklace giveaway! Just a couple days left!

Our little guy is 6 months old this week. In honor of the occasion, we treated him to his first taste of gourmet (or Gerber) rice cereal.


This picture really doesn't even do his reaction justice. You can't hear the gagging, and his eyes aren't watering yet. Yes, the cereal is very thin. Yes, we tried adding something "sweet" - peaches. I've tried to get it into his mouth every day for 6 days now, and just yesterday and today did the gagging stop. In order to get him to actually swallow it, I've started sticking his pacifier in his mouth as a chaser, watching until he swallows, and then try it again.

I know it's sick and twisted, but I figure eventually he'll learn to eat with having the nuk between every bite, and his way he at least gets used the sensation of cereal on the back of his throat, which seems to be the problem - the texture, not the flavor.

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Last night Adam slept through the night without nursing! From 7pm - 7:30am! I did go in at 1:30 and put his nuk back in his mouth, but this is a definite improvement. Our pediatrician friend sarcastically said that it MUST be due to the fact that he started cereal...that whole one bite that he swallowed the day before. Yep, that HAD to be it.

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Mr. No Solids also officially has two teeth, the bottom fronts, and I think he's working on the top two also. This is just another family baby standard that he's destroying, along with being under average size and having brown eyes. My other two kids didn't get teeth until 8 months, and Leah only had two at one year!

**********************

No rolling over yet. This isn't shocking, as the other two were a bit slow on this milestone, also. (Actually, the fact that he's following the established pattern maybe SHOULD shock us!) Besides, the kid's thighs probably weigh a couple pounds themselves, so hauling them over is quite the job.

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A big improvement in Adam's photogeneticness is that the camera flash doesn't make him open his eyes wide in shock anymore! So it seems that the deer-in-the-headlights photos may be on their way out. Shucks. The kids, they grow up so fast.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

June weddings are so overdone.

Leah says to me today, out of nowhere: "Caleb (a boy in her class) knows who he's going to marry!"

Me: "Oh yeah? Who is he going to marry?

Her: "Me!" I should add that she had a huge grin on her face, too.

I'm not too upset. Caleb is a nice boy - but he had better not honk for her from the driveway.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The line also includes rears.

Hey, before I get going, don't forget about my very first giveaway going on this week! Details here!
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The other evening, we were all headed out to the van when Ben tripped and fell flat on his face. Of course he started wailing. I got Leah into the van while doing the triage questions on the boy: Are you okay? Where did you get hurt? And then proceeded to put him into his carseat and buckle him in, while he was still expressing his pain.

Aaron said, "Gee, I admire your sympathy!"
I said, "Look, my sympathy ran out about 3 cryings ago."
"Ha - boy who cries wolf."
"No - he really honestly is crying about 20 times a day."

Remember the other day when I told you how this same child nearly broke my nose while giving me a hug? Well, I'm not the only one he injures on a regular basis. There is a reason why his (and most boys of his age, let's be honest) shins are covered with bruises.

So he gets hurt a lot - falling down, falling over, trying to jump UP steps, and of course, being attacked by Leah. Most of the time it's accidental - like the time she kicked him down the stairs. Yes. You see, he was hanging on her legs while she was going up, and as she tried to shake him off, he got a little too close - and down he went. Oops.

I can handle the lack of self-control. It's the overabundance of tears that gets me.

The boy cries about everything. Today he started crying because Leah made a scary face at him. I can't even remember everything that starts the water works - it's just that if anything upsets him, that's the way he expresses himself. Fortunately, he still very much believes in the power of mommy's kisses. Although I do draw the line - no kissing the feet. I compromise by kissing my fingers and then touching the owie.

It's that sweetness that makes me smother that child with kisses even when he's NOT injured.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

You know you want it.

This weekend I hosted an open house for a friend of mine, Lindsay, who is passionate about the plight of orphans in Africa. So passionate, that she and her husband (and two boys) are hoping to move to Kenya next year to be house parents at an infant home! I can't even fathom this, honestly.
Lindsay was helping another organization, Children's HopeChest, to raise money to build a kitchen for a community of orphans in Uganda. Brandi and Vince, from CHC, were selling aprons and paper-bead necklaces. The necklaces were handmade by women in Uganda, and every single one of them is gorgeous.


See? Even in this weirdly sideways photo you can tell that these things are great. And, well, I hinted at a possible giveaway earlier last week, so I thought I'd carry through. (Despite Aaron's plea not to "become one of those blogs that always gives away stuff!" He sometimes has objections to odd things...like bumper stickers, or any outward personalization of a vehicle. Okay, maybe I get that one.) But, I'm going to make you work for this freebie.

What's nice about this particular style of necklace (and there are shorter ones, as well as longer multicolor ropes) is that you can wear it doubled, like so:

or long, like thus:

This style sells for $15 from the HopeChest folks as a fundraiser.

For your chance to win it, follow this link to Children's HopeChest's website. Then leave a comment and tell me one of the services that a ministry center provides to the orphans.

This giveaway will close at midnight on Friday! So spread the word, and you could add a new pretty to your jewelry box...or someone special's!

ps - one entry per person, please! Thanks!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Newbie

Aaron and I finally watched the new Star Trek movie. You know, the one with Sylar from Heroes as Spock? That took a bit to get over, let me tell you.

I have never really been interested in Star Trek. Occasionally, I would see a few seconds of an episode while flipping channels, and it always seemed like a foreign language to me. I never could keep track of who was good and who was bad, and what the heck was going on in the first place.

But my loving, wonderful husband is a fan from way back. Not necessarily a Trekkie, per say, but a fan. Spock is his favorite character, and if you know Aaron, that probably won't surprise you too much. There's no end to the number of romantic comedies and straight-up romances Aaron has sat through with me, (Let me qualify this right here. He HAS flat out refused to watch two Netflix movies with me, making me resort to watching them while scrapbooking because I DO NOT watch movies well by myself. And what were those movies? The Queen with Helen Mirren, and Dreamgirls. So you may or may not sympathize with me.) so I figured the least I could do was sit through this ONE movie with him. He even delayed seeing it in the theater until we could watch it at home together. Mostly because he couldn't find anyone to go with him at the time, I think.

So we are sitting on the couch, and I find myself getting actually involved with this movie! The plot is at least five times that of Transformers 2. And then the Enterprise starts to go into warp speed for the first time. It's one heck of an experience, mostly because it caused our DVD player to shut down completely. Twice.

After Aaron got it working, we continued on, enjoying the sparring between Kirk and Spock, and the funny mixed with the action and tension. I wasn't even bored enough to go look for goodies - of course, I had brought a selection of about four things out before we got started.

Then the Romulan drill got so powerful that it AGAIN shut down our DVD player.

Another recovery. And another blow out, this time, permanent. Accompanied by a popping sound.

After tearing the DVD player apart to retrieve Netflix's disc, we resorted to the much smaller TV in the living room. Some of the impressiveness of universal drama was diminished, but the story was still compelling. Aaron was opposed to the romance between Spock and Uhura, which we never in the "older" stories, but you know me. Any spark of sweetness makes a movie more interesting to me!

I could actually get into this Trekkie stuff. Maybe. Especially if the boys are cute and funny.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The pain, it's real.

Having kids is painful. And I'm not just talking about the childbirth and labor part, or the emotional "I hate you!" part. I'm talking REAL pain. On a regular basis.

Maybe it's just little boys with their lack of impulse control. A few months ago Ben nearly broke my nose trying to give me a hug.

Oh yeah, he was running at me from across the room, and happened to connect with my schnoz. I literally saw stars. Fortunately, my nose wasn't broken and there wasn't any bruising, but it was tender for a few days. Ben apologized and gave me a hug, and then a couple days later asked if it still hurt, and said sorry again. How can you be upset with such a sweetheart?

Today we had lunch at church, and while I was sitting on a folding chair, Ben was standing between my knees. All of a sudden he boosted himself up on my knees, to get onto my lap presumably. Unfortunately he connected with my jaw. Hard. Saw stars again.

And really, I spent a few moments checking for pain. He must have hit me in just the right spot - I really didn't have any major owies, other than the initial shock of contact.

I was relating this to friend H, and she showed me a quarter-sized peeling mark on her forearm. Apparently, her 7 year old son held a knife between the glass and door of a toaster oven, with the knife against the heating element. He touched it very quickly to his own skin and it "didn't hurt", so he tried it on his mom. (Of course, right? That would be MY logical next step!) And he branded her! Again, a few days later he asked her if it still hurt, and she honestly said that it did. "Sorry, Mom!"

Oy. I'll be stocking up on ointment and bandages now.

Buy an Accessory, Be an Accessory.

An accessory to helping African orphans, that is. I posted here about an open house that I'm having this coming Saturday (9-11am), offering for sale necklaces and aprons. Money raised will go to build a kitchen for 250 orphans. A friend is having an open house Friday from 3-6pm if that time works better for you, and this lovely photographer is also helping out Lindsay and Rachel. Ria Lee is a friend of Lindsay's, and since she visited the village for whom the funds go to, she explains the need much better.

If you'd like to attend either my open house or the one on Friday, please leave a comment or email me.

Here is Lindsay's interview in On the Minds of Moms (and photos including an example of the necklaces - all unique).

Making my list, checking it twice.

Thanks to our slow holiday weekend, I got to pull out all the Christmas stuff a bit earlier than I usually do. And boy! did I have helpers. Leah and Ben were totally thrilled to join me in decking the halls. So thrilled, in fact, that Leah couldn't stop asking, "When are we going to put up more Christmas decorations?" every couple minutes. ALL AFTERNOON. However, they sure were handy to have around when I needed things handed up to me, or ornaments taken out of boxes. They actually WERE helping, doncha know it.

I've had my heart set on filling the house with snowflakes, and thought that it would be a great craft to do with Leah. I did one to show her, and then tried to cut a few more. Tried. They kept turning out more like flowers. No matter what I did, they were not circles. So where did I turn? After my latest issue of Martha Stewart Living failed me (I swear I thought I saw something about snowflakes in there), I went to the mighty Internet. This site proved very helpful! Also helpful, making the snowflakes out of tissue paper. Not helpful? Leah's Type A personality kicking in. She decided to cut all her snowflakes exactly the same. Kind of defeats the purpose, but she would not be swayed.

Most of the decor is up - except for the two tubs of stuff that I bought too much of last year at Target. The after-holiday sales are my nemesis. I have two boxes of ornaments that haven't even been touched.

But I still have many things to accomplish this holiday season. And I'm also Type A. So of course, I made a list.

But I also took it a step further. I made a holiday schedule. For the first two weeks (so far!) of December, I used my weekly calendar to map out mornings, afternoons, evenings and the menu plan for the week. After the necessary stuff like laundry, cleaning bathrooms, and kids' activities, I fill in the fun stuff:

1) cookies - and I make about 5 different types, so that's 5 afternoons right there
2) Ben's gift, and ABC album
3) Leah's gift, a tutu/crown/wand and maybe slipper set (that's at least 2 evenings)
4) sew a stocking for Adam
5) sew some baby booties for gifts (of which I have made NONE - we'll see how that goes)
6) make this cute handprint tree craft which I've had the supplies for for about 3 years

Looking at this list makes me hyperventilate. Looking at my schedule makes me think that maybe I could get it all done. Maybe.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Parenting has its rewards. Mostly, laughing at the kids.

Ben is sick again. Very, in fact. Unfortunately, there is no medication known to man for his disease. Not only that, but it's fairly contagious, especially to children. What is his tragic diagnosis, you ask? The bane of all parents - the whineovirus. (Credit to his dad for coming up with that one!)

Leah also has a medical condition. Today the whole family was camped out on the couch watching the Vikings (finally! A season that is so far rewarding fans for their dedication!). Both the boys were on me, and Leah was desperately trying to cuddle with Aaron on the other side. I say "trying" because as much as she really, really WANTS to cuddle, apparently the ants in her pants make it impossible for her to sit still for more than two seconds. We know, because we've timed her. At about one and a half seconds, she has to shift her body, or scratch an itch, or something.

This time, she kept throwing her arms into the air, the very same air occupying Aaron's line of vision. After about the third time, Aaron finally said that Leah had attention deficit disorder. I started laughing right away, but she is pretty much the OPPOSITE of ADD usually - the kid can listen to books on CD for THREE HOURS.

Leah immediately responded, "I DON'T get enough attention!" And Aaron and I proceeded to double over laughing. In fact, I can't think about it without giggling.

By the way, whoever taught Leah that older kids miss out on attention once a baby shows up...thanks. Thanks a lot!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Look pretty and do some good.

You know what I hate? I hate it when friends move away. One friend left earlier this year, another is leaving next summer, and now my friend Lindsay is heading to Africa. It's not a total surprise, since she and her husband have been talking the whole time I've known them about their desire to care for orphans. But it's a little bit more upsetting when they start talking fundraising and departure times. That means they may actually DO it. Yikes.

Lindsay was interviewed by a local magazine, On the Minds of Moms, about her dream. She was even featured on the cover! By the way, you may notice that her younger son Colin is close to being my Ben's twin. We have both mistaken the other boy for our own son.

I finally decided to support them in this endeavor. Kind of. I mean, it's still helping African children, but not the same ones that Lindsay and TJ will be working with. I'm having an open house this coming Saturday, December 5th from 9-11am (kids welcome!). Lindsay and a friend will be selling paper-bead necklaces handmade by Ugandan women and also homemade aprons. The necklaces are $10, every one unique, and the proceeds will go to build a kitchen for the community of Bukedea, which is made up of 250 "double" orphans. Double as in they are orphans caring for other orphans. Lindsay is wearing one of the necklaces in photos in On the Minds of Moms.

These necklaces and aprons would make wonderful holiday gifts! If you'd like to join us for some goodies and shopping Saturday morning, please send me an email or leave a comment, and I'll email you back with my address. If you are out of town or can't make it that day, contact Lindsay via her blog, and I'm sure she'd love to help you out.

Hm, there may be a giveaway involved here soon...

Turkey Leftovers

Thanksgiving was pretty low-key around these parts. Last year we had about 20 or so of Aaron's family here, but this time, it was just my dad and Grandma Gigi. Mom had to work until 7pm, and thankfully, even though Aaron had to work the whole weekend, he was home by 10am on Thursday.

A quieter holiday does have it's benefits - I felt fairly relaxed the whole weekend, and have had time the last couple of days to get the Christmas decor out. However, I am NOT someone who enjoys cooking just for the heck of it. If I'm actually going to make 3-4 dishes for a meal, I'd prefer there to be more entertaining involved than just 2 other people. As much as I may love those people.

I got off easy, though. Mom made her wonderful dressing and an amazing apple cobbler, and brought it down before heading to work. So basically everything else was just one thing - squash, potatoes, turkey, green beans (no casserole - can't bring myself to eat the stuff). And some gravy that only showed up by contractual obligation. Everything was done at the same time, and at 12:30pm on the dot we were eating. And using my beautiful newly purchased antique dishes! I KNEW I needed them!

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The day before Thanksgiving, friend Tara and her boys helped my gang clean out our pumpkins. They'd been decorating our buffet, but I knew they would be outdated by the Day After Thanksgiving. After gutting them, the seeds were cleaned and soaked in salt water for a day and a half and then roasted to perfection, if I do say so myself. And both the kids like them, which really stinks. That means that I won't get to eat them all myself.

After dinner on Thursday, the kids took turns opening their Thanksgiving presents. Both got a few new books, Leah got a couple puzzles (100 pieces!) and Ben is loving his new animals and dinos.

I realized that my kids are totally going to be messed up - carving pumpkins AND getting presents at Thanksgiving. Their spouses are going to be SOOO confused.

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Thanks to Aaron working the holiday, my self-control was assisted by not being able to get to the stores for Black Friday. I DID check out Old Navy online, but waited. Thankfully. Because hours after contemplating getting Adam some pants that don't make his legs look like sausages, I was in the storage space downstairs pulling out Christmas bins. Then I turned around, and saw an ENTIRE BIN OF BABY CLOTHES. And guess what? They were exactly the size that Adam needs! Now he has a bigger wardrobe than I do, and I'm afraid he won't be able to wear them all before he outgrows them. But at least his circulation isn't being cut off.

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In addition to Mom's cobbler, I also made a pumpkin flan. The recipe came from Martha Stewart's magazine, but is from a cookbook called Mad Hungry: Feeding Men and Boys, and it has the unique distinction of being the first dish I've made that actually ended up looking like the photo. It was a lot like pumpkin pie without the crust -and easier to make, since you don't have to make the crust! I think it would make a wonderful breakfast. Or bedtime snack. Or whatever.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Ben Sez

When I first started blogging, Leah was the only kid talking, and boy! Did she say some funny things. (The other day I was getting sad, thinking that the age of funny quotes had passed. And then she said something else hilarious.:) At the time, Ben was just a baby, and we were sure that he would start talking at about a year and progress verbally much as his sister had.

We were wrong.

Benjamin didn't start talking until he was about 2 years old. And even then, the language was halting and fairly incoherent. But now, things are a bit different. The child is a genuine chatterbox. In fact, he even makes Leah look quiet on occasion.

Tonight at the table, he took a break from scarfing dinner to exclaim, "My head huwts!" Did I mention that he may talk alot, but that it's not all clear? That just adds another element of entertainment.

He kept saying, "It huwts!" And then he started pounding it with his fist. We asked why? WHY? was he hitting his head? He said, "Twying to make it go away!" And then, "It's pwobably from my big bwain!" Yep, probably, buddy.

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And then, later on I was trying to convince him that he needed to put chapstick on his upper lip. He has decided, for some reason, that he does NOT like chapstick. At my suggestion, he shook his head, no way.
"Ben, if you don't put chapstick on your lip, it's just going to be a big owie. Do you want that?"
Immediately, he nodded his head yes.
And then he rethought it. "Actwually, no."

Actually. God bless that child. A year ago, I never thought I'd hear him use adult words in context. And now that he is, but still with that adowable lisp, it just makes me so happy.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Genetic Modification

When you become a mom, along with growing eyes in the back of your head and being able to smell poo from two rooms away, you should also become impervious to germs and bacteria. So that you NEVER GET SICK.

As every mom knows, you just don't get sick days in this gig. Dads are great and all, but if they get sick, they call in to work, take a vacation day, and hang out on the couch for a while. As they should. We need them back at work paying for the groceries and Target dollar aisle.

But I've been sick going on four days. And Aaron goes to work all day. So SOMEONE has to make the meals, change diapers, and generally keep the house going. Fortunately, although I have "the fever", other than a severely congested head, I've been feeling alright. Just mediocrely miserable.

It really should be impossible for the children's primary caregiver to feel under the weather in any way. No colds, no coughs, no headaches...can you IMAGINE that world with me? A world where the tissues are only for the kids, where no matter WHAT time you wake up, your head always feels like...nothing. NOTHING. Moms shouldn't have to go to any extra effort to breathe. Or eat, for goodness sake. If we find the time to sit down between requests for napkins and ketchup, just let us eat! With our mouths closed, not gasping for breath.

You know who else suffers when Mom suffers? Those poor sweet kids! Especially the littlest ones, who can't escape. Leah gets to go to school at least half the day, but Ben is stuck with me. He's relying on me to get him out to do "fun stuff". Every day he asks, "What are you, and me, and Adam goin' to do for fun?" Bless his heart, usually going to the grocery store (where he gets a sucker) is enough of an answer. As long as I can promise a playdate at some point in the week. So you can imagine how he feels about THIS week.

Adam is also suffering, and not only because he was cutting that tooth we didn't know he was getting. I am trying to prevent him from getting sick too, so he's been doing a lot of sitting in a bouncy seat. Or in the exersaucer. Or on the floor. You know, for variety.

A question: How come I can still smell the poopy diapers, but not the yummy products in Aaron's hair after his haircut? That is a classic lose-lose situation.

A recommendation: Enjoy a cough drop WHILE in a hot shower. You will experience some first-class breathing. Too bad it's only temporary.

Don't worry about me, though. I'm planning on getting well tomorrow. But since I'm stuck here, I want to scrapbook all day, with breaks to read New Moon.

Yeah, we'll see how that plan goes.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Biological Warfare

On the plus side, Adam is much recovered from his bronchiolitis. Not completely, but the coughing is fairly infrequent, and he doesn't wheeze when he breathes now. In fact, we moved his bed back into our closet (which is a converted bedroom, folks - hang up with social services) several days ago, when we weren't so concerned about him catching a breath and the whining at night was driving us nuts again.

But still. He's back to nursing at least once during the night, and wakes up 3 or so more times and cries until his pacifier is put back in his mouth.

I know. I KNOW! He's got us right where he wants us.

But with the whole cough/wheeze thing going on, I didn't feel comfortable letting him "cry it out" - you try laying in bed listening to a baby cry until he starts gagging. It ain't easy.

This whole process means that I've been operating on two or so consecutive hours of sleep, which served to beat down my normally robust immune system. And now I'm sick. Like, fever for three days (and counting), headache, congestion, sore throat, oink-oink sick. I really wish I'd have gotten this the week that Leah and Ben were sick, so I wouldn't have to miss out on activities AGAIN. Thank goodness Aaron is willing to pitch in, even if it means rearranging his work calendar a bit. And thank goodness my mom (still) lives in town - she came and entertained the kids yesterday afternoon, until they drove her crazy and she fled with the shreds of her sanity that were still intact.

I told our pediatrician that if Adam doesn't get this flu it'll be a miracle, since he'll rarely let me put him down, much less walk out of his sight and Hello! have you seen those cheeks? I cannot stop myself from kissing them! She said, after giving me a prescription for tamiflu, "Why? You're nursing, so he's getting the antibodies from you - as your body fights it off, he gets some of that, too." Good to know. Vaccination the old-fashioned way.

Today at lunch, friend Tara was dropping of some new tea for me (what a sweetheart! Thanks!) and observed Adam trying to fit just one more! finger into his mouth. She asked if he was teething, and both Aaron and I quickly poo-poohed that idea - neither Ben or Leah had any teeth before 8 months. Leah only had two at a year! And they were both drool monsters for about 5 months beforehand.

After she left, Aaron said, "I don't know, maybe he IS teething?"

I said yeah maybe - his cheeks are red, but he doesn't have a temp...

So this afternoon, I decided that hey! Maybe I should check it out! I washed my hands well and dug in there. AND THERE WAS A TOOTH. On the bottom, when I've been watching the top.

Well I'll be a monkey's uncle. No wonder the little bugger's been fussy, clingy and generally onery. Now, let's see if this improves his night-time sleeping. I CANNOT allow the baby to win this battle! ONWARD!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Okay, but not okay.

Apparently I am completely oblivious when it comes to my baby's health.

Adam (5 mo. old) started coughing about a month ago, right before his 4 mo. appointment. The doc at the time said he had bronciolitis, but his oxygen levels were fine, so all we could do was keep on eye on him and wait for him to get better.

A month later, the cough seemed to get better and he slept through the night for four nights! It was awesome!
And then it was over.

The cough came back with a vengence, along with some phemy sounds coming from the general vicinity of his head. Only I didn't really notice that he had gotten sick again, until Aaron pointed that out. We headed off to church last night as usual, with a little more concern over Adam's status - he felt a little warm, seemed a little irritated.

Periodically during the last month, he would cough so hard that he would throw up his last meal, usually just after it had been ingested. Last night, however, he decided to break with routine, and pulled an Exorcist move on me in the middle of the Fellowship Hall, about an hour after last eating. I know it always seems like kids throw up more than they actually do (I mean, I have known seriously chubby babies who appear to puke up their whole meal every meal), but when I saw that stream of white liquid fly out of his mouth straight at me, it seemed like 2 cups. It was probably more like four ounces, but still plenty enough to cover my entire left shoulder and upper chest, part of his chest and leg, and some bonus! for the floor and chair next to me. Fortunately I blocked the puke from hitting the two guys behind me.

At that point, Aaron decided that OBVIOUSLY he had gotten worse and exactly how long had he been like this? Clearly we should be doing something. I took off my outer shirt (I had a tank underneath), found someone (thanks Val!) to cover my group of girls for the evening, got Leah and Ben off to their Awana classes, and then Aaron and I headed off for a date.

Except we kind of broke that date rule about not talking about your kids.

Dr. Miller at the children's walk-in clinic saw Adam, who by that time had perked up a bit and was grinning, and said he had....bronchiolitis. He had no fever, was nursing fine, and was still in a fairly good mood, so again, all there is for us to do is watch and make sure his breathing doesn't get more distressed.

And move him back next to our bed, and wake up every hour or two to listen to his coughing and make sure he doesn't puke all over himself, and hold him a lot to help our poor sick baby feel better.

Will someone please let me know if my kid gets sick again? I may or may not notice and act accordingly.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Negotiations: Part II

Last week there was a big milestone for me. Thursday was the day I finally faced my fears and took Ben for his first dentist appointment. I've been putting it off because I was anticipating a fuss like the kind I've been faced with at gymnastics. And guess what? There was no fuss!

Well, almost no fuss, anyway.

We happen to go to an excellent dentist who knows the value of a good solid bribe. At their first teeth cleaning, kids not only get to pick out a cool toothbrush and Sponge-Bob toothpaste, but they also get 3 prizes: one from the vending machine, one from a treasure chest, and a Beanie Baby. Granted, they don't have the full 1,000 or so critters to choose from, but still.

Also helping the situation is the fact that Leah loves going to the dentist and gets really excited about it. I mentioned about a month ago that Ben would be going soon, and she didn't need any prompting to encourage him. She may have even called him "lucky"! Ben was again prepped for the upcoming appointment about a week before, and then a day or so before, but I didn't dwell on it - just said, "Ben, you get to go to the dentist!" No arguments allowed.

I billed it as a kind of a date with Mom, since Ben has a bit of an Oedipus complex happening right now - only Mommy can change his diaper, get him dressed, put his coat on, tuck him into bed, etc. (Some of these things just need to be taken over by Ben himself. Working on it.)

Ben first watched me get my teeth cleaned. Side note here: I finally got my wisdom teeth removed last summer, and my dental appointments have been sooo much easier since then. If you are putting it off, just go and get those buggers taken care of, already! The hygienist chatted with Mr. Ben the entire time, about dinosaurs and his favorite animals. It was fun to listen to his chatter, when a year and half ago he was getting by with grunts and whines.

When I was done, we convinced Ben to sit in the chair with me and let the hygienist count his teeth, and after a bit more convincing, the dentist was able to do the same thing and brief exam. But the cleaning was completely rejected. Miss Hygienist told Ben he could pick out the toothbrush and paste, but I suggested that the 3 prizes would have to wait until he actually had a cleaning.

I reminded him that he could have cookie-dough toothpaste (!!!), and then that fabulous hygienist showed him the polisher - while he was standing on the ground, not cornered on the chair. Then she touched it to his fingernail, and then just the front tooth...and then Ben said, "O-kay..." and the rest of the appointment proceeded without objection! He even had a fluoride treatment - banana-split flavored (!!!).

I was so proud of my little man. Really, I mostly anticipated a tantrum and very little attention to the actual teeth. This was a case of some well-placed bribes/rewards, and also maybe some modeling of how "easy" it is.

Now, if only these tactics were working for potty-training.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Some people use their time in weird ways.

I have been on a buying rampage tonight, grabbing a bunch of books on Ebay for a fraction of their new prices. Most of these new purchases are destined to be Thanksgiving gifts for Leah and Ben - they include a fairy tale collection, a book about dinosaurs, and a couple of joke books - so I don't have to listen to their made-up jokes, which frankly are pretty lame, rarely make any sense, and sometimes include non-English words.

While researching different drawing books on Amazon, I found this review for the book How to Draw 101 Animals. I am equally curious about how many people thought this was a real review and chose NOT to purchase the book (the comments are entertaining, too!), and how bored the reviewer must have been to go to the effort. I'm hoping, at least, that they had washed all the clothes and dishes in their house first.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Negotiations: Part 1

My oldest son is enhancing my negotiation skills. Just this week he's given me two training sessions, and I think I'm learning. Because I'm winning (I think).

You may remember Ben and the great gymnastics stand-off. I was prepared for a reenactment since buddy Isaac was again home sick. Unfortunately, the stalling started before we even got out of the van. I stood my ground and said that we WERE going inside, and he WAS going to get dressed for class, and we were NOT going to sit in the balcony with the other parents. We sat in our usual spot under the balcony and watched the rest of the class play in the foam pit and warm-up.

We tried leaving him with the coach while I left, and he had a total breakdown.
I pointed out how much fun everyone was having.

How much fun he has had in the class before.

That I would not cuddle him or let him touch me while we were sitting there.

I showed him that there were other boys in the class. "But I no know their names!"

One boy, who the coach called Cooper, had his turn on the trampoline directly in front of us. That child must be a prodigy trampoliner or something, cause I have never seen tuck jumps so tucked, or piked, or straddled...it was truly impressive. I kept admiring his jumping, "Ben, look at Cooper jump!"

He finally looked interested, and took up the coach's invitation and went to jump, too! While he was bouncing away, I asked Cooper if he would be Ben's friend. And that sweet, sweet boy shyly nodded, "Yes!"

From that point on, Ben and Cooper were buddies, and Ben participated in class willingly and with a smile on his face. And another good thing? As much as we love Isaac, Cooper has never missed class!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

One of Those Weeks

Ever had one of those weeks? This is how it happened to me.

About a month ago, the only thing on the schedule for this week was Leah's Fun Fair for Saturday afternoon. So why not host a "Dinner for Nine" at our house Friday night? I wouldn't have to cook, and we'd meet some new people from church...Aaron said sure and like that! we were committed.

And then I may or may not have said "sure!" to one or two or ten more things. Oops.

Here's what the week ended up looking like:

Monday: Tastefully Simple show
Tuesday: bible study all morning, Aaron working that night
Wednesday: gymnastics for Ben (more cajoling required), classmate of Leah's over for the afternoon, then Awana at church
Thursday: dentist appointments for me and Ben (his first!), Leah's gymnastics, then dinner with an interviewee at Aaron's work (out! no cooking!)
Friday: playgroup at our house in the morning, Dinner for Nine (or seven)
Saturday: MOMS club garage sale/showcase, meet & greet with possible new pastor, then Fun Fair

What I really can't believe is that I didn't forget anything. Although we were running late for a few things, including the meet & greet - Yes, I was the loser mom who came in late, thinking it would be a casual visiting time, only to find out that everyone was seated and listening to Q& A. Also, I brought Leah, the only child present, while Aaron stayed in the van with the sleeping boys. Then I realized that everyone there was on the worship (music) team, and that Aaron should probably be there since he's a part of it, not me.

So I skeddaled out and sent him in. Then I had the distinct pleasure of dealing with Ben waking up and crying/whining for 10 minutes. With both boys now awake, I thought I could maybe sneak in at the end and at least shake hands with our potential new pastor. Ben had other ideas, and nearly had an emotional breakdown at the suggestion of leaving the van. Fortunately, Aaron and Leah were headed back at that point. Blurg.

Sunday is coming! Praise the Lord! Sunday is a day of rest.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Calorie Burner

I have this problem with exercising. The problem is that everyone (media, popular culture, my husband) all think I should be doing some, so that, you know, I don't keel over from a heart attack at age 40. And I really don't like to be sweaty. Or in pain. So exercise is pretty much at the bottom of my "to-do" list - and those things at the bottom of THAT list, like dusting - are pretty much at the top of my "feel guilty about" list.

Aaron has tried to be supportive in the past. He has watched the children while I walk the neighborhood. Evidently we now have THE PERFECT neighborhood for this activity, since there are hordes of people walking/running/biking/rollerblading (I know, I didn't know people still did this either!)/walking the dog outside our house every day. Some even when the temps are below zero! Just crazy.

Anyway. I had good intentions of walking a lot this summer, but the whole pregnancy/post-baby situation didn't help. Neither did two children napping at different times. I have tons of excuses, shall I continue? No? Okay.

Our next idea was a Wii Fit. One was purchased before Adam was born and we caved and tried it out, even though it was SUPPOSED to be my birthday present at the end of July. SIL EJ recommended that I get myself registered on it while still pregnant, so I could set a target goal and meet it basically by giving birth.

Good idea! I set myself a goal of losing 25 pounds in 3 months. Hehe.

However, that Wii Fit has not had my feet on it very much. In fact, I think I have used it about 4 times, including today. Eeks.

But today? Today I used it for about 45 minutes, and burned enough calories for a whopping chocolate chip granola bar! You are sooo impressed, I know.

Would you be more impressed if you knew the obstacles I faced?

- couldn't figure out the sound for the first 1/2 hour session, so did it in silence
- oh, except for the constant whining from Ben that I wasn't playing the right game
- and Leah begging for me to play a different game
- then the projector turned off. Black screen.

So I picked back up later on, and Aaron got the sound going. New obstacles:

- kids running in circles around me
- Adam whining on the floor
- realizing I am hopeless at the balance games
- Leah falling off the couch and crying
- Ben sliding wooden puzzles pieces all over in front of me
- being "coached" by kids who can't put on their own coats most days

NOW, aren't you proud of my persistence? A granola bar never looked so wonderful.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Could be worse.

Here's how you know your kid is sick:

- before supper - "I'm cold," from the girl who refuses to wear socks in the house

- at supper - "I'm not really very hungry," and this without having had the usual 1 or 2 afternoon snacks

- after supper - "I'm tired, " a full hour before bedtime.

Leah was basically asleep on the couch when I got back from putting Adam to bed. The thermometer said her temperature was 101.4, so I put her to bed early, skipping bedtime snack and her shower, and started cancelling plans for the next day.

But surprise! I was anticipating the swine flu, but it appears that Leah was stricken with a milder bug, even though it bought her a day home from school.

Ben, on the other hand...

Before gymnastics he seemed warm and was a little whiny, but once we got there (a staff member took his temp for me - 99 degrees, and deemed well enough) and buddy Isaac showed up, he participated just fine. Afterwards, the whining started again, and when we got home he fell asleep for a half hour. By then he was really warm, but ate a decent lunch.

I conned him into taking some ibuprofen (mixed in juice and served with a straw! Which he refused to drink, and then drained when I left the room), and an hour later he announced, "Mommy, I feel better!" He even got outside for a little bit with Leah, and did some puzzles. But by dinner time he was fading and wanted to be cuddled. Aaron stayed home with the boys while I took Leah to Awana.

There was one weepy boy waiting for me later, and he again refused to drink any covert medicine. Healthy 3 year olds just DON'T ask to go to bed, either.

It's wishful thinking, I'm sure, but I'm really hoping that he recovers as quickly as Leah did and is fine in the morning.

Or at least, that he doesn't start oinking.

ps - or pass it on to Adam! Who has had a nasty cough for over a week now. Doc says there's nothing to do about it but wait it out. And wake up for every bout at night to make sure he's not throwing up from the hacking.

We are having a blast over here! (but not as bad as it could be, thank the Lord.)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Rant of a Book Snob

I finally read Twilight (by Stephanie Meyers). But I did not go willingly into that dark night! Oh no, I had to be dragged kicking and screaming by the rest of the book club who decided that it was too much of a phenomenon to ignore and chose it as our adolescent lit selection. Brief summary: Bella moves to the water-logged town of Forks and becomes obsessed with the gor-geous Edward, discovering along the way that he's a vampire, albeit a "vegetarian" vamp (only hunts animals, not humans, along with his "family"). Conflicts ensue, not the least that apparently Bella is the human version of filet mignon.

The book is not as bad as I thought it would be. That said, it wasn't fantastic, either. What it IS is compelling - as in, I got "sucked" in and read it in a couple of days. This kind of consumer fiction reminds me of The DaVinci Code - another quick, hard-to-put-down read.

Twilight is exactly the kind of book I would have been obsessed with as a teenager. Almost every teen lit heroine could fit this profile: average looks (or perceives herself as average), not a lot of friends, intelligent, reads a lot... This is (I believe) completely deliberate on the the author's part, simply because this could also describe most of the female READERS of teen lit. Bella fit this description, and yet Edward, this "god-like", mysterious, aloof boy, chooses HER as the love of his life. What girl (or woman, I'm not gonna lie) wouldn't fantasize about that?

A major point of our discussion revolved around this book as a "gateway drug". A big part of the conflict in Twilight is the sexual tension between Edward and Bella - in this book, at least (there are 3 more novels in the series), they do little more than cuddle and kiss, because of that teensy problem of Edward wanting to drink her blood. So although it's clean and moral, there's definitely a sexual element. Once girls are addicted to the sensuality of a novel like this, where will they look for their next fix? To the novels of Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters, whom Bella reads in the novel, which have a similar type of emotional pull? Or to Harlequin romance novels, which take the sensuality past the point of restraint?

There are lots of other points of discussion regarding this series, but I'll boil it down, in my personal opinion: Not as good as Harry Potter (by a long shot, actually), not as bad as Nicholas Sparks. If you like Twilight, read Jane Eyre.

Okay people. I read it! I did! And I don't hate myself or totally regret it. You win.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

No Worries.

Ah, the season of my aggravation has returned. First there's Halloween and the whole we-don't-celebrate-Halloween business. There was an article in the paper about Halloween-abstainers, and it appears that while it's okay to randomly not like the holiday (like, from a bad experience as a kid, or you just don't like dressing up), if you don't celebrate for an actual reason, and a religious one at that, you are just weird. So, we are weird.

Leah started complaining about not getting to go trick or treating, but it turns out that she just wanted candy. I've decided that we are comprising with our neighborhood - we will hand out candy, but I'm not decorating outside, and my kids are not going door to door. To make my kids feel less ripped-off, I let them each choose a bag of candy to hand out, and then they'll get a few pieces of it.

That is, unless we go to another non-Halloween family's house, and then they'll get several of those candies.

In addition to Halloween, there's also this somewhat-annoying season called Toy Catalog season. Remember how we only give the kids 3 presents at Christmas? And how we tend to (over) think every holiday tradition? And how my husband has been harumphing around the house about how the kids have too many toys?

So yeah, the kids drooling over the toy catalogs and "learning to covet" as Aaron says, hasn't happened quite yet. I thought we were close the other night, when I mentioned my Christmas wish list in Leah's presence. Immediately she wanted to make her OWN list. Of course.

I hemmed and hawed, and glanced at the pile of fliers from the Sunday paper... Leah got a sheet of paper and after writing "ChIsMis LisT" at the top, she said to herself, "Hmm, what do I want for Christmas?" My hand actually paused in mid-air, with the Fleet Farm catalog still in it. I thought, "Wait! She doesn't know about the part about looking through and circling everything you like? I DON'T have to give in?"

Leah continued, "A pumpkin!"

That's all that's on the list, so far. I think we'll be okay.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

On the Record

As Ben starts talking more and more, we are frequently surprised by what exactly he talks about. On one trip home from church, for instance, he pointed out that Daddy should go because the arrow was green. Uh, thanks kid. Aaron wondered how he learned that - but of course he's been asking me about traffic lights on the way to school every morning. And apparently he's been learning.

Yesterday he was telling me about steam. Maybe. The steam HE was talking about was the "steam" that happens when you throw "widdle wocks" on to more little rocks. I pointed out that it may LOOK like steam, but it's just dust. Then he argued, "No, dust gets on me hands, make me hands dirty," and that was it. NO Mom, dust is dirty. Steam is not. Conversation over.

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There are two distinct sounds from my childhood that are ingrained in my memory. The first, piano music. Usually around 8am on Saturday. The other, the sewing machine rattling away.

My mother was the source of both sounds, and although I have yet to own a piano and take up playing again, I have been sewing more and more. The other day, friend J told friend A, "Oh, Liz is a big sewer! She makes hats and stuffed animals and..." Here I interrupted. I am NOT "a big sewer" and DO NOT want that to get around! That stuffed animal was a puppy-shaped floor pillow that I made for Leah as a Christmas present a few years ago. And it was less of a stuffed animal and more of a big freaking mess. Now, friend Crystal - she's a big seamstress. Anyway.

I made Leah a polar fleece hat last winter, when it was too late in the season to find one that A) matched her coat, B) covered her ears, and C) cost less than $10. Unfortunately, she lost that hat in a matter of weeks, so I knew I had to be prepared to make another this fall.

She picked out the print herself, and aren't you impressed? The set included the hat, a neckroll, and mittens (which are so small that she can't move her pinkies. Oh well - live and learn.)

In fact, I decided to make TWO hats, after I found a cute piece of fleece dirt cheap in the remnant bin.

All this sewing was done about a week or so before the monkey costume fiasco of this weekend. The other day she said, "Mommy! I can't believe you made Ben's monkey costume in ONE NIGHT!" And then, "And you made my hat, neckroll, and mittens in one night, too, didn't you?" Yes, honey, yes I did. Then she made my day: "Mommy, you are SUCH a good sewer!"

ps - On any slightly difficult sewing project, I have had the assistance of my mom. (She did the entire head of that puppy floor pillow.) Thanks for the help, Mom, and thanks for making me do all those insane 4-H projects.

These hats are super easy, and great projects for beginners.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Lesson Learned

I don't really watch TV during the daytime. I would love to catch Regis & Kelly, and maybe even Ellen DeGeneres' talk show once in awhile, but my kids are television addicts, and I feel a little guilty as it is for all the PBS they watch. Not that I'm doing anything about it, though.

Not only do I not watch TV during the day, but I also don't use the Internet for anything useful. Wait - did I just say that? I mean, OF COURSE reading blogs, "window" shopping for things I don't need and instant messaging friends is useful. I just don't read the news online, or educate myself otherwise.

And then there's Facebook, the most IMPORTANT reason that Al Gore ever invented the Internet in the first place. Important because apparently it provides me with more information than Wikipedia and cnn.com combined.

For instance, Facebook, in the form of friends' status updates, is where I learned:

- President Obama referred to Kanye West as a jacka**
- the Twins won the League title and were headed to play against the Yankees...and that they lost.
- the Vikings were winning and eventually won against the dreaded Packers (I started off following this on CNN sports, but found Facebook faster!)
- President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize
and most importantly, and much too late, that Old Navy had monkey costumes for $12.

This last bit of info was important because of a decision on my part to attend our MOMS Club costume fall party the next day. That afternoon I had asked Ben what he wanted to go as, and wonder of wonders! he picked something I could agree to! When "monkey!" came out of his mouth, I started picturing how I could make it, mostly because I didn't think I had enough time to track down one for purchase at a store, and also because Ben LOVES pretending to be a monkey, so I figured this could end up being a reoccurring theme.

To make it work, we took a family trip to Walmart, where I had tried to purchase some adorable monkey printed fleece a few days beforehand. I say tried because in the tradition of Walmart's excellent customer service, I could get NO ONE to come cut and price the fabric for me. Humpf.

Here are the components of Ben's costume:

- brown fleece for hat and tail (already had the hat pattern)
- yellow monkey fleece for pants (already had the pattern)
- tan flannel for inside of ears (already had it - in the flannel board box)
- brown shirt from Target (found it after the Walmart trip - took me 7 minutes from drop-off at the front door. Ha! Aaron said it would be at least 10. I win!)
- piece of monkey -printed flannel to put over the green dinosaur on the brown shirt (from fabric mom gave me!)
- paper-mache banana that I've had since my teaching days, knowing that you should NEVER get rid of a white elephant gift that is so versatile. (the gift was actually a large selection of faux fruits & veggies. Awesome!)

Here is a photo of the finished product, along with Ben's friend Isaac, the friendly blue M &M. Maybe eventually I can talk Ben into wearing the tail and get a photo of it. He only tolerated it for about 5 minutes, which I anticipated by not sewing the tail into the pants - I just left a gap in the seam to pin it into.

Leah once again wore the Sleeping Beauty princess dress that my mom made her for her 4th birthday. Getting good mileage out of that one! She would like me to tell you that the crown is from leapsterworld.com, where she typed in the "secret code" from one of her games and was rewarded with the crown to print out. She colored it, and I stapled it to a strip of construction paper. It is her new most treasured possession - that, and a ring from a vending machine at Perkins. I'll take it over $60 jeans, folks.
Photographer and good friend Tara snapped all these photos. Including at least 3 attempts at this one of Adam and me.

Aaron was astonished that I had 19 comments when I posted on Facebook that we were thinking about getting a food dehydrator and making apple chips (done and done!). And STILL I did not think to ask my FB friends about the monkey costume options out there. Oh well. Next time. As it is, this one cost me about $15 - but Ben has a new shirt in his drawer, and possibly a new winter hat! He wore that thing all day, even though our party was in a room that must have been about 80 degrees. THAT is a loved costume.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

HAIR!

I have this weird hangup from childhood. Thanks to my sister, who has an amazing head of hair, I cannot stand hair once it has removed itself from the source.

Let me illustrate further. I have thick hair. Like, the kind of hair on which my stylist always comments, "Wow, you have a lot of hair, don't you!" Yep. That's why the floor is covered. And why my head feels about 3 pounds lighter. Thank you very much!

But my sister - now SHE has a mane. Almost inhumanly thick. When we were little, and we played "beauty parlor", I couldn't get her hair into an updo, because it was too heavy. And people with a lot of hair -guess what?!- they lose a lot of hair! We had a hardwood floor in our bedroom, and I have a very distinct memory of vacuuming that floor. When I'd get to the area in front of the mirror, where she combed her hair in the morning, the floor appeared to move, so much hair was being sucked into the vacuum. Hair was everywhere - in all the drains, in the washcloth in the kitchen sink...everywhere.

But it's not like the rest of us were bald. My parents informed me of this in a conversation when I moved back in with them for the summer before Aaron and I got married.

Me: I was so happy to have my own bathroom! At least I knew that the hair on the floor was my own.
Mom: Yeah - and we didn't have any hair on the floor.

Oh, SNAP!

After getting married, Aaron took on the task of cleaning out our shower drain, because it practically made me gag. Yes, even though it was almost entirely my own hair.

And now? There's this aftereffect of pregnancy that is just lovely. You've probably heard that your hair gets thicker and fuller during pregnancy, right? Well, that's because you don't lose the hair that you normally would. It just hangs out on your scalp, waiting for....oh, about 4 months after you've had the baby, to drop out en masse. But not really, because the hair loss continues for several weeks.

Even Aaron noticed. He noticed because all of a sudden he was cleaning out the shower drain every other day, instead of once a month.

Because I have an issue with hair, I generally make it part of my getting-ready-for-the-day-routine to remove as many loose strands as possible. And lately that process has added about 5 minutes to my morning routine. And those are a precious five minutes when you are trying to get yourself plus 3 children out the door on time. Sometimes 5 minutes is the difference between breakfast or starving, feeding the baby or waiting until dropping of the kindergartner, putting a hat & mittens on the brother or telling yourself that he'll just be sitting in the van anyway...

Thanks a LOT, hormones. The next morning I'm hungry, Adam's hungry, and Ben's freezing, I'm blaming YOU.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

For this I spent 4 years in college?

Adam has started to blow raspberries, which is incredibly cute. He does a good job, spitting a considerable amount of saliva onto his outfit. We are getting close to the inevitable bib stage - the other 2 wore them for, like, six months before cutting any teeth.

We were at Target the other day looking at shoes for Leah. I had turned to see her latest glitter-covered selection, while the boys were in the cart. I heard a "Fbbtttt!" sound, and looked back at the boys. Then I realized that I didn't know if I should scold Ben for farting without excusing himself or congratulate Adam on the excellent raspberry!

Later, I was telling Aaron this story, and he responded, "Is THIS what your life has come to?" I guess he doesn't appreciate all the gory details of my day.

But it would be beneficial if he took note - later that evening, I actually picked a booger out of my husband's nose, I've spent so much time cleaning them out of much smaller schnozes lately. (It wasn't huge and I didn't have to dig. But still. Gross.)

Then there was the highly intellectual argument with my middle child:

"Would you like grapes or yogurt for bedtime snack?"

"Grapes and yogurt!!"

"No, grapes OR yogurt."

"Grapes and yogurt!"

"NO, grapes OR yogurt! One or the other!"

"Grapes!"

Friday, October 9, 2009

Snooze.

Ben has always been our sleeper. Leah was a good sleeper as a baby, but Ben topped her by sleeping through the night (like 11 hours through the night) at 3 months old. At about 18 months when Grandma was babysitting, he lead her to his crib when it was bedtime. He hardly ever squawked before going to sleep.

On top of all this, he has been a good napper, too! Leah was done with naps at 2 1/2, at which point she started to take "quiet times", listening to books on CD. My little man Ben was going strong with naps well past age 3. Even if he fell asleep in the van, we could transfer him to his bed just fine and he'd continue with the nap.

The fun and games began recently, though. Whereas previously laying him down for a nap was easy-peasy, there started to be some protest a few months ago. Then a few weeks ago he'd lay down for 15 minutes, then he'd come downstairs and say he wasn't sleepy. I learned my lesson with Leah - I spent more time fighting her about naps than she did actually "sleeping". So when he resisted, I said fine.

Okay, then, no more naps. He laid on the couch and rested while Leah listened to her stories, and it was going well. For about three days. Then the crabbies took over and we couldn't stand it anymore. He would nap if one of us slept with him - and depending on the day, this was good news! But not if Mommy had too much to do. And then there was the 15 minutes of crying and wailing when he woke up and discovered that the parent had woken and left the room before him.

Today was a "no nap" day. And at about 2pm, he says, "Me tiiired, Mommy." We headed to Target, and in the 10 minutes it took me to drive home at 4pm, he fell dead asleep. As in, Leah yelling in joy outside the van with the door open didn't disturb him. She left to go to friend Addie's house (the invitation which caused the joy), and I carried Ben into the house.

He slept on the couch for about half and hour until I woke him up. And it looks like we are back to naps. For at least another couple of days, anyway.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Prince of Power

A good friend has said that parenting is God's way of making her a liar - since everything before kids that she said "I'll never do ______", now with three kids, she, of course, has done those exact same things. For me, parenting is God continuously reminding me not to judge others. Last week at gymnastics, a boy in Ben's class was being very resistant to joining the class. His mom was down with him for a bit before joining the rest of the parents in the balcony to watch - then she went back down a couple more times to deal with him. And I confess, I thought, "Mom, you just need to leave him and let the teachers take care of it!" I also thought that she must be one of those "helicopter" parents, always hovering over their kid.

So now you know how Ben acted today at class.

It started off just fine. Things went significantly downhill once it was actually time to join the other kids on carpet squares. Suddenly, Ben clung to my leg with all four limbs. I pointed out that all the other kids were going to have fun. Trampolines! Balance beams! FOAM PIT. None of those possibilities were enticing. I walked him over to a carpet square. I took him out to the hall. I tried to leave him in the class and just high-tail it out on my own - which may have been more successful without an infant in a carseat to carry, also. (Thankfully, Adam slept through all the shenanigans.)

I cajoled. I threatened. I bribed.

Ben was having none of it.

We spent the whole class in the back of the gym watching the rest of the kids. Ben watched intently, but still refused to join in.

I have four guesses to why he acted this way.

1) Other kids were already there when we arrived, and seeing them sitting there made him self-conscious. He has been sensitive before about "people looking at me".
2) He was hungry. A snack was one thing he kept mentioning, but I'd given him one in the car on the way over and he hadn't touched it.
3) His friend Isaac wasn't there today - he was home sick- so without the familiar face, he was more self-conscious.
4) He's a big stubborn brat and wanted to pull a power play.

Aaron said I should have taken him home. I thought about it, but I also thought that might be perceived as a reward - too many toys there. Also, I was still hoping that at some point he would change his mind. At least give me points for persistence and optimistic thinking - and stubbornness. I guess I know where he gets it from.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Over-Achiever

We had book club here the other night, discussing Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. Overall it seemed that most of us enjoyed the point of view of an elderly man, both for his recollections of circus life in the 1930's and the insight into the lives of the elderly. What we did NOT appreciate was the, um, detailed sexual scenes.

Anyway, we joked at one point that allowing a month between books was pretty much a moot point for me, since no matter how long the book is I pretty much read it in the last four days before the discussion date. We could meet every week, and not much would change about my reading habits! Of course, that is a slight exaggeration - David Copperfield and Middlemarch of course took longer. I mean, they are 800 pages long, and I DO have 3 kids to take care of. All in all, my husband is remarkably understanding about my cramming to finish a book at the last minute. My record is finishing 2 hours before the meeting. Eeks.

Today, the kids and I had lunch at the home of one of Leah's classmates. While we ate, the girls were telling the moms about their day, and C said that if they read 12 books in one night they would get a pizza! W, C's mom, and I tried to pick our jaws up of the table, and after a few more details, I recognized the Book It! program from Pizza Hut. I assured W that they had at least a week to read the books, not one night, for pity's sake!

At home, Leah got right to work. She read 2 books and wrote their titles on her log sheet herself. Then she got a pile from the shelf and went at it. As she burned through a couple more books, I reminded her, "Leah, you know you have a MONTH to read these books, right? You don't have to read them all in one night."

And she said, "I know, but I'm GOING to!"

Well, she didn't quite meet her goal, but she's half done. And now I know how to get her to pick up her dirty laundry: pizza.